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THE ROSEBUSH

By Bruno_Kopte All Rights Reserved ©

Action / Fantasy

Chapter 1

I had just speared the giant which clubbed me with a cracked northern-made cannon, spending my last potion right after. Someone said that the flashes over the horizon were Diveus searing Trumuskerra’s eyes, but I couldn’t tell for sure. At the time I only thought of my hunger and thirst and tiredness. Lacking an open field, the legions fought on foot, our mounts safe in the bodegas, guarded by dwarven phalanxes pinning the goblins trying to destroy Sycamore’s roots from below. I fought on top of the same roots, preventing the besiegers from burning them. Even if this didn’t topple the city, the inhabitants and refugees on the canopy districts could choke until we had a lot of corpses falling down the giant fig tree, just the kind of harvest the goblinoids wanted. Our archers had height, but the komatai suppressed them with ballista, preventing anything beyond a skirmish now and then.

After a eight months-long siege, we had a last plan, the Uraçu Plunge tactic. Some upper buildings would be collapsed, followed by aimed shots against enemy leaders. The idea was to disorient the goblinoids, allowing for a cavalry thrust. My troops would form the vanguard for one of the columns, paving their way with softened cobbles. As soon as the turmoil was established, we advanced down the root in a wedge formation. Goblinoids are natural warriors, but unruly even at their best. I remember that a minotaur with four plated horns ran towards us with his head down, bellowed something unintelligible but equally offensive, noticed no one else went with him, staggered to a stop, looked backwards and was trodden by our mounts. Died muddy, body and mind. Then the arrow rain started, metallic spatters clicking our armor. We shouted "Dégustez notre élan!", and launched ourselves into the horde. We managed to pierce it on the first charge, but then came the harder deal, keeping the breach so the other riders could go through.

In the sycamorian cavalry, we are still taught to wield spears overarm for close combat between knights and infantry. Grand, because when my spear broke, I just grunted, spun my arm upwards and used the counterweight, almost as sharp as the blade, to prick all those hapless trying to tear my feet off. Years of practice amounted for an hour of engraved reflexes, parry or pierce, cut or deflect. I found myself thinking in how many spots of pain I could count, which ones included an arrowhead gritting my flesh, if the drops falling down my backbone were sweat, blood, or both. A wretch tried to arm himself with a javelin stuck in my mount’s thigh, but my mare’s angry hooves left him choking on a bit of horseshoe forever. I swirled around to avoid more surprises, and saw only a reel of death and pain. My hearing proved as lonely as my eyes. I remembered the tale of the commander which spoke through the night to keep his troops together, and decided an attempt couldn’t hurt more than it was already. I started the Anthem of Sycamore, and had company by the mid of the second verse.

While the enemy was busy with us, the columns galloped all around the siege ring, harassing, burning the baggage, charging into unaware rears. I feared that the goblinoids’ morale would never waver, until spots of panic here and there spread so quickly that it looked like a dam burst with cowards and deserters in every direction. Afterwards there were hours of pursuit, wrecking camps and siege works, prisoner rescue, counter looting. I couldn’t take part on any of that, due to an arrow lodged in my eye patch; weren’t it reinforced, it would have been my skull, what would have disturbed my day, for I avoir d'autres chats à fouetter. In the prisoner inspection after the battle, the komatai responsible for this identified himself, Kafnius, claiming that my bravery made him aim for my head so my soul wouldn’t remain trapped inside it after I died. Typical barbarian foolishness. After leaving the field hospital I made sure to recruit him as night watch for the legion, one doesn’t waste such good aim in forced labor.

Spine2 by BrunoKopte

-Testimony provided by Lorella D’Martel Scavélle, Centuria of the Legio Quinta Sycamoria Victrix, in 1412. Her cognomen, “The Rosebush”, was awarded after the siege of Sycamore, capital of the Duchy of Sycamore and eldest feidralin giant fig tree in the Northern Empire, in the closing battle of the Revanche War of 1399-1402. During the decisive charge, her cataphracts endured thousands of missiles. It was recorded that Scavélle and her mount had no less than three hundred and twenty darts, arrows and javelins embedded in their armor, besides a few more flesh deep. Ever since, she and the knights and horses of her ducal order, the Gendarme Belliqueuse, wear armor teeming with spikes, fashioned as thorns on a fluting of silvered branches.

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