The battle had been going on for almost 10 hours. The enemy had attacked at dawn with the sun in the defender's eyes. The defenders of Outpost Tarsus and what remained of the 15th regiment drove the Goblins and Ogres back three times but with more casualties on each assault.

From the top of the watch tower, Captain Ernst Kessler could barely

see the rest of the camp through the smoke and the night's dark shroud.

What he did see was not cheerful: burning houses, dead and dying soldiers, and dark

wet stains on the snowy ground. As he watched, many tall, grim shapes began to appear at the edges of the darkness in the battlefield below.

"You see them?" Kessler said without turning to face the four men who

surrounded the catapult next to him.

"Aye, sir," answered the Color Sergeant "Down there."

"Fire!" Kessler barked. The Color Sergeant raised his hand, an artilleryman

yanked back the lever, and the weapon's great arm swung up, the small

boulder flew out of sight toward the humanoid shapes below. After a moment,

there were muffled cries of pain. Several of those shapes no longer stood.

Kessler grinned.

Even before the missile hit, the artillery crew began to crank down the

wheel that drew the catapult's arm. As they did this, their Color Sergeant moved

to stand beside Kessler. Both men scanned the shapes that still moved in the

camp below.

"How long before we can expect reinforcements?" the Color Sergeant asked, using

a deep, steady voice so as not to sound afraid.

"Soon," Kessler said. But not soon enough, he thought. The Outpost is too deep in the wild, and if he hadn't protested its construction, he might not have been assigned to command it. However, he maintained a hard, stern expression. He glanced toward a nearby tower, where a huge fire blazed at the top, and said, "The signal will reach the 5th Brigade in two hours. By then the whole border will be on alert."

The Color Sergeant's voice rose in pitch slightly, revealing his true concern." What about us?"

Kessler sighed, considering how to answer.

At last he said, "I've fought Goblins and Ogres before. They're a fierce bunch, but not

indestructible. Fire!" he screamed

Instinctively, the Color Sergeant raised his hand toward his crew, and another

boulder sailed into the darkness. More cries, another gap opened. This

time the Captain did not grin.

"50 to 100 Goblins in the woods, "Kessler said and twenty ogres in the camp That's a fair fight."

"I'd rather fight it out," the Color Sergeant said in a grim voice. Kessler turned, his eyes gleaming as he touched the hilt of his long sword. "Good. I hate sieges. You might just get your promotion when this is all done."

The Color Sergeant grunted, as if amused "And you, sir?"

"A field medal...or a funeral with full honors."

"Then have we saved the border?"

"Yeah." Kessler drew his razor-sharp blade from its sheath and studied the

Silvery edge. Then he turned a hard gaze on the Color Sergeant. "Now let's save

ourselves."

"Aye, sir."

As the Color Sergeant went back to his crew and ordered another shot, Kessler

looked down on the camp again. His brow was wet and his heart beat faster

than he would have liked-signs of tension before a battle. He knew that

such signs would disappear in the fury of combat. Then he pushed away such

thoughts and began to form an attack plan.

His hand clutched the grip of the sword so hard that the knuckles turned white, but he never noticed it.

Then he saw the Goblins lining up in battle line. "Here they come." He said to no one in general. The archers and spearmen manned the walls.

Good men, he thought. They'll hold for a while, but time was not on their side. Kessler scrambled down the ladder and dashed to the wall. He looked around at what remained of his command. There had been 200 sword strength when they had marched in. There were barely 80 left now.

Good men, Kessler thought. They'll hold for a while, but time is not on our side. He looked over the wall the Goblins were marching forward, banging the blades on their shields, building themselves up to where they would charge the walls. The Ogres were moving to the flanks hoping to come at them from both sides. Kessler pointed this to the Color Sergeant and his crew. The Color Sergeant waved back turning the catapult to cover the left flank. They have switch from stone boulders to balls of flaming pitch.

Grimly thinking "That will slow them down." Then there was silence. The Goblins and Ogres stopped and looked at the battered walls of the outpost for a long few minutes.

Kessler raised his sword, "Here they come, Lads" he said.

Then an unearthly shriek from the Goblin's ranks. They charged toward the walls.

"Wait for it!" Kessler shouted. The Goblins closed on the walls.

"Wait!" Kessler said. The enemy was 20 yards away. The Ogres charged from the left flank they had almost reached the east wall, when Kessler's sword arm dropped down.

"Fire!" he shouted. The battle was joined.

The End