Godwalker - Fields of Fire
The militia commander surveyed what would soon be the battleground from his perch upon the town hall. Fortifying Rivertown had been his only option. The villagers had fled to the hills, only the strong and willing staying to fight. Willing children finished covering pitfalls in front of the town, and ran to the hills to anxious parents. Commander Reindeer (a name he much rued) allowed his gaze to drift and ultimately found it resting upon one Samantha Worrasmith. She was busily and angrily creating arrows, although it was clear she would rather be preparing her own and not others.
"Rider in the distanceeeeee!" cried the watchout, previously the town crier. He kept his career options open.
"Ride to meet him!" replied Reindeer in harsh tones.
There was a general silence throughout the town. Even the children stopped laying straw across the pitfalls and looked up.
"Who?" cried the watchout.
"Anyone!" shouted Reindeer.
A few riders mounted horses and weaved through the town. The wooden buildings were surprisingly close for such a rural community, testimony to the extreme temperatures they often experienced so far south. They were led through the pitfalls by the children and three horses sped to meet the incoming rider.
Reindeer looked behind him and observed the trebuchets being rapidly constructed. A few soldiers were tutoring peasants on how to use swords and bows. Reindeer winced as one peasant stabbed himself in the foot.
Samantha had hastily constructed enough rough arrows and was now gearing up herself. She wore light, leather armour and carried a small sword. Reindeer smiled as she picked up her longbow, the largest and most powerful of any he had ever seen. It would have been considered troll size if a troll could manage to operate it without crushing it.
"Women, to me!" she cried. Several similarly armoured, but more petitely armed women appeared from huts and lined up in rank. One man stumbled around the corner, spilling his quiver of arrows. Reindeer laughed. Samantha's elite archer were composed, until recently, entirely of women. The first man to join was an excellent bowman, hence his acceptance into the troop, but was not too sure on his feet.
"Oh bollocks!" came a cry, followed shortly by a thundering crack behind Reindeer. A huge rock sailed through the air and landed almost a mile away. Reindeer spun on the roof and glared at the trebuchet ranks.
"Er, range testing!" said the artillery commander, by way of an explanation. He immediately marched to the offending catapult and began shouting.
Reindeer sighed. The Mountainlord armies had been discontent with mid-southern rule for sometime now, but the military action had been relatively unexpected, which was why the first major skirmish would be in Rivertown. A deep river flowed to the left of the town, providing a convenient flank protection and a large field of stakes had been erected to the right, protecting from cavalry and at least slowing infantry incursions. Reindeer hoped to defeat them at the town. They would stay out of range of arrows, which was why Samantha's troop would be deployed early to try and take out commanders. They had a superior range and precision which was devastatingly effective.
The trebuchets were kept well concealed behind buildings, for a surprise artillery strike while the enemy formed up outside of arrow-range. The pitfalls would take a lot of infantry down and slow progress of any others for archers to take care of. Reindeer was pleased at how effective his plan seemed to be. Archers covering the stake fields would have easy pickings for anyone trying to weave through the sharpened logs.
Presently, a small horse troop cornered the nearby woods and made great speed towards to the town from the right.
"Observation!" screamed Reindeer.
"Enemy, sir, seven of them, unknown armament," replied the town crier.
Reindeer spun and shouted down to his command post on the ground. "Get the sorcerer!" A small boy hurried off at this command. Commander Reindeer shouted to Samantha and asked her to fortify with the archers protecting the stake fields.
"Aye, sir, what's coming?" shouted Samantha, while her troop hurried off.
"You'll see," replied Reindeer, obviously unsure himself.
Three horses broke off from the enemy troop and made towards the scouts and the mysterious rider which, Reindeer noted in alarm, had fallen. He had not been paying attention. Four continued at full speed toward the stake fields and small flames burst into light at each of their sides.
The scouts Reindeer had set to meet the rider saw the incoming attack and, being lightly armed for scouting, decided to flee. They ran, leaving, Reindeer noticed, a fallen horse and figure on the ground.
"Aaaahahaaaaheellllooo... sir," came a voice directly next to Reindeer's ear. With a jump and a reassuring grasp of a chimney, Reindeer turned.
"Ah, er, hello, Maximaxima," replied Reindeer. The troop sorcerer always did things like that, "I, er, need you to see what those horses are doing."
"Oh, indeed? They're carrying oil grenades and fire, it would seem. Sir," he replied instantly. The wizard had done his homework.
"But they won't get anywhere near us, surely, what they do is foolish!"
"Ah, no, sir, you see, they're going to raze the stake fields."
"Oh. Er." Reindeer stood still and blinked. The stake fields were large, wide fields several hundred feet across containing large and small logs, carved to form points. Without them... a whole exposed flank.
"Samantha, you must stop them!" screamed Reindeer. Whether she heard or not, Reindeer did not know, but the flames visible on the incoming four horsemen would no doubt have given Samantha the same idea. Only she and her troop would have the range and skill to take them down over the expanse of the stake fields.
Meanwhile, the scouts were being rapidly closed down by the three enemy breakaways. Arrows screamed, a trademark of Mountainlord arrows, and a scout fell. Half a mile remained until the pitfalls and how they hoped to get across was anyone’s guess. The children had fled, and archers had taken positions on the roofs and inside huts bordering the pitfalls. The peasants behind, the reserve infantry held swords and bows nervously, unsure of what was going on. Reindeer concentrated on the riders closing on the stake fields.
"You're in range, surely, you bastards, surely," muttered Reindeer. Maximaxima had disappeared.
Sure enough, there was a resounding TWANG! and nine arrows arched into the air and descended on the riders, now only three quarters of a mile from the fields and soon to be in range for their fire to be thrown. Three arrows found homes and a horse and rider fell. As oil containers smashed a large fire quickly spread into the grass and consumed the rider. Not even time to scream. Reindeer shivered.
Reindeer glanced onto the streets below to see infantry spearmen heading to the right flank. A second flurry of arrows was launched with only half a mile to go. The arrows descended upon the three fire riders and only one arrow managed to meet its target. It hit the horse, which fell with forward momentum. The rider managed to disembark and began running at the stake fields.
"Persistent," Maximaxima noted. Reindeer nearly fell off the roof with surprise. He grunted in agreement.
Of the scouts, only a quarter of a mile until the pitfalls, two remained, closely followed by the three fire raiders who were firing arrows mercilessly. Reindeer noted they were in arrow range and ordered a barrage to be fired. A risky manoeuvre, but the scouts could not cross the pitfalls. They needed saving before that. Thirty something arrows curved into the air and landed about the riders. One of the enemy fell instantly, and one of the enemy horses was critically wounded, slowing it and bucking its rider. In a sickeningly slow motion moment, one of the scouts caught an arrow right in the head.
"Ooooh," groaned the observing archers. Many of them winced.
The last scout rode with great, suicidal haste towards the pitfalls, desperately hoping to find the path. Not realising how far the pitfalls really extended, the rider was caught completely unaware when the ground gave way and they fell into the pit of spikes.
"Ooooooohhhh" groaned the archers again. More wincing. A few turned away.
"Fire!" shouted a field general and a second wave of considerably more arrows fell upon the remaining enemy rider and he fell. It surprised everyone when he burst into flames and slid, burning, into the pitfall after the scout. After a moment of shocked silence, it should have shocked them more that the other riders hadn't caught fire. The previously shot, horseless enemy rider was easily taken down by arrows when he ran into range.
"Odd behaviour, don't you agree, mmhmmm?" observed Maximaxima.
"Death is their destiny," said Reindeer. A bird took off from a nearby tree.
Infantry perilously picked the way over the pitfalls to see how the scout was. A little smoke rose from the hole.
Reindeer's mind dulled over the demise of his scouts and whatever information they would have gleamed. Coming from the mountains, it could only be vital information from spies or... no. No allies would possibly arrive from the Far South. Only one friendly place existed down that far and they were weakened.
A loud screaming wail made Reindeer jump. He turned to look at the stake fields and blinked. They were on fire.
Samantha and her archers had taken down the horses, but two men were close enough and had survived to deliver their fatal charges. Oil spread and quickly took flame amongst the man made forest of stakes and it was rapidly becoming completely ablaze.
"Maximaxima, your magic!" Reindeer exclaimed.
"No, sir, the fire is too strong for one wizard to overcome. I can only suggest hasty fortification of the west flank, now our defence has been disposed of." His tone suggested something of mild amusement.
Reindeer looked down and saw men carrying water.
"Cease, fools, the fire is unstoppable! Begin to fortify the flank as best you can!" Reindeer wiped his forehead. "Thirty archers, move to the west flank".
Men slid off roofs and made their way to the west flank. The impassable fields had now become an easy passage into Rivertown and Reindeer's plan was falling down around his ears. He looked into an orange tinged sunset.
"This victory will not be as easy as expected," Reindeer observed. He clenched his fist and stared hard into the distance. Maximaxima had gone, though.