The Commander’s Final Battle
Dark Fantasy Short Story – Episodic Fiction
Synopsis – Immerse yourself in the gripping tale of Shamar’s army as they battle mighty dragons and confront overwhelming obstacles. With the odds stacked against them, their unwavering determination is put to the test. Will their resilience bring them triumph or lead to their downfall? Prepare for an exhilarating adventure that will keep you on the edge of your seat, filled with suspense, bravery, and heart-stopping action.
Genre – Dark Fantasy Adventure
Tropes – Redemption Arc, Pantheon of Gods, Elemental Magic, Evil is Sexy
Wordcount – Roughly 3000
Three arduous days, their camp stood at the edge of the dragons’ domain. Each day passed as an anguished crawl, plagued by the unrelenting apprehension of a dragon attack that hadn’t come. Instead, their adversary had remained elusive.
Shamar studied the serine panorama of distant mountains through his dust-laden looking glass. Rockey, snow-covered peaks pierced the sky high above. The foothills stretched before them lush with greenery, vivid vegetation, alien to the corrupted land of The Empire. Despite the luscious terrain, all was still, unnaturally so.
The lack of any activity left all in the camp torn between relief and gnawing unease. They questioned the nature and intent of the mountain’s silent guardians.
A knot of frustration tightened in Shamar’s gut as he watched the unhindered return of this final scouting party. He forcefully collapsed his monocular, snapping it shut before thrusting it into the waiting hand of a guard. “Maybe,” he groaned through clenched teeth. “This one will have found something worthwhile.”
There were two scouts. The first, a seasoned soldier whose visage was marked by the ravages of time and the relentless strain of battle. The other, a fledgling apprentice with a youthful spark of ambition reminiscent of Shamar’s younger days.
“Follow me. You’ll deliver your report in the command tent to Nathay-Kotheer and me.” Shamar ordered when the scouts dismounted. He adjusted a belt over his heavy chain mail shirt as he walked.
“Aye.” the elder scout replied with a salute before following Shamar.
The cylindrical command tent stood tall, with a roof that tapered to a point atop a central support beam. The structure was draped in the somber black of the Erithian Empire, a tone enlivened by understated gold floral patterns woven throughout.
Inside, two imposing armored guards flanked a large table. Upon the desk lay an expert rendering of The Dragon Fang Mountains. The map was adorned with flags and markers chronicling the routes traversed by previous scouting parties.
“It’s strange. Two days scouting the mountains and we didn’t so much as cross paths with a squirrel. Not even fresh game tracks.” The lead scout started, placing his marker on the pass they’d investigated.
“It reeks of a trap to me.” The younger added. “We should–”
The lead scout silenced him with a cough. “We are only to report.” He muttered. “Not give suggestions. Go wait outside.”
The young scout scoffed and stormed out of the tent with a forceful slinging of the entrance flap.
“Forgive him. His ambition outgrows his station.”
Nathay growled, impatiently rapping his armored fingertips on the tabletop as his voice echoed over them, filtered by his spiked helm. “Did you find a way through, or were your findings as fruitless as the others?”
“We did,” the scout confirmed. He smirked as he placed his marker on the map. “The pass carved by the dead river, here. It is unobstructed and wide enough for our forces and the ballista. The slope of the ravine’s slides is low. It will allow the ballista to have a clear shot to the top. A few miles in, the riverbed meets the wild-wood. Fortunately, at the river’s edge, there are the remnants of an Ancient Elven highway. Waystones at the path’s entrance show that it leads all the way through the mountains to The Union city of Korvania.”
“What of dragons?” Shamar asked, his gaze fixated on studying the topography of the ravine.
“No sign of them.” The scout shifted, tugging at his collar before continuing. “Not even old tracks.”
“Anything else to report?” Nathay inquired after a brief silence.
“No, your highness.”
“Then leave us and don’t speak of your findings to anyone.”
“The young scout is right,” Shamar muttered, balling his hand into a fist once the tent flap fell closed. “This is the only path not obstructed by recent rock falls. Combine that with the distinct lack of any activity–.”
“No choice then. Erithia has commanded, and so we shall do.”
“So we shall do—Rest. And brush up on your solo survival skills.” Nathay handed Shamar a scroll before leaving the tent. “You’ll make it through this mission. Seeing to that is my purpose. And I never fail.”
The scorching embrace of searing armor clung to Shamar’s sweat-laden skin. His weary gaze canvassed the colossal peaks for any sign of the adversary. All was silent, save for the resonant clanking of the waggon wheels and clapping of horse hooves against the earth. The soldiers marched, with heads down-turned, into the dreaded mountain pass. Each solemnly contemplated the unspoken certainty of their impending demise.
“Is this insanity or bravery?” Shamar mumbled under his breath, glancing to Nathay, glad he hadn’t heard.
“An hour in and not a sound.” Shamar said aloud, shifting his grip on the guardrail.
The cart he rode upon was an imposing construction of three ballista stacked atop one another. Each set of arms, as long as Shamar was tall, stood poised to fire. Bolts of considerable girth were loaded before taught cords. They were crafted from heavy steel with razor barbs oriented in a malevolent corkscrew design. The marvel was mounted on an amalgamation of clockwork mechanisms that worked in tandem to swivel the turret.
The ballista pivoted effortlessly in response to the deft control of its three operators, who scanned the mountainsides for danger. A formidable sight, designed to evoke fear in the giants they were to fight. Or, at least, that was the hope that drew the men near the carts.
“An hour in and not a sound.” Shamar said aloud, shifting his grip on the guardrail.
“They’ll come soon enough.” Nathay said. “We only just entered the pass.”
Shamar’s attention snapped to a flock of birds startled from a tree clinging to the mountainside. Their irritated chirps the first break in the lifeless monotony. His chest clenched as he studied the surroundings.
“Forward!” The redundant order was uttered with scarcely held courage. Sweat dripped from his clammy palms over his tightly gripped sword pommel. His skin bristled at a distant dragon’s roar echoing over the mountainsides. Still, his searching gaze never left the mountains.
“Faster!” Shamar’s impassioned cry pierced the air.
Their salvation lay just over a mile ahead. The edge of the wild-wood. Knared, twisted trunks lined the path, their towering arms tangling into a thick canopy that resembled more the matted hair of a rabid wolf than a forest.
A cacophony of crashes and thunderous rumbles seized Shamar’s senses. Behind them, an avalanche of rocks tumbled toward the rear ballista cart. Soldiers flung themselves from the doomed machinery. The relentless torrent of pulverizing stone and suffocating cloud of dust buried the ballista.
Near the rockslide’s origin, a cluster of boulders stirred, collectively forming the elusive visage of a dragon.
“There!” Shamar’s heart trembled at the sight of more boulders shifting, adding to the perceived size of the beast. “Take it down!”
Shamar pressed his palms against his helmet, futilely striving to mute the deafening dragon’s roar. The rocky facade surrendered to a mesmerizing display of gleaming burnished copper. The dragon, unveiled in all its terrible glory, dominated the mountainside. Four legs, bristling with muscle, gripped the rock with frightening talons. At the end of a serpentine neck, a wide maw and crown of menacing spikes framed a countenance of pride and power. Its tail, seemingly endless, gracefully coiled around rock formations. Majestic wings, near three times the breadth of its colossal frame, burst from its sides. The silhouette of its resplendent wings obscured the mountaintop. Their glory catching the noon sun’s dancing glare with blinding luminosity.
Ballista whirled to life. Clanking of gears and creaking of ropes sung from within, as the notes of an expert symphony. Like a beast unchained, the cart convulsed under the ferocious recoil of the weapon. Its payload rocketed through the air, a thunderous promise of destruction.
The copper dragon’s resonant roar wavered, dissolving into a plaintive yelp akin to the desperate wails of an injured wolf. It surged skyward from the impact of the bolt before being consumed by an explosion of purple smoke. In a grotesque spectacle, the dragon’s severed wing fell. The colossal beast followed in a turbulent tumble down the treacherous mountainside.
“Yea!” Shamar’s exuberant cheer blended with the chorus of his soldiers’. Their triumphant voices celebrated the majestic beast’s defeat.
All cheers died, extinguished by the paralyzing dread of dragons’ roar. A bellowing accompaniment of several devils emerging from the cliffs. Two already mid dive from a mountaintop at their rear.
The nearest dragon was a lanky titan. Its illustrious silver scales glistened with an ethereal sheen that mirrored the serene landscape. The constant motion of flowing reflections made perceiving the beast’s true size difficult. Shamar’s shoulders tensed in rhythm with each mighty beat of its colossal wings. The expanse of their shadow engulfed his entire army.
In stark contrast to the first, the other beast displayed a more subdued allure with scales of dulled brass. Though smaller in stature, its robust four-legged frame brimmed with coiled muscles and bristled with spiked scales.
With remarkable agility, the ballista fixed their aim on the descending dragons. Shamar grappled with the weapon’s recoil, his footing momentarily disrupted by the powerful force. A miss. Undeterred, the operators fired again, but the dragons deftly evaded, continuing their deadly dive.
“Forward!” Shamar yelled, shaken from his stupor. “To the treeline!” Shamar gripped the cart as it lurched once more.
The ballista operators were on the cusp of reloading when a surge of ominous red energy coursed through the silver dragon’s scales.
“Vatan dethaktal, vakan” Naythay’s haunting voice resonated over the cart as he extended his hands. The sun grew dim, a radiance veiled by a dome of deathly shadow that surrounded the cart. At the shield’s fringes, soldiers collapsed. Their corporeal forms dissipated into a spectral essence that darkened and infused with barrier.
The inferno of dragon’s breath enveloped the shield, unable to penetrate Nathay’s spell. The horses surged, gripped with fear. They thrashed, then faltered and fell, ensnared by their reins.
“Damit,” Shamar seethed as the wagon floor buckled with a sharp crack. Wild-eyed and now free, the horses darted into the shield, pushing through and into the searing heat of dragon fire.
The raging flames dissipated, unveiling the terrible silver dragon hovering above. Nathay’s shield faded. In its wake, the noxiously sweet stench of charred flesh permeated the air. Scorched remains of soldiers not caught within the shield littered the field. A mere fraction had survived, taking refuge behind their brethren as they burned.
Some, bows drawn, took aim at the beast. Their expert marksmanship was an exercise in futility, as each arrow deflected off the dragon’s metallic scales without so much as a scratch.
“Fire!” Shamar yelled, but the silver dragon proved swifter. A solitary, thunderous beat of its immense wings cast them to the ground and hurtled the cart several feet away, ensuring a miss.
“Look out!” Cried Nathay, shoving Shamar from the cart. Barely had Shamar hit the ground when an elephant-sized boulder crashed into the ballista with cataclysmic force.
Like a tempest unleashed, a shower of flesh, dirt, and shattered wood rained over the battlefield. Debris pelted and splashed against Shamar’s armor. A stillness fell amidst the wreckage as the dust settled, revealing Nathay’s crumpled corpse beneath the boulder’s edge.
“The treeline!” Shamar repeated the command. “Get to the treeline!” Shamar sprinted with the few remaining soldiers toward hope of safety. Raining stones and dragon fire assailed them in their journey, further dwindling his forces.
Shamar ground to a halt. His stride faltering as the copper dragon from before lept before their path, a tyrannous mountain barring their way. One wing was extended in glorious display. Its stance was unbalanced, offset by the missing wing and the still gushing stump. The ground trembled beneath. each of its mighty footfalls. The ground again rumbled at the landing of the silver and brass dragon, flanking their small party.
“Shit” Panting through gritted teeth, Shamar threw his helmet to the ground, stretching his chaffed neck. He pushed past the handful of survivors he’d been running with. The copper dragon lifted its massive head, unleashing an ear-splitting roar. Shamar gritted his teeth in disappointment at the sound of his soldiers’ weapons hitting the ground.
He drew his sword. “Erithia.” He began, closing his eyes in preparation. “I promise to you whatever payment you desire. Grant me Nathay-Kotheer’s strength, as is my desire. That I may fell your foes and accomplish thy aim.”
He trailed his hand over the razor edge of the blade, a crimson tribute staining his palm. The world flashed to stark black and white. He witnessed the souls of his fallen soldiers surrounding him. Lifeless husks of what they’d been. Words foreign to his lips graced his mind, urged forward without thought. “Vatan dethaktal, nekra, tu-eh.” The souls of the dead pulled to him, serving the only purpose they could. Power.
His skin tingled with newfound resolve. Muscles bristled with untapped energy; coiled springs, ready to launch. Shamar’s face twisted with zeal. He charged; the might of his army focused. His blade glowed white as the full moon, with cold blue flames dancing over its surface.
Shamar turned, seeing the brass dragon rear before hurling a torrent of steaming liquid toward them. He rolled under the putrid acid, smirking at the screams of his cowardly soldiers who’d been caught unaware. Their souls would only add to his power. A single drop landed on his gauntlet, eating through the metal. Shamar shook it free before continuing. He needed to take this one down fast, then he could deal with the others.
Now under the copper dragon, he jumped in a desperate upward slash. But the tip of his sword only fleetingly grazed the dragon’s neck without even a scratch. He landed in a roll, standing under the beast, who was hastening to attack.
He dove away from the creature’s swiping claw. Its talons, each the size of Shamar’s leg, snagged his cape, tearing the fabric.
Unwavering in his assault, Shamar struck again. This time he leaped and struck at the dragon’s vulnerable underarm scales. The sword cleaved through the dragon’s gripping flesh, eliciting a piercing screech of pain from the wounded dragon. Shamar landed, poised for another strike. All sound dampened to a subtle ring at the sensation of warm liquid flowing from his ears.
A crimson cascade of ichor marked the dragon’s wounded leg in variable spurts. Evidence of the damage he’d done. The trembling limb teetered on the edge of collapse. Shamar lunged at the opening, striking the same spot again before dashing out from under the dragon. A burst of surreal azure flames engulfed the devil, weaving a web of dark, corrupting energy. Its leg crumpled, body crashing into the ground.
Emboldened by the dragon’s labored breaths, Shamar climbed onto the weakening demon’s shoulder. Tongues of icy, dark fire licked at his legs without effect. He ventured further toward the dragon’s head. With every step, the neck fell lower, strength sapped by the necrotizing magic.
Shamar loomed over the dragon’s eye, hanging his flaming sword, ready to deliver the killing blow. Fiery hues of red and gold swam around an oblong pupil, already touched by tendrils of shadow. Its gaze was fixed on Shamar’s burning blade. A wicked smirk played over his face as he plunged his blade into the beast’s eye. He continued burying the blade deeper until the dragon stopped. Dead.
Shamar roared a resounding proclamation of victory that was swallowed by the clamorous ring plaguing his ears. He tugged on the sword. Stuck.
His triumphant smile turned as he continued the futile exertions against his unyielding sword. Desolation washed over him, despair cast by the assembly of dragons gathering on the mountainside. Shamar scanned the battlefield, littered with the remains of his army. He was the sole survivor. With eyes closed, Shamar’s gaze lowered to his lodged sword. He tugged once more in vain.
The stocky brass dragon stalked toward him, snarling with head held low. A warm breath cascaded down his neck, carrying the putrid stench of decay mingled with oppressive warmth. A gnarled knot constricted his stomach. His heart throbbed in his ears. Dilated eyes darted over the landscape, uncertain whether to flee or fight.
“Oh.” He turned to the dragon, ashen with fear. Its face was adorned with glistening scales of shimmering silver, besmirched by the macabre stains of many victims. Blood seeped from its snarling jaw, flowing from the swaying severed arm of a soldier.
Shamar, paralyze by the sight, failed to notice the dragon’s spiked tail. It slammed into his side, puncturing his armor and throwing him from the dead dragon’s head.
He tumbled head over heels in the grass. He yelled through a clenched jaw when his arm snapped. It bent naturally outward at the elbow with a sliver of bone jutting from a gap in his armor. His vision blurred, the world spinning in varying directions. His stomach threatened to expel what little he’d eaten that morning. Shamar held his side with his good arm, where his breastplate was cleaved open. Warm blood oozed from the wound.
The silver dragon advanced with predatory grace, its movements fluid and calculated. Then it lunged, jaws ensnaring him. He screamed a visceral roar of pain as fangs breached his armor and sank into flesh. With sadistic delight, the dragon swung him like a rag doll in its jaws. His bones snapped and muscles tore at the torment of his captor. Finally Shamar was flung as a discarded toy into a nearby boulder.
The crushing impact stole his breath as his crumpled, marred form lay still. He felt nothing. He tried to stand, vainly striving for any semblance of movement. His head throbbed, starved for air. But try as he might, his lungs wouldn’t obey.
The soil beneath him, a canvas of scarlet, was painted by the steady stream of his blood. The sun blazed with before unseen radiance that cast dots of shadow over his blurring vision. In a state of languid submission, he awaited the approaching herald of death. The dragon’s chest erupted in a familiar red glow as it reared its head. Shamar closed his eyes, surrendering to fate as a torrent of flames engulfed him.
“Oh, Commander.” Erithia’s voice snaked around him. “You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you?”
To be continued…
Rise of The Witnesses
Blight of Divinity Book 1
A dark and thrilling fantasy romance full of adventure, death, action and corrupting darkness.
Betrayal and tragedy have stolen everything from Ayela. Desperate and alone, she must decide between accepting a deal from the notorious God of Death and Desire, or forging her own path for survival. Yet, with each choice she makes, the future grows more uncertain.
As she navigates a world of magic and intrigue, Ayela finds herself drawn to someone she never expected to love. But with her own heart at stake, can she afford to follow her feelings?
Will she emerge from the ashes of her past, or be consumed by the shadows that haunt her?
What is Dark Fantasy
Dark Fantasy is a subgenre in fantasy described as works that incorporate disturbing and frightening themes of fantasy. This story is classified as Dark Fantasy due to the gore depicted here and in future chapters. As well as the concepts of mind control and other themes that I cannot disclose for fear of spoilers.
Why I write Dark Fantasy
I write in the genre of Adult Dark Fantasy because that is what I most enjoy reading. I enjoy gritty, down-to-earth fantasy that may not always end with a fairy tail ending. I prefer the more realistic expressions of these fantasy worlds. I hope that my writing reflects my love for the genre.