Lambs For Slaughter
She rode deeper and deeper into the forest as darkness surrounded her, a suffocating mist had engulfed them. She rode up to the dark silhouette ahead of her as the vicious brush of leaves and snapping of branches echoed around them. “Captain, do you think this is wise?”
A mighty thump.
A giant tree had crashed behind her. Sharp pain on her chest, her back crashed against the ground, a spear had caught her and sent her flying off her horse.
Terrifying roars thundered.
“Captain!” her fingers grazed against the ground as a silhouette dragged her across the forest floor, more silhouettes appeared out of the mists like ghosts, clashing swords against those that surrounded her. The sounds of pierced flesh and cut-off limbs all around her, her body limp, why can’t I move?
She is half-drowned as a river of blood built up around her.
“God save us.” whispered the silhouette as he laid her back against the trunk of a giant tree, it had its branches lifted against the sky as if it alone covered the place in darkness, blocking out the sun with its thick, dark, and unnatural leaves.
The ragged voice woke her, pain radiated from her heart as she sat up, she placed a sweaty hand on her chest and clutched at her damp clothing, “It’s just a dream.” All of her friends are still soundly asleep in the dim lights of their room, “It’s just a dream.” She removed her hand from her chest and lay her back against the bed, but the sharp pain lingered in her heart as if it had truly been pierced.
She closed her eyes and clutched at her locket, she never was a pious woman but it was the only thing she could do for him, there was not a day that she had missed to pray for his safe return.
Tall trees surrounded them, the leaves and brushes made it hard to see but as they went deeper, mists slithered among them. It was getting harder and harder to see. “What the hell are we doing here? We could be falling into an ambush.”
“Don’t jinx it, Ethan.” Arthur kept his attention ahead, dismissive but seemingly occupied by the same thoughts, they were pushing the advance. He clasped his amulet in hand, the symbol of god close to his chest, his eyes closed. Would it make a difference? Would it change anything? He hung his head low. God, please protect us, your wayward children. Give us strength. His heart trembled, he had always been drenched in wishes that never came true.
A cracking sound ahead of them. “Look out!” a large tree had fallen before them, more cracking echoed, trees were falling behind them. It was a trap. Blades grazed against their sheaths as everyone drew their swords, a tense silence hung in the air as the specks of dust settled.
He ducked as a spear grazed past the side of his head, scream and shrieks echoed, a rain of arrows had rained down on them. The soldiers around him dropped dead, “Don’t get dead.” Arthur warned.
Rivellionian soldiers appeared out of the mist like ghosts, he swung and caught one of them, he kept swinging as he retreated but everyone around him fell one after the other. Sharp pain on his chest, a powerful blow had knocked him off his feet, it was a battle-ax. It had cut halfway through his mail armor, the blow was so powerful that he thought his chest was caved in.
He recovered his strength but a leg pinned him down, the man who stepped on his chest raised his battle-ax to finish him. Am I going to die here? The man got his head cut off, it was Gunther. “Get up!” He got up and took down an enemy soldier that charged at him, “Ethan.” he turned to look at Gunther. “The ca-” blood splattered over his face, Gunther dropped dead before him, a crossbow bolt had caught him by the neck.
Siela. His eyes widened, another blow had come for him, one he was barely able to lunge away from. He dodged and weaved away from a coming assault, striking back once for every few blows that missed him, he caught the enemy soldier clean. One on the thigh, and two across the chest but the soldier swung harder and faster with each wound he had inflicted, he was up against the famed warriors of Rivellon, a berserker. Warriors that become more ferocious as they grew closer to death.
He blocked, ducked under, and then weaved away. The berserker was relentless. He parried but the blow was too powerful, his sword flew out of his hand and he jumped back, his hand clenched into a fist. The berserker lunged forward but dropped dead before him, caught by a stray arrow.
An arrow whizzed past him and he ducked, his eyes searched for the archer and found him, he picked up his sword and charged. He sidestepped the first arrow but the second caught him on the shoulder, his blade pierced through the Archer’s chest and he shoved him with a kick to free his blade.
A shriek escaped him, he swung as he turned and decapitated an enemy soldier, the blade had pierced the left side of his lower back. He stumbled forward, someone had bumped against him from behind. He swung as he turned, his eyes widened as did Kevin’s, Kevin gagged. He had caught him on the throat. Shit. “I am sorry.” Kevin fell on his back, hands on his neck, still fighting to stay alive. “Kev.”
“Look out!” he stumbled and fell on his face, someone had shoved him, water splashed as crashed into the muddy waters. We’re not going to make it. His heart raced as it pumped life into his veins. What have you got to lose? It’d be easier if you died. Blood splattered all over him and a man dropped to his knees, his neck cut halfway through.
“What are you doing? Get up!”
It was Arthur, a wince escaped as he placed a hand on his wound. You’re just making it worse. He pushed himself up to his feet and turned to a mighty roar. “Is there no else?!” he turned to a mighty roar, it was Jon, his battle-ax rested over his shoulder as he stared down their enemies. Just stop.
He looked into his reflection from the bloodstained pool of muddy water, Do you think you’re going to make it? his jaw tightened, the water splashed as he kicked it and turned his attention to the enemies that surrounded them. What will you do now?
His back against Arthur’s, “This battle is lost, let’s carve our way out of here.” He parried and struck down one, “Follow my lead!” Arthur charged into the fray and cut two down swiftly, he and Jon charged behind him and they breached through. There were still a few survivors fighting behind them.
Everyone gathered in the Academy hall, it was finally their graduation day after a long year of training, Finally. To be free of this academy. “Have you heard the news?” Soft green eyes laid their attention on her, it was Peter, her childhood friend. “I heard a regiment of the Rangers were felled in an ambush.” he placed a hand behind his neck as her eyes widened. “It’s just a rumor but...”
Christian. Her hand clenched at the locket that hung from her neck, her head low. Be safe.
“I am sure he is safe.” Cassandra’s sapphire eyes watched apathetically, if she didn’t know better she’d think her insincere, Cassandra’s expressions are almost always little with emotion. Though Cassandra is the only person she felt safe around despite the cold and apathetic vibe.
“Cadets! Fall in!” Their heads snapped to the voice and they swiftly moved into their predetermined position. A weight lifted off her shoulder as the Training Commander entered and walked up the Gallery, he had always given her a hard time, going out of his way to make her life hell in the academy. To finally be rid of him.
Smokes engulfed the fortress as the Rivellon army assembled in the distance, the smell of burnt pyres filled the air as warning bells rang. “I expected them to charge blindly but they are more cautious than I expected.” Commander Armstrong leaned against the balcony, “They will come for us, they killed most of the draftees, they won’t our real army is untouched.” a faint laugh escaped him, “Once they bite we will push back hard into Rivellon.”
“How are the survivors?”
“Most are disgruntled, some are angry, a few of them bitter.”
A squadron of riders galloped and disappeared into the smokes as they entered the open front gate, musket fires echoed, a lone rider retreated out of the front gate as he survived the volley. The rider fell off his horse, William had fired his shot from the balcony with the latest gun, a breech-loaded rifle. The Rivellon army marched towards them, they refused to wait any longer. “They have the right to be angry and bitter, they were marched to be lambs for slaughter.”
“They are in the army, if I tell them to kill themselves they should be honored to do it, their lives were forfeited the moment they signed up for their service.” Armstrong turned and crossed his arms. “Those refugees rubbed off on you huh?” it was more that they didn’t deserve to be treated the way they were. “You should stop hanging around them so much.”
“Captain.” They turned to the voice, “Your father had passed away.”
“You should go.” He turned to Armstrong, “This will be an easy battle.”
Cold sweats all over her, her head dizzy and her stomach turned. Her throat gagged as she made her way through the hallway. The ship heaved, her back crashed against the floor, she got up and reached for the handle to hold herself steady.
The hulls creaked and gasses leaked, water flowed down the ruptured hull, another ship had crashed against them. Gunshots echoed above deck, pirates, she hurried towards the deck.
Heavy rain pummeled against her skin as lightning forked across the sky, revealing a rocky shore just ahead of them, she whipped her pistol up and aimed. A loose crate crashed against her. She stumbled off to the side, her pistol clanged against the deck, slipping further away from her on the rain-slick deck.
The ship heaved and her hands caught the rail, she had been pitched over and her fingers were slipping, a mighty wave washed over her and her grip loosened. Her arms and legs flailed but could not keep her afloat. Dead bodies and splintered debris all around her.
“Alice.” A voice woke her, a cough escaped her as she placed a sweaty hand on her chest and clutched at her damp clothing, it was as if she had truly drowned. “It’s just a dream.” Cassandra brushed at her hair. “It’s just a dream.”
“It was a nightmare.” She removed her hand from her chest and laid her back against the bed, “Have we reached the harbor?”
“We’ve been docked for hours.” A smile escaped her, she was finally home.
The mansion stood before her, embraced by its surrounding nature, the flora flowed within it as much as around it. Her grandfather had grown a large oak tree and built the mansion around it, the only place that truly gave her joy but the life of a maiden was uneventful. “My daughter.” A smile escaped her, the embrace of a mother was a comforting warmth that she had sorely missed for a long time. Her mother is her everything, from birth she had never found reason to despise her as she is always the perfect mother. “I’ve missed you.” her mother’s smile faded as her left fringe is brushed away by her mother, “How was the training?”
“I didn’t make it into the top ten.”
Her father smiled but it was an uneasy smile, seemingly forced. “I am still proud of you, Alice.” he turned his face away. “You’re a Military Police now, be careful in your work.” He returned his attention to her with a grim visage. “And don’t try to be a hero.” he motioned with his head, a signal for her to follow and he led her into the dining room.
Her eyes widened as a pair of flashing green eyes inspected her from top to bottom. “Just entertain it, there is no refusing Valentine.” Her father’s voice was but a whisper before he left the room and the door closed behind her, she exhaled a long breath of air. It’s okay, you’re safe here.
“Pleased to meet you again, Miss Lavellan.” Vincent Valentine, the son of the Patriarch, the ruling family of the Free Cities.
“I am honored to meet you again, your royal highness.” She bowed her head low as she curtsied, her heart pounded in her chest.
“Congratulations on being made MP, I am sure you are proud of yourself.” He smiled as she took a seat across from him, “You are graceful as you are beautiful, the military does not suit you at all, I have to wonder what compelled you to such a profession.” He put down his teacup on the table.
“The Lavellan Family prides itself on its warrior heritage, it is only natural that I served the military.” She lifted her chin and straightened her back, subtly inhaling a deep breath. “To protect and serve the citizens of the Free City, to uphold justice and maintain law and order.” he maintained his smile.
“You are naive.” he placed his elbows on the table and clasped his hands together, resting his chin on top of them as his eyes stared. “How long do you intend on playing soldier?”
An uneasiness plagued her, her heart raced further, she had thought that her betrothal with Christian would put a stop to his advances but he was not letting up. “I fear it would be a lifetime pursuit.” she forced a smile as heat permeated around her.
“He is coming home, isn’t he?” He pulled his hair back as he leaned against his chair and crossed his leg. “Your fiance.”
She smiled meekly, sweats all over her, it was getting harder to sit still. “Yes, he is.” The passing of his father had made him the head of the Amell family, and with it came the position of Councilor, and she found relief in that.
“Are you sure he is worthy of you?
“Without a doubt.” She avoided his gaze.