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A/N: I'm back! I had a sudden bout of inspiration worth seven chapters after coming home, unfortunately not for this story. That's how inspiration works sometimes. I had to write all that down before I forgot all of it, hence the small delay. Don't worry, that inspiration has now been handled, and we can get back to the regularily scheduled programming. Speaking of, I hope you'll like the speech. I'm not much of a speechwriter, but eh. Enjoy!

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As Neleh was preparing a speech to address the Elven Empire, the first scouting reports started coming in. The content of those reports had both good news and bad news. She addressed Shiori, who was also reading the reports. “We lucked out a bit on our front. The enemy on our continent is not among the strongest, instead they rely more on numbers. With the recent training, our soldiers are very effective at fighting hordes of weaker enemies.”

Shiori glanced through another report. “The downside being that we really are getting a horde coming through. All the reports are mentioning thousands and thousands of enemies, and it hasn’t been that long since the portal opened. We’re going to have to fight through a sea of enemies to get to the portal. Can you give me a small rundown on these enemies? They remind me a bit of the beastmen, but they’re not the same.”

“Sure, I should prepare a summary for the generals as well. These beings are actually a subset of beastmen, but not quite like the ones we have on this world. They’re called Gor. They’re a race of goatmen with a stature slightly larger than a typical human. They’re tough and ferocious, but they aren’t exactly the smartest bunch and their morale might be an issue for them. If they can work themselves into a frenzy, then they can be hard to rout, but otherwise they aren’t exactly known for their bravery. Their equipment will be rather basic, and we probably don’t have to worry about a large number of archers or heavy armor, but their weapons work just fine, and their tough hide is fairly equal to leather armor.

The most important part about them isn’t the hordes though, but the fact that they have brought along several monstrous creatures. These reports mention minotaurs, trolls and swarms of little creatures. Those are something that can be dealt with, but I’m worried about these dragotaurs and demons that a couple of the reports mentioned.” Neleh said half lost in thought.

Shiori looked up from the report with slight confusion. “I get demons, although these demons seem to be a little different from what we’re used to, but what are dragotaurs?”

Neleh gave a small chuckle. “You know what a centaur is, right?” Shiori replied with a nod. “Dragotaurs are a bit like that. Only their whole bodies are covered in tough scales and instead of an upper body of a human, they have an upper body of a dragonid, which is a race of lesser dragons in a humanoid body. The thing with dragotaurs is that unlike the Gors and the other monsters, they’re rather smart and are practically immortal when it comes to aging. They keep growing as they get older, and the oldest ones can fight weaker dragons on a fairly even footing. I don’t expect to face too many of those, but we should be aware of the possibility, and focus on taking them down whenever possible. It would not surprise me if the demons and dragotaurs are the ones commanding this merry band of monstrosities.”

“Have we heard any details from the other continents yet?” Shiori asked, picking up another report.

“Well, you heard about the portal in the faerie lands. That’s going to be a problem. The one in the demon continent seems to have an army connected with ours, since it is also commanded by demons, but they instead have some heavily armored mortal warriors. Khali should be able to deal with them. She’s not much as a mage, but she can command an army. I don’t have any concrete knowledge of things happening in the human continent. Their civil war makes things messy. I sent Alexis there to keep an eye on things, but so far the only thing he can say for certain is that they are facing undead of some sort. I haven’t heard anything about the beastmen yet and that worries me.” Neleh had a small frown on her face as she finished. She had sent several of her elite students to the beastmen continent to scout, but so far they had not made contact with the enemy.

“Well, we got our work cut out for us, that’s for sure.” Shiori commented with a sigh.

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Neleh was dressed in a grand fashion reminiscent of her coronation. The dress made of living flame was impressive, as she stood on the podium at the center of Nan Yanoi. Several magical artifacts were being used around the city and the empire to project an illusion, which would relay her speech to everyone. Everyone knew that the empress wouldn’t use this method for something trite, so they had all gathered in the markets, streets, squares and parks to listen to her words. The speech was also being shown to all the remaining nobles, as well as the royal families of both the Sun and the Moon Elves. Everyone was waiting with baited breath for the words of their ‘divine empress’.

“Ladies, gentlemen and others, people of our empire and those simply enjoying our hospitality, elves, faeries and many others, I come now before you on the day celebrating the tenth year of my reign to discuss a matter of great importance. The last ten years have been a time of great prosperity, innovation and change. I would like to think that the change has mostly been for the good. Before that, for thousands upon thousands of years the elven people have stood strong against those that would threaten us, and the lives that we have created. Today I am here to tell you that we stand on the precipice of another change, one that will affect us all.

Today as I speak, the Elven Empire faces the greatest threat that we have ever seen. Today, I am here to tell you that we are at war! We do not face this war alone, as all the other major races face the same threat that comes to us from beyond the veil. This is not a threat from this world, yet we must face it or we will meet with destruction. Elvanon, Lothian, Ellyrion and Avelorn, all cities that will face attack and certain destruction within days if we do not stand up to defend them! The enemy is already at our gates, weapons drawn, hoping to catch us by surprise.

For thousands of years, we as a race have faced only internal struggle. Will we retreat, and watch as our cities burn and the enemy decimates everything around us? Will we hide and cower behind the backs of the other races, hoping that they will somehow manage to save us? Or will we stand up, and face the enemy? I say that for us there is no retreat. I say we will not give these despoilers any ground, not even a millimeter of our sacred land. I say it is time for the elven people to take their rightful position of glory, and show both the enemy and the other races that the time of the elves has come and is here to stay! To defend our empire and immortalize our glory, we must attack! We must drive the enemy away and trample them beneath our feet! Not only will we show them how to defend our own land, we will show the other races the power of our people and save their sorry behinds as well! And we must be committed to that path, whatever the cost may be.

This will not be an easy fight. It will cost us. In resources, in gold and most importantly in lives. Some of you may ask why we must bear such a burden, and for you I will say only one word. Victory! For if there is one thing we know about our enemy, it’s that without victory there can be no survival! We will claim victory to avoid annihilation! This time will be trying but our victory will be venerated for a thousand generations to come, and our names will survive forever as the people who saved our world!” Neleh had been rather animated through the whole speech, and punctuated her last words by slamming her hand on the wooden lectern in front of her.

She could see the whole city erupting in cheers. No doubt the other cities were reacting the same. Their empress had promised them victory and immortality for their names. At this moment, the elven people were ready to take on the whole world. Neleh thought that they would need this zeal in the times to come. As she turned to leave, she noted wryly that the last slam she had made had cracked the lectern, and a gentle breeze would shatter it into a thousand pieces. She may have gotten a bit too animated.

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The Legion of the Phoenix was surrounding them, as Neleh and the generals had gathered at the back of their army. In front of them was an illusion showing the state of the battlefield, with several familiars providing the information required. This would be the first major engagement of the war. Thanks to the Nexus, they had easy time moving their army towards the front, as well as ensuring a steady flow of supplies. This was only one of several similar engagements that were supposed to take place today, as their armies tried to box in the spreading wave of the enemies streaming through the portal. The other fronts were mainly aiming for containment, while this front would be responsible for pushing towards the portal itself. If the other fronts did well, then they would slowly advance as well to further box in the enemy, but that was not their main goal.

“Any orders you majesty?” Estelar asked, while surveying the battlefield. The enemy had a numerical advantage, especially because the other armies pushed the enemy to focus here, but it was not yet too prohibitive.

“Not really. We should just go with the standard for this battle, so that we can test the new drills. We can get fancier in the future, when the situation calls for it. Just remember that I won’t take part personally. If we face anything too nasty, one of my students will handle it.” Neleh replied.

She had spread her students so that all their armies had at least a couple of them, in case they faced something the normal soldiers could not deal with. They would also monitor the situation and let her know immediately if the lost-deity leading the enemies made an appearance. In that case the student would create a doorway at that location using a scroll prepared beforehand, which would allow Neleh to allow there in only a few seconds.

Suddenly they heard the sound of hundreds of horns being blown, announcing the arrival of the enemy forces. The stream of millions upon millions of goatmen coming from the forest was as sobering sight. The elves were outnumbered only about 4-to-1 but that situation was not going to improve in the future as more and more enemies would stream through the portal. They had to try and inflict maximum casualties, because any enemy they didn’t kill here today was an enemy they’d face tomorrow.

“Take formation! Standard three lines!” Estelar gave the order. He was in charge of this battle.

The elven army arrayed in three long lines ten men deep. There was a decent gap between the lines, giving the line in front room to maneuver, but still allowing the second line to fire bows over the first line. Every so often the line was punctuated by a standard, bearing the sigil of the regiment, and denoting the center of each regiment in the line. The standards glowed in a way that showed the heavy enchantments cast on them. They were mostly defensive in nature, protecting the unit from magical attacks and arrows, providing some basic healing and wiping away fatigue. Next to each standard stood a small group of mages and priestesses who were assigned to each regiment.

“Mages, prepare to form the ditch. Mages and high level warriors save your strength and only focus on taking down the big nasties. Leave the chaff to the soldiers. If you have extra strength to spare, make sure to protect any place in your formation that is under danger of collapsing.” Everyone knew the basic plan, Estelar simply made sure that they would keep to it without getting too excited.

As the enemy forces had a more limited access to magic, the elven mages could focus on other things beyond magical defense. The first idea was to create a small ditch in front of the elven army, with the purpose of slowing the momentum of the enemy charge. Since that magic was not aimed at the enemy, the enemy mages didn’t really care to do anything about it. What could a small ditch do beyond slowing them a bit?

The enemy horns blasted again signaling the charge of the enemy forces. Since their forces were melee focused, closing the gap between the armies was imperative for the goatmen. They would be running into a hail of arrows, but how much could the elves do against them with simple arrows? As it turns out, quite a lot. As they came within range, the majority of the Order forces utilized their ability to change their weapons and was wielding heavy longbows for maximum range. As they had been trained in such firing, and also elves were good with bows even before Neleh came along, the carpets of arrows that fell upon the goatmen had uniform distance from each other, minimizing the chances of multiple arrows hitting the same target.

The real fun was only just about to begin though. Neleh had noted that since the front ranks of their army could freely change their weapons into crossbows, their performance was actually rather similar to armies using muskets. Therefore, she had trained them to use firing drills usually utilized by musket wielding armies such as firing by ranks and cadenced firing. The front rank would fire, and kneel to reload, while the second rank fired and then kneeled to let the third rank fire. By this time the first rank had reloaded and would fire again. This kept waves of bolts made from their internal power slamming into the tightly packed mass of enemies. Once the enemy’s ranks thinned some, they switched to cadenced firing, where instead of moving from front to back, the unit shot from left to right, so that they kept a constant stream of fire going with increased accuracy, always picking off the closest targets, instead of massed volleys.

All this time, the rest of the army kept firing their bows from the back. The ditch slowed the advance of the enemy by cutting off their momentum, so that they would not be slamming into the elves with great speed. As the goatmen managed to reliably cross the ditch and start threatening melee, Estelar gave the next command. “First line, form up!”

The first line formed into diamond formations around their banner, with the edges and the sharp tip of the formation using heavy shields and focusing on simply staying alive. This created huge gaps between the regiments, and as the path of least resistance dictated, the press of bodies from the enemies pushed the goatmen into the gaps between the formations, instead of engaging in proper melee against the elves inside the diamond. Normally the purpose of trying to push through the battle line of your enemy was to flank and attack your enemy from the rear, so the goatmen were all too happy to push through as that was usually a sign of victory. However, the diamond formation made it so the first line had no real flanks or rear. Instead they ran straight into the focused fire from the second battle line, which now took the role of causing most of the enemy casualties, while the first line would focus on survival.

“I’d say that’s a successful test.” Estelar said quietly as the goatmen milled about accomplishing nothing except catching arrow with their faces.

“True, however that only applies as long as the enemy is unable to break the formations. If the big beasties managed to make contact with the formations, we’d be the ones being massacred instead. Room for improvement.” Neleh said only half satisfied.

Part of the reason they had such an easy time in this battle was because the enemy was also just testing the waters, and had kept most of their big hitters like demons and dragotaurs back. Even when it came obvious that the goatmen were just dying in vain and sent in harpies and swarms of small flying creatures, the elves had an easy time shooting them down, as their last line wasn’t even pressured properly.

As they watched the last dregs of the enemy forces fleeing into the forest, Neleh gave a small sigh. They had gained an easy victory. That would be good for morale, but it could also be dangerous. Victories like this could lull you into a false sense of security, and their enemy was not as simple as this battle let everyone assume. They had not seen the true power of what was arrayed against them, and if they let this get to their heads, then it would come back to haunt them in the future. Still, a victory was a victory. They’d just have to take it slow and steady in the future.

As she was about to leave, her thoughts turned out to be a little prophetic. One of the goatmen thought to be dead suddenly expanded, and turned into a large demon that plunged straight into the formation right next to it. A large amount of elves were thrown away, but they were not professionals for nothing. She had made sure the soldiers understood that the mortal troops of the enemy that were marked by their so called god could suddenly be possessed by powerful demons. Luckily the elves had not started celebrating too early, so the suicidal attack of the demon was put down before it could cause major damage. Most likely the heavily armored front liners that had gotten attacked were only injured and would live, but this was a good lesson to them. Never let your guard down. This too was most likely a simple test by their enemy, taking a gauge of their ability to react. Both sides were testing things.

As she entered the Nexus, she found Khali already waiting, with her boots lifted on a table and eating something that looked like ice cream. “You got here fast.” Neleh commented.

“So did you. I suspect we both encountered something similar. They were simply testing the waters for now.” Khali replied.

“Makes sense. Judging by the forces we faced, we are both fighting against the three brothers. Of course they’ll coordinate to some extent.” Neleh speculated.

“I already know my opponent. I’m fighting the Changer of Ways. Of course I would be facing the great sorcerer himself. Who did you get?” Khali asked grumpily.

“Judging by the demon I saw at the end of the battle, I’m facing Lord of Pleasure. While it could be a trick, I don’t think so. The enemy didn’t have the frenzy usually found in the followers of the Blood God.” Neleh guessed.

“I wonder where the Blood God is then? The Blades and Trow don’t seem like the type. Too little passion and too much malice.” Khali wondered.

Neleh could only reply with. “That is a good question.” The answer to that question might become very important.
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Vihyungrang

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