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  1. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Short Story Contest (44): Theme - An 'Epic' Battle

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Apr 29, 2009.

    Short Story Contest 44
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: An 'Epic' Battle



    Open to all, newbies and established members alike. Please post your entries as replies to this thread. At the deadline I will collate all entries and put them forward for voting in a seperate thread. Sadly there are no prizes but honour on offer. The winning entry will be stickied until the next competition winner.

    Theme: An 'Epic' Battle (courtesy of member Atari). Think fantasy, think mythological, think outside the box if you wish. Any interpretation valid.

    Suggested Wordlimit: 500 - 3000 words.
    Deadline for entries: May 16th 2009 10.00 am (UK local)


    There is a 10% leniency with regards to the wordlimit. Please try to stick within the limit. Any piece outside of the suggested limit will still be entered into the contest but flagged as such, and eligibility determined by vote alone.

    Try to make all your entries complete and have an ending rather than be an extract from a larger one and please try to stick to the topic. Any piece seeming outside of the topic will be dealt with in a piece by piece manner to decide its legitamacy for the contest.

    Submissions may not have been previously posted on this site, nor may they be posted for review until voting has closed. Only one entry per contest please.

    Please try to refrain from itallicising, bolding, colouring or indenting any text to help avoid disappointment. These stylistics do not reproduce when I copy-paste them into the voting thread.

    Please remember to give your piece a title and give its word count in brackets at the top of your story.

    If there are any questions, please leave me a visitor message or PM me. Please do not clog up this, or any other thread, with your questions.


    Thanks and good luck.
     
  2. Destin
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    Destin Senior Member

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    Idle Soldiers - 2022 words

    It was shortly after the war ended. Soldiers were coming home to a government that didn't have money to pay them for their years of hardship. It made for bitter men, hard men who didn't give a damn about their country.

    Wasn't long after that Vince came up from Cuba. Some of us joked that he'd floated across in a bathtub, but never to his face. His full name was Vincenzo Lopez, and everyone knew he didn't come across in a bathtub. He was filthy rich, backed by some southern drug lord or some such.

    Well, when Vince's men come down from his estate one hungry morning offering a crisp twenty every day for men who knew how to fight, we sure had a hard time saying no. And we didn't. We didn't ask questions, what with having starving families at home and no work to feed them.

    The first day of working me and the boys and a few others got loaded up in a truck and hauled out a good fifty miles behind Vince's estate. There was a big warehouse there and it was full of all sorts of guns and gear. Vince's "Sergeants" started running us, just like we were in the army. They had us running drills and firing weapons, working in squads just like we did back in Europe. Everything was real organized, and the men were well acquainted with the work.

    My squad was comprised of three other men I had gone to war with: Charlie, Neil, and Lawrence. We had gone down together after high school. We'd been through some hard times. One time, Charlie got shot in the leg and we carried him back to base, fighting off those dirty Germans the whole way back. He barely had a drop of blood left in him by the time we got back, and Neil ended up giving him half of his own. Hell, I could tell war stories all day, but it's beside the point. We were good as brothers, is all I'm trying to say.

    Anyway, Vince's men worked us hard for a couple of weeks, and the pay was always on time. One morning Vince himself come down from that enormous house on the hill, and watched our drills. He looked like your average Cuban, only dressed finer in some suit none of the boys would even think of wearing in the ninety degree heat. Well, he stood up in that penthouse in his gigantic warehouse watching us work for a good three hours before he had a quick conversation with one of the sergeants and left again. We didn't have a clue what it was all about until the next day.


    Pickup was as usual. A big truck drove around town like a school bus, and picked up the thirty or so ex-soldiers. The truck was covered in a big canvas top, just like we used in the army. Well, a man can't really see where he's headed in one of them things, so we had no idea where we were when we hit our destination.

    Sergeant Pablo, one of the men who had been running the drills, shouted into the back of the truck, "Everyone out! It's time to earn your money!"

    We didn't know any different so we all piled out, unsure what to expect.

    We were in the middle of St. Pete, Florida... right outside the bank.

    Pablo walked into the bank and fired off a few rounds. Screaming employees flooded the doors, and made a run for it.

    Didn't take long for our confusion to wear off - the big house on the hill, a bunch of ex-soldiers, the training. We knew what was going on. We were weapons, honed to kill and used for wrong.

    But what was wrong? I couldn't help ask myself. Vince and his boys paid us. Hell, we earned more in two weeks with Vince than we did in two years working for the damned government. As long as we weren't shooting up a bunch of civilians I figured I'd do my job.

    Another one of the sergeants led us into the bank, which we quickly pillaged. It was only a matter of minutes and we were back in the truck with a few hundred pounds of bills. The truck zipped off to its next target. A pair of cop cars caught up with us along the way, but the Vince's men fired a few shots at them and they let off real quick-like.

    Our next target didn't roll over quite so easy. We got in all right, but on the way out the whole police department showed up to stop us.

    The boys froze, not sure what to do. Each of us was torn between what was right and what wrongs had been done to us.

    The police were fortified behind their cars, not wanting to start a small war, but not going to let us get away without a fight.

    Pablo certainly didn't have the same inhibitions. He started to fire on the cars, his big rifle tearing fist size holes in metal and glass. The police returned fire, shooting but not aiming to kill.

    We stood in shock, not sure what we were getting into. Wasn't long before Neil got shot down, and Pablo screamed, "A fistful of cash for every one who comes home alive!"

    Don't get me wrong, we weren't the looting type. We were good honest men. Society didn't really give us a choice. So we took our only option.

    Thirty trained soldiers armed with high caliber rifles made quick work of ten police officers with revolvers. Looking back, those poor men didn't even have a chance. They'd probably never even seen real combat before. Their cruisers disintegrated in front of our rifle fire. Those who were able to escape did, those who couldn't were dead on the sidewalk within a matter of seconds.

    Lawrence and Charlie knelt down to pick up our fallen brother.

    "Leave him!" Pablo shouted, hopping into the truck, "We don't need the extra weight."
    We weren't going to just leave Neil behind, he deserved better, so we loaded him back into the truck. Charlie cradled him, and I knew he was remembering the man that gave half of his blood to save his life. From the back of the truck, Pablo scowled at us with disgust before being distracted by a couple of police cruisers he wanted to open fire on.

    When we got back to the warehouse, Vince came down from his estate to see our plunder. He caught word of our heroics with Neil and decided we wouldn't get paid for the day.

    We pulled a few more jobs in the days following that event. By the end of it, our pockets were full, and our families were fed. A few of the soldiers took to liking it a little too much, I think, and started buying fine things, and spending more time at Vince's estate.

    Me and the boys, it didn't really sit well what we were doing. We didn't like how things went down with Neil either. We decided we were fed up and weren't going to keep on working for Vince. We had enough money to start a new life, and a man who killed for a living when he didn't need to, it seemed to us, was a worse kind of man than one that killed out of necessity.

    That next day we packed our bags. From what we'd seen, we thought it best to make a run for it instead of quitting like we would an honest job. We headed up to Tampa, where we grouped up and rented a little acreage on the edge of town. It seemed a nice place to settle in for a bit while we figured out what it was we wanted to do.

    A week later, a shiny red roadster roared into our driveway. Pablo stepped out, dressed in a black business suit and sunglasses.

    "Get out here you dogs! You're coming back to work!" He yelled with his usual courtesy.
    "Kindly leave," I said calmly from the door. Charlie and Lawrence leaned out the windows with guns. "We're done killing here. We're not going to live the lives of criminals."

    "You filthy Americans and your bull****," He snarled back, before jumping back into his car and slamming the door. "You're going to regret this."

    The next morning, we got a nasty wake up call. I awoke to the sound of several loud engines screaming into our yard before gunfire shredded our walls. I don't just mean a couple bullet holes. I mean I could see through my wall when I stood up. I hauled my wife into the basement, where Charlie and Lawrence were already waiting, rifles loaded and families safely tucked away under tables.

    We shared a grim moment, knowing our odds of survival were slim. We'd seen worse in the war, but not much worse.

    We crawled back upstairs. It sounded like at least fifteen men were outside unloading machine guns into the house. The south wall was almost completely destroyed. We moved to the east wall, which showed a lot less damage.

    I peeked out the door, and saw a man about 30 yards out. A moment later I had killed him. I could hear a few shouts and more men came around to the east side. I ran, launching myself into a bedroom and sprawling out behind a bed before the wall was torn apart with gunfire. I could see Charlie and Lawrence pinned behind a slab of concrete on the north edge of the living room.

    Their cover was slowly wearing down, the area littered with small chunks of stone. I had to draw the fire so they could get out and gain some advantage. I leapt up, and made a break for the west side of the house, into the kitchen. A bullet punched a clean hole through my arm as I ran, and pain arced through my body.

    I stumbled.

    Lawrence tackled me as I fell, and we rolled behind the refrigerator. Lawrence and Charlie picked it up and walked across the room using it for cover as I took the opportunity to pick off a couple more of our assailants. We parked it in front of the stairs and retreated down. We were outnumbered and outgunned. Things didn't look good.

    Suddenly sirens came screaming into the yard, and all hell broke loose. Police squared off with Vince's men, and a couple of minutes of heavy gunfire ended the whole thing.
    We put our guns down and Lawrence opened the cellar door behind the house, lifting his hands in the air to show he didn't mean harm.

    It wasn't a good idea.

    Pablo crashed down on him, sliding a large knife into his ribs. Lawrence fell limp on the floor. His wife started screaming, charging toward Pablo. Charlie grabbed her, holding her back. Pablo regained his feet quickly, and charged me.

    "I told you you'd regret this!" He shouted. His screaming was really starting to get frustrating.

    I blocked his knife thrust with my good arm, but lost my balance in the process. I hit the ground hard, and it knocked the wind out of me. My hand fell on a piece of 2x4 that must've fallen off the ceiling. I swung it up hard, just in time to hit Pablo's head as he came in for the killing blow. With a second to recover, I stood up, shaking the stars out from behind my eyes. Pablo stumbled back, reaching up to his now bleeding head. I took advantage of his state to strike him twice more. His knife dropped. I grabbed it. The women screamed. I wouldn't kill in front of them. I hit Pablo hard in the head with the board one more time, and he fell unconscious.

    Silence followed as I stood over the man who had just killed another of my brothers in cold blood. I contemplated cutting his throat, or beating his skull in.

    Before I could make a bad decision one of the officers came in.

    "You're safe now." He said, holding his hand out to help us out of the cellar. He checked Lawrence's pulse. "He's still alive. We'll get help."
     
  3. democat
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    democat Member

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    Clouds of the Over World - 2258 words

    Thorgar slammed his fist down, shaking the enormous hard wood table.
    ‘This outrage will not be tolerated!’ He lowered his face, placing his right hand across his forehead he stared at the half eaten roast chicken ‘The wretches dare to invade my land during the days of rest. This is an outrage!’

    His hands were tied, he was honor bound to the gods to continue the festivities of the respite regardless of the invasion. Without the blessings of the gods his shaky rule over his kingdom would no doubt be crushed by usurpers. He cursed the bureaucracy, they were appointed to aid him in ruling the land, not constantly harass him with protocol.

    ‘Should we man the gates my liege?’ Thorgar waved his hand.
    ‘No, shut them, lock them, and reinforce them. The god’s will reward our reveling and our walls will hold through the respite. Then we shall destroy every last one of the bastards.’ Thorgar sighed, he believed in the clouds but he also believed in the weapon of the Under Land and was well aware of their ability to overcome an un-manned castle wall.

    The perpetual war between the Under Land and the Over Land had never peaked like this in its forty thousand years of recorded history. The Under Land often attacked the Over Land; but never a frontal assault on the Kings fortress, a bright white bastion that nestled itself amongst the man mountain ranges of the Over Land.

    Fighting under the flag of an ambitious pasty face captain of the damned named Morgan. The denizens of the Under Land sat somewhere on the evolutionary chain between a vampire and an ogre. The aristocracy normally presented fine features, a silver tongue and malicious form of subtle humility. The fighting force however was almost the polar opposite; brutish ogres and goblins who had taken a fancy to the voluptuous thighs of Over Land women.

    Morgan sat in his make-shift throne room, thumbing through an appropriately aged tome of battle strategies, written by his elders in anticipation for this invasion. As the world floated through space the Under Land was perpetually shrouded in a dank twilight while the Over Land enjoyed a hazy sunlight, which lightly tanned their skin and carried with it the fragrance of growth.

    The Over Land’s ethos was everything the Under Land was not; a feudal utopia; work was shared, the people thrived and they enjoyed pleasant surroundings. The Under Land on the other hand thrived on jealousy and hatred; their world was volcanic, dotted by ominous gray mountains.

    The conquest of the Over Land was something that Morgan’s father, father’s father, and father’s father’s father had planned. Their entire lives had been invested in uniting the tribes and developing a ruling class to guide their weapons of war to the Over Land’s prestigious battle fortress and claiming the pleasant land for themselves.

    Thorgar gently ran his hand from his wife’s neck to the bottom of her back before pulling her into an embrace.
    ‘What am I to do?’ He asked, his aging silver eyes crying out for any spec of guidance the woman could give him. Ten years his junior, Thorgar had married late in life and unlike most of the posthumous Kings had married out of love.
    ‘The walls will hold, they are camping, planning a siege. If they could fell the walls in only a few days they would have done so already.’ There was nothing spectacular about her appearance, like most of woman of the land she carried an olive complexion, curvaceous child bearing hips and light brown hair. But it was a certain sparkle in her eyes that had drawn Thorgar to her, a certain un-educated genius shined from within.
    ‘I am worried they seek to embarrass me, I worry they wait until the culmination of respite so that they can crush us while we are able to fight. But with no planning we will surely fall.’
    ‘You worry too much, these walls have held for thousands of years. Your people need their king, now go and join them. The feast is awaiting its host.’ Thorgar nodded.
    ‘Won’t you be joining me?’
    ‘I will, I just have to sort myself out. I will be down shortly. Go on.’ Thorgar smiled, and slowly releasing her hand he moved towards the door.

    Moments after the King had left an enormous Raven appeared on the windowsill overlooking the Under Land encampment. She nodded at the bird which promptly began to convulse and twitch. Its blue eyes bulged, its beak retracted and its wings outstretched before in a cloud of black feathers Morgan emerged. He leant his head to the side generating a loud crack.

    ‘Ahhhh, so how do we fare my Queen?’
    ‘He is continuing with respite as expected. His foolish attachment to the make believe will be his undoing.’ She smiled. But it wasn’t the smile reserved for Thorgar it was a contorted, seductive smile. The conspirator’s lustful desires were acted on before Morgan re-assumed his flying form and deserted his concubine to tend to the cleaning of the royal suit.
    The Queen laid a curved blade underneath her pillow, Morgan’s words echoing in her head.
    ‘No mistakes kill him tonight. We will attack at dawn.’

    Thorgar lay in his expansive bed cradling his queen with both arms before sleep finally greeted him. It was a turbulent sleep interrupted by a robed messenger who had crawled into his sleep.
    ‘Thorgar’
    ‘Yes, it is I’ He responded.
    ‘I am the messenger of the clouds and I bring poor news.’ Thorgar did not exist in any sense, he was simple able to perceive. ‘You must call short the respite for your way of life is under grave threat.’
    ‘But I am honor bound.’
    ‘I am of the clouds, we release you.’
    ‘How can I be sure this is not just a machination of my own mind?’
    ‘Raise your hand.’ He believed he did although he had no point of reference ‘Close it now, tightly and awake!’

    Thorgar shot up, his wife’s hand was clasped tightly in his hand; a small blade glimmering in the moonlight filtering in through the window was in hers. He quickly assessed the situation before over powering her, twisting her wrist tightly she relinquished her grasp on the blade.
    ‘Who are you?’ He yelled.
    ‘The Under Land will soon over power your pathetic kingdom.’ The queen hissed, he called for his guards who promptly shuffled into the room, throwing on their clothing regardless of the fact they did not have to respond under the laws of respite.
    ‘Burn this woman, she is an agent of the Under Land.’
    ‘My liege?’ A stocky guard clumsily holding a Halberd questioned. The Queen no longer looked like a lethal assailant and the blade had mysteriously evaporated.
    ‘Do as you are ordered.’
    ‘Yes my king.’ The apprehended her, she had assumed the role of a defenseless woman at the mercy of a King gone mad with stress. He followed them down the stairs, silencing her cries of injustice.
    ‘Prepare the guard, respite is cancelled. I have received word from the gods that we are in grave danger’ he paused ‘Open the gates.’

    The son rose over the quiet fortress, Morgan surveyed the enormous white bastion he believed would soon be his. After mounting up he marched his army up the gate, leading the walk to the castle gates. Noticing one was ajar he grinned, the queen had done her job better than expected. He ordered it open. He casually trotted into the centre of the courtyard to find his agent bound by the wrist and feet to a large stake.

    ‘Morgan it’s a trap, get out!’ She wailed, her love for the evil ruler over-powering her ability to maintain the ruse of damsel in distress.
    ‘Silence, hag, I have no use for you anymore. This kingdom is mine.’ The queen shrank were she stood.

    Thorgar emerged from a building behind at the opposite end of the courtyard. Condensation rose from his mouth dissipating into the air. The morning light flickered off his shining suit of armor as he clinked into the expansive courtyard. He carried two ornate golden war hammers, one in each hand. The emblem of the Over Land; two roaring lions was engraved on the face of each hammer.

    ‘I challenge you to a dual, Morgan; we can save a lot of lives today. When you are cut down your men will be allowed safe passage out of my kingdom.’ Morgan cocked an eyebrow and turned to face the King.
    ‘I respectfully decline your offer. You have no army you stupid old man. I will not lose a battle I have already won for the sake of pride.’
    ‘So be it.’ Thorgar raised a hammer towards the gate. The portcullis slammed down locking Morgan and his bodyguards in the outer perimeter of the castle. The wooden lattice slammed down, demolishing the spines of two large ogres who crumpled under its weight emitting melancholy yelps.

    Thorgar strode forward, resting a hammer on the ground he hurled a blazing torch into stack of kindling beneath his former queen. The fire exploded, she let out a daemonic wail before her body was encompassed in black flame. The soul of the under land was torn from her body as she contorted under the heat of the flames.

    Morgan tugged hard on the reigns, his black steed leapt onto its hind legs as he withdrew his long sword.
    ‘Bring up the battering ram, to battle!’ He yelled, un-phased by the development. The bodyguard’s in unison unsheathed weapons from behind their shields and turned to face the Kings men who were leaping out from behind hay stacks and barrels; swords drawn.

    Morgan charged at Thorgar, who casually brought his hammers to bear and with brutally accurate timing swung them together crushing the skull of the tainted steed.

    The equally matched duelers exchanged blows; each expertly parried or dodged by the other. Morgan’s style was a mark of finesse and technicality while Thorgar’s was an amalgamation of doctrines developed over years fighting on the fringe of the Over Land.

    While arrows rained down the battering ram, manned by eight, eleven foot, muscle bound soldiers smashed the oak trunk into the portcullis. Morgan’s bodyguards had fallen back to the gate in order to prevent it being properly closed. As the last of the elite guardsmen fell to the onslaught of under trailed recruits the portcullis finally gave and a large hole had been torn in the heavy wooden cross thatch.

    While the battering crew continued to enlarge the hole, goblins poured through the space they had mad and joined the fight. The ground of the courtyard was coated in the blood of the fallen. The Under Land’s catapults had roared into life flinging enormous boulders and the flaming carcasses of livestock into the Castle.

    ‘It would seem you got your duel after all old man.’
    ‘So it would seem.’ Parrying a downward swing Thorgar swung his second hammer, the roaring lions collapsed Morgan’s chest plate and sent him toppling to the ground. He heaved as Thorgar slowly approached the wounded insurgent.
    ‘It’s not over. Not by a long shot’ Morgan said, his voice perforated by wheezing. As Thorgar closed the gap between himself and Morgan the ghoul began to convulse, his arms swelled, his muscled stiffened and exploded to enormous proportions. His fists became large chunks of hardened bone and flesh. Thorgar stepped back narrowing his eyes as the now enormous Morgan roared in defiance.
    An enormous black fist smashed the ground were Thorgar previously stood, he murmed under his breath.
    ‘Clouds give me the strength to defeat this beast.’ The deluge of blows continued before Thorgar was finally struck by a right hook from the beast sending him flying into the castle wall. Blood trickled from the fallen king’s nose as his eyelids gently lowered.

    Thorgar no longer existed, he only perceived. The robed figure had returned.
    ‘Rise again almighty King, your time is not yet up.’

    Thorgar’s eyes shot open moments before the killing blow was caught by the wall which cracked away. He ducked down before rolling to his feet. The clouds had begun to spin above them, they turned dark gray in a matter of minutes unloading heavy rain onto the blood soaked battlefield.

    The lions began to glow bright orange, Thorgar no longer felt human, his swung his weapons with ease, and he blocked the beast’s blows with immortal strength.

    Morgan’s rippling pectorals heaved with every weary breath. Thorgar stood tall.
    ‘You cannot defeat me old man.’ Morgan hissed with bestial spite. Thorgar did not respond, he closed his eyes as a voice echoed through his mind.
    ‘Bring the hammer down.’

    Morgan surged towards him, unleashing every ounce of strength that remained in his inhuman body he raised his fists. Thorgar leaped through the sky, raising his hammers an enormous belt of lightning cracked across the sky above them as his hammers collided with Morgan’s skull. The blow collapsed the top of Morgan’s head, not stopping until they connected with his jaw ejecting a number of pointed teeth.

    Moments later a bullhorn sounded and the battle was won.

    The minions of the Under Land began their retreat.

    Thorgar and his men hounded them for days until they vanished over the edge of the Over Land and returned whence they came. Thorgar eventually returned to his throne, hoping this would be the last attack of this kind for another forty thousand years.
     
  4. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm extending the deadline until Saturday 16th 10.00 am (UK local) to see if we can get any more entries. Voting will be launched then no matter how many entries there are. Thanks and kind regards
     
  5. -NM-
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    Hold the gates (1860 Words)

    "Ten minutes!" Came the shout from above. The man turned and faced the people scurrying around below his ladder. "Ten minutes!" he shouted again.

    In the distance the cloud of dust was growing rapidly closer and the sound of thumping hooves could be heard on the wind as they approached the village, only ten minutes from the gates now. They had first been noticed just under an hour ago, and ever since then all the able bodied men and children had been desperately running around trying to prepare, trying to find anything and everything they could use as a weapon. The old, greying man atop the ladder had been looking out over the village walls and counting down to the army's inevitable arrival...Fifty minutes, fourty minutes, thirty, twenty...now only ten remained.

    The air was filled with the sounds of crying as mothers clutched their children to them, refusing to let them go, braying horses being pulled this way and that through the crowds, and metal on metal as every last piece of the heavy material was swiftly rounded up and thrust into the hand of a trembling villager.

    "Ashton! Ashton where are you?!" a woman's voice cried through the noise and panic.

    "I'm here!" A young man - no more than eighteen - pushed his way through a group of men and hurried over to his mother's side.

    "I can't find your sister! Have you seen her?" the woman cried, wiping the tears from her eyes and leaving a dirty black stain on her face.

    "Wait here, I'll find her!" Ashton shouted and then turned and ran back through the crowds.

    "Lianne! Lianne where are you?" he shouted, trying to make out her face through the rush of bodies. "Lianne!"

    He tried desperately to remember where the last place he'd seen her was. Was it the market? No, she had left there before him earlier, but where had she gone? She must have said! Damn it, just hurry up and remember!

    He pushed on through the seemingly endless crowds of terrified people, knocking several of them to the ground as he ran, but there was no time to stop and apologise.

    "Rowan!" he shouted, as he saw one of his friends close by. The boy turned to see who was calling him, his face was almost white with fear. "Rowan, have you seen Lianne, I can't find her!" Ashton asked, panting as he made his way over to his friend.

    "I think I saw her down by the Southern gates earlier", he replied quietly, his eyes darting around all the time, watching as people went running by.

    "For God sake boy, hurry up with those swords!" Boomed a huge voice from behind them.

    "Sorry, I've got to go", said Rowan, picking up several swords and running towards his father.

    Ashton didn't have time to offer to help, he headed immediately for the Southern gates. It was a little quieter towards the South of the village, the army was coming in from the North so that's where everyone was gathering, but there were still a few stragglers there taking their time to get ready, trying to put off having to go and fight. Several pairs of eyes watched him from their homes as he tore through the dusty streets, his footsteps thudding heavily on the ground as he ran.

    "Lianne!" he shouted again, hoping that wherever she was she would hear him.

    As he reached the gates he looked around, but he couldn't see her anywhere. The gates were firmly locked, so there was no way she could have gotten outside, she must be there somewhere!

    "Lianne!"

    "Ashton!" cried a young girl.

    He whipped around and saw her over by the wall, crouched down, hugging her knees. He rushed towards her.

    "Come on Lianne, we've got to get you back to mum."

    The girl was crying quite heavily, the tears were pouring down her face, leaving light red streaks on her cheeks. Ashton held out his hand and she tentitively took it.

    "Come on, it'll be alright, " he reassured her, helping her to her feet.

    She tried to respond, but all she managed was a tearful hicough.

    They ran back through the streets, not as fast as Ashton would have liked, but Lianne's legs weren't as long as his and she couldn't run as fast.

    Their mother let out a cry of relief when she saw them approaching and she rushed to hug them both. Ashton pulled himself free of her embrace and turned to look at the gates.

    "Five minutes!" came the shout from above once again, and Ashton gave his mother and sister one last kiss on the cheek, then tore away to find his sword.

    He burst through the door of their home and ran straight to his room. His sword was by his bed like it always was, he picked it up and held it out in front of himself for a moment, just staring it, feeling the cool metal in his hand.

    Five minutes, that was all they had left...all he had left. Would his life end in five minutes? He didn't see how they were going to get out of this alive, they were just a small village of farmers and tradesmen, they were not an army. They had all known this day would come eventually; as soon as word reached them of the invasion they knew that one day the forces would reach their home, but what were they to do about it? There was nowhere else to go, nowhere was safe anymore, and by just getting on with their lives and trying to forget about it, it started to seem as if maybe they would be okay. The army was thousands of miles away fighting in the cities and the towns, they would have no need to come all the way out here to a small village, what would be the point? The war was nothing but a story to them - words told over and over again of fighting and death on the other side of the country. But now it was real...much too real.

    For a moment he had the overwhelming urge to just throw down his sword, get into bed and go to sleep. If he was asleep he wouldn't have to think about any of this, the army would get here soon and they could just kill him in his sleep, he need not even know it was happening, just drift off into a pleasant slumber and never wake up.

    Who was he trying to kid, he knew he would never be able to get to sleep even if he tried. Besides, it was his duty to stand and fight, to defend his home, his family, his friends. He was no coward!

    He gripped the sword tightly until he could feel the rough edges of the hilt digging into his skin. He didn't want to fight. As much as he knew he had to, he didn't want to. He was only eighteen, he had had so many plans for his life - meet a nice girl, get married, have some children, watch them grow up into fine adults and go off to make their own way in the world. When he used to picture those moments of his future they had seemed so clear, he could really imagine himself kissing that girl, standing holding her hand as they married, watching as their children ran off to play. Now the image was blurred and fading, like a dream you try desperately to remember but can't. And that's all it was now - a dream, nothing more.

    It wasn't fair. Why did he have to die so young? Why couldn't he have the life he wanted and craved? What did he ever do to deserve this?

    He wiped a tear from his face, half ashamed at himself for being so cowardly and half just wanting to break down and let them flow.

    "Two minutes!" the shout came from outside.

    Ashton took a deep breath and turned. He made his way slowly outside, savouring every last second, every sensation as he stepped across the wooden floor of his home for the last time.

    Outside it was much quieter now, all the men and boys were lined up facing the gates. Ashton stood by his door and gazed out over the terrified faces. For a moment he felt the urge to laugh as he looked at them, they looked ridiculous - the young boys in huge pieces of rusting armour, with helmets falling down over their eyes and swords almost as tall as themselves. But when he looked closer at their faces the urge left him. Most were crying, even some of the grown men were wiping tears from their eyes. No-one was talking, but the sound of metal scraping and clanging against metal as the boys stood there shaking was loud enough.

    Ashton moved forwards and took his place in the rows of fighters, beside a young boy he had seen a few times before. He must have been barely ten, but there he was, covered from head to toe in brown and grey armour, barely able to stand under the weight of it all.

    "They're here!" the man shouted from above. Then the rush of an arrow tore through the air and the man fell backwards from his ladder, landing with a crunch on the ground below.

    Beyond the gate they could hear men shouting and horses thumping on the ground. The gates began to shudder as the army charged them. How long would they last? A minute? Less?

    Ashton raised his sword in front of him, and the crowd followed suit. How long did he have to live now, he wondered, thirty seconds? He closed his eyes and listened to the booming sounds as the gate was rammed again and again. It all seemed so unreal, like he was dreaming. This couldn't really be happening could it? Well if he was dreaming he had better hurry up and wake.

    The boy beside him let out a loud wail and struggled to hold up his sword.

    What would death be like, Ashton wondered absentmindedly. Would it be quick and painless, like a swift crack to the head and then nothing? Or would it be long and drawn out? Would he lie bleeding for hours, wishing and hoping it would end? He hoped it was quick. He didn't want to know he was dying. Just let it catch me by surprise before I know what's happening, he thought to himself.

    The sound of wood cracking filled the air and the gate smashed to the floor. Ashton opened his eyes and looked out at the army, all sitting atop magnificent horses, shining in their spotless armour. How many of them were there? There was no time to count, but hundreds no doubt.

    For a moment nothing happened. Neither side moved, neither side spoke. They just stood there staring at each other. The silence seemed to go on for eternity, and Ashton thought of his sister and his mother.

    Then they charged.
     
  6. summer_breeze
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    summer_breeze New Member

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    The Unknowns

    (948 words)

    Fear hung in the air, like the humidity after a rain. The sun was just barely coming up, sending grainy beams through the clouds. The long field stretched under the sky, a breeze tickling the stalks of grass. At the edge of the field stood the gray shadow, a long line of men standing at the ready. They tried to look brave, confident. They puffed out their chests and pressed back their shoulder blades, all in hopes of looking invincible. It was the eyes, however, that betrayed them. They were afraid, and the uncertain eyes were a dead giveaway.

    It was wise to be afraid. At any time now, the Unknowns would be coming out of the forest. The Unknowns were unpredictable and struck terror into whomever saw them. They lived in the forest and the fields. They knew the terrain best. The army huddled together at the end of the field, the gray line, well; they had studied maps and such. They had tried to commit the points to memory, only to have it slip away in anxiety. They tried to think of the upcoming battle, but saw only leaves moving. They heard the branches rustling, possibly forewarning them of the forward march of the enemy.

    And now, it could be heard. Clip-clops, like hooves pounding the earthen floor of the forest, could be faintly noticed. Dark outlines danced through the forest branches, and skirted the edge of the field opposite the army. Men squinted to see the figures, but the summer haze obscured them. Fear pounded in their blood, their hearts, their skulls. The mere fact that they couldn’t see their enemy blinded them with horror. They knew what they were going to have to do, and seemed to know that chances were stacked against them.

    The general of their army, a short, squat man in his late fifties, strode out to the middle of the field, gulping back what seemed to be an apple in his throat. A figure danced lightly toward where he stood, and stopped at the exact center. Silence fell over the land- not a tree rustled. The general turned his eyes to the creature. It was a beautiful animal. It had a coat of sleek, black fur, and eyes the color of fire. It had a long graceful neck, and resembled a horse, except-

    The general shook his head. Although his army had fought many different wild things, he’d never seen the like of this. He’d never seen an animal with a human face like this. The creature smiled calmly at him, and opened his mouth to speak. His voice was smooth, articulated, flawless.

    “You have come to negotiate with us, correct?”

    The general was speechless. He tried to speak, but nothing came out. Finally, he found his voice. “Yes, we are here to negotiate. Whether peacefully or not, I assure you, we will get our way.”

    The centaur turned his head to the side. “We will not give in. This land is ours, and will always be ours.”

    “We need this land and have every intention of battling for it.” The general gestured back to his army, which looked quite weak compared with the centaurs.

    The centaur smiled and said quietly, “As you wish.” He turned to look back to his battalion, which slowly began to move up the field. They stopped fifty feet behind the first. The general nervously beckoned to his army, following the centaur. Every strategy flew out of his head with the uncharacteristic beginning of the battle. He had expected the Unknowns- the centaurs- to have been angry, upset. But he looked into their faces and saw calm in each pair of eyes. He turned, and in his men’s eyes, saw fear and terror.

    “So now we wait- who will attack first?” The centaur looked at the general quizzically.

    A loud crack echoed across the land, and the general realized that his side had struck first. There was a loud thundering, and the ground itself seemed to shake. The general gave the unspoken command to his army to prepare themselves against the onslaught, as he drew out his gun.

    The first centaur danced out of his reach, throwing well-aimed hooves at the general. In response, the general swung around his gun, a bayonet tipping the top. The centaur had not expected this, as the gleaming metal cut into his fur. Lashing out in anger, the centaur crashed his hooves against the man, missing as the general leapt back.

    All around the general were sickening thuds as his men were gradually taken out by the centaur troops. Bayonets flashed and blood flew as hooves pounded into flesh and sharp edges into fur. The general ordered the remaining men to retreat. Five men followed his sprinting lead back to the forest.

    “Alright,” he said, gasping. “You’ve got to do this, it’s our only chance…” he trailed off as the thunder of hooves began again. He ran back out into the field, his men following. They staved off the beasts, one by one. One by one, the men fell with the centaurs, the latter far outnumbering the first. The general called back his men again, only to realize that there were none left. It was his battle now.

    A strange silence fell over the field as the general surveyed the wreckage. He slowly turned back to see his enemy, the centaur who’d spoken to him, looking at him calmly. His eyes glinted back at the general, who shivered. In those fiery eyes he had just seen it- the end of the battle. The end of his life.

    The Unknowns had won- for now. But the battle would never end.
     
  7. losthawken
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    losthawken Author J. Aurel Guay Role Play Moderator Contributor

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    Beyond Battle – (1369 words)
    As the hammer came down a spark flashed into existence within the dark confines of the metal lined space. It reached out to its surroundings and unleashing the burning anger of yet more fiery sparks. The cascade continued and within an instant the explosion was pressing outward on the confines of its cell.

    The leaded barrier surged forward. Compelled by the fire behind it, the lump of metal quickly accelerated ahead of the flame, crushed and conformed by spiraling steel tracks until it was forcefully ejected from the barrel of the gun. As quickly as it came the fire faded from existence never to be remembered. The air came crashing into the chamber with a violent crack. Meanwhile, the bullet tore through the atmosphere like a dull blade through flesh. It ripped through the wall of air faster than it could react, faster than sound. Quickly, the bullet left its origin behind and found its target.

    Cotton, flesh, a glance of bone. The speeding shard tore through the progressively dense layers of his body, slowing ever so gradually as it bore its indifferent path through his body. It halted just short of his aorta, but the soldier was unaware of this subtle grace.

    His senses were quickened beyond his belief by the impact and the trauma around him. Every sight, every sound rushed into him as he fell. The very scent of the air, full of gunpowder, sweat, and blood seemed alive and pungent as his head struck the ground. His open eyes could see the boots of comrade and enemy alike rushing forward and back, like branches tossed in a turbulent wind. There was shouting and screaming everywhere, so much so that he was unaware of his own morbid cries. The battle was going on in indifference, but that mattered little. He had a struggle of his own.

    The noise of gunshots and the shouts of desperate men faded into the background until they were no more than rain falling on a tin roof. His beautiful wife and baby were with him in his mind. Oh, how there as was so much he regretted. So much he wished he could have made right. But even those thoughts began to fade from his mind, and though he tried to cling to the memory of his loved ones, his world began to change.

    He could still feel the pain in his flesh and hear the chaos about him, but something else was pressing upon him that dulled all of that. A tightness was surrounding his mind, it was crushing down on him now. The world was growing dim. The weight of his death was more than he could bear, squeezing his being into nothingness. He wished he could explode to release the terrible constriction. Suddenly, there was a flash of light and a searing pain. The fallen soldier gasped in relief. The pressure had slacked, allowing his mind to take in its surroundings.

    His eyes tried to focus but could not. The air was somehow different. It felt like he was painfully breathing for the first time. The death dulled crashes of war were now overshadowed by crowing roars and screeches of nightmarish terror. Something, was hunching over him.

    It slashed, and another stream of vibrant pain coursed through him, and another degree of relief from the crushing pressure washed over him. The war was even further away now. Or was it? As his vision became more clear, he could see the shadowy images of men charging in battle and fallen on the field. But they all seemed so small now, like toy figures on a great dark table. About them flashes of unnatural light shone. A fleeting object darted across the sky close above him.

    These were not birds or planes. Nor were the giant figures he could now see leaping across the miniscule battle field anything like men. He did not remember any of this during the battle. His eyes still could not see clearly, but it was apparent that great beastial entities darted about the battlefield on which he had died.

    The thing above him rose to strike again, but was prevented as another horrible creature rushed over them both with blinding speed. The dying soldier was knocked aside as the creatures tumbled, locked in ferocious battle. In the violence of the attack he had been freed him from the crushing confines of his fading mortal body.

    There was no time to enjoy the freedom of release. Everything was moving rapidly now. Quickly, he was grabbed from behind and hefted into the air. Whatever had him was still fighting off the darker more insidious beasts that his eyes could now more clearly see. Upwards the attackers leapt trying to reach his savior’s - or captor’s - helpless cargo but it was too great for them. He could not make out what it was that held him, but it was certainly not human. No, the humans were far below now, mere ants among the giants set about in a greater, more violent war around him. The human struggle seemed futile in such a setting.

    His escort turned quickly to reveal another monstrosity making its way towards them through the fray. This assailant was larger and darker than the rest, clearly a formidable match for that which protected him, clearly bent on bringing trouble their way.

    An excruciating light suddenly blinded the soldier once again. For a moment the man could see nothing. He felt himself lurching upward as the creature moved under him. His eyes began to adjust; his courier was scaling what seemed to be a beam of brilliant light. Upward they climbed with blazing speed through the sky. He could see the flashes of the larger battle below. Dark beasts leapt to follow them while others hurled burst of energy into the sky. But their efforts were in vain, and for that the soldier was grateful. Onward they climbed. The world of giants was far below now and the monstrous cries began to fade and blend with the ever present background the mortal war.

    The horizon could be seen black and dirty against brilliant white. It curved downward at the edges. Above and around him vibrant living things could be seen moving among channels of light. Below him dark figures still surged in violent conflict. His guide was silent as it moved; climbing, almost swimming through the beam of brilliant energy. The horizon below now arched downward. Was that the curvature of the earth he could see? It couldn’t be, he could still plainly see the moving giants below.

    Presently, the curving edges of the battlefield curled under and met to form an irregular orb. Its darkness throbbed and contorted as the battle raged within and upon it. But it was diminishing now, both in size and quality. As the travelers continued their ascent the atmosphere around them increasingly teemed with likewise speeding creatures of various, indescribable sorts.

    So intense was the life energy he was surging into that it made the hideous battle below seem quiet and empty. The world of his birth seemed still less alive. Everything he had ever known was pathetic by comparison. It felt like he had walked from a barren desert into a tropical jungle and further again into an unknown intensity of life.

    The light ahead was blinding, almost searing. A vast expanse of new sounds, scents and colors were flooding his senses. It was as though the very air were a living organism that filled the universe. It made the world he had known, even the life he had lived seem small and vain. He wasn’t sure he could take any more of this contrast to his own small insignificance. But there wasn’t much choice; he was being brought into the very source of light and life, passing beyond unknown planes of reality.

    Somewhere in the distance he heard someone calling his name. It sounded familiar. Was it from below, where his body lay lifeless in that plain empty world? Or from beyond the impenetrable glare? He knew where he was being taken. What he didn’t know was would happen once he got there...
     
  8. RyanM
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    RyanM Member

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    Laughable Death - 1557 (8:14am Saturday (BST) - Time in United Kingdom)

    Lord Kalid Mortall stood hovering over the schematics for the castle he was now in. The plans had been marked up and scratched out as the battle of the fortress progressed. Now three quarters had been lost and it was becoming harder to defend. Mortall sat back in a chair, allowing the three officers in the room space to calculate an outcome. The Mortall was a small man, under five feet and six inches, he had a round stomach and clothes rolled loosely over his belly. His hair receded a great distance and the color had washed from black to grey. Stress was evident on his face as he sat in his chair he pondered the outcome to soon follow the day. There was a knock at the door, and Mortall was pulled from his thoughts.

    “Enter.” Said Mortall, as he stood up and walked back over the table.
    The man who entered was well built and he emitted leadership. He was captain of the remaining five hundred men left at the fortress of Thellmatt.

    “My lord, I have the reports of the current situation outside."

    “Very well, let us here it.”

    “Yes, my lord. We have lost four fifths of the fortress. Our men have been dwindling down, we now have current census of the three hundred fighting fit men, and forty nine unable to fight again. We are slowly being pushed back beyond the final defensible wall. Our two remaining archer towers have been set alight eliminating the possibility raining arrows upon the waves that advance.” The captain set a foot on the bench by the map table and began to draw out what had happened in the last four hours. He looked up to see that his lord had no questions and then continued. “My lord, I also fear our magicians are losing stamina for the ShellForce wall is beginning to falter. We will soon be at the mercy of enemy shamans, I employ that you consider falling back. My lord.”

    “Falling back is out of the question, we have nowhere to fall back upon. We have our backs to the sea and it would be impossible to prepare a ship for all the men. There is no time, we have to but hold out for the King. King Yaol has sent his army out numbering the enemy five to one. We must wait. He will be here by noon tomorrow, and I fear that there will be on sleep tonight. We had been graced to have been allowed the nights to rest, however now the enemy will seek to break us before our reinforcements have arrived.” Mortall walked back and sat in his chair.

    “What is the situation outside like now?”

    “It is calm my lord. I would imagine that they are going to attack us at nightfall?”

    “Correct, it makes sense to attack when we need rest the most.”

    “How would to like to proceed with the men?”

    “We will divide them into three platoons of one hundred men. I shall command one, lieutenant Spears the second, and you the third. You will take your men up onto the wall and defend from the men scaling, while the lieutenant and I will defend the gate breach. I also want you to inform the casters to drop the shield at nightfall and prepare FireDrafts. The fire will burn the first wave of attackers, and hopefully hold them off for an hour before the regroup, and then the magicians should shield their minds from the holds of the shaman. The last thing we need is to become victims of friendly fire. Now, go and prepare the men.”

    Captain Elenrod quickly saluted and left room gently closing the door behind. Once he was gone, Lord Mortall beckoned his aid to help him adorn his armor before following in the captains footsteps. As he walked out into the courtyard the sun had begun its decent behind the mountains of Galith. There was a distinguishable tension in the air as the Lord walked among the battlements. Men were huddled in groups talking to themselves and the occasional laughter could be heard. There was certain doom facing these men, yet the joked as if if they were merely about to swat a fly. Mortall grinned as the thought of death came to him. No Death, you shall not take me today he thought. And then, the sounds of steel and screams began to ring in the air.

    The captains’ men battled hard on the wall as the enemy set ladders to scale the walls. At first they were able to strike the attackers down before the made it over the wall, however sheer numbers of the enemy caused them to step back in order to regroup. Men fell as swords clashed and the sounds of steel rung out. One of the captains men charged forwards ducked under a slash and brought his blade upon the attacker cutting the life out of the man. He swerved left and parried a blow, sending a riposte back at the enemy. He man did this three more times before falling under multiple blades of the advancing enemy.

    The two remaining squads below watched in awe as their comrades fought and died. Many had been able to take out three or four of the enemy before falling victim to steel. It was only when half of the captains’ men remained that Lord Mortall sent the order for the FireDraft.

    The wind had started to pickup as the fifteen magicians chanted the FireDraft spell. The air in wind went from cool to warm, to burning of a flames heat. Strong gusts of the scalding air blew into the faces of the enemy causing them to throw up their arms in order to quell the heat. The forty seven remaining defenders sent the invaders over back over the wall in time for the final stage of the FireDraft. Rain began to poor and it too became a scalding element of torture for the enemy and soon enough the attackers had pulled back out of hellish wind and rain.

    *
    Forty minutes later the war cries came again, this time there would be no magic.

    *
    Lieutenant Spears and his hundred men had become engaged in battle shortly after the second attack begun, when the gates had been blow open by trebuchet. Men surged through the opening and into the courtyard which was being deafened by line spread thin. Blood soaked the ground as the attackers cut down the defenders one by one. Within seconds of the breech opening twenty defenders had died. Spears and two men by his side hacked and slashed with ferocity as fatigued tugged at them. The Spears rolled to his right under a cut and came up fast on his opponent, disemboweling him. He parried multiple attacks then sent a riposte which opened his attacker’s throat. The two beside him where also fairing well and had teamed up, and started to circle back to back, while facing four attackers. One of the two parried slash after slash killing one man, however he caught the blade of another to his stomach, while the second man had been downed by three simultaneous blows. Fifty of Mortalls men came in to fill the gaps of the dyeing men commanded by Spears.

    Mortall and the remaining fifty men had reinforced the walls with the captain. Everyone was fighting tooth and nail with only one thing in mind; Survival. The invaders continued to climb over the walls and had soon massed a foothold on the defenders slowly pushing them back down off the walls and into the courtyard.

    By late morning there one hundred twenty men remaining, all of them in courtyard fighting back to back, brother to brother. The captain had died from a blow to head on the wall, while Mortall and the Lieutenant remained alive with the one hundred twenty.

    Thirty minutes later, only ten men remained. Mortall, the Lieutenant and eight men who should by have died hours before. They all panted and coughed, they all had sweat pouring down their foreheads and stinging their eyes. They where back to back now, clutching their weapons with moot desperation that something or someone would save them from the clutches of death that circled them. Hundreds… thousands of men swarmed around them laughing and jeering at the imminent victory.

    Mortall, at the brink of exhaustion flung his blade to the ground and began to laugh in the face of his Death. The fort had been lost, yet Mortall grinned for he could see the tired looks of the enemy. He could see their dead where twice as many as his own. The remaining nine men did the same. Laughter filled the air and quickly the jeering stopped as they all looked in awe at the hysteria of the men faced with certain death. The laughing remained for several minutes until a muffled order was shouted and hundreds of the enemy plunged blades into the laughing men.

    Moments later the invaders scrambled to try and defend themselves against the thousands of men now attacking them, seeking to take back what they had just one. King Yaol had arrived, and once more the air filled with the sounds of steel and screams.
     
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