Author Topic: Battle at Granite's Reach  (Read 2957 times)

machmoth

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Battle at Granite's Reach
« on: June 27, 2012, 04:54:04 AM »
It’s easy to be a good person when nothing is on the line.

“Huh?”  Limwen pulled herself from a daydreaming daze.  The young moon elf woman was in blood spattered, plate armor beside a waning bonfire.  It was well into the night and her only companion was a male elf named Aragos.  He was dressed in similarly besmirched war attire.

Aragos repeated himself.  “I said it’s easy to be a good person when nothing is on the line.  You were complaining about some of the other mercenaries being mean to you.  I’m just saying they really aren’t all that bad.”

Limwen stared at the ground with a look of embarrassment.  “I guess I was.   I'm sorry, I was just talking to myself.”

Aragos gave a friendly smile.   “If the two of you would like to be left alone—”

“No.  I would rather have the company, if only to keep from looking like a fool who talks to herself.”

“If the lady insists, then I am here at her whim.”

Limwen laughed.  “You are the first person to call me that since I got here.”

“What, a lady?” asked Argos.  “I felt the description fit.  Though, I must admit, you are the first woman mercenary I’ve met who didn’t bite back with a sarcastic jab or roll your eyes in disgust at the term.”

“Are you sure they didn’t just think you come off a bit cheesy?”

“Alas, my cheese is my curse.  But no, I feel it has more to do with their impressions of themselves than of me.  The average woman warrior regards their gender as something of a stigma—a hurdle to be jumped and left behind.  I wouldn’t be so brash as to call this men’s work that we do, but the description ‘manly’ is apt.  Traditional notions of what it means to be a lady are a poor fit to the battlefield.”

“So, they think me weak?”

“They think everyone weak until they prove themselves.  Since you’re a vulture, that probably won’t happen, but don’t let it get you down.”

She furled her brow.  “Vulture?”

Aragos chuckled.  “An endearing term for mercenaries without a company.  It implies you follow companies around, feeding off whatever easy scraps of a job you can find, much the way a vulture stalks rotting—”

“I get the metaphor now, thanks,” she interrupted.  “I don’t like to commit to something if I’m not ready to follow through to the end.  Right now, this is just work, until something better comes along.”

“I think most of us felt that way.  It’s always ‘one more job’, looking for that payday that will set us straight.  Truth is, most of us will be doing this for the rest of our lives—likely, our very short lives.  What future are you saving towards, if I may ask?  A farm?  Your own shop?”

Limwen hesitated.  “I don’t—”

She was cut off by the sound of a horn.  “Banites at the gate!” came a cry from the wall.

“Damn!” shouted Aragos.  “Didn’t we kill enough of them this afternoon?”  He grabbed his bow and quiver and broke into a sprint.

Limwen retrieved her axe and shield and gave chase.  “The Captain isn’t back yet.  We’ve only got half of our men.”

“He won’t be back until morning.  It’ll have to be enough.”

Limwen pondered a moment before a grim expression covered her face.  “The call came from the north wall and there’s only one road down the north face.  I don’t think he’s coming back at all.”

The town of Granite’s Reach was nested amidst rocky, jagged cliffs.  Though the west gate lead to a major trade road after half a day’s march, the north side was only accessible through a long and narrow crevice.

Aragos winced at the thought, but put on a strong face.  “Captain Grey is resourceful.  I’m sure he found a cave or the like.  What’s important right now is protecting Granite’s Reach in his absence.”  He paused for a moment.  “Attacking the north wall is a huge mistake.  We should still be able to hold them with what we have.”

Limwen and Aragos were the first to answer the call, but they could hear the rest of the mercenaries and guards rushing to their side.  A town guard commander was directing archers to positions on either side of the crevice and along the wall.  Though it was dark, Aragos’s keen vision made out over 200 enemies amassed in the crevice.  Most wore dark, heavy armor embossed with the hand of the evil god Bane.  With what remained of the Grey Knights, other mercenaries and guards, Granite’s Reach had only about 75 men in its defense.

He then picked Captain Grey out of the crowd, followed by several more of his companions.  “Hold your fire, they have the Captain!” he shouted.

“Good eye, Aragos,” yelled Captain Grey.  “Now order the men to stand down and open the gate.”

“In the nine hells we will!” Limwen shouted.

Aragos motioned with his hand for her to settle down.  “Begging the Captain’s pardon, but the lady does have a point.  That would make defending Granite’s Reach rather difficult.”

“Our contract is with the Banites now,” the Captain replied, “and I promise you they’ve got a lot less patience for your lip than I do, Aragos.  Granite’s Reach is theirs now.  Do as you’re told.”  

By this point, most of the men had arrived and were at the ready.  The Captain cleared his throat and spoke to them at the top of his voice.  “Men, Bane pays our wage now.  Kill the guards and anyone who has a problem with our new arrangement.”

“Hold that order!” shouted Aragos.  “We can still free the Captain.”

“Don’t bother,” Limwen said in disgust.  “He planned this from the start.  Take half of the men out into an ambush, conscript them under the sword, kill any who disagree, then take the doubled force back here to do the same.”

“Smart girl you found, Aragos,” the Captain said with a chuckle.  “Now, open the gate before the offer expires and we kill everyone.”

One of the Grey Knights made for the gate to open it.  

Aragos dropped him with two arrows.

Sides were chosen and fighting erupted.  Limwen grabbed the breast plate of the guard commander and pulled them face to face.  “Get those archers in place!  If that gate comes down, everything you love will bleed and burn.”  She gave him a shove, readied her battleaxe and rushed down the wall to join the melee for the gate.

It was Grey Knight versus Grey Knight.  If not for a few town guards, she would not have even guessed which side was the aggressor.  

She met with her first opponent, a man near twice her size.  He swung first.  It carried immense power, but a calculated tilt of her shield turned it.  Turning with his momentum, she brought the shield firmly against his face.  His neck was now exposed.  Her axe struck like a snake at the opening.  It sunk deep into flesh and bone.  Warm blood exploded in every direction and the behemoth collapse in a limp mound.

She had longed to prove her worth to these people.  Despite doing so, she gained no pleasure from it.  She felt no sorrow for her victim.  She felt no fear for her life.  She felt no rage.  She felt sterile and emotionless.  There was only the battle.  In this trance, she felled foe after foe.

There was a powerful thud.  Wood bent and splintered as the gate was assaulted from the other side.

“What’s going on out there, Aragos?” she demanded.

As she called, Aragos, the guard commander—now wounded with an arrow in the shoulder—and half a dozen men were coming down the wall.  Aragos loosed an arrow into Limwen’s current opponent.  “Some of our cliff archers went rogue,” he said, short of breath.

Aragos’s allies followed suit and quickly eliminated the remaining threats with a volley of arrows.

“This gate is lost,” Aragos continued.  “We need to get everyone out the west gate now.”

The gate shuddered and buckled under another blow.

“Now!” he emphasized.

Most who sided with Captain Grey had been killed, but it came at a high cost.  Only two dozen defenders now rushed through the town to the west gate.  The guard commander blew his horn as they went, announcing for all civilians to evacuate immediately.

“We’ll hold them here,” Aragos announced as they reached the west gate.  The heavy traffic and spring rains had turned the trade district into a swamp-like mud pit.  “We need to make sure the people get a head start on the Banites.  In their heavy armor, the mud should slow them down and make them easy targets for our arrows.  Come, to the wall, and douse the lights.  We’ll need all the concealment we can get.”

The north gate collapsed under the battering.  A flood of attackers immediately poured in like a hive of insects.  A hundred men strong continued on to the west gate for the final confrontation.

Arrow after arrow loosed into the horde of metal clad invaders.  Banite bodies began to gather like sand to a dune.  Slowed but not halted, they advanced.  They could not see their enemy, but through sheer numbers their projectiles found flesh.  Facing inward, the fortified wall offered only a small partition designed to prevent accidental falls.  It was inadequate cover under these conditions.

An arrow found Aragos’s torso.  He fell into a corner, alive but laboring for breath.  The enemy was now scaling the wall.  When the sound of bowstrings reduced to almost nothing, Limwen knew she was nearly all that remained of their rampart.  

She transposed herself between Aragos and the approaching enemies, shield and axe at the ready.  The cramped walkway limited three against her at a time.  For each she cut down, another stepped forward to replace him.  Masterfully, she weathered their barrage.  Nasty cuts and dark bruises accumulated over her, but no telling blow could pass her shield.  Fatigue became the factor.  Soon, she could only focus entirely on deflecting attacks.

She was on one knee when the voice of Captain Grey interrupted the stalemate.  “Men, cease!”  Their weapons withdrew.  Recognizing an opening, she cut down one man before he could distance himself.

“Elf!” he called as he pushed the fresh kill over the edge and appeared from behind his men.  “You are not one of mine, nor are you a guard.  Why are you here?”

She panted too heavily to respond.  No longer driven by her battle trance, she collapsed against the wall.

“You.  I recognize you now.  You’re one of the vultures.  Why are you here, killing in a fight that has nothing to do with you.”

Finally, she labored a reply.  “I am paid to protect this town.”

The Captain laughed heartily.  “You were being paid by me, fool girl.  What makes you feel I would maintain a deal like that, when I am the one attacking the town?”

She hadn’t paused to consider that fact.  It had all happened so fast.  Caught up in doing the job and following Aragos, she hadn’t had time to make that connection.  She turned to Aragos.  Each breath brought a look of pain to his face.  It was possible the wound was not fatal, but it needed immediate care.

“He cannot help you now.  Only four of you remain.  The other two are my prisoners.”

“And of me?” she croaked.  Her lungs had been pushed to their limit and burned from the strain.

“Hmm, interesting dilemma,” the Captain pondered aloud.  “You are not one of my men and I admire your loyalty, however misplaced.  I’d really rather not lose any more men today, so what say you to a new contract?”

“I will not join you,” she said coldly.

“Nothing so mundane.  I have no need for vultures now.  Your amended contract is to execute Aragos and the other two prisoners.”

“And if I refuse?”

“Then this plays out as it was.  You die.”

“I don’t believe you would let me live anyways.”

“As I said, I would rather not bloody your axe on more of my men.  I estimate over a hundred were lost against your little band tonight.  I also relish the tales you will spread of our conquest.  Let the world know that the Grey Knights are no longer second rate sell-swords, but rather the very fist of Bane!  So, what say you, little girl?”

It’s easy to be a good person when nothing is on the line.

I learned that day that I am not a good person.  However, I also learned that an evil person can still be inspired to do the right thing.  

In time, my soul came to bear many sins.  I am beyond salvation, but not beyond guidance.

« Last Edit: June 27, 2012, 03:52:10 PM by machmoth »

Shanra

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Re: Battle at Granite's Reach
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2012, 03:02:47 PM »
*Hits the like button*

Nice story, Moffy.  :-) I enjoyed the read!

machmoth

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Re: Battle at Granite's Reach
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2012, 03:53:18 PM »
Aww, thank yous!  ^_^

tsunami282

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Re: Battle at Granite's Reach
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2012, 01:51:35 AM »
I feel kinda icky now, Moth. Good story!
"Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." -- Abraham Lincoln

 

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