The Kingdom of Men

The winds sifted the sand gently about his laced leather boots, which left unmoved, would eventually be buried and forgotten forever. His runic staff stood erect in the sand beside him; foreign hieroglyphs of forgotten languages glowed blue hovered around the head of the staff. They circled the staff like flies preying on the cadavers which littered the sands before him. The head of the staff was carved from pure gold which surrounded a crimson eye. Four long horns made from materials of the æther jutted out of the head, the bleached bone colour of the horns reflecting the sun’s blinding rays. His robes of crimson and gold fluttered in the shy breeze, as well as the crimson and gold standards around him.
A hundred more stood behind Asi’yom, their leather boots also sinking slowly into the sifting sands. They bore shields of oak wood from the days of old, which also bore in the centre, the same crimson eye as Asi’yom’s staff laced in gold. The soldiers bore mighty spears easily twice their height, crafted by the finest foragers in Subaria. Each man wore a light, narrow-brimmed helm of steel, which made the hundreds of men’s heads look like the sun itself.
The air once calm, now stirred with the approach of Orno’i, Asi’yom’s veteran scout.
The scout trudged through the unstable sand, the deep-brown of his boots sinking far into the golden grains. His breath heaved in the dead, dry air as he approached Asi’yom, the heat was overwhelming him. He arrived at Asi’yom’s feet, and fell into the sand, sending a light plume into his leader’s robes. Orno’i hurriedly pushed himself up onto his knees and struggled for his canteen. He unscrewed the cap with his cracked fingers and poured a small amount of water into his mouth, swirled it around and spat it back out; water was too precious a thing to waste these days.
“My lord, there are hundreds of thousands of them, well-equipped, and well-nourished,” Orno’i managed between gasps of hot, sandy air, “They appeared to stretch on forever in either direction.”
Asi’yom looked through the visor of his golden war-mask, his emerald eyes, peering through the fog of sand on the horizon. He could faintly make out a dark rim across the dry plains which stretched across for miles; all soldiers of the Emperor’s finest.
Asi’yom turned to face his men, who stood tall before him. No one moved.
“Today, you will receive the honour, of going into combat as soldiers of Octent. You must be valiant, and courageous, and fight with your heart. No man that may die here will die in vain, for we fight for the righteous and the holy. We fight for Octent!”
Asi’yom’s warriors let out a ferocious cry. One so great to the enemy, it sounded as though they were already engaged in battle.
Asi’yom turned, and marched forward, the sand sliding off his boots and joining the endless sea of golden grains. The march was silent, only a few metallic ticks of armour and the heavy breathing of the soldiers as they made their way through the swamp of sand.

It did not take long before Asi’yom and his men stopped only a hundred metres before the grand army of the Emperor. The enemy was a sea of white and green. The emblem of a leaf upon their standards fluttered in the winds, which grew stronger and the sand stung the eyes of each man.
“If you’re the last man standing,” Asi’yom shouted with his back to his men, “you’re not fighting hard enough!”
He charged, and his men followed suit, forming a spearhead which would pierce directly into the Emperor’s ranks. But the spearhead faltered easily, as volley after of volley of poison-tipped arrows and concentrated bursts of the æther’s energy felled nearly a fourth of the Octent warriors by the time the real bloodshed began.
Each man lowered his spear and sent their weapons crashing through the enemy ranks. Each spear so long and sharp they skewered several of the Emperor’s men at once, pouring their crimson fluids to the sandy earth. They smashed their shields into the faces of the enemy, battering their armour and breaking their necks.
The winds became violent.
Asi’yom concentrated much of his energy into shielding his men from the æther’s energies the Emperor’s magicians were using. He easily defended himself from the typical training of the enemy warriors, blocking their steel swords, and shattering their bodies with a quick stroke of his runic staff. None could stand before Asi’yom, he was a living engine of death.
More of Asi’yom’s soldiers fell to the sands. Their cries of pain muffled with heavy gurgles of deep-crimson blood. The white robes of the Emperor’s warriors were becoming stained with the blood of Asi’yom’s warriors as they relentlessly killed the men of Octent.
Asi’yom felt the connections with his battle brothers dwindling. And then he felt the presence of Orno’i, pulsing and strong in his heart. The crimson eye of his staff glowed a brilliant red as he summoned great energies of the æther and unleashed them upon the Emperor’s finest. The sands parted like the pages of a book, sending weapons, cadavers, and men flying into the air. He rushed towards Orno’i, sending crackling sphere’s of the æther into Orno’i’s foes.
Orno’i rammed his sword, two-handed through the visor of an enemy warrior. The warrior of the Emperor fell to his knees as the sword instantly killed him. Orno’i withdrew it, and sensing an enemy warrior about to strike him from behind, he stabbed the warrior without even facing his victim.
The Octent warriors found their way to Asi’yom and Orno’i’s position, fighting to the death. Only twelve of Asi’yom’s warriors remained out of the hundreds which charged into the Emperor’s ranks. Yet they too, fell quickly, leaving only Orno’i and Asi’yom to destroy the endless swarm of the Emperor’s Chosen warriors.
Asi’yom was struck down by the steel fist of a mightily armoured warrior, the pain sent him into shock as he lay face down in the sand. The white-robed warrior rolled Asi’yom to his back, his mask of gold gleaming in the sunlight.
Asi’yom’s attacker raised his gracefully crafted sword and cried, “This is judgment of the righteous, scum.”
And the sword cut through Asi’yom like a blade through air.

The Kingdom of Men

Sean LaBelle

Joined September 2010

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Artist's Description

A battle scene from the Dark Era of the fictional realm of Subaria.

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