Part 7: The Assualt Begins
The battle-scarred general looked out over his vast army, kicking up plumes of dust as they marched along the forgotten roads of Rollingplain. Darkness engulfed the land, the only light coming from the orange gleam of the torches…and from the campfires of the distant enemy.
The general had long ago been nicknamed Cleaver by his men, for the massive battle-axe slung over his shoulder--and for his enjoyment in lopping off the heads of enemy leaders. He had been chosen to lead this glorious army of humanity, some 2,000 strong, that marched now to eradicate the one thing that stood in the way of the future: the infamous Arkantos and his elves.
After weeks of marching, they had now nearly reached their destination. Only a few miles away, Cleaver could see the brown hill reaching up to the sky, crowned with the hastily built palisades that guarded the camp. Between the armies lay a wide valley, softly sloping on Cleaver’s side, but steep and rocky leading up to the hill. If the enemy was stronger, Cleaver might have worried that with the excellent position they held, the elves might be able to resist his troops; but with the paltry number of warriors Arkantos still had remaining, Cleaver was sure that this battle would be over by morning.
* * * * * * * * *
Cleaver set up his men along the opposite side of the valley, and he himself took up position on a small outcropping that gave a great view of the soon-to-be battlefield. Nearby, he had his engineers place the eight trebuchets they had brought along.
Cleaver was thankful for these; not included in his original army, he had managed to convince a lesser noble, by the name of Karamot, to part with these siege weapons. But after being pressured by his advisors, Karamot offered to ride to war himself, bringing along fifty cavaliers as his escort.
Karamot stood upon the outcropping as well, his eyes gazing eagerly on the enemy camp, already imagining the treasure that he would take from the elves’ lifeless fingers.
After Cleaver surveyed the area for a moment more, he deemed that it was time to begin. His first step, Cleaver decided, was to flush the elves out from their fortifications.
“I want all your trebuchets firing on that camp,” he said to Karamot, “use the flaming rocks. Light up their camp, and send those elves running.”
“Yes, sir.” Karamot answered, already turning to his lead engineer. He repeated the general’s orders, and the engineer gave a quick salute. The trebuchets are loaded, torches are held, ready to lit the pitch-coated stones.
“On my order…” the general said softly, “On my order…NOW!”
“Fire!” Karamot yells.
A moment later, a barrage of fiery stars soar through the night sky. They fall like a deadly rain, exploding into burning shards as they hit the earth. Many miss; many don’t. The smoke soon rises above the camp.
And the engineers prepare for another volley.
* * * * * * * * *
An hour later, sixteen more rounds of burning rock had been hurled at the enemy camp; but no elves had appeared. The camp must be an inferno by now, Cleaver was sure; but the light from the fires revealed no fleeing enemies.
A terrible suspicion gripped the general. Had the elves already retreated? Was this an abandoned camp?
But after a moment, Cleaver began to smile. After all, he thought, if they did retreat, they must have left plenty of loot behind.
He gestured to a messenger. “Tell Captain Matthew to send in his cavaliers,” Cleaver ordered, “see if anyone’s home. Tell him to kill any elves they find, and send a messenger back if there’s trouble.”
The man saluted and ran off to find the captain.
Cleaver looked to Karamot for a moment. “You want to ride with them?” he asked.
Karamot’s face paled. “What? Now? I’m far too valuable here, sir. Later, perhaps, I’ll join in the fighting.”
Cleaver smiled beneath his grizzled beard. He kept smiling as he watched his cavaliers, some six hundred strong, ride down into the valley, towards the smoldering palisades.
His smile faded once they reached the rocks. “Those stupid horse-boys,” he grumbled under his breath, “what are they doing, dropping their torches?” For indeed, one by one, the cavaliers’ torches went dark.
It wasn’t until he heard the panicked shouts of his men and saw the shadowy shapes of the elves that he understood.
The elves hadn’t retreated.