Wandering Through Terran–Chapter 20

January 22, 2010

Here’s Chapter Twenty.  Four chapters to go, so I’ll just push through this weekend…

Link to the rest of the story…

Chapter Twenty: The Battle of Aven

Where Ingenuity is Tested…

The trek down the other side of the mountain onto the plains of Aven was considerably faster than the trek up and the dwarves moved with more speed than Dayspring expected them to. They covered the trek down the other side of the mountain at a break neck pace, regrouping into lines at the edge of the plain around sunrise. They were actually quite a distance from the city of Aven, but the goblin army stretched so far back that it was a short distance from their position.

This is it!” Barnack shouted. He raised his mace in the air as he incited the dwarves and men’s adrenaline. “Cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war! Do not leave a goblin standing here today!”

With a loud battle cry, they charged on the goblin army with reckless abandon. Dayspring reached them first, followed closely behind by the dwarves as he swung into the enemy force with his sword. Each of them hacked away at the goblins, driving closer and closer to Aven.

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The walls of the city held exactly as long as Sydney had hoped, a bit longer than he expected. By the time the goblins managed to break through into the city, the people of Aven were more than ready to deliver their counterattack. They fell back to the Palace and sealed the gate just as the goblins charged into the city. They waited as a great mass of goblins flooded onto the streets. When the time was deemed right, Marizan dropped the flare down into the sewer system as the goblins crowded around.

Seconds later the city collapsed under the invading goblins, dropping them into the rubble below through a holocaust of fire and explosions. Patracolus and Galic waited anxiously within the Palace gates as the goblins continued to charge forward, slipping into the pit as the earth gave way under them. Looking out through the sliding window, they waited for the right moment.

Get ready to open the gate,” Galic said. “You should have footing along the edges, let the archers cover you. Don’t rush, we’ve got all day.”

He gave the signal and lowered the visor on his helmet. The rest of the men did the same as the sound of the chains started to echo through the passageway.

For Aven!” Patracolus shouted. “For Terran! For Zev!”

The heavy gate swung open, giving the group their way out. A wide track remained along the edges of the city walls, allowing them to run along the edges of the city to the front gate. Galic and Patracolus led the charge, cutting down the goblins or forcing them over the edge as they reached the gate. Fighting out from there, they met the goblins and fought their way into the plain.

Stay tight!” Galic ordered. “Don’t let them spread you out!”

puup

Eseen came face to face with Curoon as her unit moved onto the field, following the initial charge in the fracas. It was sooner than both of them had anticipated, the other’s presence catching each of them by surprise. They composed themselves quickly, their focus zeroing in on one another. He regarded her coldly and with care, sizing her up and waiting to see what the flow of power around them was. Vera appraised the two, realizing immediately what the situation was.

Have fun,” the princess said. “Call if you need me.”

Eseen nodded as she and the goblin shaman stared each other down. Circling one another, the pair prepared for the battle they had silently been promised. She pulled a thin twig from her hand and transformed it into a staff. With a slow motion, Eseen reached down and picked up a clump of dirt.

The earth is content with its state here,” she said. She let the clump fall from her fingers. “Not necessarily happy with your kind here, but content. No forests today”

That it is,” the shaman agreed. “We face each other on a level field. Are you prepared? Have you attuned to your totem and made peace with it?”

I have. Are you prepared?”

I am.”

Then have at thee.”

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Sydney had worked out an elaborate plan for the defense of Aven. While the goblins were attacking the front gate and falling into the trap he set, he had Viktor and a group of his best Knights on horseback, ready to ride in with partisans and lances ready to strike. They rode quickly around the edge of the city, charging into the goblin horde. They cut deep into the goblin lines, taking many of the enemy down as they cleared their way to the gate where Galic and Patracolus’s group held.

How are you doing here?” Sydney asked.

Having the time of our lives, my liege!” Galic shouted.

They heard a horn blow, signaling the arrival of Falston’s forces. In the distance they saw the gold banners of their southern neighbors.

I suspect that is the contingent of men from Falston,” Sydney said. He looked to Patracolus. “We will honor your brother. He gave us the opportunity to start this battle on our terms and give Terran another day. We will remember him well.”

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In the shadow of the mountain, Eseen and Curoon fought each other with well-practiced disciplines. Each trying to strike other down with every blow, it was a deadly dance that neither truly would expect to win fairly. Every spell and strike was timed perfectly and blocked with precision. They were perfect equals in most senses and both knew it. What the young mage lacked to her opponent in experience, she made up for in raw power and tenacity. Their conjuring ran through all the basic spells, using the manifestations of their totem to weaken or strike down each other. Suddenly he spotted a weak spot in her defense, sending a shard of rock at her head. It gashed across her cheek, sending a small stream of blood down. Following that was a clump of earth and the shaman’s own staff struck her. She fell to the ground as the goblin loomed over her.

You challenge those whom you should respect,” he talked at her. “I have studied the ways of the mountain. I am the embodiment of its silent rage. I can control the mountains to my will and order them with a thought. Can you instruct your precious forests to do that? What advantages do you claim?”

I’ve studied anatomy,” she hissed. Spinning, she kicked him between the legs. The goblin doubled over as she rolled up to her feet and faced him. “Doesn’t matter what race claims you as theirs, it hurts to get hit there. And it’s all me that did it.” She gave him a strong punch to the chest, causing a loud crack and the breath to rush out of him. “Those broken ribs? My doing.” She grabbed his arm and broke it. “That broken arm? Mine too.” Spinning, she struck him in the chest again before kicking him in the jaw to the sound of another satisfying crunch. He clutched at it with his good hand, realizing she had broken it. She stumbled as he leg gave out, balancing herself on one leg. “Your broken jaw? All me. That feeling that you just got beaten by a seventeen year-old girl twice? Me. I am enjoying that.” She drew a knife from her belt. “You disrespect the totems. They are not ours to control and order. You do not honor them. I don’t ask for the forest to bend to my will. It lends me its own when it deems me worthy. They are to be honored.” Reaching down, she cut his throat, letting the green slime of his fluids flow out.

Letting him drop to the ground, Eseen stepped back from her opponent’s body. She stared at him, letting her breathing slow to a more manageable rate as the adrenaline began to fade. As it did, the various cuts and bruises and fractures began to sing their songs of pain. The endorphins started to short out, not calming the screaming nerves any longer. She fell to the ground as it overwhelmed her.

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Merf had been assigned to stay on the wall, coordinating the battle with Lothgar from there and stay in reserve. However, he began to hear the call of his rival in the goblin army. Urza was ready for their reckoning and had called for it to be that moment. Seeing that he had to engage his enemy on the field, Merf took a horse from the stables and rode out around the remains of the city. Coming on to the field of battle, he fought his way through the goblins to Urza. Dismounting, he let the horse run back to the stables.

Urza,” Merf said calmly.

Merf,” Urza acknowledged. “I have to say, I am impressed. I did not expect you to worm your way into the High King’s council so quickly.”

He is a tad too trusting. He’s young and he’s learning though. You’re treachery alone is decades of education for the young man.”

Merf, you know as well as I that he will fall today. This dwarf army that arrived will but delay the goblin victory. Even the foolish Ranger and his sacrifice did little to delay us.”

Urza, I suggest you give serious thought to your allegiances and find your way back to the straight and narrow.”

Do you truly believe you can defeat me?”

He sent a blast of fire at Merf, who stumbled back with the strike. Falling to the ground, Urza moved closer to finish his opponent. Using the considerably less sophisticated tactics, Merf lashed out with a mind push. The mental blast sent Urza reeling, giving Merf a chance to stand and regroup. Urza laughed at his former subordinate.

Really, Merf?” he scoffed. “A mind push? You would use such childish tricks and charms? You spent far too many years teaching children of politics and other things? Do you know anything of how true wizard are wont to do battle?”

Urza noticed the shape of a man moving closer. As it drew closer, the dirty blond haired man strode closer to them, raising his staff to Urza.

You’ve reached into the darker powers,” Slant said to Urza. “You’ve betrayed your sacred oaths.” He looked to Merf. “I am Slant of Dello. Forgive my intrusion, but the hour for the wizards to battle is at hand and I do not see another my equal.”

So it is and there is not,” Merf said. “Though you are not of our Order, I am honored to have you at my side.”

They steeled themselves for Urza’s attack. Planting his staff in the ground, Urza began summoning familiars to challenge the two wizards opposing him. Slant quickly lifted his staff and held it horizontal.

Barrier of Light!” he shouted. The creatures crashed against his barrier and turned to ash. He jumped forward through the snow of ash, pitting himself against Urza directly. “I call on the Wrath of the Titans!”

Lightning and hale struck at Urza, forcing him to raise own barriers against the onslaught. Seeing the opening, Merf prepared his own attack.

Reaching slowly to his belt, Merf drew the casting stones that Cannus had given him. Making sure they were in the right order, he held them loosely in his right hand. Sliding the first between his thumb and forefinger, he began the spell.

With this first stone of the Earth I clasp you in your place,” Merf intoned. The stone glowed a bright green as it rose from his hand. He raised the next to his hand as Urza found himself buried to the knees in mud. “With this second stone of Water I wash away your defenses.” The stone glowed blue as Urza’s barriers fell and he stood defenseless. He went to the next stone. “With this third stone of Fire I remove your power.” He raised the last stone. “With this final stone of the Wind I drown out your voice, silencing your spells forever.”

Urza fell to his knees, shaking from the binding spell that Merf had performed. Slant stepped back as they regarded the fallen wizard.

Go where you will,” Merf said. “We have marked you as a traitor and as such none will offer you sanctuary. Your corruptions have been cleansed from this land and your voice has been taken. Go.”

Urza laughed. The clouds grew dark as a shadow flew through the sky above them. Goblin and man alike paused as they saw the shape descending upon them. Looking up, Slant frowned.

What have you done?” Merf gasped.

puup

Patracolus and Viktor came face to face with the Goblin Lord. Brunzar glared at them as the they formed up before him, each holding a weapon ready. In each hand the Goblin Lord held a broad blade of metal. Patracolus advanced on the Goblin Lord slowly while Viktor stayed back as a second, waiting for the best opening.

Your manner is quite similar to the Ranger’s,” he observed of Patracolus. “You’re his kin?”

That’s right,” Patracolus said. “I am his brother.”

He died like a coward,” Brunzar said. “I killed him with ease.”

He’d trying to goad you,” Viktor reminded his companion. “Don’t let him.”

Of course not,” Patracolus said bitterly. “We were trained better than that. On my mark.”

On your mark,” Viktor confirmed. “Go.”

Patracolus charged ahead, their feign catching the Goblin Lord off-guard. With his sword, the Knight managed a solid strike on Brunzar’s thigh. Moving quickly, Viktor charged in behind. Showing a surprising amount of dexterity, Brunzar blocked the strike and spun to face Patracolus. As Viktor fell to the side, Patracolus swung mightily at their enemy. The Goblin Lord stumbled back in awe, surprised by the ferocity of the knight’s attack. He adjusted quickly, seeing an opening for a kick and taking it. He savored the strike a moment too long, as Viktor threw his partisan. The blade planted in Brunzar’s shoulder. Falling to his knees, the goblin yanked it as his opponents advanced. He looked up and saw the shadow moving across the sky. Patracolus and Viktor turned and saw it too, wondering what it was. Seeing no other option, the Goblin Lord ran.

Curse you Urza!” he cursed. “Did your treachery know no bounds!” He looked around to the remaining Goblins, who were ceasing their fight in the sudden change around them. “Retreat! Fall back!”

The goblins fled with their leader.

We should run,” Patracolus said.

Yeah,” Viktor agreed.

They ran as the dragon delivered a blast of fire. Patracolus could feel himself being pushed out of the way as Viktor directed him. He couldn’t look up as the heat encompassed his form.

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Sydney looked up as the dragon came to the earth before them. It was a large and dangerous looking beast, a black scaled serpentine creature. Towering over the men on the field, the dragon gave them a fiery glare through red eyes. With razor sharp teeth, it bellowed its rage and spewed fire.

The goblins fled the field as the dragon snapped and bit at any that were close enough to its maw to be sampled. Looking around, Sydney saw his men, the men from Falston and the dwarves slowly scattering. He spurred his horse and started to muster his forces.

Form up!” he shouted. “Give the beast plenty of space! Get back into your lines!”

He looked over to see the men of Falston regrouping and forming their lines as well, the dwarves providing a great deal of support for that force’s fortitude. Seeing his men now reorganized, Sydney rode over to Galic.

What orders, my liege?” the captain asked.

Just keep our men out of that thing’s reach,” he said. Merf and Slant reached him. “Mast wizards, do either of you know a way to defeat this creature?”

Dragons are a notoriously difficult case,” Merf answered. “You rarely kill two with the same technique, and they’re quite clever. If I knew what dragon this was, I would be able to tell you more about its habits. Unfortunately, such an option is not before me. There is little time for my fellows at the Citadel to do so.”

Dragons are pure magic,” Slant said. “Our spells will be of little use here. If this dragon has a weak spot, we must find it.”

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Dayspring and Barnack got their force lined up a distance from the dragon, keeping themselves out of biting distance. Barnack grumbled and huffed as they watched the beast circle before them.

He’s evaluating us,” Dayspring said. “He’s just sizing us up and teasing us. Why isn’t he attacking full on?”

Good question indeed,” Barnack said. “Dragons are known for their tendency to misled their enemies.”

Something still doesn’t seem right here…”

Studying the movements of the dragon, Dayspring searched them for some recurring element or tell. The creature seemed careful to position itself a certain way as it moved. Its rapid movements betrayed some kind of reason in the movements. Then he spotted what looked like a set of growths on its back.

Barnack,” Dayspring said. “How familiar are you with dragon physiology?”

Not terribly,” the dwarf replied. “Why do you ask?”

What do you think the things on its back are?”

Narrowing his eyes, the dwarf turned his focus to the dragon’s back. Between the wings were a set of glistening pockets that seem to be pulsing. Barnack quickly swore an ancient curse of the dwarves as he grabbed his ax tighter.

Eggs,” he gasped. “Those are dragon’s eggs.”

Are you certain?” Dayspring asked.

Would it matter if I wasn’t? We must deal defeat this beast now. But I do not know how to defeat a dragon.”

First we have let the others know that we believe the dragon carries eggs. Get an archer over here.”

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The arrow landed a couple of yards before Sydney, planted int the ground. A surprising and unexpected turn of events, the men were ready to go fight the forces of Falston before Slant grabbed the shaft and removed the note attached. He frowned as he read it.

Dayspring and Barnack think the dragon has laid eggs,” he said. “Laid eggs and is carrying them on its back.”

It’s still bound by the summoning spell to battle here,” Merf grimaced. “Until it defeats the one it was summoned to destroy or it is destroyed, it will remain here.”

Dayspring and Barnack are planning a ridiculously stupid maneuver,” Slant said. “They want us to be ready to attack when the moment comes.”

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Barnack spoke rapidly, explaining the details of what it was that he wanted to accomplish. Most looked around at each other in shock at the plan being put before them. The men and dwarves agreed reluctantly as Dayspring shed his armor. The dwarf chieftain frowned as the man adjusted his belt.

I’m not entirely sure I like this,” Barnack said. “Are you certain this will work?”

I hope so,” Dayspring replied. “You said yourself that this is the best idea we’ve got.”

Take my ax.”

What?”

Take my ax. If the beast’s hide is tougher than it looks, you might have need of its strength.”

Dayspring nodded and took the ax that the dwarf offered. It was considerably heavier than he expected, but he slung it over his shoulder and steeled himself.

Ready when you are,” he said.

A small faction of the dwarves moved forward on Barnack’s signal, stealthily and silently stalking the dragon from behind. The archers fired a volley to get the dragon’s attention, turning it to face them. The dwarves approaching the creature were now coming from the side and immediately they charged. The dragon turned, dipping a wing before the rest of the group. Dayspring grabbed hold, vaulting up on the appendage. It shook violently at the sudden added weight, trying to shake off the knight. He managed to hold on, sliding down the wing to the dragon’s back. He tried to gain better footing as the beast craned its neck to bite at the intruder on its back, constantly adjusting his feet. Dayspring slid back to strike at the eggs, slipping a hand between the scales for balance as he grabbed the ax.

Without warning, the eggs erupted into an explosion of color. It blinded Dayspring and sent the dragon into a frenzy. He fell back and off the dragon, sliding off the tail and to the ground. He struggled to his feet as his eyes adjusted, feeling a set of rough hands taking a hold of his arm and leading him away from the dragon.

What happened?” Daypsring asked.

The eggs are hatching!” Barnack shouted.

The spots faded from his eyes enough so that he could see the burning shapes of the hatchlings taking off from their mother’s back. The tiny forms shot off into the sky as the mother dragon writhed in pain of her offspring’s escape. Dayspring fell to a knee as his head cleared, regaining his senses.

We should strike quickly,” he said. “While she’s weak.”

Agreed,” Barnack said.

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The dragon was too tired to do battle as Dayspring and Barnack led their force onto the dragon. It was a quick deed, completed not long before they reached the walls of Aven. The goblin army was gone and the dragon lay dead behind them. Sydney and his men met them at the wall, nodding to them.

An elf if my eyes don’t deceive me!” Barnack shouted. “What a strange event indeed!”

Greetings master dwarf,” Marizan said. “How are things within your mountains?”

Well until late,” Barnack replied. “Are you here on similar call?”

I suppose so. Whom do I have the honor of addressing?”

Barnack and Dayspring made quick introductions. Slant and Merf approached quietly and without much for warning, speaking of things that only wizards would comprehend. Patracolus approached, carrying the burned form of Viktor. Merf and Galic rushed over to see to the young man.

We were caught in the fire when the dragon made its landfall,” Patracolus said. “He pushed me out of the way.”

He still has life in him,” Merf observed. “It is weak, but it is still there. Bring him inside. Make sure Lady Ashley herself tends to him.”

Patracolus nodded as Galic helped him carry the younger knight into the Palace. Merf went with them as Lothgar came out to help with the logistics of the post battle.

We took heavy losses,” Sydney said. “Urza’s gambit with the dragon hit hard. Notify Ashley that I will be visiting the healing chambers before the day is done. I want to speak with those who were wounded. But for now, we need to honor our dead and burn the bodies of the goblins.”

Yes, my liege,” Lothgar said.

Looking at the crowd gathered at the gates, Slant frowned.

Where is my daughter?” he asked.

As he spoke, a wagon drew close. Vera drove it fast, pulling the horses to a halt before the group. She jumped down, tears running down her cheeks.

I’m sorry,” she said. “She said she could handle the goblin shaman, so I didn’t stay to help her.”

Slant and Dayspring ran to the wagon. Eseen lay inside, badly injured. She gave a frail smile to them.

It’s just my leg,” she gasped weakly. “I got overconfident and he caught me off-guard.”

Are you alright?” Slant asked.

My leg is the worst of it,” she said. She laughed. “You should see the other guy.”

Bring her inside,” Sydney said. “We have a great many skilled healers here. We can help her.”

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