The Heroes Rejoin The Heroes Rejoin
Sky H Ainsworth
Outside of Crystal Peak, the commandos, led by Captain Silkes, were fighting a hard battle.
[mild continuity errors here--but in the heat of battle, who can really tell what's going on?]
After coming out of the tunnel, the weary force had been greeted by the sight of a small army of Dark moogles and Dark Ogres. They charged the commandos.
Bacca, realizing that this would not be easy for his men, ordered them to move to a cliff face, a short ways away from the tunnel entrance. There, Bacca had six hundred of the men form a semi-circle, each end touching the wall of the cliff.
"Plant your shields," ordered Bacca.
The line of soldiers, all armed with swords and shields, sheathed their swords and took out hand trowels. They dug a small trench in the hard earth, then planted their shields in the holes with strong thrusts. They then filled in the little holes with the earth and used their hand trowels to drive the metal shields into the earth.
The soldier's shields were rectangular at the top, but had a slight tapering on the lower third of the shield. This aided in the shields being driven into the ground.
After a moment of work, a low fence surrounded the soldiers' formation.
"Alright," yelled Bacca. "Sword and spear, sword and spear down the line. Battle formation."
At the last command, the troops removed their packs, capes, and any unnecessary equipment from their bodies. Squad and company leaders then began alternating their soldiers. One commando, armed with a shield and sword, stood to the line, next to him on either side stood a soldier armed with a spear and buckler, so he could hold the spear with both hands.
The Porcupine Formation, as Bacca liked to call it, was nice. Archers stood in the middle of the formation and prepared to lob arrows at the approaching enemy. Spearmen would then take on those opponents that came rushing into their ranks. The swordsmen would deal with those slower, more cautious enemies. Since the shields provided a solid line, the troops would not readily move or leave their position. The only obstacle it provided was in keep the enemy from rushing the position and breaking the line of defense.
Even if an enemy rushed, he would trip on the shield and be cut down.
"Sir!" answered the sandy-haired man. He walked up to Bacca.
"You are in command," said the High Lord of All That Kicks Ass. "We have to get in that Peak now. So you will have to fight them off. I know you can hold them off." Bacca smiled at the man.
Silkes felt as well that the Dark moogles, though many, were no match for the larger, stronger, and battle hardened human warriors. Although the ogres seemed tougher, they were fewer then the moogles and the humans could take them on.
"Lorinan, transport us over to the keep," said Bacca.
Silkes looked about his situation.
A couple thousand dark moogles and dark ogres were rapidly approaching his position. They were in a loose formation, the dark ogres out pacing their shorter allies.
"This should not be too difficult," said Silkes under his breath. "Archers! Get ready to take down those ogres."
Several archers formed a line on the portion of the line facing the approaching enemy. A lieutenant arranged them in lines and set up the cascading system.
"Front line, kneel!" ordered the lieutenant. The two lines of soldiers on the perimeter kneeled down and ducked their heads. "Archers. First line, draw arrows!"
The archers pulled their shafts out and notched them.
"Marksmen, fire first."
The lieutenant took a gamble. The ogres were getting within range, but he was not sure and he wanted the best archers to take down those ogres that they were sure to get.
An arrow arched out over the line of commandos and struck the leadmost ogre in the gut. The arrow came down with such force, that the large humanoid stopped dead in his tracks, the shaft protruding from his buttocks like a tail.
Another arrow lashed out from the line of archers, followed by another. These met their targets, who fell down.
"Fire at will," ordered the lieutenant. He had picked his archers wisely, he now realized. The stream of arrows continued slowly.
About fifty ogres had fallen before the press of advancing enemies was too thick to risk.
"Cease fire," ordered Silkes. "Ready weapons." The soldiers already were ready, but those kneeling down stood up and prepared themselves. "Stand firm, men. This will be a hard fight, but at least now we know where our enemy is and that they can be beaten."
This was answered by a loud assent from the troops.
"Lieutenant, make me an archers mound in the center here," said Silkes to the lieutenant who commanded the archers.
The man set about his task quickly. Gathering several reserve troops, he had them pull out their hand shovels and begin digging. They formed a mound of earth in the center of the formation and increased its height and surface as the battle progressed.
As the first ogre met the commando line, he was taken in the face by a spear strike. The creature gasped and jerked as the spear entered his nose and was ripped out through his forehead, his blood and brains splattering out.
The next ogre met a spear in the neck and had it's jugular torn open. Another in the chest. One ogre managed to duck a spear to the face and was about to bring his huge axe up to swing, when a spear took him in his exposed body and a sword slashed across his neck. The ogre fell back and died before hitting the ground.
After a few minutes, the main body met the commando line.
The dark moogles tried rushing the line, but were halted by spears, swords, and the barrier of shields. Many, surprised at what was on the ground, lost their lives to overhand sword swings.
The dark moogles held a definite disadvantage as they were kept at bay and hack down in the double wall of weapons. The ogres, though, fared much better.
Being stronger then the humans, and a little bigger, they stood back and took large swings with their axes and swords, before trying to get closer to the line. Their swings would catch the occasional spear and either break it or knock it out of the hands of a foolish soldier.
Having cleared away the first line of defense, the ogre would then step in and start cleaving away at the swordsmen. These soldiers had even less luck as their strength barely managed to deflect or hold against the ogres' swings. However, replacement spears would soon be brought forward and the ogre taken out.
The dark moogles only advantage was numbers. They had a couple thousand troops in their host and this quickly swelled around the small circular formation of human troops. As it swelled, arrows would fly out from both sides and strike down unsuspecting combatants.
Silkes quickly ordered shield men to cover the medics and archers who could not provide a shield for themselves. The archers mound soon took shape and the archers there began lobbing arrows into the masses of enemy infantry.
The front line took few casualties. All those that were slain, were brought back to be healed and the opening quickly replaced. The commandos handled themselves with expert care.
Silkes approached the engineer sergeant a few shieldmen surrounding them.
"Can you think of anything to help?" asked the captain.
"Well sir," replied the wizened looking man. "Now that you mention, that chemist, Lorinan, did give me quite a few ideas. Who would have thought that a chemist would come in handy, eh?"
Silkes paid no attention to the joke now. The sergeant took the hint.
"Yes sir, I can have my men mix up some bombs and Greek fire and we should be good to go."
"Do it," said Silkes. "And hurry."
The sergeant went to his men and formed a small work party at the base of the cliff, furthest away from the fighting. Gathering all the bottles and viles they could, they had a field day with all the concoctions they made.
Soon, arrows, with viles attached to them, lobe their way into masses of enemy troops and sent them flying. Large bottles flew up in the air and landed in areas with sparse enemy concentrations. The liquid ignited and formed a puddle of fire that kept the enemy at bay. A few
bottles were even thrown above some enemy concentrations and struck with arrows, spraying out their contents. The unfortunate dark troops were covered in a carpet of fire.
The battle lasted a few hours, the pyrotechnics barely an hour. The end result was the dark horde was so weakened and exhausted from the commandos stiff defense, that they withdrew. A trail of dying figures and blood, however, marked their escape route.
Pleased with himself, Silkes ordered the front line to stand down.
"How did we do?" asked Silkes of his lieutenants. "Report."
"We lost forty men, and have one hundred and three injured," said one lt. "Thirteen of those cannot walk."
"We used up all, but a few of the pyrotechnics," reported another.
"If we recycle the weapons, we will have just about more then we have fighting men," said another lieutenant. "The ogres did some damage as they tried getting close to our lines. Our provisions are good and we should be able to last for a good week, longer if we stretch things out. Water will be our only other need."
"Okay," said Silkes. "This is what we will do." He surveyed the small valley from the archers mound.
There were small clumps of trees throughout the landscape and a few streams. Also, the land was pretty flat except for an occasional hill or depression. The dark horde had retreated to the base of the Crystal Peak.
"We will set up camp at that little ridge there," Silkes indicated. "The higher ground will give us an advantage if attacked. Lt. Hycima, you will set up the foundations for the defenses. Kalinga, you provide guard duty. Vupin, you transport the wounded to that location and
when done, take care of the dead, both ours and the dark moogles. Ryel, you get your men to search and loot these dead moogles and ogres. Take whatever weapons you can find, arrows especially, and armor. Also, detail a company or two and follow those dark moogles. I want to know what they are doing.
The lieutenants saluted and scattered.
Silkes wondered how Bacca and the rest of the heroes were doing.
Inside of the Peak several hours later, Bacca strode through a hallway and was met by his companions.
Lady Paladin quietly moved over to Bacca's side. He smiled down at her. "Do you have plenty of cures left to use up there?"
She nodded and squeezed his hand. "I'm fine. I seem to be gaining more and more power each day since I began studying to become a master. I wanted to let you know that I have set a teleport anchor at the camp below, so if we have to pull out of Crystal Peak fast, I will be able to do so."
Bacca looked at her in concern. "You mean the entire party? Won't that be too much of a drain on your power?"
"Yes, everyone, and I have it all arranged, Bacca, so don't worry about that. Just give the signal, and we'll all exit. Oh, and here." Lady Paladin pulled a platinum medallion attached to a green ribbon out from her pouch. "I've been working on this since we left the Dark Lord's Keep, but I only completed it a few hours ago as I walked up a few hundred flights of stairs." She pressed the warm medallion into his hand. "It is very heavily enchanted. Go ahead and put it on...it has a very high level regenerate spell cast upon it. This way, even as you are injured in battle, your body will feel less pain and start the healing process immediately. Oh, and there is a special ward on there to prevent anyone else from using it...to everyone else, it is a simple medallion, but for you it is a gift of life. The enchantment to only have it work for you is what made it take three weeks to ensorcel." She smiled shyly.
Bacca was almost speechless. "Thank you, my Lady...I can only imagine the trouble you went through to do this. Thank you." He placed the tied the ribbon around his neck, and tucked the medallion underneath his cuirass.
"Oh, and two more things. If you lose the medallion, it'll find you again. I wanted to make sure that you would always have it. And, the resistance to dispel is 99.9% -- that is the only spell that the Elder of Mysidia had to help me on." The healer grinned sheepishly.
The warrior paused and pulled the medallion out again so he could read any inscriptions on it. He was not surprised to see the front side covered in pain-staking runes, but he turned it over to see on the back inscribed in Lady Paladin's handwriting:
A Gift of Healing
For the Eternities
Already feeling the healing powers at work, he looked up and caught Lady Paladin's eye. She smiled and shrugged. "I'm sure it'll be healing you constantly, oh mighty High Lord of All that Kicks Ass." She laughed lightly, and the sound seemed to light up the corridors of the Peak.
Suddenly, a light appeared in the midst of the group. After it dissipated, Lorinan was seen lying on the floor.
L: I can't believe I messed it up again. Oh. Hi everyone. If you see any giant eels named Morry, I'm not around. This is ridiculous. I messed up my mixes again. Oh well, what's up?
Sky H Ainsworth
Bacca placed his hand over the spot where the pendant was and smiled as the warmth spread his body. He went to Lady Paladin looked into her eyes.
"You are dirty," he said. "What happened to you?"
"Oh, you know, the usual." Lady hoped Bacca would press for answers, she did not feel like talking about what had happened to her.
Bacca reached up and with his fingers, tried to wipe away the smudges on her face.
"It looks like you were crying," said Bacca, but quickly added, "or it just be the dust that was in the air that covered you."
Taking a small cloth out, Bacca wiped away the grime. He gently traced her features, slowly following the contours of her face. After a moment, it became clear to Lady that Bacca's movements were sensual then mechanical.
Bacca removed the cloth and took Lady's face in his hands. He held her, his thumbs lightly touching her cheeks. Bacca stared into her eyes.
Lady looked back. She thought she saw a look of anguish in his eyes, but this was replaced by contentment and love. Bacca leaned down and kissed Lady full on the lips.
The embrace was warm and Lady entwined her arms around Bacca. Removing his hands from her head, Bacca encircled the woman with his arms and pressed her body against his.
The warmth from the pendant seemed to grow and spread to both bodies.
Pulling away from the kiss, Bacca moved his head aside and instead hugged Lady tightly.
"I was so worried for you," said Bacca.
Nico coughed. He was still a kid and did not like the show of emotion. Everyone else, though, watched with admiration. Jaana even pulled a handkerchief out and dabbed at her eyes.
Bacca pulled away from Lady.
"Oh, sorry," he said softly.
He pealed himself away from Lady, but they did not want to break the contact. The hands trailed along each other's arms till Bacca finally gave one last squeeze and released Lady's hand.
"Let's rock," said Bacca.
When the commandos were quite settled into their camp, Silkes ordered a meeting of this leaders.
"Okay, now that we are safe and secure, I think it is time to take some initiative," said Silkes, a confident look on his face. "Engineer sergeant?!"
"Sir," said a man who came forward.
"I want to you to do me a favor," said Silkes. The two went off and whispered to each other about things.
After a while, the sergeant gathered his company and went to the entrance to the tunnel.
Pulling several potions out of their packs, the engineers conferred on things. Two engineers dug a slight trench almost the entire length of the tunnel entrance. The rest began pouring chemicals into the trench. When the trench was full of liquid, the sergeant and another soldier dropped tablets of material into the liquid.
A bluish smoke emitted from the liquid, filling the tunnel since the wind blew in that direction. The smoke was light, yet it billowed into the tunnel, filling the entire area.
The engineers stood around and watched what happened for close to a half hour. At that time, they moved off and the sergeant lit a candle. Readying himself, the engineer threw the candle into the smoke, igniting it.
A carpet of flame was created as the fire followed the smoke inside the tunnel to its end.
The sergeant could have sworn he heard a noise, almost as if a lonely scream in the night, but was unsure as the wind was blowing into the tunnel.
When the engineers returned to their camp, the captain remarked, "That will teach those bastards." The soldiers were happy with the way events were turning out.
"Are we ready to face what is on the floor above us?" asked Bacca.
Everyone gave their assent.
"Then, let's go."