Chapter 5
A Sea of Stone

AT 1082 (AZ 1454) - Early Summer
Outside Iakobin, Notos

Medusa was not schooled in the arts of war. However, unschooled though she was, she knew to strike when the enemy was vulnerable. Although she considered moving her forces south of the river, she instead took refuge in the great forest in the heart of the kingdom. From there she intended to carefully spy out the land before launching any attack. All this changed when the skies to the north went thick with Dragons and smoke.
The Dragons did not tarry long before moving on. It must have been the flight belonging to the King of Dragons, pledged to the Monarch Lich's service. If the Zephyrians invading the Darklands had not already been destroyed, that day would come soon and then the Dragons would return to this place to finish their work. In the meantime, Medusa and her forces could pick over the leavings.
As soon as the sun went down, Medusa rallied her forced and marched on the nearest city. The ruins were still smoking from the Dragons' attack, but it had not been completely razed. For all their weakness, humans were a stubborn race and unless you methodically killed them to the last, some of them would find a way to survive.
She summoned the three Trolwifs acting as her lieutenants when the city came into view. She may not have been a master strategist, but she had some idea of how to use her forces effectively.
"Have the necromancers lead the dead straight on," she told them. "Take the rest of our forces, divide them in two and go around either side to flank the city and move in. We need not kill everything that moves, but make a good slaughter of it."
"It shall be done, my lady," the three Trolwifs replied.
Her orders were quickly carried out. Medusa herself traveled at the rear of the main formation with Belah Dinh. Each necromancer strained his power to command about fifty revenants. To raise and command more would require intricate and time-consuming preparations, but those preparations might prove necessary as the campaign continued.
Unlike the green flame torches of the Orghim, the necromancers used hazy orbs of pale blue-white flame to guide their revenants. The lights served to alert the humans of the city to their approach and so the alarm was raised and the red-orange lights of the humans started to glow throughout the city.
How many could possibly remain with the means and the will to fight? Like as not, whatever courage they could muster would melt at the sight of her host. Just as well.
Upon entering the city, the necromancers had difficulty leading the revenants through the narrow streets strewn with rubble. The intimidating wall of the dead some some two hundred men across was whittled down to fours, even twos. Only with great difficulty could the walking dead clamber over broken stone and burnt timbers. Progress slowed to a crawl.
The groups on the flanks would be having more luck. Fleet-footed Orghim and nimble monsters would not be so troubled by such obstacles. But what of the city dwellers? Besides the occasional charred skeleton or crushed body under the rubble, there was no sign of anyone living in the city once the sound of the alarm stopped.
Medusa got her answer when they finally managed to push into a part of the city less thoroughly ravaged by the Dragons. A horn was blown, followed by others.
"Now, men!" a voice cried and that voice was joined by others to similar effect.
Medusa did not see it at first, but she heard the terrible squelching sound. It soon became clear. Men on the roofs of the buildings were casting down stones to smash the waterlogged corpses shambling through the streets. They had no archers and the necromancers could not break their concentration without losing control of the revenants.
"It falls to me then," Medusa growled, as she hastily slithered up the wall of the nearest building.
With a little boost from her magic, Medusa made her way up the wall and onto the roof. There she commanded an easy view of the humans launching their attack. There were twoscore or more across several buildings. Her gaze worked best at close distances, but if pressed, she could deliver the stone curse to any that drew breath within her line of sight.
Now was such a time for it. In a flash, all the men on the roofs were turned to stone. She caught but a glimpse of it before the exertion struck her blind.
Even without her eyes, she could sense heat and smell, though not as keenly as a true serpent. A remnant of her human past was that she relied too heavily on her eyes. She flattened her body to make a smaller target until her sight returned.
"My lady!" Belah Dinh cried.
Somehow she had managed to get up on the roof as well.
"I am unhurt," Medusa said. "Give me a moment for my sight to return. Those humans on the roofs should pose no further problem. Push on and I will follow."
"I will stay with you, my lady," Belah Dinh insisted, "but first I will deliver your orders."
Medusa felt better knowing the Trolwif was watching over her and soon the light returned to her eyes. As her surroundings came into focus, she got a second look at her handiwork. The men on the roofs never knew what hit them.
Though it was more effort than she would have liked to expend, she saw a clear advantage to maintaining a view of the city from the rooftops. Thanks to the streets and alleyways being so narrow, it was not that difficult to jump from roof to roof. Though her body was heavy, the muscles in her tail were strong and more than sufficient for the task.
As she sprang from one roof to the next, inwardly she hated herself for it. Jumping about like this was beneath her dignity, but she wanted to ensure a smooth conquest more than she wanted to uphold her pride. That selfsame pride took further beating when one of the roofs gave way under her weight.
As she crashed to the floor below, screams rang in her ears. Angry and embarrassed more than she was hurt, she lashed out with her gaze and the screams died as the huddled women and children were turned to stone. Once she regained her composure, Medusa made her way back up to the roof and resumed her leaping.
Eventually she came to a one of the larger plazas in the city. It would take time to go around, but there were defenders to be dealt with. Some had proper weapons and carried themselves as if they had some training in how to use them, but others appeared to be nothing more than common townsmen armed with whatever was at hand. The revenants would be there soon, but it would be quicker to deal with them herself.
She gathered her strength to cast her gaze across the plaza and claim all the defenders in one fell swoop. As she did, though, just before the blindness came over her, she saw an arrow flying straight for her.
She did not dodge quickly enough. Ironically, the arrow struck her square in the eye. Her head was thrown back violently and all the strength in her body left her.
"My lady!" Belah Dinh exclaimed. "My lady!"
Any mortal creature would be dead and Medusa felt nearly so. However, the battle turned out, she did not know, for the darkness did not leave her.