It was a clear and pleasant day at the port town of Creedburg, and it had been blessed with still waters on that fateful day. Many fishing boats were out gathering their bounty, and were in fact enjoying a rather plentiful catch. It was then perhaps the fate of one such fisherman to go further out into the ocean, hopeful for an ever greater prize. After several hours he was deep into the great blue ocean, and pursuing a rather fruitful endeavor, when he spotted large black dots where the dark blue ocean met the light blue sky.

Soon it became clear to the fisherman that it was no trick on his small, crow etched eyes. Beyond the deep the unmistakable shape of a great ship of war steadily came into view. It was only a single scouting sloop, but it drained the color completely from the fisherman's sun burnt face, and in his horror he abandoned his prize and rowed hard and quick to shore. When he arrived amidst the other fishing boats, he began to yell and holler at anyone nearby, speaking of invasion, all the while rowing mad to Creedburg. The others only looked on incredulously, but in every single one of their bellies rose a pang of dread, sick and sharp, for it had been no foolish kraken that he had seen, or any other incredible monster of the deep, but rather a ship.

By now all of the fisherman had returned, and many old, rickety boats floated abandoned at the harbor. It was a rather mournful sight, for at this time of the day it would have been very busy, Elf men and women coming and going out to sea, or at the stalls that lined the harbor and to the town. The noise was eerily missing as well, as it would have typically been quite noisome, the sounds of familiarity and shouts amongst the fishermen, the ringing of work, and the beats of shuffling feet on the ground, all gone. In its place was instead a thick atmosphere of trepidation.

The long and simple lives of the Elves had been shattered by an alien foe, the harbingers still far out in distance, but too close all the same. At the outskirts of the town there lay the ruins of what had once been a pair of watchtowers, once garrisoned by strong warriors, now left forgotten and abandoned. One had been re-purposed into a lighthouse, now manned only by meek fishermen.

"Arm yourselves! To arms, to arms," cried the crow eyed fisherman, who had been the first to spot the sloop. Now the town was once more in a busy hurry, but now fear was their motive, spurring them to do anything they could to potentially repel the invaders. Only a few of the old families had any real armament, a few spears dispersed among them, their time long past. The rest only had what were in fact only meager tools, axes never bloodied in battle, or pitchforks whose only victims had been dead hay.

Soon the villagers had amassed a small militia. It's ranks swelled with old and weary Elves, and equally frightened young Elf men, many of whom never had imagined themselves a part of a battle. The old tanned Elf who had been the first witness took command. His name was Guntram, and in his middle years he had been a braggart, boasting about the battles he had witnessed and fought in.

He was now in his twilight years however, and had resigned to himself to a simple life. But the ships on the horizon had awoken something deep within him. He rallied them as best he could, gruff shouts molding the scared men into the semblance of a battle line; spears, pitchforks, and axes at the very least facing the rapidly closing ships.

But the men were no soldiers. They were broken before the enemy had even stepped onto the shore.

One of the men threw down his pitchfork and began to sob. "We cannot stand against them. We must abandon this folly and surrender. We cannot possibly hope to resist..." he trailed off, his face deeply etched in despair, in tears and looking toward Guntram in pitiful appeal.

The old man's face did not change at all. If he felt pity or anger toward the man, he did not show it. After a long silence, he finally spoke. "This farce is done then, return to your homes." It was a command, and they obeyed solemnly. The man who had spoken out hung his head low as he dragged off toward his family. A few of the younger Elves volunteered stay and fight, but the crow eyed Warrior simply raised a hand and shook his head, he too had realized the futility of their resistance.

And so the invaders on the scouting sloop came ashore and found an easy victory. They promised not to harm anyone so long as they continued to submit. The force that had landed was not strong, and in fact had consisted only of the scouting sloop and one other ship. The men on the crowded sloop numbered twenty four, all seasoned Raiders. The second ship was much larger, and carried many more men, but it did not carry the vast Gernen army.

The days were long and dreary. Cold gray skies dominated for weeks, and the villagers had naught to do but to sit in fear in their hovels. The Gernen had taken over a house nearest the harbor, and had also made the lighthouse into a headquarters of sorts. The rest of soldiers spread out amongst the village, or in camps just outside.

There was the beginning of a calm as the people of Creedburg had begun to tolerate the existence of a rather large foreign army sitting right on top of them. That changed one dark and treacherous night. All parties had been dumbstruck. In the morning, the door of the house near the harbor lay open. Some ways in, upon a blood soaked table lay the Centurio, throat sawed badly and hastily open, and the dagger in question buried in his chest.

The officer of a hundred had been murdered. The villagers had been round up just outside, and it had begun to drizzle, storm clouds gathering farther away. They yelled in their strange tongue, all the while the thoughts raced in old Guntram's mind. Who would have done this? He thought. It could not have been one of us, the fools are too scared, not even the young could have done it so cleanly. Yet it had not been clean. The throat looked as if it had been done hastily, with no finesse, yet at the same time it had been done quickly and quietly.

There is a stranger among us, and he has doomed us all; it was a bleak thought. The villagers had been cowering, so afraid of to even look upon the savage looking Gernen soldiers. Just as Guntram thought they would all be slaughtered on the spot, a Raider came dashing in with incredible speed.

In their ancient tongue they communed, both the Raider and the newly promoted Centurio visibly concerned. Soon the villagers were being herded away, but before they left the streets Guntram saw a small column of Gernen soldiers rushing out of the village. They were fully equipped for a battle, bronze studded boiled leather protected their bodies as did bronze helms their heads, and in their arms they had short spears and round wood shields, and in their belts they held stout, flat pugio daggers.

In front of the column led four Raiders, each clad in chain mail byrnies, and equipped with only a long and wicked spatha sword. The dust kicked up as the sped away, and the figures disappeared within.

It had been a long march northward, out of the valley and camp Stagenpunkt. Jaxon, Rolland and the rest of their company had been ordered by Adel into the forests to the north, toward some backwater village named Creedburg. Their commanders had been hearing disturbing reports coming from that area, ranging from mere Gernen sightings to a full on invasion with thousands of ships anchored just off the poor little town.

Gernen were not often seen this deep into Onoradas territory, whether they were simply passing by from their settlements at Nondras on a merchant's mission, or an odd settler living in isolation within the forests. Within this political climate, such sightings were cause for alarm.

The days had become less and less pleasant as the weeks had gone by. Blue skies turned gray and mottled, and a vicious, windy wet cold began to take the land. On they continued through green shrubbery, and between the great red trees jettisoning from the floor all around them, massively tall. They did so for hours. Soon they were all tired, cold and hungry, so they gathered into a small camp, simple with no fires, to eat a cold lunch.

Thirty in all they totaled, meant only to scout and discover information regarding the reports they had received. They were led by an abrasive young knight named Erik. Jaxon and Rolland were sitting on the exposed roots of a rather large and tall tree, glumly eating their unsatisfying meal.

"I didn't think they'd walk us half to death! Couldn't have chosen worse dog food to feed us neither." snapped Rolland. He shifted uncomfortably on the root, all the while Jaxon listened silently. "You suppose them villagers got any better food? I hear its by the sea, I'm not fisher's son but if it means getting some meat in my belly I'm willing to try."

Jaxon simply shrugged and continued eating. A twig snapped. Both of them looked up instinctively at the figure that was now before them, clad in a darkened bronze scale woven intricately onto a thick leather jerkin. Under his equally dark bronze helm and his light lax blond hair was the youthful bright eyed face of Knight-Lieutenant Erik. He had been born into an old nobility, and was eager to make a name for himself through valorous combat.

He had pestered Adel into giving him the scouting mission, and had finally caved if only to simply be rid of Erik for a short while. And now this man stood before them, grinning like a simpleton.

"May I join you find fellows for a spell? I find the Sergeants to be gruff and uncouth, and the rest of the men seem so drab. But not the two of you! You seem right smart to me." He sat on a root near them, quite uninvited. "Exciting stuff isn't it? Do you think we'll find an army waiting for us at Creedburg? We'll lick em right back to the sea if they are," He snorted and gave an awkward guffaw.

"Yessir you can bet on it, Sir." replied Rolland, a hint of sarcasm in his voice which would go right over Erik's head.

"We won't let you down Sir." said Jaxon, warily.

"That's the spirit! Keep close, men, I feel we are becoming fast friends now, and I need soldiers like yourselves. From this moment on you are my aides-in-training, I'll sort out whatever those duties may be later." And just as he had came he was gone. Rolland and Jaxon had been left dumbstruck.

"Were we just promoted?" said Jaxon, staring dimly at Rolland.

"I'd reckon so. Congratulations Jaxon." Said Rolland, a disbelieving grin on his face.

"Thanks, you too." He replied, sarcasm thick in his voice.

The small force never arrived at Creedburg. Early in the morning the pair set off again in that direction, all the while having to listen to the long-winded hubris of Erik, finally pleased to have found an audience that cannot run off to some imaginary chore, for it was their burden to stay near him.

"And so I squired for Adel for a brief time, and soon after knighted. I could tell he thought me very bright and able, for he would always have me run some very important errands, to other cities and such, for days at a time." He continued, "He was practically begging them to make me a full fledged Knight." Erik's face shone with undue pride.

"Brilliant Sir, and how did you end up leading a ragged little group like ours?" Rolland was indulging him, thought Jaxon.

"Well, I came upon the charge of leading you fine men through a generous family donation, in fact, you are all fitted with equipped paid for by our most noble house." That came as no surprise to either Jaxon or Rolland.

"And fine armor it is," said Rolland, patting his leather cuirass, which hid the thin metal strips between. Just then Jaxon perked up, alerted and uneasy. Rolland also did the same.

"There's something wrong, what is it you think?" Erik had also picked up upon it, but was foolishly voicing his concern. The sergeants stopped the column and readied themselves. The trees had begun to thin in this area, and ahead they could see movement, A slowly marching blotch heading right at them. Soon they could even make out the insignia on their shields.

"The crest of the Sea Leviathans! They must be a patrol just like ours. How do you fancy a fight, boys?" Erik gave a quick shout behind. "Ready men! Form ranks! Let's give them what for!" As they moved to formation, the three friends wretched their long blades from their scabbards and pulled their shields from their backs. Figures darted from behind nearby trees, too quick to be seen.

Before the men could even form ranks, one of them had already lost a head. Another caught a savage blow to the back, and was wounded mortally as he fell. Finally another assailant dashed from a tree straight toward Erik, spatha blade held high above his head.

The blow came crashing down unto the shield the young Knight had managed to raise above his head. Instinctively Rolland moved to help, but the Raider was quick, and knocked his jab aside. The pair bore down upon the Raider relentlessly, driving him back. To his left Jaxon detected movement, and the final Raider made his appearance. His enemy was upon him in an instant, but the scholar began parrying blow after blow with shield and sword, each time blasting his ears with the sound of ringing metal.

His nerves were frayed, struggling to make sense of his predicament. He had never seen a Gernen up close before, his enemy was so very different from himself. This one in particular was bulging with muscle, and his exposed head was covered with white feathers. A brief pang of despair filled him for a second, as he lost ground to his opponent.

Recklessly he delivered a bruising blow to the Raider's stomach which left Jaxon's right side exposed for a brief second. The Raider could not react however, and the battle which had lasted mere seconds was now over as he delivered a final stab which broke the rings that protected the Gernen and sent him sprawling to the floor, dead. He looked over to how his friends were faring. Blade met flesh and soon Erik's Raider was short and arm, and then a head. Another Raider had been overcome by the company and the last managed to limp away only to fall, mortally wounded.

The three fell back into the ranks, as a wave of spears and shields washed over them. Their wall resisted them, but men fell on both sides, pierced by either sword or spear. The wall broke into individual duels, and Jaxon found himself once again face to face with another stalwart Gernen soldier. The soldier lunged, but it was too deep, and had swept his shield away from his body too far. Knocking the spear away with his shield, Jaxon once again delivered a terrible stab that dropped his foe immediately.

The battle lasted for what seemed like minutes, but perhaps it had been an hour. They had outnumbered their foes by ten, but the enemy had had fought like they had demons on their backs. Finally mounting losses had forced them to rout, but it was a disciplined withdrawal, and the company lost a few more men when they attempted to press their victory and were skewered instead.

Soon the company was in headlong flight back to Stagenpunkt. Darkness came quickly however and they were forced to bunker down for the night.

The three spoke in hushed tones. "What a victory lads! But such fear..." They had all felt it. Throughout the battle each and every Elf on the line had felt nothing gut wrenching fear, and the suspected post-battle that so had the enemy.

"Aye. And the lost as well." Rolland did not sound like his cheery self.

"It's... they died for something. We won." But Erik was no longer so sure.

"Best not to dwell on it now. I think we should get some sleep. We still have some ways to go." Jaxon had begun to find talking weary, and about the battle more so. They all had. The fear was still fresh within every man, even now, hours later.