Chapter 52: A Crack in the Armor
Balaam stumbled and steadied himself as the black galleon lurched forward careening into its mark. Dagon held tightly to the railings, his back turned to the donkey and the altar as he commanded his warriors to ready their weapons. Balaam crouched low on the deck. Amid the chaos, the donkey saw the altar was left unguarded. Mariselle lay across it and the green energy floated just above her.
To hell with this. If I die, I’ll die more a man than a donkey, Balaam thought, and jumped forward toward the bone table. With several swift kicks, he dislodged the bones from the altar’s base and the rest collapsed under Mariselle’s weight. Thunder rolled across the sky and he felt a rush of wind rip across the deck as if a great chain had snapped. Through the misty miasma that floated over Mariselle’s body, Balaam saw the walking dead collapse. She rolled off the remains of the altar, barely breathing, and the green ball of energy above her instantly disappeared.
“Thank you,” Mariselle whimpered and pulled the knife from her side. Her eyes went blank and her body shuddered one last time as she dropped the blade on the deck.
Dagon spun around and caught Balaam’s eyes.
“What have you done?” he screamed, as the galleon lurched and shuddered again. The sorcerer fell to his knees as his warriors jumped the railings down to Egan’s schooner. When Dagon looked up, Balaam’s back hooves connected with his face.
His nose shattered and he collapsed to the ground, unconscious.
“Excuse me,” Balaam mumbled as he stepped over Dagon’s body.
* * * * * * * *
Burning hands ripped at Braeden’s men, sending them into a panic.
“Cut them down! They’re still flesh and bone!” the king screamed above their moans. But terror had crept into the small platoon’s ranks and everywhere he looked he saw his guards being grabbled and burned alive by the demons. One fiery husk grabbed at Braeden’s leg. His horse reared and screeched, and Braeden fell from his saddle. The king stood, ignoring the pain and blood trickling from his leg. The undead jumped and throttled his horse like a pack of hungry lions on their prey. In seconds, the mare was consumed.
“Damn you back to hell!” Braeden screamed and brought down his sword on the nearest fiery husk.
The horde paused its attack on the horse to stare at the king, like he was a child brandishing a toy. They turned and encircled him. Rustag burst through the circle and impaled the nearest attacker against a wall with his polearm.
Braeden desperately lashed out with his sword, just missing his marks. Stand until the last, he thought as they closed in.
A crack rent the sky as if it had been cleaved by a mighty axe and the boom of thunder echoed down the street. The smoldering legion fell to the ground, lifeless shells once again.
King Braeden stumbled as he backed away and turned to see Rustag at his side. The street was quiet save for the sound of the fires.
“Maker, you’ve downed them all! How?”
Rustag stared in disbelief at all his fallen foes lining the street, “It was not my doing, my Lord,” he said. “Some greater powers are at play.”
“No doubt, but the Maker’s providence has fallen on us. We live.” Braeden smiled.
“Do you hear that, Lord?” Rustag said and looked around as if something had caught his attention above the noise of the flaming wreckage. In the distance, he could hear the echo of the Amorite drums and their maniacal chant.
“The Ambassador’s Square. They still hold it. Help me find any of our survivors. Then we’ll move forward,” Braeden replied.
Rustag nodded as he pushed aside some wreckage and helped those few men he could find. After several minutes the two had gathered only a handful of soldiers still able to stand and fight.
“It must do then,” the king said as he led the party past the burning remains of their enemies. “Let us be done with this, once and for all.”