The Battle of Aigelthin Keep
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The Battle of Aigelthin Keep by Thorin Yerlas
Peering out into the inky blackness of night, I stood facing out of the battlements of the top tower of Aigelthin Keep. The few dozen soldiers under my command standing alongside me did the same. The soldier next to me seemed particularly edgy, shuffling his feet impatiently. "Got somewhere to be, Hraldar?" I asked. "No, captain". He replied, smiling thinly. "I just can't stand waiting for these damn Malierans, that's all". As if in answer, a distant shout came from the fields below, followed by the faint, rapidly approaching hiss of a hundred arrows, shattering the calm night. I dropped to the floor, as did Hraldar next to me a split second later, an arrow through his neck. "THEY ARE HERE!" I bellowed down to the floors below. Then stood up, notching an arrow to my bow to return fire, but stopped in shock of what I saw over the battlements. Where before had been only darkness there were lines upon lines of charging soldiers carrying a sea of furiously burning red torches. I loosed my arrow and slumped back behind the battlements. A familiar dread crept through me, a dread echoed in the faces of my fellow soldiers.
A series of shouted orders and horn blows from below snapped me out of it. "Give them hell!" I growled to the soldiers around me, sounding much more confident than I felt. A shimmering blue veil enveloped most of the tower and similar protective shields cast by our magicians expanded to cover the other regions of the keep. Knights stood at points along the walls protecting their fellow soldiers from gaps in the shield used by the archers and for when the magicians tire from the intense bombardment from below. The battle raged strongly for several hours. Over half the garrison of the keep had been lost. I, who had tried to bring courage to these brave warriors of Emposia, had lost all hope myself. The walls of the keep shuddered under the attack, its very stones bathing in blood, the very air burnt and stifled my throat and lungs. Then suddenly there was a lull in the bombardment as a single white rider raced across the fields from the city towards the keep. I gaped in horror at the white flag of surrender he held aloft. The Malieran soldiers began to fall back from around the entrance of the keep, cheering. The soldiers around me began muttering, but I couldn't bring my dry mouth to silence them. Surely King Eirim hadn't given in so soon?
And indeed he had not. From behind the flag—bearer sped a dozen riders in the blue uniform of the Royal Guard. The white rider vanished in an explosion of blue sparks. An illusion! The riders tore through the dispersing lines of the Malieran troops, towards the keep. "OPEN THE GATES!" I bellowed. "ARCHERS AND MAGICIANS READY!" "FIRE!" A barrage of arrows and spells rained down onto the Malierans causing even greater confusion and disarray. The riders reached the keep and the wooden gates were slammed shut and barred behind them. As the group of tall, heavily—armoured figures came to a stop in the courtyard, the lead rider leapt from his proud white horse, shouting orders to the others before briskly striding towards the keep. A white lion on a background of blue emblazoned across his chest and a crown of gold glinted on his head in the flickering glow of the torches. He climbed the stairs towards us. His grey beard and weathered face made him seem older than I'd remembered. But he had a strength in his voice and a quickness of eye that told me his mind was as alive as ever. I turned to face King Eirim III and stood to attention. Eirim barely looked at me before grimacing and lunging forward, knocking me off balance with a sharp push of his mailed right palm. I fell to the floor in time to see the blast of a magic missile explode against Eirim's shield where my head had been an instant before.
Eirim lowered his shield, the iron still glowed dimly from the force of the spell and looked down at me. "Captain Thorim Yerlas?" He asked. As if he'd forgotten that he'd just saved my life. "Yes, my lord. I, than—" I started, but he waved away my thanks. "Move as many archers as you can spare to the west side of the keep, my guards will hold the south and the entrance, and make ready any knights and paladins to ride." He said, then continued to explain his plan. Once Eirim had finished, I spoke a few words to two of my soldiers to prepare the rest of the garrison as the king had ordered. The soldier rushed down the stairway, passing two of the royal guards who had accompanied the king, carrying crates of vials and flasks of various colours. Meanwhile outside the keep, the Malierans had regrouped and restarted their bombardment with even greater ferocity. Invigorated by the appearance of the king and help of his guard, the garrison and I were spurred back into action with determination to match the onslaught.
A few moments later a series of horns sounded from the north gate of Empo Sar; the first signal. Showers of fire spewed out from magicians on the walls around the gate, breaking and blinding the Malieran lines as one of the great north city gates opened. A pillar of mounted soldiers raced out from the city, scattering the Malieran lines and heading towards the keep. A few sharp shouts from the Malieran captains and several of the lines facing the keep turned to face the oncoming riders. However the riders had no intention of meeting them. Instead they turned back upon the forces attacking the city where in many parts the lines had been broken. The magicians and archers were at the mercy of the riders who ripped through them. The Malieran knights and paladins behind them rushed back to their aid but the defence from the city walls had redoubled. Back at the keep, a second horn blew. The vials and flasks containing various awful concoctions and mixtures were thrown over the walls onto the unsuspecting Malieran ranks. The bombardment continued, but this time it was us taking control. Explosions and shockwaves sent the enemy flying, sparks and lightning flashes scorched and blinded, and many Malierans found themselves paralyzed and confused by our spells. The gates of the keep slammed open. The knights and paladins of the Aigelthin Keep garrison, accompanied by the royal guards, poured out into the confusion and chaos around the keep.
The Malieran forces called a retreat, but truly they were fleeing for their lives. Somehow, from the depths of despair. King Eirim III had brought us a great victory. One that would no doubt be remembered in story and song for as long as the great Emposian Kingdom remains.