The Provinces of Veterumterrum

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Chapter 31

Siege and Subdue

Azariah Sergens

From the wall, several falcons delivered messages back and forth from scouts to the city guard about the position of the oncoming invaders. They were close now and could arrive through the trees at any moment; by now artillerists had set up several ballistas aligned along the wall and at the gates stood hundreds of heavy cavalrymen made up of halfblooded races, humans, and elves armed with various weapons. They waited anxiously as their commanding officers gave orders from the towers. Vanderok escorted Azariah down the stairs from the tower by the arm. “Unhand me at once!” she ordered while resisting against him.

Without looking at her Vanderok replied, “I need to get you to the castle where you will be safe.”

“I told you already that I am not hiding behind walls,” Azariah told him. “I am not the same princess who hid behind walls her whole life.”

“The invaders have already taken the Feudal Lands and we’ve counted several siege weapons coming straight to the wall. You are not staying here.”

“I came here to fight for my people and⏤”

“Perhaps he is right,” Riker interrupted. He was following them from behind.

“What?” Azariah snarled and both she and Vanderok stopped at the base of the stairs.

“Look, you are a lot more important to this kingdom than the rest of us,” Riker continued.

“But⏤” Azariah began to object.

“Your father’s army need a reason to defend this kingdom and you are one of many. If you will not do it for yourself, do it for your army,” Riker tried reasoning.

“Come princess, there is no time to waist,” Vanderok insisted.

Azariah hesitated before eventually giving in. “Come with me,” she said to Riker. She was just as surprised as he was when she said it. It felt like someone else was speaking through her; someone else that cared more about Baron Von Riker than she did.

“I have to stay and wait for Kruzco and Vylasgarden,” Riker replied.

Azariah sighed and said, “Right…” then nodded in agreement. She then punched him in the shoulder. “You best not die. You still have at least one obligation to pay me.”

Riker looked at her plainly and gave a slight smile. “No promises.”

Before they departed, someone from the wall shouted, “Storm is rolling in from the north!” Azariah rushed over to the wall with Vanderok and Riker close behind. She climbed the stairwell to the top and gaze over the tree line. Vanderok joined her and observed the area with a telescope. Azariah felt a chill against her skin as the storm cloud bled into the sky like ink spilling from a well.

“A bad omen if there ever was one,” Riker commented.

“That is no ordinary storm,” Azariah said after noticing that the cloud was rolling in in one direction, south.

“What is that?” Vanderok said softly.

“They are here,” Riker uttered as the front lines marched through the trees below.

“Sound the horn!” Vanderok ordered collapsing the telescope.

“Sound the horn!” a lieutenant echoed down to the Cavalry. At the gate a halfblooded orc at the front of the cavalry wielded a cattle horn with a golden emblem on it. He blew into it as the gates slowly swung open. To Azariah’s surprise, Vanderok picked her up and carried her down the stair well. She struggled to free herself as she watched Riker disappear out of view.

Baron Von Riker

Riker stood with the elves on the wall and saw the trebuchets and catapults crashing through the trees below. “They’ll be shooting at us at any moment now.”

“Who are you?” one of the bowmen asked approaching Riker.

“I’m the one that’s going to save your asses,” Riker replied taking out his lyre and tuner.

The bowman and his league looked at Riker lightheartedly, “You? You are just a bard with an instrument. Are you going to try lull them to sleep with your ballads?” one of them said mockingly. Riker just sighed and paid them no mind as he tightened and loosened his magical strings. “Or are you going to play us a triumphant song to engage us into battle?” Another snarky elf followed. Today was going to be the day that Riker found out if his skill would be good enough in real combat. Combat that he wasn’t sure he would survive from. The bloodied fingers, and constantly losing his voice couldn’t be for nothing. If he was destined to have this moment, it was then when the kingdom and Raven needed him the most. Raven was all that he needed to motivate him to do this. If he didn’t the Phoenix would never let him be with her again, and that cannot happen after all he has been through. He watched Elves, humans, and halfbloods mounted on barded horses gallope together into battle against the invaders. The enemy frontline was made up armored spearmen and swordsmen mounted on some kind of skeletal beast. Lightning from the bleeding storm cloud struck as the opposing front lines clashed into one another and the sun’s rays were blocked as the blood began to shed.

“Aim for the artillery!” an officer from the wall command as boulders and missiles came from the field and against the white wall. Missile after missile the balistas on the wall took out invading artillery but for every three the wall had, the enemy had five and the oncoming assaults from the trebuchets crashed boulders and flaming debris into the wall. The archers’ defenses were either knocked down or were burning from the assault. Among the legion of archers, the officer raised a hand and ordered, “Ready!” secondary bowmen lit the arrows with kindling, “Aim!” Just as he was about to give the order, a gust of wind blew out the flaming arrows. Riker witnessing this took his flute and pointed it down the line of bowmen as a bolt of fire jetted from his instrument. “Fire!” a firestorm of hailing arrows arched over the battlefield and into enemy lines. The rain of arrows pinned and shredded any enemy that was not heavily armored; however, for every enemy killed, another took its place from the hills as Riker watched a line of shield bearers come into combat along with bowmen of their own.

“He’s a mage!” an archer shouted. He and the entire legion looked at Riker mesmerizingly, but Riker paid them no mind. He was too focused on the enemy’s formations and movements; The dwarves were moving so in sync with one another, that it looked as though they were a hive mind. Riker wondered if the Nekodarz was controlling them as if the thousands below him were an extension of itself. The shield bearers got into V formation as the invader’s cavalry retreated behind the shields. The cavalry of Flos Sergens attacked and followed them to the shields. The halfblooded orcs used their powerful strength to beat the shields with their maces. Riker could hear the thunderous beatings from the wall. Each pounding bent into the fragile metal but their advantage became shorthanded when a hail of arrows sprung from behind the wall of shields and into the Flos Sergens cavalry. Those who survived the arrows were met by undead foot soldiers and the teeth and claws of their skeletal beasts. Their numbers overwhelmed the Flos Sergens’ army as the invading forces mowed down the defense.

Suddenly a bolt of lightning from the cloud above struck the top of the wall near the gate. Riker vaulted away but not before he got a glimpse of the bowmen positioned near the strike. They were all shocked to death. Their very skeletons flashed through their flesh as the lightning coursed through them and the structure beneath them crumbled to the ground. A gaseous figure took form on the ledge of the still standing wall. The Nekodarz took shape and cried a growling howl into the air. It was met by various arrows that shot into it from whichever direction. The Nekodarz took its fist and drove it into the wall causing a wave of a freezing force that iced the wall and the ground around it like a leeching disease. Bowmen slipped and fell over the wall while others were veiled into place by the ice. The Nekodarz lumbered over to the remaining archers who kept shooting at it, but arrow after arrow only seemed to have made the creature flinch as it grew to and enormous size. It soon stood over then and its haunting body took a powerful stance as it took a deep breath. Just as it blew its freezing breath, Riker came and intercepted the attack with his rapier against the creature’s throat. Its black blood oozed over him.

“Go!” Riker shouted as he briefly turned away from the Nekodarz. The archers, in fear, retreated from the wall. Riker was then grabbed and thrown back by the Nekodarz’s powerful hand and landed on his back a few meters away. Lying prone, Riker met the Nekodarz’s gaze and saw an intelligence he previously did not know was there. “Remember me skully?” he said wincing. “That’s right, you know me,” Riker taunted. The Nekodarz raised its great sword and brought it down on Riker who rolled away in time to miss the magical blade. The force created a wave that blew the two of them back and even fractured more of the wall as the ground below them flooded with the two armies fighting with one another. The number of undead were too great against the city defense and just when all was thought to be lost, a wall of thorns began growing between the gap of the wall. Invaders and defenders alike became entangled by the improvised wall. The thorny branches grew and reached up to the top of the wall where the Nekodarz stood; they whipped around it and restrained it in place as myrkalfar mages appeared from the woods. Riker gazed up at these elves who wore green cloaks and robes. Each magical attack they made against the invaders instantly killed an enemy. Some used the aid of tree roots and branches to subdue the enemy; while others transmuted into powerful animals such as bears and mountain lions to combat against the skeletal beasts. The Nekodarz whaled in what seemed to be agony as its army grew weak.

“You don’t like that huh?” Riker said approaching the helpless creature. “Your power is only rivaled by other forms of magic.” The Nekodarz roared and struggled out of its restraints. It staggered toward Riker and took its massive hand to Riker’s throat. Riker struggled to breath as the Nekodarz prepared to impale Riker with its magical sword that materialized in its hand. If only Riker could reach one of his stringed instruments, perhaps he could do something but he soon felt the life draining from him as he struggled there. Suddenly the pressured released and he found himself lying on the wall with the Nekodarz’s hand still around his neck. Kruzco came into focus as Riker flooded his lungs with air. with battleax in hand, Kruzco came at the Nekodarz from behind and hacked away at the unsuspecting creature. On the fourth swing, the ax collided with a mass of gas that dispersed through the air. The Nekodarz had slipped away once more.

“Saved life again,” Kruzco said helping Riker to his feet.

“Believe me,” Riker said catching his breath. “I am keeping count.” Below them Vylasgarden fought with the mages and the soldiers fighting off the unending invaders at the gaps of the wall. The undead climbed over the thorn wall and was met with arrows from bowmen, and invaders on the ground were met with defenders of physical skill and magic alike. “Come on. Let’s join the fight,” Riker said heading for the stairs but Kruzco instead leapt from the wall and smote an invader in the head with his ax.

“SLAY!” Kruzco chanted as he swung his ax about. As Riker descended the stairs he took his lyre and charged it with note scale. As he reached the base he was met with a pair of invading swordsmen who advanced toward him. Riker raised his lyre and blocked the attack but the force made him drop the instrument from his hands. As the attackers advanced toward him up the stairs, Riker wielded his rapier and dung it deep into one of the undead’s empty eye socket hilt deep. Riker them kicked the slumped corpse over, crashing it into the other one and pinned it to the ground. He took the finished one’s sword and stood over the helpless creature. It struggled under its dead companion as Riker balanced the blade in his hand. “Not so tough now,” he said. Riker wasn’t sure if he was talking to the Nekodarz or the vessel below him. “I hope you can see me,” he said staring into the creature’s fiery eyes. “I hope you know that I’m coming for you!” he said before delivering the sword into the monster’s head. Riker watched as the fire in its eyes faded and eventually extinguished.

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