Chapter 101 = The First Great War
Disclaimer: All characters here are of my own invention, but the original idea of Yoshies, Birdos, etcetera, are copyright of Nintendo, and I make no money from writing this.
34th of Eira, CD 2156; Outside Corvan
It was the early hours, the sun still below the horizon. Working by magical lights, the Baron of Lince and his advisors had spent the night drawing up and discarding various tactics and strategies, receiving and analyzing spy reports, and preparing for a day that none of them hoped would actually come…
Sprawled out over the flat grass and the roads leading into Corvan, the Yoshian military had set up a camp, and the soldiers were only just waking now, a heavy, solemn feeling in the air. There hadn’t been a full-scale war since the year CD 212, almost two millennia ago, and it had been hoped that there never would have been another. But, facing the truth, the soldiers and leaders alike realized that the reality was laid plain before them – a little under two thousand years’ of inter-racial animosity was coming to a climax, in a war that would end with no winners…
The guards of the city knew what was coming, and a solid mass of archers lined the tops of the walls, visible from the Yoshian camp. They had flares lit and no doubt were preparing traps, but seemed not to have noticed the spies that had been teleported into the city. Negotiations with the Assassins’ Guild had failed; they were staying neutral. The citizens were barricading themselves in their homes for the most part, a few trying to continue with their lives either through ignorance or hope…
Eira Thirty-Fourth, Chyrusian Date 2156…
Even though it was thousands of years in the making, and the final straw had been the Winged Ones’ piracy of trading caravans, this is the date that truly marked the start of the First Great War…
Assassin’s Guild Rooftops
“Have you ever had the feeling…” Skafria mused, holding the egg in his arms carefully, looking out over the city from the flat roof on the Guild, “…that you were dreaming? That something so real, so plain before your eyes, couldn’t possibly be happening?”
“Of course…” Tsi-Lau replied, standing beside him. They were the only ones on the roof, as the others were hiding in the city or the building below them. “When I first killed, it was like a nightmare… but there comes a time when you realize that no nightmare goes on this long…”
“…it has to be real.” Skafria murmured, shaking his head. “Things have changed, times have changed… today is going to start something horrific…”
She leaned on him gently, but kept her straight expression. “It’s like the world is being turned upside-down… nothing is familiar any more…”
“I’m getting married…” Skafria cited, looking down at the egg. “I never thought that was going to happen. Not for fifty years or so at least.”
“Hah…” she forced, sighing softly. “Did you hear what I said to the other assassins?”
He shook his head, watching the scattered guards and citizens milling about the streets below him. “No… but you told me the gist of it. ‘If you don’t like the decision, leave the guild and never come back…’”
“Precisely.” She said, pushing away from him. He looked over to her, confused, still holding the egg carefully.
Tsi-Lau sighed, standing on the edge of the roof. “I tire of this life now… it is time to yield to change. We are to be married, we will raise a child, and I… I cannot stay in a profession where I must murder my feelings and emotions in addition to other people. My skills are waning… from now on, my life is my own. I tried and failed before to throw this life aside; this time I will succeed, I must succeed…”
Before Skafria could say anything, she deftly jumped off the edge of the roof, and vanished from sight.
“Even when I marry her, I’ll never understand your mother.” He muttered to the egg.
Mikhail moved among the archers at the top of the battlements, making sure everything was ready. The enemy was moving, certainly, but they had nothing to fear… doubtlessly the Yoshian army had some trick up its proverbial sleeve, but it couldn’t be anything that he couldn’t handle.
Moving into the gatehouse above the main portcullis to the city, he looked through one of the windows to take another scan of his foes. No siege weapons meant an easier time for him, but there was no telling what their spellcasters might cook up. Magic in warfare was incredibly unpredictable like that. Regardless, the gatehouse had to be held; if it was lost, the entire army could pour in at their leisure and flood the city like waters from a broken dam. He would command personally from the gatehouse, then – it would be the safest place to be.
Taking off his helmet and one of his chain link gauntlets, he ran a red hand through his silvery hair, replacing the equipment again afterwards. He was nervous, but it was understandable. His first real battle, and he was in command. Yes, he had trained at the arenas in the capital where many fought to the death, and he had studied under the guidance of the most prominent strategists there, but this, this was real… far more real than even taking his sword to unarmed, convicted criminals brought for him to practice his swordsmanship on. But he would overcome it, just like he overcame the sickness in his stomach he had felt earlier from being so nervous. He had the upper hand. Nothing could go wrong, and even if it did, he had reams of plans and contingencies… most of which of course would ensure that he would escape alive to fight another day. That was the most important thing, after all, and-
Movement caught his eye. Looking through the windows again, he saw that the charge had begun. Ranks of soldiers were advancing towards the city, and he could faintly hear the thundering of hundreds and hundreds of feet on the ground.
It had begun…
He continued to look through the window and watch. His men knew what they were doing and didn’t need his constant attention, at least not yet. In addition to his well-crafted plate armour, he had a sword, a very fine sword which he had been given long ago, and he hoped not to have to use it, as it would be a situation dangerous to himself if that happened. He looked up a little, into the glowing orange sky, and the confident smile fell from his face as he realized why they were attacking at the crack of dawn…
“Bastards.” He uttered. “We’re going to have the sun in our eyes.”
Outside the walls
It had begun, and by his command… the Baron tried to concentrate on the matter at hand as he charged along in the second ranks of soldiers. Yoshian commanders would frequently fight in the foremost ranks to show their courage, but history showed that the commanders were frequently killed from being so close to danger…
The front ranks were all the melee attackers, followed by the archers in the second ranks, and medics and spellcasters in the third ranks behind them, all thundering forward. It had started out in an echelon formation, then had broken up into a line, and now was just a shaky line, but it didn’t matter much any more. The Baron felt the rays of dawn on the back of his neck as he ran, fitted in the same chain-and-plate armour that the rest of his soldiers wore, snapping down his visor as the true battle became imminent.
How to counter archers? Blind them, of course. Waiting until night wasn’t an option, but waiting until dawn was – though once they got close enough, they were targets to the rain of steel-tipped wood from above. Battle cries filled the air around him when they weren’t drowned out by the irregular poundings of hundreds of feet, the walls closer every second, his soldiers armed with whatever weapons they could find, all the armour they had, even the most novice spellcasters following up to provide support, even the most untrained medics, all of them… under his command, his order, rushing forwards… and he intended to make it a charge to victory, not to death.
Mikhail breathed deeply, keeping his cool. It was fine. A minor setback. Once they were close enough, the archers would be looking downwards enough for the sun to lose its effect. The order to draw bows had been given a few moments ago, but the order to fire would have to wait…
He sidestepped and stood behind the stone walls as a wave of arrows from the enemy clattered against the building, one or two punching through the glass, a few agonized cries cutting the air as the men on the battlements came under fire. They ducked down almost as one, trying their best to aim, but they needed to wait… just a few moments more…
He took a chance and peeked through the window, this one still intact, shielding his eyes from the sunlight with one hand. Soon, soon…
The sudden commotion among the guards had not gone unnoticed. Some of the citizens near to the walls who hadn’t already done so were taking cover in their homes, a small legion of foot soldiers waiting behind the gates in case any one was breached. The whole west side of the city, on the opposite side of the river from the advance, was entirely devoid of guards, and as Tsi-Lau ran through the streets, she found she was not the only one out, as Yoshian resistance groups and freedom fighters emerged from their dens to take advantage of the lull in security, heading for the human guards on the east side. A true racial war was beginning, the battle-cries filling the air as Tsi-Lau also saw human civilians clashing with the resistance groups, fights breaking out in greater intensity as she practically flew over the paved streets, her mind still calm and relaxed from her assassin training.
She had to find the commander; after all, when encountering any foe, whatever creature it may be, there was always a golden rule. Cut off the head, and the body will perish with it. And such a job was perfect for an assassin…
On the walls
“Aim!” Mikhail heard, and he breathed an exasperated ‘Finally…’ to himself. He had his back against the wall, and was looking out through the windows into the rest of the city. As he had suspected, there were rebels… but to his surprise, there were anti-rebels out there too, the groups distinguished solely by race, and fighting on the streets. It meant less work for his guards at least…
Another wave of arrows clattered off the battlements and pierced windows, more cries audible to him. Casualties, yes, but a quick glance out of either side of the rectangular gatehouse showed that there were plenty of men left. He had heard that the Yoshian army allowed women into it, and he was at first considering treating the army as being only half its size, but numbers were still numbers. And strength through numbers alone was but one of many ways to win or lose a battle…
Another command cut the air. “Fire!” reached Mikhail’s ear-holes, and a multitude of bowstring twangs and the thwip of many arrows followed it, with the occasional low mumbling of the handful of spellcasters the military had on hand casting their spells. He wasn’t going to look to see if they had any effect, as it was too dangerous. He would stay here as planned, and protect the mechanism in the centre of the room that would allow the foe potential entry…
Outside the walls
The Baron ducked his head and kept running, arrows flying past him and all around, bouncing and snapping off the shields of the men in front of him, deflected by magical barriers behind him, or finding their marks in the flesh of his men. Looking up again through the narrow slit of his visor, he could tell they were nearly in range, the men on the battlements a bit more distinguishable now as they got closer. The back ranks of spellcasters were starting to fall behind deliberately in order to pull off his plan.
His plan had to work on the first or second try, or his soldiers would be helpless at the foot of walls teeming with archers. His own archers were returning fire but their movement made it as hard for them to aim as it did for the enemy to hit them. They started spreading out as another wave of arrows came, one hitting the Baron’s shoulder plate, preparing to mount the main offensive…
Magic, despite its obvious uses, was rarely used in war. As spells took from the ether and returned to it, they interacted in subtle ways. In a duel between two, or three, or even ten mages, this wasn’t noticeable. But when you scaled up to the hundred or two hundred mages that were in the back ranks of the army, things got complicated. Mixing spellcasting types just made things worse, but luckily the Baron didn’t have to worry about that.
What he did have to worry about was that he didn’t have any sort of equipment at his disposal to assault a walled city, nor did he have the time to construct it. What he did have were a few hundred spellcasters who could manage at least basic spells.
Only a little research had gone into combination spellcasting. If you tried to create a fireball of ridiculous size by getting a large number of mages to all cast it at once, the odds were slightly in your favour that it would work; the rest of the time it would probably fail, with a bit of a chance that it would completely backfire. The Baron was going to take that chance; it was a gamble with the lives of those under his command, but it was their best shot. He prayed to Karshina that it would work.
Magic. The Baron thought, the running getting monotonous even for a creature with legs built just for it. It can behave in unpredictable ways… it can be destabilized by Chi, or it can overlap and affect other magical spells… and combined on a grand scale, many cast all at once, bringing their energy together, who knows what the effect may be…? It might explode and destroy us all, or it might give us the edge… well, we’re going to find out which one.
Mikhail chanced a look out of the window. They were closer, but still had no apparent means of breaching the walls. The back ranks were slowing down, however, the ones with those with little visible armour, though the flash of magical shields and screens from them gave away their spell-casting nature. What were they planning? And why were there so many? First no siege weapons, then a full complement of spellcasters in the army – what was the enemy planning?
The red anthro’s thoughts were interrupted by a smashing pane of glass – not the light crack of a piercing arrow, but a full crash, followed by the sound of a hundred shards of glass clattering to the floor. Looking over in its direction was a silver-skinned Yoshi with a pair of curved swords, who immediately began to assault the other guards in the gatehouse. Her skill was immense, he observed; her strokes were swift and deadly and her own personal agility was high, as she felled two of the guards in just a few seconds, her sights clearly set on Mikhail himself. The markings on her hands and equipment gave away who she was.
The assassins broke their neutrality agreement. Go figure. I should have expected it… He mused to himself, drawing his sword. Whereas most Yoshian swords were broad and flat-bladed, his was a human sword, and a prized one at that, the blade getting slimmer towards the tip, the edges sharpened beyond compare, the golden handle inlaid with gemstones. He had practiced with it for years, but now the practice ended.
Snapping down his own visor and tightening a gauntleted hand around his sword, he advanced within easy sight of his foe. Slashing upwards in a high jump, she leapt over the sprawling bodies of those she had just defeated and stood facing the young commander. Strangely enough for an assassin, she paused, but soon enough made her attack for which Mikhail was prepared; he caught it easily on his sword and stepped back to evade the slash with her other sword.
Ah, I remember this, he thought to himself. Fighting back in the arena… yes. Anyone with two weapons is an offensive force to be feared, but they lack heavily in defence, as even the best parriers of blows can’t stop the swiftest of stabs without a shield…
Tsi-Lau was in slight disbelief, though her facial expression showed none of it as she delivered a quick upward stroke that Mikhail blocked, twisting to her side to deflect an attack from one of the remaining guards. A Yoshi commanding the human army? What treason is this? No matter. The commander is the commander and I shall separate his head from his shoulders.
The battle continued in silence, though Mikhail’s exposed mouth revealed a slight smirk as his deft steps and parries kept her at bay. She’ll think she has the upper hand if I let her attack… then she’ll let her guard down. Just stay calm…
Twisting his sword to parry another slice, he tried to take another step back but found himself pressed against the wall. Quickly sidestepping, he rolled across the floor and back up to a standing position as her heavy strike bounced off the stone wall, leaving a slice in them. She lunged; Mikhail turned his sword and thrust, spearing her chest; yet when his blade hit her skin it merely bounced off with a green flash of light, and he took a step back, trying to keep his composure.
Shielding. Yes, of course. No worries, there’ll be a weakness somewhere. Stepping back again from her lunging slice, he delivered a swift upward slash to knock away her stab, jumping back and ducking as arrows cracked through the front windows and clattered over the stone. He was starting to see a pattern, and readied his move, first thrusting at her to catch her off balance. Once more her shielding sent his blade away, and she slashed downwards at his outstretched arm – turning over his hand, the plate steel on the palm of the gauntlet catching the blow, and he swiftly closed his fingers around the blade. Attempting to pull it from her grasp, she kept firm hold on it, as did he, and he delivered another slice while she was distracted that narrowly missed her head.
An explosion rocked the gatehouse as the front walls burst inwards, scattering glass shards and bricks over the mechanism in the middle of the room and the two duelling Yoshies. Knocked apart, Tsi-Lau’s sword was torn from her grasp but it slid from Mikhail’s as he went flying, landing on the seat of his armoured trousers. He raised his sword as she pressed another attack with just the one weapon, and he forced her away, jumping to his feet…
Outside the walls
The first attempt had failed, sort of. The gatehouse was badly damaged but the gates still stood, and the Baron and his men were almost at the walls, a sparse trail of arrow-ridden bodies behind them, some still crying as they clung to life; others silent. The spellcasters, having hung back far behind the rest of the army, were attempting their spells again, hoping this time would work… it had to, or the army would be at the front of a sheer wall they couldn’t hope to surmount.
Mikhail was forced back up against the back wall, holding his sword against the assassin’s. The two were now alone in the breached structure, and with only one sword he could hold her in place in a contest of strength without worrying about another attack.
She wasn’t even panting, in stark contrast to Mikhail. It was an absolute thrill for him even with the danger involved, but it was quite the exercise, and he was taking the moment to catch his breath.
“Why are you on their side?” She demanded, but Mikhail decided not to dignify that question with a response. More worrying matters were at hand; a bright light could be seen from the direction of the Yoshian army through the hole in the walls, and it was getting brighter… no, closer.
Mikhail dived to the side shouting an expletive, staggering through the door of the gatehouse and onto the battlements. No sooner did he make it onto the walls than the entire gatehouse exploded into a shower of dust, mortar, and bricks, the portcullis collapsing and falling slowly onto the soldiers who had been staying behind it and were too slow to get out of the way, debris falling onto the others as they fled. Mikhail stood up abruptly, but his assailant was nowhere to be seen, and he allowed himself the moment of gloating – felled by her own kind. How ironic.
Then for the second time in a short period, his smile fell. The debris was shifting, and a silvery hand poked out through the rubble. “Damned bitch!” he cried as she broke free, and he leapt off of what remained of the wall, taking an enormous two-handed slice at her, his blade ringing off of her shielding with enough force to send her staggering back. She had no weapons now, and amidst the destruction Mikhail lost his temper, flailing into a rage and attacking her furiously, producing a green flash of light every time he hit her, evidently doing no harm; yet he continued anyway, determined to see his adversary fall, pushing her back, back into the streets running along the walls, towards the soldiers who were fleeing from the breach at the sight of the Yoshian army about to pour through it…
Finally, Mikhail delivered a flat-footed kick to her chest, sending her flying through the doorway to some abandoned store. Running inside, he planted his foot on her chest and pointed his sword at her throat in victory, glaring back at her hateful expression. He saw her trying to move her hands and shifted his feet quickly, pinning them down by the wrists, then had to quickly move his body to evade her kick, and dropped himself onto her chest, sitting on her belly with his feet holding down her hands, and returned his sword to her throat.
Now he could see why his foe had been so troublesome; overbiting her lip were two elongated fangs, definitely the mark of a vampire. He had come across them in his studies but had never seen one until now, though there had been no mentions of there ever being a Yoshian vampire… but it was entirely possible. She was finally helpless now, pinned down underneath him… a grin came back to his face.
“Well, you were a worthy adversary…” he managed, before pausing again to catch his breath. “But you’re mine now… yes… you know what I’m going to do to you, you little bitch? I’m going to make you pay…”
His grin grew wider as he moved his head closer to hers, yet he remained attentive for any sounds behind him. “Once I’ve won this battle, I’m going to have you chained up and splayed out… I’m going to have you all to myself, heh heh… should make a nice trophy.”
Running a gauntleted hand down her chest, even her stony sincerity was starting to crack, her glare becoming a look of pure hatred; yet she said nothing. “The silent type, huh? Don’t worry, I’ll make you cry out… in pleasure or pain, that’s your choice, fun for me either way…”
“You human…” she finally spoke, albeit softly, and very flatly.
“Perhaps.” He muttered. “In all but body. You abandoned me… I’m not one of you, no no… but of course, that doesn’t mean I can’t still have a little…” He licked his lips for effect, lifting his visor to show the malice in his eyes. “…fun.”
“Get your filthy hands off of me!” she shouted, turning her head to the side, then twisting it back and lashing her tongue out at him, wrapping it around his neck and squeezing hard; he tried to pull it away and lost his balance, allowing her to kick him off, getting to her feet. From her saddlebags she deftly grabbed a knife, coated in deadly poison, and thrust it at him, but he turned at the last moment and his shoulder plates deflected the weapon.
He staggered backwards, trying to get away from the enraged Yoshi, and ran out of the door only to come face-to-face with the front lines of the Yoshian army, barely a few feet away, stopping and watching. He paused as he weighed his chances, and Tsi-Lau leapt from the building and attacked him, forcing him to step away, several bows pointing at him and many more swords a short distance away as one of the soldiers commanded them to stop.
Almost shaking with rage, Tsi-Lau barely held herself from attacking Mikhail. How dare he… how dare he even think about doing that to another person? Was he really that much of a human? She felt she was betraying the many Yoshies watching her as she put the dagger away with a shaking hand, but still she did, calming herself through various techniques she had learned.
Mikhail took a look around. Not an archer to be seen on the walls, any alive ones at least. Not a guard on the streets. Not a single armoured soldier under his command – they had deserted him.
“BASTARDS!” he shouted, throwing down his sword in surrender.
To be continued…