The Battle of the Hymn

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The Battle of the Hymn

Postby Knife » 2005-06-09 11:32pm

The Author of this story is Knife

Congratulations for joining this auspicious haven of good (we hope) writing.

The Battle of the Hymn

Of Plagiarism and Monsters

Morlocks. I understand the prospect of plagiarism, but when we first encountered the creatures that we named Morlocks, we could name them none the less. Five years into our adventures into what we eventually called ‘Terra’, we encountered the creatures that we eventually named Morlocks.

Granted, in the world that most of us grew up in, the world that the majority of us called ‘Earth’, the term Morlock would recall images of H. G. Wells’s beloved piece of fiction. The fact that the majority of us have indulged upon an adventure that eclipses the author’s fantasy, goes beyond the musings of that most famous of author’s extremely exciting of happenings is of little relevance. For it seems that we are beyond such indulgence.

We, dear reader, are in the new realm of man. We are in what we call, Terra. The world that was given to us. But perhaps a few words of explanation are still needed.

Almost one and a half decades ago, such a small time in my opinion, have passed since our arrival. We do not know where or why, but the most esteemed of us believe that we are upon a new planet if not a new reality. A separate world in which we were thrust upon.

I awoke, as an example, from a restless dream. A vivid dream, in which I felt trapped, contained in a way that I could not respond to the world. When I awoke, I stood upon a sandy dune. A desert in which you would not believe, except if you have seen the destitute waste of the Expanse.

A desolate waste that encompasses sand dunes for leagues and leagues, until the mortal man can no longer contemplate survival, a desert to rival the Sudan upon our Home Planet. Awakening upon this realm, I immediately gazed upon this nothingness, this complete realization of hopelessness. And I must say, dear reader, I despaired. I succumbed to the nothingness for unknown moments, trapped in what I thought was a private nightmare, I accepted my fate. Was I to know, as I accepted such a mundane future, what was to come.

Glancing around myself, I noticed to my relief, my immediate family. My wife and children lay besides me as if still snuggled in their beds. However, as if part of my nightmare, they lay upon a sandy dune. My dear wife, fresh black hair and shapely form, lay beside me as if we were still in our bed. Our children beside us, tossing and turning in their disturbed sleep. They then awoke as one, awoke to a new reality. Not one of us in our nice tidy homes in suburbia. But a reality of nightmarish proportion awaited us in the new world we now inhabited.

To our relief, we did not awake alone. Far from it. We awoke with a groan to the vision of close to a thousand people amongst us. A grisly sight of unknown men and women, as they lay stretched amongst us in disturbed slumber.

Except we were not strangers. Far from it.

It came early in our confusion. A thousand people crammed in a small cramped space of sand and grit. Waking up to such confusion is to say the least, odd. Gathering my family close, I gained a perspective of what the situation was.

“Wha…?” Said most.

“Where…?” Was the response of others.

Crowds of people began to form as the mass of bodies began to rise. Knots of individuals formed as men and women tried to cope with the new reality.

“Tom?” Cried a woman, which for what ever reason, I remember vividly.

“Damn!” Exclaimer others as the group began to organize itself, even at a basic level.

Mere moments, as I recall, passed until the first revelation of our new world reveled itself.

“Mike, is that YOU?!?!” Asked a young man.

“Hey, I’ve seen your face before!” Exclaimed another.

All through out the crowd, claims of recognition echoed. Men saw women they knew, and women saw men that were recognizable.

“My God, we’re all here!” Exclaimed a notable British soldier that we would all come to respect.

And thus began our community. Three hundred or so people whose only connection was that of a computer aided community, and they’re loved ones, flat mates, and those who were with them when they were transported here. We were thrust together in a new world and, if you believe Durandal, a different world.

His research is some what conclusive. Some of us believe that we are still in a dream world. A world in which some believe we will awake from, but Durandal has pointed out various reasons why this is false and in him and the council, a majority of us trust.

Backed up by our Lord Wong, Durandal’s conclusion; that we are upon a new world, is hard to dispute. A world that closely resembles our own in size, shape, and of flavor. But a new one none the less.

A darker blue is our sky, and the vegetation is of remarkable difference. Violet are our tree’s. A deep purple that is quite astonishing. The grass upon the fields are of a color that I can not describe, but if forced to, resemble the deep hue of the ocean that I saw in my youth.

And the stars. A brilliant ensemble of glistening points of light. A virtual symphony of sparkles that encompass our night time sky. A theater of beauty, that is the only way I could possible explain it, forming constellations that are not familiar to any one of us.

The ground and dirt are of recognizable color, but the trees and foliage, not to mention the wild life, are more than enough for most to know that we are no longer upon our birth planet. This is not to dissuade some amongst us that we are still upon our beloved Earth, just in another time or perhaps another frame of reference. Thankfully, these people are in the minority. Thus the thanks in which we give to the ones who have placed us here.

An intervention, that is what we call it. An intervention that delivered almost a thousand individuals of above intellect, to this place. And perhaps with no thanks to the intervention, a place of danger.

Morlocks. That is how I started this tale. That is what united us. In the beginning we were diluted, a variety of opinion. So diverse in our beliefs were we, American, British, Korean, and Chinese, European and Russian. All of us stuck together in a scheme that, at the time, we could not fathom.

It was the indigenes creatures that eventually convinced the majority of us to come together in a time of need. For it seemed in the beginning we were doomed.

After our initial spout of terror at awakening, we quickly resolved ourselves to survive. Food, shelter, and companions drove us to come together as a group. We awoke to find ourselves, not only connected in theory but in reality in a land that was most suited to us.

Later, as we found, the desert we awoke upon was a catalyst that forced us into action. Mike, Lord Wong, quickly forced us into a loose organization to ensure our survival. As a group mind, we marched out of the desert. We moved out of the blistering heat of the Expanse and to our surprise, we moved right into the Valley. This Valley, aptly named, was a God send. A mountain range that apparently splits the realm, also created a valley that was too perfect to the more militaristic amongst us.

For it was a valley that stretched almost ten miles, eighteen kilometers for some of our brethren, in length. With a depth of around six miles, it was the perfect place to establish our form of civilization. In this valley, the ground was fertile, the mountains able to give up ore, and the eventual ability to give up secret routes of escape were found.

Not that all of this was discovered at the beginning. Oh no. It took years to force such secrets out of the Valley. Years to settle the belief that we should settle here instead of traveling outside it’s reach. But settle here we did.

Early on, did we establish the Night Watch. First and fore most was it a nightly watch of the people. A security measure that was put in place by the Commander, Jegs’. Reinforced by CMS Wilson, that I will hence forth name Rob.

Here in the valley did we eventually call home. On a rise in the center of the Valley did we create our place in this world. On a mound, a mesa if we are generous, did the City eventually grow.

In the beginning, we amongst the Night Watch convinced the people, to make their homes above the fields of the Valley and upon the small rise of the Mesa. No wall or fence was presentable at the start of our humble beginnings, those things were to come.

An enlighten society were we. A Hodge pogde of various political views were we at the beginning. Pacifists were we. Soldiers and economists along with an assorted jumble of people. Construction experts, engineers, math majors, and simpletons to boot. All awoke and marched into the Valley to begin the Civilization.

Civilization is what we wrought. One of agriculture, and of iron. We discovered iron early on. A valuable find to say the least. Tin and copper were to found two years later, Bronze our most favorable metal. Iron, our least used but most valued treasure was our fist find.

Not that Iron was our first need. We labored for weeks to discover what we could and could not eat in such a place. Dozens of people did we loose in those first months. Dozens amongst a thousand does not sound significant, but I assure you, even to this day, I remember all of the names of those first few who died to ensure our survival. Scooter and Walper. Azeron and Stewart. Horus, Kojikun and Shinji. All died to prove to us what was dangerous and what was not.

We found the equivalent of wheat and rice shortly after the death of our firsts. The first to die upon Terra. Those who made the first mounds outside the City and the Mesa. Small mounds of dirt, remarkable in only their plainness. Stone effigies that show the passing of time.

Those of us that are to come, I imagine, will ask, “What are those mounds of dirt outside of the Wall that we worship every year on Christmas?”

And every year we should answer unto them, “Those are the first ones. The ones who died to show us the way and those who died to give us life in the New World.”

My only hope, as I tell you this tale, is that one day when I lay to rest my wife and say goodbye to my children and grandchildren that I can lay amongst our hero’s. That when time calls upon my eulogy, I can be remembered with such esteemed company of these first ones. Regardless of the faults of their lives, they died in honor, extinguished their place in life, to show us the way in death. I wish to continue this trend and lay with my brethren, my fellow Night Watch. Those who protected us through those troubled times and who faithfully died to protect us.

May I, as I lay with them, lay in peace because we labored in life. May they feel peace because they ensured life. May I be with my friends and loved ones who I outlived if only for a scant few years. May I be with my own.


It seems that no matter what we tend to tell, we are doomed to discuss the Morlocks. In the beginning, the Morlocks were a ghost story. A modern fable to scare those of us who where susceptible. Some say that the mere mention of the Morlocks were the reason for the creation of the Night Watch.

Though we began as a hunting group, a bunch of hunters and soldiers that were forced into a new reality, was beyond some. War mongers. Haters and killers we were, if you listened to the more liberal of us. But it was us, the founding members of the Night Watch that stood guard against the unknown in the beginning, and us that brought forth the first of the meat, the meat of the Taun-Taun.

Another plagiarism of the old world, but one that exists none the less. Horses we did not have. Hairy lizards we did. Taun-Tauns, as we named them, were our first experience with Terran meat. Later did we use them as mounts and as beasts of burden. Once again, the name Taun-taun was a hold over, as was various names of things and creatures, from the old world.

It is plagiarism, but we didn’t think that the creator’s of the ideas would mind.

We found them in the plains north of the Expanse and East of the Valley. Hunting ever forcing us further out of the Valley where the game animals tended not to tread. In the west we found forests and pig like creatures, but not many. Mostly fruits and nuts were to be had in the forests of the west. The east was split north and south by Great Plains and the Expanse, the desert where we started our adventure here on Terra. In those plains we found the Tuan-Tauns. Lizard like creatures who stood on two legs and with two, more or less, useless arms. Kangaroos with hair they were. So much like the creatures in Myth that we named them as such and ever since we rode Tuan-Tauns.

Upon these new mounts, did we expand our knowledge of the realm. With mounts, the Night Watch became more than a simple security measure and evolved into a military unit.

We still hunted, but we explored and scouted as well. It is thus that we first encountered the Morlocks. Gangly creatures, they were. Grey in color, bent and misshapen. It was easy to name them from the lore and liteture of the old world, so closely did they resemble the Morlocks of the Time Machine.

We lost three of the Night Watch to the Morlocks before we understood what we had discovered. Before we recognized their boarders along the swamps and bogs days east of the Valley. Some could say that the Morlocks are what made us. After the creation of the most rudimentary of our forts and houses, the sightings of Morlocks forces us to make fences and walls surrounding the City. After the skirmishes east began to creep ever so closer to the Valley, did our warning find purchase and walls began to be built.

To be honest, sightings of the creatures we call Morlocks came earlier than remembered. Tales of ghosts in the plains and shadows in the dark are as old as our presence here in Terra.

Five years after our arrival, The City, sometimes jokingly called Gondor or Avalon, was a bustling place. Stone buildings on the Mesa with well worn streets of dirt. Our citizens lived in their own houses with their families and most had jobs and duties to attend to.

The Council, led by Lord Wong, managed the City and the fields bore food and the Smiths and Craftsmen created our technology to tame this world. And ever watchful both day and night were the men and women of the Night Watch.

Only one hundred strong at the time, we were split into three units on constant rotation. One group would be on Home Duty and responsible for daily and nightly watches of the City, both in and out, and light patrols of the Valley as well as a look out in the Eastern and Western passes.

The next group would be tasked with Ranging. Groups of four were dispatched east and west, north and south and tasked to scout and explore for a set amount of days before returning. A dangerous job in the new world but an exciting one none the less.

The last group was on leave and training. Morning rituals of sword craft, spear play, marching and riding. Classes on tactics and strategy. In short, practice on all that made the Night Watch the Night Watch.

I was in the central courtyard one morning of that fifth year. My section on leave and training, running my troops through shield wall tactics. My name is Cody, but most know me by Knife. I am a Captain of the Night Watch, one of three.

I saw the rider tear into the courtyard and disappear into the Great Hall that was the center of the government and thereby the center of the Night Watch. Talon, the rider and who once went by Enforcer Talon, but that hardly roles off the tongue, looked white in fear for the short time I saw him before he rushed into the doorway of the Hall.

Seeing something was obviously amiss, I turned the training over to one of my Section Leaders, Edi, and headed off to the Hall. As a Captain of the Night Watch, I was privy to most of the going on’s of the Watch and the Council.

I walked into the dim interior of the Great Hall and moved towards the rear, towards the offices of the Watch. Panicked speech could already be heard from the offices of the Command Sergeant Major of the Watch. Rob’s soft voice could be heard trying to calm the ranger.

As I entered the room, the speech cleared and I heard Talon reply to an unknown question, “They’re all dead!”

He broke down into sobs and I caught Rob’s eye.

“He say’s that there was an ambush. Dargos, Tom and Malecoda are dead.” Rob explained to me, almost deadpan.

Before I could reply, Coyote stormed into the room. The normally happy and carefree man was brooding and plain concern showed on his face. “What goes on here?” he boomed.

And thus I heard the story, Talon, with his group who was comprised of Talon, Tom, Dargos and Malecoda were on patrol in the eastern fields. They were following the herds of Taun-Tauns seeing where they were heading since all that lay beyond the Great Plains were the Expanse and the bogs and Eastern Marshes. They set up camp just shy of the Marshes for the night and expected to head back to the Valley the next morning.

Talon was awakened during the night by screaming. Malecoda, who was on watch, gave his warning with his death scream. The remaining three leaped into action. Both Talon and Tom and Dargos rushed over to where Malecoda’s freshly slain body lay upon the earth. His life’s blood draining out of a large slash across his stomach.

Talon, hearing the rustling of grass of to the left, tuned that way and was greeted by the sight of a Morlock. Grey and blue in hue, more or less human in shape, but with the appearance of a sickly man. Slightly bent over but rippling muscles gave a stark contrast.

The creature charged Talon, but the swift ranger drew his sword in time to repel the club that the monster swung down upon him. Dargos, swooped in at that point and the two Watchmen slew the beast.

They were, at that point, surprised as to why Tom did not assist them and the pair set forth towards where they last saw the Watchman. Lying in the small clearing where they first saw the Morlock was the corpse of Tom with two more of the grizzly creatures above him.

The Morlocks seemed startled at the approach of the two remaining rangers, they let out a terrible shriek and charged the two. Thinking that more than just those two were about, Dargos fled for the mounts with Talon right behind him.

As they jumped upon their mounts, a mass of creatures ran out of the grass trying to surround the Watchmen. Sticking his heals into the Taun-Taun, Talon galloped through the mass of gray cavemen like beasts.

Daring not to look back for long moments, Talon did not realize that Dargos had fallen to the creatures until he gained a small rise. Raked with grief at the loss of three of his friends, Talon turned west and traveled long and hard for four days until he arrived at the Valley.

“His mount died shortly after his return. Mostly due to exhaustion, but there were some wounds on the beast.” Mentioned Rob.

At this point, Jegs, the Commander of the Watch, and the three Captains, Coyote, Perinquus and myself inhabited Rob’s office along with the tired and grieving ranger Talon. The Command Structure of the Watch had now heard the story and the time for discussion was at hand.

“At the least,” boomed the Coyote, “we should go back in force and recover the bodies. To be buried with the First Ones.”

Nods of agreement went throughout the room.

“Patrols should be fortified and perhaps we should cease patrols and rangings completely until all units currently out in the field are notified.” Perinquus’ gift in life was a steady presence, a rock in which all could cling to in times of need. He was sturdy, not only in appearance but in emotion.

“The council must be advised.” Said I, “ Perhaps this is the time to get them to fortify the Valley. If the council is anything, they are defensive. Bring back our men, bring back the corpse of these beasts. Study them and find how we can outwit them. Prepare.” I ventured.

Jegs, sitting in the corner next to the small table that served as Rob’s desk, made his decision. “I see no reason why all three of those ideas cannot be invoked. Rob, get a patrol of thirty ready to depart and retrieve Dargos and the rest. Bring back any sign of the attackers. Coyote, you’ll be in charge of the patrol. Perinquus, cancel anymore rangings. Your group is up next week anyway. All patrols, minus Coyote’s, will be confined to the Valley and make sure your people are up and awake.”

“Knife, you and Rob sit down and make your proposal and when you’re done, you two and I will go before the Council.”

Four heads bobbed up and down in agreement and a muttering of “Yes sir.” filled the office as Jegs left with Rob close behind. I left the other two Captains and went back out to the courtyard. Rob would be with Jegs for a few more minutes, so I took the opportunity to brief Edi and get him to handle the rest of the troops for the rest of the day. It seemed that I would be playing politics for a while and I didn’t want my unit to suffer for it.

Later that night, as I remember, I arrived home. A small stone and wood structure that the majority of the people lived in inside the City. Inside my wife was finishing up with some work of her own. Jen, my wife, worked for the Quarter Masters. A job that was suited for her, she bounced from here to there. Always doing something different for it was her personal nemesis to become bored or fall into a routine.

She looked up from her scrolls as I walked in. “Something is wrong.” She stated, in no way a question.

“A scout group was attacked. We don’t know by what yet. By tomorrow, a large patrol should depart to investigate.” I said as I dropped into a chair made of wood and Taun hide.

Her round face looked shocked, “There has not ever been such a thing.”

I smiled at her to try to comfort her, “There is now. If there is something out there that can attack and kill three well armed and trained men, we need to know about it. A beast or predator should not be able to destroy such a force so it might have been something sentient.”

“We briefed the council only hours ago and half of them were salivating at the prospect of a sentient being on Terra.” I said.

Her head dropped to the side, mocking surprise, “Let me guess. The University are that half.”

I smirked at her disdain for the University. Her work brought her close to a lot of the Professors of the University and to most if not all of the Council. She seemed to have no end of stories of the demands and unreasonable requests of the men and women of the University.

“I got a laugh out of it myself, my sweet.” I replied.

Her look turned more serious now, “Ryan is applying to the Watch soon.” She said in plain concern.

Ryan was my son. My second son. His older brother was already an apprentice in Shepp’s Smith. He seemed bound to become a great tradesman and craftsman. Ryan, my youngest son, turned more militaristic. At the age of eighteen, he was of age and free to apply if he wished.

“He will probably be admitted.” I said. “It is his choice, one that I am not unhappy with, but his choice none the less.”

My wife was unhappy with that, especially if some sort of new danger was about to be revealed, but she knew I was right. Ryan was a man now. The decision was his. If admitted into the Watch, he would not be under me but I trust that the other Captains would keep an eye on him for me.

With some effort I then stood and started pulling of my robes and trappings of the office. I hung my sword on the wall, stored my black clothing that was the defacto insignia of the Watch and headed off to bed with my wife.

Tomorrow there was work to be done.

Chapter Two

The Fourth Christmas

And so, ten days later, the long line of Coyote’s patrol returned to the Valley. At that point, all other patrols were in and all morbidly waited to see what monstrosity could kill an entire team.

While they were gone, Jegs and Rob, and myself, had appeared before the Council half a dozen times. Some by our request, others by their demand. They wanted to know what was to be done. What was happening and other answers that we did not process at that time. We wanted a free hand to manage the situation and they were weary.

It seems that the relationship between politicians and warriors are rife with such things. One not trusting the other unless given no choice. For years have the Watch advocated a fence or wall around the City. We being charged with defending the City from both within and without knew that a fortification could be handy in a lot of foreseeable situations.

But the Council thought it was a waste of resources. Even then, five years into our adventure, building large structures was a strain on our abilities. And a wall or even fence around the Mesa at that time would be quite an undertaking.

We were again arguing the point when word came of the arrival of Coyote and his patrol. Jegs pardoned us from the Council and we left to greet Coyote at the offices of the Watch. Councilmen Wong and Durandal followed behind.

In the courtyard, the broken remains of three of our brothers were covered and wrapped caringly in blankets and strapped upon a Taun-Taun. On a litter being drug behind, was the corpse of the monster responsible for our loss. It was the first time I had seen a Morlock, but I shall never forget it. In all the years to come I would have many a chance of seeing them again, both dead and alive. But my first look invoked in me a sense of revulsion.

The corpse of the Morlock went to the University, more of a research lab than an institute of higher learning, and that is where we learned most of what we know about them. Bipedal and apparently nocturnal. Their muscles were denser than ours, giving them greater strength. But their hide was no more resilient than ours, which meant that they could die just as easily as us, as shown by the dead corpse in the University Building.

And of our fallen brothers, we buried them at dawn the next day. They now lay amongst the First Ones, and we remember them every Christmas Morning and sometimes more often than that.

Christmas, or the winter solstice. What ever name you apply to it, it is a big occasion in the new realm of man we named Terra. Though, with the pomp and air that we render it now, you would not know it for the first few years. The fight for survival was fore most in our minds those first few desperate years.

It was on the fourth year that we attribute the first real Christmas in our new age, one year before we discovered the Morlocks. The first three years being dominated with relieving the starvation and the suffering, not to mention the ongoing emotional stress of being ripped away from everything we knew and awaking here on a strange world.

In those days, the City did not look as it does today. Some were still living in mud and wood huts, though construction was almost complete on the Great Hall. Our ability to shape stone was still in its infancy. The first of many water mills were being built to power the first lathes and grinders. We had just finished the irrigation canal, finally bringing the river into the Valley and thus making the collection of water mere minutes instead of half the day as well as powering the water mills and lathes.

For it was the fourth year that our agriculture became stable enough to feed the populace for the winter for the first time. Our local variety of rice and wheat, oddly enough the color of purple like the leaves in the trees, was stored for the winter. People’s spirits were, for once, uplifted by the fact that this years struggle would not be as tragic as the last few. For the field of the First Ones was growing. For three years have we seen our numbers slowly decrease as we fought to find a stable food supply. The Watch hunted and hunted, but feeding the likes of a thousand every day was a task, to say the least.

It was in this year, the fourth on Terra, that Zaia gave us our surprise. No one was accustomed to the idea of a celebration yet. Suggestions of a Thanksgiving were quickly shouted down only a few months before. The months being slightly longer here and the year around fourteen days longer than our lost home world of Earth, making fall longer than most were used too.

Time keeping being amongst the multitudes of first things done in those early years. Though in truth, it took one complete year to figure it out and one more to correlate it. Durandal over saw the project as well as other astrological concerns with various members of our group helping in all manners.

As it turned out, it took three hundred and seventy eight days for this planet, Terra, to orbit the star in this system. We added a few days to each month to compensate rather than add a new month. We also discovered that the orbital lean of the planet was not as extreme as Earth and our seasons were shorter because of it. Well, our winter and our summer seemed to be quicker, but the rains of spring and cold drizzle of fall seemed endless sometimes.

Even during the worst of times, it seemed like Durandal and to the most part, SirNitram and even Lord Wong himself seemed overjoyed at the ability to explore a new world and its solarsystem. They, and others, even I at times, would lie out under the stars at night. Moving rocks and sticks to mark the position of the sunset and rise. Chart the progression of the sun, moon and even stars. Giddy were they while they observed, even if by morning the reality of their situation seemed to move them to a melancholy.

So sensing our need, Zaia and her conspirators, quietly gathered what they needed and in secret prepared for the coming holiday. It is amusing to note that my wife was one of the first conspirators. And of course, as her husband, I had no idea what was being planned. Jen and Zaia had become close in the previous years. Similar of age and in temperament were they. Both being light of temper and caring.

Zaia, in the old world, was musically inclined. In fact she was gifted, to be even remotely humble about it. Her sweet voice matched perfectly with her sweet smile, which when matched with her compassion, invoked an impressive effect on a man.

So again, seeing our emotional need, and seeing the right time, she gathered her secret group and, apparently, daily went with her conspirators into the western woods to scheme and plot and practice. This went on for almost a month.

Even on this world, Christmas was on the twenty fifth of December. Though, I should note that the new month of December is of thirty four days instead of the original thirty one. It was during the morning of this, at that time, unimportant day that Zaia gave us our surprise.

I was up early, about on my chores. Seeing to my troops, setting up practice in the court yard and all other totally mundane things that are done in the early morning. The city itself was just awakening, the sun not quite up yet, but with the early morning light peeking above the Eastern Approach and the horizon of the Great Plains.

People were just starting to move around, to work, to the river for water, to the loo. It was then, as the City awoke and its citizens drearily wondered about for another day that a group of men and women approached the courtyard.

The courtyard was a wide open place, latter covered with stones and paved as well as we could, but at the time it was of beaten dirt next to the Great Hall, or where it would stand once completed. The Courtyard was the original meeting place for our group, and has continued to be an important place after our civilization advanced.

The knot of people who approached the court yard that morning wore long robes of Taun hide. They seemed to be caring a long wooden structure as well, but I was unsure at the time what it was.

They marched into the center of the courtyard, the cool morning wind making their robes flicker and snap. They stopped dead in the center of the open area and placed their long wooden object down. A couple of the conspirators fumbled with it a moment, then they raised it up into the morning sky.

A shaped and sculpted tree rose into the morning. A Blackwood from the Western Forrest. But this one, it seems, had been modified. Most of the violet branches had been removed. The selected pruning had turned the chaotic mess of the Blackwood into a rough triangular shape.

At uneven intervals on the tree, which stood about six feet tall, were small bits of tin and copper. Shinny little pieces of metal, decorating the make shift Christmas tree.

I stood there, almost in shock, not quite knowing what was happening. The group of thirty men and women finished setting up their tree, and then assembled themselves around the tree as if to worship it.

And then it came.

As the soft light of the first rays of dawn spilled over the horizon unto the City and the Court yard and its new decoration, a soft feminine melody rose throughout the normal clatter and bustle of the realm.

Ever so soft at first, almost a whisper that would easily be lost amongst the background noise of the City, the song started so fragile yet so beautiful. Quickly but confidently, the song gained strength as soprano and tenor voices added weight to the growing melody.

It was at this point, I do believe, that almost all activity in our small community ceased. All about the Mesa the inhabitants of our society froze, mouths agape at the flowing beauty of the Hymn.

I can not describe the utter beauty of the moment. It was as if angles had descended upon our home and sang of the glory of the universe. Soft female voices fluttering here and there inside the melody. Deep booming baritones with accompanying tenors filling out the song, adding power and strength. And there in the center of it all was our beloved Zaia. Singing and leading her group, lifting our spirits to a before unknown high.

Again, I will never be able to capture the moment in these pages, nor would I if I could. For I wish to remember such things as they were and I don’t think I have the words to accurately describe it. But I do know the song. It came with us from the old world. A song that was sung during Christmas on Earth. It was this carol that Zaia and her group sung to us that Christmas morning;

Hark how the bells,
sweet silver bells,
all seem to say,
throw cares away

Christmas is here,
bringing good cheer,
to young and old,
meek and the bold,
ding dong ding
that is their song
with joyful ring
all caroling

one seems to hear
words of good cheer
from everywhere
filling the air

Oh how they pound,
raising the sound,
o'er hill and dale,
telling their tale,

Gaily they ring
while people sing
songs of good cheer,
Christmas is here,

Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas,
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas,
On on they send ,
on without end,
their joyful tone to every home
Dong Ding dong ding, dong Bong

With a deep thrum of male voices, the carol ended and a soft silence spread throughout the streets. For untold moments the people of the City stood there, transfixed at the sight of the Christmas tree and Zaia’s choir that surrounded it.

For her part, Zaia stood there quietly waiting the verdict of her bold move. Not knowing if the populace was ready for such cheerful indulgence. The chill morning breeze still blowing her long red hair about.

I remember her glancing around the crowd. Looking from face to face for some sign of emotion. Some sign of appreciation. I don’t know if it was my tear, the warm salty globe that was running down my cheek, that gave her an answer but an enormous smile erupted from her face and I started to look about the courtyard and noticed similar tears on all I could see.

I looked back up at the choir and noticed my wife among their number. She saw me and smiled as the group started singing again. Another carol, one of hope and the spirit of the season.

For almost an hour did they sing. Hymn after hymn, in a steady rhythm of harmony and melody. Almost to the person, did the entire city show up in the courtyard. A thousand strong, swaying back and forth to the music. It was a beautiful scene and one we repeated every year at Christmas.

So it was, one year later, we buried our brethren, Dargo, Tom and Malecoda, that we came together at dawn on the twenty fifth day of December and sang our songs.

We celebrated our lives, our stubborn fight to survive. But we also give tribute to those that came before us and those that we have lost.

Yes, Christmas is a very important time for us, in the new world of man. It is no longer just a holiday to celebrate the birth of some child on a now distant world. It is a time for us to be joyful that we are here. A time to remember that to get us to this point, it took sacrifices.

And every year, I shed a tear. Of joy or sorrow, I no longer know.

Chapter 3


For over a year, after the first incursion with the creatures known as the Morlocks, there were sightings and a fair amount of skirmishes betweens us and them. However, they all took place out in the Great Plains.

It did not escape us, though, that each sighting and each battle between the Watch and the beasts, took place ever so closer to the Valley.

It did not escape the Council either. Our request for a wall or fence around the city, that which was first met with resistance, was eventually granted and was in various phases of construction. About a dozen half finished towers, littered the perimeter of the mesa on which the City stood. Their rocky silhouettes casting shadows down upon the city. Small stretches of the Wall were already built but other pieces were only half the desired height and were only as tall as the men and women that worked upon them.

There was a lot of concern, from some of the intellectuals, that the society had become quite militaristic and that the Night Watch was using the threat of the Morlocks as an excuse to gain power. Those claims were, of course, ridiculous but during those times there were some who listened to such rhetoric.

For it was the coming threat of the Morlocks that saw the expansion of the Night Watch. When it was first established, we numbered just under a hundred. Little did we grow in those first few years, but after the massacre on the plains, new recruits petitioned to join. So it was that in our sixth year of inhabiting Terra, the Watch numbered close to three hundred men and women. Each Captain, as I was one of them, commanded a hundred troops.

And these troops were the best. I know, dear reader, that to say that they ‘were the best’ is expected of their commander. But I tell you, they were. Men and women thrust across the universe on a new world they did not choose, who stood up and gave a solemn vow to give their blood so others would live.

But vows were not the only thing that they were armed with, oh no. Amongst the people of the City were those who had served in armies and navies from across the old world. Others were historians with vital knowledge of military tactics and strategy.

These are the people who we based our military on. Our technology might have not been up to the par of the old world so we made due with what we could. For example, I do believe that it took a grand total of three minutes upon arrival into the Great Plains on our trek out of the Expanse, for someone to sharpen a stick and form a spear all those years past upon our arrival here.

Two days after our arrival into the Valley, someone made a crude bow. Four days after that, someone had carved a stock in which to make a cross bow. In short, our technology made leaps and bounds over the short period of time we were here.

After the first couple of years, when we had some semblance of industry, and after we had found small deposits of iron and other metals, more elegant weapons could be made. I had originally asked some of the more knowledgeable among us if it was possible to create some firearms.

Let us just say, I was firmly rebuffed. Mike confirmed that in perhaps in a generation, we would have the capacity for such an endeavor but not then.

So a more primitive approach was to be made for our defense. To a medieval time did we turn for such things. Our aqueduct was of Roman flavor as were a couple of our buildings, but for the majority of our construction, middle age Europe is where we looked to for inspiration.

So it was that early on that Keevan Coltan made our first blades. Using the iron found in the northern slopes, bits and pieces that littered the ground and using his knowledge of forging and shaping such metals, Keevan made our first swords.

He actually made many blades, but unhappy with their form or shape or any other small detail, he melted them back down and tried again and again until he was satisfied with the result of his toils.

Iron, so rare due to the method of its collection upon the rocky cliffs of the mountains, was used sparingly in those years. Only the most important of projects was iron a part of. The swords of our defense were one of these endeavors.

It took Keevan years to equip all of the Watch with their blades. Each one a work of genius and a piece of craftsmanship. For simplicity sake, we settled on one style of blade. A singular specification and type. A multipurpose sword, a bastard sword, as it was called in ancient Earth.

The smithy of Keevan ran day and night for so many years, but accomplished his task he did. Each member of the Watch was armed with a glistening blade. So great was his work, named were the swords in accordance to the wishes of the owner and the whims of the maker.

Some three a half feet long with a steel blade and bronze hilt and pommel. The handles were polished Blackwood, though none could tell for the Taun leather that was wrapped around it. Along the spine of the polished blade, was written the name of the weapon. Mine, Hellsbane, was the fourth made by Colton.

The thirteenth blade was given to one of my men. Wilkens. A good man was he. Reliable and capable was he, though forever youthful in the face. An original Watchman and as good a friend one can hope for. To him went the blade named Warmonger.

It was he who came to me one day in early spring of the sixth year. Our new troops were finishing their training and rumors of excursions and a long ranging had reached the ears of every one.

Wilkens cornered me in the Great Hall and asked if the rumors were true.

“Aye.” I said. “It has been decided. The next series of rangings will not include the south, nor west. The entire company will ride forth onto the plains and root out the Morlocks. Too close to the Eastern Approaches they have come.”

“Captain,” He said, “Our Company is next up for their rangings. My lance is ready, let me strike forth.”

Smirking with a hint of mischief I replied, “Edi has already petitioned for that position, though you have beaten LoneStar in asking.”

Wilken’s seemed saddened at the thought. He was not a warmonger but was eager to do his duty and prove the ability of his troops. I could readily see the turning of his mind as he searched for reasons for his lance to lead the excursion.

“Knife, my troops are ready. Edi is still slightly under strength and his newer Watchmen are still unproven riders. All but four of my newer troops have already been out on rangings. My troops are the best suited to lead the way.” Went his reasoning.

Keeping my air of mischief, I replied. “So you wish to volunteer then?” He nodded.

“Good, for you are already assigned to the position. The decision was made last night though I enjoyed your discomfort this last moment.” I chided him.

“Your lance will take the middle. You will ride out due east while Lonestar’s lance will ride north for a day and then turn east. Edi’s will do the same but south, skirting the Expanse. All will be within a day’s ride of each in case things turn sour.

I’ll leave the ultimate tactic and strategy to you, but my wish is to drive the Morlocks out of the Plains. Go slow and do not expose yourself, memories of Talon’s ride still haunt the Watch. If things turn dark, set a blaze the blue grass and the other two lances will ride to you.

Come, we will discuss this in detail with Edi and Lonestar. There is much to do and we leave two days hence.” I took his shoulder in comradeship and led him away to my small office in the Great Hall.

And so two days later, the hundred troops that made my company left the safety of the Valley and passed the Eastern Approaches into the Great Plains. We split our forces into the three lances and made our way to our individual routes.

I rode with Lonestar’s lance in the north and a day behind Wilkens, so I was not there to see the things he and his troops saw until the end of it. I remember riding up to the boarder of the Marsh Land that served for the backdrop of the slaughter. It was there that Wilkens told me his tale.

He told me the story, then and there upon the gory battlefield. He began with how they rode for three days with out seeing nothing. Some of the Watch thought they say shadows in the deep of night or the quite of early morning but none would swear they saw a Morlock.

On the night of the third day, Wilkens being weary of nearing the site were Talons group was ambushed, decided to send out night patrols. The Night Watch of his lance silently probed into the dark. The Moons were over the horizon and the night was black as pitch.

All night did he run his patrols while resting his troops in shifts. Such tactics paid off for him for he later told me of the first sightings of the enemy. His silent patrols and listening posts found traces of Morlocks. Tracks here and movement there. Quietly they followed the beasts and returned to report on them.

They were in hiding amongst the small bunches of trees that littered the Plains. Moving from one bunch to another when darkness fell. Whether as scouts or raiding parties or even nomadic families, Wilkens did not know.

Come the morning, he put his lance in a wedge formation. Marching again he veered towards what his patrols said was the last hiding place of the Morlocks the night before. Moving as if to pass the bunch of trees that served as the refuge of the creatures, Wilkens hoped to catch them unaware.

On cue, his well trained riders that were the northern part of the wedge, peeled off and charged towards the outcrop of small trees. The other three groups of Watchmen spit off and quickly surrounded the hideout.

Spears out, the riders and their Tauns penetrated the trees and a god awful ruckus ensued. Wilkens later told me that he was sure he had caught them by surprise but when his troops came back out of the foliage he was informed that there was no one there.

It was not empty though. Inside, Wilkens was one of the first to examine a dwelling of the enemy. It seemed that the Morlocks were slightly more intelligent than we gave them credit for. Inside the small group of trees there was an even smaller domed shaped structure. Seemingly made from mud brick, probably from the surrounding plains, the igloo shaped hut was big enough for perhaps four men but only two or three of the hulking brutes that built it.

Wilkens later surmised that it was a lookout post. A shelter against the elements for those who were stationed there. Such thoughts had various impacts back at the City upon our return but that is neither here or now. Upon this discovery, Wilkens instructed his lance to search out every cluster of brush and tree as they continued their march for the Marshlands.

It was not long before the charges of the Watch into the splotches of trees amongst the Plains began to yield results. Not every group of brush and tree hid a Morlock post but after every few dozen the Taun charges would see Morlocks flee before them.

Quick searches of every post found, reveled the same as the original. Small domed shaped huts. Some with food in various states of preparation, others with no signs of habitation.

All that fourth day did Wilkens and his lances cleanse the Plains of the beasts and that night he made extra care for defense to guard against retaliation. He figured that if each of the posts he had cleared had fielded three Morlocks, then a score of them would be running around the Plains tonight.

But the heedless meanderings of the Morlocks was not what happened. Unknown to Wilkens, Lonestar’s lance encountered a small group of the scouts as they trekked north. We caught them early the fifth morning and slaughtered them having caught them out in the open. I feared for the fate of Wilkens and spurred my group forward towards where Wilkens should be.

The remaining Morlocks apparently fled east to the Marshland where we surmised they made their home and on the morning of the fifth day when Wilkens arrived at he very spot where Talon first encountered the beasts, the Morlocks turned back towards him.

Wilkens recounted coming over a small rise and peering the enemy lined up before the twisted trees of the Marshland for the first time that morning. As his lance crested the rise, a great roar erupted from the small line of forty or so Morlocks.

The roar was a signal, for at that moment the numbers of the Morlocks doubled as blue and gray skinned creatures seemed to spill out of the tree line. Wilkens was some what shocked in that the Morlocks formed a rough line and began to march towards him.

Quickly, Wilkens dismounted two thirds of his men. The twenty Watchmen dismounted and formed their own line, two deep with wooden shields facing the enemy and their bastard swords unsheathed.

The remaining thirteen Watchmen stayed mounted and settled in with Wilkens behind the line. Wilkens told me when I arrived that the sight of what we then thought of as mindless creatures forming into a battle line almost unnerved his entire lance. But training won out over fear, as it should, and upon the rise his lance stood ready for combat.

On came the Morlocks, with their clubs and maces swinging in the air. Horrible screams from their twisted throats filling the field. Wilkens let them close to with in twenty meters of the base of the small hill his troops inhabited.

With a motion from his arm and a sharp command from his usually soft voice, he ordered the attack. The front rank of his line dropped down and the second man behind them sighted in with their bows.

With the sharp sound, ten bow strings released a torrent of arrows into the unsuspecting enemy and those behind the line quickly lost track of how many volleys were launched into the mass of creatures.

Their roars of challenge quickly turned to screams of pain as the arrows tore into them. Wilkens pressing home his advantage and ordered the charge as the front line of Watchmen marched down the hill and into the host of Morlocks.

With a war cry, Wilkens drew free Warmonger from its sheath and charged his small group of cavalry down into the right flank of the now doomed Morlocks. They held for a short time but in the end they broke and began to flee.

But the Morlocks were not done for the day. As Wilkens and his men finished off the last of the Morlock line, a new wave of the gangly creatures came out of the tree line. Not quite as strong in numbers as their first party, it began to grow as the fleeing members of the first host were absorbed into the second.

Abandoning all pretense of a battle line, the beasts screeched and yelled and attacked in mass. No tactics this time, just a charge backed by hatred and all the brute strength they could muster.

Wilkens, his lance spread out engaging the remaining pockets from the first host, saw that he could loose all if he engaged the screaming, running mass coming for him. He ordered a withdraw back up the small hill and quickly remounted his troops upon their Taun-tauns.

As the approaching enemy climbed up the small rise, Wilkens conferred with his team leaders. The lance split into three groups. Sixteen stayed with Wilkens in the middle and they charged towards the enemy only to withdraw right when the creature thought they had him in their grasp.

The other two groups harried the flanks with bow and arrow as Wilkens drew the host of creatures first north, then south. Twisting them around and constantly teasing them with himself as he rode ever so close to them.

The Morlocks in their mindless hate of the enemy that was dangled in front of them never considered the very precise and deliberate maneuvering of the enemy. Even at the end it never dawned on them.

Wilkens keeping careful eye on where the other two flanking units were and where the small rise was, kept moving and enraging the Morlocks until the they lost sight of the flanking units.

His last feint towards the enemy turned their back away from the small rise and away from where half of his lance now stood upon. With bow and arrow, the Watchmen on top of the hill reminded the Morlocks of their presence and as one the tired and enraged creatures turned upon them forgetting the ever fleeing men on Taun-tauns.

This was their final mistake of a long day of mistakes. Wilkens seeing them charge up the hill rallied his men and charged after them. With spears out, the riders tore into the unprotected rear of the Morlock charge and broke them then and there.

The remaining half of his lance charged down the hill with sword and spear and met Wilkens in the middle. All told, as he related to me later, they killed some five dozen Morlocks that day with no losses of their own. Another dozen or so escaped into the Marshland, growling and fuming at their loss.

To this day, there has not been such an uneven victory for us. None died that day from the Night Watch upon the Great Plains and vengeance for the ambush of Talon’s group was finally had.

It was this scene that I rode up to some hours later. Dead Morlocks littered the field and the stench was horrific. Lonestar's lance spread out to reinforce the pickets of Wilkens tired troops.

Upon the hill that was the center of the battle, I found Wilkens. His face bloody, yet devoid of any hair as if he just finished shaving, he turned towards me, upon my arrival.

“Captain, I have accomplished my mission. I have routed the Morlocks from the Plains.” He stated as a matter of fact.

For my part, I could not find words to reply. I stood there shocked at the horror and gore that soaked the field before the tree line of the Marshlands.

Finally I told him, “Come my friend, let us return to the city. Where your troops can heal and celebrate and we can see what is to come next.”
Last edited by Stravo on 2005-06-10 10:17pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Postby Knife » 2005-06-09 11:36pm

Chapter 4

The Incredible Mister Quinn

We took our time riding back to the City, Lonestar’s and Edi’s lances scouring the terrain around Wilkes’s battle weary troops. I rode with Wilkens all the way back for comfort, if indeed he so desired.

It proved to be of little worry, for my Sergeant seemed to snap out of his dreary melancholy once we left sight of the battle ground. He reverted back to his soft, good humor later that same after noon.

Edi and his lance had small skirmishes from stragglers but the trip back was one of a kind of joyous celebration. We moved as one group, a large black mass of man and Taun, disturbing the quite rustle of the blue grass upon the plains.

The men and women of my company sharing their tales of glory and victory amongst the vile ravages of the Morlocks, and the mock surprise from the listeners of the heroic deeds that were conveniently done by the teller of the tale, filled the days as we journeyed back home.

Our leisurely pace found us just outside the Valley on the evening of the sixth day of our travels from the Eastern Marshes and we decided to take our rest at the Eastern Approaches for the night.

The Eastern Approach was a small tower built on the hillside of the eastern pass. It was built by the Watchmen who were assigned to stand watch on the pass. More of a shelter from the elements than a battlement, the tower was our sign that we were home.

It was always manned, usually by four members of the Watch, and no doubt that they had already seen us as we came over the horizon hours ago. In fact, it was probable that they had already dispatched a rider back to the city with the news of our return.

My hundred some odd men would not all fit into the tower but we could easily make camp on the flat ground where the tower stood and share in what ever stocks of fresh meat and vegetables the tower had and share those by the light of a fire than none on my patrol had seen in almost two weeks.

We crossed the river as it curved into the valley and you could see the moon shine off of the calm waters all the way to the distant lights of our home. My troop climbed the steep hill to the tower and I then hailed the Watchmen there.

As I had guessed, only three members of the Night Watch were in the tower, one having been dispatched hours earlier upon sighting my patrol. Those that remained gave haste to accommodate me and mine and even gave out rations of the ale they had with them.

With in an hour, my battle and travel weary troop had settled down and prepared to turn over their watch to their brethren in the tower. I partook of the hospitality of the tower and sat with the three while my men rested.

They seemed quite excited about our return but also giddy about the happenings in the City. When I questioned them they were quite cryptic, say such things as, “You’ll see when you arrive in the morning.” even more infuriating were responses such as, “My lord, it is a surprise and I wouldn’t wish to spoil it for you Captain.”

Normally such foolishness would madden me to no end but I was still grateful for the small comforts they gave my people and the unnecessary but appreciated sharing of their ale. I knew these men, Coyote’s as it were, and they were good men so I refrained from being angry with them and became content with finding out what great mystery awaited for us in the morning. I left their company, more so I didn’t loose my temper with their excited banter that they refused to share with me, and joined my Watchmen outside were I slept a peaceful night under the moons.

At dawn the next morning, my patrol being well rested, rode in perfect formation onto the City. The near completed walls of the city encircled the base of the mesa but the grand view of the Great Hall and the common houses that comprised the center of the city could be plainly seen.

We passed by various farmers in the fields upon our approach and cries of greeting were given to those who were well known. We then left the fields and crossed the river one last time before leading our mounts up the small ramp to the gate.

I hailed the gate and was glad to find that Rob himself was there to greet us. The two halves of the gate opened to admit us and we rode into our home as Rob bounded down from the top of the gate towers and moved to intercept us.

“Greetings Knife, I count one hundred heads and if I am not mistaken it is the same number you left with. Please do not tell me two weeks have passed and naught a thing was found?” He said with a broad smile.

I replied with a quick smile and slapped his back with my hand in friendship and said, “There is much to tell but me thinks that I should relate it only once so as not to forget any detail. We should go, the Council will want to hear of our exploits.”

“Aye,” He said, “And much has happened here that you should hear.”

I peered at him with a quizzical look, though having been tormented by the Watchmen at the Eastern Approaches last night, I must say that I was prepared for some taunt or tease of news.

“Well, my lord, I count as many roof tops this morning as I did upon my departure. What could have possibly have happened?” I said with a straight face.

His reply was a loud roar of laughter that continued as we marched up the hill towards the Court Yard and the Great Hall. I left my troop in the Court Yard under the capable hands of Edi, Wilkens and Lonestar, and followed Rob up and into the Great Hall. He left me in the Main Hall as he went to gather the Council.

As I stood there waiting, fresh from a good night sleep yet poor in appearance from two weeks of patrol and battle, I peered around the Hall hoping to spy out what great mystery that seemed to well up inside all in the city but was unable to spill out past their lips.

And found it I did. There are always small knots of people in the Great Hall, being that it is our seat of government. People constantly petitioning the Council and to a lesser extent the Night Watch, for their services. Today was no different. Perhaps a half a dozen people either sat or stood in the Main Hall with me as I awaited the Council to gather. Off in the corner though, I gazed upon something I have not seen in half a decade. A face I did not know.

Now, good reader, I know that in a group of roughly a thousand, really close to twelve hundred by this point because of a large boon of babies these last few years, a person may not know every single man or woman in detail. However, I have lived amongst these people for years in seclusion. I may not know them in vivid detail but I know them at least in face and in friendly passing.

But this man who sat casually in the corner was in no way familiar to me. The seemingly tall man of dark hair and light complexion caught my gaze and smiled a large toothy grin at me and immediately I knew I disliked him. It was a politician’s smile he shined upon me. One of those smiles that was only skin deep and served the purpose of hiding the emotions underneath rather than expressing kindness or friendship to those he smiled.

I walked up to him, still some what stunned by the fact that this was some one I have never met before.

He quickly stood as I approached and introduced himself, “Hello, my good man. Allow me to introduce my self. My name is Malcolm Quinn.” He said in a decidedly British accent as he bowed a quick bow.

“Who are you?” I asked.

His fake and phony smile continued as if he thought that some how it had worked on me, and I felt a hand upon my shoulder.

“He is a representative of the River Lands to the West.” Said Rob.

Behind him I could see the Council entering the room. “The what?” I asked.

Rob chuckled again and took me with his arm around me and directed me in front of the Council, “Tell your story first, then we’ll get to Mister Quinn.”

So I reported to the council, told them of the Morlock outposts concealed in the brush of the Plains. I related the story of the various skirmishes of Edi’s and Lonestar’s lances due to Wilkens effective scouring of those same posts.

And I told them of the battle of the Eastern Marches. The slaughter of the Morlocks and the heroics of Wilkens was of great interest to them and to my surprise, of Mister Quinn as well.

“You fools, you will disrupt the peace.” He exclaimed, rather rudely in my opinion, as I finished my report.

While the rest of the room looked concerned or shocked at the interruption, I was just annoyed. “What is this truce he speaks of and on that account, who is he?” I demanded.

Wong, sighed, and waved his hand calmly at Mister Quinn. “Calm your self Mister Quinn. All is not yet known. It is possible that mistakes were made but in ignorance not arrogance.

Captain Knife, this is Mister Quinn, though I’m sure by now you know his name. More importantly, he is the representative of the Western folk in the Riverlands. It seems that one of the last patrols out before you left came across them.

Far into the west, there are others who have been transported here. Wonderful news, to say the least. Mister Quinn here is part of a society that has been here for about a hundred years. And by his own tale, there are even more pockets of men from Earth scattered around the west. Some dating back hundreds of years. We are not alone, it would seem.” He announced for my benefit.

The rest of the council was more a blur of action than any thing. Discovering that our group was not unique, not a one of a kind community here on Tera was a mixture of relief and disappointment. We were not alone, yet we were not as special as some had thought. The whole thing was disquieting in light of the recent discovery of the Morlocks. This world seemed to be ever so close to becoming crowded when for five years we felt so isolated and alone.

As told by Mister Quinn, there seemed to be a new arrival every century. Every hundred years, a group of men and women would awake in the Expanse and make the trek out into the Western Forests.

Quinn’s Great Grandfather, an English Gentleman, awoke with the fellows of his literary club and had made their trek. They came across a township of Nineteenth Century American Trappers who made camp along one of the rivers in the West. They had made their home a hundred years before and discovered the French Mason’s living just north of where the Trappers had decided to settle.

All total, there were five settlements. Six if you count the Citadel. For the last five hundred years, the men and women who came to Tera, decided to make their own civilizations instead of banding with the Citadel, which represented the five hundred years of settlers before them.

The Citadel, as Mister Quinn related, were barbarians. Medieval groups who insisted on keeping to their old ways. They built fortresses much like our own, Quinn said in disgust. The practiced warfare and kept a healthy host. The Citadel didn’t prey on the Western folk, though it was always a concern so the normally peaceful Westerners did keep a small army, just in case.

As Mister Quinn spoke to the council, I watched him closely. His views were decidedly one of a pacifist. A curious development on a new world, in my view. One where he knew of the Morlocks and of the men from the Citadel. I was actually relieved to learn that they did in fact have some semblance of an army. I glanced at Rob and saw that he too was glad for the information.

If we did have to make a stand against the Morlocks, and if we could make an alliance with the Western folk, perhaps we could receive military aide. The Council was more interested at this point with the idea of trade. Information and goods both.

As the discussion advanced, Quinn made it clear that they lacked the resources of iron that we had found and was amazed at the amount of wheat we had begun to produce. He promised other foods that we were unaware of in trade. Such the discussion turned until it was decided that members of the community would travel to the River lands and begin to ally us with them. Of course, a detachment of Night Watch would be sent with each for security and representation in the meetings as well as to make contact with the military forces of the Westerners.

After the Council, I noticed that Mister Quinn had stayed behind in the Great Hall, so I approached him.

“Do your buildings look as such, sir?” I inquired with a mix of curiosity of their civilization and of just being polite.

“Yes and no.” He said. “Same style, I’m afraid, yet not as large. We were not builders when my forefathers arrived but poets and authors. The Masons helped us of course, but we haven’t been able to make such large buildings.” A hint of sadness touched his face for a moment.

“You do not like me, do you Captain?” He said turning to me and all emotion drained from his face.

“I don’t like what you represent, sir.” I stated in blunt honesty.

“And what is it you suppose I represent, Captain?” The reply came.

I moved to stand above him, still dressed in my black mail and dusty robes from my long patrol, Hellsbane was still strapped to my side in her sheath. I assume I made a grim presence with a bit of intimidation since he physically blanched as I moved toward him.

“I know of the history of our home world, sir. The last hundred years of Earth have been of war, much like the hundred years before. And those before that. Some of those wars have been for naught, others for survival. In both instances, there were those like you who thought that absence of violence was peace. Peace at any means, if you will. And there those like me, who wished to see days of peace but not at the expense of freedom. I do not wish to fight the Morlocks but neither do I wish to abandon all that I have labored and suffered here so that they can have dominion over this land that they don’t even inhabit.”

I stood back for a moment, surprised at the rage that had vented itself in me, before continuing with a sigh, “The question is, is it going to be a fight with the Morlocks for survival or naught. It would seem, sir that you will stand on the side of naught, while I stand on the side for survival. I hope, sir, that the war doesn’t happen and we never know who is right, between the two of us.”

As I backed away, Quinn recovered some of his maddening cockiness. Some of his composure. “It amazes me that your civilization exists with such polar opposites.” He said almost mockingly.

“Your Council, Wong, Nitram, and the lovely Miss Brat, and the rest are ones of reason and logic. Educated, I would assume. Yet, with them, are you brutes and your weapons. Amazing.” He finished with a chuckle.

It was a goad, and I knew it to be one. I had watched Mister Quinn carefully during the meeting and had noticed that his attention was drawn to Brat. Brat was not only a Council member but the head of the University. Well educated, was she, and beautiful. I decided to turn Quinn’s taunts on him.

“You find InnerBrat intriguing?” I asked.

My directness caused him to blush, a weakness of the Victorian age, and he replied, “She is amazing in a way I can not describe.”

I turned and walked for the exit but before I left entirely, I turned and exclaimed unto him, “You should see her in a corset.” And left with out seeing the red blush turn purple with embarrassment.

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Postby Knife » 2005-06-09 11:38pm

Chapter Five

Rise of the East

The impending invasion did not happen, at least not yet. Since Wilken’s clash at the Battle Mound, just west of the Eastern Marshes, two years had passed. There were skirmishes in the Great Plains from time to time but no great threat seemed to rise. I feel there might have been backlashes of support for the Night Watch, except that the populace was enthralled at the thought of the Westerners and the trade that ensued.

Our knowledge of the land grew, and we made fast friends with the men and women in the West. To mine own and my colleges’ relief, the people of the Riverlands were not as pacifistic as the steadfast Mister Quinn. Oh, there were groups in each town or village who thought as he did. Lived in peace for so long, out here isolated from the Morlocks that they did not wish to consider the thought of warfare.

And in all fairness, I could not blame them. Way out west, it would seem, the Morlocks had little interest. They only seemed interested in our little valley. That, not withstanding, didn’t stop us from forging a treaty with the five towns of the Riverlands. If one called for aide, the others would respond with help.

And thus this is how our plight found us, seven years into our adventure on Tera. It was the morning of the Twentieth of December when the riders of Coyote tore through the gate and headed up to the Great Hall, commanding all in their way to make leave. The four Watchmen, RogueIce, Kendall, Beowulf and Figidmagi, rushed into the seat of government and huddled into Jeg’s office.

As it happens, I was in there, at the time, discussing the training of the Home Guard, a new reserve system for the city. Too many applicants had asked to join the Watch and with the threat of the Morlocks and the specters of war masters in the west known as the Citadel, the Watch wanted options. Weekend warriors were it.

The Home Guard grew to match the numbers of the Watch. Three hundred strong. Though not as well equipped or trained. Their job was in support of the Watch, to reinforce our lines and serve as heavy infantry to our light infantry and light cavalry.

In my estimation, they were only half trained the day that Rogue and company stormed into the Commanders office.

“They’re comming!” Kendall shouted, taking deep breaths to calm himself.

“Who?” Was the reply from Jegs.

Rogue seemed to calm himself quicker than the rest and said, “The Morlocks. Out in the Great Plains. Thousands of them, on the march!”

Messengers were dispatched immediately, Rob, Coyote, Perinquss, some members of the Council all crammed into the small office. Maps spread out over the desk, with all huddled around in the dim candle light.

“There!” Pointed Rogue. “Perhaps three days off, mayhap four. Moving due west, right for us.”

His finger settled at a point roughly half way between the mountains and the Eastern Marshes.

“Closer to four, I would think.” Said Rob. “If there are thousands, as you said, moving that many is difficult.”

“Then we have four days. What do we do?” Asked Councilman Durandal. “What is left to do?”

“Move the children.” Injected Wong.

“Alert the West.” Suggested Coyote. “All easily done in the same move. Gather the children, and all those who won’t or can’t fight. Send them into the West and have an escort alert the Five Cities to our need.”

“Done,” Said Jegs. “Knife, send your whole company to the Eastern Approaches and conduct reconnaissance, while we evacuate the City. Send word when they arrive.”

“And of the Home Guard?” I asked.

Wong replied, “Will stay in the city were needed.” He then glanced at Jegs, “Who will escort the children?”

Perinquss offered up the use of a lance, to my relief, my son’s unit.

Wong straightened up, worry etched on his face and sweat upon his brow from the heat in the cramped little office. “Our chances, Commander?”

Jegs scratched at his cleanly shaven face, “We have six hundred troops. Half fully trained and the other partially. Our weapons are better, as is our tactics. But the Morlocks have learned their lessons these past two years and have become clever.

If they come at us with two thousand, we can hold and perhaps defeat them on the Eastern Approaches. If they come with more, our chances dwindle. If we dispatch a lance with their charges today, we can expect aide from the west within five days and they can double our forces. I would venture our chances of defeating or holding the enemy until help arrives, if very good, Wong.”

The next morning, the City gathered in the Courtyard. Husbands and wives hugging their children, loading up belongings in carts to go with their loved ones. I remember seeing Nitrim and Tevar standing there hugging their child. Nitrim ruffling his hair while his wife fought tears.

I remember the argument of Gagme and Namarie, as he again tried to persuade her to go into the west with the others, and the solemn look on her face as once again she refused to leave his side. The beautiful, yet stubborn woman picked up his Home Guard spear and held onto it for her own, a look of defiance shone in her eyes.

I remember the brothers, Spanky and Uts, arguing whether or not they were staying or going. Both brothers in heated debate about the future of the other.

I remember Azazel hugging his sister, the tears of both running down from their embrace.

I remember a lot of touching moments in the Courtyard that day, harsh moments when fathers put their kids in others charge and walked away. Mothers being restrained by fathers and friends, not wanting to leave their children but not wanting to leave their husbands. I remember a lot of pain, that day.

And the pain was never as evident as in the eyes of my wife. Pain and betrayal.

My eldest son stood with us as I pleaded with my wife to go into the Riverlands. “No.” she said plainly, but with crushing emotion spilling from her stare. “I will not leave you, nor my children nor my home.”

“Two of your children are going.” I pointed out.

“Your youngest is going to protect the children, and then to bring back help. He is not abandoning you or our people, and so nor will I! Your daughter is still young and can not fight. I can.” She exclaimed in defiance.

I turned to my eldest son with a question on my lips, but the boy saw it coming and quickly said, “I couldn’t make her leave any more than you can, father.”

“Are you going, son?” I asked, changing the subject.

His bright blue eyes looked right through me as he replied, “No. Shep needs me at the smithy. There are thousands of things to do. We are still equipping the Home Guard. And if the Morlocks do break through and into the city, I will stand with my Master and defend his shop and his deaf side.”

I placed one hand on his shoulder, the other wrapped around my wife. Tears rolled down my cheeks, pride, worry, sadness, all mixed together in a swirl of emotion inside of me.

The convoy left the city less than an hour later to the sounds of weeping. Over two hundred children and half a dozen civilians were evacuated leaving almost four hundred civilians that refused to leave their homes. With no training, like the Watch or the Guard, these four hundred would serve as runners and medics. Some would do nothing except stay at their house with what ever they could find to defend themselves with.

The rest of us prepared for battle. My Company departed the hour after the evacuees, however, my troop turned east away from the safety of the Western forest. A hundred strong, my Company marched to the Eastern Approaches and set up camp around the small tower. I immediately sent out scouts east, north and south to make contact with the enemy and to keep tabs on them. And thus we settled in and awaited the Morlocks.

When the dark line appeared upon the horizon, three days later, we were not surprised. My scouts have kept track of the monsters for two days, and have counted them and analyzed them. Five thousand strong.

All this, I had relayed back to the City. No recall orders had been sent back. I don’t know what they intended, back at the Great Hall, but it seemed that they wished my Company to stand fast and hold. My position was good. The instant I saw the enemy upon the horizon, I sent Edi and Lonestar’s lances down to the river below. That would be our first stand.

Wilken’s group would stay upon the tower and use their bows in support as well as keep watch upon our Tauns secreted away in a small canyon that snaked its way though the foothills into the valley. This was our way out if the Morlocks broke though. I hated the fact that to keep our mounts calm, I would have to loose four men to do it. Four men who would be missed on the line or in the tower, but an escape could be necessary.

It was mid day when the dark mass of blue skinned bodies halted a few miles out of the pass. The Great Plains seemed to be choked out by the host. From my perch I could hear the grunting and snarling of the enemy as they stood in a sort of formation, stretched across the fields. And I knew their fist dilemma.

They easily outnumbered us. Fifty to one, as it were. But we were in a good position, the river bowed and curved around the base of our hill before turning into the valley. If they by passed us, we could rain death upon them as they marched by, or strike at their flanks in the pass where they could not use their numbers against us.

If they attacked us, again their numbers would be useless, flanked by the river and the mountains, we held the high ground and had the natural barrier of the river. I smiled to myself as the enemy digested this information.

Then, with a frightful roar, a thousand Morlocks split from the host and moved towards us.

“It has begun.” I declared to no one in particular.

I ordered Wilken’s to prepare his bows, and I waved the signal to Edi and Lonestar to stand fast at the river, then grabbed my spear and marched down towards them, attendants in toe.

The enemy was still approaching as I joined the shield wall just on our side of the river. I stood with Edi on the left flank, closest to the pass and watched the enemy come. I could feel the enemy come, a deep thrum as a thousand pairs of legs churned across the field.

A swell of pride went through me as I noticed the resolve on my Watchmen. As terrifying as the dark mass of bodies were that were marching upon us, the men and women of the Night Watch were more so. All dressed in their black chain mail, with straps of black boiled leather tunics. Each holding a Blackwood shield, one meter in diameter, each with a black shaft, form their spears held straight up, unwavering. Each with a determine gleam in their eye. Death incarnate is how we appeared, a Company of Grim Reapers come to take their vengeance.

I steadied myself and prepared for the battle, now only seconds away. The enemy was so close we could smell them. A long line of Morlocks, perhaps six ranks deep came crashing into the river, shouting and roaring in what ever it was that passed for their language. They wore no discernable armor, though long experience had taught us that their skin was thick and they were tough. Each of the blue monsters carried a mace or club. Some black like our shields, others of wood we have not encountered yet.

Just shy of the river bank, the mass of gnarled bodies broke into a run and you could feel the collective mass of Watchmen tense and lean forward anticipating the crunch of bodies, a forest of spears coming down towards the enemy. There was a loud smack, as the two lines met and then the killing began.

Form above, there came whistling sounds as hails of arrows dove into the back of the Morlock formation. Roars turned to screams. But on the line, you could hear only the pounding of your heart or perhaps the pounding of a Morlock club into your shield.

Our line held, our spears slashed through their formations, but the shear mass of them drove us back several feet until we could recover. Four Watchmen went down immediately. Clubs and maces coming over the top of their shields and bashing their heads, runners pulling them away from the line and rushing them up to the tower.

I was able to see that over half of our spears had broken upon enemy bodies, or otherwise been pulled away by the enemy so I ordered swords drawn. Almost as one, my company unsheathed their blades. A sixty glints of silver and iron in the late morning.

Hellsbane shone in the glare of the sun, beside me, Edi unsheathed Deathdealer and we went to work. Quickly, the Watch put their blades into action. From behind our shields, silver blurs struck out at the enemy and it didn’t take long for the silver glints of light to dampen to red blotches against he black of our shields.

With savage ferocity, we pushed the large mass of Morlocks back into the river. Back to where they started from. With a collective heave and a splash, we repelled the enemy advance. And for a moment, we could breath.

Lance Corporals reported to Sergeants, who reported to me. Almost a dozen dead or injured in the first push. Most were already up the hill with Wilkens, the rest making their way now with the runners. In front of me and Edi were the remains of about a hundred Morlocks, dead and dying on the shores and river bed. Their blood mingling with the cold waters of the river. The stain of their blood floating gently towards the City.

With a howl, our enemy charged again. And with a sickening crunch, we took their charge on our shields. Hellsbane went to work again, dispatching any Morlock who got close to me. The sharp blade cleaving through arm and neck as well as Blackwood club.

Dozens of Morlocks fell again, but not alone. Three more of my Watchmen went down. I knew, even though we could kill more than they, we could not keep the line much longer. I was about to fight my way clear to give the order to retreat up the hill, when the enemy surged and Morlocks rushed forward. From the rear of their formation, a sharp sound of bow strings sounded and to my horror, I watched a hail of arrows streak towards us.

Well trained, the Night Watch ducked behind their thick shields, but even then some were too slow. Shrieks of pain sounded out almost as the deep thuds of the arrows hitting our shields. Edi, standing right next to me, yelled in pain and went down. His Corporals moved in to gather him and I fought like a madman to make sure they could by clearing a large chunk of ground around Edi so his men could get him out. Even while I fought, I could see the black, gnarly shaft coming out of his mail in his shoulder.

Seeing we could not hold longer, I ordered a retreat and thankfully, Wilkens seeing the battle unfold beneath him, stepped up his assault with his archers. Hail after hail of Night Watch arrows rained down upon the Morlocks and for just a moment, stalled their advance as my men raced up the hill.

As I reached the top of the hill, Wilkens men raced forward with large planks of Blackwood. Larger than our shields and thicker as well, each one took two men to carry to the lip of the hill.

I took quick stock of Edi’s and Lonestar’s troops and ordered Lonestar to reinforce Wilkens at the new fence, while Edi’s troop would man the tower and begin carrying the dead and wounded to the waiting Tauns. I found Edi in the tower, Tsyroc tending his injuries. Upon seeing the concern in my eyes, Tsyroc said, “He’ll live. It’ll hurt like hell, but he’ll live. Twas only a flesh wound.” I thanked him before racing up the stairwell of the tower to access the rest of our fate.

At the top, I could see the mob of monsters attacking the fence. It was holding well and I was glad to see that out of the thousand strong that initially attacked us; almost a third lay at the bottom of the hill.

The majority of the Morlock host was still waiting patiently in the Plains. A dark cloud against the soft blue of the grassland. I was a little surprised that they didn’t try to go around us while their vanguard was ever so slowly crushing us, but I’ll take a gift when I see one.

The battle below was slowly getting worse. Every once in a while a Morlock would break free of the fence and run on the plateau for a moment before being cut down by either a bowman or one of the fences defenders. At any moment, I expected a breach and figured we could hold out no longer. I turned to see Wilkens standing beside me, as if anticipating my need.

“Are the wounded clear?” I asked.

With out hesitation, he answered, “Yes, Captain.”

With a sigh, I then said, “Order the men to fall back. Get the bulk into the canyon then abandon the fence. They won’t be able to get us in the bottleneck of the canyon. Too narrow.”

“Yes, Captain.” He replied again.

“We should have, I should have expected arrows. We’ve used them against them enough, I should have guessed.” I lamented.

To which he had no reply.
Last edited by Stravo on 2005-06-09 11:40pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Knife » 2005-06-09 11:40pm

Chapter 6

Cry Havoc

We raced over the fields of the Valley to our home, behind us the dark line of the Morlock army advanced, crowding into the Eastern Pass, enveloping it like an illness. My company, now only seventy four strong, moved with the fleeting quickness of our Tauns.

We followed the river as it arced out of the pass and angled towards the city, then rounded the southeastern corner of the Mesa and veered off towards the south. We crossed the river and approached the southern wall, and the gate.

The fifteen foot high, blackwood gate opened at our approach, the enemy still organizing on this side of the pass, and me and my troops galloped into the City. I took immediate note that the cities defenses were up. The Watch had the south and east walls manned, Perinquus taking the gate with Coyote the east wall. The Home Guard had the north and west wall, which considering their overall experience, was probably best. That left about one hundred Home Guard in reserve and my beleaguered company for the Watch’s reserve.

The second thing I took note of, was the knot of people that moved to intercept me and mine, as we dismounted to take our postions on the wall. Councilman Durandal, along with the Home Guard Captain Red and a few others, walked up to me and I could see rage in their eyes. Rage and a bit of fear.

“The morning? That is all you could hold?” The Councilman demanded.

I was tired. Tired from fighting and tired of watching my men die, I was in no mood for his condescending tone. “Did not my runners make it back, Councilman? Did not Tsyroc make it back with the wounded to tell the tale?”

“Five Thousand strong,” I continued. “What did you expect me to do against five thousand?” I demanded of him.

The fear that gripped his heart tightened, I know because the same fear plagued me as well, and he said, “More than the morning. Now there is nothing between them and us!” He practically yelled.

“You,” He bellowed losing control of his anger, “still had a majority of your men and you retreated. RETREATED ! And gave the enemy the pass and the Eastern Approach!”

Rage swelled up in me and Wilkens and Lonestar quickly put themselves between me, the Councilman and his companions. “I lost fifteen Watchmen out there, ten more wounded, you ingrate. If I had stayed out there any longer, I would have lost all one hundred.” I said in a cold, deadly voice.

“The Eastern Approach was never fortified to repel such an attack, Councilman. And if I recall correctly, I DID request that it should be. If I recall correctly, YOU said NO!” I yelled and had to be restrained by Wilkens.

By this point, Rob and Jegs had descended the wall to debrief me and seeing the confrontation happening, hastened to intercede.

“On top of all that, COUNCILMAN, IF I RECALL CORRECTLY, Perinquus requested the Councils and Universities help for catapults for the Eastern Approach, which you also denied!” I continued, nearly screaming, the rage and the pain from the losses of the battle earlier taking over. “It should have held more than the morning, Councilman., but do not look to me for the blame.”

I stalked off, stopping just long enough to inform Ming that he’d be in charge of the 1st lance until Edi’s return. Behind me, the Councilman and his cohorts were themselves intercepted by the Commander and Rob. What they said, I do not know or to this day care.

I climbed the tower stair, and emerging on top of the wall next to the gate. I grunted a greetings to Perinquus, who in return, grunted back. Neither of us had the time nor the temperament to engage in extended conversation.

To the east, the dark blue mob of the Morlocks had formed into ranks and was approaching the City. From my perch, I could hear the steady thrum of their stride, and the low growl of their voices. I watched in morbid fascination at the precision of what we had thought of as beasts as they came closer to their goal.

Even after we had discovered their forts in the Plains, even after we discovered some of their tools and even the ever advancing clever tactics as we skirmished with them out in the east, we, as a people, still seemed to insist that they were some sort of wild animal. I feared that we would pay for that presumption.

The great host split at the river and I watched two groups of roughly two thousand Morlocks close in on the southern and eastern walls, the river a soft line between the two.

“Knife,” Some one said behind me and I startled.

Turning around, I saw the Commander and he pulled me off to the side. “Do you expect any surprises from them?” He asked.

“Yes, Lord. They had bows at the Eastern Approach.” I said and watched his eyes widen with surprise.

I hastened to add, “Not very good one, though, but bows none the less. I’d say a range of a hundred meters, but only lethal at mayhap fifty.”

“The troops will want to stay sharp and close to their shields then.” He mused and nodded over to his Sergeant Major.

“Have your men take the southeastern corner, you can support both Perinquus and Coyote.” He ordered.

Without hesitation, I waved at Wilkens, Lonestar and Ming to bring the Watchmen up and spread them around the wall at the corner. As I set my men up, I nodded greetings to Chardok and Faram, who were manning the ballista there. Chardok, as one of Perinquus’ Sergeants, was in command of the end of that wall and its heavy weapon. The heavy crossbow would throw a bolt the size of a mans arm over three hundred meters and would be an important weapon in the hours ahead. We had one on every tower and a small pile of bolts were stacked up next to the weapon.

As I finished setting up my troops, intermingling them with the other Captain’s men, there was a terrifying roar from the enemy and then all was still. The whole valley was silent, as if some god had muted us all so he could enjoy in the beginning of the coming carnage.

Almost five thousand brutish Morlocks faced us on our wall. The monsters broke the quiet with low moans and growls before a loud squawk, like a devils horn, sounded. As one, both hosts advanced on us. One towards the southern wall, the other to the eastern one.

I tried to keep one eye on Jegs and one on the approaching enemy as I awaited the order to open fire. All the Watchmen and even some of the Home Guard had bows out and at the ready.

“READY!” Came the order and over three hundred arrows were notched.

The enemy may have developed their archery, but ours was finely honed after almost seven years on Tera.

“Looose!” Came the harsh word, drawled and extended to project the sound out.

The word was quickly lost to the snap of hundreds of bow strings and a storm of arrows shot out above the wall, both south and east, and rained down on our enemy.

For the second time that day, their growls turned into screams as Morlocks fell to our black arrows. But the charge still came. The Commander ordered four more volleys before the creatures hit the wall.

A large thump reverberated throughout the great stone structure and various Watchmen had to steady themselves before notching another arrow.

The young Watchman, Frigimagi, yelled in surprise and pointed his gauntleted hand out into the mass of Morlocks, “Look!” He shouted.

Lonestar and I took our attention off of the gnarling mess of blue skinned monsters at the base of the wall and peered out into the east. In the back of the host assaulting the wall, a knot of creatures advanced, carrying what appeared to be ladders.

I turned to Chardok, ten feet from me up on the tower, “Shoot the ladder barer!” I yelled over the noise of the battle.

Chardok nodded, and had Faram swing the large ballista around and aimed in at the Morlocks and their ladders. With a deep thrum, the ballista sang out and the long bolt eviscerating two Morlocks carrying the contraption.

My minor smile of triumph was not to last long tough, as the ladder barer fell, two more Morlocks simply picked up the ladder and continued forward. There was another deep report from the ballista and another Morlock went down but the ladders continued to advance, nearing the wall with every step.

I turned to Coyote’s group that stood next to me, and to my own people, “Draw swords!”

With a roar, the ladders hit the wall and were thrown in place. Quicker than one could imagine dozens of Morlocks climbed up the ladder and just when our swords were drawn, blue skinned barbarians came over the wall onto our blades.

At first, it was a slaughter. The group of ladders just north of the southern corner, allowed only five or six Morlocks up on the platform at a time. The twenty or so Watchmen who stood guard slashed and hacked the invaders apart. But for every five Morlocks who came up the ladders, five more were right behind them.

The enemy held down the rest of the wall by volleys of their own bows, Coyote’s other two lances were caught in the hail of arrows and the south wall had its own problems. Ming’s lance and Lonestar's on either side of the breach, along with Publius’ right in the middle of it would have to turn this attack aside.

Publius jumped into action, he and a group of his men, RogueIce and Frigimagi, and others slashed into the monsters with wicked abandon. I saw the glint of mid afternoon sun shine off of Tomahawk as Magi thrust aside the blow of a Morlock coming over the wall. Then twisting around in a full circle, the young Watchman plunged his blade deep into the stomach of the enemy. With a look of rage, the man pulled free his sword and turned to the next one, all as I and Lonestar organized our troops into a loose shield wall to repel the attack.

From behind our shields, the Watchmen of Lonestar’s lance marched in steady, practiced stride into the group of Morlocks trying to gain purchase on our wall. Lonestar directed his men in and with a brutal crash, the shields of the Watch slammed into the monsters. From behind the black shields, flashes of iron struck at the enemy and we pushed them back towards the wall, intent on throwing them back over.

Lonestar yelled, “The Watch!” in victory and it was quickly echoed by all those around us.

It was at this time, that the largest Morlock I ever set eyes upon, gained the top of the Wall. The brute was twice the size of a man and carried a war hammer instead of the usual mace or club we had come to know as the choice of weapon for a Morlock warrior.

As it gained the top, it reared its ugly head back, a mane of long, white hair, framing it. It let out a terrible bellow and then charged into the battle. It angled for Publius and his knot of Watchmen, bowling into them without even raising its dreaded weapon, and scattering the group.

They reorganized quickly and Publius slashed out with his blade, but the giant warrior deflected it with his giant hammer, and then the brute swiped Publius right off his feet with a large backhand.

Magi and Rogue came instantly to their Sergeants aide, attacking the monster from both sides, but again the large Morlock was quicker than he appeared and smashed his weapon into the mail of Magi’s chest sending the Watchman stumbling backwards off of the platform and down unto the ground below.

Lonestar directed his men unto the creature and the giant monster’s great hammer smashed into the shield wall, sending various Watchmen reeling. I circled around and joined Rogue on the creature’s flank, Hellsbane dripping with the blood of the giant’s clansmen.

I waited until the monster took another great swing at Lonestar’s lance, and then nodded to Rogue to attack. Screaming war cries, we both dived into the monster, swords slashing and cutting the thick hide.

The great monster didn’t hesitate; he turned and swung his war hammer down at me. I quickly sidestepped and the heavy weapon tore through the wooded platform and with a look of surprise, Rogue and I fell through the structure.

I hit and rolled to save as many of my tired bones from a beating, as I could. Rogue hit hard next to me, but his youth saved him from serious injury. I pulled the Watchman up as I glanced back at the platform above us.

The Morlock giant was still fighting with Lonestar, my Sergeant putting up a hell of a defense with his men’s shields repelling the monsters great swings. On the other side of the hole, Ming and the rest of Coyote’s lances were holding off the Morlocks coming through the breach but if the monster that Lonestar was fighting couldn’t be brought down, the Morlocks were sure to shift their ladders there and over run us.

I caught a glint of bronze from behind me and turned to see Stravo shouldering through to me and Rogue.

“My men are here to reinforce!” He yelled.

The big man was one of the Captains for the Home Guard. He was suppose to be defending the North Wall, but had apparently pulled off some of his group to save the rest of us.

Behind him, a half a dozen Home Guard stood in formation. Their bronze plate armor shining in the sunlight, large shields held at the ready. “What needs done, Watchman?” Stravo asked.

It took a fraction of a second to determine what to do. “Break your group into two; send one down with Ming and Kendall to reinforce the wall. The rest, follow me!” I shouted as I took off for the wall, Rogue right behind me.

As I dashed for the tower stair, I heard Stravo order half his men to the north ladders, as I commanded, and then he and Temjin, Fisher and David raced behind us. I paused momentarily at the base of the tower and grabbed a spear off the rack, as did Rogue, and then dashed up the stairs to help my Sergeant Lonestar against the giant Morlock and any who dared come over the wall.

I came out of the tower stair with my spear down and ready, to see the monster tear through Lonestar’s formation with a mighty swing of his war hammer. The formation split into two under the assault and the hammer beat into the wall, sheering off a large chunk of stone.

I could see the tops of the ladders as they did indeed start to shift towards the faultering defenses, torn asunder by the mighty Morlock before me.

Without stopping to wait for the Home Guard, Rogue and I charged the rear of the monster with our spears. Mine, buried deep into the side of the creature, Rogue, changing his target at the last moment, ran his spear right through a Morlock coming up the newly positioned ladders, sending the creature screaming down into their own.

With my spear deeply imbedded into the monster, I tried to use the spear as leverage to throw the monster back over the wall, but the blackwood was not up to the challenge and the shaft broke at the strain.

Lonestar, now behind the monster, sunk Yellow Rose deep into the shoulders of the great Morlock but the best wasn’t done yet. Shrugging off its wounds, he swung his great hammer again, knocking Lonestar and four of his lance down, then charged at Rogue who was in battle with two more Morlocks that had come up over the wall.

It was at then that Stravo and his men came out of the stair and formed into a shield wall, their bronze covered long shields overlapping into an impenetrable wall. Their spears lowered and the small mass of men with their giant of a man leading them, bore into the creature and his newly arrived companions.

There was a horrible roar as the four spears skewered the giant, his death scream rattling all on the wall. His great hammer slipped from his grip and tumbled to the Morlock army below and then the giant collapsed.

With cries of victory, the Watch quickly counter attacked the few Morlocks who had gained the wall and before long, slaughtered them to the man. Then we all surged to the wall, our bows drawn, and rained hell and arrows down upon them.

I don’t know, dear reader, if it was the death of the giant Morlock, or the final hail of arrows, but the Morlock attack faltered and then they started to fall back. On both walls the fighting slowed as the monsters pulled back and away from our weapons. The great mass of the Morlock host consolidated just south of the Gate, out of range of the dreaded ballistas on the towers. And there they waited.

I stood there, on the southern tower watching it. Breathing deep, to clear my mind of the fatigue and battle weariness. Behind me, Wilkens, Ming and Lonestar were organizing what was left of my company, and Chardok was doing the same for Coyote’s.

Content for the break the enemy had give us, I walked down the stair and came out of the tower, seeing the fallen body of Frigimagi where he had fallen mere minutes before. Tomahawk lay next to him, never far from his master’s side.

Home Guard were running all around, as were civilian runners and clean up crews. I motioned for some and explained that they should gather up the fallen Watchmen and take them to the Courtyard and with a tear, I told them to take the weapons of the fallen and give them to those that would use them at the Great Hall.

All except Tomahawk. I picked up the bastard sword and strode off to the gate. I expected him to be there and he was. The large commander of the north wall was in conversation with Rob and Red, his own commander, about his decision to move some of his forces to the east wall, and in doing so, save us all.

I walked up to Stravo, ignoring Red, and thrusted Tomahawk’s pommel towards him. “This belonged to a good man. A brave fighter and one who knew what it took to save others. It belonged to a man like you, as so, it is now yours. May you use it as he did.”

With out words, his armored hand came up and took the sword, in fact everyone near who heard the encounter was silent. A moment of quiet for all of the fallen spread over that portion of the City.

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Postby Knife » 2005-06-09 11:44pm

Chapter 7

The Dark Night

All of that afternoon, the Morlock army sat just outside of the City. Unmoving, and quiet, the creatures stood in formation as if expecting something. Or perhaps just waiting.

The loses on the wall were terrible. The worst yet in this war. Coyote’s company had lost twenty Watchmen, among them, the valiant Frigimagi. Perinquus had faired better but had still sustained casualties. My own company, who just this morning had numbered a hundred, was a scant sixty two men. Almost a third of my Watchmen had fallen in battle between the Eastern Approaches and the Battle of the Wall.

The enemy seemed content to sit outside of our wall, so as mid afternoon came and went; the decision to rotate our men on the wall was made. Lances took turns on the wall and others rested, ate, and prepared themselves for the next assault.

I spent this time running here and there, taking care of business. Ensuring the welfare of my troops and shoring up defenses. I conferred with Rob and with the Commander, Jeggs. I even spent time up at the Great Hall with the Council and afterward, stole some time with my wife and sons.

The attitude of the four hundred some odd civilians who were not under arms, was unsettled. They had begun to fortify the Great Hall and weapon racks littered the interior. The Council was there, awaiting reports from the wall and many were given. All the Command Staff gave reports of what they saw on the Wall and I did notice many a stare as I related the tale of Frigimagi, RogueIce, Lonestar, and myself and the monstrous Morlocks demise by the Home Guard Captain, Stravo.

Mike took the news well as did most of the Council, but looks of worry were abound in the Great Hall as I finished my report.

“We will never again venture from this place, will we Captain?” The quite voice of Fey asked.

Her large dark eyes stole my resolve, and I swear I about cried at that point. There, in front of the council and a large portion of its citizenry. I steadied myself, looking out upon the men and women assembled there. Standing behind Fey was Kernal, always present and always comforting.

Behind them, Mayabird and her mate. Vympel, Ghost Rider and Ossus stood with questioning looks. Behind them even, were the Home Guardsmen of Necronlord, Aya, Lagmonster and Dalton. All the folk of the city seemed to press upon me with the asking of Fey’s question.

“No, my Lady, you shall again go out and be at peace.” I said, choking back sobs. “We are not done yet upon the wall. Nor will we until help arrives.” I continued.

“Well said, Captain.” Interjected Rob.

The tall solider stood off to the side in his dark cloak, like the rest of the Watch, was covered in dust and Morlock blood. “We still have a lot of fight left in us. These bastards will bleed yet before they enter our halls.”

“Which reminds me, Councilman Sir Nitram? Is your batch of wizardry done?” I said plainly.

The lean and solemn Councilman grinned, the first I’ve seen upon him in many a day, and he replied, “Of course Captain. My personal blend, and in quantities I think you’ll enjoy. Or at least, the enemy will enjoy. I’ve taken the liberty of having Commander Red’s men take it to the Wall.”

“Captain, if I may.” Said InnerBrat to me, “Why have the Morlocks stopped all attacks this morning?”

The question quieted the crowd in the Hall and I took my time thinking upon the question.

“Lady,” I began, “The Morlocks, from all we’ve seen, are nocturnal. I believe that this last morning was what they would consider a daring midnight raid. When the night falls, they will be in their element and will attack, I think.”

“Commander?” Asked Wong, taking precedent.

Jeggs turned to the leader of our civilization, “Yes, my Lord?”

A sad look appeared on Mike’s face as he asked Jeggs, “I know you never expected such numbers in the enemy and I do not blame you for this disaster. Do you expect to hold out until the Westerners arrive? In all honesty?”

Our Commander replied almost immediately. “My Lord, moral is still strong in the Watch. We have not expended our surprises yet, nor have my troops expended their virtue. One way or another, Lord, we will hold.” He said with pride.

“And if you shall fall? What then?” Mike said, bluntly.

Jeggs straightened a formidable sight in battle dress, Imperator hung from his side and his black mail and leather made him appear a wraith in the growing shadows of the early evening.

“Lord, if we fail, you and these men and women will stand here. If help does not come, you will have to make your stand here. I do not know what you wish to hear, but this is what must be done.”

If nothing else, that sobered up the room and all fell quite. I took my leave soon after and went to Shep’s armory and spent time with my wife and son. They were as fortified as could be inside the armory and my son gave his word that nothing would befall his mother and even the eccentric Shep himself gave vows as such.

It was here, that me and my wife shared the last of the late rays of the evening sun. We stood outside of the iron works, the heat of the sun warming our faces as we talked of small nothings. Quite chatter of unimportant things that when viewed in context of the looming threat, seemed insane. We both shed tears and gave many kisses in that small frame of time.

As I look back upon it, with the help of time, I remember it as such a startling moment. A frozen moment of time and love. All important things were said with language other than spoken words. All truths were shared by stolen glances, loves and worries laid bare.

I my long life, I’ve seen many a wonder, but this moment stands out beyond all else. A pure moment between me and my loving wife. If neither I nor she lived pasted this time, it would have been our goodbyes. Our proclamation of our combined love. As it was, it was our expressed devotion to each other, in this world, the last or the next. We were one.

It was here, in this tender moment, that I first heard what we would later call the War Thrums of the enemy. I stood there holding my love, and a deep sound arose over the wall. At first, I swear it was a drum, or many. But as it turned out, it was the heavy fall of thousands of Morlock maces and war hammers. They fell with a steady rhythm, an unnerving rhythm, and broke the lover’s embrace of me and my wife.

Shortly there after, the young Watchmen, Consequences found me and bid me to the wall, saying, “Sir, the Morlocks are on the move. All is ready, but your presence is required on the wall.”

I followed the young Watchmen, only stealing one glance back at my wife as the young Watchman and I wound our way through the City, dodging Home Guard units, runners, and fellow Watchmen as they sprang to life with the new threat of the enemy outside our gates.

We bound up the stair of the Gate, and there I found Commander Jeggs and Sergeant Major Wilson. On reaching them, I asked, “What goes on here?”

In response, the Commander simply pointed out to the enemy. The large dark mass of Morlock raiders stood in the growing shadows of the evening and an evil growl rumbled through out the formations, in time with the heavy booming of the War Thrums.

“Where do you wish me, Commander?” I spoke.

An anguished look came over the Commander’s face, a brief look of understanding, then of hard willed knowing. “West flank, Captain. Your Lance is too few on men. Join with the Home Guard Captain Marina.”

“The Battle Maiden?” I replied, slightly surprised at the assignment.

“Her unit is untested, true. But I do not doubt her ability to lead. Do you?” He returned.

I looked shocked, “No Commander.” I came to attention. “I will take my troops to their place.”

I took my leave of the Wall and descended to the ground. Calling out to Lonestar, Wilkens, and Ming, I gathered my men and took them to the Western Wall. There I mingled with the Duchess, and her Sergeants, Rogue 9 and Valdemar.

And it seemed that we did not have too long to wait. The sun was set, and only one of the moons came out from behind the horizon to shed a soft, gray light upon the battle field. Off to the east, scattered clouds loomed.

With her usual poetic flare, Captain Marina saw my gaze upon the coming showers and said, “Ah, well at least they will wash away the dust and blood of battle.”

“Aye,” I replied. “But fire will be at a premium tonight.”

It was with this last bit of conversation that a large shout exploded over the valley and the large Morlock horde advanced as one upon our city. But we were ready for them. During the long, quite day, the men and women of the Watch had brought up the City’s Onagers. Catapults of a simple design, but powerful and with a large range. The University had assisted in their construction and they had only completed the first eight when news of the Morlock army had first been brought, only a few days ago.

The Onagers were placed on the south wall, four on the east, and four on the west end and as the Morlocks advanced, Watchmen were loading the special ordnance.

Another present from the University, Nitram had developed for us Greek fire, a terror weapon, to use against the hoard. The weapons were ready, as the enemy approached.

Standing on top of the wall, next to the Gate, Jeggs raised his sword Imperator and cried out “Loose!”

The harsh Thwap echoed around the wall and eight flaming spheres streaked into the night sky. Just the sight of the fire balls was enough to pause the Morlock charge, and the gangly creatures stood there seemingly fascinated by the phenomenon, watching their doom come in at them.

When the fire rounds hit, they exploded into the ranks of the creatures and the light of the blast transformed the early evening to day. Howls and pain and hatred exploded from the enemy even as the burning fire engulfed the forward formations.

But this wasn’t the end of the enemy. From behind the stalled attack, new formations of Morlocks ran into view. The Morlocks seemed to commit all their forces and a black mass of enemy swarmed in towards us.

The Onagers fired twice more before the enemy reached the southern wall. Twice more did large swaths of the brutal creatures flare up in death and horrible screams sounded across the valley before the enemy was underneath their range.

It was then that the dreaded bows of the Night Watch sounded out in the red glare of the burning Morlocks and scores of creatures died. But the Morlocks, it seemed, were done dying by them selves.

As formations of brutes reached the base of the wall, their primitive crossbows sang out in the night and many a Watchman fell from the arrows.

Quickly, the Watch brought their Blackwood shields to bare, and repelled the enemy archery but in doing so, lost their ability to use our own bows. The tower ballista's still sang out death and horror, as Perinquus’ troops manned the towers and were cutting large holes in the enemy with them.

Then came the ladders again, and the call to the wall and to unsheathe swords. I stood there on the west wall with the Home Guard Captain and watched by the dying light of burning Morlocks as my brethren braced themselves for the coming battle.

At first, I couldn’t see the Morlocks as they came over the wall, only the rush of various Watchmen as they assaulted the creatures. But soon, enough ladders came into place and breaks in the defenses appeared and I could plainly see Morlocks in small groups upon the wall.

“Should we go to their aide?” Asked the Battle Maiden.

I pondered quickly, scanned the wall and the courtyard below. Home Guard phalanxes were moving into position below, in case the Morlocks gained control of the wall.

“No.” I replied. “If they gain the wall in sufficient numbers and Perinquus is forced to move back, then we will engage. Though,”

I pointed over to Wilkens and made a quick motion with my hand and the Sergeant moved off with his lance and they quickly grabbed their bows and moved towards the southwestern tower. “We should reinforce this corner. Stand ready Marina, the battle is still fresh.”

I left her there and moved off with Wilkens towards the corner tower to view the Morlock army. As I arrived, Wilkens men were already dumping volleys into the hoard and with a small gasp; I saw the black host in its entirety as it welled up and down outside the wall.

The stench of the burned and dead made my eyes water and I watched the enemy cluster at the foot of our defenses. It was so, for countless hours that night. The black masses of the enemy attacking, using their crude bows to suppress ours, and then using their ladders to try to breach our wall.

Perinquus’ men held tight and strong. Black wraiths themselves, in their garb, always in the thick of the fight, always rallying to throw the enemy from the wall. Their Captain had them retain their Blackwood shields, so little wounded came from the Morlock archery. Coyote’s lance and mine traded fire with the Morlocks again and again until I stated to worry that we would run out of arrows.

Twice during the night, large portions of the line upon the wall were breached. Herds of Morlocks breaking the valiant line of Perinquus and his Watchmen. Twice, Coyote’s and my troops rushed to sealed the breach.

The creatures were smashed between the reforming line of Perinquus and the approaching wall of my Watchmen. We must have slaughtered a thousand Morlocks that night, and yet still more seemed to spill out over the top of the wall onto our waiting swords.

It was when at last we repelled the second of such breaches, and long into the night, that the thunder began. I took me minutes to figure that it was the weather and not the War Thrums of the enemy. I do not think I was truly convinced until the first rain drop splattered on my shoulder.

As the rain fell on both of the armies in the valley, a small reprieve spread through the combatants. I lifted my head into the rain and felt the cold water awaken me and refreshed me. As I stood there, more thunder echoed across the valley and distantly I heard the cries of the Watch as some new disaster took shape.

I did not want to return to the battle, I wished to stay there, staring up into the heavens and allow this rain to wash away the blood, the pain, and the worry. But knowing my duty, I pulled myself away from the reverie as another bout of thunder sounded and I was amazed to find it was not thunder at all.

The Morlocks had brought up Blackwood stumps, bounded together, and the make-shift ram was hammering at our gate. The Watch scrambled to the wall and launched volley after volley of arrows at the Morlocks, but the living creatures just shoved aside the dead and continued to bash at our gates with their ram.

If not for the rain, that I had found so refreshing just before, we could have lit the ram afire and killed even more of the enemy. But it would seem that the weather favored the Morlocks this night.

Rob called out from the south wall to reinforce the gate and I took his call. “Marina, ready your phalanx.” I told her and moved off to the stair calling my Watchmen to me.

We ran for the stair, a steady boom, boom, echoing through out the city as the ram tore into the gate. It was when we reached the bottom of the stair and just as I was organizing my shield wall that the heavy wood of the gate splintered and buckled.

Stravo’s Home Guard phalanx was already in position in front of the gate. The large man urging his men to stand steady, Tomahawk raised in the soft light of the night. On the east side of the courtyard I saw Coyotes’ men forming a line like mine.

Marina had formed her phalanx and moved off to my left to reinforce Stravo’s unit just as the gate gave up the last of its strength and fell.

Through the dark entry way came a stream of gnarly creatures. No formation, no tactics, just screaming, mad with rage, brutal creatures’ intent of wiping us from the history of this planet.

Stravo’s phalanx took the assault head on and tore into he disorganized mass of enemy, Marina in quick support. I could not see Coyote’s people over the swarm of Morlocks, but my own Watchmen marched into battle.

The enemy had dared to invade our home. They had taken the Eastern Approaches. Hurt and killed countless of our brothers. Disgraced our valley with their wicked selves. Now they dare to enter our home.

The faces of my Watchmen were masks of terrible revenge, as the black line of my troops advance on our mortal enemies.

The Blackwood spears of mine, Stravo’s, and Marina’s formations ripped through the creatures, but the sheer mass of enemy coming through the gate made us loose ground. We hacked and fought and shoved to no avail.

Reinforcements came out of the gate towers, and Rob himself, ran and attempted to close the broken gates, to stem the tide of the enemy.

I saw him and Wicked Pilot, along with Bean, fight their way to the broken gate and heave upon it. The broken gate began to move, but every time it budged, the Watchmen had to abandon their attempt and fight off more enemies.

Marina and her phalanx dealt a devastating blow to the rushing enemy, and it gave me a chance to shift my forces to the south to support Rob and his valiant efforts.

More Watchmen came out of the tower and now a cadre of thirty of so Watchmen hacked at the Morlocks as others tried to close the shattered gate. The enemy surged again, not to be denied their victory, and broke the formation protecting Rob, Bean and Wicked.

A Morlock snatched up a fallen spear from a dead Watchman and hurled it towards Rob. The Sergeant Major never saw it coming until the dreaded weapon pierced him and he fell.

A collective gasp sounded through out our ranks and then war cries of pure rage and the Watchmen rallied to save our CSM. Marina’s ordered her own charge and the men and women of the Home Guard rushed to our aide.

Beside me as I ran into death, the young Guardsman, Rogue9, scooped up a sword from the dead and plunged into battle along with Ming, Wilkens and me. The young Guardsman proved adept with his new found weapon, as he tore into he enemy. Slashing and stabbing any Morlock who dared come near him.

We fought the Morlocks back, not with weight of numbers, or with superior tactics, but with pure savagery. We killed every creature that came near us and bore deep into their ranks, desperately trying to reach not only Rob but those few who were still alive around him.

The wave of death that was my small company and the members of the Home Guard, who rushed with us, made it to the gate and annihilated the Morlocks who choose to stand and fight. Marina, with a war cry, dug her heels in and attempted to close the gate. Her men, hearing her cry joined her and as the Watch repelled the Morlocks still trying to gain entry into the City, the Home Guard closed and sealed the gate.

As the gate slammed shut, members of Perinquus’s and Coyote’s and various other Home Guard units rushed to fortify them. I and the troops from my company and Marina’s just stood there gasping for air. We had plunged into the very heart of the Morlock hell and had made it out again. But at what cost?

I made it a point to thank everyone of the Home Guard who charged with us, especially the young Rogue 9 who above anyone else, had slaughtered more than his fair share of the enemy in the charge that night.

The roar of the enemy behind the gate lessened as it seemed the enemy had had enough for the time being. That was fine for the tired and battle weary troops behind the wall. We took stock of the dead and wounded. Rob’s body was taken up to the Great Hall with the rest of the casualties and I took to the wall and found Jeggs to report.

The Morlock army had fallen back to where they had spent the day previous. Out of range of our archery and Onagers. I could hear them more than see them in the dark night. I had not noticed, but the rain had ceased during the desperate battle at the gate. The sparse clouds had moved on west over the forests and the night was alive with the twinkling of stars.

It was here that Sir Nitram found myself, Perinquus and the Commander. We told him of the losses and of the fall of Rob and he himself said he came with bad news.

“Wong is dead.” He stated simply, though tears welled up in his eyes as he spoke.

“Morlock raiders slipped through your line while you fought. They attacked the Great Hall and we threw them back but at the cost of our leader.” He finished.

We stood there in the dark, quiet for a long time, and all hope seemed to have vanished. The Home Guard, the Night Watch, all under half of their strength now. Rob dead, and now our civilizations leader. Even if we some how survived this war, I thought at the time, what would be left?

It was there that I stood, blood from various wounds dripping off of me, dirt and gore from the slain enemy shrouding me in dark temper that I heard a soft sound coming from behind me.

It was so out of context with the sight of death all around me that at first I had no idea what the sound was. I turned to my left to gaze back into the City to discover the source of the sound and as I faced the east, a warm ray of morning sun stretched out from the horizon and touched my face.

As the sun rise embraced me, I realized what the soft sound was. After all the fighting, the death, the members of the City still emerged from the Great Hall and into the courtyards and sang. Fey, Zaia, my wife, and many others and a soft melody rose out of the depths of the city and again I felt hope.

It was Christmas.

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Postby Knife » 2005-06-09 11:46pm

Chapter Eight

The Battle of the Hymn

I took me years, dear reader, to pry from my son the story of his long patrol. Bits and pieces of the tale of his march from the Riverlands back to the City.

Such modesty is not rare in soldiers, I must admit, but damn maddening when I view it from my standpoint. My boy would bow his head, as if saddened, and shrug off my questions.

Finally, though, and after a lot of effort, I can piece together the events of his march that long night. My youngest son, newly part of the Watch, had been sent off as escort with the children day’s before. He and his companions were also to sound the alarm and bring back the Western Army as help to our embattled city.

Christmas Eve had found him and the five hundred strong, Western Army in the forests west of the Valley. They had marched hard for two days days, fearing our survival, though some had counseled to make camp shy of the valley and approach at dawn.

Fearing for us, my son and his leader, Yenchin had convinced the heads of the Western Army to continue through the night. So it was, while I and others fought on the Wall and desperately grasped at hope at the Gate, one hundred Taun mounted warriors and four hundred heavily clad infantry hurried through the Western Forest.

My son told me that they feared the worst, as dawn approached and columns of black smoke could be seen through the great tress. His worry grew without end, and without word the pace of the army increased so as by the time they approached the edge of the forest, they were all but in a run.

Yenchin, once told me that not knowing what they’d find, they slowed as they came upon the edge of the forest and formed into battle lines. In the center of the lines, he and his three other Watchmen rode on their Tauns. They expected the worse when they were going to break through the tree line and view our fate, but just before they moved out, before they resigned themselves to view the carnage of their loved ones, the young Watchman that was my son yelled out.

“Listen!” He cried over the bustle of the forming lines.

I was told there was a wave of silence that washed over the army. Men stopped moving and even the beasts of the cavalry grew quite.

A soft melody spilled over the trees and into the group of men as the eastern sky lightened. A soft whisper, fragile, came through them from its long away origin. A simple song, but in the eyes of the men of the Watch, a beautiful song, a song that rang out to the heavens that the City still stood.

“They’re still alive.” Said Yenchin in a deadpan voice.

As I heard it sometime later, the solid Watchman blinked back tears before tuning to his allies from the West.

“They’re still alive. Men of the West, it is not too late. The City still stands! On wards!” He cried.

A few scant miles away, I stood upon the Wall, listening to the dying notes of the Hymn as the morning light washed my face in warmth. Most of the Watch sang with the song as it drifted down from the Great Hall and all the people who stood there. Some like myself just stood there, bathing in its beauty.

It wasn’t until after the end of the Hymn, that the significance of the quiet that had gripped the Valley came apparent. For two days, the Valley had been the site of the screams of horror and death. War Thrums and war cries had traveled across the Valley, marking the desperate battles within. Now, in stark contrast, it lay in a comforting silence as the last notes of the Hymn faded into the hills.

Out in front of the City, the jumbled mass of the Morlock Hoard stood as silent as the defenders of the City as if the magic of the Hymn had entranced them. The gnarly creatures stood stunned, they stood transfixed, as the fluttering of the Hymn reached them and even after the end of the song, they seemed tamed by it’s beauty.

The silence lasted a few moments until a Guardsman shouted, breaking the quiet, “Upon the forest’s edge! Look!”

All eyes on the Wall moved to the west. At this distance, detail was impossible, yet I could still make out hundreds and hundreds of glints of metal appear from out of the violet trees. The dawn’s early light reflecting from an army of metal armor.

Shouts went up, and gauntleted hands pointed towards the west, “They’ve come!” Many shouted. “We are saved!” Others continued.

The enemy was quick to follow out stares and with a growl, the host of blue grey creatures snapped out of their trance at our music and started to move. The large, dark formations began to move towards the west and to the new threat.

Cheers were still ringing out from the Wall when Jegs, the Commander, stood up upon the broken tower of the Gate and rallied his Watch, yelling “To your mounts, Watchmen. With the light of day, our fortunes change. To your mounts!”

A great cheer went up and black armored men started leaving the wall, sliding down ladders and running for the stables as if they were fresh and well rested instead of bone tired and battle weary that I knew most to be.

As the Morlock fixed their gaze upon the coming Western Army, the Watch and some of the Home Guard mounted up on all the Tauns we had left in the City. I reflected momentarily that there were now more Tauns than Watchmen, as a hundred or so Home Guard filled out our depleted ranks.

To my honor, my own Company which was now at half it’s original number, was filled in by those remarkable warriors of the Home Guard who had fought as one of us the night before. The Battle Maiden, Marina, trotted up next to me on a Taun. She said nothing, but her movements were almost as if one asking permission.

To answer her and all with such questions I smiled and waved my hand in signal and called my Company, “Watchmen, Guard. Those who ride into battle this morning, no matter what the end may be, I stand with you and am honored to fight with you this morning. The virtues of all who have fought and suffered last night have erased such distinctions such as Watchmen and Guard for me.”

Here I paused for a drama, little did I know it’s effect.

“Brothers! Sisters! We are one of the sword, and we will take that sword to the enemy!”

There was a huge roar, men and women. Watchmen and Guard. Those mounted for battle and those standing upon the wall. All cried out in one great roar of support and comradely that its strength echoed off the walls of the far off foot hills of the valley.

The Gate opened and two hundred and sixty rides flowed through it like a dark river. The surviving Watchmen with their black mail and black stained leather and cloaks. The brave members of the Home Guard, bright with their bronze armor, catching glints of sunshine filling out our ranks.

We formed a half a dozen wedges upon the entry of the Gate and face our enemy for the last time. The Morlock hoard was moving towards the Western Forest to engage the new threat of the Western Army and was paying us little notice, thinking us to weak to threaten them.

From above, I heard the order to loose and six Onager’s rang out in the morning, their armament streaking out to the Morlock formations. It was under this fire that we charged.

As we crossed the river at the bottom of the ramp, the wedges spread out to increase our deadliness. After the battle, I have heard those that stayed on the wall say that we looked like the Black Death spreading out over the valley. A wall of dark riders moving right for the enemy in front of us.

I rode with Wilkens and Lonestar, my trusted Sergeants, as well as Edi who had come back to the wall during the Hymn, recovered enough from his wounds to retake his lance in our most desperate hour. I rode with the Battle Maiden and her trusted men, Rogue9 and Valdemar. We rode straight and true for the enemy. By the time the combined strength of the Watch and the Guard hit the enemy flanks, some of the eastern most wedges wrapped around to the Morlock rear, we stretched across the valley so.

West, the front of the Morlock Host had engaged the Western Army. The men of the Riverlands took the crunch of the enemy on their large shields and the spears of the men started to slash at the creatures. Their phalanxes standing true. The men of the West had an army to defend against the Citadel, and as such their spearmen were trained to fight against cavalry. But the big, brutish monsters of the Morlock host fell just as well to their spears and pikes.

With a roar of confidence, the Western Army planted their feet and threw off the Morlock assault. The fresh troops took the battering of the enemy and stood firm.

For my part, with my spear clutched in front of me, my wedge tore into the dark endless mass of the enemy. I know I cried out a war cry when we engaged, but I do not remember what it was. In my memory, the charge into the Morlock army was once of silence. Mute. I don’t remember any sound, as I and my brothers and sisters in arms sliced out way through them.

My spear shattered in a monster and I immediately drew Hellsbane. I slashed and cut down Morlock after Morlock. They came and I slaughtered them but all in silence as my mind remembers it.

I do not know how long I fought like that, but I remember killing a Morlock with a quick down stroke of my sword and as I raised my sword again to kill yet another, I noticed that there were none.

Sound flooded back to me and screams and cries as well as the sound of Taun and the ring of sword on mace and club rang all through the valley. I looked around and saw that I and perhaps a few dozen riders had cleaved our way entirely through the Morlock formations and was now on the south side of the Valley.

Rallying those dozens to me we spun about to reengage the enemy. Taking this time to view the battlefield, I saw the masses of riders speckled through out the hoard. Wilkens and a small group were still struggling in the center of the enemy formation. As my forces reformed, I watched Warmonger slash and cleave Morlock after brutal Morlock as his Taun fought for space and those around him fought like demons.

I looked west and saw a cavalry charge from the Western Army cut through the right flank of the forward Morlock units and the infantry following up and moving forward. The Westerners seemed to be faring well, their larger pikes giving them an advantage against the brutes.

The Morlocks had lost their advantage in numbers with the arrival of the Western Army but were still flinging themselves into battle as if they still did. The men from the west had made their line on the edge of the forest using the trees as a protection from flanking Morlocks and the cavalry struck from there. Using the tree’s to mask their positioning, the Tauns of the west lashed out once from the north, then from the south, tearing open the Morlock line for the Western infantry to exploit with their pikemen.

As the last of the stragglers around me reformed into a wedge, I glance back towards the center of the Morlock army and I watched in horror as Wilken’s Taun was struck and the beast went down. There was a roar from the enemy and the creatures massed at his location.

I cried his name as if it was a war cry and again my battered company plunged into war. The mass of my Tauns tore through the south flank of the enemy who even now were starting to break, and headed straight for where my friend had fallen.

Lonestar and a small group of Taun broke out of the mass and headed for where Wilkens was as well. Our two groups met and scattered the waning Morlock strength, some of our group giving chase as I and Lonestar dismounted to kill the final few enemy that lay upon our brother.

In the center of a pile of dead monsters, Wilkens lay with his sword still clutched in his hand. The mighty Sergeant who had won so many battles, who had rallied men and inspired his friends, now lay at peace on the field of battle.

I roared in anger and remounted. The Morlocks were broken and running east. Passing by us as I reformed my group and began to run them down were elements of Coyote’s and Perinquus’ forces. In a red rage, I tore into the enemy and it wasn’t until I reached the Eastern Approach that I paused.

With me were the battered remains of the riders. Over two hundred riders chased down the fleeing Morlocks to our boarders. It was there, with the sun now fully in the sky, the cheers of the city at our backs that our rage passed and we stood there on our mounts watching what was left of the Morlock Host run into the Great Plains.


And so the war ended. We counted the enemy dead on the valley floor just as we counted our own. Of the five thousand Morlocks who streamed into the valley that long day before Christmas, only one thousand, eight hundred were able to flee east the next morning. Three thousand Morlocks met their end between the Eastern Approaches and the edge of the Western Forest.

As for our own, the Watch was decimated. Of the three hundred proud warriors who stood to face the enemy, only one hundred and thirty two remained. Over a hundred Home Guard gave their life in order to defend our City. A score of civilians were killed as well.

Seen from the distance of time and pure hindsight, we had slaughtered the enemy. But we had paid dearly for it.

In time, things settled back into a normal routine. Two weeks after the battle, a convoy from the west returned our children and those who could not or would not fight. Some of those stayed in the West, but then some of the Westerners came to live with us.

Over the course of the next few years, more and more Westerners immigrated to the City and our numbers swelled again.

A month after the Battle, a group of men from the Citadel passed through the Valley. They made no attempt to talk to us, though a lone member of their group saluted us as he passed. The armored knights of the Citadel passed east out of the Valley and we never saw them return. Some think the Morlocks killed them, others that there is a northern pass back west we are unaware of.

I believe that the Citadel was scouting us as much as they were scouting the remains of the Morlocks. But the story of the Citadel is one for another time and for other people. Stravo’s Red Book chronicles our complete history far better than I and though I have had more than just this one adventure, my writings were just to capture our fight with the Morlocks.

I continued to serve the Watch for years to come. I rebuilt my Company and served as best I could in memory of the friends I lost. I saw many things until I retired, but never again did I see another Morlock.

Some believe that we destroyed their strength so badly that we will never again see them. Others thinks that the Citadel finished them off after we beat the Morlocks in battle. But no one knows for sure. We just know that not one Morlock to this day has been seen west of the Marshlands and we as a people do not travel east of them.

Sir Nitram took control of the Council and has ruled wisely for years, the City was rebuilt, it’s people rebound. And as always, the Mounds of the First One’s still grow but the littered plain of burial mounds now has a single monument within it.

Helped by the Masons of the west, the long low wall runs north to south in the center of the Mounds. Upon it are the names of all who have died with special note to those who died at the Battle of the Hymn. Whether it be Watchman or Home Guard. A citizen of the Valley or some one from the Riverlands, those inscribed on the wall who gave the ultimate sacrifice have the following inscription above their name.

‘Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends'

The End

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