RPS Ascension: Ignominy
Did I mention that I, Ichiro, was once the Prophet of the cyclops-god? I suspect not—it is the supremest of punishments to play both the roles of Prophet and Last Believer. At any rate, it is right that you should know why I have been chosen to tell this last chapter of the tale of the greatest alliance of shunned creatures that Antopeos has ever known. We stood upon the fields of Vlecz, far from the Fissure of Yomi, and witnessed the brutality of man. And now I am their guest, kept alive for the sole purpose of regaling their guests and striking fear into the hearts of those who dare resist them.
We knew our prospects were grim when Akenbei announced that he would general the defense.
Funnily enough, I did not think much of him at the time. He was dimwitted and raucous, lazy even for a demon, and not all that strong as far as giants go. He neglected his diplomacy, and was often late drafting his missives or briefing his messengers. He preferred the party and the harvest holidays. In a way, despite having drenched his hairy-knuckled hands with the blood of over a hundred souls, he was gentle. Or perhaps that’s just how I remember him now that he’s dead and the execrable Nirelye rules from the corners to the core of Antopeos. Gentleness is not a desirable trait for a God, after all.
You may be wondering why we made our stand at Vlecz. Simply put, there was no better place to do it. The region supported the bellies of our troops better than the nearby Dighmor, and if we had made our stand farther back, we would have had to divide ourselves or risk the enemy rampaging unchecked through our lands.
So we stood at Vlecz, and hoped we could repel our enemy before he reached the shores of Western Antopeos. He had grown fat on the kingdoms of the disappeared pretenders, and fielded a formidable force—knights mounted upon the backs of lizards, skilled archers, a few raised dead and amazon warriors, and powerful mages in command. We might have broken into a rout at the very sight of it if it were not for our own formidable force:
Such a glorious host! Our ranks swelled, composed of a splendid alliance between the goblin-folk Bakemono of the mountains, an assortment of fire-spewing, ice-hurling, and sword-dancing Oni, and humans armed with poles, bows, and horses. It has always been common to dismiss the demons of the Fissure as slaves to their prejudices, but I daresay that no other Pretender has ever managed to units such a diverse selection of species.
And, of course, leading the army personally was Akenbei.
I was there too, as was the giant Dai Oni Toshiharu and our greatest general Hirohisa. Each of us commanded strong contingents of fighters. I could regale you for days in describing the might of our army, but that would only make the following details all the more painful to hear.
Because, yes, this is a sad tale. And the following moments are the hardest. See, our forces were beaten before our lines could collide with the enemy.
First, the enemy’s mages were much more potent than our own. Our Oni demons were composed of smaller types along with the tougher fire- and ice-breathers, and in general our forces were more resilient to fire than to cold. So when the enemy mages unleashed shattering waves of falling frost on our front lines, many of our weaker demons, who had pledged to absorb the charge of the enemy cavalry, were killed prematurely.
Second, while our forces were still reeling from the barrage of magical energy being hurled their way, our archers dueled with the Sauromatian archers. Ours were diverse—humans on foot and on horse, and Bakemono—but theirs had better skill and were more numerous. So while our arrows caused many wounds, theirs held the sharper point.
The third stage of our defeat is partially to my shame. As the Prophet of Akenbei, it was my responsibility to shield our demon-kin against the banishment rites of the enemy priests. See, any demon or undead can be banished by those who hold holy authority. A powerful demon or undead priest can potentially block these assaults. If I had succeeded, then our demons may have lost their bodies, but their spirits would have continued to fight on. Unfortunately, I lacked the necessary power to shield all my friends, and many were scorched by pillars of light:
Even then, it seemed as though our vanguard would smash into the Sauromatian front line and force the enemy to rout the field. It was then that we discovered our enemy’s darkest treachery: they had coated their arrows in hydra-poison, and even the resilient bodies of the Oni could do nothing but write in agony.
I must remind you, the first of our soldiers had yet to complete the charge to the enemy lines. All these attacks had run their course in mere seconds—freezing sleet from the sky, arrows, banishing burning light, and the paroxysm of poison, all in less than half a minute. I still tremble at the thought of it. That charge was worse than all the years of torture and ridicule the Sauromatians have subjected me to since.
And moments later, it was over. The lizard cavalry impacted our lines with such force that spines shattered and demon spirits were whisked away in the air. Akenbei himself fought in battle, claiming more lives until it was apparent that we would either retreat or die on that foreign field. So we retreated, crossing the strait back to Dighmor to lick our wounds.
Hirohisa had plans and plots. “Fall back,” he said. “Let us yield the Marverni lands and fortify the Fissure.” But Akenbei was already defeated. I could see it in his eye.
The next few months were just a game for the Sauromatians. They would attack, smash our ragged defenses, and be fresh enough to march mere weeks later. We would lose more soldiers, fall back and fortify, and then lose again. Our initial army had been hundreds strong; our second resistance little more than two hundred, and our third one hundred. Soon we were being hunted in our own country. Only a short time later, Akenbei fell in battle. Although I’m not sure when, Hirohisa and Nanvather and Toshiharu all fell as well. In the end, there was only me.
So that’s how we came to be ruled by stinking ugly humans rather than proud and noble demons. And let me tell you: it’s the saddest story I’ve ever heard. Be warned. And praise Nirelye, glorious lord of blah blah blah, et cetera.