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The Invasion of Ispar


Posted By Ibn on 18-Oct-2004

by Brandon Paul "meanbeard" Salinas

"They come."

Gana ibn Rushasa removed his helm. He placed his hand above his eyes, shielding them from the blinding light of the sun. He surveyed the bay before him; nothing but the stillness of the sea. And far, far beyond, the shores of the blue-skins. He grimaced and looked at his tattooed companion. The ocean wind ruffled the strange man's long white hair. "You see them?" Gana asked.

The man looked at Gana with solid white eyes. "They come."

Gana turned to the army behind him. They waited at the base of the hill on which he stood. Five thousand Gharu'ndim warriors stood alongside three thousand Sho. A few hundred Souia-Vey mercenaries were scattered amongst the ranks. A mighty army. A fearsome army. An army worthy of the Malika's magnificence. Yet, if the white-haired stranger's reports were correct, even this glorious army would not last long in the coming war.

The Gharu'ndim general turned back to the bay. He could not see the ships. Could not hear nor smell them. Heard not the cadence of their oars crashing through the sea. But he trusted the stranger. The sincerity in his voice could not be denied.

They were coming.

He put on his helm and waited.



******



Derikk Gaul careened through the forest. He ran amongst the pines and cedars of Lellen Wood, the low-hanging branches ripping and tearing at his face and clothing. His heart burned in his chest. Bile seared his throat.

He leaped over a fallen log. The tip of his boot caught a wayward branch. He tipped forward, arms flailing wildly. He slammed his face into the needle-covered forest floor. Lightning cracked through his head. Breath left his body.

He rolled over on his back and struggled to breathe. His lungs were closed. He willed them open, but they refused to cooperate. Bright light swam through his head. He closed his eyes and tried to clear his mind, concentrated on breathing, concentrated on pushing the panic aside. Slowly, painfully, his lungs opened. The forest air filled his chest. The light subsided.

He brought a hand to his shattered nose. Blood. Pain. It wasn't the first time he had broken his nose. But he was beginning to fear it would be the last.

He stood and looked behind him.

Fire.

The soldiers marched forward, thousands of boots pounding against the forest floor. The mages burned the trees with whitefire, clearing the path before the approaching army.

A deer ran past him. Derikk turned and followed. He sped after the beast, tried to catch up. But the stag quickly outpaced him.

They were not the only ones running. The entire forest fled the invading army and its magic fire. Deer, birds, wolves. Everything that could run, did. Derikk barked a short, morbid laugh. Though he had ranged the wilds for thirty years, he had never truly felt a part of it. Not until now. Not until the day when it all came to an end. In fear, all of Ispar's creatures were united.

Derikk's morbid chuckle cut off as an arrow sailed over his head and struck the stag in the back of the neck. The stag buckled and fell, tumbling end over end just in front of him.

Derikk leaped over the deer and stole a quick glance behind him. They were close. So close. Their fire disintegrated the forest into ash. Their soldiers marched relentlessly. Five archers stood several paces to the side of the army. They nocked their arrows and aimed at the sky. Derikk wondered for a moment just what they were aiming at. Then they fired.

Derikk turned. He ran. But he did not run far.



******



The Emperor stared out his window at the chaos below. His meager army did their best to defend the city, but the invaders were many. They cut through his frightened men and advanced on the palace.

How had this happened? Why had they come? The Emperors of Roulea had never had the best of relations with the blue-skinned kings, but neither had their disagreements ever come to war. Why choose now to strike?

But even as he asked, he realized they were foolish questions. The Emperor knew full well why the attack had come. It was the portals. Their appearance in Aluvia had disrupted the entire continent. No one knew what they were or why they had come. And they certainly had no idea what became of those who succumbed to the portals' song. Conspiracies abounded. But no one had answers. No answers that anyone believed, anyway. The rulers of Ispar were afraid, and so were their peoples. And that bastard Varicci thrived on fear.

So they had struck out from their lonesome shores. And now they were here. In the Emperor's kingdom. In his city. In his palace.

The Emperor closed his eyes and listened to the cacophony on the floors below. His soldiers and servants screamed as the unstoppable warriors cut them down. Subjects who had served him for years - who believed that their Emperor would die to protect them - shed their life's blood in the kitchens and quarters of the Emperor's own palace. Their screams grew louder as the invading army sliced its way upward.

He walked to his throne and took his seat. He closed his eyes and breathed. He waited.

He sat on his throne for what seemed like hours. Powerless. Listening to his kingdom die. But after a time, it ended. Mercifully, it ended. The screams and moans from below quieted as the last of his people died.

They were here now, on the uppermost floor of the palace, in the hallway just outside the throne room. Metal boots scraped on stone floors. They paused. He heard commands uttered in hushed tones. It would come quickly now. Soon he would be freed from this hellish shame and be allowed to join his slaughtered people.

Oak ground on stone as the massive doors pushed open. The Emperor opened his eyes, and the Duke of Bellenesse entered the room.

The Emperor stared in shock. "Bellenesse," he whispered.

The Duke walked to the center of the grand hall. Several Ferran knights entered behind him and took their positions on opposite walls. Two of them remained outside, guarding the entranceway.

The Duke removed his helm and bowed to the throne of Roulea. His armor was bloody and battered. His white beard and hair were caked with dirt and grime. His blue skin shone with sweat. "Emperor."

The Emperor knew this day would bring defeat. He knew his kingdom would fall. But he had not expected this. He had not expected betrayal. He struggled to speak, but all he could manage was a weak, cracked, "Why?"

The Duke handed his helm to one of his soldiers. The soldier handed him a cloth-wrapped bundle. The Duke unwrapped the cloth, revealing a scabbard of Silveran oak. He removed the gleaming, golden blade from its sheath and handed the scabbard back to the knight. The Duke held the sword before him, closed his eyes, and kissed the blade. The he opened his eyes and said, "Because he asked me to."

The Duke strode forward and shoved the blade into the Emperor's chest, pinning him to his throne. The Emperor gasped, blood sputtering from his mouth. He grabbed at the hilt of the sword, wrapping his hands around the Duke's gauntlets. He struggled to pry those steel-clad hands free of the blade, but they refused to yield.


The Duke of Bellenesse leaned forward. He whispered in the dying man's ear, "Hail Viamont," and gave the blade a final push into the Emperor's chest.

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