This story is set in the world of Ashan in the Heroes of Might & Magic game series (V-VII games).
The ground was trembling. The repeated periodic tremors of a thousand pairs of boots shook with the cave as the army of dwarves marched into the war. All of them were moving in absolute unison and silence. Not long ago they were singing the songs of the past battles and stories of heroic warriors, but the leader of the warband requested his men to stop singing as they were approaching their target to don’t alert them to their presence. The discipline of the dwarves was as strong as their broad shields.
The cave was opening up and the warband entered a massive underground space where a whole city could fit into, and actually that was the reason of their travel from Grimheim. The dark elves from Ygg-Chall were always a thorn in the side of the dwarves who were till that point the only inhabitants of the world under the ground. And today they intended to take away one piece of this land back for themselves.
The army of dwarves positioned itself before the stone walls of the city of Ingheis. The city was constructed over the deep abyss where the dim light of the dark flames can’t reach the bottom. The buildings were constructed on the rock islands above the abyss and on the massive stalactites, connected by ornamental stone bridges and wooden footbridges. The city’s walls were made just by the cliffs of the abyss, standing as the only line of defense to the dark elves dwelling behind them. It shall soon all end here.
In the first line of the army stood Defenders, dwarves armed with a round shield they used to protect themselves and their comrades behind them and large axe to chop the enemy’s limbs with their impressive strength. All Defenders, as well as the whole dwarven company stood at attention, waiting for orders from their leader. And in the first row, watching from behind his shield, stood Styrmir Njalsson.
He was warrior who have seen his share of battle, but only with the bands of bandits and packs of beasts. When the warband to attack Ingheis was formed they met only a few border patrol parties of dark elves who proved to be capable warriors but stood no chance against the numerical superiority of the dwarves, even their hiding techniques did not saved them. But today it was for the first time when he will participate during the siege of a city with garrison. Styrmir smirked by the thought of the dwarves defeating the dark elves, people of the darkness banished by their peers from Irollan, the land of elves. The worshippers of Sylanna and Malassa fighting each other over the rights of their beliefs. Petty conflict.s It was evident Arkath, the Dragon God of Fire and brother of Sylanna and Malassa, was stronger than the rest of the Dragon Gods, coming from the mighty fires and being master of them.
The leader of the dwarves, Jarl Barilgolir, shouted to his army. Even the farest warrior heard his words with full clarity and commanding tone.
“Warriors, hear me!” The whole army flexed into greater attention, the sound of metal plates of their armors stormed across the cave like a lightning. Barilgolir continued.
“The luck is smiling on us! The battle guided us here to match our axes with the intruders of our realm. The dark elves are fast and cunning, but no match with our strength and bravery! Do not falter to strike, as they won’t! Do not let them deceive you as they will try! Stand your ground like a hill, do not let anything move you, and wait. Wait for the moment of weakness, and strike it like a bursting volcano! Prepare, my brethren! In the name of Arkath!”
Jarl’s roar was followed with a thunderous reply of his men, calling out the God Dragon’s name and the thuds of hundreds spears, hammers and shields against the ground. If the shadow warriors weren’t scared, now they were given a good reason to.
Styrmir stood firmly in the line like any other dwarf, shield before him, and waited what was to come.
From the purple crystals levitating above the wall’s towers began shooting energy orbs of purple magic into the ranks of Grimheim’s forces. The shieldguards did their best to put their shields into the harm’s way to protect the unprotected warriors, namely the Spearwielders, who in response started throwing spears on the walls and beyond them, together with the Kobolds, rodent beastmen who joined the Grimheim as nobody else wanted them, with their crossbows.
Dark elves on the walls, wearing cloaks with hoods over the head, died under the barrage of thrown spears and bolts, and the rest that survived aimed their small crossbows and aimfully opened fire on all of the dwarves, not just the archers. Defenders, Styrmir being one of them, rose their shields to protect themselves and others from the bolts, but many fell under the precise shots of the shooters and especially the magical blasts from tower crystals. Rune Priests hit their staffs with intricate runes carved into them launched fireballs onto the defenders on the walls. Styrmir watched the exchange of fire and projectiles over his shield with ave. He haven’t seen such a beautiful sight yet.
Than over the battlefield flew large balls of fiery lava slamming into the walls. The stone held under the scattered lava that fell to the base in pieces, but the hits cracked it. Styrmir looked over the shoulder on the fire cannons, dwarven siege weapons using red crystals and runes to fire powerful fireballs as their means of ruining the city’s defenses. Beside them were positioned large ballistas, another impressive siege engines, which launched with great force huge arrows that could pierce even multiple of enemies at once. There was no way the dark elves can resist such might. He was sure of that.
The ranged battle continued on, the red fire balls from one side, purple energy bolts from the other side, and all kinds of projectiles from both. The warriors on both sides fell to the ground, the wounded cried in pain but pushed themselves up to keep fighting, the dark elves to protect their homes, the dwarves simply out of stubbornness to resist death.
To the surprise of the dwarven warriors and their Jarl himself, on the city’s walls appeared shadowy creatures with many flowing dark limbs reminiscenting tentacles, with a big white eye in the center. The Shadow Lurkers just floated there, the spears and bolts flying around them seemingly not bothering them in the slightest. Than, the black shadowy bolts shot out of their evil eyes. The shields of the Defenders were holding, but the dark magic was too potent, too strong even for them, and they were slain by the creatures.
From behind the walls another shadows flew high to the ceiling. Styrmir couldn't see what it was, he didn't had those all-perceiving eyes like the longears, but given how they were bringing more and more from their sleeves it could have been another monstrosity, and he braced himself for whatever will come.
The ranks of the dwarven Defenders and Shieldguards were hit by large boulders, sending the warriors and dirt into the air.
Boulders? From catapults? Styrmir looked around like his brethren on the chaos of the battle, but just like them stood where he was with his weapon and shield ready. The iron-will discipline was far stronger in the dwarvens than in any other race. Making dwarves lose their morale and make them run was practically impossible, they chose rather death than loss of honour. That was why dwarves were respected enemies even to the Demons.
Several bolts dug themselves into Styrmir’s shield but he did not falter. Soon the command from Jarl told the dwarves to move forward to the enemy gates where were battered by the many hits from the fire cannons. Like a single man the formations of Defenders, Shieldguards and Brawlers made the first steps and began their steady march.
The bear riders and lone bears run on all four, roaring and screaming from the excitement. The last hit to the gate enlarged the spiderweb-like cracks to the point where it no longer held on together and shattered into pieces. The dwarves started shouting and crying victorious whoops.
From the inside of the walls the dark elves, armed with two serrated blades, came out and charged forward, followed by females, like their male counterparts wearing minimum of clothes and armor, tattooed from ears to toes and armed with bladed rings.
Behind them another enemies, far taller than the longears appeared, but Styrmir didn’t had time to recognize them as one of the thrown boulders impacted mere feets away into the ranks of Defenders, throwing him into the ground.
His head hurt, spinning around as the dizziness overcame him. The vision was in blurs, the sounds of battle distant. Styrmir wanted to stand up, his mind wanted, but his body didn’t listened. The will fought the pain.
The vision was clearing and the dizziness wore off. Styrmir was slowly standing up, grabbing his axe that laid nearby. One of his brothers-warriors, Bjor, handed him his shield. The dirt got on around the area of a small crack that was made on one of the edges. Throught the pain in the head, Styrmir took the shield and together with Bjor quickly returned into their positions in the formation.
Styrmir took a look on the battle before him, and seen the tall creatures from before. Wide shoulders, tattooes, two long horns, bovine features. Minotaurs. Charging against the dwarven ranks, huge axes held with a single arm while they would required two men to carry.
The knife of minotaurs carved themselves deep within the bread of the dwarves, some of the bovines even jumped to get over the prepared weapons, landing on the shields and crushing their wielders under their weights and immediately start their carnage. One such minotaur landed right behind Styrmir, killing two dwarves with his hooves and swinged with the huge axe. Styrmir was half-way turning when he halted and returned back as he realized he had to look forward as he was in the first line, and he thanked he did that as he had the time to evade a vertical strike from another charging minotaur.
The axe slashed into the ground, Styrmir sidestepping, and hewed with his own against the beast’s arm. The blood sprayed and the minotaur groaned in pain, but the cut was not too deep, in fact it made it even more angry. The ox beatman lashed with his arm against Styrmir, hitting him into the shield, moving him few feets bad but he stood strong.
Minotaur took his weapon into both hands and made striked again, this time diagonally from left. Styrmir put his shield in the harm’s way, flexing his muscles to absorb the hit. The impact was great, the arm was sore at once, but still had strength in it. The dwarf tried to attack, but had to again block another attack, this time the kick of minotaur’s hoove. The shield was nearly thrown off from his hand, but Styrmir didn’t let his grip, but made another step back to regain balance.
The beastman waited for a second, measuring the situation, and that's’ what Styrmir needed for him to strike. Charging forward, he swung his axe against foe’s leg. The minotaur painfully cried as the edge dug deep into his flesh, the red blood spraying out over the defender’s face. Styrmir smirked, pulled the weapon out and rose it for another strike, when the ox punched Styrmir into the face.
The nose broke, and stars before his eyes caught Styrmir completely off his balance, lowering both his arms. He didn’t knew what was going on as the head was shaken, nor how much time passed, but another hit, into his left arm, send him away, followed with a distant cracking and bellowing.
Styrmir opened eyes, wiped the dirt from the face and looked around. The minotaur was crouched few feets away, holding his bleeding leg and puffing angrily. His shield laid not too far, but it was broken, chopped in half by the minotaur’s last attack.
Styrmir got himself back on his feet as fastest as he could, grabbed his axe to help him stand upright, his head was shaken. He looked around for anything more he could use. The battle was raging, dwarves were deflecting the fast strikes of the dark elves, cutting one another with their axes and swords, being struck with a spear, hammer, arrow, bolt or chakram.
There were already many dead warriors of both sides, and seven feets away was lying a Shieldguard, his larger and tougher shield still held in his hand. Styrmir run towards him, and whisked it from the dead man. He surely died a great death and had no more use for it.
The dwarf turned, fires burning in his eyes, to face his opponent who recovered from his injury and was now prepared for continue.
The two warriors charged against each other. Attack followed by parry, parry followed by block and next attack. The combatants were exchanging blows, evading the other’s attacks and trying to make the killing blow. Styrmir’s newer shield proved to be far durable, only small dents left behind by the hits of the large minotaur’s axe.
The battle sequence repeated itself six times when the ox beastman, probably from his injuries, finally made a mistake and exposed his left side. Styrmir immediately took the chance and made a risky, some would call it crazy move.
He threw his axe into ox’ shoulder where it struck. Minotaur screamed, stumbled and threw his right arm, one holding his weapon to the side. Styrmir hoped for this, and threw with as much force as he was capable of the shield against the right elbow. The impact forced the opponent to lose grip on his weapon and yet again express his agony.
Defenseless and momentarily stunned, Styrmir charged forward. Snatched at the axe of the Shieldguard, the same he took his shield from. The dwarf jumped, and hammered it into his chest.
The beast’s arms stretched wide, and the last roar escaped his lips. Or it sounded rather like a moo, but that did not mattered much now. The last breath, the minotaur fell to his knees and than to the ground, his nose digging into the black dirt. Styrmir jumped from him beforehand, and gave the minotaur a stern look.
A dwarf is measured by the battles he fought, enemies he killed and the death he got. This minotaur, now bearing the signs of the Guard, proved to be a worthy opponent, a challenge that forced Styrmir to the most deepest depths of his skills to overcome. That, made the beastman a foe to be remembered. Styrmir dig two fingers into his wounds, pulling it covered with his blood. He looked on it for bit, and than painted a single rune on his chest, on the armor he wore.
Than he went for his axe and the burrowed shield and observed the battlefield. The fighting lessened in the intensity as both parties lost most of their troops. The defenders of the city suffered more, their last warriors send into the battle were quickly taken care of. The walls of the city were on many places cracked, some places shattered. The archers had casualties but the bolts and magic balls kept flying against the attackers.
Styrmir quickly rose his shield and hit behind it, but than he spotted, in the area of battle with the most of the dwarf corpses strange, red sparkles in the air. There were no signs of any magic being used there, none that he seen before.
The sparkles started growing, turning brighter into the color of yellow and white, and more were appearing. It seemed like they were coming out from the corpses of the dead dwarves. Other dwarves adn even dark elves stopped to observe what was going on.
Suddenly, the sparkles started spinning around as more and more were forming. The vortex was getting the shape of blazing flames. Truly, from the corpses of his kinsmen larger, orange fires rose, levitating in the air. The fire ghosts, spirits or what they were, than flied into the center of the vortex, adding into the sphere that was forming there.
With the last one the orb expanded and let out an intense pulse of light that illuminated the whole cavern. The fire tongues around it were dancing rapidly. Everyone protected their eyes, but the light died off as soon as it appeared, and Styrmir opened his eyes to behold.
Where there was a glowing yellow orb of flames just now stood a figure. It looked like a human female, only she was talled. Her skin was of the deepest ash, pure black. The curves were not in Styrmir’s tastes, but still he liked them, being very feminine, attractive and made of muscles. Her feminine parts were covered in the clothes made of fires, same as her incredibly long hair, being twice her height that were forming wings to her. Her eyes were pure gold, and she observed the area before and around her. Out of the thin air appeared in her hands a spear with flaming tip and the shield that was glowing like the metal in the furnace.
Styrmir gasped at the sight. He was a seasoned warrior, one that came through several different battles, but he never seen this by his own eyes. The birth of Dis, the warriors of Arkath. When many dwarves died in battle, their souls gathers, and with Dragon God’s blessings this warrior spirit of fire comes to life.
There was a moment of silence as everyone was shocked or amazed by the sudden appearance of one of the Disir. Than, from one of the older dwarf warriors was heard a mighty battle roar. Others soon joined, Styrmir included, calling Arkath’s name, even joined by the Jarl Barilgolir himself, and all dwarves started running towards the broken gate. Dis flied over the heads of the dwarves, leading them into the battle.
That day, the dark elven city of Ingheis fell into the possession of the Grimheim. The citizens were given a fair chance to leave their homes with their lives. Jarl Barilgolir and his men were celebrated for their victory, many songs were made in their tributes and of their exploits. Some about Styrmir’s battle with the mighty minotaur warrior and how the veteran dwarf slain him after sustaining many grievous injuries, decapitating beast’s head as a trophy, and in one even using his horns as makeshift weapons to kill the dark elves.
Not every one of them must be true, when the inspiratory bursts it cannot be stopped. Styrmir even liked the more they were not real. Because, he knew the full truth. That’s something that will never disappear, something that he will carry with himself until his last day, and than he could retell it to his ancestors and Arkath himself. That made him greatly satisfied and eager to push on to tell them more.
Edited by V.Metalic, 14 August 2016 - 02:00 PM.