Belial opened his eyes, he was quickly coming to realise his surroundings. He was lay on his side, a rock sticking into his ribs. A Druchii lay on top of him. Belial rolled over forcing the Druchii to the ground; he drew his sword and ready to run him through when a second of the traitor elves tackled Belial from behind. The 2nd now stood over him, axe pulled back, it seemed to Belial this would be how it was all to end. He looked the Druchii in the eye, challenging him to attack, he hesitated. The hesitation proved fatal, as a crossbow bolt found its mark in the druchii’s side, he fell to the floor dead.
Belial pulled himself to his feet and charged at the dark elf that had originally knocked him from his mount, burying his blade in the druchii’s shoulder, as it fell to its knees he punched it in its face, knocking it sideways and to the ground. Belial took the hilt of the sword and twisted it worsening the wound on the druchii’s shoulder before removing it.
Belial looked around, no more of the Druchii ambushers stood, only one or two of the twenty elves he had led into the pass had fallen, most had by now remounted, Belial called over Elthrai his own steed and climbed onto her back. This place wasn’t safe, the Druchii scouts had attacked as a group of just ten, there could be untold numbers of the Druchii in hiding, the elves had been lucky this time, but no amount of prayers to their gods would hold out there luck, they needed reinforcements, ‘About turn, were making a tactical retreat,’ Belial ordered his recognisance division. The group rode single file as they had done on their way here to conceal their numbers.
The sun was now setting; it had been several hours since the ambush, the Druchii hadn’t been seen since. Belial was perched on a rock high above his troops. From here he could see for miles across the barren reaches of the shadow lands, some where in these hills there were Druchii, for a brief moment earlier in the day Belial had forgot that and it had almost cost him as it had cost his farther before him. He must not forget it again. From now on the elves would only move at night, to make it harder for the Druchii to find them.
Belial clambered down from his vantage point and entered a tent; inside sat the commanders of his forces, 5 of the greatest cavalry leaders to ever grace the Elven army. The nearest looking at Belial questioningly, ‘your orders master?’ Belial paused for a second to be sure he had the complete attention of all the assembled officers, ‘Infantry and logistics hold camp, the rest of us ride out in an hour, round up your followers.’ With that Belial left the tent to prepare his stead.
The cavalry had left camp on schedule, a column of close to 5000 mounted elves, Lord Belial at the front, snaking through the hills in the direction the Druchii had come from. Even what few animals lived in the shadow lands were silent or hidden in awe of the amazing site.
After several hours riding smoke could be seen coming from over the next ridge, Belial raised his hand gesturing to those behind him to stop, they did so in complete silence realising the enemy must be close. Belial dismounted and clambered up the hillside. He peered over the ridge; below him there were several specks of light, campfires, numbering at least 20, in the centre of the camp was a large fire, a sacrificial fire perhaps. Around each fire sat 10 guards keeping watch, but most of the camp was in complete darkness, there were probably far more Druchii than had revealed there presence. He crawled back to his forces as stealthily as he could.
He talked to his commanders, briefing them on the situation, the second and third divisions were ordered to encircle the campsite, the first would follow Belial, the fourth and fifth remain stationary as a reserve force.
An arrow flew from Belials bow, soaring high above the fortified bowl the Druchii occupied, its warp stone tip shining green against the silverfish glimmer of the moon on clouds, the commanders saw it and did as they had been ordered: the second division began charging over the top into the bowl from all sides, the third drew bows and started providing cover fire, the first followed Belial in his charge.
Elthrai’s hooves slide over slippery shale, that gave way in places, Belial struggled to control his mount, those less experienced riders behind him were not so fortunate, several were dismounted and ran after their horses trying to remount, none had managed to keep pace with Belial and Elthrai and they were first into combat. Belials lance snapped as it impaled a sentry, he cast it aside and drew his sword as he reached the second warrior, beheading him with a backhand slash. By now the first wave of cavalry had reached the sentries and as they had been unprepared they had been quickly killed, caught by either lance or hoof.
The remaining Druchii were preparing their defence, the element of surprise was no longer on Belials side. Most of them had grouped together on one side, their backs to the steepest of the embankments, almost a sheer cliff. They formed lines, their shields raised, swords and spears poking through in between them. A young elf charged them, his inexperience proving his downfall, his mount was slain as it ran onto the spears, and the elf fell from its back and was himself dispatched with a spear to the neck.
Belial ordered his cavalrymen to dismount and advance cautiously on foot. When they came within a few feet of the lines the ducked under the spears to engage the first rank, many elves died but they died for a just cause and importantly they were inflicting heavy casualties on the Druchii. Eventually part of the Druchii line started to give way, Belial seized his opportunity, grabbing all those around him he through everything he had at one point. The traitor elves were overwhelmed, Belial and his followers shattered the line, encircling many Defenders and reaching the entrance to a series of tunnels carved out from the rock side. Those Druchii caught within the elves advances would soon surrender or fall, either way they didn’t concern Belial he had bigger prey and he felt it was close.
Belial crept through the tunnels, his elven senses allowed him to see in the dark without a torch and hear every footfall with enough clarity to pinpoint it was a great degree of accuracy. He came to a chamber, a lone Druchii stood in the middle as though he had been expecting Belial, his armour was black, but trimmed with silver, his cloak a deep purple, his helmet resembling a crown, obviously the leader – the one Belial had come for.
The Druchii looked at Belial, he saw the coat of arms on his chest, his eyes portrayed that he remembered it; it was the crest of Belials family. The Druchii had seen it before – it adorned the armour of Belials farther, this was the Druchii who had killed him. “You don’t know who I am do you?” Belial probed, “another Azur come to cleanse the land of Druchii, for Ulthuan” he snarled back. “No” Belial whispered, “not for Ulthuan, for Arnheim,” He paused, and then charged at the Druchii lord, “AND FOR MY FARTHER!”
The pair locked blades; eye-to-eye they fought, each matching the other move for move. “Your farther?” the Druchii taunted, “he is not worth avenging, you will go the same way as he did pitiful fool.” Belial drew a dagger with his second hand and stabbed his opponent in the neck, the blade lodging itself between his spine and his windpipe, Belial twisted the blade widening the wound. “Any last words?” he gloated, the Druchii gasped trying to answer, “The day of the Druchii will come again!” Belial pulled the blade back, cutting out his windpipe, never again would he speak such vile words again.
Belial allowed the corpse to drop to the floor, as he did so something bounced out from the neck of the armour. A golden chain, a shining black stone on the end of it. Belial picked it up, it was a perfect sphere, smooth, warm to the touch, Belial stared into it, he was overcome with temptation, something within himself called to him, he had to take this, it would make a nice trophy after all. He placed it around his own neck.
As he did so the invisible tendrils of darkness extended into his soul from the amulet, changing him, tainting him, making him like them, like those he hated most. He looked down on the dead Druchii it was done, Belial smiled, and laughed in a way he hadn’t done for years, he enjoyed what he had just done. His lieutenant entered the chamber after him, “are you all right sir?”, Belial composed himself and tucked the chain into his robes, “I’m fine” he replied, “how goes the battle?”
“Its over, we won, we have thousands of Druchii surrendering, what should we do with the prisoners?” Belial looked down contemplating their fate, finally he decided, “kill them, kill them all” The younger elf looked amazed, he had served with Belial for close to a decade, he had always talked about the difference between high elves and the Druchii, now he was dropping to their level, “you have your orders, give them no quarter” he concluded.