flASH fiction Finale Part 3
The black smoke form the stack had dissipated and the sky over Rustwatch was clear and blue once more. It was a brilliantly warm day. The sun felt good on the Iron Lord’s face and arms. It was a different kind of heat than he was used to, inside of the forge. This was natural and pleasant, not like the sweltering inferno where he practiced his masterful metalcraft. It struck Coal as strange that it took an invasion of his home in order for him to appreciate a fine day outside. He promised himself that after the fighting was over for good he would make a greater effort to get away from his anvil and take in the fresh air and warmth of the sun on a more regular basis. If he survived the war that was.
Coal stood on the ramparts of his city and looked down at Dimona. The Iron Lord could not make out the details of the Rayward queen far below Rustwatch but he was sure that she wore an expression that was pompous and self-assured. She was the sort who liked to think she could tell the outcome of a battle without fighting it. The Iron Lord knew that there was some merit to be found in tactical analysis but he did not put stock in predictions and speculation. Coal knew that war was an unpredictable entity and once the fighting started all the preparation in the world could not make a man ready to face the grimmest realities of battle.
The thing that gave the Iron Lord the greatest cause for concern was the image of the Painted Wytch mounted in a horrific looking chariot next to the Rayward queen. Coal could only surmise that the Bloodwoods Clan and the forces of Rayward had united. He had some lingering hopes that Jessa’s volatile nature would have prevented such an alliance but it appeared to the Iron Lord that the Bloodwood’s Clan Phoenix Born had allowed thoughts to overcome emotion. It looked like a certainty that the Coal would have to contend with a unified enemy.
He glanced back over his shoulder. He could not see from where he was but Coal knew that the Silverwood army of the Viper Queen was taking position on the southernmost side of his city. The Iron Lord saw the Viros Phoenix Born, Noah Redmoon, tending to his large black wolf companion on the platform below his perch. The Iron Lord found some measure of solace knowing that he would have more than the mettle and zeal of his Iron Men to call on in the coming war. Coal had no great love for leaning on the strength of outsiders but he was no fool. The combine power of Noah Redmoon and Maeoni Viper alone was worth more than a full detachment of his finest fighting men. He did not like to admit it to himself but he was glad to have their aid pledged to his side. He only hoped that their loyalty was true.
“Coal Roarkwin! Iron Lord of Rustwatch!” Shouted Dimona form below the Rustwatch battlements.
The echo of her voice pulled Coal from his thoughts and returned him to the moment. “Why do you call me Dimona?” Coal shouted back down to the war torn earth underneath him.
“You know why I am here. We all do. The calling in our blood is undeniable. The only thing that will sate it is the death of our own kind. You are mine to kill!” Dimona shouted up as her stallion anxiously trotted back and forth. As she spoke she felt an unnaturally cold breeze stroke her chin.
“Aye, I feel it true enough. I have to say that I do not care much for your take of the matter. I have no intention of letting you kill me today or any other day,” Called the Iron Lord. He noted a sense of pride beaming from his daughters face when he spoke. She was positioned in the tower adjacent where she was polishing her massive warhammer with a rag. He made himself pull his eyes from Greta before his fatherly instinct began to contend with his duty as a general and military leader. Coal needed to project a stern unbreakable image and seeing Greta made him soft.
There were a few moments of chilling quiet that fell over the Iron Men gathered on the ramparts of Rustwatch. The Rayward queen took some time to compose herself and figure if she should put threats before hope or vise versa. “How many of your Iron Men would you see die for your vanity? You can see that my knights have been bolstered with Queen Jessa’s Bloodwoods Clan warriors,” Dimona said as she waived her arm back towards the encampment that boasted flags from Rayward and the Painted Wycth.
“If you stand against us then I will see your city left as nothing more than a heap of slag and smoke. Your men can live. You can save them if you wish. I only require your life. I have no interest in needlessly massacring good men. Forfeit your life to me and on my honor no Iron Man within your city shall come to harm,” Dimona said with confidence and command. She felt something odd string within her. The sun was shining splendidly in the sky overhead but when she spoke her breath came out as an icy mist.
Coal allowed a few heartbeats for the Rayward queen’s offer to hang in the air before he responded. “Oh good. Here we were terrified that your lot were about to break down our gates, ride into our city and kill us all while we shake and cower. So very thoughtful of you to present such a generous offer. What do you think of the merciful Dimona Odinstar, lads?” Barked the Iron Lord with dripping mockery.
The response form the Iron Men was not what the Rayward Queen had expected. Even faced with overwhelming odds and the prospect of a vile torturous end Coals warriors were unmoved. It started with a few voices from the battlements breaking the silence and then rose into a veritable tempest of vocal defiance. The words of the Iron Men ranged from simple insults and profanities hurled at the Rayward queen to some of the most grotesque, perverted and lude comments that the women had ever heard. Having lived a long life among soldiers and fighting men she had though that she knew every misogynistic quip there was. In less than a minuet the Iron Men had shattered that illusion.
“It seems like they are not agreeable…your majesty,” Jessa said to the Rayward queen with a cruel glee. Were it not for the black and white ashen paint that adorned her face Dimona would have been able to see the faintest traces of blush on Jessa’s cheeks.
The Rayward Queen huffed indignantly. She was not the sort who liked being made sport of. “Many men will die needlessly for your arrogance. I only offer terms once. It is madness to refuse. How dare you call yourself a leader of these…men…when you would pass up the chance to see them survive? You cannot hope to win this war. You are outnumbered and out classed,” Dimona shouted. It strained her voice to complete with the jeers and cries of the Iron Men atop the wall but Coal heard her words. She felt something chilling the finely crafted steel of her breastplate. A familiar sense of foreboding took root in the pit of Dimona’s belly.
The Iron Lord grinned thru his thick smoky grey beard. He picked out a subtle tone of desperation in Dimona’s speech. He could tell that she had as little stomach for a protracted and bloody war as he did. With a sweeping waive of his arm he silenced the parade of insults and harsh language that his warriors continued to pour on the Rayward queen. “Outnumbered, aye. I’ll give you that…but outclassed. Woman you have come to Rustwatch, we don’t breed second best here!” Coal shouted with a passionate fire that ignited a chorus of cheers from his soldiers. “I wonder if you would be so brazen if you didn’t have the Painted Wytch at your side? I wonder what terms you had to offer in order to get her to kiss your feet?”
“I only wanted to see the end of the Viper Queen, my interests happen to fall in line with Raywards. I serve no one and bow before no others!” Jessa all but screamed up to the Iron Lord.
“Ah, it that what you tell yourself? From where I’m sitting it looks to me that Dimona has found herself a new little terrier to follow at her heels,” Coal said provocatively.
Jessa squirmed and withed in her chariot. It was Dimona’s turn to delight in the insult of her ally. “I was content to simply watch Dimona put your miserable city to the torch but for your mockery I will pull your teeth from your mouth and have them for my crown,” Jessa spat vengefully.
“I won’t begrudge you that. An ugly hag like you needs all the decorations she can muster,” Coal goaded. His words drew an eruption of laughter from his men.
Jessa clenched her fist so tightly that her fingernails pieced the skin of her palms. “I’m done here. I go to ready my warriors for the siege,” The Painted Wytch hissed at the Rayward queen. Jessa turned her chariot and made for her camp.
“Seems to me you picked a friend with more ambition than backbone. A few rough words and already she’s lost her wits,” Coal laughed at the Rayward queen.
“She is just anxious to get to the bloodshed. I assure you that the Bloodwoods Clan are a greater asset than the paltry forces of Silverwood and Viros. Perhaps you did not see but I also have a commitment form Lighthouse Bay. Saria Guideman herself is in my camp. Even with Noah Redmoon and Maeoni Viper you will not be able to stop me,” Dimoan said as she felt the touch of ice on her fingers. “You will all end up proud and dead when I am finished here.”
“I’ll tell you that there is more than you bargained for waiting inside of these walls,” Coal said as he folded his arms across his chest. “I’m not one for surprises so I think I best show you what you can count one when you try and take Rustwatch,” He continued to speak to the Rayward queen while he signaled with his hand for someone to approach his place on the battlements.
Dimona was about to launch her own verbal retort when she felt it hit her in the heart. She knew before seeing the source of the apprehension she was feeling. He blue eyes went wide as she saw Rin standing next to the Iron Lord on the ramparts of Rustwatch.
“I said I would find you, Dimona. I said I would. Now I have! I’m going to kill you!” Rin shouted with joy at his enemy below. Then he began to laugh as he cast his spell.
In a flash the sky over Rustwatch went form cloudless blue to solid grey. The warmth of the sun disappeared and was replaced with the bite of ice and howling wind. The heavens opened up and a blizzard unleashed. The last thing that Dimona saw before the whiteout was Rin furiously sending bolts of energy into the sky and bringing fourth the artic tempest. The next few moments were nothing but chaos and anarchy for the Rayward queen.
When the air calmed Dimona found herself not far from her war camp. She had been thrown from her, now frozen solid, steed. She picked herself out of the knee high snow and stood. She exhaled a deep breath of chilled air as she readjusted the crown on her head. She saw the hazy outline of Rustwatch across no-man’s-land. It was obscured by the fog of the sudden winter. The thing that she was able to pick out about anything else was the wretched sound of Rin’s laughter echoing everywhere.
Dimona turned her back on the Iron Lord’s city and looked at her own assembly of knights. She saw the unmistakable image of fear plastered on their faces. It enraged her more than the instant snow storm that her enemy had conjured. This was not the Rayward army that she knew. Her knights were the bravest and most disciplined fighting men in Argaia. She would not let Rin’s insult stand.
“What are you all looking at!” Dimona boomed. Her voice was infused with magic that let it ring in the ears of every single warrior in the camp. “We will show these fools what true soldiers are. We will take that city and leave nothing but ashes!” She continued. As she spoke her body was outlined in a stupendous glow of golden light. Dimona conjured a winged stallion made of lightning and mounted its back. With the execution of some of her own magic she noted the fear on the faces of her knights evaporate. “This is the moment that the histories of Argaia will never forget. With what we do here today the name of Rayward will live forever!” Dimona roared as she crafted a sword and shield of sunlight in her hands. Dimona presented an image that was nothing short of extraordinary and awe-inspiring. She looked and saw the morale of her men lifted to magnificent heights. “Nothing has changed since the first day of this crusade!” I say, kill them all!” Commanded the Warrior Queen.
And so began the Battle of Rustwatch and the War of Ashes.