I enhance my eyesight with a flow construct, needing it despite the rising half-moon. The human army is drawing closer and closer to their enemy at a jogging pace. Peasants aren’t carrying torches but the soldiers have some spread along their third line. The light touches on the first line of Rykz.
The scout’s ranks shuffle, they raise their spiked arms and bend their four knees to brace for impact. The human soldier’s pace accelerates and they start running, charging.
Crash. Their hit the Rykz lines. The sound of the shock is reminiscent of a wave hitting a rocky cliff, only duller and metallic. My eyes widen when I see the entire first line of the humans just… fall.
Dead. All of them and half of their second line. Impaled on spikes, their charge barely killed a third of the first Rykz line. The melee begins, swords swirl to cut carapace, shields block obsidian black spikes.
The peasants hit the Rykz, a step behind the professionals. It is too dark for me to see exactly what happens without torchlight, but what little I can see isn’t good. They have no training in comparison and I can already see swathes of them fall as a consequence.
The soldiers are clashing with the scouts chaotically. The Rykz, on the other hand, seem calm and steady. Their line is still uniform, so much so, that some of them don’t even have a human in front of them to fight so they throw long-range harassing jabs to help their neighboring brethren.
The Nobles on the hill move, they head west on the plain on horseback. I keep my eyes trained on them. They’ll be the ones with the soldiers dressed in black to change the course of the battle.
“Now, Celyz. Reinforce the western flank.” I speak up.
“Already done.” She replies, pointing at a thousand Rykz separating from the center with a tendril.
“How far can you detect heat exactly?” I ask.
“Not very, but I have a whole army to tell me what’s happening.” Celyz chuckles.
The soldiers dressed in black accelerate, I can see two thousand of them on the plains now. They hit the weak Rykz western flank at a jogging pace, they suffer much fewer casualties than Meria’s soldiers did with their reckless charge.
I suppose their commander saw the result of that and decided against repeating the mistake of attacking a line of spikes at full speed. These soldiers dressed in black don’t link up with the edge of the peasant lines, they are leaving enough space between the two for the cavalry to charge into.
“That might be bad.” I comment calmly, emotionally detached.
The Nobles correct their mount’s course to head there, their ranks shift and reorganize into a triangular formation with the point of it aimed at the Rykz. The horses accelerate, picking up speed and reaching a full galloping pace.
The scouts brace and raise their spikes to receive the charge. It doesn’t seem to have any effect when the Nobles crash into them, their first three ranks are obliterated. The cavalry acts like a spearhead wedged deeply in the Rykz army.
“We’re going to get cut in half.” I tell Celyz.
“Look closer.” She replies.
I frown and it takes me a few seconds to notice what she means. I hadn’t noticed but they paid a price during that initial impact, there are at least a hundred dead horses and trampled Nobles laying on the ground.
The soldiers dressed in black are making more progress now that the cavalry charge destabilized the Rykz ranks, the peasants are still struggling but perhaps less so.
The regiment of scouts that was supposed to reinforce the western flank is unable to do so, cut off from that side by their own brethren that are being pushed back by the cavalry.
It doesn’t matter how coordinated your army is at shuffling troops around if it isn’t possible to make way because there is too much pressure to reorganize.
“Maybe shuffle your troops, get that regiment that’s being torn apart to reinforce the west while the one that was originally supposed to do that can form new lines to contain the Nobility.” I suggest.
“That… would work, let’s see… That hundred stays, the rest pulls away.” Celyz mutters, waving her tendrils towards scouts who depart to relay her orders.
I briefly glance towards Meria’s soldiers, they don’t seem to be making any progress. I turn my eyes west, the flank is starting to crumble. The Rykz’ line is bending backward because it isn’t deep enough to withstand two thousand soldiers’ push.
The regiment of Rykz, that is being pushed back by the Nobles, shift. Eight out of ten turn around and retreat, those who can head west while those who are stuck on the wrong side go south.
The scouts that remain fighting are slaughtered but not quickly enough to prevent that regiment from disengaging and the other from taking over. They’ve suffered losses but the Rykz army is already reorganizing itself around the Nobles, boxing them in with fresh lines of spikes.
The human cavalry doesn’t have the space to pick up speed anymore, they won’t be able to directly break into the Rykz lines. It’s not an ideal position for us, to have around four hundred Nobles between our center and western flank, but it’s an improvement compared to the previous state of things.
“They’re going to charge south to cut our western flank off.” Celyz tells me.
“Probably. But we have two half regiments there now and the more time they waste hesitating the more Rykz will reinforce it, they can hold for a while.” I say, glaring at the Nobles.
Their commander seems to come to a decision and they charge, south like Celyz predicted. The first three lines of scouts crumble under the impact, but this time, the Nobles fail to penetrate any deeper than that.
The Rykz to the right and left of the human cavalry close in on them and in a very short amount of time, the Nobles are almost fully encircled. Not completely because the soldiers wearing black are holding a path of retreat for them.
“It’s a melee now.” I observe. “Their gambit didn’t pay off.”
“It may have, our western flank is starting to get mowed down and I can’t get any more reinforcements there.” Celyz waves a tendril.
I scrutinize the Rykz’ western line. I see a lot of movement but they’re not… oh. Shit. The scouts are getting cut down, dozens at a time, I didn’t notice because the Rykz are that good at rotating their ranks to replenish casualties.
“They’re using flow.” I mutter, scrutinizing the soldier’s movements. “Those are lion strike stances. Can you do something about this? Our entire left flank is going to shatter.”
“I would normally send the harvesters.” Celyz replies in a heavy resounding voice.
“They can’t keep this up for long, they’re using too many full powered lion strikes in close succession.” I think quickly, scrutinizing the battlefield. “What if we send the harvesters to crush the Nobles?” I ask Celyz. “They’re stuck in a melee now so they’ll have to either fight them or pull back, besides they’re the reason we can’t reinforce the west quickly enough with scouts from the center.”
“I agree.” Celyz nods, waving a tendril. “I’m ordering the harvesters to go through the Nobility to reinforce the west. It solves both issues.”
I glance at the center. Meria’s soldiers have managed to push the Rykz line somewhat, but not very much. Their numbers seem relatively untouched compared to earlier.
The peasantry on their flanks, however, is crumbling. I can see heads turn within their ranks, looking back and thinking of running away. Go on, break.
“Jessica.” Celyz touches my shoulder with a tendril that she then points towards the west. “Some of my scouts just reported hearing cavalry left of our flank. Can you see anything?”
“Templars, two hundred of them!” I exclaim, stunned by the sight of the fully armored men and women, riding horses covered in chain-mail. They are holding long lances, vertically, and holding kite shields. “They’re bypassing the battle, headed south.” As I say that, the Templars make a sharp turn and start charging towards our hill. “Wait, no, they just turned south-west, charging us.”
Celyz waves a dozen tendrils at once, the same number of scouts split away from our surroundings and spread over the hill. The rings of Rykz around the hill break and reform in a denser defensive half-circle formation to our left.
I turn my gaze towards the harvesters who are just now engaging in battle. They are almost as tall as the Nobles on horseback. I see the creatures use their four arms to attack both animal and human at once, tearing chain-mails like leather and tearing bodies apart.
Their breathing cry is… thicker in tone than the smaller Rykz’. The Nobles reorganize and try to pressure the harvesters. No doubt attempting to pierce their lines to meet up with the Templars. However, faced with the large creature’s blades, they fail to make any headway and their losses pile up as their ranks lose cohesion.
They won’t succeed and will probably have to retreat soon, our western flank is more than decimated but salvaged. Not that we needed to save it, what matters is for the center to hold.
“How many losses so far, Celyz?” I ask.
“Five thousand Rykz dead at the last report.” She replies in a tight vibrating voice.
“That’s… that’s a lot.” I mutter.
“We are roughly trading four scouts for one soldier, and one to one with the peasantry.” She replies. “How close are the Templars?”
“Half-way to us, about to hit the line at the bottom of the hill.” I reply, glancing to the left.
The Templars lower their lances, hitting the first like of Rykz and crushing it without even slowing down, starting to climb our hill. The second line of Rykz is trampled.
I notice a black glow on the edge of my field of vision, Celyz is assembling a construct, filling her tendrils with flow. I feel my hair ruffle inside my helmet, levitating up somehow.
The third line of scouts is obliterated by the temple guards. I haven’t seen even a single one of them fall so far.
“Are we going to die, Celyz?” I ask with a mad giggle.
The Rykz Princess doesn’t reply, her attention focused entirely on the construct she is assembling. The Templars move their shield hands, placing it against the side of their mounts. The horses pick up in speed, unnaturally so.
The fourth line of Rykz is standing behind a spiked trench, their spikes angled further upward than any other line. The temple guard’s horses reach the edge of it and jump over its two-meter width, landing on top of the scouts.
The horses’ chain-mails don’t cover their underside and two dozen of them fall, impaled by spikes. The Templars are noticeably slower now and half of those who lost their mounts fail to stand as their brethren keep charging uphill.
I feel a tingling sensation on the surface of my skin and goosebumps on the top of my head as my hair stands. Crash. The fifth line of Rykz breaks. Two left. Only two dozen meters between me and probable death. I grin, securing my grip over my hammer.
Celyz’ tendrils gather in front of her in a circular pattern. The black glow of flow covering them intensifies sharply but diminishes just as quickly as it drains to form a large black construct in the center of her tendrils, in front of her torso.
I recognize the spherical construct immediately as the lightning one. I hurriedly turn my head away as Celyz finishes assembling it. The Nobles have retreated and the Rykz reformed their line. The harvesters are relieving our western flank, butchering the soldiers in black clothing.
“Close your eyes.” Celyz speaks up. I clench my eyelids shut as tightly as possible.
Rumble. I feel, no, I hear the air vibrate around me. Crack. The sound is deafening, a flash of light pierces the darkness of covering my eyes, almost blinding me despite my precautions and the small opening in my helmet.
I open my eyes and turn to observe the result. The first line of the Templars was… obliterated. They lay haphazardly on the ground, intermingled with their mounts, their armors smoking. The second line lost a third of its numbers. Almost half of the temple guards are gone, dead.
There are black scorch marks on the ground, the remaining Templars aren’t charging anymore, they were stopped dead in their tracks and are now struggling to keep their horses under control.
The Rykz abandon their positions and converge on their chaotic ranks, trying to smother them under their numbers. The Templars on foot move to cover the breaches in their lines and the chaos is efficiently reigned in.
Except now, they’re under siege, surrounded and lacking the necessary momentum to pierce their enemy’s dense ranks. The scouts are dying in droves under human swords but there is no end to the tide in sight. Dead Rykz are replaced within seconds.
The Templars on horseback turn around and those on foot form a rear-guard. I see no hesitation in their ranks as they retreat in good order, headed towards the bottom of the hill at walking pace, splitting the tide in front of them.
I throw a glance south, Fenyz and her warriors are near, half an hour at the most. The battle may reach a conclusion before that. I turn back towards the center of the Rykz lines.
Meria’s soldiers have successfully pushed the scout’s ranks back, behind them are fields of dead Rykz and humans, but they’re not advancing anymore. The battle has raged on for a long time now and the humans seem… sluggish compared to the Rykz.
Fatigue piles up, adrenaline and fear take their toll. Flow is running out. I hop off the cart, laying my hammer on my shoulder. The peasantry is still holdout out despite grievous losses, I suspect that the Nobles spreading out among their ranks are the cause. I intend to change that state of affairs.
The soldiers dressed in black aren’t breaking but the harvesters have pierced deeply into their ranks and they are still advancing unhindered.
“What’s the situation, Celyz?” I ask.
“Three thousand in the center, a thousand five-hundred here, a five-hundred on our western flank, a thousand more on our eastern flank who just engaged a disparate human force that landed on the beach.” She utters, pointing at each portion of the battlefield with a tendril. “The harvesters have suffered almost no casualties yet but I’m pulling them to contain the Templars in case they decide to charge their backs.”
“Disparate?” I ask, glancing east but failing to pierce the darkness.
“Sailors and mercenaries would be my guess.” Celyz explains.
“No matter.” I turn back to Celyz. “They’ve lost the battle, it’s only a matter of holding until Fenyz arrives now.”
“I am inclined to agree. Our losses are severe but they’ve failed to break our center and the western flank holds.” She nods.
“Give me a hundred harvesters, I’m going there.” I point towards the peasants holding the line between Meria’s soldiers and those dressed in black.
“I’ll tell them to gather north of the hill, don’t lose them.” Celyz waves a tendril, ordering a scout to relay the message.
The Templars finally break through the Rykz’ thinner lines at the bottom of the hill. As Celyz predicted, they immediately charge the western flank’s back. A third of them, on foot, follow behind at a much slower pace. Still, their speed is impressive considering that they’re wearing full plate armor.
I make my way north, descending from the hill slowly to spare my wounds. My limb’s tendrils are keeping my broken shoulder’s bones fused but that doesn’t mean there is no wiggle room, small waves of pain impact my body as each step makes both sides of the fracture scrape together and disturb the cut in my right side.
Mhm, hmm. Hhm. I hum along with the pain. I wonder if my Lady will be there… The Templars shatter the Rykz rear-guard but encounter the redeploying harvesters soon after, engaging in a pitched battle with the large creatures.
“Hah!” The sound escapes me when my foot impacts the ground with too much strength. Hum, hmm. The bloodiest harvesters, those that are now at the back of the group since they were previously the front-liners, separate from the rest and head towards the bottom of the cliff.
Their blades are duller than they were and red with blood, some of the large Rykz even have viscera stuck in the interstices of their interlocked carapace.
A few are wounded and bleeding, covering their obsidian black armor with brown viscous fluid. One of them is missing a hind-leg; it stumbles forward, dragging that quarter of its lower abdomen behind.
The harvesters release a breathing cry as I approach. I wave my left arm in response with an amused smirk, but they seem to take it as an order to move. The creatures, twice as tall as I am, gather around me and match my pace as we advance.
It takes us a few minutes to reach the rear lines. I hear sounds of battle, cries and shouts, barely a few tens of meters ahead. I wave my right arm towards the east, where the peasantry and the soldiers’ ranks link. The harvesters form up and the scouts part to let them pass through their lines.
The hundred Rykz advance at marching pace, their speed barely slowing down when they hit the first humans. I assemble a construct to sharpen my hearing and just… wait to see what happens.
“Hold the line! Don’t falter!” A Lord yells. “The Izla depends on it!”
I follow the voice with my eyes, finding a man atop his mount in the middle of the disorganized peasantry. He isn’t fighting and is directing his horse away from the area.
I keep observing, noticing that almost every Noble is the area is pulling away to regroup behind the lines. They’re preparing to charge, that’s all I can think of. I make my way through the Rykz towards the harvesters, using their large bodies as cover.
There are fresh bodies on the ground, soldiers and a few peasants that were torn apart. I divert my eyes and focus myself, I’m not the one who decided to fight here. Nobility took a gamble and they’re paying the price.
Boom! Boom! Boom! Deafening explosions occur all over the battlefield. Boom! That was close! Shit! I kneel down, hiding behind a harvester.
Boom! A shock-wave throws me to the ground, splattering dust all over me. The scouts behind me took the brunt of it, there is a gaping hole in their line. I get back up, glancing around.
Boom! Boom! Boom! More explosions in the scout lines. The harvesters are almost untouched, probably because they’re too close to Meria’s soldiers, I can see that some blasts opened holes in the front-line that were too close to the edge for the peasants there to have escaped unscathed.
The Rykz tide shudders but doesn’t break. It takes only a minute for them to replace their casualties and reform their ranks. I see soldiers on either side of the harvesters rush forward, isolating us inside a vice-like formation.
I hear the sound of hooves approaching despite the ringing in my ears. The Nobles aren’t charging but going through their own ranks to engage the harvesters.
A few are wearing full plate armor, but there is only one that interests me. My Lady. She isn’t swaying on her horse like last time, but her posture is rigid.
I assemble the signaling construct and tell my left limb to fight for survival but cut it in half. My limb tenses a little, moving without order, but I don’t lose control of it like I did last time.
A cool feeling spreads through my chest, originating from the tendrils. My heartbeat accelerates, and my wounds’ pain recedes to the back of my mind. The harvesters shudder and stop advancing, pulling back to form a tight circle around me.