View Full Version : Children in the dark

02-22-2013, 01:41 AM
This is my first story here. Apologies to typos or mistakes. Please be gentle! Special thanks to Tabby!

Logs crackle and give up orange sparks while I polish the gilding on my warhammer. Most other officers would pass the duty off to another Child, but not me. I find that it relaxes me after a long day of riding. The camp is a small and efficient village. 300 Children of the Light on the move; enough to make a difference, but not too many to be encumbered on the road. We are scheduled to meet Dain Bornhald and somebody named Ordieth, and at this pace, we might reach them a few days ahead of schedule, Light willing. There is a hush in the camp tonight. A sense of alertness. Our scouts never made it back this afternoon, so we can only assume the worst. Fires are kept to a minimum and all horses and weapons are to be kept at the ready. It is unlikely that there is a force out there in the night that can challenge us. Most likely, the scouts may have run into a band of brigands. The Mountains of Mist are an unlikely place for a sizeable force to hold up. Still, it helps to be ready. I like to be ready.

This is the first hiccup we have had since being dispatched personally by The Lord Captain Commander Himself, Pedron Niall, may the Light forever preserve him. I smile at that last part. If anybody ever needed preserving, it was Niall. He resembled something from a tanner's rack, all leather and bone, but he does have my respect. Underneath the frail old man lies a core of tempered steel. So here we are. Marching through these light-forsaken mountains and meeting up with Bornhald and this Ordieth in Andor, of all places. Two short horn blasts sound in the night. Somebody approaches. I scramble to my feet and Captain Corvis is there, helping me secure my armor. "What orders, Lieutenant Chisholm?" He asks, cinching down the leather buckles on my breastplate. "Form up, get archers back to the treeline, cavalry to our flanks and foot to the front!" I order, making my way to the front. Commands are issued and men fall into place. Three long, deep horn blasts sound in the darkness. Not our horns. Within moments The Children are in position, all men poised for battle, waiting for the enemy to present themselves.

There is a distant rumble, growing louder. The horses are agitated, fighting their riders, tossing heads and stamping hooves. I can feel the rumble through my boots. How many horse are coming at us? It's too hard to judge their numbers. The howls and shouts don't sound quite right... Men shout and scream and I can't believe what I'm seeing. Large, brutish shapes charge into the front ranks. Horrific beasts ripped from a mad gleeman's nightmare plow through our ranks. My feet feel rooted to the ground like a hundred year oak. I can only watch in horror while the huge Shadow Beasts decimate the Children in their paths. A clang of iron-on-steel and my arm is jolted. I am awakened from my stupor, instinctively parrying a wild blow from a vulture-faced nightmare. I answer it's blow with my hammer, which shatters it's beak with a sickening wet crunch. I feel it's blood spray my face and neck as it collapses in a convulsing, gurgling mass of feathers. So, they are flesh and blood, and they can be killed! "For the Light! Vanquish the shadow!" I cry, swinging my hammer above my head.

Screams and cries nearby get my attention. I run toward the tents and see something that turns my blood cold. An eyeless horror clad in black scales has just dispatched three Children. They writhe on the ground like dying lizards, faces already bloating and turning black as they contort. It turns it's eyeless gaze toward me and I feel my bowels turn to water. How can something without eyes gaze at me? Sudden recognition comes to me. I remember the description from the histories. Myrddraal. Half-man. Shade. And these other beasts are Trollocs. The Eyeless one smiles at me and my marrow freezes. I step back, not wanting to toss the dice. "Children! To me! To me!" I cry. My bretheren join me and their reaction to the Myrddraal is much the same as mine. "Kill the Dark One's pet!" I shout, hefting my spiked warhammer. Five Children rush in and two are immediately struck down. I circle behind the half-man and while it is distracted my hammer arcs down, crushing it's head like an egg, complete with yolk. Several nearby Trollocs shriek in agony and fall dead. Even with it's head ruined, the Myrddraal continues to thrash on the ground. More Children come to my rally cry and we move as a unit to try and pull more of our bretheren out of the fray.

There's less of them now, and much less of us as well. I order us into a defensive wedge, with bowmen in the center, spear and pike on the outside, and sword, axe and hammer in the middle. We manage to take down a few more Myrddraal as well, which in turn cuts down the number of Trollocs we need to face. Heavy bodies barrel into our formation and are disemboweled or hacked to pieces, but not before taking a few of us down as well. the ground is soggy with blood, and more than one of us has lost footing on entrails or dismembered limbs. Hours drag by and one beastly snout, beak, or muzzle is cut down and replaced by another. Hack, slash, dodge, repeat. My arms feel like lead and I can't spare a thought for anything other than keeping myself standing. The skies turn dark blue and then grey. The early morning light reveals a killing field where our camp was. The last remnants of the Trollocs look as weary as we do. "Form a line! Ready charge!" I order. It's time to end this. "For the Light!" I yell, throat raspy and raw. The others take up the cry and a deep horn bellows behind us. I'm picked up and tossed like a leaf in the wind. I fly toward the remaining knot of Trollocs. No! I want to go the other way! I slam into the ground and try to regain my feet, but am unable to. I look back and see a long thumb-thick shaft with black feather fletchings protruding over my shoulder. I feel the earth rumble under my chest and I close my eyes for a just a moment. I'm so tired.

I awake to the smells of breakfast and the sounds of camp. The morning is already warmer than it should be. Curse this light-forsaken heat! I open my eyes and try to roll out of bed. I'm greeted by a monstrous boar's face with mad, human eyes! The Trolloc chuckles at me, a deep grunting laugh. I look around and see my bretheren heaped in piles, in different stages of butchery. I look down at my ruined body, my arms and legs are but spurting stumps. I try to scream but cannot. Light help me!