A Chronicle of the First Legion
-Day one of the War against Michael.
In the most cliché of ways, it began as a day like any other. The radiance of the rising sun in the east offset the lingering darkness of night in the west, a stark contrast within the heavenly realm of dawn. The withdrawal of the nightly haunts directly opposed the sudden awakening of daylights creatures, scurrying here and there to fulfill their natural instincts and daily routines under long morning shadows. As early morning turned into the height of cloud spotted noon, it was a day neither significant nor insignificant. People went about their business, tending to what was theirs, adding more to the aggregate of their lives, loving those that in turn loved them. It was a time that would have easily been forgotten had it not been the day that the world began to end.
At the time of day when the sun reached its zenith and devoured shadows, a bright light radiated from the city of Caer. It was like staring into the sun, forcing those close enough to witness the event to turn their heads with arms outstretched in vain attempts to shield their eyes. A voice penetrated their minds, sending a message filled with a numb malice. Images followed; of men, women and children running from that terrible brightness within twisted alleyways and cobbled streets, only to be enveloped, and emerge as stone statues, their faces still distorted in fright and confusion.
Jabber jabber, worry worry, the onlookers chirped amongst themselves like frightened chickens whilst witnessing history in the making. Some ran, it bought them no time.
The light dissipated, the day returned to normal. My unit was stationed too far west to notice the event, but news of it and the subsequent invasion arrived a few days later.
The War against Michael had begun, just no one would know about it for a few more hours. For a few hours at least, there was an quiet, yet unnerving peace. Then the Michaelsworn burned the countryside. His first troops were recruited from the city survivors, then from the outskirts as they spread west like caterpillars on a tree. The first of the Enthralled.
* * *
-Day four of the War against Michael.
Peter’s things were with his platoon at Red Brigade, his unit was ordered to the sight of the devastation. He had already said goodbye to his wife as couples normally do in private, and shared a last meal with his family. Now he stood at the door of his home at the corner end of one of Mayesgrad’s cobbled streets, looking down at his little girl, preparing to give his final goodbye. Men-at-arms of his unit were already leaving the city towards their designated encampments, he needed to join them soon.
“I don’t want you to go.” Jane said to him with those big blue eyes of hers. He couldn’t help but smile, “I’m sorry, but I have too.”
“Why?” she clutched a dirty rag between two tiny fists, she never did know what to do with her hands. Peter told us about her all the time.
“Because the Brigade needs me too.” He knelt down on one knee so he could be at her eye level, she was only eight years old. “I’m a Brigadier’s man, to the bone. My friends need me at Caer.” If what the reports hinted were true, everyone within the city was dead, nearly a hundred thousand citizens. Red Brigade was ordered to deal with this unknown force, one way or another. Plans were being concocted for a few other units to merge somewhere to the south, in case the sacking of Caer was arbitrated by one of their nations rivals. But in the meantime Red Brigade was to see what was happening in the ruins. The vision left no doubt that failure was not an option. Peter reached out to hug his child, “It’s only one tour, Jane. Then I’ll be back for good.” She dropped her rag and cried into his chest, “You promise?”
It took him all his effort to restrain his tears, “I promise. I’ll send presents to you and your mother every day, and tell you about all my adventures when I get back. Ok?”
“Ok.” She stifled a sob. They released from their embrace. Peter kissed his daughter on the forehead, then headed out to meet his platoon.
“I love you, Daddy.” Jane said as her father passed beyond sight. He claimed to be a Brigadier’s man, but he was truly a family man. He went so that his family could live.
* * *
-Day five of the War against Michael. Novgrod Crossroads.
Major Niles never liked being a soldier, it was a career forced upon him by his father. Despite his displeasure, he was quite good at his profession, and ascended the ranks swiftly.
He sat on a log in front of his tent, Firewalker Brigade showing the signs of settling down after having set up camp for the night. Men gathered around fire pits, sharing stories, playing cards, eating, anything to forestall the boredom that inevitably took hold of soldiers when there was no action. They were moving to Mayesgrad, in order to replace the brigade that was marching to Caer after the vision manifested. Three days on the march, while not the most tiring expedition he had endured, still took its toll. Once at the city, he planned to see his brother’s family for a few days. He looked forward to it, he needed something to take his mind off that haunting premonition a few days past, it still gave him nightmares. It was strange, he never remembered his dreams. But ever since that day, the same one possessed him every night; light, a stone mob in retreat, screaming, and overall, terrible white eyes, promising horrors beyond reckoning.
He pulled out a canteen, lifted it so he could drink, when he noticed a rider trotting into camp. His men regarded the newcomer, then pointed him towards the major. As the man approached, he recognized the sigil embroidered on his tunic, it was the sign of Red Brigade.
“Are you Major Niles of Firewalker Brigade?” The rider asked when he reached him.
“Yes, What is it?” He was worried, there shouldn’t be any reason for a Red Brigadier to be this close to Mayesgrad when they were all supposed to be in Caer.
The rider had a grave look upon his face. His eyes were red and swollen. “You need to prep your men for immediate mobilization. Red Brigade is lost.”
The Major couldn’t restrain himself, “Oh fuck. The entire Brigade?” The messenger nodded, “All of them.”
He closed his canteen with a sweaty hand. It shook silently, he willed it to be still, “Um, well. We’ll be marching within the hour. Explain what happened while we‘re moving.” With each word the messenger reported, the Major’s fear for his brothers family grew deeper.
* * *
-Day eight of the War against Michael. Mayesgrad.
Mortimer’s head throbbed, he needed his wife to see reason.
“The timing is terrible.” She said, moving to sit by him slowly and carefully. She was in the later stages of her pregnancy, her belly was as round as an overly large orange. Mortimer sighed, “Why? All of our friends are already gone. We can’t live here anymore. Margredd is the only safe place left.” She wouldn’t listen, she was steeped in tradition. “Leave my family? Our estates? We’ve been here for seven generations. You think we can just get up and go?” Mortimer’s migraine worsened, they needed to decide quickly, “Why not?” He kept glancing out the glassless window. “There’s nothing in Caer anymore. They destroyed it, completely. Mayesgrad is next. We have no choice.” His wife merely shook her head, refusing to believe that destruction could occur within such a short time. What she failed to realize was that Caer was three times the size of Mayesgrad, with nearly double the garrison. If that great city could fall so easily, what chance did they have?
“I’m so sick of this argument.” She sighed, seemingly having given in. “If we go, how are you going to support us?”
Mortimer got excited, maybe they could get out in time after all, “I’ll find work. Day and night if I have too. Any job I can find, no matter how degrading.” Being noble born, most jobs would be degrading. But he meant what he said. He reached out and held her hand, he stroked it gently. “I only want you and the baby safe. If we go, things will get better.”
She gazed into his eyes sadly, he was ever the optimist, “You don’t know that.” He looked down, he couldn’t meet her eyes. He remembered the day when Caer fell, only a scant week ago. A blinding light to the east, bright and beautiful. Then came the darkness, the oppressing weight pressing down on Mortimer’s soul, the feint hint of a whisper in his ear, seethed with contempt. I am Michael… and this world… is mine. “Maybe not…” He took a deep breath, and looked outside. “But it’s better then staying here and having no future at all.” The rising dust from the advancing horde continued to grow as it approached the city.
* * *
-Day twelve of the War against Michael. The ruins of Mayesgrad.
The man once known as Major Niles unwillingly strode through the streets of the shattered city of Mayesgrad. He was aghast at what the Sightless Man could wrought, he cut through his own men as well as his enemies. He felt at his throat for the thousandth time, feeling from end to end the deep gash penetrating his skin. He shouldn’t be alive, yet the incident haunted his dreams. Well, if the horde stopped long enough for him to have dreams…
The Major ran, fear overtaking him as it overtook his men, so much so that it brought moisture to his eyes. Niles couldn’t fathom how it had happened. They outnumbered the enemy, three to one, and were better trained and equipped. They seemed to just be farmers, carrying pitchforks and scythes brought in from the fields. These were the monsters that annihilated Red Brigade?
As he fled, a rock caught his leg, twisting it and sending him flying to the ground. He became surrounded, restrained, and brought to the rear of the enemy lines. As he was dragged, he saw his own soldiers being lined up, then brought to their knees. One by one, he witnessed their executioner, an elderly woman with a blank gaze, slit their throats.
They reached the rear, where he faced the Sightless Man for the first time. If it wasn’t for the fear his subordinates clearly portrayed, he would have never known that this average looking man was the leader of these fanatics. Average looks. Average Height. The only thing that stood this man out from anyone else was his eyes… whiter then the whitest maggot, yet black emotions carried their weight through the Major’s heart.
The Sightless One looked, or at least Niles thought he looked; he couldn’t tell considering the man had no pupils, at the tassels across the Major’s shoulder, “Ah, someone of rank at least.” He whispered. “I have brought you before me for a great task, dust mote. A task I can trust only to one with a tactical mind. Some might call it by a different name, but amongst my people, it is Salvation.”
The Sightless One lowered himself to Niles eye level. “Make no mistake, I have little love for you kind; the disgusting flaw in my works. In fact, I mean to end humanity, and everything that mankind has created. And you will help bring forth this apocalypse, my chosen knight. Together, we shall liberate man from his mortal shackle.” The Sightless Man reached down and grabbed the Majors throat, and dragged a rusty knife along the length of it. He felt the full weight of the pain, burning and sharp as he desperately tried to scream, yet no sound escaped his dry lips. Yet, the smiling wound did not bleed. He felt something overtake his senses, and he fell, convulsing. “My insurance is upon you, thrall. I bless you with my sign. Serve me well, and you may be rewarded while you live.“ Major Niles cried, tears slowly rolling down to the tip of his nose, then splash on the grass beneath him. He felt something touch down on his head, and the tears would not come forth any longer. He looked up, and saw that the Mans hand was on his head in an almost soothing nature, “To light a candle, you must light a candle.” His voice was almost soft enough not to hear, but the Major heard every word. “Do not fear, my Captain. The pain will only remain for a few days. I promise you, it will fade with time. It is the Salvation I will offer to all mankind. Soon you will be… numb.”
If the Major could, he would have sobbed. Sadly, he rarely possessed the capacity to do anything but obey.
The Sightless Man, known as Michael the Omnimancer, from what his lieutenants called him, led his procession through the city like a wrathful god, stepping over countless dead.
Entrails and blood clogged the gutters. Fires burned in every building. People fled into the recesses of the sewers to avoid this new terror. Their fear so great that any inkling of resistance died with the last Mayesgrad soldier.
The thing once called Niles strode over a gnarled, whimpering form of a man whose uniform resembled his own. His Raven Guard; the surviving members of the Firewalker Brigade, slew former brothers in arms without remorse as they took the city. None averted their eyes, they weren’t able too. Some were already lost to the numbness that enveloped the Enthralled eventually.
The Omnimancer proved as unstoppable as a storm, relentless and uncaring. He passed through Mayesgrad, killing as he saw fit and acquired followers as the Raven Guard could find them, and came to the city’s West Gate. It was already opened from the remaining citizenry’s flight towards the river Stixs. They strode out, thirsty for conquest. The creature once known as Major Niles prayed for death.
* * *
-Day twenty of the War against Michael. Front Line.
I found it hard to breath, the stench of our surroundings offended fresh air. Using the bodies of my dead friends as shelter was not something I ever expected to suffer through, but there was no wood, no building materials. We learned quickly that you did what you had too or died, a lesson our roof didn’t learn in time.
I was considering whether I should fold my cards or not when a disgusting sound erupted behind me. “Shaky, stop throwing up already.” Everyone within the fleshy habitat had vomited the first few days. Now it was only Shaky, so named because he seemed to always be cold. It was starting to get annoying, and the stench didn’t benefit the already repugnant aroma, “It’s getting old already. We get it, this isn’t a fucking palace.”
“Fuck you Doug,” Shaky gasped when his mouth was empty. “That’s my brother over your head.”
“And his hand keeps on getting loose and whacking me in the head. What a dick.” It was true, the little prick continued to annoy me in death. Ivan placed a card down in the deck, “I didn’t really like him anyhow. Always had that air around him,” he got up and began a silly dance to portray his meaning, “‘Ooo! Look at me! I know how to read! I wipe my dainty ass with lemon scented silks!’” Shaky began to shake with rage instead of the cold, “That’s it, you’re fucking dead you little piece of BLEH!” the last word came with a mouthful of stomach fluid, changing it’s meaning entirely. Judging the constant flow from Shaky, no one would ever suspect that we were starving.
A different sort of moan announced itself near the entrance, this one belonged to the wounded man the others found on the Front. His name was Peter. While he was translucent, he kept on asking about his daughter or wife or whatnot. It was never quite clear, “Think that Peter fella’s gonna pull through, Doc?” Doc was the only name they knew their physician by, he never told anyone his real name. “It’s doubtful. He’s got gangrene all over his right side. Never seen anyone pull through with that much necrosis.”
“Oh my gods, you noble types and your fancy High Gothic. Use normal words, dumb ass!”
“Dumb ass? From the guy that can’t even understand the word necrosis? Yah, ok. Sure smart guy. He’s almost certainly fucked. How’s that?” Silence followed, no one liked it when their healer got angry. Peter kept on groaning, no one complained about a dying man. At the least, we would have more material for our shelter soon. Shaky made an attempt to lighten the mood, “Hey, the guys missing his middle fingers. Dead Halls forbid, If I had no way to flip the bird, I would pray for death. Am I right?” Everyone threw some form of hard object at the little man. His comedy was never appreciated.
The cot next to Peter began to groan as well. Guess it was a day for bitching, “How’s Private Fievel then, Doc?” I inquired, ensuring that my voice lacked its usual smart ass tone.
Whether or not Doc noticed his effort, he didn’t show, “Better than that Mayesgrader. But still, he’s got Cholera something fierce.” Doc paused, thinking something over in his head, “but still his condition hasn’t deteriorated, with time, he might pull through.”
“So does that mean he can help us on the line sometime within the next few days?”
Doc snorted, “Hell no. He’ll be more of a burden then a convenience probably for another few weeks. If I was as cold hearted as the rest of you, I would have shoved him right up next to Shaky’s little sister up there.”
“I heard that you son o’ bitch!” That was Shaky.
“Yah and I meant for you to hear it, shit for breath.” Doc replied, a hand gesture accompanied it. “It won’t matter in a few days anyways. We’ll be overrun by then.”
we heard silent footsteps outside, the sentry unfairly named Butter, so named because he was hilariously obese when he joined up, came into view over the mouth of the shelter. He wasn’t fat anymore, “Time to earn your keep boys. They’re at it again.”
“Back to the old grind then,” I murmured in a disgruntled fashion. Ivan agreed, Shaky just dry heaved. Grabbing our bows, swords and whatnots, our fifty some band of the once four hundred strong company grudgingly left our human covered dugout. Everyone noticed that their armor hung loose. Gods, the things I would do for a side of cow right about now!
We made our way to the barricade, also made from fallen comrades, and scanned the heavy rain, Butter had some good eyes if he could make anything out of that soup. “So who wants to bet it’s those strange duck like things the size of horses again?”
“No way,” Ivan said. Any chance he got he would disagree just to make things interesting. “I’ll place my money on those headless guys with mouths on their hands.”
I made an intelligent sound along the lines of “Wha?” I continued with something more intelligent, “I don’t know what you’ve been smoking. All I’ve seen were those ducks.”
“They came right after the ducks. You know, all grey and everything. Pointy sharp teeth in the palms?”
I gave Ivan another baffled look.
“One of them ate half of Tyron!”
It finally dawned on me, praise Ares, I‘m not crazy! “Oh yah. Eh, bad way to go. Sorry, it just that those ducks were crazy! When I get home, I‘m shooting everyone of their smaller fucking cousins.” murmurs of agreement followed down the line, along with the feint sound of, ‘death to all duckdom!’ from the far edge of the left flank.
Someone on the far right of the barricade shouted to everyone else, “Here they come! I see them!” all conversation halted. Silhouettes appeared in the dense weather. First one, then many.
“Doug,” Ivan whispered.
“What is it?” I replied, my voice barely audible. It wasn’t necessary, it was doubtful they could here anything besides the drumming on the rain.
“You see that banner they’re carrying?”
I squinted my eyes, having trouble making out the standard in the fog, my eyes weren’t the best in the group. When it got close enough for me to make out, I swore silently. It was a plain red field, “Fuck, that’s Red Brigades sign, isn’t it?”
“Yup, looks like they’re playing this game again.”
This had happened before with Firewalker Brigade. Somehow, this enemy known as Michael could convert their former comrades into fanatic lunatics. They hurled themselves into solid positions, dying in droves. It was madness. We weren’t the only severely weakened band on the front, not by a long shot. There were dozens of such companies along the line. But even so, we were all going to be hard pressed.
A different sort of Silhouette began to form, followed by many others of similar shapes. They were followed by low and disturbing quaking noises. Damn, looks like I win.
“Well boys,” I announced to the line, “Looks like its gonna be another long ass night.” grumbling ensued, at least it was accompanied by a flight of arrows.
So it began. One one side, they fought for Humanity's liberty. On the other, they fought for the Liberty of the abyss.