We fell upon our enemy in stealth, stealing into the woods from their right. The grind and crank of their siege engines covered our approach. The Orkan engineers roared and watched as they let every missile fly. They had no attention spare for thirteen attackers darting swiftly between the trees on their flank.
Thirteen. Unlucky for them.
Several of our number scaled trees to the high branches. Arrows whispered deadly goodnights to their pick of targets. Orkans dropped, here and there, around us as we darted in and sang our own steel lullabies with our blades. I cut down one loader as he bent to collect another boulder for his machine, then slew his officer with a thrust through his fat back, my free hand clamped over his snout before he could grunt an order. Orkan drool spilled out between my fingers, but not a word or other sound escaped him. He slumped against me and I ducked aside to let him fall. Then I ran to my next victim.
Shinvar and the Elves were swifter than myself. They moved in gusts, like shushing breezes that barely stirred the leaves. Every flash of blade ended with an Orkan corpse crashing into the undergrowth.
Ultimately, it wasn’t the dead that alerted the remaining crews. It was the siege engines fallen quiet and not doing their bit. Fewer missiles arcing through the air. Soon, heads turned to see why some machines were slacking.
The first two to turn stared. Their shouts died in their throats, because Shinvar was already there between them. The next few drew axes and crudely-toothed blades. There was some clash of weapons, scattered struggles. More arrows flew in to hurry the fight in our favour.
For my part, I rushed from one duel to another, swinging heavy blows and not a few urgent parries. My final snarling foe bared his tusks and swung his battleaxe well back for a killing strike, leaving his beer-barrel gut exposed. But an arrow grew in his forehead, saving me the effort of finishing him.
He keeled over backwards and I vaulted over the body, seeking another target. But our work was done. The crews lay strewn about the forest floor, between their silenced engines of war.
Shinvar whistled and Surefire came running, the other horses following like devoted friends. Shinvar saddled up, as did I and our lead Elven companion. Elven archers slid down from the branches to land, one apiece, on horseback behind us. Each with our passengers aboard, we spurred our steeds away.
The remaining Elven warriors knew their part. They hastened to their tasks around the captured machines. Between them they would be able to operate two or three of the engines.
We rode up the wooded slope, soon breaking onto open ground. Ahead and up the incline, the mass of our enemies crowded into the pass. They formed a swelling estuary of armoured bodies, battling to force their way upriver. So much poison fighting its way back into a choking bottleneck. The rear of this unruly formation covered a broad expanse of hillside like a seething clamshell. Snarltails waded deep in the mass of infantry, pressing forward, competing to lead a charge that had stalled.
Shinvar raised a hand, signalling a slowdown. We eased down to a patient trot.
Two boulders sailed past overhead. Rolling stones, gathering no cloud. A blazing fireball trailed just after them.
Not one Orkan head glanced skyward. Not one looked back in our direction.
Shinvar kicked, spurring the pace. We rode level with her. Our passengers loosed arrows into the Orkan morass.
The first three fell unnoticed. The second three, the same.
The boulders crashed to earth, crushing the intervening carpet of Orkans. The fireball slammed into the edges of the enemy rabble, bursting with flame and shrapnel. Dead Orkans flew like ragdoll acrobats. Live Orkans scattered in panic, but there was no room for them to flee. They were packed too tight.
Shinvar spurred us to a full charge.
Arrows flitted forth. More boulders and fireballs hammered down after brief flights through the heavens.
The Orkan mass surged everywhere at once. Everywhere inward, crushing many of their own number.
Into this field, we ploughed.
Swords scything, cutting down a blighted crop. Arrows flew left, right, aft.
The enemy were slow to turn in on us. And by the time they did, Elven warriors were pouring out of the pass. Defenders became attackers, van became rear and the Orkans knew they were lost.
[To Be Concluded…]