The Children of Eris
With an army of thirty-thousand undead at his back, Karak-Harth launched his attack on the most north-easterly city of the Holy Empire: Teriscant.
It was a mercantile and military stronghold that, like Stonefall, helped safeguard the Holy Empire’s northern borders and had a population of half a million guarded by four thousand city-watch and twenty thousand members of the Holy Legion.
After what happened to Black Port and at Stonefall, the people of Teriscant had feared that they too would be caught up in the Great Disaster, but they had no way of knowing, or preparing, to fight against a legendary sorcerer with a powerful army at his back.
Karak-Harth’s horde was thirty-thousand strong, though most were unarmed skeletons, and they spread themselves thin to surrounded the city. Among them, there were six liches, forty death knights in full plate armour and forty bone golems, all of whom stood four metres tall.
They stood two hundred metres from the city’s walls, standing perfectly still and silent.
“So, the gracious Saint Themis Rhamnous allowed my old home to keep its name,” Karak-Harth mused as he floated high above his army. He gathered mana around his body as he glared hatefully at the city. “Naïve girl, allow me to demonstrate to you up in there in the Heavens just how fragile the empire you built truly is.”
Karak-Harth raised his staff high into the air and a gigantic magic circle, thirty metres wide, appeared above him, pointing at the city.
“For the Dark Lord.”
Countless fireballs rained down upon Teriscant, bombarding its buildings and people.
Each ball exploded upon impact, blasting debris and shrapnel, killing even more people.
The soldiers on the walls took cover inside the gates and towers, but the fireballs blew away the stone with great ease.
“Burn the city to the ground. Don’t let anyone escape.” Karak-Harth commanded. “For his majesty!”
The undead horde roared and charged.
The liches soared forward, flinging bolts of fire at the wooden houses and buildings in the most heavily populated areas.
Unfortunately for the people of Teriscant, there hadn’t been any rain in the city for the last week which made it a prime target for an uncontrollable, burning blaze to spread.
Per the Demon Emperor’s orders, Teriscant was to be destroyed and its population raised as undead to join Karak-Harth’s army; that undead horde was to become the Great Disaster.
“Master, should we not surround the city first?” One of the liches asked in a screeching voice.
“No. Collapse all the gatehouses instead,” Karak-Harth commanded. “Leave not one
“As you wish, master.”
The liches focused their attacks on the city’s three gatehouses as Karak-Harth continued to rain fire upon Teriscant and its people.
Even if I damage the bodies, I should still be able to raise the horde that the Dark Lord wants me to, Karak-Harth thought.
The undead reached one of the gates and the bone golems rammed into it at great speed, blowing the wood off the hinges. The undead swarmed into the breach as the defenders tried to rally and meet them in battle, but the chaos caused by the fire and the attack left them in disarray.
They were powerless to stop the undead from killing everyone in their path.
Tens of thousands tried to hide or flee, but not a single person escaped Teriscant.
With two of the gatehouses reduced to rubble and the third blocked off by the undead, no one was able to escape. The fire and rubble blocked off the entrances to the city’s sewers and all other possible ways out, leaving half a million trapped inside like lambs to the slaughter.
Long before the sun rose, there wasn’t a single living soul inside Teriscant.
“The Great Disaster is here!”
“We have angered and failed the Great Goddess for she has allowed her greatest enemy to return! Repent, people of the empire, repent! Pray for her mercy and pray that she stays her hand before more die!”
“I heard that no one got out of Teriscant.”
“Not even one person?! That’s ridiculous.”
“If people managed to get out of Black Port, surely they could’ve escaped Teriscant, right?”
“Black Port had lots of docked ships; Teriscant was landlocked.”
“Ah, why has Themis forsaken us?!”
“What did we do to deserve this?!”
Fear spread all across the empire.
That panic in turn spread the rumours and stories more, leading to even more fear to spread.
Soon, within just a few days of Teriscant’s destruction, everyone in the Holy Empire knew of what had happened.
“It is as Themis said,” Lawrence grumbled, looking over the preliminary reports. “Karak-Harth has returned to enact his vengeance upon the Holy Empire.”
“So, it would seem,” Arieon whispered, shaking his head gently. “I thought that we would have more time, but I was wrong. I thought that the Great Disaster would begin at Stonefall and I was wrong.”
“That mistake cost half a million people their lives,” Kella chided Arieon.
“Hey, do you think if the Paladins had been there rather than Stonefall then-” Dante started to ask.
“They surely would’ve perished too,” Lawrence said bitterly. “Even if I had been there too, our chances would’ve been slim. They set the city ablaze. If the undead didn’t kill them, the fire or smoke would’ve.”
“And, if the stories are to be believed, Karak-Harth’s strength was so great he could wound Saint Themis, even with her divine protection and abilities,” Isabella said. “If we were to try and fight someone like that who has a large army at their back, the Paladins would surely lose.”
“And what in Themis’s name are our chances now?” Christoph mumbled, his head in his hands. “Half a million, that’s what the scouts say. Half a damn million. We can’t beat that.”
“Not alone, at least,” Arieon said, turning to face the others. “If we add in the might of the Holy Legion and the Paladins, the adventurers and the Trú Elves, then we might just stand a chance.”
“Isn’t that reassuring?” Kella asked which made Dante chuckle bitterly. “The Emperor’s going to call all the banners to the capital, isn’t he?”
“Most likely,” Arieon said. “If there’s one place that Karak-Harth would absolutely want to destroy, it’d be the city named after his old enemy. We’re only a few days away; we could go there and help them organise the defence.”
“What about Paladin’s Place?” Christoph asked. “It’s right between Teriscant and Themis, and they will surely perish without aid.”
“…Paladin’s Place is too close to the enemy to make it a good place to fortify and make our stand,” Lawrence said. “We’ll have to abandon it.”
“B-but, my lord!” Christoph leapt out of his chair, his eyes beginning to water. “The castle is there as-as…” He bit his lip. “As is my wife.”
Lawrence closed his eyes and dug his nails into his leg. “I know.”
“We can’t just leave them to die!”
“Don’t you think I know that?!” Lawrence snapped back. “Don’t you think I know how awful it is to abandon Paladin’s and leave it to the undead? Don’t you think I want to save the people there, too? They know what’s coming, the whole empire knows what’s coming and they’re going to start running with or without our aid.”
“Might it be worth someone taking some of our men and riding to Paladin’s to help them, Lord Lawrence?” Isabella asked.
Lawrence calmed himself down, then muttered, “Yes, you’re quite right. Christoph, take two hundred men and as many carriages as you can find or buy, and head to Paladin’s Place. Evacuate it with great speed and care. Charge all the costs to the Paladins and I’ll handle the rest.”
“At once, my lord!”
Christoph shot off and slammed the inn door behind him.
“Well then, it seems we must do our part, too,” Arieon said. “Saddle your horses. Lawrence, Isabella; ride on ahead of us and send word to Stonefall. Call every Paladin to Themis and, while you’re at it, see what information they discovered about the Great Disaster.”
“Surely that’s a bit pointless now, all things considered, old man,” Dante said.
“Perhaps, or perhaps they’ll have learnt something that could help us save the Holy Empire from total destruction.”
“Isabella, let’s go.”
“By your command, Lord Lawrence.”
Once the two Paladins left, Arieon smiled warmly at Kella and Dante. “Saddle up, you two. We’ll be riding with only short rests to Themis and let us hope that we aren’t too late.”