Sunday, 28 February 2010

The Tunnels

Drip drip drip.
We liked the tunnels. The sudhodya can’t see a thing in the dark, they lose their bearings as well; even their veterans struggled down in the black.
There were other things down there with us, neither sithi nor sudhodya, but they were giving us wide berth now. We’d run into a few darker beings earlier but they came up against the Retan and Fearbane, two wide in the tunnel with our shields over their heads and Valine dancing between us with his spear darting death like a god’s whip.
Drip drip drip.
I can’t remember when I started hearing that beat under our near-silent passage, I couldn’t trace it in the tight confines. The walls were dry, we made this after all, and so was the floor but it was ever present now, just on the edge of hearing.
Drip drip drip.
I cocked a questioning glance at Etan but he shook his head. In the dark he looked pale and grim, but we’d been going for hours now and I suspect we all did.
A tap on the shoulder, passed forward, and we paused. The Dogged gave a hold-fast sign to the Retan and then ghosted back. We waited.
Drip drip drip.
More waiting.
Sudden violence behind us. The Dogged had sprung whatever rude surprise he had planned on whoever was trailing us down here.
Eyes front still, lucky that, as a sudden flare illuminated the tunnel. Etan and I turned and leapt to the rear to replace those who’d lost their vision. A Sudhodya mage, mid-cast, with two marines, our people backing off, blind shields high. My brother’s axe took the caster in the teeth from ten feet and we dealt death to the marines in their sudden darkness.
More waiting as our eyes re-accustomed and joints and blades were checked.
Drip drip drip. Back to the front and slow steps forwards.
No tunnel now, a room, large, so much so that even our eyes could not see the corners. The smell of men and blood, but old and less pungent than that which we carried with us. Spreading out, a circle of shields now, one deep, as always.
Etan to my left, as always.
We knew then that it was a most likely place for an ambush, but we would have walked on anyway; Grandmother called us home, so home we went.
Drip drip drip went with us.
They came with a hail of arrows and a spellcaster. The sudden light took away our advantage; their advantage was numbers. They closed swiftly following the arrows, marines again, more of the Inquisition’s best. Shields and short-swords for the close quarters, still some archers to their rear and their mage plotting who knew what.
Valine took a shaft and had to discard his spear, dropping behind he started to cover for Etan who was slowing. Soon I was not attacking at all but simply trying to keep my brother alive, he was lost and wavering. A nothing blow, off his shield, to his helm, took him down.
It was only when I stepped over him that I saw his entire left side drenched in blood.
No more drip drip drip.
He had not breathed a word.
A shaft rocked my shield back and two marines followed quickly. A jab low to my legs cost one of them an eye but his friend came over my shield with a bastard sword. As I fell I wondered where that had come from, I’d not seen it until that moment.
I remember seeing Anlus charge into the gap and Fearbane turn to cover us as amber liquid began to fill my eye. Damn that’s not good. I need that. It ran across the surface of my eye and fell from the bridge of my nose.
Drip drip drip.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Landing on the Shores

And when we had landed on the shore, our captain ordered us to fire the ship. The flames were as a beacon to the Sudhod’ya of those lands that the Sithi of Aditu had arrived. From miles away the flames could be seen and the glimmer of fire upon the helms and swords of the Gaesatae. By the burning of our ship the sky itself was painted the colour of blood. That is why they call him the Red.

They pushed, and were pushed. But the men of the tribes had gathered to push the Sithi back into the sea and soon the waves licked their heels and their backs were to the burning hulk. Y’dar Caran called for a warrior to break the Sudhod’ya line and Llofan, most pious of the Gaesatae, stepped forward and declared that in the name of the gods, he would strike down the Sudhod’ya. Then did Llofan stride up from the sea and break the captains and champions of the Sudhod’ya one by one. He pushed but was not pushed back. He struck but was not struck himself. The Sudhod’ya broke around him for the gods love those who do battle in their name…

But then came the Sudhod’ya King and his household and once more the Sithi stood on the beech and held back defeat at the water’s edge. Many were wounded or captured by the Sudhod’ya who valued slaves above all property. The mortals would risk all to take a Sithi captive and they would pay with their lives for this desire. Y’dar Caran ordered them to stand just one deep and kill until none were left to kill anymore. In the dark, with the ship behind them, only the curves of the helms and shields, only the lines of spears, axes and swords could be seen. In the dark, all that could be seen was coated in the blood of those who resisted Y’dar. That is why they call him the Red.

Now the last stood alone on the beach; at their feet lay the King and his household; but those Sithi left could not defeat the horde that remained. Then a cry went up from the Sudhod’ya host for more ships now rode the sea. The Gaesatae of Neyad Prelgur and Anlus Bechal stood upon the decks of their ships and drew back their great yew bows. A flight of arrows so great as to rip the clouds into the tatters rose up from the ships. One further ship drove forward to the shore and a great warrior jumped from the prow as it grounded, landing square on the shore as the arrows fell. His helm had the wings of eagles on its sides. His cloak was of the deepest blue, black it seemed in the firelight. His axe caught flames in its shine and reflected death to the Sudhod’ya who saw it. He said “E-em Amren Jelass, Telen Amal a Aditu.” And the Sudhod’ya fell dead on the beach.