If there was one human settlement which had benefited the the most from Necropolis’ sudden rise to power, it would definitely be Gartmar. What used to be a small and reclusive mining town, had now transformed into a full-fledged city.
It was the same Gartmar which had been all but abandoned by the kingdom’s capital, but they still enforced an 80 percent tax on the mining which impoverished the people.
Then came along the Goblin King which terrorized the countryside. They asked for aid from the government on many occasions and when they finally arrived, they did little to combat the threat and rather preyed on the population, demanding exorbitant bribes for their services. When they eventually faced off with the Goblin King, they were one sidedly massacred and Gartmar never recouped their losses.
The smaller villages that neighboured them had been massacred, and now Gartmar was next on the Goblin King’s path. Unfortunately this tragic event just happened to coincide with the Elven expedition, causing adventurers to take up these seemingly easier quests which offered richer rewards, leaving the Goblins free to rampage.
The mayor, angry over the death of his relatives who had been living in the countryside even went so far as asking a neighboring empire to help, which could be interpreted as a rebellion against the crown. Even then, the nearby empires weren’t interested in interfering and Gartmar’s suffering continued.
Just as everyone had lost hope, a hero appeared out of nowhere. Leading a small band of a couple dozen adventurers, he managed to slay the Goblin King. A feat which thousands of the Kingdom’s soldiers had failed in.
The citizens cheered wholeheartedly for this hero who had saved their lives and that of their families.
However, this infamous hero had not been heard of since. Even the three female adventurers with whom he was supposedly close, were embarrassed to say that they had no news of him.
Regardless of how far, or how hard they searched for him, there were no clues to be found.
People began to talk, and rumours spread as it is so often the case in these small towns. There was talk that he was one the God’s apostles, a Messiah descending from heaven to aid them in their plight and now that the deed was done, he had returned back to heaven. He quickly became immortalized as the town’s legend and all of the citizens worshipped him.
Shortly after that the Elven expedition was in full effect. There was talk that their armies numbered in the thousands and that they were led by the mythical dragons.
All of Gartmar held their breath during that time. They all remembered how their hero had punished Elf sympathizers and were worried about retribution. Still, they never once supported the expedition, despite the overwhelming pressure of such a large army.
The power of such a force was so big that even if the different human kingdoms were to rally under one banner, it was unsure whether they could defeat them in open battle. All the neighbouring countries were watching the expedition very nervously.
In the end, everyone’s expectations had been shattered. The Elven forces retreated in panic, scattering in their forests. It was even rumoured that their dragons had submitted to the Pit’s King. The citizens of Gartmar once again silently thanked their hero. Had he not expressly stood against the Elves, perhaps the city would have aided them and suffered the wrath of King’s Pit as a result.
Shortly after, a woman appeared in town, claiming to be friends with Gartmar’s hero. She introduced herself as Ian and was accompanied by a talkative fairy and cute baby dragon. She became close with the three female adventurers and was quickly accepted by all the people in town who worshipped the hero.
As a result of that, Gartmar would once again receive a great boon. Alone, products made by the fairies and dwarves were not incredibly popular or sought after. However, when they combined the fairy’s enchantments with the dwarves’ superior craftsmanship, the value of such items skyrocket.
These incredible items were at first sold at relatively cheap prices by the hero’s friend, Ian. Superior weapons, armor and accessories had become a common sight across the town. Word of this quickly spread across the continent and the interest in Gartmar’s products had risen dramatically.
These products were soon traced back to the King of the Pit, but his city didn’t allow for human to visit for extended periods of time and establishing a trade route with them was incredibly difficult. Gartmar quickly became the only place to find these highly sought after goods.
Soon after, the city had been recognized as Necropolis’ exclusive trade partner, and Gartmar rapidly grew in size even rivaling their own kingdom’s capital. Necropolis had grown so much that simply by virtue of being their intermediary, Gartmar had profited immensely.
Of course, when things are going well for you, others are bound to be jealous of your success. The kingdom’s capital coveted Gartmar’s newfound power and luxuries. They had long viewed them as a town of country bumpkins and did not have a harmonious relationship due to years of extracting tax revenues, but providing few benefits. The king therefore was planning to remove the mayor of Gartmar and replace him with his own puppet to do his bidding.
Through his network of spies he had managed to learn that the mayor had sought help from a neighbouring empire during the Goblin King’s crisis, so it was used as a legal pretense.
“The mayor of Gartmar has been summoned to the capital to answer the crimes of treason.”
The King’s envoy had announced in the middle of Gartmar’s market, which had by now grown to be the largest in the country. From the nobility’s perspective it was unacceptable for such a small town to overshadow their great capital. The king felt that his plan would go off without a hitch, but that was not be. The carriage which was escorting Gartmar’s mayor to the capital was intercepted by adventurers who had never agreed with the nobility’s bully tactics.
“Mayor, we’ve come to save you!”
A group of adventurers arrived in the market led by Tyr and Kishande.
“Why would you do something so foolish, by saving me you are endangering everyone in town!”
“Isn’t it just you who is the target?”
Kishande quickly spoke up and the Mayor nodded.
“Ok, no use crying over spilt milk, we are we could now be considered to have officially rebelle, so we need to come up with a plan.”
The capital sent out a large army under the guise of delivering justice, while the mayor dipped into the town’s coffers to organize a militia and request support from his neighbours. It was at that moment that he met with Ian who had just walked into the market.
“You are Ian, right? Can you communicate with the hero?”
“The thing is we kind of have a bit of a problem…. ”
“Since he made a promise to protect this place so I’m sure he’ll keep his word.”
Although they were simple words that had just been said in passing, not to mention that it had all occured not too long ago. Naturally the citizens knew that Gaspard had every right to refuse the request, but they still held hope.
An army from the kingdom’s capital was marching on Gartmar. It would take them about one week’s time on foot, so that was all the time the city had to ready its defense and prepare for battle.
In the meantime, the diplomatic envoys sent out requesting aid had all been turned down. Their neighbours had also been jealous of Gartmar’s success and likely also had their own designs on occupying it.
Ten days later there was still no sign of the kingdom’s army. They sent a scout out to learn where they might be hidden, but there were no traces found. Later some rumors were spread among the adventurers that a large force of undead had been spotted marching on the capital, but no one had made the connection between them and the missing kingdom’s army.
Although how it happened remained a huge mystery, the result was incredibly favorable for Gartmar and disastrous for the capital.. They had sent out almost all of their army, leaving just a skeleton force to defend and keep the peace back at home. The jealous and greedy nobles had all pooled their private forces together and created a 50,000 man army, but somehow they had all disappeared into thin air.
“Your Majesty! Please spare us, our house can’t afford to send any more troops right now!”
“What! Are you trying to disobey a direct command from your king?”
The king threatened the other nobles using his position, It would be difficult for him to keep his title and stranglehold on his own city, let alone the country with only 3000 soldiers, when the capital’s population was 100,000.
The next day they received even worse news.
“What, a massive army of undead are marching on us?”
“Yes your majesty… with our small amount of troops we are unable to engage them.”
“Although the undead are normally quite weak and easily killed, but with such high numbers one can expect for there to be a necromancer involved which can easily revive them. Also, the most troublesome point are their suspicious numbers…”
“So the size of the undead force is similar to that our army which we have lost contact with?”
“Yes sire, it was reported by one of our senior scouts so its validity can be assured.”
“Lechan! Come in and report what is going on!”
The king summoned his chief royal knight who was guarding the throne room entrance in order to confirm the report. Normally he would always be by the kings side to ensure his safety, but he had to be sent to guard the entrance due to a shortage in manpower.
“ Yes sire, there are indeed about 40,000 plus skeletons and zombies. Their numbers are almost exactly the same as the troops which we sent out.”
“What is the meaning of this!? Quickly call for reinforcement from our allies! The civilians should also be armed and ready to fight. Well, what are you oafs waiting around for? Get to it!”
The impatient king had lost patience and gotten angry. He had thought that by sending a 50,000 man army to Gartmar he would be able to easily flatten that town of upstarts.
Of course he hadn’t sent his entire ary just for the sake of dealing with a remote village like Gartmar, but rather to put pressure on this new so-called super city which was ridiculously named Necropolis.
However, with his soldiers having disappeared and an undead army on his doorstep, it was akin to a one-two knockout combo and the kingdom safety couldn’t be assured.
It was problematic that the king would only consider his own soldiers as a simple numbers, rather than living human beings. If his soldiers had known his thinking, they would be turning in their graves, that was if they had been buried rather than marching on their own capital at the moment.
“Contact the Temple and tell them to dispatch priests! Aren’t the undead something that they should deal with?”
“I will do so immediately your majesty.”
“You don’t have time to answer! Quickly find a solution to these cursed undead!”
The king was frantically ordering his subjects, as he was trying to wrap his head around the current situation.
“Damn! When did it all start crashing down on me? Was it when I started interfering with Gartmar’s mayor? Or was it when I sent out the military? Could all of this have happened because I was falsely accusing the mayor for treason?”
The king was deep in thought, trying to unearth the cause behind his recent troubles. How does his own army disappear and then become a legion of undead marching on his capital in just 10 days time?
‘There’s no one on the continent with that kind of ability right? Wait, wasn’t Necropolis’ ruler a DemiLich? Then maybe….’
Suddenly all the pieces of the mystery were coming together. What if Necropolis’ ruler had some sort of connection to Gartmar? It would explain the small town’s recent rise to fortune, and as a DemiLich he would have the ability to raise an army of undead.
That cursed King was powerful and had even managed to subdue the Elves’ dragons, so with that and the connection the recent undead, gave credence to his suspicions.
“How dare he get involved! Bring me the god’s stone!”
The Mirin Kingdom had long protected this sacred stone, they had received it as part of a covenant with a High God many years ago. However there was a price to use the god stone, which was the king’s very own lifeforce. For that reason it was a trump card which few kings had ever used, save for grave matters of life and death.
Facing Necropolis’ ruler who had managed to subdue dragons and kill the Devil King and now stood at the top of the continent, the poor king felt his impending doom and didn’t hesitate to use the god stone.
Holding the sacred stone which emitted a bluish light in his hands, he began the proper incantation.
The blue light brightened, absorbing the king’s lifeforce as his face aged and deep wrinkles appeared.
“King of Mirin! According to the oath taken by your first king and ancestor whose blood runs through your veins, I, Michael have descended. Kneel!”
In the middle of the throne room an eight-winged angel appeared and all the servants, knights and king in the room prostrated themselves before him.
“We welcome you, Oh envoy of the God’s.”
“I already know of your troubles, and will fight your war. In four days time I will appear before your northern gate and await the enemy.”
Having finished speaking, he disappeared in a blinding flash of light.
“Make sure that all our forces are ready and mobilized in four days time!”
By the kings order mandatory conscription was done among the peasantry. He was ready to risk it all in this clash against Necropolis. If only he could defeat them here, he would naturally become the new superpower on the continent.
All the civilians in the capital could be subject to conscription, and out of their population of 100,000 they had managed to arm a force of about 40~50,000 men, women and children.
And so began Johra’s new challenge.