23

Apr

by thefourpartland

Glancing backwards, he saw that the line of his soldiers had stretched out to the right, the man on that edge of battle attempting to hedge his unprotected side away from the foes who assailed him, with those placed near him unconsciously following. It was a natural outcome of fighting, and one which the sergeants and junior officers should have corrected. But his was the supreme responsibility, and so he paused in his individual combat to yell at the men, for in places their line was growing thin, either where wounds had taken place, or where soldiers had found the needs of their own survival to overtake their reluctance to appear cowardly in the sight of their friends.

What scant amount of reserves had been able to him were already in the line of battle, doing their utmost to keep the ring about the gate’s mouth closed. It was a ring that was all but broken, however, the numbers on the small keep overtop of the gate having mostly been overwhelmed, now fighting back to back against assailants from both the walls outside and the steps in. Granted, the attackers were being forced in the same perilous manner, their backs exposed to assault from further along the wall, but at the moment the greater physical abilities and natural ferocity of the humanoid raiders was doing the greater damage.

But it was to the next of the helfarchs that Iaprem’s attention was drawn, for the creature spared no time in slamming into the back of him as he was shouting the last of his orders. Immediately after the bulk of the creature struck him, he felt the thin trickle of blood, as one of its bladed hands sliced into a vulnerable gap in the armour, leaving his off arm much weakened and bleeding. There was also the foul stench of its breath as its teeth closed upon that same arm, but his armour being of a much higher quality than his poor subordinate saved him, and they found little purchase on the metal skin.

Swinging wildly, the sword overly heavy in but one hand, Iaprem spun about, blade flashing, but it was an attack well anticipated by the helfarch, and the large creature leapt backwards, settling easy onto its four limbs as it looked down upon its now wounded prey. Iaprem circled to his left for a moment, regaining feeling in his left arm and placing it once more upon the grip of his sword, the tip held out towards the helfarch in a challenge. The beast snorted, doing nothing more than looking with stern derision upon its smaller, weaker, foe.

Which drew quite a smile from Iaprem. A smile followed a mere second later by a great burst of flame, leaping from the tip of his sword in a solid line towards his surprised enemy, all too unable to manoeuvre its great bulk out of the way. The liquid fire splattered against the helfarch, engulfing the creature in a blaze which rivalled that from the massive bonfire at the back of the courtyard.

What followed was the screams of the helfarch, piercing, loud, and altogether unsettling, leading even Iaprem to step back in sudden horror as the flesh of the creature began to melt under the magical assault, slow drips sizzling and falling to the ground, there to smoke and fill the air with a putrid stench.

Shuddering despite having seen that effect of his sword in times past, Iaprem turned aside, looking to find the next of the helfarchs, but the last pairing had placed themselves in spots barely reachable, both visibly chewing upon limbs dangling from their mouths, one having been sliced clean, another torn free by the action of the jaws. Neither was unmarked, but the Cynlyaa soldiers around them were already the merest moments from flight, and did so as Iaprem watched, leaving a gaping hole in the left edge of the line.

Rather than seek to turn the line, as Iaprem expected them to do, they both cantered away, heading for a spot on the walls equidistant from both of the gates. And when his eyes were able to see past the blaze of heat and smoke from the twin bonfires in the courtyard, Iaprem could see the soldiers on the battlements there already struggling with their attackers, the helfarchs from inside the wall, and some humanoids from without.

The fresh recruits were doing far better than expected, in as much as they as yet held their posts and fought with intelligence, but with the northern gate as pressed as it was, there was little he could do aside from hold the entrance, and pray Yenque was able to assist.

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