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To Conquer the City of Wizards (Short Sword and Sorcery Story)

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  • To Conquer the City of Wizards (Short Sword and Sorcery Story)

    The first three chapters of a short sword and sorcery story I'm working on.

    To Conquer the City of Wizards
    By Miles Reid

    Chapter 1- The Messenger

    Therumic was known as ‘The City of Wizards’ for all the proper reasons. It was home to The Kingdom’s only Magical Academy and thus was home to a good majority of its wizards. The Academy stood as a shining crystal jewel in the middle of the swamp of mundane people. The Magical Academy stood fifty meters into the air, a building forged by magical crystal. Around it were the houses, stores and streets of any other normal city. Magic forces rang in the air, giving it a sweeter scent than nearly all other cities. It was a city that had never been invaded, after the first few attempts had ended in utter slaughter for each respective group of invaders, the city had gained a legend for being impregnable.

    The horse and rider were both near dead when they had approached the huge city gates. The rider had many vicious wounds all over his body and seemingly had tied himself to the horse with rope to prevent him from tumbling off. The guards surrounded him and pulled away the rope, causing the rider’s broken body to tumble off the horse and hitting the ground with a terrible thud. As they surrounded him, the rider’s eyes opened wildly and darted from face to face.

    ‘Is… this Therumic?’ he rasped. One of the guards nodded, the rider’s hands shot up and grabbed one of the guards by the shoulders.
    ‘He is coming,’ he moaned weakly, ‘coming… here from Kerask… an army… Darkblade… understand?’
    The guard nodded dumbfounded, the rider smiled and lapsed into an unconsciousness he would never awaken from.

    Magthar Greypalm sat in his chair in his study, staring at the crystal floating in the centre of the room. With a slight gesture from his fingers, the crystal turned slowly. A wizard’s power was derived from their crystal; it was their link to the gods and thus, their aptitude for magic. Greypalm saw the slight flaw in the crystal’s base and with a delicate flick of his fingers, eradicated it. The slightest flaw could destroy the crystal and render him powerless forever. The door opened and Mayor Treyas rushed in, his brow sweating. Magthar smiled, even the Mayor of Therumic came to him for advice and aid.
    “What is it this time?” he purred softly, “wife been cheating on you again? One of your opponents gained the slightest inch of popularity over you?”
    “N-no…” stammered Treyas, “I’ve just received a terrible rumour from the North lands of Kerask. Lord Darkblade and his army have entered the borders of the Kingdom via the Plague lands of Trogador. They ravaged several small villages on the borders and he turns his eyes here.”
    “Lord Darkblade?’ Greypalm scoffed. ‘Isn’t he another one of those upstart barbarian warlords? Another fool with delusions of grandeur…”
    “We can only hope. I have heard nasty rumours about him. A man who commands an army of the greatest, vilest perversions. A man who can order the insane and the criminal to their deaths with merely a gesture.”
    Magthar Greypalm laughed.
    “Rumours, merely rumours my dear Mayor. We have Warlords dreaming to be Emperors afflicting our lands on a nearly yearly basis. I have heard of warriors who could make the women of their enemies tear off the privates of their own husbands with merely a smile from this Darkblade character. These are merely rumours, propaganda created by these dreaming fools to create such a reaction. Anyway, the moment they attack this fair city, I will personally take my crystal staff and turn this army of the Lord Darkblade into a pool of blood and bone!”

  • #2
    Chapter 2- Darkblade Arrives

    It was three days later when the army of Darkblade arrived. To any bystander, it looked a terribly ragtag collection, it was comprised of armoured soldiers, grubby, barbarous savages from the Outer Wastes who travelled by foot, a collection of peasants. At its head were five men, resplendent in red armour and black helms.

    The Darkblade and his Generals had arrived.

    Lord Keldurn Darkblade led the army, he wore no helmet and his long black hair blew free in the wind. His face was handsome and young, but there was a dark, dangerous gleam in his eyes. On his left were Alurick Skullhelmet (so called because of the skulled faceplate of his helmet.) and Jerman Karneck, a Warrior Prince of outside the Kingdom. At his right were Phias Goether and Junquis Phrisson, a man who had relished the chance to return to this city.
    “Look, men,” said Lord Darkblade, “the city of fat wizards! There they grow fat and corrupt in there splendid halls of crystal. They believe themselves so powerful and strong that they think themselves to be better than mere mortals like you and me!”
    His men raised their weapons and cried a fierce battle cry. Lord Darkblade raised his hand and his army fell silent.

    “I will ask only for your patience. This is no mere village of fools that we can simply flatten beneath our feet. No, this is a foe that can destroy us before our swords can leave our sides. It will take cunning and intelligent to defeat this corrupt foe. We will set up camp here; I will hope that you behave on the property of our enemy as well as you would hope them to behave on yours.”
    There was a small ripple of laughter. Lord Darkblade smiled and swung himself off his horse; his four Generals dismounted and joined him.

    “Good words, Keldurn,” said Alurick softly, “but how are we going to take on a city of damn wizards and win? I mean, fear enough, we’ve got a decent army to go against the city militia. But wizards… I don’t trust these magic men, I think they see too far into strange lands with those potions and spells. They’re not right.”
    “You forget, Alurick. We have Junquis on our side, he knows this city well and the Academy intimately.”
    Alurick raised his hand to ward off Phias’ accusations.
    “I haven’t forgotten. But to be fair to Junquis, one fallen wizard isn’t going to be much use against fifty wizards, or maybe a hundred wizards. How do we know that they’re not planning to turn us to ash with some magical rain of flame?”
    “Because,” rasped Junquis in his harsh, death-rattle like tone, “they have their own law and creed. Such powerful magic can only be used in self-defence. That is the pact they have forged with those beings who grant them such power, to break the pact means to lose the favour they have with the Higher Immortals and thus forsake their power.”
    “And wizards like to have power,” smirked Darkblade, “one of the few things we have in common.”

    “So. Do we have a plan, or are we just going to sit on our arses and wait for them to die of old age?”
    Jerman’s hand leapt to his dagger,
    “I grow weary of your flippant tone, Skullhelmet. As much as I admire your skills in battle, I would have to be mad to admire your ability of never shutting up!”
    “Friends, friends,” coaxed Darkblade, “I will not have my Generals shed each others blood. I have a plan, but I will need your help Junquis, and I will need the use of your dagger, Jerman. I will need a body and I think it will also cool your lust for blood.”


    • #3
      Chapter 3- The Ultimatum

      The army of Darkblade did not advance for two days. An uneasy, tension descended over the city of Therum. The townsfolk looked uneasily to the western wall of the city where the army was situated outside. More fights broke out than usual; the cities law enforcement militia was stretched to breaking point. Many people demanded that the wizards do something to help their city, but the wizards did nothing but watched the city descend into chaos. It was not their way to do what the townsfolk demanded of them. Magthar Greypalm looked at the figures protesting that wizards take action and smiled a grim smile.

      On the third day, a single figure walked from the encamped army and strode towards the wall of the city. At first, he was a mere dot on the horizon, but as he got closer, the sentinels guarding the wall could see that it was a man in red armour, his hair flowing free and completely unarmed. One of the sentinels gasped.
      “That’s Darkblade! He’s actually come to the city himself!”
      The sentinel raised his crossbow and fired off a shot. He had fully intended to bury a bolt in the warlord’s face and end this wretched affair once and for all, but his fingers were shaking and the bolt slammed impotently into the ground with a dull thud. Darkblade stared down at the crossbow bolt with amusement and then stared upwards into the Sentinels’ sweating face.
      “Th-that was a warning shot!” he cried, “come any further and the next bolt will shoot you down like a wild dog!”
      “My, my, such incredible manners in the ‘City of Wizards’,” said Darkblade in a soft, mocking voice. An armoured finger lazily stroked the hair out of his eyes as he stared up at the top of the wall.
      “I, Lord Keldurn Darkblade demand an audience with the Mayor of your town and Lord Magthar Greypalm, the head of your Magical Academy. I wish to speak with them inside the gates of the city.”
      The sentinel loaded another bolt.
      “What do you have to speak to them about?”
      “I wish to merely talk. I have considered that it would be much easier to talk this over peacefully without any need for bloodshed. I’m sure you’d much rather prefer that than letting my army turn these wonderful walls you guard into a heap of fallen, bloodstained bricks.”

      The two men walked side by side through the city, Greypalm quietly marching while Treyas gesticulated and squawked like a wild bird.
      ‘The arrogance of the man!’ cried Treyas. ‘Burn him to ash, Lord Greypalm!’ Greypalm shook his head,
      ‘How many times must I explain this to you, Treyas?” said the wizard wearily, ‘he has done nothing to harm us physically in anyway. If I were to kill him without provocation, I would anger the gods and thus forsake my ability to use magic. He may intend to kill us, but intention is not enough.’
      ‘How can you stand so calmly and speak of intentions and yet do nothing?’ screamed Treyas, ‘he means to slit our throats!’
      ‘Haven’t you ever wished death on a man, but never actually done it?’ spoke Greypalm calmly, walking through the crowds towards the city gates, Treyas following in quick pursuit.
      ‘Of course I have, I’m a politician.’
      ‘And if I were to kill every person I either wished dead or thought he wanted me dead, we would have a lot of dead bodies on my hands without merit. That is what the Gods guard against, we may be incredibly powerful with our abilities to harness the wild powers inherent in the land and incredibly wise with our books and our teachings, but underneath the robes and the crystal staffs, we’re only human and thus subject to the same failings and corruptions that people such as Darkblade have.’
      As the two men reached the gates, Greypalm waved his hand and the huge steel gates opened slowly and slightly. The two men paused as Darkblade stepped inside and bowed with a slight smile on his lips.
      ‘Thank you for the impressive display of magic, most honoured Greypalm.’ He turned to Treyas and bowed again. ‘Thank you for allowing this most humble Lord of the North entrance to your fine city.’
      ‘Enough pleasantries!’ squawked Treyas with annoyance, ‘what do you want?’
      ‘Isn’t it obvious? I want this city for my rule.’
      Treyas laughed. ‘You want what?’ he scoffed. Darkblade merely shrugged, ‘your city is quite valuable, if only because it is the ‘City of Wizards.’’
      ‘So it’s only the Magical Academy you want,’ said Greypalm calmly, his hand tightening around his staff.
      ‘Of course,’ said Darkblade, ‘why else would I waste my time here?’ He stepped backwards, ‘give me the city and the contents of the Magical Academy and I will let you all live. I am not a cruel barbarian, I honestly find no pleasure in pointless slaughter and if I can avoid it, I will. But you must understand that if I don’t get what I desire, then I will have no choice but to attack this city and many of my soldiers are very much the cruel barbarians you fear me to be. If I unleash them, there will be a pointless slaughter. I’m offering you the chance to avoid this, all you have to do is say yes.’
      ‘No,’ said Treyas, ‘I will not give my city freely to an arrogant warlord with delusions of grandeur. Do you honestly believe you could attack the ‘City of Wizards’ with your pathetic rabble and live?’
      ‘That would be the intention,’ said Darkblade, turning slowly and making his way through the gates and beginning the journey across the fields back to his army. Treyas gestured wildly to the guards positioned on the city wall.
      ‘Shoot him, I want him dead!’ The guards aimed their bows and fired, they missed Darkhelm, who started to run across the green fields. Treyas watched the figure of the retreating warlord and laughed.
      ‘Fool. He is all arrogance and bravado, but in the end, he is no match for us. Close the gates and stop firing, I think the humiliation of having to flee like a dog will persuade him to go elsewhere.’

      Darkblade smiled grimly as he walked back into the outskirts of his camp, his first move had failed. As much as he loved a battle, it would have been a lot easier if Treyas handed over the city and spared the effort of a siege. He had studied the history of the city carefully and knew that it had a reputation for being a never before invaded city. While his army was made up of barbarian thugs, renegade soldiers and the criminally degenerate, they were not stupid and many may choose to desert than face the wrath of the wizards. Even the large amount of mercenaries that he had brought with the plunder from inconsequential towns and villages would choose life over an extra few bags of coins and Darkblade needed those mercenaries almost more than he needed the rest of his troops. He stepped into his splendid red tent and looked at his Generals, relaxing themselves on fine cushions.

      ‘I take it,’ said Alurick, looking up and smirking at his Lord, ‘that they disagreed to simply hand the city over to us without a struggle.’ Darkblade started to pull at the straps of his armour.
      ‘They are prideful fools, probably more concerned with saving face than the lives of any of their civilians. The wizard, Greypalm would let the city burn around him before he would open the gates of the Crystal Academy to us.’
      The straps came free and his armour fell to the floor with a loud clank.
      ‘So, we’re going to go ahead with the plan?’ asked Jerman with a hint of disgust.
      ‘You don’t like it, do you?’ asked Darkblade.
      ‘Of course I don’t! I’m a warrior; I’ve spent my life on the battlefield. What you plan to do… it isn’t right!’
      Darkblade grimaced.
      ‘I know. I don’t like it anymore than you do, but you know how dangerous a Wizard can be. Especially as many of them are loyal to the Old Ways. Magic tips the balance; whoever has the most Wizards has the most power. If we’re able to shatter their order, then it will make our task much easier in the long term.’
      ‘Even if what we do is what you plan us to do?’ snarled Jerman. ‘You know the effects of what you plan to do to bring about your victory.’
      ‘When I set on this path, I had to accept that I would have to do some terrible things to achieve success. When my time comes and I meet my Gods on the World of the Dead, maybe then I will receive the punishment I deserve. But right now, the completion of my goals in the World of the Living is more important than anything else to me.’


      • #4
        Chapter 4- The Waiting Ends

        Darkblade’s army did not move for another week, the already insurmountable shroud of apprehension had descended over the City of Wizards like a shroud. Each night, Treyas looked out at the encampment and asked himself how long until they either left or attacked. He had gone to Greypalm time and again, demanding that the wizard use whatever power he had to destroy Darkblade and his followers before the city was turned to rubble. The wizard had merely sent him away with the ever repeated words of ‘Only when he attacks can I do anything.’
        ‘It may be too late by then,’ muttered Treyas to himself. He looked down from the walls of the city and gazed at the people quietly going to and fro, normally, the cities would be filled with revelry and people going out and enjoying themselves, but all there was in the streets was a undeniable air of fear.

        Darkblade leaned back in his chair and looked the thief up and down.
        ‘You took your time!’ he scowled. ‘I thought you would’ve been back days ago, I’ve got an army of fight hungry warriors having to starve themselves while you take your time.’
        ‘I apologise, Lord Darkblade,’ said the thief nervously. From his cloak, he pulled a collected roll of parchment, wrapped in a plain piece of string and handed it to his employer. Darkblade removed the string and spread the parchments out on the table. As he intently studied them; his face broke into a grin.
        ‘Excellent… most excellent, it seems that while you are slow at your job, you do get excellent results. I’m most pleased indeed.’
        The thief bowed, ‘I’m most honoured.’
        ‘No you’re not,’ laughed Darkblade. ‘You’re only waiting for me to pay you.’
        The warlord stood up and moved over to a large chest in the corner of his tent, removing a small key from around his neck. He opened the chest and removed a plain brown bag the size of a fist. As he threw it through the air to the thief, it jingled noisily. The thief effortlessly caught it and opened it, revealing a collection of gold coins. Suddenly, a second bag flew through the air, if he had not noticed it in time; it would have probably knocked him unconscious.
        ‘A bonus,’ grinned Darkblade, ‘my war fund can spare it.’
        The thief’s face lit up excitedly as he checked the second bag.
        ‘Th-thank you, my lord!’ stammered the thief.
        ‘Don’t mention it. My only advice is not to carry them as blatantly as you leave the encampment. As I said, my men are hungry for a fight and they’d probably fall one on the other to get their hands on a scrap like you.’
        As the thief quickly left the tent, Darkblade strode over to Jerman, who was sleeping on the floor and lightly kicked him awake.
        ‘Jerman, the time to move is now. Get yourself armed and pick two of your best warriors. We’re going on a little trip underneath Therumic City.

        ‘Keldurn,’ said Alurick cautiously, ‘are you sure that you wish to go on this mission?’
        Darkblade strapped his sword to his side and took his black cloak from Alurick’s hand.
        ‘Jerman is loyal, but I think that his sense of ethics and personal honour may be a liability, I want to supervise the operation personally. Also, I am a warrior first, a leader of men second. Too many times have self-appointed Kings and Lords sent good men off to die for a purpose that was not their own. In my own… unenlightened youth, I have seen inexperienced warriors who were no older than boys die alone on some desolate battlefield. Where were the people who had sent us out to die? They sat in halls of great wealth thousands of miles away and sacrificed us with as much concern as one might sacrifice a piece in a mere game. If I am to fight such corrupt and selfish nature, then I must walk on the battlefield alongside those I send to fight to send a sign saying that Darkblade stands with them and if they fight, they do not do it alone.’
        Alurick clapped mockingly, ‘very nice speech, my Lord. You can’t fool me; you’re as bored of waiting as the rest of us.’
        Darkblade smiled wryly and gently stroked Alurick’s face with a gloved hand.
        ‘You know me too well,’ he whispered.
        ‘We’ve been together quite a while,’ Alurick whispered back, ‘I know you as well as you know me.’
        ‘I know you want to come with me, but I need you here to keep the men in line.’
        ‘I understand,’ said Alurick, placing his hand on Darkblade’s hand briefly before removing it. Darkblade removed his hand and nodded.
        ‘I’m going now; I’ll see you when I get back.’
        With that, he strode out of the tent.

        Darkblade looked over to Jerman and the two warriors he had picked. Like Jerman himself, they were warriors of the Outer Lands and they had sworn an Oath of the Soul to Jerman, their lord. As long as Jerman lived or was still on Darkblade’s side, they would fight for Darkblade until their last breath. Beside them was a small, wheeled cage. Inside the cage, two emaciated moaning figures hunched over each other, their eyes darting all around them. Their naked bodies smelt of charnel houses and their flesh was peeling off in nasty patches which oozed thick black pus. Darkblade looked at the two figures with a mixture of disgust and sadness. It was not their fault that they had become what they had become and it pained Darkblade deep down that they would have to die to see his plan completed.
        ‘Jerman, I know you disagree with this plan, I disagree with what has to be done as well. But this could be the only way of bringing down the city without our men being slaughtered and in the end, the lives in my army are more important than anybody else’s right now.’
        He grabbed the end of one of the chains built into the cage and started to pull. Jerman grabbed the other chain and pulled alongside his friend and ally. With the two warriors following behind, the group made their way down the hill towards the City of Wizards.