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First Stand

Author: 
Hand of Zarquon
Old Vault Category: 
fanfiction
Old Vault ID: 
108

From a hillock across the river Mirar, Kellan Truit peered at the growing army through his spyglass. The city of Luskan was emptying. He shook his head in dismay. There was very little his small force could do to slow down the Luskan onslaught. Fifty men would be brushed aside with no more thought than a dragon might give to a mosquito. Still, Lord Nasher's orders were clear: delay the Luskans for as long as possible, to give the Lords' Alliance time to gather its strength. At the very least, the river was unfordable and the ice-ridden coastline was too dangerous for Luskan ships, so the stone bridge across the Mirar was the only place that they would be able to cross Kellan offered his spyglass to his lieutenant, Ainar, but she shook her head.

"I can see them well enough," the Elf said. She toyed with the tip of her longbow. "Do you think she knows we're here?"

"The Betrayer?" growled Kellan. "No. She may know Neverwinter's defenses, but not our strategy." He smiled wanly. "At least that's one advantage we have."

They stole down from their vantage point on and into a grove of trees where their men were gathered. Ainar told them the size of the Luskan army, eliciting more than a few groans of despair from the company. But Kellan had hand-picked them from the Neverwinter Guards for this mission as much for their loyalty as their marksmanship, and he was no fool. He knew that his soldiers were scared - he was too - but they would follow his orders to the death, if need be. He ordered the company to spread out along a thirty-yard front, taking cover in the forest, which pushed up right against the river bank. They would make the Luskans pay dearly at the crossing. Kellan commanded the left of the line, next to Coran Jost, the youngest member of the group; Ainar commanded the right. Coran emptied both of his quivers, sticking them into the ground point-down for quicker access and looked to his commander.

"How long will we stay here?" asked Coran, trying to steady his quavering voice.

Kellan spat and brushed his hair out of his eyes. "As long as need be."

No sooner had Kellan finished than the blast of horns reached their ears. Luskan was coming. All of the Neverwintans fitted arrows to their bows and waited for the order to fire. The Luskan army crawled forward, burdened by siege engines and slow creatures. At last they came to the bridge, and the first Luskan soldiers - heavily armored pikemen - marched across.

Screams and cries of anger rang out as the traps that Kellan and Ainar set sprang to life. Men fell, incinerated by sudden bursts of flame or clawing at their helmets as acid sprayed into their eyes. But Kellan did not give the order to fire yet. A Luskan captain rode up on his horse, berating his men so loudly that some of the Neverwintans hiding in the trees heard and chuckled. He rode across to prove his point, when suddenly his horse reared and stumbled, its hooves pierced by caltrops, launching the unfortunate rider into the frozen Mirar. A second captain rode up and ordered the men forward, and cautiously they came on. Just as they were about to reach the second set of traps, two shouts rang out from the river bank, one in Elvish, the other in the Common Tongue.

"Fire!"

Fifty arrows flew through the frigid night air, finding their marks among the ranks of Luskans. They drew back in surprise, then charged forward with a yell, triggering the next bunch of traps all at once. Electricity and fire burst up from the bridge, killing many instantly, and another volley of arrows cut down those who did not flee. For a brief moment, the bridge lay empty. A squadron of Luskan horsemen, swords and axes glinting in the moonlight, charged the bridge, crossing it despite the arrows and remaining traps. They thundered past where the Neverwintans hid. By the time they realized their mistake, the few that remained were easily dispatched.

But now the Luskans began to fight back. Crossbowmen raked the trees with arrows, some finding their mark among their targets. A bolt buried itself in Coran Jost's throat just as he fitted an arrow to his bowstring, and he died with a strangled moan of pain. And a crush of hill giants wielding spiked clubs crashed into the forest, trampling as many men as they bludgeoned to death. Ainar felled one of the creatures with a well-placed arrow before the rest were on top of her. Her sword claimed another before a blow sent her flying onto the road. Kellan expected to fight infantry and horsemen, not giants; his men were ill-prepared for this onslaught. Still they fought gamely on, firing so many arrows that the giants resembled pincushions before they finally died.

Meanwhile, Luskans continued to pour across the bridge. The same pikemen that had been driven off earlier advanced steadily on the thicket, their pikes lowered. Above, two dragons, their scales blacker than the night sky, wheeled and hissed, their claws splayed and ready to pick up any Neverwintan soldier that dared present himself on the open road. One held the broken body of Ainar in its mouth, her flowing auburn hair stained with blood.

"Fall back!" he bellowed. "Fall back into the forest!" The few men that heard him broke and ran instantly, chased by pikemen and hill giants alike. Gamely Kellan fired a few more arrows and then, too, bolted. Suddenly the Luskan horns sounded again, and the pursuit stopped cold. But he did not look back until they had pressed deep into the Neverwinter Wood and reached the designated rallying point. Only a dozen had survived, and most of them were injured.

Kellan's voice was hard. "We've done what we can, lads. Now we see if the Alliance can finish the job."

 

First Stand © Hand of Zarquon

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