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Advance to the Rear (standard:fantasy, 1955 words)
Author: Abner DoonAdded: Nov 01 2003Views/Reads: 1714/969Story 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 

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. 

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