Tales from the Fyreside

Having had a little break to enjoy the hot weather the next battle report is not quite where it needs to be (which sounds better than admitting I haven’t really done anything). So for anyone wanting a bit a narrative fix I thought I’d share my submission from last year’s Mantic story competition. This also neatly introduces Kiitsch Sparkthrower, the scheming Warlock of my homebrew Ratkin clan, Clan Fyrefur, who will be making an appearance next week.

The Survivor

“Would be leaders and survivors have much in common.” The Master Warlock of the Fyrefur Clan had said to his apprentice, Kiitsch Sparkthrower. “They both involve clinging to a dream with a single minded, near obsessive belief that it can be attained. The only real difference is for one the dream is survival, for the other it is the survival of the dream.”

Those words ran around Kiitsch’s mind igniting a smug smile. He watched with immense self-satisfaction as the Ratkin Shock Troops slaughtered the last of the Kin’s chariot hordes. The blood that splattered their bronze armour, slicked their great axes and was starting to dry in dark patches, matting their bright orange fur, was his blood, just as their victory would be his victory.

His careful placement of the warriors in front of his Shock Troops had taken the impetus out of those nasty Elven carts that so easily broke the lines of weaker clans and weaker races. As the chariots had ploughed into the poorly disciplined warriors, scything through ragged bodies, they had started to slow. The smooth turning of their wheels had been interrupted by broken limbs and discarded weapons jamming into wheel spokes. The horses’ hooves found less and less purchase on the soft corpses beneath them.

It was then the drums of the Shock Troops began. Slowly at first as the elite rat warriors started to move forwards. The drums picked up pace broadcasting the heartbeats of Ratmen and Elves to the battlefield. Eyes narrowed, a thousand great axes raised, two thousand clawed feet skittered towards the chariots.

A light rain of crossbow bolts fell on the ratmen, but there was far too few fired too quickly to create even a minor impediment. Their charge gathered such pace that even the handful of troopers who had been mortally wounded by the bolts did not realise until they reached the enemy and fell with their axes. Victory was brutal and decisive, but not without its losses. As the last of the Kin were trampled under claw the drum started to sound again; a slower beat calling them together for the next fight.

It was then Kiitsch saw it. A darkness, an absence, a void in the sky falling irresistibly towards the flank of the Shock Troops. Thinking it might be some kind of magic Kiitsch closed his eyes and focused, drawing deep into his dark soul, searching.

A sound like a thousand screeching gargoyles split the din of the battle, shaking Kiitsch to his core and destroying his concentration. He looked to the sky and realised the void was some kind of dragon. He watched helplessly as the creature barrelled into the Shock Troops sending troopers flying, breaking and disordering their ranks.

Kiitsch watched the troopers waiver. The drum started pounding erratically, desperately calling for any kind of order. Kiitsch screamed in rage. This was not how it was meant to go. He had been on the verge of victory. The few remaining pockets of resistance were being dispatched by bands of Nightmares whilst the Shock Troops held the centre ground. A dragon tearing through his troops risked giving the remaining Kin hope, and hope could make even a beaten enemy dangerous.

Kiitsch hesitated. He had always been a survivor and right now the survivor in him wanted to run. But the dream, his dream, needed him to fight. To lose today would destroy the support he had won in the Clan, not to mention making the murder of his master pointless; wasteful even. A victory would bring the loyalty of more tribes and warbands, increasing his standing in the Clan, bringing his dream closer.

Taking a deep breath and closing his eyes the Warlock reached out towards the dragon. Green sparks started to fly around his claw like irritable fireflies. The intensity of the light grew, his claw started to glow, his eyes snapped open. Green lightening surged from his claw, lashing the dragon, sending it reeling away from the Shock Troops.

The lightening stopped. The dragon twitched. It was injured, disorientated, but far from dead. Its massive head turned towards Kiitsch. He reached out with his claw once again, drawing another breath. As the air filled his lungs he knew the survival of his dream now depended on his survival. He heard the drum start to beat quickly. As the next blast of lightening rolled over the great, black beast he allowed himself the briefest of smiles. He was, after all, a survivor.

Published by Eddie Bar

Fantasy storyteller, reader and wargamer.

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