The Book of SpiralHorns IV
The scene is of a misty, windswept hill. The camera pans forward toward a smoldering distant fortress.
Fade to black.
Voice over: "Arise my friends, though the embers of past trials still burn."
Closer shot of the fortress reveals a bare flagpole on the highest turret.
Voice over: "Some have departed..."
We see the Great Captain riding off toward a blistering sunrise.
Voice over: "and some have faltered..."
A Spiralhorn warrior is seen being lead off in chains by armed guards...
Voice over: "But heroes will emerge, both young an old."
Views of familiar and unfamiliar SpiralHorns in full battle armor...
Voice over: "For as long as there is a prize to seek, we will stand as one...[/i]
A pair of armor-clad arms are seen raising a flag...
Voice over (now shown to be Dez Urbanos standing before a crowd of SpiralHorns): "One Legion..."
A flag is seen raised on the turret with the battle emblem of the Legion.
Voice over (Dez Urbanos): "One... Clan!" (the crowd cheers).
Fade to black.
Title slowly becomes visible on screen:
The Book of SpiralHorns IV: Legion Eternal
Fade to black
Coming this Fall to ClanRam
Prologue: The Hunted
In the Golden Age of SpiralHorns, feats of greatness were commonplace. Glory was always within the grasp of the Legion. But those days are over now. The Golden Age has ended, and the SpiralHorns now enter a darker age of onslaught and loss. The Legion are no longer hunters, they are the hunted.
These words stabbed at the hearts of the Clan's Council like sharpened daggers.
"Who could have written such a dire proclamation?" Texrameas queried, expressing the thoughts of many in the Great Hall.
"Surely these are the words of a propagandist… an agent of an enemy seeking to plant the seeds of fear among us." Ferteros offered, "perhaps the work of your brother, AvengerRam?"
"No," AvengerRam replied, "my brother, the AvengerEagle prefers to attack directly. This is not his manner of waging battle."
The Council resigned themselves to the fact that this mystery would not be solved within their ranks. And so they went out among the Legion, to determine whether these written words had dampened the spirits of the SpiralHorns.
What they found did not please them.
"Surely, we cannot go into battle with so many soldiers wounded already!" some would exclaim.
Others lamented, "too many of our greatest Champions are no longer among us. The new guard is not ready for the challenges that lie ahead."
These words concerned the Council, but far more disturbing was the response to the suggestion that the Clan had been influenced by an enemy: these words did not come from outside the Clan. Rather, the proclamation came from within the Legion itself… a contingent of doomsayers calling themselves the Brotherhood of Separatists. Could mutiny and treason be in the air even now, in the waning moments of the Summer and before the battles begin again?
"No!!!!" a familiar voice cried out. "Hear me now my fellow SpiralHorns! Many tasks lie before us, and we must meet them together. We cannot grieve for that which has been lost! Our enemies will not allow this. They may think us to be the hunted, but we are the Legion Eternal! From this day forward I ask you to put aside the fears of the Separatists, and join the battle once more. If we are together, they cannot destroy us… death itself cannot stop us!"
And so the Legion prepared for battle, heeding the words of JRamnon who… forever from that day, would be known as the RamWraith.
The Separatists, however, were undaunted.
Chapter 1: The Two Fields of Battle
Within the walls of the Homeland Fortress, the debates raged on. From the shadows emerged Ramtimeus, and the leader of Sepratists was no longer a mystery. Eloquently he spoke of the dangers of an unbroken path and blind faith.
“Do not question my loyalty to the Legion!” Ramtimeus exclaimed “for my purpose is not to prophesize doom but merely to caution. The Great General has erred in the past, and our warriors are not infallible. We must prepare for a Dark Age that could soon be upon us.”
The RamWraith would not hear of this. “We must not subscribe to such philosophies. There is still greatness within this Legion, and it will be the future deeds of the SpiralHorns, not its past, that will determine our fate.”
“You speak the truth, my friend” replied the Separatist leader, “but I fear you are fostering false hope. This, I cannot allow.”
The debate was interrupted by a message from the outer ramparts. The Desert Warriors were marching upon the Homeland, hoping to lay siege upon a Legion that was thought to be decimated by past battles. It was at this time that the SpiralHorn Chieftain, recently silent, finally spoke:
“Enough!” Dez Urbanos cried, “now is not the time for philosophy. We must prepare for battle, as the enemy will soon be upon us!”
And so the SpiralHorns prepared for the onslaught, and as the enemy approached, a feeling of joy rushed over the Legion. The day had finally arrived when the Legion could quench its desire to exorcise the demons of past defeats.
“Let them come!” shouted the warriors of the Legion. For outside the walls of the fortress the battle would be joined, and debates would be put aside. The time of the calm had ended. War had returned.
Chapter 2: Sword of the Avenger
The Desert Warriors attacked, on the Legion met their charge on the field of battle. As dawn broke on the day’s combat, the SpiralHorn forces penetrated the lines of the enemy three times, only to have their onslaught thwarted by its own lapses.
With the dust of the struggle still thick in the air, the Separatists saw their opportunity. While the elders of the Legion sounded their battle cry, they voiced their dissent in an equal voice. Ultimately, the day belonged to the Legion, but an uneasiness nonetheless was prevalent in the Homeland.
As the enemy retreated to their desert stronghold, the debates raged once again within the SpiralHorn fortress. Amid this turmoil, a voice rose above all, coupled with the sound of steel unsheathed.
“No more!” cried AvengerRam, raising his great sword above the crowd. “This is not the way of the Legion. There is a time for debate and dissent. But what I saw on the field of battle today was a disgrace! When the enemy is in our midst, we fight as one! And anyone not heeding these words will not hear my voice again… they will taste my steel!”
In the eyes of the Bard was truth, and few would challenge his words on that day.
And so the Legion prepared to depart from the Homeland. A challenge was waiting in the home of and old foe in the Southern territories. As the Legion marched forward, those close to AvengerRam approached him during the journey, and offered their counsel. “Your words ring true in my ears, my friend” Nikselios offered. “Yes,” the RamWraith agreed, “but I fear the division in this Legion will not be joined by fire and steel, but rather by forces yet unseen.”
Meanwhile, in the shadows, voices rising ever so slightly above the din of armor and boot were heard to say… “This isn’t over yet.”
Chapter 3: Hallowed Ground No More
The Legion returns to the Southern lands and find their hallowed ground… the place of their greatest triumph. But that day seems a distant memory. And as the enemy struck first, taking the SpiralHorns by surprise, the more recent memory of this opponent’s weakness in a battle not yet one year past, seems equally distant.
At the front of the enemy lines is the brash young battalion leader. With fleet foot and reckless abandon, he defies the Legion’s defenses. And in doing so, he begins to take their hearts away.
The Legion’s young Captain, flanked by his best soldiers, leads the charge back. The SpiralHorns rally back and pierce the ranks of the enemy. For a moment, victory is in sight.
Then, just as quickly, the battle turned again. The enemy would not be denied in its own land, and the Legion retreats in defeat.
As the SpiralHorns march West, a sobering thought is prevalent among the ranks. Even in the once hallowed ground, the Legion is no longer feared. Indeed, it is the enemy that won acclaim on this day, while throughout the many lands the SpiralHorns’ feats are spoke of as history and legend, but not prophesy.
On this march, no speeches would be made. No battle cries would echo. The Legion would return to the Homelands for a great gathering of SpiralHorns, and the hated Paladins would seek revenge for past defeats. And they too, would do so without fear.
Words would not be spoken. The time to act was at hand.
Chapter 4: Dark Age of the Raptors
A true warrior is always born from conflict, though not always from triumph. This axiom of undeniable truth is sometimes lost in an Age of Gold, when the exploits of those waging battle are instantly transformed to legend and epic tales of victory. But when the Gold is gone, the conflict remains, and so do the true warriors.
And so it came to pass that the Golden Age of SpiralHorns had ended, but the wars of the many lands raged on. A new age had arrived, a Dark Age of Raptors, when taloned armies from the East, the South and the West, reigned supreme, and seemed destined for the ultimate prize that once belonged to the SpiralHorns.
In the Homeland, a battle was once again lost. And though the effort was valiant, the outcome brought only shame. The enemy had… for a moment… displayed its jugular and was ripe for the kill. But this enemy… the brash Paladins… would not be vanquished on this day, and instead, the Legion met defeat.
As the battle receded, the Great General sat in his stronghold. His words, to those who would hear them, were sanguine, almost nonchalant. Some would think him mad for this, some merely attributed his words to blind arrogance. But even those closest to him, those who had always supported his leadership, gave pause to his countenance of the present state of war.
But true warriors would emerge still. This… not a statement of pride or of defiance. Rather, it is merely a statement of necessity. As the conflicts never die, the true warrior likewise cannot. And in this Legion remained warriors true.
The decision next made was the only one fitting of the way of the true warrior. The SpiralHorns would meet the challenge of their predicament by facing it directly. And so the weary Legion gathered itself and headed to the Northwest. Ultimately, the Raptors reigning there would have to be confronted.
But first, a score to settle. The Legion would lay siege upon the fortress of the Scarlet Miners. It was against this foe that the Golden Age began. It would be there that the Legion would face this new age. For the conflict was not over.
Chapter 5: Three Hills and a Bridge
By coy bacon
The Legion moved west and gathered near the bay. An evening assault was planned. Their General had been harangued by his critics and he continued to be testy, and weary. It hurt that after so many victories so many were quick to doubt his skill and turn against him. Yet deep within his mind he knew that some truth rang true in their criticisms. He would show them! And he would vent his anger and punish the long hated, once fearsome foe, the Scarlet Miners.
His loyal troops gathered round; they had no doubt. Just as they had played a part in victory, so too, they knew they played a part in defeat. They were true warriors, though their spirits were battered they were not dismissed or beaten. They would rise up again and take their opponents to task. And this task was special. There were few tastes as savory as crushing the Miners and they went to the battle with anger, joy, and excitement. Though they were no longer the feared Legion they felt their power and sought once again humiliate their long hated foe.
The Scarlet Miners stood guard over their prized homelands: 3 hills, a bridge, and a town in the valley. Though battered and bruised from previous battles they still returned both vigor, and hatred, toward the Legion of the Clan and relished the chance to break them.
The battle was set in motion and the armies clashed quickly. The Miners thrust hard and deep into the Legion’s ranks they plowed. It seemed that the Legion was once again collapsing into defeat. But they held and stood firm on their sallying point. They repulsed the Miners onslaught then rallied. “Now, they shall taste my steel,” thought the Great General. He turned lose his Marshall of Battle and the Legion attacked. They skillfully assaulted the Miners flanks and center and marched up the slope of the first tor. Motivated by the memory of recent defeat and the joyful prospect of defeating the Miners the Legion struck hard. Dazed by the persistent onslaught, the Miners retreated and the first hill fell.
At the foot of the second hill the Miners regrouped. “No, they shall not take our lands from us! They shall not sack our town. We’ve beaten this ancient foe before and so we shall again! Reform! Stand firm!” The Miners rallied, defended the hill, and then struck back. “Hold!” shouted the Legion’s captains in reply. New tactics were used which empowered the Legion and the Miners strike was quickly turned back. Again the Great General turned his troops upon them and the Young Captain led them and they conquered the second hill.
The Miners were not troubled. This was a hated enemy and they were not going to wallow in dismay. “We’ve beaten them before and we can take them now. We can defeat them! They are no longer the feared Legion!” “Come Scarlet Miners!” shouted General Ericus, let us show them the men we are, let us strike them as the Scarlet warriors of old! “Yee-ah! replied his troops and they rallied to defend their 3rd hill. The Miners counter-attacked; this time they would return the cold steel upon the Legion. But the Legion would have none of it. As a team they rose to help each other and lend strength to the line where needed. As one body they responded quickly to the renewed attack. It failed as quickly as it started. All around the Miners saw their ranks breaking and fleeing, their General heaving curses upon his men. Now they were dismayed, now they were shocked, as they sought to rally and defend the 3rd hill. With what strength and emotion they could muster they slowly gave ground to the Legion, but the 3rd hill fell.
In the camp of the Legion a spirit of victory was spreading. Confidence was replacing doubt. “We are going to defeat them this day; we are going to plunder their town. We are the Legion!”
Again the Miners counter-attacked. Their precious bridge would not fall. This was their hallowed bridge. It stood as their name stood. “No! We shall not yield the bridge.” They labored to stop the Legion’s attack.
But the Great General intended to gut his foe. This would silence his critics back home, this would put some fear into his opponents afar. With his Young Captain and the Marshall of Battle at work the Great General struck slowly, efficiently. The great Red Bridge would be seized this day. Blow after blow was stuck and the Miners could not stand. Though their hearts were great, their ability was weak, and the Legion seized the Red bridge! The valley was theirs and the city was plundered!
Outside of the valley the Scarlet warriors gathered. In broken humility they stood. The Great General saw them from afar. “Let them stay there and sleep on the cold, hard ground tonight. Let the dark fog of winter hell be their blanket,” thought the Great General, “They’re finished.”
In the Legion’s camp there was joy and celebrating. Nothing tasted as sweet as crushing the Miners. The Legion burned the Miner’s beautiful tower, sacked the fish markets, and plundering the town. Then they feasted in the Miner’s temple. Throughout the banquet hall there was revelry. In the corner Black Troutus smiled as he cleaned the blood from his sword. The Bard sang songs of merry while the women of the town served the victors. RamWraith, Ferteros, and Texrameas drank the wine of conquest. “This was a sweet victory,” they told their comrades. “Aye lads,” said Captain Dez Urbanos, “A sweet victory indeed, and one that was much needed.”
But three wise sages spoke up, “Hold!” These were the Great General’s counselors. Adarianos, Nikselios, and the Counselor, now spoke their piece. “This is a great victory indeed and celebrate we shall. But let us not forget that we have a more fearsome foe in the North, one that must be dealt with.” At this all faces turned momentarily grim, and all glanced north. A new battle would soon be joined. “They too shall feel our cold steel,” thought the Legion.
The dust settled on another battle. And the Legion marched with renewed strength north to face the challenge of the Northwest Raptors. Armed with confidence they knew another victory was within their grasp. Though the Golden Age had ended and the Raptor’s challenge appeared grim, they knew they could triumph in that distant land.
Chapter 6: The Counter-Attack
“Our Captain has been wounded, and the lines are breached!”
“Our day is done!”
In that moment, chaos reigned in the ranks of the Legion…
* * * *
As the battle dawned, the SpiralHorns faced a strange realization. For an age, they had ruled in the Western lands. But now, as they approached the gaits of the Northwest Raptors’ stronghold, they realized that the tide had turned, and supremacy now belonged to their adversary. A great cheer went out as the charge was initiated – the time had come to regain what was lost.
But the Raptors were waiting. An initial assault stabbed at the Legion’s ranks. The Young Captain was wounded by a glancing lance, and the Raptors struck again. As the sun rose high in the sky, the Captain was wounded again, and victory was but a fading star on the horizon as the enemy overwhelmed the SpiralHorns.
In a brief respite, the Legion attempted to regroup. Some did not believe they could prevail on this day – too much had been lost.
As the battle was rejoined, the Legion’s pride emerged. The battle became a standstill. But as the day grew longer, and the Captain was wounded a third time, some among the SpiralHorns began to lose faith. In this far away land, it appeared that the fear of losing the Western region had come to pass.
“Retreat!” some cried.
“Our Captain has been wounded, and the lines are breached!” others lamented.
“Our day is done!”
In that moment, chaos reigned in the ranks of the Legion.
Then, circling ahead of the retreating ranks, a mounted horseman, his armor shining as it captured the rays of the descending sun, halted the retreat.
“Forward… ever forward!” chastised the great Dez Urbanos. “And behold our Captain still stands! We are the Legion Eternal, and this day is not yet over!” Urbanos was soon flanked by Nikselios, Texrameus and other leaders. “Onward and never yield!” they shouted.
With these words, the SpiralHorns were rallied to counter-attack. With the suddenness of lightning, with the fury of the pounding surf, the Legion struck, and the Raptors’ lines crumbled. And the defiant enemy was defeated.
The Legion still reigned supreme in the West.
And so, the SpiralHorns marched back toward the Homeland. All knew that more trials were ahead. But as the sun set in darkening blue sky where Raptors had recently soared, a glimmer of a golden age was beheld.
Chapter 7: Fortification
The SpiralHorns returned home and found an old foe waiting. Clad in crimson, the Pirates of the South attacked, as they had so many times before. But the fire of their rage was a pale reflection of the past, and they could not withstand the Legion's onslaughts. The Homeland was protected on this day, and the Pirates limped South to their stronghold.
In the aftermath of the battle, the Legion Council convened in the Great Hall of the SprialHorn Fortress. While there was great pride in the Legion's most recent triumphs, none doubted that there would be more challenges forthcoming. Whispers had arisen once more of the exploits of the hated Northern Militia, and the Emerald Raptors loomed in the future as well.
"Now is the time for fortification," suggested Texrameus, "we must build our strength before our Western rivals seek revenge for their defeats."
"Agreed," answered The RamWraith, "we must exert our power throughout the lands and demonstrate to those who would challenge us that we remain a disfavored foe."
It was agreed that no attacks on the Homeland appeared imminent, and that the Legion should march forth and strike elsewhere. The Council debated for long hours the direction of the Legion's next onslaught. Many destinations were suggested, but only one sent chills down the spine of the Spiralhorn Bard, AvengerRam.
"We should travel to the land of the Delphines. Word throughout the lands is that their armies are in disarray. Surely, a victory could be achieved in their Southern Peninsula." Thus proposed Dejramfanes, not knowing the impact of his words.
It had been many years since the Legion had visited the Southern Peninsula of AvengerRam's youth. Thus, the Bard could easily avoid thoughts of his origins, before the days when his heart resided in the Homeland. The days before his family was split by lure of emerald defiance.
But those thoughts could not sway the Legion's path, and AvengerRam concurred with the plan of fortification and the decision to march South.
South toward his past.
Chapter 8: The Departure
Ranks were formed. The Legion marched forward. The battle was at hand.
How strange it is to prepare for bloodshed in the fields where I once ran carefree.
The enemy stood ready. Their demeanor belying the whispers of their vulnerability.
It is as though I'm playing but a game, with my old friends by my side, and with him…
The SpiralHorns charged forth. And with great surprise, they encountered lines of stone that did not yield as many expected. As the enemy struck back, some began to wonder if the decision to striking in this far off land was misguided.
Such folly is our dissension. Its origin a mere product of circumstance.
The Young Captain rallied the Legion and the SpiralHorns answered in kind. Pride would not let them leave the field of battle without a fight.
A story of a Father in the land of the Delphines who, many years past, went to battle with one son, and left another to wait for another day…
But the proud Delpines surprised the Legion with bold, almost reckless, assaults. The Great General was caught off guard, and the stunned Legion retreated from teh enemy's gates.
A story of a young son who, blinded hubris and envy, joined the ranks of the invading enemy, clad in emerald.
The Legion rushed forward again and again, but found their enemy prepared for each onslaught.
And now, upon my return to this land in the garb of the Legion, my thoughts are not on this enemy before me, but rather stray towards echoes of the past.
The day would not be won by the SpiralHorns. And though word came from runners from the West of the rival Northwest Raptors meeting a similar defeat, the plan of fortification was not fulfilled.
The Legion began the long march home. As they rode, Dez Urbanos approached AvengerRam and addressed his comrade. "My friend, your mind appears to be elsewhere. How can this be?"
AvengerRam answered: "Though I am a SpiralHorn in my heart, my origins lie here in this land. This is the place where my brother, the defiant AvengerEagle, turned to the lure of the Emerald. Though I know there are battles directly in front of us, a prophesy haunts me. I believe the fate of the Legion may lie in a clash with the Emerald Raptors to come, and with my brother."
"Then go forth," Urbanos replied, "and be a scout for this Legion. There are many ways to serve the SpiralHorns, and your path may be to prepare us for this ultimate battle. Ride forth, and Godspeed."
AvengerRam agreed, and prepared to depart. But first, he called forth his apprentice, Coybacianos. "It will be your task," AvengerRam explained, to become the Bard in my absence. Do not underestimate the power of your words to inspire the Legion in these days of conflict."
Coybacianos accepted this role, and bid his friend farewell.
"Until your return!" he called out as AvengerRam rode off.
"Yes." AvengerRam whispered in a voice only audible to himself. "Until that day."
Chapter 9: A Time to Reflect, A Time to Prepare
By coy bacon
A man sits alone by a small lake in the Park of Forests. In the distance he thinks he sees Giant Turtles at play. Evening has fallen and the sounds of life from a nearby theatre have faded. The blanket of quiet is broken occasionally by Mallard ducks jostling for room. In the distance the Glorious Arch reflects the day’s last sunlight. This is where the General comes to search his heart and brace his spirit. As he sits and leans against an oak tree a cool Autumn breeze rustles the leaves and blows through his blonde hair.
While lost in thought a variety of conflicting expressions appear on his face. He is clearly perplexed. “Victory when we were defeated, defeated when we should have won, what is wrong?” The sting of defeat from the Delphine’s hands brought frowns to the troubled General, while the joy of victory over the Northwest Raptors brought smiles to his face. Yes, this army’s character was hard to nail down.
In the camp the Separatist’s criticisms revived, muted for but awhile, they now spoke again, and spoke loudly. But there was truth in their cutting words. His leadership and judgment were again questioned. His supporters tried to remain steadfast; but in their eyes he saw doubt. Confusion spread its wings in the General’s mind.
In front of foe and friend the General’s countenance was one of confidence and strength, but here, alone with his thoughts, doubt spoke and he listened. Back and forth, “we’re strong, we’re weak, we’re inconsistent.” Though he always defended them in public, he now questioned the abilities of his subordinates. Though he would not admit it, the haunting of losing his former great captain and replacing him with the younger still remained. Tried as he could, the General could not resolve the questions.
His mind drifted back to a happier time, a time when they celebrated as supreme conquerors. They were known throughout the land and feared by all. It was a happy time indeed. Against the oak tree, with the cool October breeze drifting across the lake, the General smiled and drifted off to sleep, remembering the sweet joy of the great victory...
As the dream played he re-lived the fanfare. He was celebrated, he was a hero among heroes. He enjoyed this dream. But something disturbed its placid flow. His dream turned and he saw a ravaging force; an army destroying his lands. He saw them at his beloved Arch, damaging it, and burning the nearby town. He saw their colors, that of blue, white, red, and silver. They wrought havoc, they brought defeat. They brought painful memories that were not relieved.
The General awoke from the nightmare with a sneer upon his face and sweat upon his brow. He knew that the Northern Militia, those that he hated most, were headed towards his lands bent upon destruction. They were coming to defeat him yet again. No!” he said to himself. “Doubt be damned, I’ll not let them plunder our lands.”
He hurried back to the barracks and called his sages of war: Adarianos, Nikselios, and the Counselor. Together they would plan and plot the defeat of the Northern Militia and their heralded General, Belichickus the Breaker. They would hurl them back to their city of the famed Hill and their festering fishing villages.
The General confronted his sages, “Now then, play the man. Upon you I depend to guide this army, do not withhold your strongest counsel from me. Though your words may cut deep, speak them now! Let that in your hearts and minds come forth for it is not the time for feeble words or dainty trifles.”
Adarianos spoke first. “M’Lord, you have failed to put your strongest men where needed most, and have put the weaker in key positions where they fail. Why have you not promoted Trevius? And, your new captain of defense is failing you for he has not prepared his troops or strategy sufficiently for each new foe. With this weakness continuing, defeats shall follow.
The Counselor spoke next. “I agree M’Lord. Though our men fight valiantly they seem incapable of holding the enemies onslaughts. Yet in days of past with better leadership similar men would have held. I say this in jest but have you considered marshalling out the old warriors to join our ranks? We need men who will enhance the spirit and fire of our defensive fighters. You, and you alone, must attend to this deficiency.”
Nikselios spoke last. “Yes M’Lord, what they have spoken is true. Our defensive fighters do not fight with spirit. And there are no fresh troops or capable men available to man the defensive lines. We are stuck with what we have, and they, and their leaders must improve. You must deal with this for it is obvious and urgent.”
Their words cut deep into the General’s heart but he did listen. “I hear you, and cherish your words for you have been steadfast and loyal warriors by my side. Now then let us prepare for the upcoming battle.” Long into the night they planned.
The following day the General arose early and woke his commanders: Dez Urbanos, Texrameus, Ramwraith, Rubbersoulius, and Ramsruleos. “Now then, come, gather, and prepare your troops! You know the feared Northern Militia comes determined to defeat us. Yes, they have been repulsed by the Men of Iron, but they come here gird with strength to prove they are still the masters. The Breaker would expect nothing less of his troops.”
“But we shall defeat them and this is how…”
Chapter 10: The Ire of the General
The General, indeed, had a plan. But battles are won and lost by the soldiers, not the Generals. And so the Legion fell to the Northern Militia once more. A score would remain unsettled.
The days were growing colder. The leaves turning crimson against the pale grey sky, blazing in their moment of glory before their descent and demise. Such is the nature of most things, though not of the Legion. Even when reduced to an ember, the fire of the Legion must glow eternally, or it is lost forever.
But some among the SpiralHorns had grown tired. They longed of the days of the calm, when plans could be devised and slowly implemented, as the dark clouds of battle appear as mere specks above the distant horizon.
The Great General sensed these thoughts prevailing among his ranks, and this angered him. Perhaps there were some who, forged from an age of Gold, were not prepared for the type of struggle the Legion now faced. But this mattered not. The armies of the many lands would not allow a wary Legion to rest. Rather, they would seek to destroy their past tormentor, now wounded by the erosion that time renders inevitable.
These thoughts were soon verified. From atop the ramparts of the Legion stronghold, a cry rang out. "The Raptors of the Northwest march toward the Homeland! They will be upon us in three days time!"
A wry smile appeared on the face of the General with this news. He climbed to the heights of the citadel of the SprialHorns and addressed his Legion.
"Rise up! The greatest battle will soon be upon us! It is upon you now to show your strength. Some among you have done so in the past, and have never faltered. Others have failed to fight with all that is within. This will not do! Each one among us must do that which we are charged to do. We must match our foe's intensity, and then exceed it. This is our Homeland! What we do here will define us. We are not the wounded prey of our adversaries! We are a coiled serpent… deceivingly still as we wait… ready to strike with unrivaled fury! Our foe comes to destroy us! Let them meet their end!"
A great cheer arose at these words. Some would say, though, that the cheer was preceded by a discernable moment of hesitation.
Chapter 11: Forging Steel
By coy bacon
“The Raptors are coming to attack, we shall not stand,” opined one Legion warrior. “Yes, they are strong, we are weak, and our leadership has failed us,” said another. Following two harsh defeats the Legion looked with trepidation at the future.
The Northwest Raptors came to strike viciously at their wounded foe. Strength filled their arms, zeal filled their hearts, and revenge fueled their spirits. They remembered the bitter defeat the Legion inflicted upon them not long ago. They remembered the Legion holding the town square, plundering their tower, drinking their famed mead, and celebrating. Now it was time to repay the Legion for their insolence and desecration.
Led by the famed general “Hell” Holmgrenos they seized the opportunity to plunder the Legion as the Delphines and Northern Militia had done previously. Their general knew that his prey was demoralized and doubtful. One of the Raptor’s lieutenants, AKsawk, bolstered their troops: “None should doubt our victory this week! We shall defeat this pathetic Legion! Weaker and depleted armies have plundered them and so shall we! They are in panic, their ship is sinking! The famed Legion is frail and we shall dominate them! I make this promise to you my fellow Raptors!”
Yes, the Legion had been wounded. Doubt had set in even among its leaders. Its General had planned but the soldiers did not execute. This was a time of test, a time of forging steel. The General had to buck up his troops, put mettle and confidence into their spirits, and not allow them to wallow in the doubt. “You’re fighting like girls, not soldiers,” the General scolded. He berated the weak performance of his soldiers and would no longer brook their folly. The scowl on his face and words from his lips cut deep and the Legion took it to heart. Yet the doubt persisted; words could no longer do the tasks meant for actions.
The armies clashed near the Great River. The Magnificent Arch stood proud in the distance. As the armies closed, the General’s words came alive in the Legion’s hearts. They struck first and struck with fury. They had embarrassed themselves and they would no longer play the fool. That intensity caught the Raptors off-guard: “How can they be fighting so intensely? How can they be doing this to us? They are a broken army, who are these men?” The Raptors were given no time for answers as they were pushed back quickly. Let by their young Captain, and the Marshall, the Legion pounded upon and dazed the Raptors.
Each time the Raptors regrouped and struck anew, their sortie would wither. Each time success appeared on the horizon, the fog of war covered it anew. All the day long the bewildered Raptors felt the cold steel of the Legion. With each passing blow the Legion regained some of its confidence of old. “Yes, we are the Legion,” the warriors told themselves.
As the sun set the battered Raptors hurried from the lands. Now they were the ones filled with doubt, now they were the broken ones. They cursed their general, Hell Holmgrenos, and his poor leadership. They bickered over another stinging, disheartening defeat. Like whimpering dogs they licked their wounds and limped back to the Northwest. Only their strong captain, Dfarraros remained resolute, “Men, though we’ve been defeated, we shall regroup, we are not finished. Hold strong for the next battle shall surely come.”
Back in the Legion’s camp the soldiers felt good. It was a reassuring victory. They had dominated their powerful adversary. They had made a statement. Yet, this time they were not overconfident. They had tasted too many set-backs to swagger. They knew challenges lay ahead.
The General addressed his troops. “Yes we won a powerful victory today, but we cannot strut. We didn’t do everything right, there is no question about that. There is a lot to strengthen and continue to get better at. But as long as you fight with that type of attitude and enthusiasm, you can accomplish an awful lot. You can become the Legion of old.”
After the victory celebration the General met with his counselors, Adarianos, the Counselor, and Nickselious and told them, “We are marching north, to attack and pillage the city by the Falls. Now then, give me your words.” The Counselor told him, “General, yes we’ve won a much needed victory, but consistency is needed. You cannot allow the army to regress.” “Yes”, said Nickselious, “the horde we go to face is strong and determined, consistency is the key.” Adarianos added, “Remember m’Lord, our defensive fighters have been weak all year long. Look to them, and see them through to strength. Otherwise we fail.”
As the celebration fires died out and the embers glowed orange, the soldiers bivouacked for the night. Each face looked Northeast and pondered the upcoming battle.
Chapter 12: The Paradox of Adarianos
In the chill of a Northeast afternoon, the battle was joined. The Legion met their foe, first gaining the advantage, then losing it again. In a brief respite, the combatants seemed evenly matched. Then, in a flash of chaos and error, the SpiralHorns' lines collapsed, as they were routed from the field of battle. And as the sun fell low, a realization set in: the Legion no longer ruled the West, and the road home seemed long and bleak.
The scouts reported that a return to the Homeland through the valleys to the West was not possible. Too many powerful battalions camped on that route, and the only option was to take a more desolate path on the Southern shores of the frigid lakes.
But the armies of the many lands, like the Legion, have eyes as well. An old foe learned of the Legion's path, and prepared to meet them in ambush. Favrexian, the Great Captain of the Emerald Bay Brigade paced with anticipation of revenge against the SpiralHorns. In six days time, under the cover of night and with the icy winds at his back, he would attack.
In the Legion's ranks, the General was seething. "I have chastised these warriors for their failure to heed my battle plans, and yet we cannot gain ground. Each time a step forward is taken, a step back follows." The inner Council agreed, but offered no solution.
One departed from their ranks, falling back among the Legion to another gathering.
"Who joins us?" the Separatist leader queried. As the light revealed the face of Adarianos, a puzzled look appeared on the faces of those assembled.
"I bid you welcome," Ramtimeus stated, "but I cannot help but wonder why a member of the Council would appear. Surely you do not seek to squelch all opposition within the Legion."
"Not at all, my friend" Adarianos replied. "I do not seek to suppress you… nor do I seek at this time to join you. Rather, I merely wish to give voice to a thought."
The Separatists listened intently to his words.
"At the head of our ranks rides our General. He has been with us in days of glory, but he has also been at the helm of defeat more times than many believe should have been. I am here to tell you that there are some among even the highest ranks of the SpiralHorns who question whether he is leading us in the right direction. These are not words or mutiny, but rather the truth of the day."
"And what would you have us do with these thoughts" Ramtimeus replied.
"Nothing… at this time." Adarianos replied. "But before you call yourselves Separatists, I bid you consider what might appear at first to be a paradox… perhaps you are, in fact, the Legion's greatest Loyalists."
The Separatists were somewhat heartened by these words. But words alone would not help the Legion return to their Homeland unscathed as they traveled the icy lakeside path leading to waiting jaws of their foe.
Chapter 13: Pride and Doubt
The words of Adarianos echoed in the mind of RamTimeus. He had never perceived himself or his comrades as "Separatists," and was pleased that a member of the council had recognized his true loyalty to the Legion.
But these heartening words were but a small token compared to the agony of the latest lost battle. The Emerald Bay Brigade, headed by their proud leader, ambushed the Legion under the shroud of a frigid night. The General yelled commands in an attempt to lead, but his words produced folly on the field of battle. Those soldiers who wished to engage were ordered to set traps, those who wished to hold their ground told to advance, those who wished to draw blood asked to merely repel.
Now, as the Legion rode South, word came that the Scarlet Miners, though decimated by many defeats, were marching upon the Homeland… nay, descending like buzzards, believing the once proud SpiralHorns to be withering carrion for predation. This news caused the blood to seethe and boil within the veins of RamTimeus, and he knew what he needed to do.
The ground thundered as the hooves of RamTimeus' mount sprinted to the head of the ranks, and upon a rise before them. "Hear me now!" he cried. "Many think of me as a Separatist… but that matters not! Many claim loyalty to our General… that too matters not! We are joined, not by a single mind, but by a single heart. Among those who feel that heart beat, there are but Loyalists! Together, we must find our collective pride and destroy the hated foe that marches toward our doorstep!"
The Legion's pace quickened with these words, as they marched forth in a strange moment of pride and doubt.
Chapter 14: Battle Cry of Ramtimeus
RamTimeus thunders into the center of the Spiral Horns with his steel raised. “No! the young warriors have proven nothing in beating a foe whose death was already certain. We have suffered great losses at the hands of the Scarlet Miners and now we must fight without our greatest warriors. The wine you drink in celebration is tainted with the blood of our greatest warriors. The wine you are about to swallow taste of southern defeat”.
RamTimeus Galloped through the Spiral Horns and with his sword smashed each of the barrels filled with wine. “Put down your glass and show your steel. The word across the many lands is the SpiralHorns are dead. They say "The great general of the SpiralHorns has gone mad after many defeats". They say "Our warriors no longer believe." Laughter from the many armies fill the land. Laughter at the blood of your brothers. Laughter at the thought of our defeat.”
RamTimeus rode to the top of the hill and looked about the SpiralHorns with tears in his eye shouted, "Listen to these words for they are words of the great general. The west is not ours. Our lead is tainted with many defeats. Our battles to come will spill more of our blood and bring more defeats. We are sliced and bruised while our greatest warriors are sick. I ask of the newest warriors to fight as they have been taught for it is through you victory must come."
RamTimeus paused as he looked to the south. Standing atop his horse he turned towards the SpiralHorns and shouted, "The Great General has 4 battles planned. Give to him your soul, your heart and your blood for he promises you the west. He promises a new beginning with victory of the west. A victory that must be won in the dead of winter. With the west comes a new beginning that ends with the ultimate victory. Wine must not flow until the west is ours. Remain dry my brothers. Do not drink from barrels that are bitter with defeat. Fight bravely and the wine will be sweet.
If there is doubt in the words of the great general then be heard now but hear also the words that have arrived from AvengerRam. Words which echo that of the great general’s. "The tournament is within reach if we can hold the west. The west can be ours if we find heart within our hearts and courage within our courage. The great general must find cunning within his madness. We have arrived here with the great general as many others have fallen. We are not retreating we are advancing on this day for which we must be spirited because we will fight another day.”
Chapter 15: Which Road to Choose?
One Captain wounded. Another, past his time. Champions, young and old, unable to answer the call of battle. Far from the Homeland, another battle is lost.
"What path to take?"
The question rings throughout the ranks of the Legion. The days had grown shorter now, and the chill in the air became stronger each day. Several of the armies of the many lands had ended their campaign for supremacy and retreated back to their lands to regroup, prepare and wait. No longer would they seek the ultimate prize. Should the Legion join the ranks of the defeated?
"Surely," some would argue, "there would be no shame in such a decision."
"The fates have been against us in recent days. Many of our best beset by ailments that prevented us from fighting at full strength. Truly, it would be more prudent to wait until another time when the Legion can use the full force of the SpiralHorns. Now is not that day. Let us go back to our Homeland fortress until better days arrive."
Though most were reluctant to acknowledge their feelings, these words rang true in the hearts of many among the Legion.
"Wait." a voice was heard. The young Hubisones stepped to the front of the SpiralHorns and spoke.
"I blame no one for their desire to begin a final march to return to the Homeland. But before you do, I bid you… look to the West. The sun you see setting represents a remaining ember of hope. It may be dim… it may be fading… but observe, it is still there. Let us follow this light and meet our foe in the desert lands to the Southwest. All is not lost. The Western kingdoms may still yet be ours and, come the dark days of Winter… only the fates know what lies in store."
A vote was taken, and Hubisones had won the favor of the SpiralHorns. The Legion turned its gaze to the glow in the West, and set a course for the desert. A road had been chosen.
Chapter 16: Revolution and Return
Were it only but a mirage in the heat of the desert sun... But, alas, the events of the day were all too real. The prophesy scrawled months earlier before the eyes of the SpiralHorns now rang true. Even in lands that previously presented no challenge, the Legion was now the hunted.
At the head of the Legion's ranks, rode the General. However, in the hearts of many of the SpiralHorns, his leadership was in question. When confusion plagued the ranks, where was the calming hand of reason? Why were able warriors held from the battle, while aged combatants were sent to their defeat? How did an age of gold become so tarnished in such short order? The seeds of revolution were taking hold within the Legion.
As the slow return to the Homeland continued, a rider appeared in the distance. The weary SpiralHorn soldiers gripped their swords at his approach, until his face came into the light.
"Welcome, AvengerRam." DezUrbanos uttered. "It is good to have you back my friend."
The returning Bard's face looked drawn and pale. With somber eyes he related his tale.
"I have acted as a scout and followed the exploits of the Emerald Raptors of the East. They have laid waste to foes throughout the lands, only finding defeat once in many months of their onslaught. My Brother, the AvengerEagle, whispers in their ear words of revenge. They seek to avenge past losses at the hands of many foes, including the SpiralHorns. They are now marching on our Homeland, and their goal is total destruction."
The ranks were silent. Rallying cries were not heard. The days had grown shorter and many months of battle weighed heavily on the Legion. And now, this, an onslaught by an enemy that thirsts for the obliteration of the SpiralHorns.
It was Dez Urbanos who finally spoke… not in the manner of a rousing call to arms, but in a calm and stern manner.
"What defines us? True, many have lived in an age of gold when all trembled at our approach. But those days are behind us. Many speak of revolution, and perhaps that will one day come to pass, as change is the nature of all things. But today, at this moment, we are still the Legion. We will act as one. We will do that which we have always done – protect our lands with all that we have. Our Emerald foe seeks to destroy us? Let them come. We may lack the strength to end their onslaught, but none outside of our walls and our halls have the power to end us. What defines us, my friends? Our hearts. For there lies our Legion."
There was no cheer from SpiralHorns. Cheers are for invaders and conquerors. But there was resolve, and there was no fear, as the Legion returned to protect their Homeland.
Chapter 17: Ember of Hope
Night had fallen when the Emerald Raptors reached the gates of the Legion's stronghold. And while the anticipated attack did come, its ferocity was not as expected. AvengerEagle could not encourage the Raptor Generals to commit to a full forced attack. Instead, a tempered approach was adopted, saving their might for another day.
Had it come to this? Had the day arrived when the Legion was no longer enough of a threat to warrant a full onslaught?
No matter. An enemy was at the gates, and its call had to be answered on the field of battle. The Legion warriors did so, and turned their foe away by night's end. A somewhat hollow victory, but a victory nonetheless.
Winter had now secured its grip on the many lands. Most of the armies across the lands had dispersed by now and begun the long wait until the day when they could rise up again. The Legion was not quite ready to join their ranks.
It burned ever so slightly. Like a glowing orange ember on the bare forest floor after a lightning strike. But however close to imperceptible, it remained there. Hope. Hope to fight another day. To be viewed as a threat, and not an afterthought or an easily circumvented obstacle for the powers that had risen in these days. Hope. Perhaps a foolish hope. But still there and still alive.
Four days ride from the stronghold, another army walked forth with similar uncertainty. The Flyers of the East had seen more days of triumph in recent months than did the SpiralHorns, but their future also remained in doubt. And, unlike the Raptors, they had no choice but to view the Legion as a threat to their continued survival in these cold days of Winter.
Other battles loomed in the lands. Battles that would affect the fate of the Legion. Such was the nature of these waning days of battle.
But within the walls of the Spiralhorn fortress, only one task mattered. A foe would be at the gates of the Homeland stronghold once more. Once more the call of battle would be heard, and would be answered. What might occur after the dust cleared from this struggle, none could know.
The only thing known on this day was that the wind of war had not yet dissipated, and while this wind still blew, there remained a chance that the small ember of hope might be fanned into flame.
Chapter 18: Trilogies
On top of the walls of the stronghold, a great cheer arose. A fierce enemy had attacked relentlessly. But as the day drew to a close, the SpiralHorns had emerged victorious.
All held their heads high on that day. The young Captain proved his worth yet again, earning the praise of the General. Warriors young and old all played a part, giving their all for a cause that some had nearly abandoned. The smoldering ember of hope now was ablaze, renewed by the blustering winds of battle.
As the enemy retreated, word arrived from throughout the lands. News of the Paladins defeat of the Panteris, followed by a reluctant surrender their quest. News of the Norsemen nearly obliterated, but fighting on. News of the Raptors of the Northwest boasting their supremacy in the Western lands, while other armies sporting Raptors on their shields did the same in the East and the South.
The Great Council met to discuss the future path of the Legion, but no debate was necessary. The comfort of the Homeland would wait, as glory could only be found if the Legion departed and sought it out in the lands of their enemies. The Legion was one in its desire to seek out glory. And so, the seer AvengerRam spoke of a plan…
"In days past I have seen prophesies of threes, and on this day, two tasks appear before us – each requiring three triumphs. To the Northwest, the Raptors of the Ocean, though twice defeated, defy us still. We must answer their call, and thrice become victors over this foe. If this task may be accomplished, perhaps we may yet shed light on this Dark Age of the Raptors by again facing our Emerald foe to the Northeast and the Falconers of the South – defeating three armies of the Raptors to reach the ultimate battleground. These are treacherous paths, I fear, but the only ones that may yet lead to glory. In these two trilogies, a story of hope remains alive."
All agreed. The paths to glory, though dangerous and uncertain, were the only paths to choose. The Legion would embark on this journey undaunted and with abandon.
And in the frigid Northwest, their foe waited.
Chapter 19: A Return to Resolve
The Legion rushed the field of battle and attacked. Raining blows upon the enemy, an advantage was gained. An easy victory seemed to be at hand until the Fates intervened. Wielding their influence in an arbitrary and seemingly partisan manner, they reversed the tide of the battle. The Young Captain of the Legion was struck by the front ranks of the Northwest foe, knocking him to ground repeatedly, hoping for his withdrawal. Instead, he merely looked up, smiled, and resumed his attack. As night fell, neither the opposing army nor the fickle Fates could resist the force of the SpiralHorns, fighting as the true Legion that seemed absent in days of the recent past. And, when a final assault by the enemy failed, victory competed the first trilogy that had been foretold.
The Eastern march began. As the first steps were taken, the destination was a return to the home of the Emerald Raptors. Then, word was received at the front of the ranks: the Norsemen had surprisingly defeated the Bay Brigade at the foot of their own fortress, and were now themselves marching to engage the Emerald Raptors.
And so, a new plan was agreed upon. The Legion would march to the Southeast, and return to the once hallowed grounds to seek revenge upon the Crimson and Obsidian clad Raptors residing there. This meant another chance to face their fleet footed Captain who had almost single handedly routed the Legion in their previous meeting. A daunting task, but among the Legion, a new thought prevailed. In recent days, the accomplishments of the SpiralHorns harkened to Golden days past, and while none presumed that the ultimate prize would be theirs, for the first time in many days, it seemed an aspiration worthy of consideration.
"March on," TxRamaeus called to the troops. "Though we may not see the Homeland again for many days, when we return, whether in triumph or loss, all will bear the glory of a battle well fought!"
NickSelios echoed the battle cry: "we will wash our blood from the hands of our Southern foe, and bring glory once more to the name of the Legion!"
Other battles would soon be fought on these days. The Northern Militia awaited the charge of their rival Horsemen. The Steel Warriors prepared to battle the Flyers of the East.
But most of the armies of the lands lay dormant, unable to do more than lick the wounds of defeat and prepare for a new day.
The Legion of SpiralHorns was not among those armies, though. They fought on, with the pride and fortitude that some had questioned, but had never truly died. The hunted was once again becoming a pack of hunters.
Chapter 20: Defeat and Commencement
On the field of battle, in a land where they once triumphed, the SpiralHorns met their end. More battered and weary at the start of the day than most realized, the Legion could not withstand the power of the enemy. The Dark Age of the Raptors was a reality, and SpiralHorns could only retreat to their Homeland to disband the army and surrender to the Winter.
All that remained was the journey back. A slow march to the Northwest commenced. Few words were spoken. For some, the end of this quest seemed all too familiar.
Some lamented “It is always the same. Our Captain and our champions fight with great skill and fire, but it is within the anonymous ranks that our failings lie. It has been thus for far too long.”
Others sought to blame “Our leaders have failed to learn from the past, and we have fallen again because of their failings.”
But these words faded in the days that followed. Before long, the SpiralHorns would find reason to celebrate their strengths, and seek ways to eliminate their weaknesses. Some would scout the lands for mercenaries to join the ranks of the Legion. Some would look for strength from within. Some would spend their days traveling the lands to find young warriors to be called upon on the upcoming Great Days of the Choosing.
The seasons would change once more, and none doubted that the battles would begin again one day for the Legion of SpiralHorns.
The Legion Eternal.