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Short Story Friday: The Gate p.10- Patience


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P.1P.2P.3P.4P.5P.6P.7P.8 P.9 P.11P.12aP.12bAftermath

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“ARCHERS!”

The sound of a hundred bowstrings vibrated in the thick seaside air. Three longships sailed into Wacom’s tiny harbor past the burning wreckage of earlier attacks. “Wait for it, wait for it,” the keels hit the beach, “FIRE!”

A hundred fire arrows sailed over my head into the beach below. The  burning pitch set one of the ships sails alight. Others felled raiders, but the pushed on up Walcom’s narrow streets. “Bowmen, fire when ready,” I said. Dwarven crossbowmen, behind thick man sized wooden shield fired at the incoming horde. The archers joined the fray. Some of the raiders tried to use whatever cover the houses or their small round shield would give them, but that only delayed the inevitable. With their ships on fire, their only way was forward, funneled into killing zones by the narrow streets that led to the bluffs above. Others threw spears or fired their own crossbows. One dawrven bowman fell, wounded on the shoulder, but his fellows dispatched the offender. The dwarven vanguard took out their short swords and moved forward, dispatching the remainder of the attackers then returned to their position.

I knelt beside the wounded dwarf, “Hold still.”

“I am holding still, lad!” screamed the dwarf, “just get it out already.”

“Ly, give me that dagger,” I said to Lysandra.

“You called me Ly, how cute!”

“The dagger please, Your Highness.”

Her impish smile turned into a fierce scowl. She handed me a curved silver dagger. I dug out the arrow and healed the wound. Gambon, the bowmen leader came over, “We gotten the better of them, I can’t believe they would try that again.”

“They tried three times already.”

“Aye, but a fourth, with light fading–” Grizzle who sat on his hunches with his muzzle level with Gambon’s face licked the dwarf’s nose, “Bloody beast!”

I thumped Grizzle lightly on the top of his head, “Stop it! Don’t lick the dwarf!” Grizzle growled in something akin to a laugh. My eyes focused on the horizon. Flashes of light illuminated the clouds above. The King’s navy battled with the enemy fleet. Wizards on both sides hurled fire and lighting while griffons dueled drakes for control of the skies above. Yet, a portion of the enemy always broke through. “Most of their successful raids have been at night, my guess is that they will try again before the morn.”

We didn’t have any cavalry to scout the surrounding area. Our position on the bluffs made any frontal attack difficult and the marsh to the north protected our flank, but we were vulnerable to an attack from the south.  I only had three hundred men under my command, divided equally into archers, crossbowmen and regular infantry. With enough time to dig in, we could hold out against a force three or four times our size, but I doubted the enemy would give us any.

The night passed without incident, except for the flashes in the horizon. Keeping the guards alert proved difficult, even with low casualties, a forced march, a day waiting for the enemy to come and the constant threat from the sea wore all of us down, even the ever chipper Lysandra. Gambon woke me around midnight. “We are short of arrows, bots and pitch, plus the men are tired.”

“We have to hold on until relieved, less the enemy sweep inland and burn our crops. If they destroy our fishing and our fields, many will die come winter,” I said. Grizzle slid his head on to my lap.

“Maybe, but if the enemy makes a serious push, we won’t last long,” Gambon said.

“They haven’t done yet, I doubt they will at least for now.”

The morning changed all that.

“Sails on the horizon,” said one of the guards.

“Movement to the south!”  cried another.

Five sails, thirty or so raiders in each, plus whatever numbers came from south. A classic hammer and anvil. The hammer came by land, the anvil by sea. “Gambon, can your people hold?”

“Aye, we can, forever and a day if we have to!” he shouted back.

“Royal guards men, to me!” The infantry rallied into five rows, twenty men each. “Lysandra  stay close behind and when I give the word order the archers to fire three volleys over our heads, understood,” I said. She nodded and relayed my orders to the sergeant in charge of the archers.  We moved south. In the distant we spotted a force at least twice our size. What they lacked in heavy armor or shields, they made up for in volume.

When in doubt, attack.

“For our King, For Our Faith, For Our Land, CHARGE!” Both lines rushed toward the other. Wood and fleshed collided. Our wings gave way, forming a wedge that drove deep into the enemy center. “MAY THE TWELVE GIVE ME STRENGTH!” My body glowed with holy light. Men fell to my blade. A stab here, a slash there, but more filled their place. A lighting bolt ripped through the enemy, from left to right. A figured disappeared in flash and reappeared above the fray.  A fireball exploded among the raider’s ranks. It blasted a ten foot crater, from which emerged a giant of rock and earth. It battered the raiders with arms as thick as redwoods. The enemy broke in disarray. “NOW!”

Arrows arched over us and struck home. The attack disintegrated as the enemy fled. Over my shoulder I saw the enemy hit the dwarf’s forward ranks and push them back. “Back to the town!” We broke into a full run, shouting like madmen. Steel clashed on the narrow streets of  Wacom. A guard man fell with a blood curdling scream, a hatchet buried between his eyes. Grizzle ripped the throat of his target. Lysandra took down foe after foe in her position on a rickety rooftop.

“Drive them back to the ships!”

That we did, until the last of them fell at our feet. Their blood turned the outgoing tide red. I looked around. Only a third of the infantry remained, and about half of the dwarven vanguard. No more flashes in the horizon, only plumes of smoke remained.

“Water, I need some water,” it was Simon, resting against a wall of a burned out building. I handed him a waterskin, “Thank you.” He looked even more grim than before. Dark bags under his eyes, an a beard covered in white. “I…came…as fast…as I could…lost many of my best disciples at…sea. Tired, so very…tired.”

“You came just in time my friend.”

He looked around at the dead, “Not soon enough.”

Lysandra joined us. Tears streamed down her cheeks, “So many….”

I hugged her. Damned if anyone saw us, not like I cared. “Be strong Ly, for both us, for all of us.”

“You’re going to need that strength, old friend, the drums grow louder each day. This war has just begun.”

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11 comments on “Short Story Friday: The Gate p.10- Patience

  1. […] Sir Jonah must show Patience in facing enemy hordes who want to destroy all the he believes […]

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  2. […] P.1 – P.2 -P.3 – P.4 – P.5 -P.6a – P.6b –  P.7 – P.8 – P.9 -P.10 […]

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  3. […] – P.2 – P.3 – P.4 – P5 – P.6a – P.6b -P.7 – P.9 – P.10 […]

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  4. […] Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5- Part 6a – Part 6b -Part 8 – Part 9 – Part 10 […]

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