The oldest standing tradition, the recounting of battle tales, was about to begin. It was more than an historical recounting of combat; it was a visceral sharing of tales that made the spectators feel as if they had been there on the battlefield. In the past, only elves were allowed to recount their battles, but as the goodly races fought more and more as elven allies, this telling of tales became an interracial event and attracted citizens from every walk of life. One unusually stout elf named Karok, who was clad in well-worn plate armor, had already gathered a crowd with his recounting of a battle in Deadmist Valley. Deadmist Valley was a battlefield in the contested lands between the Bloodcrest Force Territory and Dae’gon Alliance Territory. It was a place where the blood of both groups flowed daily as humans, elves, gnomes, and dwarves of the Dae’gon Alliance defended the lands of goodly races from the Bloodcrest Forces. This was no mere chance encounter. Karok was part of the war contingent in the last deliberate assault on the Bloodcrest Forces and he had the scars to prove it.
The warrior announced with great hand gestures and dramatic tones, “There we were, standing on the war torn battlements looking across the gulch. We could see the Bloodcrest stronghold in the distance with its black, wrought iron gates and dark grey stone walls. It was the antithesis of our own white marble keep. The open battlefield was strewn with twisted armor, shattered weapons, and the carrion of a hundred poor souls who flesh was rotting in the morning sun. Some say, hell itself is paradise compared to the battleground at Deadmist Valley.”
Many elven heads nodded in agreement and more than a few human, dwarven, and gnomish heads bobbed up and down as well.
Karok continued, “The portcullis clanked noisily upward and out spewed the forces of evil, and our mortal enemies. I saw the motley collection of orcs and trolls raising spears and swords as they rallied their wicked brethren. Slightly to their flank was a platoon of tauren shock troops who moved forward with death in their eyes. These powerful half men, half bull warriors snorted and stomped their cloven hoofs in response to the orcish rally. Bringing up the rear was the last group. Rotted flesh, exposed bones, and tattered robes identified these as undead spell-wielders, mostly mages, but a few priests as well. It was a fearsome and unholy gathering of hell itself.”
A few elves unconsciously gasped and stepped back, while the majority simply stared with endless awe as the warrior continued.
He pantomimed drawing his sword and spoke again, “We moved forward as a unified fighting force of elves, dwarves, gnomes, and humans. We held our lines with grim determination and weapons at the ready. Not one hesitated as the charge came on. We were honorable soldiers, disciplined, and ready for battle. I heard our wizards call for great bolts of lightning and fire, which slowed the charge just long enough for our archers to send volley after volley of arrows into the screaming villains. Many shields were raised, but elven longbows punched right through. By then, the battle was well underway as the undead cast their wicked spells of black energy that saps one’s strength and steals the very warmth from their blood.
Our close combat warriors pushed forward as the Bloodcrest infantry marched our way. I headed for the tauren shock troops with five other warriors and a paladin named Landermihl from Griffon’s Peak, the human capital city. As we closed the distance, I realized that the enemies were massive; beyond my own expectation or description from tales told around the fire. Even on my windwraith feline mount, the tauren were huge, looking eye to eye with me.”
One enraptured young elf actually stumbled forward as he unknowingly leaned forward with anticipation, too immersed in the story to realize he was overbalanced.
The warrior slammed his mailed fist into his other hand for effect and said, “We hit those tauren maggots with such speed and precision that the enemy lines buckled like the knees of a coward, but they held as we drove into them.
I found myself engaged in deadly combat with an ax-wielding beast that had only one horn. The other must have been lost in one of the other countless battles this vicious monster had fought. I smelled blood and sweat, which covered his body, no doubt from other battles that day and his armor showed the wear of numerous battles before.
The beast came in unbelievably fast for being so large. He slammed his great two-handed ax into my shield and sent me back a step, but the ‘oak bends with the wind and snaps back’, as the saying goes. I moved to his side and angled my own blade into the beast’s armored midsection, but his breastplate turned my strike. His next blow sundered my shield, so I drew my off-handed dagger and moved in with both blades in unison. The sword was parried by the tauren’s ax handle, but fine elven steel sank deeply into his tree trunk-like leg when my dagger slipped through his defenses. His howl was accompanied by a rapid flurry of strikes that I dodged and blocked. Luckily, I had him hamstrung. He sought to cleave me in two with a powerful overhead swipe of his ax, but his wounded leg slowed him enough and allowed me to spin around to his rear and run my broadsword though his spine.”
Several in the crowd cheered, but the elven warrior never heard it. Karok was still there on the battleground, at least in his mind, and more than a few of the onlookers noticed his welling battle lust, which was matched by the awe of a dozen spectators.
The warrior continued, almost in a state of hallucination, “Pulling my blade from the tauren made a wet metal on metal scraping sound that is eerie and unsettling, yet somehow satisfying. I saw our archers focusing their volleys on the undead wizards who would fall soon enough. Our own spell casters were blasting the trolls and orcs with frost that slowed or held them in place long enough to roast them with deafening explosions of fire. We had the initiative and pressed onward, sensing victory.
I looked around for my fellow swordsmen, but could not find the other five warriors; they had fallen in the initial charge. I turned to see the lone paladin of our company holding three of the other shock troops at bay. His great hammer rained holy justice down on his enemies while his prayers called healing down from his god. I sprinted forward and felt the blood in my veins pounding through my body. My anger and hatred boiled into overwhelming fury. The landscape seemed to be glazed in a blood red hue and the battle sounds seemed distant, but I knew I was barely a few strides from my next target.
Ally and enemy clashed, fought, and died without discrimination. I reached Landermihl’s assailants before they could overwhelm the paladin. Using my sprinting momentum, I lashed out mightily with my sword and blasted through the first tauren’s neck while my dagger sunk deeply into its now headless body. I turned to see the human holy warrior take numerous hits from the remaining two villains. His blood flowed from nearly every crevice in his radiant armor, but he held on somehow. I spun left and sliced both tauren simultaneously hoping to draw their attacks my way. One turned on me and the other continued to attack the paladin without regard for his own life or that of his fellow shock troop. I took a solid hit from the spear my enemy held. I never felt it. I sheared off the spearhead, still embe dded in my shoulder, and threw my rage at the monster who had struck me. Suddenly unarmed, the tauren dove for a sword and shield that failed to save their previous owner. The beast absorbed my first swing, but that was all it could manage as I rained more than a dozen stabbing and slashing attacks on him. My enemy was lying dead in a pool of blood before my last series of strikes landed.”
It was apparent to most of the older elves that this warrior was more than a skilled fighter. On the battlefield, he was a killing machine out of control. He was an enraged berserker who lived to fight and willingly gave in to battle-lust as a source of power. The younger spectators watched on in admiration and disbelief as parents guided their toddlers away in horror.
Fully consumed by the story, the warrior continued, “The paladin defeated his foe long before I came out of the rage and it was his deep voice filled with serenity that brought me back. He told me to be at ease and accept healing from his hands. As I calmed into rationality, I noticed the spearhead that protruded from the front and exited out the back of my armor. It was a serrated tip, blacked with dirt and dried blood. I was lucky to be alive, given the loss of blood. With a nod from Landermihl, I removed it myself and the paladin purged the wound with healing magic.
I surveyed the grim carnage. The Bloodcrest Force was in full retreat, but we had lost far too many good fighters to claim a true victory. We picked up our dead and wounded and headed to the rear, where priests and healers were bandaging us up for the next battle. We fought twice daily as either skirmishers or dedicated regulars for the entire month until we pushed the hell spawned Bloodcrest Force back into their desolate lands. Hail to the Dae’gon Alliance and the Glory of Celes’tia!”