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Friday, February 25, 2011
188.8.131.52. Fight Another Day - Part 1
Rain pours heavily over Freidle.
The night seems darker with thick clouds hanging on the sky and makes a darker shade on the weathered, blackened city walls. The only lights come from torches, shaded from the rain and lit with waterproof, temporary magical flame.
Help finally came, but the odds are not improving at all. Ten thousand dwarven soldiers and six hundred gyropters*) led by the Grand Trow of Grad’s son-in-law, Ivor Bigstumble have arrived this morning. They came along with five thousand more Borgian soldiers, aiding them in battles and helped them escape. The Borgian escapees’ arrival means one thing: The cities of Handelburg and Basken have fallen, and the enemy will reach Freidle before dawn, tonight.
Ah, why aren’t the dragon riders here now? Iris has been gone for four days, and she hasn’t sent news until now, Carolyn thinks, surveying from on board Airship Aurora hovering up in the air. She looks worried and nervous, being the only Paladin around. I really don’t want to run away at the sight of such multitude, but I don’t want to die here either – not until I see him again. Please come back quickly, Iris...
Carol drifts on in her thoughts when suddenly a shout startles her.
‘ENEMIES! ENEMY FORCES moving from the hills southeast! FAST!’
She takes out her telescope from her goodie bag and looks through it, pointing southeast. Alas, there’s nothing to be seen. The lookout must be a wizard or sorts who masters Night Vision or has super senses. The point is, the enemy is near. The Aurora crew relay the message to the city by sounding the alarms. Even the Captain, Quazar the centaur shouts out series of instructions with much haste.
Footnote: (* Gyropter: An open-cased helicopter, oil-fueled and lightweight. It accommodates two people: a pilot and a bomber/archer. The dwarves use it for warfare and transportation. They invented it by stealing Parthenian technologies later used to make airships. Gyropter is also equipped with an air-to-air cannon. For surface bombings, the bomber simply drops explosives from the air.
‘All hands to the deck! Battle stations! Ready, cannons and archers! This is it, my friends, our finest hour! Maybe the night and the rain will trouble us, but we’ll fight with the best we have, and we’ll give our foes hell!’
‘HUZZAH! HUZZAH! For Aurora, for Freidle! HUZZAH!’ The crew respond.
‘Great! Now we fight! For Eternia!’
The ground units also prepare with haste. Soldiers, militias, mercenaries and hunters. Men and women, old and young, everyone strong enough to fight, and even healers and support workers are here. The enchanters cast protection spells to the entire force. Catapults, weapons, ballistae and boulders undergo last-minute check, and all are ready.
Ready to take on enemies three times their number. Ready to fight to the death – or fight another day. The ground shakes, rumbling sounds echo through the air. The enemies have increased their pace.
\ The enemies come without warning and straight to the attack.
‘Maybe the Dark Forces are like that. Maybe they are just barbaric monsters who know no strategy. Or maybe they’re distracting us for something bigger, says the Commander, Sir Heinrich Ratzinger.
The other Knight who leads the reinforcements from Grad, Ivor the Beardless forces a smile. He is a blond-haired dwarf in full armor, brandishing a big hammer. He looks different than other dwarves because there’s no beard, no mustache on his clean-shaved face. He responds, ‘Whatever it is, we are ready. Wait until they taste our gyropters’ bombardments.’ Ivor looks calm and confident as he talks on, ‘Don’t worry, Sir Heinrich. I know the odds, and if things turn out ugly our gyropters will finish the job.’
Comes then a soldier, reporting to Heinrich. ‘Sir! The lookout saw the enemies! They’re charging in full speed and they’re... not human!’
‘MONSTERS!’ Heinrich shouts. ‘And the big ones are going to ram into our gates!’ Ivor talks, ‘If so, the air units will get into action earlier. Signal the gyropters to get ready in position!’
‘Archers! Wizards! Ready your weapons!’ Heinrich instructs. ‘Follow my orders promptly! Do not shoot unless I tell you to!’
Ivor just stares straight to the front. Now he sees the enemies clearly: monsters, mutants of all sizes charging wildly to the city from land and air. Giant dragonflies, werewolves, gnolls, kobolds, even the great beasts for ramming iron gates: giant mutant rhinoceroses with gigantic bull horns, and many more.
They come in multitudes, charging wildly. Except maybe the giant rhinos, which are steered by goblins towards the gates. The sheer number of them make even the Borgians, the bravest of warriors tremble. Yet, the soldiers still hold their fire – showing the strictest discipline.
‘Hold it! Hold it!’ shouts Heinrich.
Nobody shoots. Nobody even speaks. Even when shrieks, roars and rumbles get nearer… Even when they stare face-to-face with those hideous freaks of nature. And then, when enough monsters are within range…
A volley of arrows soars into the sky, blocking the moonlight and pours down like a rain – along with the rain – to the monsters. A great number fall, but those with thick hides like the rhinos move on. The second volley comes, but the rhinos are still unharmed.
In response of this situation, Ivor raises his hand and points southeast, shouting, ‘Gyropters, attack! Bombard the rhinos if you can!’
Soon, hundreds of firefly-like lights elevate into the dark sky. The gyropters point their lantern torch towards the enemies. They hover forward, and when they find their targets they throw bombs down.
Success! Fourteen out of twenty giant rhinos are blown to death before they reach the bridge to the gate. The wizards and dwarf bomb-throwers just have to deal with the rest.
Three gyropters are hit, crashing into the ground. It seems, no matter how good the flashlights are, the flying monsters are still too quick to follow with dwarf eyes. One gyropter even mistakably shoots another, sending the dwarves on it down with parachutes, swearing along the way.
More and more monsters swim below the bridge and crawl on the city wall without ladders – giant spiders, imps and more like them. Three soldiers poke them so they fall down, but more and more crawlers are swarming on the wall, too many even after four volleys of arrow.
The Borgians apparently come prepared for this. The soldiers pour gallons of hot oil from covered cauldrons over the wall. The stuff is hot enough to peel the crawlers off the wall, making the wall too slick and slippery to climb, with or without ladders.
More gyropters crash, and Ivor waves his command flag, signaling them to withdraw – or rather, to give way to a greater force, namely the Airship Aurora.
The archers on board the Aurora have the better targeting now the gyropters have moved away, and soon the aerial battle turns in the defenders’ favor.
It’s getting less and less noisy in front of the city wall as well. The monsters’ primitive attacks are hardly enough to breach the formidable, legendary walls of Freidle. Many flee, and many more charge on to their death. So far, the defenders are winning. However, Sir Heinrich’s face gets more tensed and pale.
‘I don’t like this,’ says he to Ivor. ‘This is too easy.’
Ivor nods, saying, ‘Yes, we haven’t seen a single orc or undead, and we didn’t see monsters in Ballax and Handelburg. You know what’s coming.’
Heinrich acts at once, ‘GET READY! ARCHERS! MAGES! SOLDIERS! ENEMY’S MAIN ARMY INCOMING!’
Soon, all are busy, preparing their weapons and getting into positions. The rain has died down. And suddenly, torches are lit from the enemies’ side, all along the plains from the south, southeast and east, filling the whole area… surrounding the city.
Rows and rows of Dark Armies in straight formation. All of them, more than one hundred thousand strong against fifty thousand defenders. Taking all calculations including defense and surprise into account, the odds still stand: two to one. If things doesn’t improve very soon, the Light Side must resort into the last gambit, the least favorable solution for this situation. Before that happens, they just have to buy some time in case more reinforcements come.
And pay for it with blood.
Heinrich realizes it all. He just stares at the enemy formations, so formidable and neat, showing confidence and inevitable threat for all in their way. This is what all fear of. The Dark Army of humans, orcs, goblins and undead.
And then comes a more frightening sight: the leader of the army, the overgrown red devil, Arachus. His generals stand behind him. From afar, Heinrich can hear the Archdevil’s eerie, thundering voice.
‘Here we are. Freidle, ours for the taking. Burn them, kill them, devour them all! Leave no survivors!’
Just then, a general with spider-like hands comes forward, wearing all-black armor, riding his fiery black horse: a sure terror for friend and foe alike. He speaks up to the Archdevil, ‘Lord Regent, may I lead the vanguard? I’d like to assert my full power after my rebirth.’
‘Of course, Nöac, Spawn of Vordac, the Black Prince. Just make sure the bodies are in full shape, so we can mold them into more undead soldiers.’
‘If it pleases you,’ says Nöac with a bow.
And then, he rides to the front, pulls his horse’s bridle so it lifts its two front legs. The troops beat war drums, shouting, ‘Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill!’ repeatedly, in rhythmic unison.