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Friday, November 15, 2013

An old story about Deodanths

I wrote this in 2001 for a short bit we had on a run of deodanth miniatures.  It mixes some existing material that David Hargrave wrote with some new bits.  In re-reading it, I came to two conclusions:  my writing back then lacked polish but it still got to the point.  Enjoy.

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The Troll fled before them, the total fear of its probably fate keeping it from avoiding even slamming into the trees of the forest in its haste. All its efforts to escape were for naught as the hail of arrows stabbed its rubbery hide, several pinning it to a close tree. Desperately the Troll raked its flesh to break the arrows, rip its stuck arm, and hip free. It was too slow, and with achingly beautiful cries of hate, the chasing group of Elves split formation, half pounding by at full gallop while the others stood up in the stirrups to release another harrowing barrage of arrows into the Troll.

Bellowing a mixed cry of fear and rage, the Troll surged free of the tree and slapped down most of the incoming arrows, ignoring the burning jabs of the rest. Howling, it gouged the earth as it spun to flee, only to turn in time to take the fire-lit lance tips of the rest of the Elven hunters. Its flesh smoked and charred where the lances hit, but it stood fast for a moment, wrenching the mounted warriors to a halt. One rider’s lance snapped under the stress of their meeting, then the Troll gave before Elven vengeance. It fell on its back, vomiting the flames burning it from within in a final, futile bellow.
The Elves gathered around to watch it burn, oily smoke churning in deep coils into the sky. One sat on her horse holding her arm, which had snapped clean when the troll resisted their charge and broke her lance. They sat mute, watching in silence as fire cleansed the Troll from the land. With the last flicker of the fire on its flesh, one of the mute figures raised a horn to mouth and blew treble clarion notes to herald their victory.

For the first time in months, they broke the grim silence between them since the rampaging army that sought to despoil the land and claim the nexus gates had invaded.

Silvery tones slipped between the brothers and sisters of the Elven stalwart as several tended to their wounded comrade, while the others stood guard or rested. The Troll was the last of the marauder group that had broken from the main army, pillaging and terrorizing the area. For a short time, peace existed with its death, though for how long was hard to say in these somber times. More than one of them held scars both physical and more from the five previous assaults and this sixth invasion to claim their lands. All were strong, held in faith to persevere by the King, Arduin and the Gods.

She saw it first, perhaps fate marking her on this day. Using her newly splinted arm, she pointed at the sudden, billowing clouds of smoke, which had sprung in the sky. With narrowed eyes they all looked, mentally noting and fearing in common the growing smoke over the tops of the trees. They understood where the smoke originated. Six miles away by eye’s estimate and as one, they leapt to steed to ride forth. Horns and voices silent, the rode, the pounding feet of their Elven steeds like whispers on the fallen leaves and death in their eyes.

Time was aching long as they rode the forest trails to the Elven village they had supped at just last night. Riding closer to the columns of smoke, the smells of charring wood and flesh were thick in the air. They melted into the smoke clouded trees then entered the village as a single unit, ready for battle against whatever hell may throw. Mewling, chilling cries greeted them from the chaos of fire, smoke and screaming people. Red-eyed, black killers with flickering blades leaped to give battle to their sudden presence. Half of their steeds died outright and the dark reavers maimed several of them before the Elves realized in horror they had met someone their match, and more.

One Elf broke free, jumping from horse and scrambling to get into the forest, ignoring the pain of her broken arm and the shattered notes of the beautiful voices of her comrades lifted in pain. She planted the spurred heel of her boot into the back of the one ebon slayer blocking her path as it was occupied in slicing the tendons on the leg of another Elven warrior. The path cleared as it tumbled onto its victim, she bolted into the forest. Branches slapped her as she uncaringly dashed away as fast as she could from the horror of what they had ridden.

She jerked suddenly as lances of pain shot both ankles and tumbled into the moist, leafy ground of the forest. Breath shocked out of her by the sudden fall and pain, she rolled into ball, knees tucked against chest. Looking over her knees she realized in a single terrified moment, she had not had a chance as three of the dark-skinned warriors grinned down at her from the trees and cast more of the heavy darts that had pierced her ankles.

The three Deodanths laughed and leaped down to the fallen Elf, scooping her up to carry back to the village. They each tasted her blood, savoring it like wine before returning. The pandemonium had not stopped there, though several of the others had begun toying with the still living Elves, evoking screams to fill the air with music.

Deodanths were piling the dead for a noon meal in the burning ruins of the village center, close to the massive, rune carved rock there. The three-ton stone was clove cleanly from top to dirt, as if struck with a mighty blow from a single massive blade. A glowing oval nimbus of slowly changing purple to red hues hung between the split stone halves and still discharged Deodanths in surges. As the dim light of the dying sun from their homeland struck the nimbus and passed through, it wept drops of rich, black blood. The new arrivals sloshed through the pooling blood around the split stone, growled greetings and soon joined in on the fun.

It did not take long to leave their dying world, and barely hours passed as a horde grew in the clearing of the still burning Elven village to form the first army. They departed even as the next swam the near airless vacuum of the weakened atmosphere of their home world to enter the nexus to Arduin.

Over the next thirteen days, the invaders had conquered all of the lands of Arduin but the great keep of the High King, which alone stood to defy the dark evil of the Deodanths. There, in all the land, a horror started that not a single Elf with speaks of to this day. For they will stand, white-lipped and clench-fisted with its memory, possessed of a hate that will outlast time. In its very relentlessness, find its way to the very end of the world where it will take its final, deadly revenge.

Yet, though to most it surely seemed Arduin was doom, all was not lost, as the king was now marshalling those forces which till now he had withheld: the awesome forces of "Faerie", the power of Elven magik. Thus, the Elves, all 7,000 of them, rode out of the great keep to meet the ebon host gathered before them. They rode to the Great King's Plain to the east of Thousand Thunder Falls where the main army of the black ones awaited them with mewling cries of derisive laughter.

The ebon ones attacked first, nearly flying forward with their long leaps, slim swords whining before them, catlike battle wails seemingly sending the clouds themselves fleeing from the skies in abject terror. Before even the first ebon killer had closed half the distance, a great sound arose, accompanied by a cold, wild wind. It swirled about the Deodanth horde, leaving a rime of ice upon their hearts, for Faerie power had come! The sky seemed to buckle, blue twilight settling about the battlefield as the weird and ancient music sang its song of Elven power. Hesitating in their headlong charge, the black slayers from beyond time were flung from one side of the battlefield to the other, suddenly caught up in a force they could not understand. It was as if some vast and unseen hound had impaled them in its jaws and was worrying them as it would a squealing rat. With shocking and sudden swiftness, it was over. The plain seemed to erupt in a vast fountain of steaming black blood and blasted brains that covered the surrounding countryside with a withering stain that would take three centuries to fade.

The few hundred invaders that had held back and thus survived Elven wrath, immediately fled in all directions. Springing to action for the first time that day the remaining forces of the Elven army surged forth, the words of the Elven King ringing in their ears. "This is blade work, my brothers"! The Elven King led the charge, spurring his mount after the fleeing and broken remnants of the once dread and powerful enemy. His troops followed with a cold fire of retribution burning in their hearts.

For two weeks, the Deodanths were harried and slain, their final stand in the Southern Border Forest ending them as a threat to Arduin forever. The Elves were not without loss, the greatest being the mighty Elven King himself on the last day of the year. His mourning men laid him to rest where he fell, atop wind-whipped Sorrow Slate Mountain, forever after known as King's Rest. Laid to rest near him were the eleven Deodanths that had ambushed him and been slain in turn by his guards, (though by the time they had arrived, the king had slain five of them himself before falling).

During the climatic fighting in the Southern Border Forest, the central portion of the wood was destroyed during the battle. The portion of forest separated from it would later become known as the Forest of the Deodanth. Ultimately, the Deodanth were allowed to remain in peace within the forest, but the cost to the Deodanths was catastrophic. Never again would Deodanth and Elf meet without the likelihood of blood flowing.

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