Swords and Axes

By Brubek Coltrane

Prologue

The plains of Palinov, in the Kingdom of Velandra.

Under the heavy grey skies of Velendra, the once green plains near Palinov now were stained red. Thousands of dead and dying soldiers littered the once-beautiful plains, creating a grim and foreboding sight. Amongst the dead, a tattered banner still stood, where the white Swan of Velendra on a blue background still flew. The last rays of sun cast strange shadows across the fields as the day of battle ended. As the night grew closer, the fields grew silent, and nothing save the crows and ravens stirred.

The silence was broken by a procession of grim faced soldiers who marched through the field, and held the red banner of Ethimar, which bore the sigil of a white raven. King Ralem surveyed the field with a respectful manner, but knew that this had been a great victory. He signaled for his band to stop, and he dismounted his horse. The cries of the feasting ravens did not avail to him, as he looked into the distance, where the the capital Kaendavith stood. The Velendran army had put up quite a resistance, and he had lost a lot of men in the battle. This angered him, but he knew that, like Haardor before them, Velendra was his.

He suddenly heard a commotion behind him, and saw a group of ten Velendrans charge him down. His guards were overwhelmed at first, as they were cut down one by one. Ralem’s guard slew seven of them, before he was surrounded by the surviving three.

“It’s over Ralem!” A bloodied Velendran said, as he walked towards him.

Ralem grinned at them, as he drew his sword, making them feel uneasy.

“Velendra…” Ralem said, “Is mine!”

He charged forwards with his broadsword, taking one of them off-guard, and cut him down. The other two charged from behind. He turned, and parried one of their blows, and broke their sword in two, before stabbing the other one straight through the chest. Finally turning to face the last one, and swinging his bloodied sword in his hands, he paused.

The blue of the last Velendran warrior was the last of it’s kind. He picked up his fallen comrade’s sword, and and stood firm.

Ralem, unfazed, walked around him, with a menacing calm. “It’s over.” He said. “Surrender now, and I’ll let you live a little longer.”

“That’s not going to happen.” The Velendran said, tightening his grip on his sword.

“So be it.” Ralem said. “What’s your name, last Velendran?”

“Sir Rodrick of Arilith.” He said. “And I swear that you will die today.”

“Very well.” Ralem said. “You’ll see your friends soon.”

Sir Rodrick charged forwards. King Ralem lunged at him, but Rodrick was quicker. Dodging the lunge, he swung for Ralem’s head. The King turned around and parried the blow, before facing him again. A furious exchange began, and the clash of steel echoed throughout the plains. The last rays of sunlight shone as the two continued their duel. As the duel went on, Roderick was beginning to take the upper hand, Ralem barely able to keep up with his strikes. Finally, with one last decisivee strike, he disarmed the King with a final upward parry. It flew out of his hand, and buried itself in the ground. Roderick pointed his sword at Ralem.

“All right.” He said with a strange smile. “You win.”

Roderick could have ended it there, and he very nearly did, but a horn blow echoed out through the valley, and he heard the shouts and footsteps of the approaching Ethimar army. Quickly, he shouted. “This is for all the people you killed, Ralem, and this is where your reign ends.”

Just as he was about to bring down the fatal blow, a flurry of arrows whizzed by him, one of them catching him on the shoulder. shouting in pain, and unable to use the arm, he ran the other way, as he saw the thousands uptown thousands of ranks of Ethimar men march into across the plains, just a few dozen meters away. He stole Ralem’s steed, and sped away, dodging the dozens of arrows that fired at him as he did so.

King Ethimar picked himself up, and Lord Asewinn rushed to his aid.

“What happened?” He asked urgently.

King Ralem walked and pulled his sword out from the ground. He looked at it, and then turned it over and did the same, before sheathing it. He was angry. How had a single soldier nearly ended his reign just like that? He pondered this thought, and had another steed readied for him. The sky was dark now, and the stars began to show themselves in the sky.

Lord Asewinn kept pestering him with concerns and questions. He waved them off, and the rage built up in him. He was the High King of Ethimar, Haardor, and now Velanthra. Thousands of  men had died at his command, and thousands more for him. But how could one single soldier nearly end his reign. He couldn’t contain his rage any longer.
“Find him!” He yelled. “Find that bastard who calls himself Roderick of Arilith, and bring him to me!”

Lord Asewinn jumped back, startled, but then stopped. “You heard him!” He said. “captain, organize a company of your best men and hunt him down.”

“And one more thing.” Ralem said. “Bring him to me alive. He’ll see what I do to those who think they can defy me.”

He let out one final yell, before mounting his steed and giving the army the command to move forwards.

“Kill every last Velandran you find. Take no prisoners!” He yelled.

“Onwards!!!!” He screamed.

The forces of Ethimar scoured the once beautiful lands of Velandra, burning and killing anything that moved and dared to call themselves Velarndran.