Black Flood: A Tale of the Trolloc Wars [Complete]

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halfhand
Posts: 106
Joined: Wed Aug 22, 2018 11:12 am

Black Flood: A Tale of the Trolloc Wars [Complete]

Post by halfhand » Wed Sep 30, 2020 4:43 pm

Preface:
This story first came out in 2003 here, and I think it is time to rehome it once more.
It does show its age, but with much elements I think are still quite enjoyable.
I am given it some much needed editing and polish. Dialogue has been cleaned up, some story elements reworked, and some annoying typographc issues fixed.
I hope you enjoy it as I did when I first wrote it 17 years ago.

This is a story of the Band of Red Hand--their titanic struggles, loves, sacrifices, and legacies.


Just for easy reading in case for those who find the forum fonts a little hard on the eyes.

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epub file
Last edited by halfhand on Sun Oct 18, 2020 5:52 pm, edited 3 times in total.

halfhand
Posts: 106
Joined: Wed Aug 22, 2018 11:12 am

Re: Black Flood: A Tale of the Trolloc Wars

Post by halfhand » Wed Sep 30, 2020 4:47 pm

Prologue
One thousand years After the Breaking, unstoppable waves of Shadowspawn stormed out from the Blasted Land, led by vengeful Myrddraal and Dreadlords to raze the Westlands. The Ten Nations of the Second Covenant stood against this inundation: Coremanda, Aelgar, Almoren, Aramaelle, Aridhol, Eharon, Essenia, Jaramide, Safer, and Manetheren. Heroes of tragedy and destiny collided with the Dark One's forces. One of the most unforgettable groups of those heroes was the Band of the Red Hand, the Sword that could not be Broken. Memories still linger of those men of courage and vigor, chronicled in the Ballad of the Band...

"The Old Blood sings of a mighty Band,
The infamous guardians of the Land.
The Dark One 'self felt the bite of the Thorn,
The bravest souls whom ever born.
Forever live those bold Red Hand!"

פּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּפּצּ

Chapter One: Reinforcements

Sergeant Stef Reimos tugged at his frayed red cloak, pulling it closer. He shivered and wrapped it tightly around his body in an effort to cut out the wind. He was always cold nowadays. The frigid Aramaelle air froze his lungs when he inhaled and came out in a thick steam. He plunged through the high packed snow along with the rest of T’Eldrene Company.

His exposed face felt scarred from the harsh dry winds, and he earnestly wished for a thicker cloak and better boots. He walked mechanically; the long monotonous snowdrifts remained the same for miles, as the snake of red-cloaked soldiers marched through the white wilderness. The only break from the mind-numbing monotony was the back of the soldier walking before him, the blood red hand stitched to that faded cloak claiming his vision.

The only sound was the cracking of snow being trampled beneath and the howling winds. Like most, he had long stopped talking, with each voice drawing more cold air into his already frozen lungs to steal his precious life heat.

Stef wished for the warm hearth of the Mafel Dadaranell Keep where T’Eldrene Company had stayed a few days ago... was it days? Weeks? How long has it been? How much time has passed since the company had left Manetheren? The snow swallowed time as much as heat. All he could remember were long days of cold march, sometimes a warm fire in a town or city, more often sleeping covered in cloak and the issued blanket.
Although only twenty-four years old, his body felt ancient. He could feel the ravages of ten hard years of enlistment now heightened by the vast cold. And he was one of the lucky ones. Two decades in this cruel world was a luxury for a frontline soldier.

T’Eldrene Company had been sent north to reinforce the main body of the Band of Red Hand, the famous name of the Grand Legion of Manetheren. The Band had seen its numbers chiseled down by attrition of sword and cold. Like all Companies in the Manetheren legions, it was named after one of the guardians of Manetheren. They marched for the honor of Queen Eldrene, the beautiful Rose of the Sun. Since the Trolloc Wars had begun, the main body of the Band of Red Hand had rode to the thickest knots of fighting. Right now, the Band had taken up residence in northern Aramaelle, where it could do the most damage and the most good, and occasionally revitalized by new bodies like T’Eldrene from the Mountain Home when their numbers begin to dwindle dangerously.

Stef took an appraisal of the vast land, and saw the black Mountains of Dhorom etching the sky around the company. The company had just entered the vast mountain range named after the famed Sentinel Dhorom, stretching from the cliffside coasts of Jaramide in the west to the Spine of the World in the east.

A faint but clear note from a horn far ahead shattered the silence, its blast drawing Stef immediately to attention. A second note followed quickly. The sergeant stiffened to the familiar sound.

"Trouble?" A nearby foot soldier asked. Stef placed the voice to a young recruit, Cordin Brogan, part of his squad, who had recently enlisted before the Company had left for the North.

"Something like that. The pickets ran into spawns." Stef replied, distracted. His eyes skimmed around the pale white horizon, searching furtively.
"If it's a full host, we'll be boiling in a pot tonight." A soldier beside him muttered.

"Well, then it’s about time we had a hot bath, Tayren." Stef retorted to his Second, but he knew the brash soldier’s words to be true. The 250-men company was a force in its own right, but was a drop against a trolloc host that could number in the thousands. But there was no time for doubt. He drew his sword out from his red-stained leather scabbard and hefted its weight in his arm. His frozen joints groaned in protest. He ranged his arms and neck, forcing the memory of movement back into his stiff body.

Orders rippled through the line of men, and the soldiers began to split into defensive formation, infantry forming up at the perimeter with archers jostling for position.

"My squad with me!" Stef shouted over the voices of others and plunged through the snow towards the edge. As he reached the perimeter, he could now see the rapidly approaching shapes of the scouts racing towards the safety of the main body. Behind them appeared the hulking and unmistakable figures of Trollocs, the grotesque half-animal half-human footsoldiers of the Dark armies. Their terrible black line cut through the edge of the horizon. Thumping drums of war hammered through the air and could be felt in the bones. And they came.

The Trollocs poured down the snowy plains as the ground shivered at their approach. Cloud of powder snow agitated violently into the pale blue sky. They charged like a rolling avalanche of violence. Though the sergeant was experienced in engagements, even he had to keep a tight rein on the internal knot of animal instinct screaming for him to flee.

When the human armies first met the Trolloc armies at the start of the war two hundred years ago, it was nothing but a disastrous and epic loss of human life. The Second Covenant was simply not ready. The massive strength and unquenchable blood lust of the Trolloc Armies had reaped through the human armies in a bloody harvest, until the Shadow finally broke on the unlikely, desperate alliance of Saferi phalanx and the Manetheren archers. But now they had learned their lessons upon the graves of the past. Now, the Manetheren steel and its legion stood ready, the lessons of the past etched deep in their bones, their sword quenched in the blood of the thousands dead before their time.
The squad formed besides Stef , a small segment of the perimeter lines. The entire infantry line shifted in anticipation.

"Let's make this a good one! Stay together!" He shouted, adding to the roar of hundreds of voices.

Those dark hulking shapes came on, faster than humanly appeared. Their enormous size dwarfed an average human, and their strides were deceptive, leaping across the snowdrift with unholy speed. Stef grabbed the ring that hung on a thong around his neck, kissed it for luck, and slipped it protectively inside his jerkin. A flight of arrows flew over Stef’s head, to feather the oncoming shadowspawns. Many fell, but more howled in blood rage, ignorant of their wounds. Another flight of arrows took off. A third.

And then the spawns arrived, smashing into the infantry lines. The sword in Stef’s hands flashed and parried desperately. The Trollocs bore long wicked swords of massive weight and enormous spiked mattocks. Sharp pain streaked up his arm as his sword barely deflected a massive blow, nearly sending his weapon flying.

The beast gave a pained howl when Tayren rushed under his defense and sliced through the flesh of the beast's leg. Stef took that opportunity to lunge in and bury his sword through its massive chest. He barely had time to pull the bloodied sword out before the creature collapsed to the ground.

The sergeant gave a quick nod to Tayren and leaped into the carnage again. The heat of battle boiled over, cold steel and burning blood intermingled. Then, there were no more to kill.

Stef exhaled and took a reading of the carnage. The Trollocs had numbered barely a fist, wild and unorganized, a rare gem these days, with most Shadowspawn hosts totaling in the thousands. While the main Band of Red Hand could hold its own against many a shadow host, T’Eldrene would have barely been a nuisance to a host, a light snack, no matter how determined. However this time, the readiness of the Band had made short work of the attacking foes, with minimal loss.

"Victory!" The cry roared. Stef licked his cracked lips, and kept a wary gaze towards the dense clusters of pines scattered around that could hide many lurking spawns. He stooped and wiped his blade on the snow, the dark blood staining the white crimson. Satisfied that it was mostly clean, he sheathed the sword.

"A taste of battle." Stef gave a measuring look at the soldiers in the squad. All of them had survived, more or less. Cordin was wide-eyed, but his sword was stained and spawn blood smeared his face. He was the only raw tyro in Stef's squad, the rest having seen their share of battle.

"Savor it while you can." Tayren Suturb grunted in agreement, "that was just a delicate appetizer." Tayren had already served in some northern patrols, and knew the reality. His tall lanky frame knew battle, and a grim scar stretching his face attested to it. He had a good head on his shoulder, and Stef knew he could trust him with the squad if he died, though he was not yet looking forward to that.

The groans of the wounded punctuated the air, and Stef moved forward to help. Grimacing, he kneeled beside a fallen infantryman, an oozing stump where an arm should have belonged. Its owner groaned softly but the blood loss was beginning to take its toll. Stef tore off strips of the soldier's red cloak and began to hastily bandage the wound. Dark red blotches immediately blossomed onto the already red fabric as he aggressively held pressure until the bleeding seemed to staunch. Young Cordin came beside him, licking his lips nervously.

"Help me with this, will ya?" Stef grunted. Cordin glanced down, looked decidedly uneasy, but grabbed the moaning soldier by his good arm. With Cordin's help, Stef carried the soldier onto an awaiting stretcher. Two red-armed medics carried him off, towards the temporary hospital tent.

"Not too bad for your first time, kid." Stef glanced at Cordin. He looked barely over 'scripting age, but from what he remembered from the battle, was not a coward and could fight decently. Not a grizzled veteran by any measure--neither was Stef--but the recruit was getting there

"Thank you sir," Cordin answered hesitantly.

"The sooner we get moving, the sooner we can meet up with Cathon's army. Wherever they are." Stef remarked and rubbed his stained hands on the snow. The cleansing white soaked up most of the blood, but Stef could still feel the blood staining his hands dark red like his cloak. Seeing that the wounded were removed, he gave a wave, and he and the squad trudged back. The perimeter of the defense began to collapse into itself and formed back into the long line of cold marching soldiers.

Looking back, Stef saw the hospital tent going down as well.

"Patched up as fast they could be," Tayren said, almost reading Stef’s mind, "Right back into the march if they could walk. And for those who meet the bone-saw, they get transported around like barley."

Stef nodded grimly. The Trolloc Wars had taught many lessons. If you were in hostile territory, mobility equals survival. If they remained in one spot too long, chances are good that they would be swarmed by ten times the number within the hour. There would be no relative safety until they could link up with the Grand Legion.

"Don't know whether to feel sorry for them or jealous." Tayren grunted, "A free ride sounds nice around now. Even if I do have to lose an arm."
Once more, scouts moved out, disappearing over the snowy mounds.

Stef grunted, feeling the cold seeping into his bones again, and tramped on once more through the white infinity.

halfhand
Posts: 106
Joined: Wed Aug 22, 2018 11:12 am

Re: Black Flood: A Tale of the Trolloc Wars

Post by halfhand » Wed Sep 30, 2020 4:59 pm

Chapter Two: The Storm Lord

The Storm Lord stood upon the rise, his gaze sweeping far across the snow-covered plains. The black vermin of spawns dotted the far distance like cancerous growth. He regarded a particularly large cluster of the foul beasts and raised his hand in a fist.

The heavens wept fire and rain of unyielding stone upon them. That cluster was shattered, dying and dead spawns littering the pure whiteness.

"BRAVO!" Lieutenant General Diest Arcanum bellowed, his voice a deep thunderous boom, one reason for his nickname. He was a large man, muscled and cloaked in Band red. He glanced with pride at his assembly of catapults perched on the crest of the hill, spewing burning naphtha and bone-crushing boulders upon the distant spawns. The main body of the Band of Red Hand, nearly two hundred thousand strong, was arrayed around the massive snow-covered hill. His fascination with siege weapons was attested to by the fact that his Thunder Legion was almost entirely composed of Ballistic Banners.

The fleet of ballistic machines at his disposal was the very best. Arcanum had seen to that. Those light-weight tension catapults were, as some would call it, his obsession. Scaled down from the heavier siege catapults, they could keep up with the ever-moving Band, even through snow or sleet. Each crafted by master engineers from the finest Ogier sungwood. They were the shining stars of Manetheren; his shining stars.

The Storm Lord pulled his lips back in a sneer, and made his way through the nearest battery. A team of loaders had just finished cutting out a massive block of ice from the side of the hill. With the convenient amount of ice always present in the north, who needed to carry boulders?

Arcanum gazed at the man-sized mounds behind the catapults. Even covered with leather canvas and buried in snow, they were always a weight on his mind. Each one of those buried clay barrels contained either naphtha or witch's brew. Any stray spark, however rare they were and...
Arcanum shuddered. He had already lost one catapult to a loader’s careless mistake dealing with those volatile liquids. He glanced at his hands; both were scarred by fire on the back.

Arcanum shook his head and watched his men again. The ice block was already loaded, and the Observer gave a shout. The boulder of ice arched through the air, diminishing rapidly into the sky. Arcanum followed the frozen missile with a practiced eye, and grunted with satisfaction as it slammed into an enemy siege weapon.

"Good eye, soldier." Arcanum pulled out his watch-glass and set it to his eye. Watch-glasses were indeed rare these days; Arcanum had to pull all his strings as a Lieutenant-General to obtain one. He saw the crushed figure of the spawn rock-thrower and gave a snort of derision. Crude was the kindest word he could say about it. Onagers of bad design always irritated him, no matter which army they were deployed for. The Hordes rarely used any ranged weapons, lacking even basic archers in most of their armies. Onagers were their preferred siege weapon, but most of the time did not work or killed their own crews.

"Thank you, sir." The observer answered, his eyes still casting the distance for viable targets while the loaders heaved on another ice boulder, "I tuned the hoist personally. Cold weather's distorting the wood. But the accuracy should be correct now."

Arcanum recognized the wind-scarred observer as a Captain Cydin Blake, a proud young man, somewhat naïve. Odd at times, but good at his craft. Arcanum considered his words, and nodded.

"You have something there." Arcanum stroked his chin thoughtfully, "the accuracy of the catapults have degraded lately; I will speak to the other cat crews about correcting the windlass."

"If they had any skill, they should've recognized it already," Blake replied disdainfully, "Five slack...half-range...FIRE!"

The whistle announced another projectile leaping toward the enemy lines. Arcanum watched as it slammed into a thick formation of spawns. Captain Blake will go quite far in the Thunder Legion, Arcanum noted to himself.

Finishing with the inspection, he strode through the snow, past those ominous mounds of barrels, and came to his latest machine ordered from HQ. The Ballista was pulled by three large draft horses up towards the edge of the bluff towards the rest of the cats. The giant wheeled crossbow rolled across the snow, its sinuous bolt gleaming.

"About time." Arcanum licked his chapped lips, eyes gleaming.

"Freshly built as ordered. We got stuck in a snowdrift." The Ballista's observer replied, "Major Drov Borsy."

"Diest Arcanum." The two shook with gloved hands.

"The Storm Lord?" Borsy smirked, "should've guessed you would be the one to have it dubbed the Aclare."

"The Thunderbolt." Arcanum said, and watched as it reached its destination and was unhitched.

"You have the honor for its maiden shot." Borsy bowed and grinned.

"Don't mind if I do." The two men strolled over to the machine. Some nearby batteries gave it a curious look, but returned to their own cats.
Arcanum studied the long bolt perched in the carriage. A large sturdy oak javelin with a steel-tipped head, it could completely punch through an armored soldier's plate and body. There were some stories that boasted of ballista bolts slamming through as much as ten bodies, though Arcanum gave those little credit. But looking at that wicked missile, Arcanum pondered if it truly might be possible.

Arcanum scanned the enemy lines with his glass and saw that the spawn assaults were deteriorating and most of their forces had retreated. But his gaze came upon one last wave, this time led by a black-cloaked Myrddraal riding in the midst. The eyeless rider stopped his horse barely out of archer range and raised its black sword in the air. The hulking trollocs streamed around it, attempting to slam through the Band's infantry lines.

"Perfect. Three...four slack...full range...third arc..." The creaking of wood behind Arcanum told him that its crew was moving into action. The Myrddraal still remained in one place, but suddenly its face turned upwards. If the Halfman had possessed eyes, Arcanum would have sworn they were focused on him.

"FIRE!" Arcanum boomed. With a roar of tension being unleashed, the huge bolt flashed across the battlefield. His gaze continued to be fixed upon the shadowy rider, who remained motionless-- not even his black cloak stirred.

The bolt flashed through the view circle of the watch-glass, and punched a hole through a Trolloc beside the Myrddraal. The Myrddraal's black stallion reared and he rode out of view.

Arcanum cursed vehemently, "The Dark One's own luck."

"Not terribly accurate for personnel targets." Borsy noted, "But it'll do. It seems better for larger targets, such as ships. We have some designs for water-born ballistas, and they’ll sure be handy when Trollocs learn to sail." The engineer chuckled at his own joke.

A cry came rushing through the ranks, interrupting Arcanum's response.

"Victory!"

"Ni’von Ganei!"

"For the Band!"

"The Band of Red Hand!"

Arcanum took a viewing through his glass and saw that the last wave of spawns had been crushed, fleeing like disturbed ants.

"Alright, men! Get some canvas on those engines. Looks like we'll be camping here." Arcanum roared, "If they try again, we'll lick'em again!"

As his men scrambled to cast covers on their cats to protect them from the cold and damp, the sun began to sink. Arcanum eagerly anticipated a warm fire...far away from the naphtha of course.

halfhand
Posts: 106
Joined: Wed Aug 22, 2018 11:12 am

Re: Black Flood: A Tale of the Trolloc Wars

Post by halfhand » Wed Sep 30, 2020 7:20 pm

Chapter Three: The Beginning of an End

Marshall-General Lawe Cathon flexed his fingers, stiffened by cold and age, and gazed at the aftermath of the battle of the hill. He felt old, as if a heavy weight had been placed upon his shoulder. Which was technically true. He had been in command of this Grand-Legion of the Band of Red Hand for...fifteen years (has it been that long?), moving up through the officer ranks, through a combination of skill and harsh fatalities of previous commanders.

He tugged at the beard at his chin, almost as if he just discovered it existed. He remembered when he used to shave everyday. But, it kept his face warm, and shaving supplies were non-existent, considering that the grand-legion now camped hundreds of leagues from civilization in the midst of a hostile territory. And a half world away from his home. He had not seen his family in twenty years or the silent woods where he had explored during his youth...the Sandbars and the giant buried bones inside that were made of rock...the great Halls of the Citadel and the voices that echo forever in their vaulted arches...the most beautiful woman he had known dancing with flowers in her hair…

"Sir?" A voice broke through the faint echoes of home. Cathon shook his head sadly. All the things that we fight for. If only I could believe we are winning...

"Yes?" He replied.

"The Butcher's Bill is in." Nathen Austern, his Adjutant, stood patiently by Cathon's horse.

Cathon sighed, "What did we pay?"

"A hundred and ten infantry casualties. Most of them concentrated in Zephyr, which took the brunt of the spawn assault. Thirty-two cavalry. Fifty horses. And almost half of Raisse's 133rd Banner."

Cathon gazed at the battlefield, and mentally replayed the battle in his head, "Less than I had expected. Some would call it extraordinarily small, considering what we faced. But we cannot continue to lose this much in every engagement. We cannot afford to."

"It is only the first time we tried the Bashere Gambit. I am sure that next time, we can be more efficient with it." Nathen noted.

"Yes, and we can be even better the third. And then the Spawns learn. They counter it. By the fifth engagement it becomes useless. The longer they drag on the war, the more they win. Even if every one of the Band destroys ten spawns, twenty more come to replace them. It is time for that staff meeting we discussed before, Nathen."

The adjutant nodded and walked off, his faded cloak trailing behind him.

Cathon sighed again and ran his fingers through his hair. His once raven hair was streaked with gray now. It was a rare occasion, almost non-existent, for an officer to stay alive more than ten years in the Trolloc Wars. The only thing keeping him alive was his luck. Luck was all he had.

Cathon nudged his horse with his knee and began to move towards HQ. His thirtieth horse. The wars in the north had been the harshest against horses, with hidden trip-holes hidden by snow, and their bulk making for prominent targets. He had stopped bothering to name them.

He nodded to the soldiers that he passed, huddled around campfires in tattered red cloaks. Sometimes he stopped to speak a few words or offer a word of encouragement.

"Sir, are we winning?" A soldier asked. He looked to be no older than twenty, but his eyes had the grim set of a veteran who had seen battles.

"We are." Cathon smiled reassuringly. Both the soldier and Cathon knew it was a lie. But, the soldier simply nodded and returned to his fire. The soldier looked gaunt with sunken cheeks. Their rations were at all time minimum down with barely enough to sustain life.

Cathon tried to remember when the last supply convoy came in. A month ago at the most recent. Supply lines were suffering appallingly. With meager amount of armed escort, they were easy prey to the spawns that ranged throughout Aramaelle. And because the Band kept moving, any supply trains that survived spawn raids had to scour the land before finding them. And then they had to make the journey back. The bravest of men were not those who carried a banner into battle, but those who rode the caravans through dangerous land, so that others may live to fight, and rode those caravans back into the shadows of obscurity, while generals claim the victory.

Cathon came towards the main tent in HQ and dismounted. A stable boy took the reins from his hands.

Lights emanated through the canvas walls, evidence that the generals had already gathered. Cathon adjusted his frayed cloak and ducked in.
He blinked and felt the tendrils of heat warming his body. The fire in the middle of the tent crackled and popped, its smoke streaming through the break in the tent ceiling.

Cathon noted the familiar faces circled around the fire, many of whom have been with him through much of his command. Cathon sat down at the space left for him, and lifted his hands towards the fire, the thin warmth seeping in.

"Bandor Lu'tra e Shen an Calhar." Lieutenant General Stren Vader greeted him.

"Tai'shar Manetheren." Cathon replied. He met the eyes of every one of the waiting generals for the five Legions. Vader of the First Legion, Arcanum of Thunder Legion, Hill of Zephyr Hawk, Notar of Black Moon, and Diadrem of True Blade Legion. Then his eyes came upon a particular ageless face. Two green eyes met his, a cool and calculating look. She was knitting, but set down her needles. That one kept her emotions sealed, but he could see the flickering of curiosity on her delicate brow.

"A victory today!" Lieutenant General Deist Arcanum proclaimed his booming voice.

"More victories like this, and it won't be long before we lose the war." Major-General Hill replied. His Zephyr Hawks had suffered the worst fatalities.

"Better than a defeat." Arcanum retorted.

"I agree with Hill." Cathon cut in, "we are losing. Sure, we're winning battles. Undefeated so far. But, we're still losing.

"We lost close to a company today, and we'll keep losing them. This...war has gone on for two hundred some years. All we have known in life is war. T’Eldrene Company will arrive soon, if she makes it, she will cover the losses this time. But there will be no more reinforcements after T’Eldrene's for a very long time. The last unclaimed men in the Mountain Home are in that company. Manetheren is bled dry of men. Anyone who is able to carry a blade or staff is fighting. And dying. Our crops have long wilted and our homes lie entombed in dust and cobwebs. The Band of Red Hand will lose. Perhaps not today. Perhaps not tomorrow. But the hardest rock will not withstand two hundred years of storm and flood."

The grim eyes that met his own were without emotion.

Major General Jot Diadrem steepled his fingers, and leaned forward, "Then what are we to do."

"We end it." Cathon spoke softly, "Gentlemen, we have long seen that tall black visage like a dagger in the sky, in the long years we have been entrenched in Northern Aramaelle. In a long war, we will lose, and this war has gone long enough, as it is. We must strike the heart of the Darkness."

A veil of thick silence descended in the tent. Stunned faces met him. Arcanum’s jaw was agape.

"Shayol Ghul." Finally, a soft melodic voice said shattered the silence.

"Shayol Ghul." Cathon repeated, and met those liquid green eyes.

"You truly believe you can take it?" She coolly remarked and picked up her needles again, resuming her work. There was the briefest flicker of the corner of her lip.

"That's what I'm going to find out, Airena Sedai."

Some of the commanders were visibly uneased. Others eyeing the Marshall General like he had gone crazy. Cathon saw Arcanum now sputtering, struggling to find words that would not outright affront Cathon.

"When you are outnumbered, and surrounded," Vader was the first to find his words. His voice was calm and composed like rich leather. He stirred the fire, causing it to flicker and dance, "the only option is to attack."

Cathon just realized he was holding his breath and he let it out. "I have faith in the Band. I have faith in the commanders. I have faith in the men. And frankly, we don't have much choice." Cathon said.

There was a silence, filled with only the crackle of the fire, as the generals silently contemplated it. Cathon could feel the sense of momentum shifting in the room.

"It may be so. We'll need supplies." Seth Notar broke the second silence. Cathon gave a nod. The generals had agreed. Deep down inside, Cathon had wished some would disagree. As a sane man, he didn't want to die, which the assault on Shayol Ghul would most likely render. But, like him, the commanders all knew the truth and what must be done. Cathon had only said aloud what was already lurking in each of the generals’ minds.

"T’Eldrene Company will be bringing in the sufficient supplies. Anything else?" Cathon glanced at Airena Andalusa. The Aes Sedai advisor from Tar Valon met his glance again, and remained silent and her emotions unreadable. No microexpressions this time.

"To Shayol Ghul we go." General Hill placed a hand over the dying fire. The hand seemed to glow red with the radiance of the fire.
Cathon reached out, and placed his right hand upon Hill's hand. Four more hands joined, glowing red in the fire's range.

"For the Band."

"The Band of Red Hand."

The fire flickered and died, its embers glowing for a second before fading into blackness.
Last edited by halfhand on Sun Oct 18, 2020 2:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

halfhand
Posts: 106
Joined: Wed Aug 22, 2018 11:12 am

Re: Black Flood: A Tale of the Trolloc Wars

Post by halfhand » Wed Sep 30, 2020 8:40 pm

Chapter Four: Last Sons of Manetheren

A blood red sun rose over the mountains of Dhorom, its light casting black shadows into its many jagged crevasses.

Stef Reimos shielded his eyes as he gazed up at the sun and wished that it was closer. He put all his bitter cold soul and body and heart into that wish. But alas, the Creator did not listen, and it looked to Reimos' wind-reddened eyes that the sun was even more distant. Reimos glanced back down to see the last foothills of the Dhoroms within sight.

T’Eldrene Company had traveled all night through the dangerous passes. One soldier had made a fatal misstep, falling into the darkness, never to be seen again. Thankfully, most took heed at this and found caution. Some had even taken to calling it the Mountains of Dhoom. An apt nickname and maybe someday Dhoom will be all that remains, when memories fade and names slip. The trek was slow and laborious, but they had lost no one else. At dawn, they had finally passed the mountains into Northern Aramaelle. Stef was tired and cold and extremely irritable, and was showing it.

"Hurry up, you milksops. And what the bloody ashes are YOU doing?" Stef growled at two of his men who seemed to be throwing balls of snow at each other during a march break, "One'd think you never saw snow before. The Creator damn me if I never saw this white slop again. Come on, git."

"Well, Reimos, you're cheerful today."

Tayren grinned. He looked so cheery that Reimos felt like punching him in his face. Or at least tapping him on the head with a sap.

Stef grunted, "We'd better link up to the Grand Legion soon. My bloody foot's frozen, my bloody face is frozen, and I haven't felt my bloody toes in days. I think I am still alive; but the only proof I have is this bloody, forsaken headache. And that could very well be the death spasm. For all I care, the spawns can keep Aramaelle."

Tayren nodded his head towards the front of the company, "Well, looks like your wish has come true, Sarge."

Stef followed Tayren's gaze, and saw, as the Company came over the last snow-covered ridge, a multitude of tents spread over a vast hill. In the middle were the Caldazar and Red Hand, flying proudly.

"Well...look at that." Stef grunted, his eyes capturing all the details of the camp. The sprawling encampment seemed to be concentrated around a rising, with tents in ring, enough for thousands upon thousands of soldiers. Squinting, Stef could make out tarp-covered mounds on the top of the hill, which could only be siege engines.

The front of the company entered the camp and it appeared the line was meandering towards the top of the hill. As Stef passed the perimeter, he inclined his head at the pickets who were gnawing on rations. Their cloaks were just as frayed as Stef’s, but their spears were well kept and their eyes were alert as they attempted to break their fast, and apparently their teeth in the process. At that sight, Reimos' stomach gurgled, and he looked forward to breakfast, even if it was thin barley soup or frozen bread heels.

As T’Eldrene Company passed through the rings of tents, red-clad soldiers exited their tents to see the newcomers, milling around in excitement. Reinforcements brought supplies and most importantly, news and reunions. Stef saw two long separated brothers embrace, and he glanced around to see if he could find someone he knew. But though some looked vaguely familiar, the majority of these soldiers had left Manetheren five, ten years ago. Everywhere, soldiers began to call out questions.

"How is Manetheren?"

"Does anyone know..."

"...Twelfth Acre..."

"How are the people at..."

"My family, the Condas?"

"...please!"

Stef’s desperately searching eyes finally found what it seeked.

"Da!" Stef called. He broke out of line and clasped the older man pushing out from the crowd. His father had changed so much. His hair had turned completely white, intense lines creased his face, and his eyes seemed to be paler and older.

"Stef," Jorj Reimos said as he stepped back, "I had heard you signed up. I can't say I am surprised." The older man seemed to hold himself back, muted in reuniting with his son, instead showing a sense of sadness in his hard face.

"I can make my own decisions. I've fought and served. Like you." Then Stef Reimos hesitated, "Da, about mom. I don't know if you heard. She's...she's... The years have been hard on her since you left. She became so weak, and I couldn't contact you...She passed away four winters ago. Before she passed away, she wanted me to give you this."

Stef pulled the thong-and-ring from his neck and placed it in Jorj's hands. Jorj's face had always seemed as if it was chiseled from stone, but when the ring found his hands, it seemed the stony exterior cracked just a bit. His fingers closed around the ring, and his eyes seemed to fade. To his son, Jorj has always been a hard man, but for a brief moment, he seemed vulnerable. He whispered to himself, "Oh Eve. Eve. For love of Manetheren."

Jorj sighed, and looked back at his son. He seemed harder than before, if that was possible. A statue which had once been a man. "Thank you, Stef. Your company's moving on."

Stef Reimos clasped hands with his father. Jorj's hands were cold and hard, almost all tendon and bone, its warmth long leached away. Stef nodded soberly to his father. This was not the reunion he expected. But what did he expect? He swallowed the confusing rush of words that he wanted to say to his father, and stepped back into the line. Stef felt a tiny ache of pain inside, like an old battle wound, but crushed it underneath a wall not unlike his father's.

The wearied sergeant and T’Eldrene Company continued up the hill and pooled around the large tents of the HQ. The majestic Red Eagle danced in the wind alongside the Red Hand. Below them flew the Wolfhead of Aemon, the Boarhound of Cathon, and the Shield of the Covenant.
An assembly of men stood below the banners and waited patiently as the entire company had arrived. A tall man with gray-streaked hair watched the gathering company. His cloak was faded and worn, but he wore it proudly.

When all had arrived, he began to speak, "Welcome, T’Eldrene Company. I am the commander of the Band of Red Hand, Marshall-General Lawe Cathon.

"I do not know many of you, for I have left home over thirty years ago. But I do know that every one of you is a true son of Manetheren. You will hold back the black flood so that the Mountain Home will not drown, and you have made the terrible sacrifices. I thank you.

"Since Aemon has pledged the Band...scores of years ago, we have held back the flood, but as most know, we cannot hold them much longer. Many of you will sacrifice your lives, your dreams, your hopes, for nothing more than the love for your nation. For humanity. Our greatest endeavor is nigh, an assault on the Bastion of Shadows itself. If we fail or we succeed, I do not know, and I cannot know. For I will not lie to you. You have pledged your lives and aspirations to this superhuman task, and that is all I will ask from you. All that I need.

"For those who have recently joined, the Band of the Red Hand is the Grand-Legion of Manetheren, consisting of five Legions, and divided further into Banners, Companies, platoons, and squads. T’Eldrene Company will be moving in under the command of the 50th Light Infantry Banner under Major General Drogan Trystan within Glene Hill's Zephyr Hawk Legion. You will bivouac in the Third Encampment. General Trystan will provide you with additional information.

"May the Light shelter us in the Darkness to come. Only with the love of Manetheren will we survive. For Manetheren!" Cathon saluted.

"For Manetheren!" T’Eldrene Company shouted. The Caldazar and the Red Hand flew above the True and Last Sons of Manetheren.
Last edited by halfhand on Mon Oct 05, 2020 8:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

halfhand
Posts: 106
Joined: Wed Aug 22, 2018 11:12 am

Re: Black Flood: A Tale of the Trolloc Wars

Post by halfhand » Thu Oct 01, 2020 3:13 pm

Chapter Five: The Blasted Lands

Diest Arcanum studied the papers in his hands from atop his gelding. After scrutinizing a design for a trebuchet, he absent-mindedly reached up to his ear for a quill, but his hand bounced off his helmet. He glanced at his empty hand for a second and looked up from his study. The Band was on the move again, the line of soldiers stretching far ahead and back.

Arcanum's nose curled at a stench he had just noticed and glanced down at the ground. The snow was melting into a brownish-yellow mush that sickened the stomach. Dry hot breezes assaulted the army from the north, bringing smells of decay and rot. While Arcanum did not miss the snow at all, he wasn't looking forward to this new climate as they approached the Blasted Lands.

Arcanum shrugged and glanced back at his designs. He made a mental note for the trebuchet to be used for this fool’s errand on Shayol Ghul, and rifled through the papers until he found the sketch for the Aclare. The assault on the Black Bastion didn't seem so insane when reduced to numbers and logistics. Actually, it was still insane, but not as so. He rubbed his chin and adjusted his helmet. It was becoming increasingly hot and stifling, and sweat was already starting to form on his forehead.

"Drov, look at this for a moment." Arcanum called to the engineer riding by his side. Arcanum had taken a liking to the Major, especially to his skilled hand at siege engines. Borsy rode his horse closer and Arcanum showed him the designs. Arcanum pointed at a few points, "If we make a few changes here. And here. And scale this all down..."

Borsy pulled off his helm, wiped his face of sweat, and peered at the papers, "I believe that would work. On paper at least. And it certainly looks like an interesting machine. I'll get the boys working on these. Light, it's hot."

Arcanum handed the papers to Borsy, who went on to study the Storm Lord's new toy. Arcanum glanced at the surrounding and made a grimace. Trees and foliage had begun to appear. But he'd rather they had not. The trees seemed to be rotting while they grew, bloated and bleeding black liquids. Cancerous red and green growth splattered the leaves, and the overripe fruits looked as if they were going to explode at any moment.

"You know the latest on the war situation?" Arcanum asked.

"Yeah, the Corp handles most of the pigeons, so we're generally updated, though the last one we received was about two weeks ago. Jaramide partisans still running their hit-strikes with some effect. They're reporting heavy spawn activities there, but the Safari Phalanxes should handle any move southwards. Nonoc Bashere is trying to rebuild the Immortals. And Aridhol, well, its Containment still holds." Borsy ticked off his fingers, "We aren't exactly winning, but we aren't exactly losing either."

"Well, at least I'm reassured that we're not alone." Arcanum glanced at a bloated bush at the side of the room, and felt a morbid fascination to actually touch one. Smartly, Arcanum restrained that grotesque urge. But, a soldier a few paces in front of the general didn't seem to have as much sense, and actually reached out curiously towards a red-splotched shrub.

With a shriek the soldier leaped back, thrashing his arm.

"Get it off! Get IT OFF!" He slammed into another soldier and fell to the ground, still shrieking. Arcanum watched in growing horror as the soldier's hands began to blacken and dissolve before his eyes, slowly inching up his arms. The march came to a grinding halt.

Arcanum leaped off his horse and sprinted towards the soldier, but a ring of men was forming around the thrashing soldier. Everyone watched in stunned shock, but none knew what to do. Arcanum pushed his way through, grabbing a battleaxe from a soldier. He raised the axe and slammed it down upon the shrieking soldier's upper arm with a sickening noise.

The decapitated limb twitched and spasmed and continued to dissolve. Arcanum could now catch the sight of a tiny bloated insect attached to a blackened finger. A flash of fire hit the arm, as Arcanum shied away from the flaring heat and light. A dark-haired woman rushed to the downed man's side, and placed her hands upon his shuddering chest. As Arcanum watched on, the man's stump closed to smooth skin and his trembling slowly subsided.

She slowly stood up, her emerald eyes glancing down at the ashes by her feet. She straightened her yellow shawl, and coolly announced, "A Stick. This man is lucky to be alive. Their bite digests its prey from within while they still live. He will be fine for now. Perhaps you all should take a lesson. Touch nothing. No trees. No leaves. Nothing. In fact, just stay away from any of the foliage, as if it was not common sense. There are worse things than the stick. A butcher bug spins a thread between trees so thin that the naked eye cannot detect it, and sharper than a steel blade. When a creature such as a foolish man walks into it, they decapitate themselves. That is, if the tree itself doesn't kill him first."

Airena Sedai gave another firm look to the soldiers once more and glided away. A shadow detached from the crowd, trailing after her, his shimmering Warder cloak floating behind him, changing colors to match his surrounding.

Two soldiers kneeled besides their fallen comrade and helped pull him to his feet. The man groaned, and shook his head. He glanced at the stump of his right arm and shuddered, but shakily got back to his feet.

Arcanum glanced at the bloodied axe in his hand and tossed it to the ground. He gave a distasteful grimace, and rubbed at the blood stains on his shirt cuffs. It was his favorite shirt too. The soldiers gave a wary look at the tree that the unfortunate man had touched, and returned to their formations.

As Arcanum remounted, the Band began to creep forth again, giving a wide berth to any flora. When his horse passed the remains of the arm, Arcanum glanced down at the black ashes and looked up at the looming black daggerlike mountain in the distance.

"What are we getting into?" He muttered. Despite the dank heat, he shivered. The wind kicked up the ashes, scattering them.
Last edited by halfhand on Sun Oct 18, 2020 2:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

halfhand
Posts: 106
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Re: Black Flood: A Tale of the Trolloc Wars

Post by halfhand » Thu Oct 01, 2020 3:27 pm

Chapter Six: Getty's Canyon

Lawe Cathon rubbed the tarnished watchglass on his cloak and fitted it to his eye. He studied the land before him and grimaced. Even with the watchglass, all he could see was fractured ground as far as can be seen, spiderwebbed with league-wide crevasses and irregular crags. He removed the watchglass and unrolled a yellow-edged map from his saddlebag.

"Is there a way across?" Nathen asked. The Band of Red Hand had stopped at the lip of the lip of the giant mess of fissures, patiently waiting for a decision.

Lawe Cathon tugged at his beard thoughtfully, his fingers gliding across the rough paper, "These fissures go for leagues across. I wonder what happened here. It is as if a giant fist pounded the land into submission. That canyon in front of us appears to be the only feasible way across."

"Getty's Canyon."

Cathon glanced around to see Airena glancing over his shoulder. Her black-armored warder rode silently behind her. Since the pair had joined them when the Band had passed through Mafal Dadaranell a year past, Cathon had never seen the face of the gaidin, who kept his visage always shielded by his slitted visor. Cathon had never caught his name, and the warder had never offered it, and so Cathon just referred to him as The Warder. Warder apparently accepted that and would respond to it, with his echoing metallic voice that was hard to place.

"Yes, Getty's Canyon. You know it?" Cathon arched his eyebrow.

"The explorer Dravo Getty. Known in all circles as particularly cocky and rash. Being such, he decided to map the Blasted Lands one day. Not unexpectedly, he did not return. A van of Aramaellean scouts on patrol found a half-buried map accredited to Getty. This canyon was the last thing drawn, and well, the Aramaelleans named the canyon after him. His tomb if you will."

"One immense tomb." Nathen noted.

Cathon looked down at the map again, deep in thought. A large sinister spire of Shayol Ghul was inked on the map, a whim of the mapper most likely, as Cathon doubted anyone had ever been foolish enough to map it.

"General!" A soldier rode up at a trot, his hand holding a small square of paper.

"A pigeon?" Cathon wheeled his gelding around.

"Just flew in, sir." The soldier gave the sheet to the Marshall-General, and saluted. He nudged his horse and returned to his banner.

Cathon glanced down at the paper for a second and shivers ran up his spine.

"Light!" Cathon grimaced, "it's from Mafal Dadaranell. They're under attack. Some treachery. Spawns breached through outer and inner walls."

Airena snatched the message from Cathon, "But it would take a massive host to take down that city. I doubt if even one of your legions could overrun Mafal Keep. It's dated two weeks ago."

"They must have let loose all their pigeons with this message," Nathen said, "By your orders, general, we have stopped sending them our positions due to our assault. This is a desperate act. Only sheer luck let the pigeon find us."

"How far are we from Mafal Dadaranell?" Cathon asked.

"It would take us a month at the least. Hard march and all of our remaining resources." The adjutant replied truthfully.

"Then whatever has happened there has already happened. Let us hope they have found reinforcements in time." Cathon said grimly. He did not like it, but he was going to have to accept it. "We must forge on."

Cathon glanced at Airena, who was still staring at the message. Cathon knew that there were Aes Sedai in Mafal Dadarenell. But the Tower was no man's business, as Airena had lectured Cathon often enough. So he said nothing. But the time for hesitation was over.

"The Band marches. To be safe, separate legions in vans. Send some pickets out in front." Cathon said, nudging his horse forward. The order rippled through the ranks, and like a waking beast, the Band started to move. Every time, Cathon felt heady at having two hundred thousand men at his back and command. No one was immune to the allures of power. But still he knew that it might not be enough for their task ahead.
Cathon glanced at the ground as the Band descended down into Getty's Canyon. This path seemed to be the more level based on initial scout reports. It was a mild incline, but could still prove to be dangerous for a horse and his rider. His brown gelding half slid and half walked down the cracked slope into the canyon.

Cathon studied the chasm named after the doomed explorer. It was perhaps a league wide and five leagues long, with tall canyon walls whose height rivaled the Dhoroms itself, the western part casting a shadow across half the valley. He felt an itch at the back of his neck, and his eyes instinctively drew down to a red-gold container hanging at the side of his steed. But still, even that act did not reassure him, and he felt even tenser. He had been jumping at shadows since they started this quest, and he needed to hold his composure for the men.

His horse seemed to be agitated as well, whuffing and rolling his eyes. Cathon patted it reassuringly and wondered if it was too late to pick a different path. Cathon had now ridden almost to the midpoint of the Canyon, sinking into the shadows cast by the cliff walls. He glanced back and saw that the entire Band of Red Hand had entered Getty's canyon, bracketed between two unscalable walls.

A voice inside Cathon was yelling incoherently at him, telling him something was wrong. Cathon glanced up at the colossal walls, but saw nothing except heat waves. His gelding suddenly stopped, interrupting Cathon's scrutiny. Cathon glanced down and saw the horse's front hoof centered in the depression of a giant clawed footprint that he could have sworn was not there a few seconds prior.

'Perimeters, North and South! Now! Recall the scouts!" Cathon shouted, twisting his horse around.

"Shadowspawns." Airena spoke a split-second later, leashed tension in her normally serene voice.

The Band halted and immediately rippled outwards. A split-second later, monstrous heads appeared over the canyon walls, thousands upon thousands, looking down from all sides.

The air at the far end of the canyon rippled and countless Trollocs stuffed the exit. Cathon glanced back and saw another massive host coming in to block the south entrance.

"Impossible." Airena said. There was a flicker of alarm in her eyes. "They've got a Dreadlord. A skilled one. Perhaps more."

"Where's our scouts?" Nathen shouted.

"Most likely dead. Or wishing they were." Cathon grimaced and nudged his horses in towards the center of the perimeter, as soldiers raced past him. His eyes took in their situation and saw that it was a difficult one. No, an impossible one. They were trapped between two massive walls to the side and two hosts on either exit.

The Band could hold them off, but not for long. Not for long.

As Cathon shouted out his orders, his voice was silenced by the crackle of thunder. From the clear sky, lightning bolts slashed in along the ranks, and the Shadowspawns from both ends closed in upon the trapped Band.
Last edited by halfhand on Sun Oct 18, 2020 2:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

halfhand
Posts: 106
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Re: Black Flood: A Tale of the Trolloc Wars

Post by halfhand » Thu Oct 01, 2020 5:07 pm

Chapter Seven: Rock and a Hard Place

The ground shook with the powerful hammering of the Trolloc wardrums, and debris cascaded down the canyon wall in sheets, kicking up veils of dust. Stef Reimos licked his lips, sword at ready. His squad was on the northern perimeter facing the spawns streaming into the canyon from that end. The river of shadowspawn did not seem to have an end, a black unstoppable torrent.

"It's a bloody stampede!" Tayren shouted, his sword poised beside Stef. Stef crouched for balance as the earth trembled and shook. He could now make out the blood-red eyes of the first line of Trollocs. Stef could smell sweat and heat pulsing from the spawns, and hunger of bloodlust.

Stef quashed the voice telling him to run. There was no way to run anyway. And no time as well-- the Trollocs smashed into their lines, their momentum carrying many of them through. Stef ignored them. Those were for the reserve line. His attention was focused on the five hundred Trollocs in front attempting to remove his head.

Stef threw himself aside as a goat-faced Trolloc bore down on him. The shadowspawn went past, his wicked blade whistling over Stef’s head. Stef rolled away, crouching up and forced his blade up the unprotected side of a different Trolloc. He immediately wrenched it out and ducked as the thrashing four-hundred pound Trolloc slammed into the earth. It was immediately trampled by the next two Trollocs leaping into the foray.

"FALL BACK!" Stef shouted. He ducked a heavy blow from an unseen Trolloc, and forced the beast back with a wild swing. "FALL BACK!"

The soldiers near him retreated while Stef and Tayren covered. Stef hacked off a massive hand that had gotten careless and ducked back. Cordin and another covered his retreat, their blades warding off assaults. The squad fell back orderly, half the soldiers covering for the other.

The Trollocs became careless, blinded by bloodlust. Stef recognized this, shouting off a quick order to attack. His squad surged forward, taking out five Trollocs within seconds before they were forced back once again. Through his peripheral vision, he saw other squads doing the same. That was the only way to fight creatures larger and stronger. A rigid line would break and splinter, but a fluid line allows the smaller, more agile humans to use their speed and flexibility to their best advantage.

Flights of arrows whistled above Stef’s heads and hit their targets by the sound of pained howls. All of them found targets in the massive sea of bodies, for it was impossible to miss, but did no visible damage. The sound of horns announced the arrival of a heavy cavalry squad. Stef took a quick glance back and moved aside for the solidly armored horsemen to gallop past. They slammed into the Trollocs lines, forcing them back for mere seconds. Then the flood of Trollocs swarmed them. The horsemen went under, and the perimeter was on the retreat again.

Stef glanced at the endless body of Trollocs and knew that there was no way to win. More and more Trollocs forced their way into the canyon, pushing those in front. There was no way for the spawns to retreat with thousands of their kin at their backs driving them forward with unyielding force.

"BACK!" Stef shouted at the top of his lungs. The perimeter started to break with the unrelenting pressure. Tiny rings of men began to appear, as Trollocs smashed through the lines, cutting up the perimeter. Stef was in such a ring, his squad crowded around, backs to each other.

A Trolloc slammed into a soldier besides Stef. The man brought his sword up and solidly impaled the beast, but still went down under the weight and continued momentum of the massive corpse. Stef swore and moved over to cover that hole in the circle. It was just a matter of time before the same happened to him.

A huge rock smashed down a meter from Stef, causing him to glance up. The Trollocs on top of the canyon walls were now hurling rocks and debris upon the battered Band. The height made accuracy difficult, but it created just another bloody thing to worry about.

"Fade!" A cry came up. Stef hamstrung a Trolloc and glanced up to see the black-cloaked figure of terror riding in the midst of the Trollocs. Its head turned toward Stef and it came, riding the waves of Trollocs, a silent assassin among the howling masses.

"You've got to be kidding me." Stef growled. His sword came up as the Halfman arrived. The eyeless horseman slashed out with inhuman speed and strength, sending Stef’s sword flying. Its unarmed limb slashed back, backhanding a soldier attempting to attack him from the side. The man went down. And stayed down. The Fade thrust forth once more, but Stef was already moving away. The gleaming sword still found the edge of the jerkin, and even that glancing blow upon the chainmail sent Stef slamming into the ground. Stef instinctively rolled, and the sword came down only on his cloak. The red fabric caught for a second, then tore, freeing Stef.

Stef looked up, momentarily stunned and saw a dark shadow loom over him. The Halfman's black stallion rearing up, its hooves poised to slam down into and through Stef.

A blur slammed into the shadow stallion's neck, and dark red blood exploded into the dazed sergeant's face, sobering him. He rolled away to a crouch, as the horse and Fade collapsed to the ground. Stef leapt back just in time to dodge a lunge from the black sword. The Fade began to rise from the corpse of his horse when a howling, warlusted Trolloc slammed into the Fade from behind. The Fade killed his own soldier immediately with one blow, but was crushed into the ground by the hooves of another. And another. And another. Bloodlust knew little difference between friend and foe.

Stef was already retreating when the Trolloc charging him howled in pain and crashed to the ground. Scores of other Trollocs collapsed as well, thrashing. Even with blood dripping into his eyes and his arms screaming in pain, Stef could barely stifle a grin at the irony. From their special link, the Trollocs were killed by the death of the Fade they trampled.

There was a brief respite with no Trollocs near him, to which Stef caught his breath. He could see the mangled and crushed bodies of the still-thrashing Fade and his horse alongside piles of Trollocs and occasional snatches of red cloak.

"At least the Dark One's luck doesn't apply to their bloody horses." A soldier remarked. Reimos glanced over, when a falling boulder took the speaker to the ground. The sergeant swore, and tried to pull the soldier to his feet, but gave up when he saw the broken neck. Instead, he picked up the man's sword, and brought it to position as the thousands of remaining Trollocs bridged the gap of corpses.

The company fell back in the face of sheer power. The ground filled with the bodies of the dead and wounded. The Trollocs rushed on, unrelenting. The floor of Getty's Tomb ran slick with blood.

halfhand
Posts: 106
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Re: Black Flood: A Tale of the Trolloc Wars

Post by halfhand » Thu Oct 01, 2020 6:00 pm

Chapter Eight: The Tightening Noose

Diest Arcanum dove for the floor as forks of lightning stabbed in among the catapults. Arcanum growled and pushed himself up, dusting his cloak. He surveyed the damage, counting two engines incapacitated but salvageable, and five men down and unsalvageable.

The crews not in the vicinity of the Dreadlord's fury continued to hammer at the Trollocs charging in from the south side. Those who had dived for safety quickly returned to their stations.

Crouching, Diest Arcanum peered through his watchglass, which now sported a crack on the viewer. He cursed the appalling position his Thunder Legion had to make do with. It was a small rising, a disgrace to the name of a hill. He cursed the rocks raining down upon him from above. And he especially cursed that Light-forsaken Dreadlord.

Fuming, he finally found the Shadow General, unmistakable in a silk black coat, glittering with gold and silver stitching. He was near the very back of the Trolloc horde, staying safe while his troops threw themselves at the beleaguered Band. He waved his arms in the air, and a bright flash heralded a new bolt of lightning. But before this one could strike the beleaguered soldiers, it struck an invisible shield, careening off and crackling into a side of the canyon.

"The bloody Aes Sedai's finally doing something." Arcanum muttered to himself, then quickly glanced around to make sure she was not in hearing range. He looked back at the Dreadlord, who was preparing for another strike. Arcanum reckoned this one was not too terribly bright for a General of the Dark. If it was him in the same position, Arcanum would have stationed himself on top of the canyon walls, where siege engines could not touch. Perhaps, the Dreadlord thought he was safe where he was. It was Arcanum's job to disabuse him of that notion.

"ALL CATS! ONE SLACK! FULL-RANGE! 12TH ROTATION!" Arcanum bellowed, "The first to take down that bloody twinklehands gets double rations!"

The cat crews near him moved to action quickly. The boulders (helpfully supplied by the Trollocs at the crest of the canyon) were loaded, the observers made adjustments to Arcanum's approximation, and the catapults fired. Within seconds of Arcanum's command, titanic missiles were soaring through the air.

"Channel this." The Storm Lord spat on the ground. He brought his watchglass up just in time to catch the Dreadlord's expression as the boulders descended on him. Arcanum could make out a look of surprise and the Dreadlord's hand rising as if to ward off the boulders. Arcanum frowned when the first boulder abruptly changed direction in mid-air like a pebble skipping over a pond, slamming into a knot of Trollocs nearby, but leaving the man intact. But even that did not save the man from the five other boulders slamming down onto him in quick succession.

Arcanum's look of satisfaction began to turn grim as he took a survey of the battle. The Band's perimeter was beginning to shatter and in fast retreat, as they were forced back by greater and greater numbers. Arcanum estimated that the Band was outnumbered three-to-one, and even Cathon's legendary luck (which Arcanum scoffed at) could not save them.

Suddenly tongues of flames flayed the top of the canyons, causing burnt out corpses to tumble down the sides, and the rest of the Trollocs perched there to withdraw. Without the need to protect the Band, the Aes Sedai was apparently going on the offensive. Though Arcanum was glad the bloody nuisances on the walls of the canyon were smote, he knew they were still only nuisances, and would not affect the course of the battle.

"Lieutenant General!" Nathen Austern, Cathon's adjutant, called from horseback, "Take your Legion out to safety, in any way you can. The Band is ordered to retreat!"

"We will do NO SUCH thing!" Arcanum boomed, "The Band does not back down."

But Nathen had already galloped away, relaying the same order to the other generals.

"Cathon leads us on this suicide mission, and now retreats at the first sign of trouble?" Arcanum shouted, "Men, stay at your positions! THIS IS AN ORDER. Dignity in death! FOR MANETHEREN!"

Arcanum clenched his teeth when he glanced through the watchglass. Both perimeter lines were disintegrating. To a layman, it appeared the Band was dissolving into utter chaos, but Arcanum saw with grudging pride that the red-cloaked soldiers were breaking apart into squads. A huge movement of red in his peripheral drew his attention. Entire banners of cavalry had formed up, and were now smashing their way through the Trolloc ranks. Like a giant spear, they carved their way through bodies, regardless of their own losses, the infantry following in the wake.
The Band was breaking out, no matter the cost, and it looked like Arcanum's Legion would soon be the only soldiers remaining.

"Where are you going?" Arcanum growled at a soldier hitching up his catapult to its packhorses. The soldier looked up. Blake, Arcanum recalled.
Captain Cydin Blake stood up, "Retreating, sir. The Marshall-General has given us the order, Lieutenant-General, sir!"

"If you will not man that cat, Captain. I will do it. We will not take one step back." Arcanum stared down at Blake.

"Sir, we will not win this. Dying gloriously will not help Manetheren in any way." Blake returned the stare. With his side vision, Arcanum saw others beginning to hitch up their engines as well.

"THIS IS MUTINY."

"This is common sense, sir!" Blake shouted back, "Look for yourself. Sir! This isn't just you; it's the men who serve under you who will die. When they do not need to. Sir!"

The general locked eyes with his captain for a few long seconds. Finally, Arcanum gritted his teeth but glanced around. The defensive perimeter was almost entirely gone, as more and more red cloaks broke through the Trolloc horde. Whatever one can say about Arcanum, he may be an arrogant bastard, but he was not a stupid bastard.

"Hitch it up after we break us a hole to the north!" Arcanum shouted and then looked back at Captain Blake, "As you were, captain. This is all on your head, soldier."

"Sir! Understood." Blake nodded and saluted, "If I may speak. The Naphtha. We won't be able to cart off all of it."

"Let the Lords of Flames feast." Arcanum nodded grudgingly, "Load up half, fire the others. We break through the north."

At Arcanum's orders, fire pits glowed as torches touched them, soaking up their flames. The clay barrels of Naphtha were efficiently loaded upon every catapult, and spun to face the north. The loaders smashed open the tops, and touched the torches to the frothing black liquid. The releases detached, and the cat-arms snapped forward.

A glittering sparkling rainbow seemed to arch through the smoke filled sky, as the catapults delivered their gifts.

To the north, the Band's charge seemed to have bogged down, with their foes recovering and standing their ground, flogged on by relentless Myrddraal. The Trolloc were on the verge of pushing the red-cloaked soldiers back, when the heavens showered burning fire upon the ranks of the Horde. Whatever the Hand of the Storm Lord touched burst into unquenchable flames, spreading like a plague. The ranks of shadowspawn dissolved into utter chaos, terror completely replacing fury. Fire is one of two things known to subdue bloodlust, the second, death.

The Band's rush renewed, hacking their way towards the safety of the northern edge.

Arcanum's Thunder Legion began to move as well. Packhorses and soldiers strained and dragged the fleet of engines northward towards safety.

"Sir, we don't have enough horses." Blake called out.

"Where in bloody..." Arcanum's eyes caught the crushed bodies of the steeds buried under boulders thrown from above. Then the general glanced southward and cursed again.

"We've lost the entire south!" Arcanum swore. He could only see snatches of lone defenders as the Horde smashed over them. The Field HQ collapsed to the weight of the shadowspawn, and the banners burned and fell. This was not good news.

"We must leave these." Blake shouted.

"They're not getting my bloody cats." Arcanum glanced at the engines to which Blake was referring.

"But sir..."

Arcanum grabbed a Naphtha barrel from the last wagon, and kicked it over to the stranded catapults. He drew his blade, smashed open the barrel with the hilt, and kicked it over. The pool of black naphtha spread, spilling over all of the siege engines. Arcanum saw that one of the engines was Aclare. A bloody shame.

Arcanum grabbed the last remaining torch from the nearest fire pit and tossed it into the pool of combustibles. He shielded his eyes from the roaring flame, and gave the burning heap a salute. A fitting pyre for my finest soldiers.

Arcanum and Blake left the blaze behind, helping to push the fleeing catapults along. The Trollocs who had overrun the southern perimeter approached, but was warded off by the rear guard. Many of the spawns broke away from their attack to loot the supply wagons left behind.

Ahead, the Band of Red Hand broke through, Thunder Legion trailing behind. The disordered Trollocs regrouped fast and snapped at the back of the retreating army, which at the moment unfortunately consisted of Arcanum's legion. Though the Band had suffered a heavy loss, they fought in an organized retreat away from the canyon, discouraging pursuit with a heavy hand and a heavy blade.

Arcanum sighed, walking besides his remaining fleet, his horse lying somewhere in Getty's Canyon with a broken neck. He knew what he would say to Cathon when he met him next.

A horseman came galloping back towards Arcanum, who recognized the lean bony rider as General Stren "Bastion" Vader.

"Ho, Diest, is this all?" Lieutenant Vader asked as he neared.

"More or less, we had to abandon some engines. I need to speak with Cathon."

"So does everyone. But we can't. He was at Field HQ."

"HQ got overrun, Bastion. South perimeter went under." Arcanum said.

"Then, Diest, you and I. We are the only generals left. We've lost more than half the Band, and we've got no commander, and we've got nowhere to go..." Vader spoke softly. He glanced up at the peak of Shayol Ghul, and sighed, "We've got a reserve horse if you need it. We're in for a long journey."

The survivors of the Band of Red Hand headed westward, leaving the disorganized pursuit behind.

Delion
Posts: 245
Joined: Sun Jan 22, 2017 8:04 am

Re: Black Flood: A Tale of the Trolloc Wars

Post by Delion » Fri Oct 02, 2020 7:42 am

I adored this story when I first read it.

Still do! :D

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