Xabre - Earth, Steel & Fire
It was another of those damnable tests, created by the three Wise Men
that led his army. Eldran’tyr sat in the war saddle of his great steed, the sun dragon Vorastrix, slowly circling over the training grounds for his budding army. Over the last few weeks, the Loremasters had come up with dozens of drills, activities and tests for his soldiers. The Dragon Mage was willing – begrudgingly – to admit that many of their methods seemed to strengthen his forces, but the idea that these three outsiders
were directing his army still grated on the heir of Caledor.
Currently, one of his regiments was spread out on the training field. The large block of elite guardsman moved in perfect, disciplined blocks, their scale armor glinting beneath blood red and black uniforms. Each one held a large shield on their arm and a long spear in their hands. At least, the ones that were in the front lines did. In traditional Elven battle tactics, the soldiers in the front ranks had their spears raised and shields up, defending the back ranks, which had drawn full-sized longbows. With blinding speed, each knocked, drew, aimed, and fired steel-tipped arrows at their target.
Unfortunately, the enemy before them cared little for steel.
The golem, a massive elemental construct made of living stone, stomped through the field. Its body was made of rocks and stone, varying in size from giant boulders for fists and torso, to tiny pebbles grinding in its joints. Slow and ungainly, it staggered and forward unrelenting and unstoppable. Arrows struck the bulk of the elemental, sparks flying as steel stroke stone, wooden shafts splintering and shattering. The rocks showed a few scratches and chips on the surface, but otherwise they were unmarred by the projectiles.
When the golem got too close, the spearmen stepped forward, driving their weapons forward. Made of magically-reinforced wood, the weapons fared better than arrows. The steel spearheads struck the elemental, keeping it from storming forward. Runes carved into each spearhead glowed softly, minor enchantments keeping the weapons from shattering, but not strong enough to do any more to stone than a normal spear might; which was nothing. It kept the creature at bay when it found it could not cross the wall of spears and shields, then stepped back, and looked for another path of attack.
It was a stalemate. The Elven soldiers had no weapons to harm the elemental, while the creature could not overcome the Elven discipline or defenses to defeat its foes. “This is foolish.” Eldran’tyr offered aloud, though only his great steed was near him to hear, swooping above the training field. “Of course our men would not be able to defeat such a creature. That’s why there are other elements to the army. The bolt throwers on our skycutters could pierce that thing, or a drake would pull it apart.” The prince’s voice was tinged with disgust and impatience. What was it about these Loremasters, making up their own rules, not paying attention to the tactics of their own men?
No. Not their
men. He would prove these three were fools, and take back his command. Seeing his soldiers holding their own against an arcane construct gave him pride, and made him feel certain that the Loremasters had misjudged his warriors. But at the same time, knowing that they couldn’t defeat the creature, lacked the tools to do so, discouraged him. What was the point of this exercise?
Perhaps the Loremasters think that your warriors carry pickaxes.
Vorastrix’s words echoed in its rider’s mind. The barely constrained violence in the dragon’s thoughts was obvious to Eldran’tyr. He could agree. He would much rather take the great dragon hunting in the mountains, but the Loremasters had requested
his presence to watch the exercise. The sooner this farce was over, the sooner they could get back to the nature of a true dragon.
The Loremasters themselves were nowhere to be found. After summoning the creature, the warrior magi had stepped back past the soldiers, told them to defeat it, and disappeared into the shadows as if they never existed. They were probably still somewhere close, watching, but Eldran’tyr could not see them from this height, and if Vorastrix could, the dragon was not pointing them out.
Again and again the cycle repeated itself. The golem would lumber forward, be pressed back by hardened spears, but the Elves could not cause any damage to the construct.
“I have had enough of this. I will show them my
pickaxe.” Vorastrix growled beneath Eldran’tyr, feeling the rage in his rider. The growl turned into a roar of conquest as it fell into a dive. The massive dragon came at the training field at a sharp angle, and even as they descended the mage was summoning a sword made of living flame, intending to tear through the elemental himself, but the dragon beneath him had the same idea.
With a terrible crash of claws and stone, Vorastrix smashed into the stone elemental. Claws sharper than swords tore chunks out of the granite body and the dragon’s massive bulk crushed it to the ground. Even after all that, the animated golem stroke to rise, finally having an opponent to fight. Eldran’tyr lashed out with his sword, but the elemental was blocked by Vorastrix’s profile. Finally the sun dragon opened its mouth, unleashing a blast of liquid flame. The fire from the creature washed over the stone elemental’s form, and the rock began to melt, starting to run like mud. As everyone watched, the stone softened, and the magic animated the creature faded into the air like purple smoke.
Then it was done, the elemental dead, half melted, unmoving. Vorastrix reared back, roaring in triumph. Eldran’tyr felt a glimmer of disappointment at not having a chance to kill himself, but at least he and his steed had had a kill together. The mage jumped down from his mount, looking around at his fellows. The warriors had all raised their spears in salute to their lord.
Hidden in the shadows, the three Loremasters watched the triumph of the dragon mage. “Fool. It took him long enough to realize he was supposed to help defeat the elemental. He keeps thinking of himself as a lord, and not a weapon the soldiers can rely on.”
“He will learn. We will teach him. His head is like granite, but eventually it will sink in.”