The Tale of the Swords of the Ancients
and Other Blades of Power
A Mythology By Kit Rae
Of the Exotath
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It was now the four hundred and fourth year of the Fifth Age of Ammon and Evruc, the last of the Ancient Ones, now only known to mortals as The Dark One, began to ponder on a plan to wrest control of the Great Kingdoms from those mortals. He designed to rule over them and have them worship him as a god now that he was the last of the Ancient Ones to walk upon Ammon. His warrior sorcerers were but few, and though they had overtaken the capital city of Ammoria easily, they had little hope of expanding that victory to include the remaining lands of the Realm of Deylindor, let alone the Realms of Deylund and Lumenia. The Dark One had hinged his designs on Ammoria as it was known for over one hundred years as a Mithrodin stronghold, but there he had found none of the sacred Swords of the Ancients he sought. His forces had ransacked the Mithrodin temples and searched the entire city, and the Dark One himself had used his own special powers to detect the enchantments imbued in those talisman by his brethren, but to no avail. He thence tortured the Mithrodin warriors and servants he had captured, and his sorcerers searched their minds for a sign. It was discovered that many of the swords had been taken to the Realm of Deylund, for the King of Ammoria had known of the Dark Ones coming in advance and had sent them away from the city.
Soon the armies of the Kingdoms of Deylund and Lumenia would come to the aid of Deylindor and would make an assault on Ammoria to reclaim it from the Dark One. Even now he had report that Eolyth, King of the Realm of Lumenia, was assembling his armies to cross the South Ennol Mountains into Deylindor to aid in the retaking of Ammoria. The Dark One was also certain that the armies of Velethia and Visia to the South would be at his gates before long. This thought caused the Dark One no worry for he had confidence in his sorcerer's hold on the city, and his fleet of ships anchored at the Bay of Volcemis would hold off any attack from the sea. It would be at least three moons before King Eolyth's forces reached Ammoria, but he surmised that he would rapidly need to build a real army of mortal soldiers, that the army would need captains, and that those captains would need enchanted talismans to defeat the mortals who held the Swords of the Ancients in their power.
The Elven weapon smiths of Ammoria were now enslaved under the rule of the Dark One and they were among the best arms and armor makers in the Great Kingdoms. The Dark One treated them well and paid good coin for their services, for they were most prized to him. He commanded them to make special weapons of great craftsmanship and strength - swords, axes, spears, and lances - to which the Dark One attempted to use the powers given to him by the Anath and imbue them with enchantments. To this the Dark One was not the most skilled however, for his powers were more for the creation of living beings of the earth and the sea and not for control of the forces of the earth and nature. Atnal, his brother, had been the one most skilled of all the Ancients at the art of enchanting talismans, but the Dark One had destroyed him in the Battle of the Ancients in Ulaine. Thus the talismans created by the Dark One did not equal those magnificent creations of the other Ancients before him, and in most of his efforts he failed. But in one talisman the Dark One did succeed.
The most skilled weapon smith in Ammoria was the elf Firaneth, and he forged two identical swords for the Dark One, each with a blade considered by Firaneth to be the finest ever crafted in his lifetime. Those blades were of deeply fullered dark Elven iron with leather-wrapped blade grips, each edged to cut plate steel armor. The hilts were made with hook taloned iron side guards, decorated with an expertly wrought iron skull of the Yievelloch, a beast of the underground seas. The grips were hand-and-a-half, leather-skinned, and ended in long, weighted pommels. The swords were lightweight and could be wielded with ease. When these were presented to the Dark One he was very pleased and he contemplated many long days as to the power he would affect upon these weapons until he at last chose one that would suit his needs well.
For fourteen days the Dark One labored with his most powerful sorcerers over the steel of these Elven blades, enchanting each with the power to open a passage a few moments forward in time so as to foresee how events would unfold. With this he would make decisions that would best favor his battle plans, for he would be able to see his enemies' strategies in advance, and by the sword's edge he would also have the power to change them. In hand-to-hand combat an opponent would be at extreme disadvantage to the one who could see his every move beforehand. To give these enchantments the Dark One had to bequeath to the swords a part of his own essence, a part that he could not recover. The sacrifice would allow him to control his own destiny, but the Dark One did not realize how much power he had truly given these swords. When the enchantments were complete he named the swords the Exotath in the ancient language of the Anath, Thant. The word “exo“ translated as oracle and “tath“ as steel, thus the oracle of steel was born. In the runes of Thant he engraved these words: “By the Anath that which is to come is revealed to me. By Evruc, master of the Ancients, I am empowered“. The Dark One envisioned that a fierce soldier would wield the Exotath and lead his army. Thus he called for his sorceress Methuscia to use her oracular sight to divine the one he must find for this task.
The beautiful and immortal Methuscia had been cast out by her own kind as an abomination, and cursed by the Ancient Ones to bear a horrible form, deathly for men to look upon, for the Ancients knew her to be one of the brood spawned by the union of mortal Elves with the Dark One, Evruc. The Dark One had corrupted her and taught her to hate mortals, and she had served him since his escape from the Neverworld over sixty years afore. Methuscia loved and worshipped the Dark One, for he was as a father to all sorcerers, though unknown to her in truth he was indeed her real father. Her oracular sight was gleaned for him and she saw the ruthless soldier who would wield the Exotath, one who had served the Dark One in the past - Agnemmel, the black Elf.
Agnemmel, once a great Elven warrior of the Third Age, had been corrupted by the Dark One and had fought numerous wars in his service using the enchanted Avaquar to slay thousands of mortals, including his own daughter. On the day he slew that one Agnemmel became mad, abandoning his service to the Dark One and shunning all other mortals. He retreated deep into the caverns of Barkonia where his sanity left him, and though he was but a mortal, he had lived on for almost nine hundred years. His ancestry was from the ancient Elven lines, and some of those lived to be near five hundred years old, though they retained their youthful health until very late in life, however Agnemmel gained his abnormally long life from a different source. For many years he wielded the Avaquar, an enchanted blade that allowed him to drain the life from mortals, thus infusing his own body with that essence he took.
The Dark One reached out with his mind and could sense Agnemmel's powerful essence and knew he still lived, but could not sense where he made his abode. Methuscia could see in her mind where he kept himself hidden, in his dark caverns among the Yievelloch monsters of the deep, and she felt pity for his tortured soul. Even though Methuscia held distain for most mortals, there was also a kindness and beauty in her heart that did not come from her father. She offered to find Agnemmel for the Dark One, but begged him for one favor in return. Her hideous form would be deathly for Agnemmel to look upon so she asked for the curse to be lifted. This the Dark One could not do, for the combined power of the Ancients had created that curse and it was too strong an enchantment for him alone to break. Instead he had a mask crafted for her of gold that was formed to the shape of her original face, one of the most beautiful faces in all of Ammon. Only her eyes of shimmering pearl light could be seen through its glimmer. To this mask the Dark One bequeathed a charm that would hide her horrid form completely as long as she wore it, but he warned that the moment she removed it the charm would end. He commanded Methuscia to use her allure to seduce Agnemmel and make him fall in love with her so that he might be persuaded to come back into the Dark One's service. She was given two gifts to deliver to him, the Exotath broadswords. Out of her love and obedience to the Dark One she did as he beckoned and thus Methuscia made her way East to the caves of Barkonia to seek him.
Methuscia, in her mask of gold, took her personal guard of six sorcerers and two mortal rangers, who were expert guides and knew the mountains between Deylund and Lumenia well, into the Ennol Mountains of the West. The Dark One had many such mortals as these rangers in his service, for mortals were easily corrupted with coin to go against their own kind and the Dark One was rich with the treasures to pay them, reaped from his many conquests. The rangers led Methuscia swiftly through little known paths of the Ennol on horseback until they reached the foot of the mountains bordering Lumenia where the Abalard river sprung. From there they traveled by night, keeping well clear of King Eolyth's ranger companies who patrolled these borders. Once they had passed into the Tellorien Mountains her guides led her into one of the lesser-used gates that opened into the underground caverns of Barkonia, kingdom of the Dark Elves. They bypassed the great underground Elven city of Lokos and made their way deep under the mountains. From there Methuscia used her oracular sight to lead them through the winding caverns for many days, through a maze of stalactites and stalagmites until her party finally reached the entrance to the heated caverns that held the great underground sea of Tolesthia.
Tolesthia was alight with glowing moss thus no torchlight was needed, and the many hot springs warmed from the depths of Ammon made fire unnecessary. With her sight she knew Agnemmel lived on one of the many small islands that lay just off the shore, but she could not see how or when she would meet him, thus she sent two of her sorcerers across the water to spy him and tell of his state. When those two did not return she sent two more, but those also never returned. Methuscia vowed to go with her other two remaining sorcerers to meet the mad Elf herself but when she was harshly awakened from her party's rest that night to the sounds of battle she found her sorcerers had been brutally slain, their throats ripped open and bodies cast upon the points of stalagmites. Seeing this, her ranger guides fled into the caverns from whence they came, saying this was the work of the Yievelloch, horrid sea beasts of the deep. Indeed, the legends of the great warrior Agnemmel told that his guardians had been those horrid beasts from the deep. Perhaps the tales were true and those creatures still served him. Now Methuscia feared for her life, for if a mortal Elf had servants that could do this to her finest sorcerers, how could she survive to enchant him?
Her sight told her to seek him however, thus she left her gear and clothes and with only the Exotath strapped across her back she swam across the hot waters to Agnemmel's small island. Midway she felt the waters ripple as if some great being were swimming nearby. In the glow of the cavern on the water she could spy at least three of the Yievelloch nearby, but they kept well away from her as if in fear for she clouded their minds with her sorcery and thus made her way to the island unharmed. The place was a maze of rocky spires reaching high to join the towering roof of the cave, and on its sandy shore she saw rotted cloth, rusty armor, and the bones of many men and Elves - those the mad Elf had slain and eaten. With great fear she left the water and stood on the shore. There she called Agnemmel's name using an enchantment to her voice to soothe him and make him at ease.
Agnemmel was indeed mad, for his sanity had left him long ago when he had come to realize he had killed all that he once loved, thus he shunned others, for he knew he could not love or care for his own kind again. His Yievelloch servants would not leave him however, and they followed him into the depths those long years ago, though he hated and rejected them. Though old age did not seen to affect them, many had perished over the years, some by his own hand, some by disease or other more terrible predators of the depths, until but some thirty remained. Other than those serpent-like followers Agnemmel had lived these many long years in isolation brooding over his deeds, both good and evil, until his mind had once again confused the dark with the light and he lost all sense of morality. Feeding on other mortal Elves of his own kind was now no different to Agnemmel than eating a fish was to another fish, and he had honed his skills in hunting them to a fine art. Woe it was the lost explorer who happened to venture into his cavern unawares, for the report of him was now legendary among the Elven dwellers and few risked venturing into the depths past the underground Elven city of Barkonia.
Agnemmel expected the last of the company camped on the sea shore to flee after he had killed half their number, but he was mesmerized by the one whom had swam to his shore, and his cursed beasts were strangely repelled by her. He would have his way with her, feed on her flesh, and then hunt the rangers who had fled and have their blood as well. But this woman moved in such a way that distracted him from his instinctual thoughts, and she seemed to look right at him, though he was well hidden. Thence she spoke his name. Hearing her voice soothed him and brought back long dead feelings remembered from his past. He tried to resist those thoughts but they cut into him, wrenching something to the surface that he had buried deeply. When he saw the woman's naked body walk out of the water and her gold masked face he was entranced, and looking upon that fair face into her pearl eyes his long lost sense returned to him. He came out from his hiding place wielding a curved Elven blade and his muscular instinct told him to slay the woman, but he could not.
Methuscia beckoned him to come before her, which he did as if in a trance, and she told that she was his oracle, come to bring him out of the depths to the light of Ammon once again, for his life had purpose to those that remembered him and his great deeds of the Third Age. Agnemmel dropped his sword and fell down at her knees, for he could not look away from her eyes, nor could he bring himself to harm her. Methuscia took his head into her hands and wove her will into his mind, saying only those words that would go deep to his soul and unlock his conscience again, and with her charms she calmed his rage and seduced him. She made love to him on that shore, amongst the bones of his victims, and Agnemmel, great warrior Elf of Barkonia returned to the world of the sane.
Methuscia told Agnemmel that she was a great sorceress, the Oracle of Ammon, and that he was needed to lead a great army against mortal men, for they were corrupted by the Ancients and were not meant to rule or be masters of the lands, which Agnemmel well thought, for he hated mortals and had killed many thousands in his time, and he despised the Ancients for creating them. She spoke to him of the Ancient's treatment of her sorcerer brethren and how mortals also shunned them as witches and evildoers. In the midst of these talks she made love to Agnemmel over and over, in hopes to numb his will and sexually bind him to her as sorcerers were wont to do with mortals, but to an Elf of the old lines like Agnemmel this only sharpened the senses and made him more alive and aware than he had been for near five hundred years. He wanted more and more, and he took Methuscia at his will rather than hers, though she was resistant to becoming sexually bonded to him she found she wanted him more than her duty to the Dark One called her to. She could see the old soul within him, the one that had loved his long lost wife, the one that had fought for his Kingdom, the one that now felt great guilt welling up inside for the horrible deeds done in his lifetime; and Agnemmel cried in her arms, for the guilt was almost too much for him to suffer. And Methuscia suffered through it with him.
After many days with Agnemmel, Methuscia decided the time was right to pass the Exotath to him. After a long bout of lovemaking she went to the shore and retrieved the two swords in their shoulder scabbards. Telling Agnemmel that his destiny was to be intertwined with forged steel brought back dark memories to him of the evil blades of the Avaquar, his old weapon, but when Methuscia unsheathed the twin swords of the Exotath Agnemmel saw that these were blades of a different kind. He grasped the hilts of each sword, feeling the enchantments they held, and something was familiar about their essence as if they spoke to his soul within for they held a power. Power imbued by one of the Ancients, as the Avaquar had been. He hefted the swords and wielded them through long forgotten moves of his old sword fighting ways, and purpose returned to him. The feel of a strong sword in his hand was the final key to unlock the old Agnemmel. Methuscia knew that he was ready to leave Tolesthia and return with her to his new providence, thus she told they must go to the Great Realm of Deylindor, to the city of Ammoria, and there he would meet her master.
Agnemmel led Methuscia out of Barkonia to the surface of Ammon, East through the Ennol Mountains and into Deylindor. He practiced his old sword fighting ways on their journey, and with the aid of Methuscia's powers and enchantments over mortals he skillfully eliminated several ranger patrols encountered in Lumenia. During this time he began to swordfight with his left hand as well as his right and found he could wield both Exotath at once. Methuscia told him of the swords' great power over the temporal world but cautioned that Agnemmel would have to wait to master it. Though he tried many times to use the swords' enchantments, the most he could conjure was to see his opponent's moves a mere moment before they occurred.
As the journey progressed Methuscia became very close to Agnemmel and he became bound to her, hunting for their food and protecting her when danger approached. Though he often questioned her about the golden mask, Methuscia would say no more other than she had been unjustly cursed by the Ancients long ago with a malicious spell and that if the mask were ever to be removed she would be the bane of the ones she loved and cared for. She told that her master had saved her by crafting the mask to stay that evil spell. When questioned about her master, Methuscia would only say he was a foe to men, but advocate of the Elves and was once friend to Agnemmel, and needed his friendship and loyalty again.
One day out from Ammoria Agnemmel and Methuscia came upon a four-man scout party of King Eolyth's spies returning from a reconnaissance, a prelude to the King's attack. Agnemmel swiftly spilled the blood of the four men, but Methuscia, using her sight, knew there had been a fifth man nearby who had escaped. Rather than blindly search for the man, Agnemmel tried to harness the swords' powers yet again. Holding one sword in each hand he crossed the blades, letting them touch, spoke the runes and concentrated on the movements of time the talismans allowed to flow before him in his mind. He sensed the man but could not see far enough to know which way the man was fleeing. Beckoning Methuscia he made her to touch both blades in the middle and requested she look ahead with her oracular sight. Methuscia saw which path the man would take, and where he would stop to rest in the forest valley, but she also had a strange sensation that she was not only seeing this moment but that she was on the edge of touching it by the power within the Exotath. She pushed the blades apart, uncrossing the swords and found both her and Agnemmel were there, in the forest just steps away from the man. Startled, the ranger reached for his blade in its scabbard, but not before Agnemmel swung both blades of the Exotath wide and nearly beheaded the man when they came together at his neck.
Methuscia was befuddled by what had just transpired. She reasoned that the Dark One had imbued the Exotath with more power than he had known, or had not expected that her own powers could affect the swords' enchantments in such a way. Agnemmel immediately saw how powerful a weapon he had been given by Methuscia's master and he looked upon the swords with awe, asking Methuscia how far into the future she could divine. But Methuscia could not see the future, though she could prophesy paths that several futures may take to the same outcome, which is the gift of an oracle. She told Agnemmel she could foresee that he would win many battles, but she did not always see the exact paths to those battles, as they would change, but certain moments she could divine. She could see that the Dark One would have a son, but she had never told of this, and she saw the Dark One would one day have a massive army of man-like beasts, the Barumen, and he would breed the dreaded Baelin, his great war dogs. These were just moments in the winding threads of time to her, and she rarely gave up these secrets, as revealing too many oracles could change them and at times could cloud her sight.
When they reached the Firaneth River, Southwest of Ammoria, they spied an army encamped along its banks bearing the banners of the Kingdom's of Velethia and Visia. That host waited for King Eolyth's armies to arrive for a joint attack on the Dark One, and they also guarded the only way South in case the Dark One decided to move on their kingdoms. Upon reaching the city Methuscia took Agnemmel through the gates of its massive walls and into the upper levels to the palace, where the Dark One had his throne, and she reported what they had witnessed at the river. Though the Dark One's appearance had changed since the Third Age, when Agnemmel laid eyes upon Methuscia's master he recognized him at once. The face of the Dark One had become younger and more handsome in appearance, but the glow of the Ancients still radiated from him. Agnemmel became enraged, drawing his swords and saying he would never obey the commands of one as vile and soulless as the Dark One again, for the Dark One had driven him into his madness. Methuscia used her charms to calm him and the Dark One pleaded for him to listen, saying that he too, like Agnemmel, had become changed over the long years and had abandoned his quest for power and the bloodlust to kill all mortal life. He now only sought to prevent mortal Men from claiming the world of Ammon as their own, for they were stained by the Ancients to be arrogant and selfish creatures, too proud of their own kind with no respect for the other races. He feigned sympathy for Agnemmel, comparing the Elf's rebirth to his own, and the Dark One told that to prove the truth in this he had only but to feel his spirit in the swords he held in his own hands, for part of the Dark One's own essence was in them and he had been weakened in giving this gift to Agnemmel. In this way Agnemmel was made to see the Dark One's honesty, though in fact all of the Dark One's words and deeds were only made to serve himself. Though there was some doubt in Agnemmel's mind he saw that Methuscia loved this one and obeyed him, and he trusted her for he now loved her. In this way Agnemmel was drawn into the Dark One's service once again, and he accepted his post as general of the Dark One's army, a position he once held over nine hundred years afore.
The best armorers in Ammoria slaved to make Agnemmel's personal armor, forged of polished bright Elven iron plate and gold, and the lightest Elven mail hood, shirt, and leggings were fit to him. The Dark One held an enchantment over his forces so that they would hear and obey his commands by thought rather than by messenger, and he gave this power to Agnemmel as well so that he would have full authority. The Dark One's spies had reported that King Eolyth's army, near twelve thousand strong, was now traversing the Ennol Mountains, only three weeks away, and that King Elliasthol of Deylund had a fleet of thirty ships sailing the Tollard river out to sea and they would strike the Bay of Volcemis to the East of Ammoria only a week after King Eolyth's forces would strike. The war was fast approaching and Agnemmel felt his bloodlust for battle returning. He was given a hoard of gold and coin to buy men for war, but he needed skilled soldiers and there was little time to train. The Dark One had over two hundred sorcerers and over six thousand Elves in his battalions, as well as five hundred men under his command, soldiers of the former army of Ammoria. Agnemmel sent soldiers with coin to the south forests of Ammunach to buy as many able bodied men and boys as could be found to fight for him, and then he hand picked his own captains from best of the Dark Ones forces at Ammoria and began to train them in his own combat strategies, and they were made to pass these skills on to their own men. He knew the best way to win a battle when outnumbered was to outmaneuver the opponent and to have the stronger front line, and he had always led a fierce front line that decimated and broke the opposing armies rapidly.
Agnemmel learned of the many skills the Dark One's Sorcerers possessed; some that simply influenced and swayed the weak minded to do their bidding, some that could harness the elements and make the winds blow or the skies to rain, and some more powerful that could create great heat to roast a man alive or that could move objects by thought and send killing blows to a man from great distance. He assigned one sorcerer to each unit of thirty men, but the strongest fifty of the witches he put within his front line battalions to work in combination on a special enchantment. King Eolyth's army was now out of the mountains and crossing the Torkol Plains of Deylindor, only eight days away. Agnemmel had surmised his chances of defending the city were good, but King Eolyth would be able to cut off supply lines into the city, and they would send fire over Ammoria's walls if they could not be breached. The Dark One would command his imperial battalion of four companies behind its walls, but Agnemmel would take the bulk of his forces, ten battalions of near six thousand Elves, men, and sorcerers, and attack King Eolyth before he reached the city. He sent two battalions South along the Viranef River to distract the armies of Velethia and Visia encamped there, and the bulk of his forces he led West to meet the Army of Deylund two days later in the dark of night on the Torkol Plains.
King Eolyth's army was encamped across many miles of the plains in a long line when a thick fog rolled in from the East at dusk, obscuring the moonlight. The King's advance scouts reported nothing into the night, for nothing could be seen for many miles, but Eolyth's intuition told him that this was the work of the Dark One and attack was imminent. He placed his plate mail armored heavy infantry on alert and formed a line in front of the fog to the East. In the midst of instructing his other battalions of archers and cavalry to form up behind the front line, two scouts arrived and reported companies of enemy infantry were charging from the South into the middle of his encampment, and they carried the banner of the Dark One. At once he sent command for his front lines to move South and ordered his archers to release fire tipped arrows into the approaching host of men. The battle had at last begun and King Eolyth thought this a fine trick by the Dark One, but he wielded Luciendar, the Sword of Light which reveals that which is hidden, one of the Ten Swords of the Ancients. He held it aloft and by its power and light his soldiers were made to see the enemy in the dense fog. These enemy soldiers were not skilled and were easily cut down and his reports told that none of the dreaded sorcerers were among them. The King concluded that these were men of the South, bought easily with coin by the Dark One, and that the real army would come at him from another direction. Even as this thought came to him he had report that both his Eastern and Northern flanks had come under attack.
Enemy archers and stone launchers had loosed their ammunitions from the North and a rain of thousands upon thousands of darts and stones struck the King's men in the dark before they knew to raise shields, and thus many of his own archers and infantry who were facing the other direction were gravely injured or killed. Heavy infantry, at least five battalions, came through the fog suddenly from the East while his army was regrouping, and reports of more battalions were attacking from the North. He ordered his cavalry to the East lines, for the cavalry were the strongest and fastest of his forces, but the horses had become angst-ridden and would not obey their masters. Many threw their riders and trampled them in frenzy, as if some madness had overtaken them. Even the king's own horses that drew his chariots became mad and had to be cut loose. The King's entire cavalry was lost for the Dark One's forces were fierce, spilling the blood of his infantry as they pressed their way into the plains from two fronts, crushing the army of Lumenia. Thence a great and unnatural torrent of rain stormed down on the Torkol Plains, and King Eolyth presumed this new misfortune also to be the work of sorcery.
The King knew the battle was lost, for his men could no longer see because the Dark One's sorcerers had somehow extinguished the power of Luciendar's light. The enemy knew where to move and where to strike in the dense fog and rain, but his own host was lost and blind. He sent word to all his captains calling for his army to retreat, though all that remained were three light battalions, the battalion guard that surrounded him, and fragments of the others. Even as he shouted orders he could see a forest of long spears, several companies wide, appearing out of the fog, many tipped with the heads of his own men. Behind these spearmen were a horde of bronze armored soldiers charging into his ranks, swords swinging madly, and they cut his infantry down. One Elf in silver armor seemed to lead these barbarians, cutting and hacking his way through the King's personal guard, wielding two swords, expertly placing each cut and thrust for precise kills as if he sensed his opponents exact moves before they did. Fast approaching, this mad Elf was heading straight toward King Eolyth and so the King prepared for combat with Luciendar. He could hear the enemy horde chanting ?Agnemmel, Agnemmel?, over and over as the Elf came upon his chariot, cut down his guards, and lunged at him. Though the King was an expert swordsman, this one easily dodged his blows and hewed his left leg off at the knee with one sword while punching through his chest mail with the other, and thus King Eolyth ended, for his heart had been pierced.
Agnemmel thence disemboweled and beheaded the King and he mounted his opponent's head on a pike and held it high as a trophy for his Elves to see. Blood and rain washed down all across the plains as the Elves chanted his name in victory. When the battle was over he called for his sorcerers to end the torrent and cause the fog to clear. Only some two thousand of King Eolyth's men had survived to escape in retreat, but Agnemmel had only lost close to eight hundred of his own soldiers. He sent two battalions after the retreating army. There was more than enough time to move his primary battalions back East to the Bay of Volcemis to aid the Dark One's fleet of mariners anchored there against King Elliasthol's oncoming navy. The enemy would arrive in a week's time with their thirty ships, each sure to be holding a full company of men. His two battalions sent to attack the forces of Velethia and Visia had taken heavy losses but they had driven those armies back South some way, far enough to allow Agnemmel's forces to return to Ammoria without encounter.
With the Exotath Agnemmel endeavored to see his enemies' plans in advance, once he reached Ammoria. But too late he found that King Elliasthol's mariners were not striking by sea in the Bay of Volcemis, but had taken their host from the sea into the North end of the Ammant River which flowed against the ships partway, but then branched and flowed with them South into the Volcemis. It was there they had anchored, only a few miles North of Ammoria and were now marching to the walled city for a surprise attack. The small army from the Kingdom of Nokomis, Northwest of Ammoria, had joined them. Agnemmel had planned to send the Dark One's ships far out to sea before the enemy ships arrived at Volcemis, thence command his sorcerers to combine forces and create a fierce storm on the water, thus spilling King Elliasthol's landing vessels as they brought infantry to the shore while the Dark One's ships attacked from the rear. With the new position of the enemy, these plans were now foiled and Agnemmel had to devise an alternative action immediately.
Agnemmel thus drove his forces North and rammed the Dark One's battalions at his enemy hard, but that host was well rested on their sea journey, whereas his Elves were weary and drained from battle and travel. His sorcerers created a bank of fog from the sea, but fierce winds and the light of day allowed the King's host to see their enemy clearly. The battle lasted but a day, and Agnemmel's battalions did utterly destroy the army from Nokomis and spilled the blood of over half of the King Elliasthol's infantry and cavalry, but the King fared better and he took down three of the Dark One's battalions before he removed his host back to the river for rest and reinforcement from his ships. Agnemmel thence retreated his battered battalions back behind the high walls of Ammoria.
Methuscia was there to greet him, relieved that he had returned safely, and she took him to make his report to the Dark One. The army of Deylund would return at dawn with siege engines to breach the wall, and the Dark One was not pleased, but he did not offer abandoning the city as an option. Agnemmel needed a plan quickly to destroy King Elliasthol's forces in the night, but he could find no charm in the Sorcerer's vast arsenal strong enough to aid him. At his wits end he called for Methuscia to tell him and oracle of the future of this battle, so he may get a glimpse of how to proceed if he were to be victorious. This Methuscia did, but the oracle was not a good one. She told that Ammoria would fall and the King's host would capture the Dark One, and she also told that Agnemmel would live to escape. This angered Agnemmel, for he would never retreat from defending the city or his army, even though the cause may be futile, he would fight to the death with them. He could not surmise any circumstance under which he would flee the city - other than if Methuscia had asked this of him. He begged Methuscia for another path, and there was indeed one other she had glimpsed in her mind, but it was too costly and would result in her losing Agnemmel. She would not tell this to him and would only say there were no other paths for victory, but Agnemmel did not believe this. Thence he told of his love for her and concern for her safety if the city was invaded. Agnemmel begged that she lay her hands on the Exotath and use its power to predict the strategy he needed. This she did, for she also loved him, though the path she told him of would result in doom for them both.
Methuscia gripped the crossed blades Agnemmel held before her tightly until they drew her blood. Speaking the blades runes, she used all of her power to cause time's many flows to appear before her. One of these paths she recognized and followed forward many years in the future. Farther and farther it flowed, near ten thousand years, until she at last spied the Dark One commanding an army of beasts, the Barumen she had envisioned in oracle before, and there were great beasts called Baelin there as well. All of these were stationed in Barkonia, where she had found Agnemmel, though in this future time it was now called Lokonia. The Dark One was their creator and commander, and he was very great and powerful in this time with many legions of these beasts. This was the height of his power, the absolute greatest he would ever become. Overwhelmed, Methuscia thence broke the flow of this vision and collapsed into unconsciousness.
Whence she was awakened she found Agnemmel, the fierce warrior, in tears at her side, and he asked forgiveness for demanding that she seek such a powerful oracle for him. He could not bear to see Methuscia harmed and felt guilt, but Methuscia soothed him. She told of her vision, saying that she had only to open the door to this future time and Agnemmel could command these beasts to follow and fight for him. He was a general of the Dark One and had been enchanted by him in such a way that all mortals and beasts under the Dark One's command would obey him by instinct, even ten thousand years henceforward. All Methuscia had to do was but uncross the blades of the Exotath after opening the door, and by leaving one blade in that future time and one in this, the door would remain open, thus allowing several legions of Barumen to pass through and hearken under Agnemmel's command. If they did this, she warned, it could never be revealed to the Dark One, for this action done now may spell his doom in ten thousand years time. Her oracle did not show this to be fact, but it was one of the many possible consequences she foresaw resulting from this act. She told that this must be done on this night for tomorrow there would be no time to bring the Barumen through the door before the army of Deylund would attack. Though time was short, she made love to Agnemmel, for tonight he would go into battle again, and her oracle told that their time together would be short.
Thence Agnemmel and Methuscia cloaked themselves as commoners and left Ammoria through one of its smaller gates, and they made their way to the hills North of the Bay of Volcemis where they would be hidden from view of the King's ships. Though two scouts spotted them as they crossed the lowland before the hills, Agnemmel had seen them in advance by the Exotath's foresight, and he dispatched them before they could flee to sound the alarm. Once in the hills Agnemmel again summoned the Exotath's power and Methuscia envisioned the oracle and parting the blades the doorway was opened for Agnemmel. He saw the future through this portal, it's edges shimmering in the moonlight, and glimpsed the familiar caverns of Barkonia. He kissed Methuscia, took one of the Exotath, and stepped through into his ancient home, though it was very different now. He passed numerous guard posts into vast caverns that held many thousands of these beasts, bred of men, wolf, and ape by the Dark One. They were fierce creatures, larger and stronger than men, and they could see in the dark. He also saw the great corrals of the Baelin, great dragon-like beasts unlike any animal he had seen in Ammon, even greater than his own Yievelloch. These were fanged creatures with black fur, bony armor and spines like a reptile. Some of these were being fixed with plate mail armor to protect their front sections and some were being mounted with saddle and harness for riding, apparently in preparation for war.
Agnemmel sought out the captains of these legions and told them he was general to the Dark One, commanded to lead the attack, and what passage they would take to meet him. He asked that the strongest from the front lines go first into battle, and was told that his Legion of Barumen axe men would be at the ready by the Dark Elven captains. Thus Agnemmel took an entire Legion of these armored Barumen axe men and four more legions of four companies each of Barumen heavy infantry, with each company having a horrid Baelin to escort them into battle. He led them through the temporal doorway into his own time, where his golden masked oracle waited holding the second Exotath to keep the doorway open. This task took many hours, for only one unit at a time could pass through the opening. By the time his entire army of three thousand Barumen and twenty Baelin had passed through and were regrouped by the Elven captains, the enemy on the beach had already been alerted and were preparing for war.
King Elliasthol's troops were camped on the beaches of the Ammant River, stretching for over a mile. His great fleet was anchored well off shore, but likely within distance of Agnemmel's Barumen archers who carried much larger bows than man or Elf could wield. Agnemmel summoned a vision from the Exotath to observed the opening moments of the coming battle and thus ordered his Barumen captains into prime positions, sending his front line axe men and Baelin head-on into the middle of the camp while the bulk of his infantry would surround the beach on either side. His troops had the advantage of sight in the dark, though they did not have the advantage of surprise. Whence the King sent his cavalry charging up the beachhead, Agnemmel's front line was already well in position. The Baelin struck first, crashing into the King's cavalry and tearing his horses asunder. The Barumen axe men followed, hacking the riders down with their great strength. These beasts were such brutal warriors that scores of the enemy were disemboweled by but single blows from their great battle and war axes and many men had throats torn open by their fanged jaws. The sight of the Barumen caused numerous soldiers to flee in fear, abandoning their charge and hastily boarding landing vessels for escape to their ships. Before long the beach force was crushed and Agnemmel's Barumen archers moved in to launch a flight of flaming bolts at the sea vessels, as most were within range. King Elliasthol's mariners hastily retreated his burning ships upriver, his army utterly destroyed and beaten. Agnemmel looked over this victory with great satisfaction and glee at watching his enemy flee while the Baelin feasted on the beach strewn with their torn corpses.
Whence the ships were gone Agnemmel remained on the beach in thought while the Barumen stripped the dead of weapons and possessions. Their Elven captains came to him requesting orders. Thence he sought out Methuscia, saying that if they returned this army of beasts back to their own time they may not ever be able to call on their aid again if the Dark One from the future forbade it, but an army this fierce if kept here would guarantee victory for them over the Realms of Deylund and Lumenia, for the Barumen were the most effective and ferocious fighting force he had ever seen. Methuscia disagreed and begged him to return them, for she saw this path in her oracle and it would lead to Agnemmel's doom. Though he loved Methuscia, Agnemmel was a warrior at heart and he would not concede to this, even though it brought him scorn. The need for victory was too great in him and thus he marched his new army to the gates of Ammoria.
The Dark One was perplexed at this strange army of beasts stationed at his gates, but when Agnemmel had explained how they had come to be he was intrigued that his own creation, the Exotath, had been so powerful. Agnemmel lied and told that he could open doors in time with the Exotath but could not control them or whence they would open, thus he could not return the Barumen and Baelin to the time whence they came, and when he explained the manner in which he opened the door he left out Methuscia's part in it. Bemused at this, the Dark One did not entirely believe Agnemmel, but a prize such as this army he would not return. The opportunity to crush his enemies was before him and he would now take it. He thus commanded Agnemmel to prepare the Barumen for war upon Deylund. He proposed to lead his fleet of twenty-six ships carrying six battalions North through the Frozen Seas and down the Bellard River to lay siege upon the city of Deylund itself, capital of the Realm of Deylund. Simultaneously he designed for Agnemmel to lead four battalions through the North Ennol Mountains into Deylund's East territories to take control of the smaller towns and villages. Together they would crush King Elliasthol's armies before he could rebuild them. Once the Deylund capital itself was taken they would lay siege to the smaller kingdoms of Fastel, Castel, and Elund that also resided in the Realm of Deylund. Agnemmel balked at this plan, for he knew he was the better military strategist and said so, and he requested to lead the primary attacking force on the capital himself, but the Dark One would not relent. Agnemmel fumed at this, but he obeyed his commander.
Thus Agnemmel organized his near three thousand Barumen and the eighteen hundred Elves and one hundred and eighty sorcerers of the Dark One's battalions into combined fighting units, eight battalions strong. He trained them for forty days, teaching and honing them into a fighting force that was far superior to any that had ever marched upon Ammon's soil. During this time no enemy army laid siege on Ammoria, for word of the battle at Volcemis had spread throughout Deylindor and the other kingdoms feared this new army of the Dark One. Methuscia lay with Agnemmel each night during this time for she would go with her master to march on Deylund and would be away from Agnemmel for near seven weeks. The Dark One had strangely secluded himself from her and she wondered if she had offended him in some way. One day before the armies were to depart the Dark One called for her.
Methuscia appeared before his throne and he straightway made it clear that he was displeased with her, for he said he knew whose power it was opened the portal and let the Barumen come through. Agnemmel did not have the means to conduct such an accomplishment - one that rivaled the enchantments of the Ancient Ones, the Dark One's own brothers - but a being spawned from the Ancients could accomplish such an act. In this way he let it be known to Methuscia that he was the Ancient One Evruc, creator of the immortal sorcerers of her kind, and that he was her own father. Methuscia was stunned and joyous of this extraordinary revelation. She vowed never to lie to the Dark One again and pledged her devotion as servant and obedient daughter to him. This the Dark One accepted, and he praised her service in recruiting Agnemmel, but he commanded that she never again open the time door with the Exotath unless he so commanded it, for disobedience in this would be punished by death, no matter that he loved his daughter. To do this was to undermine his plans. Methuscia agreed to heed his wishes and begged his forgiveness saying that she only did it out of love for Agnemmel, and this revelation explained much to the Dark One for it showed him that Methuscia had become weak, something that would need to be dealt with in time.
Agnemmel took his golden-masked Methuscia to Volcemis himself, riding on the back of his saddled Baelin steed. There he would see her and the ships depart. Before he said goodbye he kissed the cold lips of her mask and whispered for her to remove it just once for him to see her true face. Methuscia put her hands slowly to her face then recoiled from him and said this could never be done. Agnemmel was incensed by her reaction but she made him promise never to ask it of her again. To this Agnemmel agreed, and submitted that looking into her beautiful pearl eyes would be sufficient enough. He bade her farewell until they saw each other again in Deylund and watched the ships sail North. Thence Agnemmel joined his waiting forces at Ammoria and he began the long march West.
The Dark One's mariners sailed up along the coast of the Realm of Deylindor into the dread Frozen Sea, within the only three-moon stretch of the year when the trek was not hindered by ice flows. The trip was hard on the Elves and men, but the Barumen were not affected by the cold. When they neared the straight between Deylindor and Ulioc the Dark One was given word that three ships bearing the banners of King Elliasthol's navy were spotted anchored off the coast. Amused, the Dark One assailed them with his Barumen and they were overtaken easily. These were the remnants of the King Elliasthol's attack force that had retreated from Volcemis. Having run out of supplies and with fire damage to their ships they could not go on, but the King's own ship continued on to Deylund without them. The Dark One slaughtered them, burned their ships and continued his voyage.
At the mouth of the Bellard River the Dark One turned South into its wide channel. Though the current flowed against his ships, his sorcerers caused the wind to fill his sails and pushed them up river until they reached the end of the Bellard, East of the Deylund capitol city. This was an unexpected direction of attack, for no fleet of ships had ever sailed up the Bellard before, thus the Dark One presumed he had the advantage. He assembled his forces on the shore and sent his first two battalions West through the hills that met the cities rear wall while he led two battalions for an attack on the front gates of the city's West wall that was cosseted by the river Tollard. His other two battalions waited South in reserve. One mile from the river his scouts reported the King's forces were already assembling on the plain in front of the city wall for they now knew the enemy was approaching.
The Dark One withdrew his enchanted sword, Kilgorin, from the scabbard on his back and he held it to the sky, closed his eyes and summoned its baleful power. The sky grew dark then and a shadow veiled the King's army. In their minds they were made to doubt the enemy and fear overtook most, for this was the sword of darkness, the most evil of the Swords of the Ancients, and it could influence the weak-minded to the will of the Dark One. Its clawed hilt was carved with serpents, a three-pupiled eye was at its center, and the pommel was wrought in the likeness of a horrid face, said to be that of the Dark One himself in ancient times. Though it was made for good by the Ancient Ones in the beginning, many years of use by the Dark One now caused Kilgorin to be possessed of a great evil. His spell cast, the Dark One thence launched his attack straightway and the battle was horrendous. The Barumen axe men hacked and slashed and the sorcerers used their magic. Most of the King's forces were destroyed on the battle plain within the first hour and the Dark One captured both of the main bridges that spanned the Tollard to the city gates. He brought a gigantic battering ram driven by six Baelin over the bridge to the main gate and drove it through the great wood and iron doors, breaching the outer wall. His forces stormed into the city and soon the second wall gate was brought down, thence that grand city of men fell.
King Elliasthol had no choice but to surrender, for the Barumen axe men would have spilled the blood of every life in Deylund city had he not. He made a desperate plea to the Dark One to spare his people if they would surrender to him without resistance. This the Dark One agreed to, but on one condition: that the Swords of the Ancients the Mithrodin protectors kept within the city be turned over to him, for this was the real reason the Dark One had assailed Deylund. At this the king feigned ignorance thus enraging the Dark One. In his fury he put the king to death with his sword, Kilgorin, in front of his royal family and high-ranking dignitaries of the city. He informed them of his knowledge that these talismans were indeed within the city for his sorcerers had learned of them from Mithrodin clerics captured and tortured in Ammoria. He called for a special sorcerer from his ranks, Nerothos, one who had great skill in reading the minds of mortals. He commanded Nerothos to examine the thoughts of each member of the royal family. But this sorcery caused great damage to the minds of mortals, as such that they were made dumb with madness, and blood would flow from their eyes, nose, and ears. Many a mortal had perished under the examination of this sorcerer.
Nerothos had searched the minds of six members of the King's family to no avail, causing two to perish, when he came to the King's third daughter, Enethia. Seeing the bleeding faces of her kin she pleaded for him to stop and thence told where the Swords of the Ancients were held, within a false wall of one of the inner chambers of the royal keep. The Dark One sent his Barumen and captains there to retrieve the swords but they found the Mithrodin had already removed the blades from the city through an underground passage. Enraged, the Dark One tortured and killed the remaining royal family, but Enethia he saved for last saying that if she knew where the swords were being taken he would spare her life. She told the swords would be taken to the coastal Kingdom of Castel, for the Elven King Menolessar harbored many Mithrodin, protectors of the sacred Swords of Power, and they held a temple there. Thus the Dark One sent scouts and hunters to scour the lands around the capitol city to find these Mithrodin before they escaped to reach the Elven city with the swords. He kept his promise and did not slay Enethia, but he commanded that all of the surviving soldiers and men of the city be slain. Enethia was forced to watch this horror before she was set free. There were small factions of Dark Elves found living within the city whom the Dark One also had slain. All of the dead were hung on the outer city walls, as sign to all who would oppose the Dark One. The women and children he enslaved and told that he was the ruler of Ammon, come to take his kingdoms back from mortals; and he made them to worship him as their god.
Agnemmel had traversed the North Ennol Mountains into the Realm of Deylund and had captured twelve towns in his trek West. His forces now controlled the territories from the North Ennol Mountains to the River Elard, and he had great anticipation to tell his master of their success. Whence his army reached the capitol city of Deylund, two days after the Dark One had captured it, he saw the many thousands of corpses hanging from its walls, a sight that rivaled some of the deeds Agnemmel himself had done in his dark past; but among these corpses of men Agnemmel also saw there were many Dark Elves and he was angered that the Dark One had slain those of his kith and kin. He sought for his master but found the Dark One was no longer within the city walls. The sorcerer captains of the forces that remained to hold the city told that he had marched North to lay siege on Castel, an Elven city. When Agnemmel asked why the Dark One would lay siege on a neutral Elven city he was told that the Dark One required the enchanted swords of power that were kept there, hidden by the Mithrodin. Agnemmel did not give a care for the Mithrodin or their enchanted swords, and growing more infuriated he asked why Dark Elves had been slain and hung from the walls of this city. The Dark One's captains, now fearing the wrath of Agnemmel had no answer other than the Dark One commanded it. This Agnemmel thought a lie, and he surmised the captains had done this of their own accord. Though those sorcerers tried in vain to use their enchantments on Agnemmel, he withstood, calling on his Barumen to aid for they had great resistance to magic. Amassing together and surrounding the enemy the Barumen quickly waylaid them, ripping their limbs off and spilling their bowels. Baffled and incensed that his master was now preparing to attack a city of his own kin, Agnemmel called for his forces to regroup and march North to Castel. He hoped to find his master and gain answer for these deeds, and he also longed to see his beloved Methuscia.
Castel was five days' march North and on the second day Agnemmel's Barumen scouts captured a young girl bearing a sword, also heading North on horseback, and she was brought before him in chains. Agnemmel asked why they troubled him with this waif, who could only have been but fifteen or sixteen years of age, and he was told she bore the tattoo of King Elliasthol's family, and that she had also slain three Barumen when they attempted to capture her. Intrigued, Agnemmel questioned the young girl and she told that she was King Elliasthol's daughter, Enethia. From her, Agnemmel learned of the Dark One's deeds in the capitol and the slaughter of the men and Dark Elves of that city by his command. She told of being granted freedom by the Dark One after revealing that the Swords of the Ancients had been in the city and thence being made to watch all of her people slain. This disturbed Agnemmel deeply. He examined her sword, which appeared to be of Mithrodin design, and asked how a king's daughter had learned to fight in such a manner. Enethia feigned ignorance so Agnemmel put her own sword to her throat and made as if to cut, whence she broke into tears and begged mercy. Thus she told that she was in fact a Mithrodin cleric and that she should have accepted death before breaking her oath to protect the Swords of the Ancients by giving aid to the Dark One, but she was weak and feared for her life. In shame she decided to follow the Dark One and attempt to right her wrongs, though she knew it would certainly mean her demise. Thus she asked Agnemmel to kill her and he moved to grant her that request, but his heart stayed him a moment and he removed the blade from her throat.
CONTINUE TO NEXT CHAPTER