Jarious pointed at the men vainly fighting the Elemental. “Shield them. I don’t care how you do it, but get those guards some sort of magic to make that Elemental’s fists hurt less. We need time, and those men can buy us a few minutes.” Jarious looked over his shoulder, hoping one of the wolfings would arrive son. He looked back at the mage who was already moving his hands in slow circular patterns to start the invocation needed to summon magical energy which he would then craft into a spell.
The shaman had stopped his interaction with the spirits and stared at Jarious, the look on his face was expectant.
Again, Jarious had no time to deal with fools. “Order one of your spirits to find the shaman Morrow and guide him here. He is probably already on his way. When Avorian’s messenger found me in my mother’s house, I sent the messenger to find my compatriots. With luck, some or all of them are not far. Find Morrow. Then find the mage Fovreh. Then the warriors Arrious, Torrain and Grawfn. In that order.”
Jarious turned back to the battle and shouted for two of the guardsmen who were slowed by injuries to form up a second row. Gral barked the orders in response, ensuring his guardsmen followed Jarious’ directions.
“Oh.” Jarious turned back to the shaman. “And once one of your spirits finds one of my men, then concentrate on finding reinforcements. The closest guard keep should be in the leper district.” Jarious paused to meet the man’s eyes, “Find my men first, only then will you raise the guard. Understand?”
“Yes commander.” The shaman turned away from Jarious and started another ritual. The shaman began to whisper into the air, his eyes darting to the invisible spirit-things that danced around his body. Without looking at the shaman, Jarious repeated his request, “Morrow. Fovreh. Grawfn. Arrious. Torrain. ”
Jarious ordered the two wounded guards in the back row to back off from the fight and stand guard next to the spellcasters. The number of able-bodied guards was steadily dwindling. Only six appeared to still be largely mobile. The heavily wounded, each bent over in their own personal agony while holding broken or fractured bones, moved to the back, still looking forward at the Elemental and trying to stay out of its way.
The defensive line was one more broken arm away from crumbling.
The Elemental surged forward. Gral barked orders and the Guards smartly shifted and hacked away at the looming earthen creature’s flanks. Still, the effort was giving too much ground too quickly. The Elemental was only about 300 meters from the first buildings and what would prove a much more difficult fight if it could start ransacking buildings. Jarious had fought smaller Elemental s before in a city environment, and it was a miserable experience, not the least of which was because of the high death count in each case. An Elemental of this size would be devastating to Junction. It had to be stopped.
First though, it had to be stopped from making it to Jarious’ position with the spellcasters. While closing in on the city, it had veered slightly and was now rumbling towards Jarious’ position.
“Mage? Shaman? Finish whatever spell you are working on, we need to move shortly.” Jarious evaluated the magical creature’s speed. “And I mean very shortly.” The spellcasters muttered affirmatives.
Just as Jarious was yanking the mage’s arm to force him to break concentration and move, he saw welcome movement from the corner of his eye. Arrious was running in at a full sprint. Once he realized the situation, he pushed himself even more, eyes forward, sweat covering his brow, and spittle trailing from the side of his mouth. As Arrious approached he placed his hand on his sword and adjusted his momentum to take him away from Jarious and towards the Elemental.
Jarious shoulders slumped ever so slightly in relief. He now had resources he knew he could use. As he pointed to a new spot on a small hillcock for the spellcasters to mount and continue their efforts, he placed his tongue against his upper lip and let out two quick and sharp whistles. Arrious immediately slowed down and looked at his brother and commander.
Wordlessly, Jarious shook his head no. Arrious pushed his sword back in its scabbard. Jarious then pointed to the horizon with his fore and pointing fingers. Arrious slowed to a stop, withdrew his bow, and feverishly worked to string it.
“Pour it on, fools!” Jarious yelled at the guards and spellcasters. Arrious was a steady hand with his bow. So steady, in fact, Jarious knew no better shot in all of the freedlands. He needed to buy Arrious the time to string his bow correctly and find a good position to fire from – both of which required concentration and a steady hand. Jarious needed to keep the Elemental as far away from Arrious to keep his older brother steady and calm for the next few seconds.
Another guard fell. Only three remained. They hadn’t broken as Jarious would have anticipated, but their strikes were now nothing to the Elemental . Only the spells and spirit strikes were slowing the monstrosity at all.
It was up to Arrious.
Jarious grabbed the mage’s chin and forcefully pointed to Arrious as he finished stringing his bow and stood up to begin the draw.
“That man there with the bow? Run to him now. Take his arrows and enchant them…” The mage opened his mouth to object, likely to ask what spell effect the arrows needed. “Horseass?!? It doesn’t matter,” Jarious preemptively interrupted. “Get to that man and cast any spell that will cling to those arrows. Now. Do it now!"
The mage ran as if his life depended on it.
In the few seconds it took for the mage to run to Arrious, more relief came. Hardscrabble men armed with a motley assortment of weapons came running from the city. Irregulars. They were all wearing red pieces of cloth tied around their right arms, the symbol of volunteers to the patrol. They were unseasoned fighters and would trip over themselves as they wildly swung their weapons. In a normal situation, Jarious would see them for what they were, a dangerous nuisance on the battlefield. In this case, Jarious planned to use them as essential fodder to buy time for Arrious to do the real damage.
“You men! Rally around Sergeant Gral!” Jarious ordered the new arrivals to Gral’s position. The city guard commander was on a knee, crucial steps away from the trajectory of the Elemental. He continued to command the remaining men, only two of which appeared uninjured. The dead and dying trailed behind the Elemental along a path of upturned soil and rock, serving as grim markers of the Elemental ’s path.
The volunteers blindly ran forward, obviously aware of the supreme danger but ignoring their senses. The Elemental’s fists swung in long, raking arcs as it systematically fought the new arrivals. Fist swing after fist swing saw more and more of the foolhardy volunteers crushed to death or desperately gasping for air as their chest collapsed. Still, they pushed on, motivated by Gral’s exhorts and the fear of what the Elemental would do to their homes. They stood firm as their friends died.
To be continued...