War cries echoed. People bellowed threats to the other side. Phillip hadn’t ever hurt anyone; he just wanted to do the right thing, and right now he wanted to defend the city. Arrows from the barbarians hit several soldiers on the ramparts. They gushed blood from their bodies. Screams ricocheted through the battlefield. The soldiers fired their arrows at the horde of barbarians. Enemies fell, injured or dead. A couple of soldiers turned to Phillip, injured, and pleading for help in their eyes.
“Let’s get them to healers,” Phillip said. He ran up to the first one and tried to drag him away from the battle. Phillip dragged him about ten feet before realizing that he was dead, just dead, and Phillip could barely drag him ten feet anyway.
Fighting is horrible, he thought. These people are dying. They won’t walk, or talk, or eat, or sleep, ever again. He grabbed one that was alive and helped him to walk back to the stairs and helped him down to the mages. Phillip spoke to a mage, Denitrin. The mage’s eyes glowed with fiery energy and he focused.
“Get him to medical,” Phillip said.
“Of course,” Denitrin said.
Phillip ran back towards the battle, huffing and puffing already as he ran up the stairs. He heard the multitude cacophony of battle – swords hitting swords, swords hitting flesh, arrows loosed, mages chanting, priests chanting prayers, buildings burning, people screaming, people yelling at people, orders distributed, and confused commoners begging for help.
Arrows flew near his body. Phillip ducked to dodge the shortbow fire and got out his longbow. He grabbed an arrow and loosed it. Misfire – the arrow flew off in the wrong direction. He reloaded. He fired again, more carefully this time. He hit a barbarian in the head, killing him.
Was that man more important than me? he thought. There was no chance to do a total review of that person’s innocence or guilt. More important – they fought hundreds of people. Some of them had to be wonderful people. Philip looked down at some of the barbarians chopping up civilians and taking their stuff and burning buildings and changed his mind quickly. He wanted to kill them and felt good about killing them. He had caught them, caught them cold. He began to enjoy this.
“They’re attacking to the south, too,” Sammy said. “Sending reinforcements there.”
“There? We need reinforcements here,” a knight said.
“No,” Sammy said.
“They outnumber us five to one,” a knight said.
“Two to one,” Sammy said. “We got this.”
Suddenly a little tiny ball of fire flew up towards the ramparts from the barbarians’ area outside the walls. Phillip dove down to the ground. The ball exploded into a huge fireball, doing damage to seven archers and setting them on fire. They ran around trying to put out the fire. One of them fell down onto the barbarians below, missing most of them but causing a panic.
Sammy lined up a shot at the mage who had fired the fireball. He shot an arrow from an arrow slit in an enclosed defensive rampart. The arrow hit the mage in the chest. He collapsed. Several barbarians panicked and began to tend to him, helping him with a potion immediately. Sammy readied a second arrow. The potion was about to be administered to him – but Sammy shot an arrow and hit the flask, shattering it before they could give it to the mage. The mage died.
The barbarians started to climb the walls. They had ropes and grappling hooks. Other barbarians broke through the gate and charged on the ground level causing a massive melee. Phillip tried to cut the rope, but the rope didn’t cut. Nothing cut the rope. He stabbed the rope again with his shortsword. Nothing. His shortsword didn’t seem to do anything.
“It’s enchanted,” Locke whispered in his ear. “You can’t cut the rope. Fight the barbarians coming up the rope.”
Phillip looked down the edge of the wall. He saw men, lots of them, climbing the wall quickly. He let loose an arrow and hit another one, making him fall to the ground, dying. Then the barbarians made it to the top of the wall and climbed onto the ramparts, starting to attack the archers. The archers drew their swords and various melee weapons and began to fight back, slashing with swords and hacking with axes.
Locke appeared literally from nowhere – a rogue’s trick to appear from invisibility. She backstabbed one barbarian, slit the throat of another, and then returned to the safety of the buildings near the castle walls from which she skulked and watched the battle.
A barbarian confronted Phillip with a bellow and a gigantic sword. A person, a blond man, with a beard and long hair and a greatsword, faced him, and he wanted to kill Phillip. He had red war paint in the pattern of paired swords on his face and a bear painted on his chest. He yelled a war cry, and the other barbarians repeated his war cry.
“You killed my friend!” he said to Phillip.
Phillip felt terror. He could hardly move with fear. This barbarian screamed. He barely blocked a huge killing blow. He told himself – try. Try your hardest. He tried.
Phillip swung low, attacking his stomach. The barbarian blocked and pushed Phillip back. Phillip fell off the ramparts. He fell backwards.
He was in the air, falling. His exact thought – how the hell had I lost my first battle? Terrible. Denitrin chanted, and Phillip bounced back to the ramparts. He was back on the walls of the castle. He turned to thank Denitrin but saw that someone had hit him with an arrow in the head, killing him. Phillip steadied himself and moved over to a more advantageous position. He attacked again, this time at the head, and the barbarian blocked again.
Phillip blocked halfway, knowing that his opponent would attack. His opponent attacked, too aggressively, and Phillip countered and stabbed him in the heart. Part of Phillip liked watching the barbarian’s life leave his eyes and body, watching the battlefield with so many dead bodies, so much blood, so many broken weapons, so much carnage. He looked for the next barbarian to kill. He turned and saw Sammy.
“How’s it going?” Sammy asked.
“Good,” Phillip said. “Only marginally terrified.”
“I killed two men,” Phillip said. “I can do this. I can kill.”
“No choice,” Sammy said. “I’m pretty good. I like archery from my cubbyhole.”
“I like melee,” Phillip said. “I have a sword. I need my sword. I don’t need my bow, not anymore.”
“Okay,” Sammy said. “Keep it in case someone flies or runs away from you.”
“Smart,” Phillip said. Phillip saw a pack of remaining barbarians on the ramparts. He and Sammy ran towards them. Phillip ran into the darkness of the archery tower for the rest of the battle, comforting in his darkness, feeling like he had found himself.
Gotey stood in the front row of the knights – worried at what he might become.
They held broadswords, mostly, and wore plate mail, and they defended a choke point where the opposing force’s superior numbers would be less of an advantage. The barbarians looked fearsome, countenances filled with anger and rage. They charged at Gotey and his line of knights, who stood there ready to take the charge.
Barbarians slammed into the front line of knights like a thunderclap. Gotey lost his footing and stumbled to one knee, kneeling in front of a huge man in front of him. Said man wielded a gargantuan greataxe with skill and ferocity. He swung at Gotey’s teammate. He took his head straight off. Gotey puked a little bit but held in the rest and continued. He supposed he should attack some barbarian. He swung at a barbarian with his longsword.
The barbarian angrily slammed it away from Gotey. Gotey’s sword went flying five feet to the left, on the ground, in between two fighting people. The barbarian grinned and looked eagerly at Gotey’s unprotected head. He swung his axe aggressively. Gotey charged at the barbarian, slamming into him during his backswing, slamming him into the ground. His spare dagger on his belt! Gotey stabbed him in the chest with a spare dagger, once, twice, three times. Then the barbarian closed his eyes and faded into death.
Gotey had killed a person, a person in full. That person had a full life, parents, parties, friends, gifts, goals, a whole life, thousands of days in which to adventure, joke around, find food, eat, drink, cavort, live a life. Gotey didn’t like killing one bit. He immediately regretted the battle and killing a person. He didn’t want to kill anyone else, but he didn’t want to run away either – he didn’t want to be accused of cowardice. He stood there, unwilling to move, in the midst of a terrible battle, watching wonderful people on both sides die tragic and terrible deaths.
Gotey grabbed his longsword from underneath the dead body of a knight. He looked around at the battlefield.
The battle occupied the entire city square at the entrance to the city of Lothen to the northwest. Several buildings burned down, and barbarians plundered other buildings. Women screamed at being murdered or burnt alive or having their money stolen and homes destroyed or captured.
Gotey had to stop this battle. Something had to break the barbarians. Something had to end this. Gotey analyzed the situation. He saw one figure wearing ceremonial markings on his hide armor. He was their leader. Gotey charged at him.
The barbarian, Szandon, smiled. “A noble knight, eh? Time to die.”
“Leave,” Gotey said. “This, not justified. It’s never justified. Murder – it’s never justified.”
“I’m here to take your stuff – and kill you,” Szandon said. He swung his axe at Gotey, who blocked.
“Oh,” Gotey said. “Murder, still wrong. Stealing, still wrong. Burning people to death, still wrong.” Gotey swung at Szandon’s leg but the man dodged out of the way.
“Murder!” Szandon said. “Murder is life. Killing is life. That’s me…that’s who I am.” Szandon stabbed at Gotey but missed.
Gotey decided to try to finish him off then and swung a huge swing at Szandon’s head. Szandon hit him in the head with the pommel of his axe, interrupting the attack and knocking Gotey onto the ground. Gotey looked around.
As they fought soldiers on both sides watched Gotey and Szandon fight. Gotey got up just in time to spin away from a potentially killing blow.
“They’re watching us,” Gotey said. “Watching me, standing up to you.” Gotey stabbed him in the gut, twisting the longsword, slowing Szandon down. He pulled the sword out.
Szandon stood there. “I’m in pain,” he said. “You stabbed me. I’ll enjoy killing someone like you.” He swung his axe at Gotey’s midsection, but Gotey blocked again.
“You could have been a great man, finding food and jobs for your people. Instead you chose to kill and maim and pillage and rape.”
“I didn’t actually do that last one,” Szandon said. “I have a wife, children, a family.”
“Oh,” Gotey said.
“I love them,” Szandon said.
Gotey chopped Szandon’s head off then.
Szandon died and his forces turned and ran away when he fell. They ran, grabbing whatever weapons or coin they could carry, and ran into the hills. Most of the knights let them run, with a couple shooting arrows at the running forces.
Gotey walked up to Sammy and Phillip. They hugged Gotey, who pushed them away.
“Great job!” Sammy said.
Phillip hugged them from the tower’s entrance. “We’re heroes,” Phillip said. “We killed them. We won. We saved the city.”