Story continues at the Beggar's Inn here.
…The entire company fixed their eyes on the figure and each rose to their feet. Suddenly the group could feel the entire Inn had fixed their eyes on the figure at the door. Burress knew exactly what to say.
Sir Burress: “Send riders to every guild and tell them what you have witnessed here today. Avalonia, Mitgardia, Nocturnus and Kaliphlin are united against the Spire. Today we go to war. Tell every friend you cross that the King has returned!”
King Uthred: “Include in that message that any friend of the High King is to send aid to the city of Albion.”
Erissa: “Are you sure that wise, your Grace? Begging your pardon, but Raavage has agents all across Historica. Albion itself is controlled by one. If this message of yours should fall into the hands of the Spire, the Spire will not delay in taking the city.”
King Uthred: “I’m counting on that part. By now Raavage will have deciphered the map to the Necromancer’s Helm. It points to the city of Albion, and when he hears that I am rallying troops in the city, he won’t be able to wait to unite his own armies with those of the Algus and the Drow. Make no mistake—if he were able to bring those three armies together, he wouldn’t need the Necromancer’s Helm to conquer even a united Historica.”
Silence fell on the group as they had all considered that fact. Doubt filled the air, as everyone wondered if the civil wars had divided the guilds beyond repair.
Anzar: “Where have you been, your Grace? Forgive me, but most people thought you dead. Killed by Revolword or Raavage, we thought. None could believe that you would abandon Historica while civil war, Raavage and the Spire tore everything apart.”
The King’s face was covered in grief.
King Uthred: “I am greatly disturbed by what has happened here. But I haven’t abandoned my people. You are all probably unaware of the first civil war that happened in Historica—the civil war in Varlyria. When I escaped Revolword’s Hand agents, I knew Cedrica was lost, so I went to Varlyria to rally. There I discovered rumors of disconcert within the Guild. Duke Vennicio acted against Rego Amancio in his treason against the Crown. This treason enabled Raavage to come to power. Since then I have worked to reunite Varlyria. I only wish the other guilds hadn’t fallen apart in my absence.”
Buress: “What of Albion? The city is a disaster, filled with plague and famine. The so-called warden, Morgan Windspear is known to be working with the Spire. How can we possibly use the city as a rally point?”
King Uthred: “The city is still filled with troops loyal to Avalonia, and loyal to the Crown. They may be currently misguided by Windspear, but surely we can remedy this. I’ll travel to Albion with Buress and the Varlyrian men I’ve brought with me. We shall strip the Spire’s grasp on the city, and the sick and starving will be triaged out to any city able to offer its assistance. Erissa, I charge you with finding loyal cities that are willing to help. The rest of you are to assist in rallying as many soldiers as you are able. As it’s been said, messengers will be captured, and Raavage will soon know that I am here and rallying troops in the city he expects to find the Necromancer’s Helm. He will come with a mighty force.”
Dugal: “Where he expects to find it, your Grace? Does the Necromancer’s Helm exist?”
At that, King Uthred allowed himself a small smile.
King Uthred: “The Necromancer’s Helm may exist. I have heard whispers of it, and I know that Raavage isn’t the only one searching for it. But the map that he has found suggesting that the helm lies the crypts beneath Albion was fabricated with the help of Rego Amancio. If the helm is real, the map that Raavage possesses is not.”
Breggan: “Then with your permission, your Grace, let us begin. We have much to prepare.”
The six left the inn with purpose and determination. The Guilds were to be united again—something that hadn’t happened since before the wizard Revolword that seized power. For the first time in a long time, there was good news, and a deep sense of hope in a peaceful future.
* * * * *
Word of the King’s return spread across Historica very quickly. Hundreds of messengers were dispatched, and each time one reached their destination, more were sent out from that city. As predicted, it did not take long before the Spire took notice of the couriers. It soon dispatched several units to intercept the messages that seemed to be happening throughout all Historica. Several messengers were taken, and the message was consistent—the King had returned, and is rallying troops in Albion.
* * * * *
A crowd had gathered at the news of a beheading. Executions always seemed to draw a crowd. Even with thieves and sickness overwhelming the city, hundreds had gathered to witness justice delivered. No one realized that the man to be executed was Warden Morgan Windspear, nor did anyone realize that the King had returned. They were all shocked to see him on the executioner’s platform, dressed in his majestic purple that signified royalty. The crowd began murmuring at his appearance, and the murmuring increased excitedly to cries and exclamations of joy. The King had returned and was about to deliver his justice in their city. The King raised his hand for quiet before he began.
King Uthred: “Citizens of Albion, residents of Historica. I, King Uthred of Cedrica have returned to rescue you all from the monster known as Raavage. My first act in doing so is by removing his spy from your city. The man known as Morgan Windspear, who had acted as Warden of Albion, has been assisting the Spire. I have found him guilty of treason and hereby sentence him to death.”
The crowd roared with hung on every word and roared with approval at the end of his speech. They cried even louder when the guards brought the man to his knees before the chopping block, and loudest of all when the headsman brought his mighty axe down on the man’s neck.
* * * * *
The orc known as Slaug felt confident that he would receive a huge reward for bringing the first intercepted message back to Raavage. Sure, there would be others to intercept the message, but he knew he would be the first. After all, it had been less than a full day since he had been given the order to capture a messenger. No one else could have accomplished that. He smirked quietly as he handed Raavage the message.
Raavage roared and buried his axe in Slaug’s chest. Slaug fell to the floor, unable to comprehend. There was no way he could have known how badly Raavage would take the news, and that the deliverer of such news would be at the mercy of Raavage’s wrath. The throne room fell silent and Raavage’s generals gathered near him to hear the troublesome news. A drow general named Goviir was the first to speak.
Goviir: “What news, your Wickedness?”
Raavage: “The King has returned, but that doesn’t matter. He is nothing. But he is rallying his troops to Albion. The thief must have passed word onto another when it was stolen. Either he knows the Necromancer’s Helm is in Albion, or the gods are against me. Either way we march at once.”
Goviir: “Your wickedness, I command but a small portion of the Drow. The rest are on their, but will take a week to assemble. The Algus draw near as well, but will take at least a fortnight. Would it not be wiser to wait for the entire strength of your armies?”
Raavage: “Don’t ever question me again, or you’ll suffer a much more severe fate than this Orc. If Uthred is given enough time in Albion to find the helm, it won’t matter if I have ten times our full strength. All of the dead warriors on the battlefield will be his to command. We march now—before his troops can rally, and before he finds the helm.”
* * * * *
As they marched, it became clear to Raavage that he would be unable to enter the city without siege engines. However, he did not have the time to bring such heavy machines on a fast march. He considered waiting until he was near Albion to begin building the machines, but this too would take too long. Scouts were dispatched to find a suitable weapon closer to Albion. One had returned with news of a battering ram built on the far edge of Nocturnus by an imp named Chir. The location was as good as it would get—close to Avalonia, and even along their path.
As they neared the workshop where it was built, Raavage called for the scout to have him killed for wasting his precious time. However, as they arrived he saw the ram and knew that it would serve its purpose. He didn’t understand how it was built in such a small workshop, but he no longer cared. After looking it over, Raavage ordered his soldiers to bring it, without so much as a word to the owner of the workshop. Raavage did not expect the imp to put up a fight about it. Chir actually appeared to be relieved when the army turned and left with the ram.
* * * * *
By the time the scouts reported that Raavage’s army was approaching, the city of Albion was already heavily fortified. Rather than meeting Raavage’s force with infantry, King Uthred ordered archers to line the walls of the city and take out as many troops as they could as the assailants approached.
Raavage: “They have no infantry to meet us. Only a few archers on the walls. They are weak and they know it. What fools! This was all they could assemble in such a short amount of time. The Helm is mine! Send in the mercenaries and the ram!”
Raavage screamed his orders to his generals, and they obeyed. Without the Algus, and with only a small Drow army, Raavage’s army was composed mostly of bands of mercenaries, who mostly fought because they believed Raavage would prevail, as well as remnants of the Varlyrian rebels and Hand of Corruption soldiers that had been with him since Revolword was killed. Those forces were kept on reserve, and Raavage did not expect them to be needed. Many of the mercenaries were killed as they ram was pushed forward by a minotaur who had been drowned in a potent strength potion. He had ingested too much, and Raavage knew that it would kill him, but he didn’t care. He watched happily as the minotaur pushed the ram up to the gate, taken dozens of arrows, being driven by Raavage’s slavers. The ram was finally pushed into position and an instant later the minotaur fell over dead. Mercenaries poured in to position to operate the heavy ram. They continued to fall from arrows, but it would not be enough to matter, and after several long hours, the gate gave way.
Raavage: “March! Kill anything that moves, but the plundering will wait until I have the helm! To the crypts!”
As they marched through the gate, more of the mercenaries were killed in the murder holes above the gate. Raavage only laughed at the worthless efforts, as he knew it would not be enough to make any difference. It wasn’t until most of his army was inside the walls that he saw the cavalry coming toward them, cutting down the mercenaries with ease. Raavage screamed for the reserves, but the cavalry had disappeared before they could get into position.
Raavage: “Forget those cowards! We must get to the crypts at once!”
Raavage and his army continued toward the crypts, fighting off continued ambushes from the cavalry riding at them through the wide streets. The archers also continued to be a nuisance, and Raavage took several arrows. They did nothing to slow him down, but instead enraged him, making him more determined to reach the crypts.
* * * * *
As the remains of Raavage’s army approached the Church to the Son of Man, where the entrance to the crypts was held, King Uthred could see that the strategy had worked. Raavage was too blind with anger and power lust that he did not realize that his army had been obliterated. Raavage himself was panting from the long march, and had at least a dozen arrows sticking out of his armor. Most likely none would be fatal, but they had certainly slowed him down.
King Uthred: “You have failed, Raavage. Bow to me, your King, and your comrades do not need to die.”
Raavage: “You think I care who dies? Once I possess the Helm, I will bring them back to life and they will continue to fight for me! Attack!!!”
The King was surrounded by many of Historica’s Heroes—the best warriors in the Guilds, and they all fought for their King. Raavage attacked the King head-on, but his wounds slowed him, and the King was easily able to sweep his legs out from beneath him. Raavage tried to bring his axe forward from on his back, but as he did so, King Uthred pushed his sword through his heart. At the sight of Raavage’s death, some of the remaining soldiers from his army yielded, but most fought to the death. It was total victory, and the defenders all cheered for their King. The King allowed himself a sad smile, when Buress approached him.
Buress: “How can you possibly look so sad at a time like this? We have won, and that animal is dead!”
King Uthred: “Indeed. And the occasion is certainly worthy of celebration, but I mourn for the dead. The Algus and Drow still need to be dealt with, and—”
Uthred stopped himself and shook his head, not wishing to ruin the morale after such a victory.
Buress: “Your Grace? What is it?”
King Uthred: “The Necromancer’s Helm. I can’t ignore the other whispers I’ve heard regarding it. Some rumors say it isn’t in Historica, but on some other landmass. Others insist that it is indeed in Historica. As long as such artifacts exist, evil forces will continue to seek them out. Historica is finally unified once again, and we will have peace, but for how long? There are already murmurs of a Sorcerer coming to power—one from a landmass outside of Historica. Some rumors say that it is a continent of equal size to Historica, and some say it is little more than a chain of islands. The only thing for certain is that Historica must stay united. The recent civil wars almost destroyed us. If it were to happen again—”
Buress: It won’t, your Grace. We shall remain unified under your rule, and we will be ready for anything that threatens us. We will be ready.”
* * * * *
Phew. If anyone read the whole story, you're awesome--I really appreciate it. I had several more builds planned, but as it turns out the last few months have been the busiest I've been since shortly after my son was born, so I have to be thankful I finished all that I was able to. I hope you enjoyed the story, as it was my main focus. Any and all comments and criticism are very much welcome!