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Saii

The Battle of Portland

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Betrayal

 

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 Dreagoni troops marched to the fore. There was an eerie hush over 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 2000 Satyrs controlled by Gaia. With 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.

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To the North, the main thrust of the assault, the wizards supported 3,000 Dreagonis and 1,000 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 hapahzardly around the area. To the East however it was quite plain that Aluwen's assault, with her 2,000 Elves and small support group of Dreagoni 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 7,000 strong, the 3,000 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 200 Ogres.

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

 

If however 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.

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***

 

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 Left flank wouldn't hold if he and his Centaurs were not there to protect it, and Glydoc and Glilin needed it to hold if they were to have any chance of keeping Selain's forces divided enough for victory.

 

The unexpectedness of their victory 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.

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"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 Centuars began to pick up on his mood, as though his every emotion was being thrown outwards in some sort of invisibe 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."

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***

 

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.

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"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 alll 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 said:"Come to join us have you?"

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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, the enemy would know the forces who defeated them on the left were all but spent, and that the Satyr reinforcements were likely to rout under pressure. They would send only enough troops to stop his flank from spooking the rest 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 way to draw more of Selain's troops away from their main force. 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 Gaia. They were leaving it late; even if she agreed immediately it would be a close thing.

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One thing...the May 14th post

 

At their tops flew a dark pennant, which Selain's poor eyes couldn't quite make out

 

This should be Salia's eyes, right? Not Selain's...

 

-Lyn-

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k changed :D

-----------------------

 

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 the Gaian unit who had taken the pass at Tahraji. 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, the Centaur who led the rout of my front-line troops. A magnificent achievement, made all the more poignant by the involvement of their long-lost God."

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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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Intervention

 

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 500 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.

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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.

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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 banks of the river to check for 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?"

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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?"

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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.

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All of a sudden they caught up with him as he tried to recover enough to bring his weapon 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 Dreagoni, Dwarves and Wizards held ground directly in front of the Kamara 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 500 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.

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Have done but not recently cos I've had too much on :D

 

------------------------------

 

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.

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Gaia - 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, 300 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.

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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 4,000 Orcs and 1,000 Orchan to be moving their way. Of these perhaps 2,500 were heading for the West Bridge, a full ¼ of the total.

 

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 200 enemy troops. It stranded over 2,000 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.

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***

 

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 the reinforcements from the West bridge arrived, his Centaur among them. The Satyr who were with him would have to hold until then, or the bridge would fall and over 2,000 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 Gaia 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. He would have to hold them together against the toughest force in the lands, an army hardened in their campaign against the Centaurs. It could never be a fight of equals.

 

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

 

"VENGEANCE!"

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Just a small stylistic suggestion here. I know the battles involve large numbers of troops, but I feel that the usage of numbers sort of detracts from the flavour of the story. Do you think it might be better to work with words completely rather than numbers? ie. use "one thousand" instead of "1,000", and "a quarter" instead of "1/4".

 

It's really up to you, Saii...I'm just giving a comment as a reader, not as an editor.

 

-Lyn-

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Yeah sorry, I'm a journalist by trade so it's something of a habit :oops:

 

-------------------------

 

***

 

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.

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