Tyrael watched the battle rage below him with a strange sense of...something. It was like when he was the general for the angelic armies. The memories came to him in a wave. He had defended and defeated many opposing armies in the planes beyond. His knowledge of tactics and strong intuition served him well as a leader.
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The battle was quite over, as the last soldiers of the Great Kingdom failed to gain a foothold. He was sure the demigod Talamius knew that even with a massive soldier count they could not march upon the Bronzewood as long as multiple battalions of the finest archers in the land waited in the treetops. There was even several contingents of dedicated arcane archers, directed by Janice Sureshot and Eliwood Greenarrow.
With such an overwhelming amount of firepower even in a small squad of arcane archers, there was no possible way to take the Bronzewood forest by storm. These archers were highly trained with their bows. Arrows in midflight often disintegrated and transformed into some powerful spell, giving small contingents enough power to take on a much larger force. It would take a man count of twenty thousand; maybe more, to march upon his kingdom as long as his elven soldiers stayed defensive in the tree line.
Assuming his enemy knew that, what was his plan? There had to be some reason for posting an army at his doorstep. If it wasn’t to defeat him, then what?
The answer hit him as the sound of battle died away and the enemy forces retreated far beyond the range of even his bow. A feint! A distraction of some sort! Stifled in his winged helm; as seemed common practice for him, Tyrael removed it and breathed in the fresh air.
So, if his attention was not on his own kingdom, where would it be? Another kingdom? Allistar was much too far away to attempt with such a ploy, why bother? It had to be Thann or Safehaven. Talamius was planning something he didn’t want the elves to interfere with, so he kept an army in front of them. It was like not wanting an animal to attack, so you distract the animal with a shiny toy while you get away.
In this case, the evil human was not trying to escape, but attack. Of course! It was so simple yet devious. Tyrael shook his head, now he just had to figure out what was coming so he could warn his friend. Or had it already happened? That thought brought him back to reality. He turned to see Eliwood with a squad of arcane archers approaching.
The ranger mage smiled and waved. “Greetings dear king. I hope the battle went as well as if you directed it yourself? Our causalities were almost nonexistent.”
“Like shooting orcs in a straight line,” hooted one of the archers and his fellows nodded in agreement.
“They won’t ever get close to our home!” yelled the single human in the group and his comrades laughed.
Tyrael smiled, but he knew something was amiss. It was too easy. Things were always complex when dealing with divine powers, something he could attest to personally. Eliwood saw the troubling look on his king’s face.
“Falcons, you fought well today. Check in with Janice and tell him I’ll talk with him shortly. You are dismissed,” Eliwood looked back to his squad. The group nodded in understanding and returned the way they came.
Tyrael sighed. I know there is something going on that I cannot see. A deception being pulled right in front of me. What is Talamius planning? I have to figure it out and warn Korrin and Kelanen. Maybe Xzealor could help him, the Arch Mage was always good at solving the most complex problems.
Eliwood waited until his squad was out of earshot, then waited another moment to give his king time to reflect. Finally he spoke, “Is there something wrong my king?”
“This army. Doesn’t it seem odd to you that they would keep charging and then retreating well before they even get close to the tree line?”
“Of course, it’s just plain stupid. If they want to rush into our arrows I don’t mind at all.”
“Think harder mage. Talamius is a demigod. His knowledge of battle tactics must be as robust as mine. Attacking in such a way where he loses so obviously cannot be a mistake.”
“So you are saying he is letting his soldiers die on purpose?” Eliwood asked incredulously. The ranger mage rubbed his chin in thought. What possible motivation would any king have for such a thing?
“That is what I am saying,” Tyrael replied. He looked out towards the enemy, then to the descending sun to his right.
“Why would he do such a thing? Is it possible he would sacrifice his soldiers for this unknown purpose?”
The king smiled, “You have not read the reports I have. Allistar’s kingdom is much closer to Talamius’s home than ours is. I have kept in contact with the paladin, and he warned me of the numbers the Great Kingdom had. The kingdom has more than fifty armies, just like this one in front of us. The demigod had not been idle while he had Allistar trapped in the lantern.”
Eliwood’s jaw dropped. “But my king, surely you are mistaken. This army in front of us has thousands of soldiers. Fifty more? Such a number is unimaginable!” the ranger exclaimed.
“Believe it friend. His resources are almost limitless. Even if we defeat this army in combat, he will send the survivors home to recuperate and simply send another of his numerous armies,” Tyrael dropped his helmet on the ground and stretched towards the sky.
“If what you are saying is true, how can we even stand against such a foe?”
The king laughed. “That my dear friend, is the very question I am trying to answer. My first step is to unite the three major kingdoms.”
Eliwood shook his head. Fifty? The possibility of a never ending war wasn’t too far off of the mark. “Well, I suppose that is a very good start my king,” Eliwood sighed. Could such a task be accomplished? An actual alliance with Thann? Safehaven was and always had been an ally, but the tension between the elves of the wood and the humans of Thann was almost tangible. The two nations had an all out war declared once and Eliwood had been in quite a few skirmishes. He remembered leading an assault on one of Kel’s fortresses that was too close to the Bronzewood. The fight with the commander still sent chills up his spine. How I won that fight still defies all logic.
“Yes well it will be quite a feat but it must be done. I am mostly worried about Kelanen and Korrin getting along,” the king interrupted Eliwood’s thoughts. “I feel like a farmer trying to keep two roosters from killing each other,” Tyrael chuckled.
Eliwood shook his head again, “You tell me news that would darken the brightest star, yet you laugh.”
The king laughed even harder. “Do not despair friend. Corellon is with us. We have many allies and the Bronzewood will live on, despite whatever plot Talamius has.”
The ranger mage smiled. That makes me feel better. How can I argue with such logic?
“I feel it too. The Seldarine watches over us.”
“Good. Besides, we have just as many soldiers as they do,” Tyrael smiled knowingly.
The arcane archer looked to his companion curiously. “Your highness, I am a commander of our forces. I know our numbers better than anyone, and the numbers you are talking about dwarf our own.”
“Ah, but you are forgetting one simple fact dear mage,” Tyrael smiled even wider when Eliwood scratched his head in confusion.
A spark of recognition lit in Eliwood’s mind. “You are right, I completely forgot about our brothers and sisters of the Grandwood!” the elf smacked his forehead with his open palm. How could I forget such a thing? With the massive elven army from the Grandwood complementing an alliance with the other kingdoms, the numbers were similar!
“When I became king, the Seldarine also gave me reign over the Grandwood. We both know that the Bronzewood is vast, but the Grandwood is many times bigger.”
“If I remember correctly, it is said to dwarf our own forest. Is that true?” He remembered the Grandwood now, it was ruled by elven lords who had divided the vast forest into regions. It would be hard to unite them all and give up their own power to a king. At the time of his coronation, no one thought to bother with the larger forest, as it stood on its own, far enough away to be its own region and governed itself.
“Yes, I haven’t been there since I became king. I need to look at some maps to confirm its size.” Tyrael rubbed his chin in thought. “They have their own hierarchy there, it was a little trouble convincing them that I was truly the king that the Seldarine appointed.”
“This eases my conscience! But back to our original conversation, why would Talamius attack knowing he would lose his own soldiers?” Eliwood inclined his head and looked directly into his king’s blue eyes. He hadn’t forgotten what had sparked the discussion.
“I believe it is a diversion of some kind.”
“Some sort of decoy maneuver, but on a larger scale?”
“Precisely. If the army wasn’t here, what do you think our nation would be doing?”
“That’s easy, helping Safehaven.” Eliwood stopped as soon as the words left his mouth. Of course!
Tyrael grinned as he saw the ranger understand. “A valid theory?”
The ranger shook his head. It made so much sense. Why hadn’t he seen it earlier?
“Now it is clear. So the real question is, what is his true plan? He is cutting off Safehaven from its ally, but for what?” Eliwood scratched his head and looked to his king for answers.
“Again, you have stumbled onto the question I am trying to answer,” Tyrael said quietly as he looked to the west and watched the sun slowly dip beneath the horizon.
Eliwood was amazed. Tyrael was truly something! Would he have understood the significance of it all if it wasn’t spelled out to him? The mage shook his head, maybe, but not soon enough to do anything about it.
The commander broke the silence, “My king, I am truly humbled by your thoughts. I mean no offense, but you are not the same Tyrael that I met all those years ago,” he whispered.
Tyrael chuckled, “No, I am not. My world has changed quite dramatically since we first met. It all started when we left to free Allistar.”
Eliwood nodded as he recalled the intense and exciting adventure. The story was now a legend, whispered in taverns and sung in bard’s tales. Somehow, he had been a part of it. It was a small part no doubt, but he was there.
Tyrael stooped low and fell to a sitting position next to his winged helm. Eliwood followed his lead and watched the sky as it morphed into different shades of red, orange, pink, and yellow.
“Allistar rewarded me for freeing him by opening up my world. My entire consciousness expanded tenfold as I saw the weave, not just felt it as all elves innately do.”
The ranger nodded in understanding. He imagined just being a ranger, and then finally learning to be a mage. Magic was a whole new world.
“I remember being just a lad when I saw the weave for the first time. How I giggled as I cast my first cantrip,” Eliwood smiled and wriggled his fingers. “It is like opening your eyes for the first time. A whole new sense opens up to you.”
Tyrael smiled. Allistar had bestowed a great gift upon him indeed. Along with his special toy, he was a novice mage.
“Well, what now my king?” Eliwood asked as the sky darkened.
“You return to the palace, and let Lord Torrcainan know the battle was a success.”
“I have a few errands to run. Xzealor might be able to help me think this matter out more clearly.”
“Well now that I know something else is going on, I might be able to find some answers as well,” Eliwood grinned.
Tyrael laughed. “Don’t do anything dangerous my friend. Light laughter and sweet wine until I see you again.”
Eliwood stood up and bowed. “Good luck my king.”
Tyrael nodded and turned back to the long stretch of land between the forest and the campsite of the Great Kingdom; the land that had been designated as the battlefield. The ground was stained with blood and the field was littered with elven arrows. It almost looked like tall weeds had arisen from the ground because there were so many arrows embedded into corpse and soil alike.
The king shook his head and thought about Allistar. The paladin king had reported destroying the Formain, some sort of deadly insect race he didn’t know very much about. Tyrael just knew the Formain had been emerged from some dimensional portal Talamius had opened to combat Allistar’s kingdom Halthentar and its legendary Star Knights. After trapping the paladin within a magical device only known as “the lantern,” the Formain erupted from the portal like a swath of angry bees.
The insect creatures destroyed the ten thousand elite Star Knights that the trusting Allistar had left outside the castle walls to confront his sworn enemy alone. Less than five hundred elite warriors had returned to Halthentar with news that their king was missing and they were overrun by an overwhelming force of unknown insect creatures. Halthentar almost crumbled without its king and its finest warriors decimated. It was left in the hands of the mourning queen and a mere boy.
Or that was how he had heard it. It seemed like an eternity had passed since he heard the rumors, whispered to his pointed ears from his fellow Star Knights; when he was still one of them. The tale had been told and retold so many times, only those who were there knew what truly happened. Tyrael could still remember the day the strange band of knights entered town. They were so disciplined, so prideful and skilled. Tyrael couldn’t resist approaching them and met Navar, the senior Star Knight.
The cavalier sighed, he missed that Star Knight armor. Tyrael looked down at his white Zodar armor at its smooth indestructible breast plate. The shoulder pads were rounded and polished, contrasting with the spiky shoulder pads that usually adorned the armor. Time and time again it had proven to be instrumental to his survival in the planes of existence beyond this one. He wouldn’t trade back, but sometimes he did miss the aggressive red and blue colors of his old Star Knight armor.
Even though war was brought upon his doorstep, it was worth it. They had rescued not only a king, but the entire kingdom. Back under the control of their legendary paladin king again, the Star Knights of Halthentar fought well. Destroying the Formain was a feat in itself, but even now thousands of miles away in a different land Allistar continued to fight on, aiming for the Great Kingdom and no doubt wanting to slay his long time nemesis and the one enemy who bested him with trickery, Talamius.