The road to Pyr had been littered with corpses. A highway through the hellish desert of Talich's interior, pursued by the Firmament Foundation, burdened by supplies, burdened by the act of retreat itself. Long was the road, and many died from the Foundation's constant raids, from the heat, from the march.
Some might call it a withdrawal. Some might call it a death march. Some might call it a retreat. All the knights of the Flame Dawn knew was that the sun was beating down on their golden armor and that their water rations always seemed to run out just as soon as they were refilled. It was a miracle that their supply lines were able to support the army's demands, but Bromich's plans laid all those years ago still held true, still kept the beating heart of the Empire alive. 600 knights were lost along the way. A miracle of logistics, all things considered.
The army swept into the fortress at Pyr, garrisoning themselves and readying for yet another fight, for the instant assault of the Firmament Foundation and their damnable allies with armor of jade. Yet no attack came, only the steady arrival of more and more enemy troops and the creation of more and more siege lines around the fortress.
Silfurstar and his Revenants departed south of the fortress before the siege closed, their numbers swollen by the losses along the route south. Mew had watched them go, waiting for the reports of success and the news that his investment in the mercenary was sound. Now the dispatches were coming back. His spirits had flooded into Lanstead and were even now fighting with the city's garrison, having smashed through newly manufactured combat robots--from stolen factories--and a pitiable line of militia. 700 Revenants vs 400 Genesis Veterans under the leadership of the rebel Lucca herself. Mew smiled. Soon they would fall.
A report came in from Bask. The 100 knights he had ordered to swing northeast while the army retreated had made it there without incident. The city had mistaken them for Foundation troops and had welcomed them with open arms. The crimson flag of the Flame Dawn was once again flying in Bask before the citizens realized their mistake.
Mew watched from one of Pyr's high towers as Iruel strode forth, alone, towards the enemy lines. Once again he smiled as his champion readied to slay a champion of the foe. He could not hear the challenge from the lofty distance of the tower, but he knew who Iruel was calling to combat. Kali would never back down from Iruel's challenge. No one ever did, and someone as brave, as brash, as she, as confident in her power, would certainly accept. Grabbing a pair of binoculars, Mew prepared to watch.
Kali sprung into the air, propelled by metal wings given to her by the Overseers before she had rebelled. Iruel raised himself aloft on a jetpack, pistols firing. As Kali zoomed towards him, it was evident that she was the more maneuverable, her wings clearly superior to Iruel's jetpack. Yet Iruel was firing at range and managed to clip Kali's left shoulder--she dropped one of her two swords thanks to the wound, but kept coming.
And then, she was upon him. Flitting past him faster than he could adjust with the jetpack's controls, Kali swung her famous flaming sword. It struck Iruel in the shoulder, throwing him into a spin and searing through a pauldron.
The Flaming Blade, the Purifier, the Angels' Chosen, the Rebel, swooped down towards Mew's champion-slayer, seeking to take advantage of his distress and finish him off. Dropping his pistol towards the ground far below, Iruel drew his own sword and met Kali's with a clash of steel and the sparks of magical fire. Firing his jetpack into gear, he righted his spin and threw her back, a strong downward cleave sending her spiraling towards the ground, where she landed with a crash and an explosion of dust.
Iruel landed with a short stumble, still not entirely used to the transition back and forth from air and land. Striding forward, he prepared to end the fight. The Flame Dawn always seeks to end fights quickly and decisively. Kali knew this. Iruel knew this. Neither was there for a long, drawn-out exhibition of combat. They were there to kill their opponent. As Iruel approached, his footsteps heavy in the dust, Kali suddenly leapt back to her feet, her flaming blade darting out and cutting through his hastily raised sword, cutting into his breastplate, and searing his flesh. Iruel stumbled backwards in pain and fell to the ground, smoking rising from the wound. He coughed and gasped for breath, weaponless, as Kali stumbled forward, showing signs of her wounds and fatigue.
As Iruel now knew, the ground is not a welcoming surface. It was hard, uneven, and covered in dust that found its way into his mouth, into the chinks in his armor, everywhere. He struggled to breathe and felt around, hoping for a rock. What he found would have made him smile if he could stop coughing long enough, if he could start breathing normally long enough, to control his face. Kali limped over, raising her blade to deliver the killing blow, dust and grime smeared over her golden chestplate and her mangled wings more detriment than augment.
A gunshot rang out. Then another. And a third. Iruel slowly, methodically, emptied his clip into Kali's chest. She stumbled forward another step, then fell, her flaming blade barely missing Iruel. Coughing, he struggled to rise. There were shouts of alarm and dismay from the other side and soldiers were already darting forward to retrieve her body, to reclaim her flaming swords. Wisely, Iruel did his best to stumble towards Pyr, dropping his gun, even shedding his damaged jetpack, as the fires burned up his lungs. He didn't make it far, but soldiers were already spilling out of the fortress to bring him back.
If I live, he thought, collapsing, barely able to breathe, his eyes struggling to stay open and his mind to stay sane as his body was consumed by pain, I will never be able to fight again.
1000 Aspirants, 200 Goliath Tanks, 800 Knights, 700 Morningstar Knights, 900 Overseers Auxiliaries
Silfurstar's 700 Revenants
Budget points: 18