Blood on the Sand - Skirmish

  • Sylos squinted at the sun, judging its position.

     

    “We’ve got only a few hours till the sun’s down, I want this whole camp packed up by nightfall!” He groaned at the voice of his commander. Their ragtag “army” was much more freeform and less disciplined than the ones he served with before, but even so, he dreamed of battle and glory when he joined it, not a constant journey interrupted only by setting up and taking down his tent.

     

    Sylos’s friend, Aroath, guessed what he was thinking. “Aw, cheer up! We’ll be fighting in a week, you impatient bastard.”

     

    “Still, the fact is-”

     

    “Aye, aye, I get it! You’ve complained enough times in the past month! Now get moving, or Norak will have your hide!” In an attempt to make the people of their army respect his authority, Norak insisted on being called “Captain”, and not his name. Of course, the mages were exempt from that rule, like they were from all the rest. The army prized mages, and only the most severe of actions could get a mage punished, unlike normal soldiers. Sylos hated that, especially when Aroath casually used his power without even thinking about it. It wasn’t right, but it was what happened.

     

    “Augh, you bloody-” Sylos cut himself off before he would say something he would regret. Eying his friend with distaste, he started to go inside the tent and gather his things.

     

    Before he could shut the tent door, Aroath stepped forward. “Hey,” he said, in a softer voice. “How about we spar after our day’s marching?”

     

    Sylos hesitated, then took the olive branch, slim as it was. “Fine. See you tonight.”

     

    Turning back to his tent, he closed the door and started to pack.



    ~-~-~-~-~-~




    Sylos struck once, twice, three times, each blow backing his opponent up. Finally, he disarmed his enemy. “Pathetic,” Sylos said. “Are you trying to be beaten? You looked like a locust swarm had crawled into your trousers. Pick up your sword.”

     

    “Ugh, easy for you to say!” Aroath moaned. “I’ll never need this, you know. I’m a mage, why would I get caught up in silly sword fights?”

     

    “When you find the secret of infinite magicka, I’ll be glad to stop helping you. Until then, pick up your sword!”

     

    Aroath grumbled, but did as Sylos asked. But before they fought again, they heard a clamour in the distance. “Quiet down, you fools!” Tharois bellowed. Tharois was a veteran soldier, burly and scarred, and had the respect of every man in the camp. Slowly, everyone quieted.

     

    “By the gods, that’s the alarm!” someone said, recognizing the notes coming from the horn. “We’re under attack!”

     

    Suddenly, a line of horsemen came over a nearby dune, and rode into the center of camp, dividing it into two. “Skirmishers,” Sylos muttered, as a wall of sand obscured the other side of the camp. He looked around, and saw that every man had a wooden practice sword, besides the archers, who had real bows. He did a quick headcount on the archers, his heart sinking. They won’t be enough, he thought. Looking around again, he saw Aroath was the only mage near them. Even he couldn’t take down that many.

     

    The horsemen split, spilling across the camp, raining death where they went. Nine men rode towards the temporary sparring field, where Sylos, Aroath, and the others stood.

     

    Sylos looked at Aroath. “I hope you know what you’re doing, because right now, you’re our only hope.”

     

    Aroath’s eyes widened, as he looked around, before settling into a battle stance, and letting magicka flow from his shaking hands.

     

    “Steady!” a voice sounded out behind Sylos. He turned to see the archer captain, commanding his men. “Steady! We’ll only get one shot at this… Just a bit more… FIRE!”

     

    Arrows whizzed towards the horsemen, hitting four horses and two riders. The two riderless horse broke off into the desert, while the four men who hit the ground lay stunned, perhaps dead. All in all, only 3 horse riders remain.

     

    “Well, that evens things out a bit,” Aroath said. Sylos just nodded, surprised at how effective the archers were, and regretting counting them as useless so soon.

     

    The riders continued their charged. Bringing his hands up as they got in range, Aroath repeatedly launched firebolts at the men, and managed to hit a horse. It veered off course, but the rider jumped off, rolled, and began to sprint towards them, only to take an arrow to the chest.

     

    The two horsemen remaining split up. One scattered the archers, gripping his mount with his knees and swinging a two handed sword around in wide arcs. The other aimed for Aroath, and Sylos jumped aside at the last second, avoiding a blow from a wicked-looking mace. Aroath, however, was not so luck, and disappeared underneath the horse’s hooves.

     

    Sylos ran to Aroath’s side, relieved to find him still breathing, though not without any number of broken bones underneath his robes. Looking back at the crowd, Sylos saw Tharois jump onto one horse, falling off but pulling the rider with him. The man Tharois attacked soon disappeared under a group of angry soldiers, while the other rider ran away, regrouping with his friends. Squinted, Sylos saw the skirmishers who attacked the camp fleeing, routed by the others with real weapons.

     

    Sylos saw a healer start to run towards Sylos and the people around him. Letting out a sigh of relief, Sylos rolled Aroath’s unconscious form over to his back. “You’ll be okay, buddy. You’ll be okay.”

     

    ~-~-~-~-~-~

     

    Sylos sat on a raised mound of sand, watching the camp slowly go back to normal. For a while, after the attack, everyone was on edge, and the camp remained in the half-packed state it was in when the skirmishers came. But then Norak, the commander, had ordered them to pack, and it was slowly returning to how it was before, albeit with some of their number wounded and unable to help. The 5 tents set up specifically for healing lay on his right, with only 2 being used. One for the superficially wounded, those who only need a bandage and a pat on the back. And one for the heavily wounded. Aroath was in the latter group, and was inside right now. Sylos had only gotten a glimpse, but it seemed like around five or six were in the tent with Aroath, and how quickly they started healing him would affect how quickly he recovered. Sylos was uneasy, he didn’t want Aroath to have to leave, he was a good friend.

     

    When the rest of the camp was all packed up, Norak approached the tents, trailed by a large group of those that knew the wounded. Sylos cut into the front of the group, staying close to Norak.

     

    When they were close enough, a healer stepped outside to talk to Norak. Leaning in, Sylos and the rest of those who had come listened.

     

    “Will they be fit for travel?”

     

    The healer hesitated, before answering worriedly. “As per your instructions, we started with the two mages… they could use a few days of rest before fighting, but they’ll be fine when we finally arrive. As for the others… no, they can’t travel.”

     

    Sylos breathed a sigh of relief, while almost all behind him only tensed up. Mages weren’t popular, so many more would be worried for their friends who were apparently in bad shape.

     

    Norak stared at the shimmering night air in the distance for some time, with everyone shifting uneasily. Finally, he nodded. “Alright. Give them enough water to last two weeks, and leave them.” A beat of silence, before cries of outrage overtook the camp. Sylos departed from the mob before it grew ugly, if Norak even allowed it to get that far.

     

    He couldn’t help but feel guilty at how little he cared about the others, who were apparently going to have to stay here with only themselves. No, his heart only felt relief that Aroath was fit for travel, for fighting, for staying at his side. He dozed on and off, sand creeping into his armor. Occasionally, a raised voice or an angry cry awoke him, but he fell asleep after each. When he was woken up for good by a fellow soldier, he hadn’t gotten much sleep. Nodding his thanks to the man who had shaken him, Sylos began seeking out Aroath as the soldiers started to slowly walk, slowly move towards the battle awaiting them.

Comments

2 Comments
  • Wulfhedinn
    Wulfhedinn   ·  September 21
    This is really good! I'm gonna keep an eye on this
  • Felkros
    Felkros   ·  September 16
    Alright, so a war in Hammerfell was going to affect the Frozen Tears world, but I just couldn't write chapter 3 of it, and eventually decided to do a short story in the start of that war. The army's pretty small, only around 100-300 people in it, and isn'...  more