The wind howled and tugged at Christian’s hair as he stared down over Ikalga. One hand on the hilt of his sword, he watched as the Ikalgans, tiny forms in the distance, prepared their city for attack. His eyes moved up to the skies. He noticed the clouds swirling not far off. The storm churning on the horizon would be a mess for everyone involved.
Making his way down the cliff, he held his saber still against his side, preventing it from twisting his belt in the wind. The weather had been increasingly nasty since Sarkard’s army had set up camp here a day ago. Each step into mud reminded Christian of that.
Once back at camp, he made a beeline to Sarkard’s tent. Christian didn’t believe he’d change the old ruler’s mind, but the deaths of thousands would weigh heavy on his conscious if he didn’t at least try.
“Come in,” King DeLure said from inside the tent.
Christian strode in, finally able to take his hand from the hilt of his saber. Now it was just the tent that flapped and groaned in the wind. The King was seated in his usual traveling “throne”, a simple wooden chair with a salamander crest draped over it.
“Sir, the storm is going to hit tomorrow.”
“Great, it’ll give us nice cover for our approach,” the King retorted.
“Yes, but the soldiers slated to head first over that wall will never make it in the rain – we’ll be conceding half our force to them. The advantage isn’t worth it. We’ll have too few men left to secure the city.”
“Are you suggesting we retreat back to Luria? Or wait it out here, indefinitely?”
“You know my opinion on that, My Lord. This attack will spread our forces too thin. You are too eager, exposing yourself to a number of opponents.”
“If I had control of Ikalga, they could take Luria,” the King stated, finally standing up with a sour look on his face. “You seem to have much of your father in you. You don’t know how to rule.”
“A good ruler would be back with their people, not letting them endure the elements while you’re safe and sheltered and out conquering.”
“Taking Ikalga will be worth, even it just for procuring the horses they have. Don’t tell me you aren’t tired of dragging our entire army around with the six horses we do own?,” Sarkard scoffed, “You know, I do not even know why I’m engaging with you, First Controller. You will not change my mind. Take a scouting unit to check for vulnerabilities on the edges of the Ikalgan stone wall. The north and south side if you didn’t already know…”
“Yes, My Lord.” Christian about-faced and was halfway through the tent flap when Sarkard called him back in with a nasty tone.
“Yes?” the soldier waited patiently.
“Did you read the note the killer left?”
“Yes. It said to stop being greedy.”
“What do you think it means, First Controller Acetate?”
“If I were to guess, I would say someone is not happy with your covelt activities. Another instance of you spreading yourself thin, My Lord.” Christian was beginning to get frustrated and pursed his lips to prevent himself from further angering the King.
“Oh quiet! Covelt is King, my boy. Covelt is King.” Sarkard said as he hobbled closer to Christian. The soldier could feel his temperature rising. “Pick one of the three forces and lead it. I cannot wait until you’re killed,” the King snarled. “I will be disappointed that an officer will need to be replaced, but you have too much of a backbone.”
Christian nodded, fully expecting to survive. He turned and left the tent, not waiting for Sarkard’s permission. The wind caressed his face with the occasional bit of sediment scratching his skin but Christian didn’t mind at this point. The breeze cooled him down. He’d take the minuscule cuts that came with it.
“I would ask if this is your first battle, but due to this being the first battle Ikalga has even seen…” Ace spoke as he stood on the wall, watching the Lurian army maneuver in the distance.
He was right, probably even more so than he knew. Chandler had only experience with sparring. If it wasn’t for the stone wall between the soon approaching army and himself, he was sure his drenched pits would be the least of his concerns.
“I have something for you,” Ace said, turning to face Chandler. “My late friend used something like these.” Ace walked to a pair of gloves set on a table. The gloves matched the tan and green uniform Chandler wore. “How’s your hand to hand?”
“Um… okay, I guess. But that was practice,” Chandler said.
“Perfect!” Ace exclaimed, shoving the gloves into Chandler’s hands. “Your father started off quite unqualified for a lot of things he did. Trust me on that one. These gauntlets will work for you. Don’t tell anyone but they’ve got some wind power in them.” Ace winked.
“Okay, thanks.” Chandler looked at the gauntlets and attempted to put them on. Of course, everyone else gets glittery gems and magical weapons while I’m over here trying on some green gloves. Chandler struggled with the gauntlets for a few moments before Ace rolled his eyes and helped Chandler get them on. “Thanks,” Chandler said again. “Now what?”
“Oh boy.” Ace glanced over the soon to be battlefield and crossed his arms. “You know, when I encouraged your father and Shannon I never anticipated it would extend my fathering responsibilities another lifetime.” Ace’s face was grim until it broke into a wide smile. “Just kidding. Come on, let’s fight.”
“So why me to lead? No one else was available?” Chandler asked, wiping the sweat from his face after sparring.
“You may not understand or believe me but you’ve got a nice brain there, Chandler.”
“Let me guess, something to do with my father?”
“Well, yes and no. He was able to adapt to all sorts of situations and come out on top without powers or being a hybrid. But I know you’ve got potential because I’ve seen you use this.” Ace tapped Chandler’s temple.
Chandler’s relationship with his father made his head hurt. He was tired of hearing about it, but at the same time, he missed him. Chandler hated living in the shadow of an Ikalgan hero. He would have settled for a regular father that wasn’t missing.
In the quiet air, Chandler heard the initial shout from a Lurian. The boy turned and squinted into the distance. The army set to clash at the west wall was approaching. Chandler rubbed his gauntlet covered palms together, feeling the moisture collect inside.
“What should we do?” Ace asked, staring out over the stone wall.
Chandler’s thoughts collided, no coherent thoughts separating themselves from the bunch. He closed his eyes, hoping that would help. It did a bit. He thought of the battlefield and the stone wall. Given what Ace had told him, what would be the best way to defend the wall?
The Lurians were attacking on three fronts, the largest force was set up to come at the west wall. The other two had already waited at the north and south gates.
“The only way they can get over the stone wall is by changing? What percentage of that group will be something that can get over?” Chandler asked.
“I haven’t known police intricacies since I was the captain over thirty years ago. But I’d guess if they are lucky… forty percent of those are creatures we should worry about. I can’t see that many being useful animals.”
Chandler hoped not. He glanced along the wall and guessed they were outnumbered two or three to one. “Why would the other sixty percent be on this front then? They’re useless if they can’t climb the wall, right?”
“That’s why I’m worried,” Ace said. “We haven’t thought of everything.”
“We’ll figure it out?” Chandler questioned hopefully.
“We always do,” Ace agreed with less enthusiasm than Chandler would have liked.
The approaching army moved with a discipline that couldn’t be replicated with Ikalgan volunteers. Chandler would have to do what it took to protect the city. He didn’t have any idea how with the professional soldiers bearing down on them, but Chandler couldn’t let the city fall into slavery again. He was fortunate enough to have been born after it was abolished. King DeLure would change that.
Chandler wiped the excessive sweat from his face. Except it wasn’t sweat. He looked into the sky and took note of the thunder clouds, dumping rain on Ikalga. Great.
The terror he felt was no joke if he hadn’t even noticed the rain.
“On the bright side, my death will be epic with the added rain.” Chandler glanced to Ace and shrugged.
“Good, good, perfect,” Ace said with a belly laugh. “Here we go.”
The Lurians had reached the wall and began to fan out. Soon enough they disappeared behind the wall. Chandler stood still, anticipating the first soldier making the climb over the wall. He brought his eyes down and watched the Ikalgans move into position. Archers moved close and shielded units stood beside them. Chandler stared at them, trying to imagine the terror they must have felt as the first line of defense. Scanning the groups, he didn’t see any obvious signs of nervousness. Chandler resolved to do something for the front line, dead or alive, once he became General.
Chandler almost missed the Lurian’s first move. He heard nothing over the pitter-patter of the rain on the wall. Silently, several gorillas appeared at the top of the wall. They lumbered forward and looked down, only to retreat back once the first Ikalgan arrows flew over their heads. Straining his vision, Chandler spied people strapped to the gorillas’ backs. That explained how they were going to get some soldiers over, but they couldn’t possibly get enough of the army over in a timely manner. There still had to be more to the plan.
With a coordinated effort, the Lurians hopped from the wall, depositing their passengers down before charging into the line of archers and shielded Ikalgans. Chandler winced, watching archers being torn through. He could hardly cheer even when several arrows took down a Lurian. He had to tell himself it was necessary, they had brought the fight to Ikalga.
Colliding, the two forces lost soldier after soldier, with the Ikalgans having a slight advantage due to the limit of troops being transported over the wall at a slow rate. Chandler scrunched his face and placed both hands on his head. His forces were winning but he couldn’t figure out what the catch was. Chandler glanced to Ace and he had a concerned look on his face as well.
Before Chandler could look back, he heard a bloodcurdling scream. He whipped his head in the direction of the outcry and wiped the water from his face. Surely, what he was seeing wasn’t real. It appeared to be exactly like a gorilla, except it had an extra pair of arms… and it was attacking Lurians on the stone wall. Chandler and Ace met eyes, mouths agape.
“Is that ours?” Chandler asked.
Ace shook his head. “No.”
They turned back to the battlefield and watched the extra armed beast rip a gorilla’s head from its body.
Ace took a step back. “We need to get our men inside. Watch from here. You’re in charge.” Ace turned and sprinted down the stairs, taking them two at a time.
The beast cleared the stone wall of any Lurians and turned its head to face Ikalga. Its face was dark and contained no features if Chandler were to trust his vision. The beast jumped down and landed with a splash, muddy water spraying from around it. Chandler could have sworn he saw the shape of the beast fizzle – like it wasn’t completely solid. Regardless, the shape was solid enough to converge on archers shooting arrow after arrow into its body. The beast continued coming, tearing through Lurians and Ikalgans alike.
Thunder sounded, followed by lightning that illuminated the battlefield. Chandler was thankful to be far away enough that he couldn’t spot the terror on the soldiers’ faces. He mentally urged Ace to hurry.
Mowing down any opposition, the beast was now halfway down the Ikalgan defense. Out of the corner of his eye, Chandler noticed a dense group of troops marching in the direction of the mysterious beast and Ikalgan line. Where did such a numerous group come from? Especially after the creature had cleared the wall of Lurians. Ignoring the slaughter at the hands of the creature, Chandler locked his eyes on the new group of Lurians. Suddenly, more appeared behind them. Chandler took a step forward, leaning over the edge of the wall to see through the darkness of the rain storm. They kept coming. Almost as if they were walking through the wall.
Chandler wheeled around and called over the nearest soldier.
“What do you see there?” Chandler asked.
“Looks like… are they coming from under the wall?” the soldier answered.
A continuous stream of soldier continually poured from whatever entrance they had managed to create.
“I need to close that,” Chandler said to himself. He took off and ran to the stairs before hurrying down them. He reached the bottom and turned in the courtyard. Hoping to find something that could close the entrance, Chandler frantically looked around. Fire wouldn’t work in the rain. He looked for anything to induce an explosion with.
Chandler found himself sprinting through the gate with no plan in mind a few moments later. He couldn’t bear wasting any more time fretting behind the wall. Emerging from the safety of the wall, Chandler stopped. The scene in front of him was mayhem. Dead bodies were strewn along the ground while live ones were being tossed like ragdolls. Most live ones landed in one puddle or another, spraying water in every direction as they joined the tally of the dead.