Sunrise Part 2.
At first, the battle seemed to be going well. Arrows and bolts and magic struck down the first several ranks of the damned with great ease, and continued to destroy undead in the back ranks once the melee began. Elven swords and spears were slaughtering the enemy with the precision and determination that can only be attained by people who have spent their whole lives fighting. They pushed the dead further and further back, halfway across the fields, until, in a single moment, the tempo of battle changed.
Suddenly the ranks of the dead swelled, not just with skeletons and risen corpses, but hulking monstrosities of rotten flesh, twice as tall as an elf, who came swinging massive clubs and axes. They were soon followed by twisted, horrific creatures that seems like they had never seen the sky before, so pale was their flesh and so crooked and rotten their blood drenched teeth. The Anaetyne line held for several minutes against the renewed onslaught, but the final blow came from above.
The ethereal being wrapped in dark flames floated lazily above the fray, as his aura of fire grew larger and larger. Suddenly, it let out a soul rending scream that carried across the entire battlefield and into Aeredos beyond. This scream was punctuated with a massive blast of malignant fire sent forth from the being, straight into the center of the elven defense. Living and dead alike were incinerated, but the dead recovered first. They poured into the breach of the line and the elven formation began to quickly collapse.
On the wall, Erastil looked to his advisers and, nearly shouting, asked “What in the vast skies is that thing!”
Mathea responded, calm as ever, “That is one of the seven Nurmkyr. They have been commanding the dead since the start of the Nur M’hada, all those years ago. Legend says there is one tied to each of our gods, save Aeviria. They are darkness and evil incarnate, seeking to bring the rest of what is living and good into their cursed existence.”
“Can they be killed?” Erastil replied, calmer than before
“Everything can be killed Vaesilokh, if the one trying has enough will.”
“Then let us find out if I am up to the task.”
Erastil raised his arms, and two mages who were waiting on the wall stepped forwards. They brought their hands forth and a white energy enveloped their hands, and the wind began to swirl around them. Soon they were wrapped in personal gales, their clothes flapping and their hair swirling around, after a few seconds of this they both reeled back and made a throwing motion, directed at Erastil. The white light faded from their hands as the wind left them behind and wrapped around the elven ruler.
Erastil nodded at each of them, and then at his advisers. “I’ll see you when this is over, either victorious, or in the fields of the sky!” and then he ran towars the battlements of the wall, and with an impressive leap, jumped off the wall towards the battlefield.
What he did next wasn’t exactly falling, but it was close. Erastil slowly descending in an arc from the top of the wall, the wind wrapped around him slowing his descent to a safe speed, his trajectory taking him straight towards a throng of undead.
As he went, he began singing an ancient battle-song. An old tradition of the Anaetyne people, that was rarely used these days, but that did not matter, all the elves knew this song, it was the song their ancestors sang when they first clashed with the horde, and its words would never be forgotten as long as an elf still drew breath.
The soldiers, who had began cheering when they first saw their ruler leap from the wall to join the fray, began singing with him, and as Erastil smashed into the ball of undead waiting for him, the entire battlefield was covered with the sound of elven voices, rising defiant over the snarls and cries of the damned.
Erastil fought alone for several minutes, cutting the risen to pieces with his blade of sunlight, but even a holy weapon and a skilled warrior can be overwhelmed by numbers. Just as he started to flag, and was nearly wounded by a twisted creature more beast than humanoid, his soldiers broke through to him. Elven spears and swords scythed through the mass of hungry dead, and enveloped Erastil.
He took a moment to breath, before taking up the song once again and shouldering through his troops to the front lines. They fought for what felt like hours, though it was difficult for anyone to really tell how long had passed, the chaos of battle blurring the moments together. Erastil kept getting further out than the rest of his soldiers, often fighting with four or five ranks of enemies between him and his troops, and as the battle went on he got further separated, until he could barely see the tops of their helmets and the ends of their spears.
Erastil found himself standing on a small outcropping of rock, drenched in sweat and surrounded by a massive pile of slain undead. His blade of light shined as bright as before, and the horde, once so mindlessly throwing themselves to their death were starting to avoid coming near him. He took this brief moment of respite to take a deep breath, before readying himself to dive back into the fray, when he felt the ground behind him started to shake. Slowly, he turned around to see a horrifying sight.
The largest of the piece-meal abominations was trudging towards him, with the Nurmkyr floating a hundred feet above it, flames slowly twisting around as it drifted lazily above the battlefield. Behind the abomination was the obsidian circle, and now that Erastil was closer he could make out more details on the figure chained inside it. It appeared to be a dessicated elven corpse, white skin pulled tight on its bones, various wounds where black blood seeped out. It was wearing the tattered and rusted remains of armor, with a faded purple tabard with the sun and moon emblem emblazoned on it. The same tabard that Erastil was wearing. The same tabard that only the Vaesilokh of Anaetyr wore. Impaled through the center of the body was a spear, grey wood shaft with gold fittings, a tassel streaming from the purple dyed grip. Erastil couldn’t see the head of the spear, but he knew what he would see anyways. A leaf bladed head made from the purest violet Aezyrithil. This spear was Anaerath, the sacred weapon of his family, lost hundreds of years ago when Vaesilokh Cyzath took a ship of their strongest warriors to try to find and destroy the source of the undead plague. This body was Erastil’s ancestor, chained up like a macabre flag to mock the living.
Erastil looked in horror as the corpse of his great great great grandfather lifted his dessicated head, and locked eyes with him. He mouthed one simple phrase to his descendant, “Avenge us”.
Erastil hardened his will and broke away from looking at Cyzath, just in time as well, as the abominations feculent fist was on a direct course for him. He jumped to the side, and shouted out towards the sky. A second beam of light broke through the dark skies and coalesced into another blade in his left hand. The magic left him light-headed, but Erastil pushed through it. He dodged another blow and moved backwards, slashing out at the hand, the wound left behind opening up and spilling a hundred blood-fattened maggots onto the ground. The Nurmkyr was drifting closer to the ground now, only a dozen feet above the head of the hulking monster, and the shadow of a plan began to form in Erastil’s mind.
He avoided several more blows, leaving superficial wounds behind on the creature behind after each one, inching ever further back, until he was pressed up against a stone outcropping. His back to the rock, he stood defiantly as the monstrosity raised its fist. It almost sounded like the thing was laughing. As its arms went out, Erastil shouted one word, that carried all the way to the wall where his ballista team was waiting for their command. “Fire!”
A massive twang sounded, and the giant bolt was sailing forth, steel head carved with holy symbols and blessed by priests. The monster brought its fists down to crush Erastil, who immediately rolled forward, between the things legs. He popped up on the other side, and sprinted around its side just as the bolt slammed home into the creatures chest, impaling it to the earth with a resounding ‘THUNK’. There was no time to celebrate though, as Erastil lept onto the rock outcropping and vaulted over the creatures head. One foot landed on the edge of the bolt, which bent down and then snapped back up, launching the Vaesilokh into the air. He didn't make it all the way up to wear the Nurmkyr floated, but he got close enough for what he intended. At the peak of his arc, he hurled one of his sunlight blades at the creature. Too late, it realized what was happening and tried to move out of the way, but the blade sunk home. Not in its heart, where Erastil aimed, but in its gut all the same. An ear-piercing scream went out over the battlefield as an explosion of light and dark fire went out across the battlefield.
Erastil hit the ground hard, but managed to roll out of the fall and spring back to his feet, just as the dark creature slammed to the ground. The Nurmkyr rose from the ground swiftly, and let out another scream as a whip of flame appeared in its hand. By now, all the fighting around them had ceased, as dead and living alike stopped and turned to watch the showdown between their leaders. The Nurmkyr was in the center of the circle of cleared space, and on the other side of him was the Dark Altar to which Cyzath was chained. Erastil readied himself, and dropped into a fighting stance, and began to sing once more. As the soldiers around started to sing again as well, the Nurmkyr charged. Two steps forwards and it cracked its fiery whip, sending it flying straight at Erastil’s head. He managed to deflect it with his sword, and then began to run at the creature. Twice more the whip cracked out before they collided, and twice more it was deflected, though each one was closer and closer to hitting home.
As they reached each other, Erastil ducked under another whip blow, and slashed his sword across the creatures side. As it yelled out in pain, he spun around to try to hit it again, but it leapt backwards, cracking the whip once more at Erastil. This time, as he tried to deflect it, the creature changed direction with the swing, impossibly fast, and the whip coiled around the Vaesilokh’s wrist, searing deep into his flesh and soul. Erastil cried out and dropped the sword, which dissipated on the ground. He wrenched his arm out of the whip, flesh burnt and bone visible at the center, and moved backwards to avoid another hit. He raised his left hand and tried to call for another blade, but he nearly passed out from the effort and collapsed back against the obsidian ring with nothing in his hand. He struggled back to his feet and drew his dagger as the Nurmkyr drifted slowly towards him. As it reached him, he swung out with the dagger, but the creature easily avoided the blow, and knocked his arm aside. The dagger fell to the dirt, as the Nurmkyr reached out and grabbed Erastil by the throat, and began to lift. Straight up into the air they flew, until they were level with Cyzath. With its free hand, the creature lifted its shadowy veil, and its pale, dessicated mouth was revealed. It spoke, in halting and uncertain tone, yet full of unhinged malice
“Gaze your last upon your fallen forefather, elfling, as his fate will be yours. Your blood will fuel our hunger, and with you we shall break apart your wall and feast upon all the delicacies hiding within. Death… is unstoppable.”
Erastil struggled to reply to the creature, but the hand choking him made it difficult. Amused, the creature let out a rasping laugh and loosened his grip enough for Erastil to speak.
“Death may be unstoppable, creature, but you are not.”
With that, Erastil reached his wounded arm out and grasped the haft of Anaerath, and wrenched it from the body of Cyzath. As he did so, the obsidian ring immediately began to crack, as the corpse of his ancestor immediately turned to ash and dust. The Nurmkyr let out a screech again and began to squeeze even harder than before “YOU’LL SUFFER FOR THIS, SUN-MARKED” as Erastil shifted his grip on the spear and drove the head of it straight into the chest of the creature.
A final screech went out of the monster as it exploded with a gout of flame, and the dark skies were cast away as the sun crested the horizon. The undead immediately collapsed into rotten bodies and dried bones, as the dark alter crumbled to rubble on the field. Silence overtook the remaining soldiers, who watched as the body of their Vaesilokh, burnt and blacked slammed into the ground, still clutching the spear in his unmoving fingers.
Two weeks later
Ilhara Aevirath, daughter of Erastil and Alreath Aevirath, stood inside her bedroom. In one hand she clutched the crown of Anaetyr, and in the other she held Anaerath. The coronation ceremony had gone smoothly enough, she had fought off tears, given her speech, listened to the crowd cheer as she held back tears, declared new nobles to replace those who had died, fought off some more tears, and finally the ceremony was over, and she was able to sneak off to her room, where the tears could flow unabated. It has gone better than the funeral last week anyways, where she, at the very end, couldn’t hold back herself anymore and had broken down as her fathers body was burning on the pyre.
Eventually, she found her strength once more, and placed her crown back on her head, and walked out onto the balcony. She could see over the walls from here, and she could see the sails of the ships she had sent out disappearing over the horizon. Her heart was broken, but her peoples were not. Despite the loss of their Vaesilokh, a great victory had been won. The dead had not come from the sea since the battle, and Ilhara had wasted no time taking advantage of the situation. New farms were being raised outside the walls, and the docks were being expanded. Ships were being sent in all directions to increase the amount of trade Anaetyr was involved with, and to spread word of their victory and the sacrifice of her father. People in other nations might not care or even believe the story, but she was determined to make sure it lived on forever.
As she gazed out upon her people, she knew one thing
Hope was no longer dead, it has risen, and the Anaetyne would never let it die again.