Warlocks – Short Story 4 – Battleford

Battleford

The four halted just inside the shadow of the trees. Before them the grass covered meadow sloped down to the river ford. On this side of the ford the land belonged to a Vrikas clan whose lord had hired them. On the far side of the ford the land belonged to a Rukshas clan. Whoever controlled the ford, controlled the land on both sides. If both clans had been the same Pashumar species, negotiation might have solved this. No, the clans were different Pashumar species that, like their animal analogs, wolves and bears, didn’t get along.

The proof of that antagonism was being demonstrated before the Warlocks. On their side of the ford, a dozen armored Vrikas warriors were weilding their Hinazaphas and locked in mortal combat. Each was engaged with one or two heavily armored Rukshas warriors with Hinazaphas and some of the more skilled ones weilding Kikira blades. The Vrikas knew they were outnumbered and outmatched, but to their credit, did not break.

Adanaka leaned toward the ranking Warlock, “Just like you said, Captain Bhir. The battle’s already started.

Have you developed Jitadi to forsee the future?”

“No,” Captain Bhir said, studying the dispersion of Pashumar forces. “I’ve studied tactics. I knew as soon as the contract was signed that word of it would get to the Rukshas and they’d move. Its in their nature. You all know your tasks, lets get to them.”

Adanaka moved to the end of the line, facing upstream the river and began forming a Jitadi that would turn the gently flowing river into a torrent, making the ford impassible to the Rukshas on the far bank. Adanaka’s dance like stance with his weaving arms immediately generated an electrifying energy around him.

Bhudrinaksi moved into a stanced position beside Adanaka and began to weave a Jitadi that would create a gale. The barely leaf rustling breeze now rose into a haunting howling wind.

Captain Bhir began to generate the Jitadi weaving to provide a slight speed enhancement and once established, began to charge towards the battle. Their collective war cries were caught up in the rising wind Jitadi, which help multiply them to sound like four hundred instead of four.

Captain Bhir, from the corner of his eye, caught sight of a blue glow around Indrati who was running beside him. He realized there was a blue glow around all of them. Before the charge, Indrati had created a light aura around them using a novice Jitadi stance. To the common Rukshas warrior it would look as if they were enveloped in Devachan divine auras. Nice effect, it will add to the awe we deserve.

The bulk of the Rukshas on the far bank were just starting to cross, but the river was no longer a slow, knee deep ford. Adanaka’s spell had raised a swirling, waist deep maelstrom. The few that charged into the water were swept downstream helplessly. Others skidded to a stop futilely shaking weapons at the Warlocks.

The Vrikas warriors were at first as stunned by the Warlocks arrival as the Rukshas, but recovered a bit faster than their foes. Three Rukshas, fascinated by the Warlock charge, had their throats ripped out by Vrikas blades, their last sight being glowing Warlocks nearly flying across the field towards them.

Captain Bhir felt admiration for Indrati’s self control; he loved fireballs, sometimes to an extent that worried Captain Bhir, but Indrati understood that to use fireballs now would do as much harm to their Vrikas allies as to their Rukshas opponents.

The Rukshas pulled away from the Vrikas, just beyond the reach of their blades but still too close for the fireballs. This was going to be bloody hand to hand.

There had been more than thirty Rukshas when the Warlocks charged from the woods. Two had gone down to Vrikas weapons, but that still left eight Rukshas to each Warlock.

Captain Bhir pitied the Rukshas.

With their enhanced speed, the Rukshas weapons were easy to avoid; before a Ruksha had time to even start a lumbering slash, a Warlock would be inside the reach of his weapon, slashing with his Mahazis. The Warlocks could strike three or four times for each blow the Rukshas tried.

The danger, though, wasn’t the Rukshas in front of them, but the one that got behind them. As fast as the enhanced time Jitadi let them move, it didn’t let them see behind themselves, as Adanaka learned. The Ruksha in front of him went down, insides spilling from a slashed belly. The Ruksha to his right reeled back, hand hacked off, wrist fatally spouting blood. The Ruksha to his left sank to his knees, burbling as life fountained from his slit throat. The Ruksha behind Adanaka, though, jammed his Kikira into Adanaka’s back in the instant that Indrati shouted a warning. Adanaka’s enhanced speed let him turn slightly, so the thrust wasn’t through and through, but slashed along his back and side.

The Ruksha bayed in victory, he had actually wounded a Warlock. He was too busy celebrating his unexpected achievement to follow up with an actual kill. Adanaka backed away, crouching and looking about while trying to staunch the blood flow from his side. Indrati gestured as he normally would to light the campfire. The Ruksha’s victory howl became a painful howl of terror as his fur burst into flame.

Indrati was fascinated with fire.

That display broke the rest of Ruksha morale. They fled back across the ford. Adanaka had allowed the water to lower enough that they could struggle through. Captain Bhir called the Warlocks to halt. The Rukshas’ terrified tale of this battle would be more effective at enhancing the Warlock reputation than any display of their dead bodies.

* * *

A Vrikas soldier threw another Rukshan body on the funeral pyre as he growled at the senior Vrikas warrior, “They can’t be bothered to clear the bodies of those they killed.”

The officer, standing to one side of the make shift funeral pyre, continued to watch the Warlocks set up their camp near the ford but still a distance away from the Vrikas camp.

“Warlocks are too special for mundane things like this,” he finally replied, “Always believe themselves too high for it.”