[ - Author's Note - ]

Heya once more! It's time for another Garan vs. Eostia battle! And some more lore...

I... Might enjoy the world/lore building more then anything else here, really.

Compared to the last poll we did the Best Banners of Ur one was a little worse on votes at fourty-seven; I blame FFDotNet for not allowing links like AO3 does. Oh well. Still time to close the poll. The results?

Well at the bottom of the bunch with zero votes are House Rongera and Blitzhaus... Ouch. Rongera's shield was made because I liked the idea of the eight swords and needed an orange one as I had few in that color. Also note the lightning bolts in the design. Might be important down the line. As for House Blitzhaus' the idea was to make an emblem with a darker color pallet and one that was over designed. Yes, it's busy design is a feature not a bug; it was designed to reflect the pride and belief in power of Arnold (And to a lesser extent, Victor) of their family and realm as well as to look a bit imposing.

House Victor, Pineforge and Rongan are all tied with one a piece (2.13%). For House Victor I made the emblem to try and focus on the 'quarry' of Rockquarry and look striking among the other emblems. I was going to call them House Bluetower (Hence the blue tower on the shield) then double checked and realized they were already named House Victor. Whoops. Pinewall was one made on the spot for them. It's... My laziest and worst design, in my own opinion. And it still did better then House Blitzhaus. The House Bemul emblem was based on Captian America's Shield with different colors to avoid too much comparison. Still I used an eagle head just for that extra nod.

Tied with two a piece (4.26%) are Houses Onglave and Sunfield. Onglave being so low was a bit of a surprise, it's one of my favorites. I like the unique shape I gave it and the combination of horses, lance and swords that gives an idea of what it's all about without saying a word. Sunfield was a case of showcasing a 'rural' type of territory, something that showcases a home of farmers and down to earth sorts.

Hanging on to three votes is House Highreign (6.38%) with it's emblem. I made the emblem as a means to showcase how a BDSM relationship should be to the best of my knowledge; the dominant (Symbolized by the whip) has the bulk of the power and control (Showcased by the size of that section of the shield and the three emblems around it) but the submissive (Symbolized by the Collar) is held above them.

House Terrasa stands at four votes (8.51%). The wings and star was a design I thought would look cool, with the spearhead added as a means to fill the bottom with something. It was a bit more generic, I thought, but cool looking. I do like it.

At third place is House Fiore's. I think between Celestine emblem and this one I was really inspired to just create more emblems. Yes, this is the one you can blame for everything. For this I wanted something that would represent strength and kindness in equal measure; hence the focus on pink, purple and yellow as well as the doves; something that felt very 'Prim'.

At second place is House Galeraven with ten votes (21.28%). You can blame TheScottishlad for both pointing me to the emblem of Morrigan (The raven used in the design) and making me want to add more Celtic designs to... everything. Send all complaints to him. Joking aside, as simple as it is compared to most of the shields here it's quite the striking emblem I'd say.

And at number one we have House Noxdecus at seventeen votes (36.17%). While I didn't want this to be a popularity poll I can see why people would like it. It was the second emblem made for the story with House Leosol's being the first and House Rexvenandi being the third. Since I divided the classes into three sections (Melee/Red, Ranged/Green and Magic/Blue) I wanted the emblems to reflect that. Also, blue happens to be my favorite color so... Yeah.

Anyway, more fighting to be had, more lore, yadda, yadda. Let's get into it!

[ - Act II - Chapter XI: Skirmish Among The Flames - ]

The Age of Gods is one of the least well understood of the known ages; it was well before man walked the earth and well before the Giants of the Age of Giants. What little we know comes from the assortment of religions of the world and while there are many common themes and agreed upon events others are very much dependent on whom you ask and what god or gods they follow. While the exact details vary here is what happened, at least as far as we know and understand.

A massive group of gods bickered and argued over... Something. Who was the greatest of the gods, who was the leader of the gods, who was the most important, we do not know and each religion had their own answer to that question. What we do know is they all agreed to fight it out and created a world together, our world, as a battleground. After seven years of rest they landed upon this world... And engaged in a battle of unheard proportions. What was once flat, plain, empty land would be bathed in the blood of gods as the battleground they created was used for it's purpose.

God by god was slain. Some gods allied with others. Some betrayed those they allied with. Others fought alone and openly challenged all before them. Some awaited in hiding and picked off weakened foes one by one. Over the course of the conflict the land was reshaped. Cracks that would become rivers, craters that would become lakes, ground smashed together to form mountains. Chunks would be blasted off to allow oceans to form on the earth and a moon to be made by one of the gods as a place to stage attacks. Hundred of gods died. From their blood grew plants, creatures and fungi. As blood was filtered by soil it would fill the cracks and craters with water.

By the end of the fighting there were few left. Larentia, Goddess of Light is considered by most to be the 'winner' of the war. Even then she did not walk away unscathed; she was too weak to return to where she came, nor live in her condition and thus she split herself into three beings who would be reborn over and over the ages.

As for the rest? Not all of the gods were said to have died. The God of Shadows was said to survive as a gem. The Odd Faced God choose a new form, it is said. The God of Conquest was said to be trapped upon the moon; alone and unable to kill himself or find anyone or anything to conquer. Some other gods was said to have reincarnated or chose new, weaker forms.

Still; it would pave the way for the ages to come.

~Dominic James Pencraft, Sererus: A Collection of History and Powers

[-]

First thing in the morning was breakfast. Second thing was installing the Booster. We moved to Lion Soul City and to the Adventurer's Guild to install it. Lion Soul City reminded me of Argon City although with less wooden and log buildings and more stone and brick but no less rugged and hardy. The woman manning the desk at the guild was quite polite as I installed the device. Once done we did a bit of browsing and shopping; I assumed we'd move out right away but there was some difficulty in assembling all the forces and it would take a bit longer then expected. There wasn't anything I found useful, to be honest, so I mostly relaxed. Miria was the one who bought things overall, buying a larger quiver to set behind her back in place of the old one, plus enough arrows to fill it.

I meanwhile went to my stats. I had two Universal and nine Regular Stat Points to spend. I should have spent them before this debacle, but I held off as I thought I could find another trait to have one stat bolster another, but no luck. In the end I dumped all my Regulars into Dexterity and the two Universal into Strength. Once done I took a quick look at my over all stats.

(-)

[X] Con: 47/200 (2087/4000 XP)
[X] Str: 61/200 (571/6000 XP) (+10 from Equipment=71)
[X] End: 47/200 (382/4000 XP)
[P] Dex: 67/200 (314/6000 XP)
[S] Agi: 48/200 (289/4000 XP)
[P] Acc: 63/200 (275/6000 XP)
[S] Mag: 65/200 (4927/6000 XP) (+1 from Equipment=66)
[P] Mnc: 65/200 (4301/6000 XP) (+12 from Equipment=77)
[X] Lck: 38/200 (2092/3000 XP)

(-)

Over all I was... happy-ish with the progress I was making but I wish it could be a bit faster. Strength, Dexterity, Accuracy and Mana Capacity had to be at one hundred each and they were slowly closing in on those marks. Constitution, Endurance, Agility and Magical Power all had to be at sixty and only the last of them was past that mark. Bit by bit I was closing in on that class upgrade.

I waited for things to pick back up; based on what the Baron said his scouts already were in the field searching the enemy out and they had the voxluxs to rapidly inform us. Finally we were rounded up by one of the Baron's lieutenants; the bulk of the force was assembled and it was time to head out. I would mount a horse and have Riri ride pillion with me; although sitting ahead of me as opposed to behind me. The Baron and his son each had their own horse, as did Miria and Makoto. Aeris preferred to sit on her staff and hover beside us while Agni rode pillion behind Alicia who led the Knights of Iris, with her Uncle and her men having their own horses. Other assorted knights rode with us from Arafe with supporting mages riding pillion with a knight. Lastly a small collection of archers rode along in wagons with supporting infantry riding with them. Additional wagons carrying supplies was pulled along as well.

All in all Baron Leosol had pulled together almost three hundred men, all together along with enough supplies for a short sortie. The Baron led us to the north west of Arafe, expecting to find our quarry there. Arafe's border's were curved so it didn't really have a northeast, northeast was where Garan was to them. The east and south of Arafe, then, was mostly plains and open ground; poor places to hide while the north and northwest boasted heavier forests, hills and mountains at the edges.

"I wonder if they'll be going after the mines?" I mused softly but audible as I felt Riri turn to look up at me.

"The mines?" Riri parroted, trying to get me to explain as I bit my lip, trying to find the best way to put it.

"We maintain a slave mine there of captured Dark Elves." Riri stiffened as Arthur Leosol direct his horse next to ours, speaking in a firm tone. "If the dastards want to ruin my land they can do something productive as they pick at it." Riri had a bit of a shocked look to her face, quivering a bit. "Faint of heart, lass?" He asked her his eyes narrowing at her.

"She was once a slave herself, Baron." I replied firmly as I gave him a look. "Forgive her if the idea of someone wearing a collar offends her." His look shifted, his eyebrows raising up softly before nodding.

"I see. I meant no offense." He said as he looked ahead of us. "Understand me this; I bare no love for... their kind and their kin but only those who assault us are punished. They've taken too much from us to be allowed impunity or a quick death." He said as I nodded sadly. In truth based on what I knew it wasn't that different to using prisoners to mine ore or quarry stone; punishing them with hard labor. The only difference was the reason and an added dose of racism behind it; and after seven hundred years of Garan aggression it's hard to blame them even although there are many Dark Elves who wanted nothing to do with Garan.

Of course I'm sure these people weren't just punished with hard labor and were given... More carnal punishments but for obvious reasons I didn't point it out. It disgusted me but I was not in a position to do much about it, and unlike a slave state like Elddale it was very limited to people who, to be fair, were aggressors. It was a... Complicated, dirty situation that stirred a collection of mixed feelings in me, few of them neutral or even close to positive. In the end I decided to focus on doing what I could do; ward off the current invaders.

Although I also had cause to think on something else; when I ended up in this world I was given three main objectives but also five bonus objectives. One of them was to end the Eostian/Garanian conflict. How isn't said; if I led a total conquest and genocide I'm sure that would count but that was both an extreme solution as well as a difficult one. Also, I didn't have a funny, tiny mustache, so genocide was a no-no to start with.

So the options were subjugation by force of arms and deal with the constant uprisings, rebellions and assorted issues that come with that along with the fact Celestine would only agree to such an idea if she were replaced with a body snatcher or get them to agree to a peace treaty... Which would likely involving dragging Olga Discordia to the negotiating table at sword point, kicking and screaming the whole way. The fact was if a peaceful option was on the table by negotiations alone, well, I wouldn't be needed.

I think the only way (Well, only good way) to resolve this would be to get the two Queens to sit down, face to face and talk things out. And even then I had my doubts. I wasn't exactly Naruto Uzumaki, after all. Talk no Jutsu was not in my skill set. Sorta wish it was, but even then I wasn't sure it would work in this case; how do you talk to a people as equals when those people see you as a lesser being at best and a parasite at worst?

Once again I was well aware of how difficult a task I had ahead of me and all I could do was forge ahead and try not to stumble off a cliff.

[-]

For most of the day it was a combination of a mostly leisurely march and a constant watch for possible enemies or opposing scouts. The Baron's own scouts were deeper in and ahead of us. Thus far the only call out via voxlux were two sets of scouts sent southwards, confirming a lack of notable activity from Garan forces. He was sure they were in the northwest, but not so foolish as to not check the south just in case.

We rode mostly along side of a forest as opposed to through it; it would be too easy to be ambushed if we were found first after all. In addition to the scouts searching out the enemy location we had scouts moving along side us within the forest and along the fields on the other side to, once more, avoid ambush. During the march Baron Leosol kept his distance from me (Well, me or Riri, it was hard to tell) and I had the impression he was rather opinionated on what was being done to the Dark Elves in his state, but he also didn't want to risk offending me (Or Riri). If I had to guess he thought he was in the wrong, yet didn't know what else to do.

I hate politics and all that goes with it.

And I was the heir to a Barony... Meaning I'd have to deal with politics...

Shoot me now...

By the end of day one we made camp, took turns keeping watch (Myself, Alicia, Baron Arthur and his son Lance all took turns on watch), broke camp the next morning and marched out once more. It was before lunch that one of the scouting parties called in; they found tracks indicating multiple Aberrant marching along from north to south and they were going to get an idea of where they led. With a general idea of their position our marched turned towards the forest...

[-]

Abandoned Lumber Camp
Current Base of Garanian Recon Force

Alois turned the point of his sword slowly back and forth in a drill like manner into the floor as he sat on his chair. It was the only chair left that was semi-comfortable as he thought over his reports as Budvilas added his own, the scout with his own arms crossed as he stood before his commanding officer. The twins were training with the other two Dark Elf troops he received. The ogre sergeant sat on the floor near by, as did a few others. He trusted their opinions more then the other elves, save Budvilas.

"They arrived last night, by what I know and moved into the castle. I could only get so close, so what I've heard is limited..." Budvilas began as his hands moved to rest on his hips. "Rumors of some, strange, new magic and devices to empower them are the most notable topic I could make out. No idea what it does, but what little I could gleam is that it is quite important to the nobility."

"Hmm... A new magic, huh?" Alois let off, rubbing his chin with his other hand. He spun his sword with a bit more force as he thought over it. "Those humans are clever beasts... I heard when we first attempted to destroy them some three thousand years ago they had only just learned magic from the reincarnations of their accursed goddess reborn... And while most are too proud to admit it, there are suggestions our initial attacks eight hundred years ago were met with much more advanced magics..."

"You 'tink dey make'um better mag'uks?" One of the ogres let off, one of his tusk broken in half twice; once horizontally, once vertically. The words caused Alois to hum once more.

"Like I said... Clever beasts... And while I'm not a mage by any stretch I've never heard of our people working to advance them much, aside from a few odd scholars." The group's commander let off humming once more.

"Peh. Most of them think their magics are perfect as is." Budvilas let off with a sigh. "...I fear our people's arrogance and unwillingness to adapt will be the death of us."

"Now, now, don't say that before the troops." Alois said, lifting his sword to point and shake his sword at the other male with a grin. "We have to be haughty bastards, right?" He said before sheathing his blade. "None the less, I do fear that sooner or later the Highborne cunts will face a human army on their doorstep and they'll deny it, even as their heads are taken off."

"I doubt they're clever enough to bypass the ultimate defense of the citadel." Budvilas huffed out. "Although I would love to see them try it. The last thing to report is that the local leader has assembled a force. Cherep and her dead force is likely what tipped them off; I expect scouts to be deployed already and seeking us out."

"Hmm... It'll take them time to find us. Even if they get lucky and catch our scent early it'll take days to get that information back to their army." Alois said as he stood up. "We have time to plan our next move. We should get an idea of where this force is, where it's going and lay an ambush. I imagine they'll leave their city the day after tomorrow and we should have three to five days grace to prepare a... proper welcome."

[-]

By mid day the enemy's base was located; an abandoned lumber camp a day's march away. We redirected and moved closer over the course of a day. There was no rush yet; if anything we didn't want to be worn down before we arrived. With luck we could creep up on them without their notice, although that'll be tricky. According to our scouts they had sentries on guard, of course, but it was just goblins on guard duty and patrols seemed limited; according to the Baron this was surprising as most of them didn't deploy patrols at all. This suggested it wasn't an idiot in charge, although the limited patrols either meant he or she felt comfortably hidden enough to not need a larger patrol or said leader told someone else to organize patrols and that someone did the bare minimum.

Either way it was mostly quiet as we made our approach. There was a strange nervousness in me; there was a clash up coming and I was no stranger to fights but I was a stranger to such a large scale fight (This was maybe four or five times bigger then the battle with Mandeville, as an example) and I'd be playing the role of a sub-commander under Alicia. Additionally we were now traveling in a forest where ambush was a possibility; I had used such an ambush as part of my strategy against Mandeville, after all.

Then again this wasn't against any enemy, it was against Garan. This is... Going to be interesting, if nothing else.

We set up camp once more in a fairly large glade. By all accounts we were some three hours march from the enemy so fire sources were limited to mana torches and stoves; torches and small stoves that used spell stones with fire spells to give off light and heat. They gave off no smoke so there was no way the Garan force would be able to tell from that. The chances of a patrol stumbling over us in the middle of the night was limited, so it wasn't until there was daylight that we really needed to be careful about being found out.

Quiet chatting abounded around the camp, some men on watch, some on a brief patrol before the light grew too dim. Dinner had been served and eaten as everyone readied in their own way. I sat on an old stump as I took the time to work my weapons with a whetstone; the Unicorn's Horn's magic meant I'd never have to sharpen the blade but the same couldn't be said about my parrying dagger or my small collection of throwing knifes. I could see Miria doing much the same on a log across from me; looking over each arrow in her quiver and sharpening the heads as needed.

I had a strange feeling of being watched that started to grow as I calmly glance about... And finally I saw the source... Makoto and Riri who were standing next to me, giving me a look. "Yesssssss?" I let off.

"History lecture." Riri let off simply as I sighed, my shoulders slumping softly.

"Is that all I am to you girls? A walking, talking history textbook?" I replied with as Aeris huffed, walking around my stump and dropping her staff, letting it hover up in a horizontal position before sitting on it and crossed her legs as she looked to me.

"Yes. Yes you are." The elf said with a small smirk; ten percent smug, ninety percent playful. I sighed and shook my head. I noticed the girls were still looking to me. I turned my head about. Although Alicia and Agni sat a bit apart from me they were paying attention to me now, as was Miria and a few other soldiers hanging around likely curious on what was going on.

"Well I'd need a subject to explain." I pointed out. I felt like a Youtuber save I didn't have time to edit or present a video, I had no advertisement money (Like... Most Youtubers) and no script.

No one would get the joke if I asked for up votes.

"Perhaps something a bit topical to our situation." Makoto said moving to sit next to my on the stump, looking to me. "Such as why the Dark Elves are so set on conquering Eostia."

"Well that's a bit of top-oomphf!" I let off as Riri childishly jumped into my lap like a small child... Sure she looked like one, but she was an adult... With a horrible childhood... So I can't chide her too much on acting childishly. "Well, that's a bit of a topic." I said, wrapping my arms around Riri's waist as I took a moment to collect my thoughts. "I suppose the best thing to do is talk about the creation myths of Sererus as there is a relation to that and their given reasons for what they do."

I took a bit of a breath as I figured the best way to start. "In short there are a few. Some say it was formed and forged during the War of the Gods as a result of the many, many battles said to take place back then. Others say one of the gods that survived was the one who carved the shape of the world before ending his life and using it to spark life on the world. Others say the gods remains are what sparked life across the realm. Others say the Age of Giants is when the races emerged. However the Elves of the world usually believe some version of the Two Giants Myth; not to be confused with the Dragons, Demons, Titans and Jinn of the Age of Giants."

"The Two Giant Myths have... multiple variations, to say the least." I said as I looked up slightly. "That the Giants were cast from the heavens and died upon impact with the earth and became Sererus or a part of it. That the two chose this land as a battleground and formed Sererus as either a place to fight or as they worked towards one another and built the land to fight to a mutual death. Two lovers, building Sererus as a bridge to one another, dying from exhaustion once reunited. Two lovers building Sererus as a home before being struck down. There are dozen of version but they all end in one of two ways; the Giants built the continent and became a part of it upon their deaths or they died here and their bodies became the continent. All Elves can at least agree that it was one of the two."

"What we know is the Dark Elves believe they emerged from the brains of a Giant with the predominant idea being that Giant fought to claim the land for itself while the High Elves came from the Giantess' tears although, again, there are variants among the High Elves. Some saying the High Elves came from the Giantess' heart or from her eyes while some say the Dark Elves came from the Giant's... umm, rear as an insult. It's unsure if they emerged before or after the Giants of the Age of Giants although the High Elves claim from before. Then of course, there is the myth of where the humans come from and... Well, once more there are so many versions." I let off with a sigh. "Most human religions agree a god granted us form and life but which god or gods did it or which reasons is up in the air. Others say one of the dead gods spawned us from his dead body. However the Dark Elves have another myth."

"How is it we know of this at all?" Makoto asked, tilting her head softly. "As I know it to be of the Dark Elves they are isolationist and not inclined to consort with humans at all if they could help it."

"No, but in the past they have spoken with the High Elves." I explained as I gave a glance to Aeris. "As I understand it Dark Elves view High Elves as cousins and if not equals then at least respectable beings and at a few, limited times in the past the two have interacted on cordial terms."

"Indeed." Aeris said with a nod. "We have old tomes detailing old talks between the Elves of High and Dark. My own people have rather... Unsavory views on humans as well, at least back in the Elven Kingdoms, however the tendency for my people is to isolate, trade for what we need and just not deal with the 'lesser beings'. Needless to say, by all I've heard my former teacher still hasn't lived down being bested in magic by your father despite the fact he's older then the war."

I nodded to her and chuckled softly. The High Elves and their kingdoms were... another kettle of fish but they weren't waging war on us so the human kingdoms tended to tolerate their haughtiness. I continued on. "Anyway, the Elves seem to think humans, halflings and other non-Elven races came from the skin of the two giants. Again, many variants; we emerged on our own, a god formed us from their flesh, the Giants willed us to emerge and so on. However while the High Elves just saw us as lesser the Dark Elves seemed to view us as more akin to parasites; things that hatched by feasting on the flesh of the Giants, the Giant they emerged from most notably. And by all accounts they treat both Giants and theirs in particular as gods. Their creators. So the idea that anything resembling a parasite or flea came from them is offensive to them."

In short it was like how Hitler viewed the Jews but arguably worse. Hitler argued the Jews were to blame for all of Germany's woes after the First World Wars and thus they should all die. In this case the Dark Elves didn't blame us for any of their woes; we existed and it might have been at the expense of a dead Giant's skin and that offended them. That's it.

I say arguably because I'm sure a Holocaust survivor would have a... strong opinion on it.

"At first they didn't bother to do anything about it." I said, picking it up. "The High and Dark Elves had established their kingdoms and were not under foot as the Age of Giants picked up while the humans very much were. As such the Dark Elves decided to just hole themselves away and let us be stomped like ants. Of course, as the stories goes, the Dragons took a liking to us and moved to nurture and protect us. The views seemed to range from pets to children, but the relations were fairly positive with some dragons even laying with humans."

"As the Age of Giants ended and the Giants died off the Age of Fire began as humans began their first, unsteady steps into founding their own civilizations; founding farms, towns and basic huts. Bronze was discovered near the end and it marked the change from the Age of Fire to the next age... The Age of Survival." I sighed for a moment before speaking once more. "It's the first known conflict with the Aberrant that we know of, but it was the Dark Elves that earned the era it's name. The Dark Elves learned that the humans survived the Giants and was forming what they saw as mockeries of their own kingdom and decided to take matters into their own hands; leaving their northern strongholds for one purpose; extermination. This sort of ended up in a three way conflict with the Dark Elves, Aberrant and humanity on different sides with the Aberrant eventually fleeing from the Dark Elves. Humans had no access to magic when this started and the Dark Elves employed what we now know are steel weapons and armor. In short; it was a brutal time to live."

To put this into perspective it would be not too much unlike if the Confederate States of America rose up with their muzzle loading rifles and cannons, riding horses and boasting Ironclads... And faced down the modern United States Army except their orders was 'kill everything that's Confederate' and they all had a large willingness to do this. There was more then a few stone faces and frowns around me as I kept going.

"The only downside the Dark Elves had was a lack of numbers; our understanding is sketchy as written language wasn't a thing for humans yet and we're mostly working off High Elven records, but they had maybe one to three thousand marching down verses hundreds of thousands of humans and we did manage to kill some of them. Sure, the cost to kill one Dark Elf was high, maybe hundred to kill just one, but bodies were the only thing we could throw at the problem, so throw it we did. History is, again, blurry here but eventually tactics were refined and the costs to strike down a foe was less and less. However the real game changer came from another source; Larenita."

"While the Goddess of Light won the War of the Gods it was somewhat Pyrrhic victory for her; she was too weak to return to the heavens and too battered to maintain her form so she split her form into three; The Knight, The Sage and the Wanderer. These three would reincarnate as High Elves over the ages and while the Wanderer would always, well, wander and be mostly unaccounted for the Knight and the Sage appeared in this time and assembled the largest human settlements together. Both would teach the humans the art of writing as well as something with which to defend themselves. From the Knight came the secrets of mining, forging and working iron into weapons and armor to fight back physically. She would also write the Primum Verbum to enshrine her teachings further. From the Sage humans would learn the secrets of channeling and forming mana into spells and how to use them to harm and to heal. She would also enshrine her own teachings as the Biblica Lux."

"After a year the humans formed the first real army we know of and marched on the Dark Elves and for the first time was somewhat close to parity. While the humans were still using less quality weapons and primitive, basic magics they still had raw numbers on their side... And while the first battle was lost they reduced the Dark Elven force by a tenth. In one single battle. For the first time humans did significant damage in a single battle. After that battle the humans reorganized and took on a new battle plan; rather then throw one massive army at them they sent five, smaller armies in waves to drag the next battle out and exhaust the Dark Elves."

"The two sides clashed over and over during the course of a year based on the High Elven reports and what few, primitive reports the humans forces were making now and bit by bit they bled the intruders until well over half of their starting force was dead. Based on what we can tell they were horrified that they had lost so many of their own and were outraged at losing so many to such 'lesser beings' but was forced to acknowledge a defeat in their efforts and fled back to the north with human armies harrying them the whole way and only stopping at the Unknown Reaches."

"And for the better part of three thousand odd years that was the last time anyone saw them. Sure, a few Dark Elves would find their way down but those were individuals and by all accounts fleeing their brethren. And that's not going into what seems to be a mass of refugees that fled to Arblade, at least before it was conquered and made into Garan."

"So, for them it's a religious war, huh?" Alicia said, huffing a bit as Agni nodded besides her.

"My people have had a history of long, bloody conflicts centered over religions and it tends to be among the most... heated of wars." The foreigner added.

"Again, to be fair it's not impossible to overcome this." I injected as everyone looked back to me once more. "Individual Dark Elves have arrived south of the Reaches without seeking to cause harm or trouble and settled into human settlements; although these people usually bypass Eostia given the general... distrust they get. And the aforementioned refugees that, by all accounts, settled into Arblade after the Pox managed to integrate well with the people there. At least until Olga Discordia came calling and conquered it all. There's a lot we don't know about the inner workings of Dark Elf society but they're not born hating humans; they're taught. But anyway, that's your lecture for the day."

"Thanks, Professor." Miria let off with sarcasm as I rolled my eyes at her.

[-]

I crept forwards low and behind a tall bush in the forest as I followed Miria. She had her bow in hand and an arrow notched, although not yet drawn. I glanced upwards briefly. Riri hopped from a thick branch to another without a sound as Ur' Akara did much the same although she gave a soft rattle of leaves. Despite how soft it was I winced. The lumber camp the enemy was based in was visible just past the trees and the main force was waiting behind us. Despite all odds we were unnoticed by them so far and had the initiative. Ahead of us was a group of two goblins and an ogre; none moving about and just lazily loitering. They were supposed to be sentries but weren't taking their jobs seriously; one goblin was picking it's nose with a pinky finger, the other goblin had it's spear planted point first into the ground and leaned into it, dozing softly and the ogre was carving at a block of wood with a knife although I couldn't see what it was making.

Not that it would matter soon...

I drew mana slowly as I took my spot glancing back up. Riri from her perch gave me a nod. Ur'Akara reached her spot and gave me a nod as well. Seeing they were ready I looked to Miria and gave her a nod as she slowly drew her bow to a full draw, taking aim at the ogre. She took slow, deep breaths as she adjusted herself, held her breath for a moment and released. A soft whistle sang in the air as the missile soared across the distance between us and the Aberrant, striking the ogre in the back of the head making it gasp in pain and stagger. The goblins jerked in shock only for the two maids to drop on them; a long knife and a hatchet slammed into each skull, dropping them. The ogre turned in surprise, somehow still alive as it pulled a club from it's side. I had to guess it was in shock as it didn't respond by crying out or attacking (The arrow in it's skull likely didn't help it's thought process) but did start to take a defensive stance.

I casted a Magic Missile and struck it in the eye, blowing the side of it's skull and part of it's brain out of the head, dropping it. The goblins had their throats slit for good measure as myself and Miria moved up to join them. Alicia, Agni, Makoto and Aeris were in hiding behind us and would be reporting to the Baron via voxlux of the situation. The plan was to take out the guards with myself acting as a backup plan and Alicia's group acting as additional backup if things went south. The main road was cleared of sentries and guards and would move up behind us. I took the moment to get a better look at the situation at the lumber camp.

One male Dark Elf was visible, a bow on his back and in a sheathe with an end sticking out over the left shoulder and a blade in another over the right. Back sheathes were fairly uncommon as they needed a slot along the top of the sheathe; otherwise you couldn't draw it or put it away with arms of normal length. Because of that a small hole was often in the bottom point to let water drain and not help rust the blade; this often meant the swords in these sheathes needed more maintenance and care then others.

A quiver was behind his back near the hips and he wore a deep green leather gambeson with overlapping scales and short, deep gray hair, although with long bangs framing the face. He paced back and forth along a line of goblins who were swinging weapons before them; training it seemed. I frowned a bit; there was a disconnect in competence it seemed. The Dark Elf commander or commanders seemed to know what the hell they were doing while the ogre sub-commanders seemed to either not care or be too ill disciplined to do as told. A glance at the camp building itself let me see a few ogres sitting around and doing something or another; I had trouble making it out.

In full armor I could hear Arthur and Lance Leosol approach as I waved for them to lower down. "We have the drop on them." I said softly. My eyes moved back to the elf commander giving the goblin's their training.

(-)

Name: Budvilas Razvedchik
Title: Sub-Commander of Garan
Class: Ranger
Level: 20
Alignment: Hostile
Reputation: 55
Status: Healthy, Disciplined, Relaxed

Known Traits
[?]
[Walks With Nature] You are able to silently walk through woods and forests without being noticed much easier. -15% chance to be spotted in forested areas.

[Silent But Violent] If attacking from stealth double your crit chance

Born into the Dark Elves Laborborne class he rose up into the Lowborne through competence, skill and his abilities to spot and ferret out enemy movements, eavesdrop on foes and even assassinate commanders. Loyal to those willing to respect him he is, to most of his people, an unsung hero of their conflict against the humans.

(-)

"They should have four to seven Dark Elves acting as sub commanders." Arthur let off, kneeling behind me as he frowned. Luckily this Budvilas guy had his back to us, so he didn't notice the lack of guards. Still, best to move quickly. "Let us charge right in and smash them to-"

"Wait." I said, lifting a hand. "There's more in the building. Can't tell how many." I said, looking at him. "I think it's a better idea to start with a fire spell, best coupled with a wind spell from Aeris then charge." I said, lifting a finger, pointing it upwards. "We'll be able to disorient them from the start before we start to charge and get them off balance and panicked before we crash into them." Arthur hummed as he thought over my plan.

It was basic Shock and Awe tactics, although we lacked the number of mages to take full advantage of the plan; still the effect would give us a major advantage even if it was more limited then I'd like. Sometimes, you gotta work with what you got. He turned to his son and gave him hushed orders to bring up his own mages. Lance nodded and darted back.

"Whatever we do it's gotta be done in the next couple of minutes." Riri said, looking back to me. "Someone will miss those guards sooner or later." I nodded in reply to her before looking back to the training goblins.

It was only a short while before we had the Arafe mages, five in all, with us. All knew a fire spell of some form or another and one knew a wind spell. I took charge in the arrangements here; Aeris and the other wind user would cast their wind spells to bolster the fire spells the rest of us would use. Once I was sure we were all sorted out we all started to draw mana slowly; too quick and we might tip someone off. Once I was ready I gave everyone else a moment to finish drawing mana before I started a countdown.

"Three..." I let off, aiming my hands forwards. "Two..." Fire pooled into my hands as did in the hands of the other mages. "One!" I let off letting off my Flame Thrower spell as all but one of the mages casted Fireball; the last one casted Flare Spread which was a spell with a series (A dozen in this case) of smaller, golf ball sized fireballs that was fired off like a shotgun. Aeris and the other wind using mage then casted their own spells, Aeris generating a widening funnel of wing and the other mages a solid, straight burst. The results?

My Flame Thrower was pulled into the wind spells and grew to fill them as all of the Fireballs all grew in size and all of it rocketed forwards towards the lumber camp...

[-]

"Who does that male think he is?" Bronka screeched out as she threw the arrow she was inspected into a box of arrows. "He wants us to do this mundane work? Isn't that why we have Goblins!?" The stood in part of the lumber camp's building, some of the ogres sharpening the axes and blades quietly. Unseen to the elves they were rolling their eyes. A few other dozed off as they were expected to stand guard later at night as a few goblins moved supplies about or did their own weapon checks.

"Ummm, could Goblins do it well enough?" Branka asked as she set one into the box gently. "I mean you are always saying they can't-"

"Ughhhh..." Bromka let off with a groan. "Shut up, Sis... This is stupid, he just punishing us because we're Highborne and he he's a poor, male Laborbonre."

"He's Lowborne..."

"Sure he is..." The aggressive twin let off with a huff, throwing another arrow into the box. "That idiot thinks those human insects can find us. Those idiots don't even suspect we're here, I bet!"

"Umm, aren't the humans assembling some kind of force?" Branka asked as her sister rolled her eyes.

"Oh please, they're not smart enough to... What's that?" She let off as the light flickered in the room through the window as it turned a bright orange she turned her head to see.

"Look out!" Her sister let off, drawing her shield and stepping between Bronka and the window, bracing as she casted a shield spell, using her physical shield as an anchor for the magic. A split second later the wall blew inwards as flame and inferno spewed in, shattered wood bouncing off the spell as heat and fire slammed into it, washing around it, crashing into it and trying to wash the two away as the kinder of the twins grit her teeth to hold her defense, her sister in shock for a moment before casting her own spell to reinforce her sister's spell.

"What in the nine hells is going on?" Bronka let off, looking about as she tried to control her panic. Screams sounded around her; two goblins rolled on the ground, desperate to put out the flames on their bodies. The sleeping ogres were instantly killed having no chance to defend themselves, let alone aware there was something to defend themselves from. Three ogres emerged from behind crates or left over logs, standing up and shaking out their heads as the building around them creaked as flames licked and ate at the wood around them. "Wha... Wha..." She looked about not aware the surviving ogres and goblins were doing much the same as she did as they all tried to comprehend what just happened to them.

"We're under attack! Humans! Humans!" Budvilas bellowed out loudly to Bronka's shock.

"How...?"

"Sister, we have to get outside, quickly!" Branka let off, shaking her sister from her stupor as she spoke. "This place could collapse on us!"

"R-right..." Bronka let off as she hid behind her sister and her shield as they moved towards a door as one of the surviving ogres moved to it, kicking the door off it's hinges as the Aberrant filtered out, the Nightsong Twins following them out. They moved around the building as the flames grew inside of it to get an idea of the situation they were now in. They were just in time...

To see armored, human knights, mounted and unmounted, storm into the camp's grounds...

[-]

The whole of the wall blasted apart from our collective spell and I have to say whooaaaaa... That was some destruction... We caved in the whole wall, exposing two large rooms to the outside as well as introducing them to general fire and hell. The building groaned but didn't collapse on itself yet as the knights and soldiers charged out into the camp grounds, pouring out like water from a hose.

The goblins were caught off guard in full, some dropping their weapons in shock or cowardice and fleeing but most stiffening and gawking in shock. Their Dark Elf trainer turned to us, drawing his bow and quickly notching and pulling an arrow to fire, loosing it right away and hitting a knight in the shoulder, punching into plate mail and knocking him onto his back.

That is a serious opponent with a serious bow. A healer moved to tend to the knight as Lance, clad in steel armor and carrying a large, round shield along with a spear charged at the bow using foe, two soldiers following behind, shields likewise raised. Alicia, by contrast, stormed in another direction with Albert and Agni following on her heels. By contrast I moved towards the building, rapier in hand in a reverse grip to charge mana into the stone in it's pommel, sending off another fireball into a support beam, collapsing part of the roof onto a dazed ogre. "Aeris, Miria, support Alicia. I'll take Makoto and Riri and we'll back up Lance." I said, the girls nodding as we all moved off.

Baron Arthur, in contrast, held back and barked orders to his men, shield kept at the ready but weapon not drawn yet as he moved in near us; likely to support his son. I think he wanted Lance to take the lead on it and get his teeth cut in battle while he had good support, but I got the feeling he'd step in if needed.

"Incoming!" A solider let off as ogres rounded around the building to join in the melee, Makoto dashing around me to join in. She would jump once close to the mess, stomping on a goblin's head before leaping at an ogre, slashing at it and giving it a deep, but non-fatal cut. I charged mana once more to support but a bad feeling had me switching spells to a shield spell around myself and Riri... just before a Fireball and some form of dark, purple bolt slammed into the shield. I grit my teeth and turned to look at the newly arrived foes; a pair of twin dark elves.

Well, this was going to be fun. I scanned the one with the rapier first before the one with the shield.

(-)

Name: Bronka Nightsong
Title: House Nightsong's Devastator
Class: Rune Blade
Level: 17
Alignment: Hostile
Reputation: 1
Status: Healthy, Annoyed, Haughty

Romance Rating: 0
Corruption Rating: 98

Known Traits
[?]
[Blast & Blade] 5% of your Str is added to magical damage. Add 5% of your Mag to physical damage
[Burning Fury] You hate humans with all your being. -100 Romance Rating for all Humans. +2% to all Primary Stats when fighting a human with a Romance Rating of 0.
[?]

One half of the Nightsong Twins, they are the current heirs to the throne of the territory of Onyxcloak. The aggressive, haughty twin she is known to be arrogant and has an intense dislike for humans and thinks of them as the lowest of all life forms and mockeries of Elven form. She believes highly in the social ranks of her people's society and that movement between classes should be forbidden.

(-)

Name: Branka Nightsong
Title: House Nightsong's Guardian
Class: Cleric
Level: 17
Alignment: Hostile
Reputation: 21
Status: Healthy, Worried, Resolved

Romance Rating: 75
Corruption Rating: 98

Known Traits
[?]
[Turned to Shadow] All Holy spells you know are converted to Shadow spells; with name changes and effect changes as needed.
[Quick Guard] You can cast defensive shield spells quickly. +25% casting spell to any shield spells that effects you and at least one other.
[?]

One half of the Nightsong Twins, they are the current heirs to the throne of the territory of Onyxcloak. The shyer, wiser twin she is known to be quiet and has an odd curiosity for humans and thinks of them as the strangest of all life forms and an alteration of Elven form. She doesn't believe in the social ranks of her people's society and that movement between classes should be allowed.

(-)

"Cursed humans..." The Rune Blade of the two spat out, even spitting on the ground before her as she drew her weapon and pointed it to me, her sister gulping and moving to stand next to her, shield up. Riri moved to my side in turn, drawing her blades and spinning them once before holding them in reverse grips as I adjusted my rapier into a proper, normal grip. "I don't know what luck let you find us, but you will die here!"

"S-sister, we need to be careful!" Branka said, shaking her mace for a moment. "If they found us then they must be dang-"

"Shut up!" The first twin let off, stomping her foot as her sister flinched as she glared at us. "It's time to end them!" My vision flashed briefly as it zoomed in on her as she drew a parrying blade, pointing it at the view I had. "You will learn to not attack your betters!" She let off before shifting her rapier in front of her as she took a combat stance before my view shifted to her sister as she banged her weapon to her shield before sighing deeply.

"W-well... I'll do my best!" She let off, taking a combat stance and leading with her tower shield as my view panned back to show them, side by side.

_Highborne Twins of Magic_
Bronka & Branka Nightsong

My view returned to normal as both sides charged...

[-]

Alicia kept her shield raised, looking over it as the opposing Dark Elf swung at her aggressively but wildly. The Dark Elf in question was about her height and build, using a pole-arm with a long blade on the end. Even with her Mana Armor it wasn't good to take more hits then needed so she let her shield bear the brunt of the assault. She could see Agni fighting an Ogre; one of her uppercuts knocking the massive green skin back. Her uncle fought another, one wearing armor and skilled enough to hold him off, although the Knight of Iris was winning the fight of attrition. Satisfied she turned her full attention back to her own foe.

The Dark Elf kept swinging as Alicia gave up some ground before she swung hard. Stepping to the side and turning her shield slightly to deflect the attack Alicia then swung her blade and in one, swift stroke decapitated her foe, sending the head rolling off as the body dropped to the ground without fanfare. She started to move to join Agni but movement from the side of her eye made her hop back before a large, Eastern style blade swung past the air she occupied.

"Heh... Knew you'd be an interesting one..." Alicia's new opponent, a male Dark Elf with a four foot long katana-styled sword let off, turning to her as he spun the sword over his head before bringing it down into a combat stance. "Beautiful, strong and deadly... You will make for me a most wonderful trophy."

"I'm no one's trophy." Alicia replied firmly, bringing her shield up and spreading her feet to a combat stance.

"That's what they all say..." The Dark Elf said, gripping his blade and lifting the sword above his head in a double handed grip as the two took each other's measure. The two slowly circled one another, doing their best to ignore the fighting around them, enemy and ally alike, lest their foe gain an upper hand. Finally as one the two charged, blades pulled back, Alicia's shield in front of her. As they closed in Alois swung his blade down at his foe's shoulder as she swung hers, deflecting his blade and using the momentum to spun fully about, trying to backhand the Dark Elf with her shield only for him to step back, deflecting her follow up stab. In turn he twisted his weapon into a horizontal swing that she lifted her shield up to block.

Alicia's sword swung low to his thigh, the Dark Elf pulling it back only to thrust the pommel of his large sword at her face only for her to duck, swinging her sword's pommel to his ribs, gazing them as he hopped back, taking a nick from her blade's tip as she transitioned to a proper sword swing as he moved. His next swing was abandoned as she stepped in with a swing of her shield, followed by a stab of her blade before transitioning into a practiced and flawless nine stroke slashing pattern which Alois blocked with his blade, giving ground before swinging his blade to her neck, deflecting off her Mana Armor's field as she leaned back with no noticeable damage being done.

Alois would slide back once more, blade raised high as he reevaluated his opponent, Alicia holding her shield up as she inched forwards, purple eyes locked to gray orbs, each watching the other for tells and signs of flaws. Circling one another they took the measure of the foe before them before charging once more.

[-]

Riri kicked off the shield of her foe, trying to get over her only for the Dark Elf to roll forwards and turn to face her once more. The two were, so far, at a standstill; Riri's speed made her difficult to hit for her Dark Elf opponent. On the other hand the Dark Elf she faced wasn't slow by any means just slower then the Halfling but still bore a large tower shield she was able to keep between her and the nimble maid and Riri's long knives had neither the range or power to get through or bypass her defenses.

I would have helped, but my own hands were full. I blocked a thrust with my parrying dagger, deflecting it as I jabbed my own blade at her which was dodged as my foe stepped back; this Bronka wasn't bad at fencing and we've been deadlocked for a bit. Mixing things up I casted a Gale Burst at near point blank range, sending her skidding back as she tried to maintain her balance. With some distance between us I casted Blessed Weapon on my blade and making it light up with golden magic only to see her scoff and hold her blade straight up casting her own spell on it, setting it alight; Blazing Weapon by the looks of it. I drew mana for my next spell as she charged, magic-coated blades clashing as I gave ground, deflecting hers as she snarled at me with a wide, cocky grin.

That grin ended when I used Arctic Orb through my foot, coating the ground under her and making her flail as she tried to not fall on her ass as I thrust my sword to her heart. Despite her situation and to her credit she was still able to block and deflect my thrust; although she still slipped and landed hard on her back in turn; leaving her helpless for a moment. I jabbed my blade down at her to end the fight only to have to hop back to avoid a weird, flaming, purple hammer made of mana that smashed into part of the building's remains; a glance told me it's origins was Branka; the defensive twin had knocked Riri back for a moment to launch an attack at me, giving her sister enough time to push herself to the edge of the ice patch and get back to her feet.

I casted Flame Guard on myself as a means to defend against her weapon's spell and followed it up with Arcane Lance, throwing a long, sharp shard of mana at my opponent. She deflected it to the side with her weapon before moving around the ice patch, giving a war cry as she started to thrust her blade at me once more as I parried, giving some ground to cushion her aggression as I used Reflex Boost to help deflect her weapon to the side before using Focus Punch to smack her in the face with the D-Guard of my blade before following up with a jab from my parrying dagger; she turned her head to the side to dodge but I still caught her ear, cutting the upper part of it. She yelped, hissing at me as she swung her blade hard at me; I deflected it before slashing with my parrying dagger as I kept up the pressure; cutting her diagonally on the lips under the nose from the bottom left to the upper right. It was a soft cut but still she hissed in pain from the slash.

She hopped back growling a bit as I cast Magic Missile as a follow up forcing her to duck as it whistled over her head, snarling as she got back up with a twitching eye. I calmly looked back, weapons up as I considered my next move; it was clear she was at home when she was being aggressive and I could see ways to take advantage of it and her clearly ill restrained temper. In some ways this reminded my of the fight with Halbert save Bronka lacked his experience and the level gap didn't exist here; we were on even footing. Magic coated weapons aimed at each other as I smiled softly. "You know, it's no wonder we snuck up on you so easily." I let off as I could see her bleeding lips turn to a grimace. "I mean for starters for such an 'Advanced Species'-" I said with heavy sarcasm. "-your training must be shit to have at least decades more training and still be losing to me."

"Damned human... You want to see my training?" She hissed out at me, blood from her cut lips dripping off her chin as she charged me once more. "I'll show you!" She cried out as she roared, starting to use a thrusting pattern at me. Like when Halbert let his anger drive him her attacks became fiercer and stronger, each attack with more power and force behind them. Unlike Halbert she didn't have the inherent skill and instinct to counterbalance her anger and got sloppy. Really sloppy.

"Uh huh, so your main tactic is boring me to death, is that it?" An exaggeration but deflecting her attacks were much easier here without taking cuts. "I'm waiting to be impressed." I goaded, wanting her to waste her energy and stamina in her rage; a classic rope-a-dope strategy. And she was the dope. She grit her teeth and snarled as her attacks picked up in speed but also became more telegraphed to the point she could have screamed what attack she was using and it wouldn't have mattered. I led her in a wide circle, backing up as I kept deflecting her attacks. I kept an eye on Riri's fight as best as I could; she was still stuck in a stalemate which was worrying. Much as I wanted to help her I had my own fight to finish first...

[-]

Alicia panted lightly as she looked to her foe over her shield. While she was sure she had the advantage over her opponent she was forced to admit; he was good and he was deadly. Her mana armor saved her from more then a little damage but even then one of his techniques gave her a light cut on the thigh. In return she gave him a cut on his left bicep that seemed to do little to hinder him. She was glad once more for her armor; as skimpy as it was it let her skin breathe and let her sweat cool her in the air which did wonders for her endurance in this bout while still offering her grand protection.

There was more fighting going around her of course as knights and Aberrant clashed; yet another skirmish in the ongoing Eostian/Garanian War. She sucked in a breath and steadied herself for her next attack. Once more they both charged at each other but before meeting her foe did something odd; dropping his large sword down, digging the tip to the dirt before flicking it towards her...

She just barley dodged the dirt hitting her in the eyes, her charge halted as she turned her head. Instincts warned her more then anything as she rolled to the side, missing at attack by an inch from what her ears told her. Reacting on a combination on instinct, observation of his combat style and reflex she reversed her grip on her blade as she used a Combat Art to increase her striking power and thrust it backwards as she leapt back...

"Gaaahhh!" And found purchase for her blade in flesh through his armor. Turning her head she could see her foe, blade raised high to strike, eyes wide in surprise and pain as her blade sank into his right side. He slammed the pommel of his weapon to her skull, the impact hurting even through the field of her armor as she grunted and pulled her sword free, spinning on her heel to swing for his neck. He blocked the hit but staggered back with his deflection. His left hand covered his wound as he grimaced, coughing hard as blood spat from his lips; confirming she'd gotten his lung. "Gah... Can't remember the... Last time I took a hit like that..." He let off, coughing once more. Despite his condition he kept his large, long katana held up in one hand before him as he glared to her. "Things I'll do for a good, hack, trophy..." He let off before charging.

Alicia waited for him before lifting her shield before her, letting his attack deflect off it as she gave ground slowly. He snarled softly as they both knew the same thing; his wound was mortal and if he wanted to have even have the slightest chance to live after this he had to cut her down and cut her down quickly. By contrast she could afford to wait for her moment. It came when he lifted his blade high before coughing once more. She swung her shield up, meeting his sword part way in his swing before she thrust her own blade into his chest, using her Combat Art once more to punch through his armor, twisting it as it drove in. He gurgled and gasped, dropping his sword as he grabbed her forearms with both of his, hissing in pain, desperation and defiance. Even so he finally slumped down to the ground with a groan, sliding off her blade. She panted for a moment before stepping over him and quickly and with no fanfare slashing his throat.

She took a moment to recover, moving her sword to her other hand to pull out her water-skin, taking a sip before looking over the situation...

And once it was away she was off to fight another foe.

[-]

"Die! Die! Die damn you!" My opponent let off, swinging her burning blade with both hands, eyes wild as I held up my left hand, my glove's shield blocking her blows. I was down on one knee being 'driven' there. I say 'driven' because I chose to kneel down, making myself look weak to further inflame her rage and arrogance and it was working; she was bashing her rapier to my shield like it was an axe and she was cutting down a redwood... And it really wasn't working for her; I needed to put out little effort and not too much mana to hold her off as she raged and slammed her weapon on my shield. A weapon, I remind you, that was meant to thrust and not bash. I figured she had a temper but not this bad of a temper. She was covered in sweat and starting to pant like a dog. It was about time to start my counterattack, and not a moment too soon; I was worried Riri's stalemate would go against her and the sooner I dealt with the foe before me the sooner I could help her.

Soon she slammed her weapon down once more and staggered as she lifted it up; exhaustion finally catching up with her. She might have even felt faint at the moment. It didn't matter to me; it was time to go on the offensive.

I stuck to the basics as I thrust my illuminated blade at her face, forcing her to yelp and back up as I moved beck to my feet, nimbly giving chase as I thrust in an old, familiar pattern. She blocked with her blade and parrying dagger, backing up as her anger was replaced by fear. I grazed her arm, then her shoulder then got a shallow stab into her chest before she stumbled back to get out of range. I followed and pressed my advantage, eyes trained on her as I kept up my attacks. A slash to her thigh, a graze above her knee, another over her rib. Finally she thrust her weapon to try and force me to back off. Instead I blocked the sword, twisted, locked her blade with mine and threw my arm sideways and dislodged her blade from her hand. She looked at me in shock and horror and I slashed downwards at a vertical angle; with said rapier boosted by Blessed Weapon it would turn a normally damaging but mostly non-lethal slash into something more akin to being hit with a lightsaber. She stumbled back once more which saved her from having her head cut in two; instead I only got in a long gash...

Over her left eye.

She screamed and howled in pain, covering her eye with both hands; I likely destroyed it in the strike to the point healing magics couldn't repair it. She fell hard to her back, writing in pain as I moved to her side, aiming to stab her in the heart and end her quickly...

"NO!" A flash of dark purple light came from the Riri/Branka fight as I saw my maid flung backwards, hitting the ground hard and found myself with an angry Dark Elf charging at me with a mace now covered in dark purple flames!

Oh shit!

I stepped back from her swing; not wanting to even try and block that. I felt my heel bump into something; a wooden post that was impaled to the ground. I side stepped her next attack and heard the splintering of wood, seeing her blazing mace smash the top of the post off and slam it to the ground before she charged once more.

Shit!

I dodged once more and waited for her to lift her weapon before stepping into her, pressing my right shoulder to her shield as well as my left hand... And casted Earth Shaker. She stumbled back, her left arm slumping as she dealt with the sudden pain and shock. She still swung her weapon down but as close in as I was to her now I was able to catch her arm by the wrist and used Power Punch to smash the guard of the Unicorn's Horn to her face forcing her back a step as I drew my blade back, tip pointed to her heart...

[-]

Bronka never felt pain like this before. Throughout her harsh training, throughout the insults of her mother, throughout seeing Halfborns and Laborbornes rise to stations that rightfully belonged to those of her house and other Highborne Houses and being told to tolerate the injustice she knew pain of some form or another for all her life. And all she ever knew was to fight back; to claw and howl at what she saw and felt and heard. Sure it made the training harder, the insults turn to violence and the injustices that much worse but it was what she knew.

Her sister, however, was what took the pain away. Soothed her aches from training. Comforted her after her mother left. Calmed her and told her to raise her own station. In a world of political maneuvering, violence, unfairness and expectations Branka was her anchor, her other half. No, not just her other half; her better half. The twins shared a bond no one could understand. Not her parents, not her peers, not her trainers, not her Laborborne Commander nor even her Queen... Flashes of emotions shared between the two, no matter how far apart. And definitely not these insects who thought they were as great as them, that thought they were equals to the likes of her, that they had a right to rule, right to freedom, right to speak or even a right to live. These humans were ants; their feelings mattered as much as a simple worker drone and their life was worth as much bearing only a right to die.

Humans were dirty, lowly, ignorant, stupid and weak...

And she was left scarred and half blinded by one. She only just recovered enough to watch as her sister, her strong sister (Stronger, although she never said as much to her) charged in and finally did what a Dark Elf was meant to do; squash the bugs. Squash the pitiful human that did this to her...

Only to see him do something that made her shield arm droop. Only to see him catch her weapon hand by the wrist to block her attack. Only to see him bash her sister in the face. Only to see him draw him weapon back...

Only to see him run his glowing, bright, magically imbued blade through her sister's chest to the hilt.

Branka's eyes widened and in a moment her remaining eye locked to her sister's. Shock. Horror. Pain. Fear. And upon seeing her sister rise if only slightly, Relief.

Those fleeting emotions of her sister she could feel from time to time vanished as her sister's body slid off the blade and hit the ground.

She was well aware of her own feelings. Despair. Weakness. Helplessness. Fear. And above all Rage. And all of them she left out at once.

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

[-]

I had no time to recover after running the cleric through; an ogre had spotted me and decided I looked like a tempting target. I casted a Gale Burst as it got close as I focused on it now; I staggered it for a moment but it forced it's way through as it lifted it's weapon up; an axe. I dove to the side, kiting it as a throwing knife hit the side of it's skull; although it only dug in enough to stick in like a pin. Riri was back in the fight and rushing over to join me...

[-]

"Sister... Sister..." Bronka half crawled, half staggered her way to her sister's body. She was still breathing, if barely, and she did her best to focus on what little healing she knew how to do. Once at her sister's side she started to cast her spell over the wound... And with horror realized it wasn't going to close; the damage from the magic bolstered weapon was too much. "No..."

"R-run..." Her other half, her better half urged as she felt tears coming to her eye.

"N-no... I have to save you... I have to.."

"Run... Live... Bec-become... Become..." Branka let off through pained gasps and words as she tried to speak. "Become... A great... Lea..."

The breathing stopped. Her body stilled. Life drained from her eyes, the spark now out. Bronka whimpered as she looked about. An ogre drew the human's attention and a pair of goblins moved to join the fight only for the Halfling to break off and engage them.

She turned to look to Budvilas Razvedchik...

Only to see a human with a spear jam his weapon through the Dark Elf's eye and out the back of his skull. Looking around she could see dead bodies everywhere; human, goblin, ogre and her own sister. And she knew they'd lost.

Despite the pain to her pride, despite that the situation went against all she learned and knew she understood that they had lost... And if she didn't retreat there would be no one left...

No one left to avenge Branka...

She stumbled once more, moving to her sword and pausing to grab it before heading to the woods. She more stumbled and half jogged then ran but she made her best speed ignoring the tears in her one remaining eye...

Bronka Nightsong would live to fight another day... But she would never be the same.

[-]

I lost track of how long it was until the battle finally ended. A few of the goblins escaped, as did that Dark Elf Rune Blade I fought, but otherwise we got them all. Alicia and Lance handled the enemy commanders, I handled their cleric and one other Dark Elf was down. Four out of five wasn't bad. The lumber camp building was still ablaze when the fight ended and myself and the other mages used a combination of water and ice spells to put it out; there would be no forest fire here.

Smokey would be proud.

Sadly it wasn't all good news; thirty five knights were downed in the combat; eighteen for good. The bodies were loaded onto a wagon respectfully as we took stock.

"I don't know it if's all of them, but even if we missed a handful we sent a message." Arthur said with a huff.

I nodded; despite the sacrifices made today it meant good people would live tomorrow. Still the only way this would end if the war did; which was easier said then done.

I guess I was about to get the XP now, huh?

[Due to the large amount of enemy combatants the XP list will be condensed this time; listing only major foes you defeated. This will occur on battles where the amount of people are measured in the hundreds or greater.]

Oh...

I guess that's a thing.

[Defeated List]

Garanian Forces=20000XP
Branka Nightsong=1500XP x 1.25 Kill Bonus=1875XP
Bronka Nightsong=1500XP
+20% Dark Horse Bonus
Gain 23375XP Total

Level Up!

You are now Level 18!

+1 to Dex, Acc, Mnc, Agi & Mag!
+1 to End!
+1 to Rap!
+2 RSP & SSP!
+5 UTP!

Achievement Unlocked: Highborne Brought Low
Defeat a Highborne Dark Elf in Combat

Achievement Unlocked: Greetings Sub-Commander
Win a battle with at least two hundred combatants while acting as a Sub-Commander

I sighed softly as I nodded once. "We won. People are safer today then they were yesterday. Not much else we can do." I said looking to the wagon with the knight's bodies in it. "Just wish there was a lower cost for it all..."

"As do I..." Arthur said, sighing. "I love my people. I love my son... I have... Trouble expressing myself sometimes... but... I would give my life to end this war, if I could..." He said taking in a deep breath. "Regardless there is nothing else to be done. Let us go home, feast to celebrate victory, honor our dead and live well."

[-]

Lenivy Krovat was a Dark Elf solider, but not by choice. She was Laborborne and was born a weaver before someone decided she had to be drafted into the army. Likely that Lowborne nutcase; she was always jealous of any girl with bigger breasts, a nicer ass, longer legs, who looked nicer, who...

Well, any female that looked decent, anyway.

She had snuck off into the woods to find a nice place to nap away from the dirty Aberrant and that one annoying half of the twins. She didn't want to fight, she didn't want to be drafted, she just wanted to make clothing. That was it. So humans were alive and breathing... Who cared? Were they going to eat the humans? Were they going to make stuff out of their bones? The humans couldn't reach them so why bother killing them? It was a waste of effort really. At least in her opinion; the Highborne seemed to think differently. And because they were Highborne if they wanted to kill humans then humans would die... Along with people like her.

But it was time to face the music and return to camp, sighing as she walked past the trees to see the camp and...

"Whoa!" She looked about, seeing the building they were camped in burned to a framework and fallen roof, wet ash and bit of frost and ice coating what remained in small sections. Bodies littered the ground; goblins, ogres and a couple of Dark Elves; her commander in plain view. She wandered closer as she looked about, seeing what was there. There was only one grave present; dug with a wooden plank set over the grave with 'Branka' scrawled into it. Beyond that she was alone there.

She huffed and crossed her arms, tapping a foot as she thought. She was Laborborne, so if she returned she'd be at best attached to a penal unit and treated worse then as a normal conscript, at worst killed in a painful way, labeled a coward and made an example of. If she was found here in Arafe chances were high she'd made a slave or killed. There were rumors, however, of Dark Elves living and working in central Eostia... That the Lowborne and Highbrone kept trying to stamp out, so it was likely true...

She made the decision to scavenge what she could and go as far south as she could. It was better then the alternatives, at least.

[-]

We got back to Arafe a day and a half later. The next evening was a good, filling feast. The following morning it was back to the road; next stop was Ironheart, home to House Draken and then we'd be off to the next Booster installation at Ironside, Feoh's most northern territory.

In truth I was glad the fight went well, or as well as it did. We caught them off guard and managed to take them down while they were mostly still recovering. One of the things I decided to do as we rode onto our next destination was to talk to Riri; it was time to hash out what enchantments she wanted on her new weapons and plan out what I could do for her. All in all we were in high spirits, although Alicia did admit she was not eager to be in Ironheart.

Hoo boy, story there I was sure.

[-]

Highdagger Peaks
Western Territory of Garan
Inside Castle Eisenschild

Bronka gulped as she walked to the office of the Garan Commander of Eisenchild. Once she had recovered she returned to the lumber camp to give her sister a burial, recovered her weapons and then march back to Garan territory. Her lone return and report to a local sub-commander, Casimir Bloodhunt, was met with shock and disbelief. The loss of Alois seemed to give the man pause as well. There was no question of her willingness to fight and die, her missing eye was proof enough of that.

After a healer tended to her wounds and wrapped her face in gauze she was ordered to face the Commander directly and make her report. Before she would have scoffed at the idea of bowing and giving deference to a Halfborne raised to Lowborne over the Chainborne class she should have been. Now? She had lost too much to do so.

Two guards were on either side of the doors and opened it to her, giving her a look of a dead woman walking to them. She gulped and stepped into the room. The room was darkened, illuminated only through moonlight in the lone, large window. Behind the large desk was a single lone, female figure, the edges of her frame illuminated by the light coming from the window, the rest shadowed by the darkness within the room. A half cape could be seen hanging off her right shoulder, a ponytail hanging off the left side of her head. Bronka swallowed her insults and bile; never before had the Commander, Queen Olga's pet Halfborne, looked so fearful to her. She moved to the center of the room and moved to kneel. "I-I have a report of the Recon in Force action begun b-by Alois Mooncry." She said, gulping as her one eye watched the woman.

Slowly the Commander's face turned towards her making her gulp once more.

[ - Author's Note - ]

Whew. That took longer then I expected. Not helped by decided to play X-Com 2, AKA One More Turn the Strategy Game. Not to be confused with Civilization VI, AKA One More Turn the 4X Game. And picking up FTL: Faster Then Light again, AKA Try And Survive And Scrape Together A Plan the Rouge-Like Game. Ughhh...

Well, that's another chapter done. I'm sure people wanted to see James vs. Alois but that wasn't in the cards for me. As for Bronka she'll have her role in Act III, if things go as planned. Needless to say she'll have a grudge to bear.

Next we're off on the road once more; current plan is a short stay in Ironheart then off to Ironside! As always leave comments and criticisms in a review; seeing them does make my day! Until then!

~~Eostian Scribe