Since my last blog post discussed an aspect of fantasy combat, I thought I’d share an excerpt of such combat from my novella, The Prince of Graves. I hope you enjoy it! As always, comments are welcome.
“Loose the war machines!” bellowed Harkom, riding hard. “To the south! To the south!” A series of flags went up, proving his orders were heard.
Minutes went by, and as he watched the man-at-arms race down a slope toward the river, Laveris saw the catapults and heavy crossbows moving south towards the dragons on the shore.
“Fire as soon as in range!” Harkom called. “All of the enemy nation is coming over the river!” As if response to his words the sky appeared to suddenly boil. Red lightning flashed and curled overhead as the clouds sank closer to the earth, casting the world into a deeper gloomy hue.
Laveris sensed the onset of terror in his men. His knights could be heard rallying their troops in the face of the supernatural might of the enemy. He swore once more, and looked to Glorion. Will the wizards be able to counter this?
The war machines let loose their first volley, hurling stones and heavy arrows toward the dragons. None found their mark, and the dragons leapt into the air. Three climbed into the sky, while four paused to unleash fire on the closest soldiers. After a few moments, these dragons ceased and joined the others.
Then as if a star had suddenly descended, the crown of the Tower of Layarax radiated with a crystal blue light. The encroaching shadows from the west fled, and the soldiers of Valeot took heart. A shout, a war cry, started near the base of the tower and then grew, rolling across the armies, and became a ground shaking roar.
The heights of the Tower of Layarax twinkled, and the light faded. The seven red and gray dragons circled, flame dripping from their maws and leaping toward the wizard’s sanctuary, which only blackened the white stone.
The largest, a deep red beast, suddenly made for the sky, rising higher and higher, faster and faster, and then disappeared into the clouds. The six remaining beat their wings in time, and then as one dashed away. Out of the chaotic heavens the great red dragon reemerged, enveloped in fire and black smoke as it careened towards the tower. Just as it seemed it would dash itself against the white and silver stones, a brilliant bolt of lightning arced from within and struck the beast with such force it split in half.
From the west, deep horns issued the battle call of the enemy, the War Dirge of the Dagir Xethu. Though unheard in the distance, the Dark Captains who commanded the enemy soldiers ordered the attack; like a flood the army began issuing over the bridge of bones. As they approached the eastern shore they were met by a hail of arrows. Oblivious, they pushed through, hurling the dead aside. Once on the eastern slope the enemy spread like greedy fire. Great stones fell in their midst, as did burning swaths of pitch. Yet the dead were merely trampled, and the Dagir Xethu plunged ahead.
Laveris could still hear Harkom issuing commands, adjusting the formations. Angrily he cursed himself. The enemy was pushing to the southern lines, just as he had feared. The northern lines were threatened only by the leviathans, and they were directing their fire against the river to keep the way clear for the crossing. He watched as the enemy troops flowed across the river, filling the shattered land with a speed that disregarded the flooding prepared for them. Harkom rode up, flush and breathing heavily. Laveris pointed at the unfolding battlefield.
“We may be able to encircle them. The southern line will have to hold for a while, but the northern formation must be ready to move when commanded. Order the cavalry south, and ready the reserves to do the same!”
Harkom raised his sword in salute, and turned to the signalmaster to issue the orders.
The battle was now met as the first ranks of the Dagir Xethu reached the first lines of Valeot’s defenders. Despite the speed of the assault, the defenders held firm, and the initial wave foundered. Though their numbers continued to pour across the bridge, their assault was complicated by wave after wave of arrows raining down from before them and from the north.
The War Dirge grew louder, though no musicians could be seen. The enemy gnashed their teeth and pressed the attack in a fury.
Having discerned the enemy’s main effort, Laveris called his squires to him and readied to ride to the front. As he pulled on his mailed gloves, he caught sight of devilish shapes hovering over portions of the battle. The Dark Captains, mounted on their dragonmares, were not only commanding the enemy. They were calling their incantations as well, summoning demonic aide from an unnamed hell. He shuddered as the air above the enemy scintillated and folded. Harsh chanting rose and fell over the killing grounds, at times rising into a painful crescendo over the surrounding clamor.
Yet the devils never broke through. Laveris turned to look at Glorion behind him. The power of the Elder Magus Layarax was likely contending with the dragons, none of which seemed able to pull away from their orbit of the top of the tower. Likely then Revhalom was now directing his arts against the Dark Captains to keep them from pulling their demons from the abyss. The prince issued a quick prayer of thanks. Grasping Valehem and his shield once more, he called his retinue and drove hard toward the enemy.
Laveris galloped swiftly to take command of the center formation closest to the southern ranks. He and his attending knights collided with a ferocious zeal, scattering the enemy soldiers and throwing back the advance in the surrounding area. The Dagir Xethu was equipped for speed, and although dark enchantments surely lay upon their arms and armor, they wilted before Laveris and his men. The horrible joy of combat took control of the prince then as he threw himself against the waves of attackers that seemed without numbers.