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Topic of the Month: The Heroes' Challenge
By Christopher Dove.
I am here to write and testify what I have seen happening on the 23rd of Flaurmont AC 1016, in the region known as the Great Forest of Geffron, on the Denagothian Plateau. I am writing this to tale how the brave champions of the elven crusaders fought valiantly for a good cause... and woe to us all, they lost.
The duel was called upon by the evil forces of the Shadow Lord just the day before, and the elves had no real time to prepare themselves for the battle. Nevertheless they accepted the challenge, for the elven General Durifern Widefarer knew that this was perhaps the only way to end an otherwise never-ending war without losing more troops. General Widefarer solemnly addressed the crusaders calling upon their loyalty, braveness and trust in the power of the Elven Immortals, and I must admit that his words touched my heart as well, even though I am neither warrior nor believer at all. General Beasthunter himself volunteered in front of his troops as the first among the elven heroes, who would have confronted the enemy's champions the day after. His deed immediately caused many elves to volunteer as well to be part of the chosen few, then the highest officers of the army scrutinised the volunteers for the whole night, choosing only the best five before the break of dawn.
The enemies arrived timely and took place in the opening in front of the gates of Drax Tallen, and the elven champions entered the arena a few minutes after them. The air was as still as in an ancient mausoleum, with chilling tendrils of fog bathing the woods in an eerie aura of death. The sounds appeared muffled, almost distant, as if we were watching at something that was happening miles and miles away. Yet we all knew in our hearts that down there, in that clearing in front of our keep, the fate of all our lives was being decided.
The enemy champions showed no trace of fear, rage or any other emotion. It was like staring at white marble statues made by an unskilled sculptor: their pale visages conveyed no feelings, only a wearing feeling of alienation. It was as if they were not risking their lives, as if they were only performing some dull duty they couldn't care for. Clad in blue and red shining, spiked armours, with a blue tabard and a green cloak bearing the crest of their lord, a black dragon-like beast (Idris' symbol, without doubts), they were an imposing and frightening sight to behold. Their weapons, edged and piercing tools of pain and death, were a perfect match: just as deadly, cold and unforgiving as their wielders.
Our champions never trembled in front of their adversaries. They donned shining magical armours that were the pride and joy of the best elven smiths. Their weapons were works of art more than tools of destruction, and each of the elven champions wielded them with such a grace and mastery that few can attain in their whole life. Their colours were gold and green, except for the black suit of the vampire lord Sylarion, who had lastly chosen to enter the fray with his living allies. Our champions were not frightened by the challenge, either by their enemies or by death. They showed their courage from the beginning to the end of the contest, and I must say each of them, even the creature of the night that bears the name of Sylarion, fought to the last drop of his blood and with the utmost dedication to our cause. Unfortunately, this didn't suffice to beat the minions of Evil, for it seems that Evil is far more powerful here, in the Denagothian Plateau.
The Dragon Knights, so they call themselves, revealed unknown and unsuspected abilities that put our heroes to test. Besides being accomplished butchers with their weapons, deadly swift in melee combat and incredibly resistant to the elves' blows, these knights showed powers that no human has ever mastered. They are no spellcasters, this was quite obvious by their fighting prowess and by their appearance, but they exhibited powers that are commonly associated only with magic users. They are able to fly using bat-like wings that sprout from their backs, and with this tactic they kept the elves to distance when the fight began to take the wrong side. Then they all unleashed a long breath of fire and acid upon the unsuspecting elves, who managed to survive but were severely hindered by this trick. Their claws and their teeth rent the elves' skin and armours, as if these knights were real dragons, yet we know they were no polymorphed wyrms, because the spells used to dispel any possible magic upon them didn't turn them into dragons. Some of them even began regenerating their wounds at an alarming speed, much like Sylarion's ability, and this clearly showed us that we were battling an hitherto unknown kind of enemy.
And so they won. Three of them remained alive at the end of the duel, while only two of our champions stood there still breathing. We lost, and we had to respect the agreements taken by the elven generals before the duel. We were then forced to leave Drax Tallen to the Shadow Army and to trace back our steps to Wendar, abandoning the quest forever. I am writing this on our trip back to the valley of Genalleth, hoping we get there alive. Our morale has never been so low, our souls have been broken by these Dragon Knights come from Idris' Hell. We mourn for the lost companions who sacrificed their lives for the good cause. We mourn for all those souls we promised to save, and for all those souls we lost trying. But what else can be done when everything seems against you and when the same land where you dwell generates living nightmares that will never leave us? If I believed in Immortals, I could beg them to lend us a hand now. Unfortunately, I don't believe in higher powers; but then, would that really be so different if I did?