A Storm on the Horizon
Chronicles of Rowen
Chapter 1: Paradise Lost
I remember the day clearly, the sky stood overcasted and the wind bit as it swept in from the sea. I sat and watched as the waves broke upon the shore from the Hill above my village. This was the eleventh day I had done so, each day watching as the two fleets danced across the water towards us, tearing at each other in a brutal and magnificent dance.
From the distance I could see two flags, one a brilliant gold cross brandished on a white background, the other a black flag bearing a disfigured red symbol. Of these I knew only one, the Golden Cross of the Knights of Calpernika, the trained army of the Kingdom of Kaldris. This day had been different though, the Calpernikian fleet battered and broken came barreling towards our island, as the others languished about standing as the clear victors. But who were they, and when did this war begin?
I ran down the from the hill and towards my village to tell everyone what I had seen, however, when I arrived the Knights had already arrived in the village and had gathered everyone into a mob at the center of the village. One of the Knights spoke “Everyone, listen to me! The battle of the reef is lost, or fleet is broken and we can not defend the islands. I beseech you, come and let us take you to Sarnath to be safe.” Shouts came from the crowd “What has happened we must know!”, “Why should we leave, and let them take our land!” and other inaudible shouts.
The Knights overburdened and exacerbated attempted to keep the people at ease and peaceable, but soon the mob took control, and my people shunned the ones who would die to protect us, and they would.
After my people shunned the Knights in their attempt to evacuate my village, the populace (including myself) went back to our lives, for the few days we had left. In the days after the failed evacuation live seemed as if it would return to normal, however, within the first four days since the failed to evacuation the Knights had taken up building fortifications and defensive positions across the isle. We realized in time they were preparing for some upcoming battle, but here on our island? It was impossible , who were they to fight over our island a slab of rock and grass in the Reef, who were they?
On the twelfth day since the failed evacuation I had gone to the top of the hill as I had done everyday, but what I saw on this day was more then I could ever have imagined. The battle must have begin at night, and from my position I could see the futility of the Knights defenses as they attempted to hold back these invaders, but it was to no avail. The Central Flank of the army had been spear headed by the invaders skirmishers, while arrow barrages had decimated both the left and right flanks. With such a total lose the Knights had become forced to flee all their positions in face of an overwhelming enemy. Here before me our defenders, our protectors had failed, and surely we would be next.
As I gave a final look over the fields that I had once played in and I saw the number of the dead to be insurmountable as the landscape was painted with the blood of men, but more disturbingly were the creatures the invaders had begun to create from the slain. Robed ones amongst the enemy rose the dead before them into twisted visages, that hunched over and devoured the bodies of the ones they once called “Brother”. A Shudder ran down my spine and I stood motionless for several moments as the truth of the situation bleed into me.
Breaking myself from the terror I ran down the hill still haunted by the images I saw and quickly made my way back to my village where a large mob had formed around the port. The only ships that remained in the village were owned by the Knights; my people who had before shunned the Knights, had now clamored to them in all hope of survival. The Knights that remained pushed them back, the cries of the crowd were so deafening that I had barely heard the Knight yell “Stand BacK! We can only take women and children”.
My Mother came from behind and grabbed me by my shoulders pushing me through the crowd. We arrived at the front where the Knights were, my mother pushing me into the guard as he tried to maintain control of his sanity in the Anarchy that had been created. He looked at us while pushing back several people and then asked my mother “How Old is the he?”, to which my mother responded in tears “He’s just a boy, he’s only eleven, please take him”. The guard using his free hand grabbed me and separated me from my mother yelling to her “We can take him, but we can not take you.” As the words came from his mouth I began scream and trash as another Knight dragged me to the boat. I saw my mother say one last thing, but in the chaos of the moment I could not hear it; that was the last day I ever saw her.
The Knights and refugees were loaded onto the remaining ships, and we departed, sailing towards the mainland and Kaldris. As I watched my village sink father and farther into the distance until I thought it was beyond the horizon, and then I watched it burn; these Unknown invaders had taken my entirety.
Chapter 2: The Silence
The Pain I felt overwhelmed me, and for a few seconds I was torn by utter despair, but then the despair subsided into wrath. Still with tears streaming from my eyes, I looked up to the heavens and asked our gods (Leto, his everlasting Love and Fury, and Ponturis, the Old Man by the Sea) why they had forsaken us? How could they do this to their children? But no answer came; my heart sank as that realization set in, and all around me the same idea began to sink into us all. Our gods had abandoned us, that was the only possibility left.
Among the Knights, as Zealous and Righteous as they were, hints of cynicism could be seen upon their war torn grimaces. “That is enough!” a thunderous voice had broken the silence. A knight rose up, his armor tarnished with dirt and blood, his face resembled a map of the world; scared, creased, yet strong. He walked in front of us all, and made his way to the bow of the ship, and unsheathed his sword, raising it high in the air. “I am Knight-Captain Carlomann, Commander of all Kaldrissian Forces within the reef. I know your worries, your pains, and concerns, but I do not know your despair. These Northern invaders, those heathens, who worship a false god, they have won this battle. But we shall win the War! In the name of Leto, and all the light!”
The general mood seemed to improve slightly, but as we made our way closer to Sarnath waves of dread began washing over me, like the rising of a tide. When we finally entered the Harbor of Sarnath a new feeling of hope emerged within all of us. We had made it, we had survived, but with that thought came the images of my village, my mother, my people, all burning. These images haunted me, burning themselves into my mind and with them the thoughts raced through my mind; Why did I live and she die? Why did they all die?
The Knights reformed their ranks pitifully; squads of fifty men had been reduced to a fifth of their original numbers. The few of us refugees who were capable were placed within the Knights reformed ranks. We were given weapons and armor, however, few if any of us knew how to use them. We trained and waited standing guard with our new shield brothers, and as we waited a Silence fell upon Sarnath.
It had been a moonless night, when the attack came. Like a volley from the heavens the arrows came first; ripping through the Black of night and into the flesh of our comrades. “Tortoise Formation!” yelled a Knight. Together we came into formation in the shape of a box five men by five men. In the front, they held their shields ahead of themselves, on the sides the men turned their shields outwards at their sides, those of us that made up the middle raised our shields high above us (to form a shell). The volleys of arrows continued as they picked of any stragglers who had not yet made it into formation; cold and uniform we waited, and when the volleys finally stopped the landing parties had arrived.
Of the invaders that came forth some were human, but of the rest I can not describe the horror and dread that these monstrosities, crafted from the dead of the fields, wrought upon me. A Knight Yelled “Now my Brothers Charge! In the Name of Leto, and the Light!”. I Stood there motionless as they rushed forward like pigs to the slaughter; I stood there and watched as they were butchered by the abominations the invaders had created, I watched as they were eaten, torn part, and disemboweled, in utter horror I stood there, unable to move.
I hesitated when a hand touched my shoulder, and as the shudder ran down my spin I turned to see a knight standing before me, his body visibly quivering from the lose of his arm, blood poured from the gaping wound. As he began to speak he became more strained, and stuttered. “Sa.. Sar.. Sarnath is lost, the Ne.. Crotics have won, r.. run.” He collapsed, and without looking I knew he was dead, or at least close, his words echoed through my mind as I bolted from in front of him and down the city streets looking for some way out of this nightmare. The number of the dead was insurmountable, and the once pristine streets had given way to form causeways for the blood and the dead. Of all the horrors in my life none have stayed with me as vividly as Sarnath.
By the time I had reached the outskirts of the City, the smell alone was noxious. I pushed forward and made my way into the woods that overlooked the city. Here I sat as the realization I was alive set in, but with that the stream of thoughts came as well. How Many had died this time? How many more will die? Will Any more die? Who were these Necrotics? What do they want? Why are they doing this. As I sat pondering these questions the tears came cascading down my face, and I sat there for an unknown period of time.
A voice broke the dissolute silence, “And so Sarnath the Jewel of Kaldris runs red Tonight.” He looked me over, and said “You’re far too young to be a Knight, and judging by your eyes, your Ponturissian, correct?”. I looked at him baffled “H-How did you know that?” I asked. “In my life I have traveled the world, and I’ve seen much, but its more then obvious you’ve seen far more tonight then most men would see in ten lifetimes.” His words were rough with a slight elegance, and instinctively I liked him, however, I could not understand why. He stepped closer me and held out his hand “Are you hungry?” he asked. It is funny to think that in the heat of the moment all necessities in life are void, when death stares into your soul you forget of Love, Warmth, and Comfort, as survival becomes ones only thought. Without answering I grabbed his hand, and he helped me up. When I was on my feet he said ’Alright then, we have a long journey, but I assure you, we will eat like kings when we arrive." With that we departed, and left Sarnath and all of its horror behind us.