« Last post by Myen'Tal on June 10, 2021, 08:14:37 AM »
Manuscript has reached about 102,000 words. Less than 8,000 away from hitting my target word count of 110,000. I think I'm going to over it a bit at this rate.
I'm actually writing the final chapter of Embers of the Past now, basically wrote the first two scenes. Now I'm just tying up some scenes I never quite finished, then everything should be ready for my critique.
I've done a lot of editing, kind of paused to resume writing the story again. But getting ready to dive back into editing the rest of the manuscript once I complete it.
Almost finished overhauling Kendal's entire Act I narrative arc, just have one last scene for him to go. Then I've one more chapter to seal up, and a battle to edit through on the fly, and that should be it!
I want to thank everyone who is still holding interest! It might be a while before I'm able to go through the other editing steps with Embers, but if that happens, then I'll switch to Plan B to focus on the Map + Website + maybe some additional art for EoTP.
Azat stood alone on the battlefield, abandoned since the evening dusk of yesterday. Ominous thunder split the dawn skies asunder till they wept. Ceaseless rain came pouring down from the heavens onto the mountain pass of Reaper's Lantern. Galerider waded through crimson water coming up to his ankles, through the innumerable dead heaped upon the craggy earth.
Azat took in the aftermath as the storm raged on. Cleansing rain washed away the gore and filth of the battlefield back into the Suranna Plains. Despite the weather, warriors of the Ardent Vigil hunted the field without end. Each of their number combed through the dead's morbid legions in search for wounded or deceased comrades.
Thousands had died in the span of a single day. Azat gazed out across the thick of ruin left in the wake of two clashing armies. He shuddered at the sight of such violence and death. It was no different than that fateful day, thirty years ago, where a King had perished, and his armies put to the sword.
Yesterday, he had little time to assess the damages done to his forces. The battle at Reaper's Lantern had not even came to close that night, when Azat was forced to quit the field to execute his strategies for the morrow. Of course, the first day of the battle had proven indecisive. Old Myria had repulsed the Dominion back into Cressa's Lantern, but his own battered army was all but spent holding their ground.
Azat knew any attempt to spearhead an assault into the mountain valley was suicide.
So, as the dawn sun crested the horizon, Azat waited for the Carthites to take to the field for another day. He was unsurprised when less than a fraction of the Dominion’s hordes sent against Old Myria yesterday, came riding down the steep slopes into the mountain pass. He counted about two hundred riders, a mix of Zar'qin warriors and their Qin’sar masters, riding under one banner.
They held aloft no white banners for parlaying, but Azat knew that was precisely what they wanted. He knew from the God King of the Carth Dominion riding at the fore of the cavalcade.
Erasyl of Tu'shik, Azat thought, in the flesh himself.
Azat folded his arms, standing his ground before the oncoming stampede. The Ardent Vigil combing the fields looked up from their grisly task. They saw the enemy charging through the heavy rain, and drew their swords out of caution. His Immortals quickly gathered around him, forming a protective formation as the Carthite cavalry began to slow when they drew near enough.
Their voices carried on the howling winds; their wailing battle cries distorted by the storm, sounding like howling sirens of death. A handful of the Anahir Immortals clashed their swords over shields to strike courage in the hearts. A handful of Ardent Vigil glanced over their shoulders toward safety, but the presence of the Anahir Immortals amassed in the backfield forced them to look forward.
The deathly cries of the Dominion's warriors continued to haunt the Old Myrian ranks, well after the cavalcade halted amid the battlefield. Azat felt the earth under his feet gradually cease its shuddering, as his enemies kept a respectful distance from the Old Myrians. Still, they were near enough that he could make out their shadow clad figures in the burning light of pitch—soaked torches.
From the howling ranks of the Dominion, one warrior rode out toward Azat alone. He shouted the command for his archers to stand down, and spurred Galerider to meet the Dominion's herald on middle ground. Galerider waded through the endless dead and came into the light of a lonesome torch, blazing between either army. From the opposing direction, Erasyl of Tu'shik did the same. He rode a massive ebon warhorse the size of which Azat could only imagine in fairy tales.
Lightning cracked open the dark skies, and thunder bellowed until the Veiled Mountains quivered out of fear.
The God King of the Carth Dominion smiled graciously when he first noticed Azat's approach. The two figures neared one another until they stood face to face, and could see the white in each other's eyes.
“Lord Zakarian,” Erasyl intoned. He brought his gargantuan mount to a halt, looking down on Azat with a look of extraordinary pride. “I should have known you'd find some way to survive the onslaught. I must confess, that you've impressed me. I can see why my father was struck down by your hand, when you were in your prime.” He looked Azat up and took in the sight of his repaired armor. “There is not a talented blacksmith in all the world that could clean out all the blood in those iron scales.
Azat disagreed, “It is the blood of the countless slaves you've sent to their deaths, and of the friends that perished fighting against them. This is not a wardrobe that I'm proud of.”
The God King inclined his head out of respect. He replied, “Azat Zakarian, the Black Wolf of Irothis… I remember the days some thirty years ago, when you were a much brasher, arrogant sort. Perhaps not vain like my father, but I can appreciate the wisdom you've gained in your elder years.”
Azat smiled, “In theory, my wisdom is probably only a grain compared to the full hourglass of a thousand-year-old man. The fact alone that you continue to fall into the same pits of sin like any mortal shows that mankind is flawed beyond hope.”
Erasyl lowered his gaze, glaring down at Azat with a patient smile. He answered, “What guilt I must bear for my transgressions, I gladly bear for the sake of all the children of man. You wouldn't understand, Lord Zakarian.”
Azat arched his brow, “Are you so certain about that? Always have the Children of the Sun stayed an enigma to Khios. Should you have some convoluted lesson shrouded in all that religious encryption, I would gladly listen.”
Erasyl considered Azat's insistence, pleasantly surprised judging from his expression. He contemplated, then declined with a mere shake of his head. “You're gracious enough to ask, but you and I both know that there are more pressing issues to be discussed during our parley.”
Azat squinted into the rain crashing down on him. He asked, “Shall we stand here in the rain till we've reached some agreement?”
Erasyl bellowed with hearty laughter. He answered, quickly sobering, “Would you feel comfortable accompanying me back to my encampment? I am certain you would not, as I would not feel comfortable riding out alone into the Suranna Plains.”
Azat smirked, “Candor from a tyrant? And here I thought you a fearless sort.”
Erasyl shrugged, “Fearless, perhaps, but certainly not foolish…”
An eerie silence descended upon Reaper's Lantern as the Carthite war hordes eventually ceased their wailing cries and the Old Myrians stopped beating their shields. There was only the storm raging, as a moment of silence haunted the still ranks of the fallen.
Erasyl shattered the interlude with an unusual request. “Let us cast aside our obvious demands. There is little point in asking you to abandon Reaper's Lantern, as there is no point of asking the Dominion to withdraw from Cressa's Lantern.”
Azat heard Erasyl's reasoning, and nodded in agreement. “We would be at an impasse otherwise. You surprise me, Erasyl, I thought you would send another legion of your Zar'qin to batter us aside. You and I both know that you could have your victory on this second day of the battle.”
The God King did not disagree, but neither did he agree with Azat's opinion. He countered, “It has only been the first day of our battle at this mountain pass. I have lost several thousand of my finest Zar'qin warriors. And you?”
Azat arched his brow, taken back by the confession. The last thing he wanted was to reveal the number of his own fallen to the God King of all the Carth Dominion. He thought upon the matter, and decided to parlay in honest transparency.
Azat sighed, “I've lost nearly three thousand able bodies. All that said, I have no intention of surrendering the mountain pass, or allowing you to march on without retribution.”
“That is no surprise to Carth's Immortal Son.” Erasyl smiled knowingly. “I could order another assault on your forces, but I could risk my casualties spiraling beyond ten thousand valorous souls… and for Old Myria, is the rest of your three thousand living, able sons and daughters not too great a sacrifice?”
Azat cocked his head at Erasyl, puzzled. “Are you suggesting an end to this petty war?”
The God King answered with a grim shake of his head. “This war is far from petty, Azat. It is a reckoning over one thousand years in the making. But for either of us to lose so many in the first two days of this war… It is unbecoming of any general or monarch to waste valuable lives in such numbers.”
Azat slowly inclined his head in agreement. “Then we've come to another impasse. What is it that you are suggesting?”
Erasyl smirked. He must have thought Azat was being coy. “You must have an idea already? In the days of wars long forgotten from history itself, our ancestors would solve pressing issues like these in personal combat. They would allow their armies to gather and spectate, and two champions selected by either opposing army fought on till the death in most cases.
“I suggest that we forgo a trial by combat to the death, but determine the victory by the first grievous wound.”
Azat countered, “Either of us would risk death anyway, if it was to the first wound that leave us unable to fight.”
Erasyl nodded, “True, but you'll have your chance to survive, should you remain strong. The same applies to me. Such is the way of war, even those fought honorably.”
Azat nodded without hesitation. He said, “shall we get this over with now then?”
Skeptical, the God King questioned him, champion to champion. “How do you feel after the first day of battle? I heard from my scouts that you led from the fore. I was greatly impressed to hear of your exploits, and am impressed further still that you are still here, breathing.”
Azat begrudgingly answered, uncertain how to be thankful to his mortal nemesis. “Perhaps we could wait…”
“Seven days.” Erasyl suggested. “We shall meet here one week from today, our armies assembled, when Sirius has reached its zenith in the clear skies. You and I shall fight a trial by combat to the first grievous wound. Should you wound me, and I yield, I shall take the warriors of my Dominion… and return from whence we came. Should I wound you and you yield, you must surrender Reaper's Lantern to my armies.”
Uncertainty haunted Azat. He wrestled around in his thoughts, calculating which choice was the correct decision. He concluded, that if anything, another seven days for reinforcements to arrive was better than losing the mountain pass and his entire army, then his life on the morrow.
He accepted with a nod. “Seven days from now, the fate of our entire war shall be decided by who is the better warrior.”
Erasyl nodded, still smiling. “It shall be a myth to pass down into the centuries. Should either of us die in our struggle, we shall be remembered as legends.”
Azat sighed, “It feels odd, doesn't it? Men as old as we are already carved legacies that will last into history. It is strange that after thirty years, you and I are poised to repeat history once again.”
The God King turned his great warhorse back to the Carthite lines, and went ahead to take his leave. As the storm winds howled ever louder, the God King's words pierced the veil like a Sage's prophetic warning.
Erasyl promised, “Us old guards must do what we can for our children. For one day, they must take up the sword when we are gone from this world. Let them spectate a little longer. There will be no return to peaceful days of bliss and waiting for champions to decide Khios' fate, when they replace their forebears on the battlefields of ceaseless war…”