Prologue

The roar of stamping feet echoed across the emptied plain. There was no stray weed, no lone rodent, no single scrap of life on that field... only soil, dead and unmoving. The sun was beginning to bear down, the yellow light beginning to take a faint orange tint, slowly descending into the backdrop of the battlefield. Two armies led up to each other, both moving in a vague pattern of organization, across that plain, with each set of warriors seeming to be undistinguished and unorganized. Some cavalry rocked back and forth in the rear of the lines of foot-soldiers on differently colored and kept horses – some plump and fit, others appearing to near the point of emaciation -- while most of the troops stood in various assortments of wools and animal skins, each gripping a differently crafted tree branch, with the only unifying factor being a crudely shaven iron point tipping each. The mass of people halted as a single, armor-clad warrior on a large brown horse rode to the front of the ranks and began to scream to his men. His helmet glimmered in the fading sunlight, the carefully molded seraphim wings on his breastplate radiating with a reflection from the source of illumination. He drew from his belt a long iron blade, cold with blood stains of old, tipped with an alloyed golden hilt encrusted with various small gems.

"Today is the day we take our vengeance!" he belted out in a coarse voice. "We have lived for too long in fear of the Hungarians, and we shall show them not to interfere with the God-given right of Wallachia! Let it be known that our nation, our people, our faith... will no longer be tempered with by the civilizations of others. We are autonomous, and no tolerance will be given for the oppressor! We stand before God himself in redemption for the grave injustice given to us in the past, and we will take his blessing!"

The army began to cheer, unified in the chanting of the name "Lord Vladislaus". Spears rose up and down, and the cavalry set itself in a stable line in front of the ranks of foot-soldiers. They waited silently for their Lord to begin again.

"Now, my legion... attack the infidels!"

The Lord spun around on his horse and began charging towards the opposite lines, his shimmering weapon radiating in the dying light. His knights followed behind him in similar fashion, yelling out a war cry that was caught and replenished in strength by the infantry, who ran with spears pointed forward just behind their leaders. The opposing army stood firm in the face of this charge, only breaking as Vladislaus hit the front of the lines. He brought his blade down in arcs, cleaving into opposing units as he rode through clusters – dropping them dead, instantaneously, on the dirt. Blood began to soak and clot into the battlefield as soldiers on both sides began to fall with swings of opposing units. Spears shoved into soldiers back and forth, splintering as they entered and left bodies; forcing infantry to abandon their weapons and fight units with their hands... strangling some, simply beating others until bones snapped and they were left immobile to bleed to death on the ground. Arrows began to rain down into mobs of unprotected warriors, the screams of troops being crushed under the hooves of horses seemed continuous... a symphony of agony upon the muddied terrain. Mounts collapsed from glancing spear hits, throwing illustrious knights from their steeds... letting unruly mobs of warriors clump about and spear them repeatedly, until their bodies were reduced to bloodied pulps of tissue and crushed bone.

Vladislaus looked around, letting his sword ebb and flow through the crowds of enemy warriors. Spears splintered to pieces around his steed as he tried to discern his knights in the rioting mobs of fighting peasants. Nothing was clear in the mob... sensory perception outside his immediate range was useless. His eyes showed him quickly moving blobs of browns and reds in all directions; his ears gave him a chorus of screams, the crushing of bones, and the tearing of flesh; his hands felt nothing but the cold metal of his metallic gauntlets gripping his weapon. He heard a single twang coming in from the right, followed by a small rush of air... as he turned his head to the direction of the sound, a single arrow crushed into the side of his steed. The horse reared in pain, dropping the Lord to the side, and fell over – crushing its master's legs under its massive weight. Vladislaus roared in pain as he heard the bones of his legs snap to uselessness under the mass of the steed. A group of five peasants came around him, two holding battered spears and the other two bare-handed, each with torn robes and various wounds coating their exposed flesh. The un-armed infantry began to tear as his armor, ripping off his helmet and battering his breastplate. He swung his weapon in randomized slash paths, valiantly attempting to hit something – anything – that would prolong his life. A spear came tearing into his sword arm, pinning it to the ground and shooting out a column of blood from the entry point as a second spear was shoved into the side of his torso. He felt the blood pulse to the wound and gush out, shoving tissue to the side as it funneled into the icy dirt below. His sight blurred, his reception began to muffle... everything slowly went dark as he began to feel as if he was falling out of his body and into the ground. He fell and fell as he felt a surge of heat that quickly dissipated. The rush ceased instantly as he felt his back shiver from cold.

This isn't the battlefield... he thought. Where... am I?

His vision began to return to him. He turned his head slightly – dark stone, covered with massive pikes of ice, were sculpted in some form of dark architecture around him. He rose slowly to his feet, being vehemently careful not to slip on the bed of frozen water. He paced slowly and fitfully, following the sound of a low breath coming from within the cave... the stagnant air seemed to be petrified from the constant icy exposure. He followed carefully, the sound getting louder and louder... a crack began to form in the ice after what seemed like an eternity of treading through an expanse more dead than anything he had ever felt before. It became thicker progressively as the breath began to fill the expanse of the cave, echoing heavily on the walls... pushing the stalactites back and forth in a balanced cadence. Eventually, the Lord saw the source of the noise.

In the distance, frozen halfway into the permafrost, was an enormous batlike creature. Its main body was extremely muscular and extremely human in shape, with gigantic hands ending in nails that resembled sabers. The wings coursed up and down, creating a gale that pulsed repeatedly with the flaps, freezing water droplets instantly and reasserting the strength of the ice lake holding it in. The creature was a deep hue of blue, its pulsating red eyes gleaming in the relative darkness of the cavernlike structure. It turned and faced the approaching Lord, grimacing slightly.

"Welcome, my friend..." the massive creature said. Its booming voice crushed against the walls of the cave, crushing icicles to pieces as it resonated.

"Where am I? Who are you? What am I doing here?" said the Lord, still chilled under the gusting of the moving wings.

"None of that is particularly important..." replied the beast. "Let me just tell you that I've been particularly fond of you, Vladislaus, and I admire your dedication. This is why I feel like presenting you with a little offer... as of right now, you are not in your body. You are separated from your army, your throne, and your claims to power... as of right now, your men are being slaughtered without your leadership. However," he paused for a beat, and started again, "I can let you return to your body with power unimaginable. You will be granted the strength of ten thousand men, the gift of total control of your surroundings... you will become stronger than an archangel. All I ask in return is a small token of your arrival here. Will you take what is rightfully yours, Vladislaus? Will you take your divine right?"

Vladislaus suddenly felt as if something could be done. He was being given the world... he was being given everything.

"Yes... give it to me! I will accept the power of God!"

The creature smiled gleefully as it reached down with a single finger and scratched slightly into the side of the Lord. Suddenly, his body began to flood with heat... the cold dissipated instantly. The pain from his wounds evaporated; his fear of loss in combat deadened. He saw the mobs of men swarming around him, but none were discernable from one another. The blood pooled around him moved up and into his wounds... draining slowly and carefully out of the dirt. He rose and felt a twinge in his mouth as the rounded, silvery moon rose into the sky. He stood and saw the peasants around him freeze. He could not tell what they felt, he did not care to. He felt no pain. He felt no sorrow. He felt nothing.

His gauntlets tore into the necks of the stunned peasants around him. He could feel the flow of their blood on his hands as he ripped out their throats and threw the meat to the ground. The fluids felt wonderful... he felt pleasure in extracting their lives. The Lord licked the blood off his armored hands. Perfection! What wonder is this! was the only thought that could cross his mind. He attacked more and more, killing and killing, taking the blood of anyone near him... country identity was meaningless. Death surrounded him as he rose into the sky, tearing his armor to pieces as he rose and shifted in form. He dove again and again into the clouds of soldiers below. All were worthless scum. The carnage ended with a single scream of a soldier just before his throat was torn out with massive, bony fangs...

The Lord landed in the middle of a sea of corpses. He looked around... no one moved, no one shifted. The clamor of war he had heard earlier was no more. He was the only thing with life left in the field, yet his thirst was still unquenched. He looked around for any sign of remaining blood – he could find none. He looked around for the closest trail he could find, eventually taking flight towards the nearest flame-lights he could find...

Author's Note: Enjoy the brief prologue. )