here is never a good way to describe a battle, so says the Literary Sage.
Battles (and, more specifically and truly, War) were ephemeral things, meant to haunt the dreams of men who lived and the memories of the ones who didn’t. They were quiet approach, ruined by endless blood and roar, and left once more with quiet.
Well, not complete quiet; not at the end.
The moans always broke the silence.
Battles were heroic moments lost, near misses and magic. Battles were gashes and wounds, spells and potions; they were life where life shouldn’t still exist and death where no Grim Reaper glared. They were dashes of quick thinking followed by agonizing waits.
They were unexpected in their furor. Even the stout-heartedest of boys admit it; even the bravest of the bunch: No amount of mental or physical preparation readies a man or woman for war.
Of the humanoids, all knew war; of the baser species, few did. One that sticks out though, is the ant. For the ant – like many living things – is a killer; but like few others, the ant wages war. It forms armies. It chooses sides. The ant wars over hills and crumbs, not unlike the supposedly-far-more-intelligent humanoids of the world.
So it goes.
The Battle of the Barracks will be remembered by each participant differently, and few will likely fully understand their memories of that day forever hence.
For Jules Amour, it was a moment of badly failed diplomacy and near death; for D’arkn Niece, it was a day for the sharpshot to watch his target, his charge, his purpose – the loyalist leader Maxentius – laid low by the wild blades of a blood-crazed half-elf; for Brannoch Alden, it was the difference between the fantasy of glory and the reality of battle.
Some, like Caithas, Jules, Ark and Bran, will bear physical scars of that day for the rest of their lives.
All will bear the mental scars until long after their lives have ended.
But how did it begin? It began as all battles do. It began when one bastard got too close to another with a blade instead of a drink in-hand. It began with arrows raining.
The rebels crept ever closer, and when fighting broke out, it couldn’t be stopped. On one side of the field were Langbard and Bran, Veor and Tumult, along with the paladin’s archers; on the other, the ranger, the nobleman and the warriors ready to charge behind Subaru.
And, insanely, the rebels appeared to be holding their own – even winning – until a voice calls out to halt the fighting. A voice the rebel Langbard knew all too well.
The same man hunted by Ark, the same man hated by Langbard, called now for diplomacy. He called for a truce.
A truce he broke when he ordered his warriors to slaughter every last rebel; a truce he broke when he ended Langbard’s life and nearly ended Jules’s.
In one moment, the loyalist leader had publicly cut down the heart of the rebellion in one swell foop…and then the arrow struck. Shot straight and perfectly true by Ark from a distance that would make most men blanch, the arrow pierces the bastard’s lung.
And it still wasn’t enough.
No, Maxentius didn’t fall until the wild-banshee-like Caithas, throwing himself into the line of every archer’s fire, charged the man and ran him right through with his blade.
And it still wasn’t enough!
Not enough to kill him anyway, though the ranger was successful in finally knocking Maxentius out of the fight. And though the foolhardy half-elf took a few arrows for his trouble and nearly succumbed to the wounds, he was saved by a blessing his old friend Grunur had learned and bestowed on all the allies he could before the battle began.
And there again…a chance.
The rebels didn’t yield; they didn’t fall. They rose and they fought on. They fought on with the aid of Elana’s surreptitious spells and Veor’s Fog. They fought on through alleyway and doorway, until the streets ran incarnadine. They fought until they won.
And when the dust cleared, when the wounded were bound and the dead were looted, many on both sides had fallen. But of the notable rebels discussed herein, not one failed to return home that day with the exception of the man known as Langbard. They returned weary and wounded; they returned scarred and stubborn.
They’d faced death and said, “Not this time.”
With the terms of the surrender secured under the word of Crown-bound men named Quintus and Praeconius – thanks in no small part to the diplomatic skills of the resident nobility – the rebel forces returned to the Old Savain Estate that was an estate no longer. An exchange of prisoners at the gate leads to a partial loyalist defection – notably in the final hostage, the respected Quintus – which only further bolsters the resolve and moral of the victorious band.
Soon, they would all have to face reality. Soon, they would all have to prepare for the coming onslaught from the City and the Crown. Soon, they would lose some of those they hold dear and be torn away from others. Soon enough, they would war once more.
But for tonight…for one night…they are the victors.
They’d fought The Battle of the Barracks, as it would come to be called…and they’d won.