Chapter 4
Vicious Ants

AT 1083 (AZ 1455) - Late Spring
Outside the Ruins of Naus, The Darklands

Xorgoth refused to believe it. It simply was not possible. When a few humans were caught venturing near them, the vanguard went on ahead to investigate. If the humans represented a small force, the vanguard would be more than enough to wipe them out. If it was a great force, insofar as humans reckon greatness, the vanguard could still inflict a grievous blow and return so that the rest of them could get a taste of manflesh.
It was all too easy and yet the vanguard never returned. Led by Xordun and his son Xordor, surely they could not have fallen to the humans. True, Xorgoth did not love Xordun well, but he recognized his cousin's merit and ability. The blood of kings flowed in the veins of father and son, the same blood that flowed in Xorgoth's own veins. Even if the humans outnumbered them a hundred to one--no, a thousand to one--, it would be no great challenge. But where were they?
Tiny and frail and utterly beneath contempt though the humans were, they were a tricky lot, more so than any other creature to walk the earth. It was impossible, completely unthinkable, but what if the humans had somehow prevailed over the vanguard, leaving not a single survivor?
Restless and eager for an answer to the questions gnawing at him, he began to shout, "Aradok? Aradok! Come here!"
A fellow Black Dragon, a cousin of Xorgoth's mate given command of the main body of the flight, soon appeared, making a low bow before the King. His wings were spread and tilted in the grand display of courtesy in court rather than the smaller and subtler gestures preferred out in the field during a campaign.
"Yes, O King?" he asked.
"Ready the flight to move," Xorgoth said. "Xordun and the van have been gone too long. Perhaps they mean to enjoy all the sport without us. It would be unkind of him not to leave the rest of us a share."
"As you say, O King," Aradok replied, bobbing his head dutifully to the King's command.
Without the van, they would need additional protection for the main body, so Xorgoth told his lieutenant, "Have the left wing and the right form the arc of the crescent moon around the center."
"It shall be done," Aradok said, still bobbing along faithfully.
The order cascaded down the line and the flight was formed up. With everyone in position, they took to the air and ventured westward along the same path taken by the van. After a few hours of flight, they came into view, hundreds upon hundreds, no, thousands upon thousands of white specks like maggots bursting out of rotten meat. But where was Xordun and the van? Were they indeed lost?
No, it could not be. It was not possible. Even if these maggots swarmed the earth from horizon to horizon, they could not possibly wipe out some two hundred Dragons without a trace. Xorgoth would prove it.
"Send the left wing and right wing forward," he told two of the Greys that acted as his messengers. "Leave nothing alive."
"Your will be done, O King," the two Greys replied before departing to relay his orders to the commanders of each wing.
He sent the wings forward ahead of the main body to prove to himself that his ears were unfounded. Once they began to make a great slaughter on the ground, the rest of the flight would follow.
The two wings remained in their crescent formation, sweeping low to the ground to unload the flightless breeds, not even coming to a complete stop, moving on without to pause for the first wave of the attack. They would bathe the blasted earth with their flames and all would be as it should be.
Only everything was not as it should have been.
Before the first jet of flame could be loosed, the formation was torn apart. The air was filled with countless black darts and flashing beams of light. Xorgoth could not believe his eyes. How could mere humans wreak such carnage? It was one thing, even for a human, to bring down a Firedrake. They were not so large nor their scales so strong, but for Reds and even Blacks to fall from the sky, it was truly unbelievable.
Xorgoth refused to believe what his eyes were seeing, but even so, he knew that madness would sweep through the flight if they truly understood what was happening. Dragons were too proud. Their minds would shatter at the thought that mere humans could decimate them so.
He howled to the Dragons around him, "Down! Go! Destroy them! Leave none alive!"
And so the main body went down to join the tattered remnants of the left and right wings and the rearguard soon followed after them, but Xorgoth remained high in the air, still watching on in disbelief.
The humans were supposed to lose all heart, break ranks and scatter. They were to be consumed by burning flames and snapping jaws. Yes, many humans were dying, but at what a terrible cost.
Seeing the dead and dying strewn about overwhelmed his senses. He could no longer bear it. Throwing all caution to the wind, he swept down to sound the retreat, spewing purple-black flame and casting curses on the very ground the humans stood upon.
His people heeded his call. They left their dead and dying comrades. Those who could take to the air did. Their earthbound brethren broke into a sprint to get away. And even as they fled the battle, the humans continued their onslaught. Xorgoth himself was pierced by several of the infernal black darts, but they were not enough to bring him down. Some of the others were not so fortunate.
Once they were well out of the humans' range, a badly wounded Aradok flew to the King's side and said, "What calamity is this, O King? How could we be routed?"
"Trickery," Xorgoth insisted and his pride sorely wished to believe it. "Foul trickery is all. We will regroup and strike back to avenge our fallen brothers."
"As you say, O King," Aradok replied, but his voice betrayed his lack of any confidence.
Xorgoth would show him, but more than that, he would show the humans. Their trickery would not avail them a second time. They would learn to their sorrow just how brutal and unrelenting the wrath of a Dragon truly was. He would see them all burn and when he was done, he would lead his flight westward to their homeland and burn it from coast to coast--no, all the human lands would suffer for this insult. This Xorgoth, King of Dragons, vowed and this he would see fulfilled.