Chapter One: "Massacre of South Eternos"
At some point in the early morning hours, frost crept over the lands. It wasn't anything unexpected, of course. It was November and while the snow wouldn't fall for another few weeks, winter would here in three days.
There was nothing special about South Eternos. A simple kingdom, holding down the southern most edge of the much larger kingdom of Eternos itself. South Eternos is nowhere the size of its counterparts of North and West Eternos - and especially not the size of Eternoses capital.
South Eternos was no more than a two government buildings, a handful of Inns, cottages, homes, farms, bars, and trading posts. Settled across a small portion of hills near Scott Lake, South Eternos was never supposed to be very big.
And once upon a time, it was promised to the youngest of King Miro's children. However, after he was given it, Prince Keldor never set one foot upon it.
Just after sunrise and as the farmers began to venture out of their homes and the market began to open and the mayor and his Captain came to the government buildings (jokingly called 'the Palace'), a strange rumbling was heard. It was a bizarre noise, like stomping feet.
"What is that?" asked Mayor Deepneau, standing on the stoop of City Hall.
"I'm not sure," replied Captain Tower. "I'm going round up the boys just in case."
"Good idea. I want to - WHAT ON ETERNIA!?"
Huge blue spheres came flying out of the sky and fell upon the ground. Explosions roared from their impact, sending up chunks of road and concrete upon their arrival. Mayor flew back, slamming into the wall. Captain Tower grabbed hold of his communicator and immediately began screaming commands.
"ALL GUARDS AWAKEN! ALL GUARDS AWAKEN! THIS IS AN EMERGENCY SITUATION!"
Tower ran to his Mayor to check on him . . . and gasped when he saw the blood spattered on the wall. He checked the vitals and found that the Mayor was dead.
Another pair of explosions erupted and Tower watched as three buildings were reduced to burning debris. The screams of citizens who hoped only to sleep in another hour filled his ears. Tower felt despair and rage fill his hefty body. He pulled his laser and began to search for who did this.
It didn't take long.
Over the hill at the south end of the city, Tower watched as the rumbling sound was revealed. An army of about five hundred steel-gray robots came marching towards South Eternos, their dome-shaped heads reflecting in the early morning sun. On their chests were crimson bat sigils.
Tower grabbed his communicator and began to order an emergency call to Eternos for reinforcements. However, as soon as the word 'attack' and 'invasion' left his mouth, a figure appeared before him. This finger had long, black hair, a goatee, purple armor, and sky blue skin. Tower thought briefly that this man seemed familiar.
It was his last thought before his head went rolling down the stairs of the 'Palace.'
"This was supposed to be mine," said the figure who was indeed once Prince Keldor. He looked upon the kingdom that could have been his. People were scrambling in the streets as the Horde Troopers plowed forward. Buildings and homes burned wildly.
"And now it shall be no ones," claimed a voice from the bottom of the stairs. Hordak stepped up and came next to Keldor. "Just as we planned. A massacre to rile them up and to scare them. The elderly, the children, and the women are to be rounded up in the center of South Eternos and then are to left unharmed. The men are to be killed."
"Sir," Calyx said then, approaching the stairs. "We've just monitored a communication reaching Eternos. They've sent for help."
Keldor looked uneasily at Hordak. "My brother will order reinforcements."
"Who's your brother?" asked Hordak.
"My apologies. King Randor will send reinforcements. I forgot - I have no siblings."
Randor sat upon the balcony his stately apartments, enjoying a glass of juice and a look over recent farming reports. The sun was just beginnings to brim over the horizon, shining its light down across the city before him. Marlena came out then and wrapped her arms around the neck of her husband.
"Hello my love," she told him, kissing his cheek.
"Plans for the day?"
"Meeting this morning with the Royal Council. Followed by a lunch with the Farming Commission. After that, I'm not quite sure."
He smiled at her. "Tonight I make love to my wife."
All of a sudden, the doors to their apartment flew open and Man-At-Arms came rushing. "My apologies on the interruption, your majesty, but there is an emergency!"
"What is it, Rohad?" asked Randor, steeping in from the balcony.
"South Eternos is under attack, sire."
"We're not sure, but the brief visual image suggests . . ." He paused. "The Horde."
Randor's eyes widened. "What?! Rohad, are you serious?"
"Assemble a battalion of Battle Hawks! Have Captain Dekker lead them to South Eternos!" he ordered as he ran into the closet. Marlena only sat on in one of chairs in shock. "Have a communications officer meet me in the Situation Room - we'll have to contact North and West Eternos, the Hall of Wisdom, and then contact the rest of the Eternia."
He came out of the closet, completely dressed. "What is the situation at South Eternos, Rohad? What is it exactly?"
"From the brief report we've got, it looks like a massacre."
Randor nodded. "Send Dekker and the air battalion in first. Then you follow with ground troops. Understood?"
"Yes, my king."
Randor was about to follow him out, when he turned to wife - he had just about forgotten her. "Marlena, stay here. I'll be back as soon as I can."
The fleet of one-man, golden eagle-like ships blasted right out of the hanger and made south. Dekker increased his speed and the others followed suit. It would take them half an hour to reach South Eternos and that was enough time for him to prepare for battle.
Dekker rechecked his weapon systems. Missiles were armed, laser cannons were on-line. The Battle Hawks passed the halfway mark and changed formation, preparing for a strafing run. He heard mention of the Horde and never hoped once in his life to face them. Fifty years ago, during the Horde Incursion, his family had been spared Morgoth's wrath. He hoped the same would happen here.
"We'll be there in ten minutes, Captain," reported one of his soldiers.
"Confirmed. Get ready for a fight."
Five minutes later, there was a barrage of laser fire from the ground. Five seconds after that, the explosions began, and five seconds after that, the first soldier in the fleet died.
"What's the situation? Give me a full report - now."
Military Counselor Thomas looked up from the table and sighed. "Sensors recorded a series of energy surges from the Desert to an area about ten miles east of South Eternos. No one was quite sure what it was. Most thought it was some sort of glitch. This was at approximately 2-6 Bells in the morning, you understand. Shortly after 8 Bells, we received word from South Eternos was under attack. A soldier in the communications tower was able to get us a few images. This is what we got."
A monitor on the left wall displayed a panning image of South Eternos from a tower window. Fires were blazing in just about every building. Dome-headed robots were firing into group of men, and then were tackling women and children, dragging them away from sight.
And then Randor gasped at whom he saw next. A man dressed in black with a pale face, a pig-like nose, and two huge ears. On his chest was the symbol of a red bat. Randor recognized this man from the history books.
"Yes. It seems the Horde has restarted their war here. And they have begun at South Eternos."
Captain Dekker watched as the third Battle Hawk in the fleet exploded and crashed. Laser beams pulsed up, striking it just enough times to cause it to explode. The Battle Hawk erupted in a burst of flames and fell to the ground as a heaping, burning pile of burning debris.
Dekker wasn't sure what to do. A few of them had managed to fire back and destroy where most of the firepower was coming from, but it was quite clear the Horde was preparing such an assault.
"Circle formation!" Dekker commanded through the comm-line.
He then looked up and saw a huge figure on a circular hoverboard head right from him. The next thing Dekker knew, there was a shattering of glass, a hand around his neck, and he was being pulled from the Battle Hawk - which was now drifting downward.
"My name is Prahvus," the man said and tightened his grip around Dekker's neck.
Prahvus took him to center of the burning South Eternos and threw him between a huge group of women, children, and elderly and in front of the stairs to the place once called 'the Palace.' 'The Palace' was now an exploding mess, huge chunks of concrete bursting forth, glass shattering, and fires raging upwards from all exits and entrances.
"Who are you?" asked Hordak, who was at the foot of the steps.
Dekker spat Hordak's feet. A man at Hordak's side, a man covered completely in a purple robe, whispered into his master's ear.
"Captain Dekker, leader of the Eternos guard? I expected more. I expected better." Hordak reached forward and placed his hand on Dekker's shoulder, keeping him in place. "Whether or not you continue to serve Eternos is none of my concern. What is my concern is that you remember what the Horde has done today. Not just to South Eternos . . . but to you, as well."
Hordak reached froward then, and pulled out Dekker's right eye. Dekker screamed in agony at it was plucked horrendously from the socket, the nerve endings torn and left dangling, blooding rushing out.
Hordak then kicked Dekker to the ground. He dropped the eye in front of him and smashed it with his foot, goo splashing across the dirty stone ground.
Teelana knew there was something wrong. The baby had mercifully decided not to kick too much that morning, but she had barely noticed. No . . . something was wrong . . . out there. Beyond where her eyes could see. Something deadly and something dangerous. Something was happening and she knew it.
There was a rapid knock on the door to the cottage. Teelana looked over at Duncan, who was busy fixing breakfast.
"Who could that be?" he asked.
Teelana heart was pounding. Her hands traced along her seven-month pregnant belly.
"I'll get it," Duncan told her and smiled a bit.
The door opened and there stood Willym of the Gunslinger-Rangers, the agents of the Council of Elders.
"What is this?" asked Duncan.
"The mother of your child is in danger, Commander," Willym informed him.
"What are you talking about?"
"The Horde," Teelana answered, standing up and walking forward. "They have been haunting my dreams for far too long."
"Yes. Lady Teelana, the Council of Elders wants you at the Hall of Wisdom. They have much they need to discuss."
"Of course. Let me get dressed." Teelana walked to the room she and Duncan shared and closed the door.
"The Horde has returned?" asked Duncan, still in shock.
"Yes, Commander," Willym replied. "I believe it would be best to return to Eternos. The Horde launched an attack on South Eternos, nearly obliterating it. A battalion of Battle Hawks has been virtually destroyed. The ground troops from Eternos won't get there in time."
Duncan nodded. Teelana exited their room, completely dressed.
"I want to go with you," he told her, ignoring that Willym was even there."
"You can't, my love. I'll get in touch with by the end of the day. This I swear."
They kissed, and then she followed Willym. There was a carriage waiting from Teelana and Willym. Another Gunslinger-Ranger was waiting for them.
"This is going to be trouble," Duncan told himself as they left the cottage.
Man-At-Arms and his ground forces came up upon the final hill that would take them to South Eternos. When they got there, they all stopped.
South Eternos was gone. All that remained was a heap of burning metal, piles of male corpses, and the occasional crashed Battle Hawk. At the entrance of South Eternos was a group of women, children, and elderly.
The Horde was gone.
The survivors would tell their tale of horror and sadness. The tales would spread and would terrify all of Eternos and, like a disease, spread to the allies of Eternos. All would fear the Horde now not as a legend or as a time in history - but as an enemy so brutal, it could wipe an entire city off the map.
Dekker was delivered to Eternos, still alive. One eye short, but still alive. The survivors were taken the farmlands that stretched between Eternos and the former Eternos. There were towns and villages that would help them, care for them. Comfort them.
As Man-At-Arms reported back to King Randor, he knew that the first battle of a terrible war had just begun. A battle that they had lost.