Battle for Rhorn Pass
Another Hunter's story.
Two armies slept under the rising sun from the south. Some men did not sleep however and Lord Commander Largo of the 2nd Renor Regiment stood watch outside his tent. Largo was a typical soldier with short cut brown hair, large shoulders and a narrow waist. He watched as the sun trickled light over the battlefield, bathing the dead bodies in sunlight. Largo shivered at the refreshed sight of them. He had not been in command for long; his last commanding officer had been killed in daring raid over the Saurian lines.
Largo knew today a new battle would commence. The previous day Renor had made half a kilometre advance to the south. During the night Sauria had retreated back over the low hill that now hid them from Renor’s sight. His men were weary and stood ready. The war had been going on for more than twenty years and had erupted when one of the most loved leaders in Renor had been found dead, killed by a Saurian assassin. Relations between the two countries had never been stable but this incident had bought out the true hostilities.
The Saurian commander had ordered his men not to fall back beyond Rhorn Pass and thus far, his forces had never fallen past it. Largo had heard whisperings and rumours that somewhere in the Rhorn mountains, Giants roamed and preyed on those who ventured near. Largo had no doubt that Giants would be set upon his men if he ventured further south into the pass. As the sun became fuller and brighter, Largo ducked inside his tent to don his armour. He pulled the burnished chainmail jacket over his head and slid into his plate overcoat. Two sets of armour were heavy but Largo would be untouchable. He walked out with his feathered helmet under his arm making his way through the ranks, giving words of encouragement to his men.
Saurian horns echoed in the distance, and an endless thunder rolled across the battlefield. Thousands of Saurian horsemen charged at the Renori lines hoping to crush those on foot under their treads. Men passed pikes down the lines to those in front to hold against the Saurian assault. From his elevated position, Largo could see the first few lines would not hold and there was nothing he could do.
Horses crashed against shields and pikes in a spray of blood, screams and death. Hundreds of men on either side died and Largo could only watch the carnage before him. This was wrong. Sauria never struck before the seventh hour. Largo mounted his bay strider and hurried for the command tent. None of the other officers would be there yet except for the duty commander.
Largo pulled on the bay’s reigns and ended up in a cloud of dirt and dust just outside the tactical tent. It was situated in the middle of the army, on a small knoll for the maximum protection and most efficient location to dispatch messengers. His personal guards rode in behind him and gathered the reigns to calm his horse. Largo ran inside and found Lord Reiner the Twelfth, son of the current Councillor, Lord Reiner the Eleventh. Typical that the man he would save or doom the army with was the son of the man he served.
‘Lord Reiner. It is a pleasure, as always. Shall we begin to drive these savages from our lands?’ asked Largo placing his helm down upon the wooden tactic table.
‘With pleasure Lord Commander’, replied Reiner. ‘The Saurians have overrun our western flank; we’ve used reserves from the eastern side to bolster our defences. They’ve provided the extra pikes and shields needed to hold the cavalry back for a while longer’, he said sweeping the small wooden pieces over the smaller battlefield, removing and adding those he needed.
‘Smart move’, said Largo clearly impressed with the younger man’s tactics. ‘I was thinking to draw the cavalry away we could push an offensive on their western flank. Comprising of roughly one thousand men should be enough to severely damage their line and cause these men to retreat. Our main line will then -’, Largo paused as a messenger in bronze armour fell into the tent.
‘My Lord!’ he said scrambling to his feet. ‘The Saurians are breaking through the eastern reserves! What do we do?’
‘Relay my orders to the Captain in charge of the eastern line. Two thousand men are to attack the western flank of the Saurians at once! One thousand horse, five hundred foot and another five hundred archers. See to it messenger!’ ordered Largo. ‘Attack them violently and without hesitation. Make them retreat!’
‘My Lord!’ replied the messenger giving Largo and Reiner a rough salute before dashing out of the tent.
Largo turned back to the table to begin making more plans with Reiner but the thunderous echo of hooves came closer and closer. He signalled to his guards to make ready for an attack. Putting on his helmet and drawing his sword Largo walked outside the tent into total chaos. Men died as Saurian Lancers charged over them, their warhorses trampling dozens of men with their hooves. Largo heard hooves charging towards him from the left. He rolled out of the way, narrowly avoiding the lance as it went over head.
The aggravated Lancer now turned his horse for another pass at Largo, the heavy chested warhorse breathing heavily out of its nose. His rider snarled at Largo and aimed his spear again. The horse charged again, Largo would either be impaled by the lance or trampled by the horse. Largo raised his sword across his body in a feeble attempt to cut down the rider. The thunderous hooves echoed in his ears as he faced his death. Suddenly the horse whined in pain and feel to the ground, crushing the rider in the process.
A large Blackwood Axe appeared out of nowhere and was now buried inside the chest of the horse. Largo looked around for the source of his saviour and saw Reiner grinning as he readied another axe. Right now he didn’t look like a Lord, more a butcher, ready to kill anything in his path. Largo waved his sword in salute and swung his leg over a riderless horse. Largo surveyed the battlefield scattered across the scarred and broken hills. Vast bodies of men struggled against each other desperate to force the other into the ground and bleed them dry.
Largo silently hoped that the two thousand men he had sent into the main body of the Saurian army had at least done some damage. He hated his men dying in vain, but in war, sacrifices were needed. He sought another foe to kill. A strangled cry rang out from behind him. It was Baylor, one of his personal guards. A Saurian swordsman impaled him. Largo charged the man swinging his sword overhead forcing the man onto the defensive. His eyes flashed as he caught the Lord Commander’s stripes on Largo’s breast.
Largo drove the man back, harder and faster fighting desperately for his life. None of his guard came to assist him, but the Saurian’s fellows did. Largo quickly found himself surrounded by enemies with no way out. Pikes, maces barred his exit and Largo had no way out but to fight. He pointed his sword at his original foe’s throat, ready. The man charged blocking Largo’s cut. It was a fight to the death in an arena of bodies. All Largo could see were the helmets, armour and weapons of his enemies. He could smell their blood, sweat and tears. There was no way out. Largo charged his opponent, switching to the elegant yet nimble sword form the Swordlord in Renor had taught him. His blade danced around the other, deflecting it and blocking it at every turn possible. The Saurian spun, raising his blade for a downward cut. Largo lifted his own to parry it, but the Saurian’s blade never fell.
Largo looked past the sword and saw the Saurian falling backwards. A large silver crossbow bolt protruded from his throat. The man went down as did his comrades several seconds later. Largo searched for the source of his saviour but found nobody. This close to the command centre Largo was sure to find more of his own troops but found only a dozen men fighting off three times their number a couple of hundred meters to the south.
Largo raced towards them scattering a quarter of the ring surrounding his men. The Renor soldiers struck out from their shield defence with their long swords piercing through the armour of their foes. Three dozen were cut down to almost half and Largo joined the shield wall. Renori soldiers could hold their own against any two foes. The odds were now even.
A soldier on Largo’s right died as a long pike entered the shield wall and brained him. Largo stretched out grabbing the pikeman, pulling him into the shield wall. Largo’s dagger found the man’s heart and his hand found the pike which he poked through the wall enabling him to kill three men.
The numbers on both sides slowly dwindled, and Largo could not see outside the wall. The Saurian’s could not kill men inside the wall and the Renori soldiers had limited visibility. A horn signalled in what seemed like a far off place. Renori or Saurian, Largo could not distinguish. He braced himself for the worst. He could hear yells and screams outside the shield wall and as they concluded he raised his head to see what destruction had been bought on those around him.
A charge consisting of twenty horse had been lead by Lord Reiner, to save the small force of Renori from the grasp of the Saurians. Reiner stopped his horse short of Largo, a newly acquired lance dancing in his hand. Largo looked up in wonder at Reiner as he ordered half of his men to meet up with any survivors and to meet back at the rally point.
‘Saw you’re stupid ass charge over here. Come we need you back at the rally point. This has gone totally balls up’, said Reiner.
‘What the hell happened out there?’ asked Largo.
‘That messenger lied to us’, said Reiner. ‘And for every horse there was two men following behind it. We stood no chance today Largo. We need to pull back and regroup . Sound the horn!’
They reached the new command tent that kilometres north of where the battle had begun. Men in ripped and torn armour were supported by their comrades who handed them over to medics in the rear of the almost nonexistent army. The end was near and the Saurians would overrun Renor, pillaging and destroying everything in their path. Renor would become a permanent part of Sauria and the Renor culture would soon be destroyed.
However the army wasn’t totally finished yet, and Largo still had something to do. Reiner was busy, tending to the men and out organising the defences for the weeks to come. The originally Saurian town of Gaur was still out of sight somewhere to the north and Largo only had one hope. That night he called what was left of the Commanders to the tent.
‘Gentlemen, our situation is dire and we have little hope remaining’, said Largo standing at the assembled square table. ‘Yes we started this war, yes the Saurians are winning now and we are at our weakest we have been in twenty years. In a single battle the Saurians have rooted us out and forced us to flee with less than half of our number’.
‘You do realise that we have absolutely no hope of victory now thanks to the stunt and pure luck that the Saurians caught us totally off guard’, piped up an older Captain, born of lower nobility who would never rise above his current rank.
‘I hope you realise who you are talking to, Captain!’ Largo bit back with twice as much venom. The older man looked away quickly under Largo’s glare. ‘Now as I was about to say, we have one option left to us if we want to win the war. I suggest we find and hire the Hunters into fighting alongside us’.
‘You’re proposing to hire mercenaries? With loyalty to all seven countries and humanity as a whole? Seems preposterous to me and considering Lord Reiner is planning to have them outlawed’, said the one called “The Major” from underneath his snow white beard.
‘Look, I am your commanding officer and I want men to find these Hunters now! Bring them back to fight for us, dammit!’ shouted Largo smashing his fist onto the table.
Everyone assembled at the table jumped back, but not because of Largo’s outrage. A keen knife appeared in the rear of the tent tearing away the fabric in order to make an opening for someone. Largo’s left hand immediately went for his sword as did everyone else in the tent. When the knife reached the earth, it retreated and whatever was outside was about to step in.
A hooded person stepped in and it was immediately followed by five others. Each person had a strange crossbow and a large quiver with silver tipped bolts strapped to their back and Largo now knew who had saved him in the fight with the Swordsman. The Hunter that first walked in, now rose a hand in greeting at the speechless commanders in the tent.
‘Lord Commander Largo of the 2nd Renor Regiment at your service, my Lord’, said Largo raising his right hand in a rough salute.
The Hunter removed his hood from over his face and laughed like a hoarse dog. The room held in a collective breath as the saw the Hunter was surprisingly human. Very muscular and very elf looking with stunning green eyes that captivated all that he looked at. The Hunter cleared his throat and looked Largo up and down. ‘Nobody has called me Lord since I was a boy’. He laughed again.
‘Wait a minute’, said the Major. ‘Who the bloody hell are you!’
‘I’m not very good at introductions especially to ones like yourself Major’, said the Hunter. ‘Forgive me if I seem rude. Barros Toldar, Hunter from the Tyrain Huntrey. Son of Yoren Toldar. My brothers and sisters as well as myself are here to serve the Lord Commander in any way possible. I myself need to reach Sauria before the week is out, but the rest of my force is here for the foreseeable future’.
Largo opened his mouth to speak but no words came out. Closing it, he tried again. ‘Just how big is your force?’ asked Largo.
‘Close enough to three hundred brothers my Lord’, replied Barros.
Largo quickly did some calculations in his head. Three hundred Hunters would be enough to drive the Saurians from the field. Each of them was worth at least one hundred men. ‘Barros Toldar, you are doing Renor a great service and if there is anything we can do to repay you it would be our honour’.
‘Getting me to Sauria will be payment enough Lord Commander. Now I think we had best begin planning for the assault beginning tomorrow at dawn’, said Barros smiling.
Largo sighed and turned back to the table where his men sat in disbelief. They too had done the mental arithmetic that Largo had done. ‘Bring forward the charts. We have a lot of work to do’, he said.
Word Count: 2594