21

Apr

by thefourpartland

It was now midnight in the courtyard of the old palace at Cynlyaa, and all was still, silent, and, mostly, dark. Torches lay scattered here and there along the battlements, and occasionally one would rain down before the gate, illuminating the ruined roadway there, but otherwise little in the way of movement from either of the factions involved could be seen.

That all changed as the moon swept out from behind the clouds that had obscured it, bathing the scene below in a dim and dusky light, barely enough for those of a human persuasion to navigate by. Certainly not enough for them to fight, or to see projectiles fly out of the night. But fly they did, in the barest number, but enough of an indication that the raiders assault was underway. And a sign to Iaprem that, no matter how ferocious the beasts that made up their shock troops, the forces of the raiders were little more than undisciplined rabble. Most certainly not soldiers.

He stood, waiting, as did the elite soldiers he had been able to cobble together from the various units, in the courtyard behind the gate, assuming that the main thrust would break the rotted would in short order. Of course, such a positioning meant that he was unable to see the first phases of the battle, and so it was only the shouts of the men on the battlements, and the whoosh of their slings and javelins, that told him the raiders had approached the gates themselves.

Soon there came the sounds of strain and then thumps, some wet and some not, the audible signals of stones being levered over the crenellations and onto those creatures below. But even as the first wave of impacts drifted away into the night, there came the heavy thud of something striking the gate, no doubt driven by arms more than human. Indeed, the way the gate groaned from but the second of the strikes suggested that whatever was wielding the battering ram was a great deal stronger than a human, or that the gates were weaker than anticipated.

As it was, it took a mere four strikes for the gates to fall open, their rotted wood snapped backwards over the barricade of stones that had buttressed their lower half. And to the top of that buttress leapt the attackers, gnolls, goblins, orcs, and all other manner of humanoid detritus. But most frightening of all were those creatures only just putting aside the logs they had wielded as battering rams: helfarchs. Several times the size of an adult human, they were quadrupedal in nature and possessed of a vicious lower jaw, while bone blades extended from the hands of the helfarch, replacing the last two fingers. Muscles rippled under the scaly skin, the arms attached lower upon the torso, while their feet were little more than bone stumps. If they were able to get past him and amongst his men, almost nothing would stop their rampage.

Knowing that the outcome of the battle rested upon the his ability to break through and rout the helfarchs, Iaprem leapt forward, his claymore sweeping from left to right in a simple attack at waist height. And as it did so, it burst into dazzling, stunning, light, fire roaring along the length of the blade and searing through the flesh of those unfortunates who had made themselves the front line of the humanoid charge. They fell to the side, mewling in pain, what fur they possessed releasing a foul stench as it slowly burnt away.

Behind him, the bonfire blazed into glorious light, and all along the ramparts torches that had lain dormant gave forth a warm and welcome glow, illuminating all the battlements and courtyard with light to see by. The attackers growled in frustration, their eyes forced to suddenly adjust to the blazing light they faced.

Despite the impressive actions of his first strike, around him there was no reluctance from the raiders to press forward, and although they generally attempted to stay out of his range, they had no qualms crashing into the front rank of his men, some even leaping straight onto the crumbling rock walls of the castle and climbing to get at the slingers and archers who made up the guards upon the top of the gate.

A bellow from below was able to warn those of their approaching danger, but soon they were hard pressed, apparently beset not only by climbers from this end of the gate, but also from without. Whatever happened there, though, was going to be beyond his powers to affect, for Iaprem soon found himself pressed in close about, his great sword proving somewhat less than effective when forced into a fighting line by the discipline of the soldiers behind him and the constant assaults of the raiders.

Flails, spears, swords, and all manner of weapons crashed into his men, most to be deflected away by shields, armour, or upturned arm, but there were always some that got through, and staggering away from the fighting line could be seen the wounded, heading towards the blaze at the back of the courtyard where stood those few men who were able to be spared and who had some knowledge of herbs and the like. Amongst those, of course, was Dregnon, although his eyes were often turned upwards, watching the boys in the tower above, waiting for the signal that the other gate had been assaulted. As of yet, the signal had not yet flowered, and the battle was merely being fought on the one front.

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