The two armies were gathered at the valley that was the only pass through the mountains dividing their countries. The very same valley where the final battle of the Ten Year War had been waged. Now, nearly a century later, they gathered again. Almovia in the East, and Nosidia in the West.
The valley narrowed in the center between the two enemies, and that was why Almovia had chosen to fight them here. Nosidia’s army numbered nearly thirty-thousand. They outnumbered Almovia by almost ten thousand. Almovia’s only chance of victory, was if they stopped this threat here, where Nosidia couldn’t outflank them. Only three hundred men abreast could fight on the front lines at its narrowest point.
They had fought for three days already, with neither side gaining any ground. Both sides had suffered heavy losses and the Almovian army was losing its vigor. The men were exhausted and disheartened.
This would be their fourth day of battling on the blood soaked ground. The camp was full of the clatter of men putting on their armor and sharpening their weapons one more time as they wondered if it would be their last sunrise, War horses stomping and snorting impatiently as their own armor was strapped on and their saddles tightened. Some men gathered in small groups talking quietly with their heads bowed as they knelt with their swords supporting them. If you drew near, you would find that they were praying.
They prayed for safety as they prepared for battle. They prayed for strength to protect those they loved. They prayed for wisdom to be given to their commanders. But most of all, they prayed to their God, asking for Him to fill their hearts with Courage and Peace for the battle to come.
Commanders were beginning to call for their men to assemble and the noise of the camp increased as armor clad men and horses made their way to the front-line to face their enemy once more, with the sun just about to peak over the horizon at their backs.
Suddenly, just as the first rays of sun hit the earth, a hush began to fall on the camp. Most of the men were already assembled but those that remained became completely still. Men lifted their heads from their praying, soldiers stilled in their sharpening, knight’s halted their steeds, and even the massive war horses became quiet, as if they too could sense that they were witnessing something truly rare. All movement and sound ceased in the rear of the camp and this drew the attention of the front and they too, became still.
The only sound in they entire camp now, was the rumble of hundreds of horses walking through the center of the camp. The horses did not snort and toss their heads like the knight’s war horses did, but none could deny that they stepped with power and grace. Not even their saddles or bridles made any sound.
Astride the powerful steeds, sat warriors, tall and proud. They looked neither to the right, nor the left. Their attention was completely focused on the enemy gathering at the other end of the valley. They were both men and woman with swords strapped to their wastes with many carrying strange looking bows as well. The Warriors arms were bare, displaying a band of tattoos going around one or both of their upper arms. Their weapons gleamed in the first rays of sunlight.
When the mysterious riders in front had reached the rear of the front lines, they didn’t even slow. They keept going forward as the army parted silently to make way as though out of reverence.
The king who stood on a hill nearby in front of a map, surrounded by his generals as they went over the details of the battle plan, noticed the camp go silent and looked down on his weary army. His mouth opened slightly in awe as he beheld what he estimated to be about two hundred riders and over three hundred warriors on foot, walk right through the center of his army and take a stand at the very front in between his people and the enemy. They took their stand without a word, flawlessly moving into formation with a single line of archers in front of the riders with just enough space between them for a horse to pass through.
“I don’t believe what I am seeing.” The king said, slightly breathless in awe.
“What is this your majesty? Where did they come from?” One of his generals asked suspiciously.
The king turned to them with rewed hope. “That is the army of the Clan of Shadows. It looks like they have brought nearly every warrior they have to aid us. “He watched as six of the riders kept going forward until they stood just before the narrowing of the valley. There, they stopped and sat perfectly still on their coal black horses. Waiting.
“Every additional sword helps, but surely a meager five hundred cannot turn the tide that much against thousands?!” The same General spoke up in disbelief. The king looked him in the eye sharply and the General lowered his head, “Please forgive my tone your majesty.”
The king sighed slightly, “It’s alright, we are all tired and on edge. But take heart my friend, for just sixty of their warriors is the reason we were able to win against this foe in the last war. Even the youngest and most inexperienced of their warriors is worth twenty or more of our own! And look, they have brought their entire clan to fight! They are not a clan you want as an enemy, and I heard a report that the clan leader’s daughter was taken captive by Nosidia, and it is because of her, that we received that warning and got here before Nosidia could get through the valley.”
They all watched as the six riders sat unmoving as the enemy advanced. When both sides were an equal distance from the center of the valley, one of the six rideres lit a flaming arrow, from which the others lit their own. As one they lifted their bows and released the arrows into the sky. The six arrows made a high arc over the valley and landed right at the feet of the advancing Nosidians. Before the first six flaming arrows had touched the ground, three hundred mor followed. Suddenly there was a line of flaming arrows at the feet of the advancing army that had halted.
While all eyes had been on the six solitary riders, the other archers of the Shadow Clan had lit their own flaming arrows.
This was their declaration of war, their challenge to the ones who had stolen a daughter and warrior of their clan. “Cross that line if you dare to face our wrath!” It seemed to say.
The Nosidain army remained still until a horn blared out from somewhere behind them. They renewed their advance and crossed the line of burning arrows.
As one, the Shadow Clan raised a deafening war cry and their riders charges right past the line of archers with their swords held high, reflecting the light of the rising sun at their back.
The final battle that would decide the fate of Almovia began.