Friday, July 17, 2015

Scout's Law - Chapter 48

< Chapter 47                                                                                                 Chapter 49 >
As the Tercel rushes to David’s aid, the mob before him charges!


Incited by someone who wasn’t on the front line, the men before me raised their swords and charged. With Boost-supplied adrenaline still burning through my veins, I leapt forward with quickness impossible for normal men. My sword flashed in the morning light as I swung it at the nearest attacker. The man’s battle cry turned to a gurgle as my razor sharp blade sliced through his throat. Hot blood sprayed into the air, adding more red stains to my already-ruined clothes. I carried the stroke past the dying man and cut the arm of the man next to him down to the bone. He stumbled aside, screaming, as I danced back out of range of the slow counter-attacks aimed at me.

My feet shuffled through the sand and rocks, giving me another idea. Digging a foot into the loose ground, I kicked up at the mob in front of me. Sand, dust, and rocks pelted the men before me and several of them clapped hands to their eyes. I lunged at one, driving a foot of bloody blade into his gut. Twisting the blade, I pulled it free. I saw the man’s eyes go wide in shock before the fight drew my attention elsewhere.

Skipping backward again, I parried two attacks but was unable to find the time to return the attack. From the corner of my eye, I saw the bright glint of steel on my right side and one of my attackers fell as a sword stabbed completely through his thigh. Another flash came from my left and the other attacker barely managed to parry a thrust aimed at his heart. Then the crack of blaster rifles opened up behind us and men on both of our far flanks fell before the shooting of Jade and the two ship’s boys who were armed with modern weapons.

“Sorry we’re late, sir,” Chris said from my right. “We had a tad more ground to cover than you did.”

A quick glance to either side showed Chris and the other three ensigns from the Vanguard standing beside me. All four wore the set expressions of frightened young men determined to master their fear and do their duty.

“It’s good to have you men by my side,” I said, hoping my calm appreciation of their aid might settle their nerves a bit. “All we have to do is hold our line until the Tercel arrives.”

I shuffled forward on the loose terrain and feinted a low thrust against the man before me. As soon as his sword dipped, I reversed direction and sliced upward. Instinctively, the man pulled his hips back to protect his groin and presented his chest to my blade. It sliced through clothing and skin, opening a deep gash from his stomach to his breastbone.

As I stepped back into line with the ensigns, another round of blaster bolts burned the men trying to work their way around our line. I said, “Don’t worry overmuch about the flanks, men. It seems our companions have that well in hand.”

The mob spread out before us and the men on the far ends edged their way forward in an attempt to fully encircle us all.

To either side of me, the young men held their line, showing just how effective a little discipline and teamwork can be against a mob. But that advantage would vanish as soon as our enemies flanked us.

“Fall back toward Jade and the ship’s boys, lads,” I ordered. “Take it steady and maintain discipline.”

Blades clashed and flashed and it seemed I was the only one able to score an effective hit. Then the ensign on the far left gave a cry and stumbled backward. His sword fell from fingers which refused to obey his commands and his free hand clapped over a deep cut in his shoulder. The man who cut him raised a fist and yelled in triumph—then a blaster bolt struck him in the forehead and he slowly toppled backward.

Behind me, Jade muttered, “Take that, you son of a—”

Jade’s next word was drowned out by screams from both sides of us. Looking to my left, I saw a massive ballista bolt impaling four men. More men lay bleeding and screaming along the bolt’s path. A quick glance to the right showed a similar scene. Then men before me cried out and pitched to the ground, crossbow quarrels sticking out of them.

Over the screams, I clearly heard Captain Jorson bellow, “Marines, away! Crossbowmen, reload and fire at will!”

The Tercel was here!

With a full-throated roar, the airship’s marine contingent swung down to attack. Each of them released their rope on the upswing. They flew at our enemies’ rear line, swords raised and teeth bared. Landing just outside of sword thrust range, the marines waded into the poorly trained men with obvious relish. Then another hail of crossbow quarrels rained down on the remnants of Thor’s army and more men cried and fell.

Jorson’s voice cut through the din of battle easily. “Any man who drops his sword and goes to his knees will not be harmed!”

Almost as one, the men before us released their weapons and dropped to the ground. Two men didn’t get the message and the marines cut them down. And then the fight was over.

Dropping Boost, I rushed to the wounded ensign and eased him down to the ground. He struggled gamely not to cry, but tears shone in his eyes.

“Captain, we need a doctor!” I called.

“He’s on his way, sir,” Jorson responded.

“Are you hurt, David?” Callan’s lilting voice carried over the after-battle noise as Jorson’s did.

“I’m fine, dear, thanks to Chris and the other ensigns.”

Chris?” Callan cried in wonder. “He’s alive?”

“I am Your Highness,” Chris responded. “Please forgive me if my actions caused you any distress!”

Then Dr. Mach bustled up and bent over the wounded ensign. Cutting away the young man’s shirt, Mach said jovially, “Ah, that’s going to leave quite the lovely scar, Ensign Parnel. The young ladies are going to be very impressed!”

Looking up, Mach quietly added, “I need to close that wound now. I’m afraid I’m going to need a couple of men to hold the lad still.”

Chris dropped to his knees next to his fellow ensign. “Just tell me what to do, sir.”

Perhaps remembering the somewhat queasy young ensign he’d seen at the start of it all, Mach eyed Chris critically. “Are you sure you’re up to it, Ensign?”

Chris returned the doctor’s gaze calmly. “Of course, sir.”

Mach gave a quick nod. “Yes, I believe you are.”

Minutes later, with the ensign’s wound tightly stitched, the doctor oversaw lifting the wounded young man up to the Tercel. Chris and I rose to feet and found ourselves confronted by the only two women present. Callan ran her eyes over me, no doubt assuring herself I really was unhurt. Jade skipped that step and grabbed Chris in a fierce hug.

As my wife wrapped her arms around me, she watched the teenagers with a smile. “I think they make a lovely couple, don’t you, darling?”

I nodded. “And they managed to find each other without any help from you or your mother.”

Just as I bent close to kiss Callan, a massive explosion shook the mountain behind us!

What happened to Thor’s base? Was Freya caught in the blast? Find out in Chapter 49, coming Monday!