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|This is to be the first installment in a series of stories about Soma.||
Guarda Soma Terreth, foremost among the Silver Knights, strode into the chamber wrapped in anger like a cloak. Lesser knights quailed as she approached, her foul mood apparent even on her stony face, her silver boots rapping out a strict, harsh beat on the marble floor. The only ones in the chamber unmoved by her displeasure were the Lords of Order, sitting at the far end of the chamber.
"Guarda Terreth", the disdain for her title was evident in the Lord of Order's voice, "you show a disturbing
lack of decorum. I hope you have not disturbed us for something as trivial as, say, where your order is to
"Lord Abelain", she began, each word measured in carefully controlled fury, "my knights are too few to stand against the hordes of Komon-Rak. We will be slaughtered."
"Surely, Guarda Terreth", another Lord of Order joined in, "you do not presume to second-guess the wisdom of our decisions?"
"Of course not, Lord Felsteir. I merely presume to point out the obvious disadvantage."
"You presume much, Guarda!" Lord Abelain cut in. "Your knights will go where they have been assigned, and you with them, or you shall not be known as knights any longer, but craven cowards!" Soma's eyes were solid silver, lacking both pupil and iris, but they still managed to radiate menace. Even Lord Abelain shrank somewhat in his seat. Soma spoke, her voice low, her words even, almost threatening.
"As my Lords command." She turned and strode back through the chamber, ignoring the astonished stares of the knights of other orders gathered there. Lord Abelain was almost trembling with rage at the calculated insult Soma had delivered. She had dared to speak so to him, a Lord of Order, and then to turn her back on the Lords of Order without being dismissed! Well, thought Abelain, she is going to get what she deserves. That comforted him a little, but he still gripped the side of his chair tightly to hide his shaking hands. How dare she threaten him!
Soma walked back to her order's barracks. Pale moonlight shone off of her silver armour, her yellow cloak flapped gently behind her. Her rage had faded since she left the chambers of the Lords of Order, to be replaced by a dull anger. She was a pragmatic person, and dangerous times were ahead. She would let herself be angry later. Now, she needed above all to be calm and think with a clear head. If she stepped wrong now, her and the order of the Silver Knights will have seen the last of their days before long.
Soma entered the barracks. The Silver Knights were not a large order, so they did not have barracks as
large or as fine as some other orders, but they were clean and well-kept. At this time of night only two
knights remained on guard. Those that had families were with them, and those that did not were enjoying
themselves in the local taverns.
"Kaun, Thadra." Soma addressed the knights. "Send a summons. All my knights are to be here in the morning. We have an assignment. I will take your guard while you do this." The knight known as Thadra began to open his mouth, but took one look at Soma's silver gaze and thought better of it.
"Yes Guarda." The two went off into the night, looking for their comrades. Soma stood at guard, staring into the night, schemes and plans spinning around in her head. She was beginning to get desperate. She could see no way to preserve the lives of her knights and the honour of her order. By the time Kaun and Thadra had returned, she was no closer to a solution. She acknowledged their salutes wordlessly, and retired to her quarters. She stripped off her armour. Soma was as tall as any of her knights, and powerfully built. Rock-hard muscle flexed beneath her underclothes as she lay on the bunk, staring at the ceiling, her head in turmoil. She was, however, a soldier, and a good one, and she was able to force herself to sleep, even with the despair creeping in her mind.
Soma awoke, her body waking her just before sunrise, as was her custom. She got out of bed and donned
her armour before leaving her quarters. There were already many knights gathered in the barracks, but she
could tell some were not here yet.
"Kaun, Thadra," she addressed the two who had been on guard the night before, "did you find Michels, Roerin and Hantur?"
"Yes, Guarda." Answered Kaun. "They will be here."
"Good." Soma walked to the head of the room, turned to face the rest of the Silver Knights, and waited. The three missing knights were not long, and they looked abashed as they entered and saw her standing, waiting. She waved a dismissive hand at each as they opened their mouths for an explanation.
"Order of the Silver Knights," Soma began, "the Lords of Order have given us an assignment. The hordes
of Komon-Rak have taken Nimerel, and even now advance across the plains of Mereland. We are to hold
Devil's Spire against Komon-Rak." She stopped. The knights before her were silent. "We leave at noon
today." She turned to walk away.
"Guarda," one of the knights inquired, "what other orders are to help us?"
"None." Soma replied. She looked again over her knights, worried looks on many of their faces. "To a lesser knight, this might seem an impossible feat, but we are the Silver Knights, renowned in legend and song. Devil's Spire shall not fall." Her eyes seemed to shine with the force of will behind them, and those men that doubted their own prowess did not doubt hers. "Get ready. We ride at noon."
At noon Soma looked upon her knights, arrayed in parade formation upon their horses. Every suit of armour was polished to glasslike smoothness, every yellow cloak was clean and every horse was groomed. She strode over to her own grey horse, mounted, and rode to the head of the formation. Her great sword rang like a bell as she drew it and held the humming blade above her head. As one, the Silver Knights moved out of the barracks, and down the street. Many people gathered to cheer the knights on, for the people of the city loved their protectors greatly. Flowers were thrown at the passing warriors as they rode proudly along the streets. They reached the city gates to find the Lords of Order, in full military costume, there to greet them
"Good luck to you and your knights, Guarda Terreth." Lord Felsteir intoned. The order of Silver Knights saluted, hand over heart, as one, and the Lords of Order returned the salute. Soma stared straight ahead and led her knights out of the city, towards Mereland and Devil's Spire.
The sun was lowering in the sky as the Silver Knights approached Devil's Spire. Devil's Spire was a harsh,
rocky hill, almost a small mountain, which rose abruptly in the middle of the plains of Mereland. The shadow
of the spire fell across the plains, and at its tip the knights could see the hordes of Komon-Rak.
"Hurry!" Yelled Soma. "We must reach the spire first!" She cursed silently as she spurred her horse on. She had hoped they would have more time to prepare. The knights charged at the hill and clambered up the base, but it quickly grew too steep for the horses, who had to be led the rest of the way. Halfway up they came across a broad shelf, and beyond that the spire grew steeper.
"Halt!" Soma cried. "Get the horses at the back! Fortify the ridge!" Arrows from the horde were beginning to clatter among the rocks. We had better get this fortified soon, thought Soma. The knights worked quickly though, moving large rocks into place around the rim of the shelf. They all crouched behind their makeshift fort, and waited. The clatter of arrows grew louder as more landed on the rocks, but none hit any of the knights. One felled a horse, and it writhed screaming on the ground, but Soma glared at the man who almost ran to help it. She would not let anyone die needlessly.
Then she heard it - the clatter of loose rock as many feet scrambled up the slope, along with the unmistakable gibber of hobgoblins. Her men heard it too. Soma held her sword in both hands, ready. When she heard the gibbering and sound of feet on the rocks of the fortifications, she raised her sword. As one, the knights rose and slashed at the legs of the hobgoblins there. Caught off guard, every one of them fell, but more immediately took their place, scrambling over the rocks and their wounded brethren.
Soma's sword sung as she swung it from one grotesque creature to the next, the silver blade chiming off every bone shattered and helm cleaved. The dead hobgoblins were piling up, the foul creatures being no match for her knights. They were spaced a body length apart along the fortifications, giving them ample room to swing their swords, and not a single one gave ground. Behind them was a tightly packed row of knights, kneeling with their swords held point-first in the ground in front of them, ready to leap up and take the place of any comrade that might fall or grow tired.
No matter how many hobgoblins they killed, more kept piling over the rocks. Suddenly there was an all too human scream, and a brief shout of triumph from a hobgoblin with a spear. Its victory was short-lived as its fellow creatures, pressing from behind and eager for battle themselves, pushed it into the waiting swords of the knights. Already a knight from the row behind had taken the fallen knight's place, but then another cry came as another knight fell.
The sun was touching the horizon, colouring the sky orange and red. Soma spared a glance for the knights
in the front row as she slashed away, and saw the fatigue growing in their faces.
"Next!" She shouted, and all the knights fighting fell back, and every other man in the row behind surged forward to take their place. The hobgoblins, surprised by the sudden retreat, were cut down quickly by the fresh warriors taking position in the front row. As the first row fell back, they dragged with them the two knights who had fallen. Soma fought on in the front row, her massive blade singing from one foe to the next, each ring of the sword seeming to her to be a victorious cry.
The hobgoblins were coming less frequently, as they were having difficulty climbing over the bodies of their companions. Soma ordered another change of the front line, and stepped back herself this time. She looked over the first lot of knights to go up, kneeling ready. If the hobgoblins were only going to come as slow as this, she thought, they might make it through the night.
Soma ordered the next change as another of her men fell. Night had taken hold, and the red eyes of the hobgoblins glowed in the darkness. She was glad that she and her men could not see over the rocks to the horde below. She knew that despite the number of hobgoblins that now lay dead, she had injured just a fraction of the horde. Nevertheless, her men were fit, and they could keep this up all night if they had to.
A bright bolt of flame further down the row caught her attention. Several knights had been caught in the
fire, from both the front row and the rows waiting behind.
"Fire-drake!" Came a warning shout from the stricken area. Another bolt of flame cut through her warriors, filling the air with the smell of burning flesh. She sliced a hobgoblin in half, then stepped down and ran to the place she had seen the fire. Another knight took her place as she left. There was a wide gap in the line with hobgoblins pouring through, the knights in the back rows cutting them down. At the center of the gap was a giant lizard, six-headed, and coloured a bright orange-red. It blinked slowly and opened its mouth, sending a stream of fire towards the nearest knights. The flame incinerated knight and hobgoblin alike as the creature struggled to get its hind legs up on the fortifications.
Soma crouched and ran behind the front row of knights until she came to the gap, and then crept along, hugging the wall. She flicked her sword out at hobgoblins leaping over the wall as they passed until she reached the center. Then she leapt onto the rocks in a fluid motion and ran at the beast, sword swinging through the air, humming with anticipation. She ducked to the side as another bolt of flame shot past, only to find herself in the midst of hobgoblins. She dispatched one as she came to her feet, and the rest within reach of her sword fell soon after, but the slow fire-drake had turned its head her way again. She ducked another bolt of flame, which instead burnt to a cinder a row of hobgoblins. She dived under the creature and plunged her sword into its belly, driving it in right up to the hilt.
She realised her mistake as burning fluid drenched her arms. Stubbornly refusing to let her sword go, she wrestled to free it as more of the fire-drake's poisonous blood poured over her. She retrieved her sword and scrambled from under the lizard which still stood, blinking stupidly. She jumped off the rocks, her arms throbbing with pain, as the fire-drake opened its mouth. All that came out, however, was a dribble of bright orange blood, and the creature slumped to the ground.
Soma quickly took off her arm guards and gloves, and used her cloak to wipe the stinging fluid off her
arms. Even when it was all off her arms still screamed in pain, with black blotches on her skin where it had
been most affected. She wiped her sword and gripped it in her trembling hands, then began to move
towards the front line again. One of the knights however, rushing to close the gap still left from the fire-
drake's devastation, touched her on the shoulder as he passed. She nodded to him, and walked to the back
rows of knights, and took her position there. She looked around. The fire-drake had decimated her forces.
There were now only as many in the back row as in the front - she had lost a third of her men, and they
"Next!" she shouted, her voice still clear and strong despite the pain in her arms. She ground her teeth together and strode up to take her place in the front line, hefting her sword and daring her pain to get the better of her. As she stepped up the light of the moon flooded over her, catching a sparkle of silver in her armour even beneath the thick black blood of the hobgoblins. Her sword shone in the light as she swung it to and fro, and her eyes glittered brightly. As her knights saw this glowing figure raining death on all the creatures around her they hardened their hearts and redoubled their efforts, new strength flowing through tired arteries.
But then the knights all heard a horrible, triumphant scream behind them, and hobgoblins that had until now been climbing over from the other side of the spire leaped upon them. Many knights fell, taken by surprise, but the back row rallied and joined the fight, cutting down hobgoblins as they dropped on them. Soma knew they were in trouble now. All her knights were engaged, with none to take anyone's place if they fall - and worse still, no opportunity to rest. Soon they would grow tired, make mistakes, and be killed. She could only hope that only a few hobgoblins had been sent over the spire.
The Silver Knights had no such luck. Hobgoblins kept dropping onto them from the spire above, and although they were skewered rapidly, they kept the back row busy. Then arrows began to rain from the spire above. Just as many hit hobgoblins as knights, with the fighting being so close, but the hordes of Komon-Rak could afford to lose as many hobgoblins as it pleased, and Soma could not afford to lose any of her knights. The back row had been pressed back, and now the two rows fought back to back with each other. Many knights were falling now, claimed by tiredness and overwhelming odds. Those remaining were fighting together in a steadily decreasing circle.
This was the end. Soma knew it. The hordes of hobgoblins would keep coming, and one by one the
remaining knights would fall. She had her pride though, as did the men fighting with her.
"Don't give up!" She yelled at them. "Don't let it be said about any of us that we let a hobgoblin choose our time and place of death! We will stand here all night until the dead pile so high around us that we cannot see the sky, and still we will fight! We will fight so long they will have to starve us to kill us!" The knights grimaced and took heed, and hardened their resolve. The black blood of the hobgoblins covered every man from head to toe, but they moved with brutal efficiency, killing every foul creature that came near. Soma split the creatures in two, and her sword sung with every kill, the jubilant music lifting the hearts of her men.
For a time, the knights stopped falling. They held their ground, and hobgoblins died around them in ever- increasing numbers. However, no matter how inspired they were, they were still tired, and all too soon warrior after warrior fell to the axes and spears of the hobgoblins. Soma knew the circle was getting smaller, but she could not spare a glance to see how many were left. She had to, however, when a body slumped against her legs, and she saw the last two knights had fallen. She was alone.
Suddenly enraged, at the injustice of it, that good men died for the petty vindictive Lords of Order, that the order of the Silver Knights would perish this day, she attacked in a fury. Despite being surrounded, tired and wounded, none of the hobgoblins could get past the singing blade to strike at her. She whirled in a frenzy, unable to even shift her position because of the dead bodies burying her feet and legs. She released all of her carefully controlled aggression and simply hacked left and right, her sword no longer singing but screaming defiance, vibrating so wildly that it jarred the bones in her arms.
So blind was she in her bloodlust that it was some time before she realised she was simply hacking at dead bodies. The hobgoblins had retreated, and over the top of the rocky fortifications and dead bodies shafts of morning sunlight fell. She blinked, dumbstruck. She had survived the night. She heaved herself out of the pile of bodies and walked to stand on the rocks. Her silver eyes scanning the plains below saw the great horde of Komon-Rak, retreating towards the sunrise. Baffled, but too tired to think about it, she climbed off the rocks. She knelt in the midst of the corpses, and as the sun rose, whispered a prayer to her dead knights, and a promise of vengeance. She didn't know how yet, but someday the Lords of Order would pay for this. She climbed down from Devil's Spire, and slowly began the long walk home.
|The Stream||Mortal Magic part 5|
|Loving Angels||The World Needs More Farmers|
|Before the Tide||Mortal Magic part 4|