((this is the last part of a story I started writing quite some time ago. For the record, this ongoing battle takes place approx 6 months before Saul returned to Baldur's, so about 8 months before 'present day'. Sorry that it's fairly long post, yet I hope those who check it out, enjoy reading it. Thx))
Saul, close enough to the command post, was able to overhear parts of the conversation between his commander and a fairly tall elf.
“What?? Are you sure??” The commander bellowed.
“It is as certain as death, commander. The Undead are merely a distraction. Within our woods there lurks an army of orcs of considerable size, and we simply have not enough members in our small community to send an arrow through each skull. They brought a few trolls as well with them and their shamans made friends with some necromancers to create... -this- here.” The elf raised his arm in a single, fluid move, his golden eyes fixating on the walking corpses.
“But that means we…”
The elf simply nodded. “You have brought the wrong army, human. We counted the orcs and they outnumber you greatly. Like said, together we may have a chance however.” The elf looked approvingly in Saul’s direction. “Burning the bodies is a good idea since I suspect it’s their way to weaken you with the ones deceased, only to bring them back.”
“Alright, I’ll accept any help we can get. Tell your seer to retreat and bring your people out of those woods. We’ll be carving a rude path your way and meet you at the borderlands. Let’s pray that those greenskins have no clue what we’re up to.”
“Very well…” the elf turned around and motioned to his band of scouts to move out.
Soon after that, the survivors regrouped and as one dense massive phalanx formation the combined forces of Lathandrites and City Guard faced the undead. A light emanated from the core of the phalanx and any attack of the undead upon them failed to break their ranks. Slowly the small army of less than three hundred men and women pushed towards the treeline.
Saul was in the front, kicking at one zombie and beheading another with a swing of his blade. The creature shrieked in an unnatural way as its head rolled over the soil. Foul magic
. Another giant zombie lashed out at Saul with its rusty axe, the metal glancing off his hastily raised shield. The blow however shivered down his shield arm and made him stagger across the dirt. In the next moment he heard the wood splinter right next to his ear, the impact of the axe on his shield going as a great punch through his entire body. It was a sudden, jarring shock that burst pain through his shoulder and chest, and it definitely would have been a killing blow if he hadn’t brought that shield along. Saul was trained to ignore the pain for a moment and the muscles of his shoulder bunched against the wood, using his broken shield in a slam attack in an attempt to knock the large zombie off balance. Then, he lashed out with the tip of his sword, adding a bit of divine magic to it. Bits of rotten flesh, bone and blood splattered everywhere as his brothers joined him in the counterattack.
“Thank you!” Saul said as he wiped his forehead.
The man next to him nodded. “Brother Aurora.”
For a moment they stopped and more divine flames were cast upon the bodies, the heat so intense that it was impossible to ward it off entirely. Saul tossed his broken shield to the side and tested his arm. Sweat beaded on his face, plastering his golden hair to his forehead as he watched the flesh melt from the desiccated limbs. The others around him were cleaning their helmets and shields splattered with blood and gore. For a moment Saul looked over his shoulder in the direction of Waterdeep, almost half a day traveling away from them. He wondered what this small enemy army’s purpose was and what they did had in mind when they received the first reports about the presence of a considerable ‘Undead force’ ravaging the land here. He hoped the city was alright as several Dawnbringers had joined the City Guard's call to arms. Saul was both, and as a lieutenant of the City Guard he was here in charge of a small squad. Since there were barely any undead left standing, the phalanx had been split up to smaller units again which spread out over the plain towards the first trees.
They were not far from the edge of the forest anymore as sudden rushes of cold wind swept over the area. Saul sensed how the sudden gust of wind with uncontrollable enthusiasm started to circle his unit, and whispered words in their minds.
“Know me, fear me… my embrace is for each and every one of you, for eternity……
Know me, fear me, not even the strongest, the bravest, the fastest and hardest will stop me...…
Know me, fear me, never am I asleep, always am I there, in smile, in shadow, and in tear...…
Know me, fear me, life asks for death, never too early, never too late, let me show you now... and strip you down to your boney essence...
A few of Saul’s men gasped and staggered backwards in horror. One shouted,“ Myrkul’s!!!!!”
Saul himself was immune to fear, but he knew fear when he saw it. It happened when people looked death in the face, when it finally fully dawned on them how mortal they actually were. And in this case, fear itself was so close that it could practically kiss them on the lips. A long time ago however Saul had learned that fear was a natural thing, and that it should be regarded as something that would wake you to do what needed to be done. Instead of letting it overwhelm him... he owned it... he used it, he used it to steel himself to hold his nerve. But he did have a difficult time with what happened next…
A violent gust of wind struck him and his men frontally and even tore the headband from his head. Two skeletal forms almost completely devoid of any skin and flesh materialized, pairs of empty sockets with only a milky blue light within looked directly at them. Each form seized a long shaft of some sort and something bright reflected Saul’s divine light. It were long curved blades on each staff and they were held up motionless. Some of Saul’s men looked a moment fascinated, other soldier’s faces were blanched with fear as they stood frozen to the spot. The liches seemed to move in slow motion towards them as they brought their scythes around, holding them up a split second….
Saul’s mind however was warped back in time to the moment of the drama… the drama that occured ten years ago…
Saul heard the screams of the soldiers echoing through the tunnels of Mount Waterdeep, the sound of clashing steel ringing like alarm bells. His breath was coming in harsh pants as he was running back to the spot where his unit had split up. It sounded awful to his ears and -she-… -she- was with them. The walls of the tunnel trembled slightly, as if an inhumanly powerful blow had been delivered onto the rock. He heard incantations of the accompanying Dawnbringers, only to be followed by more earthquakes and a soundless wind that raged throughout the tunnel system. Two explosive releases threw him to the ground.
But Saul struggled back up quickly and with a grueling pace he kept running up the sloping underground, his sword and shield ready. When he reached the cross-section, he took a left and bolted down the tunnel in which he had sent them… in which he had sent -her-. Tears had him blind as he didn’t overhear any battle sounds anymore. He could only hope. The pounding noise of his military boots resonated off the walls of the dark tunnel with a clanging echo that matched well with the fear that was gripping at his heart, squeezing all the warmth out of it.
Finally, in the distance at the end of the tunnel he perceived a small light. Perhaps…?
But as soon as he got closer, the Aasimar’s nostrils were assaulted by the dreadful smell of death. A thin blackish stream flowed sluggishly down the tunnel, splattering his boots and armor as he ran through it. And when Saul cornered the next turn and entered the cavern, he could see his worst nightmare had come true. Blood leaked along the walls, droplets of the life fluid falling upon his hair and armored shoulders. Lifeless bodies, body parts... with blood oozing from countless abrasions and bone-deep cuts... all over the place.
Saul went pale at the amount of blood gleaming dark and wet on the cavern floor, the color swirling in his mind. He detected one of his friends among the corpses, with lifeless eyes staring out from a pale bloodstained face up at the ceiling... and with his fingers still clasping at the ripped flesh of his own cracked chest. Another one right next to him looked like his head had been turned all around with one violent twist. More motionless, mutilated bodies littered the ground, and body pieces had been tossed about like parts of a broken toy.
Wild eyed Saul looked across the massacre, the very sight practically suffocating him. Every creature in this section of the tunnels, from the tiniest to the strongest had been slain. And… and… and then… then he could distinctly make out his wife. He yelled out to her... but she couldn’t hear him anymore. Saul ran to the other side of the cavern… all the while knowing he was too late. He whispered her name over and over again as he fell to his knees beside her body. He cried out as he hugged her lifeless form, looking down in disbelief upon that strange young bloodied face that was supposed to be his wife’s. A cry that seemed to well up from the most primitive part of his soul erupted deep and low from his throat. A heart couldn't possibly get broken any worse than this…
The love of is life was gone, and as if filling the void itself naturally, anger entered his mind, and within moments it consumed his thoughts. No feelings of powerlessness, but instead a sheer, bitter rage howled inside him like a living thing that tried to free itself from his chest. He would avenge her… he would avenge everyone else who had suffered and who would be suffering as long as this -thing- was about. It would suffer... just… just like he was suffering. He didn’t wait for any reinforcements, but picked up his shield and blade and entered the tunnel behind the blood glinting scene.
Not that he had to go far as he knew this tunnel had a dead end at some point. The one he hunted now couldn’t go anywhere. And he didn’t care that this creature was so strong and that it had taken out half of his unit. Perhaps they had harmed it enough for him to have a chance. And then.. then...
“Ahhhaa… I was almost afraid I would have to wait too long… -not-... that I was in a hurry… guardsman.”
Saul froze in his tracks as he heard the cold voice and perceived a dark shade at the other side of the tunnel, slowly heading his way with a determined step.
“Well… only one to stop me this time?” The shade shrouded in a black hooded mantle stopped. There were glimpses of pure white bone as arms from under the cloth motioned in Saul’s direction. “Are you insulting me, human…?”
Saul clenched his jaw, his fingers gripping tightly around the handle of his blade before he said with a low voice. “I… am... not... human…”
“No… Really…??” An ice cold wind rushed into Saul’s direction as the mantle was removed, revealing the liche in all its unholy glory. “Let’s have a look at you then.”
Saul tossed his shield aside and readied his blade with two hands, his blue eyes gleaming in the darkness as he kept his gaze fixed on the dreadful appearance that was holding nothing in his bony hands. Only a dark golden chain hung from the liche’s neck and a pair of bracers were attached on his wrists.
“Ahh… oohhh… your blood I do like even more! Still… you are no less pathetic than they were…” The liche raised his bony hand, vaguely pointing to the tunnel behind Saul. “The taste of their soul was above expectations however.” The liche chuckled. It was not just a malevolent cackle, but it also displayed pure amusement.
“They were not pathetic… vile creature…. they were my friends… my companions… my wife…”
And just like a kettle in a kitchen abruptly boiling over, with steam flushing out in an angry cloud, Saul curved like a whirlwind around the liche and attacked him with defiant anger. Blade and claws clashed and Saul saw immediately he was at a massive disadvantage. The edges of his sword chewed but not sliced the bones, and somehow those regenerated. The creature had wards cast upon his form and thin wisps of black smoke rose up from the spots were his nails raked over. Those claws were larger than the tip of a spear, sharper than a blade and hot enough to melt steel.
But he didn’t care… the images of the villagers and their children, his friends and his wife kept him going. He wasn’t afraid either… his only fear was that he wouldn’t be able to avenge them. Frantically Saul kept lashing out, and fully concentrated on his attacks instead of defense… since he knew he too would lose this battle anyways. But this creature would die with him, and if it did, it wouldn’t be able to kill anyone anymore since they had found and destroyed its secret little ‘life jar’ earlier.
Suddenly, it was as if everything began to happen in slow motion...
song : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8MIDWA_6d8
The blows the liche delivered upon him were staggering but also lightning fast, the injuries they caused, deadly too as they sucked at his life force. At some point when Saul struck at the liche’s neck, sacrificing all his defenses in order to do so, he sensed those claws slicing through his armor and scraping over his bones. Pain beyond imagination slammed into Saul when more flesh was torn from his body, the liche’s reaction a combination of raw pleasure and yearning hunger.
Saul tried to fight it down, forcing the pain away from his thoughts, ignoring the blood gushing from his torn shoulder. He clutched the handle of his blade so tightly that his knuckles protuded. He raised his blade as if in an attempt to put an end to the liche with one devastating blow. Tears streamed openly down his cheeks, and a cry of frustration mixed with an anger that no living creature could possibly have missed, erupted from his lips.
“She was pregnant, you monster! Cease to exist!! In the name of Lathander!!”
In the next split-second he noticed the liche’s expressions, as far as he had any, transforming in an instant to surprise and perhaps horror as the lights in those empty eye sockets grew… as if he widened eyes he didn’t have.
And then… Saul sensed it… a strange warmth that seemed to seep into the very pores of his being like hot oil. The liche’s form was bathing in a bright, golden light. Saul’s mind was too small to contain what was happening next, yet he did sense a fresh, otherworldly power filling him… reaching all the way to his heart and replenishing the energy that had been drained by the liche, albeit temporarily...
Saul’s body shone with divine glory… and the next thing… he seemed to explode...
Merely a seconds later Saul fell out of his distant thoughts and staggered back into reality, his own body meanwhile flaring with a white-hot light that broke free from those old scars. He pointed at the two liches and shouted to his men.
“DO YOU STILL WISH TO RISE IN THE MORNING WITH THE SUN WARMING YOUR FACE !?! I SEE THE FEAR IN YOUR EYES BUT WE HAVE FOUGHT THESE IN A THOUSAND BATTLES, AND KNEW A THOUSAND VICTORIES !! TODAY WE HAVE TO DEFEND OUR LAND AT WHATEVER THE COST MAY BE !! IF WE DO NOT END THESE, THESE WILL END US, AND EVERYTHING ELSE WE CARE AND WILL CARE FOR.. WILL COME TO AN END !! SHOW THESE HOW BRIGHT HIS LIGHT SHINES, AND STRIKE WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT ALTOGETHER NOW THAT THE BLOOD IS STILL RUSHING THROUGH YOUR VEINS!!! STRIKE… STRIKE… FOR A NEW DAY!!!”
The company fought bravely and together they destroyed the liches. With their most powerful necromancers been slain, the orcs had second thoughts on their chieftains’s orders, and head over heels turned back to their homelands. But not after the elves had knocked some arrows in a few more backs. The survivors of the victorious company with Waterdeep finest city guards aided by a detachment of Dawnbringers, returned safely to Waterdeep.
And the first thing Saul did was visiting the temple of Sune… just to make sure.