Runewars Mega, Year 8: Race for the Dragon Throne
Well, our story is drawing to a close. By the end of this year, one of the four nations will have gathered the necessary eight dragon runes and put themselves onto the Dragon Throne—that’s right, both.
At the beginning of the eighth year of the War, it really could have swayed in one of three directions. Waiqar the Undying had taken a few lumps, but his dark empire still spanned quite the distance, and his ranks had swollen fat from a combination of seven years of war and the efforts of his necromancers. The Daqan Lords had a small military, but their alliance with the Uthuk Y’llan barbarians meant that they could focus on expanding without having to protect their flanks—and they had the plans of Andira Runehand to guide them. And the Latari Elves were in possession of nearly half of the entire continent of Terrinoth. Each of the four nations were well-aware of the many prophecies floating around, and it seemed that all the peoples of Terrinoth held their breath at once, eyes fixed on the Lost City.
The year began with a surprisingly early dose of brutality. Old Man Waiqar, annoyed at the elven incursions into his southern lands, sent Mad Carthos to conquer the stronghold that sat opposite his own. The elven garrison was strong—mostly archers and warriors, and great in number—but Mad Carthos was still in the business of distinguishing himself as one of the greatest generals in the history of Terrinoth. The elven archers, who would normally have defended the stronghold before the undead army could arrive at the walls, were disrupted by powerful and illusory magics. This allowed Mad Carthos’ own skeleton archers, vampires, and zombies to close in on the walls without danger. The garrison was easily exterminated, and many of the defenders were made slave to Waiqar by his liches.
Thus began a contest of power between the elven council and Waiqar himself. Not willing to be seen as weak, the Latari Council used their strongest magics to reach out from the Aymhelin Forest. Soon, the fort that Mad Carthos had just taken was aflame.
In response, Waiqar used some magic of his own. He poisoned the nearby elven army with suggestive powers, and sent his agents through their ranks. They whispered that the elves were cowards, and had scorched their own soldiers (a type of truth, as some of Waiqar’s reanimates had once been Latari). They compared the burning of the Latari fort to the long-past event when the Latari had persuaded the Wizards’ Council to burn Greyhaven—a crime that their leaders had often attributed to Waiqar.
The nearby Latari army was halved as all those troops that were not native Latari abandoned the cause. The elves spent much time persuading them to stay, and once Waiqar’s magic had worn off, many were willing to rejoin the elves. But for the time being, the elven armies were largely crippled.
The Latari Council demanded that the army retake the region that had just fallen to Waiqar, but their strength was greatly dissipated. Vyrah the Falconer knew that to attack Mad Carthos was folly—Waiqar’s general was too talented, and Vyrah himself was no leader. So Vyrah came up with a plan. It was incredibly risky, but unless the undead were deprived of their leader, there was little hope that the Latari would be able to defend their lands, let alone actually attack.
So Vyrah quit his position. He turned leadership of the Latari armies over to Spiritspeaker Mok, who he had accepted as his better in a few (a few) areas. Then he packed up his things, polished Awiergan’s talons, and set off to face Mad Carthos.
Vyrah knew that Mad Carthos was not only a great general, but a great warrior. Primary among his abilities was an aura that caused preemptive damage: weakness, fever aches in the shoulders, nosebleeds—that sort of thing. He was said to win battles by seeing his opponent’s moves before they were realized, but little did he know that Vyrah was a trickster in addition to being a warrior, adventurer, and sage. So when Vyrah appeared before him, already hunched with pain, their battle was cut short. You see, Vyrah held in his mind an image of an early attack; thus, Mad Carthos blocked the blow a split second too soon. The real blow came afterwards, and struck the staggered Mad Carthos dead in a single hit.
With Mad Carthos dead, Vyrah settled in and watched as Spiritspeaker Mok led what remained of the Latari army to retake the region.
With so many of their allies temporarily abandoning them, Spiritspeaker Mok had been forced to empty many of the southerly regions of Terrinoth of soldiers. Local barons and tribes were all too happy to reoccupy their lands. Furthermore, Mok turned out to be just as flawed a general as Vyrah had been. While the elves did succeed in retaking the area, many of them fell to Waiqar’s wyrms and dark knights before they were able to push the enemy back. The Latari had restored their borders with Waiqar, but at great cost: the far south was independent again, and the elves would not be able to mount another campaign in the south for some time.
Now, you may be wondering why I’ve chosen to dwell so long on this conflict between Waiqar and the Latari. Truth be told, there just wasn’t much else going on in the first few months of that year. The chieftain council of the Uthuk Y’llan had been portraying themselves as a kinder, gentler sort of demonically-possessed barbarian tribe, and they had gained the attention of Battlemage Jaes, who had been in hiding after believing that the former chieftain had tried to have him killed (which was not true). The barbarians were therefore gathering what few troops they could in the north, though having no food did make it hard to maintain any sort of military. And they had only one place to gather those troops, as they had ceded their other stronghold to the Daqan Lords (along with its rune), and the city of New Frostgate had no facilities for raising armies.
For these reasons, it could have been devastating when Waiqar’s northern legions decided to invade Vynelvale for its dragon rune. The Uthuk were spread so thin that they knew that any losses might wipe them off the map of Terrinoth entirely. So they sacrificed their allied beastmen forces and let their larger demons take a few hits. At the end of the day, they were battered but not defeated, and they fell back with enough of an army to defend their last stronghold. Battlemage Jaes was the one who took command of the remaining Uthuk, and he began to prepare a bold plot to retake the city.
The Uthuk were distressed when it turned out that Waiqar’s goals had changed. Knowing that it was unlikely that he could gather eight runes while at war with three nations, he was determined to prove the prophecies false by destroying every rune possible. So rather than occupying Vynelvale, he burned it to the ground, burying its rune under a thousand tons of stone. In its place, he erected a stronghold.
Back in the south, the Daqan Lords were capitalizing on Waiqar being distracted by their barbarian allies and the elves. Andira Runehand’s plan had not called for them to conquer one of Waiqar’s strongholds, but many of its troops had marched out to fight the Latari and the opportunity was too juicy to turn down. The usual regiments of footmen, bowmen, and knights were joined by novice wizards straight out of school and newly-allied giants. The stronghold was lightly defended and the humans managed to take it without a single loss.
This cost the Daqan a bit of time, but it was time they could afford to burn. Waiqar still regarded them as more of a nuisance than a true threat, and most of his forces were still occupied either at the tense standoff with the Latari in the west, or up north where they fought against the Uthuk. Andira Runehand’s plan had called for this approach: a cautious march down the east coast, a dangerous crossing of the frozen sea, and then a sudden push up through Greyhaven into the Lost City. If all went according to plan, the Daqan Lords would be in possession of seven dragon runes by the end of the eighth year. Where they would gain the final required rune was a mystery.
The Daqan plan was made both easier and more desperate when a Latari army in the north assaulted Waiqar’s fortress. Waiqar had not been expecting the war with the elves to grow onto a second front, so the fortress had been lightly defended. More of Waiqar’s troops were dedicated to defending the Latari border, but the elven proximity to the Lost City was disturbing to the Daqan Lords, who knew that they were now engaged in a race—and if they could not take the Dragon Throne from Waiqar first, then there would be little chance of them wresting it from the elves.
Another concern that burned in the minds of men was that of Uthuk loyalty. The Daqan Lords had placed much faith in their alliance with the demon-worshipers, leaving many of their lands completely unprotected. If the chieftain council had desired it, they could have swept through Daqan lands in short order, probably capturing the Daqan capital before anyone could be raised to protect it. Thankfully, the Uthuk were a superstitious lot, and although they were cunning, they believed the prophecies that said that the War for the Dragon Throne would end that year. They saw clearly that they could not win within a year, and so they decided to support their allies. The instant this decision was made, Battlemage Jaes rallied the army and headed south (rather than east), taking the fight to the enemies of mankind.
Battlemage Jaes used his powers to eliminate an entire regiment of reanimates before his army was anywhere near Vynelvale. The Uthuk took this as a sign, and the battle favored the Uthuk (except for when a coven of vampires consumed a company of berserkers, turning them into fresh vampires. But other than that, the battle went to the barbarians).
The Latari were on the verge of assaulting the Lost City when they saw the victory of the barbarian horde. They stalled their invasion, not wanting to become trapped between Uthuk, undead, and humans.
The autumn was tense in this manner. The Latari were reluctant to expand their borders to meet two new foes in addition to the undead they already battled, so they hoped that winter would starve the Uthuk ranks to the point that they could be easily beaten. The Daqan Lords were funneling every soldier south that they could, hoping that they would have enough men to capture and then hold the Lost City. Waiqar saw that he was surrounded by enemies, so he began to squeeze every ounce of strength out of his cities that he could. He raised sorcerers in the Lost City, and more troops in Tamalir. The army that had been defeated at Vynelvale retreated to the east rather than to the Lost City, where they would be useless until they had been given some time to reorder.
It was at this point that a miracle happened. The Wizards’ Council, always the worst of meddlers, announced that they had found a dragon rune. They would sell it to the highest bidder, but proposed an obnoxious game: whoever won the bid could determine where the rune would be magically delivered to, but it had to be a neutral or enemy territory. After much sighing and eye-rolling, the nations began to curry favor with the Wizards.
Each nation spent the entirety of their treasury hoping to gain the rune. The Latari planned to have the rune placed in one of the neutral regions far to the west so that they could march and conquer it within a week. Waiqar hoped to make the deal, then find and murder the Council once and for all. The Uthuk pooled their treasury, though they had little hope of outbidding the greater nations. And the Daqan Lords called in every favor with every guild they had ever known. They broke open sacred barrows and melted down abbey candlesticks. Still, when they won the auction it came as a great surprise to everyone.
Even more surprising was the response of the Daqan to the Wizards’ Council. Rather than trying to trick the tricksters, they announced that the rune would be given to Waiqar. The emissary from the Council gasped at this news, then gained a devilish smile when the Daqan baron announced the specifics: the dragon rune would be placed in the Lost City, directly upon the Dragon Throne.
The Wizards dutifully teleported the stone to the proper location, and before anyone else knew exactly what was going on, the Daqan army was marching across the desert.
I would like to tell you how the Daqan army, resplendent with their armored knights and roc-riders and brave footmen, barely won that day. But that wouldn’t be the truth. Andira Runehand’s plan had been brilliant, and the Lost City fell within a matter of hours.
The greatest Daqan baron was there with them, and was already crowned King Daqan II by the time the Latari army was barely starting to mobilize. The dragon runes were merged before Waiqar realized that he was losing control of his forces and was banished back to his dark corner of the world. Ancient power poured out from the City and into the new King.
And that’s how it came to be that we’re all Daqan now, and praise the King rather than worshiping tree-glades (or whatever oblation would suit elves), or filling our heads with demonic nonsense, or shambling around rotting and praising Waiqar’s glorious reign. Thank the fates it turned out this way. Praise Daqan II!
Of course, it wasn’t really the end—just another beginning. The Latari were stubborn in handing over their lands to the New Daqan Dynasty, and they had to be seen back to their Aymhelin Forest in force. Old Man Waiqar wasn’t dead—still isn’t, some say—and his black lands are as untouched and unexplored as ever. The barbarians broke into two factions: one that still occupies New Frostgate to this day, and another that went back to fully embracing their demonic ways once they were given back the baked lands. But still, it was a peaceable time, and Terrinoth was ruled as sensibly as could be expected. The big question, though, is this: Will there ever be a great conflict again? Well, this is Terrinoth, and so the answer is: