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Ch. 3 The Council Begins
A golden sunrise signals the beginning of a new day, the sun illuminated the entire city. Vampire generals from all across the land entered the city dressed in the colors of their clans. Each made their way into Arrow Hall, the council chamber, and find the Queen seated in a regal chair made of birch with a sun and star etched into it. A granite circular table with no middle fills the chamber and armor from famed monarchs and generals decorate the walls. Chairs made from different wood types with markings signified where each guest would be seated. Each leader dawned the colors of their clan, awaiting permission to sit from the Queen. The Company seated together were carefully watched by many of the Vampires.
Selene waved her hand signaling for all to be seated. " This Council is now under way. As you can see we have for the first time in nearly an age outsiders here. They will not be contested." Selene spoke powerfully and held the circles attention. " Now then, what news have you from the South, Halthore?" The Vampire called Halthore rose from his
seat. He wore red and black the southern clans colors. " Goblins are becoming bolder." He spoke in a booming voice. " They pass by only trespassing here or there but they head to the forest of Thaygoul where the general Forsythe commands them." As he sat the circle began to murmur similar accounts. " Enough." Selene resumed control. " Arrow you seem to have something to say." Selene gestured to a young red haired Vampire in yellow. " Only that outsiders should not be here." Arrow glowered at the Company, " Or at least they should reveal themselves."
Most other Vampires broke out in agreement with the red head. " Very well," Selene snapped back, " We have Allister the Great as so many of you know. A Man from Titheirith, a Witch, a Wolf from Artemthus, and Two Hunters of the North. Satisfied."
At the pure mention of the Hunters all eyes shifted to Keira and Raven, who's hoods were drawn up to cover their faces. With a sigh they lowered their hoods to reveal their masked faces, Keira however, after a moment drew her hood up again. Sky observed the Vampires then cautiously spoke. " Now that, this is settled can we move on or are we going to stare all day?" Outraged by the bluntness a Vampire in black spoke.
" What business does a Wolf have here?" he spat, " Go join that general and don't bother to come back." At this Sky went red in furry, her blue eyes flashed a dangerous yellow and her straight brown hair seemed to ruffle. " I am the throne caretaker in Artemthus, never mention that filthy puppet of Asgoth again to me." Sky shot back and glared. Iomheir looked in admiration to the Wolf. " Mika, be seated." Selene ordered and again the chamber fell silent as the one called Mika sat.
Glaring back and forth Mika and Sky said no more to each other. The one called
Halthore spoke again. " My Queen, news reaches to me that the number of the general
grows day by day to numbers that even Men cannot fathom. I fear Asgoth's puppet plans an assault." Selene only nodded and was lost in thought until Arrow broke the concentration.
" Halthore you over estimate the enemy," Arrow laughed, " really just how large of numbers can Forsythe grow? Ha." Arguments broke out between the Vampires and across the circle each to a side. " SILENCE ! " Allister yelled and the circle fell silent. The old Wizard looked back and forth between the two Vampires. " Halthore what proof do you have?" The wizard questioned as he stroked his long beard. All eyes now turned to Halthore. " Scouts have seen it first hand."
Arrow stood and before he could speak Mika cut him off. " How large of an army are you suggesting Halthore?" Mika eyed the older Vampire as he took to his seat one more.    " A thousand, possibly two." The Vampire whispered. Arrow laughed in disbelief and once more fighting broke out. Mika punched Arrow straight in the mouth with a powerful fist and sent the young Vampire flying. " Now you will keep your mouth shut." Mika laughed as Arrow struggled to his feet and stayed silent. Once order was restored reports from the other clan leaders continued without interruption. Allister listened intently as if hoping news of help would be brought up, it was not mentioned.
Selene starred down from her seat only nodded, news of a growing a enemy army concerned her greatly. Zoe entered the conversation and mentioned for the first time news from the Witches. " My people are fading, the ways of the Witches are becoming myth to many Men, our teachings are being lost." All the Vampires looked at her sadly but had respect for the Witch written on their faces. Raven began to speak but Keira was not listening, she kept dwelling on the size of the army. " How can this be?" she wondered and remained silent. Halthore and Mika began sharing news they had received from scouts before they left.
" My Queen," Mika finally spoke, " We must prepare for war or we shall perish to this monestrous army." Selene remained silent as though weighing options in her mind.  "Do not be ridiculous." Arrow hissed to Mika, " Diantherine can not be taken. Many have tried and yet here the city stands. We have supply and protection that could outlast any army." This time it was not Mika whom retorted but Sky rose from her chair and leaned towards Arrow with a grave look on her face.
" Mika and Halthore do not lie." she whispered. " I have heard of what Forsythe plans. If he can take the Vampires nothing save the heir can save Artemthus from falling and securing victory for Asgoth. If you fall all is lost." Sky sat back down wearily. Arrow looked directly at Sky, " So Wolf, you think you have all the answers hum. You try and stir trouble ha." Soon fighting resumed and the chamber again was filled in arguments and yelling.
Keira sat lazily in her chair rubbing her temples trying to think in all the chaos. Slowly she lowered the mask to below her neck and removed her hood, she stood for the first time since walking in, her fist hit the side of the granite. A thunderous bang from her fist echoed throughout the chamber. " ENOUGH ! " Silence filled the hall and all heads turned to the direction of yell.
Standing tall and heaving in anger and frustration, Keira Black faced them, for the first time her face exposed for all to see. Sky noticed the markings were different than the ones Raven bore and yet hauntingly similar. All who saw it, silently gasped at the sight of her scar. " You are bickering like children !" Her voice so powerful that no one dared interrupt.
" Mika, Halthore, and Sky do not magnify the number of the enemy. My sisters and I have seen this first hand. Forsythe is breeding a Goblin army, possibly crossing them with Men or Wolves. They are strong and difficultto kill. We must call for aid Queen." Allister stood as Keira sat down as she finished her piece. " Keira is right," he said, " Forsythe has his eye set on taking Diantherine. If the Vampires fall no one can contest him taking Artemthus save the  heir. Queen you must call for aid." All eyes now rest on Selene as she began to stand.
" And who do you suppose I call upon Allister?" Selene questioned in anger. Zoe spoke this time. " Titheirith will answer." The witch stated simply. Selene scowled at the mention of the city. " Titheirith. Where were Men when we needed them last. Where was Titheirith when we last called?" Selene sneered, " No, we are alone in this." Again Keira rose and all eyes fell upon her. " If you will not call for aid then Diantherine is lost." Keira spoke passionately. Selene looked straight at Keira then said, " Prepare your clans for battle we will defend the mountains. Have all men and boys able to hold a weapon prepared. War is upon us."
Vampires poured out of the city and made their ways back to each of their clans to gather an army. " Why does she ignore reason?" Keira whispered as she walked out. The Company gathered in the Hall of Blood and huddled in a corner. " The Queen as you have just witnessed is quite stubborn. Iomheir and I shall take Macnair to Titheirith and call upon the King for aid." Allister spoke in a hushed tone, " Iomheir prepare the horses and get the prince, we shall need to make haste. Keira, I will take Rowan with me to send signal, you, Raven, Sky, and Zoe must stay here and prepare for battle. When I give my signal you must do as I ask." Allister and Iomheir hurried away and the four women watched as they disappeared into the stables. " Keira, join me in the hall." Selene ordered from the entryway and her three friends watched as she clenched her jaw and obeyed the Queen.
Keira lifted her mask back above her mouth and stood before the Vampire Queen, jaw and fists clenched as Selene studied her for a moment. " How long do we have until the enemy arrives?" Selene spoke in forced kindness. Smirking to her self, Keira replied,    " Less then four days Queen." Selene nodded curtly and her expression changed from a composed leader to an angry expression and spoke. " I do not appreciate how you spoke at the council Hunter, for last I checked Selene not Keira Black was Queen." Eyes flashing dangerously yellow, Keira looked down to her dirt covered boots then retorted,      " Forgive me Queen. It seems though, that you have abandoned all hope in winning a battle that has yet to begin." Walking to the Hunter, Selene was now a few inches from Keira. " And what would you have me do. We are not as fortunate as you in friends." Selene's face fell in sadness, " If this will be our end then I will give my people such an end worthy of remembrance, worthy of song and lore." With this the Queen walked away to the table with her advisors and began making battle plans. Keira walked out and sat on the top step to the Hall of Blood, looking out to the horizon pondering.
" Zo., how did Keira receive that scar?" Sky inquired. Both Raven and Zo. were about to respond but Keira cut them off. " I was a young child. That is all you need to know." The matter obviously dropped Raven gazed at her old friend and saw a glint of mischief in her eyes." What does Allister have planned exactly?" Raven asked. Smiling behind the mask Keira replied, " I have a task to ask of you Sky and Zo....." The four stood quiet and watched the sun fall once more behind the mountains. " It's so quiet." Raven breathed. Zo. carefully watching the sky sighed out loud.
" A storm approaches. It will storm during the battle." She sighed once more and ran a hand through her long blond hair before turning to walk away. Raven placed a hand on Keira's shoulder and followed the Witch to the weaponry. " You hold that scar for a reason you know." Sky said.
" I know but sometimes scars are just painful reminders of the past." Keira replied back. " The Queen is far to stubborn, without aid I fear we will lose." Sky answered back. " You are right. Our hope must lie in Allister and Iomheir now." Keira replied tiredly. "Why is the Queen so cross with you if I may ask?" Sky inquired. The Hunter thought a moment before speaking. " We have known each other for many years. I guess you can say she doesn't like being disobeyed or disrespected. On the other hand one might say I do not take to being ordered by those younger than me very well." Keira laughed. " Come Sky we must rest." The two of them disappeared into the hall.
Allister and Iomheir were not the only ones riding that night. The traitor Phelan rode swiftly through the mountains and passed in the valley. He headed East to the tower of Hellsheir, the base of Forsythe. As fast as he could force the horse he rode until the moon has high in the night sky. Phelan reached the spiraling black tower and staggered to the entrance. Weakly he knocked on the door and a guard in red appeared before him. " Let me in Wolf, I have news for the master." Phelan commanded.
The Wolf only sneered at him then guided him to the study of the tower. " Wait here." the Wolf commanded. Phelan looked around and noticed the many books circling the room. The guard reappeared and signaled for him to follow. " General Forsythe is waiting for you. Do not waste his time." The guard left and Phelan shakily opened the doors.
A tall man in white robes stood in the middle of the room, a long hand hovering above an orange stone. Noticing the guest Forsythe removed is hand from the stone and motioned for Phelan to come. Bowing slightly, Phelan complied and stood before the general. " My lord," he squeaked, " I bear ill news." Forsythe narrowed his eyes spoke, "This is no surprise seeing as though you are before me and not keeping the Vampires at bay. You have failed me Phelan, but there may be hope for you still, continue." Stumbling over himself Phelan spoke. " My lord I had the Queen in chains but Allister showed with a company and protected the children." Before he could continue again Forsythe cut him off. " Allister, now what would that old fool be up to now. Speak Phelan." The small Vampire swallowed hard at the sinister look in his lords eyes. Calming himself Phelan continued. " He traveled with a Man from Titheirith, a Witch, a Wolf from Artemthus and.." Phelan winced as his masters eyes flashed red, "... and two Hunters from the North. They freed the Queen and banished me, but before I could flee I noticed a necklace on one of the Hunters. It was a silver moon and star with a leaf etched into the middle." Forsythe was quiet for a time, stroking his black beard. " What are Hunters doing here? I wonder." he seemed to mutter to himself. " Good work Phelan, as for the necklace I will research that later for right now I must prepare the army.The general paced the room then left, Phelan on his heels they made their way to the highest room of the tower.
" Army, my lord?" Phelan questioned. " No army has ever defeated Diantherine, it would take thousands to break the wall." Forsythe stopped at the window and turned to his servant. " I know Phelan, the Queen is too stubborn to call for help." Forsythe opened the window and stood on the balcony looking over the lands smiling. " But my lord no such army exists." Phelan insisted as he joined his master. Phelan's eyes widened in awe. A sea of soldiers ready to march swallowed the land for miles in a darkness. The sea of soldiers cheered and chanted as they saw Forsythe and as he rose his hand silence filled them. " My people !" he shouted to be heard, " Too long have Vampires ruled the mountains. Take back what should be yours. March to Diantherine and destroy them." Cheers erupted from the massive army and soon they marched forth toward the mountains. Forsythe turned away smiling in satisfaction. " Even if the Vampires survive, aid will be too weak to protect Artemthus. I will have the Wolves and Asgoth can rise once more."
Phelan sat nervously as Forsythe researched the necklace described earlier. Turning through ancient books page by page the general finally found an answer. " So this is why Allister is involved. He thinks he has found the Wolf heir. The fool, we shall test this soon enough." Forsythe declared. Phelan rubbing where he was struck was deep in thought when an idea came to him. " My lord," he exclaimed, " what if rain were to fall and a storm were to be unleashed? The Vampires would no longer have the sun or the moon to place or look to for hope. It would dwindle their spirits and lower morale." The general pondered this thought.
" Clever Phelan," he smiled, " Clever indeed. I believe I shall spare you for now." Forsythe closed the book and strode to the window breathing in the air. " I believe it is time for a change in the weather Phelan. A storm is brewing and let it be unleashed in the mountains." Forsythe muttered in an ancient tongue and thunder clapped in the distance. The wind began to pick up and soon was blowing fiercely towards the west.
The Goblins marched through the land covering it like a black sea. Armor and swords dipped in poison gleamed in the night. Clouds began to form and the army cheered knowing the weather was on their side. " Keep moving you filthy dogs !" a commander shouted. Swiftly the Goblins covered many leagues through the night and were making good time. Anything in their path was trampled as they marched on. Wasting no time they marched to the mountains and would reach the city by the next nightfall, victory almost assured for their numbers alone could black out the entire valley. Each soldier bore the three blue slashes of Forsythe on their armor and  were ready to taste the promised flesh of fresh meat of the Vampires. Not once did they slow nor stop to rest, they marched hungry for blood and thirsty for revenge upon those who sent them to the shadows of the mountains. Storm clouds swirling above their heads they marched, soon they were just a single day away from bloodshed.
Dawn came, the four left, were inside the Hall leaning over a table going over maps. The Queen scanning over battle plans with a few officers, Keira and Raven planning, Sky looking over weapons, and Zo. looking out the door. " This will be the last of the sun until this battle is over." The Witch sighed.
Rowan flew into the hall and cried softly for Keira. The Hunter stuck her arm out and allowed the falcon to land, gently stroking his neck. Keira looked directly into the birds eyes and seemed to understand as though they were speaking. " The enemy will be here by night fall. We are running out of time." Keira relayed the message. Selene nodded and looked over all her leaders. " We have good numbers. Maybe not enough but still we can hold." she said confidently.
Raven walked over to Sky and the two began talking weapons and going over their plan if Allister succeeded in his mission with Iomheir. Keira took a long swig of ale and tried recalling battle strategies that the Hunters used before. " Keira, you will be in command of the front lines, you and your friends are our first defense and hopefully all we need. I will take the inner gates, the city must not be breached, if so fall back." Selene ordered.
Soldiers of all clans began preparations and were suiting up in armor. Women and children were moved to the caves in the mountains behind the city, Gwyneth leading them. Leaders passed out weapons and soldiers were arming themselves. " Rest and feast. We are in for a long night, be prepared to fight and defend this city or die trying." Selene boomed and the crowd cheered, " Together we will make such an end worthy of lore. My brothers I am proud to fight along your side." All applauded the Queen and continued to make preparations. Keira looking at the approaching storm stared in the distance and sighed heavily. Silently she hoped Allister would send word soon  
Part 2
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