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Merlinscribe: The Journal of James P. Mallory
Re: Vel-al-Amion (Reply)
2016-04-26 05:20 pm (UTC)
Here you are!
Though Jermayan had been reluctant to talk about Shadow Mountain and the Great War initially, as they rode that day through lands he could have never seen -- for Kellen now knew that Jermayan, old as he was from Kellen's standpoint, had been born centuries after the War was over -- the Elven Knight spoke of those ancient events as if he had indeed been present at that last great battle between the forces of Life and those of Darkness.
So vivid were his descriptions as he pointed out the landmarks of the conflict that had shaped Kellen's world that it almost began to seem to Kellen as well that he could see the armies marshaled upon the battlefield: humans, Elves, and Centaurs in their gleaming armor, the swift and terrible unicorn cavalry, their bright horns flashing in the sunlight. Overhead, dragons wheeled and soared in the sky, their scales glittering radiantly -- red and green, gold and blue and black -- and the air seethed with Elemental forces, as Sylphs and Salamanders awaited the bidding of their comrades and allies.
And arrayed against them, the terrible forces of the Endarkened and their slaves: the Darkmages, the duergar and goblins and trolls, protected from the sunlight fatal to their kind by the magic of the Endarkened -- a protection that might be withdrawn at any moment, should the Endarkened need their power for other things.
"Across that valley -- there -- in the distance -- is a place once called The Field of Sorrows. I do not know if it has a name now. There, the army of Countess Karissa of Avoret was utterly destroyed." Jermayan's eyes were shadowed with sorrow, as if the tragedy had taken place a decade ago, instead of millennia. "Ten thousand warriors, the flower of human pride and knighthood, were gathered there to do battle, and not one of them escaped alive. It was the first great human loss of the War … you had underestimated the barbarity of the enemy you faced until then, I think, and thought they would fight by the civilized code of human men. But they gave no quarter, slaughtering the wounded, those who had surrendered, the servants and children who rode with the army … all. Not even the supply-oxen were left alive, and when our army arrived, too late to aid you, the battlefield was a lake of blood too vast to sink into the earth."
Kellen blinked, trying to picture it and failing utterly. It was just too horrible to get his mind wrapped around. And this was the enemy they would have to confront!
"When the Count came and saw the place where his daughter had died, he swore that he would not rest until the power of the Endarkened was broken forever and the treachery that had slain his daughter was avenged; that if he must defy Death himself to allow this to come to pass, he would find a way. He was a great Wildmage; how his story ends, the histories do not say, but it was through his tireless efforts that the humans kingdoms fought at our side staunchly through all the dark days of the War, though the Endarkened tried constantly to make a separate treaty of peace with you. They would willingly have promised you anything to withdraw from battle, knowing that they would turn on you later once they had achieved victory over us."
How many humans failed to listen to the Count, Kellen wondered. How many thought that a separate peace could be achieved, and been betrayed? There must have been some, or the rest would never have known that Demonic promises were lies.
"But here is a happier tale, if any story from those days can be said to be a happy one," Jermayan went on, pointing into the far distance. "See there, that mountain pass?"
Kellen strained his vision -- he suspected Elven eyesight was better than human -- and in the distance, he could just barely make out a notch between two mountains that might be the pass Jermayan spoke of.
"That is Vel-al-Amion, where The Seven held back the entire army of the Endarkened for three days, until Cirandeiron Istemion and King Damek could arrive with armies of their own to hold them back. Their names have been lost to history, and so they would have wished it to be, remembered only as The Seven, comrades in life and death, who did what could not be done, and so saved us all."
"How could you forget them if they were Elves?" Kellen asked, since if he'd learned one thing in his time in Sentarshadeen, it was that Elves had very long memories, and kept excruciatingly accurate records of their families and genealogies.
"The Seven were not Elves, not all of them," Jermayan corrected him crisply. "They were of all the races that fought against the Endarkened. And they were not warriors at all, but scouts, sent out to patrol in advance of the army to learn the disposition of enemy forces and to report back."
Not warriors? Then how could they ever have held against a host of Demons?
"But this time, knowing what they knew, seeing what they had seen, they dared not. They knew the Endarkened host must come through Vel-al-Amion, and so they retreated to that pass, sending messages to their commanders, messages that they could only hope would reach them, knowing they would never know if word had gotten through in time. And when all the hosts of Darkness and foul magic descended upon Vel-al-Amion, the Demon army found its way barred by seven scouts who would not yield the pass."
Kellen found himself profoundly stirred by this tale. Only scouts! Yet they had done what needed to be done, against far longer odds than those he and Jermayan faced, against the Endarkened in all their strength, not the weakened creatures hiding in Shadow Mountain. If they could do it...
"No one knows what happened there, though there are many ballads of their bravery. I believe that when the Endarkened saw the Seven could not be easily brushed aside, they tried to tempt the Seven to join their own forces, for that is ever the way of Demons."
Suddenly Kellen could picture it in his mind, the vast host behind the leaders, the Endarkened leaders offering -- what? It would have had to be more than just their lives. It would have to be everything all of them had ever wanted: love, power, riches, fame, everything...
"But that, too, will have failed," Jermayan said, his voice filled with awe, "And then, surely, the wrath of the Endarkened commander must have been overweening. Yet the Seven held Vel-al-Amion, and the Endarkened army could not advance through it while their way was barred."
"But how?" Kellen asked wonderingly. "If they were just scouts, how could they have held?"
"There is much we will never know," Jermayan admitted simply. "It was a miracle, and the Seven gave their lives in payment to the Gods that had answered their prayers for that miracle. What is certain is that reinforcements arrived in time to catch the Endarkened army while it was bottled up in the pass. 'Then blew the silver horns of the army of Cirandeiron Istemion, then roared the mighty drums of King Damek; brazen and argent marched the human and Elven armies across the bridge of their hallowed dead to engage the foe--' or so the bards would have it. The Allied armies hurt the enemy badly enough to force them to retreat, and the war went on. The bodies of The Seven were never recovered. Yet if they had not held the pass long enough for the Allies to get there…" Jermayan shrugged eloquently, and said nothing more.
But Kellen thought about that story long and hard as they rode, and he wondered -- if it had been him, would he have had the courage to stand?
-from "The Outstretched Shadow: Obsidian Mountain, Book One"
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James P. Mallory
James Mallory's Web Page
The next book in the "Dragon Prophecy" series is
Blade of Empire
. It will be published by Tor Books at the end of 2017.
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