The Amber Sword - v5c34

After the Year of the Running Wolf, the most illustrious of the military strategist in Wind Elves’ history, the Lord of the Grey Mountain, Xan Griffin, long before he took up the position of Marshall once said in his acclaimed work, “If effective damage cannot be dealt towards the Necromancers of the Madaran army, then there are no ways to truly cripple the Undead army.”

Nevertheless, as the Black Rose of Bromantonu was truly defeated, the skeleton army defeated on the riverbanks largely resembled that of their human counterparts, scattered and aimlessly fleeing across the terrain. The Undead, now headless without their masterminds, were in a state of complete disarray. 

The Undead Leaders of the Seas of the Dying Moon were still able to take command of their subordinates, but when they themselves were abandoning the war and all faith that initially came with it, the once terrifying Bloodstaff Legion was now but a barely functioning one at this point, for from top to bottom it had lost its purpose and determination, besides selfish intentions of self-preservation. It was like history repeated itself from the case of the Northern Nobles escaping from Ampere Seale. 

Nevertheless, a keen eye would notice the modest difference between the two events. To humans, as emotional beings, escape would be them succumbing to their internal panic, shaken by their mortal fears and anxiety, but Undead naturally do not feel such earthly emotions. Their self-perseverance was an act of pure rationality and hence would not resort to short-sighted decisions like trampling and selfish pursuits. 

Even if their human adversaries really did catch up to them, they would still retaliate for self-defense, yet it is within the nature of these dark creatures that they would not offer help out of pure goodwill towards their compatriots in need, even if the act would result in a better outcome for all of them. 

Count Jacques and Brendel rode across the riverbank side by side, and was visibly emotional by the sight, “Turns out even the Undead Legion were imperfect, they too will make mistakes.”

“The Undead are not creatures birthed from nature, no one understands the mysteries of life and death more than they do, which in turn relish them of the fear for the unknown that most of us mortals come to when we think about death. Without the longing for one’s life, there will no longer be desperation, or passion of that matter. 

Nevertheless, there are more to emotions, especially negative ones, fear and desperation naturally are only one of the many, as are greed, pride, trickery, and self-centeredness, which carries a heavier weight on the undead,” To the close counsel to Duke Viero Brendel he explained as they both watched on the progress of the battles across the riverbank. 

Count Jacques nodded solemnly, pondering upon Brendel’s words as he looked across to the Count of the same position, both figuratively and literally, yet unbelievably younger. He then took to ask, “Brendel sir, you do look like you know a whole lot about the Darkened Kingdom.”

“Doesn’t hurt to keep your allies close, but your enemies closer does it, especially the enemies lurking just across our border,” Brendel faced the Count from the Landin region of Jacques. He knew this man, 

Jacques-Landin was the border region of the province of Viero with the administrative province of Karsuk, and the Count bearing the same name was too a veteran in Madaran affairs.

Even though he had the same traits plaguing the Aouine Nobles of this era, his knowledge gathered from his encounters with the Black Rose of Bromantonu far exceeded his hapless counterparts in court. Crucially, albeit less surprisingly, he had immense trust from the Duke of Viero himself.

“Mr. Tomob,” Brendel continued, “I’d recommend for you to keep a fair amount of vigilance on the Black Rose on the other side of this riverbank, despite what you’ve witnessed today.”

“I wouldn’t dare not to, Brendel. You see, when I was a child, my father would go on winter hunts and he’d bring back beasts, bears and wolves alike to show me. I, as a toddler, would watch them close, the beasts were injured and sedated but I sure didn’t know any of that then. I thought to myself, so they are not so terrifying after all. Then one day, one slippery bastard got his way and left a scar through my back, a scar I still carry to this day. Painful as it may be then, it left me with a reminder to never underestimate any opponent that I’d come across.”

Count Jacques skillfully applied an expression, to make sure Brendel was aware that he would not easily forget all that had happened today.

Brendel, too, knew this battle would leave the Nobles changed, hopefully for the better, for this was what he had in mind all along. If these slimy Nobles don’t get a lesson they deserve, they will never comprehend what enemy lies in store across the border. Only when they truly experience how real the threats are lurking from across the nation’s borders, only then will this country truly move for the better.”

He shook his head before he continued spilling more of Madara’s secrets, “However, Mr. Tomob, if you think you’ve got a foothold on the skeleton army’s weakness, you’d once again put yourself in a dangerous position.”

Count Jacques was rather taken aback as he promptly followed, “Why so? I believe you sir have explained it quite plainly, that the skeleton army does indeed have weaknesses of such.”

“Those are just the features of the Undead. Like humans, Mr. Tomob, humans do fear, Trentheimers, Vierans, Lantonilans, we all find ourselves terrified in the face of the Undead Legion. Humans will also find themselves acting on impulse, on greed, or pride, selfishness, and distrust, but that doesn’t mean our nation, civilization, or law and order shall crumble upon touch.

That is because we have the concept of society, the idea of unity, and the common good. The Madarans do too, lest you forget they were not too long ago like a loose patch of sand, but as you’ve experienced today, Bloodstaff’s army was not that, and I hope you sir could truly comprehend what that could mean.”

“Yet Tomob, sir, the Madara we have graced our eyes upon today, might just be a mirage,” Before Count Jacques could respond, Brendel continued, noting that his mouth by then was unhinged from shock, but Brendel proceeded regardless,

“The Bloodstaff legion that we decimated today is built upon their clear lack of understanding of our armies, while also due to the archaic military command system that they had kept used of.

I’m sure Mr. Tomob must have heard of the military reformation of the Madaran Royal armies, I suppose. A reformation seven years in the making as of today. Even before the last War of the Black Rose, they had essentially completely this historical calling, and presently there are over a thousand Royal dispatches across the nation.

These Royal dispatches were nothing like Bloodstaff’s armies you’ve seen today. Bloodstaff is reckless and untamed and hence did not receive much favor from the Madaran Supreme Leader. Today on this battlefield he was keen to defeat us, likely to prove to the Supreme Leader that he, along with his methodologies, are more than capable of defeating her enemies and eliminating their adversaries.”

He paused for a moment, “The real Madaran army, with a complete system of low-middle range officers would not crumble into a scattered mess the way humans do just because their leaders have. The Madaran army will fight until the last Necromancer.

Mr. Tomob, I would hope for you to give some thought to the way our enemies fought today, and how we could counter that, and win.”

Count Jacques rather confusedly stared at the young Count, if Brendel were to tell him all of this earlier today, he would never in his right mind believe them as true. It all sounded like nonsense talk to anyone who was unfamiliar. 

By then, Brendel had displayed an insight on the Madarans that he could no longer easily dismiss, especially at the mention of a thousand Royal dispatches that had completely left his mind in a fuzzy, still in a hasty attempt to regain his composure.

His face, pale as a sheet, and in distraught was within Brendel’s expectations, yet he naturally would not have told him that the direction of Madara’s expansion was in Aouine’s way, but their main adversaries were ultimately still the Wind Elves of Sanorso and the Farnezain even further to the north.

Madara’s over a thousand Royal dispatches were sent to defend the borders of the two massive empires, but then again what good it was to tell him about this either. 

Keeping him on his feet would be great for a change.

The truth was that it meant little to Aouine how many soldiers Madara had, for in the future there will be a Black Count leading his army that would be the greatest challenge for Aouine’s livelihood of all. 

Aouine of today still had a sliver of a chance, and that is to create the perception that it was not a kingdom that the Madaran army could trample across at will. There are other routes through multiple minnow kingdoms between Madara and Sanorso or Fornezain, and given that the wars between these kingdoms were ultimately inevitable, it would benefit Aouine’s survival if they were excluded from the wars that would ensue. 

In the history of this world, due to the belated response from Aouine, the Princess was left with no choice, while the Kirrlutzians were themselves preoccupied and intentionally negligent, which led to the tragedy of the Aouine kingdom he knew too well.

This time, however, it might not have to be that way.

But first, the kingdom will require courage and prowess to put up a fight.

Taking a good look at Count Jacques, the man by now turning frailer by the minute. He hastily dried his forehead, uncertain if it was rain or cold sweat, his heart seemed to dwell upon the impending terror that was the idea that a thousand Madaran Royal dispatches stood en garde across the border, as he hesitatingly added, “Sir, is everything you said true?”

“Mr. Tomob, let’s just say my intel is only a third correct, let’s assume the Madaran side has just about three hundred Royal dispatch armies, what difference would that make to our kingdom?” Brendel distractedly watched on the aimlessly fleeing Madaran Legion as he stroked the mane of his warhorse, whilst calmly answering Count Jacques’ enquiry. 

He was not anxious, but the same cannot be said the least about Count Jacques. He was conflicted about the truth in Brendel’s words. He doesn’t seem to speak in any attempt to appease me...but he is right. So what if only one-third of the information gathered is true? Even one-fourth of the Royal Dispatches is more than capable of laying waste on our kingdom!

What difference does it make? None.

In what state the kingdom was now, the Nobles were the clearest themselves. Since the Anson era, the conflicts between central and regional governments had left immense detriments on the strength of the Kingdom of Aouine, and the Battle of Ampere Seale only further maligned its condition. 

Meanwhile, just east of the border was the Darkened Kingdom, which carried long-standing traditions on keeping their military size big and always on the verge of war, albeit because of that had always been in a constant state of war and instability. Each Dark leader for their own, raging war on one another till the end of days. 

It was exactly that the perception of them being a nation of crippled disarray had been imbued into the minds of all their neighbors. 

But today, Madara under the rule of their Supreme Leader had almost miraculously united the kingdoms into one, the Dark lords once again pledging allegiance to the Mercury Staff for the first time in a millennium. 

As he fell deeper into contemplation, he knew Brendel might not be lying at all, it was just that their age-old mentality stuck in a bygone era had led them to instinctively disavowed this fact.

Madara always had a massive army, and now that they were united once more, it was only a matter of time before they decide on a show of strength. 

It naturally would not start with the Wind Elves or the Farlezain, and the remainders were not worth a thought.

Some things are like parchment paper, it sufficiently shrouds the truth and revelations under a thinly veiled layer of translucency, but once a hole is poked through, it is quickly revealed for all to see.  

It was exactly that Count Jacques was experiencing at that moment. 

Even if he would prefer if he never came to encounter this revelation, even if he would wish for himself to remain naive and ignorant, and to live out the good life, he was now thrust into the fray. The name ‘Madara’ now brought concern and distress that would haunt his very dreams into sleepless nights. 

The Undead cannot live alongside mortal beings, they do not surrender. The only option he had was the destruction of one or the other.

Count Jacques, now drenched in a cold sweat as he fell into deep contemplation, it was not something he could unravel with a solution immediately, but for the fate of Aouine of today, it seemed it was left with the sole inevitable option. 

The Darkened kingdom is mighty and far-reaching, and they had the upper hand, these pathetic Nobles in the face of utter demise still could not bother to draw themselves out from their own pitiful delusions. He was truly out of any solutions to combat this issue.

Are their only fate bound for a refuge in a foreign land like Kirrlutz?

Count Jacques turned his gaze back on Brendel, this time his eyes dull and muddled. Brendel was aware that he must be frightened off his wits, sighed, and thought to himself, The theory to this is simple, yet the Nobles evidently did not care to think this thoroughly. After all, they never would have imagined Madara to achieve such feats. 

The truth was that in historical lore, until the Second War of the Black Rose most were still certain that the Madaran Empire was still engulfed in a bloody civil war. And here Brendel was, to inform them that the unification process has been completed before most were even aware of, and now the Count himself had truly understood what was in store for the future of Aouine.

Count Jacques was muffled, and Brendel decidedly let him be. He patted on his mount so that the warhorse could speed up, catching up upon the White Lion Battalion that had set off giving chase to the loose Undead knights. 

He knew deep down that the words of precaution said today were just a message for the Nobles, in hopes that one day they could realize their faults and truly consider the survival of Aouine. When the time comes and there were still some amongst their ranks that were ignorant and boorish then that would leave him with little choice but to handle him his own way. 

The fate of the kingdom faced its first great challenge in the Battle of Ampere Seale, and upon then triggered a slew of slow changes. 

Brendel discreetly covered his mouth. It was not that he was against a massive revamp, clinically molding the nation to its rebirth, but having been in this world longer as days went by, he knew it was not as easy as he would like it to be. 

Nobles upon controlling the kingdom for too long had seen themselves rooted into the hierarchical tradition of the nation, and were influential in all sectors of governance across the kingdom. Besides, despite their corrupt and hedonistic behaviors displayed all so ubiquitously in the ruling class, they too had their strengths as was not one that could be undermined or removed completely in a limited time. It would cause great instability to the structure of the nation.

His subordinates, Carglise, Amandina, Kodan, Melilla, and much of the White Lion Knights were immensely intertwined with the Noble families and clanships across the kingdom, regional and national alike. 

Across their existence were hints of a conservative upbringing, and to uproot all of this from its core would undoubtedly hurt the ones that mattered the most to himself, pushing even the limits of Princess Gryphine herself towards his reformations. 

He knew full well that the Princess’ expectation of Aouine was not one rebirthed from the ashes.

Neither does he.

“The opportunity is in your hands,” Brendel murmured, “Whether you appreciate it or not is on all of you.”

Very quickly, the Lantonilan cavalry had rushed across the Eastern riverbanks to reunite with the White Lion Battalion as the humans diligently followed the flow of the river in pursuance of what remained of the Undead Army fleeing south.

Until moments before dusk fall, Viero, Lantonilan, and Trentheim allied forces had exterminated the majority of mercenaries recruited by the Undead Leaders of the Seas of the Dying Moon.

Most of the remaining Necromancers had escaped into the local forest scattered across the region, which was expected to pose a safety issue towards the region, but at that point, it was an afterthought for Brendel and Cowan, for this issue they agreed were better left for the Vanmier Legion.

Bloodstaff and his close acquaintances blended into the crippled squad of Skeleton Knights, and this was when the clear advantage of the Undead army came to play, the absence of emotion and physical restrictions. Without the human trait of fatigue, the gap between the retreating Skeleton Army and Lantonilan cavalry began to widen. 

Amongst Brendel’s subordinates, only the Linge Legion on celestial horses could counter these Skeleton Knights, yet he naturally would not have allowed them to do so. 

After all, an arrangement to convert the Class Four archers to cavalry was feasible at times of battle against a significantly inferior opponent in the likes of the Skeleton Knights, but for them to give chase after an actual cavalry squad would be carelessly detrimental.

And just like that, as the night fell, the Allied forces lost all traces of the residual Undead cavalry, leaving Eikkel inexplicably exasperated. Even Count Jacques’ subordinates felt a sense of pity, yet the only party that was evidently not were the commanders of the Viero army.

Brendel heard Carglise mentioned that he had already sent out some messengers up north, and was instantly clear that the Count must have dispatched his envoys to seek the opinion of Duke Viero. Nevertheless, his speech earlier today went to no waste, now all that was left was what the nobles had the say.

The Madaran insights were hard to obtain and even harder to reveal, but if they were genuinely keen, it was not impossible to get the Duke to offer the insights he received.

From historical lore, none of the Nobles had any ideas of this sort. But this time, this time they were actually offering a response.

Brendel however was notably unfazed by Bloodstaff’s escape, notwithstanding the Kirrlutzian cavalry squad camped by the fringes, awaiting the fly to fall into the trap, even if he did by sheer luck managed to slip his way back into Madara, what good fate could possibly await him anyway?

The Demon Queen Alvitr must have received wind by now, and would surely be brooding in the dark for his return. As a token of her rebellion against the Emperor of Madara and herself as the representation of free will and self-value, Bloodstaff has to die. As for how she would eventually pledge her allegiance to the Mercury Staff shall be a story for another time. 

Brendel stood within a valley, mesmerized by the beauty of a Slofavien night, befell ever so quickly ever since autumn graced upon these lands. The sun had yet ended its cycle but was readily shrouded in the shadowy depths of the Linden forests.

This was just days apart from the culmination of summer, and the moon would still be crowned across the endless night sky, showering it with its illuminating embrace.

But under the clouded sky, it was just pitch black. Across the far edges of the valley were the flatbeds and grasslands of the Cielmann region. Eyeing the calming flows of water down the river, he thought to himself, This must be when Bloodstaff meets his final batch of enemies right about now.

As for how the Kirrlutzian youngsters would fare was the least of his concerns now. He had arranged prior for Cowan and his subordinates to return to Cielmann hills, standing in for the  Folded Sword Squad in cleaning up the war zone.

Right now, it was his intention to keep the Kirrlutzians from the public eye for the time being. After all, he had exposed much of Trentheim’s military capabilities in the battle of today, and hopefully would suffice in keeping the Madarans at bay, at least for the time being. For now, I’ll have to keep hiding as much as I can.