They Failed (1,160 words) Sir Rodrick rode at the head of the calvary. He was becoming nervous and had to keep from pushing his men to hard. Too much depended on them to recklessly lead them into an ambush or exhaust them right before the coming battle. They had to find where the Warlord Hale was leading his army. Otherwise the Alliance wouldn't have any chance of defeating the enormous host. The heroes they had sent to defeat the Warlord had failed. As Rodrick had told the leaders, the heroes had been too few. They couldn't hope to kill the Warlord, or stop him from summoning his demons. Only the battlefield would stop the Warlord once and for all. The Alliance of Nations had already faced five invasions in the last decade from the Northern Kingdom. The Warlord summoned apocalyptic demons to act as a spearhead destroying everything in their path. The Warlord followed these abominations with insane spell casters who risked their lives and sanity with ever more dangerous spells. Behind these two nigh unstoppable hammers fanatical warriors who's only wish was to destroy the enemy before them. Every time they marched they took more land, only held in check after too many battles that bled both sides dry. Rodrick clenched his fist, that would not happen this time. They would stop him here, before any cities or towns were razed. "My Lord," a scout cried as he galloped towards the main group of cavalry. "My Lord, the enemy is in sight. They have raised a white flag." Sir Rodrick went to meet the scout, incredulous at the news. Once the Warlords army marched he always attacked first and then demanded negotiations. What trickery was this. He reached the breathless scout. "What exactly did you see?" he demanded. "My Lord, the Warlords army is stopped five leagues due north of here, in an open field. No walls or barriers have been constructed, only sentries appear to be on guard. White flags ring the entire camp." The scout voice lowered to a whisper, "There was not a single demon in sight." Rodrick thought carefully for few moments. This was impossible. The Warlord had never acted like this before. He had to inform his leaders, and he had to act on this now. He waved the scout to follow him back to the men. His Lieutenants came forward waiting to hear what was going on. "The enemy is five leagues north of us, camped and with white flags," he told them. "Give this man a fresh horse," motioning to the scout," and a guard of twenty men. They are to memorize everything he tells them, at least one man must get through to tell the Alliance. We will advance on the Warlord, stopping one league away while ensuring a retreat is possible. Then myself and ten others will advance under white flag to discover what is going on. Understood?" they all nodded. "If we come under attack keep out of reach of their demons. Harass them until the army reaches us, but don't get into any battle you can't retreat from." The men immediately started shouting his orders, preparing for what everyone believed would be a bloody and desperate battle. Rodrick hoped he wasn't making a mistake. The camp lay before the small group that Lord Rodrick led out of the woods. They were on top of a small hill which allowed him to see most of the field. His practiced eye estimated the number at maybe twenty thousand. Far smaller then he had expected. More curiously there wasn't the organized bustle of a well ordered camp, this looked apathetic and weak. This was what you saw when an army had been defeated, or knew they were going to die. The Warlords army had never appeared like this. Even when they retreated they did so more like a wild animal that is momentarily forced away from its prey, not a dog fleeing with its tail between its legs. His squire Sir Edmund lifted the white flag high in the air, signaling their wish to talk to the camp below. Almost immediately a white flag rose in the camp and ten horsemen left the camp under the flag. Rodrick tried to hide the apprehension he was feeling. This wasn't normal. He'd much prefer to be fighting right now. When the unexpected happened he became nervous. But there was no way to turn back now. "Lets go," he told his men and rode down to meet the group. The first thing Rodrick noticed clearly was a deformed and broken ivory mask of the lead rider. The Warlord always wore an ivory mask into combat. Rumours said it had once shattered a battle axe that should have killed the Warlord, without gaining a scratch. But the mask was blackened, and melted. The lower half had been torn off, revealing a scarred jaw and mouth. Was this the Warlord Hale. People who had met him off the battlefield reported that he was not scarred. He wasn't handsome, but he wasn't deformed either. The armour was definitely that of the Warlord, and only he wore an ivory mask. So this was either a ruse, or the Warlord had been in the most deadly of combat. "I am Sir Rodrick, General of the Calvary of Light," he said as soon as they were within speaking distance. "You have invaded the Kingdom of Luth, the Alliance of Nations demands you return to your lands immediately." The possible Warlord lips curled in disgust. "I am the Warlord Hale. I would like nothing more then to return to my Lands. But I have no lands left." Rodrick couldn't hide his shock at the Warlords words. "The heroes you sent to kill me failed. But they did far more damage than you could possibly imagine. They destroyed my portal to the Apocalypse Realm," he said in fear. Rodrick smiled, "Then they did well. Without your demons you are nothing." The Warlord laughed. "You fool they broke the portal. They didn't close it. Demons are now entering our world almost at will. Before they were under my control. Now they just do as they please, which means killing everything in sight." He pointed at his mask, "I barely escaped my castle with my life. My cities are drowned in blood. My armies were decimated trying to force them back. I have maybe fifty thousand men scattered in these woods." Rodrick felt his body grow cold. "You can't be serious." "Now you understand," the Warlord said grimly. "Your heroes failed in their quest, they have brought us to the very edge of Apocalypse. Now it is up to us to save the world. You have the army, and enough spell casters, I have the knowledge. Take me to your Council, I will take only my nine men I have with me right now, to keep you at ease. We must work together and we may just survive."