Lord Cruel, the supreme commander of the Black Alliance had every reason to be pleased. He had crushed the Imperial army, and the city of Crowns Reach, the regional capital of Moriban, was finally in his hands. Or their hands, really – the Dark Cabal’s.
Yes, their hands indeed. He sighed and sat down at the nearby ballista. His army’s servitude to Lord Curseweaver and his mysterious Dark Cabal had proven beneficial. They had provided an immense army of shambling undead through the unholy power of their Amulet of Undying.
He absent-mindedly shot a bolt into the retreating mass of Imperial soldiers while he tried to ignore the presence of the Witch Queen Narween Warpdancer, the chief strategist of the Dark Cabal, who had come over to stand next to him. It irritated him because she was spoiling his perfectly good ballista mood.
“Look at them. They are routed, broken. Why do you not pursue and destroy them?” she asked impatiently in her cat-like voice.
Lord Cruel glared at her. “You lack understanding of the arts of war, mistress Warpdancer” he growled. “Behold, they are not routed, as you say. The imperial soldiers are holding firm against my warriors. A rash attack would risk everything we won here today. “
He rose from the ballista and towered over her slight form. He noted that she did not recoil in fear as so many others would and it irritated him further.
“We cannot break them here with our remaining strength. If you and your master had provided me with the so-called Broken Ones – as you had promised – we could have swarmed them and destroyed their army here. But you did not.”
“There has been an unforeseen delay.” she stated coldly.
The enigmatic witch did not seem in a mood to elaborate, so Lord Cruel snorted. “It is of no matter, mistress Warpdancer." he said, “The Imperials will retreat up the River Oseos to lick their wounds. We will remain here and do likewise. In the meantime we will also be able to strengthen our position back across the river, crush the last resistance in Moriban, and prepare for the next phase of the war – the conquest of the Empire. Let the Imperial fools live to fight another day – I always do enjoy a good fight.”
“True, the Imperials may live to fight again” Warpdancer said with a smile “But they will know only the sour taste of defeat from now on. My Lord will raise the fallen on this field and they will join the ranks of your army.” She turned and stared into his eyes, and he was surprised to note that it was he who recoiled beneath her unholy stare. “And then” she said, “the Cabal will be unstoppable.”
Unnerved by her stare, the mighty Lord Cruel merely nodded.
At the same time, there was someone else nearby who felt nearly as uncomfortable as Lord Cruel was right now. That person was Sigurd Ironhammer, the now former Thane to the now former Earl of the now former Imperial earldom of Blackreach. The former earl was walking sullenly next to him, his arm in a sling. Yes, the Empire was doomed all right, Sigurd sighed, and wondered where that heroic band of adventurers had gone. It was obvious that they had not yet managed to obtain the Amulet of Undying, otherwise that army of undead would not just have savaged the Imperial army so thoroughly.
Several heavy horsemen rode past him to reinforce the rear-guard. The army was fighting desperately to detach itself from the enemy, but it looked as if the enemy was not in mind to pursue them. That, at least, was fortunate.
Sigurd could see Baron Theodemir, the Imperial lord of Moriban, issue orders to couriers. He had ordered the army south, to regroup and fortify the remaining cities and prepare for the inevitable sieges. Meanwhile, the Baron himself would travel to Ostmark and raise new armies to come to their aid. “Travel? No, he’s running” Sigurd thought contemptibly and spat on the ground.
He turned to take one last look behind him. Crowns Reach was burning in the distance.
“If your heroes don’t do something soon, there won’t be much left to save, thane.” his lord said angrily. Sigurd shuffled uncomfortably and nodded like an idiot. What else was he supposed to do? Again he wondered where the heroic band of adventurers had gone. He had prayed for them every night since they departed, as he would again tonight. Those brave souls were probably making their way across the freezing Mountains of Bone. Or perhaps they were knee deep in blood in the haunted Forest of Darkness. Or maybe they were struggling for their lives on the dangerous reefs of the Blood Coast. Either way, they would be at Black Harbour soon. All was not yet lost. “Don’t worry, m’lord” he said, “I’m certain they won’t let us down.”
The defeated army trotted slowly south towards Boatmans Ferry.
Somewhere else, far away, and with a far more pleasant climate, you stroll through the city gates of al-Hammam. In tow, you have one sullen captured prince and one pouty rescued princess. Man, breaking into that desert fortress was way easier than you thought it would be. All you have to do now is return the two royal brats to the Sheikh and collect your substantial reward. Then you get to go home. Home… yeah… You wonder if much have changed and if that evil Black Alliance thing has blown over. Sure they butchered everyone you ever knew and loved, but haven’t, like, the Empire or someone dealt with them yet? Oh yeah, there was that Amulet of Undying you was supposed to find. Maybe you should actually go find it and get some payback. As you continue towards the palace, you are feeling pretty good about yourself. You flex your muscles and regard your companions, all tanned and healthy looking. Indeed, you’ve all come a long way since you fled from the Black Alliance over a year ago. Now all that stands between you and your home is one (hopefully short and hopefully pleasant) trip by sea. And if you happened that cross paths with that rascally Captain Ghudraan again, the trip might even be entertaining.
Yes, you think as you flex your muscles… entertaining indeed.
- Brave the seas