Chapter 3
Breaking the Golden Knight

AT 1082 (AZ 1454) - Autumn
Outside the Ruins of Karas, The Darklands

Karas. Caligo's hometown in another life. Little remained of what once was, but Caligo did not care. After all, he was the one who razed it to the ground. It like all the other cities in Euros and indeed all Euros itself was a grave. What did the Zephyrians expect to find here but death?
Caligo would teach them the harsh and final lesson of what happens to the denizens of the world of light when they stumble into the world of darkness. The Zephyrians sounded their horns and formed ranks to meet Caligo's army. He took a moment to examine their formation. Two large blocks of infantry about a hundred men wide and twelve ranks deep. Smaller groups of about five or six hundred infantry on the wings supported by the cavalry. More in the rear, some three thousand with the artillery. They had superior numbers, but did they have superior troops and superior tactics? Caligo would see.
The problem with his army of the dead was that the troops were only as good as the necromancers who controlled them. They were a much blunter instrument than the highly skilled troops he commanded in his glory days, but they were more than enough to conquer the fell beasts and other monsters of the Darklands. How would they fare against a proper army?
To test the Zephyrians, Caligo mirrored their formation with his own. First they would have a direct contest of strength and then he would decide what to do from there. It all depended on the Zephyrian commander.
"We will see if you can live up to your reputation, Sir Caligo," the shadow walker Ubu said.
Ubu was one of the greatest warriors among the shadow walkers and was charged with serving as Caligo's second-in-command. More than anything, he acted as the eyes and ears of the ever-suspicious Monarch Lich. Whatever the race, kings were all alike.
"I thought I already demonstrated that when I won this land for your master," Caligo replied.
"His Majesty is your master as well, Sir Caligo," Ubu warned. "You would do well to remember it."
It was all so tiresome. Was there anything lacking in his service? Why did the Monarch Lich demand all his subjects to grovel at his feet? For all his power, was his pride truly so fragile?
No matter. The battle would be starting soon. On the battlefield at least, Caligo was the lord and master of all he surveyed. The only kings on the battlefield were the victors and he had never tasted defeat.
As Caligo's forces drew near, the Zephyrian front line began throwing javelins. They were not terribly effective against the dead, though. The front line then readied their spears as the two sides clashed. The front two ranks were heavy infantry able to bear the brunt of the onslaught by Caligo's phalangites. However, it took more than a single thrust of the spear to bring down the dead, so the two sides were locked.
Caligo commanded his archers to loose a few high volleys to strike deeper into the enemy formation and the Zephyrians responded in kind, though they had far fewer archers at their command. The smaller groups at the wings held position to defend the flanks. With their numbers, though, they would have a difficult time fending off Caligo's cavalry. He sent them forward, nearly five hundred to the left and to the right. As expected, the light infantry crumbled quickly, prompting the Zephyrian cavalry to move in. They were able to put up more of a fight, but their numbers were too few. The Zephyrian cavalry was forced to fall back and the flanks of the main formation were exposed to the cavalry's charge. They tried to reform to meet the charge from the sides, but that meant they could not focus as much strength toward the front and with the two armies so closely interlocked, they could not safely use their archers or artillery. Worse yet for the Zephyrians, their newly dead were being raised by the necromancers to fight against them. The battle was as good as won.
Or so he thought. Blasts of magic started to tear holes in Caligo's lines, giving the main formation the opening it needed to fall back into the ruins of the city. As they fell back, the artillery was clear to sling stones and loose bolts into Caligo's army. The time had come for Caligo to enter the field himself.
Because nothing could pose any challenge to him, he had developed an affection for showmanship to strike terror in his enemies. He dashed forward and leapt to strike down a ballista bolt in midair, smashing the ballista when he landed and slaughtering the crew in a quick flurry of strokes. The crew of the other ballista to his left lost all courage at the sight of this and fled, but the crew on the right were made of sterner stuff, hastily wheeling their ballista around, taking aim at Caligo and loosing a bolt at him. Though he could have easily dodged it, Caligo instead caught the bolt, spun it around and threw it back at the ballista, destroying it an killing one of the crewmen. He then swooped in to kill three more, but allowed the fifth to escape. After all, he had to leave a few survivors to spread the tales of his terror.
He made his way into the city, flitting from one victim to the next. There was little need to be systematic because the enemy was so disorganized. It would be tiresome to dig them out, so he would probably harry them a little longer before withdrawing to set up a siege. Sieges were tiresome as well, but men have a way of becoming interesting when driven to desperation.
He was tearing apart a battlemage who tried to set him on fire when he took notice of a man in gilded armor shouting orders. He must have been the enemy commander. Ubu must have seen this as well because he and four of his shadow walkers sprang up all around him for the kill. However, there was a bodyguard at the Zephyrian commander's side, a man of no common ability. He cut down two as soon as they emerged, wounded a third and crossed blades with a fourth all in quick succession. Only Ubu himself was able to strike at the commander, but it was not a clean deathblow and the bodyguard promptly drove him off.
With the shadow walkers either dead or withdrawn, the bodyguard took hold of his commander and dragged him away, taking refuge in a nearby building. Caligo grinned. He had found his prey.