Here is another tale of Scylax, as told by Egrekkos, our narrator.
A Dragon sits atop the peak. Jagged fingers of earth and stone rake the sky, shredding clouds and the light from Helios alike. A perfect place for Amandrax to call home. Far above the world these peaks served as his throne. Atop the world he was ruler of all he could survey. From the Draco’s Peak he could see well into ocean. When the Red Dragon Ruler of Crol’Grimhide took to the skies he could see even farther, perhaps all the way into Naxdos. Which is why the collected armies of Grol’Grimhide were ready when Naxdosian ships took to the sea to end what they believed to be blasphemy.
A young king, Nilus of Naxdos, with vibrant unmarred scales and nearly one hundred thousand Naxdosian shields behind him, sails to challenge the Great Red Dragon. The sea is filled with triremes all carrying the symbols of Naxdos. Sails with painted spears or shields dot the water way between Naxdos and Crol’Grimhide. Scylax holds its breath as these forces prepare to slaughter each other, each in the name of a God.
But to Leitus, a young human scout in the Red Legion, the war of the Gods wasn’t really anything he should be concerned about. Instead he completed the missions as given to him, ate the food that was provided, and slept when he could find it. Leitus stands just under six feet tall. His brown hair marred by the salt air of the coast. His brown eyes shine in the light of Helios. Today, these details are lost, because he hides his hair and eyes behind a helmet. He usual boyish smile faded into a slight frown of concentration. His hands which are so used to writing love letters are now filled with his Aspis, a large round bronze shield, and Dori, a spear. Leitus, with his older Elven Hoplite Sargent Pheres, stood on the walls of Croatalia, watching as the citizens escaped the coming Lizardfolk invasion force.
The pair of Legionaries watched the seas to the south of Croatalia. The silence stretched and took notice of the pair of stalwart watchmen. The tension between then was broken by Pheres asking, “Is she leaving?”
After a long moment Leitus responded, “Yes.” Pheres sighed and put a hand on the young Legionnaire.
“If Aphrodite wills it, you will find her again.” Pheres said. He turned away from the bay and looked at Leitus.
“This is the wrong side of the wall.” Leitus replied calmly. “We should be allied with Naxdos. Amandrax is blight on this world and we have chosen to defend him?”
“No son, not him.” Pheres answered. “Them.” The aged elf nodded towards the fleeing people. “The Red Legion was contracted by Croatalia, not Amandrax. Polemarch Leda took the contract to help her people flee.”
“We are considered blasphemers to world now. The Red Legion shields Dragon Worshippers while Naxdos, the greatest army we have ever seen, sails towards us with murderous intent. For what? A few gold pieces? We can’t spend it if we are dead Pheres!” Leitus angrily shot back. Hot tears began to fill those almond brown eyes.
“Leda’s price was not to enough to make the Legion wealthy. She only asked for two gold per legionnaire. A thousand heads worth of gold was all she wanted.” Pheres responded quietly. That silence again stood between them. The quiet embraced the both of them, attempting to comfort the pair. Far below the world, at the twisting gates of the Underworld Hades prepared to receive people in the thousands. Lizardfolk, Human, Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Dragon, it made no difference to him. All are equal in the hands of Hades.
On the large stone walls of Croatalia, Leitus cried. His vision blurred as the tears streaked through his dirty face. Pheres quietly said to his young legionnaire, “This isn’t the first time the Legion has stood ready to give its life. At least this time we do it for a good reason. I’ve been hired as an assassin, monster slayer, and even security for a few less than reputable people. Today, I feel no shame in the deeds of the Legion. Leda was called home, to the city that raised her, and she chose to make her Legion stand for something. This is a time of Heroes. Even if we are destroyed, the world will remember what we are doing here today.”
Leitus sniffed, removed his bronze helmet adorned with the Reg Legion fringe and wiped away the tears that were streaking down his face. Leitus could run, chase after Kyra and her family, and turn his back on the Red Legion and their final stance to save Croatalia. He could forsake his vows and embrace the love he has so briefly encountered. He could also throw himself from the battlements to quicken his death. All options ended the same way. If he ran, he would be hunted as a traitor to the Legion, assuming anyone from the Legion survived. If he stayed, he would surely be slain by the spears of the Lizardfolk.
The wind swept up from the sea. The cool salt air carried with it the smell of fish. Far above the clouds, even beyond the jagged peaks of Amandrax’s throne room, sat Athena. She watched the armies moving into formation and listened to the prayers of Polemarches, Lokhakos’s, and citizens. This conflict was going to be one on a massive scale and the interloper Amandrax must be dealt with. But these events of cosmic importance only held the Mistress of Strategy and Wisdom for moments. Instead she watched a young man, standing on the battlements of Croatalia, weighing his options and crying.
“That’s the one.” Athena said to herself.
Across the bay, rocking quietly to the waves, were a thousand triremes from Naxdos. Hundreds of sails carried ships of wood built for war. Bronze tipped battering rams coated in the crimson red of Naxdos were carved into the faces of the warships. The fleet was filled with thousands of Lizardfolk, all ready to give their lives in the coming battles. The bay around Croatalia made for a naturally defensible port. The great cliffs gave archers in the towers plenty of time to rain hatred down onto an invasion force. Of course, that really only mattered if the invasion force was sailing into the bay. Things became a bit more troubling when your invading force could simply swim up the bay underwater. Like a crocodile snapping its jaws from the waters edge, a Naxdosian amphibious assault came swiftly and with out warning.
Hyperion was waiting for the assault to begin. Easily the youngest Hoplite on his boat, Hyperion stood a little over five and a half feet tall. He hadn’t finished growing yet but was a grown adult in the eyes of his King. Hyperion had successfully completed the trial of the Warrior just days before the ships were loading troops. He was the latest addition to the phalanx, but a welcome one. Hyperion stood next to the an older Naxdosian, a towering hoplite by the name of Demas. Demas easily cleared seven feet tall. His thick hide was already marred with scars from combat. He would spend the evenings recounting the tales of each scar he earned in the service of Naxdos. Demas was a Lizardfolk of the northern hills. His snout long and board like a crocodile’s while Hyperion’s was smaller and sleeker, more refined. Demas was a brute but he took to the young noble Hyperion like a lizard takes to the sun.
“What do you remember of assault tactics?” Demas asked Hyperion. Their boat continued its steady roll on the waves as the fleet made its final miles to the mouth of the bay.
“Stay low, get close to the walls so the archers have a harder time firing at you. Wait for the battle mages to break hole in the wall, or climb the thing yourself. Get in, praise Ares, and kill everything in sight.” Hyperion responded, summarizing the battle tactics he was taught as a young boy.
“Indeed” Demas answered, his voice like gravel. “But what does that mean? What is your plan young warrior? Take all of Croatalia alone? Will you save any for me? Perhaps save some for the King himself?!” Demas laughed.
“With Ares at my back, there is none who can stand in my way.” Hyperion responded.
“Careful with that. The dragon worshippers may have a spear with your name on it. You will end up at Hades gates before you know it. First, the water is our home. Stay low and submerged as long as you can. Wait for word from the Sargent. A waterborne assault force is more vulnerable when it emerges. We will need shields when we arrive. Then, we move on force to the walls. I believe Drosis there will have a role to play in that.” Demas said with a nod to the Battle Mage who sailed with Hyperion’s phalanx.
Drosis was a blue skinned Lizardfolk, a Xanthos by the Naxdosian tongue. Xanthos were magically inclined oddities at birth. She was taller than most, standing a solid fix feet three inches tall. Her war robes clung her to body in the wind. She wore no armour, for she needed none. The elemental forces were her armour. She bore no spear, for she needed none. When she moved her hands the sky cracked, water boiled, and fire spilled forth into the world.
“Stop staring.” Demas elbowed Hyperion. Hyperion looked to the sea and said, “I wasn’t.” Demas would have seen Hyperion blushing, if their cold blood and scales allowed them to. “Focus” Demas said to Hyperion. “See those lights? That is Crotalia, our mission on this glorious day. Helios is setting and it’s time for Naxdos to share it’s wealth.” Demas said with a broad, toothy, smile.
Hyperion rehearsed his tactics in his mind. Shield block, parry, spear, thrust, block. Each motion practiced a thousand times. At his side each member of the assault force was in the same sort of prebattle mediation.
The boats crashed through the waves, spurred on by the wind. The decks heaved and creaked but the crews all rowed in silence. They knew the pre-battle meditation well. Shoulder to shoulder, the Lizardfolk prayed for the battle to come. The lead ship held their Polemarch. She stood at the prow of the weaving boat. Her helmet adorned with a great red fringe with a white stripe in the center of it. All of the squad leaders watched her helmet. Waiting for her to turn her head, causing the stripe to disappear.
In those tense moments, Hyperion’s heart beat in his ears. Each beat he prayed. He wanted a challenge, to be victorious, to stand on a top a mountain of dead warriors as the one who bested them all. He wanted the whole world to tremble at the mention of Naxdos and its armies.
The Polemarch turned her head and thousands of Lizardfolk dove into the dark waters below. Helios, having completed it’s journey for the day, settled into the little hiding place Apollo kept for it, and robbed the world of light. This night had been chosen in particular, as neither Ursa nor Lupus would be in the sky. With Helios gone, the world plunged into darkness. In that darkness the sea grew spears, teeth, and claws.
Within moments the assault force was on the banks of the bay. The Red Legion guards, unable to see in the inky darkness, were unaware that thousands of Naxdosian soldiers were silently swimming up the port. Underneath the waves each warrior took their position. All watched for the Polemarch. Silently, they connected their shields below the surface of the water. Again, her head turned, the stripe disappeared and together they rose from the water front.
Several sentries from the Croatalian reserve choked in surprise but were swiftly silenced with well placed arrows from Naxdosian Gill Hunters. Hyperion and Demas moved forward along the beach as quietly as the could. It only took seconds for the sentries on the walls to cry out. Signal fires all on the walls were lit. In the echoing fire light, the vague outlines of Lizardfolk could be seen. Panic rose in the hearts of the Dragon worshippers, and Hyperion could smell it all. With a broad smile he cried out, “For ARES!” and charged the wall of the Dragon Worshipping City State. The Polemarch’s head snapped to the sudden cry from her battle lines, seems a young upstart hoplite was looking to claim all the glory he could. “Very well, let them have it Drosis.” The Polemarch called out to the Blue Skinned Lizardfolk.
Drosis weaved her hands in a circle. The energy in the air around her shimmered before flames wreathed her arms. She extended her hand through the circle she had created and a massive fire ball extended from her towards one of the walls. The great ball of light cascaded over the battlements and consumed the guards stationed there. With that section of the wall in flames Drosis reached keep into a well of power she had been storing. She grabbed onto a spell that she can been perfecting for this very moment and heaved it out into the world. The energy spilled from her and into the sand. As if by her command, the sand around the walls began to shift and move. The walls groaned in protest but the great stone sections were already coming loose. Naxdosian warriors flooded towards the walls just as a section of the wall began to break and topple. Stones were swallowed by the shifting sands. Guards were thrown off of the tops. A great hole emerged in the walls of the city state. Like a lizard consuming the eggs of a dragon, the Naxdosian warriors flooded into the hole and tore the defenders to shreds.
Fair above the conflict, Athena watched, quietly contemplating the events.
Across from her paced Ares. He was elated with the violence of the conflict. But in his fervor, he still noticed his sister watching one mortal in particular. A human from some mercenary company. Ares, always willing to complicate his sister’s life searched the battle below for some one worthy. “There” Ares said with a triumphant smile. This exclamation broke Athena’s attention as she saw what Ares was pointing to.
A Naxdosian warrior was leading the charge. A young soldier who seemed to have limitless energy and power. He effortlessly swept aside the defences and then attacked at exposed ribs, limbs, and necks. He left a trail of broken and maimed bodies. None stood in his path. He also didn’t seem the notice the collection of wounds he was gathering. Behind him was a column of Naxdosians. All fighting with the same merriment.
“That’s the one.” Ares said to Athena.
Athena looked down again to see the young Lizardfolk heading straight towards and occupied section of battlements.
They were occupied by the Red Legion.
There is an old story about a Lion Cub meeting a Lizard on the sun-bleached plains of Scylax.
The Lion Cub, young and ferocious, seeks adventure. Today he has wandered too far from his mother. His curiosity is roused when he hears the shifting of sands nearby. An old lizard, being awoken by the clumsy paw falls of the cub, has become agitated by the encroaching predator.
“Young Lion, leave here lest I show you why the world shakes at the bite of the great lizard.” The Lizard said.
“Old Lizard, I will soon rule these lands so you should leave here. My family is coming and they surely eat you and your family for such disrespect.” The cub replied.
“I don’t see any family. Young Cub I give you one last warning. Leave or else.” Croaked the lizard. The Cub had enough of the Lizard’s Insolence. The Cub attacked but realised too late this was the Lizards home and knew the terrain well. The Lizard artfully dodged the attacks by the young lion. Worried, the lioness came looking for the cub. When she found him, he was locked in the jaws of the old Lizard.
“Oh, great lizard, leave my son. He has much to learn in the ways of the world.” The Lioness purred.
The lizard spat out the cub. “Indeed, he does. I have not harmed him today. Tomorrow, however, is another problem.” The lizard replied.
“Mother! This lizard is insolent! He requires retribution!” The cub cried out as he was being carted away by his mother.
“No little warrior, that is a fight you will not win. There is more than just our Pride at stake.” The Lioness chided the young cub.
On the battlements of Croatalia the Lion cub and the Lizard meet again. The lizard is fast and agile. His bite is vicious and his claws rake at the hide of the Lion. The Lion is strong and powerful. His strikes echo into the ruined City State. The two are locked in combat and can give no notice to the world around them. Two heroes are pitted against each other by forces beyond their control.
Leitus, with spear and shield, stands against Hyperion of Naxdos. A foreign invader against a mercenary. A tale as old as the bones of Scylax. The two engaged in a beautiful dance of death around the discarded stones of Croatalia. Where Hyperion would stab and thrust, Leitus would counter and block. Where Leitus would spear and rake, Hyperion would evade and dodge. Above the clouds Ares and Athena watched with great interest. Ares gave Hyperion his fury while Athena gave Leitus her guile. The fight lasted for hours, Naxdosians and Legionnaires fell around them while they exchanged blows in the dead of night. Exhausted, Demas and Pheres sat exchanging water and some found wine while the Lion and the Lizard did battle.
Laughing, Pheres said, “You’re pretty good. I wasn’t expecting that uppercut. You’ve rattled my cage a bit.” Demas shared in the laugh, “I’m pretty sure you’ve broken some of my ribs. A well-placed spear strike may have won you the day.” Around the two elder warriors lay wounded and broken warriors of both sides.
“I think I’m the ranking legionnaire here. I offer my surrender; I don’t need to see any more of those claws from Naxdos.” Pheres offered his hand to Demas. “As the ranking Hoplite from Naxdos, I accept your surrender.” Demas accepted the grip.
The Lion and the Lizard continued their fight.
Demas said louder, “I SAID, AS THE RANKING HOPLITE I ACCEPT YOUR SURRENDER.”
The words meant nothing to Hyperion. His focus was on his foe and his soon demise. Ares smiled wide at his siter.
Athena sighed and said, “Yes, fine, you have won this engagement. Call off your Dog and let’s focus on the broader conflict, shall we?” Ares shook his head, “You first.” Athena regarded her sibling flatly. She leaned down from the clouds of Mount Olympus and said into the ear of Leitus,
“There is more than just your Pride at stake.”
Leitus heard the wise words of Athena. Exhausted, beaten, and with the Legion broken, Leitus offered his surrender to Hyperion. With great joy Ares crossed his arms and leaned into the ear of his Lizard. “Well done by Champion, but there is work yet to do.”
Hyperion lowered his weapon, panting heavily. Demas smile his wide crocodilian smile, “It’s good to see you again Pheres.”
“And you Demas.” Pheres replied.
“How many did you get out of the city?” Demas asked.
“Enough, I hope. I fear this may be the end of the Legion as we know it.” Pheres said shaking his head. “Maybe I should retire. I’m getting old anyways.”
“Indeed. I didn’t remember you being this slow.” Demas said.
Across the scattered battlements lay Lizard and Lion alike. Those who were wounded were tended to by healers and sages. Croatalia had been taken in mere hours. The Red Legion has done what it could to save innocents from the conflict. Those who worshipped Amandrax refused to leave, believing he would come and save them. But, he did not.
High up on the ruptured peaks sat Amandrax. From here he could see the smoke rising from Croatalia. His keen eyes could see the banners of Naxdos being raised along the city’s walls. His emblem, a three clawed hand which mirrored his, had been burned. His people had failed him. One of the jewels in his crown had fallen out. His frustration burned inside of him. A lesser being, a “King” from across the sea took issue with his claim to the Throne of Olympus. His wide head turned to the heavens and said, “These are your Champions? Lizards? Why don’t you fight me yourselves you cowards!?” Thunder responded from the heavens. Zeus, sitting a top his Throne on Mount Olympus, smiled and said to the collected Gods around him, “Kill this dragon so I may return my people to their homes.”
Amandrax gazed down at the burning city of Croatalia, spread his wings wide, and took flight. He was large enough to block out Helios when it was high in the high. Under the cover of total darkness, he was a shadow in the night. Silently, carried on wide leathery wings, Amandrax descended onto Croatalia, searching for this, “King” from across the sea.
When the Red Dragon found Nilus he was in the process of celebrating with his soldiers. The two remaining Red Legion members had been taken by Hyperion and Demas as prisoners and were given food and water nearby. The King, full of Hubris, hadn’t kept watch on the sky and none of the encampment heard death coming from the sky.
In an instant the camp site was a blaze as Amandrax blew Dragon Fire down on the invaders. King Nilus was bathed in fire but did not perish. He had rolled to his shield, Filinox, and brought it to bare. The runes flared to life, protecting the King from the blaze the fell from the maw of Amandrax. Hyperion, Demas, Leitus, and Pheres all ducked behind a nearby column. The Gods gathered around to watch the coming battle. Athena and Ares stood beside their chosen champions. Zeus stood behind Nilus.
“We are here, King Nulis. Smite this Dragon with my Fury.” Said Zeus, crafting a brilliant spear of lightning. In King Nilus’s empty hand grew the Spear of Zeus, full of brilliant white and blue cracking energy. Amandrax watched the spear appear in King Nilus’s hand and laughed. “So this is your champion?” Amandrax spoke to Zeus.
With a roar Nilus charged at Amandrax.
“Go now, my Lion, and take my grace.” Athena urged Leitus onward.
“Go now, my Lizard, and rip the throat from his Dragon.” Ares urged Hyperion onward.
The five warriors fought the Dragon Amandrax. Leitus would use his spear and shield to create openings for Hyperion and Nilus. The Spear of Zeus flashing great wounds in the Dragon’s Hide while Hyperion plunged his spear deep into scales of Amandrax. Demas was crushed under a great claw and Pheres was batted away with a great swipe of the Dragon’s tail. The battle raged until Amandrax felt the sting of Zeus’s spear one too many times and spread his wings to take flight. Leitus saw an opening and yelled, “Jump for it!” as he braced his shield to launch the King and the Lizard onto the fleeing Amandrax. The King and Hyperion jumped off Leitus, one after the other, onto the back of the fleeing Dragon.
Amandrax took to the skies. The King and Hyperion struggled to stay on the back of Amandrax. The wind whipped violently at their grips. The King, wielding only the Spear of Zues, Hyperion wielding only a shield rode the Dragon to his horde a top the mountain. Amandrax landed in his Throne room and then jumped straight up to the roof of the cave. Hyperion and Nilus both jumped off before they would be crushed against the hard stone.
The two warriors stood against the tyrant Dragon. Even wounded Amandrax was a threat. With no shield to save him Nilus was raked across the neck and chest. The claws easily split Nilus’s scales. Wounded, Nilus continued to fight with Hyperion acting as his shield. The battle lasted moments as Amandrax was pushed back to his Throne.
“Now.” Athena nodded to Ares. Ares gave Hyperion a slight push.
Kneeling, Hyperion raised his shield and pushed off with all his might. Nilus ran towards Hyperion and launched himself off of the shield. He sailed up above the Dragon and brought death from above. The Spear of Zues cut through Dragon Scale and rock combined. The spear pierced the heart of Amandrax and lodged itself into the Stone Throne of Amandrax. The Dragon was slain, his body speared to the throne he so coveted.
It didn’t take long for the Legions of Naxdos to clear out Crol’Grimhide. The Dragon Worshippers surrendered when King Nilus and Hyperion descended the Mountain. Even wounded, the Naxdosian warriors were too great a threat for the priests. With the death of Amandrax, the Dragon Priests lost their magic and their defenses became sand for the Lizards to burrow in.
In the aftermath of the campaign Naxdos looted Col’Grimhide, Croatalia, and Herimo for all they were worth. The Gold found there would keep Naxdos wealthy for a century to come. Col’Grimhide was renamed to Ash and Gold, a testament to what was found there after Naxdos burned it to the ground. Nilus and Hyperion returned to Naxdos nearly a year after they had departed for war. Nilus, now permanently scarred, returned to his Throne and his inspired public. All of Scylax took note of the ferocity of the Lizard in the Sand. Hyperion, having completed his duty, was promoted and given a squad of Hoplite’s to Command.
And Leitus was left in the ruins of Croatalia. In sparring his life, Nilus bound Leitus to answer for the sins of his Polemarch. Leitus was to rebuild the Legion. Its continued existence was a gift from Naxdos, a gift earned by the actions of Leitus and Leda. Should Dragons ever appear on Scylax again, Naxdos expected the Legion to provide aid, free of charge.
And so, the Lion attended to his Pride.