The line of ursa parted as the charging alliance soldiers approached just enough for them to rip through and smash into the already stunned Primiad front ranks with an audible 'crunch'. The impact was enough to push a good section back several staggered steps, the front rank collapsing in and around the driving column.
Instead of letting the mass of enemy soldiery absorb the charge and engulf the alliance warriors, the ursa holding the line went grimly to work. With their massive weapons hissing like vipers as they passed through the air, the powerful Europas warriors once again began carving great swaths out of the ranks they faced, reaping a half dozen souls with each swing they took.
Under that kind of pressure, the Primiad ranks didn't just collapse, they utterly dissolved as the soldiers on the front line abandoned discipline and broke ranks to turn and begin pushing through the soldiers behind them in an attempt to get away. Which, unfortunately for them, only presented their backs to the determined weapons of the ursa and alliance soldiers. The ground grew slick with blood as primiad soldiers died in droves, cut in half by ursa great swords or opened up by the smaller but no less sharp weapons of resolute ryon, tigris and pantor warriors.
Pausing just outside of the main gates for a moment, van Joss watched the chaos engulfing the front ranks begin to spread as the counterattack's effect began rippling back into the center of the Primiad's main formation. His eyes narrowed, he noted patterns and trends as they developed in the wake of the front ranks being shattered by the alliance assault. Then he was looking to his left.
- Begin your push Now, captain, - he directed with the Cetacean's mind gift once he found the person he wanted over there.
- At once, colonel - the Gideon officer instantly replied and van Joss watched as the mass of primiad soldiers made a visible shift to the right in response to the humans altering the angle of their attack to further fragment the horde's leading edge.
Nodding in satisfaction, the lean operative then turned his attention to the rear of the massive formation.
- Begin your bombardment, commander, - he ordered. A heart beat later the two or three trebuchets the primiad rebels had captured instead of putting to the torch, began snapping with release. Not to drop large stones into the heart of the primiad position.
They were dropping burning pitch.
The screams began immediately, shrieks of pain and fear that cascaded over the battlefield while the pitch cast flickering red light over the chaos as it flew through the air in great arcs. A second round of pitch was swiftly followed by a third and a fourth. Then, having regrouped on the perimeter, the Equis Rapid Foot sprang back into action in the pause after the fourth round landed, thundering into the horde's unsteady flank like an avalanche.
The ground shivered with the impact, which sent concentric rings of force cresting away from where the Rapid Foot had made their initial strike. With the flank in complete disarray, the Rapid Foot had little trouble driving deep before carving to the side, the primiad soldiers offering virtually no resistance. Instead they were looking for a way off the battle field in a way that was most hasty without getting them dead, ignoring the frantic screams of their officers to hold their ground.
Despite the pain surging through his battered body, van Joss found himself thinly smiling. Having carefully made his way to a perch atop the main gates during the first wave of pitch from the catapults, he could now see enough of the battle's ebb and surge to realize one thing: the Primiad horde, once thought invincible, was broken. A vast force that had rolled almost unopposed through the southern reaches of Noranda, destroying kingdom after kingdom, was now, after a day and evening of horror and death, ready to yield.
His eyes narrowed as they caught sight of Kelly and his elves slashing deep into the chaos, their greater stamina and ability to recover their strength sending them back into battle at near full fighting capability. Which made them perfect for what he now wanted to do. Time to remove the serpent's head.
- Kelly, can you hear me? - he sent with the mind gift.
- I can hear you, van Joss, - the big elf quickly replied.
- Good. - Van Joss lifted Kelly's binoculars, miraculously untouched through the storm and chaos of combat, to his eyes.
Crafted with forgotten technology to provide a clear image even in low light and reduced visibility conditions, the binoculars allowed van Joss to quickly pick out his quarry: the beleaguered Primiad emperor Ran. Even as his eyes fell onto the frantic emperor, he could see him desperately gathering what was left of his personal guard around him in obvious preparation to escape the fire and destruction raining all around them.
- I have eyes on Ran and what's left of his personal guard some five hundred paces 45 degrees to the right of your current path. Can you alter to intercept? We kill or capture him and the Primiad will cease to be a threat, now And in the future. -
Kelly's reply was instant.
- Copy that, - he sent. - Altering course now to intercept. -
Van Joss nodded as he caught sight of Kelly's knot of elves abruptly turn to angle to the right to head directly towards the churning knot of activity that was Ran and his guard. It would take only a moment or two before the elves cut their way through the turmoil to confront the Primiad leader and author of the invasion. Just enough time for him to take stock of the multi-pronged counterattack he had launched against the still superior numbers of the enemy.
So far it was working, the ferocity of the counter catching the Primiad offguard. In one moment they were waiting for their siege machines and vanguard to grant them access to the fortress's heart. And in the next they were getting smashed in the face with giant swords and desperate defenders keen on driving them to the edge of oblivion. On top of that the trebuchets the rebels saved from the torch at van Joss's command now dropped burning, viscous death from the sky, further adding to the chaos.
Under That pressure they broke and desperately clawed through each other to get away. Van Joss smiled thinly at that. It was happening just as he had imagined. Because it was, there was now a very real chance of winning this fight. All they had to do was capture or kill Ran.
- We've reached the guard perimeter, - Kelly announced over the still active connection in van Joss's mind. - And the guards are offering almost no resistance. I can see the emperor through the throng. At our current rate of progress we'll have Ran in a couple minutes. Do you copy, van Joss? -
- I copy, captain, - van Joss replied, suddenly feeling very weary with victory within their grasp. It was almost as if realizing that they were on the verge of winning that something changed inside him. Something that stole his strength and resolve. He slowly lowered himself to a cross-legged position without taking the binoculars from his eyes.
- Excellent work, Kelly, - he sent even as his arms became too heavy to hold up. He let the binoculars drop and looked out over a battlefield now lit only by the flickering red flames from the burning pitch.
- Let me know when you have Ran in your hands dead or alive. - He slowly laid back until he was staring into a cloudy night sky, the wall's cold stone against his back.
With Ran's death, they would win. With the Primiad's defeat, the nations of Noranda, no, the World would be safe. Then his mission would be, ... Over.
"My mission would be over," he quietly repeated, closing his eyes.
In all truth, he never imagined that he'd live long enough to see the day where the mission would be over. Always had he kept it foremost in his mind, letting it drive him forward and give him focus. It had sent him far into enemy lands, cross the length and breadth of Noranda, even journey across the Atlan to distant Europas, finding previously unknown Fisted races and garnering their support. It had even sent him into the deadly killing wastes left behind by the Great Burn, costing him not only his team but his younger brother, who died of the wasting sickness in his arms.
The mission had driven him to do great things, ... And terrible things. But now it was nearly over. Finally he would get to rest from his efforts. Find solace from the darkness in his thoughts in blessed unconsciousness. And maybe a measure of forgiveness, ... For his sins.
"I'm sorry, Arde, my brother," he whispered as he felt his strength continue to ebb. "I didn't avenge you as I promised. But we did it, Arde. We saved Gideon. We saved, ..."
The rest was lost as, with a final wave of darkness, van Joss fell unconscious and the world went away.
YOU ARE READING
Hand Over FistScience Fiction
Like a phoenix, they arose. From the ashes of a world burnt by massive nuclear holocaust and frozen by a millennia of nuclear winter. They are the Fisted Races and they struggle against the tattered remnant of Humanity for what little resources ar...