Friday, August 14, 2009

Berserker Part 50

Lars fought alongside other swordsmen at the front line, howling like a wolf as he slashed with his sabers at any that dared scuttle near. Millienya was off somewhere, leaving him to the manual labor of helping hold back the goblin tide as women and children cowered in fear, the wagon drivers trying vainly to turn their carts around to the safety of the city.

Considering the likely outcomes of the fight, he was rather enjoying himself. The militia were well trained in working together and numerous so as to avoid any real sense of urgency. While one would reach forth to spit a squirming goblin on his blade, the other would cover his companion’s vulnerable side. This became the basic mode of fighting as the battle continued, the long spears and polearms had become too cumbersome in the shoulder-to-shoulder defensive semicircle they had formed at the head of the caravan.

While throwing themselves bodily at their human enemies, the goblins really didn’t know how to follow up their initial lunge, leaving them totally defenseless and easy pickings for the grim combatants. It had only been the surprise and confusion provided from the tipped wagons that gave the goblins any advantage air of a warrior. With that gone many of the militia were reminded of their children in the midst of a temper tantrum. Some of the more sentimental of the group were even reluctant to defend themselves. Until they were knocked silly because of carelessness.

All this combined with the lack of any organization to block their route of retreat made Lars feel that they were engaging in a game rather than a life and death struggle. Which was really an overstatement when Lars got to thinking about it, only four men had been critically wounded and there were no deaths that he was aware of.

After a few moments he noticed the cries of the panicked caravan members behind him becoming louder. Taking a step back, he let a man with scars patchworking his face and armor take his place on the front line.

In the relative safety of his position he risked a quick glance behind him to see what was wrong. What he saw sent a jolt of liquid fire through his veins. Another wagon clawed open, goblins swarming over fallen women and children, bone and muscle disapearing down their glistening maws. Stalking ever closer to the contracing nucleus of terrified refugees hunkering against the remaining wagons.

Shouting for the second line of men to break and follow he charged the goblins, his sabers raised in anticipation of chopping death strokes, his long firm strides eating up the distance. In the noise and swirling disorientation of the fight, Lars’ charge was not heard or seen until he had already laid waste to four of their number.

Turning around in expectation to find one outraged fighter whose attack would be quickly put to an end, they found themselves meeting a whole line of armed and wratheful relatives of the slaughtered innocents. They too had seen what Lars had witnessed and raced just a few steps behind him, cries choking their dust-dried throats and death in their tear filled eyes.

With a roar of painfilled-sorrow the men impacted with the goblins, audibly crunching armor and shattering bone on both sides. Yet they continued on, atoning to the dead for their inability to protect them and sending their stricken souls winging peacefully into the next world through the pain they were inflicting as well as enduring.

As Lars was jostled aside by the avenging sons of Halfway, he could do nothing but stand in open amazement at feats these men committed out of love. Love for those who had passed on or just barely inhabited the mortal coil. Miraculously ignoring gaping wounds, broken limbs, even intestines spilling out beneath tunics to gouge eyes, choke throats, and mangle bodies.

It was not long before the goblins lay stacked on the dirt like cordwood. Sadly so were a number of the defenders, laying next to their deceased loved ones or held close by the crying live ones. One body struck Lars as being familiar. He approached the man curiously, wondering where he had seen that short but thick frame. Even in death the flint-like eyes did not cloud over, but remained sharp and calculatingly soulful. Thankfully recollection came knocking, of course, how could he forget? It was the owner of the inn where they first got mixed up in the whole mess.

Only once he was on his way around the wagons with the remainder of his group did he remember the serving maid he had been flirting with, worriedly he quickened his pace and scanned the faces of those huddling together in the wagons. He couldn’t bring himself to search the blood dusted ground for her there, such grief would only distract him and most likely get him killed as well.

Pulling himself from the mindnumbing revelry that comes after combat, he steeled himself for another grisly scene of overrun guards and slaughtered innocents. Only to find a group of rather surprised rear-gaurdsmen.

The mercenary sergeant of the group quickly recovered and came forth. “What’s been going on?”, he demanded, dying to know what had been happening.

“The enemy broke through our lines”, Lars relayed, scanning the grasses alertly. “They were repelled but at great cost. Strangely we cannot find the breach point”.

“There haven’t been any sir”, the sergeant said. ‘We’ve got squads of ten each spaced twenty yards apart, surrounding the wagons, with at least two experienced men per unit. Plus two extra sqauds in reserve”.

“Then how did they get in?” Lars demanded in exasperation. “They didn’t fly did they?”

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