The Blood of The Honored, Part 8
“Bloody Bones!” Grilcor exclaimed. The beast lurched forward and swiped casually at the four soldiers near the kennels, sending Broll sprawling. He slammed hard into the courtyard’s north wall and then moved not at all. Grobasha roared in rage rushed forward, slashing the giant bear under its knee. The creature backhanded the powerful orc woman, knocking her behind it towards the gate. Smithson ran towards Broll, while Mettcaff strafed in front of the bear, moving towards the southern wall and away from his fellow soldiers. He smacked the flat of his warblade onto his shield and howled as he went, drawing his adversary’s attention away from them as well.
Pargnok looked on, trying to size up the situation. He knew that if he rushed the creature, as he would have liked, the rest of the slavers would fire into their flank and everyone would die. Even with the worgs out skirmishing, there was no telling the number of slavers present at this point. If Pargnok waited for the bear to come at them, it would likely trample most of his men and everyone would die. He had to find a way to take the beast down without breaking ranks, before it reached the barracks.
The great bear roared in pain and reared back, drawing Pargnok’s eyes upward. He watched as a battle-mad Grobasha, having climbed up the beast’s back, slammed her warblade into its neck. The beast reached up as if to grab at Grobasha, but she smacked the monster’s massive claw away with her weapon. She then drove the blade home once more, biting deeply into the bear’s neck.
Mettcaff took the opportunity to dash forward and get a good strike in at the beast’s hairy leg. Its retaliatory swipe missed the nimble soldier by the slimmest of margins as Metctaff leaped back and resumed his bashing and howling. Smithson was now halfway between the kennels and Pargnok’s formation, with Broll’s arm slung over his shoulder. Broll was clearly wounded, but was staggering along with Smithson.
“We’ve got to do something, Cap,” Grilcor stated, worried. Pargnok was slowly running out of options. The Star Stone, his secret weapon, had slowed the egress of their foe, but not hindered it, as he’d hoped. The improvisation of the wolves seemed to have worked well enough on the rank-and-file of these slavers, but that witch had changed the game once again. He made the only choice left to him.
“Manticores!” Pargnok bellowed loudly into the steady drumming of the beating rain. “Fall back! Get the archers into the barracks and then follow! Protect the honored!”
“You heard the man, fall back!” Grilcor repeated just as loudly, reinforcing Pargnok’s command. The captain watched as Smithson made it back to the crescent with Broll. Grilcor took the wounded soldier from Smithson and pulled him into the crescent, where others moved him farther into the ranks and safety.
“Mettcaff, Grobasha, FALL BACK!” Pargnok yelled angrily over the din of the rain. “Get your asses back in formation!” The frustration was an act. He wanted them back, because he wanted them safe and barking at them was the best way to get them moving. Mettcaff either didn’t hear him or was willfully ignoring him, as he made no move toward the crescent, but continued to howl and beat his shield.
Grobasha was still struggling with the great beast, her legs swinging back and fourth as it tried to shake her off. It was at this moment that Pargnok noticed the other movement near to the creature’s feet. Several forms seemed to be staggering about behind the giant bear’s legs. It was some of the people who had been in the cage on the beast’s back. Grobasha must have taken the opportunity to free them from their prison of bone when she’d been knocked backwards by the creature.
The rest of Pargnok’s patrol had begun moving those in the back of the formation into the barracks. Mettcaff, having noticed the survivors as well, began yelling wildly at them to run past the beast and toward the safety of the barracks. Pargnok realized he had to act quickly, if he wanted to save any of those people.
“Hold!” Pargnok ordered suddenly to get his soldiers’ attention and to halt their retreat. “I want an axe volley at that beast! First rank….” As one, the entire front line of soldiers in the formation slid their warblades into their left hands, resting their shields and drew out one of the two small throwing axes that every soldier wore on their belt.
Their were only a few freed persons – all goblins – but they seemed to be groggy and disoriented. One, at least, had seen or heard Mettcaff and was trying to get the others on their feet. The next few seconds were the longest that Pargnok had ever remembered in his life. Everything slowed to a crawl. He could no longer hear the howls of the worgs or the cries of their prey. The great monstrous bear was still trying to shake off the horrible thing on its back that was Grobasha. All Pargnok could hear in this moment was the steady patter of the rain. He waited until he saw that those survivors who were on the ground already were on their feet and then he gave the order.
As one, the entire front rank of soldiers launched their throwing axes at the beast. The weapons flew out end-over-end in a perfect and expertly executed arc, hitting at roughly the same time. The beast roared in pain and staggered first backward, then forward and came down on all fours. The survivors who had made it out of the cage ran first to Mettcaff and then upon his direction, toward the crescent formation, where they were also pulled into the safety of the ranks.
Mettcaff, having gotten the last of the survivors to the barracks, turned his attention to those still in the cage. None of them moved, but Pargnok knew that would not stop the young soldier from trying to get to them.
“Mettcaff!” Pargnok yelled, sharply. “FALL BACK!” Mettcaff hesitated only a moment, but then followed the order and moved quickly back towards the formation. Just as Pargnok was about to give Grobasha a similar order, he heard the tell-tale swoop-thud that made his heart sink. He turned back to see Metcaff, who had been so preoccupied with the survivors that he forgot to raise his shield, standing dumbfounded in the rain, looking down at the arrow head sticking out of his chest.
“NO!” Grobasha screamed in rage from atop the great bear. Pargnok looked up to see the shooter standing triumphantly on the upper wall, about to loose another arrow into the still standing Mettcaff. Before he could, though, he found himself looking down at a similar wound. The handle of Grobasha’s throwing axe was suddenly a nub in the elf’s sternum, the blade buried so deep that you couldn’t see it. Mettcaff staggered forward a bit and then slumped to the ground.
Grobasha’s cry had knocked the giant bear out of its delirium. It seemed to notice the formation for the first time since it had destroyed the portcullis. It growled menacingly at the soldiers and lifted its claw as if to swipe at Pargnok himself. The Captain braced himself and felt the rest of his soldiers tighten up to meet the foreseen blow but it never came. What did come was a shrill battlecry that sounded out into the night. Grobasha howled and dove onto the great bear’s claw, blade first, driving the beast’s paw into the ground and pinning it there. She then drew her second hand axe – her only other weapon – and held it high.
“For the Honored, for the Fallen!” Grobasha cried in her own threatening roar, which was echoed by many of her fellow soldiers. She then climbed back up the great bear’s arm, trying to scramble onto its back. Lost to her fury, Grobasha began hammering the creature in its skull and the beast slumped.
It looked as though they might actually win the night. Pargnok even believed it.
Until he heard the singing.
High above, on some upper part of the castle, the druid began singing once more. Pargnok’s self-hatred at not having killed her was outweighed only by his fear of the elven woman’s fetid singing. He watched as the huge beast, having heard the music, looked directly at him. It seemed to almost smile, just as the druid had smiled at him earlier. The expression instilled Pargnok with an immediate dread.
Without warning, the beast reached up at an impossible angle onto its back, the sound of breaking bones and tearing tendons following it as it snatched Grobasha from her perch and brought her down before its eyes and before Pargnok’s. Grobasha turned and managed to meet her captain’s eyes for a moment.
“For the Honored,” Grobasha growled softly, her tears mixing with the falling rain and rage mixed with grief. Grilcor made a move as if to try and attack the bear, likely hoping it would let her go, but Pargnok stopped him.
“For the Fallen,” Pargnok responded, nodding at Grobasha. She nodded back and then launched her axe right between the beast’s eyes. It roared loudly and shook it’s head back and fourth., screwing up its features in pain and anger.
“FALL BACK NOW!” Pargnok screamed, as much in rage as in volume. “BACK TO THE BARRACKS NOW!” The formation poured into the barracks entrance in response, putting Broll and the other wounded through the doorway first. Pargnok had just gotten to the door himself when the bear had shaken off the pain.
He would not dishonor her. Pargnok made sure to watch as the beast bit down onto Grobasha with its massive fangs. He made sure, too, to listen, as her last battle cry, a defiant roar of fury echoed out into the night.