Author's Note 12/30/2014: Hey guys, really quick little update to let any and all new readers know that this piece is in the process of being redrafted. I hope that this does not annoy any of you when you are reading it and the style swaps suddenly (or even the plot) This chapter should be up to scratch by the time this is posted, and I will keep all of you updated as the chapters become edited in the same way. Thanks for your patience, I hope you enjoy the story!
Resilience: Blood and Fortitude
Chapter 1: The Siege of Fortocus.
Darrom stood with his short spear clasped in one hand and his shield strapped to his other. A plain, though sharp shortsword hung from the worn leather belt at his waist. He looked around the muddy courtyard at the army garrison of Fortocus. They all (like him) had a four foot long spear, a simple - though well-made - shortsword, light steel armour supplemented with boiled leather, and a long blood red cotton cape that hung from their shoulders and was draped down their backs touching the floor. In previous weeks, the courtyard had been roaring with sound. Men had been screaming terrible war-cries at the at their straw enemies (though the straw figures seemed unimpressed and unflapped by the racket), there had been a glamour of venders peddling wares, all shouting to be heard. There had been the clatter and bustle of the smithy, making and replacing spearheads and swords. Over time, the city grew quieter and quieter. The venders began to leave, along with all the citizens, the soldiers had their training hours reduced so as to help in all other areas of preparation for the coming attack. Darrom had been tasked with carrying wooden components to the wall in order to repair the catapults and other siege equipment there. He had been spared the worst of the heavy labor due to his increased training - he was selected from the recruits to be a Sergeant of the 15th Dornic Defence Battalion. He commanded twenty-five soldiers who had never tasted battle before. It is therefore safe to say that he did not have high expectations for them, though, if truth be told, he had even less faith in his own ability to lead them.
They were to defend the city that had only been his home for a mere six months. The city of Fortocus sat on the north-western coast of The Kingdom of The Dorn, and was under siege by the Western Rakeen Empire, who had crossed the thin Isthmus of Blood – a spit of land that connecting the two countries, so named for the sheer volume of blood that had been spilt along its five mile length. It was the only way to assault the Dorn Fortocus was in the direct path of the invaders. It stood tall and defiant; the Guardian of The Dorn, and was located in a strategically superb position. Surrounded on two sides by the great ocean, and with The Dorn's heartland to its back, there was only one way to attack Fortocus: across the Isthmus. In order reach The Dorn itself, invaders had to somehow defeat the fifty-foot high wall that faced the Rakeen Empire and stretched across the mile wide Isthmus.
"Darrom! What are you doing?" A coarse, gritty voice barked at him. "Get into position you lazy little swine!" Darrom sighed angrily. That unmistakable voice belonged to Darrom's least favourite man alive. Unfortunately, he was also Darrom's immediate superior - Captain Harlodge. Darrom returned to his post at the gate and resumed his distracted worrying.
A cry of "Attention!" wrestled Darrom from his fretting. He looked up at the wall, and a man who appeared to be in his mid to late twenties (only a few years older than he was) stood atop the wall directly above the large, reinforced wooden gate that was in front of Darrom and his men. The man had curly golden hair that reached to his shoulders, a pronounced jaw, piercing blue eyes and an expression of curt defiance on his face. It was the renowned General Deneé who had been able to drive the Rakeen Empire back hundreds of leagues to the huge city of Rakium'ka, the capitol city of the Western quarter of the Empire. The strategies he had employed were radically new and brilliantly effective. In order to counter The Dorn's grand army, the Rakeen Empire had gathered together the largest army ever seen and put the terrifying General Markaresh at its head. Deneé had retreated to Fortocus and called together a large militia from surrounding areas. Darrom and the 15th Battalion were part of this militia. The General began speaking in a clear, calm voice.
"My friends, today we are defending the city of Fortocus, as you all know. However, we are also protecting our loved ones. Our wives, children, sisters, mothers and often fathers." Deneé's voice rose slightly, " We are here to stop Markaresh and his army from getting to our homes and villages. We are stopping them from reaching the cities and towns."
His voice reached what can only be described as a call, somewhere between talking and shouting. "We stand here, defiant and proud defending our homeland!" Now he was definitely shouting, "We will defend the liberty of our nation! We will defend the liberty of our families! We will defend our beloved land, its cities - its towns and its fields! WE WILL DIE BEFORE WE LET ANYONE DESTROY IT!" The great general's voice dropped back to the calm tone of the start of his speech, though this time, it was laced with palpable sadness. "We may not take victory. We may all perish today" now his voice rose again "But would that not be an excellent way to die? I would happily trade my life for The Dorn. I would happily die for my king. I would happily sacrifice myself for my troops. I would die to save you. You ordinary warriors are as important as I am. You fight as bravely as I do. You sacrifice yourselves as readily as I do. You are my equals."
He drew his identical dual shortswords, and bellowed, "Our sacrifices hold us together in unbreakable bonds of camaraderie and companionship! Go now in the knowledge that the Rakeen troops do not have bonds as we do! Go now in the knowledge that I know you'll do the Red Cloak proud!" The Red Cloak was the symbol of the Dornic Royal Army. Every soldier had one. General Deneé stepped back once, then spun on his heel, sending his own scarlet cloak swirling around him. Darrom stood like a statue, momentarily stunned by the power of the diminutive looking general's words. He composed himself, and turned to his men; they all appeared stunned by the words of the general.
He raised his right sword, facing away from the men in the courtyard, paused for a few moments before slicing it downwards. Arrows sang from the bows of the archers both atop the wall and behind it. They fired at least five volleys before Darrom snapped out of his daze.
"C'mon lads, into battle positions the lot of you!" the looks on their faces told Darrom that they thought that he was being pedantic. The Rakeen battering ram was not even at the gates yet. However, his judgement was sound because just as soon as the men were in position, a terrific explosion shattered the silence. The Gate had been struck by a direct hit from a catapult, and it exploded into a million pieces of various sizes. One of the larger pieces flew through the air straight at Captain Harlodge. He examined it clinically, then when it was no more than a meter from his folded face; he raised his shortsword and knocked the offending piece of wood aside before laughing and saying, "It'll take more than that to kill this old bugger, Let's get the bastards!". The entire Battalion roared their approval, but were silenced when they saw a purple mass of men form up outside the gates.
There was a few seconds of silence, as the fragments of wood settled, than an ear-splitting bellow as the Rakeen charged through the splintered remains of the gate. Darrom felt the boiling flood of fear rising through his body from his feet through his chest to his face, and back again. The purple sea of turbaned Rakeen swordsmen crashed against the unprepared spear militia of the city's defensive troops. The line buckled…then broke.
Darrom and his men were well behind the front line, on the right flank of the troops, and were not hit as hard as those in the centre. He was therefore in a position to see that the right flank of the enemy was almost completely undefended. He roared the old war cry "For The Dorn! FOR JUSTICE!" to his men and led the charge up the unguarded flank to the also unguarded rear of the enemy.
Meanwhile, atop the wall, a man stood defiantly staring out over the Isthmus that snaked away before him. He wore a light cuirass over a thin chainmail shirt. His cuirass fell to just above his knees allowing for quick and easy movement. He had a small chainmail shin guard, and light iron boots. At his waist, from a simple belt hung two unremarkable swords. Tucked under one arm was a metal-inlaid leather helmet with a long red plume to signify the fact that the man was of high rank; an officer. The man was Charles Deneé, the so-called Hammer of the Rakeen.
As he looked out over the Isthmus, he saw the sea of purple before him surge forward changing instantly from an ordered army with clear rank and file, to a disorganised mob of charging men. At regular intervals along this mass of enemies, tall wooden siege towers crept up to the walls. Deneé sighed quietly, drew his twin swords and cried,
"Battle positions men! Prepare for assault. For The Dorn, FOR JUSTICE!"
The towers hit the wall with a titanic crash. A second, less noisy, though more worrying, crash signified the ramps dropping onto the ramparts. A long pause followed this. Only the sound of the struggle taking place below them at the gate could be heard. Then suddenly, a wave of purple-cladded troops leapt down, off the ramp, wielding crude, simple swords, and wearing only a large purple cotton overcoat for armour. Atop their heads were the flimsiest of helmets, and a few of them had half-rotten wooden shields strapped to one arm. Deneé's men, on the contrary, had fine steel armour breastplates, warm cotton jerkins, and good bronze covered shields, each bearing an insignia of the soldier's squad. These were the remains of the seasoned warriors he had taken to the very gates of Rakium'ka. These battle-hardened men carried a four-foot spear, and a simple, but well-made shortsword as well as a fine iron shield.
Deneé took a step forward, and as the first Rakeen footsoldier raised his crude little sword. The general spun on one heel, his cape whirling about him, and delivered a smooth roundhouse kick to the man's side. His enemy staggered back, right up to the edge of the wall. Deneé took the initiative and bashed the man's face with the pommel of both of his swords. The man fell from the high wall screaming. Deneé did not tarry to hear the wet crunch the man made as he hit the ground, instead, he had raised his left-hand sword to block a sloppy attack to his flank, while simultaneously slashing around his body in a horizontal sweep with his right-handed sword. This strike caught the man full in the chest and delivered him a swift death. Deneé heard a cry of rage from behind him, and spun to the left. Instead of bringing his swords to bear halfway through the spin, he completed it and allowed his foe's momentum to carry him past Deneé, at which point his swords flashed through his opponent's back. The general turned to face his new opponents.
The General's next attacker would prove more of a challenge than the last few. He was clearly an officer. His armour was a cut above the rest of the rank and file, in that it was iron, as opposed to the thick cloth 'armour' that the Rakeen mob wore. Even so, it appeared to be ill-fitting and cumbersome. It showed signs of neglect - it was tinged with rust and the straps were wearing thin. His two-handed curved sword was faring little better. Contempt swelled in Deneé's stomach – if this person couldn't even take care of his arms and armour, he deserved to have them fail on him.
The man leap at him, appearing to wrong-foot the general by feinting backwards to dodge a strike to his left. The Rakeen officer nimbly stepped back and slashed right at Deneé's blond head. He had forgotten about the second sword of the general which came whipping up to block the fierce strike. However, he knew that the thin sword would shatter if hit by a full power attack to its side by the large two-handed blade. Therefore, he danced backwards, using his shortsword to simply deflect the attack harmlessly past him. His enemy's eyes widened slightly, but he pressed onwards, furiously attacking with heavy blows.
Deneé saw that there was little finesse in the fighting style of the brutish man which let him plan his attack. He dodged a fearsome overhead attack, simultaneously nicking at the shoulder strap of the armour his foe wore. The two-handed sword leapt upwards as his breastplate fell open to block the attack to his shoulder…that never came. Deneé's other sword capitalised on the opening and plunged into his gut.
Darrom felt fire pumping through his veins and as his first opponent drew his sabre up above his head, Darrom ducked low and stabbed the man with his four-foot spear. Darrom's aim was true, and the man fell gurgling and guttering as he struggled to breathe through his perforated windpipe. Darrom did not wait to see his opponent die; instead he rose from the duck and continued his advance.
Before Darrom and the men reached the rear of the enemy, two more enemies had fallen to Darrom's skill. One lay with a spear through his gut, and another lay next to his own head. When they reached the Rakeen troops' rear, Darrom wheeled his warriors around, and charged the enemy's rear flank.
Darrom whirled his blade above his head, readjusted his undecorated shield so that it was more comfortably placed. He charged at the nearest Rakeen warrior and cracked the man over the head with his shield with all his strength. His enemy lay motionless on the floor, face no longer distinguishable. He proceeded to kill several more enemies before they even realised they were being attacked from behind.
Only then did he notice that they were completely behind the enemy lines.
"Sergeant! Look behind us!" Darrom did so and was confronted by a horrifying sight, the Rakeen had sent in reinforcements, and they were all armored and carrying fine steel swords. These were the professionals of the army. Even more terrifying was the man who led them. A seven-foot tall shadow glided over the battlefield dressed in a darkest black cloak and ebony armour. A dual-sided sabre was grasped negligently by a tan-brown hand. " We have to keep fighting! We must break through the enemies in front of us! We stand no chance against these reinforcements!" Darrom bellowed over the racket of battle.
Darrom's men battled with greater vim, but the Shadow and his purple-clad troops were closing fast. When it was inevitable that they were going to be surrounded, Darrom ordered his men to bunch up into a solid circle. It was, however, a pitiful last stand. Victory was impossible, and yet, there was no choice but to fight on - their enemies were notorious for their grisly tendency to take few prisoners. Darrom swiped furiously at the Rakeen reinforcements, and one by one they fell to him. And yet, more and more appeared, and Darrom was exhausted, as were his men. His sword slowed with the aching of his muscles, and his vision was impaired by sweat and blood.
It was then that the Shadow struck, his dual-ended sabre flashing through the air cutting through two of Darrom's men before hitting the cold uncompromising steel of Darrom's own blade. The man leapt back and then did something Darrom was not expecting, he bowed his head in apparent respect. Not quite knowing why, Darrom did the same. The towering man then swept viciously at Darrom's unguarded neck forcing him to duck. Darrom struck back with a shoulder barge that nearly knocked his foe over. The Shadow was too agile for that though, and regained his balance half a second later, and cracked the handle of his murderous weapon across Darrom's vulnerable forehead, knocking Darrom's helmet clean off, and dazing him. The opportunistic warrior took this chance to knock Darrom's weapon aside, then slap the flat of his blade against Darrom's wrist sending the loyal sword clattering across the paved ground. He smiled coldly and playfully flicked his sword at Darrom. Frantically, Darrom blocked strike after strike with his shield, until the Shadow expertly sliced the leather strap, severing his last chance of fighting from him, and drawing blood in the process.
Captain Harlodge was suddenly there, charging shield-first into the black-cloaked general. Markaresh was knocked off his feet. For a moment it looked like he was going to hit the floor on his back, but he gracefully somersaulted backwards and landed on his feet with cat-like precision. Markaresh sliced viciously at Harlodge's knees, but the tough old man bashed the dual-ended blade out of the way almost negligently with his sword while simultaneously bringing his shield up and cracking the tall man across the chin and nose drawing blood in both places. Markaresh stepped back, touched one hand to his now broken nose, grasped the nose and twisted his hand re-setting the bone with a sickening crunch. He grunted, but showed no other sign of pain.
He flew at Harlodge, eyes flashing with a cold anger, blade spinning like a dual-ended beam of silver light. Darrom's captain was swiftly losing ground. Darrom leapt up, discarded his damaged shield and picked up his sword to hold it in a fierce two-handed grip. He ran to his captain's aid and stood beside Harlodge, both warriors facing the epitome of war that was Markaresh. Harlodge charged forward while Darrom flanked the shadowy Markaresh and struck at his chest. The general took a step back, as Darrom and Harlodge advanced again. This time however, the general spun, lashing out at Harlodge and Darrom at the same time, forcing them to stop attacking. He then launched into a series of half-spins each in a different direction, striking high and low before he finished off with a flick of his wrist that somehow sent both Darrom and Harlodge's weapons clattering to the paved floor. Without pausing for breath the Rakeen general swept at Harlodge's legs. Harlodge moved his shield to block, but was an instant too late. The grizzled old captain shrieked in pain and fell to the ground as both of his legs were severed at the knees.
The uncompromising man then drew up his weapon in preparation to swipe Darrom's head from his shoulders when a figure flashed past Darrom and stood before the Shadow, twin blades both pointed at his foe's chest. This time, Darrom's saviour was the General Deneé. Darrom ran to Harlodge and removed both of their belts to tie around the bleeding stumps that remained of the man's legs.
"Markaresh, can't say I'm happy to see you again, in fact, I feel slightly nauseous." The great commander said to Darrom's previous opponent "Good" the shadow that was General Markaresh said, in an over-ripe voice that reeked of coldness, "That will only make you easier to slay, now come, spawn of The Dorn, lay on!"
Deneé held his ground, not moving an inch. Growing increasingly impatient, Markaresh flourished his twin sabre and then flicked it at Deneé. Deneé parried the light blow with ease, so the Rakeen General launched into a flurry of blows: horizontal, vertical, and diagonal, growing increasingly heavy, the attacks on Deneé got to a stage of open brutality, yet the indomitable man stepped back only a few feet before the onslaught.
Markaresh's movements grew more and more sluggish, his attacks grew weaker, and sweat beaded on his forehead and his face was tight, strained even. Deneé took this advantage, and raised one sword to slash downward while simultaneously striking his other sword upwards in such a way that he carved an invisible X in the air in front of him. Markaresh leapt back, and then spun, his jet-black cloak swirling around him. Deneé charged forward, one sword stabbing at Markaresh's groin, and the other blocking the desperate attack to his flank. Once again Markaresh spun out of danger, however the strain on his face told Darrom that the man did not have much left in him.
Deneé on the other hand showed no signs of tiredness, just a grim determination, and a flinty glare. Darrom's general swiped and slashed faster, and faster, and Markaresh quailed under such an assault. Faster, and faster still Deneé's twin blades spun, now just blurred flashes of light, his body thrashing around with a precision that amazed Darrom, until Markaresh was forced to turn and run in full flight from this spinning torrent of death.
As soon as Markaresh and his troops were out of sight (they fell back with their general to re-group, and re-form their ranks), Deneé sagged visibly. The Dorn's finest general's shoulders haunched, his back bent so that he looked like an old man who should be leaning on a cane. In short, the man was exhausted. Sweat now beaded on his forehead and arms, and he gasped desperately for air.
"You all right, Boy?" he asked Darrom haggardly, "Yes sir, thank you sir" Darrom replied.
"What's your name and rank, Boy?" Darrom's saviour asked, not unkindly, "Sergeant Darrom Vestari, sir." Darrom replied. "Not any more it isn't, you will now take Captain Harlodge's place. Congratulations, Captain Darrom. Now begin the retreat before Markaresh counterattacks! Get as many of the wounded as you can. We leave in three minutes." Deneé ordered. " The wall has fallen, begin the retreat. Do not be slow, do not scatter, we shall lose no more lives today as stragglers. Darrom, can you carry the captain?"
"Not alone sir, he must weigh as much as I do."
"Very well, I shall help you until we can get him a couple of stout stick and some bandages."
Author's Note: Welcome to my first story on FictionPress. I would like to begin by thanking you for even looking at this story! Secondly, I would like to extend my thanks to my reviewers therefore: thank you, thank you, thank you, thanks, thanks, thanks... Can you guess that I like reviews just a little? That said, I often return reviews, particularly if I am asked to.
I will post a new chapter every second Sunday, but you will have to be understanding as I have a busy life and cannot post all the time! Also, for the next little while I will be redrafting so this may not happen.
Notes about the actual story include: Chapter 8 is a pronunciation page and I would recommend having it open in a different tab/window as many of the words do not sound like they read because I am using a hefty amount of old styled grammar. Also, if you want to see the map for the story, go onto Deviant art and search for Darrom. (Mine's the one with the map...I hope that that last bit was unnecessary though).This will give you more of a concept of the various sizes of the countries and distances between important sites allowing you to have a greater understanding of the distances the characters travel (I am not much of a person to write about distances traveled).
Now the serious stuff:Copyright 8/25/2012 - present by Ross Steven. You are not entitled to post this story anywhere nor publish it. All rights remain with me as the author. You may ask me if you can post it on a website, but don't get your hopes up and know that I will be expecting it to have my name across it and for it to remain within my copyright. I have decided to get all that out of the way now so I don't have to do so later!
Other than that, I hope you enjoy the story!