Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Part 61 by Taylor

It was time. The healers had worked all the last two days healing as much as they could. Tomas remained scarred, but he could function despite it. He hadn't said a word since it had happened. Kyrian made several attempts to speak with him, but he didn't respond in the least. Mintara had been tempted to remove him from his position, but decided that it was too late to change their plans. After all, they were marching on Melkor's stronghold the next day.

His fortress was situated on top of a rocky ridge overlooking a wide plain. The formidable castle was designed to intimidate oncoming foes, and it accomplished it's purpose well. Even though the army was a full day's march from it, its tall black spires spearing the sky were plainly visible. The armies were going to meet on the wide plain. It was the perfect battlefield.

Stepheneis paced before the window of the castle nervously. "Their army marches closer by the hour, and I have yet to see one soldier under our command." When he didn't receive an answer, he whirled around and glared at the huge, dark shape in the corner. "Calm yourself," Melkor said in an emotionless voice. "Everything is as it should be."

Laurel and Cerelda landed in a rush of wind. She ran to where Mintara, Kyrian, Tomas, Landlion, and Goricnal were conferring. "How many are we up against?" Mintara inquired. "It's the strangest thing, Mintara. There is not a single soldier in sight, not even a sentry! I just don't understand it."
They were silent in confusion for a moment. "Do you have any idea what he might be doing?" Landlion asked Mintara. She shook her head. "I don't know, but I'm sure it's not something we'll enjoy."

~

A knock clanged on the heavy black door. Stepheneis jumped at the sound, then glanced at Melkor for affirmation. "Enter," he called after receiving a barely discernible nod from the dark wizard. A stooped, trembling servant timidly pushed open the solid door and shuffled in. "My lords, the enemy approaches." 
"And the white wizard?" Melkor asked in his thunderous tone, leaning forward a bit.
"And the Dragon Rider?" Stepheneis inquired, revenge lighting up his eyes.
The servant nodded sharply. "Yes, both." He hesitated before volunteering another piece of information in a voice quivering with fear, "They are drawing near to the plain. They will be there it in thirty minutes." 

Melkor waved his hand, and the servant hastily ducked out, drawing the heavy door closed behind him. "What are we to do?" Stepheneis demanded. Melkor didn't answer. Stepheneis was beyond patience. "I need answers!" he shouted, slamming his hand down on the cold, dark polished table. Melkor raised his hand and brought it back down, and Stepheneis was forced down into his seat. He sent a smoldering look at Melkor, which the evil wizard took no notice of. 

Instead, he stood up, his dark head almost touching the nine-foot ceiling. "It's time," he announced in his resonant, bass voice. He suddenly vanished.

Stepheneis was able to rise out of his chair as soon as Melkor disappeared. He ran to the door and tried to open it, but it remained firmly shut. He yelled in frustration as he pounded on the barricade. He raced over to the window and peered out. Movement in the wide plain below caught his eye.

A lone man strode through the short, brown grass. He was too far away to distinguish particular characteristics, but Stepheneis could see even from his perch that it was Melkor. His tall frame and the arrogant way he walked were obvious even from far away. He stopped abruptly in about the middle of the extensive field. He raised his arms and bowed his head.

Stepheneis, using his powers, enhanced his vision until he could see that the evil wizard was chanting something. The heavy black staff, made of some kind of metal not known to Terulan, trembled in Melkor's grip. A black mist spouted out of the top; slowly at first, then gushing out. It wove around the dark wizard as he continued to chant. It became thicker, and thicker, until Melkor was obscured from view.

Still, the cloud churned about him in an ever-darkening funnel. Abruptly, Melkor thrust his staff upward, and the tip poked out of the spinning mist. The mist suddenly fled from him and shot outward in a dense, opaque fog. It fanned on all sides of him, covering acres and acres of land. Stepheneis strained to see through, but the mist was impenetrable, even with his enhanced vision. The strange substance continued to churn and whirl violently. It was about ten feet tall; even Melkor was hidden from sight.

Flashes of deep maroon light flared within the menacing fog. But all was still silent. Stepheneis turned and saw the approaching foe almost to the plain. He turned desperately back to Melkor's display.

The mist seemed to be settling. Dark shapes now became visible as it dissipated. Figures of men poked up as the fog drifted to the ground to settle around their feet. Now Stepheneis could see clearly.

What had first appeared to be men were now discovered not to be so. These terrible creatures had sickly, pale grey skin. They had no noses, only two small nostrils, giving them a ghoulish appearance. Each was about five feet tall. They were wiry; hardly any body fat to them at all. The exact shape of their skulls was evident through their stretched, discolored skin. Each had fangs, which they gnashed together in a lust for blood. They wore very little clothing, and what they did have was made of a tough, black, leather-looking substance. Every one of them had some kind of weapon, either a sword, a pike, a spear, or even a mace. They clanged their weapons together and let out blood-curdling screams. They appeared to be ready to run from the spot straight into battle. Stepheneis wasn't sure what kept them there in that one spot.

"They are morgals," a deep voice penetrated Stepheneis' thoughts from behind, and he whirled around. Melkor stood behind him, looking out with deep maroon eyes over the horrendous creatures he had just created. "Very impressive, my lord," Stepheneis said, awed by this new feat of wizardry. "But can they fight?"
Melkor chuckled low in his throat. "They number 10,000. They will overrun our enemy before they know what is happening. Morgals have an insatiable desire to kill."

Stepheneis turned back to the plain and saw the enemy army beginning to spill onto it. A malicious grin twisted his lips as he saw the Dragon Rider among them. "Now, my dear Laurel. Today we will finish it. Once and for all."