The Enemy Approach
It took another hour. The waiting was agony, but still, Shae relished each moment. Time spent waiting was time spent not fighting for her life.
Few words were exchanged in the trench. She barely even knew the names of her fellow recruits, a few of the more capable looking ones she'd noticed and tried to make friends with during their woefully inadequate training. Nothing had stuck. Several of those capable looking soldiers had died already. One had even been carted off to the nearest proper hospital. The field medics couldn't really do much for a soldier in the midst of a complete breakdown.
Shae had heard rumours that the boy had been caught breaking open his ammo shells and mixing the contents into his food and drink. She wasn't sure whether people thought that was a cause or a result of his problems. It sounded dangerous either way. The shells were packed with all sorts of dangerous stuff, They were designed to kill things after all.
When the proximity alarms finally sounded, she and her fellow soldiers stepped up onto their firing steps with a mix of curiosity, relief and fear. Mostly fear.
"Oh Gods..." She'd expected a horde of Shamblers, maybe a pack or two of Scorch-hounds, they hadn't seen many of them recently. What she saw out there in the field was worse in so many ways. A single figure was gliding towards them, supported in the air by nothing at all, ignoring what little remained of the minefield the sappers had long since given up trying to replenish. It floated over the stagnant, rotting corpses of the last wave of Shamblers, near-human puppets with almost no intelligence, but an unholy resilience.
It's robes fluttered about it in a breeze Shae could not see or feel any other evidence of and it approached with a calmness that she despised.
It was a mage, a full-fledged, arcane power wielding mage.
There hadn't been a mage seen on the battlefield since before Shae was born, they were too powerful and rare to risk, or so all the latest reports had claimed. Kastin had no mages to risk, not proper ones. People still knew the tricks of course, they could perform the rituals of defense and mix the potions and powders that filled their weapons, but to wield such destructive power with nothing more than a thought and a wave of the hand was more than any living Kastinian could claim.
Shae dropped back down to the floor of the trench. It couldn't be worse. She'd heard some of the troops discussing their most brutal battles, Scorch-hounds were fast and brutal, often able to avoid the Caster fire long enough to actually get into the trenches, where they would cause horrific damage before finally being felled.
But they weren't mages.
A Golem, steel plated, hollow and rune-engraved could apparently soak up terrifying amounts of fire before even it's outer shell was breached, let alone the gemstone core at its heart.
But it wasn't a mage.
Shriekers flew high above the battlefield, rarely noticed before the inevitable, screaming descent that gave them their name. Hurtling down from the clouds directly toward the trenches, sometimes catching up Kastinian soldiers and dragging them up, either to fall to their deaths or be stolen away forever. Other times, they'd been known to bring weapons, dropping explosive charges as they swept back up into the sky, away from the blast.
But they weren't mages.
Shae would rather fight all three of them at once, with a horizon full of shamblers to back them up rather than face the thing floating lazily across the field toward them now.
A Mage, a Hex-damned, Dark-souled, monster from the darkest pages of history.
Dreading what she might see, Shae pulled herself together and, slowly, raised her head up to the parapet. It was closer now, not heading directly for her, thankfully, but not nearly far enough away for her to feel safe.
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