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

The Blood of the Honored, Part 6


Posted on June 26th, by Kevin Gubernatis in Excerpt, Fantasy, short story. No Comments

It was a deep, soaking rain that came from seemingly nowhere and doused the braziers and other fires. There had been no dark clouds upon any horizon that Pargnok had viewed in the last few hours, nor had he heard any thunder until then. He knew that it was magic and that the woman in front of him had used that magic to call the storm, blanketing his fort in cold, wet darkness.

“Turtle formation!” Pargnok heard Grilcor call out loudly to the legionnaires below. “Defend the archer unit and keep it tight!” The captain didn’t need to look down into the courtyard to know that Grilcor and the rest of his men were pulling in tighter around the others in the courtyard, the soldiers closer to the center of the barrier raising their shields to complete the protective shell. Pargnok’s own role in the strategic defense of the base was not over yet and so, he could not resign himself to simply dispatching enemies. He knew he still a task before him and he had to be swift.

Pargnok took a large step toward the outer wall and, tossing his weapon into his other hand and letting his shield rest on his arms again, reached into the brazier he’d lit and grabbed out his spark torch. He then turned and tried to dart for the stairs leading down into the courtyard. The captain’s egress was nearly halted, however, as the Forest Elf woman he’d been fighting tried again to slash at his eyes with her large bone-handled knife when he turned back around. He blocked the knife lightly with his shield and gave her a good bash to the face to stun her, but did not stop his movement toward the stairs.

Just as he reached the stairs, Pargnok heard something make a clacking noise off to his left. His head turned just in time to see a black arrow clatter to the floor. He looked around, but couldn’t spot the archer through the rain, so he leaped down the stairs in a bound. Landing lightly on his feet, he lifted his shield and blade over his head to help protect him from the vicious missiles.

Pargnok heard another arrow clang off of his shield as he ran past his soldiers in formation and to the main door to the barracks. Once there, he crouched low, leveled his shield in front of him and watched the formation for the signal he was waiting for. Pargnok knew the others were likely having a bit of trouble with the rain, so it might take longer than expected for them to get ready. He had to hold out for however long that was.

Pargnok detected movement from the direction of the stairs he’d just used and watched as the Forest Elf he’d been fighting descended them gracefully. She stopped once and looked up, as if strengthened by the rain, then continued until she was in the courtyard. The grelf made a motion as if to harass the turtle formation, but then she caught sight of Pargnok and seemed to change her mind.

“Na nin!” The elf cried out and several other shadows skulked down from the upper battlements to fall in behind her. She and her cadre stalked toward Pargnok, like wolves surrounding prey. As he was contemplating his next move, he heard the tell-tale clanging of several arrows hitting steel and knew that the archers above had decided to focus their fire upon his soldier’s shields. This meant that they were likely no longer trying to hit him, so he gripped his shield and warblade tightly, preparing himself for a charge into the She-Elf and her pack.

Just as he was about to burst into that sudden charge, he caught, out of the corner of his eye, the signal for which he had been waiting. He could see fire behind the feet of his men telling him that the archers were at least close to ready. Pargnok charged for the elven woman, roaring to the manticore as he did, then stopped abruptly about ten feet from the elves. He struck his spark torch against the inside part of his steel shield that was still dry and he spun, launching the torch at a bail of hay that lay nearby, protected from the rain by a thatched hood. As the oil within the hay bail fed the fire of the spark torch, Pargnok dropped to one knee and spun back on his foes, covering his eyes with his shield.

A heartbeat later, sparks and bright light flared from the bale, as the Star Stone within it touched the flames of Pargnok’s spark torch. He heard his would-be assassins cry out and took that as his cue to look. When he did, he saw the woman and her other elven companions blinking, shaking their heads and holding their eyes, as the brilliant mineral sparked to life and blinded them. He charged at the woman first, slamming her with his shield and knocking her to the ground. Then, taking his warblade in his right hand, he slashed and thrust and cut at the others around her.

There wasn’t much the elves could do to defend against Pargnok’s attack, blinded as they were, and when he was finished, not one of them stood. As the captain went about the grisly task of confirming all of his kills, the flashing light of the Star Stone drew his attention up to the battlements. What he saw there made his heart sink into his chest. All along the watch walls stood shadowy cloaked forms, and, despite the rain, he could see them readying blowguns.

There were more than fifty.





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