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TOPIC OF THE MONTH:
THE SIEGE OF DRAX ALLEN
This is the first time I take part in a siege, and if Fate permits it, I swear by all I have most sacred that it will also be the last one. A military campaign is something completely different from the heroic tales told by the fire by most bards and storytellers. I can state this because I am living it first hand. There is no beauty in war, no epics and no honour whatsoever. Only death, filth and fear surround us: these are the Three Dark Ladies that accompany a soldier in every war. And the siege of a fortress, often being the highest climax of a military campaign, is even more ruthless and taxing than the common battles.
The siege of Drax Tallen began on Sviftmont 21st and ended on Eirmont 17th. This is what the historians in their chronicles will record. As a matter of fact, it was neither one of the longest sieges nor one of the bloodiest, as the military experts tell me. But it was terrifying nonetheless, and I am writing this report with the sole purpose to pass on you, Dear Reader, the knowledge and feelings that I have experienced during this extreme situation, so that the next generations may learn and never repeat the mistakes of their ancestors.
During our first night of camp around Drax Tallen we immediately sent out scouting parties to examine the defences of the keep. Our camp was about a mile distant from the looming citadel, hidden inside the forest, and we could clearly see the torches and braziers burning inside the main buildings and the battlements. The lookouts also reported signs of soldiers patrolling the walls regularly, though it was difficult to understand what kind of creatures they were. Only three of the dozen scouts sent to inspect the keep's perimeter returned: one was unscathed, the other two bore signs of fight. They reported to have tried spying on the citadel from the highest branches of the pines near the exterior walls, but they were suddenly attacked by plant like creatures and even by shadows! The unfortunate scouts that did not return either fell lifelessly to the ground or were eaten by the attackers.
Drax Tallen, the almost impenetrable fortress. Bensarian told me that it fell only once, when the unified tribes of Den, lead by a mighty warrior named Henadin, besieged and conquered it, thus ending the reign of the Essurian kings on the region. The Generals knew they had to proceed with caution, and so they prepared the all-out attack with gnomish precision, collecting strategic information bit by bit, day after day. Yet each day, more lives were lost. Not only scouts, but also soldiers stationed at our perimeter, who either disappeared or were found horribly mutilated (Elven Skull Unit's work probably). A couple of times a horde of dead soldiers marched into our camp. They came from the south and we had to battle undead for over half a day, hoping not to contract some fatal disease. Bad dreams started to upset the soldiers, and I myself experienced a couple of hallucinations which nearly caused me to kill myself.
After the unexpected kidnapping of Clanmaster Beasthunter and his lovely wife, Coolhands, the Generals tried an open invasion of the keep, which cost many lives and proved useless. And still the days passed. The two were rescued a couple of days after, but at what price... General Gilfronden, one of the most loved by the Alfheimers, was captured and later executed without reason by the Shadowlord. That demon did it for sheer pleasure of ending a life, I swear it! And he kept tantalising us with his menaces all the following days.
The morale among the Crusaders was low and the situation worsened with each passing day. Winter was arriving and we were still unable to breach that damned keep. Ever tried to walk in the snow when the temperature is way below the freezing point of water? You have to keep moving, else your feet could freeze and you could get stuck in a place: I've seen many untrained or exhausted Alfheimers die this way. I have risked hypothermia on a couple of occasions, and I've always been saved by Wendar elves accompanying me.
During the nights the soldiers prayed a lot... and cursed a lot. Not believing in the Immortals, I didn't join the first ones, but was more than willing to say my share of curses to the Shadowlord. Then one day everything changed. Who knows, maybe all those curses worked after all, for the scouts reported no sign of the monsters patrolling the woods near Drax Tallen. True, many had been killed by the elves, but we were sure many others remained. Yet now they had vanished and the soldiers inside the keep seemed to be far less than what was reported in the previous days. General Durifern took his chance and ordered the all-out assault that had been planned in the past month. Protected by volleys of arrows, the Assault Force One climbed down from the trees immediately above the first line of the enemy and fought its way inside the inner perimeter of the keep, followed by two waves of expert magic wielders. The gates of Drax Tallen literally swung open to the first knock thanks to the Assault Force and the rest of the elves swarmed the courtyard and the main buildings of Drax Tallen like a huge ocean of tiny insects (this was the feeling I got by seeing the invasion from the rear lines). In a matter of hours all the resistant forces inside Drax Tallen were either dead or incapacitated. The keep had fallen for the second time in its history. The elves celebrated with a collective cry of joy, followed by a moment of dead silence (the elves later explained me that each one was thanking a special Immortal Protector for being still alive, usually Ilsundal). Alas, the Shadowlord was neither among the fallen enemies nor among the captured ones, who later revealed that the rest of the garrison had left the citadel using secret underground passages.
Winter is now becoming harsher and bitter, but fortunately we have a roof on our heads and a fireplace to warm us. I have heard rumours about strange scrolls bearing stranger inscriptions found in a secret chamber inside the main tower of the complex. The elves are now working to decipher it. I fear the worst is not over however. This place is alive: it pulses with the evil that has been committed here in all these centuries. I saw a ghost last night: it was an elf and he begged me to kill him once and for all... to free him from this prison... Is the Shadowlord so powerful to control even the souls of the departed and bind them to his will? Because, if he is so powerful, I wonder why did he leave Drax Tallen in such a haste? Does he know something we ignore? Why am I so frightened to dwell inside this building?... I fear... and nothing more...