The flies hummed loudly.
Dusklord Xarl Nyar strode through the long grass, squinting into the afternoon sun. He paused beside a ancient ruin and wiped sweat from his cheeks with a soft cloth. 20 miles with his army already just today, and finally the enemy was in sight. The abominations they been stalking for the greater part of a week had finally taken notice of them, and Xarl could see the distant figures turning to face his forces, sickening in their unnatural visages even from this great distance. The chase had finally come to an end, and the hunt would soon begin.“Lasa,” Xarl spoke quietly. “Take the Sentinels and a Griffon and cover the left flank.”
Without a word the grizzled arcanist began a slow lope to the woods on the left of the battlefield, followed by a light myrmidon and a squad of Sentinels.
“My lord Xarl!” a stormfall archer shouted as she sprinted up.
Xarl turned and stood silent as stone as the weary scout struggled to catch her breath.
“Another division has been sighted to the North, my lord. The icemen.”
Xarl's mind worked feverishly. A trap? Had Rayvn betrayed them? Her brigade was supposed to be covering the right flank. He quickly dismissed the idea. More likely just poor luck. Armies were plentiful in North Cygnar, and this was probably just a Khadorite raiding party. The Cryxian scum would have to be dealt with quickly so they could face the Khadorite barbarians. He spat. Ios was never short of enemies. He ended his reverie when he noticed the distant Cryxians opening fire. He could make out the seeping pus between their warjacks' joins, and the revolting fluidness of their movement. Lasa and the Duskguard were working their way toward the trees. He quickly barked orders to the scout.
“Take the Stormfalls and support the Duskguard. I will deal with these human weaklings myself.”
Xarl jogged quickly towards the peak of the hill in order to gain better visibility. His Myrmidons, a Phoenix and a Griffon, flanked him, their energy fields crackling eagerly. Behind him the stormfalls loosed explosive arrows at the approaching phantoms. Xarl gazed upon the approaching Khadorites and felt a chill numb his face. Two massive warjacks, along with a swarm of infantry. With a muted hiss of pure unadulterated rage he made a chopping motion with his hand. Arcane power flooded through him into the approaching infantry. Two screamed as their innards turned to steam, and collapsed into bloody wrecks. Xarl grinned. Nothing like first blood to clear the head. He advanced with his Myrmidons, taking shelter behind a crater from Khadorite bombardment, and began planning his next move.
Lasa ducked behind a tree and began concentrating his inchoate mental abilities, infusing the Griffon Myrmidon with energy. In the forest around him the Duskguard Sentinels dueled with demonic knights, bleeding and crashing in the thick undergrowth. The Myrmidon sprang forward, slicing two of the banes in half with its massive halberd. The Sentinels rallied at this victory, and a few shot seconds later, finished off the last of the remaining abominations. Lasa gave a sigh of relief that turned to a muted gurgle as a blade punched through his chest. He was lifted off his feet as his skewered form was turned to face a massive bane lord. The ghastly figure casually reached out his hand and began ripping off chunks of Lasa's face as he screamed. The swift purple shape of a Guardian. The golden sweep of a sword.
The bane lord was cut in half.
Then he was falling and all was dark.
Xarl mounted the hill, shooting blast after blast of energy at his foes. He had sent his Griffon after the Cryxian war witch and now he was left only with his Phoenix. The sound of superheated rock and displaced air stole his attention. A massive Khadorite warjack with two thick plates for arms came crashing over the crest of the hill. It shrugged off the Phoenix's halo cannon, shouldered it aside and slammed a massive fist into Xarl's head.
Or, where Xarl's head was a second before. Xarl contemptuously sidestepped the Khadorian Jack and buried his sword in its eye socket. As it fell to its knees, a second mental effort compelled the Phoenix to run forward and shoot a bolt of pure fire, which immolated the Khadorite warcaster. As Xarl turned and walked away, the human torch writhed in agony and collapsed in sparks as his men fled.
“Is he dead?”
“Lasa is alive, my lord. We are sending him back to the main forces for medical treatment.”
“Good. Tell Vyros I will need another Arcanist. And the witch?”
“She is waiting for you.”
Xarl strode purposefully over to the captured Cryxian caster. She was bound by ferromagnetic chains, dampening her abilities. She was also missing both her her legs and her left arm. Crude tourniquets kept her black bile from seeping out.
“Hello. I believe you have information I want. I had a countryman, a captain. I once called him father. You know him now by a different name. I am looking for him. Where is Goreshade?”
She seemed amused at Xarl's question. “You know I will never give in to torture. I serve the dragon. You are wasting your time.”
Xarl was unperturbed by her defiance. With a brief metal effort he psychically slammed his consciousness into hers, ripping the information from her mind, searing her synapses and rendering her even less human than before. He flipped through her memories like a deck of cards. Ahh. There. Finally what he sought. Goreshade's chief spymaster was hiding in a Cygnarian village just a two day march away. One step closer to his prey. One step closer to vengeance.
Xarl levered himself to his feet and stretched. The army had a long way to go before nightfall if they were to make one of the Retribution's hidden citadels, and safety.
“Sir, what should we do with the witch?”
Xarl briefly glanced at the drooling warcaster, her eyes unfocused, gazing blankly at the blood strewn mud.
“Leave her for the crows.”
Xarl began walking west, towards the setting sun. One step closer to Goreshade.
One step closer to retribution.