Five To One
The earth broke apart on the outer edge of the battlefield, groups of undead creatures crawling out from below to join powerful warriors of darkness and death knights. The corpses from both sides swayed as they stood up, joining the battle once more. While Zendrall had lost a few levels, that hadn’t translated to a weakening of his army.
The flying chrysalides swept in from above, dropping off the rune knights and shadowspears for Richard to take control of. In only minutes, the cavalry had formed up and was advancing towards the imperial army. Kellac and the other priests buffed them with a dazzling array of spells as they passed, the world itself seeming to shake as they picked up their charge.
Did all of them possess sub-legendary might? The empire’s generals and powerhouses paled immediately at the glow of energy radiating from the tips of these knights’ halberds. However, they had no time to dwell on this disaster as it sped right into the crowd, every knight a mountain that crushed down upon them.
Energy flickered at the tips of the rune knights’ lances as they swept up the imperial soldiers and cut them apart, the cavalry just swimming through the imperial formations. In only a minute, they had broken through 10,000 men and appeared on the other side, leaving behind a trail of blood.
The spear formation slowed down quickly, turning around and reorganising for another charge. Seeing the rune knights in such numbers for the first time, the generals of the Iron Triangle Empire were dumbfounded. The few that maintained their bearings yelled for the soldiers to regain their calm, but all hell had broken lose.
Salwyn should have been easing the worries of his army, but he sat blankly on his horse and watched the men being torn apart. He knew that it was pointless to even try; the next charge would break morale regardless. In front of such might, ordinary troop formations were merely numbers.
The earth trembled once more as the nightmare descended on the imperial infantry, ploughing right through. The soldiers in their path started to flee in both directions, trying their best to stay away from the line of death. This broke apart the entire formation of the army, and before they could reorganise the horses turned around and prepared for a third charge.
“STEADY, STOP THEM! THEY CAN’T GO A THIRD TIME!” one of the generals shouted with all his might. He was one of the few that had still remained calm, his personal guard still packed around him as well. However, before he could say any more Phaser pressed right into his back and dug his heart out. At the same time, the rune knights picked up momentum for their third assault, looking not one whit weaker than the first two times.
Facing this massacre that couldn’t be repelled, even the most elite troops couldn’t keep their calm. Nobody knew how many more rounds of attack these knights could sustain, only that it was nearly impossible to survive if one was targeted. Most of the imperial soldiers had lost the will to block even if they thought this would be the last assault. The horn for retreat sounded, and the troops scattered instantly.
Richard didn’t pursue, instead having a hundred rune knights line up defensively and watch as the imperial army left. For tens of thousands of soldiers to scramble away from only a hundred looked ridiculous, but no one felt any shame.
Richard was somewhat satisfied with the battle; only two of his rune knights were lost, and 1,200 of the 3,000 border guard had survived as well. Most of the casualties he had taken were drones, which could easily be replaced. In contrast, the imperial army had lost a stunning 11,000 troops, of which he killed 4,000 himself.
As someone on the verge of possessing legendary might, Richard could cause massive damage on any battlefield. However, he thought nothing of the number he had killed; Sharon could easily destroy the entire 50,000 with one or two of her portal blasts.
The army continued to gather, the astral chrysalis and flying chrysalides flying back and forth without sparing any strength. Able to transport a batch of shadowspears every three hours, they had already gathered an army of 2,000 for Richard within half a day. With this army and all of his followers around, he could easily wipe out the rest of Salwyn’s army.
Which was exactly what he planned to do. No longer waiting for the rest of his troops, he gave chase for a hundred kilometres and caught up. The imperial soldiers were exhausted and asleep, not having expected the ambush at all. Three simple charges through the base scattered them once more, while Salwyn was captured again. With most of the sub-legends having perished to Phaser and Waterflower earlier, another third of the remaining mages and powerhouses were eliminated in this attack. A third managed to flee, while just as many surrendered. Twenty to thirty thousand soldiers managed to flee deep into imperial territory, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. With his prisoners of war in tow, Richard returned to regroup with the rest of his army.
The skies above the Iron Triangle Empire were incredibly gloomy over the next few days, the dark clouds covering the skies so low that they touched the spires of the tallest buildings in the capital. A cold storm blew across the city, forcing people to wrap themselves up in many layers of clothing while cursing at the wretched weather. It was supposed to be summer, but it felt more like late autumn.
The imperial palace had to be lit up with torches and lamps even though it was noon, both for light and warmth. Some of the halls with centuries of history activated magic formations to make them cosy, but the atmosphere was still stifling. The magic heat did little to dispel the chill in the people’s hearts.
A few mages were busy building a magic map. Ever since the Crimson Dukedom’s unthinkable rise, everything related to Richard had become a matter worth investigating. His military choices especially were revered, with the magic maps he used quickly becoming popular across the entire northwest of Faelor. Mage associations everywhere had tried to keep hold of the technology as best they could, but heavy pressure eventually forced them to cave and start selling magical maps in batches. Had they clung to the rules of the past, some scattered workshops would have taken over the market and by extension their status.
The Iron Triangle Empire had used traditional maps drawn on leather for centuries, but in the past three years they had switched to magical maps as well. However, it took them a long time to get things up and running, unlike with Richard where he just popped in a memory crystal to bring up whatever he required.
The map eventually lit up, the mages sighing with relief before retreating with haste. It showed everything in the vicinity, with a green tint on the east where Rislant had managed to fight his way into Walvis Bay and captured a number of ports. In only two years they would finish building an enormous port city there, cementing their rule of the ocean nearby. However, all gazes were focused instead on the southwest with the Crimson Dukedom, the colour here pulsing from dark red to scarlet to a pale pink.
An old man opened up a leather scroll, “Divisions 3 and 7 have gathered, and can be dispatched at any time. 2, 6, and 11 are mobilising their men; it will take an estimated three days to complete.”
“What are you still reading all this useless stuff for?” the Emperor suddenly snapped. With his ashen white hair and deep wrinkles, he looked like a lion with its head hung down. The old minister was startled and the scroll fell to the ground, but before he could stutter out his response the Emperor continued, “Just tell me how many divisions we need to gather to stop him.”
The ministers exchanged glances silently, leaving a marshal with no choice but to step forward from his line, “Richard has dispatched 80,000 men, with another 20,000 invading from the Land of Turmoil. To combat that total… we might have to dispatch 500,000 soldiers.”