Featuring DestroyerxXx, Saga, Kanna and Tatin as the winners of 'The Battle of Kornit' event.
Most khärn had no name, but he did. Bajheera was his name, and he made sure that all the members of the tribe knew and respected it. He had grown to be tall and terrible and had earned the right to wear the sacred armor made with the very flesh of the volcano’s heart. His victories in the "blüt" were extraordinary tales, so it wasn’t long before he longed to find enemies who could compete with him. Over time, the tunnels under Khilma seemed small and suffocated his desire for conquest. For this reason, he looked more and more frequently at the passages that led to the outside, that boundless cave on whose ceiling danced the two bright lights that no one dared to look at.
But Bajheera would dare. Bajheera would go outside and look fearlessly at the two lights, spreading his terror through the lands that surrounded the mountains in search of an opponent worthy to face him in combat. Accompanied by hundreds of warriors from his tribe, Bajheera emerged through the tunnels of Khilma and saw the valley of Kornit at his feet. At that moment he wished to own that land, for everyone to know his name. The Khärn descended the mountain like a river of lava, destroying everything in their path as they charged downward.
The skin of the vilkai came off with each blow of the Tamvaasa’s axe. It would’ve been more logical to use a knife, but Revenant preferred to take the opportunity to practice quick and accurate blows with his weapons of choice. One day they would be necessary on the battlefield, and if the Durno ever emerged from their stinking lands to threaten the lands of the North, he’d be ready.
He was still young, a somewhat unusual quality in the leader of a clan as old as the Vilkaitith, but times were changing. Erika Doblax had successfully led all Tamvaasa in the Battle of the Hiria Fields. Although many considered her to be little more than a trainee, without her leadership the folkin could have been extinguished after the Cataclysm. For that reason, no one had any qualms - at least openly - that Revenant had become the leader of the clan. The inhabitants of the Great North, however, continued to respect age above many other qualities, so Revenant valued and obeyed the advice of the Circle of Elders.
He gave a few more cuts until the last bits of flesh fell off the vilkai's skin. Then, with a quick gesture, he took the vilkai's head close to his own, murmuring with a nod. It would make a stupendous cloak, better than the one he already had.
"I thought it was forbidden to hunt vilkais. You would not want her to find out", said a voice behind him, referring to Erika Doblax, the leader of the armies of the Long North. Revenant turned to discover Tatin, his loyal lieutenant, watching the scene with a sarcastic grin.
"Well, we can always tell her that the beast was already dead when I found it, don’t you think?" Revenant threw the gigantic animal's skin to one side and approached the other Tamvaasa, reaching out and shaking Tatin’s only hand as a way of greeting.
"Of course," replied Tatin. "Surely no one will notice the axe cuts he has in his stomach."
Revenant smiled back at his friend, whom they all called "The One-Handed." An ugly stump showed where his left hand should be, but few knew the source of that wound; Tatin had saved Revenant in the Great Battle by placing himself between Revenant and a sword of the Durno. Valentheim's sharp steel had done its work efficiently, and Tatin's hand had fallen cleanly to the ground, still clutching his battle ax. Revenant had been able to live to see a new day, finishing the victorious battle and rising up as the new leader of the Vilkaitith. Tatin himself continued to fight despite his wound, tying his ax to his arm with a tight chain, and many were the Durnites who fell that day to his swings. In exchange for his gesture and his loyalty, Revenant rewarded him with the position of lieutenant, although The One-Handed longed for the front line, where he could cut open an enemy's throat.
"You did not come to me to admire my ability as a furrier, did you? What’s new in the East?"
"Not much besides the usual flow of messengers, and there’s nothing new with the Durno either. However, something is brewing to the West, across the mountains."
"In Kornit?" Revenant asked, surprised. "Those lands have been deserted since my father's father was a small boy. What happened?"
"Yesterday some hunters captured a couple hanging around. A khärn and a shizu."
"Together? You have to be kidding."
Tatin shook his head. Revenant's expression showed absolute perplexity; In spite of his youth he had seen many things in the light of Gaal, but never a khärn showing some kind of friendly treatment with the other races of Skara. He picked up his axes before tying them to his back as was usual in the folkin and threw the gigantic vilkai's skin over his shoulder. He had spent too much time working on it to just leave it lying there.
"All right. Take me to them. I have not heard a good story for a long time and I wager an arm that they will tell me one."
Tatin ignored the joke and started toward the other end of the camp.
Night had fallen in the valley of Kornit, and a small group of explorers began to light their torches. The cold was not a problem for the Tamvaasa, but the fire helped them cook what little meat they had. It was as they feared, game was scarce in those lands - the few animals that had not fled after the Cataclysm were captured by the vilkai, who were thriving in large numbers around Kornit. Despite the ban, the small group of Vilkaitith planned to capture at least one of the savage creatures.
A sudden noise put everyone on alert. Their axes gleamed in the darkness by torchlight, eyes straining to see through the darkness and see the prey. But the creatures that lurked in Kornit that night were not prey. The glow of an armor forged from lava appeared among the trees, accompanied by countless khärn warriors, tall as mountains, fearsome as fire.
The small group of explorers did not stand a chance. Bajheera, with his great club, crushed the last head of the Tamvaasa squad, then snarled a few orders to the warriors of his tribe. The conquest of Kornit had begun.
At the entrance of the store stood a soldier from Celea, leaning on his long spear. His presence stood out among the warriors of the Vilkaitith clan, but Revenant seemed to have taken a liking to that particular Gaalian mercenary. Tatin decided to wait for the leader to show before exchanging words with him .
"They're inside?" Asked Revenant, pointing his chin toward the rustic tent.
"Strapped. Double chain for the big one," said Destroyer, a name given to that Celean by the Tamvaasa who watched him fight. His knowledge of the Northern language was little, and his deep accent placed excessive emphasis on the vowels he spoke, but he still managed to talk with the folkin.
"Have you had any problems with them?"
"With the shizu. She doesn’t like me." Destroyer smiled, showing a white line of teeth that stood out in contrast to his dark skin.
"Alright. Not that it surprises me." Revenant murmured, not looking at his interlocutor. He ducked his head to peek into the small tent and was instantly faced witha huge mass of muscles leaping toward him.
Fortunately, the khärn was tied down with a considerable number of chains, so he stopped a foot from his face. Revenant was tall among his people, but he seemed almost a child compared to that giant. Trying to look calm, he went directly to the Shinse, who was sitting cross-legged on the floor.
"Can you tell your friend to calm down?"
"His name is Saga," replied the Shinse quietly. "You can try to tell him yourself, if you want".
"Saga, eh? Did you put that name on him? " The Shinse nodded. Revenant glanced again at the khärn, who maniacally tensed his neck muscles, trying unsuccessfully to break the chains binding them. "Well, we're only missing yours then, little one."
"My name is Kanna. And I'm still waiting for you to explain why you made us prisoners".
Revenant considered his answer for a moment. That shizu was different from others he had come across. She was dressed in filthy ragged clothes that appeared to be in several layers. She smelled almost as bad as Saga, and anyone who had ever met a khärn could imagine that that was not exactly a compliment. Her face was dirty and her hair, dark and untidy, seemed to have not seen a bath in a long time. The leader of the Vilkaitith sat down opposite her on a low stool and looked into her eyes.
"We do not usually receive too many visits in these lands. Kornit is one of our frontiers and, although Durno is our main enemy, we still have men that keep a watchful eye on these lands. Our people have thrived quite well in recent months, considering that the sky feels like it will fall on us. We would not be surprised if others tried to take what we have worked so hard on to defend."
"We Shinse have never been enemies of the Tamvaasa".
"I see. Allow me to open your eyes," Revenant said, snapping his tongue. "Two regiments of your people participated in the Battle of the Fields of Hiria, and I seem to remember that they were not on our side".
Kanna was silent, pondering her answer carefully. She was oblivious to the Matriarch's dealings with the late King of Durno, so she tried to bring the conversation down a different path.
"Well, if you thought we were spies, you are wrong. It is not you we watch."
"Okay, now this conversation is getting somewhere. Who do you watch then?"
"Does the name Bajheera sound like something to you, northerner?" Kanna asked, with a half smile rising in her mouth.
Revenant did not answer, and appeared to be just resting his chin on his hand with a bored expression. Shizu seemed more than willing to tell her story, and he had all the time in the world to listen to her.
"Bajheera is the leader of one of Khilma's largest and most powerful tribes. I know, because I myself was captured by them. I have spent more time than I want to remember locked in their tunnels, serving them as fun in their blüt, as if I were a pet. I was very fortunate that Saga allowed me to escape. When the giant khärn, who did not seem to be paying too much attention, heard Kanna pronounce that name, he gave a harsh grunt.
"Well. I have seen love born in difficult circumstances, but this I did not expect."
"Do not be stupid," Kanna said. "Saga hates Bajheera as much as I do, and perhaps even moreso. Helping me escape would secure my assistance in killing him."
"Well, why should I be interested in this? The khärn do not worry me, it’s not like they often come out of their caves to bother us."
"Ja. That's about to change, northern".
At that moment Tatin entered the tent with a gesture of concern. Destroyer continued to hold his spear tightly. Revenant had fought with the Celea enough times to know that trouble was on the way.
"You'd better come, boss," was all The One-Handed said. It was evident that he did not want to give information in front of the prisoners.
"You see?" Murmured Kanna. "Thank me that you have heard the name of Bajheera come out of my mouth. I bet you will not like the news they bring you."
Revenant took one last look at the strange couple before leaving the tent. He suspected that that wouldn’tbe the last conversation he would have with Kanna.
Bajheera stared at the snowy ground without satisfaction. He did not like that land more than he liked the tunnels under Khilma, but the smell of blood helped to soothe his moodiness. The corpses of the scouts still lay on the tundra in grotesque positions: the khärn rarely buried their own kinsmen, let alone their enemies.
Hundreds of warriors of his tribe roamed the valley dedicated to the most varied activities. Some gossiped among the rocks in the hope of finding some small animals to devour, and others howled with their savage grunts around great fires. The khärn were not especially sensitive to the cold, but whenever they moved far from the mountains they missed the color and smell of fire and lava. There were not many who had gathered in a circle to watch others fight duels to the death. Bajheera looked at his small army and snapped his tongue in disappointment. They had come down from the mountain to look for enemies to kill, and it appeared that they wouldn’t be as fortunate as he had hoped. Although his dominion over the warriors of the tribe was total, he knew that keeping the rest of the khärn occupied was the only thing that separated him from a riot. The promise of blood was the only thing that had managed to get the tribe out of its caves; If he took too long to keep that promise, it would not take them long to challenge him, and he knew that for a fact.
They needed new victims. And Bajheera had a good idea as to where he would find them.
Revenant stared with astonishment at the valley of Kornit from an area in the far north. Where had so many of those khärn come from? When he was a child those monstrous giants were nothing more than a tale used by the grandmothers to instill fear in the little ones, and now he had hundreds of them ready to charge against all the Vilkaitith stationed on the hill, despite being in numerical inferiority and with the ground against him. Did they not have brains or were they just crazy?
Well, if that was what they wanted, he was willing to give them the taste of thousands of axes.
A simple gesture with his head was enough for Tatin to understand his orders. The One-Handed began to distribute the orders among the captains, almost all veterans of several wars, both in ones with the Durno as well as against other rival clans of the North, like the Tallun. Revenant knew of strategy, and all he regretted was that he had not come first to choose the terrain, though to be frank, he would have chosen precisely that location to arrange his troops. He looked around the various formations with a satisfied expression. The number of axes and banners was spectacular for the short time they had been give to arrange things. His gaze lingered on the figures of Kanna and Saga, who stood out among the rest of his army. If the presence of that Celea whom they called Destroyer was already peculiar, counting also among the ranks of the Vilkaitith with a Shinse and a Khärn was an event. The folkin had left a large distance around the gigantic being, who swung nervously over its huge mace as if it could not wait to jump on its fellows and only the presence of Kanna allowed him to remain calm. The shizu, however, waited calmly with her sharp wakats glued to her dirty, worn clothes.
Revenant stared up at the sky, where Lôm was already beginning to loom behind Gaal flooding the battlefield with a greenish light. It was going to be a glorious morning for his clan.
Not being able to contain his smile, Bajheera looked to the top of that hill licking at the sight of so many enemies. The khärn were not ones to make complicated strategies. They would charge frontally toward the Tamvaasa, each warrior making superhuman efforts to arrive first into the front line of the army of Tamvaasa. Bajheera himself could not afford to be left behind: he knew that the slightest sign of weakness would not be well received by his troops. His sight was fixed on the central banners of the Vilkaitith regiment, where a Tamvaasa dressed in vilkai skins seemed to distribute the orders among the others.
Bajheera smiled. He had found the head of the snake. He’d just have to rip it off so the rest of the enemies would fall like flies.
The first charge of the Battle of Kornit did not come out exactly as the khärn expected. The resistance of the folkin was savage, measured and accurately calculated, as well as masterfully executed by the troops captained by Revenant and Tatin. Both warriors, leading the central formation, sank their axes into the skulls of innumerable enemies, making them pay for every step they took on that hill. Bajheera's troops, with more fury than intelligence, simply climbed the slope carrying their enormous maces, sometimes passing over their own companions in their eagerness to be the first to combat. But the warriors of the Great North knew how to handle their axes effectively, so they took turns to stay fresh on the front line and used The Song of Vilkai to heal the wounded and bring them back to combat.
In the left flank, Saga and Kanna fought in an organized way with ferocity and hatred in their looks. Both detested with all their strength Bajheera and the rest of the khärn that inhabited in Khilma and made use of all their power to prevent its advance. On the right, however, Destroyer was the real ruler of the battlefield. Knowing what he was capable of fighting with his spear and shield, the rest of the folkin simply defended their positions and toppled the khän who had been mortally wounded. The Celeani technique was legendary; Thanks to the Blades of Celem and to its elevated position no khärn could put a foot near the top. Destroyer's spear pierced one after the other, and the few blows that the giant creatures attempted simple struck his shield without causing further damage.
Bajheera could not hide his frustration. Those bluish-skinned Northerners used strategy to which the Khärn were not accustomed. Fighting from the top of the location helped them retain all their advantage, suffering very few casualties, while the khärn that fell under their axes were already counted by dozens. But Bajheera knew that, as news of the battle spread throughout the mountains, more and more warriors from both their tribe and other neighbors would join the fighting. Few things interested a khärn more than the thirst for blood and a good fight, even outside under those two bright lights that illuminated the sky. So he hoped, hoping that sooner or later, the Vilkaitith's defenses would weaken. That would be his moment.
"We do not have enough men for that," The One-Handed murmured earnestly.
Revenant nodded in frustration. What had begun as a brilliant victory for his clan was turning into a nightmare. Despite having the advantage of the terrain and the upperhand since the beginning of the battle, those damn Kharn still emerged as a swarm of the surrounding mountains.
"Are we still without news from Erika? Some of the neighboring clans have to help us close the way.”
"Erika's army is in the East, at the mouth of the Mooji," replied Tatin. "Even if they started today, they would not arrive in time to collect our bodies.
"What about the Cleevun, or the Durslayun?" Revenant asked without much hope, but the only response he got was Tatin's gesture shaking his head. Revenant turned his gaze back to the valley, where the khärn camp - if it could be called a camp to that infested mass of beings that were sleeping and shitting anywhere - seemed to boil with activity. "Well, we are alone then. We will continue fighting. I can not think of another option".
But in fact he had come up with another option. Revenant would leave his post that day to the head of the Vilkaitith and would go down to fight directly against Bajheera. In the absence of their leader the khärn would surely return to their tunnels, to fight among themselves surrounded by the lava and the sweltering heat of Khilma. But for this he would have to leave the camp and enter alone in the bowels of the enemy army.
Bajheera could not believe his eyes. That pale little man at the helm of the Vilkaitith was heading toward him, all alone. It did not need words to communicate to the rest of the tribe that that enemy was his and only his. The khärn continued to ascend around Revenant, giving him looks of hatred and contempt. Also some laughs; No one among his men had ever succeeded in defeating Bajheera in single combat. That fool was dead and he still did not know it, moving slowly as he stretched his shoulders and checked the weight of his axes.
Both enemies spent little time observing. Bajheera was burning with the thirst of blood, and his enormous club was anxious to come into contact with the head of the Tamvaasa. The force of the first blow surprised Revenant. He lifted his axes in vain to stop the attack, but the impact sent him to the ground several paces away. Bajheera smiled, licking his lips, but the captain of the Vilkaitith rose without a scratch. He dodged the second blow, but a giant khärn's shoulder hit sent him back to the ground. Laughter rose among the savages ascending the hill; Some of them had risen to observe the combat, but none of the Tamvaasa had moved from their position, by order of their leader. Whatever happened in that struggle, the Vilkaitith had to maintain their positions.
Revenant rose again, slightly bruised. He did not care about the wounds, but he was beginning to understand how his opponent was fighting, and that was more valuable than all the scars in the world. After enduring a new onslaught, he swung to the right and his axes hit the giant's neck. Instead of seeing his head separated from the body, the armor of Bajheera, made of volcanic rock, endured the blow. His club hit Revenant’s body again, sending him falling to the ground, visibly wounded. It was the opportunity that Bajheera needed to be able to play a little with the wimp before knocking him out. However, Revenant attacked with his axes from the ground, hitting the leader of the khärn in the foot. He rose and murmured a word, invoking the Vilkai Song. His body was wrapped in a haze in the form of a wild animal, and his wounds began to close magically before the eyes of Bajheera, who watched the scene astonished.
"All right. I've seen what you're capable of," Revenant said with a smile, again in full physical shape. "Now it's my turn to strike back".
The fight changed completely. Each time Bajheera managed to hit the Tamvaasa, he moved away a little and invoked the Vilkai Song again, healing his wounds. Bajheera, however, lacked that power, and though he was large, cruel and resilient, the blows that Revenant delivered throughout his body began to make a dent in the giant. The khärn who watched the fight stopped shouting and spat on the floor, disgusted by the cowardly technique of Revenant, looking at him with hatred and wishing they could intervene in combat, but they knew that Bajheera would never allow it. One after another, possessed by anger, they left the circle and made their way to the top of the hill to make the troops of Revenant suffer.
The captain of the Vilkaitith watched as, once more, Bajheera roze with his body full of wounds and cuts. The giant could never defeat him, the Tamvaasa thought, but the smile on the face of the khärn could only be seen.
"I would not get up again," Revenant muttered, glaring at the giant. "Rest from your wounds and return with your tribe to the interior of the mountain".
Bajheera did not understand Revenant's words. He had never been much for words, anyway, and that rough, complicated North tongue interested him only slightly. But he understood somehow what Revenant wanted to say, and he rose again. At that moment, the roar of the battle that was taking place at the top of the hill gained in intensity and Bajheera burst into a serious laugh, almost on the verge of madness. More and more warriors climbed the hill, emerging from the tunnels surrounding Khilma like hornets of a hive. The enemies seemed to have no end, and before him, behind Bajheera's back, was now an army like none that had been seen in the North since the Battle of the Hiria Fields. And then Revenant understood. Even killing Bajheera would not be enough for the folkin to fully stop the attack. The Vilkaitith were to be outdone that day, and perhaps their gesture of measuring the leader of the Khärn would have only made the situation worse.
Indeed, the khärn, seeing the cowardly strategy used by the captain of the Vilkaitith, had spread the word in the direction of the mountain. Not only his own tribe, but almost all the remaining idlers in Khilma had gone abroad, their spirits inflamed by the news of the cowardice of the Tamvaasa. Hundreds of warriors were now joining the battle at the top of the lookout, and even the high position would not allow the folkin to win that battle.
Revenant returned at a slow pace, not even looking around, but the khärn did not seem to pay too much attention to him. He was a victorious but defeated man, and in those conditions he was no challenge to them. Above, on the top of the hill, were prey, real enemies with their sharp axes, ready to test the strength of their clubs. They would kill the Khärn that day, until they flooded the valley of Khilma with corpses and axes covered with mud and snow.
Thanks a lot to Crimson for translating this into English!!