Prologue Today, the world ended. What was it that had brought Xanatos Reaver and his band of loyal warriors to the summit of this hill? Had it truly been a conflict between two former friends? A little disagreement? Had that truly pushed two warriors, once renowned and revered in Arkan, to a war which had torn the lands asunder? It seemed so long ago that human and Demi God had traversed the barrier between worlds, with the intent of bringing down a madman. A madman who he just so happened to be related to. Xanatos thought back to the other times. He was already walking on the nostalgic road, and he had no intention of turning back now. Not that he could if he wanted to. His thoughts drifted to battles and meals shared together. Words of friendship and of encouragement whispered at dark hours. Memories he now had to banish forever. He had been hesitant. Too hesitant in prior encounters. And yet, so had his foe. Xanatos and Aidan had crossed sword dozens of times since the first, and no matter who would prove to be the victor that very day, neither would deliver the final stroke. Today, that would have to change. The one who would leave this field alive would be the one who could do the impossible. “Sir.” Xanatos turned. Jayce was approaching him, striding across the ground with hands in his pockets. His 9mm hung loosely at his side, and his gaze was directed to the army assembling below them. Aidan’s forces would attack within mere minutes. “What do you need, Jayce?” Xanatos asked, noting the divisions of infantry below. What was Aidan planning? “I am most pleased to report,” Jayce began with a grimace on his face, “that our forces have fully assembled. The full might of the Order of the Hammer stands behind you, ready to crush the Sarn insurgency once and for all.” “Something troubles me,” Xanatos continued as if his son hadn’t spoken, “Aidan’s no fool, yet it seems as if he’ll charge straight up the hill to meet us. He’d be cut down before his blades could scratch one man.” “He has a plan father; you understand that better than anyone. I’ve clashed with him only once before, yet he proved to me the kind of low cunning and intelligence these humans’ posses.” Ah, that was the reminder he needed. The last push Xanatos needed to crush Aidan’s skull underneath his hammer. He’d near-enough lost his heir to that traitor. The very lineage of the Demi Gods were threatened, and if Xanatos didn’t put an end to Sarn’s armies on this day, all would be lost. “That he does Jayce,” Xanatos nodded, “but by the time the dawn rises, Sarn will be crushed and Aidan will forever be remembered as an example of what happens when you dare to oppose the Demi Gods of old.” He sensed that Jayce had departed to see to his own troops, leaving Xanatos to stare upon the virgin field one final time, soon to be sewed with entrails and limbs. He couldn’t lie. The thought of this climatic battle excited him more than it should have. *** Aidan Samarost dismounted his horse and walked up the small hill that overlooked his army. In the distance beyond, he could see the army of Xanatos Reaver and his Order of the Hammer arrayed upon the tallest hill in the region. They positioned themselves well. He couldn’t advance any further into their territory without fighting this army. Any movement around it would be doomed to fail. So they had to take this fight, despite the inferior positioning. He had to hand it to his old friend, he put him in a bad spot. Aidan was not worried however. Sarn’s soldiers were the best and Alpha Company’s flanking manoeuvre should hit around midway through the battle, meaning that they’d neatly be able to crush their force between hammer and anvil. The irony of that was not lost on him. Alpha looked down at his force and smiled. They stood there, rapt in their attention. “This men, is the deciding battle! Here and now, Xanatos has faced us with all of his forces upon that hill thinking it shall be his saviour, but he is wrong! For we are sons of Sarn! Steel are our bodies! Fire is our blood! We shall end this war here! We shall plant the bloodied flag of Sarn at the crest of that hill and watch the Demi-Gods’ reign burn! For honour, for our right to survive and for those who have died-“ Aidan’s mind went back to the times before. For just a second, before the closing lines of the speech, his face became wistful as he remembered when things were different. When he and Xan fought side by side to save the world. Those were the best of times. He almost regretted what had happened, asked himself if there truly was no other way, but stopped. He remembered how this war started. Once Xan refused his offering of peace, there was no going back. There was no room for regret now. His eyes narrowed. Alpha reached for his sword, Hope, and drew it, raising it high into the air. He channelled energy into it, the blade setting alight. “- Let the bloodstained sun of victory shine!” The surge of pride he felt as his army echoed those final words overrode any regret. Today, there would be justice. Today he would claim the revenge he had long been waiting for. He quenched Hope’s fire then sheathed it and stepped down. Sherridan was waiting for him. “Sentinel sent word. Alpha Company is en route. My Rangers are assisting the archers and crossbowmen with their ranges. Our volleys will drive them down the hill.” Sherridan reported. “Just as planned. I knew I could count on you and your men, old friend.” Aidan said. “And the new firearm corps?” “Planted within the ranks of standard infantry, just as directed. Weapons will be used once then discarded in favour of melee combat with the rest of the men. Weapons will be collected after the battle.” Sherridan answered. “It’s a shame we couldn’t figure out how Vasily’s people got those things to reload so fast in time. No matter. What we have now will suffice. Actually, what’s the ratio?” “Two standard infantry to one shock troop.” Aidan stopped and put his hand on Sherridan’s shoulder. “Truly, I cannot thank you enough. I couldn’t have done this without you, or Sentinel.” Aidan spoke. “Nor the others Aidan.” He reminded. Alpha nodded. “Of course.” He released his grasp on the Ranger’s shoulder and looked out at the battlefield. “This will be a bloody day. I have high hopes though. If we win- No. When we win here today, everything that has happened will be vindicated. Finally, she can rest in peace.” “Aye.” Sherridan agreed. They stood there for a while, watching and waiting for the armies of Sarn to finish their preparations. Just as they did, the Order of the Hammer began to mobilise and prepare their weapons. The first testing shots arced over the distance and fell short of their lines. Aidan beckoned for his horse and mounted up quickly. “Let us begin.” He said grimly, drawing Hope once more. Sherridan watched him ride for the front lines, as he always did. Once Alpha was there, the Ranger joined his men. There was a shout and they began to return fire with deadly aim, the estimations of the Rangers proving on target and effective. The final battle had begun. I 150 years later... "Sir, we're coming up on Sky Tower. Ten minutes to arriving at the drop zone." "Very good Captain, please leave me to my meditations." "Sir." The silver and blue clad soldier fled the room, and Jayce redirected his attention back through the window. The Valiant's glass windows granted a truly spectacular view of true Arkan. A desecrate wasteland. Trees torn from their roots. Lakes of bones. If the windows could be opened, he was certain ash and blood will fill his senses. "If only you could see it now dad," Jayce whispered under his breath, "you'd be so proud of those humans you love." War had not been kind to the realm. Ever since that fateful day a hundred and fifty years ago, where Xanatos Reaver had struck down Aidan Samarost and shattered the blade Hope with a great swing of his hammer, one might have expected things to come to a swift and brutal end. Instead, it only inspired others and rallied hundreds more to their cause. The Shards of Hope they'd dubbed themselves... a fitting name. A movement against the Demi Gods themselves. Aidan hadn't truly died, instead living on in the hearts of those who served him. The Order of the Hammer, still licking their wounds after the last battle, hadn't been prepared. They lost one battle. Then two. Then the defeats began outweighing the victories. Where there had been two-dozen Demi Gods serving the realm, there was now no more than six still walking among the living. Something had to change. The Shards couldn't be allowed to challenge the authority of the Demi Gods any longer. The upcoming battle was about to change that. Pushing a button on his chair, a red light blinked, informing him his voice was about to be transmitted across the vessel. "Attention, soldiers of the Order of the Hammer, this is Commander Reaver speaking." "In a few minutes, we shall be arriving at the landing site. Our mission today is to assault the stronghold Sky Tower, currently under control of the Shards of Hope. This particular location is home to a state of the art weapon: an anti-air cannon. This weapon has already been used against several of our airships, destroying much needed supplies and killing dozens of our troops." "This ends today. The Valiant will land a league or so away from Sky Tower. Our ground forces will launch an assault on the structure and engage the enemy troops. Meanwhile, I shall lead a specialist team inside the tower. We'll take control of the weapon and kill or capture any of the people inside." "All specialist forces, meet me on the bridge."