“You still have that habit, Commander?” Jabe, a younger officer asked, taking his place beside Greiver.
A smile crept across Grievers face, making him suddenly aware of stubble. A nice shave would be welcome after this fight. “It’s important to keep your equipment in top shape, Jabe,” Griever said, running his armored hand through his long red hair. Unlike most of his soldiers who had long hair, Grievers always fell back without a tie. The way the red hair spiked slightly all the way down to his back gave more power to his Bloodfist name, too.
Griever nodded at the man and stood. Pulling out a spyglass, he checked for the signal torches further down the pass. It should be another hour, but he liked to be sure.
Plus, Griever felt his impatience welling up inside him. He needed battle like a starving man needed food right now. How long had it been since the last battle? Two months? And that one only lasted a day! Bah, it was hardly a fight too! More like a massacre and those were never fun. It left a bitter taste in your mouth that took at least three women to fix.
The torch was lit and swung once. Finally, it was time to fight! He could almost feel the thrill of battle pouring out of him already. Maybe this would be enough to last him for a while. Griever could laugh at how excited he-
The torch swung once more. Retreat? Then it swung again, and fourth time before being put out. No!
Griever jerked around to his men, dropping the spyglass and pulling his sword and shield. “Men! Ambush! Drop the bows! To arms,” Griever shouted, straining his voice as much as he possibly could. “To arms, you miserable mongrels!”
Men jumped to obey, obviously not thinking of questioning their commanding officer. Soon, the sounds of battle that spread from the other side of Griever’s force remedied any doubts they could have had. Griever felt himself becoming excited, but beat the feeling down. He could feel the thrill when they started winning!
What was going on though?
Griever ran through the dense forest that topped the cliff, not caring when branches cut at his face and bare arm. He knew his men’s shouts, down to the last one, and the victorious shouts he heard through the brush was not the shouts of the White Boars. In another moment, Griever saw why.
It was a massacre.
One hundred and fifty men had been left here to be a last – and hopefully unneeded – line of defense. Of those, Griever thought he saw about fifty. The enemy was unmistakably Abysman, too. How had this happened!?
An Abysman soldier ran to attack Griever, having broken through the White Boars dwindling line. A poor choice of a target, to be honest. The Bloodfist was both angry and alert, a deadly combination, and this ‘soldier’ looked barely past his teens underneath the cover of the blue Abysman tabard. He swung high, showing at least some skill with his sword. Griever, however, wasn’t in a position to admire.
Griever backhanded the Abysman soldier’s blade with his gauntleted sword arm and ran the edge of his shield under the youth’s arm, sinking deep in the flesh. While his enemy tried to recover, Griever jammed the spiked butt of his sword into an eye socket. The youth cried in pain and dropped his sword. Stupid move, even with a missing eye. Griever drove his sword home into the soldier’s face and walked onward.
“Men! Fall back!” Griever shouted to the remnants of his front line. “Join the others and make for the cliff! Fall back over the cliff!” It was a long shot, but they could make it down the slope if they tried. And Abysman didn’t take chances with terrain. Unless they had bows, – which Griever hoped against all odds they didn’t – he might be able to get his men through this. Dammit, though! He hated retreating!
The Abysman army pushed as they fled, like Griever knew they would. Every step was filled with battle, for Griever as well. They had identified him as the Bloodfist and his shouts made him a commanding officer as well. It was like putting a bright red mark on him that said ‘kill me!’ Made watching the battle a damn chore, but Griever managed.
As they approached the cliff, the other men had joined his thirty remaining Boars, but to no avail. It was painfully obvious Abysma had brought at least a thousand soldiers here. That meant the Left Tusk and Captain Boar’s group were facing similar odds. Dammit all to hell! But, Griever had to focus on his men right now.
“Down the cliff, boys! I don’t care if you roll, just move it!” Griever gutted a Abysman soldier as he backed away from the edge of the forest and toward the steep slope over the Devil’s Palm. As he fought to hold back the forces with his best soldiers, Griever couldn’t help but think that the place was named that because he and his men would probably die here.
One word made death a truth.