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The Battle Of Portland

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Folis and Salia




There are two stories of the battle of Portland, which ended Selain's rise to ultimate power. One is the infamous tale of Salia, the other is that of Folis, a hero of the war. Salia's notes, written in a tree as he hid from the enemy, were retrieved and translated by his Satyr brethren, crumpled and damp with mud. Folis rasped his recollections to a few remaining warriors as he lay dying from his wounds. Between them the two tell of what happened in those frightening days, and our scholars have woven their words into a single tapestry.





Salia held his pike tight against the groan of the wind, straining his eyes for a glimpse of Portland in the gathering dark. He wished he was home, but that had been destroyed nearly a year ago now, when the Satyr capitol in the forests of Irilion was burned by an Orc horde. Burly, savage warriors struck where their defences were weakest, tipped off by a traitor in the ranks, slaughtering indiscriminately. His family home had been razed to the ground, the city burned like a beacon for days, black smoke staining the sky for miles around. His kin were forced out, scattered to the winds, left to fend for themselves as the legion protecting the town ran away in fear... When he'd run away...


A Dwarf stumped noisily out of the darkness, allowing Salia to swing his pike around to meet her. "Password."


The Dwarf bowed, her face hidden in her cloak, and replied. "Essence."


Salia raised his spear and saluted. "Pass friend. What's the news?" His new companion didn't speak, but pushed back her hood to reveal finely crafted features, pretty for a Dwarf. Long Red hair rippled down her back as she shook it out, and a scent of purple Lilacs wafted through the air, calming Salia's frayed nerves. She looked at him patronisingly for a moment, and his patience ebbed. "What news Dwarf?"


"We've taken the pass at Dess, their lines were routed by our magic, combined with a surprise attack by my people that impressed even your Draegoni allies. General Glilin has as much skill in tactics as he has in craftsmanship, though he is too elderly to fight."


Salia grinned in delight. Victory - and the Dwarves - couldn't have come at a better time for Aluwen's army.


The Aluwenists stood in a cordon around the outskirts of Portland, tied up by impressive defences arrayed in Quartz filled passages between Portland and the Eastern plains, and at the pass of Dess and the treacherous 'Jeisa' mountain route to Barras (Winckless note: Now the entrances to Kamara and the Tahraji desert respectively). Losses had been high on all three fronts, as fanatical Orcs spared no prisoners and taunted their hungry enemies with promises of food from the rich silt plains lying in front of the city.


This latest attack was obviously a desperate measure, as supply lines to the army had grown scarce in the North, hampered by storms thrashing across the entire region. Stories were circulating of ships spotted off the coast as well, which if true could spell the end of them. But they had broken through... This could change everything.


Portland itself was supposedly neutral, but had little actual choice over who came through the great docks, thanks to Selain's apparent stranglehold over several pivotal officials. If the armies of Aluwen were to take control of the farmlands around it however, they would be able to exert a great deal of pressure and perhaps set up an ambush before the bulk of Selain's troops got through.


"All border pickets are being recalled for a full assault on Jeisa Pass." The Dwarf smiled, but there was no warmth in it. "Perhaps what remains of the Satyr army can be of some use as cannon fodder, though they certainly haven't made much of themselves thus far."


Salia bristled. "We were fighting and dying at these passes while you sat on your short fat bottoms making earrings!"


The Dwarf snarled back. "Yes, and you've made such poor work of it that we've had to intervene! Glilin makes no secret of his distaste for your species' weakness and neither do I you prancing luvvie!" Salia, enraged, brought his spear up level with the Dwarf's head, but elicited only a howl of laughter.


"Ooh no don't kill me with your pointy stick, oh please!" Without warning the Dwarf stopped, grabbed hold of Salia's spear and deftly twisted it out of his hands. From behind her back she drew a small axe and placed it below his cheek, drawing a thin scar down his face. "If you and your kind run from here tonight as they did from their homes on Irilion my people will hunt you down and kill you."


She withdrew her weapon and threw Salia's spear into some nearby bushes, then walked away, calling over her shoulder: "While you look for your weapon, you might want to think of ways to stop your fellow Satyrs from showing their cowardice."

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Folis stood tall, his long elegant features framed against the dull gold of the skyline, whipped by the thrashing winds. He was the last of the chieftains who had dominated the clans of Irilion before the genocide and enforced exodus Selain had wrought upon them and the Satyr.


His wide, piercing green eyes stared hungrily into the dusty maw of the Jeisa Pass and his crooked teeth ground together impatiently. Stood beside several hundred of his fleet-footed brothers, he was perhaps a head taller than any other, broad across the shoulder, big hooves stamping lightly at the ground. His short grey beard was wound with black and red ribbons, the sign of a warrior and leader.


He had come, with these few living remnants of his race, on the greatships with Zarin and her legion of Satyrs to escape the horror of Selain's relentless advance. Unlike the Satyr the Centaur had never run, but their fractured and isolated clans had been easy prey for the regiments of Orcs and Orchan sent to destroy them. The Centaur who stood with him now - less than a thousand - were all that was left of his race, their need to wander at last tamed for this one chance of revenge.


He had an inexplicable feeling of connection to them all, something he'd never felt before but which seemed somehow to have been dormant in his very bones since the moment of his birth. He had heard of this from the Elves, who claimed they felt so whenever Aluwen was near, yet he knew she was busy in the East, directing the assault on the Quartz tunnels. Zarin too was busy, though she was near, as she was teaching the ways of magic to some of her more gifted pupils.


It seemed to come from the sea itself, though he could not place how he knew. Vast chaotic winds howled from those turbulent waters, battering into the pass and barrelling down its length, forcing back all who tried to go through.


Despite this possibly fatal setback to the big push, which was on hold until the winds died down, Folis' feeling allowed him to remain calm against his every instinct. The other Centaur obviously felt it too, for there was none of the usual nervous twitching that took place before battle. They all seemed to be waiting for something.


A young buck, barely old enough to hold his lance properly, whispered. "What are we waiting for chief?"


Folis shifted uncomfortably on his hooves, not nervously, but with a giddy sort of excitement. "The winds need to die down first, then the Satyrs will lead us forward. Zarin's orders." He sneered slightly as he said it. No-one really trusted the Satyrs to do anything except run away.


He could see ranks of the musical beings standing some distance off, and despite the wind he could smell their fear. They were musicians, not warriors, yet that ruthless streak of Zarin's was going to drive them to their doom.



Folias looked around, startled.

-Go to war-


Folias strained to hear the words, which came as if from a great distance, carried on the wind.


-It is time my child, vengeance against Mortos-


Folias whispered it; Vengeance.


-Lead our people to victory-


Folias spoke aloud; "Vengeance." A thousand heads turned to watch him, though his voice had been drowned by the pounding storm.


-Bring my wrath-


Folias walked forward, as if in a trance, and shouted. "Vengeance!" The lines of Centaur behind him spoke the word.


-Destroy them-


Folias broke into a run, and felt the earth move as a thousand Centaur took up his cry.








He raced forward, the wind no longer flailing but caressing his face. He was spurred on by it, uplifted by it. Behind him the deafening thunder of his people charging the road to Portland filled the world as he passed bewildered Satyr faces, on towards the deadly Orc lines.

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Storming the pass


Salia watched the charge of the Centaurs, dumbfounded yet relieved. He and his kind were no match for the Orcs; their lean bodies and long, elegant fingers were made for other things. Nevertheless, his commanders, after a few moments discussion between themselves, sounded the horn to advance in support of their allies. The Satyrs moved off, slower than their allies yet, in the main, no less enthusiastic.


At the back of the line stood Zarin herself, filling them with a sense of wholeness and pushing them forward with kind words and the promise of better things. Though she rarely spoke aloud, when she did she was heard by everyone, and her shock at the rush of the Centaurs was felt by all. She muttered in her sweet wispy voice, which wound out over her peoples so they could hear every word. "THE WIND... IT CARRIES A VOICE WHICH MADDENS THEM..."


Salia felt the hairs prick up on his shanks, and he almost turned from the march before being carried forward by waves of his fellows. Already he could hear battle cries, drifting from the maw of the pass which drew close at a frightening speed. Screams mingled with sighs, metal clashes and meaty thuds mixed with the whistle of spears through the air.


Soon they could see at the edges of their vision the first dead - Orc sentries and Centaur front runners. The noise became deafening and they could barely make out the difference between screams of pain and shouts of elation. The sands had whipped up into a haze that blocked the light of the sun, and everyone was quickly coated, tiny granules stinging their eyes and matting their fur.


Suddenly from out of the mire a Centaur ran towards them, half-crazed with fear and foaming at the mouth. A group of Satyr ran him down and pushed him to the front of the line, where he was interrogated by the nearest officer. Salia pushed a little closer and could just catch some words from the terrified creature. "Where were you... Many dead... Still fighting..."


Salia's heart jumped. To him the prospect of coming out of that mess ahead looked slim, but if he could stay close to the Centaurs he might be all right. He quietly moved to the part of the line he'd seen the messenger come from, and marched with renewed vigour.


It seemed as though an age of the earth had gone by the time they got to the front, caked in filth, half-blind from the sandy winds. As the pass opened up and fell away behind them it seemed as though a curtain had been torn open and their view suddenly cleared. Ahead were the lush fields of Portland, revealed to show the sheer scope of the battle they faced.


For miles in every direction, a mass of creatures fought for these lands. Orchans, Orcs and horrifying Ogres were so numerous as to spill over the far horizon, while Aluwenist troops poured into breaches they had forced, fighting like demons for a foothold big enough to force an army through.


Far to the East, Salia could see a smudge of dirty grey smoke which his sharp eyes resolved into the shapes of Wizards and Dwarves, pounding their Orc foes with magic of untold savagery. Fireworks lit up the sky as Elven Mages threw vast sorceries into the enemy hordes, causing horrific devastation.


But his roving eyes could not for long ignore the scene before him, just yards away, for there a few hundred Centaurs fought and died with the madness of rabid dogs. They were hurling themselves with reckless abandon at the Orcs, biting and lashing out with their hooves when weapons broke, dragging themselves forwards on broken legs, stumbling over the bodies of their friends and ignoring the most terrible wounds.


Salia felt sick, yet saw through his nausea that the Centaur's battle-lust was making the nearest Orc lines waver, and sight of the Satyrs was causing many to warily back away. Orcish fear and sheer incomprehension at the magnificent anger of the Centaurs gave those few equine warriors the upper hand.


Salia's Sergeant stepped forward, as staggered as the rest of his kin but determined to do the Centaurs justice.


"For Zarin!"


Salia gladly raised his spear in salute to their Goddess, and charged with his people.




FOLIS felt a great elation as he fought. His coat was slick with dark blood, his beard no longer grey but red. His Green eyes darted incessantly, their whites showing almost luminous against his dirtied face. He was limping slightly from a nasty wound to his left front leg, but still wielded his sword effortlessly - it seemed to weigh nothing. He and his kind were fighting in a way not seen since the early days of the world, when they and their God had done everything with such brash speed.


Their numbers were depleted now, but they fought on as if they were fresh to the fight, and everything in their path was cut down. The only fighters left were the best, the ones who would not, could not give up, and the Orcs closest to them were finding it impossible to get a sword in edgeways.


Behind him he knew vaguely the Satyrs were racing to the fray, which in theory should have been welcome relief, but in a strange way Folis had come to know himself this day, fighting against overwhelming odds without cease, moving endlessly towards the goal of victory. These Satyrs would ruin it. He paused in the fighting for just a moment, to see where his kin needed the most help, then dived back in.



Edited by Saii

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SALIA had finally reached the front lines, bare yards from Centaur warriors who were still killing with gleeful intensity, and noticed Folis as the big stallion paused for breath, steam pouring from his gaping mouth. Salia did a double take. Wasn't that the one who had led the charge? As fast as he could look, Folis ducked into a melee and was gone. Yet Salia's bardic instincts called him to the cause of a ballad, and he followed Folis into the scrum of whirling blades.


It was several moments before he spotted Folis again, beating two Orcs back with a lash of his mighty hind legs. Despite moving as fast as he could over still-warm bodies and a ground treacherous with blood, Salia struggled to keep Folis in sight as the warrior rushed to yet another fight. The Centaur leader seemed to be everywhere, wielding his scarlet sword and gnashing his teeth as he ploughed through wave after wave of foes. They seemed to melt away by the dozen beneath Folis' ethereal rage, and Salia suddenly realised - the other Centaurs were simply for show. Folis was winning this battle.




THE ORC line broke all of a sudden, as though on an unspoken command. Thousands of terrified eyes seemed to light up as one with the knowledge that they could not win this, and with a unison never seen before nor since in the Orcish peoples, the horde surrounding the Aluwenists turned and ran.


Folis screamed his indignation, joined by his small remaining band of followers, yet with the passing of the Orcs there followed a lessening of his anger, as though the presence that sustained him grew bored. He became aware enough of himself to feel a slight sting in his wounded leg, and looked around to check the damage. Perhaps 100 Centaur troops remained of the thousands who had run with him, yet around each was a pile of Orc corpses, and more littered the ground for each step the Centaur had taken.


His Satyr allies looked upon him in fear and awe, shocked that so few could rout so many.

One Satyr, short in stature and wearing a rapturous look on its clear, childish face, picked through the silent crowd to meet him. Folis looked down in disgust at the creature, whose fur though filthy with sand and mud was unsullied by blood.


It spoke in a quavering voice. "What is your name great warrior, that we may immortalise you in song?"


Folis lifted his head to the distant horizon, where an ocean of enemies moved to replace those who had run. "We are the Centaurs, and that is enough. Bring news of our victory to the Dwarves little one, while there is still time to cross the plain."


The Satyr nodded happily. "Yes I shall tell them of the Centaur and his magnificent triumph."

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Salia ran as fast as his legs could carry him across the battlefield towards the safety of the Elven and Satyr unit of wizards. They had opened a breach an hour earlier and now stood guard near the front, watching calmly as Dwarven and Draegoni troops marched to the fore. There was an oppressive hush to the battlefield, broken only by a rhythmical sound of marching as thousands of people took up position on the plains in font of Portland.


To the Northwest stood Folis and his enraged Centaurs, with perhaps two thousand Satyrs controlled by Zarin. After their victory over the Orcs, they had moved forward to grab a relatively thin strip of passable land between the town and its surrounding mountains, where they were now digging in. Running slightly behind Salia was a force of Satyr rushing to take control of a nearby bridge, which spanned the river dividing this region.


To the North, the main thrust of the assault, the wizards supported three thousand Draegonis and one thousand Dwarves as they marched into the heart of the plains. Victory there had been swift and brutal, but the scars of conflict sprawled the ground, flames licking the grasses and mounds of beaten earth the size of hills flung haphazardly around. To the East however it was quite plain that Aluwen's assault, with her two thousand Elves and small support group of Draegoni and Wizards, had failed to take the Quartz tunnel. It seemed likely Unolas personally commanded a defence there.


The still vast army of Orcs was slowly regrouping to the South, positioning themselves just outside Portland. More worryingly, fresh Orchan forces stood just behind them, grim faced and heavily armed. Though the Orcs were the greater in number, perhaps seven thousand strong, the three thousand Orchan troops would be far harder to beat, and they were being lined up on the right to be thrown against the Dwarves, supported by hundreds of Ogres.


Most worrying of all was the presence of mighty black sails, billowing above the town walls. At their tops flew a dark pennant, which Salia's poor eyes couldn't quite make out. He could guess what they might be however... one of two things. The flags could belong to Portland's fishing fleet, in which case this battle would easily be won by the Aluwenists.


If Selain's fleet had arrived, it would add thousands to the enemy horde, and there was no way the Aluwenists could win that fight. He continued to run, angling himself so he could see the gradually sharpening pennant at the extremities of his vision. A little closer... Salia gasped and dropped to his knees in terror, his mouth open in a wail of despair. It was the flag of Selain.




FOLIS too saw the flags as they swayed above the city walls, and an anger rose in his veins once again. He gnashed his teeth in fury and stomped his hoof, eager to race forward and fight anything that moved. He was stopped only by his sense of duty - he knew the West flank wouldn't hold if he and his Centaurs were not there to protect it, and Glydoc and Glilin needed it to do so if they were to have any chance of keeping Selain's forces divided enough for victory.


The unexpected result of their skirmish over the Orcs was such that he'd had to send a Satyr to them, for fear they would not incorporate it into their plan and would simply charge the massed ranks of enemy headfirst to be destroyed. He thus watched Salia's movements as the little bard ran on, and was shocked to the core of his being when he saw his messenger change course, towards the city.


"What magic is this?" He muttered aloud. On the edge of hearing the voice which gave him such strength whispered.


-No magic, cowardice-


Folis ground his teeth together in fury, yet stayed still as he motioned to two of his fellows. "Catch the Satyr I sent, he has become turncoat." To a third he grated "Go to Glilin and Glydoc and tell them our situation. Be quick, there will not be much time before they attack again." As the three Centaurs set off, Folis began to pound the ground with his hoof, drawing rivulets of blood from his wounds. Around him there arose a muttering as other Centaurs began to pick up on his mood, as though his every emotion was being thrown outwards in some sort of invisible projection. One Centaur, a short stout fellow, trotted up and asked if there was trouble.


Folis stared at Salia's fast disappearing form. "When I get my hands on that Satyr there will be."




SALIA raced towards Portland. Behind him came the chill braying of his pursuers, who were catching up fast. He risked a look behind as he reached the foot of the mountains surrounding the town, and saw the two Centaur chasing him were just a short distance behind.


Salia picked up his pace, hoping that a single mad sprint would bring him within reach of the city walls and safety. With any luck they would let him through when they saw he was being chased.


He was nearly at the gates and could see through them to the streets beyond when he was finally brought down, a well-thrown spear biting through his leg and throwing him to the ground. The sound of braying intensified and as he rolled onto his back in agony, Salia saw two sets of hooves come to a stop behind him.


"Do you have anything to say coward?"


Salia closed his eyes and bit his lip. He would not give them the satisfaction of hearing him scream further. Though he had nearly committed the worst of all crimes, he would justify himself with silence. Even as the spear was torn from his thigh, he did not speak. He remained quiet as his captors screamed with fury, seeing a dark shape flickering above his head and the whistling of a spear towards him...


Then nothing. Salia risked opening his eyes for a moment, and saw both the Centaur lying prone on the grass by his side, the fletches of a dozen arrows protruding from them as they sighed their last. He looked towards Portland. In the gateway stood a unit of Orchan archers, two of whom set off as he watched to drag him inside.


In a gruff but not unfriendly voice one shouted: "Come to join us have you?"




FOLIS finally lost his outward composure as Salia was dragged into the city, and began to trot about, swinging his sword. The nearest of his kin looked on in agitation, one piping up: "What shall we do now?"


Folis looked at the situation. With Salia's help, Selain would know the forces who defeated him on the left were all but spent, and that the Satyr reinforcements were likely to rout under pressure. The enemy would send only enough troops to stop Folis from spooking the main Orc army later on, and that wouldn't be enough of a diversion to give Glydoc and Glilin a fighting chance.


Folis searched for a solution. He needed a means to draw more of Selain's troops away. His gaze lit on the bridges. If one was destroyed at the right time, it would divide the enemy in two, forcing them to send huge numbers round to the other bridge, which would be defended by his troops. Folis moved quickly. After ordering his Centaur to make for the bridge, he ran for the Satyr line and Zarin. They were leaving it late; even if she agreed immediately it would be a close thing.

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Salia sat, his leg crudely bandaged, in front of this Orchan God, who had started the war and slaughtered his family. Slowly, hesitantly, he was telling everything he knew about Zarin's unit and how they had taken the pass at Jeisa. The thin, crone-like figure of the one Orchans called 'Great Poisoner' was shrouded under a heavy cowl, and it showed no reaction as Salia spoke of troop numbers, morale and positioning until he mentioned the charge of Folis.


On hearing the name it stirred and spoke in an oily, slime-ridden tongue. "Ah yes, that Centaur led the rout of my front-line troops. A magnificent achievement, made all the more poignant by the involvement of their long-lost God."


Salia cocked his head to one side in puzzlement - everyone knew the Centaur, like the Dwarves, had lost their God in the early days - but Selain didn't seem to notice, or if he did, wasn't going to explain.


The God turned to a pair of dull-eyed Centaurs, who stood listless in the crowd of onlookers a few feet away, and raised a skeletal finger to point at them. "You will gag and bind the Satyr and take him to this Folis. You shall say you were working undercover for Glydoc and took this creature from prison as he was about to tell his captors everything he knew. Then when you get the chance, kill both of them. Do this and your families will be set free. Fail and they will be killed."


The Centaurs he spoke to nodded miserably, and moved to take hold of Salia, who stuttered; "But I have helped you win this war!"


The cowled figure laughed quietly. "Not yet, but you will soon enough - little traitor."

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Folis galloped towards the bridge, leaving the quickmarch of the Satyr far behind. His tribe had already reached the two bridges, and one was already being weakened in preparation for their trap to be sprung.


As he'd predicted, it was going to be close - a detachment of Orchan perhaps five hundred strong was already moving in their direction ahead of the mounting mass of Selain's front line. If they reached the bridge before the Satyr crossed, it would be all over. His Centaur couldn't afford to destroy the crossing too early, or the trap would fail and the Satyr would be cut off, leaving them short of bodies to hold the second bridge.


Folis reached the first bridge, which already sagged slightly as supports were removed and discarded in what amounted to a massive game of pick-up-sticks, and crossed over to the area around the second bridge to check on its defences.


It would be difficult. The bridge was wide and the bank not far enough away, so the enemy would be able to both march across en masse and have supporting archer fire, something he couldn't counter as only the bare 200 Centaur carried bows, most of which were broken or had no arrows left.


Across the centre of the bridge, two large vegetable carts were rolled into place to provide at least some protection from the onslaught, and any rocks to be found were piled inside to make them heavier. Any spare pieces of dry cloth - some ripped from the bodies of the dead - were laid just beneath the carts, and the wheels were removed. It was a pathetic attempt at a barrier but what Folis needed above all else was to find some time for his allies to the North, so it could help.


A bare five feet of clear ground lay between the two barriers, and it was through this that a Centaur sentry spotted two figures moving towards them. Folis was quickly informed as he inspected the rivebanks for possible ambush spots, and he trotted over to the bridge, bemused. In front of him was an unlikely scene. Two worn-out looking Centaurs were carrying between them the unconscious body of Salia, who was gagged and bound. It looked as though he had put up a struggle.


One of the new arrivals spoke as several defenders gathered round to watch. "Are you Folis?"


Folis glared at them suspiciously. "Who are you?"


The second of the two bowed slightly before replying. He looked tired and haggard, his fur tousled and unkempt. His eyes shifted from side to side, haunted and sunken. "We are spies working for Glydoc. We heard this runt mentioning a Centaur named Folis, and got him away from the people interrogating him as he was about to reveal details of your military movements."


Folis frowned. "You've come to the right place, I am Folis. But how did you get away from the force at the gates with a traitor in your custody?"


The two Centaurs looked at each other and the people standing around, clearly gauging something. "You are Folis?"


He nodded. "Yes now answer my question." They didn't reply, but stood still for a moment, tensed. Folis grew impatient. "Who are you? What are your..." Both of them sprang at once.

Drawing short-swords from under their cloaks, they lunged together at Folis' unprotected chest, drawing a thin smear of blood as he threw himself out of the way, and following him with a determined look in their eyes.


All of a sudden they caught up with him as he tried to recover enough to bring his sword to bear, and their swords met his throat. For a moment, nobody moved. The first Centaur, his face mottled by the red marks of torture, looked at him shamefaced. "We're sorry Folis, Selain has our families." Folis looked at them in astonishment, dumbfounded. No-one else had had time to move. He could see the muscles rippling in their arms with crystal clarity as they tensed to strike.


"-Stop, my children-" The voice came from Folis' mouth but it was not him. Both would-be assassins grew still as it spoke, their muscles relaxing involuntarily.


"-This one is my own, you shall not touch him-" Every Centaur, without quite knowing why, stepped back from Folis and lowered their weapons.


"-He shall lead you all to victory over Mortos... To revenge-" The Centaurs whispered vengeance under their breath, and Folis' assailants with them.


"-The enemy come-"

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A matter of timing


After a fast interrogation, the Centaurs who held Salia broke with tradition and, rather than kill the Satyr, placed him in a nearby tree for safekeeping. He had a perfect view of the battlefield, though he was unable to take part, which seemed to him a step up from execution. He still didn't understand why the Centaur assassins had turned themselves over to Folis and now fought alongside him, but was thoroughly glad they had.


He watched the battlefield, drinking in sights, sounds and smells for the song he would sing once the battle was past. The Draegoni, Dwarves and Wizards held ground directly in front of the Dess pass, forming deep ranks to absorb the impact of the Ogre-led first charge of Selain's forces. At the two bridges, Centaurs had finished their preparations and stood, grim faced to wait and see whether their Satyr allies would make it across the bridge before five hundred Orchan could get there first and ruin Folis' plan. To the East, there was still no sign of Aluwen's Elves. In the South gathered the armies of Selain, moving now to finish this war before a lack of food (and Selain's drugs) could weaken them.


Salia shied away from the sheer number, and turned his head to watch the Satyr advance. The race between them and the Orchan skirmishers was going right down to the last few yards. Already half of his kin were across the bridge, spreading out in a panting mass along the edge of the river and shouting their comrades on, but only a hundred yards behind, the Orchan had let out a terrifying bellow and begun to charge the back ranks.


Those few Centaur left with working bows and arrows let fly a volley to take down the front row, tripping several who came after, but it was too little. Orchan iron cut down dozens as the back ranks panicked and pushed towards the other side of the bridge, and a brave counter charge by the Centaur barely held their pursuers from crossing.


Zarin - who hovered above unable to use her powers to help - quickly rallied her people with whispered words of kindness and her Satyr regrouped to counterattack as the Centaur, with Folis once again leading from the front, fought on. Eventually, after several minutes of confused rushing about, three hundred Satyr managed to join the Centaur troops, pressing enough weight onto the Orchan forces to force them back off the bridge. Soon the other Satyr followed, breaking as a tsunami over what Orchans remained and routing them.


They had held by the skin of their teeth. As soon as he saw the Orchans begin to run, Folis roared at everyone to get back behind the bridge, then began to reorganise the army. He spread their forces between the two bridges, the fastest troops at the West bridge, slower and wounded at the Eastern. Final supporting beams were pulled out of the weakened West bridge, terminally weakening the structure.


The defeat of the Orchan detachment led to a short lull while the rest of Selain's army marched slowly towards them. As Folis had hoped, Selain split his forces in two, with half moving to cross the river and attack from the South, the rest moving north to bypass the river and attack from the East in a two pronged attack. Salia estimated four thousand Orcs and a thousand Orchan to be moving their way. Of these perhaps a quarter were heading for the West Bridge.


Folis' plan went perfectly. As the first Orcs reached the middle of the bridge, it gave way with an almighty crash, tumbling down into the rushing waters below and dragging down two hundred enemy troops. It stranded over two thousand more. It would take the enemy hours to get to the next crossing place and start to make an impact.


The trap now sprung, troops placed at the bridge as a lure ran to help at the other front, where a first wave of Orcs had reached the wagons and were pushing at them. A fire was quickly set in the cloth under the wagons, making this far harder, but it would be only a matter of time until the horde broke through, and then the deciding battle of two continents would be joined.




FOLIS stood at the front of the line, listening to the carts finally giving way, and gazed into the distance, trying to work out how long it would be before reinforcements from the West bridge arrived, his Centaurs among them. The Satyr who were with him would have to hold until then, or the bridge would fall and thousands of Orcs would attack the flanks of Glydoc's force virtually unopposed. He looked upon his charges and was unimpressed. Even with the bolstering presence of Zarin they were shakey.


He wasn't sure what to do about it. He could handle his own kind, but these were artists, musicians, poets. There were no soldiers here. He would have to hold them together against the toughest force in the lands, an army hardened in years of campaigning against the Centaurs. It could never be a fight of equals.


The barricade failed, and as Orcs burst through in a rush of metal and growling anger, and arrows whistled from across the river to find homes in the skin of the Satyr defence, he could think of just one thing to cry.






SALIA heard Folis shout, and saw the bloodstained Centaur gallop at the head of less than a thousand Satyr into the first line of Orcs, hacking and slashing with furious intensity. His heroism was inspirational. Small and unsure, every nearby Satyr ran with him to meet the massive battle-scarred Orcs who towered over them, and for a few moments pushed the oncoming horde backwards.


But even inspired by Folis, they were weak, and with every passing moment their inexperience and frailty became more apparent. The Orcs were better fighters and for every one that fell, many Satyr would crash to the ground, lifeless. The defenders were outnumbered and outclassed. Only the presence of Folis himself swinging, punching, biting, kicking and goring his way through the Orcish ranks held everybody together.


The Orcs pressed home their advantage with an unstoppable momentum and began to gain ground. Folis and a small cadre of talented fighters near him were quickly left isolated in the middle of their bridge, as Satyrs at the front began to tire and fall back.


Salia checked on the forces rushing to Folis' aid. Fifty Centaur had raced ahead of the pack and would arrive in mere moments, the rest would be a few minutes more. Salia held his breath as the cavalry pushed their way through retreating Satyr bodies to try and rescue their leader.


Folis looked exhausted, barely able to catch breath enough to keep moving. Despite the heroic efforts of a few Satyr who still formed a circle around him, he was having to fight two or three Orcs at a time. Even the strange power that had carried him this far seemed to start losing its effect. Through what seemed to be an extra sense, the Orcs noticed his waning strength, and the hulkish green creatures grew bolder, pressing around him, bearing down upon him and his small remaining group of protectors.


Even as the first Centaur fighter reached Folis, Salia could see it was too late, and a stray Orc blade cut deep into the hero's breast just moments before a parry and counterthrust from his comrade could land. With a sigh that seemed to shake the ground, Folis fell, and with his passing the Satyr troops could hold no longer. While Centaur skirmishers held the line for just a few more moments to bring their dying leader from the fray, their panicked allies ran from the fight, heading towards the mouth of the Dess pass.

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War's end


The heroism of Folis and his Centaurs was the turning point of the war. With thousands of Orcs stranded behind the collapsed West bridge, and astoundingly, another thousand dead from Folis' last stand, combined with the delay caused to the remaining Orc troops from that fight, Glydoc and Glilin were almost equal in number to Selain's troops, with superior warriors and the decided advantage of magic.


Although Ogre shocktroops caused some fractures in the Dwarven line, the elderly Glilin showed immense courage in rallying them to his banner, and a counterattack from the deadly Draegoni caused utter devastation in return. In under an hour Selain's troops had begun to weaken, and the addition of the remaining Satyr forces charging into their flanks finally forced them to turn and flee.


But even in the moment of victory, there was a horrifying outcome. In order to retreat, the chiefs ordered the now surrounded Selainish troops to force their way through the weakest point - the Satyr. The watching Salia sat, helpless, as the last of his race were cut down where they stood.


Not one survived.


The remaining Orcs following hot on the Satyr's heels ground to a stop when they saw what was happening, and faced with the retreat of their kin, withdrew from the battle. As reports filtered back about what had happened, it is reputed the normally unflappable Selain roared with such anger his throne collapsed, much to the delight of his court.


Selain sued for peace shortly afterwards. He had no choice. His army was in tatters, supplies of food and the drugs he used to control his forces were running low as his supply ships succumbed to unforseen storms, and an agreement from Elandria that she would join the struggle against him had finally been signed.


The victorious Aluwenists were quick with their decision, accepting only his total surrender and dictating his punishment. Although his status as a God could not be taken from him (nor could it from Unolas), he was barred thereafter from taking an active role in the life of the Eternal Lands.


Folis died shortly after the Orcs took the East bridge, and was carried by his few remaining kin to the Western coast, where he was buried with all honour. He is regarded as a patron saint for warriors everywhere (the red and black is now often worn in his honour) while his spear, refashioned by Glilin and buried with the body, has become a relic of great potency.


Salia was recaptured by the Orcs and put to death in a field execution just minutes after witnessing the fall of his race. His weakness is a source of shame for Zarin and led to Glilin's intense dislike of her by association.


Both the Satyr and the Centaur lost too many to rebuild their shattered tribes. The few dozen remaining Centaur lived their final days out in the lands of the north, each alone, and the art of the Satyr, their music and their light, passed from this world within two generations, as the shattered remnants who had survived in Irillion succumbed one by one to an all-pervasive mourning.

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