Chapter Seventeen – The Path Chosen

“Soldiers of Valhalla! Defenders of freedom! Knights of righteousness! Hear my voice! I call to you now, not as your general, not as your king, but as your friend. Long have we fought against the evil horde that now stands before us. Long have we held the monsters at our doorstep at bay. But now the time has come for us to fight them one last time.

“I will not lie to you. This will be the end. There is little chance that we will win this fight. But we will prevail. We will give those that follow us something to fight for. When they look back on history, they will not see that we turned and ran. They will not see that we cowered with fear before our foes. No. No, they will see that we stood straight. They will see that we faced the devils arrayed against us, and drew our swords as one. They will see that we fought with a conviction undampened by fear!

“If you are still willing to fight for what you believe in, draw your swords. If you are still willing to follow me to the depths of the underworld, draw your swords. If you are ready, ready to face your enemy one last time, draw your swords! Let me hear your voices!”

On that day, a shout went up as had never been heard in Valhalla. Its equal had never existed, and never would again. On that day, the last of the alliance drew their weapons, and charged, as one foe, towards the overwhelming mass that opposed them. On that day, the final battle of Valhalla was fought.

Raelin had seen ferocity before. She had witnessed murder, and beheld pain. But nothing, nothing she had ever seen, could compare to what now unfolded about her. Every last soldier knew this was the end. Nothing was held back. Order was gone. Ranks were gone. It seemed that the caring soldiers Raelin had once known were gone as well, replaced by terrible bloodthirsty warriors.

There was no front line. The armies mixed, warriors cutting through foes until they were cut down in turn. All semblance of order disappeared. This was no battle. This was not even a war. This was a mindless killing, a chaotic self-destruction that could never be stopped. It sickened Raelin to be in the midst of it.

It did not take long for Jandar and Utgar to find each other. They saw each other from opposite sides of the battle, and both strode forward, batting enemies out of the way. All attacks against them withered, all defenses against them were insubstantial. They approached with a determined step, and as Raelin watched, she knew that Valhalla’s fate was about to be decided before her very eyes.

At that moment, however, something happened that distracted Raelin. Two individuals clashed in front of her, ruthlessly slashing with their swords. Those two individuals were directly in the way of Jandar and Utgar. They were Drake Alexander and Cyprien Esenwein.

Raelin smote the ground with her spear, protecting Drake. Cyprien lunged at her, but Drake pulled him back in with his grapple arm. Cyprien brought his blades down, but Drake deflected them with his sword. The two warriors moved almost too fast for Raelin to follow. Their faces were masks of concentration, coupled with fury.

A flicker of blue caught Raelin’s eye. She turned just in time to see Mallidon, her own brother, diving at Utgar. Unfortunately, Utgar saw him at the same moment, and raised his axe, ready to strike Mallidon from the sky. With a sudden jolt of fear, Raelin realized that she was too far away to protect Mallidon with her spear. It was at that point that several things happened at once.

With an unearthly scream, a band of black orcs burst through the chaos, charging straight for Raelin. Their weapons were jagged and covered with blood, their fur dirty and matted. They screeched and howled, baring their sharp teeth as they ran at her. At the same moment, Utgar swung his axe at Mallidon, who was going too fast to dodge the blow. Raelin didn’t waste another moment.

She threw her spear, with all of her might, at Utgar’s axe. It struck the axe, bounced off, and landed point-down, quivering in the ground. And then a blue force field burst from its tip, just barely encasing Mallidon. Utgar’s blow was deflected, and the force of the shield cast by the spear slammed into Mallidon, flinging him away from Utgar.

And then the orcs arrived.

Raelin received so many blows at once that she was instantly overwhelmed. Blades rebounded off the entirety of her armor. Those that made it through sank into her stomach, shoulders, arms, legs, chest, and face. She went down in a spray of blood, trying desperately to shield her head with her arms.

The orcs were relentless. She managed to kick a few, and one she impaled on a jagged piece of her armor, but they shrugged off her attacks and continued to beat her. The ordeal lasted for a full ten seconds. In those ten seconds, Raelin was fully conscious while the orcs continued to hack her body into an unrecognizable form.

And then Mallidon arrived. He crashed into the orcs with such a scream of rage that Raelin was temporarily afraid he had come for her, rather than them. The orcs immediately turned on him, but Mallidon welcomed them. He swung his hammer in wide arcs, not caring how many blows the orcs struck him with. One sword went straight through his armor and ripped through his chest. Mallidon yanked it back out, flipped it around, and plunged it through its owner.

However, there were at least twenty orcs, and Mallidon could not kill them all. They eventually overpowered him simply by mobbing him, and he quickly went down in a mass of black fur and swords. Raelin could no longer see Mallidon beneath the pile. And then, one hand, grasping a war-hammer, emerged from the pile, swinging the weapon furiously. An orc saw it, and promptly cut it off.

Raelin screamed. It was a mixture of shock, fear, and fury, and it was a scream she instantly knew she never wanted to make again. That scream, however, proved to save Mallidon.

Something very large and metallic slammed into the ground beside the orcs. A moment later, Drake flew into the pile, reeled in by his own grapple arm.

Now the orcs had met their match. They scattered in true panic as Drake leapt from one to the other, slashing, stabbing, killing without mercy. His face was red with blood, and his mouth seemed to be locked in a silent yell of rage. His eyes burned with bloodlust as he slew orc after orc.

Raelin watched him as if she were not a part of the battle. Her Drake, the Drake she had come to love. His uniform, once green, was now ripped and torn, splashed with mud, burnt with smoke, and steeped in gore. His skin seemed to run with blood. His sword dripped with it.

Raelin’s gaze shifted to Mallidon. He lay on the ground, cradling the bleeding stump of his arm. He lay in a pool of his own blood, and the red liquid had totally saturated his clothes. Blood seemed to leak from beneath his armor, and his face was unrecognizable beneath the orc gore that covered it.

Raelin then looked at herself. Her armor was all but gone, slashed and crushed so cruelly that it couldn’t have stopped a wooden dart. Her entire body was smeared with her own red blood, and much of the orcs’ black blood as well. Her hands shook as she stared at them, steady streams of blood running from the fingertips.

Raelin looked back at Drake. He was viciously dueling the last of the orcs. So this is the price of peace, she thought.

From nowhere, Cyprien flew at Drake. Raelin cried a warning, but she was far too late. Drake turned to face Cyprien, and the vampire triumphantly plunged both of his swords, to the hilt, into Drake’s heart.

Drake’s sword fell to the ground. He staggered backwards, and glanced at Raelin. Her shock was mirrored in his eyes, along with something else: fear. Just a hint of fear, that this was the true end.

Drake sank to both knees, and then fell face-first into the mud. Cyprien kicked him onto his back, and wrenched out his swords. In that moment, Raelin saw Drake’s still face. It was calm now, calm like it had been the first time she had seen it. The only difference was that the eyes were open, staring, lifeless.

Raelin could not scream. She could not cry. She could not even breathe. She could only stare, unbelieving, at Drake’s body.

Mallidon, despite his injuries, surged to his feet, wrenched his war-hammer from his severed hand, and wielding it in his remaining one, flew at Cyprien. Cyprien dueled him lazily at first, and then with more concentration. Mallidon landed one blow, and then another. He blocked Cyprien’s swords again and again, always answering with an attack of his own. It was then that Jandar joined in the fight.

Pointing his hammer menacingly at the two combatants, Jandar fired a lightning bolt of pure white at Mallidon’s hammer. The bolt struck, the hammer glowed and vibrated with heat, and Mallidon swung it directly at Cyprien’s head, knocking aside his swords with ease.

The blow struck. Cyprien let loose one unearthly scream, and then exploded into shards of the darkest smoke. At the same moment, Mallidon collapsed on the ground, all of his strength gone.

And with that, Utgar and Jandar finally met on the field of battle. Power blasted outwards from the two Valkyrie as their weapons met again and again. Soldiers who came near, either to aid or to injure, fell to the ground, senseless. Magic seethed about the two foes, battling back and forth as they dueled. Sparks flew from their weapons, illuminating their bloodstained faces with flickering lights.

But the battle could not last. Jandar was younger, despite his appearance, and Utgar was more experienced. In the end, Jandar made a mistake, and Utgar drove his axe into his side, opening up a deadly wound. Jandar crashed to the ground, blood soaking his armor in seconds.

Only as Utgar raised his axe to deliver the final blow, did Raelin notice Kelda. She was injured. Her face was white with loss of blood, and her armor was tattered nearly as badly as Raelin’s was. She had darted forward behind Jandar, and now laid her hand upon his shoulder. A blue spark leapt from her fingers, quickly followed by a tide of blinding magic. Jandar leapt to his feet, fully healed.

Her job done, Kelda smiled briefly. She then fell sideways, and lay still upon the ground, affording Raelin a clear view of the arrow in her back.

For the second time that day, Raelin let loose a terrible scream she never wanted to hear again.

His face livid with rage, Jandar punched Utgar in the stomach. The red Valkyrie stumbled backwards, and Jandar kicked him. This time, however, Utgar blocked the blow and brought his axe down against Jandar. Jandar locked the weapon with his own, and they struggled against each other. They were equally strong however, and the same idea seemed to occur to them both at once. They drew back, and their weapons began to glow. Their faces, masks of terrible hatred, were revealed in the arcane light as they poured every ounce of magic they possessed into their weapons.

Raelin knew what they were about to do. They were about to destroy each other. Both would die. As the weapons of the Valkyrie began to shake with ill suppressed power, she crawled forwards, her eyes bent on only one thing. A few moments later, she wrapped her fingers around the shaft of a spear – the Spear of Gerda.

And then, ignoring the terrible pain it caused her, Raelin stood, and flung the spear straight at the two Valkyrie. She wasn’t sure what she hoped to accomplish. She wasn’t sure if anything could be accomplished. But she had to try.

Three weapons struck. Jandar and Utgar plunged their weapons towards each other. The tips met, just as the point of the spear struck them.

The Spear of Gerda exploded. Both Valkyrie were flung backwards, as was Raelin. Blue magic raced from the spear in a shockwave of force, knocking anyone who was still standing down. It spread over the entire army, and then continued on, exploding over the hills to the north and south, felling trees to the west and east. And then a second, more powerful burst of magic blasted from the shattered spear, erupting over the toppled warriors. It struck Raelin hard, flung her to the ground, and she knew no more.

The battle had ended.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.