Tyrael looked at the maps again. He traced his finger around the edge of the gull cliffs and followed them to the Bronzewood’s borders, where an entire army sat on his doorstep. His attention finally came to rest upon the city of Safehaven and then the large kingdom of Thann. They were his allies, yet neither could help each other. Reports came in that Safehaven was monstrously defeating the enemy forces, despite having four armies surround the city.
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The cavalier shook his head in amazement. Korrin sure knew how to outfit his generals. He remembered the first time Korrin had tried his toy, a visor he created to fit his dragon helmet. Somehow, the elven mage had figured out how to see into the future.
At the time, Tyrael didn’t understand it at all. Looking back with a sharper mind, he finally understood it. Using powerful divination magic, Korrin could see what was going to happen before it ever did. There were limits, and the future the mage saw were only possibilities; albeit the most likely ones. Were there really infinite other realities, parallel to their own? How did Korrin know which one to look at?
Shaking off his useless ponderings, Tyrael tried to focus on the task at hand. He didn’t have time to philosophize about questions he didn’t need the answers to. He would let the truly brilliant mages figure out the planes of existence and other realities. He was a king, and he needed to figure out the best move for his people.
Wait. What am I doing? It isn’t just the elves, my move needs to benefit my allies as well. How can I do that?
A stroke of brilliance touched him. He thanked Corellon and smiled as he starting working out the plan in his head. Of course! Take the offensive, they would hardly expect the elves to come out of the forest and chase them away!
“The foul army will stand in the shadow of the Bronzewood no more,” he said to himself.
The cavalier turned to see Eliwood enter the tent politely. “Yes?” he answered.
“Forgive me for intruding, but the soldiers are arising. Have you rested?”
“No,” Tyrael smiled. If he was still mortal, there was no doubt in his mind he would be dragging his rump around. But since he had ascended to quasi with Corellon’s favor, he had new limits that shattered his previous ones. Though he hadn’t rested, he felt good, as if he had only been up for a few hours.
“As you wish my king. May I ask why not?”
“I have been studying the reports and the maps, coming up with a battle plan,” Tyrael motioned to the table littered with maps and paper.
“Whatever it is, I’m sure it will drive the invaders away from our home,” the ranger mage’s brown eyes twinkled.
Tyrael laughed, “That is exactly what I intend to do. Tell me my friend, do you read my mind?”
“Never without your permission my lord,” Eliwood grinned. “That spell is much more suited for interrogation, not my field of study.”
“Don’t tell me you actually limit yourself to specific schools of magic! What spells are you studying these days?”
Eliwood chuckled, “Everything else.”
The cavalier shook his head and thought about his plan again. It was a simple concept really; he supposed it would work itself out.
“What are the orders?” Eliwood asked, and scratched his copper hair.
“Ready the battalions of archers and your squads of arcane archers as well.”
“We are not going to sit and watch the Great Kingdom slowly ruin our allies like a poison. We will not comfortably sip our wine and wait for our enemies to strike after they have destroyed our friends. We are going to fight, not just defend. Every soldier we defeat is one less man Talamius has to send after us,” Tyrael stood and squared his jaw.
The ranger mage bowed, “As you wish. Our archers will strike hard and fast, with battalions of warriors close at hand.”
“Get them ready, I want to take the field before our enemy arises from their sleep.”
Eliwood nodded and exited the tent. He stopped a half elf soldier and asked the soldier where he would find Janice and his squad of highly trained archers. He nodded and took off, leaving Tyrael’s sight.
Tyrael sighed and stretched. It would soon be time to take the field, with one more surprise; he himself would lead the attack. He looked to the side and saw his battle gear. Tyrael rolled his shoulders and dressed into a simple red tunic, throwing the blue one he had been wearing on the ground.
He gripped the snow white breastplate in his hands. It was heavily plated, but it weighed less than it looked. The material was strange, he wasn’t sure what it was. It was called Zodar armor. The hide of some creature? Some alien metal?
His contemplation was broken as someone entered his tent. By the light footsteps, he knew it was an elf. The king turned as he finished strapping on his leggings, “Not even a knock? I was getting dressed.”
A shiver went through him as he saw a lithe elven warrior, casually leaning against one of the chairs and smiling smugly at him. The figure was dressed in familiar black spiky armor; Zodar armor. The elven warrior had sharp angular features and his skin tone had a dark tinge to it. His hair was long and black, clean and at the traditional length for an elven male.
The cavalier gritted his teeth as his blue orbs met his foe’s yellow reptilian slits. “You…”
“Yesss….me, foolish elf. It took quite some time to find you. But now I’m not alone in my hunt,” the dark warrior grinned evilly.
Tyrael flexed his muscles. He wasn’t prepared for a fight, his belt was still a few feet away on the ground. If a battle with Deathwing broke out here, there could be massive casualties.
“I was gone for quite awhile,” Tyrael leveled his stare and tensed. Would his foe attack?
“Yes, ten whole years. Not very long for elves,” Deathwing hissed.
“Or for your kind,” Tyrael countered.
“Yess, of course,” the dragon in disguise smiled.
“Are you here for a rematch?”
The warrior smiled even wider. “Not just yet foolish king. I wish to savor my victory over you. You will fall to my blade! Your idiotic morals and illusions of grandeur are unjustified. You will be defeated by my cunning swordsmanship, the finest blade to ever exist!”
Tyrael chuckled and the figure scowled. “You are quite confident. Our last duel was ten years ago, and I defeated you.”
“YOU? Your friendsss saved your filthy hide!” the dark warrior hissed.
Tyrael smiled at getting his foe angry. Uncontrolled anger dulled one’s sword.
“So what have you come here to do?” Tyrael asked.
“To warn you. I have come for you. You have made some very powerful enemies, but I will be the one to destroy you. Your time on this plane ends in one hour. There is an abandoned druids’ grove, one mile north of here. There we will have our duel. Do not be late king,” the dragon spat.
Tyrael smiled, “As you wish. Though I must warn you. You may have gained considerable power these past ten years, but I have been through unimaginable trials. And I have learned from the Prince of Swords himself, he would debate whether or not you are the finest swordsman alive.”
The figure growled and Tyrael spotted razor sharp teeth. “Imbecile! You shall see the kind of power I have attained. I’m sure you know the ancient rules of engagement the elves of Myth Drannor followed, cavalier,” his foe hissed angrily.
“My king, our archers are ready,” came a voice from outside.
Tyrael tensed as he called out a warning but it was too late. Deathwing Blackspitter rushed the flap of the tent as it opened and a surprised Eliwood was knocked down. Shouts of confusion sounded and the king rushed out to see the dark tanned elf disappear in the chaos.
Eliwood cursed. “Who in the nine hells was that?”
Tyrael helped him up. “A sworn enemy,” he shook his head.
Eliwood’s light brown orbs met his blue ones. “Enemy? What were you doing? Who was he?”
“Deathwing Blackspitter. It’s a long story friend, but I cannot tell you about it now. He is very dangerous, and I must duel him.”
“Now?” Eliwood tilted his head to the side.
“Yes, I know. I have no other choice. He knows my honor will not let me stay away. There is a change of plans.”
Eliwood shook his head and brushed himself off. “It could be a trap my king.”
Tyrael smiled, “Possibly. But I know him as well as he knows me. He wants to defeat me in combat, a test of pure strength and skill. I was worried he would strike me down in a cowardly manner but his own pride will not let him.”
“Can you defeat him?” Eliwood’s eyes widened.
“I believe so. Corellon watches over me. I hardly think this imposter can match that.”
“Wait, I've heard that name in a bard's tale. One of the many stories told about you. During your mysterious ten year absence you became a sort of legend in many a tavern tale. Deathwing...the rumor is that he is a black dragon that moves in the guise of a skilled elven warrior.”
“The very same,” Tyrael smiled. Despite the grim situation, his blood was flowing at the thought of a battle of pure swordsmanship. “How could such a tale be so well known?”
“Rumors of course! It’s well known that an elven murderer walks in the shadows of this region. And most elves of the Bronzewood love to hear about their king. Why does he pretend to be an elven warrior?”
“I can only say that he is very old, an ancient wurm. He has a strange, twisted sense of pride. He trusts his blade more than I trust mine. If I defeat him in combat, only then will he use spells and the mysterious powers a black dragon has.”
“My king, no offense, but draconic spells are some of the most powerful spells ever created. They are as powerful as high elven magic! I know you have been studying magic, but how can you defeat such a foe whose skills with the blade might be as tuned as your own?” Eliwood bit his lip. Could his king really defeat such a mysterious and dangerous enemy?
Tyrael chuckled, “I am just a novice mage, of that I have no doubt. But as I said, with the favor of Corellon Larethian, I will not fail.”
Eliwood shook his head. “Well what do we do about the attack? Hold off until you get back?”
“No. You understand my general plan, don’t you?”
“Well, yes but do you really want me to lead the attack?”
Tyrael smiled, “I trust you. You have proven yourself over and over as a general. Would it be that we had a stronger ranking structure, you would have a better title.”
Eliwood nodded and bowed, accepting the compliment. “Should Lord Torrcainan be leading the attack?”
The king smiled and shook his head. “If you feel like you need him, then by all means contact him. Who knows where the Vice-Roy really is? He keeps this kingdom afloat.”
Eliwood ran a hand through his coppery red hair. “As you wish my king. I already know the answer, but I have to ask. Do you want someone to help you?”
Tyrael laughed. “We both know I cannot allow that. It is much too dangerous, and the rules of a duel specify that the combat is sacred. One against the other, no more.”
“I figured as much my king. Well, I will lead the attack. May the Seldarine watch over you.”
“Sweet wine and light laughter until we meet again,” Tyrael smiled and nodded. He waved as Eliwood went to speak to the commanders. He went inside the tent to retrieve his weapon belt. With a deep breath, he steadied himself. Am I ready for such a fight?