You could smell the sap in the air, it made it thick.
A horses hoof gilded with gold revealed itself from a cloud of predawn mist, pulling behind it a chestnut mare. Her sinewy muscles supported full packs, a fabulously embroidered blanket and a saddle, which held a rider.
The rider sniffed. The pine got thicker the further north you traveled. The landscape changed from the central city full of glass and concrete to rocks, dirt, and ice. He sniffed again. He had come to love the scent, to associate it with a feeling of power and lust. He was back in the northlands and the rewards would be sweet. A calm reverie came to him, peering through the fog to seek out the target he was hunting.
The icy wind whipped through the small regiment of mounted soldiers that followed his horse from the mist. They were teeming with anticipation and ready for attack; in this way they were like his mare, always on guard during the preparation for battle. And, like his mare these few men were loyal. Loyal to him, the one that they called their General.
Deformed and hulking, 100 battle ready gollem soldiers followed the calvary and flanked him on foot. These souls pulled from the lowest depths of his city were stable, but not for long. They would disintegrate soon, so the battle must be quick. The magic that kept them alive, and the sins that weighed them down could not sustain them for long.
Odd traders and mercenaries came behind the company, with purpose, toward a city bereft of virtue, high in the Northlands. They were not there to fight, but they had a loyalty to money; money would be gotten from the goods and the slaves that were taken from the city just over the crest of hills. A loyalty to their leader would insure them of their payday, so they were loyal to him but only as long as he led them to line their pockets with gold.
A figure larger than even the General advanced on foot, breaking the trance of the leader by placing his hand on the armored shoulder.
The blonde man turned to him, “ It is time, Sir.” he said in an almost whisper.
Receiving only a curt nod in response Agaliarept, High Commander of the General’s army, removed his hand and swung into his own horse’s saddle. Cyperian and Agaliarept began to breathe in tandem. Slowly at first, the breaths in long and languid, forced out fast and sharp. Faster and faster they drew air in and out. As the sun broke the plane of the sky, and dawn’s first light was seen, the General let out a piercing roar. The mounted men doubled over at the sound, clutching their bodies as a writhing overtook them.
What were the form of men began to change, to evolve, to features of all creatures. Horns sprouted as screams erupted, burgeoning fur and occasional wings now dappling the mounted men behind Cyperian. As bones cracked, the cries became louder and stronger mingling with those of the deformed soldiers behind them whose bloodlust was being stoked by the crackling energy that transformed the leaders.
They were ready to ride.