|Advance to the Rear (standard:fantasy, 1955 words)|
|Author: Abner Doon||Added: Nov 01 2003||Views/Reads: 1834/1073||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|Short story set in the Myth: TFL game world.|
The city was on fire. The small houses on the outskirts of Madrigal had long since burned away, and the fires were now hungrily starting on the larger shops and storehouses. As thatched roof farming hovels gave way to brick and mortar, the progression of the fires slowed noticeably. But the end was clear. The city would fall. The sight of ranks upon ranks of lumbering Thrall greeted Sergeant Aethelwulf and his forward scout party from their place low among the hills surrounding Madrigal. The position allowed them to study each element of the Dark army as it approached. Though the city had been mostly evacuated hours ago, Aethelwulf's band of scouts had been ordered to wait behind and record the sack of Madrigal. Human agents of the Dark, disguised as citizens, had been responsible for the morning's arson. Just before sunrise the spies had snuck out of their houses and set fire to the city marketplace and military barracks. Martial law had created an authority structure dependent upon the Legion, and chaos quickly spread as the barracks burned and the chain of command faltered. The arrival of Dark forces had a vigorous effect on the speed of the evacuation, however, and it became clear to everyone that the fires were part of a coordinated assault. Ghol packs preceded the main bulk of Shiver's army, and by the time lines of Soulless appeared over the horizon only a few foolish stragglers remained near the doomed city. Aethelwulf had turned away from the towering plumes of black smoke and now stared longingly down the Southern Highway. The danger to his men was increasing with each passing minute. The longer they sat and watched, the greater their chances of being discovered by roving Ghols. They had already seen six of the swift knuckle-draggers. Ny'Marro, the only fir'Bolg in the party, voiced his concerns: "Sergeant, when are we going to get out of here?" The fir'Bolg was as green as a fresh-mowed lawn, part of the latest detachment of archers sent down from the Ermine. "We have orders, ny'Marro," Aethelwulf reminded him. He agreed with the sentiment, but couldn't say that in front of his men. "Orders," Curran muttered. His fingers restlessly tapped the pommel of his sword. "They told us to stick around and watch. We did that." There was a murmur of agreement among the five men. "Owen," said Aethelwulf. The man was scribbling in a book. He gestured to the city below. "How many would you say?" Owen looked up from his book and studied the Dark army. "At least twenty thousand. Could be more." A low whistle came from where Cathal was lying. Curran cursed under his breath. Ny'Marro looked as if he were going to be sick. "The Dwarves are cooking up some new equipment," Aethelwulf said into the silence that followed. "That will help us shift the balance back." Cathal rolled his eyes. The rest looked at him in frank disbelief. What was he supposed to say? That they were hopelessly outnumbered, that even with the Dwarven Wehrfaktorie producing munitions around the clock they would still be hard-pressed to hold back any of Balor's armies? "I think if anything is going to save us," Cathal remarked sardonically. "It's going to be that ancient book the Nine are searching for everywhere." Curran snorted and the rest groaned at an old argument reopened. "No, really," Cathal went on. "Look how things are going just two months into the war. We need the wisdom of musty old tome to guide us in this great struggle." Cathal raised his shield to fend off small rocks and clumps of dirt the others threw at him. Click here to read the rest of this story (167 more lines)
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