Jian Dabangui, captain to the 11th infantry company, stepped through the large tent’s curtain. One of the many being haphazardly set up as the jungle around them was slowly and carefully being pushed back by their remaining mages.
Jian felt more so than heard, the growl, as he entered. Sending a shiver down his spine as he came face to face with two massive Bestia warriors twice his own great size. Fully armoured with no fur to be seen, only their vicious eyes glaring down at him, the Zrosian Mountain Guards stepped aside to let their higher officer in rank through…
Although, Jian was only higher in name, he knew well not to fuck with their kind.
Stepping by the two goliaths, he kneeled by the other gathered officers within the tent and before the magically grown wooden table.
Behind which another Bestia stood, a warrior lord Jian had heard many tales about, but only ever came before him this once…His commander usually did but, this man had specifically asked for Jian and his companion officers this time.
As such they all came, proud and powerful knights of the military, adorned nobles of the core families…They each kneeled before this legend.
Before Damaxius Keye, Lord General of the joint Zrosian army, student and son to the mighty chief Garn Keye who single handedly slew each of the Xilfir Dark lords in the name of Dabangui a century ago.
Barely raising his head, Jian caught a peak of the Keye descendant.
Wolvine ears and tail, albino white fur, pale skin and blood-shot eyes with dark violet irises within.
Eyes which, rose from the map lain over the table, scanning then the warriors who kneeled before him.
“So, who wishes to explain, why and how we lost five fucking full infantry companies within the god damn hour.” Damaxius growled, caressing his long white Fu Manchu.
As suddenly the table cracked, shattering into two as Damaxius’s figure blurred forwards, appearing mere feet before the middle officer.
Sword drawn, gleaming as it lay a hair away from the Zidao’s throat.
“Well!?” He exclaimed, “Maybe a fresh splattering of blood will wake you!” No rage, no anger filled the man’s tone.
Only a demanding aura of superiority.
Which was enough, to make each and all before him tremble and crumble.
“We didn’t expect what they had in store…”
But not Jian, too proud, too resolved to rise in rank to cower before this massive step before him.
Yet still Jian froze, as Damaxius’s gaze settled on him.
Waiting for Jian to continue speaking and continue Jian did. “The Treants and mortars were just the beginning of the enemy’s trickery and creativity…The pitfalls, the tripwires, the summoned quick sands and wildfires…They will continue as we move and get worse as the enemy grows more used to how we move. The mind behind this all has us caught, we’re trapped in our own jungle-”
Cut off then as Damaxius’s blade slashed through Jian’s hair, cleaving his forehead hair shorter.
“I know.” Damaxius growled, “I know we’re trapped, but I also know the enemy’s numbers are limited. You say they made use of summonings and makeshift trapping, I say we’re facing a small squadron of Xilfir. Amongst them, to summon two Treants…is a great mage. As such, we cannot move carelessly from here on. We’re no longer marching men,” Damaxius took in a long breath as he turned away from his officers. “This war has already begun.”
“The Shinobi unit has been unresponsive, sir that means we’re blind.” Another officer added with a hiss.
But Damaxius grinned, widely he grinned. “Serpents and rodents, poison and shadows can only hide you. It is us beasts who rule these lands, so let us show em, who’s at the top of the fucking food chain.” Turning about once more, “We need a blunt, brute tactic to flush them out of their hiding. We have the numbers, we have the resources, we’re Zrosian.” Damaxius said with a quick laugh.
A tentative chuckle went through the officers, unsure of what their General was on about but not ones to say such out loud, rather wishing to keep their heads where they lay.
Damaxius rolled his eyes as he noticed their incomprehension, “We hunt.” He said, before suddenly gesturing them off. “Arm the infantry with close range weaponry, set loose the beast riders and aviators, nothing like some good sport before a battle. The enemy won’t expect us to divide and conquer, they’re ready for either a whole army marching or small scout units. Not large hunting parties. Go…Go!” He bellowed, his rumbling voice ushering them out.
An ushering Jian was not proudful enough to disobey, as he too along the rest rushed out.
Yet stopping before the tent, he glanced off at the jungle ahead.
A wicked smile growing over his own face, expectation filled Jian at the orders he was given.
“I will regain my honour, just you wait, Drow.” Never would Jian turn down a good hunt.
Raising his right arm up then as the other officers began gathering Bestia, “It’s Xilfir hunting season boys!” Jian exclaimed.
And the soldiers gathered, bellowing, shouting and roaring in excitement with him.
Unknowing, of the horrors awaiting them within the jungle.
Two Hours Later
Branches and vines creaked as the hunting party prowled through, gone unseen, yet the jungle betrayed them.
As they moved as one, one unit, one company.
One body, following the legend at their lead.
As Damaxius himself took to the field, bow over his back and hunting knife clenched within his dominant hand, the General was flanked by four massive warriors.
Four Zrosian Mountain Guards, wielding weapons just as huge, still they moved unseen along the fauna, maybe even quieter than the common foot soldier behind them.
Having taken with them simple weaponry, light armour and alongside several different species of hound-like beasts. Three hundred Zrosians gathered behind Damaxius in total, and just as large groups spread out into every direction from the campsite.
Hunting down the Xilfir menace which bothered them.
And barely an hour from camp, already Damaxius and his dogs had come upon some tracks.
As the chained beasts paused to sniff, gathering about several different spots amongst the tangled roots, Damaxius pulled at the chains to urge them to hurry. “Looks like we’ve got a scent.” He mused as the hounds barked and growled, each pulling into a singular direction.
Glancing back at his men, Damaxius grinned widely, “Ready boys?” he asked, to which a couple hundred smirks formed.
Damaxius, then let go of the chains. “Then let the hunt begin!” He exclaimed, rushing forward as the agile hunting dogs broke into a sprint.
Leaping from root to ground, bark to branch, their long and lean bodies perfectly suited for the chaotic jungle. As every scent they picked up, they were able to track it for weeks, and track it they did. Following their instincts to the death.
These were Zrosian Fox Hounds.
As dozens of them spread through the jungle, yet following a singular hunt.
The hunting party followed closely behind, Damaxius at the lead, they did their best to keep up with the fast beasts. And well trained as they were, a couple of the hounds held back, trailing behind the rest of the pack they lay like bread crumbs for their masters to follow.
But as thick as the jungle was, Damaxius had sight on only two of them.
Coming to a stop then, as the both of them suddenly did, with the entire hunting party crawling to a pause with him.
Damaxius watched in confusion as the two hounds stood their ground, growling yet slowly stepping away from the small opening the rest had rushed into. Still hearing the barking and growling of the others, Damaxius took a single step forward whilst gesturing for the rest to hold their ground.
As ear-piercing squeels of pain filled the jungle around them, the sound of dying hounds surrounded them.
Even the two who held back stopped frozen at the sound, and whatever they could see which the Zrosians still couldn’t. Thick as the jungle was before them, three overlapping branches held up a small entrance into the opening.
Showing only some flat ground from where Damaxius stood, he pushed forth, walking past the now trembling hounds and through the hole.
He rose to find himself standing in the jungle opening, obviously magically cleared, it now lay filled with scattered and shredded corpses of his fox hounds. Hearing the two which survived, turn tail right then.
His gaze scanned the opening, seeing a cave barely hidden under an old Elder Oak tree, and a figure standing before it’s entrance.
Pulling up his pants as his arms trembled, Ascal turned around to meet Damaxius’s confusion with a wide grin. “Ah…the relief of a good leak.” He mused, smiling as understanding filled Damaxius’s expression then.
“You…lured us here.” The General mused as his massive personal guards tore the jungle entrance apart, coming to stand on either side of him as the rest of the hunting party slowly trickled in where they could.
Ascal chuckled, “Indeed I did, I waste nothing. Not even a perfect opportunity like this one…” He mused, raising his right arm forth, a staff appeared into his hands.
Perfectly carved out of white wood, this was Erik’s white Bo Staff.
Popping his neck, Ascal lightly set the staff’s butt down to the ground.
Then stood there, staring at them with his studious gaze, and wide amused smirk.
It began as a sheepish chuckle, Damaxius then broke into a full laugh, bellowing as he keeled over. “Well, Xilfir, I commend you for your bravery.” He mused in common, rising back to face what he deemed to be a maniac. “Yet, I must ask.” He said, as he raised his arms wide, as his entire hunting party now lay visible.
Having torn the barrier of branches and vines which hid the opening, they surrounding Ascal.
“What, were you even planning to do?” Damaxius asked, gesturing then at the cave behind Ascal. “Because, unless an army lies within that hole behind you, you are our prisoner now.”
Raising a single brow, Ascal chuckled. “Damaxius Keye, son to the Wolf Lord, ironic isn’t it that you were chosen to lead the Zrosian armies against my people? The son of the Butcher, the son of the Drow Hunter.” He spoke in Elven.
And visibly, Ascal’s hands shook.
As his expression twitched and trembled.
“I will rise above my father,” Damaxius exclaimed, “When I slay your emperor. Drow Slayer shalt be nothing before me. Damaxius, Dragon Slayer.” He laughed once more, joined by the Zrosians behind him, even the Mountain Guards chuckled.
As Ascal’s eyes worsened.
As the amusement now gone.
Ascal’s eyes rise to meet this Zrosian General’s.
Hatred, that one word filled Ascal’s eyes.
“It is ironic, that the son of the beast who slew my people, who slew my mother…” As Ascal spoke, his voice warped, rising into a boom as a hiss left with each word spoken. “Vengeance, is a bittersweet taste I seldom partake in.” Ascal mused.
As the staff within his hand, cracked.
Uncoiling, the white wood turned to shambles, revealing the pitch-black metal within. The white bark rose, bending, reforming above the now black iron staff.
Taking the shape of a humanoid skeleton from the chest up, it’s head and arms dangling before it as its spine bent forth.
And as Ascal’s hand trembled, the skeleton too shook, making a constant clattering sound.
“But if it means, making that pig feel worse than what a child feels growing up without a mother.” Light filled Ascal’s eyes now, a greenish hue slowly leaking out of his sockets like a mist.
A wicked cackle filled with both cold amusement, and restrained hatred.
“You are one, we are many and just as strong.” Damaxius mused, “Surrender, and you just might live for a few days longer.” He sternly warned.
“Surrender?...Hah…Hahaha!” Ascal continued to laugh, before suddenly falling silent, his eyes setting frozen straight and staring at Damaxius. “I am alone, I sent my men away, I stayed here alone. You face only me. Only me…You face me.” Rising straight once more, Ascal took in a deep breath.
“Your aspiration is to rise above your ancestors, I’m afraid I’ll have to let you down as you die here.” Ascal said coldly, “Each of your fates, fall dead here. Your destinies, I cut short.” Raising his now changed staff forth, Ascal closed his eyes. “I claim your lives. I claim your souls. You face Ascal Xilfir, and I hold only one title.”
The sound of creaking wood surrounded them then, as the branches above opened up.
Revealing the full moon, as it now shone down upon them.
“I who studied the ancient ways of the moon. I who studied the darkest of arts and magic. I who crafted my own. I will be the last thing you ever hear.” Ascal spoke.
Damaxius suddenly realising that this mage had been chanting this entire time, quickly switched out to his bow. “Stop him!” He exclaimed, nocking and arrow just then.
It was far too late.
As a ghostly hourglass appeared above Ascal, a cord of darkness forming between it and the staff he held.
The skeleton attached to the staff suddenly became animate, straightening itself, a music began to escape it.
“Dark Art; Old Moon Book; Custom Cast;” Ascal spread his arms and feet wide, as his face rose up to the sky.
His eyes, slowly opening. The greenish hue within was met with a basking light from the moon above.
“D-” He began to speak the finally to his chant, but paused, as two arrows embedded themselves into his chest.
Yet Ascal remained standing.
His smile, only widening.
As he finished his chant.
As the ground then shook.
As the entire jungle trembled.
And armies of ancient wars past…
Rose back from the dead.
“For family. For friends. For empire.” Ascal said weakly, as blood now trickled out through his lips. “I sell my soul.”
The skeleton then suddenly turning to him, the music growing harsher at those words.
The skull’s eyes shone crimson, as an eerie voice left its lipless maw.
“Child of the moon, I this Era’s Death God, Accept your offering.”
A fog grew out of the staff, turned blue by the basking moonlight.
As skeletons and corpses of all shapes and sizes rose all around them, the hunting party now distracted and under assault by the risen dead.
Ascal was engulfed by the fog, as the voice’s cackling joined the chilling music.
The fog rose, up into the sky it rose, hovering now over the hunting party like an eerie watcher.
As slowly it dispersed, revealing Ascal within.
Changed, nothing like his previous form.
The Lich opened his eyes, hollow sockets filled with a blue hue. His previously dark skin, now pale white and shrivelled akin to a corpse.
This newly risen monster, loomed over the trembling Zrosians.
Yet his gaze moved off them, and to the jungle ahead.
“Your little pets have been cornered, now reveal yourself, Devil.” Ascal announced, his voice a cold whisper of its past self.
As the jungle before him parted, giving way to the purplish-black mist, out of which the Devil appeared.
A wide smile, he clapped slowly as he appeared.
“Well done, Well done!” Brazath exclaimed, wings spread wide he hovered at the same height as Ascal, yet stood three times the Lich’s own height.
Spreading his arms just as wide then, two wicked blood-red axes appeared within the Devil prince’s grasp.
“But I’m afraid…I’ll have to kill you now!” Brazath warned with a chuckle.
Ascal merely smiled with what lip he had remaining, “I’m already dead, you fucking hell-spawned moron,”