A stinging bead of sweat rolls into the eye of the guard captain. He raises his visor to wipe the offending fluid from his brow and breaths a sigh for the momentary relief from the pain.

He glances skyward as the midday sun begins its descent towards the western skies and wonders how long it will be until his relief will come.

The changing of the guard is almost due and he would be done with it and his current watch soon. Or so he hoped.

He glances again out into the middle distance to see the familiar terrain of grass and lightwoods that surrounds his impregnable home. In a practiced pattern he gazes to the many spots that might hide an enemy scout or bowmen. He then looks left and right on the turret and ramparts to see his many troops in their bright red armor lining the walls of the citadel. The midday sun has taken its toll as many now seem fatigued from the heat that is just beginning to pass. Flagons of water can be seen setting peacefully on the inner walls to relive their owner’s thirst.

A slight breeze begins to come in from the north and he relishes this small comfort and relief from the heat. His eyes close briefly to take in this momentary pleasantness when a shout comes from the far east of the citadel. The company heralds are passing a message from the far end of the walls and soon it makes its way to his ear.

The massage finally relayed is clear “The Elves approach”. “Companies to your watches the elves …”

Suddenly the herald’s voices are drowned out by a new sound. With a thunderous roar and a shower of sparks the eastern wall guards are attacked by what must surely be elven magiks.

In a calm voice he calls his men to readiness. “Prepare comrades prepare”. “The Elves come to visit and we would not greet them unawares”. “The All-Father will watch over us and protect us from their veil desecrations”. “Prepare!”

The body of the young elf lay strewn on the cold snow covered ground. His chard midsection exposed to the elements, the obvious cause of his demise. Having just come upon this sean of ruin the Bard bends down to close the now sightless eyes and whisper a prayer of renewal. A shimmer of energy surrounds the lifeless corpse as it transmutes into a ball of light, which quickly disappears. The elven corpse now gone has turned into the all too familiar stick and skull.

She removes what few meager belongings where left by the now reincarnating elf, then stands erect and strides purposefully towards the capitol.

“Our young killed!”

“Our hunting disturbed!”

“Dam them! … Dam them and their All-Father!”

“We shall pay them a visit, in their high towers, and make them wish they had not molested our kinsmen.”

The voice of the Bard “Kish” rings out with controlled rage. She is in rare form this afternoon. The renegade humans have pushed her too far and now we form up to visit retribution upon them for their violent offenses.

She quickly lines up her kinsmen and gathers the siege equipment necessary and with practiced haste we march to the city of the humans. Upon our arrival I see the formidable towers and walls for the first time; this will be no easy task. The walls stretch on as far as I can easily see and they are lined with humans in bright red armor who carry sword and crossbow.

As we approach, the humans are quickly aware of our small company and begin to shout the alarm along the walls. Soon small units of swordsmen race out to meet us. Our casters greet these red guards with a mighty volley of destructive magiks and our Bull swings his pole arm as the messenger of death might swing his scythe at the humans. They begin to crumble and fall down dead into the dust at our feet seared by magiks, or cleaved by the mighty pole arm of the Mino.

Our battle takes us closer to walls of the keep and the crossbowmen begin to rain down a steady hail of fathered shafts. It is then that I begin to call upon my healing powers to restore my kinsmen’s wounds. A sword cut mended, an arrow shaft removed and torn flesh made new. As our voiles of lethal magiks shoot forth and into the ranks of the Red Guard on the wall. Terrible screams are heard as they writhe in their death troughs, protecting their masters who are few and weak minded, the honor less dogs that killed our young for their sport.

The siege engines are quickly built and soon the crack of stone is heard as we hurl mighty boulders at the ramparts of the enemy. With each smack a crack appears in the wall and soon we have made progress in creating an entrance for us to “visit” the dogs that make this place their lair.

“Dam them!”

The shout nearly deafens me as the Bard is standing just behind me as she vents her frustration. I turn to face her I see that she now points at the newly repaired section of wall. As our engines of destruction continue to pound at them she turns again and begins to point to several of the elves near her.

“You! and You! and you four plus the furry, O and you Priest!” “Get in there and show those dogs that elven justice will not be thwarted!” “Stop them from repairing those walls!”

Being one of the eight chosen to deliver our just retribution I form up with my companions and we approach the wall now brimming with the Red Guard. It is obvious that those inside have ordered their guard captains to focus all of their attentions on we the lucky eight.

Our caster begins to create a whole in the ranks of the Red Guard as we prepare to enter the citadel. The shouts of battle … roar of magiks … clang of swords … tang of bowstring and dull thud of the crossbow shafts hitting my companion’s fills my senses to the brim. All around me are wounds to tend and tired warriors to rejuvenate as our small squad makes determined progress up to the base of the wall.

As a small respite in the battle occurs after we clear another wave of Red Guard from the ramparts the furry begins to cast her air magiks. With the sweep of her arm and strong vocal invocation we are all stripped of our natural weight and begin to soar upwards towards the top of the battlements. In the blink of an eye we are there, at the top, and after several short bursts of movement we all position ourselves on a central turret and land to begin again our proper fight for entry into the citadel.

As I look over the inner walls of the turret I see off in the courtyard the 3 leaders of the citadel pointing frantically at the walls and then waving their hands and fists at their guard captains. It is obvious that they have ordered a special greeting to be provided us and as a well oiled siege engine is uncreated and made ready to pummel a rampart we see more and more of the red fighters and archers flood from their barracks into the courtyard to form up. Each unit of 16 swordsmen and crossbowmen falls into practiced step and heads stead fastly towards the stair and the top of the battlements. Beautifully polished swords and bright red armored men are all around us … and soon upon us.

The next 45 minutes moves as if in slow motion … I am in my own eternity of pain and suffering inflected and removed. I find that inner well of healing magiks and art and I heal, as I have never done in my days on this the shard of Mourning.

Wave after wave of the Red Guard come upon us and each time as we kill and maim them and feel that we are at last ready to move into the courtyard, another group of red soldiers approaches and engages us … no rest … no time for thought … balanced on a swords edge the battle continues … and continues.

How many times did we almost each of us die at their hands … how many times did we save each other with daring acts of individual and team heroics ... how many times did each of us feel that their was no more that we could give … yet give we did.

And though it all the three cowards trembled at their tree of life. Never daring to approach the eight elves that sought to do justice to them for their wicked deeds. Ever yelling at their elite guard to slay us and clear the walls of the elves who dared to approach them. Old men who need others to do their dirty work as those who are their betters come to find them in their unholy fear drenched whole.

And then with a small break in the onrush a glance of realization passes among the band of eight as it begins to occur to us that this battle could last forever with no clear winner to be seen. A grim determination begins to set in. We shall dare all and move into the city … or die trying.

Almost in unison the words escape each of us “Forward kinsmen … forward.”

“Dam them!” “You! ... Captain! ... I command you to get these pointed ear freaks away from me and mine! ... Do it now! ... Before they come down the stairs into our very courtyard! ... GO NOW! … SLAY THEM!”

The guard captain gazed intently into his master’s eyes … the day was going badly … but was not lost … not yet.

He acknowledge his masters commands and quickly gazed about himself looking for his own elite troops with which to carry out his orders. The barracks door was now open and he could see the preparations of the men inside and in but a few moments they would be ready and he himself would lead these to battle the elves.

But in that moment he allowed himself to slip out of his controlled anger and tactical thoughts and into a more melancholy one ...How many had died already today? … how many butchered young men and grizzled veterans to save these few who lorded over them? … how many had the crafty elves destroyed as they tried to gain entrance to see his masters?

How many? …

A shout of readiness from inside the barracks ushers outside and at last his squad is ready. They move into the courtyard prepared for any command the guard caption might give. With a glance and a shrug the captain throws of his sudden mood and quickly gives orders to his sergeants. They are simple and direct.

“Make to the walls in formation … ascend the stirs by threes with covering fire from the crossbowmen … slay the elves and drive them forth ...We are the Red Guard.”

The guard captain begins to lead his force to the north of the citadel. As he approaches the ramparts a scream issues from above and a sudden loud crash is heard just to the side of them. A red guardsman has met his fate and now lies in a lifeless heap of metal and flesh at the base of rampart. The guard captain glances up the stairs and sees now that the elves appear to be making their way to the very same stairs that he now approaches.

The clarity of thought in that single moment is as clear as spring fed stream. The moment of decision is at hand … the battle will be won or lost … here and now.

“Columns of three from the right … with covering fire … ADVANCE!”

Tired beyond reckoning we move quietly towards the head of the stair that leads to the courtyard below. A shout of command comes from the bottom of the stairs and we see that though the Red Guard has thinned it is by no means defeated.

Bolts begin to ricochet off the guard tower behind us and the clank of metal shod soldiers grows louder and louder as the new wave of attackers makes it way up to meet us.

It is then that the fates decide to clip a string and cause our future to unfold … for the worse.

The high-pitched “ting” of a ricocheting bolt is followed by the sickening thud of the same bolt hitting the neck of one of our casters. I quickly begin to cast the spell to save his life, but just as quickly his life is extinguished and slumps to the ground beyond my skills of repair.

With a roar of rage and mindless bloodlust the Mino cries out “MASSDAA!” turns and charges the staircase, pole arm ready to decapitate the first guardsman he sees.

Another round of sickening thuds comes from his direction and the Mino stands bolt upright … then falls at the top of the stairs silenced by a volley of the lethal darts.

The furry glances at him and then begins again to call on her air magics …

“It is too much my kinsmen we must escape back down to our forces below and regroup.”

And with that thought she finishes the spell and begins to glide up, out, and over the rampart and vanishes quickly from sight.

I too motion to the others to follow quickly back down to our waiting kinsmen but with a rush the Red Guard is at last upon us.

With my feet now hovering over the side of the battlements and several others of us in mid air the remaining elves are cut down by the guards as we few … we three … escape to protect our siege gear and continue the fight from the outside of the battlements.

Latter … as the sun sets we finally had our battles with the three as they decided to come out from behind their many guards and face the few who remained so late on that eve.

They died … we died … we smacked their walls … the walls where repaired … their honor less slaying of our young kinsmen avenged … their slaying of elves seated …

The end of this tale is now upon us as we remember the day of battle …

When the elves came, and fought the many that are “The Red Guard”.
Updated Feb 2006
Copy write Scott Lindquist