Beasts of War

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Blarg, the furious bugbear chieftain charged me and my injured Elven ally. I still hadn’t seen Wyanet and the other Goblin captives had fled. The Goblin camp burned. Smoke and ash clung to the ground, beat back endlessly by torrents of rain. Several Goblins lay dead at our feet.

The Elf picked up an extra discarded shortsword. “What’s the rest of your plan, monk?” Panic nipped at the heels of his voice.

Time was running out. I shifted into a wide defensive stance. My entire body braced for the coming Goblin wave. I was clueless about what to do. They outnumbered us, escape was unlikely. My mind sprinted through every possible option as I tried to figure out which death would hurt the least.

A crossbow cracked. A Goblin on my far right fell face first into the mud. The Goblins kept charging. They were twenty feet away. Blarg raised his great club.

A familiar voice cut through the storm and battle cries. “Vous avez un petit pínis!”

One of the Goblins beside Blarg stopped, looked back toward the sound of Kalista’s voice, fell to its knees, and started sobbing. The rest of the pack didn’t stop. They were ten feet away. Blarg formed the point of an arrow formation.

A foot pressed into the thigh of my back leg. I buckled under the weight as they jumped off my leg. I looked up. Wyanet leapt over me and landed with a roll. She sat on her rear leg. Her shield in front of her. She thrust her spear at Blarg. Blarg reared back, all his momentum lost. The wings of the Goblin charge wrapped around the three of us. I was ready for them.

My first new opponent thrust towards my abdomen. I shifted to the side, the attack passed by with no effect. I retaliated with a back fist to the Goblin’s face. The Goblin stumbled back. The next attack came from an overhead axe strike. I caught the shaft of the axe below the head. I kicked its wielder in the groin. I didn’t set my leg down. Instead, I added a kick to the Goblin’s nose. I swung my leg to the side and brought it up in a near-perfect split. My leg dropped onto the Goblin’s clavicle. I felt the bone break through my mud-caked shoes. The Goblin let go of the axe and collapsed, unsure what broken part to hold.

I didn’t dare spare the time to see how my companions fared. The Elf was laughing. I knew Wyanet could take care of herself. I hurled the axe I had taken in a random direction without care.

Something bashed into my right knee from behind. My leg buckled again. I anticipated an attack coming for my head. I twirled my sword around. There was a thud, and a cudgel snagged on the blade. I wasn’t fast enough. The next Goblin was already in place, its sword going for my throat. I closed my eyes, and readied myself for death.

The pain never came. Warm, sticky liquid splashed my face. Something sliced deep through the muscle beside my shoulder blade. I cried out in pain and yanked my leg out of the mud. The Goblin squealed like a stuck pig. I twisted around. The Goblin had dropped its weapons and it batted at the air. Multiple thorn sized stab wounds dotted the Goblin’s face, neck, and hands. A one-foot tall Sprite flew up to me on the glistening dragonfly wings that grew from his back. He saluted me, and went back to harrying the frightened Goblin.

   I pivoted back to the other Goblins that were attacking me. The Goblin that had been seconds from opening my throat had grown a horn in the shape of a crossbow bolt. The other Goblins hung back a bit, trying to figure out a plan. I stepped forward with my left leg and put my sword in a middle guard. I stole every second I could. I glanced at the Elf. One of his stolen swords had broken. He had several fresh wounds, but he hadn’t yet fallen. I glanced at Wyanet. Her entire torso heaved. I couldn’t see any blood on her. Blood matted the fur on Blarg’s chest, four crossbow bolts stuck in his back.

A horn bellowed over the clangour of battle, the howls of wolves soon followed. The Goblins around me started to cackle. The Goblins near the Elf stopped. The Sprite landed on my unwounded shoulder and grabbed a lock of my hair for stability. Blarg paced back and forth in front of Wyanet. I looked past Blarg and Wyanet to where Kalista had been losing bolts.

Kalista came barreling over the hill, half running, half sliding, her crossbow in one hand and her sabre in the other. Directly behind her, three more Bugbears riding wolves the size of small cows crested the hill. A pack of mangy dogs rushed over the hill, followed by twenty or thirty more Goblins, all mounted on massive wolves.

Blarg roared and swung his club. Wyanet, distracted by the new threat, got hit full force upside the head. Wyanet tumbled to the ground. Blarg pressed his attack, swinging his club and trying to stomp on Wyanet. Each blow intended to end her life, and avoided by a diminishing margin.

I panicked. I jumped and kneed the Goblin before me, shattering its nose. As I landed, I grabbed the Goblin’s head and rammed my elbow into it until I felt something else break. The Goblin crumbled to the ground, unrecognisable. I lashed out with my sword. The Goblin to my right, surprised by my ferocity, struggled to keep his bowels in.

“HELP HER!” I hollered at the jostled Sprite. Without hesitation, he bounded off after Wyanet. The last Goblin I faced tried to run away. I split the tendons in its leg with a single swipe and stomped on its neck.

The Elf was about to decapitate another Goblin. I plunged my sword through the back of the Goblin’s skull and out its mouth. The Elf took a step back, startled. Yet another Goblin shifted its attention to me. I punched it in the face with enough force to rip open my knuckles. The Goblin staggered back several feet and fell on its ass, confused.

I grabbed hold of the Elf’s tattered tunic. I jerked him close to my face. “If you’re coming with us, get to the cave!” I let go of him. The Elf nodded and started to limp his way to the cave.

I whipped around. “WYANET!” I screamed. She had recovered, but she was still on the defensive. The Sprite flitted about, launching arrows the size of toothpicks at the Bugbear and dodging his backswings. I sprinted at the group. “WY!” I shouted again. Wyanet didn’t look. Blarg did.

I seized the distraction. In a single action, I resheathed my sword, jumped, and wrapped my legs around Blarg’s neck. I boxed Blarg’s ears. His eyes fluttered, and he staggered back. I locked my feet against his chest. I leaned back and summoned every ounce of strength I had left. The manoeuvre didn’t work as well as I had hoped, but I drove Blarg down into the mud. I pulled my leg out from under his hulking form before he could recover.

The warg pack was ten feet away. Kalista was five, and still running. I scrambled to my feet. I sprinted for the cave mouth. Wyanet sprinted a good distance ahead. She ran into the cave and vanished. The Sprite strained to keep my pace. I wrapped my hand around his body, and clutched him to my chest. I dove through the mouth of the cave and plunged into darkness.

The story will continue, May 16th

Written by: Sweeney

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