24

Nov

by thefourpartland

A quite long excerpt from my NaNo novel, as the humans and their allies look to turn the tide of the war.

The humans had been charged with slipping through Bæran and striking straight for the buildings that were thought to hold the officers of the Þracian army. They were able to slip into the city proper with ease, for the troops guarding the harbour had been overwhelmed within moments, although not before they had been able to cry out a warning.

Soon the city brightened, as defenders lit torches and scattered them about. Unfortunately for the Hálsiendic troops, the primary Þracian encampment was outside the city, much as it had been with Telgian. The Þracians apparently did not like housing designed for Hálsiend families, and there were places where Þracian style towers had begun construction.

A javelin flew from the darkness, striking Sawwaed in the chest and knocking him to the ground. Cursing, he struggled to his feet as more flew, a rain that had the humans hiding against the walls of the buildings for shelter. They had been trying to slip through the alleys of Bæran, and had run into a Þracian patrol doing the same.

Dashing to the front, Bwyell and Sawwaed were able to block most of the narrow lane, and advanced upon the foe, shields held high. Their Áðexe enemies came snarling and hissing, driving forward with short cutting blows, some aimed at the less protected ankles. Atyniadol and Fynyddwr took up positions behind the two warriors, flinging blades and shooting arrows through the gaps. Áðexe fell under the attack, but they responded by arcing their javelins to carry into the second rank of the humans, and both were forced to dodge aside, less they be skewered.

Tarranau joined the fight then, a sheet of ice spears crashing down from above, slamming the Þracian soldiers to the ground and crushing or piercing many of them. In the moments of confusion that followed, Bwyell and Sawwaed leaped ahead, lashing out with their war hammers and slaying many. Seeing their attack shattered in a single instant broke the morale of the Þracians, and they turned and fled, spurred onwards by arrows from Fynyddwr.

The city became a running fight for the humans, being struck in the side or attacking into unsuspecting foes. Twice they met Á?ðan, who was leading an assault down a main avenue with a reckless grin on his face. He waved each time, before getting back to the business of killing his enemies.

As the battle meandered about, wounds and injuries began to accumulate. Atyniadol and Fyn both sported gashes to their ribs, courtesy of javelins that had not quite been deflected. Sawwaed was seeing stars, for a clubbing blow had broken the strap to his helmet and sent it spinning away, while Bwyell limped, blood running slowly from a leg wound. Only Tarranau and Ceinder were unwounded, but both were visibly tired, for multiple times had they had to use their talents to turn the outcome of a battle.

Still, they made progress as they struggled through Bæran, and the newly-constructed tower that was their goal lay ahead. According to spies that had remained in the city, that was where the officers of the Þracian kept themselves. Clearly visible, the tower was blocks and blocks of soldiers away, and they despaired of ever reaching their goal.

The ground creaked, and the building to their right fissured open, spraying them with shards of rock. Ceinder was able to deflect the worst of it, and armour caught the rest, but the grit stung their eyes and the attacks disoriented them, as a wave of Áðexe spilled out from the new opening and slammed into the humans, bowling over Fynyddwr and Sawwaed. Cursing, Tarranau ripped into the enemies with waves of ice, pulling the moisture from Áðexe bodies to make the weapons.

His attack sliced into many of the Áðexe, but they withstood his attack, and he saw that they wore armour, the first time the watermage had noted that on an enemy. Ceinder shouted a warning, and Tarranau dropped to the ground as a rock flew through the space where he had been. A thought flashed through his mind and he searched with his talents, finding a body of water tucked inside the opening blown from the building. A Þracian stonemage.

Bwyell hammered down, his weapon slamming a soldier off of Sawwaed. Thumping another with his shield, the bodyguard created enough space for the Veryan warrior to struggle to his feet, just catching another soldier’s attack on his armour. Growling at the Áðexe, Sawwaed and Bwyell locked shields, facing their enemies as they swarmed towards them, shields and swords glinting in the torchlight.

Fyn stabbed upwards, his short knife thrust catching the Áðexe in the throat before its jaws could close on his face. Throwing the body from him, he struggled to his feet, his arms heavy. A flick of the wrist sent the dagger spinning into the eye of a soldier attacking Atyniadol, who nodded in thanks. Turning, she fired off three daggers in quick succession, two of which skipped away into the night, the third punching through the thin armour at the shoulder and causing an Áðexe to drop his weapon. The opening let Fyn put an arrow through the Þracian’s throat.

Ceinder felt another surge building, and pushed back, hard, sending the Þracian stonemage tumbling. The mage crawled to his feet, visible to her talents, and she felt the rock all about them trembling as the Áðexe worked at many different areas at once. Unable to defend so many attacks at once, she pushed at the ground beneath his feet, tipping him to the ground once more. But the attacks did not stop, and as they burst she shouted for Tarranau to slay the stonemage.

Tarranau dove to the ground, moments before the stone ripped through the air where he had been standing. Even with the warning, his reactions had not been fast enough, and he could feel blood oozing from two wounds in his back, where the fragments had punched through his armour. That bastard would get it. Pulling more moisture from the air, he formed it into a thin layer of sleet and threw it at the struggling combatants, letting it momentarily blind all of them. Then he began to pull at the air all around him, at the Áðexe, at everything but his allies within reach. The moisture formed a great globe in front of him, and he directed his talent at it, cooling it down until it was nothing more than a great globe of ice.

Sawwaed swung high, his attack dodged by the Þracian soldier, who counted with a quick sword strike that left a line across his stomach. The armour held, screeching in protest, and the warrior lashed out with his shield, hoping to thump his foe to the ground. Dancing backwards, the Þracian’s place was taken by another Áðexe, who thrust over the shield, angled down at Sawwaed’s eyes. Bwyell’s shield intercepted the attack, and the countering blow from the bodyguard sent the Áðexe stumbling backwards, wounded but not out of the fight.

“This damn armour is a problem!” It was woven from layers of stone, with softer layers of earth packed in between, enough to deflect the full impact from the hammers.

“So hit harder!” Sawwaed drove forward again, his weapon coming about in a low slash, cutting at thigh of his enemy. The opponent’s shield came down to meet the blow, but Bwyell’s attack snaked over the top, and the spike on the war hammer sunk into the Áðexe’s thigh.

Atyniadol was forced back against a wall, a physically larger Þracian pressing in on her, its teeth gnashing at her face. It clawed at her face, and as she dropped to avoid the strikes it smashed its knee into her chest, leaving her doubled up on the ground, gasping for breath. A dagger flashed into the Áðexe’s hand, and the soldier struck downwards. A desperate twist and the dagger bit into her side, leaving her ribs gashed.

Another strike followed, this at her throat, but before it was completed a knife sprouted from the face of her opponent, and she waved her thanks to Fynyddwr. Pulling the dagger from the soldier’s hands, she turned to face another oncoming Áðexe, who sought to bowl her over. A quick dodge and a short thrust left the warrior bleeding out on the ground, but not before she had garnered another gash.

Fynyddwr slid backwards, trying to maintain his footing amidst the sea of corpses and blood that was forming on the ground. Pressed from the left and the right, the mountaineer faked an attack to one side, and then lashed out to the other, hoping that his speed would confuse his opponents. It did, but the Áðexe armour caught his attack and made it mostly harmless. The Þracian counted with a spear thrust from behind its shield, driving Fyn further backwards.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw his other foe coming in for an attack, but too slowly he turned to counter, and the Þracian blade bit home on the outside of his thigh, a deep strike. In desperation he flung his knife into the face of the Áðexe, thinking it no more than a delaying tactic. Luck was with him, for his blade struck true and pierced the eye of his enemy, giving Fyn enough time to twist away from a spear thrust. A second followed, and weaponless, the mountaineer could do no more than give ground, being forced away from his allies with each moment.

Ceinder raised her shield high, catching an oncoming spear thrust. The Þracian soldiers had broken through to her position, and she was forced to use the shields she held in front of her to block the strikes aside. Another attack, and she had to step backwards, stumbling over the body of a downed foe. Falling, she maintained her composure enough to push hard against the armour her Áðexe foe wore, sending him tumbling towards Sawwaed, who finished the lizard with a swift blow.

Climbing to her feet, she looked about, a momentary pause in the action allowing her the freedom. The battle was a complete mess, with corpses and blood and snow combining to form treacherous footing, now supplemented by the shards of rock and ice that the Áðexe stonemage and Tarranau had been using as weapons. Bwyell and Sawwaed were wounded, Fyn was struggling badly, and Atyniadol had blood running from a wound in her armour. Only Tarranau stood untouched, his eyes shut as he directed a great sphere of ice.

The watermage shoved with all of his talent, sending the ball crashing through the wall of the building, blasting it inwards. Once it had punched into the room, he gestured, shattering the sphere into a thousand fragments that sprayed about, eviscerating all that was within. Stones that had hung in the air and walls that had bulged with magical pressure groaned and collapsed, as the Þracian stonemage found his talent permanently silenced.

Turning his attention to the rest of the battle, Tarranau pulled the ice back to him, grabbing more liquid from the air before flinging it in great sheets at the foes about him. He was tired, and his aim was poor, and some some shards struck Atyniadol and Bwyell, one leaving a red gash across the warrior’s wife.

Sawwaed cursed at the watermage, even as the razors of ice cut through the foes in front of him, levelling them like so much wheat before a scythe. He was unable to follow up on the opening, almost as battered by the storm as his enemies were, and he stumbled before righting himself. Bwyell faired better, protected behind the bulk of Sawwaed. The bodyguard was able to strike in quick succession, downing three more Þracian warriors.

The Þracians seemed to come in waves, and yet more appeared as those in the front ranks fell. There were now twenty or thirty corpses on the ground, and the footing was so poor that Bwyell would often find his feet sliding with each strike he threw. If the Áðexe charged, he would be unable to brace himself, and once he was on his back, the armour and slipperiness would make it almost impossible for him to rise again. Hoping that no Áðexe was so bright, Bwyell turned so that his back was to one of the low walls of the surrounding buildings, hoping that would provide him some small support.

Fynyddwr’s leg left a trail of red as he dodged away from the spear of his enemy, and he shouted for assistance. There wasn’t any to be had, of course; all the other humans were equally engaged with enemies. And so the mountaineer did what he had to do, diving at the legs of his Þracian foe, tackling the larger creature to the ground. The spear was trapped between their bodies, and the shield made the Áðexe unable to use one of its claws to strike.

Pinning the other arm wide away from its body, Fyn headbutted the Áðexe as hard as he could, narrowly avoiding being caught in the snapping jaws. The attack stunned the soldier, and in the moment’s lapse, the mountaineer got to his feet and dashed back to his friends, grabbing weapons from the fallen corpses.

Now armed with two swords, he turned back to his enemy, who had risen with spear and shield intact. The spear flicked out, a lashing strike, but Fyn batted it away easily. He shifted his stance, and found that the wounded leg could barely take his weight. Gritting his teeth, he stepped forward onto it anyway, one blade flicking across high, the other coming in on a low arc. The upper blade lifted the shield high and out of the way, letting the second sword strike deep into the thigh of the Áðexe.

Bleeding from multiple wounds, Atyniadol lent against a structure, her breath coming in short sharp gasps. A flick of her wrist and a cry of pain sent a dagger spinning towards a soldier attacking her husband. The knife bit home enough to distract the Þracian, and with that opening, Sawwaed broke the skull of his foe. Fresh blood slipped from her wounds, and she sank tot he ground, exhausted and strangely tired.

Ceinder sent a spray of grit towards a foe harassing Tarranau. Too small to wound, still the spray was enough to distract, and a sword formed of ice split apart the Þracian’s head. More and more she found herself pushing the very boundaries of killing, for she had become adept at catching the attention of enemies, and letting that momentary lapse form an opening for one of her allies. No, she did not strike the killing blow, but only barely.

Looking about her at all the bodies that lay upon the ground, she realized that despite her personal conviction that she not kill, she must have already crossed the boundary that Tarranau had so feared, for she had caused death, and it lived all about her now. Still, she held the line, and sent a wave rippling through the earth, upsetting several Áðexe as they charged at the warriors.

His head throbbing and his eyes threatening to leap from his head, Tarranau pulled yet more water to him, lifting snow from the ground, grabbing at the spilled blood of so many foes, as he formed more and more sabres of ice. Each went flickering into battle over the shoulders of the warriors, cutting through Áðexe after Áðexe, striking from high above or down low.

He staggered as the eight sabres entered the fray, and moments later the watermage was sitting on the ground, still jousting with eight limbs. He let his physical body lie still as his talents roamed free, attacking with devastating speed, carving through the ranks of the Þracian soldiers. Despite their bravery, the morale of the Áðexe weakened, until a wave of panic broke over them, and they turned and fled. Then he blacked out.

Fynyddwr’s swords described two halves of a circle, cutting in at his foe. Both bled from multiple wounds, but the Áðexe had the worst of it. Seeing his allies routed, the soldier leaped forward, spear aimed between the mountaineer’s legs to tangle them. Fyn managed to stay on his feet, but the now free hand of the Þracian came over the top, landing a crushing strike to his head, sending the human stumbling.

Seeing its opening, the soldier leaped at the fallen man, only to find that his leap had impaled the Þracian on a sword. In his last dying moments, the warrior bit down hard, teeth sawing against the edge of the helmet, claws scraping against armour. Too tired to fend off the assaults, Fynyddwr prayed that the armour would hold. It did, barely, but the mountaineer had passed out.

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