Of Nightmares and Elves
I decided to check in with little Elfling, the orphaned elf boy. Did he forgive the dark elves? How did he do so if he did?
I landed just outside the town, in the forest. As I was reforming, a great whoosh knocked me down. I could feel claws digging into me and then a big slobbering lick on the back of my head. Still only partially formed, there was nothing I could do, face first in the dirt. I heard a bear's roar and mouse's squeak.
Crushed under the weight of a monster of a bear, I finally became solid and wrestled.
"So Few, you old mangy bear, how are you?" I said as I recognized the bear and wrestled with her. She had grown strong, very strong. "Where is that scruffy master of yours, Adle Lost? And why is there a mouse on your back?"
"Scruffy? I am a druid. Scruffy is our best formal face." Said the former mouse; Adle Lost had been a mouse! "Good to see you Mord. Did you come for the festivities?"
"No, came to see little Elfling. What festivities?"
"There is word of some terrible devastation to the east and a council has been called."
So I went with Adle Lost and So Few into the elven city and learned of the attacks on some farms in the east. Their best guess was that it was a Nightwalker and some Nightmares. They had laid waste to several farms, their occupants nowhere to be found.
King Fella ordered most of his people into the town and had most of his squads prepared to defend the town. But he sent some squads out. Me joined the red squad with Adle. These were elves in blazing red shirts. I never saw anything like it before. They looked like well-trained soldiers and they had a couple of mages with them. I called forth a feast to boost our morale; what we were facing would terrify most, but not if they had Kord's ambrosia in their bellies.
We set out after our meal, all of else certain of death and failure, a good beginning for a fantastic journey. I asked Adle Lost about redemption and forgiveness.
"I am a druid, Mord. I do not know the ways of the hearts of people. But I do know that when a stone blocks the roots of a tree, the roots both go around it and exploit the cracks in it to burst it apart."
That was nice. Adle told me about some of his adventures and I told him about some of mine. Apparently, the elves have as many problems as the dwarves.
So we went to the scenes of the attack and found a trail of destruction to follow. By the time we reached its end, it was night. And there we could see a group of four flaming Nightmares. I called upon Kord for his favor.
Adle turned into a dire bear and summoned several other large animals and elementals. The mages began to rain down fire, electricity, and all manner of magics onto the nightmares. And the fighters ran in.
Something dove down and attacked the fighters as they ran in. It looked to me to be massive, a 40 foot wingspan. It was a Nightwing.
I had my image run with the soldiers and I circled around, looking for the Nightwalker.
The animals were charging and a griffon appeared to attack the Nightwing, no doubt thanks to Adle.
And then I saw it. The Nightwalker. 20 feet tall. Massive. Grey with glowing eyes and rakish claws. The Flaming Horses and the Black Winged Terror were as nothing compared to this monstrosity. It was studying the battle and I could see it circle around to kill the elven mages. Indeed, it looked at one of the spellcasters and the spellcaster just died. And it seemed to do some magical damage against the lone fighter guarding the mages. I moved in, but could not reach the walker in time before its next devastating attack. It moved in and took the weapon of the fighter, crushing it. It then slammed the spellcaster and blighted the fighter.
I came up behind it and let out a might fury upon it. I pounded it with everything I had and it barely noticed it. Fortunately a swarm of animals were about me, attacking the Nightwalker. Slam after slam, the walker killed and killed. Blow after blow, I cut into it.
And then I felt a cold move in. I could feel undead rising around me. I looked around. A host of shadows were surrounding us, draining the strength of those around me and converting them into shadows. There was smoke and fire, obscuring my vision of the Nightmares, but I could see a red shirt appear, but it looked dark as night.
The weight of the battle was turning against us. "Kord, banish these undead to bother the living no more!" I cried out. And several of the undead turned to dust. And again. Yet there were more and calling upon Kord, my sword grew the power to disrupt the undead. And still the bears and elementals were wailing on the Nightwalker who continued to strike out with a fury of blows, felling creatures.
And then I could feel my strength ebb as a cold hand touched me. And another. Weakened, I lashed out, once, twice, three, four times, dealing blows in succession at those about me, casting them from me. And more rushed in.
The weight of the undead was upon me. Nothing for it but one last plea. "Kord, take these undead and put them back to their death." And then I could feel the breath of Kord burst out and destroy all the undead about me.
Weakened, but still with fight, I turned my attention back to the Nightwalker. There was a single dire bear attacking it now. I joined in. My flaming sword did devastating damage, the claws and bites of the dire bear sinking deep. The Nightwalker slammed into me, cursing my destruction of his minions. Fury in his eyes. But I could smell the end was near for him.
Striking out with all that I had left to give, he fell, finally, crashing down into the strewn carnage of the area.
Panting, I looked around. I could see a single red shirt and So Few fighting a Nightmare and the Nightwing. But it did not look good for our red shirt.
I rushed over with the dire bear trailing close behind. I slammed into the Nightwing and could see it turn its deadly gaze at me, could feel the cold of death try to take me. But I am made of stern stuff and fought it off, though it greatly wounded me. Blow after blow went into it. Would this never end? Then I felt a fiery blow from a hoof; the last Nightmare had come around and flanked me. Smoke filled my nostrils and obscured my vision. There was not much I could do, but then the dire bear grappled with it and it was gone, leaving me to deal with the Nightwing once more.
It turned to take flight and I gave one last mighty blow with the strength of Kord surging through me. Striking deep into its heart, it finally fell silent and upon me, nearly crushing me.
As I struggled free of its weight, I could see Adle Lost revert back to his usual scruffy self.
"Mord, it seems we and So Few are the last survivors."
"Yes, those red shirts, well, they put up a good fight, but I am almost feel like they were just set up to die or something."
"Yes, we shall all mourn their passing, but we have vanquished great evil this night."
"Yeah, um, I need to rest a moment." And catching my breath with the help of Kord, I regained my strength. My heart was weary with the losses about me. So many dead. So close to death myself, to becoming a wicked servant of the undead. Makes me kind of fond of giants.
We made it back and told our story. The elves were relieved at our victory, but somber at their losses. The Red Guard, as they were known, had done many a great battle. And indeed, without them, Adle and I would surely have perished.
The king thanked us and offered me a token of his appreciation. I declined saying that I had failed to protect those in my company, but that should I need his favor one day, I would ask then.
Finally, I got to see little Elfling. I mean, come on, I just dropped in for a visit and I had to deal with the Night of the Undead. This is why I never visit. I was still shaken even in the bright of day. But at least I got to talk with the little one.
"Mord, you have come to visit and after doing such great things for my people. Thank you."
"Yeah, well, I failed them just as I failed your mother. Even worse, they became undead, their souls forced to commit horrible acts of evil until I banished them. But, anyway, I came to see how you were doing."
"Very well. My friends and I have a lot of fun, just as you suggested."
"Good, good. Um, how do you feel about the dark elves?"
A shadow crossed the young boy's face. "The dark elves are my enemy. They have done wrong and should be stopped. But, but, I do not hate them. I understood what you said. Hatred destroys. I read tales of it in our people's histories. Some of the darkest elves had once been good, but turned to evil and hatred. Their fates were not pleasant."
"I see. Tales. That's interesting. Well, I should be off. Many duties to attend to." Alright, I lied. I was thirsty and not for elf wine. I wanted dwarven ale. I had become quite addicted to its strong, thick flavor.
And thus, I took flight, new thoughts roaming in my head, tales of Kord's followers, the fallen, the redeemed, and the battles against evil over the centuries. Yes, Starg was due an education.
Mords of Wisdom: Don't wear a red shirt into battle.