The Redemption of Erâth: Book Three, Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Nineteen: The Greatest of All Wars

With the destruction of the Mirèn came a great darkening of all the lands of Erâth. Over many months, black clouds spread from Aélûr and Cathaï—clouds that brought with them fire, disease, and death. Where Cathaï’s poisoned rain fell, plants withered, died and grew again, twisted and deformed. Many creatures died, and those that survived were changed from nature into savage and vile beasts, hungering for the destruction of all. Where Aélûr’s flame fell, forests were turned to ash and stone, deserts to glass, and fields were left barren and wild. And in those places that bore the brunt of both, they were were left sterile and desolate, and nothing ever returned there, nor ever grew again.

This greatest of all wars was brief; for all the centuries upon centuries of progress men had made alongside the races of power, it took less than nine months to undo it all, casting their race into a shadowed and threatened existence, eking a living from rock and grass, in those few places that such things were not poisoned and ruined. It started in the lands of Thaeìn, whose people had few defenses and were helpless and exposed. Following the destruction of the Mirèn, Dumèn the Great turned his attention to this land closest to his own, sending his armies forth from the Bridge of Aélûr, eastward and into the plains and mountains that lay before them.

The westerly villages were the first to fall, being little more than wilderness towns on the fringes of civilization. After Hope, the neighboring towns of Kettering and Furlong-Far fell to Dumèn’s armies as they advanced slowly from the foot of the Bridge of Aélûr. To the north lay mostly empty plain, and so the soldiers pursued a southerly course west of the mountains, falling upon town after town. Their flames rained from the sky, and fields were set ablaze and livestock slaughtered, while homes and farms were turned to ash.

Thaeìn had long been a land of peace and prosperity, focusing their will and energy into expanding their rail and iron throughout the countryside. This swiftly became their undoing, for they had no armies to speak of, and could organize no solid resistance to the onslaught from Aélûr. It took weeks for word to reach the larger towns on the east coast of Thaeìn of the destruction being wrought on their further lands, and by then it was too late; the villages and towns were no more.

The folk of these places were driven from their homes mercilessly, burned in their beds if they did not flee. Those that escaped made for the hills and mountains, where caves mostly sheltered them from the raining fire, but where they were now exposed to the elements, barely surviving in the cold. Men had not had to fend for themselves in such a way since the origins of Erâth, and few were equipped to thrive off the land in such a way.

Those that were set up small encampments, forming great stakes from uprooted trees and driving them into the ground to stave off further attack from the soldiers that now marauded throughout their former homeland. Yet the soldiers of Aélûr seemed less than impressed, and in fact ignored these small settlements, dismissing them as a last resort of a weaker people, destined to failure.

And there were some who resisted; mostly young men and women, bitter and angry at the destruction of their homes, they struck out at night from their hiding places, taking with them the flame of Aélûr and setting ablaze the soldiers’ own encampments, burning tents and caravans so that the soldiers would know the suffering of their own people.

But these efforts were largely in vain, and often ended in failure—the folk of Thaeìn were too few and too inexperienced against the battle-hardened soldiers of Aélûr, and when they realized that most of those who left in the night to raid the enemy never returned, they slowed and ceased their attacks, choosing instead to focus singularly on their own survival against the coming winter.

So the fires of Aélûr spread, and western Thaeìn was laid to waste. The heat of the enemy’s flame was such that sand was turned to glass, and the steel of Thaeìn’s rails was melted, their carriages left to smolder and burn. This in turn presented the soldiers of Aélûr with a difficulty; Thaeìn was yet a large land, though not so large as Aélûr or Golgor, and a great range of mountains ran through its center, dividing the western villages from the cities of the east such as Griefenthrall. Thaeìn’s rail and road were the best and fastest way between these places, and now that they were destroyed, the soldiers had little choice but to brave the mountains on foot, else travel hundreds of miles around them to the north or to the south.

Dumèn the Great pushed his men onward and eastward, and they plunged first into the foothills, and then into the mountains proper. The season was cold, and though they followed the path laid before them by the ruined rails, the going was often treacherous through snow and barren lands of ice. Many of Dumèn’s soldiers lost their lives not to fighting but to the weather, as they slowly froze, or became trapped by avalanches that buried hundreds at a time.

But Dumèn would not relent, and insisted that his men push onward, stepping heedlessly over the frozen corpses of their comrades. Here in the mountains, the peaks broke their ever-present black clouds, and they could bring upon the snow little flame from above. The flame of Aélûr followed them around the mountains, however, bringing destruction to the northern lands of Thaeìn, which were largely uninhabited. Here the land was rocky and barren, and the flame charred the rocks and left the land utterly black and twisted. What little lived there was either destroyed, or twisted into great and terrible forms, unnatural beasts that obeyed neither nature nor man, but Darkness itself.

The great mountains of Thaeìn nearly proved the undoing of Aélûr, and in the months it took to cross them nearly half their number was decimated by the treacherous cold. During this time the world of Erâth held its breath, wondering if, when and where the enemy would strike again. All communication with western Thaeìn was disrupted, and so the greater cities of the east came to a standstill, their folk hardly daring to leave their homes for fear that might be the day soldiers came down from the mountains.

But the strength of Aélûr was great, and despite the loss of thousands, their armies carried forward, inspired by the fear of Dumèn and the promise of victory at the end of their march. Dumèn knew that the taking of the port cities of Thaeìn was vital, for Aélûr had little naval strength, and they would need their ships to cross the vast oceans of Erâth if the conquest of the rest of the world—and the obtaining of Paräth—was to come to fruition.

And so, after three months, the soldiers of Aélûr finally descended from the giant, snow-capped mountains, and looked upon the great city of Griefenthrall for the first time. Here they were presented with a new challenge, for the western villages had been small and easily ransacked. Griefenthrall alone, however, was a city of some tens of thousands, and though Thaeìn boasted no grand armies, their folk had in preparation formed a militia from their civilians, armed with bows and knives and what few killing stones could be unearthed.

Here, then, were fought the first true battles of the great war, with Aélûr’s soldiers coming across resistance for the first time since they had set out from their dark homeland. Yet the soldiers were strong—they were those who had survived the passage of the mountains—and for every soldier of Aélûr that fell, two of Thaeìn were taken with them.

Now freed of the mountains, the flames of Aélûr were unleashed in their full strength again also, and Griefenthrall was, in the end, burned to the ground. The resistance of the innocent was crushed, women and children murdered outright if they did not flee to the hills themselves, abandoning their city for the wilderness as had the poor folk of the west. Soon Griefenthrall was but rubble and ash, the ports alone spared utter destruction from Aélûr.

The ships of Thaeìn, however, were not entirely left to Dumèn the Great without resistance; when it became apparent that the soldiers of Aélûr were sparing the ports, a small number of folk took it upon themselves to stop Dumèn’s onslaught upon the world in whatever way they could: by scuttling as many of the great vessels as possible before they were stopped themselves. When Dumèn arrived in Griefenthrall, protected by an entourage of hundreds of soldiers, his wrath was terrible to find that the ships which he so desperately needed were, to a one, sunk below the waves of the sea. He ordered the execution of all those left in the city, even those captured as prisoners, but such vengeance did little to rectify his loss, and so he furiously set forth his soldiers to the other port cities of Thaeìn: Alanór, to the south, and Theriün, some miles to the north.

These cities fell in turn, much as Griefenthrall had, with the smaller towns between them razed to the ground with little effort at all. Here, Dumèn had greater success, for these cities were somewhat smaller than Griefenthrall, and offered less resistance. In the end, nearly a hundred vessels of varying sizes came under Dumèn’s control, and though none were warships, all would serve to carry the soldiers of Aélûr across the seas, and onward to the further lands beyond.

The men of Thaeìn were not the only ones to suffer defeat, either; whilst the Mirèn had by now been extinguished from Erâth, the Illuèn yet lived spread throughout the world, and this race of Light had little experience in defending themselves. Fighting as best as they could, they were nonetheless little match for the trained soldiers of Aélûr, and so came the second greatest tragedy of the world after the loss of the Mirèn: the slaughter of thousands of Illuèn, brightest of all creatures of Erâth.

The Illuèn of Thaeìn worked tirelessly with the men beside whom they had lived for so long, leading the weak and poor from the cities ahead of the marching armies of Aélûr so that they might be spared. The Illuèn had a mastery of survival outside the confines of the machinery that gave men life, and so they taught the men of Thaeìn how to live off the land—what little was left to them after the destruction of Aélûr’s fire and flame.

Yet for those who remained behind, they were cut down as mercilessly as the men and women beside them. Dumèn the Great seemed to harbor a special hatred for the Illuèn, inventing terrible tortures and demises for those that were captured alive, even to the extent of using their great strength and mastery of light against the men they had sworn to protect.

Soon, the land of Thaeìn was utterly under Dumèn’s control, with the men and Illuèn that had once lived side by side in peace exiled to the wilderness, or left dead in their very beds.

The rest of the world, however, did not stand by idly while such violence was done upon Thaeìn. At the behest of their leaders and representatives in Viura Râ, Golgor sent their vast fleets and armies far across the sea, around the central land of Cathaï, onward to Thaeìn, and further west to Aélûr. It was a great journey of some months, and the citizens of Golgor held a collective breath, not knowing what their armies would find when they finally arrived. Rumor had spread from some of those who had escaped the destruction of Thaeìn, and the commanders of the fleet expected the worst.

What they found, in fact, was beyond what any of them could have imagined. A hundred miles from the coast of Thaeìn, the black clouds of Aélûr became visible, boiling with fire and rage. As their ships crept ever closer, the oceans began to steam from the heat, and soon the dark mists were so thick that their fleet was forced to a standstill, afraid to move further for fear of running headlong into the very rocks of Thaeìn.

Here, the Illuèn showed their might; some of their number had chosen to travel with the men and women of Golgor, and cast their brightness far and wide, driving back the mists and clouds once again. So the fleet was able to move forward, yet fear stole across the armies nonetheless as the great Darkness closed in behind them.

At a crawl their ships approached Thaeìn, and as they drew upon the great city of Griefenthrall, horror filled the hearts of all. Deathly black smoke rose from where the town had once stood proud, every home and building a smoldering ruin. An advance party of some dozen smaller vessels came in to land, and when their crew disembarked it was to the decaying and burned corpses of hundreds, littering the streets. Dumèn’s armies had come and gone, leaving the dead to rot, the soldiers of Golgor were sick to know they were too late.

So the crews returned to their ships, and for some days the commanders deliberated their next step. In the end, it was decided that the fleet would split—some would venture north to Theriün, some south to Alanór, and some would round the continent of Thaeìn en route to Aélûr itself. It was thought that Dumèn the Great would not have left his land of Darkness, and there was hope that he might yet be defeated there.

But Dumèn was more cunning than those commanders, and put forth no resistance as the fleets of Golgor divided; he knew well that in smaller numbers, they would be more easily defeated. As the first vessels approached Theriün, a great storm of fire was unleashed upon them, flame raining once more from the blackened clouds above. The crews of those ships were defenseless, even in their vessels of iron and steel—the flame bit into metal, melting hulls and bulkheads, searing flesh and turning bone to ash. Within hours, the entirety of that portion of the fleet was aflame, and not long after had perished to the bottom of the sea.

The same fate was brought upon those who had ventured south to Alanór; but a worse fate awaited those who had the courage and heart to venture to Aélûr. As they rounded the southern tip of Thaeìn and crossed the sea that separated them from Aélûr, they met no resistance at all. The sky became ever darker, the mists ever thicker, but no flame came upon them, nor any attack from the coasts. Dumèn desired these vessels greatly, for unlike the great cargo ships of Thaeìn, these were vessels of war, built to carry armies great distances and deliver destruction upon their enemies.

So he allowed the splinter fleet—which was, in truth, the largest portion of the armies of Golgor—to make land in Aélûr, knowing well that the soldiers of Golgor would be ill-prepared to do battle in his own territory. And Dumèn the Great was not wrong, for the men and women of Golgor were struck with horror as they set foot on foreign soil, so rocky and ashy. For Aélûr had been long-since been turned to dust, a fierce and hostile environment for all but the hardiest of folk. From the lush and green lands of Golgor it was utterly alien to their soldiers, and many of their number perished through no action but their own, so unused to the heat and the decay were they.

And when those who remained finally arrived in the center of the land of Aélûr, it was to find an army more vast than any they had anticipated awaiting them, fresh, unspoiled and filled with fury and hate. Dumèn the Great had not sent out the larger part of his army, anticipating an attack on home soil, and knowing that Thaeìn would be an easy conquest. Thus the first great battle of soldiers was a slaughter, the men and women of Golgor falling to the flame and killing stones of Aélûr, hardly able to defend themselves in such a terrible place. The armies of Aélûr surrounded them on all sides, and crushing inward forced their enemy to the edge of a great cliff, rivers of fire flowing fierce and hot below them.

And when the battle was finally done, those who were left were given a choice: be cut down by flame from above, or throw themselves into the flame below. It was a massacre of a terrible nature, for those who would not choose were smitten by flame nonetheless, and in the end not a man of Golgor was left alive in that land. The great battle of the Fields of the Grim, as the place became known, was an utter triumph for Dumèn the Great, and he swiftly sent his soldiers forth from there to the coast once more, where the great war vessels of Golgor had been left, virtually untended. Those ships became an easy conquest as well, and Dumèn the Great now found himself in control of two great lands of Erâth, and a fleet of warships as well.

The great powers of Erâth—namely, the united kingdoms of Golgor, the domains of Aélûr and Cathaï, Thaeìn and Oríthiae, where lay Viura Râ—were now deeply entrenched in war, and it was going ill for those places of Light. The people of Golgor had placed all their faith in their armies’ abilities to conquer Darkness, and when word returned that their armies had instead been slaughtered, almost effortlessly, despair took their lands overnight. Cathaï was held largely to be in alignment with Aélûr, and Golgor and Thaeìn had been the only great lands to offer any kind of resistance. That resistance had now failed, and the world waited in terror on the certain onslaught of those places of Darkness.

A handful of ships from Golgor’s vast fleet—some dozen out of the hundreds that had set out—had managed to escape destruction completely, and began a long and limping journey back to Golgor, retreating to organize what defense they could of their homeland. But to do so meant to pass by the continent of Cathaï, and here, treachery awaited. Cathaï, who had hitherto kept to themselves, had in fact fleets of their own, and weapons of a very different nature to those of Aélûr. They sent out their fleets into the seas surrounding their land, and waited for the inevitable return of the ships of Golgor.

Here came the final destruction of the armies of Golgor, for they were never to reach their home ports. Cathaï’s power had long been in medicine, and as Darkness took their lands this turned to the brewing of poisons and potions of death. As the remnants of Golgor’s fleets came upon the lands of Cathaï, they found themselves mired in haze and mist, and soon it began to rain. But this was no ordinary rain, for it grew sickness upon all that it touched, and soon the crews of those ships were ill beyond measure, their skin rotting on their living bones, coughing blood and throwing themselves into the sea to escape their agony.

Some of the crews escaped this fate by remaining below deck, but they could not navigate their vessels in such a manner and were left to float aimlessly, until the ships of Cathaï came upon them. Then they were boarded, and through the decks and passages came violent soldiers, hacking open doors and bulkheads, spilling their poison into the bowels of the ships. The soldiers of Cathaï carried with them special masks that protected them from their own diseases, and they cut down the remaining crew even as they writhed in agony.

Thus came the end of the armies of Golgor, and with the sole exception of Oríthiae and what few weapons had been created there, the world of Erâth was now left utterly defenseless against the forces of Darkness, who now were spilling forth from both Aélûr and Cathaï.

The retreating fleets of Golgor were the first to suffer the devastation of Cathaï’s poisons, but they were certainly not the last. For a time, Cathaï had kept largely to itself, tolerating the world that went on around it, but rarely taking part. This changed not too long before Aélûr made its move against the Mirèn, with the sudden rise to power of a new and terrible leader, Coraeth. The disparate peoples of Cathaï were brought together by force under her relentless rule, and she banished the emissaries from Vuira Râ, never to return. Those who stayed were summarily executed, and Cathaï became a closed land. Few outside of her borders knew what Coraeth’s plans were, but it soon became apparent as Aélûr rose up against the world.

Within Cathaï, Coraeth took control of the institutes of medicine, and those who would not create poisons for her were locked away, and killed. So Cathaï in secret grew the potency and reach of their destruction, keeping it all the while to themselves. And in the meantime, Coraeth sent forth spies into the world, and so was among the first to learn of Aélûr’s victories in Thaeìn, and their intent to send fleets of destruction throughout the world. Coraeth did not strictly align with Dumèn the Great, and it is quite possible that she had her own plans to defeat Dumèn and the forces of Aélûr after they had conquered the rest of the world, but such things were not to come about.

Instead, she revealed her hand when her fleets defeated those of Golgor, for the world of Erâth had never before seen such poisons borne in the air, and amongst the people of Golgor, and even in Viura Râ, a new fear was bred. Now, it seemed, the world was under attack from two fronts: raining fire from the west, and terrifying poisons from the central lands of Cathaï. Dumèn the Great was not blind to these happenings, and would offer an alliance to Cathaï; sparing them the destruction of their own, the two lands would work together to bring the rest of Erâth under their might and power.

It was not long before Dumèn the Great took his leave of Thaeìn, where he had unto this point been dwelling, amongst the destruction wrought by his armies. When word reached his ears that a great and deadly power was rising in the east, he boarded one of the many ships stolen from Golgor and made for the land of Cathaï. His smoke and cloud preceded him, and Cathaï, which had until then been spared much of the darkening of the world, was cast under the shadow of Aélûr.

It was a voyage of some months to arrive, for the ocean currents were against him, and indeed many storms threatened to bar his journey entirely. Watching from afar, it was unclear to those in Golgor and Viura Râ what force was working against Dumèn the Great, for with the destruction of the Mirèn and the defeat of the Illuèn in Thaeìn, there were few who would outright oppose his strength. Some conjectured that it was the Portèn themselves, setting the strength of the world against that of Darkness, but whether it was they, or some other force of nature, that set their sights against Dumèn, it was to no avail: in the end, he reached Cathaï, and so set foot upon the third land he was to conquer.

The bare hulks of Golgor’s devastated fleet sat moored and abandoned in the port of Haëth as Dumèn’s vessel navigated into land, and Coraeth awaited him, surrounded by her entourage of guards. Dumèn the Great stepped from his ship alone, mighty and strong, and Coraeth invited him to travel with her to her to the palace that had been built under her command. They were never to arrive. Along the road that led from the port, Dumèn commanded the skies open, and with the utmost precision his fire fell, and to a one Coraeth’s guard fell to ash in an instant.

Coraeth alone was spared, and Dumèn commanded that she give over her rule to him, and her power, and her poisons. Coraeth refused, and so Dumèn the Great snapped her neck and set fire himself to her corpse, and so the lands of Cathaï came under his control as well. Coraeth’s soldiers at first would not accept his rule, and rebelled: so a great battle broke out in the waters surrounding Cathaï, poison mists rolling across the waters and flame raining from the skies. When it was over, the soldiers of Cathaï were subdued, and those that survived pledged their allegiance to Dumèn the Great.

So he came to lord over three of the seven great continents of Erâth, and yet it was not enough, for he still had not come to possess the great weapon of Viura Râ, nor did Darkness yet command all of the world. He knew that, with the armies of the Erâth under his command Viura Râ would have no choice but to acquiesce, but he was not done yet: Golgor remained a free, if defenseless, land, and he would have that under his command as well.

Thus came the death of Golgor, the oldest and largest land in all of Erâth. The world of men had originated from this continent, its kingdoms dating back to before the First Age, but to Dumèn the Great this meant nothing. Its conquest would not be easy, despite their armies having already been defeated, for Golgor was vast, with great swathes of its countryside uninhabited since time immemorial. Nonetheless, he sent forth his forces, landing vessels in the Bay of Origins and the Straights of Forines. In his haste, he sent his warships at great speed, and so they landed before his black clouds of flame could arrive and turn the land to glass. Instead, he came to rely on Cathaï’s existent potions to poison the people and their lands, so that a swift and silent death was visited upon all who crossed their path.

By a strange and terrible fortune, a wind rose soon after that did not abate, and so the poisons that spread throughout the coastal towns of Golgor were carried far and wide, and soon far inland the trees began to die, and the folk were brought to an agonizing end. As far as the great forests of the north, and the vast deserts of the south, Cathaï’s destruction was visited upon all that land, and by the time the great black clouds of Darkness came over the land, there was nothing left alive to destroy. So Golgor was spared flame, only to be decimated by vile and awful poisons. Only the most remote mountains were spared, and few lived there as it was; they would perish of starvation and isolation within a few years of the ending of the great war, and the ending of the first great Age of Erâth.

As for Dumèn the Great, he had now conquered the world, with the sole exception of Oríthiae and Viura Râ; and this final land dominated his thoughts. The weapon of Viura Râ, yet unused for all the destruction that had been rained upon the world, remained foremost in his dreams, and despite the proof that he needed no such thing to lord over Erâth, he desired it nonetheless, and would not rest until it lay in his hand. The destruction in his wake was as nothing, for Dumèn the Great had been corrupted by the Duithèn, and no longer wished to destroy the world, but to control it: and this weapon, this Paräth, promised him the ability to do just that.

So he set his sights on the far-northern land of Oríthiae, and summoned all his fleets—from both Aélûr, Thaeìn and Cathaï—to converge upon the tiny island land, so that it might fall swiftly and without effort. He did not anticipate that the people of Viura Râ might have been building defenses of their own, even as they watched the world fall in despair, for here still dwelled the greatest of the Illuèn, and the Sarâthen, and those men who would not be corrupted by Darkness and evil.

The people of Viura Râ, in fact, had been watching intently as the terrible battles of the world took place, aware of every life lost and every village burned. They knew well that Dumèn the Great would not stop until he held Paräth in his hand, or was destroyed himself. And they knew also that Viura Râ did not possess the strength to fight him in the greater lands of Erâth, where his armies were mighty. Indeed, they had relied on the forces of Thaeìn and Golgor to defeat him, or at the very least hold him at bay, and every defeat at his hand brought further terror to their minds.

But they also knew that if Dumèn the Great were not stopped, he would eventually be forced to make his way to Viura Râ itself, and so they put the fervor of their terror into building the hardiest and deadliest defenses they could around their city, and their land. For the first time in centuries the golden gates of Viura Râ were opened, and all the folk that dwelled outside of the city were invited in, so that they might benefit from the defenses that were now being crafted. The city became crowded overnight, and the poorest dwelled in the shadows while the wealthy retreated to the heights of their towers, and starved nonetheless. There was little produce in Oríthiae itself, and the survival of Viura Râ had always relied on the fair trade of other lands. With no lands left with which to trade, food grew scarce, and the population began to wither.

But amongst this all, great weapons were erected around the city, so that any who sought to attack from the sea would be destroyed long before their weapons could reach the people of the Viura Râ. So the soldiers could be repelled; but it did not escape the minds there that the greatest destruction so far had been visited from above, and so they set about creating one of the most ingenious defenses ever known in Erâth. Surrounding all of the city of Viura Râ was put in place a great wall of water, one that encompassed the entire perimeter of the city and rose a mile above the highest pinnacles and enclosed it entirely. The water was siphoned from the oceans that surrounded Oríthiae, and held in place by a force that few in Viura Râ could understand, and fewer still could explain.

So Viura Râ became a sealed city, under siege from the armies that approached daily from the south, and its people waited anxiously to see if their defenses, carefully and magically crafted, would withstand the strength of an entire world’s armies on their doorstep.

Dumèn the Great knew well that Viura Râ would be his most difficult conquest, and so he took his time in crafting his attacks. He knew that fear and time were now his greatest weapons, and the longer Viura Râ was left unassailed, the weaker its people, and therefore its defenses, would be. It had taken nearly months to conquer the rest of the world; it was nearly another four before he brought his fleets within reach of Viura Râ. For most of the that time he tightened his grip on the remaining peoples of Erâth, bringing an even crueler reign to Cathaï, and beginning to rebuild the destroyed cities of Thaeìn in his own liking.

But the temptation of Paräth was finally more than Dumèn could bear, and so came the day when his fleets set out from northern Golgor, and made their way through the Oceans of Narün and onward to the northernmost place in all of Erâth: Oríthiae. Such a vast army of vessels had never before been seen in all of Erâth, for it was the combined might of Aélûr, Thaeìn, Cathaï and what remained of Golgor.  A thousand ships there were at least, with a hundred soldiers to each, and they filled the distance as they drew upon Vuira Râ for the great, final battle of the War of Erâth.

But despite Dumèn’s care and patience, he was yet unprepared for the defenses that Viura Râ had put in place. As the first ships came within view of the highest spires, they found themselves surrounded by great, floating towers, as black as night and twice the height of the highest mast of their fleet. Solid and silent, the soldiers aboard the vessels stared at them without understanding, until without warning the towers pulsed once with light, and the entire crew of ten vessels dropped dead in an instant. The vessels themselves came to a standstill, buffeted by the waves, and governed by no one at all. Those further back drew their own vessels to a halt, and stared: the towers had disposed of their enemy as effortlessly as a killing stone, but on a scale far greater than any they had seen.

But Dumèn was hardly to be stopped by killing stones, however grand, and sent forth yet more vessels. At first, the black towers were able to stop those ships as well, but soon the black clouds that followed Dumèn wherever he went were upon them, and under the rain of burning flame the towers soon foundered and sunk to the ocean floor. So their vessels were able to come upon the city itself, where they were met with the second great defense of Viura Râ: the wall of water.

Again, the soldiers of the enemy had seen nothing like it before, and this time when Dumèn sent down his rain of fire, it merely hissed and turned to smoke and steam, and failed to penetrate through to the city below. Infuriated, Dumèn brought the might of his power on all the city of Viura Râ, and for a week the ships sat in wait while flame rained endlessly upon the town. And all the while, the great defenses held, and when the attack was spent, the city remained intact, if shaken and afraid.

But Dumèn could sense the fear of the city, and knew his victory was near, if only he could seize it. He landed his soldiers upon the outskirts of the city, outside the wall of water, and sent them into the wall directly. But here he was defeated by his own attack: after seven days of searing onslaught, the wall of water was greatly heated, and those who passed into it screamed and drowned, boiled alive by the ferocity of the water and steam.

Seeing their failure, Dumèn’s armies instead cast great barrels of liquid poison into the wall, where they burst and spread their disease through the boiling water. Seeing this, the folk of Viura Râ began to panic, for now their greatest defense was poised to be their undoing: if they released the wall of water, it would rain poison down upon them, and if they did not, it would eventually seep through and began to permeate the air within the city itself. Either way, the armies of Dumèn the Great would soon be upon them, and in direct combat they knew they stood no chance.

So Viura Râ set forth their final, most terrible defense, short of using Paräth itself: from the very center of the city they set in motion a great, vast block of stone, swinging slowly side to side. With the help of the Portèn, this stone was itself rooted to the very roots of the world itself, and with every ponderous swing a great ripple was sent through the ground and into the waters around Oríthiae. Waves rose, first a few feet, then a dozen, and eventually hundreds of feet high, swarming out from the city and drowning the vast fleet that surrounded them. Ship upon ship was enveloped, covered in water and sent to the bottom of the sea, and the great port was consumed. The very ground shook and trembled, and huge cracks opened in the ground, swallowing those soldiers who had left their ships and casting them into the bowels of the earth.

But such devastation stretched inward, too, as the people of Viura Râ had known it would; the highest towers of the grandest city in Erâth swayed to and fro under the great tremors of the ground, their glass splintering and their stone cracking, and as the terrible onslaught continued, they began, one by one, to crumble. Tower upon tower fell, casting those in them to their demise. It was the final, terrible defense, and while it brought the armies of Dumèn to their knees, so too did it bring the city of Viura Râ to its destruction. By the time it was over, the city lay in ruins, even as the final ship of Dumèn’s great fleet sunk beneath the heaving waves.

As if such destruction was not enough, the force that kept the wall of water—now poisoned—from crashing upon the heads of the folk of Viura Râ was released, and the city was then drowned in an ailing deluge, and those who were not crushed beneath the toppling buildings were drowned, and those who were not drowned were poisoned, and so it came that the ending of the Great War of Erâth culminated in the destruction of all. Dumèn the Great himself was lost to the defenses of the city, and the city was lost, and the race of men the world over were left in disarray, frightened and leaderless.

The Duithèn, for their part, were rife with power; much of the world was covered in Darkness, and those places that were not had been left in utter ruin. The Namirèn went here and there, bringing further death to the people of Erâth, and the Sarâthen and Illuèn grieved. The Portèn were nearly ruined, and the Mirèn were no more: the world of Erâth was dead and gone, those left behind almost too few to begin to rebuild. Such was the ending of the First Age of Erâth, and the ending of the Great War, and the ending of the greatest civilization Erâth had ever known.

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