EDIT One: A handful of small changes made.
So after listening to some counsel, I've decided this will not be a complete story refresh, but I'll be working with what I have and attempt to get that up to standard.
So I've decided that I needed to add another chapter that becomes before the others. Aslan's chapter has been removed, as there are too many characters jammed into the beginning story at the moment.
Voshki will also be removed due to the same issue. Ara's chapter shall stay, however, and I will be working to modify it.
So one should consider this the beginning of Embers, retold.
“Gather around me, warriors!” Nishan shouted to the heights of heaven. “Gather around your general and heed my words!”
On the fertile banks of the Seventh River, hundreds of men and women heeded his call. Each performed an about-face to watch the commander’s addressal. Nishan rooted himself on a great hill overlooking his arrayed armies. A midday sun cast his forces out in the verdant fields beyond the Seventh in a shimmering haze.
The Scarred Child bellowed into the gust. “Listen with intent! A warrior always knows his enemy! A warrior always understands himself! A lesson taught to each of us from early childhood! An army that does not understand itself is not an army at all! It is a herd of sheep, doomed to slaughter!
“Do you know yourselves!? For who are we if not the Children of Carth!? Are we not all sons and daughters of the greatest civilization to grace the continent of Khios!? Are we not all brothers and sisters born into a shared manifest destiny!? Has our ancestors' blood not fed these heartlands for centuries?
“Do you know your enemy!?” Nishan cried out in askance. “Pretenders who would claim shared lineage of our honored blood! Gaze across the field and watch them stand against you!”
The general gazed across the fields and spotted hundreds of crimson and gold standards billowing in the wind. The standards were scattered across the forces of the Children of the Sun - thousands strong. In the heat haze, their warriors appeared as a flood of cream, crimson, and steel.
He noted the gargantuan city on the horizon, positioned safely behind his enemies. He considered the fabled realm of Tu’shik and how it seemed more mirage than an actual tangible thing.
By midnight, he would gaze upon Tu’shik for the first time. Then he would command his armies to wipe it from the face of the earth.
Nishan continued. “For too long, have the Children of the Sun been allowed to prosper within Carth’s lands! Once, we would have called them brothers! They were steadfast against the barbarian hordes… they were resolute against kingdoms both rival and upstart!"
The Scarred Child struck his chest like a war drum. His armored fist struck his scalemail cuirass over and over until his brethren began to repeat the gesture. Defiant shouts and war cries rippled across the ranks. The sound swelled in volume until it became a deafening barrage of noise.
“But what does any of that matter, when loyalty begins to waver!? Should we honor allies that begin to shun our values and traditions!? Should we honor those who would show their backs to their betters!? What sons and daughters of Carth would yield their freedom to a supposed God-King and eke out an existence in tyranny!?
He swept his hand across his chest to point in the direction of the enemy. No sooner did he complete the gesture did the warriors of Carth shift around to face the Children of the Sun once more.
“Warriors of Carth know themselves and their foes, and these so-called Children of the Sun are no kindred! Spare none of them from the bite of your swords! Show them no quarter and grant them no respite!
“Sound the horns!” Nishan commanded. “Take to the field! Seize victory from Tu'shik's ruin!"
The horns sounded and called the Carth Republic to war. The earth itself trembled to the feet of thousands marching onto the battlefield. The Children of the Sun shimmered like an illusion in the haze. Yet Nishan noticed the dark blot sent hurtling into the sky from their archers.
He understood that there would be no turning back. He understood that every warrior under his command knew this too.
“Scarred Child.” A member of Nishan’s command retinue approached from behind. “Shall we answer these fools with Carth’s wrath?”
Nishan lifted his helmet off his shoulders and allowed his unkempt raven hair to breathe a little. He craned his head to look his lieutenant in the eye. To his credit, the subordinate officer did not flinch from Nishan’s grisly and scarred visage. Nor did he look his commander in the left eye, shut by a permanent scar.
He barked out a laugh as he turned from his marching forces. He smacked the lieutenant once across his plated pauldron.
“You might as well, Yervant.” Nishan cackled at his subordinate, who bowed apologetically after glimpsing his face. “Enough bowing, boy, you’re a member of the Scarred Child’s retinue. You bow only before the senate and the standard of Carth. Teach these zealous fanatics a lesson in humility instead!
“They shall learn that their Solar God shall break as any other weakling deity before the barrage of our cannons!”
Yervant erected himself and slammed his chest with a mailed fist. “Your command is my oath!” He turned to the signal bearers on the river bank. In one hand alone, he lifted Carth’s standard for them to see.
Nishan turned his gaze toward the fleet of Cogs anchored on the Seventh’s vast waters. Several minutes after the signal bearers executed their duties, a blistering volley erupted from the fifty bombards arrayed across the fleet’s port side.
The general shifted back toward the beginning battle. A constant hail of arrows was already assailing Carth's vanguard. Pride fanned within Nishan’s chest as his warriors weathered the storm under a bulwark of shields, then broke ranks in a massive charge to shatter the formations arrayed against them.
The whistle of cannon shells hurtling overhead quickly dissipated out of earshot. Before the first ranks of both armies could clash into one another, the earth heaved and erupted beneath Tu’shik’s armies. Nishan could not even wager a guess as to how many Children of the Sun were torn apart from the volley.
What was obvious was that the initial defense of Tu’shik was left in disarray. Remnants of their vanguard met Carth’s wall of blades, but were easily scattered, overcome, and routed.
“Squire!” The Scarred Child called. “Fetch the horses! Yervant, gather my retinue! We shall join the battle!”
“Commander?” Yervant arched his brow. “The battle has only been joined. You would put yourself at great risk.”
Nishan wheezed out a laugh. “You have a warm heart to concern yourself with the likes of me, Yervant. I’ve sworn that I’d turn you into a heart of steel. An exemplar leads by example! Come, before we are too late and the Children of the Sun break all at once!”