State of the Battlefield
Leguna and the rest left Melindor in secrecy. Apart from Larwin, nobody knew that the most elite squad ever formed on Chino had left for the south, not even Alissanda or Geoffrey. They had left to save the continent.
On the other hand, the troops on the frontlines were able to beat back the enemies into the border of the southern border. That bought the imperial citizens enough time to move further northward, but the Hockian army paid a heavy price for it. What they could do was try to delay the Tide of Death the best they could. Over the past few months, the endless sea of corpses didn't seem to have shrunk one bit; in fact, they probably grew as a result of the soldiers killed during the conflict and turned into one of the corpses. The Tide of Death had become an unstoppable force of nature that snuffed out all life wherever it touched.
Lately, Larwin gave Alissanda the order to push the corpses past the southern border of Hocke no matter the cost. He didn't tell him the reason, but Alissanda did as he said with full confidence in his father's decision.
"No matter the cost, delay the tide of death for two weeks! You'll see things start to turn around after that. We shall never tolerate letting those corpses into our territory!" he said to his son through a magical communications channel.
Alissanda didn't have many questions about that. During the past few months, he had prepared the southern border into a final line of defence against the Tide of Death. Unlike the mountainous Stok, the territory of Hocke was mostly flat plains. If the border was lost, then the Tide of Death would overrun Melindor within two weeks. Once Melindor was lost, the whole of Chino would be swarmed by the Tide of Death.
For that, Alissanda mobilized all his troops and even tapped into their last resort. Larwin ordered for all the prisoners of the empire to be released. They were forced to join the army by a compulsion imprint mass-produced by the court magi association to fight off the Tide of Death.
According to the research of future historians, usage of the compulsion imprints were quite popular during ancient times in Stok. It was a strong spell that wiped out the thoughts of the target, rendering them no different from slaves to the users of the spell. Their only reason for existence was to fulfill any desire of the spell user. It used to be considered black magic which ancient magi used to bind slaves with, but as it was considered far too inhumane, the spell was eventually lost due to resistance from impetus users. The historians didn't think that they would have to resort to these forgotten imprints once more during a time of crisis like that.
There were two predominant views on the matter. The first believed that Hocke had continued to research black magic in secret. While the empire wouldn't allow it to be used during peacetime, they would have to resort to such extremes to solve the crisis. The other faction believed that the empire hadn't done any research on black magic at all. The one who brought the kind of magic back into this world was none other than the black witch that sided with the traitor during the Tide of Death. The empire was only forced to use it because it had no other choice.
No matter how future historians of Chino perceived the darkest moment, it didn't change the fact that people in the present were giving all they had to prevent the Tide of Death from destroying their homes.
Apart from the compelled prisoners who joined the army, quite a few southerner refugees also volunteered to join the Hockian army. As the first people to experience the horrors of the Tide of Death, they knew how terrifying it truly was. Even so, they didn't cower in fear and weren't willing to be mocked by the northerners. They did abandon their homes to live, but that didn't mean they had abandoned all their glory and dignity from the fear. If the northerners were willing to give their lives for their homes, then the southerners would do so as well! They left their homes not because they feared death, they simply didn't want their deaths to be in vain. And now, it was time for humanity's final chance, so they wouldn't shirk back in fear either!
Just like that, Hocke, no, all the Chinoans regardless of affiliation gave their last-ditch effort of resistance. They formed a grand army that numbered near a million and picked up their simply weapons with the determination to protect what little of the continent that was left even if it would cost them their lives.
Alissanda felt quite a lot of pressure from the impending final battle. He had run many simulations with his staff and concluded that if they really wanted to stop the Tide of Death from going northward, they would have to defend the eastern plains as heavily as possible. But according to their estimations, even their million troops wouldn't be sufficient to stop the wave of corpses.
More troubling was how the western mountain range wasn't impenetrable; there was a large front door through the range: Fort Kesta!
The eastern part of the continent was nothing but flat plains. So, they had no choice but to form a wall of human defenders to stop the corpses from going north. In the west, there was an obvious entrance through Fort Kesta and who knows how many corpses would go through there if they left it unchecked? The magi estimated that if more than 500 thousand undead got through Fort Kesta, they could easily spread and multiply and swallow up the rest of the continent. And according to the scouts, there were more than five million corpses approaching Fort Kesta!
Under the sheer pressure of numbers, the commanders of the Hockian army fell to despair. There was no way they would be able to stop it. Even with Fort Kesta's defensive capabilities, they would need at least 200 thousand to stop five million corpses there. However, taking that number away would put a huge hole in their defenses on the eastern front, where more than 20 million corpses were headed for!
"We require Goldeagle and an additional ten thousand. I will personally lead them to defend Fort Kesta," Alissanda announced after much consideration.
"Your Highness, that won't do!"
"No, it's suicide!"
"Your Highness should know that the enemy number more than five-hundredfold! Nobody can possibly defend Fort Kesta with a mere ten thousand!"
The staff officers all voiced their disagreements.
Alissanda put his hand up to silence them. "I hope all of you know that I am fully aware of the risks I'm taking. However, we don't have any other choice. I'm not fully certain we can survive this battle, but at least we still have a chance."
"Then what about the grand battle in the east of the continent, Field Marshal?" the commander of Goldeagle, Jast, argued, "The battle there is even more pressing! We will need Your Highness to command us there! Leave Fort Kesta to me, Jast. I will give my life to protect it if I have to."
"It's not the same here, Jast," Alissanda said, shaking his head, "Unlike General Manhattan, I'm not that good at commanding troops. There are many generals superior to me in large-scale battles such as these. What I'm good at is leading a small elite unit into battle. That makes Fort Kesta the ideal place to deploy me."
"Alright, I'm the field marshal and my orders are absolute!" He stopped anyone else from arguing and pointed at a middle-aged division commander. "Katrons, I'll leave command in the east to you. Can you do it?"
Katrons fell silent before nodding solemnly. "I shall not let Your Highness's trust in me down!"Previous Chapter Next Chapter