At the end of the quest comes the inevitable battle. Until now, Malveth, Warlord of the Maugilar, has been kept out of the battle. But now he cannot be kept back and the battle may turn in his favor . . .
“I think our side is winning!” shouted Plotonicus.
“What was that?” said Traveler.
“I said, I think—” Plotonicus was never given the chance to complete that thought. Ruupaia came scudding to a halt and Traveler said, “Merciful Arden!”
“What is it?” said the Badger.
Traveler pointed, and Plotonicus saw: the black chariot of Malveth rushing down the embankment, kicking up dust behind it. Malveth rode forth, scattering the front lines before him, the spiked wheels of his chariot gouging and cutting down any who dared to attack. All who remained of his legionaries fell in behind him.
Jariss appeared before them, “Wayfarer is slain. Muster the Dworrow Cavalry! To the front line!”
“Where is Avigale?” Plotonicus asked.
Jariss looked away. “Wounded. Miikzaar watches over her.”
Then he sped off. The Feolorn thundered after him.
Traveler whistled and from all over the battlefield Dworrow riders came to him. They raced after the others. They were in time to see the Winged Hussars lead the charge behind by Amlar and Estil.
There was a whooshing sound as the Feolorn lances leveled in unison. The Feolorn sped to meet their foe. Mospholees joined the advance, running on foot, his long strides as swift as any Horn-Steed’s. The enemy was drawing closer now—Malveth lifted Gaer-Sinda. It sliced the air as he urged his chariot forward. When the two sides were only paces apart, the Winged Hussars leaped in unison, in high arcs, diving down like shafts of white lightning into the front lines of the enemy—a burning instant of madly beautiful but suicidal heroism. Few survived.
There was an eruption of dirt and debris and a catastrophic noise—the baying of Hirn and the snorting of Horn-Steeds, the layered sound of lances cracking, armor–wings breaking, harnesses snapping, bones crushing. Nythna were thrown by the impact, Skimmers fell dead beneath the cutting wheels of Malveth’s chariot, which came tearing out of the cloud of bloody confusion, his legionaries behind him, advancing like an armored machine.
Plotonicus gasped and searched the ground for Jariss but there were too many fallen warriors, too much rack and refuse from the battle to find the Nythna warrior. Amlar yanked the reins of his Horn-Steed and on its hind legs it turned around. The Feolorn lord was waving his sword above his head, sending the cavalry into a desperate retreat. There was a bewildering moment of complete anarchy. Plotonicus held tightly to Traveler as the Dworrow turned his Ruukha around in the confusion. Only Mospholees stood his ground, his helm dented and his coat stuck with arrows, like a porcupine’s back.
Above, the Darkness seemed to pulse. Plotonicus shook his head; his senses were filled with the chaos and violence of the battle but he focused his thoughts, blocking it all out. Calm came over him. He looked behind and saw a wall of shield bearers and archers, from all ranks, and the rear guard of Horukai and Ord. The Feolorn Cavalry had formed a tight, curving line ahead, ready to face the advancing enemy.
Malveth had brought his chariot to a stop and had fanned the Elite out behind him. Nythna charged the Shadow lord, their voices lifted in battle song. Malveth moved like a whirlwind, mercilessly cutting down his opponents. Swords shattered against Gaer-Sinda, and one by one Malveth’s opponents were laid low, until a heap of bodies lay in a gory crescent before his chariot.
Malveth laughed, high spirited.
“Send forth your champion!” he cried out. “Send forth your champion!”
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