Carash is surprised to see the golden doors of the Sun Gate swing open when they do. His men are still a couple miles away from where he wants them. It should have been another mile or two before they were spotted.
The men had stopped singing a while ago but the earth still trembled beneath their feet. Armor clinked and clanked. The smell of sweat, both animal and human rose in the air like a foul perfume and the dust of the foremost caused those in the rear to cough and blink.
"Their gates open," Telesh says. "I can just make out their army coming out to meet us. It seems a bit early to me Sire."
"And to me as well Telesh," Carash replies. "What do you make of it?"
"Could Vorash have some kind of pre-sentience?"
"Let us hope not," one of the generals says. "Otherwise this battle is over before it has begun."
"I don't care what powers that fool might have," Carash says. "I will see him dead and his head on a pike."
"Then on to victory sire," Telesh says. "And may it be swift but painful for our enemies."
"Yes Telesh. I fully intend them to suffer."
"My Lord," Zelesht says. "I believe Delnosh was correct. We should be extra careful. After his last beating it should have been much longer before Carash took to the field again. He has something planned."
"Yes. That was my guess as well," Vorash replies. "Captain."
"Inform your men. They are to be on their guard but they are authorized to use every trick and technique they know. I am giving the White Flames free reign."
"Thank you sire. The men will be pleased."
"General Darak, the same goes for everyone else. I want everyone on their guard but they also have free reign. Together we will unleash the full fury of the City of Light and crush them once and for all."
The two armies draw closer and closer. When each army stops just outside of bow range of the other Vorash sees Carash and his train move to the center of the field.
"What do you think General," Vorash asks.
"He has something to say, My Lord," Darak replies. "Perhaps he intends to surrender?"
"I doubt it. We are not that lucky."
"Shall we go see what he has to say then sire?"
Vorash doesn't answer. He simply kicks his horse into a walk and the others follow.
"What do you want Carash," Vorash asks when he is close enough.
"I want many things Vorash," Carash replies. "Mostly I want your head on a pike, but I am offering you this one chance to save the rest of your men. Surrender now or I will destroy everyone here and then some."
"I have the power of the White Flame behind me Carash. Why should I surrender to you?
"Let's just say that there have been some new developments and things are not as one sided as they once appeared."
"I see. Well here is my counter-proposal. You surrender, and I promise that your men will be spared. I further promise that your death will be quick and painless."
"Ha Ha ha ha ha…Quick and painless? What a spineless little whelp you are Vorash. I am your enemy. I don't deserve any mercy from you and yet you offer it. What a coward. But since you refuse my offer, let us get this one last battle started, and the war won."
With that Carash returns to his own lines.
"Very well then," Vorash says, turning and doing the same. As he returns to his lines Vorash begins to speak to his warriors.
"My people! Loyal warriors of our great city, hear me! We can not know how many of us will survive this battle, and I dearly wish we did not have to fight it. But fight it we must! For all our sake's, and for those that we love in the city behind us. It is for them that we fight today. It is for them that we give up our lives. For each of you that falls, a hero shall be made. Your name shall live on in the hearts of those you leave behind. And we shall all meet again in the embrace of the Blue Flame! But for now we fight! Fight for truth, honor, love, and for all that is right and true in this world! Today, one way or another, we fight to end this wretched war once, and for all!"
His men draw their swords and raise them high shouting at the top of their lungs. For his part, Vorash draws his own blade and salutes them all with it, not knowing that his lover had done the same not an hour before. He turns back around after a moment and faces the enemy lines.
"Shall I send out the chariots first, My Lord," Darak asks.
"No. We shall wait for Carash to make the first move. Then we shall react accordingly," comes the reply.
"My Lord, if we react the whole time then how do you plan to win?""
"Fear not General, I have a plan in mind."
Apparently though, Carash wasn't going to abide by any rules or strategies save his own. Instead of sending out one element of his army, Carash advances the whole line. Every single soldier, chariot, archer, and horse mounted warrior advances at a steady pace, all aimed directly at Vorash's own troops.
"He is mad," General Darak says, his eyes going wide.
"Tell me something we didn't already know General," Vorash replies, appearing calm. Secretly though Vorash agrees with this. He doesn't know what Carash has planned but this move is completely unexpected.
"Tell the archers to fire at will. Darken the sky with their arrows," Vorash says calmly.
A moment later arrows whistle overhead, their sheer numbers momentarily blocking out the sun. Vorash is sure that after being decimated by these arrows Carash's forces would turn and run, and that would be the time to strike.
Just as the arrows near however, Carash unleashes his surprise. There is a burst of black fire from Carash, which vaporizes his horse as he transforms. With a sweeping movement of his hand, black fire turns most of the arrows to ash. Some make it through and strike true, bringing down at most five warriors. Even at this distance Vorash can tell that Carash is laughing hysterically.
"My Lord," Telesh exclaims.
"I know Telesh, I know," Vorash replies in a quavering voice. "Very well then. If that's how he wants to play this, then so be it."
Vorash climbs down from his horse and has it lead away back behind the lines. With his own burst of golden flames Vorash transforms as well. He leaps into the air with one downward stroke of his wings and draws his sword.
"Forward!" Vorash shouts to his warriors pointing his sword at Carash. Another sweep of his wings, and Vorash races straight for Carash, who flexes his own wings and comes racing towards him.
Vorash is expecting a ringing clash when their swords meet but is unpleasantly surprised when Carash's sword slices through his own about halfway up the blade. Vorash stares at the shorn blade in disbelief.
"Ha ha ha ha ha," Carash laughs. "Do you like my new toy Vorash? I like to think of it as gift from a true deity."
Vorash manages to dodge the next few swings but now he's on the defensive. All he can do is dodge, his own sword useless now. Anymore strikes with his sword could leave it shorter. In a quick decision Vorash plummets to the ground and the fighting men below.
"Ha! See the great king run," Carash laughs. "And you call me a coward! Ha!"
Just as he can begin to make out individual warriors in the fighting mass below, Vorash vanishes in a burst of fire. Carash stops in midair not sure where he'd gone or what to do. Meanwhile Vorash reappears above him.
Great flame help me now," Vorash prays silently. As he drops onto Carash, hoping to kill him with a surprise strike from behind with his broken sword, he doesn't notice his sword being engulfed in golden flames.
At the last second something makes Carash turn and look up. Quickly he throws up his own to block the blow and as the two swords come together there is an explosion of noise, as though thunder just exploded over their heads. Bolts of electricity shoot from the point where the two swords meet, killing several men below them. Many are knocked to the ground by the eruption of power. Everyone looks up in amazement at the two kings.
In silent awe Vorash stares at his sword. The blade is three feet of gleaming steal with a white hilt that ends in a dragon head. Glittering diamonds are in place for the dragon's eyes and gold is inlaid in beautiful patterns all over the hilt and hand guard.
"What," Carash exclaims, his eyes going wide.
My brother saw fit to give Carash his sword, a voice says in Vorash's mind. Now I give you mine. Finish this Vorash.
The two fly apart and then back. The fight begins to get intense, with each dodging swings and blocking the next blow. Each time the swords come together there is an explosion of noise and a burst of energy. By this time the soldiers on the ground have stopped fighting each other and simply stare in awe as their kings battle it out. But when Vorash slams Carash into the ground, creating a huge explosion and killing several hundred, they begin to panic. The two armies fall back to their respective cities but no one is safe anymore. Carash unleashes several balls of energy at Vorash, several of which he dodges, while knocking two back towards Carash. The resulting explosions kill more men and several fly directly into the City of Light, destroying huge swaths of the city.
Still the kings fight on, oblivious to the damage and havoc they cause. Walls crumble and houses fall apart. The destruction is not limited to the City of Light either; Vorash pushes Carash all the way back into his own palace, knocking down several whole wings. The battle lasts for three days, destroying most of both cities and tearing up the land. By the time the two stop, the plains are littered with bodies and both cities are nothing more than crumbling ruins. The two glare at each other for a long time before they notice their surroundings. The destruction surprises them as do the bodies.
Vorash notices Darak's body not too far away and he can't help but think, Delnosh is going to kill me.
It is several minutes before they both realize the full extent of the damage. Silently, they walk away from each other, too distracted by the scene to care about the other.
Vorash begins picking his way through the bodies and blasted landscape back towards the city. Along the way he stops at several bodies of people he knew, Zelesht and Galek among them. At each one he stops for a moment and gazes at them, silently begging forgiveness. When he finally reaches the Sun Gate he seems to fully realize the horror.
The great golden gates are open; one is off its hinges and resting on the ground and against part of the wall that once supported it. The other is half melted and fallen on the ground.
"What have we done," Vorash asks aloud. "What of Delnosh?"
Forgetting everything else, Vorash sheaths his sword and runs towards the palace, doing his best to not break his neck over the rubble. When he finally reaches it the palace is mostly destroyed. The throne is nothing but a pile of dust upon the cracked dais and the pillar of truth is on the ground while the pillar of hope is broken in half. Vorash searches the palace, sure that if Delnosh is anywhere, he would be here.
Finally Vorash finds him in their bedroom, lying on the bed. At first he seems fine, only a small trickle of blood escapes from the corner of his mouth.
"Delnosh," Vorash says a tremor in his voice, "My Love?"
Delnosh's eyes flutter open and at first he seems confused. But soon enough his eyes focus and he turns his head to look at Vorash.
"My…Love," Delnosh says in hoarse voice. "I knew you'd find me."
"Yes. I'm here my love and I'm not leaving."
"Of course you're not."
"You'll be ok, don't worry. I'll make sure of it."
"I fear…that I am too…far gone for even you to help me now…my love."
"No! Don't say that," Vorash begins to cry at these words, unable to imagine living without Delnosh. "Don't leave me. I can't live without you."
"I fear that you will have to find a way. Know this…no matter what happens…I will always…love you."
Delnosh's eyes close then and his breathing slows, until finally his last breath escapes in a small contented sigh. Vorash starts shaking him, screaming his name. Knowing that, once again, it's useless he collapses onto Delnosh's chest and begins to weep.
After several minutes Vorash picks up Delnosh's body and carries him to the old shrine. The secret door is busted wide open and Vorash carries Delnosh down the spiraling stairs until he comes to the Flame Chamber. Silently his tears continue to fall as he approaches the low stairs.
"My Lord," Vorash begins his voce full of sorrow. "I beg of you, do not make him wait in darkness. Bear him to the halls of you father, the Eternal Flame. Guide him on his journey to heaven. Allow him to pass between those pearly white gates."
"I will do as you ask Vorash. It breaks my heart to hear the sorrow in your voice. Place his body within my fire, and all that you ask will be done," The flame replies.
Carefully, Vorash climbs the stairs and passes Delnosh's body into the fires of the White Flame and then steps back. Vorash watches as Delnosh's body is turned into golden light and floats up towards the ceiling.
"I wish to join him, My Lord," Vorash says still staring up at the ceiling.
"I know you do Vorash," the flame says. "But I know my brother. This is not yet over. I still need you."
"What are you saying," Vorash asks, looking at the flame.
Suddenly Vorash finds himself lying on the bottom of the bowl, the flame blazing away above him. He tries to sit up but finds that he can't move. His eyes begin to get heavy and he finds himself falling asleep.
"What…what's happening," he asks sleepily.
"I am sorry Vorash. I would love to let you join your love in heaven but this war is not yet over. You will be needed again. But until then, rest, rest and dream of your love."
Meanwhile Carash sits on his half destroyed throne. He rests his head in one hand which rests on an arm of the throne. His sword lays on his lap his other hand resting on it. Suddenly he finds himself standing before the Black Flame once again.
"You," Carash sneers. "What do you want?"
Pain sears across Carash's back as the flame speaks.
"I swear that one of these days you will learn some respect. As for what I want…I already told you that. Was it too difficult a task for you Carash? I ask for one thing and one thing only and yet you fail me. Why do you fail me Carash?"
"Do you honestly think I care anymore," Carash asks weakly, climbing slowly to his feet. "Your little request has cost me my armies, my city, my throne, my entire kingdom! What makes you think I give a damn what you want?"
The last words are a shout and they ring out across the room and back. As the silence lengthens Carash begins to wonder if he went too far. Just when he thinks he will die the flame speak again.
"Pain apparently has no meaning for you Carash. But rest assured, I have other means of teaching you a lesson."
"Why don't you just kill me? I have lost everything because of you. There is no point anymore."
"As much as the thought of killing you appeals to me, I can not. I still need you to finish this for me."
"What are you talking about? It's already over."
"That's what you think Carash."
With a burst of fire the Black Flame seals Carash away in a coffin of dark obsidian, there to dream dark dreams, dreams of pain and torment.
"Soon brother…soon our war will resume. It just requires some new tweaks. Yes, some thought is in order. Soon I will destroy you and then…I will destroy father."
As always, the Blue Priests watched the battle on the plains below them. They knew that this battle would be special however, when the Eternal Flame appeared in the guise of a man all dressed in blue.
"My Lord," the high priest says without turning.
"Arlak," the flame says.
They watch in silence as the two kings destroy everything in their fierce battle. When they can no longer watch from their high plateau they turn to the pool behind them and watch. After all is said and done the high priest turns to the Eternal Flame.
"You seem troubled, My Lord. Your thoughts?"
"It seems my sons are hell-bent on destroying each other," the Blue Flame says. "I had hoped that after all this time and death they would have learned something. It appears that even I can be wrong."
"That may be the curse of the more intelligent among us, My Lord. Often it is hardest for them to admit that they may be wrong."
"You may be right," the flame sighs. "And even if they haven't learned anything…perhaps one or both of the humans have."
"Humans may surprise you sire."
The Blue Flame just nods, still staring into the pool.
End of part one.