Heroes of Rune Chapter 5 (finally)

Círdan’s note: Many suns have passed, and I’ve grown no closer to uncovering the secret of the World of Rune. I had begun to worry I would never find any other texts aside from Chapters 1, 2, 3, or 4. But Huzzah! I’ve just come across this scroll from spock0528: “Sorry guys. This one took me a while. New chapters coming soon!” Could it be? See for yourself in Chapter 5 below!

Chapter 5

Farion Stormborn

The soldiers of the Eastirim marched all throughout the night. What was needed was quickly packed up and what was not was left behind. Armor was hastily shoved on, weapons stored, and the massive war machines were loaded up for transport on wooden carts. Renly quickly put on Farion’s armor. Farion was impressed with how efficiently he did it. The armor of the Eastirim was a set of overlapping steel plates that covered the body. The armor was designed to take hits with light and medium weapons effectively but also allowed the wearer to have quite a bit of maneuvering room. It was not the strongest but it would not slow the person wearing it down too much. The helmet covered the entire face except for two narrow slits for eyeholes. The top of the helmet was an iron spike that, if necessary, could be used as a weapon. Each standard Eastirim soldier was equipped with a large sword and a small round shield. The sword was large but it could still be wielded with just one hand by strong warriors. The shield was small but powerful and it was often used to slam enemies to the ground rather than block attacks. In half an hour the entire army was gone from the campsite. Only tents and campfires, still smoking, were left. The men were gone. The battle for the fate of Rune was about to begin.

Farion marched beside Mason and Heimgal the whole way to Pymnimily. Renly had gone to join the rest of the squires. He would meet up with Farion when they reached their destination. The march was a hard one. The Zarkaran had chosen an excellent time to attack. The scout had reported that he had seen a fleet of Zarkaran warships heading for the beach near Pymnimily from the old watchtower stationed there. When the Eastirim arrived it would be in the wee hours of the morning. The men would have been marching all night and in no condition to fight. It was the perfect strategy for taking Pymnimily valley.

Fighting back the urge to yawn, Farion continued to move at a brisk pace. He could not afford to be tired, but it was hopeless. By the time the battle had started he would have been awake for more that 24 hours. He felt his eyelids start to close and his pace begin to slow. He jerked himself awake. He bit his tongue as hard as he could without biting it off to prevent himself from drowsing off again. He had to focus.

Around five in the morning the weary party of soldiers arrived at Pymnimily. The valley itself was a narrow passage only around 20 feet wide and 15 feet tall. It was an ideal place for an invasion because numbers did not matter in such a narrow pass. Here both armies, no matter their size, were equal. On the opposite side of the valley there was a sandy shore and after that the River Tywin. Farion could see around 50 Zarkaran warships closing in. The black sails of the approaching ships fluttered in the breeze. Farion knew that each ship could hold around 300 troops. That meant that the Zarkarans were outnumbered by around 3,000. This, in any other battle, would affect the outcome but this was Pymnimily. It would be anyones guess on who would be victorious.

Pymnimily’s southern side was home to the Great Watchtower. It was an ancient tall structure, built before the time of Drake Furror, and it was where Acosor stood when he separated Rune into two and created the River Tywin. At the very top of the tower there was a telescope put in place by Drake Furror so that when the Zarkarans rose again the Eastirim could spot them from a long way off. The telescope could see for many miles and it was what the scout used to spot the incoming warships. Farion could see General Icarus and his commanding officers ascending the steep stone steps of the watchtower.

Renly approached Farion. He wore leather armor and had a sword strapped to his side. He began to tighten Farion’s armor straps and polish his sword. “You scared, boy?” Farion asked. Renly nodded. “Good, that means you’re not stupid.” Farion suddenly remembered that Diggle had said the same thing to him before his first battle. He had quoted Diggle without even realizing it. “We won’t call you in unless you’re really needed,” Farion said. Serving Farion was not Renly’s only duty. During the battle Renly would assist the archers stationed along the top of the valley along with the other squires. If the Eastirim were losing too many men the archers and squires would be called down to fight and Farion and Renly knew every last man (or boy) would be needed. Farion put his hand on Renly’s shoulder. “May Anirab guide your sword,” Renly said. “And yours as well,” Farion replied. It was the standard warriors farewell, but Farion knew that Anirab wouldn’t be guiding his sword today. Anirab hadn’t guided Farion’s sword since the death of Jeremy. He just hoped he didn’t need it now.

Soon after Renly went to join the archers at the top of the valley a loud horn blast came from the Great Watchtower. General Icarus stood at the top of the tower with the mighty horn he had just blew from in one hand and his sword in the other. The design on his breastplate was that of the Golden Dragon of Acosor and he wore no helmet.

“Warriors of Rune,” he shouted. His voice sounded like thunder. “They mean to destroy us. They mean to take our land. To take our women and children. To destroy what has stood for centuries and what will continue to stand for a millennia,” he bellowed. The men looked up. Suddenly they didn’t feel so tired anymore. They now had energy. An energy no man of Rune was without. The energy of battle. “Well I don’t know about you”, Icarus said with sword raised high in the air. “But I’m not planning on dying on the edge of a sword being held by a Zarkaran dog.” The men cheered. The warships were drawing closer to the beach. The catapults were assembled and were being loaded with boulders. The ships were almost at the beach. The men were forming up. The archers were readying their flaming arrows. Farion tightened his hand around the hilt of his sword. The catapults were ready. The ships were in range.

“Fire,” General Icarus yelled. Boulders flew high into the air. There was a moment of silence where the rocks spun through the air silently like a leaf on the wind. Then the boulders found their targets. Several boulders crashed harmlessly into the water but others found their mark. A warship got a boulder right through its hull and it sank into the river in seconds. Another warship got a boulder right through the mast, knocking the ship over. It swerved into another ship sending the men onboard flying. The first wave of rocks had been devastating to the Zarkaran fleet but there was no time for a second. The first warships had arrived at the beach and the men onboard lept off, ready to fight.

“Archers, nock,” General Icarus said. Thousands of arrows were loaded into their bows. “Draw.” Thousands of bows were drawn back, ready to fire. “Loose.” Thousands of arrows curved up into the air then plummeted into the waves of Zarkaran troops. Many men went down but there were still more coming. The final ships had arrived at the beach. The Zarkarans began to run at the Eastirim, swords flailing about wildly.

“Charge,” shouted the general. The Eastirim drew their swords and the men at the front began to sprint towards the invaders. The rest of the army followed and in a matter of seconds all of Pymnimily valley was filled with troops. It was important to get to the Zarkaran before they put up the shield wall. Zarkaran armor was light but what they lacked in protection on their bodies they made up for with their legendary shield wall. The Zarkarans’ shields were long, heavy, curved rectangles made of iron. The shields could be connected side by side with metal hooks. The soldiers behind raised their shields overhead to protect from arrows and the soldiers on the side turned outward and connected their shields with the men next to them. The result was a wall that was not vulnerable on any side. The Zarkarans’ shields each had small slits in them. Too small for an Eastirim sword to get through but small enough for the Zarakarans to get their thin narrow blades through. The men trying to break the shield wall would have to deal with thin blades stabbing them through the chest, throat, and head. The Zarkarans could kill hundreds of Eastirim without losing a single man. The key to beating the Zarkaran in combat was to get to them before they formed their shield wall.

The two armies ran through the valley, swords raised. Farion ran with all his might. Getting to the Zarkarans before their shields were up would be a crucial part of winning the battle. The Eastirim army was almost to the Zarkarans, but all of a sudden the Zarkarans stopped. They rose their shields and hooked them together. Exhausted, Farion ran with all his might but it was too late. The shield wall was closed. It was too late. Farion tried to slow down to prevent from crashing into the wall but he was going too fast. He rammed into a shield with all his might hoping that it might collapse. The shield barely moved. The other men were ramming into the shields with the same success Farion had had. The Eastirim were now extremely vulnerable to the Zarkaran’s thin blades. Farion was pierced through the shoulder by one of the blades, and he grunted in pain. The man next to him was impaled through the throat with the little blade. All around him men were dropping, pierced by the Zarkaran’s swords. The sword emerged from the shield, like a snake coming out of a hole, but this time Farion was ready for it. He brought his sword up and sliced the Zarkarans sword in two. He then repeatedly slammed his sword into the shield. Farion noticed that Heimgal was doing the same thing. Soon men all around them were working to try and bring down the shield wall. At first there was nothing, but then a shield cracked. Then another. Then another. The Eastirim in front cut down the Zarkaran holding the shattered shields. The men flooded into the collapsing shield wall. They had done it! They had broken through. But not without a price. Eastirim dead lay scattered around them, suffering from multiple puncture wounds to the head and chest. Some were dead, others lay drowning in their own blood. Farion charged into the Zarkaran army. He cut down the first Zarkaran soldier he saw. He never even knew what hit him.

Now that the Zarkaran shield wall had been broken the Zarkarans dropped their heavy shields and drew a second of the light and narrow Zarkaran blades. Their swords weren’t as powerful as the Eastirim weapons but they were fast and they had a nasty knack of finding even the narrowest gaps in Eastirim armor.

A tall Zarkaran warrior attacked Farion, swinging his two swords at him in a flashing arc. Farion parried the attack and stabbed the man through the chest with his sword. He hit him with his shield so hard that his neck snapped and the Zarkaran fell to the ground in a heap. Farion saw Mason battling a Zarkaran. Mason had broken one of the Zarkaran’s swords and the Zarkaran was backing away. Mason moved in but the Zarkaran dropped his sword and lept up. Farion saw a hidden blade shoot out of his sleeve and the Zarkaran stuck it into Masons head. Farion moved towards the soldier who had just killed Mason but he was intercepted by a Zarkaran holding a battle axe. Farion was knocked to the ground and the soldier with the battle axe stood over him, grinning. As the axe flashed down towards Farion a spear went through the Zarkaran’s heart. Gendri stood behind the dead Zarkaran. He nodded to Farion and Farion nodded back. Farion stood up and surveyed the battle. The Eastirim were pushing Zarkaran back. Their progress was slow but they were making it. They were winning! They were actually going to win!

But then there came a horrible roar from the beach. Both the Zarkaran and Eastirim soldiers turned to look towards the horrible noise. The noise was coming from a wrecked ship that had washed up on the shore. Suddenly the ships hull exploded and something lept out. It was seven feet tall and dressed in the ceremonial robes of Udun, the Zarkaran god of war. It wore an elaborate headdress that was decorated in various animal skulls. In its hands were a mace and a sword both as tall as the figure itself. It stood on the beach and shrieked. A noise that would make the hair on even the bravest man’s neck stand on end. The Zarkarans began to cheer and every Eastirim’s heart was struck with fear. It was a Shaman of Udun. The shaman charged, straight at Farion.

There are many legends and myths about the Shamans of Udun. Some say they are men given the powers of a demon by the war god himself. Others say they are wholly demon, the children of Poshrux. Some even say they are the products of Zarkaran experiments on there own troops, experiments designed to create the perfect warrior. No matter what anyone thought, no one could deny that their appearances were extremely rare. They are believed to guard the temples of the gods in Zarkaran, and they rarely ventured onto the battlefield, but it is not unheard of for one to lead the Zarkarans into battle.

The Zarkaran soldiers lept out of the way of the charging shaman, Those that were too slow were crushed under the shamans massive feet. Heimgal gave a battle cry and ran directly at the fastly approaching shaman. With a single blow from the shaman’s mace Heimgal was sent flying. He slammed into a rock and lay still. The Zarkarans cheered again. They knew their savior had come.

The shaman was not slowed down by its massive size. It had gone from the beach to the Eastirim side of the battlefield in just a few steps. The shaman was just meters from Farion. He stared into the eyeholes of the shaman’s headdress. He saw nothing. At the last possible second Farion lept to the side, just out of the creatures reach. As he did so he raked his sword across the shaman’s thigh. The shaman kept running, unaware of the bleeding gash in its leg.

“At least it’ll bleed,” Farion thought to himself. The shaman crashed into the Eastirim soldiers, knocking them senseless. It swung it’s mace and sword taking men out left and right. Farion saw him impale two men at once with its sword and lift them high into the air. Farion had to get its attention. He grabbed a dagger from the ground and threw it at the shaman’s head. The dagger went through the back of the shamans skull and stuck out its forehead. That got its attention. It turned around and located Farion. Then it charged again.

Despite the fact that it had a dagger sticking through its head, it didn’t seem hurt. Only angry. Farion was surprised. That should have killed the creature instead he was its next target. Just as the shaman reached Farion he dove to the side and jumped onto the back of the shaman, his sword raised high. But the shaman appeared to be expecting this. Before Farion could plunge his sword into the shamans back it grabbed him and threw him off. Farion was airborne. He landed hard on a large rock. The creature dropped its sword and grabbed the mace with both hands, moving in for the kill. Farion couldn’t move. His collision with the rock had knocked the wind out of him and he lay there, gasping. The shaman was nearly on him when Farion saw Renly, out of the corner of his eye, stab the shaman in the leg with his sword. They must have needed the squires!

When Renly stabbed the shaman he must have severed some kind of artery. The shaman shrieked and twisted around awkwardly, hitting Renly with the back of his hand. Renly was knocked over and Farion saw blood pouring out of his check. The sword was left quivering in the shaman’s calf.

The breath had returned to Farion’s lungs. He jumped to his feet and ran at the shaman, hoping to get there before the shaman killed Renly. Just as the shaman raised his mace over the collapsed Renly, Farion reached the shaman and swung his sword aiming for his neck. But again the shaman seemed to be expecting it. The shaman grabbed Renly’s sword, ripped it out of his calf, and plunged it into Farion’s side. Farion dropped to one knee. Blood gushed from the hole in his chest. Even though the pain was excruciating Farion climbed to his feet and ripped Renly’s sword out of his side. The wound began to bleed faster but Farion didn’t have time to notice. Using every last bit of energy he could muster, he picked up his sword and ran for the rock he had been thrown into earlier. The shaman followed quickly. He had to get to the rock before the shaman got him or else he would be finished. Just a few more feet. He had to make it.

With one final burst of strength Farion leaped onto the rock twisted around and jumped again. The shaman swung at him with its mace but it had aimed too low. Farion passed over the shaman’s mace and brought his sword down through the horrible creature’s head. The shaman was slammed to the ground and Farion’s blade stuck deep into the earth, pinning the shaman there. The shaman twitched, but, after a few seconds, it finally stopped and died.

A cheer went up from the Eastirim side. The shaman was dead. But the battle was far from over. Farion fell to his knees. He couldn’t see Renly anywhere. Then, to his surprise, the shaman’s body withered away and turned to dust. All that was left was a pile of ash and and a sword, deeply embedded in the ground. The Zarkarans starred in shock. Then they charged forward in one final push. Farion tried to stand but he had lost too much blood. Fighting the shaman had taken him far away from the rest of the Eastirim army. He lay there, without a weapon and completely defenseless. The Eastirim charged at the approaching Zarkarans, but they would not reach him in time. The last thing Farion remembered before he blacked out was a heavy boot of soldier, he could not tell whether he was Zarkaran or Eastirim, coming down onto his head.

Send us an owl: What’s going to happen to Farion? Tell me, I must know! …Ahem, excuse me.  Wow, what a thrilling tale! Please share your thoughts for spock0528 below and keep a lookout for Chapter 6.