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A Clashing of Swords

Many stories start in castles or dungeons. One being pursued by another. An execution about to happen. Some also start in the heat of battle, with swords swinging and cries ringing across whatever terrain you should imagine if you are so inclined to. This one however, starts on a ledge set high up in the border mountains overlooking all of Eslana.

For as far as the eye could see, Baldur Thru-arnium looked upon valleys and rivers, rolling plains and dense forests. Occasionally glancing upon villages and towns dotted across the countryside, his eyes were drawn to the sprawling city that he could see to the south west. Knowing that will be the first city that his guild must strive to quill the influence of the Snake Lord Luthranum, Baldur set his mind to first finding the rumored stronghold that was believed to be abandoned. The scout that had come here before him said that it did indeed exist and that the people that lived in the immediate area had come to calling it the Mystveil Keep. This is because, from what the scout relayed, that whenever the fog settles on the ground it would sprawl forth from this very stronghold. Turning on his heels, Baldur continued to search, expecting the stronghold to be easily visible due to the map in his hand. Purchased from a local albeit, it was the best source that this guild had with which to get a rough idea of the land. According to this map, Mystveil Keep was to the west of him. Slowly looking over the setting his eyes roamed.

“Baldur, have you found it yet?”

“No Naefia I haven’t, any word on the scouts.”

“None yet, they have been out there for a day now, surely they have found it, if indeed that map is accurate. Should we send someone to look for them?” Naefia asked as she got up from the rock she was sitting on.

“No, send no one. I’m sure they are fine. Just be patient… Remember without patience we are not able to do what we do.”

“Hmph… Fine.”

A screech came from the base of the mountains behind a rising in the forest. Baldur thought that it must have been one of the scouts letting the rest of the Black Wolves know his whereabouts.

Naefia called out from behind Baldur, again, “That was one of our arrows. The scout must have found the keep. Do we move to his/her whereabouts?”

“Yes, let’s move. But be careful we are in an unknown land. The only ones of us with the most knowledge are already out there.” Baldur said replying with a sigh. Naefia’s impatience will get her into trouble one day.

“Yes, yes I know.” Naefia Jumped up excited to be moving again. Bored of just sitting around she shouldered her hardwood bow and quiver ready to move.

“A shouldered bow is just as good as one unstrung. You should have it out and ready to use, an arrow nocked to the string.” Another warrior of the party called out from behind. A seasoned veteran whose past Baldur did not know yet, as this man was from another continent but put forth his hand to join this party in the fight for Eslana that was sure to begin sometime in the near future.

“He is right, you know. Naefia you are careless have more control over your actions.” Baldur confirmed.

Another arrow screeched forth through the sky. From the same location. Two arrows meant danger and in trouble. At least to Baldur it did for that was what he told the scouts before they were sent out the previous morning.

“Move now, one of our scouts is in trouble!”

Positioning his swords in to a place more comfortable for running yet still accessible for immediate combat. Baldur set off in the direction of the sound. The rest of the group following behind him. They entered the forest.

Dashing around trees, jumping over deadfall and moving swiftly through the underbrush. Baldur almost crashed into a scout that was running from the direction of the arrows that were shot.

“The keep exists; it is that way.” The scout reported, pointing behind him. “But we are not alone… Snakes”

“Thank you, move to the back of the group.” Baldur replied.

Having received this news Baldur called the group to draw their weapons and for the archers to be extremely alert until they were sure that the danger had passed for now. The group of thirty warriors, now thirty-one, continued on through the forest at a slower pace. Through the forest Baldur began to glimpse patches of stone in the shadows, through the leaves. Having dusk approach caused the group to slow their pace even further, till Baldur signalled with an open hand slowly closing into a fist. The party slowed to a walk.

“I can see parts of it, it is huge!” Naefia exclaimed.

“Shut up. There could still be danger.” Another archer whispered into Naefia’s ear. As if the forest surrounding the party was listening to those very words. Warriors clad in black armour appeared with blades of all sizes swinging towards the group. From daggers the size of forearms, to swords the size of an average man, Warriors of great stature charged upon the group. The one similarity that distinguished all of them as an order and not bandits was the standard embroidered into the leather armour on the shoulder pads and the armguards. A snake wrapping itself around a sword with its head resting on the pommel, looking directly into the eyes of anyone that glanced into the emblem of these great warriors. 

Screams of war and battle cries echoed in the forest as the two forces clashed. Both forces sound in dark armour, one in black and the other in grey. The fading light caused there to be difficulty distinguishing between the two colours. The only thing defining both sides was that those of the snake emblem towered over the normal man. Just a bigger target in Baldur’s mind as he would normally think, but these warriors were nimble and quick for their size, almost equalling that of the most skilled of the Black Wolves. As Baldur desperately blocked a sword that was aimed for his necked he managed to parry the blade to his left which opened the torso of his opponent, knowing that the speed of this warrior could easily enable him to recover, Baldur did not take the opportunity as most swordsmen would because of this fact. Instead he took the opportunity to step back and get a look at his opponent. Big like the rest, this one had different armour, metal spikes forged into metal armguards and onto his greaves also. This was probably their leader, or a special unit of some sort. Having recognised this Baldur prepared to re-engage his opponent. Having had a couple seconds respite, his opponent having also assessed Baldur himself, charged at Baldur. Baldur met the opponent’s sword with a straight on block with the flat of his own blade. The cross-guards of the swords locked due to the clash of the swords meeting near the hilt of the blades. The ring resonated across the forest, the intensity of the ring of metal, caused the battle to stop briefly and all eyes turned.

“Have this stronghold if you want… It is worthless and falling apart. This is just the beginning of a war. That me and the men with me will relish the blood spilled by your worthless effort…” A voice rasped out in a deathly whisper from beneath the hood of black leather that adorned the head of Baldur’s adversary. Unbinding their swords, the adversary stepped back and whistled a loud piercing sound. A thunder rumbled across the ground as horses galloped into the midst of the battlefield. Black beats bred and trained to carry people of war. They ran to each warrior of black, as this occurred, the black warriors disengaged their opponents and mounted on these horses and galloped out of the midst of the trees, into the night as a fog began to settle. The supposed leader leaving last, the look of malice in his eyes ever staying fixed onto Baldur. Baldur met the gaze with the same venom. The leader mounted and rode of following his warriors.

“Is it over? I hope so, I’m nearly out of arrows. But wow they moved fast, I didn’t hit a single one, or if I did then the arrows just slanted of their armour…”. Naefia said bitterly.

“At least the rumours of the fortress as real. But keep alert there may still be some of those warriors hanging around. And Naefia, please stop complaining about everything, just be glad that none of us died or were injured.”

It was indeed a close call but nobody was killed. The group slowly caught their breath and started to look at the stronghold before them. Built into the mountain itself, it appeared as a beast trying to dominate the very land itself.

“The is just an indication of what we face isn’t it Baldur?”

“Yes, it is, it is the first clash of swords and crossing of blades that we will have in this war. Do not lose hope because of their skill. This is not a war of blades this a war of hearts. The hearts of the people.”

Written by BlackWolfOfTheBorderMountains