by T.L. Dolan
From an on-going offline piece. Think D&D come to life. Very rough; hasn't been edited yet
| It was overcast. The clouds made it feel as if the sky was tangible, as if one could reach out and touch the top of the world without standing on tiptoes.
The citizen soldiers of Paladia assembled along the ramparts and at the main gate. Anyone not directly involved in defending Paladia was quickly fleeing to safety below the city. The screams and cries were at a shocking minimum, as if even the smallest of children knew of the importance of what was about to happen. Bells rang clear through the city streets, warning that something big was about to happen.
Nick was head to toe in plate metal and full of kinetic energy. He bounced on his toes and mentally rehearsed what he’d do when he went up against the barbarians. He was ready. He wanted blood. A few of his comrades in arms were equally twitchy and when they made eye contact with Nick, they shared a conspiratorial look. All the men at the gate looked up when they heard the bells and their adrenaline tripled. It was almost time.
Meesia and Holland heard the bells and gave each other knowing looks. They each took a small group of people – mostly women, children, and the elderly – through the twisting underground maze to the safe house located deep within the earth. When they reached an underground junction, three tunnels converging into one, Holland left Messia to return to the residential district for more refugees. Meesia continued to guide the masses to the safe house and reassure everyone that they would be well cared for and that they and their loved ones fighting above would be safe.
Marceline grinned wildly when she heard the bells. She dashed from building to building, shouting “All clear!” when she’d searched a building and gently guiding those that were straggling behind or who were reluctant to leave. She then joined a small group of fighter rouges near the entrance to the palace district. She took out her daggers and twirled them artfully. “Well, are we ready to rumble or what?”
Parsus hurried along under the battlements, following the head cleric and a few of his trusted healers. “You four,” the head cleric said, pointing to Parsus and three others, “will be stationed here. Magically heal what you can, physically mend others, and combine where necessary. Remember, we are healers, not gods. There will be some things beyond our abilities. At the very least, try not to make things worse. May the gods be with us all today,” he said, as he dashed away. Parsus looked at the kit he was handed when he’d climbed off the battlements: an array of potions, wands, and potion ingredients. Bandages, pliers, and a small saw rounded off the kit. He looked at the other healers he was stationed with. They seemed like they were going to pass out any minute. The markings on their robes gave away the fact that they were new to clericdom and this was their first big assignment. While Parsus hadn’t directly experienced a battle like this, he had enough composure to focus and mentor the others. He said a silent prayer when the bells tolled.
Aneles and Glynn stood on the battlements among the archers already assembled. The archers were stoned faced men and boys who looked to be made of stone. Aneles and Glynn looked at other grimly. When the bells tolled, Glynn inadvertently shuddered. “It’ll be okay,” Aneles said in her ear. Glynn nodded stiffly. “You’re a competent spell caster,” he continued. Pause. “You and I will make a good team today.” Glynn turned to look at Aneles, not quite sure she’d heard him correctly. When the corner of his mouth twitched upward slightly, she returned his smile. “It’s the truth.”
Just then, one of the lookouts gave a shout and someone on a different part of the battlements yelled, “Archers, to your marks!” A flurry of footsteps as men ran to take their spots at the top of the wall. Arrows were knocked and Aneles and Glynn began to prepare their spells.
Down below, just coming into view, was a mass of bodies advancing on Paladia. All were outfitted in leather and metal, brandishing clubs, spears, swords, and axes, and all looked bloodthirsty. The sound of their advance was metallic and sickening. Glynn could hear the soldiers down by the portcullis chanting and thought she caught a bit of Nick’s voice.
“Hold your fire!”
The archers were frozen in position, ready to fire at the least provocation.
The barbarians were now almost close enough to smell. Their drum corps beat out a rhythmic pattern that fell in time with their footsteps. Suddenly, the drums and their marching ceased without any audible command. They fell into formation almost instantaneously. A large group was poised by the portcullis with a battering ram. The rest wielded ladders, ready to ascend the wall for face-to-face combat.
From among the barbarian ranks, a leader emerged. Pennihoff. She towered over most of the barbarians around her and all stood back as she passed. She stared up the wall and laughed. Several around her laughed as well. Then, she let loose a guttural scream that rang out through the deserted streets of Paladia and echoed off the hills.
The other barbarians echoed Pennihoff’s scream and surged forward.