Sword Called Kitten Serial

Gordon A. Long

Published by

Airborn Press


   Home      Issue #19 Battle of Ghost Lake Pass Part I
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EPISODE 19

Battle of Ghost Lake Pass Part I

 

The troops strung out as they slithered up the trail in the softening snow, no matter how Lord Coelric’s voice and the Sword’s mental prompting prodded them.

You’d be better out in front. The stragglers…

…will catch up when we stop. Good idea. The young noble pushed ahead, catching up with the van of his troop easily.

There’s the trail junction. May I assume your rear guard will be able to see our steps in the snow?

Don’t make fun of these men. They are willing, if not very able.

Right you are, my Lord. Just around this corner is the ambush spot… see? What do you think of that?

Much better than what we had. We can thank your trapper friend for that.

And for me.

A wry twist rippled across Coelric’s mind. I’ll decide on whether to be thankful for you when this is all over. As they conversed, he was striding around the site and eyeing elevations and routes of access. Yes, yes, this will do very well.

The Sword detected a faraway jangle of minds. They’re coming, my Lord…

“How far? How many? Can you tell me any more?”

Easy, easy. No rush. They’re a candle away or more. Not many. Less than forty. All on foot. Hmm. They’re close enough I can feel their minds. Carrying… pikes. You’ve got a squad of pikemen coming down the trail.

“Oh, by the gods, how are we to handle pikemen?”

The Cat sent him the image of a snarl. With a great deal of ease, my Lord. We set up a shield wall at the bottom end of this gorge. When they slam into it, we plug them in with another wall behind at the top end. They won’t be able to turn their spears around, because it’s too narrow. Then we throw rocks on them from the top.

“Sounds workable. How much time do we have?”

Just enough to get the walls lined up in hiding, and one small trick.

“What’s that?”

Assign a few men who aren’t very big or strong to cut poles with crooks in the lower end. You know, a point where a branch comes out at an upward angle. They can crouch behind the shield wall and reach through to hook the enemies’ ankles and pull them down. Works like a charm. Complete havoc.

Also, shovel the snow away from where the shield wall is standing and pile it in front, so our men have good footing and the enemy has to climb over it in slippery conditions. Now, your men are catching up. Stop speaking aloud.

With the Sword’s help in finding and overcoming obstacles, the soldiers were soon in place.

Do I have time to talk to them?

Talk?

Yes, talk! These men have never been in battle before. They are farmers, tradesmen. Oh, certainly they’re determined to protect their homes and loved ones, but if I don’t fire them up, who knows what they’re going to do once the battle starts?

In that case, fire them up, and I’ll do what I can to help. I’ll let you know when the enemy is listening… oh, that’s better. I had no chance to tell you that when I am drawn from my sheath my powers become stronger.

The young lord raised his Sword, jumped up on the rocky ledge beside the trail and began a rather longwinded but decently orated speech of encouragement. While he spoke, the Sword pushed tendrils of feeling into the men’s minds, calming their fears, bolstering their courage. She noted a man glance to his younger companion, and an instant of shared emotion flashed between them. The Sword took that bonding, blended it with the relationships between the other men. It seemed to grow as she did so. As their leader spoke on, she wound the feelings of the men into a knot of courage and determination, and their strength grew.

She was so busy with this novel task and her success at it that she almost missed a note of jangling discord.

My Lord…

He paused in his speech, Sword waving.

I think it’s time. I hear them coming.

“Not a sound, now!” Lord Coelric leapt down behind the rock. The Sword held her men in thrall. There was an intense silence.

It wasn’t hard to hear the enemy slogging down the trail. They were making no attempt to be quiet, shouting and laughing at each other, complaining bitterly about the slush underfoot.

Now the Sword had trouble holding her men back. Like a pent up stream their ferocity surged against her bonds. Not yet. In a moment we will slay them. A moment more… see them squeeze between the rocks… a moment…

Now, my Lord!

Lord Coelric dropped his hand and the trumpet sounded, to be overwhelmed by the blast of sound from the throats of the Sword’s troops. The strongest soldiers stepped into the trail front and rear and locked their shields together, trapping the enemy. The others began to throw rocks and roll large boulders into the narrow canyon.

The pikemen tried to bring their spears to bear, but it was impossible. The frustrated Maridon officer screamed orders that couldn’t be heard or obeyed.

And the slaughter began. Soon the front of the enemy troop had so many dead that they could not approach the shield wall without stepping on them. Finally they made a charge over the bodies, but the shield wall just stepped back then charged again, pushing the stumbling soldiers back to trip on their own dead and wounded.

However, by backing up, the Inderjornese had moved to a wider front, and soon the Maridons were able to start working their way along the sides.

We’re needed down there.

“That we are.” Lord Coelric drew his Sword and leaped into the battle. At his arrival his troops cheered and rushed to him, and they began to push the Maridons back into the ambush spot.

Then, all in a moment, the battle changed. Suddenly the Maridons were giving ground rapidly, and the swords in the shield wall were meeting empty air.

The Sword scanned the battleground. Our other wall has failed. They have broken out the top end and are running away up the trail.

“Good. Trumpeter, sound Hold and Reform.”

The trumpeter belled his cheeks and blew, but there was no change. Men continued to stream away from them.

Lord Coelric sprinted through the mess of bodies on the canyon floor to the other end. The Maridons were all gone, now, but so were his men, chasing their enemies up the trail.

“In the names of all the gods, why did they do that?”

Raw recruits always do that, my Lord. I suppose we had best follow them.

“Yes, we must. If that enemy commander has more men, he’ll have an ambush set for us. Up at the top of the pass when we’re tired from the chase.”

They slogged at their best speed up the trail, passing dead bodies and living soldiers without the breath to keep running. Soon the terrain began to flatten.

Top of the pass, my Lord.

And the noise began. Screams and yells, the clash of weapons.

“Listen!”

You are correct. An ambush.

They rounded a corner to find five soldiers blocking their way. In a clearing up the trail their remaining troops were bundled into a tight group around a large pine with pikemen all around them, jabbing and throwing their weapons at will. The shield wall was not large enough to cover all Lord Coelric’s men because a mass of wounded filled the centre of their circle.

“We’ve got to do something!”

Getting to them would be our first priority.

The officer raised his Sword high and rushed at the soldiers. The Sword thrust fear against their dull minds, probing and prodding with hooked claws. Before the confused soldiers could even raise their spears Coelric was among them, slashing and stabbing. They gave in panic, and he dropped them as they ran.

“What now?”

I’d say an attack on the officer would be a start. Can’t miss him.

A tall noble with dark, curly hair was standing by, his unbloodied sword across his shoulder, urging his men on as if he were watching a bull baiting.

“I hope you have finished your fun, my Lord.”

The Maridon turned and sneered. “Don’t bother me yet. Once your men are vanquished, I’ll deal with you.” He turned to two guards nearby. “Take him prisoner.”

The two large men rushed forward, their swords raised to strike.

Left. He’s about to trip.

Sure enough, the leftmost man’s foot hit a patch of ice, and as he stumbled for balance, the Sword dove past his waving weapon and plunged deep. Withdrawing quickly, lord Coelric had time to parry the blow of the other man and drive him back with several quick jabs. The Sword fed power to the lord’s hand and quickness to his muscles, and she could feel the joy suffuse him.

This is fantastic. I could never fight like this before!

Let’s finish this one and get back to the important one. If we circle around…

Following her instructions her Hand herded his opponent around, and a sudden lunge sprawled him backwards on his commanding officer, dropping the man to his knees, the dead body of his guard bleeding over him. He started up with a curse, spilling the body aside.

The Sword took advantage of the lull to gather the souls of her troops into a cohesive force again, strengthening their waning energy, giving them fresh hope. She was all Cat, now, her claws slashing, the rage of her battle cry sending the enemy cowering in fear.

“Perhaps you would like to deal with me now?”

The Maridon lord glanced over his shoulder to where the Inderjornese were breaking out of their trap and the battle was deteriorating into a series of small scraps. Then he glared back at the bloody Sword threatening him. He charged.

They were at it thick and fast for a while. The other lord was more experienced and fresher, having done no fighting so far that day, but Coelric had the Cat feeding him skill and energy. The Cat could also feel a dogged determination in her Hand’s soul that was worth the strength of two men. It wasn’t long before the Maridon was slashing wildly at his opponent’s sword, having lost any control of the match. He drove the Inderjornese off with a desperate slam against his sword, then stood for a moment, gasping. His eyes glanced sideways. “Gregor!”

The Cat desperately scanned behind them but just at that moment the Maridon charged, and Lord Coelric was hard put to fend him off. There was nothing that either of them could do to stop the pike that drove into lord Coelric’ side.

With a desperate burst of energy from the Cat, Coelric lunged at his opponent, smashing his sword away and driving his own point under the chin of his adversary. The man dropped without a word. The move forward yanked the pike out, and Coelric spun, sword rising, to face the new foe.

The Cat arched her mind deep into her Hand’s body, squeezing muscles, closing blood vessels, but the wound was too wide and deep. There was no time for true Healing, and all she could do was hold on and watch the blood ooze out. Every time the swordsman lunged or struck there was a fresh spurt.

Better end this quickly, my Lord. You’re not going to last long.

Gritting his teeth, the lord made short work of the pikeman, ducking under the next jab and sliding into the safe area inside the point. A simple slash and the man fell.

They paused then to glance around.

The battle was winding down. Bodies lay still or groaning all over the small clearing. Two Inderjornese, one of whom had blood all over the side of his face, were about to down the last Maridon standing, but he made a desperate lunge at the end and took one of his opponents to the snow with him. Neither of them rose. The last Inderjornese staggered, raised his hand to his lord as if to say something, and fell.

“Is it over?”

I’m afraid so, my Lord.

“They all look…dead.”

Most of them are, and I’m not so sure about you.

“But…”

That is the way of it, my Lord.

“I suppose.”

The Hand stood swaying, held erect by the Power of his Sword, staring over the carnage.

Silence descended.

 

HERE THE BATTLE ENDS, BUT AN INTERESTING NEW FIGHT IS ABOUT TO BEGIN. See next month’s issue, “Battle of Ghost Lake Pass, Part II”

 

 

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