Saturday, 2 August 2014


Fjeldir faltered and braced against a tree, panting heavily. He fought to calm the raging tempest his mind had become, and regain order to his thoughts. The Beastmen! His mind stood in sharp focus now, centred on the knowledge that the Children of Chaos must be exterminated. In a single fluid movement Fjeldir drew and notched an arrow to his sturdy longbow, and singled out a target amongst the maelstrom of battle that raged in the forest around him. Effortlessly the elf let fly and landed the bodkin straight through the vile creature's eye. The screaming howl the creature let out as it fell to the leaf-strewn ground was brief, but nonetheless filled Fjeldir with a deep, base satisfaction. He shuddered. This feeling was not right, it seemed... unnatural somehow. Fjeldir was an Asrai of the Meadows of Heaven, he was a being of compassion as much as vengeance. All life was precious, and there should be no joy in murder. And yet at the same time it was a compelling sensation, one that implored him to relish in it again, to feed it....

He felt disconnected from the world, as if he were in a dream or watching things from afar. All around him in the forest his fellow Asrai fought with the Warherd of Belphegor, a mortal enemy of the Meadows of Heaven, close enough that he could potentially travel a few paces and reach out and touch one of the combatants, and yet everything seemed distant. The air was filled with howls and screams and cries from the countless warriors fighting, as well as the metallic pangs and clinks of their weapons and ghostly whistling songs of arrows as they sped through the air. In the background horns both savage and regal rang out as musicians on either side relayed signals to their comrades. Yet all these sounds were faint to Fjeldir's ears, as if he were underwater or was listening with them blocked. Fjeldir felt hot. The whole world around him seemed sweltering, the air felt suffocating. Colours somehow seemed darker. At the same time however the efl's reflexes and perception sharpened immensely when focused on death and killing. And all the while that dark and terrible feeling, the sensation of revelling in slaughter, pulled at his mind and called out to his soul, begging to be satiated.

As Fjeldir dashed across to retrieve the arrow he had loosed, for he would certainly have need for it soon, A marauding Gor, cloven-hoofed and bristling with ruddy matted fur, leapt behind him and bellowed a challenge, froth spraying from the beast's fanged maw. In one massive fist it held a large worn axe, while the other was empty. Presumably the creature had carried a shield that had been lost in the fighting. It mattered not, Fjeldir was well-trained in the art of death, and while his Elven reflexes were not as developed as those of Asrai from other parts of Athel Loren, in this instance they were more than enough. In a blur the Wood Elf ducked down to avoid the wild swing of the Gor's axe, then swung around and slashed the creature's ankle tendon with his combat dagger. Fjeldir swerved aside as the hulking brute toppled backwards, and then plunged his combat dagger into its throat. The Gor swung around with its axe, and Fjeldir twisted out of its way before losing an arrow point-blank into the top of its mouth. The sensation of the kill set Fjeldir's nerves on fire. Retrieving the dagger and the arrow caused tainted blood to well out of the creatures mouth and pool on either side of it. Blood was everywhere now. It stained the forest floor like paint. Dark Beastman blood mixed brighter crimson blood from Fjeldir's fallen kin. Its vapours filled Fjeldir's nostrils, the scent was... intoxicating. Fjeldir felt a tug deep within his conscience, a primal base urge to see more blood, to shed it and revel in its spilling. Rage at the deaths of his Asrai kin mingled with the thrill of the hunt.

Finally he retrieved the arrow he had sent into the first child of Chaos. As he did so, Fjeldir took the time to look around him and admire the savage beauty of the slaughter. He saw countless other Elven archers, Glade Guard like himself, slaying beast after beast. He saw Warhawk Riders swooping in and out of combat, tearing an adversary apart and then climbing upwards into the sky out of harm's reach. He saw Treekin smashing their way through a regiment of Bestigors. He saw Wardancers twirling and pirouetting, whirlwinds of death swirling like leaves in a gust around the heart of the Elven battleline, the renowned Defenders of the Glade of Poppies, with the Wishmaster himself at its head. Next to him was his King's Executioner Gaerielle. She held aloft the royal horn of the Meadows of Heaven, and as she unwound it Fjeldir blinked in disbelief. The note that sounded from it was the signal for a withdrawal. Retreat? Now? But they were surely massacring the horde, it would almost certainly break at any minute! Yet even now the phalanx was moving back, away from the fighting, towards Aneaeth Ollissin, the premier Spellweaver of the Meadows of Heaven who had joined the Wishmaster for this battle. She seemed locked in a clash of will with a cabal of gibbering whispering Bray Shamans deep within the Beastmen horde. At once Fjeldir saw one of the twisted bestial priests spasm and lurch down to the ground, a long arrow protruding from its chest where some unseen Waywatcher must have sent it. Such was their accuracy that the creature was dead before it hit the ground, its blackened heart skewered by the bodkin. As it died the air seemed to pulse and ripple, and suddenly Fjeldir felt clearer of mind. He realised, for the first time, that he was out of rank. In fact almost all of the Elves fighting in formation had forsaken their ranks. Thoughts came to him of his foe.

Beast became man and man became beast.

And slowly, surely, like dawn illuminating night, Fjeldir began to realise the true scope of what was happening. A trap!

The feelings he was experiencing were not his own. Every urge of violence and bloodlust, every thought driving him to kill more, the invigorating scent of blood, even the hellish heat of the forest, it was all the result of some elaborate spell, some new feat of sorcery performed by the beasts of Belphegor's warherd. A dark enchantment to drive the Asrai into a bestial berserk killing frenzy, such that they would be so lost in their desire for carnage that they would be driven apart, separate, alone and divided, and oblivious to the doom approaching them. Only those with the greatest will, such as the Wishmaster, Aneaeth and the Defenders of the Glade of Poppies had been unaffected by the trickery, and had realised the true danger. Those they had slain were but a small fraction of the greater force, and Fjeldir began to see that the entire Wood now teemed with more of the Children of Chaos, a titanic horde that had been clouded from sight until moments ago.

As Aneaeth progressed in undoing the deception, more and more of the Elves began to take note of their impediment, and heed the call to withdraw. They began to regroup into their kinbands and formations, and take up new positions, preparing for the new threat. Fjeldir joined them, retaking his place in his own kinband of archers.

Now the true fighting would begin in earnest...

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