The Book of Rahl – Chapter Twenty-Eight
The winter of my thirty-sixth year as CO of the Society found us in the employ of the Yew City Council. This council entered power to screams of protest and accusations of corruption and it only got worse from there. For one reason or another (with nepotism being the one cited) the council didn’t want Paul Atreides’ militia acting as a guard force, so they came to us.
I think it’s been proven time and time again that enlisting the aid of a trained army to act as a guard force isn’t the brightest of ideas – and I explained that to Selanya and Hump when they made the offer – but we needed the money and they needed some peace and quiet so we took the job.
Yew recoiled from the news like a scalded mongbat.
Thus began the year of hell. We’ve spent the last 8 months or so getting spit at, cursed at, set up, assaulted, protested against, and generally un-liked by everyone who seems to have an opinion on the situation and many who don’t. The Council also ordered that the enemies of Britannia (the orcs, undead, Guardian-worshipers, etc) were no longer to be allowed in the city on pain of death. Oh, they loved that. Raids immediately stepped up, and Yew’s been a slaughterhouse ever since.
Still, it’s been a very long time since I’ve had the opportunity to work for agents of the Crown. It’s a pleasant…no…righteous…feeling to be on the side of the law of the land once again. I think a lot of the men felt it too, which is why they’ve been willing to put up with this nightmare as long as they have.
This morning we made a stand.
We had heard there was a fairly large force of Alliance and even some drow massing outside the city for an attack. After scrounging a bit we managed to build up quite a force, including a large militia of Rangers, Free Corps, and Keepers of Justice. And then we waited.
Knowing the shitstorm’s coming and having to wait nearly a day for it is nerve-wracking. Through the night we sat there in rank and file, eating in shifts, watching the path in front of the winery – which would become our kill-zone – and the darkness of the woods beyond. Shadowspawn led his horse idly back and forth across the ranks of the cavalry all night inspecting arms and armor. The militias behind us went in waves – organized in ranks one minute, nearly gone the next – such is the way of militias I suppose. It was just after daybreak when the runner came barreling out of the woods towards us screaming “Incoming!” at the top of his lungs.
“HOLD THE LINE!” I shouted, which was echoed through the ranks by the officers and Sergeants. As one, dozens of soldiers and armed civilians tensed. Within seconds what seemed like all of hell’s army crashed out of the woods and hit our lines with a crash of shields and arms and bodies that threatened to deafen.
Pride is watching your brothers and sisters form a line of flesh and steel and never falter when death comes knockin’.
The line held. The men stood their ground and took whatever came at them. The amassed militia did exactly what militia should do: charge hurly-burly into the flanks of the enemy and keep them from concentrating on a single point. (Note to self: have a runner send my regards and thanks to the heads of those militia groups on a damned fine job.) For a few precious seconds the lines of battle never wavered from the kill-zone. Doc, Aragos and myself pumped spell after deadly spell into their ranks in the hopes of giving our men some legroom, yet the line never wavered. They had the numbers, we had the resolve, and both sides were willing to be carved to ribbons to see that they got their way. I noticed a former brother in the ranks of the enemy, ruthlessly assaulting our lines. I took a moment for myself and found a bittersweet satisfaction in burning him to a cinder.
It was about the time that Doc and I blew Heaven Storm out of her garters from across the battlefield that the enemy decided they were sick and tired of the magical support. Perhaps I was too focused on the bigger picture, or perhaps I was too focused on my targets on the line, but I didn’t even realize they had broken some skirmishers through until I was hit by a red spray of Doc’s blood. A few insignificant spells struck me and then an arrow hit my leg, which was enough for my horse to realize it was time to get the hell out of the way, but it was too late. I’m not entirely sure who got the last word in – not that I really care – but I would like to pay the bastard back for giving me the black shakes for a week. God I hate gettin’ killed.
I was shakily removing the last of my personal effects from my cooling corpse – a morbid practice I’ve had to do far too often in my years – when I think the last of the attacking force finally left the area. The lines had already broken into skirmishes by the time I had returned from the healers, and the kill zone was a morbid pile of burnt and broken bodies surrounded by robed and shuddering resurrectees.
When everyone realized that we had repelled the invaders, there weren’t any cries of victory, no shouts or taunts to the fleeing enemy…there was only silence.
The line held. We had a victory, one of scant few since we’ve taken this contract. But it was one of the more expensive victories I’ve ever witnessed.
And the coin we used has stained the grasses of the Yew red.