Eventually more soldiers from nearby forts and garrisons were rotated in for short periods of time to boost their numbers until the Grand Army could recruit enough for the fort to hold its own. But the fort was not back up to its full fifty soldier compliment for another few years.
Because of this, Al’ev soon found that Captain Ozgrel was relying even more heavily upon him, even more so than he had been just prior to the attack. All soldiers had more to take care of, true, but the captain seemed to realize the half-elf was capable of more. He tasked Al’ev and his remaining squad members with training new recruits as they came in.
It was an interesting role to be in, that of a teacher. His entire life he had been a student, always allowing his mind to soak in all it could from anyone willing to instruct him. Now, as he closed in on his eighteenth year, he was being called upon to share what he had learned in his time in the world.
As he instructed batch after batch of new recruits, he often found himself falling back on the teachings of Captain Greil. The rings of defense were some of the first things he taught recruits. Joshua and Nelya brought their own knowledge to the recruits that came in as well. Between the three of them, they had a lot of knowledge to offer.
There was one problem that they constantly came across, however. Most of the recruits were older than they were. These recruits would often ignore orders the three issued, prompting one of them to make an example on more than one occasion.
Dagarn often helped drive the point across by making it understood that it had been Al’ev’s squad that had rid the town of the enemy leader during The Battle of Dorn. Al’ev, Joshua, and Nelya soon took a liking to the dwarf and found themselves relying on his deeper knowledge of dwarven customs as they continued to train incoming recruits.
Even still, dwarven respect was not earned quickly. They had learned this lesson early on in their stay in Doul. So they were not surprised when several months passed before they were able to go more than a week without having to make an example of a new recruit. But instructing new recruits was not their only duty. In addition to this work, and their normal patrol duty through Dorn, Captain Ozgrel kept them busy doing other things.
In the days following the battle, the ranking officers and clerics who had made it through alive had reconvened after to consider what they could do to avoid a similar fate falling upon Dorn again. If it had not been for the little warning that Al’ev’s men had given the town, there would be nothing left standing. The Disciples of Zorebane would have won and another dwarven town. It, along with everyone who lived there, would have been reduced to cinders.
Everyone present at that meeting had agreed that there was no absolute way to keep the town safe in the future from all threats. That was simply impossible. But, by installing new permanent check points along the roads like those that had initially spotted the enemy advance, they could increase the warning time afforded to the town and decrease the likelihood of being caught by surprise.
Captain Ozgrel sent out Al’ev’s squad regularly to man these checkpoints. The duration of time at these check points tended to last a week, after which they were relieved by another squad from the garrison. When they returned they would train recruits and patrol the town. There was very little down time.
Things were finally starting to settle into a familiar rhythm eight months after The Battle of Dorn.
“Sergeant, you still with us?” Dagarn called out from behind him as they marched their way towards another week long stint at the Northern check point station.
“Yes private. I’m just thinking about the past few months. Time seems to be moving so quickly.”
“Aye, that it is.”
“Speaking of, what did you think of that little party we threw for your birthday a few weeks back? You never said anything aside from your normal ‘thank you everyone’ crud.” Joshua piped up from the rear of their line.
“Private, are you saying I don’t appreciate what you guys did? Sure I may have found those human courtesans a bit much, and I’m sure ”/campaign/flames-and-steel-the-chromatic-war/wikis/melesteil-rolovir" class=“wiki-page-link”> Mel would have had a few words to share with both of us after that little surprise."
“Ha ha ha. Yeah. Remind me write her a letter detailing your party when we get back.”
“You wouldn’t dare…” Al’ev said with fear audible in his voice.
“No he wouldn’t. I still don’t know how you convinced me to contact those women for you Joshua.” Nelya commented.
“Must be my undeniable charms.”
“Oi. Ye do realize we be on patrol duty, right?” Dagarn said. “Besides, if ye didn’t contact them, I would have.”
The only response was a round of chuckling as they neared the checkpoint.
Following the battle, building materials in the immediate area of Dorn were scarce as most of the lumber had been destroyed in the fire caused by the Disciples of Zorebane. Though the forest was beginning to show a bit of new life in the distance, most of the area remained a charred wasteland. This part of the land didn’t have much in the way of usable stone either, and what little there was had been used to rebuild damaged buildings in Dorn. It had taken several months for stockpiles of supplies to get back to the point where the Grand Army could shift to building the permanent checkpoint stations.
As a result, the Northern checkpoint wasn’t anything special. A small rock and log longhouse which sat along the road which housed enough bedding for up to eight soldiers, it had never seen a full compliment in the four months it had existed. There was also a stone slab that acted as a table and a few chairs some of the townsfolk had donated within. Beyond the small holding pen for rabbyds, and the small watch tower opposite the longhouse across the road, there wasn’t overly much to see.
Al’ev’s group arrived and was met by another sergeant and his soldiers. They exchanged a small bit of information on what they had seen pass by recently. Cargo, names of travelers and descriptions, all of this was recorded for the next squad to make use of and a second set was brought back to the fort with the returning squad. When they had finished, Al’ve relieved them of their post and they set about leaving.
As Al’ev watched the other contingent of soldiers march off, he remembered what he had hoped to accomplish while out on patrol this week. It had been almost three years since they had the run in with the human caster in Dorn. The man had recognized Al’ev and revealed himself to be a spy for the red dragonflight. The caster had not made it to see another night after he had been captured as he had been put to death. Captain Ozgral was always quick to do away with those in the prison when he had the choice. Al’ev had gone back to retrieve his material affects, but had not gotten a chance to look into what exactly the man’s spell books contained beyond a quick pass through for fear of being accused as an arcane spell caster himself.
But out here with only three of his men around, he could finally look into these items, all of which he had stored in his supplies pack before they departed that morning. This thought was in the back of his mind as he ordered Joshua, Nelya and Dagarn to what had come to be their typical positions.
Standard procedure established during the meeting after the battle called for the check point to function with two soldiers on duty at all times. This meant that Al’ev’s four person group split into two teams for the duration of their stay, two people on duty and two off. Shifts on and off duty changed every twelve hours. The two on duty took turns in the watchtower during their twelve hour shift, the other would remain near the road inspecting anyone coming through the checkpoint. The person in the watchtower was supposed to ensure there wasn’t anyone trying to go around the checkpoint in the distance. In such cases, the rabbyds penned up outside the longhouse would be used to ride out and meet those who sought to avoid the checkpoint.
Those in the longhouse usually used their time to rest up and do whatever in their twelve hours off duty, though they had to be ready to assist in case something went awry outside.
Al’ev and Dagarn usually partnered for these shifts together as Al’ev knew it would have been terrible for him to order Joshua and Nelya separated for a week at a time. He knew how hard it was being away from Mel and he wished that on neither of his friends. Plus, he liked discussing things with Dagarn. Trading jokes and stories of times past or talking about whatever was going on back at the fort or in the town, and even a little bit about religion, for the dwarf was surprisingly partial to Cayden Cailean.
So it was that Al’ev ordered Joshua and Nelya to be on the break shift. Though he was anxious to get to the items in his backpack, they could wait. He didn’t find himself overly sleepy anyway. Dagarn took up position on the road and Al’ev decided to talk with him for a few minutes before heading up to the watchtower.
The watchtower stood twenty feet over the ground below and offered the best view of its immediate surroundings for miles. The terrain was flat here, nothing more than grasslands that had been burnt over. As such, the structure allowed its occupant to do their job exceedingly well.
Al’ev found that he loved being in the tower. While he did enjoy the company of others, up in the watchtower he was alone with only his thoughts. It was something he was not able to do very often since joining the Grand Army of Doul. Often, a slight, refreshing breeze found its way through this part of the land from the South, making the experience of sitting in the tower even more pleasant. Al’ev had heard several tales spun by passing bards who spoke of the deserts in the human lands. It was said that at the desert’s center was a massive dust tornado that blew wind and sand out in every direction. This wind storm never ceased. Nobody knew what caused it, but it was said that the winds spawned from that location impacted the weather throughout the land. He imagined that the breezes that were so nice originated from there.
Hours passed quickly in the watchtower. It only felt like minutes before Al’ev was called down from the tower by Dagarn. Thus far, the check point had been very quiet. They had only stopped two travelers who claimed to be passing through on their way to Trinity, the metropolis near the very center of the land. Neither had been on any wanted lists or watch advisories so they were allowed to pass by.
Al’ev and Dagarn switched places. Al’ev stood near the base of the watchtower, waiting for the next passersby to approach. Time continued to pass and Al’ev found that it was going much slower than it had in the watchtower for he had allowed his mind to drift to the items in his backpack. The caster’s items weren’t all he had brought with him. he had also received yet another letter from Mel just prior to leaving. This he had left unopened, saving it for later so that he would have something else to enjoy during the week.
Day soon became night and Al’ev took that as the sign that their shift was over. He called Dagarn down and together, they entered the longhouse. They found that Joshua and Nelya had already suited back up and were just strapping their weapons to their sides as they entered.
“Alright, Dagarn and I had a pretty quiet shift. I imagine you’ll probably have the same seeing as you guys were lucky enough to pull the night shift this time.”
“Lucky my rear. Usually it’s us on the night shift.” Joshua said half joking.
“Come on Joshua. The longer we stay in here, the longer we’ll have to be out there. You know how it works.”
“Right, right. You’d think we were married given how much she nags me, Al’ev.”
Al’ev smiled at this, knowing that the day they would be wed should be fast approaching. He looked forward to the day with great anticipation, knowing that it was one change that was certain to be good.
“Okay. You both know the drill. Be sure to ring that alarm if there is an issue.”
“And grab the attention of the garrison when we could just call the both of you?”
Al’ev sighed. “You know the captain’s orders. You ring that bell if you have even the slightest hunch that there is trouble. That’s an order. Now get out there.”
“Yes, sir.” Joshua and Nelya quickly saluted then stepped out into the cool night air leaving Al’ev and Dagarn to themselves.
“I don’t suppose you brought any of that leftover ale from that party of yours with you.”
“Sorry, but no. Besides, you saw how many men showed up to that party. What makes you think there was any ale left?”
“Oh, good point.”
Al’ev smiled. “Cailean would be proud.”
“Aye, that he would. I’m going to turn in, Sergeant.”
“Right, I have a few things I want to do before I do the same. I’ll try not to keep you awake.”
Al’ev went over to his own bunk and set down his equipment, struggling his way out of his armor then setting it down beside the bunk. He looked at the set for a few moments, marveling at the quality much as he had when he received it.
The armor was bestowed upon him during a victory ceremony two weeks after The Battle for Dorn by General Gonasta, leader of the Grand Army, herself. Al’ev made it well known that he had not been the only one responsible for the defeat of Zorebane, and he refused to acknowledge that the Ifrit was dead until he saw a body. But there was little reason for him to point this out to the General. She had bestowed similar sets to Joshua, Nelya, Dagarn and Nora as well as the dwarven soldiers who had helped aid in their plan. The armor consisted of very well crafted chain-mail as well as a breastplate that fit over the chain-mail It was decorated with the nation’s emblem in several places most notably on the center of the breast plate and held markings showing the wearer’s rank as well.
While it would normally be very difficult to move in armor as restrictive as chain-mail or a breastplate, this particular set allowed for a lot more freedom than one would expect by glancing at it. Al’ev liked this because it allowed him to move quicker than his opponents would anticipate after a quick glance. It was one more advantage he could potentially use in any given battle. And, as always, speed and surprise won fights.
Finally stepping back over to his backpack, he search the contents, careful to make sure that Dagarn wasn’t too interested in what he was doing, and pulled out the envelope that held the letter from Mel. He smiled at seeing her handwriting again and stared at it for a moment before finally opening it.
To my friend Joshua,
When last you wrote, you had asked me what had been going on in my life. Well, I cannot lie to you. Things have been a bit scary for me as of late. But I will get to that. First I want to ask what you have been up to since your last letter? I believe you mentioned that you were training another group of soldier recruits. How does it feel to be looked up to? Do they always listen to what you have to say? I know I didn’t when Mom tried to teach me things.
I suppose I should tell you what has been going on in my life before you get really worried. Daddy finally arrived back home in Caori last week. Work on the new Arcane Library of Halar has been completed. Daddy said it looks just like it used to. I find that hard to believe. Remember how large that tree was? He also said that the town was slowly picking itself back up. Can you believe that? Even after all the town has been through, it is just going to pick up where it left off! Isn’t that amazing?
But I am getting away from what I really wanted to say. Perhaps I just do not want to worry you. Well, you should know, so here it goes. Daddy told me about the condition Halar was in now, yes, but he also talked to me about other things. He mentioned that there was an elven man who worked under him while they completed the library. Daddy seems to like this man a lot and told me that the man was very interested in meeting me. I think he is trying to have me marry this man. I told Daddy that I already have someone I love, but he did not seem to want to hear it. I do not know what I am going to do! Please write me back soon. I am scared he is going to force me into something neither of us wants.
Al’ev had paused several times while reading the letter. His mood went from excellent to something much worse. He had always known that Tanidor Rolovir would not wait forever for Mel to find someone on her own to marry, but he also thought he would have had more time. She was only nineteen years old! He took a little solace in knowing that elven marriages were not things that happened quickly. Even if a marriage was agreed upon, several years of engagement would often pass before a couple was married. Elves tended to do things at a much slower pace than other races as they had longer life spans on average. This also meant that jumping into something as binding as marriage, which was a life long commitment in elven culture, was something to be much more carefully considered for elves. It was quite taboo to end a marriage as even death could not end it.
Still, the idea of another man with Mel made a part of him grown infinitely colder. It was a stark contrast to the flames of anger which now seared portions of his mind. The idea of her father forcing this on her caused both effects to further intensify the longer he thought on them.
After a few minutes of seething, he decided that the air outside was probably far warmer than he was feeling now and decided to take a walk, taking along his backpack and strapping his sword back onto his belt. One could never be too careful after all and even in his anger, he knew this.
He sneaked out the back entrance of the longhouse and startled the sleeping rabbyds as he proceeded off a little ways to an area where the dwarves had planted several trees. These trees, which were arranged in a small circle, were an interesting species that provided fruit for the longhouse’s supply stores year round. The trees weren’t very large, but they were the most cover he would have while he attempted to hide away from the world and vent.
Al’ev sat down next to the trunk of one of the fruit bearing trees and, after a few moments, pulled out one of the spellbooks.
He knew that it was not likely to work, but years previously, magic had been all he had thought about. It had been enough to take his mind off of just about anything. He hoped that his brain still functioned in the same way as his fifteen year old self.
He opened the book’s front cover and frowned. In his upset state, he didn’t realize that the moon was not out tonight and there was too little light for even his eyes to see by. He cursed, unknowingly slipping into draconic as he did. Then he remembered that he did have a way to see in the dark.
Al’ev didn’t even hesitate. The words of power came out of his mouth along with the simple gestures that he had memorized as a young child. Three brilliant dancing orbs of light leapt from his open hand, allowing him to see very well the book that lay before him.
Happy that something had finally gone right, he flipped open the spellbook once more and began reading.
What he found was amazing. This wasn’t a book covering just spells, but it was also a book that detailed methods of intertwining arcane might with steel. As he read through the opening description, he realized that fate must have placed this book in his hands for the abilities discussed here catered to all of his abilities, both swordsman and magic. The title of the book, which he realized he hadn’t even bothered to look at before now, was The Way of the Magus.
“Way of the Magus, huh. Interesting…”
Al’ev went on reading for a while and lost track of time. In the back of his mind, he kept thinking about Mel, but studying the contents of the tome in his hands proved to rid him of most of the negative emotions that had caused him to come out here.
This stuff is excellent. Why didn’t I see this anywhere in all of my time studying at the Arcane Library? Whoever came up with these techniques is amazing! I bet with a bit of practice I could even…
“By the gods…”
Al’ev froze. He knew the voice that had said that. He slowly turned his head back in the direction of the longhouse. Not more than thirty feet from him stood Dagarn, his battle axes drawn and a look of pure disgust on his face.
“I always knew there was something off about ye.” Dagarn spat. “Get up. I will give you the chance to defend yourself with steel, blasphemer.”
Al’ev didn’t move.
“Private, calm down. I can explain.”
“Not another word. Your sorcerous, traitorous tongue has said enough.”
“Dagarn, will you stop thi…”
That is as much as Al’ev said before the dwarf charged him, shouting a warcry that could have been heard for miles. Al’ev’s mind switched to into reaction mode and before he had even realized it, he had stood up, drawn his weapon and forced it into Dagarn’s unarmored gut, halting the dwarf’s charge completely. Dagarn’s fighting style had always relied on brute force, a style of fighting that Al’ev’s own countered perfectly. But even Al’ev had expected the dwarf to see the blow coming.
He was stunned to see Dagarn fall to the ground, blood pouring out of his wound as Al’ev withdrew his sword from the fallen dwarf. At first Al’ev thought the wound had been serious, but not fatal if treated quickly. But after a closer glance, he saw that his own training had overridden his intentions. The wound had pierced the dwarf through his heart.
“Oh Dagarn, why did you have to be such a fool. You didn’t even let me explain. You fool. You damned fool…”
The dwarf was dead and he realized after several moments of tears that he was no longer alone. He looked up and saw Joshua and Nelya just at the edge of the light his magic orbs were giving off.
Both had their weapons drawn, Nelya her spear, Joshua his longsword and dagger.
“He didn’t even let me explain…” Was all Al’ev could manage as he continued to sit on the ground next to Dagarn’s corpse.“Al’ev you…you’ve murdered a fellow soldier. You’ve committed treason against Doul…why? What happened?!” Joshua finally said with a lot of cool anger seeping in his speech.
Al’ev was terrified. This moment was one he knew was coming for quite some time. But he never imagined these circumstances.
“I was defending myself! He charged me without even letting me explain!”
“I imagine that these orbs are to blame, Joshua.” Nelya suggested pointing to one of the dancing lights with her spear.
Al’ev stood up but didn’t move beyond that. “I can explain.”
“Oh, I’m sure you can. I’ve known you my entire life, but I have never seen you use magic. Not one time. And yet, here it is.” Joshua shook his head after taking in the spell book in Al’ev’s left hand. “Which means you’re either possessed by some demonic force, and I know that isn’t the case because you’re too damn headstrong to allow such a thing to happen. Or it means that you’ve always been able to cast spells and never told me.”
“So that’s how you did it…” Nelya spoke up again.
“Did what?” Al’ev asked, confused.
“I never did buy that the spirit of the swordsman had aided you in the final bout at the tournament. You’re the one who made the bright flash!” Nelya answered.
“Yes, but I..”
“You…cheated? I…what else aren’t you telling us Al’ev?” Joshua sounded like it had been him who had been stabbed through the heart.
Al’ev found that he couldn’t hold back the secrets any longer. They already found out more than he had ever intended, though in the back of his mind he knew it was inevitable. Destiny had brought the book to his hands, and perhaps destiny demanded that he explain everything as well. Who he was, who his parents were, and…the real reason Halar was attacked. The story fell from his mind and through his mouth almost as fast as he could recall the events that had transpired.
“You mean…you’re the reason…” Nelya became silent.“No! I’m not the…” He started to reply.
“Al’ev…you….I….” Joshua looked over at Nelya and then back at Al’ev. “I can’t believe I ever trusted you. Our families are dead because of you! And we’ve allowed this all to happen. We even allowed you to kill Dagarn by not noticing anything sooner. Nelya we’re such fools!”
“Yes, the Captain will be upset when he learns what happened here…with all of us, maybe even himself. And Gonasta….when she hears that one of the heroes at the battle of dorn was a sorcerer, she’ll kill us all. But at least we can fix an error that we’ve allowed to exist for far too long.” Nelya said.
Al’ev’s eyes opened up wider. His best friends, the ones who had helped him in one of his darkest times, were now advancing upon him with weapons drawn.
“Defend yourself, Reldin, or don’t. Either way, we’ll bring you back to the captain and the general asking them to spare us our lives and our honor.”
“Joshua, don’t…please. Nelya? It wasn’t my fault!”
“SHUT UP.” Then Joshua charged and Al’ev’s blade instinctively caught his foe’s weapon before it could cut Al’ev’s head from his neck.
Their blades separated and then met again as he intercepted another strike aimed at his mid section. Al’ev danced back trying to buy himself space and time, but Joshua had improved greatly since the days of swinging sticks at one another in the fields outside Halar.
Al’ev shoved Joshua back and the two took a moment to catch their breath as Nelya watched for any sudden strikes she knew were characteristic of Al’ev’s fighting style.
“I’ll bet….Mel knew. You got her out with magic. You thought only of her and yourself. But you could have saved more! You could have saved my family!” Joshua swung his sword hard and nearly spun Al’ev around with sheer force.
“You could have saved Nelya’s family!” He swung again with even more force and this time actually managed to force Al’ev into a defensive spin.
Then Joshua begun his onslaught anew and Nelya along with him. The sound of clashing steel sounded again and again. Al’ev kept moving, hoping to find a way out of this. His mind raced, his blade moved even faster. The next few moments were a blur.
Nelya stayed at a distance, jabbing at Al’ev whenever she thought she saw an opening, Joshua keeping Al’ev’s attention with his sword and dagger swinging through the night air. At one point, Al’ev managed to knock Joshua’s dagger from his hand with a well placed kick. But Joshua continued on, relying on years worth of fighting experience against one who he called best friend.
They are really going to kill me…but I can’t…I won’t kill them. I WON’T!
Al’ev caught Joshua’s blade again on his own. They stood locked together for a fraction of a moment then Al’ev shoved him backwards causing his friend to trip over an exposed root in the ground. Joshua fell on his back and Nelya, hoping to cover her love’s temporarily defenseless body, jabbed at Al’ev.
Instead of advancing as he should have, Al’ev stepped back, and cast a spell, one he had just learned only minutes prior.
A cone of vivid light that shifted colors as it flew, shot forth from Al’ev’s hand and covered both Nelya and Joshua. The effect of the spell was immediate, just as the book had said it would be. His friends both collapsed to the ground and their fight was over.
Al’ev slowly walked over to Joshua then to Nelya checking to see if they still had a pulse. The spell had worked perfectly and both had been knocked unconscious. Al’ev looked back around and saw Dagarn’s corpse again, then back to Nelya and Joshua.
There is no salvaging this. I have to leave. Now! before anyone can be alerted!
With this thought, Al’ev raced back towards the longhouse to gather his supplies. He strapped his armor back on, and threw his pack over his back, then stepped out of the longhouse, emotions tearing his mind apart. Just then, the alarm bell in the watchtower began to ring alerting all Dwarven forces for miles….