Last Stand of Starkholm
The Last Stand of Starkholm was the final battle of the Fall. When all seemed lost, when the refugees and surviving military had nowhere to go but western Andermark, all gathered to make their last stand, to hold the final battle, at Starkholm, the ancestral home of the Anderian Royal Family. There was nowhere else to run. This was a case of win or die.
The Andermen fought beside their age-long rivals the Lancesians when the Legion came, aiding in the siege warfare that slowed the Legion down. Even at this stage, however, Lancereaux and Andermark was being flooded by elven, Norlish and Calavrian refugees. The Andermen fought stalwartly in their bands of knights, paladins and rallied peasants but ultimately theirs was a losing battle against the endless tide of the Legion. Their withdrawal from Lancereaux was fought as a slow retreat, King Constantin already planning a siege at Starkholm that, if Damryn fell, was deemed by all to be the last hope the Realm had against this foe.
By the time the survivors were pushed back to Starkholm, the atmosphere was one of defeat and hopelessness. Even Constantin himself seemed to be going through the motions in his war efforts, the last standing king of a crumbling realm. Constantin had not seen a battlefield since Fordheim and, at the last battle, it was not he but his son Mathias that rallied the charge for the last battle of Andermark. Taking up the ancestral Stark blade from over the mantle of a fireplace in Westhall Palace, the ancestral hall of Erik Stark, Mathias rode out to the front of the armies and gave a rousing speech, invoking the name and honour of Konrad and reminding each man there, be they Anderian, Lancesian, Ibarriard, Damryan, Calavrian, Norl, elf or dwarf, that so long as they had breath in their lungs, a sword in their hand and a future they were prepared to fight for and die for, they had everything that Konrad had to overcome any impossibility. Mathias vowed that any that rode with him would see the very heavens open to turn the tide.
And Prince Mathias made good that promise.
Prince Mathias led the charge into the ranks of the Legion as their numbers split to march through the river, but he did not take to the banks to fight them in the waters as they struggled to move. His target stood at the far end of the bridge they had not seen the time to bring down, for there stood the True Nemesis, He of Blood and Shadows, looking over his horde. Mathias charged through the ranks, persevering even when his horse was killed under him, cutting swathes through the wall of Legionaries that would die to defend the True Nemesis.
Theirs was not a lengthy battle the like of which would be recorded in song. Perhaps through the True Nemesis’ surprise, perhaps through Mathias’ sheer determination, they did not even lock blades before he plunged his sword into its chest.
The scream the creature made was terrible enough to make even the Legion stagger to a halt and have men fall to knees with bleeding ears. Even Mathias stumbled and faltered at this - which would cost him his life as the Legion Commander’s last act was to seize him by the throat. But even when the True Nemesis bodily ripped the Crown Prince’s head from his shoulders, the shadows of its body began to crumble and flake. As Mathias’ head hit the bloodied boards of the bridge, the True Nemesis exploded into dust and nothing with a sound like a thousand thunders.
A great cheer went up from the vanguard of the army, that was picked up and carried throughout the ranks, even by those who could not have seen what had happened. For long moments it seemed as if there was hope, that there was a reprieve, for despite the loss of the Crown Prince of Andermark, the commander of the Legion had been destroyed.
The cheer went cold in the throats of the men as long seconds passed, and they realised that the Legion stood there still, unmoving and apparently unaffected by the loss of just one of their number, even the greatest of their number. Hope died when they began to march again.
The Descent of the Gods
The clouds parting above them did nothing to ease their moods; it just meant the sun would shine upon the fall of mankind. Even the shafts of light dancing in and amongst the ranks were thought of as nothing but a cruel mockery of the skies.
Until figures in these pillars of light could be seen, flickering into solid being. Not standing on high to look down at events, not lined up at the front of the battle lines, but shoulder to shoulder with the infantry, the cavalry, the archers, the troop commanders, even the refugees. Sometimes unnoticed for long seconds before they moved, they were nevertheless immediately recognised. A tall, austere man with a large shield. A hulk of a man wielding a massive sword as if it were nothing. A lady wrapped in silks and bandages that wept blood. Even a shadowy figure slinking behind the lines unnoticed unless she wished it otherwise, and a proud elf standing in all the lost glory of his people.
The surviving mortals of Ereda did not need to be theologians to see their own Gods walked amongst them. And hope sprang from true divine inspiration.
The subsequent battle was not without cost. But the Allied Army fought like demons, hurtling into the lines of the Legion with renewed vigour, and many say their old enemy had not the resilience they were known for. Perhaps for the death of the True Nemesis, perhaps for the onslaught of the Gods themselves - and it was indeed an onslaught. Aethon himself led the charge, sundering the Legion’s lines and sowing chaos amongst perfectly ordered tactics in vengeance for the years of defeat.
And as victory was won, as the Legion fell, and as hope and a chance for life were finally bought for the people of the Realm and the Empire, King Constantin, the last King of humanity, stood in the tallest tower of Westhall Palace and wept for his son. From dawn ‘til dusk on the last day of the war, the day that changed everything, the man who would lead the Alliance from this point on did not issue a single command.