The Amber Sword - v5c35




The night belonged to the existence of those that never sleeps, as the crippled remains of the Undead Legion trotted forward under the dark of night. The riverbed and rolling hills encapsulating it appeared like beasts lurking in the night. The eerily silent forests, the uncaptivating bushes, and the riverbanks saturated with broken shells and splintered rocks hurriedly flashed across the field of vision in the pale eyes of the Undead.

Bloodstaff and his high-ranking Necromancer subordinates were shielded in the center of the Skeleton Knights, their shining skulls facing the southern end of the riverbed where they were headed, the river refracting what little light it received from the narrow opening within the valley, and right on the opposite direction was the exit towards the Cielmann Riverbed.

Situated by the riverbed was a concealed military base, resembling a typical Undead camp. The base was demarcated by countless Cheval de frises surrounding a few scarcely laid out black tents. One notable detail about the base camp however was its absence of movement of any sort.

The Undead army under the command of Bloodstaff came to an abrupt halt. The base that originally housed a Necromancer squad along with a few hundred Skeleton Warriors now appeared to be abandoned. The occupants seemingly perished into the night, nowhere to be seen.

Bloodstaff sent out a handful of scouts to investigate the radius, but it took hardly any time before they hurried back, reporting as they had expected, no sign of any of their comrades, their belongings, or even any sign of a conflict.

Bloodstaff was experienced enough to be able to tell by now that their stronghold had a hostile encounter.

“They found us,” Brund let out a sigh in the chilly autumn air, his breath puffing up. In the cold, drizzling night, his sword was dull as obsidian in the night with no refraction to be seen. 

“Sensed, not yet discovered though,” Alea promptly corrected.

“Same thing.”

“No, far from it actually, in terms of tactical terminology, a discovery would mean they could pinpoint where we are, but sensing us would only mean they’re suspecting our presence, there’s the difference. What’s with you today Brund, being crass is not your style.”

“Shut up.”

Alea was ready to rebuke but Little Pero turned around and glared at him, “Cut it out,” Alea was perplexed, yet ultimately chose to swallow his words, as muffled laughs resonated under the pitch-black night. The Kirrlutzian youths must have gotten used to seeing Alea defeated by his own words by now.

“Those are the Undead?” A female knight curiously pointed out.

Little Pero turned his gaze afar, then nodded in response.

“Our empire had an encounter with them back in Kree island, this is what they would usually look like. Their nasty exploitations around the border territories by corrupting the local corpses should have been penalized by the Holy Cathedral a long time ago.”

“Aren’t you afraid?” Alea mindlessly blurted, “I heard you women are terribly afraid of these skeletons.”

“Shut the hell up Alea!” The female knight hissed, “What even pops up in that damned brain of yours!” 

“They seemed to be on high alert, what should we do?” Brund intentionally ignored the looks of his dimwitted peer. Sitting on his mount straight as a rifle, his eyes were fixated upon the target on sight as he took to ask. Under the ever-drizzling weather, his uniform and hair were glued to his body in damp patches. 

Rainwater had by then seeped into the gaps between the armor donned by the Kirrlutzians, and now, drenched from head to toe were far from their most comfortable, but nevertheless, in the true fashion of Kirrlutzian military excellency they were completely unfazed.

“Rest assured, this is a path they have to take, the Count truly is a man living up to his name, a war well fought and not many of these hideous creatures are left. All we have to do is wait, no need for any schemes against them at the moment,” Little Pero replied.

“The more complex the tactic the higher the stakes of failing,” Brund added as if it was a recital.

“Military Dogmatics,” Alea dismissed under his breath. 

The Folded Sword Squad, on the other end of the Undead base camp about a hundred meters away from the riverbanks, began stretching out their formation into a human net, hundreds of cavalry marched over the speckled rocks yet silent as a ghost, all that was seen were rows after rows of glimmering weapons under the moonlight and their sparkling blue eyes.

Bloodstaff quickly noticed this strange cavalry surrounding him on the path, which caught him slightly off-guard. He was expecting an ambush but was rather taken aback that these boastful humans would actually set up a formation right before his army. 

They were pursuing a full-on battle.

He felt rather dejected at the sight. Just a day ago a modest cavalry squad like this would never so emboldenedly stand in his way when he still had a little over a thousand Skeleton Knights at bay. Right then, nevertheless, it sure seemed to him that the humans were biting more than they could chew. 

Bloodstaff clenched furiously on the Skeleton Staff in his palm so tight it began to rattle, fueled by the Soul Fire set ablaze. His Necromancer disciples began timidly offering their advice to him in succession, warning of a potential trap from the humans.

Bloodstaff shook his head, before he could offer a proper reply, some of the Dark mercenaries began to chuckle through their dull, hollow grunts. 

Bloodstaff was rather infuriated as he glared back, “There is no need, this is a path we’ll have to take. They want to fight us head-on, let them do it, no need for the secrecies.”

“Not even three hundred in total,” The Dark Mercenaries promptly gave an estimation of the Kirrlutzian army, the darkness was the eternal ally of the undead after all. 

“These humans don’t know what they are on for.”

“Send the scouting knights to test the waters,” Bloodstaff skillfully perceived the subtle dangers lurking. 

The Kirrlutzian youths watched on as the Undead Legion dispatched a minuscule squad of Skeleton Cavalry, instantly understanding their enemy’s intentions. Little Pero remained silent as he hinted towards Brund to lead a small team of cavalry in response.

The Folded Sword Squad naturally were no amateurs, even before their deathly encounter in the Deadly Tundra Forest, they had encounters with various enemies of all shapes and sizes, the skeleton army unsurprisingly did not faze them, they were after all just a mere blip in their military journey.

Brund swiftly clamped down upon the tiny squad of Skeleton Knights and both sides almost immediately went into battle, a battle ending just as quick as the Kirrkutzians decisively obliterated every single one of the Undead. What left Brund slightly taken aback was that none of the Skeleton Knights at any point thought to run. 

The undead army was indeed the opponent he encountered before. 

“Silver-level skills, approximately between the range of middle to low levels,” A Dark Mercenary offered a prompt evaluation, the Soul flames in his eye sockets flickered ever so slightly as its slithery voice reported to Bloodstaff.

“It seems they still have forces hidden in their arsenal, which means Aouine has another Class Four cavalry squad,” Bloodstaff cleared his throat, “That explains the cockiness.”

His tone was reluctant in acknowledging the reality that was displayed before himself, and a sense of regret towards his initial decision to attack Aouine in the first place. In a single day, his perspective of the kingdom had been flipped entirely, yet he was still unable to comprehend where the human armies that far exceeded his expectations were kept all this while. 

There should not even be an army of this caliber this south in the kingdom, he thought to himself, neither was there any intel reaching him that had even once mentioned a significant army presence of any sort within the territories they were in.

It was supposed to be the emptiest the south of Aouine has ever been in ages!

Now, he began to realize his own people might have sold him out.

Regardless, he was sharp. He realized long before that his return to Madara would spell chaos to himself, but now by drawing away the highest tiered Necromancers, his most significant, from the defeat earlier today, there was still an opportunity for him, an opportunity to start over. 

He recollected his thoughts, turning around towards the ‘Aouine’ army that he was all too certain about, his army at this point was nearly six times that of his opponents, regardless of whether they were indeed Class Four, the ball was in his turf.

“These humans need to know that the darkness belongs to the eternally undead.”

Bloodstaff pointed with his Skeleton Staff forward.

The Skeleton Knights then reactionarily began to disperse, the boney riders on horseback with flames in the sockets where eyes were supposed to be began trotting along the riverbank. With several quick organizations a wedge formation was now formed in attack without creating much attention throughout, the only sounds evident were the hooves of the hollow mounts.

The ominous ambience within the region would suffocate any human army in that scenario, but not the youths of the Folded Sword Squad. Being a notable exception, they had witnessed the charging wolf pack on the frozen tundra landscape, and the Undead legion from their past encounter in the Deathly Tundra Forest. This time around, it was remarkably similar. 

“They’re here!” Alea gushed out rather excitedly in a muffled tone.

“Well, not like they have any other choice,” Brund remarked. 

“Aren’t you a killjoy.”

Right then, Little Pero turned back towards his squad of elite fighters as he reiterated, “Count Trentheim specifically requested for us to remain our skill level under Gold Tier, it directly correlates with our main purpose in this kingdom. I assume all of you should know how this battle shall be fought right?”

“Ugh…”

“Ngaw…” A wave of whines and moans were heard almost in unison upon Little Pero’s reminder.

“That’s just lame, Little Pero,” Alea couldn’t help but grumbled, “Look at us, all rusty and crusty now, let’s give them a hearty ass-whooping!”

“Tell that to the Crown prince.” 

With the sole mention, the Kirrlutzians instantly fell back into silence. After all, a barter with the Crown Prince might as well just meant a prison sentence. They all knew the Crown Prince as an individual stern as a pickle, despite being around the same age as most of them, he was known to act as if he was yet another vain old Noble. 

Crucially, the Crown prince was backed by the squad leader herself. No matter how they would disregard the authority of the royal family, they could never speak up against Veronica herself.

The cavalry was now drop-dead silent, only then did Little Pero nod satisfyingly, “En garde, first wave.”

He raised his hand.

The Folded Sword Squad followed suit, causing the shadows around the forests to grow several inches higher in an instant.

From that distance, Bloodstaff could not verify the motives of the Kirrlutzians, but his instincts tingled and he knew they had responded, despite the fact that the Skeleton Knights were now within the best distance of a full offensive charge, yet no visible action was noted. What could they possibly be planning?

Are they not aware that in a battle, the side with the best-attacking position has a clear advantage?

Especially when these ‘Aouine’ cavalries were clearly outnumbered by his own. Conventionally, most armies would utilize the benefit of their army fluidity to strike first, in compensation of their clearly lacking military size, But they seemed unfazed to take any action at all? Are they all petrified at their positions?

Bloodstaff naturally would not genuinely believe that, after all his adversaries were all Class Four militants, no military commander of that level would allow for that to happen. He was however suspicious that there was a scheme lurking at where they stood, drawing them near. With his army now in full sprint, it was too late to make a turn or to halt them at their feet. 

“What is happening?” He broke his silence as he sought clarification from the Dark Mercenaries. 

The tactical masters within his scaled-down legion too were completely caught off-guard, unsure of what these enemy cavalries were planning, and no words were uttered until an aged veteran from the barren, easternmost corner of the Seas of the Dying Moon eventually took to offer his suggestion, “They seemed to be preparing on some sort of magic!”

The Necromancer at that moment cut himself off before he could continue, because it was not a guess from mere sight, it was that the foreboding magical energy ever-expanding within the radius.

“...but what?”

Bloodstaff was completely stupefied, today alone he had witnessed longbow archers on horseback, cavalry without mounts, mages serving as archers, and now vaguely before his eyes were Knight Mages with donned armor!

“They are heavily armored from head to toe, but you’re telling me now that they’re preparing spells?!” Bloodstaff exploded.

Just as he ended his rant, a blinding light shot into the night sky originating from the formations of the Folded Sword Squad.

The young Kirrlutzian Knights raised their right hand, under the magic luminescence evidently different from most cavalry squads. Their gauntlets, unlike the usual weighty metal ones, were made from shimmering silver, and most significantly, all ten fingers were free to move when donned.

It offered a flair of elegance and exquisite beauty, but besides the added benefit of aesthetics, these gauntlets could reveal the position of where the ring was worn, and needless to say they were no ordinary rings. 

Sourced from the vicinity of the Magic Triangle, coined “tiny secrets” by the witches, they were Magic rings. 

The sparkling rings each worn on the hands of the Kirrlutzian youths, were of shining shimmering splendor, crafted with ruby, flame agate, emerald, and blue crystals, each carved with mysterious scriptures that were impossible to count.

Brendel’s army might have appeared lavish in the eyes of Count Jacques, but in comparison with the future leaders of the Kirrlutzian elite, it was a gaping sight of rags and riches. 

Nearly four-fifths of all the members of the Folded Sword Squad were the descendants of Noble families and the bourgeoisie across the empire, and naturally, the expenses that went to their equipment, armor, and battle gear were easily worth an entire cavalry of most other nations. The resources spent were deemed as investments in the long term, and were just a scuffle for the Kirrlutzian Nobles to afford, hence were not seen as a huge deal, but in nearly any other context, the costs would have been astronomical. 

Bloodstaff was fortunate to witness the glamorous display of Kirrlutzian elite forces, through their might and their abundance of wealth. 

In some ways, he might even be the first of his nation. 

    ……

Alvitr stood next to her warhorse, under her stout white armor were the flames burning eternally, this Dark lord who was known to the world as the Queen of Devils rarely revealed her face in public, but here she was today, removing her helmet, and beneath it was a pale, lifeless face. This woman, if she was ever one, had exquisite features, yet on them no sign of any life. Her hair was burning from endless sulphuric fire, occasionally with metallic debris flickering into the air as firebuds, complimenting her frigid forehead.

Her eyebrows were sleek as a sword, paired with silver pupils hidden within the depths of her eyes. She, at that moment, had pursed her paper-thin lips, as her cheekbones curved inward.

She did not utter a word, but her eyes, gleaming in the dark of night spoke a thousand by themselves.

There were several female demon guards by her side.

“Let’s go,” She took a quick look and turned around, her hands clenched tight on the back of her mount. The voice of the Queen of Demons was unequivocally hollow, chilling as it was unsettling.

“There is nothing left to see, Bloodstaff is done for.”

“Your Highness, do you mean Bloodstaff had succumbed to the Aouine forces?” A female demon took to clarify with a high-pitched voice.

“I’m no longer the mandate of any kingdom, Winnie. There is only one ruler in Madara now,” Alvitr replied, “Aouine’s defeat of Bloodstaff should not be a surprise, he’s but a pathetic joke of an existence. Yinstar got him spinning right from the beginning.

That weakling was expecting acknowledgment from His Highness, hah, I’m surprised Targus would bother to mingle with a sad excuse of a general like him. If it was Yinstar, Bloodstaff would still be licking his boots as he barters him off like a suckling pig.”

Alvitr unhingedly mentioned the close associates to the Supreme Leader as the other female demons hissed, none of which would dare to offer any further comments.

Looking towards the lights from the other end of the mountains she mumbled under her breath, “Aouine surprises me nonetheless. Behold, the hidden strength of an ancient land. Lest we underestimate any of our enemies, after decent, age-old marination they sure have their own spectacular knowledge and secrets, always offering surprises. 

But a surprise amidst war is fatal, and that simple-minded Bloodstaff has once again outdone himself with his arrogance and the dismissal of his enemy. In a war for survival, knowing full well that he wouldn’t hold back, so why would they?

The new Dark Nobles within the empire have been eyeing their fair share of this land to build greatness of their own. Now His Highness will have just the excuse to offer them.”

“His Highness would never offer a second thought to a wretched little kingdom like Aouine.”

Alvitr shook her head, yet said nothing in rebuke to her personal guard, for she knew that was indeed the truth. What the Supreme Leader sought was instead the deeper meaning behind the Four Holy Cathedrals. Today Aouine showed their fangs, which left the Madaran army curious about what they were defending within.

The Count of Trentheim seems to be intertwined with the Wind Elves, and his power appears to match even the Holy Saints. A presence seemingly appearing from within thin air, but with such immense power.

“Hmm, interesting.”

She murmured, “Interesting indeed.”

There was something in mind however that she chose not to say, a thought evoked from within, an instinctive feeling that he met this Aouine army somewhere before. The Queen of Demons then decisively shook off her doubts, albeit still with lingering suspicion. 

“No, that is not possible.”