Carglise repressed his anxiety, notifying on everything he saw, the disintegration of Viero army’s left wing resulting in Count Jacques’ subsequent retreat and fortification within the forests, hoping to restrict the capabilities of Madaran cavalry via high ground advantage.
In the absence of their left-wing cavalry, the Viero defense quickly narrowed and fell right into a pithole flanked by the Madaran legion on all three sides. Madaran army then promptly dispatched Skeleton Swordsmen as their main attack, of which Viero’s best crossbowmen could deal little damage in return. Only the crossbow arrows enchanted by the Holy cathedral bishop had any intended effect, but due to the severe lack in numbers, it meant hardly anything in the scale of battle.
The Skeleton infantry individually was less powerful, but the overwhelming strength in numbers meant the Viero crossbows could do little to keep them at bay, leaving the remaining thousand or so cavalry and heavy infantry to their own defense.
Just like every other human army in battle against the Undead, the Vierans, despite their ferocity and tenacity, were just an everyday sight to the Madaran legion, and their solution was incredibly simple, to wear them down with the advantage in numbers. It had proven impeccably successful thus far.
Brendel upon hearing the news knew instantly that time was numbered for Count Jacques and what remained of his soldiers. The Skeletons have Arrow resistance and yet the Vierans didn’t dispatch enough Military Bishops? That’s suicide in the making! The Madaran soldiers have ample experience in this, and they most crucially do not tire, do not injure, and do not feel...humans definitely cannot watch their comrades die before their eyes one after another and not feel despair. This is bad...chaos within their ranks is guaranteed at this point...
“So does that mean the Vierans are done for?” Brendel took to asking.
“Quite so, Milord. They’re now in an even battle with the Madaran infantry, no significant progress from either side thus far. Their bows had little use against the skeletons, but are a huge threat to the airborne Phantoms of Terror. Bloodstaff had lost two so far and was looking to bring down the Vieran elite crossbow division.
Not to mention the clear advantage on the Madaran side, this is not an opportunity they would let fly.”
“You’ve seen them with your own eyes?”
“I did, Milord.”
“Then what is your opinion on both parties?” Brendel, on horseback, pursued his answer.
“Viero’s Direct-command Cavalry is a joke, in my humble opinion, they should’ve stayed in their bases. They practically dug a hole for Count Jacques and now exactly because of that the Vierans are in deep, deep waters.”
“Well Duke Viero sure didn’t stop them from coming,” Brendel chuckled with a pinch of cynicism.
Everyone by his side couldn’t help but frown at his response, especially noting the fact that Carglise was a highborn himself. Military men with their allegiances and loyalty pledged to the regional Nobles were heavily imbued into heritage, as it had been for centuries in Aouine and Kirrlutz. At this point, it was almost a civic duty that nobody would bat an eye about. Hearing him speaking against them so brazenly seemed to have stirred massive controversy among other Nobles in attendance.
Only Brendel knew full well that times were now different. Back then the wars and battles between regional Nobles were just rivalries and local skirmishes, with no real stakes at play except likely a little loss of fortune.
But this time it was clearly different. In this era, wars were started and ended to conquer and colonize whole nations. This was an era where the livelihood and the survival of kingdoms and nations alike relied on crucial battles won. An inefficient battle tactic, formation, or spirit would offer a deadly opening for the opponents.
“What about the rest?”
“Holding up fine so far. Tomob’s Noble cavalry and heavy armor soldiers had the forces of Ampere Seale defense army and the Southern Legion, but they’re now cut severely short, if the crossbowmen could offer what they're capable of there’s still a fight, but now…” Carglise hesitated halfway through.
Tomob was Count Jacques’ first name. Carglise had always been considered the rebellious one amongst the Nobles, and besides Brendel and the princess he had never offered any regional Nobles any respect they don’t deserve. Calling Count Jacques by his first name and not a nickname was already the most respect he would give to anyone else.
And the ‘fight’ he mentioned was just the four thousand skeleton army. Bloodstaff did not even dispatch his best forces.
“Eikkel was caught up with the Madaran Skeleton Knights right across from us. They’re thinking of backing up Tomob but the skeletons did not offer them any chances. But speaking of which, the Lantonilans are pretty good at holding their ground too, I witnessed Eikkel and the cavalry in his direct command beating around the bush with the Skeleton Knights, I’m guessing they’re awaiting our arrival.”
Brendel chuckled, certain that the commander of that army must be Eikkel’s fiancee Youla, the Blind Nine Phoenix Maiden. The young woman possessed extraordinary talent, and was truly The Chosen One. If it were not for the premature deaths of Eikkel and herself, Aouine history would undeniably shift significantly.
At this point of the lore, there were a few formidable individuals in the southern regions, besides the aforementioned couple Eikkel and Youla, there was also Cowan right before him. With the alliance of these three championing the war, complemented by the Highland Knights, the Madaran invasion might not turn out as smooth as they would like it to be. Back then when Bloodstaff was ambushed in the Tusarkand forest, Youla played a significant role in its success.
“Speaking of Madara,” He intentionally raised his voice to perk the attention of the others, for, besides Brendel, the majority in attendance were curious about this “adversary” that their Count had been offering what they perceive as an obsession towards.
From what they have known all this while, the skeletons were hardly an enemy worthy of a mention. Besides the likes of Brendel and Freya, not even the mercenaries escaping from Bucce would see Madara as a significant foe towards the Kingdom of Aouine. However, what they witnessed today completely flipped their perception of the Bromantonu Rose.
Jana, dressed in full armor, made herself comfortable upon the horse saddle. The Mercenary squad leader appeared uneasy donning heavy armor, yet simultaneously adoring the aesthetic of it. The exquisitely crafted armor was a fair portrayal of her Noble lineage.
The position of Knight-Captain was a position she had always strived to be in. If she was able to achieve the position earlier, who knows, she might be able to save her sister, she wondered.
as she let out a sigh. Listening to Brendel’s remark, Youla pouted and turned towards Forn by her side as she scoffed, “Milord is back at it again.”
Karsuk’s Cavalry Knight-Captain glanced over, his gaze slightly dull but offered no reply.
“Are those boneheads really that powerful?”
“Better than what you’d have imagined, but not as formidable as the Count puts it to be,” Forn replied.
“My guess is that the Count must have been shellshocked from his encounter with them back in Bucce, haha. Our Lord commander might be ridiculously capable, not to mention young and handsome, but I guess he’s still a kid at the end of the day.” Youla giggled as she blabbered.
Forn glared at her in response to what he deemed a disrespectful remark. Bloodstaff was a public enemy to every Karsukian citizen, and they each carried much hatred towards the demon incarnate, and that included himself. Upon the Count fulfilling his promise he was brought here, and he was more honored to be given an opportunity to slaughter Bloodstaff with his own hands in the place of all Karsukians.
Just the mere thought of it fueled the spirits of this Karsuk Cavalry Mercenary Squad Leader to boiling point. Nevertheless, despite how much he agreed with Youla’s deduction, he would never phrase his description of the Count of Trentheim in such a way.
Meanwhile, before Brendel, Carglise paused for a moment before he continued, “If possible, I wouldn’t want to be their enemy, if we fight them we have to destroy them all. Just the thought of it sounds like a whole lot of effort.”
“They’re also pretty powerful.”
“The one who crippled Tomob’s army was a division of Skeleton Knights, in an attire I have never seen before. Their skill level far exceeds that of the usual skeletons, and what’s more surprising is that I have never come across any rumors about this type of Skeleton Knights ever.
I am suspicious that besides the Phantom of Terror and the Skeleton Knight, there are many variations and types within Madaran forces that we have yet to familiarize ourselves with. High-level organizational military types, they never appeared in any previous battle that we know of,” Carglise hesitatingly reported.
“Mind describing a little?”
“That Skeleton Knight division acts rather different from a regular skeleton infantry, for they wield huge, dual broadswords.”
“Dual wielding swordsmen.”
“Yes, that’s precisely right, Milord,” Carglise nodded, “And then there’s another, with a different armor from the usual, and they wore only half an armor, no helmet yet appeared to be armed with metal protective footwear.”
“Regarding the half-armors, do they have a spider’s crest?”
Carglise rather bewilderingly turned towards Brendel, “Milord, you’ve seen them?”
Brendel chuckled. So they’re here, the spider archers. Fixated on Carglise, he inquired further, “Anything more?”
“They’re indeed very powerful,” Carglise seemed to be shaken and in doubt. Before his dispatch to Cielmann, he understood the challenge he was tasked with. Besides the knowledge that Brendel had passed on to him about Madara, he even sought out Amandina to borrow some resources on the Darkened Kingdom.
He was certain he went through every single page and every piece of information there were, but he had never seen any details on the peculiar Dual-wielding swordsman. Seeing how his Lord commander was far ahead of the ordinary, he threaded carefully as he replied, “Ordinary cavalry is nowhere near their prowess, Milord, they have at least Class Three skill level.”
“Class Three? Organizational military?” Forn finally broke his silence, “That’s impossible!”
Madara did possess numerous Higher-order Undead after all. Creatures such as the Skeletal Dragon goes up to Class Nine.
Back then, in Yinstar Dragon’s army, there were three, and just like the hierarchal positions within the Aouine army, it was easily the most recognizable targets on the battlefield. Since Aouine had their own Elementally Activated masters, the damage these Higher-order creatures could do on the battlefield was hence restricted.
In Vaunte’s Military Theory, only High-level organizational military types could be considered as Higher-order armies.
But that led to a crucial issue. Madara, just like their Aouine counterparts, were notably short on Higher-order armies, for the base level armies usually consisted of Skeletons and Zombies, in many cases worse than regular human soldiers. In slightly higher orders were the Skeleton Knights and Spectres (Pale Cavalry were also classified as a type of Spectre), but their numbers were far too low.
If it were not for the Undead’s unique element, Madaran’s military strength might even be a bar lower than that of a modest kingdom like Aouine, and because of that, both sides manage to have fairly balanced battles with one another for the past millennium, instead of a full-on conquest.
In terms of past records, Aouine even had the upper hand at certain points of history.
Which was why Carglise’s words left Korn, who in attendance had the most encounters with the skeleton army shell-shocked.
“But if Madara could amass an army of this power, why would they shield it away from the world all this while? If they want to launch a surprise conquest on our kingdom, this doesn’t seem like the time,” Youla could not help but inquire.
Brendel shook his head in slight dismay. This was commonplace amongst Aouine citizens of this era, completely oblivious of what was happening on the Eastern lands of their own country.
But he knew for a fact that Carglise was not lying. Madara had never taken the effort to hide their existing military types, less so towards a minnow nation like Aouine, but the Spider Swordsmen indeed never appeared in any wars against Aouine, because they were just recently added into Madaran military rosters.
Terror phantoms, Skeleton Knights, and now the new Spider Swordsmen were still introduced from within the Madara of today, despite the absence of Tharma from history.
One character’s involvement or lack thereof appeared to be insufficient to shift the course of history. The Madaran unification of its four corners into a massive empire and the resulting dominance was terrifying, to say the least, but this was just the beginning. More was to come, as Brendel chuckled, he pondered on how he should inform these men and women in armor that the Spider Swordsmen would in time take on the role of basic footsoldiers. What would their reaction be like?
After the Third War of the Black Roses, Madara was purged of any residual reasons to create skeleton warriors, for that was deemed a waste of spirit energy. And from that point on, Madara’s most rudimentary of army ranks would be the future Class Four-level Avenging Spider Swordsmen.
“So now you’ve all heard it,” Brendel finally decided to reply, “In front of all of us now is what we’re going against, an Undead legion potentially consisting of Class Three armies, even a Class Four airborne division. This is an opponent far different from that of the Kirrlutzians, Lion Beastmen, or even the Devils’ armies. All of you are about to experience the flair of this legion.”
The youths of the White Lion Battalion heard what their Lord commander had laid out and promptly fell into pin-drop silence. Brendel glanced across the people within the fringes of the forest, before he lightly waved his hand.
“But that means nothing.”
He suddenly cracked a broad smile.
“What’s important is that today we will crush them here, tell the world that today the adversaries of Madara will, right here right now, carry along the pride and honor of our ancestors, and once again write our own legacy in the neverending scroll of history.”
“The White Lion of purity and glory, the gold of this sword as the oath to our faith, and the faith of our tradition.”
“Yes,” The Count, riding on horseback paused for a moment as if he was taking his last breath, as he continued, “For Our Beloved Nation, Aouine,”
His rallying cry was not emphatic, just like the weakly drizzling rain, but it was invigorating, it was powerful, and it was more than enough to stir the courage within the hearts of his armies. It sufficed in rallying his soldiers to draw their swords and let on their final charge.
Brendel raised his hand, and across the riverbed and the edges of the forests, flag bearers successively raised their flags, their sacred white flags fluttering in the autumn winds.
On each waving cloth was the crescent moon of the kingdom, the pine-covered mountains, the shedding of the pine needles, and the Northern snow, as if they were carrying the heritage of the nation and revitalizing it upon this land.
Upon it was the crest of the White Lion.
The horn-bearers brought the horns to their lips, puffed their cheeks, and then thunderous sounds of the warhorns were signaled.
The ground shook as the fog appeared to have cleared.
“What’re those before us?” Brendel abruptly inquired.
“They’re two divisions from the Seas of the Dying Moon, Milord. The commanders are ‘Deathwish’ Mogkins, and the Silencer, Count Visgard, their army are formed by Spider Swordsmen and a handful of Skeleton Knights, Milord. Must be Bloodstaff’s best.”
“They have nothing to do with Bloodstaff, they’re the Royal dispatch.” Brendel chuckled.
“It’s nothing important, we’re starting with them first, as a token of gesture to Bloodstaff.”
A prolonged, thundering blow horn shook the entire riverbed, the first to react was the Lantonilans, upon the dull sounds of the dragonhorn, Eikkel’s eyes popped open.
He clenched onto his mount tight, as he yelled into the distance, “Hey, find out where’s the horn from!” Lantonilan cavalry hurriedly turned back, and in a moment someone took to yell, “From the west sir, the west!”
“Hahah, the Trentheim lads are here!” Eikkel pulled out his longsword, turned his horse around as he roared, “The Count is sending his greetings to Bloodstaff, we shan’t let them one-up on us! C’mon lads, sound our horns! Prepare for a change of direction, we’re gonna show the bonehead knights what we’re made of!”
Chased by a horde of far weaker opponents without being allowed to return the favor was exasperating for the knights, and now that they could finally respond, a unilateral cheer was heard echoing through the mountains. A deafening rally cry was heard sweeping through the valley.
A symphony of horns was heard as they resonated through the region complemented by the autumn winds and the drizzling rain.
Count Jacques, now covered in bloodstains raised his head, heard the far-reaching horn, and promptly broke down from the alleviated tension and despair. “The Trentheim army is here, they’re here! That is them and the Lantonilan army notifying us…”
The courageous veteran exclaimed as he began sobbing. After a moment to reorganize himself, he then lamented, “But what use is that? It’s useless, for it’s my fault. I failed them...I failed them all! Tell them to leave, tell Her Grace the Princess, tell the Count, tell everyone...Madara isn’t the one we know anymore! Hornsmen, notify them to retreat, quick tell them to retreat before the Undead spots them!”
The hornblowers were stunned, standing next to their lord, they couldn’t help but share silent gazes at one another.
Are we really doing this?
If they were to sound the horns, it’s the end for them guaranteed, nobody will come. Stuck deep within enemy lines, they would be left for dead.
If they were to blow the horn, like what the Count had said, what use would that be? The Legion of the Undead was no longer what it was before. Even the Lantonilan army could break through their defenses, so what does it matter if the Trentheimers are here?
That place is just a poor outpost, even if the current Count of Trentheim could potentially be a power player in the future of the kingdom, or that he might even be the only Sword Saint in Aouine for the first time in decades, so what?
One man could not shift the tides of war.
But if they were to sit back and resign to their deaths, the Nobles would not accept that, their cowardice would not allow them to reject the support that came with their compatriots’ arrival to the rescue. Watching silently at the horn-bearers, they all frantically shook their heads signifying them not to do it.
“Fellow soldiers,” Count Jacques noted the timid actions of his comrades, which he could not believe were still adamant of any honor as he sighed dispiritingly. Solemnly he continued,
“Many of you have children of your own, do you wish to see them die here with us today? To await their demise in pain and sorrow as us? Do you?! We are soldiers, responsibility might be too far-fetched for you lot to understand, but protecting the less capable is the basic integrity of what it means to be human. That’s all I have to say, do you still wish to stop this?”
Count Jeelin that was earlier panickingly shaking his head in denial now saw himself frozen to the spot.
Offspring and descendants were the hope of the Nobles and their legacies, even those with unwavering principles now saw their perspectives sway.
Sharing the same sky was Bloodstaff, staring out into the overcast sky as if he could see the source of the horn-blowing. Shifting his sight away from the sky he uttered in a hollow voice, “What army?”
“From what the living human captives told us, they seemed to be from a place called Trentheim.”
“Trentheim?” Bloodstaff was slightly caught off-guard, “Where is that?”
“My apologies Milord, I have never heard of such a place.”