To bring back her father, she must become a rebel leader in a war she never knew existed.
|This is my first foray into steampunk. I'm a fantasy writer, so please be honest if the steampunk theme works. Thank you.
Eight men stood against an army of hundreds.
It was the last stand. For the hundred-man army.
Chaim stood atop the only hill of the plains, looking at the poor souls running toward their deaths on the hill. His hill.
Hundreds of men thundered across the plain, feet trampling on the virgin grass, witnessing their first battle. Infantry carrying pistoned lances led the attack with soldiers carrying swords with steaming thrusters just behind them. Furthest behind were those who carried hand cannons and flame guns, trying to get as close as they could to Chaim and seven other men standing with him.
Chaim’s mouth quirked in a grin. Any general would see a hopeless situation for the men at the top. They were outnumbered and their long range weapons were left with the main force back in The Capital. The clockwork covering their arms and legs were nothing compared to the heavy armor the soldiers wore.
“Last battle!” A voice beside Chaim boomed. “No one should die.”
Chaim directed his too-dark eyes at the man beside him, his grin turning into a pleasant smile as if they were talking about how nice the weather was for crops. And it was a fine weather for crops if Inwe cared anything for plants.
“How can we win if we don’t kill them, Inwe?” Chaim cocked his head to the side like an innocent child asking a question.
“Chaim…” Inwe’s warning tone made Chaim laugh as he pulled out steel boomerangs.
“Oh, relax. I just wanted to lighten the mood a little. Besides, without a real commander leading their ranks, this will only be slaughter.”
Off to Chaim’s right, Shazar nodded. “Whoever their acting leader is, he isn’t even smart enough to think of a basic pincer attack. Not that it’s going to make much of a difference, but still…”
“In any case,” Inwe loaded three arrows on his bow before splitting the limb into three separate directions, “they still fight with bravery for what they believe in. Give them the respect they deserve.”
Beside Chaim, Haj stepped up—his quiet voice carrying enough in the wind, “Kill them as painlessly as possible.”
“No mercy, then.” Sagara lifted his fauchard from his shoulder. His wild hair whipped around in the sudden breeze sending the smell of earth, sweat and steam in their nostrils. The war cries grew louder and the thundering was ready to shake the earth.
The eight men stepped forward in silence as flames arched through the air toward them. They bathed in showers of dirt from the impact of the canons’ load.
“We will all remember you,” Chaim whispered in the chaos. His boomerangs flying across the battlefield, attacking, defending, and aiding his comrades. Each of the eight men moved with such precision that one easily took five enemies without much effort and still have enough time to see if they were needed elsewhere.
Victory was certain. Dead men began piling up as the ground beneath them turned to mud from the streams of blood. Chaim killed each man as painlessly as possible, but even as their enemies' numbers dwindled the charge never wavered. The tatters of the army continued to fight. Desperate men picked up weapons from their comrades’ lifeless fingers, only to join their ranks a while later. It was easy to see that they weren’t trained soldiers. Some weren’t even men yet.
As the sun set, only eight men stood around the hill. Each still as a statue unwilling to look at those who would soon find themselves burned or in a mass grave. The crows and ravens were the first to arrive examining the feast that none of the men would even look at. Sagara could still recall the last moment the breeze stirred and not even a gust was present as the plains chilled.
“They weren’t much older than we are,” Sagara voiced the thoughts of everyone. “Anyone got any extra of the blue stuff? I think I’m going to need double.”
Benn deposited the unused arrow back in his quiver and tossed Sagara his. “We did what we had to do. That’s all.”
“If that makes you sleep at night,” Sagara shrugged and lifted the vial. “I need this.”
Silence. Stillness. And then, a slow, rhythmic clapping. Everyone turned to Chaim.
Chaim turned to everyone with a smile on his face. “It’s my way of appreciating what they did. They were braver than I am. I never can rush to certain death.”
One by one, the plains filled with the clapping of eight men as black feathers started to blanket all around the hill.