“The enemy has been sighted!”
A soldier in chainmail shouted and pointed out towards a distant hill where many tribal warriors wearing a variety of furs and leather were chaotically assembled. The tribal warriors looked like a motley crew rather than an army. The area itself was slightly hilly, with rolling hills spread out in clumps throughout. The land itself was filled with sparse patches of grass and bushes with a few trees here and there. If not for the hills throughout, it would be a simple matter to see well into the horizon. This was a typical region in the outer areas of the Steppes with the exception of the mountain ranges which stretched around its borders. The interior of the Steppes had some slight variations in geography with the occasional fertile valley and even some more forested areas.
“We finally found them! These savages have played with us long enough, it is time to show them our might!”
Grigor, one of the twins known as the direwolves, laughed heartily as he stared at the tribal warriors as if they were fresh meat. His blood was boiling and his body was aching to begin the slaughter. He was not stupid though and realized that the enemy had clearly been waiting for them in this place. This wasn’t a matter of them finding these tribal warriors by chance or due to their pursuit. These warriors were clearly waiting and ready for them.
“Could this be a trap?” Grigor said cautiously.
One of his commanders drew close to Grigor on his horse and carefully surveyed the battlefield. He was a peak advanced class being and an experienced commander.
“It could be, it is difficult to determine the strength of their warriors at this distance but it is unlikely for there to be an overly powerful individual among them. The tribes on the Steppes have never produced a Legendary figure that we know of. Only the dragons that live in the mountains have Legendary beings and even a Demigod. Lord Grigor, what do you make of this? Your senses are clearly superior to mine perhaps you can sense something despite the distance.”
As the commander drew close, his horse was somewhat fearful of Grigor but it was a trained warhorse and only displayed some slight discomfort. Grigor could not ride a horse due to the fact that he was a werewolf, but it wasn’t necessary anyway. His speed could reach much greater speeds than a horse when necessary and his large body was too heavy for a normal horse to begin with. If he truly wished to ride a mount, it would have to be something larger like a land dragon or something of an equivalent size.
“With my peak master class strength and my enhanced sense as a werewolf, I could even sense mid-Legendary beings from a distance. Only a peak Legendary being could keep themselves hidden from me. There is only one among them that possesses some bit of strength, but only a bit. Nothing to fear, so whatever their tricks might be, we can just smash their plans through brute strength!”
Although Grigor wasn’t a fool, he was still similar to a vicious beast and his desire for battle was almost unquenchable. The commander at his side was much more cautious than him and couldn’t shake the feeling that something was amiss. Why would these warriors be waiting for them in this place if they knew they could not win against them? With their previous attacks, how could they not know that the expeditionary forces possessed powerful beings at the master class level?
“Lord Grigor, I can’t help but feel that this situation is strange. What about the mysterious being who possesses that unexplainable power? Perhaps we should retreat for now and gather more information?”
Grigor only grunted, “It’s too late to retreat now. If this is a trap, we have already entered into it. It doesn’t matter what they have prepared, we will show them the difference between our strengths! This is most likely nothing more than mere posturing.”
The commander mostly agreed since it was very unlikely that there was a being with such power. If there was, it would have been a simple matter for them to annihilate their entire force, why go to such lengths to bait them? Perhaps he was being too overcautious.
“Ready the army for battle, have them form up. We will send the skirmishers out first to test them a bit before sending in the main force. Keep the cavalry in reserve just in case they haven’t revealed their strength just yet. We lost a significant number of our mages and clerics due to their underhanded tactics so we need to be a little more careful.”
*THUMP* *THUMP* *THUMP*
The sound of drums being beat loudly reverberated throughout the hilly area. The tide of tribal warriors began to part at the center as a lone man on a horse slowly made his way through the opening.
“What are they doing?” Asked the commander inquisitively.
“The drums.. They are challenging us to single combat. Who is that on the horse? It is difficult to make out his features but he doesn’t appear to be an Orc.” Said another one of the commanders who had been quietly observing up to this point.
“You are right, it is a man in a golden mask wearing a nobleman’s robes. He seems familiar for some reason, but I can’t make out where I have seen him before. I would have recognized that mask, it is too unique. What is someone like that doing with savages?”
Grigor, whose senses were much higher than that of a Human, could make out the approaching figure more clearly. The man eventually stopped his horse somewhere in the middle between the two armies and the drums continued to beat steadily. The man who looked like a young nobleman made eye contact with Grigor even though there was still a good distance between them and Grigor could only see that as a clear provocation which immediately angered him.
“So they wish to challenge me do they? That Human looks weak, what game are they playing?” growled Grigor.
“Lord Grigor, this is clearly part of their ploy.” One of the commanders warned.
“Do you think I am an idiot? Of course I know that!”
“Then what will you do?” Asked another.
“Tch, I will accept the challenge, but keep the men ready to act in case they pull something. Have the cavalry on standby, if anything suspicious happens, charge immediately.”
Some of the others attempted to dissuade Grigor but one glare shut them up. They didn’t say anything more and immediately moved to pass down orders to their men. Grigor snorted and rushed forward at a brisk speed. The man who was seated on his horse just watched calmly, saying nothing the entire time. He hadn’t even moved as he sat on his horse much like a statue. He had only stared quietly at Grigor from a distance after arriving at his location and nothing more. This infuriated Grigor even more and it wasn’t long before Grigor had closed the distance and stood snarling not far from where the man sat on his horse.
Although Grigor was furious, he calmed himself and eyed the man cautiously. He felt no aura from the man, but what was more concerning was that despite releasing his aura, the man seemed entirely unmoved. He was too calm, it was as if Grigor’s aura was nothing more than a fresh breeze.
“Who are you? Remove your mask, or are you a coward?” Shouted Grigor loudly from where he stood only a short distance from the man on his horse.
There was no sound or movement for a moment, but then the man began to laugh eerily beneath his mask.
“What’s wrong Grigor? Do you not recognize me?”
Grigor found the voice to be familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it.
“I don’t remember meeting any fools in a mask. Show yourself!”
The man stopped laughing and slowly dismounted from his horse, taking a few steps forward. Grigor was on guard and his hand itched to pull his greataxe from off his back. He couldn’t understand why he was so hesitant.
“Once, I was a man who had everything. That was until I realized, I had nothing at all. I was a bird in a cage, a man who could not escape his greed. My lust for knowledge and the truth blinded me and ultimately led me to my own demise. But none of that matters any more…. I wish to be unbridled… unruly… unrepentant.”
The man laughed madly, he was clearly no longer sane in the eyes of Grigor who could only shout in response, “enough of this b*******! I will tear you apart!”
Grigor reached for his greataxe and pulled it off his back. He had no intention of listening to this madness anymore and was about to make his move when the man spoke once more, halting him in his tracks.
“So be it. You wished to see my face… Now look upon despair…”
The man slowly began to slide his mask from off his face and as he did so, Grigor immediately recognized him and gasped in shock.
“But how!? You are supposed to be dead! Why are you here, and what the f*** are you doing with these savages!?”
Aleks face was revealed beneath the mask and Grigor identified him immediately.
Aleks snickered and replied, “Deception and war go hand in hand. As for why.. A dead man need not know.”
A powerful and dreadful aura poured out of Aleks’s body like a torrential wind, drowning out the senses, causing the very air to quiver in fear. It immediately caused the surrounding area to be submerged in an eerie darkness that suffocated the soul.