It was a stormy night when it happened. Not storming of weather with rain and lightning. No, it was storming of blood and screams. That was a horrendous night so much bloodshed, so many limp bodies. Friend, ally, enemy. None of that mattered by the time it ended. It was called a war, a battle of a war at least. Instead, all I saw was a slaughter. We shouldn't fight each other like this, no matter how much hatred and pain there is. No matter how evil one side is.
What I saw shouldn't have happened.
"Hey, Ithaqua! How is everything going?" A tall black-haired man in a polished white jacket strode up to the monk overlooking a map of Kryta on a table.
"Hello Malchior. I still can't figure out the White Mantle movements." Ithaqua Zhar said as he scratched the shaved hair on his head. "It makes no sense to me they're spread out everywhere and taking rather unimportant locations. These places definitely hold no strategic value either. What about your end?"
"Recruits are now very slow coming in. We have less than a several dozen men. The White Mantle clearly outnumber us and there doesn't seem to be any more of them who'll see that order's erroneous ways. Communication from Sethiroth in regards to relations with the Shining Blade are not sounding promising either," the elementalist in the pointed hat explained. "I should be the one in Qui-Dor's place; I have ties with the Lionguard at least. That would help in having the Shining Blade believe we're not their enemies."
"And I had friends among the Blade!" snapped Ithaqua. "It doesn't matter who went where, as long as Salma is convinced. We don't need the trust of every Shining Blade and Lionguard member. Was there any mention of her regards for us in Qui-Dor's report?"
"Yes, she's letting him stay in Lion's Arch while she sends off select individuals to assassinate the mursaat leaders. According to him, three of them Willem, Aily, and Koril were already assassinated. A fourth assassination is intended to occur sometime after he sent the message. In fact, it probably happened already."
"The White Mantle won't sit around much longer then. From the last reports, they're stationed around Riverside Province, Twin Serpent Lakes, Kessex Peaks, Loamhurst,"
"Loamhurst, Sheamoore, and Hakewood have been liberated during the assassinations." Malchior cut Ithaqua off.
"That'll change things
With that, the last place they're stationing at is Demetra."
"And according to Sethiroth, there's a lot of them there."
"That's a holy site for the Mantle. A mursaat or two are probably held up. They're most likely just trying to protect their leaders. Sanctum Cay and the beach south of the Gates of Kryta are potential bases for the White Mantle. Lieutenant Kevyn Moss!" Ithaqua shouted to a nearby middle ranked member of the Shining Mantle, "Send a couple scouts to Sanctum Cay and the Gates of Kryta. Tell them to send immediate word if they find any White Mantle in those areas."
"Yes sir!" Kevyn saluted and left down nearby stairs as soon as Ithaqua turned back to the map.
"Malchior, why don't you go to the Shining Blade camp and try to convince Bartholos to allow us to share information and troops. It would be far more beneficial that way."
"Agreed. You were in the White Mantle the longest, so you should be able to crack their strategy soon, right?"
"If there is one
"What do you mean?"
"I mean just that. I'm starting to doubt they have a strategy. The whole thing just looks like either one big diversion or, more annoyingly so, random acts and positioning. Isaiah doesn't seem to be that good of a leader. It's like everyone in the White Mantle with a high enough rank were told 'do whatever you want' - their positions have shown just as much." Ithaqua looked up as he finished seeing that Malchior had already left and he was talking to himself. He merely shook his head and returned to the map.
Where is the common factor? I met Isaiah before. He's not the brightest match in the box but he's not this incompetent
Ithaqua thought to himself as he studied the table map, moving markers to simulate movements of forces. His eyes began to hurt, but he simply ignored it on the premise that he didn't have time to rest. Temple of the Unseen, Divinity Coast, and Temple of Tolerance were all hit
three of their holy sites, and three of their Unseen Ones were attacked and killed. There are forces mobilizing to the north at Demetra, the fourth and final holy site. No assassination can occur but
Ithaqua paused as he moved the pieces again, moving pieces from the attacked sites to Demetra. Why build a lot of forces up there? Even if the mursaat are there
"Sir! I have a report, a scout just came in after I sent off the scouts and Malchior left." Lieutenant Moss ran up the stairs with surprisingly hard breathing.
"What is it?"
"Additional reports from the fields. All of the reports are about the White Mantle and Peacekeepers they're conjugating in Demetra. Almost all of the forces are in Demetra or heading there. Only a few seem to be stationed in Kessex Peak. All of the White Mantle's bases are abandoned."
"Of course. Darn it, why didn't I see it sooner!" Ithaqua pinched the bridge of his nose and walked to the steps where he could be heard by others. Many of the Shining Mantle were apparently trying to listen in as they were paying attention to Ithaqua already. "Mobilize all troops! We make for the Shining Blade camp then Lion's Arch. We have to make sure the Shining Blade and Malchior know of this."
"Sir, what do you think they're going to do?" Kevyn asked, raising his eyebrow as he followed Ithaqua.
"It's obvious. A full on assault on Lion's Arch. Why else would they pour every member into one spot except to begin an assault? And there's no other target that they know the location of or should, at least. There's going to be a lot of casualties through this method. Perfect for a race that doesn't care about us humans."
"I see. I'll go make sure others nearby know and send a messenger to rush to the Blade's camp."
Isaiah you fool.
Ithaqua hurried to grab his gear as the camp of former White Mantle members scattered to get organized. Several minutes passed as he thought over the past nine years of his life, focusing on the first time he met Saul D'Alessio when he returned from his exile. Hearing someone behind him, he quickly spun around, his former White Mantle robes that had the emblem altered swung freely as it hung from his shoulders. "Are we all ready to move, Lieutenant Moss?" Ithaqua asked as he turned back around and grabbed his trusty staff, a momento from the founder of the White Mantle.
"Yes, we're ready when you are
Are you really going to wear that into battle, sir?" Kevyn asked, pointing out Ithaqua's white jester hat.
"Yes, it is a memento from an old friend. I never leave without it anymore. You'd be surprised how many blades these 'silly' bells have stopped. Let's be off, shall we? Double pace men! We don't know how much time we have!"
The men all made a quick salute, as the habit was drilled into them when they joined the White Mantle, and rushed out in an orderly fashion to a stockpile of boats at the edge of a river. When they reached the first bridge that led to the Shining Blade's camp, a man hollered down to the man with the jester hat.
"Sir of the Shining Mantle! I have a message from a Malchior Devenholm! He says that he waits for you in the Cursed Lands. He wants to pull a surprise attack on the rear of the White Mantle! He also said to tell you the situation with the Shining Blade Bartholos has taken them on ships to Lion's Arch in order to boost their defenses!" As the man was shouting, Ithaqua recognized him as a man named Hurc.
"Understood, thank you!" Ithaqua yelled back to the top of the bridge as he left earshot, and ordered the men steering the ship to land at the beach. "We'll have to travel through the Black Curtain in order to avoid the White Mantle stationed in Kessex Peak."
Without waiting for the rest of the boats to land after him, the monk began marching off the beach and into the large swamp. Keeping a steady pace, they quickly made it to the Temple of the Ages, where they found a unit of theirs guarding the priests and priestesses.
"Sir Zhar, what are you doing out here?" Lieutenant Osborne Raclaw, the man in charge of the unit, asked after he saluted.
"The White Mantle are gathering all their forces in Demetra, and reports say they're intending to march on Lion's Arch soon. We intend to catch them from the rear." Ithaqua quickly explained, then turned to the men, "You get a ten minute break here, we can't take too much time! If your unit is ready to move on, head to the Cursed Lands and meet up with Malchior! And we'll need your help as well." The monk turned to face Osborne as he finished.
"Understood, I'll get my men. I'll also bring some priests if they wish to come, in order to help with taking care of wounds and carrying wounded men just in case." Osborne saluted once more and left Ithaqua.
"I'll be heading over to the Cursed Lands now, so I can gather the situation. Make sure everything's in order here. And keep a couple men here, in case the White Mantle in Kessex Peak attack."
"Understood." Kevyn saluted once more as Ithaqua left to the east, meeting little resistance (most likely due to the White Mantle and Peacekeeper's previous clearing of the area). In a matter of minutes, he found the scout that Kevyn sent to Malchior. The scout led him to where Malchior awaited.
"Ah, Zhar, you made it. I've had the area scouted and we've found the Peacekeepers. But there are no signs of the White Mantle." Malchior said, for once having his pointed hat off and at his side.
"They've probably split into two groups. How far are they?"
"Southeastern reaches of Nebo Terrace. It seems that they didn't have enough of tormenting the people there before. I would have done something, but they outnumbered my unit ten to one." Malchior slumped up against a nearby tree, obviously upset over not fighting the brigands.
"All of our men should be here soon. I had them rest up for ten minutes at the Temple of the Ages. We've emptied out our camp and I'm having Raclaw's unit join. Just wish I didn't send those scouts out so soon."
"It'll be fine. Once our men get here, we'll finish off these so called Peacekeepers. Well, speak of the devil."
Ithaqua turned as Malchior finished to find both lieutenants followed by what was, at least, most of their men.
"Everyone but four men who we've left to guard the Temple of the Ages are present, sir. Most of the priests and priestesses have joined as well." Raclaw reported to Ithaqua.
"Good, let's move, the enemy seems to have split into two, leaving their Peacekeepers nearby. We don't know how long they intend to stay separate, so let's take this time to strike now." As Ithaqua, the men, and women of the Shining Mantle hollered in anticipation and agreement, Ithaqua turned to his elementalist friend, "Malchior, lead the way."
"About time," Malchior said as he re-donned his pointed hat. He then smiled and began a jog towards Nebo Terrace. "Keep up everyone!"
It was a surprisingly short distance to where the Peacekeepers were holding up. Just through a small valley and up a hill, the entire Peacekeeper army, if they could be called such, stood bickering among a group of Krytan houses. The Shining Mantle had the element of surprise, but they were going to fight an uphill battle if they didn't take it up and personal. Ithaqua looked at Malchior and signaled for him to lead his men quietly to the north. Malchior nodded in response and moved out, followed by man after man. They made little noise which was good and the Peacekeepers did not notice.
Ithaqua waited until those who went with Malchior were positioned behind cover. Once Malchior signaled the okay, Ithaqua led his men up the rest of the hill and towards the houses, keeping silent to allow more distance to be covered before the inevitable.
"Darn it, enemy attack guys!" One of the Peacekeepers said after spotting Ithaqua's group. "Grab your gear, now! We have a battle on our hands!"
Other Peacekeepers swore as they rushed to their weapons and some to their armor as well. Malchior waited behind cover until all the Peacekeepers' attentions were on Ithaqua's group. Then he disappeared.
The head of Ithaqua's staff met the head of the first Peacekeeper to meet his group, knocking his teeth out as he fell to the ground. Swords clashed all around Ithaqua, arrows flew past him, just to strike down either foe or ally. Ithaqua was a monk, yet he never got used to the feel of a battle, let alone one like this.
Yet another brigand fell to the force of Ithaqua's staff head. A war cry sounded to the north. Turning, Ithaqua saw that Malchior's group had cut off the Peacekeepers who were beginning to retreat, boxing the fake lawmen in. The Shining Mantle had pushed past where Ithaqua now stood, so he took the opportunity. Bowing his hands, he put one foot behind him and chanted an incantation. As he extended his left arm, he lifted his head and finished the incantation, directing holy magic into the center of the remaining Peacekeepers.
Victory was in sight. Many of the Shining Mantle were now too far for their swords to reach the enemy, or had too many allies blocking his or her line of sight, so they stood and cheered on those in the front.
A large crash sounded throughout the battlefield as a large chunk of the ground hurled forward, crushing Peacekeeper and Shining Mantle alike.
"It's the jades!" Malchior shouted over the cries of agony from foe and ally. A meteorite crashed down inches in front of the elementalist, knocking him off his feet. A dozen jades approached the group out of the springs.
"They were held up in the springs!" Ithaqua shouted, "Get back, they have the same magic that the mursaat do!" Before Ithaqua could finish, many of those in the front froze as a second green jade appeared. This time the jade came from behind where Malchior attacked.
Arrows were shot through the sky and landed in the middle of the Shining Mantle, barely missing Ithaqua. He tried to run along with his fellow men, but as he did he was held back at the neck and fell flat to his back. His robe got caught by arrows. One of the jades came up on him with a hammer. As it pulled its arm back, a fireball struck its head knocking it clean off. Ithaqua looked to his right to see Malchior rushing to him.
Rolling to his side, Ithaqua grabbed a sword of a fallen Shining Mantle and cut his robe. He saw Raclaw's face twisted with agony, an arrow pierced right through his chest. The monk wanted to close the eyes and mouth of the man who's sword he just grabbed, but he had no time. Dozens of jades were appearing, and if he wanted to live, he had to leave his fallen comrades behind.
"Come on Zhar, let's move!" Malchior shouted as he pulled the monk with him. The jester hat still on the monk, he regained himself and ran. The Shining Mantle retreated.
Once at the Temple of the Ages, the Shining Mantle began to get treated by the remaining priests, priestesses, and monks.
"Sir Zhar." Lieutenant Moss approached the miraculously unharmed monk. "Scouts report the jades have stopped pursuit. They killed off any Peacekeeper we didn't, and now they're heading east, most likely to Lion's Arch."
"We're too broken now to fight the jades
How many of us are left?" Ithaqua kept his head down, glad to be alive yet sad that so many around him died.
"Only a fraction of before. The jades caught us off guard. We might have been able to make a dent in them if we didn't fight the Peacekeepers, but
We have no defenses against the mursaat's magic here."
"If reports are correct, Salma had an asura to help with that. They should be fine without us or with us, right now it wouldn't make a difference." Ithaqua took a deep breath after he finished, stood up, and shouted loud enough for everyone to hear. "Alright, listen up! That was terrible luck that we faced, and we're probably all injured if not physically then emotionally or mentally. We're going to heal up here and then make way to a beach. We're going to sail into Lion's Arch and pray to the Six Gods that they preserve the city. Understood?"
The entire temple echoed with a thunderous "Yes sir!"
The sun set on the temple as what was left of the Shining Mantle rested and then slept. Before the sun rose, they rushed southwest to where they left their boats and, within an hour, set off to Lion's Arch. Ithaqua and Malchior pushed the order to keep moving without rest. With enough speed, they managed to navigate through the coast of the Sea of Sorrows to Lion's Arch with ease and managed to get to the city by sunrise.
Countless bodies littered the main square of the city, slowly being moved by those still alive. The Shining Mantle were too late and the battle was over, and won.
"The Shining Mantle are here!" A woman shouted out. Turning to see who yelled, Ithaqua saw a female Lionguard waving at them. Bartholos and Sethiroth were quickly approaching.
"Brother Ithaqua, Brother Malchior! How are you two?" Sethiroth said as he saluted the group. "Why did so few come?"
"And why are you so late. Bah, just like a Mantle, refusing to do anything good." Bartholos grunted as he surveyed the newly arrived group.
"We encountered jades and the Peacekeepers. We managed to wipe out most of the Peacekeepers before the jades appeared. When they did... they slaughtered many of our men. We had to spend most of the night recovering."
"The Peacekeepers are no more?" Bartholos asked, appearing shocked.
"That's right, those we didn't finish were killed by the jades it seemed. There was a good number of the Peacekeepers, we managed to catch them off guard outside Bergen Hot Springs and prevented them from coming here." Malchior stepped up to Bartholos as he explained the Shining Mantle's actions.
"How are things here?" Ithaqua asked Sethiroth, ignoring the warrior and elementalist.
"The mursaat, Toriimo, and Isaiah have been killed. I killed the confessor myself even. We've won the battle and the war now. Might not have happened if the Peacekeepers appeared, so thanks for your support from elsewhere. Salma has news for us. She told me to get the rest of the Shining Mantle and I was about to leave. We'd best report to her majesty." Sethiroth turned as he finished, heading to the keep of Lion's Arch.
Ithaqua turned to Kevyn and told him to help with the bodies, and to send some men to Nebo Terrace to give the fallen Shining Mantle a proper burial before the animals get to them. After that, he, Malchior, and Bartholos followed Sethiroth to Salma.
"My queen,"Bartholos said as he kneeled before Salma, "the Shining Mantle leaders are accounted for."
"Ithaqua Zhar and Malchior Devenholm. I trust there is a reason you were unable to aid us in our time of need?" The queen asked the two leaders.
The three leaders kneeled next to Bartholos. Ithaqua and Malchior explained what happened to Salma and the others in detail.
Salma simply nodded in response. After a few moments of silence, she spoke. "That is good news then, and I am terribly sorry for your loss. However, I hereby request the disbanding of the Shining Mantle."
"Your majesty? If I may be so rude, why?" Qui-Dor Sethiroth asked as he looked into the queen's eyes.
"I will form a new group, the Seraph. A group of Blade and Mantle. It seems only right to have the Shining Mantle disbanded and join the Seraph. Their establishment will be made official in my next speech after Lion's Arch is cleaned up after the battle, in a few weeks time. Bartholos here will lead them, and I want you three, and your men, to help ease tension between the former White Mantle and the former Shining Blade."
"Understood. I accept your wishes." Ithaqua said, followed by agreements from Qui-Dor and Malchior.
"Then the Shining Mantle are no more."