Battle of Forfarshire
Battle of Forfarshire     Drelianlis, the elven adviser to the Brechin Kingdom’s General, looked out beyond the high, stone city walls, onto the burning plains, and the vast sea of enemies. The attacking zombie and orc army drew some saurian, lizard men from the deserts, to their cause. They laid siege to Forfarshire, the capital and largest city of all humankind.

     “Hold on!” The General commanded as the tower shook. A spiked metal ball from a catapult glanced off the tower’s side, gouging it and sending debris falling on those below. The noise covered the sounds of war for a moment.

     Screams and shouts rose in the night, penetrating Drel’s ringing ears. A flaming arrow struck a waiting runner. The boy fell forward, falling onto a water barrel and breaking it into splinters. The boy lay face up, twisted and broken. Drel was glad the ground too far from the tower to see into the dead boy’s eyes.

     His reputation and experience landed him in the role of adviser, to help the city prepare in the weeks before the orc leader, Draaien the Grimp, turned his armies their direction. With each victory, Draaien’s war partner, the necromancer Ciglio, increased the evil army by raising zombies from the newly dead. From the battlements of Forfarshire, the massed enemy troops streamed to the horizon. The situation was grimmer than Drel ever expected. All of the careful planning couldn’t keep out the invaders. The outcome was in the hands of the gods.

     “What more.” Drel scanned the scene, he knew they’d done everything possible. Catapulted zombies struck the face of an inner tower. They fell to the ground, splattering. It would have been a clever tactic if the zombies’ bodies could survive the fall.  

     Rock, mortar and thick wooden beams reinforced the walls. Extra catapults had been constructed. Men and many young boys untrained in warfare, volunteered to stay, manning the gates, fighting fires, running with messages, and performing any other duty needed. The original construction of the city would have easily repelled an ordinary army.

     “General, there!” Drel struggled to be heard over the din of battle. He pointed at a fissure in the city wall. Orcs slashed through, pushing back the outnumbered soldiers.

     The General sent runners with the message to send more men to the breech, and other runners to direct the archers aim into the gap. 

     “We’ve got to fill the gap!” Drel shouted.

     “With what?” the General asked. The man’s shoulders sagged with exhaustion in the maroon uniform, his eyes bleary. 

     Drel doubted the General had slept much these last few weeks, and sympathized. He hadn’t either, but elves didn’t need as much sleep as humans. The General’s eyes were firm and steady, a good sign.

     “With fire!” 

     “What?”

     “Fire!” Drel screamed into the man’s ear. He saw understanding flash in the General’s eyes as he smiled. More runners rushed off with orders.

     Piles of broken wood had been set aside to catapult flaming debris once the supply of large chunks of rock dwindled. Drel watched the soldiers toss wood into the gap. 

     The orcs howled with glee, thinking this desperate measure a sign of success. A city mage sent a fireball careening into the mess, lighting everything and everyone in the gap in orange blazing flames. Volunteers ran up to the blaze and poured god’s tears, a potion that’d sustain the burn after the wood was spent, into the breach.

     Drel nodded his head in satisfaction. It’d buy them time.

     “Go,” the General said in Drel’s ear. “Help with the evacuation, and seal the tunnel when it’s time.”

     “What about you?” Drel already knew the answer. He saw it in the man’s eyes.

     “This is my place,” the General said. “I’ll fall with the city, with my men, if that is to be.”

     Drel gave a short nod. He clasped him on the arm in farewell, slid down the ladder and raced between shops and homes, toward the tall palace, flying flags of war. He dodged around abandoned goats, chickens, and boxes of belongings. He felt eyes peer at him from dark windows; some refused to leave. Not many people were left on the streets. 

     The sight of impending evil pressed against the walls of Forfarshire was difficult to banish. Never in the history of Aleria had evil massed for such a long campaign against the West. Their mission was clear: to destroy all good and neutral races. They’d already brought down many, the sade of the jungle, the teratai of the Great Lake, the wood elves to the north, and several kingdoms of humans. Refugees had flooded into Brechin lands and now flooded back out, either to the barbarian lands to the north, or to the one remaining human kingdom in the southwest, the Belogs. 

     Near the palace, Drel passed heavily laden refugees. He marveled at the mix of races, and wished for time to document these things. Even elven women and children of his reclusive race, wandered the streets of this human settlement, something unheard of in all history. They kept to themselves as much as possible. Sorrow hung about them like bittersweet perfume. The children stared at the strange sights with big, fearful eyes. The adults lowered their eyes to the ground.

     Drel smiled at a small elven girl. Her hair was pulled back in two messy braids. The disarray hit Drel in the stomach. It was real; this city would fall like the others. The child hid her sky blue eyes behind her mother’s arm, nervous at the attentions of any stranger, even an elf.

     Drel dodged a group of teratai, their green scales dull from hasty travel. He’d never seen them in such numbers. According to his teratai friend, Eeanlee, the exposure of air was painful over time. Drel wondered how long it’d been since they had any water to rub on their bodies. They walked calmly, with perfect posture. Their order and discipline showed even in crisis. It highlighted the dreamlike feel of the war. The massive destruction and death, breaking traditions held for all of known time, it was sublime.

     In the castle, the crowds thickened. He worried about their slowness. There wasn’t enough time to get everyone through the royals’ escape tunnel to the banks of Yule River.

     “No time to rest,” he said to some human women huddled on the tiled floor along the hall. “Keep moving.”

     The line of fugitives slowed and backed up. A loud voiced man argued with a palace aide. “I don’t care who you are or what orders you carry. I’m not leaving my cart behind. Everything I value is here. How can I restart my life, my livelihood without my things?” Some stopped to gawk at the scene as others pushed by as best they could.

     “No one, not you or anybody else, is allowed to bring so much into the tunnel.” The aide’s face flushed in frustration. “One bag apiece. That’s all. There’s no room for that monstrosity!”

     “Then I’ll make room. Don’t worry about nothing!”

     “You’d plug up the tunnel!” The aide flung his hands into the air. “You can’t take it, and that’s the end of it.”

     Drel stepped up from the crowd, near the man. “You do not want to lose your valuables, I know. Your loving family standing by you, they are what is worth saving.”

     “I don’t care!” the man continued, but softer now, as he spied Drel’s double speared staff, with sharp blades of bone on each end. “I won’t leave any more behind.”

     “You are a sensible man to think of these things,” Drel paused, letting the man shift uncomfortably. “Even though you must leave possessions behind, it would be a great service if you’ll haul the infirm, elderly, and little ones in your cart.”

     The man opened his mouth to protest, but something clicked in his eyes. “The cart, it’s mine once we’re through the tunnel.” He eyed the elf.

     “Of course,” Drel replied.

     The man looked at the crowd. The direness of the situation sank in. He heaved out bags into the hall. His wife leaned in, helping. Drel continued on, and from behind he heard, “Anybody sick? Any old? I’ve got a ride here! I’m taking this cart on through!”

     As he neared the entrance to the escape tunnel, Drel spotted Lulansal, his elven companion, and Eeanlee. The teratai was the only survivor of his unit sent south from Lake Annis to help the eastern humans. That was before Ciglio sent his zombies into the teratai’s northern borders, into the lake. Eeanlee continued to help in Forfarshire, but now he saved more races than just human, including his own people after they fled down river, to Brechin lands.

     Lulan waved. She dropped the sack into a large pile which mounded the wall of a side passage, and met Drel at the tunnel’s opening. “Eeanlee is on the other side.” She pointed across the mass of refugees streaming into the tunnel. “We have been moving the discarded luggage. It seems we hardly keep up.” She signaled for Eeanlee to join them, if he could. 

     “The time is near,” Drel said for Eeanlee’s benefit. Lulan would know already. They’d traveled so long together that they moved as a unit in times of crisis. “We need to plug the tunnel to cover the refugees’ escape.”

     “Magic bricks?” Lulan asked.

     “Where?”

     “A storeroom, near the end of this hallway and down a flight of stairs.” She indicated the direction.

     “Let’s get them,” Drel said.

     “Wait,” Eeanlee said, as calm as ever. “We’ll drag the cases back on these blankets.” He handed each wood elf a discarded bundle. 

     Lulan showed the way to a plain storeroom layered in dust and cobwebs. They carefully toted the crates up the stairs and set them along the length of blankets. Eeanlee took the lead, dragging his load faster than the others. Lulan lagged, last in the line.

     According to Lulan’s directions, they stacked the boxes along the tunnel walls near the opening and twined fuses together. Fire set off the magic bricks causing them to explode. The placement was critical to aim the explosions, to keep from causing the entire tunnel to cave. 

     Waiting for the right moment, Drel held a torch aloft. A palace aide watched their progress before joining them along the wall.

     “When will we know?” he asked. The city’s impending doom was no secret.

     “When the screaming starts,” Eeanlee answered.

     “We won’t have enough time to evacuate everyone?” the aid asked.

     A pregnant silence followed. The aide’s shoulders slumped; he nodded and joined the other refugees. The three friends waited as people shuffled past with fear and worry covering their faces.

     Chaos came quick as lightning. Screams rang with panic and terror. Drel lowered the torch onto the dry fuses. Refugees stampeded, crushing forward. Drel pressed up against the wall, and watched the twin flames, one along each side. The acrid smoke burned his nose.

     The fire hit the first set of magic bricks. The loud booms, one following the other, were deafening. The next concussion knocked people to the floor. Drel covered his eyes in the raining dust and rocks. Eeanlee coughed behind him.

     Another set of booms, still loud, came as more crates of magic bricks caught. It continued, each sounding farther than the last. The cave-in covered the noise as a wall of rock and debris deepened.

     Eeanlee drew the spear from behind his back. The screaming continued, in front and behind.

     “Do not worry,” Drel shouted over the noise, “they are panicking from the explosion.”

     Eeanlee kept his eyes forward, stance unwavering. Drel thought the man didn’t hear him. He stepped toward him, toward the center of the cave. Something sprang from the darkness. 

     He turned his head in time to see the green blur of an orc. Drel ducked and Eeanlee jabbed, impaling the orc warrior on his spear. He hadn’t lit the fuses quickly enough.

     Drel rolled to his feet, weapon drawn. Ready to spill blood, Lulansal stood by his side, her hardwood knife, imbued with accuracy. Three orcs hacked as Eeanlee pushed the dead one off his spear.

     Drel swung first into an orc’s head, green blood splashed on his boots. Stepping forward, he slipped on the blood and recovered, jabbing into the next orc. He stabbed one bladed end into the orc’s shoulder, missing the chest. It howled in pain. Drel jerked back his weapon, and thrust again, this time hitting his mark. He pulled back. It took more effort to retrieve his spear this time. The body made a wet sucking sound as the weapon came free. The tunnel filled with the stench of death.

     Looking right, he saw Lulan slice an orc’s throat from behind. To the left, Eeanlee stepped on another orc’s body, to pull free his spear. No noise came from the closed end of the tunnel, but he checked to make sure no enemies waited to follow and attack from behind. 

     The plugged end was empty of any living. Drel stepped over bodies of refugees who didn’t survive the explosion. Arms and legs stuck out of the rubble. One man’s upper torso stuck out of the wall near the floor. His glassy eyes stared into the darkness. It was the man with the cart. 

     Drel reached out to touch a tuft of blonde hair near an exposed slender hand. He felt the hand for warmth and found none. Drel didn’t know for certain, but it could be the shy elven girl he passed. His stomach turned. He didn’t think of those on the other side of the cave-in. They’d be dead now; not another soul from the palace could venture this way. 

     Lulan placed a hand on his shoulder. “It had to be done.”

     “That doesn’t make it easier.”

     The trio followed the tunnel east, helping those who lagged behind. They didn’t look back. Nothing was left of Forfarshire, once a great city, now a ruin of ashes, toppled towers, and mounds of bodies.      

References: Eeanlee, Drel, Lulan, Ciglio, Draaien, Barbarian, Elf, Human, Sade, Teratai, Saurian, Orc, Zombie

 
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