[RP Episode] The War of Eight Princes


#101

Halatir briefly flicked his eyes towards the old monk, thoughts cross crossing in his mind, but soon they were gone, passing through the gates and down the mountains, feet tramping on the cold dirt and stone. Standing slightly higher than the Niirai soldiers around him, Halatir was afforded a better view of the marching route.


#102

The small army marched its way down the mountains and descended in to the rolling plains beyond the range. They had taken a different route down, one that did not pass the old Guayong Outpost Halatir was stationed at for merely two days. The fields here were lush green and vast, with small hills rising and declining as if they were waves of an ocean, with few scattered trees about the landscape. Wooden fences ran parallel to the road here and there, behind which, sheep could be seen grazing on the grass in the distance. The road was wide and paved with granite blocks, making it the perfect highway to move armies across, especially in such fine weather.

Nearing the Sima controlled town of Ya’an, they soon realised that they were not the only ones who thought so. As they passed a crossroads and turned to head to town, they noticed another army emerge from around the hills of the plains. Sima-Ai began barking orders as soon as it became apperant that they were too far away from Ya’an to make it in to the safety of its walls, and that they would need to brace for battle, and hold their ground here.

The troops swiftly broke marching stance and began reorganising in to a battle formation with shields and spears in front, a line of archers behind, swordsmen behind those, with cavalry at the sides. It was a defensive formation, aimed to give the archers as much range before the enemy reaches the shield wall, where the archers would fall back just before impact and let the front be reinforced with the swordsmen standing behind. The enemy was about equal in number than they were, but had more troops on horseback.

It was clear that their intention was to attack Ya’an. The enemy sported the black and red colours of Lun-Yiang, the pretender emperor.


#103

Having no spear, Halatir shifted into the rank of swordsmen, eyeing the archers thoughtfully. As he could hardly confiscate a bow however, the Helcelen warrior found himself in the third rank, Xi-Wan close at hand.


#104

‘‘Form ranks! Shoulder to shoulder! Step to it!’’ yelled their Zhengshi as he impatiently paced up and down the formation between lines of troops, as if searching for imperfections or weaknesses, ‘‘You know the drill, shields front, archers back, swords on standby!’’

Halatir had not received any real military equipment yet, so he was still fighting in his salvaged militia gear and robe, similarly to Xi-Wan, while the rest of the army wore otherwise sturdy leather, scaled, and plate armours, with varying weapons of much higher quality than what the militia was supplied with to sit on a rock. In only what seemed like three successive and simultaneous moves, the entire army turned and shifted in to position, the troops were tense, their faces grim. Sima-Ai was there, behind the shield wall on horseback overlooking the entire ordeal, shouting terse commands which the troops followed to the letter.

The Lun-Yiang heavy cavalry had gathered in the dead centre of the field, and began their charge, their infantry coming up behind them in a roar. Sima-Ai shifted his horse to fall back behind the lines of archers to not obstruct their view and line of fire from his horse, and yelled ‘‘Loose!’’

Arrows rained over the Sima shield wall and showered the field before it, many shots merely bounced off or were deflected by the cavalry’s armour, but those that did pierce it, or had hit a weak spot, were critical, if not fatal. Elves fell off of their horses when pierced, the horses tumbled in agony as an arrow would cut its way deep in to their muscle, hitting the ground with all their weight and armour, causing others who were fast behind them to run them over, and often times tumble to the ground themselves. The enemy had archers as well, and returned fire on the Sima army, showering it in its own hail of death. Most troops were shielded and could hide behind at least some cover, but the archers were completely exposed, and a number of them had died. The Sima archers fired yet one more volley before they fell back, the swordsmen ranks opening up just that little bit to let them slip through before closing together again, and swiftly stepping forth to fill their place, and just in time too.

The Lun heavy cavalry had reached the Sima wall of shields and spears, and slammed straight in to it. Naturally, the line broke under their weight and pressure, the sound of breaking shields, snapping spears, and the whaling of horses and elves alike filed the air. Horses collapsed dead with any surviving rider being butchered in seconds of landing behind the line of shields by the multitudes of swordsmen. Some of the heavy cavalry which remained at the broken front line remained however, and were soon to be reinforced by their foot soldiers, who charged and slammed in to the broken line of shields and spears. A savage close quarter melee followed as soldiers cut each other to pieces with limited elbow room.

The Lun light cavalry were meaning to flank the Sima army, but were occupied by Sima’s own cavalry units at the sides. The Sima archers meanwhile kept firing over the battlefield on to the Lun bowmen, who also kept firing back. Arrows flied back and forth across the sky in a merciless exchange as the battle unfolded in the middle, the width of it eventually extending outwards, allowing the melee combatants more manoeuvrability.


#105

The center of the battle was utter mayhem. Those horsemen still mounted careened through the morass of struggling infantry, smashing aside soldiers with random abandon. Arrows fell like rain, stapling men to the ground with their razor sharp barbs.

Halatir rushed forward with the reinforcing swordsmen, pushing past the shattered spear wall to come to grips with the enemy. Seizing a shield at the first opportunity, Halatir chopped his way forward, punching opponents with the shield and chopping away with his long sword, cramped though the fighting was. He rapidly began to carve a path through the enemy, blood spurting around him from slashed throats, lacerated tendons and headless corpses.


#106

Xi-Wan was a little behind Halatir, but surprisingly, the elf was handling himself pretty well. Skilfully swinging his Ji around, cutting down enemies left, right, and centre. He would never let anyone get too close to him, due to his lack of armour and advantage in range. Then a stray arrow came in from out of nowhere, and pierced his shoulder. Xi-Wan fell to the ground and cried out in pain.

Meanwhile, Sima-Ai was on a rampage, he had lost his horse in the battle and was swinging his curved sword around like a madman on foot, doing twirls, grabbing enemies closely before impaling them, shoving his opponents backwards to trip over bodies before gutting them in their moment of weakness. Then suddenly, the enemy general appeared in to view on his horse in the middle of the fighting, and had his eyes on Sima, who was on foot. They stared at each other for a moment, Sima’s face covered in blood, and the enemy general grinned. He turned his horse and began a charge towards Sima.


#107

As the roar of the battle enveloped him, Halatir’s ears were deafened. The screams of dead and dying elves washed through him, and he did not even notice Xi-Wan’s collapse, as his comrade was out of his vision.

He did notice the two generals dueling however, close at hand as they were. While the charging enemy rushed towards Sima, Halatir seized a spear from an impaled horse, flipped it into his right hand, and threw the weapon towards the oncoming enemy general.


#108

Sima had hunkered down, and was entirely ready to either deflect or dodge the incoming general, when a spear flied in from the side and hit the general’s horse, throwing the enemy leader across some distance before he tumbled over the ground. Getting up, he wiped the dirt from his mouth with the back of his hand, and grabbed his sword as Sima closed in. Now they were on equal ground.

As Halatir tracked where his thrown spear flied, another enemy spearman came from behind when he was not paying attention, and jabbed him in his thigh before he could react.


#109

The Helcelen warrior dropped to one knee with a roar of rage, sweeping his long blade at his new attacker. Expecting a killing blow, the surprised Yiang-warrior was slashed across the face. He dropped with a howl.

Bellowing with pain and rage, Halatir seized the fallen spearman’s weapon, used it as a crutch and hauled himself to his feet, leaning on the wooden shaft while wielding his sword with his other hand. He struggled towards the dueling generals.


#110

The two were already engaged, their weapons flashing in the sunlight, as if sparks flied off with each collision. They were entirely concentrated on only each other as the battle raged around them, as if it were not real, not dangerous, just a natural ambience. They spun around each other swiftly and gracefully, as if dancing. Eventually, with one final twirl, Sima-Ai plunged his sword backwards beneath his arm pits unexpectedly, catching the enemy general by surprise, and shoving his blade deep in to his stomach. The enemy general froze, he gawked in pain, and with one final tug from Sima, the blade pierced him through and through, coming out the other side. Pulling it out of the his opponent, Sima stepped away a bit as the Lun-Yiang general crashed to the ground and in to a pool of his own blood and guts.

Sima wiped his sweaty brow, and noticed Halatir slowly limping over. Coming back to the realisation that there was a battle going on around him still, he reached for his belt, and grabbed his battle horn. He blew in to it once and at length, ‘‘Regroup!!’’ he yelled. The Sima troops began falling back, backing away from their enemies, and closing the ranks in between each other yet again.

Meanwhile, the town of Ya’an responded to Sima’s horn, and the gates opened, making the way for another hundred horsemen to emerge from the city. With the enemy general dead, and their numbers shattered as were those of Sima, the Lun-Yiang forces saw the futility of a continued struggle here, and called their own retreat. The sound of horns filled the air as the battle drew to an end. Any enemy who was on foot who could not reach over their hill for cover and in to view of their own archers would get cut down by Sima’s cavalry, and those who would, would flee the field bruised, broken, and defeated.


#111

Sheathing his sword, Halatir limped back towards the line, leaning on the spear with one hand and maintaining a firm grip on his wound with the other. He watched the mopping up with a detached eye, the battle madness slowly fading from his clear eyes. The pain made him grit his teeth.


#112

The Sima soldiers celebrated their victory with a loud roar as the enemy fled the fields and back in to whatever hole they emerged from. The fields were being scoured for injured elves, Sima’s men being picked up and carried in to the city for medical attention, while those of Lun-Yiang were either killed or captured as prisoners of war. Sima was already deep in conversation with his prince in the middle of the corpse littered field when a young Sima soldier came up to Halatir’s side.

‘‘Hey there, your leg looks bad! Here, i’ll help you to town.’’ he told him, and offered him his shoulder and support.


#113

”Thanks.” said Halatir, now supporting himself on the spear and his comrade. The two began moving slowly towards the town outskirts, edging past piled bodies.


#114

The soldier escorted him in to town, through the front gates. As the army dragged itself in to the safety of Ya’an’s walls, the people gathered to welcome their defenders. ‘‘Sima! Sima! Sima!’’ echoed through out the densely populated town as he rode in on a new steed with the prince in tow. Sima raised his hand above his head in greeting, and forced a smile, before dropping his hand back down again. He was too tired for any form of fanfare, and headed straight for the town’s barracks for some rest. As the prince followed, he looked visibly upset about how they were cheering for Sima, but not for him.

Halatir’s escort dropped him off at the med house within the walled garrison. ‘‘Here you go.’’ he said to Halatir, ‘‘Hope its not as bad as it look, eh?’’ he nodded, and was off to his own business.


#115

Halatir nodded gratefully, and pulled himself inside. This was the fourth major wound he had suffered in the same leg, and the continual damage was beginning to add up, no matter how well he was patched up each time.

Inside was organized bedlam. Screaming and moaning soldiers filled the room, doctors rushing from one patient to the next. The floor was covered in blood, and a growing number of silent bodies were being hauled outside by the Niirai medics. Halatir looked around, and sat down wordlessly on a empty bunk, the sheets of which were soaked crimson.


#116

An elderly doctor, a male elf with a white goatee and a bald cap, noticed Halatir sit down on the already used and bloodied bed. ‘‘No! No, no, no! Don’t sit there.’’ he exclaimed and hurried over with quick short steps and began yanking the bloodied sheets from underneath Halatir, forcing him to stand up again, ‘‘It could be crawling with disease, rot, or what have you. Let me bring you a fresh one!’’


#117

Weary, Halatir stood up again, his eyes fluttering in and out of focus. He leaned on the bed post to hold himself upright.


#118

The doctor quickly brought him fresh sheets and a pillow, and motioned Halatir to lay down. The doctor unfolded a pair of glasses and put them on, ‘‘Now, what ails you, my friend? Oof, a nasty stab eh?’’ the doctor babbled on as he tended to him, ‘‘Not the first time this wound was opened, hm?’’ he nodded, ‘‘Yes, yes. And probably not the last time either.’’ he continued without even allowing Halatir to speak. Before he knew it, the old elf pounced back to his feet and dashed away to fetch some tweezers, clean rags, bandages, and a bottle of alcohol with which to dress the wound.


#119

Foreseeing that his wound was about to be cleaned, Halatir gritted his teeth, and motioned to the doctor. ”Thank you. Go ahead.”


#120

The doctor dragged out a small stool from under the bed, and sat himself down. Pushing his glasses higher up his nose, he got to work cleaning Halatir’s wound, disinfecting it, and wrapping it up in fresh bandages, tying them tightly to ease the bleeding.