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"Hold the line!" General Falrus, the grand commander of all allied armies bellows his order. His voice loud and powerful, enhanced by his personal charisma and command magic making even the front line troops two miles in front of him able to hear him clearly.

"Hold the line! You are humanity's last line of defense. Do not falter. We must delay them here! Now!"

General Falrus looks at the four lines of defense before him stretching throughout the wheat fields east of Gralnika. Their numbers are great, but this is all that is left. There is nothing else to deploy, no one else to conscript. These men who stand before the city of Gralnika are truly the last line of defense. Not only for humanity, they are the last line of defense for all who live.

After all, the mountain people were eaten to the last man by strange monsters that came out of the shadows of their caves two seasons earlier. The short folks succumbed to a mysterious plague that wiped them out the year before. The fae folks disappeared so mysteriously that not one scholar could offer a theory. The bird folks escaped in fear to the west, hoping that the rumoured continent of Naksa existed. The merfolks were eaten by monsters that rose from the deep oceans. And the most powerful creatures, the red and gold dragons were wiped out by who knows what and who knows when. If not for the Saint of Starsilver journeying to their nests and finding only bones, none would've known that the good dragons were all dead.

As for the soldiers, they know in their hearts that they are all that's left. They toughen their resolve, hoping that with their sacrifice, there will be a future for those they left behind. Despite the increasing casualties, they stand firm, unmoving, awaiting the last battle of their lives.

To some, it is for their families who are being transported through a magical portal to gods know where, far in the western part of the continent. To some, it is a matter of national pride, for they will not admit that their nations are weaker than mere monsters. To some, it is their belief that their commanders will stand with them through thick and thin. To some, it is their faith that the Priestess of the Holy Song will be able to sway the gods to join their struggle.

For those who fight for their families, they fight only to buy time for the Twelve Heavenly Maidens. For these maidens are the only help granted by the gods. These maidens, blessed by the gods and ordained by the Saint of Starsilver are the only ones left who can protect their families and loved ones. The only reason for them to stay and fight is to delay the forces of doom for as long as they can. The longer they can hold the enemy off, the more time the Twelve Heavenly Maidens will have to gather the survivors and escape through the portal.

Praises to Grexia The Sailor, may she forever guide the sailors and merchants.

Praises to Illumia of The Dawn, may she protect our children and future.

Praises to Allyn Who Perseveres, who rewards hard work and blesses diligence.

Praises to Miol The Shield, may our homes be forever protected.

Praises to Amarita of Desire, who blesses those who pursue their goals.

Praises to Unar Who Is Passionate, who blesses families to be fruitful.

Praises to Lenya Who Entertains, may she give hope to those without.

Praises to Nuei the Guide of Souls, may she bring the dead to eternal peace.

Praises to Maika The Crafter, may she guide their prosperity.

Praises to Irua The Guard, may she forever protect their lives.

Praises to Nila of the Dusk, may she continue to protect their souls.

Praises to Ya of Abundance, may she feed them always.

This chant is repeated over and over, as these men can only pray that the Twelve Heavenly Maidens will succeed. To most, this chant is the only thing preventing them from deserting. It is a constant reminder that if they desert here, not only they, but their families will also perish.

As for the rest, their only hope is that they will not fight alone. For this is the last hour of all who live and it is this last hour that they must fight, even to the last blood. Doom has come to their world, and they shall fight so that those they are protecting can prosper, or die doing their best. To these men and women, they are aware that they will die today, and they have resolved to fight their hardest to bring down as many of the enemy as possible and buy as much time that their lives can exchange.

"Your excellency, how is it? Will the gods offer assistance?" General Falrus asks Selenia, the Priestess of the Holy Song.

Throughout the battle that saw the annihilation of the long ears and the death of General Uleb, Selenia was dancing following the tune of the Staff of Melodies. It was a ritual meant to summon the gods to appear in their physical forms. However, it did not work. With every dance, her moves became increasingly erratic, her feelings increasingly desperate. Finally, her stamina gone, she fell to the blighted ground, its grass long consumed by the taint of the demons, plague monsters and undead that press against their combined armies.

"Your excellency, please, will the gods help us? It is now or never. Look, our front lines are already massacred. It is only a matter of time before they break through our rear defensive line as well. We cannot hold the ground!"

Without looking up at the general, Selenia mutters in a voice so soft it can barely be heard over the chaos. "... silent."

"What?" the general asks as he kneels on leg beside Selenia.

"The gods... THEY ARE SILENT!" Selenia cries aloud. If her voice does not betray her despair, her droplets falling from her face certainly do. For a priestess most favoured by the gods to no longer be able to hear the gods, it can only mean one thing.

"What? The gods are silent?" A nearby officer asks.

"The gods are silent?" These words spread like wildfire among the ranking officers.

"Have we been abandoned?" This thought plays among the soldiers, increasing their anxiety the more they repeat it in their minds.

"Are we now truly alone?" This sentiment grows with every word spoken.

These thoughts finally become the breaking point for the allied army. As word spreads that the gods no longer respond to the dances of the Saint of Starsilver, the hopelessness of the situation sets in. Although they didn't truly count on the gods to turn their fates around before, they were comfortable with the hope that, perchance, the gods would lend a hand.

Now that they know with certainty that the gods will not do so, the resolve in their hearts wavers. As more of their fellow soldiers fall by their sides, the fear that took root in their hearts becomes a monster that claws from the deep corner of their hearts, persistent and unyielding. As they see the terrain covered entirely in the mass of enemy monsters, undead and demons, one man turns around to flee. Then another follows, and another, and another. In mere moments the entire remainder of the front lines as well as half of the rear lines deserted the battlefield.

"No! Stop running! We are the last line of defense! Stand your ground!" General Falrus cries his commands to deaf ears. He knows now that not even his voice can persuade the routing soldiers.

Despite his usual polite demeanor, he grabs Selenia's hand, still weak from the despair of being abandoned and throws her to the single remaining officer by his side. The Duke of Marlis catches the young priestess in his arms and receives the general's order to take her away through the portal. The duke gives a single bow of respect, the last of its kind before he puts Selenia on his horse and flees in the direction of the portal. The duke himself is unsure if he will be able to reach the portal that is five days distance from Gralnika.

As General Falrus looks at the prone form of the priestess, he says so quietly that none can hear even if the battlefield is silent, "The gods may have abandoned us in this world, but perhaps the gods of this new world will still listen to your songs, Your Excellency. You are our last hope."

Then he looks up at the sky, raises his broadsword up high and yells aloud, "You gods who reign above, this is my final prayer. Let my life be the payment for hers. Protect her as you have protected her before. My life, I offer it to you."

And so General Falrus, first of the allied armies, the Hero of Canrad Pass, charges into his final battle with the misguided hope that he alone can delay the approaching mass.

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Shiina Ai
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Author Works

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