Second Battle of Misty Isles
The torches from the orcish landing parties dotted the night mist like a million fireflies in the distance.
Lieutenant Gray cleared his throat nervously. “Looks like it’s going to be a long night, Commander Grekko, Sir.”
I grumbled as I peered through my spyglass at the enemy units, watching as the orcs secured their vessels and took to arms. “I knew it would only be a matter of time before those ugly bastards broke through our barricades outside the northern rim,” I said. “Now it’s up to General Marx and his squadron to clear those bluffs, otherwise tonight we fight so that our families see the sun rise.”
A hundred silent ornathopters swooped in from the southeast. Powered by small skytanium cores with wings framed in elfwood, the single seated, bat-like gliders darted and dropped glowing fire pots on the orcs. I smiled as I watched an orc scramble to extinguish the fire from his fur as the landing craft he piloted went up in flames around him. Many of the pots missed their targets but those that found their marks splashed liquid fire onto the enemy sails, sending them sprialing into the jagged bluffs beneath the mist.
“We held them once before,” I said grimly, “and we’ll hold them tonight as well. We’ll drive these vile creatures back to the wastes where they belong.”
As I watched the ornathopters circle back to the western launching bluff where General Marx was stationed, I remembered my time as a City Guard in Avalon, the capital city of the Misty Isles. Avalon was actually little more than a small village guarded by multiple outposts scattered across the Misty Isles. It mostly consisted of a walled-in town that guarded our families, politicians and merchants. It was the haven of hope and the only semblance of civilization in the region. My fellow soldiers and I used to take gliders, similar to the small ornothopters, and patrol the bluffs that make up the isles. General Marx perfected the ornithopter design over the years and turned these small scout crafts into a deadly swarm of bomb-dropping doom to the incoming hoardes.
This land has always been a commanding point of interest from a military perspective, however to me and my brothers at arms, it was home. Our families and loved ones were here. My son Braeden was only 11 and had just begun his training at the Academy. Since the death of his mother, he was quiet but stern. A wise soul shrouded by childhood innocence, Braeden was the only light in my frozen soul. He was a beacon, a shining star in a life hardened by my own military servitude.
“Sir,” a panicked shout came from the cobbled path to the southeast. “Orc raiders have infiltrated the town square!”
“Impossible! They haven’t even taken the northern shores! How could they get so far in?” I was shouting as I quickly mounted a steed, pulled the reigns around and rode up to the courier.
“A small band scaled the cliffs outside the wall. Our forces have been focused on the initial attack leaving the square mostly empty except for a few guards. Both towers have been taken and they are starting to set fires within the walls. I came as soon as I saw the smoke. It’s bad, Sir.”
“Confound it,” I said as I quickly scrawled out some orders on the parchment and handed it to the courier. “Take this to Lieutenant Gray just over that ridge. Where are the orcs now?”
“The Academy, Sir”
. . . .
The embers from the fires stung my nose and sent hot pokers into my eyes as I rode down the cobbled path towards town. My heart ached as I gazed upon the two outlook towers in front of the Avalon’s gates. I remembered the many sleepless nights I spent in those towers on guard duty. The left one had already colapsed. It’s base a dusty pile of smoke, ash and embers. The right tower remained intact, however the blood ran down the timbers across the top deck and upon a closer look with my spyglass, I could see two young soldiers hanging grimly over the edge, orcish arrows protruding from their armor. Screams could be heard from within the walls and the gates had been crashed in, clearing the way for the landing party.
Enraged, I kicked my horse and drew my sword. Hopefully Leutenant Gray got my message and help was on the way, but from the looks of the square, there was little left to fight for. The orcish raiders had set fire to the Apothecary where I used to visit my friend, Joshua, a vetran from the Old Age. Flames roared from the roof of Windemere’s Tailoring. The library. The Butcher. The small park in the center of the square. All either burned or burning. This was not a war fought by organized soldiers on battlefields where victories are celebrated with pride. This was the savage slaughtering of townsfolk. These weren’t soldiers. They were monsters working under the veil of night, pulling women and children from their homes. Several bruttish figures ran through the streets with large sacks over their shoulders with bare feet sticking out of the tops, kicking and screaming for their dear and precious lives. Slavers. The captives would be tortured to death, some eaten, most raped or worse.
I hacked one down in the street and cut the ropes from his sack. A young girl, no more than 8 years, jumped out and stared wildly at me. “Run!” I screamed as I rode forward. Two Slavers were carrying a kicking sack but neither noticed my approach in all the chaos. I hacked the head clean off the one closest to me. The other reached for a dagger and I thrust my saber into his chest before he could even draw the blade. Dreadful creatures.
As I rode up the street, I could see the Avalonian Training Academy. Flames roared from the windows and young men and women fled in panic. My horse jerked upward in pain and fell forward causing me to crash into the stone street head first. As I scrambled to my feet, I watched two orcs pull bloodied swords from the sides of my horse. Furious, I charged at one with my saber. Two quck parries and a deadly reposte dropped him to his knees. Orcs had numbers and brutality but no dicipline. The second leapt over the bleeding horse and howled in anger with his sword raised with both hands over his head. His display of rage gave me plenty of time to unsheath and throw my dagger directly into it’s left eye. The force of the throw knocked him backwards off his feet.
Orcish capturing nets were laid out on the street before me. Slavers were throwing sacked citizens onto them in small piles of 5 to 6 victims. The Orc ships the nets were attached to were hovering high above the clouds. They were incoming at a rate faster than we had prepared for. I could see at least 15 small ships slowly hovering above the town square. The nets wooshed into the air on each side of the street, carrying the sacked victims into the night air. I quickly ran to one net and cut the ropes with my saber. This small pile of kicking sacks would not make their way skyward. I was franticly cutting sacks open as the young students clambered to their feet and fled. Small victories.
As I think back on the events that followed, I am reminded of the frailty of the human mind. Details are hazy but the ending is always the same. The first thing I can remember is the scream.
Braedon was running towards me when an orc snatched him up and flung him over its shoulder. I can still remember the panic in his face. The fear and desperation. Instinctively, I grabbed my pistol and held it outright. I stopped running to steady my aim. Despite the chaos and heat around me, I managed to catch my breath. The orc who grabbed him was quickly joined by 4 others. Soon the Orcish landing party would sweep the streets and anyone who was too old or injured to become slaves would be killed. This battle was over and the Misty Isles were lost. I couldn’t kill all four orcs with one shot and the thought of my only son being held captive, tortured, raped and discarded in the wastes beneath the clouds was unbearable. The decision was clear and I knew what had to be done. I felt a thud in my back as a heavy club knocked me flat onto my stomach. The orcs were upon me. I freed my arm and continued aiming as I watched the orcs dart to the nearest net with my son. I heard the squeaking whip of ropes tightening as another net shot into the air next to me. I could wait no longer. I closed my eyes. I remember crying, nashing my teeth and taking aim one last time. I fired my pistol at Braedon as the orcs continued to swing clubs down upon my back and shoulders. The last thing I can remember seeing is the body of my boy going limp as the orcs pitched his body aside and went on to locate their next victims. Relieved, I waited for the orcs who were beating me to kill me. At least my boy would not be taken and tortured. Had I time, I would reload the pistol and turn it on myself.
I did not notice the beatings had stopped. Screams erupted from all around and it took a few seconds to realize they were coming from the orcs. One of General Marx’s ornothopters had dropped a pot of boiling oil onto them. Bloodied, missing teeth and barely able to see, I rolled over on my back and found myself staring up at the familiar face of Leutenant Gray. I was quickly declared a “hero” and shovled onto a stretcher. Later, I was evacuated out of the Misty Isles as my homeland burned beneath me.