Compass of War: Call to Violence

The Empire of Humanity has grown thin. Diplomacy is wearing and blood is shed far and wide. In all cardinal directions, war is upon humanity. The call to violence must be answered by all. By rival families, by fierce Queens, by the undead, and worst of all, by the Horned Banner that marches to war.


1. Blood for All

It was dusk and the fiery orange of the clouds was beginning to fade as the minutes passed. Four hooded men approached the wooden gate of the motte and bailey. They carried large game over their shoulders and longbows across their backs as the guard yelled at them.

"Halt! State yourselves!" 

"We have the meat you requested," they replied with a calm smile. The guard stood at ease, greeting back at them.

"Ah, yes. Good hunt, gentlemen?" the guardsman asked as he stepped to one side. 

"Yes. These forests are rich this time of year," the hooded man answered, walking passed as the gates creaked open. The motte and bailey, named Fort Elric, was a small post in the far north of the world. Filled with large, lurid red tents, the camp was occupied by only a few soldiers, and it was an easy post for them. Good food, comforting ale and stunning scenery of mountains and gigantic forests that spanned for hundreds of miles. The men and women who occupied the post were happy and well cared for, with only a few bandits and cut-throats to worry about, sitting around the fires with smiles and cheer. But of course, not all were satisfied.

"When do we get relieved of this post, lads?" one soldier asked the rest of her comrades around the fire, cutting up mushrooms with her dagger. 

"In two weeks. Why do you ask, Catrin? Had enough of the military life so soon?" another chuckled.

"I didn't wish to be drafted. I merely want to see my daughters again." she sighed, "Everyday I pray that I come through each of those patrols." 

"There are only brigands out here, Catrin." a second encouraged. "As long as you hold a sword and shield, and make sure your armour is tightly fitted, you will keep your organs in your body." 

She chuckled with a faint whisper. "You're right, Bogrin." She pulled out a metal pendant on a chained necklace from under her uniform. The basic shape of a doe's head, the symbol of life of human culture. "We be at Peace." she beseeched.

"How's about we drink to it?" Bogrin jeered, raising his goblet of ale. The others joined him, bringing up their drinks from the floor with grins around their faces. "May we live long, everyone!" They followed with a cheer and small splashes of ale escaped as their goblets clinked together, before drinking with heavy swallows. 

The atmosphere then shifted in a sudden unveil of the sergeant emerging from his tent, his chin high. Coated in plate-armour and adorned with a white and gold cape, he wielded a mighty claymore about his waist that had a well-decorated sheath with glamorous feathers and shining gold. All of the soldiers around the fire straightened themselves upright and became rigid statues. They smacked their hands upon their arms and cried "Hail, Sir!" in sync with one another.

"At ease." he ordered with a calming volume. "We start our next patrol soon, ladies and gentlemen. Be armed and ready to leave before sundown!"

"Yes, Sir!" they replied.

"To your duties." 
The men and women hurtled into their tents to gear up, finishing their food and drink with haste. Fastening their armour, they tightly pulled on the leather straps as it wrapped around their flesh. They grabbed their spears, swords and shields from the wooden racks in their tent, making their way out the fabric exit with decorum. 

Later on in the evening, the patrol marched through the towering trees with order and prowess. The trunks stood taller than any in the south, rising to ninety meters in height above their heads. The fog lay low and the breeze was delicate. The men and women were quiet, keeping their eyes sharp with spear tips raised high and shields pressed against their chests. Their synchronized, light footsteps clattered through the forest and at the front of the patrol was the sergeant, striding with pride and his hand rested on the hilt of his sword.
The patrol kept up a steady pace through the woods without much worry, for nothing could threaten them. However, it was far too quiet. At least once in the two hours they would march, a band of thugs would assault them, thinking they could get lucky, but no sign of an attack had occurred. Not even the nocturnal animals were calling up in the branches, or off in the distance of the deep forest. As time passed, senses were on alert as fear began to infect the patrol like a fast spreading disease. They were right to be wary indeed, for there was a wave of unquenchable bloodthirst closing in on their position.

The sergeant soon gave in to his conjecture and raised his fist.

"Halt!" he cried. The group came to a stand-still as tensions grew, darting their many eyes around to watch for whatever was coming. The clops of hooves could be heard through the mist and the patrol drew their weapons. The spearmen stuck out to skewer the expected cavalry charge and the swordsmen tucked themselves in. Who would be astride horses out in the criminal infested woods? Rich mercenaries wanting to scavenge for gear by attacking Empire patrols? Second, there came the clanking and jingling of metal and the growling breaths of angry beasts. Yet what began to emerge from the haze were horns. Black, thick horns atop lowering, hulking bodies, standing twice the height of any mere man. The shadows came forth, encircling the entire patrol until they were trapped like rats. Bulky axes were clenched in their hands. Bare-chested with a light placing of armour around their limbs and their oxen-like heads were clad with masking, dark helmets of rough iron. A silence lay heavy in the air as the challengers stared at their prey, ready to let a river of blood flow as their hot breath puffed from their nostrils like smoke. The soldiers began to shiver in terrified adrenaline, morale being worn away like the sea that eats away at the cliffs.

"By the Gods, what are they?..." Bogrin said with a quake in his voice.

"They're like demons..." Catrin mumbled with silence under her breath. But the sergeant showed no horror as he scowled in steadfast determination.

"Do not give into fear! To me, Sons and Daughters of the Empire! Unto glory and honour!" the sergeant bellowed, unsheathing his sword with a gleaming ring and thrusting forwards to signal the attack. The men and women cheered, raising their weapons as high as they could, ready for the furious assault. The enemies roared in retaliation with yearning rage, echoing around them through the trees as they charged at full force, kicking up dust and dirt as they sprinted. The clash of steel was deafening, the beasts butchering in the gory carnage. The humans were dwarfed by these foes, being tossed and carved apart like leaves in the breeze. Sheer weight and strength made women and men alike topple to the ground to be pounded by cloven feet, or cut in half by cleaving axes. The sergeant, on the other hand, was much more skilled, much stronger and much more zealot than his comrades. He managed to fight back the enemy for a time single handily, parrying and making quick cuts with his blade.

"Stand your ground!" he yelled through the clattering bloodbath, "Fight to the last" before being struck from behind with a devastating crack. His wind knocked out from his lungs and his spine caved in, he collapsed to the ground, pain running through every nerve in his body. 
The massacre was abrupt and savage, the last of the soldiers being slaughtered as they attempted to crawl away in desperation. The beasts surrounded and looked down at the still breathing sergeant as he reached for his sword, only inches away, in agony. They soon parted away from him as a much bigger, much more ironclad beast stomped towards this lone survivor. The sergeant ceased in dread as he felt the ground tremor with the titanic thuds of footsteps getting closer. The monster's presence was powerful and lowering, standing taller than the rest of his kind that were already colossal to any man. His horns were far bigger than the rest of his companions, and he adorned unique, long fangs like a saber-tooth cat as he gazed down at the pathetic human. He growled like a bull to a red rag and he spoke with a gravelly tone.

"Kavrah ovri." he taunted, pressing a hoof to the sergeant's chest and pushing him down into the mud as the poor man let out a painful groan. "Únfros beel dos rís Yenari!" 
The sergeant had a look of anxiety upon his face, the shadow of the creature's silhouette shading his body from all light. The monstrosity unsheathed a hulking maul from his back, made of stone and iron. The sergeant's horror ascended, his hands trembling and a gulp heading down his throat to his pounding heart that thumped against his crushed rib cage. The colossi lifted his weapon high into the air, and with a blaring uproar, the hammer split the sergeant's breastplate with a powerful blow. 

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