A short story on Legion Commander’s biography
“Is my army ready, Sergeant?”
“Yes, Arkosh Vrogros. The Abyssal Horde is ready for your orders, “ Sergeant replied.
Tall as Sergeant may be, at two metres it is still dwarfed by Vrogros, the Underlord himself. Vrogros, like his army of monstrosities before him, are demons that roam the subterranean realm of Aziyog. Vrogros’s mammoth body led into six brawny limbs and a long, squamous tail. His front two feet resembled more like hands, with curled-up knuckles supporting his weight. He held a massive blade in his right hand. Strange runes glowed a grotesque green on the blade’s surface. Turquoise crystalline outgrowths appeared sporadically on Vrogros’s body, as if a result of radiation overexposure. Two massive horns sprouted from his head; an outlandish globe of green flames hovered between them. A protective chainmail of black and green covered the Underlord’s body, but still gave the much needed flexibility for a swing of his blade to cut down a foe.
Vrogros looked out to the vast expense of the subterranean cavern. The Abyssal Horde, a malevolent contingent of demons, beasts, and humanoids from the Seven Hells, stood in rank-and-file, ready for his command. Blood-curdling howls, inhuman wails, clangs of blades on shields filled the chamber - the eagerness to go to battle unmistakable.
Revealing a wide smile of razor sharp teeth, Vrogros took a moment to bask in the bloodlust of the Abyssal Horde. He thought for a moment whether to give a pre-battle speech, and decided otherwise. There was no point. What could urge the already bloodthirsty demons even more so? And courage and honour, virtues that held on dearly by the surface dwellers, are irrelevant notions to a demon. Each of them will kill as many as they can, as brutally as they can.
“Alatho ozh Ozkavosh! Ozh domosh acha…”1 the Underlord demanded.
The globe of green flames between Vrogros’s horns began burning even brighter, illuminating the cavern. Focusing on his spell, the Underlord stood momentarily on his hind legs. A dark silt appeared above the Underlord, a rift in reality radiating in mysterious green and black energy. The rift grew larger as he concentrated. The flames between his horns grew ever brighter, ever more sinister. The Dark Rift, a stygian portal that can lead Vrogros and his army to wherever he wished, still needed a final set of coordinates. He conjured an image of his target destination. The spell finalized, the Dark Rift now completed.
“To Stonehall! Alatho!”2 Vrogros cried.
Led by the Underlord, all of the Abyssal Horde charged into the Dark Rift, and vanished.
“If we garrison our cohorts in Moerbeek, cavalry will make Stonehall in five days. Let’s say seven back with wagons, that’s twelve total… Nobody starves,” Marcus commented.
“Mm, what’s this?” Tresdin, Commander of the Bronze Legion, pointed on the map.
“That? That’s Brille. Strategically useless.”
“It’s on the way to Stonehall,” Tresdin remarked, her intentions clear.
“Their only exports are poetry and coffee.” An equally obvious hint by Marcus.
“I’ve never had coffee.”
Marcus paused. “Tresdin… I’m begging you…”
“Oh, come on, Marcus. Live a little. It’s barely even a city.”
“You’d only have cavalry, Tresdin…”
“Tell you what. If there isn’t a city full of poet-slaves serving us coffee in three hours, We’ll keep moving.”
“Moerbeek and Brille, Marcus. The Council will give us so much food you’ll have to—”
“Commander?” A meek voice started in the Legion Commander’s tent. “It’s… It’s Stonehall.”
Towards the north, an outlandish green glow illuminated the horizon, in the direction of Stonehall, home to the Bronze Legion. Tresdin looked out from her tent. The green glow now resembled more like green fume and flames. She could hear distant cries, cries of desperation and panic echoing into the night.
“God’s bones.” Tresdin cursed.
It was unmistakable. Stonehall was under attack.
“Marcus. Tack up the horses. We ride now!”
A few night dwellers, mostly merchants and traders ending their day’s work, littered the city square of Stonehall. A warm supper was likely the subject of their thoughts at this moment. A terrible sound, that of air being sucked into nothingness too quickly, stopped the Stonehall denizens in their tracks. A dark slit appeared, the rift in reality shimmered in black and green energy. Then the silt widened rapidly, a circle of black nothingness seemingly floating right in the heart of Stonehall. A savage howl could be heard. Strides of hooves and boots, ever-quickening, grew louder into a stampede. Something in the Dark Rift wailed in a strange, otherworldly language.
The Abyssal Horde poured out of the Dark Rift. The demons were unlike anything the cosmopolitan merchants had ever seen. Monstrosities of claws, hooves, teeth, yielding blades, spears, shields, lept forward into Stonehall. The merchants fled for their lives, screaming in horror. Then Vrogros the Underlord himself stepped out of the Dark Rift. Air fresher than that of the subterranean Aziyog filled his nostrils. He could smell life, and he could smell fear.
While Vrogros took a moment to get his bearings, his minions needed no command to began their slaughter. Those merchants in the city square never stood a chance. The Horde surged into the streets of Stonehall, like blood being pumped into tributaries of arteries. The city roused from their slumber. Alarm bells sounded. A small platoon of guards stationed near the city square tried to assemble a resistance, one that was to be futile. The Stonehall palace, where Emperor Galanius would be, looms in the distance. Without hesitation, the Underlord began his first step in Stonehall, towards the palace.
The men and women of the Bronze Legion were getting ready for their rest tonight. The siege on Moerbeek has been a draining one, and this night’s rest had been much awaited. But the commanding bellow of Marcus extinguished all hints of sleepiness.
“Turn out! Turn out! All Legionnaires fall in! Full battle gear! Cavalry on point! Stablemasters! Get the horses ready! This is not a drill! We ride to Stonehall now! Now!”
Green fumes that looked like burning hell rose to the heavens, as the camp bursted into action. Within minutes the Bronze Legion was ready, assembled before the Commander’s tent, cavalry before infantry. Tresdin emerged from her commander tent, donned in her full battle gear, her armor glistening in gold and red under the starlight, her right hand clutching her cavalry sabre. A long and wide standard perched on her back, a red flag bearing the symbol of a bull-headed snake.
Her horse grunted as its master came into view. “Ten-hut!” Marcus commanded. The Bronze Legion snapped to attention, and awaited for her orders.
“The Bronze Legion is ready, Commander,” Marcus announced.
Tresdin looked to her Legion, each and every one of them competent men and women with whom she has fought side by side. She was proud of the Legion she led. And now their prowess was being called upon.
Tresdin pointed towards the north, in the direction of Stonehall. “I do not know what is the situation in Stonehall. It is clear however that Stonehall is under attack. And based on the current deployment plans of the other Legions, only the Bronze Legion is near enough to defend her sovereignty this day.”
Tresdin gave the final order. “Bronze Legion, move out!”
They rode past the southern gates of Stonehall, and into the city. The gates were unmanned. From a distance, it was clear that the bloodstained alleys and burning markets were overran with demons. Dead denizens of Stonehall littered the streets, some brutally slaughtered beyond recognition. A sense of dread filled Tresdin. The Legion was late to this fight.
The demons were alerted to the sounds of galloping hooves and pounding boots on the cobblestone. Sergeant led the demons to meet whoever that just arrived into Stonehall. The Bronze Legion spilled into the streets of Stonehall, each platoon sweeping down a street. Soon Tresdin had visual contact with the Abyssal Horde, the monstrosities racing towards her and her Legion, the same monstrosities behind this destruction of Stonehall.
“To battle!” Tresdin led the charge. Seconds later they clashed, cavalry sabres trading blows with demonic blades. Commands of manoeuvres, clangs of blades and shields, and thuds of metal on flesh filled the air. A legionnaire was impaled through her platemail and through her chest. Another demon lost half of its skull from a well-aimed slash of cavalry sabre. At first the Horde found that they were equally matched with the Legion, but bit by bit, the line advanced in favour of the defenders.
In a distance, Marcus spotted a large circle of black nothingness, shimmering in black and green energy, looming over the city square. “That must be where the demons are coming from!” he pointed out to the Commander, as he cut down another demon. Tresdin looked towards the city square. Marcus’s assessment was likely to be an accurate one.
“Legionnaires! To my standard! We press towards the city square!” Tresdin bellowed above the dins of battle.
Alerted to the presence of the Bronze Legion, Vrogros casually tossed the head of Emperor Galanius aside, the head having served its purpose of eliminating any hopes still held by the denizens of Stonehall. Short of a small contingent of guards stationed in the palace and along the city walls, there was nothing stopping the stampede of the Abyssal Horde. For all the preparation and reconnaissance work that the Abyssal Horde had done, the siege of Stonehall was disappointingly easy.
But now, Vrogros could hear shouts of rally and command, fighting between demonic blades and a resisting force. Above his demons, Vrogros could spot red and yellow standards steadily progressing towards the city square, along the streets stretching from the city’s south end. Right down the main street of Stonehall, one of those standards was especially long and wide, and perched higher and prouder than all others. All of them spotted the same bull-headed snake etched in gold. It was clear to the Underlord that these newly arrived defenders were making their way towards the city square, and towards the Dark Rift.
“Finally, a worthy opponent!” Vrogros exclaimed to the demons around him. “I was almost disappointed by how weak Emperor Galanius’s forces are. The pleasure of killing them will be mine!”
Tresdin and the Bronze Legion finally cut through the monstrous throng and arrived at the city square. The stygian portal that is the Dark Rift stood before them; demons and beasts and humanoids continued to emerge from it every other second. There seemed to be no end to their numbers. The Legion on the other hand has suffered rather substantial casualties.
Standing before the Dark Rift, the Underlord sized up the newly arrived defenders. A few metres away, the crown-less head of Emperor Galanius laid on the cobblestone, as if it was casually cast aside, eyes wide open and mouth agape.
Seeing the head of their adored Emperor, the first few legionnaires charged towards the Underlord, not with courage or fear, but with outrage and fury.
“For the Emperor!” cried the legionnaires, expecting their sabres to at least make contact with a coordinated attack. But Vrogros, swifter than what a demon of his bulk would seemingly be capable of, swung his runic blade from his left to right, and sliced the legionnaires across mid waist. Torsos slided off waists and dropped to the cobblestone. The demons on the side cackled with dreadful laughter.
These legionnaires were brave enough to charge at an opponent that was a few times their size, and paid dearly for their bravery. A primal rage took over Tresdin. This fiend before her was responsible for the deaths of the men and women she led, the deaths of the innocent people of Stonehall, the death of her beloved Emperor. She knew that she had to destroy this monster before her, or she had to die trying.
Their eyes met, the Legion Commander and the Underlord. Letting out a cry, Tresdin dashed towards Vrogros with such speed that he had no choice but to engage in this duel.
Tresdin’s mastery of the calvary sabre made her strikes so swift and accurate, that Vrogros had no time to conjure any spells to counteract her in this fight. It was a display of pure swordmanship, a level of single combat that was beyond what most humans and demons could possibly attain in their lifetimes. Parrying blow after blow, the pair danced their deadly duel as the Bronze Legion met its end around them.
Tresdin dived headlong as Vrogros swung his blade to meet her. The odds turned. The runic blade smashed into Tresdin, a brutal ram from the side. But even as her balanced slipped, Tresdin broke into a roll sideways, and rallied her strength for another stroke. Sabre scraped on blade, beyond the hilt to the gnarled hand of the Underlord, slicing it off in a gruesome spray of black demonic blood.
The vile onlookers looked on in astonishment as she pressed the attack, driving her sabre through an opening in his chainmail, into a pulsating heart within. The Underlord erupted in a roar of pain and anguish, a roar that could be heard in all of Stonehall and beyond. He staggered backwards, his head and horns leaning into the insides of the Dark Rift. The stygian portal wavered, the power sustaining this chasm of reality dwindling. The portal shrunk and shrunk and closed, decapitating the Underlord. His limp mammoth body slumped into the cobblestone of Stonehall. Blood as black as what the expired portal once was oozed from Vrogros’s body. His reign has ended. In a matter of minutes, the Bronze Legion made short work of what that remained of the leaderless Abyssal Horde.
A veil of serenity took over Stonehall as the last demons were slain. The battle ended as abruptly as it had began. The survivors took a moment to consider their surroundings; the gruesome carnage will serve as a scene that none of them will ever forget.
“Marcus, gather the survivors, legionnaires and civilians, and give me a sitrep. Find the Emperor’s body; we will give him a proper burial.”
To the east, the sun was beginning its ascent, just like any other day, as if nothing happened. But the destruction this day have changed everything for the survivors of Stonehall, for the Bronze Legion, and for its Legion Commander.