The Story of Naga Queens
Bracada Snow Desert
by Lady Dragon
Fall of Steel Pass
While the famous, newly-made Naga Queen Mierdred Deur'Mar sat hungry, cold and tired in the Deadgates, the deepest pits of Castle Ge'Manh, the western border of the Empire was suddenly threatened by an army from Krewlod, the land of the sand and barbarians. None could even understand how they found the Empire covered with eternal snow and standing on the highest peaks of the mountains and in the small valleys between, the only people to know of the exact location of the Empire were the Wizards of Bracada, and none else. Still, even they knew but the location the cities' exact precise position remained a mystery, except the few trade towns on the Great Tail Road.
But the barbarians appeared at the thinnest mountain range between Krewlod and the Empire in the Steel Pass. The city close to it, Nagabaz, was in complete disorder. Not fear, and never panic. Disorder. The attack came just in time when the Empress was dead and the Empire was without a ruler, and the city could only hope for steadiness of the Citykeeper of Nagabaz, Kiya Foride, and the quick help from the closest neighbouring city Nightstar. But even that the last one was under question that city was four days away.
Most certainly doomed, but proud, the four thousands remaining Nagas watched at the descending snake column of the army that was slowly filling up the Raven Valley below. The barbarians already counted 13,000 strong, and the Nagas could only wonder how long exactly it would take for all the army to come down. Who could say how many of them were on the other side? Only the intruders themselves.
The Citykeeper called the Commander of the other army for negotiations. The Commander didn't refuse, probably hoping that the Nagas wanted to surrender, unfamiliar with the species, apparently. Nagabaz would never surrender. The pride would never let them.
The parley was to be conducted in a grey tent on the small patch of land that was guarded by both armies from their respective sides. The tent had two entrances, to evade the problem of who's going to enter first.
The Nagas had nothing to say against it, and Kiya Foride crawled inside the tent as the horn blew.
Inside there was a table, and two chairs. The two commanders would talk of the matter alone.
The Citykeeper entered and sat down by the empty table. Before her, in about two metres distance, sat a tall, dark-faced man with so many scars, big and small, on his face that one couldn't count them all without losing the count itself. But yet, he was quite young about twenty-eight, if not even less.
"Surrender." - the man's words were quietly spoken, but dreadfully meant.
"I will first need to know with whom I have the pleasure to speak with." - Kiya's green, vivid eyes showed a hint of irony. - "I am Kiya Foride of Nagabaz, the Citykeeper."
"I'm sure that you've noticed the banner. We are the Darthenwood Clan." - the barbarian lord calmly replied, apparently not noticing Kiya's shiver. She didn't know the banner, but she knew the name. The Darthenwood Clan had two leaders - Brui and Myra, brother and sister, ruling Krewlod's second most powerful clan after the king's. And the banner now she remembered it from the tales it was said that that exact banner had made people fear. A black running wolf on a red field, the old Nagas said, would make you think of only one name - Darthenwood. Yet, somehow she overlooked the obvious.
The Clan was famous in all of Antagarich for its fierce attitude. Accepting any man willing to join the army, it was a sheer mystery on how the King Kilgor planned to stay on the throne, with all of the numbers and forces against him. But well, there were rumours.
With the Festival of Life, it was said that the brother and sister of the Darthenwood wanted to take up the throne for themselves on the perfectly legal rights and rule Krewlod together. (If this could actually be the event, then Krewlod would have two rulers at the same time for the first time in all of its history). But rumours were rumours, and he still sat before her, not showing any intention of going away. Kiya sighed silently.
Locking her hands on the chair's velvet-covered hands, she asked:
"So, what are we here for? You know perfectly well that Nagabaz shall not surrender. Reinforcements are on the way, and in about five days there won't be a single living goblin in Raven Valley, or anywhere else in the Empire for that matter. So what do you want?"
Kiya fell back on her chair, looking at the enemy quietly. The lean features could be improved, the anger smoothed, and then Brui Darthenwood would be just like the Erathian Lords of Council.
"If you deny me, then we do have nothing to speak of. We will not accept a truce. If you deny my offer to become our slaves, you'll die. If you accept, you'll be under guard sent back to Krewlod to the King to see, unless..."
"We deny." - Kiya's voice was stone, and Brui's face lighted with fire of his rage.
"Then prepare to fight and die, fools!" - and with those words, the barbarian lord stormed out of the tent, the sound of his horse galloping away distant in Kiya's ears.
'You are young,' - Kiya thought melancholically, as she left the tent. - 'You don't know losses yet. Hah, I could have been your grandmother!'
And she laughed out aloud, surprising her escort. For Kiya was 126 years old, and a Naga Queen. The only one left in Nagabaz, as a matter of fact. You seldom can see a Naga Queen to smile, not speaking about a laughing one.
She told her lieutenants of the conversation, and Brui's rage at her denial.
"They'll attack soon." - one of the Nagas noticed, interrupting them, - "They are taking out the catapult and loading it with stones."
"Let me see." - Kiya took the Spyglass out of the Naga's hand and checked. Then she returned it indifferently.
"The same old formation. Call for the towers to arm with whatever they require magical to shoot."
One Naga quickly left, leaving the others standing in the central tower of Nagabaz's wall.
Meanwhile, the barbarian army rolled the Catapult still closer to the walls. Kiya almost laughed, but nevertheless the Catapult looked and was dangerous. Nagabaz might be safe behind its walls, but what would happen to the town when the walls will be destroyed? That was a question the enemy wanted to have an answer for and fast, and the Catapult seemed to be the best questioner.
"Ready this tower's charges." - the Citykeeper ordered, and the Nagas around her began to prepare the small, but efficient mechanism of defence, which could shoot three times on each firing with a fireball flying out far to the enemy's lines. The same operation was already completed on the other two towers facing the West Gate. Not only the Nagas' town but also the barbarians would have a tough time defending themselves as well.
"Are the forces ready?" - Kiya asked the returning lieutenant.
"Good. Hold, and then fire on my command."
"Yes, your Highness." - and the lieutenant hurriedly crawled away.
'As soon as you'll get those golden Thunderbirds of yours out here, they're as good as dead to you.' - Kiya thought with a reptile gleam in her eyes, and went closer to the window.
Finally the Catapult was standing at the ready position with small figures of men shouting on hurried goblins around it. They were finally loading up a gigantic boulder in the huge spoon-like part of the Catapult, finally realising that it might be better weapon against thick town walls than a dozen of smaller stones...
At the other side of the barbarian army the Cyclops Kings were lifting their boulders, also ready to fire on the given order.
Then, both of the units threw their projectiles, aiming for the central tower and the bridge leading into the town now closed and secured against the attackers. The Cyclops missed, and a heavy stonefall smashed down upon the right wing of Nagabaz's Fortification Castle, injuring the few outside.
But the Catapult was far more precise it hit right at the oaken drawbridge, destroying it and sending wooden pieces of debris flying on the Nagas; the stone's massive body rolling further on and smashing into the second wall's base of the Fortification Castle.
The access into the city was halfway opened the enemy's forces now could enter, but just behind the shattered gates, four thousands angry Nagas still waited to battle the invaders. Quite a few soldiers of the enemy seemed to have some doubts about charging the snake women with multiply hands and with a sword in each of it, but it was already too late - the battle horns called to attack. The horn's wild bellow ran at the Valley, creating echoes throughout the Great Tail Ridge and was even heard by the great Snow Hawks in their sky-brushing mountain nests.
Suddenly, a wind started to blow out of nowhere and seemed to push the Ancient Behemoths, who immediately began to run with increased speed. Kiya cursed in hearts the Darthenwood sister, the magician Myra, whose best spell had always been Haste, and it seems that she was using it with the most maximum efficiency one could ask for.
The Cyclops readied their boulders for another try, and the Citykeeper shouted from the window, her voice carrying far in the magic wind:
The massive Fireballs were thrown forward from the towers of the defending town. They flew in great arches across the battlefield with a crazy speed, and got their targets - the backs of the Behemoths, making them stop their charge, shrieking in agony and rolling at the ground. The master work of the Genies who spent long hours in designing Fireballs Throwing Mechanism showed its value in the moment of great peril for the Nagas. The second blast of the burning balls covered the lines of the Goblins and Ogres.
Hundreds of Goblins were screeching on the ground, rolling and more setting fire to their own kind than helping each other.
Momentarily, there was a panic in the enemy's ranks, but then the horn sounded again, and the army moved forward anew, leaving mercilessly behind the injured to crawl back to the camps or await the Healers. Then the third blast of Fireballs reached the barbarians and this time it was aimed at the Cyclops.
Now as half of their numbers had their eyes burned out and the hands scorched by the fire the Cyclops couldn't shoot anymore.
While the panic inflicted by the skillful shooting of the Fireballs was going on among the enemy's ranks, the Nagas have had few moments of the valuable time to create a barricade at the gap where the town gates have been. Through this barricade the enemy could pass only by one (Behemoth size) or four (Goblin size) at a time.
The enemy Catapult suddenly fired, forgotten in all the turmoil, aiming right at the central tower. A thought flashed in Kiya's mind that this couldn't be happening, they couldn't do this because the tower was too far away, but the stone quickly come closer and closer.
Moving on the instinct alone she crawled with an unimaginable speed down the ramp and away from there, shouting to the rest to get out; but the other two were far too busy with the mechanism of the shooting tower pillar to notice anything happening around.
Behind Kiya, an awful cracking noise went through the entire Castle, shaking it from head to basement . As she looked back, she saw the upper levels of the tower collapsing inwards, burying beneath its weight any possible survivors of the direct hit. She looked away from the sight and continued to move trying not to think of those left behind.
She came to the last row, helping a few Nagas to carry away the wounded to clean away the path to the left tower. She needed a view of the battlefield.
When she got there, the Behemoths were already by the barricade, tearing at it with their claws, ruining almost a half of it instantly.
The Nagas inside didn't give in, only shouted all at once, trying desperately to stun the enemy with their mysterious ability of Neurvosity.
"Fire!" Kiya's voice leveled high from the battle, and the towers sent their charges, immediately into the Cyclops, who still kept in one pack formation, suffering grandiose damages.
Kiya smiled within, imagining the mine on Brui's face he thought he was invincible. He better think again into a new formation.
As if listening to the Naga Queen's thoughts, the Cyclops turned away and separated into three groups, making it harder to shoot.
The stone of the Catapult was fired again, and the rock fell down on the left portion of the wall, missing the tower by metres, if not even less.
The Nagas, fighting in the place where the gates once stood, stood their own ground firmly, not letting the awesome gigantic beasts to pass in. But now they had to fight on two sides the Catapult had made a breach in the wall by some incomprehensible means, and now the Ogres were pouring in.
Then, in the midst of the fight, cries were heard. The momentarily forgottten Thunderbirds came flying above Nagabaz, soaring in the sky and unleashing lightning on the defenders, burning up the few wooden structures inside.
Kiya was expecting this, and she climbed out from the window as long as she could, and whistled loudly four times through the battle's noise.
The Thunderbirds were seen to stop in mid-air, and then suddenly turn back, as if an impossible strike of fear.
They had to fear, for from the North came a black-and-white cloud, and it gathered on quickly, intercepting the fleeing birds. As the cloud came closer, the Nagas shouted with glee, recognising the loved allies of the Empire the grand Snow Hawks, larger than the Thunderbirds, and far more fierce.
The two groups smashed into one another in the air with wild, piercing cries. For a moment, it seemed that the whole Raven Valley was watching the fight. Feathers flew down, but the Nagas were already busy again.
The Behemoths had retreated, giving place to the crushing Ogres, Goblins and the nimble Wolf Raiders, who attacked with the natural for them double ferocity.
The Nagas ferocity was, strangely, increasing before such a well-powered assault, and the attackers seemed to move backwards under the attack of their sapiers.
Kiya crawled down, to see the position from there where the battle now was in heat.
Behind the fighting klot stood the Orcs and the Cyclops, being dangerously close to the walls, but were shooting from their close position unstopped, covered by the broad backs of the Behemoths in front.
But not for long were they unstopped. The Thunderbirds began to retreat, and the Snow Hawks splitted, half tearing into the fleeing birds, and the other half swarming over the shooter group, which united together again because of the tower's incapability to shoot the third time the energy had been extinguished far quicklier than awaited. The Hawks were attacked by the Behemoths furiously, some unable to get away from the lomng claws, and the bigger half evading them and screeching proudly in the air.
Suddenly the horn blew again, and the Goblins left the fight as quickly as they had entered it. For that matter, the whole of the Barbarian army retreated, making a wide gap between the city and the enemy's ranks.
A horse galloped in, and stopped in front of the destroyed gates, with his hand upwards to the sky in a gesture of peace.
"I come in peace!" - he shouted over the Nagas heads into the depth of Nagabaz, making an apparent show of his ignoring a massive army in front of him, ready to disregard a gesture of peace at any possible moment.
Kiya's lone figure came out from the ruins of the destroyed tower, and the Nagas split before her, giving her small space, but not letting her come out completely.
"I bring a message from the his Majesty the Commander!" - the herald's cry was so loud as if he didn't quite understand that Kiya was but a dozen steps away, and not in Jadame.
"Majesty? Ha... Brui thinks himself a King already, even before he had actually conquered the throne of Krewlod?" - Kiya's voice was ironical, making the herald sit upright in the saddle.
"His Majesty disregards the opinions of the lesser likes like you. He only expressed his wish for you to know of his proposition of a fight with the Commander here."
Kiya's expression darkened for a moment, but the herald didn't notice.
"Tell his Majesty that there are no Commanders here. The lowly likes of ours do not bear such filthy names of the barbarian squires, fit only to a sweeper."
The herald's face became clouded, as if he was listening to someone unhearable to other ears, and then calmly replied:
"The Lord of the Darthenwood Clan offers the Citykeeper of Nagabaz to fight in a battle of mere two for the right of the city. The one to win will have it conquered."
"Oh, yes." - Kiya almost laughed. - "Dear my, please do explain, what shall we get in the case of our victory? Perhaps our city back again, which we now so lack?"
"The Lord will grant you life in such an impossible turn of the result." - the herald replied, with the expression of a peacock.
"Life? Ooh... I'm afraid we'll have to talk to the Lord about that. Because it seems that he will, quite naturally, be without it in such an impossible turn of the result."
The herald's eyes went blank, trying to grasp the meaning. When his meagre mind at last found the obvious flaw in his peacock speech, his maneuver was childish of an escape.
"The Lord wishes to know your reply."
Kiya's glance at the army was enough to make a decision quicker than the herald had the time to contact whoever he was talking to telepathically.
"Yes, I accept the Lord's charge. We'll meet in the center of the battlefield."
The herald nodded his agreement before the person on the other end told him to do otherwise, and turned his horse round to leave the rude Nagas, when Kiya said quietly:
"Brui you better take a handkerchief with you. I'm fairly sure that you'll need it."
The herald's face blushed from rage, and the horse galloped away at frenzy pace.
Kiya used his words against him at once, noticing a gap in the barbarian's defense, and attacked him, two swords at each side and two in the middle, at the same time moving at him as an especially armored hedgehog.
Seconds later, the Darthenwood heir lay on his back in the blazing white snow, all the six sapiers pointed at his throat.
"Who kills whom now?" - Kiya asked, the fight's sparkle in the eyes, but the Lord kept silent, until the Naga sighed disdainfully.
"Do you think that you even have the courage to kill me? I doubt sincerely that the Nagas have the skill!" - and the defeated laughed at the victor, hoping to earn a quick, painless death.
"You ask for so much..." - Kiya smiled ironically. - "But you shall get what you asked for, your Majesty."
She swung at her foe, and felt him yelp once. Only once then the defeated became quickly the deceased.
"Blood to the Darthenwood Clan!" - Kiya shouted, and heard her cry to be repeated over and over behind her, everywhere, echoing in the mountains, in the walls cried by the Nagas; she even heard the Snow Hawks shout something on their language. Most of all, the Citykeeper felt the intruder army buckle, panic in the ranks for the loss of their loved Commander, sorrow coming from the mountain where the Lord's sister mourned the death of a brother.
'Let those who brought sorrow to us feel it as well!' - prayed Kiya, watching the enemy's army retreat, not even attacking, disaffirmed, some running, as if the death of the Commander set working a spell of panic in the ranks, breaking the order of the formations.
'They are afraid.' - she realized, impressed by the impact.
She made a sign for the Nagas behind to take up the body, and went back into Nagabaz, followed by the carriers of the disemboweled corpse.
Before the city, the Nagas had created a mound from the corpses of the barbarian fallen soldiers, and on the top placed a sorts of pole, to which the body of Brui Darthenwood was perched on.
"No... don't burn the mound, you hell witches! Don't do it!" - Myra cried in despair, but she was unable to stop anything.
The cursed Nagas centered round the mound, and set fire to it in many places at once, swinging over it large casks of oil here and there.
Moments later, the Nagas retreated into Nagabaz, and the mound burned merrily, letting out huge clouds of smoke, filling up the whole of Raven Valley.
Then the two remaining towers of the city fired, making some sort of a chemical reaction, and made the fire blue, dancing off with green sparks.
The smell reached Myra, who was cursing the Nagas from all the depth she knew, by all the names and words from any language.
The barbarian tribes had extremely harsh burial rituals. Fire was cleaning, yes, but never in the purposes of burial. When a corpse was subjected to fire after the person died, it meant that all of the person's deeds in life were forgotten, and the soul was destined to walk in the Grahi Fields of Gray, never to get neither to Valhalla or the Black Pits.
Fire cleaned, but the barbarians believed otherwise. The burial ceremony of most of the Krewlod tribes was to bury the body in the place were the person was born, in the sand from where he came, and into the sand to where he'll go after death. The sand would be like a chalice to send the person to Valhalla, or the Black Pits, depending on the person's life.
By burning Myra's brother, the Nagas had cursed him forever, and now the only way to give Brui the road to the Valhalla was to sacrifice a relative which Myra wasn't quite willing to do.
"They'll get for this!" - she swore through her tears, and felt the anger rise in her, like lava would rise in an erupting volcano.
"I shall never leave this accursed place now. Not after this!" - and Myra ripped the dreadful letter into small pieces, and sent them to the wind of her magic, the pieces flying by her direction into the fire, and burning up with green sparks of fire, like a last flicker for hope, or a final splash of anger.
Then, they all charged. At the front there were the greyish beasts of horror - the Behemoths who would made anyone to fear. The long, needle-sharp claws, the white gleaming teeth and the red eyes of rage itself were horrifying and sometimes even made the defenders stand still with fright, unable to move and thus only watching helplesssly as their own death charged them.
But this had not been the case with the Nagas. Yes, they did stand still, but not out of fear but because of the iron battle discipline and stoic determination.
A horse galloped closer to the square-shaped territory that was marked by stones and poles, and the rider dismounted, taking the helmet off for all to see the face. The Commander Lord of the Darthenwood Clan, Brui, jumped into the square, landed on two feet, sword already in hands. The horse reared, and tried gallop away, but was held respectfully, but firmly by a Goblin nearby.
Brui faced Kiya, and had the impressive sight of a massive escort behind the Naga Queen, as well as the flaming eyes of the opponent, with all the six sharp blades of the sapiers pointed at him. Those were particularly hard to miss, even with bad eyes.
"I see that you've held your... city yet against us." - he hissed dangerously at the Naga. - "Might you yet reconsider?"
Kiya leveled up on her tail, looking into the eyes of the beholder, as the Nighon warlocks say.
"If I'd ask you again to cut your right arm, would you reconsider perhaps?"
Brui didn't reply, him being used to such remarks from his former parley, but took a step closer.
The armies held their breath as Brui slashed at the Naga's side, and dived quickly as Kiya parried and sent her three swords to cut his head. Brui danced around her, without a shield but with a two-handed sword with a golden hilt, occasionally diving from the attacks of the serpent-woman.
Suddenly the warrior rushed at the opposite side, surprising his opponent, and swung at the Naga's head, which quickly jerked back, a sapier immediately in it's place in a defensive stand.
"I'll kill you, abomination!" - Brui's words came out uneasy, half-coughing with strain.
Lady Myra Darthenwood, sister to her slain brother, Brui Darthenwood, sat in the saddle of a gray horse, atop of the rocky cliff that served as a commanding point. She was watching the battle proceed.
She saw the lone rider take off, and understood immediately who he was. She cursed under her breath. He didn't tell her anything of such a trek. The brown-haired lady watched his way into the army, through it, and stopping before the square-marked shape. She witnessed the entire battle with the Citykeeper.
As well as the death of her brother.
Myra could have said later that she knew this might happen and all, but then she had been in a shocked condition for a full minute, if not more.
Then, as her mind cleared from the dull pain nagging at her brain and body, she frantically signaled with the horn for the retreat of the army, not noticing that the army itself was quite smart and was running away already.
'By the great Razor Claw and the Seven Fires, save my brother!' - Myra prayed. - 'Let him live, he can't die... why did I ever agree to this stupid deal!'
And tears rolled down her cheeks, for she loved her brother dearly, the fact of that being quite strange, since this was uncommon in the feudal blood wars of the Krewlod Clans.
Myra looked at the hasty retreat of her army, and asked for a herald to come down to the Nagas once again to ask for a second parley.
Half-hour later, the herald returned with a sealed letter, which he gave to the lady with a low bow.
"The Citykeeper of Nagabaz refused to talk with me, milady. She said that this letter from her should be given directly into your hands, and none other." and the goblin went off, leaving Myra alone.
She broke the seal, and read with an arising fear.
"From Kiya Foride, Citykeeper of Nagabaz.
Your attempts to talk over again are futile, Myra Darthenwood, if your goal is to get the body of your deceased brother. You will not get it in any case. The city shall not bow to your rule even if the
reinforcements would come. We'll fight to the death.
While you'll be reading this letter, watch over our city. The events might prove interesting for your eyes to see."
Myra glanced at the city, and the letter fell from her hand on the wet snow, immediately soaking through and the ink turning into dots of black.