Chapter 14

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The Storm

The vanghouls, Arthouras and Malisha, were kept under constant guard at the east side of the camp. Those who were in that area were armed to the teeth and ready to engage at any moment should things escalate.

As the Captain and Lady Fraya approached, they were stopped by a guardsman clad in steel armor with the mark of Stormhold on his tabard and cloak. Speaking in a clear tone of voice, the man addressed Feregreth. “Sir, I can’t let you go any further. This area is restricted,” he said.

“Restricted? By whose order, the general?”

“Yes, sir. You need officer clearance to approach the prisoners.”

“So, they’re now prisoners of war, huh?” Glancing around the camp in search for Declan, Feregreth closely watched the paths between the tents and the men walking by before he eventually noticed him. He was carrying a woodpile over to a nearby campfire when the captain whistled for his attention.

Seeing him next to the guard, Lowe gave him a quick nod and dropped off the firewood before joining them. Halting before his young prodigy, Declan asked curiously with a little smile, “what can I do for you, lad?”

“We need to have a word with the vanghouls. This soldier won’t let us pass by Galeran’s orders.”

Slightly squinting over at the guardsman, Declan ordered them to stand down and give them a few minutes of privacy. Accepting the command, the guards stepped away for a moment as the three of them approached the vanghouls. Arthouras was sitting on his knees in a meditation pose while Malisha was leaning against a wooden crate. The former Admiral gently cleared his throat to let them know that they were here.

Opening his eyes, Lord Vordrath saw the familiar faces of Feregreth and Fraya before him. With a respectful nod, he addressed them. “What news do you have?”

Fraya replied without regards to Declan, informing them that the leaders had no intention of heeding the call for unity. Hearing this, Malisha stepped up with an angry look in her eyes but was quickly shut down by Arthouras.

“Malisha, control yourself. We knew what we were going into. The humans have no reason to trust us when it was our people that attacked them first.”

The former admiral asked the vanghoul Lord with a suspicious stare as his hand rested on the hilt of his blade. “Why did your people attack us? You seem so adamant to stop this war. You don’t strike me as cowards who attack and flee from a battle.”

“I do not know why the Overlord went after you; it makes no sense. Our quarrel is with the ancient order of the Elven Covenant.”

Not following what he was referring to, Lowe expressed confusion as he asked what he was talking about.

Shortly after, Fraya intervened with a saddened stare at the old vanghoul. “He is talking about my people. A long time ago, the vanghouls attacked and burned down our cities, killing countless in pursuit of power. They came from this hellish place to conquer and destroy.”

Becoming enraged, Malisha stepped up in front of Fraya and nearly shouted. “Is that what your elders teach you? You don’t know the real truth, do you, elven girl?”

“I think there’s more to it, which is why I’m here. Your kind are deemed as demonic entities of the underworld by my people.”

Declan was visibly shocked by what Fraya was saying as he and Feregreth were listening carefully to the conversation, albeit with a hint of concern.

The old vanghoul got back up on his feet and gently moved Malisha to the side as he continued to explain their side of the story. “Our kind is your kind, Fraya. The vanghouls didn’t originate from any deep hole in the ground. The Elven Covenant back then was quite different. You know about the Stryth elves, I presume? The ones that linger in the shadows of the world. There is a reason they’re no longer part of your covenant. Your kind and theirs mixed, resulting in the birth of a hybrid. In order to ensure this newborn was a product of nature, the elders conducted experiments on it, but something went wrong. He mutated into something different, something that was twice as large, twice as deadly. The boy had to be terminated in the eyes of the elves. However, he escaped and with the help of an Elven woman. Eventually, they brought a new hybrid species into the world. These are the vanghouls you know today. The original hybrid was ultimately killed by the covenant, but by then the species had begun to reproduce. We were banished and exiled by our own race, and we’ve been hunted ever since. A lot of us are angry at the world and at your people for making us into what your kind so elegantly refer to as abominations.”

Speechless and with tearful eyes, Fraya fell down on her knees. Placing his hand on her back to comfort her, Feregreth gently asked if she was okay. She was taking it unusually heavy as if she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders.

Gazing into the eyes of the old vanghoul, Declan replied curiously with an overprotective tone of voice. “So, you want to kill her, is that it?”

“No, far from it. She had no involvement in the sins of her ancestors. That’s the point I’m trying to convey. We can’t hold entire races accountable for the actions of a few.”

“I agree. I’ll talk to the general about this.”

Giving him a bow of gratitude, Arthouras went back down on his knees and closed his eyes again.

Fraya and Malisha were keeping their eyes locked at each other for a while before the captain helped her back onto her feet, asking her to follow him.

With the guards moving back into position, Declan took it upon himself to reach out to the general with the latest news.

As Feregreth walked with his Elven friend, he looked over at Declan who was about to walk away and said concerned, “keep her secret, will you?” he asked.

“Of course, lad. You have my word.”

As he was thanking him, light rain started falling from dark clouds that were beginning to cover the sky above. Closing her eyes as she felt the raindrops going down her cheek, Fraya mumbled a short phrase in an unknown tongue.

Stepping up in front of her, Feregreth looked at her with a sense of concern as he uttered. “Are you okay? What happened back there?”

She didn’t reply, but something seemed off about her. The sound of thunder echoing in the horizon came closer at an unusually fast pace. Looking up, Fraya seemed slightly uneasy about the now torrential downpour. When she heard the faint sound of metal hitting the ground, she immediately turned towards the palisades and spoke in a low tone of voice. “Something is going on. Come!”

“What?” He ran after her through the camp and came upon a soldier on the ground next to the wall. An axe had been launched into his armor, piercing through it. The rain was masking the sound, and no one had been alerted by this. Looking back into the camp, the captain shouted at full capacity, “we’re under attack!”

The shout fell on deaf ears as the downfall was too intense to break through to the nearest soldiers. A dense mist had started to enclose the encampment along with the storm, which made it much harder to signal anyone. Beginning to run into the camp shouting, Feregreth looked back at Fraya and waved for her to follow. However, she had something else in mind.

Pulling an arrow with an engraved head out of her quiver, she drew her bow and fired it straight up into the air. As it flew upwards, it started to faintly glow blue before it exploded mid-air into a bright light, cutting through the fog. The entirety of the basecamp looked up in utter confusion at the slowly falling particles, and as they descended, the people noticed vanghouls climbing over the palisades into the camp. Readying themselves, the soldiers charged into battle to defend the base at all costs.

Coming downhill from the northside, Nekada ran towards them with a small army of warriors on his side. One of the vanghoul soldiers jumped down next to Fraya, engaging her in combat. Amidst the fighting, out of his peripheral, the captain caught sight of this and sprinted to her aid as fast as his feet would carry him. Climbing over the wall, the vanghouls rushed into the camp and killed anyone in their path as well as destroying tents, objects, and whatever they could get to. Standing outside of the commanders’ tent, Declan, Nathan, and Terrence were witnessing the terrorizing destruction of the vanghouls as they pushed forward.

Admiral Fowler shouted at the General as he saw the men being massacred. “There are too many of them, we have to push back to the coast! Our remaining units are held up there. Signal the retreat now, general!”

Nodding at the guardsman next him, Galeran gave him the order to sound the retreat. Hearing the horn, Nekada noticed the officers up the road and targeted them. He cut through the soldiers in his way with the Vanquished Cleaver as if they were nothing but a nuisance to him.

Evading every slash and attack one of the vanghouls threw at her, Fraya tried to maneuver him as opposed to fighting back. Running around the tent next to them, Feregreth managed to come up behind and stab his sword into the spine of the beast. As it fell to the ground, the captain rushed over and grabbed her hand, leading the way back to the commanders. As they were running up the road, they saw Nekada making his way to them as well.

Speaking with an assured tone of voice, Fraya let go of his hand. “Go with your people back to the coast, I’ll lure Nekada away. He wants me more than he wants you,” she ordered.

“What? No!” Feregreth snapped, shocked.

She began sprinting faster than him and managed to get up in front of the officers before Nekada and fired an arrow that got him in his shoulder. The rage filling his eyes as he saw her made him change focus from Stormhold to her, just as she’d hoped.

The Stormhold soldiers ran down the slope in the direction of the coastline while Nekada rallied most of the vanghouls to follow him into the forest after the elf.

Seeing Feregreth coming up next to him, Declan listened as he addressed him with concern. “I have to go after her, I can’t leave her alone out there.”

“I know, lad. Be careful, and don’t you get yourself killed, you hear?”

Giving him a quick nod, the captain began to follow Nekada into the woodlands.

After a while, the survivors from the camp reached the coast where the rest of the men were located. However, there were several vanghouls on their tail, which were picking them off one by one. As General Galeran came out into the open, the soldiers on the beach quickly regrouped on his position. One of the men approached him with grave concern as he spoke.

“General, I’m afraid I got dreadful news.” He pointed out into the ocean at three large vanghoul battleships that were preparing to launch an attack.

The ones that were following through the forest halted at the clearing, just watching the men of Stormhold gathering.

Walking up to Declan and Nathan, Fowler stated in an annoyed tone of voice. “We got pushed into one of their traps. Damn these beasts!”

Maintaining his stance, the General raised his sword into the air and shouted to his men. “We’ll hold this position as long as it takes. If we’re going down, we’ll take these bastards with us!”

The artillery of the battleships were aimed at their position, preparing to launch their attack when suddenly all three ships went up in flames. Their masts fell over on the side, and two of them exploded on the middle and began to sink. Staring in confusion out on the horizon, Nathan squinted at the ships. As soon as the smoke cleared up, the cobalt blue sails of Stormhold’s Pride appeared in the distance. King Marcus Fall had arrived with an entire armada from the Stormhold navy.

Onboard the pride, Aethos walked over to Marcus, who stood at the helm with the captain of the ship. He felt the strong ocean wind upon his weathered skin as his confidence rose. Speaking in an assured manner, the old man pointed at the wreckages as he addressed his majesty. “A glorious strike, Marcus. The outlook confirmed that it is indeed our people on the beach, but there are more vanghouls not far from their position.”

Turning his attention to the crew, the king yelled out to prepare for another attack on the forest border at the coast. As the cannons were adjusted in range to strike at the vanghouls that were waiting in the trees, the Pride turned slowly into position. The general noticed that the king’s ship was aligning itself for another barrage, so he signaled the soldiers to take cover immediately. They rushed southwards and hid behind rocks and debris as the sky lit up with cannonballs flying through the air, striking down at the vanghouls who were now fleeing back into the forest. The losses were grave, but with the assistance of the King, the tide had turned in their favor. A clearing from the storm appeared as the fleet sent boats filled with armed soldiers towards the coast. With the vanghouls divided and left on the run, the armies of Stormhold arrived at the Vanquished Island under the King’s command. The time had finally come for the vanghouls to answer for their crimes.

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