Chapter 12: Siege

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For a long moment van Joss hung in the darkness surrounded by a cloud of pain.  A cloud that slowly drew away from him as he felt life slipping away, almost as if it were draining from his body.  As the draining sensation became stronger and stronger, van Joss focused on it with the same amount of grim intensity that drove him through life, examining the sensation from all angles in an effort to determine what it meant to him.  In doing so, he came to an inescapable conclusion.

He was dying.

Instantly a wave of denial swept through him.  He couldn't die, not yet.  The mission wasn't over.  Besides, there was the matter with General Eben.

Thinking of her sent a wave of rage and hatred sweeping through him.  A wave that instantly pulled the cloud of pain back towards his senses.  Then it was sweeping over him, dominating every sense in a surge of fiery agony.  A surge that burned life back into his weakening flesh, granting him enough strength to hold death at bay, if only for another day.

"You alive in there, human?" Darkfyre's gruff voice asked from what sounded like a great distance.  Then a hard jerk pulled van Joss out of the darkness and his eyes fluttered open to find themselves looking into the Moonrunner captain's face.

"Incredible," the Lupus said with a shake of his head.  In doing so, van Joss could see a myriad of cuts and contusions on the big Fisted's face, along with the extended arm that had the Lupus' hand gripping van Joss by the collar.

"Buried in a veritable mountain of monkey bodies and you're somehow still alive.  How is that possible?  You should have suffocated, or been crushed.  By the Burn, you are cut enough to bleed to death!"

Another hard pull freed the wiry human from the mound of bodies he had been buried beneath.  Then he was being thrown over Darkfyre's shoulder before the big Lupus scrambled down the ragged pile and onto the ground.

As soon as the Moonrunner captain's feet were on the ground, he was pulling van Joss off his shoulder to drop him somewhat untidily onto the ground.  Rolling painfully, the human managed to come to a rest on his knees, leaving Darkfyre staring at him.

"How is it possible, human?  How are you still alive after not having air, and bleeding to death?" the big Lupus hoarsely repeated.

Van Joss slowly came to his feet, carefully stretching his body while checking the deepest of his wounds to make sure they had stopped bleeding profusely.

"When your purpose is great enough ..."  Van Joss made a final stretch before looking around at the ragged half-circle of Moonrunners that now stood close to he and Darkfyre.  To the individual, they looked like they had taken the beating of their lives.  But none had fallen. 

Oddly enough that pleased the normally dour agent and a slight smile touched the corners of his mouth before it abruptly vanished.  He then took a quick look at the mounds of dead Primiad that sprawled on the frozen ground all around them.

"You find a way," he finished, letting his eyes come back to Darkfyre.  "The battle has moved past us?"

Darkfyre nodded.

"Once we blocked the defile with their bodies, the Primiad moved around with their great beasts," the Moonrunner commander reported with a tightening of his features.  "They are using their power to smash a second passage through the hills for their primary force."  He paused to glance at a couple of his soldiers.

"My scouts report these beasts were equipped with metal spikes and curved shields fixed to their heads for digging as if they anticipated an effort to block the defile."

"More likely that they had prior intentions of widening the defile with those self-same beasts," van Joss replied, nodding in thanks as one of the other Moonrunners handed him his retrieved weapons.  "There was no way a force that size could've safely passed through."  Even as he spoke, the ground beneath their feet shuddered from multiple strikes against it and low, grinding explosions could be heard from somewhere nearby.

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