Monday, May 16, 2016

The battle of Melinarth Above

Prologue:
Khrohm, captain of 500 in the Drulathim Legion, was worried. Since the battle at the village of the "physician to the imperial court, retired", he had kept informed of the progress of the erstwhile court physician and his companions' movements. Khrohm was concerned for the obvious reason: the rumored object of the quest being Melinarth the Dead; but also because his kinsmen were involved.


After the failure of the band of adventurers to reach the dead city via Tarn Chasm, Khrohm had expected the mission to be aborted. When, instead, Myrdagyn was seen in conference with Randahl Korydohn the regent, Khrohm decided to get involved. It was largely through his efforts that Lorinkh was located and brought back to the empire. And Khrohm also was instrumental in gaining further armed support from the regent.


This was accomplished when the Drulath captain, on his own initiative, went up to the holy city Khayil-Baruk and met with Numah the High Priest, to tell him what was afoot and of the rumors that had been confirmed.


Khrohm was not surprised when the youthful High Priest said that he was knowledgeable about these latest events and movements. And the Drulath did not even have to ask for what he sought: because Numah was already prepared to give the captain enough blessed weapons to confront the wraith Ghrusoq.


Paramount among these weapons was an artifact of ancient workmanship, a girdle surmounted by a buckle of worn bronze, within which were encased the eye teeth of the creator of the girdle, so legend had it. The significance of the eye teeth was unknown. But the working of the artifact, in the hands of a worthy mage (or in other words, one not given to the dark arts, or vile practices, etc.), affected a powerful counterspell of a limited range.


"The girdle is named 'Xetyalhpa'," said Numah. "The name is meaningless now, but perhaps it is the name of its creator. In any case, worthy captain, it works when that name is invoked, but only if the wearer's purpose is honorable."


Three hand weapons were also given to the captain of 500: two swords and a mace, each capable of dealing mortal injury to any fell beastie of unholy flesh.


Now in possession of weapons of potency, the Drulath captain returned with Lorinkh to an audience with the regent, revealing the aid that the High Priest had just bestowed. Impressed by his nephew's support of the mission to neutralize Ghrusoq, Randahl added to Khrohm's command a further five units of 500 Drulathim each from the Legion. And the regent ordered the garrison of Vylakros to dispatch a battalion of Imperial Knights and men-at-arms to accompany them.


Swiftly traversing the mountain pass into the northern parts of the Masterless Quarter, the force of imperial troops came at last upon the unknown town, saw the band of besieging brigands and Warriors and dispersed them. Then the gates were opened and the Legionaries and cavalry entered.


The reunion of the Drulathim was joyous, especially that of Lorinkh with his nephew Ahnxst and his other kinsmen.


Captain Khrohm did not waste any time giving the High Priest's gift of weapons to selected members of the band. Xoniuqé received the girdle in thoughtful silence and fastened it around his hips. Khrohm kept a sword for himself that would dispel the greater undead by rendering their unhallowed flesh as vulnerable to the edge of the blade as that of any mortal, living or animated. The young Ahnxst received the second blade, blessed by Numah's own hand. But he was warned that the blessing will wear off with time. The mace was given to Auhxalys (it is very old and comes with no such warning of temporary virtue).


Lorinkh was still in possession of his own fabulous blade, "lich bane", in the common tongue.






Melinarth Above


 

The denizens of Uhrbum Mhortuorum were incensed at the huge package of lies that they had fallen for. Gathering into a single body, the most capable men (and even a few women) joined the imperial army. At first light, they marched on Melinarth, arriving by midday. No time was wasted arraying themselves into a single line that more or less filled the open vale between an ancient lava floe to the south and the steep hills to the north. At the far end stood the bisected wall of the ancient city, and before one of its opened gates was drawn up the Disciple of Qurosh'g, Ahkrysyohs himself, and what appeared to be his entire host of dupes.


The Disciple rode a black undead warhorse. The exertions of his discipleship were evident upon his own body: the wraith's possession of Ahkrysyohs had been working a terrible metamorphosis upon his flesh and he now appeared flayed and crunched over in the saddle. Nevertheless, he carried a longsword in a capable fist and directed his host with sweeps of the blade, from behind a center of Balogim summoned from the Seven Hells beyond the river Acheron. He was guarded immediately by a surrounding, small body of his most devoted fanatics.


The wings were identical hosts of pitiful foegim, their long servitude to the "god of plagues" no longer hidden (not even from themselves!) by the disingenuous glamour of Ghrusoq's illusions. This power had been given to the troops in the front line: here, the "Glorious Ones" stood, their faces terrible, their eyes shining with battle lust!






The avenging army was arranged with the imperial Drulath Legion in the center, led by the two heroes, Lorinkh and Khrohm (Ahnxst joined himself to the right end of the Drulathim phalanx). On the right went the sturdy axmen, divided between the leadership of Myrdagyn and the warrior maid, Sehlinah (so braced with her first command was she, that the veteran adventurer had all he could do just keeping her in line and not racing ahead of the slowly moving host as they dressed their ranks and advanced toward their common enemy). The youth, Nouvzé, had earned Xoniuqé's confidence, or at least that of his sword and crossbow mercenaries, such that he was welcomed as their leader for the coming battle. These men took the far right end of the line. On the left of the Drulathim moved the angry warriors of Uhrbum Mhortuorum, scant in arms but flush with resolve! Refused on their left, the battalion of Imperial Knights and men-at-arms trotted slowly. Xoniuqé rode Cinderfoot behind the Drulathim. His only guardians were Auhxalys and Bruno with his war hounds. "The Chief" had not bothered to try and persuade the woman of his village to add her considerable prowess to the fighting line. At the first suggestion that she do so, the expression on her face as she refused told him that argument would be useless: she was not leaving his side.








First contact is made by the warriors from the town of Uhrbum Mhortuorum. They fear not! Anger and revenge are their only emotions.

On the right, the axmen and swordsmen meet the "Glorious Ones". And the axmen under Sehlinah's command rout in fear. She is left alone!


The Drulathim in the center draw near the Balogim advancing before the Disciple of Qurosh'g.

Battle is joined on the wings. Horgand, leading the townspeople, bursts through the line, pushing his enemy before his face. He knocks a Glorious One down.

The cavalry charge into battle.

And in the center the Legion and Balogim crash together.







Sehlinah is flanked and wounded.

The routing axmen do not return. Furiously she hews at her foes, while Drulathim legionaries push up to her aid from the rear and outflank the foegim.

Suddenly, to her amazement, and that of her companions in arms, the nearest "Glorious Ones" vanish like mist! "What the hell?" she screams. Then lashes out at the first foeg to arrive within range of her hewing spear.

Over on the left flank a similar phenomenon has already taken place, and all of the "Glorious Ones" there have vanished like deliverance from a bad dream.

Xoniuqé has arrived within range of the girdle of Xetyalhpa: uttering the almost unpronounceable name, the wizard's mind is suddenly opened to a vision of truth and clarity: the "Glorious Ones" are but illusion, potently real though they seem to everyone else. Several of the townsmen have already gone down from apparently lethal wounds. Sehlinah is hurt and others at the right flank have also suffered in mortal combat.

Without hesitation, and while exclaiming, "I know what you are!", Xoniuqé summons the virtue of the girdle, channels the counterspell and banishes the illusory warriors of Ahkrysyohs's right wing.
Then Xoniuqé sees that the limited range of the girdle has left the illusion intact as yet on the extreme right wing of his army. He rides over there and as he arrives closer the last of those apparent warriors fall into dust and vanish away.

Up and down the battle, the attacking warriors blink in amazement. Those rolling on the ground in agony and even their death throes feel themselves restored and get to their feet; all, that is, but a few who are so stricken by pain and fear that they succumb and die of fright.

The foegim behind the vanished illusion are engaged in battle. These enemies are real enough!

In the center, the Drulathim reel back and forward in melee with Balogim. Many fall on both sides.




Sehlinah drives her foe before her and ends up behind the battle line.

Ahnxst turns to assail their enemies in the flank.

The cavalry crush forward trampling foegim under charging hooves. Lances skewer undead bodies.

Meanwhile, Xoniuqé continues to use the girdle. From the back of his horse he can see over the heads of his fighting men. He selects an enemy, focuses his will, mutters the word "Xetyalhpa", and the Balog collapses into dust. Where the Drulathim seem hardest pressed, he removes the impediment and the danger, and the attack goes forward.

The battle rages up and down the line. Drulathim casualties mount and a band break in momentary panic. But once clear of the fighting, they rally and return.







The first Drulathim penetrate the center and draw near Ahkrysyohs and his guard of fanatics.

Lorinkh knocks Balogim down like tenpins.

The Disciple commits his guards to the fray. Khrohm is momentarily beset by three to one odds, but guts the first man to come within range of his sword. The man goes down in his gore. He is mortal! Heartened, the captain of 500 hews at his other two foes. They nevertheless are not without prowess and drive him back.


The cavalry charge is played out and the horsemen turn toward their outflanking foes. The melee is almost entirely on the side of the Knights and men-at-arms.


The warriors from Uhrbum Mhortuorum cut their way into the throng of foegim. Their own losses are not few, but their resolve barely carries them on. The undead go down, scattered in pieces.


Horgand engages their commander in single combat!

On the right flank, the swordsmen, crossbowmen and axmen, along with the rallied Drulathim, are gaining the victory.


Lorinkh, Khrohm and Ahnxst take on Ahkrysyohs's guards and kill them.





The Disciple of Qurosh'g abandons the battle!


Outside the walls, the heroes and their troops vanquish the now-stupid (unled) enemy.

Horgand and his men surround the "super zombie" and cut it to pieces.

Sehlinah finally vanquishes her foe, with a little help from her friends.





The last of the undead stagger and flail about, directionless and as much a danger to themselves as the enemy. It is all over but the last of the shouting.


Khrohm is the first to reach the city gate. He sees a mixture of ruins and restored buildings, and at the far end of the arrow-straight street he sees the form of Ahkrysyohs on his horse, pulling up in the midst of a large band of warriors gathered in the central square. Behind them towers the temple pyramid of black volcanic rock.


More pursuers join the captain of 500 and they press forward, filling the street. On either hand the buildings are checked for enemies, but they are empty.


By the time the victors have arrived at the temple grounds in the center of the city, the only denizens left in sight are a few score abandoned followers of Qurosh'g, sobbing in destitute grief, huddled at the bottom of the steps of the pyramid. The Disciple and his troops have entered the pyramid and shut the doors.