Are you bright enough to shine despite... The Darkness?

The Blood of the Honored, Part 4

Posted on June 12th, by Kevin Gubernatis in Excerpt, Fantasy, short story. No Comments

Once atop the southern wall, Pargnok began relaying orders to Grilcor, who barked them out for him. He had any non-combatant civilians move into the barracks and had all of their stores of food moved inside as well. The next few hours were spent prepping the base’s defenses, such as they were. The fort’s regulars stood in the courtyard square armed with loaded crossbows aimed upward, alongside a smattering of locals armed with borrowed crossbows, or whatever weapons they’d brought with them.

Those under Pargnok’s command took their posts as well. Each soldier stood an arm’s length from one another with their backs against the inner walls of the courtyard. Every one had their shield down in front of them and their warblade held in their right hand. They were all also armed with two throwing axes each, the standard compliment for a Coalition legionnaire.

One unlucky soul was going to have to be the lighter, and Pargnok decided it was going to be himself this night. He knew that Grilcor could more than handle the task of commanding the patrol in combat, and he didn’t want to have to worry about whomever might get stuck with the duty. He stood in a dark alcove, away from the torchlight, and waited, shield in front of him, warblade in left hand and spark torch in the other. Pargnok examined the item for a moment to make sure he was holding it correctly. The device was among only a few select magical implements issued to the Manticore Legion as basic equipment. When struck against a hard stone or metal surface, like the stone walls of the fort, the head of the torch would spark and catch fire, burning bright and hot until guttered out or suppressed in some manner.

Pargnok took a moment to steal a glance down from the southern battlement, where he stood in seclusion, to the courtyard where his soldiers were. Everyone was set. Grilcor stood as solid stone against the wall with the rest of the patrol. The sergeant was a hobgoblin, which in Pargnok’s mind was half the reason he was such a good soldier and half the reason he was sometimes insufferably opinionated. As Pargnok watched him, Grilcor clapped his warblade on the cobblestone floor again.

Pargnok admired his own weapon now. The Legion Warblade was based upon an ancient orcish weapon of the same name. The weapon was equal parts axe, polearm, longsword and spear. The haft and handle was about a meter and a half long and the blade was about half that. The blade itself was strong and hard for chopping, but also curved and swept down over part of the handle to give it a longer cutting and slashing edge. It terminated in an abrupt point for thrusting and stabbing and the weapon had a two inch in diameter steel butt cap that made the weapon excellent in both hands if the wielder lost their shield.

Pargnok’s attention was drawn from his examinations to the setting sun. It was almost dusk now and he had to keep his eyes open and his mind sharp. If the Captain did not meet his mark, those below would have a much harder fight ahead of them this night. He gauged the distance between himself and the brazier before him that was built into the outer wall. He had to be swift and sure.

As the last rays of the setting sun danced upon the stone just in front of Pargnok’s red and golden tower shield, he leaned his warblade against his chest and slid his left arm into his shield’s handles. He let his weapon fall gently back into his hand and flattened against the wall behind him. As if on cue, the Captain heard the light rustling of grass and leaves just outside the fort’s walls that signaled his foe’s approach.

Pargnok waited patiently in his darkened hiding spot for any sign of the attackers, periodically stealing glances back down into the courtyard to see if any had already infiltrated the fort. The archers were all in the center of the yard with their weapons readied. Many of the locals stood on a dais, which Pargnok thought might have at one time held a statue, trying to get a better vantage point from where they were, but there was still no sign of the enemy.

Just when Pargnok thought his own patience was about to give out, the first shadowy form slid over the lip of the wall and onto the battlements. A breath later and two more followed standing to either side of the first. One by one, each crept so low to the stone floor that Pargnok almost lost sight of them and they slid off into different directions. He gripped the spark torch tightly and struck it hard against the stone wall of the fort to his right. The torch came alive with light, illuminating the alcove.

Just as Pargnok was about to complete his task, he heard a sound from above him like a mouse running across a darkened room. He looked up just in time to see a cloaked figure bracing itself against either side of the alcove with pale, slender legs. Pargnok lifted his shield above his head just in time to hear the tinny clang of a poisoned blowgun dart against it, and he surged out of the alcove.

Diving forward, Pargnok rolled onto his shield, sprang upward, and spun about to face his foe. The elf slid gracefully down the alcove, it’s naked, white legs and feet the only part of it not covered by a deep dark green cloak made of what looked to Pargnok like leaves and grass. The moment the creature’s feet both touched the ground, it fired off another dart, which again clanged off of the Captain’s shield.

“You’ll have to do better than that, grelf,” Pargnok growled mockingly as he plunged the spark torch into the brazier next to him. The brazier roared to life and illuminated the area around him and his foe. “To arms! The enemy is upon us!” The Captain watched as the brazier’s new-lit fire spread out along the lip of the battlements, fueled by oil and pitch. The flames snaked along the walls of the fort in both directions. brightening the battlements and revealing countless skulking, cloaked shapes.

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