The wave of attackers bore down on the barricade Herad had ordered built across the road. Blacknail and his master looked down over the battlefield from a balcony on the side of a building beside the makeshift wall. Both of them had bows and full quivers of arrows.
“Don’t just stand there; help me out!” Saeter growled at the hobgoblin.
Blacknail smiled eagerly as he took up his bow and fitted an arrow to it. He gripped it steadily and pulled the string back all the way to his face. He carefully selected a particularly stupid looking red haired human from among the advancing crowd, aligned his sights on the man’s chest, and then let the arrow loose.
The unleashed projectile sprung forward with a deep twang, and bit deep into the knee of a man standing several feet to the left of Blacknail’s target. The accidental victim screamed before collapsing onto the ground.
The hobgoblin grimaced at how far off he’d been. He was a great archer; that arrow should have gone where he’d aimed! The wind must have shifted or something… stupid wind.
“Huh, not a terrible shot,” Saeter remarked as he let loose another arrow of his own.
“Yes, now he can’t run-ss away,” Blacknail responded guardedly. He’d do better next time. The last shot had just been a fluke after all.
The hobgoblin then selected another arrow and target. This time he chose to aim at the chest of a tall lanky man with a small steel helmet. If the man didn’t want to be shot then he shouldn’t wear such a shiny hat. Maybe Blacknail would take it as a prize after the battle.
He let go of the string, and the arrow zoomed forward and straight toward the unsuspecting man. The hobgoblin grinned happily as he watched it fly true.
The grin slipped from his face though, when the arrow ricocheted off the surprised man’s helmet and spun into the face of the man next to him. They both went down in a confused tumble of limbs, but then a few seconds later they both got back up again.
The first man looked pale and unsteady on his feet, and there was a large uncomfortable looking dent in his helmet. He staggered and blinked uncertainly for a while before rejoining the charge. The second man had a large gash across his face that was bleeding heavily, but he appeared to still be able to fight as well. Both definitely seemed like they would live…
“Dog breath-ss,” Blacknail hissed angrily.
“Ha, that was an unlucky shot! Just keep on shooting, though. They’ve almost reached the wall,” Saeter yelled.
Blacknail grunted unhappily in reply as he squinted at the mass of moving humanity below, and as he watched the front runners reached the wall and stalled before it. The hobgoblin was more than a little curious as to how they planned on actually getting over it.
The hurriedly put together wooden barricade was only about as tall as a human, but there were dozens of armed men behind it who were extremely motivated to stop anyone from climbing it. It was too high to jump over and to climb it someone would need both hands, which would leave them more than a little vulnerable to being stabbed or hit over the head with something heavy.
The hobgoblin’s next arrow missed completely and slammed harmlessly into the ground. He growled in frustration at his latest failure. The shaft must have been bent! In fact, if Blacknail turned his head just so and glared at the arrow a certain way then it definitely looked curved. It wasn’t his fault he’d been given defective weapons!
As more and more attacker reached the wall their intentions became obvious to Blacknail; they were planning to simply overwhelm the defenders with the force of their numbers. As the mob rushed forward they left a trail of dozens of dead and wounded on the ground behind them. More than a few of them had already been brought down by Herad’s archers, but there were still plenty more.
Groups of Zelena’s soldiers began throwing themselves at the barrier. They aimed for any spot that looked undefended and easy to climb over. Some tried to go over alone while others worked together to try and distract the guards and protect the climbers.
Blacknail was happy to see that it didn’t work very well. Almost all the climbers got a blade shoved in their face as a reward for their efforts, but some made it and the fight started in earnest. Fighting began to break out on the other side as attackers scaled the barricade and found themselves face to face with Herad’s men and outnumbered.
The defenders tried to overwhelm the initial attackers before more of Zelena’s hirelings could make it over, and the desperate attackers tried to survive long enough for reinforcements to scale the wall behind them.
The hobgoblin was very glad that Saeter had chosen a position that was nowhere near any place that was under attack. The melee below him didn’t look like a lot of fun. He liked it up on the balcony where he was safe and could shoot people without being distracted.
Blacknail noticed one of his tribesmen along the wall cut down a climber, and get dragged from his perch by several other attackers for his trouble. Immediately, more men began to scale the barrier where it was now undefended.
The hobgoblin quickly chose one of the men and shot an arrow at him. Blacknail held his breath expectantly for the short seconds it took the arrow to hit its target, and hit it did. The projectile slammed into the man’s ass, and he howled as he fell from the wall.
“Aha, that one-ss hit!” the hobgoblin laughed triumphantly.
Blacknail raised a fist into the air and gave a little jump as he celebrated his glorious kill. He really was a great archer! He’d been aiming for the man’s back but that was really close.
“Get down!” Saeter suddenly roared.
The old scout hurriedly grabbed Blacknail’s sleeve and yanked the surprised hobgoblin to the ground. The surprised hobgoblin’s wrist jammed painfully as he tried to catch himself and stop his fall.
“Wha?” he hissed in pain and confusion.
Blacknail’s confusion was dispelled as an arrow whirred through the exact space his head had been a split second ago. The hobgoblin felt his throat tighten from the shock and he gulped nervously. That had been very close…
“Pay bloody attention to what’s going on around you, you damn fool,” Saeter growled as he held the hobgoblin down.
“Yes master, I will. I just-ss didn’t think they had-ss any archers,” Blacknail replied submissively.
His master had just saved his life. He was fairly sure getting an arrow in his skull would kill him.
“Well, now you know they do!” Saeter answered heatedly as he let go of the hobgoblin’s sleeve.
The old scout peered carefully over the edge of the balcony they were on. A few seconds later he quickly rose to his feet, and then aimed and shot his bow in one smooth flowing motion. After a moment the old scout smiled.
“There, I got the bastard,” he then crowed proudly.
Blacknail was more than a little impressed. Since they’d left the forest his opinion of his master had started to slip. He thought Saeter was… sort of useless in the city, but now he knew he’d been foolish to believe that. He still had a lot to learn.
As Blacknail admired his master’s skill, Saeter suddenly tensed. The grey haired scout then threw himself to the ground as a flock of arrows ripped through the air and smacked into the wall behind him and Blacknail.
The hobgoblin flinched at the noise, and dropped onto his stomach with his arms covering his head. Above him several still quivering and humming arrows protruded from the wooden side of the building. Apparently, Saeter had missed an archer or two…
“It seems we’ve attracted some unwanted attention,” Saeter remarked as he grinned at Blacknail from where he lay next to him on the balcony.
“Yes, so let’s leave-ss,” the hobgoblin hastily replied. He didn’t like being shot at nearly as much as shooting at people.
“Just a second,” the old scout told him.
Saeter crawled over to the balcony’s edge and peeked over it. He then scanned the battlefield below them thoughtfully.
Blacknail crawled up beside him, while keeping an eye out for incoming projectiles, and followed his gaze. He quickly noticed what his master was looking at. In the center of the street, among the chaotic masses, a small disciplined group had appeared. They stood out from the others, and were clearly more than just normal Daggerpoint thugs.
Their formation included several men with shields surrounding a group of archers. As Blacknail eyed them nervously the bowmen resumed shooting. Arrows began to rain down on the defenders that were still struggling to hold the barricade, and the occasional unlucky attacker as well. The climbers redoubled their effort to make it over the barricade, and the sounds of fighting intensified.
“So, Zelena has finally made her next move. I wonder what Herad will do. They’re both playing their cards close to their chests,” Saeter mused to himself.
As Blacknail peered over the balcony railing he noticed movement at one of the windows of a building across the street. He tried to see what it was, but it was too far away and all blurry.
“There’s something there,” he told his master as he pointed to it.
“Ah, here we go; there’s Mahedium,” Saeter replied.
Blacknail had no idea how his master could tell who was at the window, the hobgoblin’s own eyes had trouble making out things that far away, but Saeter was soon proven right in a dramatic fashion. A heavy pulsing noise washed over the battlefield as a wave of rippling air shot forth from the window. The distortion then slammed into the center of the group of shielded enemy archers.
The street exploded into sharp stone fragments, and Blacknail was practically deafened by the blast.
Mixed in among the dirt and rock of the explosion were shields and other pieces of equipment, as well as several torn limbs. Bodies were sent rolling across the ground as the impact threw them aside. Only a few of the men anywhere near the blast site managed to keep on their feet, and they looked worse for wear.
The battlefield seemed to pause as everyone took in this new development. As the roar of the blast died down the sounds of steel on steel and screams of pain and rage seemed muted and less frequent. A weird veil of quiet fell across the fighting.
Then, Mahedium unleashed another barrage upon the largest concentration of attackers near the wall. Screams filled the air as men were torn apart by the magical force, and the tide of battle shifted once again. Blacknail grinned savagely at the beautiful destruction that filled his eyes. It was moments like this that made him really want to be a mage.
The rest of the thugs attacking the wall faltered and began to panic. Men trying to climb the wall froze, as the companions beside them took a nervous step back. Blacknail even saw one shorter female fighter who had successfully made it over the barricade abandon her position and leap back across. She was obviously very smart for a human.
Herad’s men were quick to take advantage of this opening, and they regrouped. Her bandits surged up to the wall and began to cut down Zelena’s stunned men. Soon, no attackers were left on the defenders’ side of the barricade, and Herad took complete control of the wall back.
That was too much for the remaining attackers at the foot of the barricade. They still outnumbered the defenders, but now they were disorganized and at a serious disadvantage. As one they seemed to waver, and then one of them screamed in surprise and pain as Blacknail’s latest arrow slammed into his left butt cheek.
Why did that keep happening? That wasn’t where he had aimed…
That was too much for attackers. As if the wail had been some sort of prearranged signal they broke and started to flee. Groups of them began dashing away from the wall and down the street. Within seconds, the fighting stopped and only the sound of panicked footsteps remained. Soon even that was gone and the last of Zelena’s soldiers disappeared down one of the many shadowy side streets.
“Aha, we won! Run-ss stupid humans, run. I’ll find you though; you can’t hide-ss from me!” Blacknail cheered triumphantly.
The hobgoblin then quickly turned away from the battlefield and headed for the stairs that led down to safe side of the wall. He wanted to beat the rush and get the best loot for himself.
“Where do you think you’re going, Blacknail?” Saeter asked.
“I’m going-ss to go find some prizes. Some of the people-ss in our band are really greedy and will take all the good stuff-ss for themselves, unless I get there-ss first!” the hobgoblin responded.
“The battle is far from over!” Saeter growled.
The hobgoblin turned around and gave his master an uncomprehending stare. Below him on the street the last of attackers had already fled, only blasted rubble and a scattering of corpses remained. It certainly looked like his tribe had won…
“Really-ss?” he asked his master doubtfully.
“Yes, that was just the first wave. They were disposable. Zelena’s commanders just threw them at us hoping that they would weaken us. Their main force is still to come, and now they’ve tested our defenses,” Saeter explained.
“…and that’s bad?” Blacknail asked with wide eyes.
“It might be; we’ll have to see what they do next,” Saeter replied.
The hobgoblin sighed and walked back over to his master. He then leaned over the balcony and tried to peer down the street to see if anyone was coming. He couldn’t see very far though, because another tall wooden warehouse was in the way, but after several minutes spent leaning precariously over the railing he finally heard something.
It was quiet enough that he almost dismissed it. It wasn’t the sound of a large group of people, but rather it sounded more like just a few. Was the enemy trying to be sneaky? If so they wouldn’t be able to get past him. No one was as sneaky as Blacknail; he was the sneakiest of them all.
As he turned to look in the direction the sound had come from, a sudden burst of movement caught his eye. A small group of men burst out of the entrance of one of the nearby side streets, and took up position outside it. There were about a dozen of them and they stuck close to the nearby building for cover.
They didn’t seem very threatening to Blacknail. What were they doing? Several of them had bows, but what could half a dozen archers do, especially at that range? Unless they were all very good shots they would have trouble hitting anyone from that far away.
As he watched another man stepped around a corner and into sight, with a lit torch in his hand. Blacknail tilted his head to the side in confusion. That was weird. Why did they have a torch out in the middle of the day? Maybe, they were cold?
A few seconds later his question was answered, and his eyes widened in surprise. One of the men drew an arrow and held it up to the flame. Instantly, the oddly thick head of the arrow caught fire. The archer then wasted no time in taking a shot at the wall with his bow.
The fiery projectile arced through the air and slammed into a wooden panel on the barricade, before bouncing off and falling harmlessly to the ground. It was quickly followed by others though, and several of those hit the wood and stuck.
“Oh, fire!” the hobgoblin remarked in fascination as he stared at the flames that writhed around the enemies’ arrowheads. He wanted some of those. Imagine being able to light fires from a distance. The possibilities were endless, and you didn’t even need magic!
Those of Herad’s men that had bows of their own shot back, but the new attackers were quick to scramble behind cover where they were hard to hit. A steady rain of fire arrows began to fall on the wooden barricade that protected Herad’s forces.
Slowly but surely the flames began to spread and consume the wooden barricade. Cries of alarm went up from the defenders as their protection burned. Blacknail winced has he heard Herad start yelling at the top of her lungs.
“Get those fires out now! You know what to do,” she commanded her men. Blacknail knew things were serious because she hadn’t even had time to swear.
Saeter joined in the defense. The old scout drew an arrow from his quiver and took a shot at one of the saboteurs. This time however, he missed his mark by a few inches and his arrow bounced harmlessly off a wall behind one of the attacking archers.
The close shave startled the man though, and he dropped the arrow he’d been about to shoot. It clattered onto the ground and went out. The archer then had to go back and have it lit again.
“Damnation!” Saeter swore as he reached for another arrow. “They’re too far away. I really hope the fools don’t burn the entire city down. Why is that damn barricade so flammable?”
A mental picture of all of Daggerpoint burning suddenly sprung to life in Blacknail’s head. It was almost all wood so it would burn quite nicely, and it would sure make for a huge spectacle. He kind of wanted to see that, just not from the inside.
“Uh oh,” Blacknail exclaimed nervously as he studied the panicked activity below him.
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