Running Up That Hill

It was the sluagh! I do not know why, and still do not know why. All that I know is that I got to the Mysthaven gate to find hordes of them scrambling up the hill to attack. Battle had already been joined when I got there, and already things were not going well. Iron on its own had proved to be ineffective, so we were dipping the tips of my crude spears into flaming pitch and using that to attack them. The bags of iron waste were left unused. Maric was there, looking more the warrior than the urbane gentleman, wading into the fray and I did not even pause before joining him, with spear in one hand and sword in the other, blessing my foresight in having had some lessons from Maric’s guards. It was fortunate that the sluagh appeared to have no clear purpose or direction, other than to overrun us, so they were relatively easy prey for our weapons. Even more of a blessing, it appeared yet again that my vampire powers had not deserted me, despite the heartbeat. Time and time again, I commanded the horde, or at least, those nearest to me, to freeze, which they did long enough for Maric, his guards and I to lop off heads. I fought, with no great skill, save for that which I had learned from Maric’s guards and from Blaise’s man, but fought effectively. As I said, they were not the most organised of assailants.

Then my blood ran ice cold in my veins. I heard Aoibheann’s voice, shouting at the horde.  I had no idea why she was outside the mists, but she certainly had no business here in the battle. Maric noticed at the same time, as he shouted her name and started fighting with even more ferocity as he saw where she was and started to fight his way towards her. Rage flooded through me, tempered with a strange sense of pride as I saw that she was not running in fear, but confronting her attacker, shouting defiance. A petite young woman she may be, but inside, she is made of steel. I reached the melee centred around her and again, used my powers to freeze those closest to her. Maric, the guards and I needed no words, we knew what to do. Maric shouted something that sounded like “sleep!” and more of the sluagh ceased their attack. The guards and I waded in, chopping and maiming without thought of mercy or quarter, leaving Maric free to gather Aoibheann into his arms and take her to safety while the rest of us kept the way clear for him. My fear subsided a little once I saw he had her safely away from the throng, but the rage remained. The sluagh had attacked one of those most dear to me and now they would pay! With renewed vigour I charged once more.

Another female voice came out of the noise, but this time one I welcomed. With a gust of wind and a crunch of bones, Galyanna landed beside me, weapons ready and already swinging as we landed. Never was there a sight so beautiful.  “It’s been a night,” she said, with a laugh, and started laying into the sluagh. I responded with “No shit!” I did not question her appearance, but welcomed her as an ally. Unlike me, she was born to war. Together we advanced into the fray, trusting each other as though we had fought many times, for all that this was the first time we had seen each other in action. I don’t know why, because I had no time to think and perhaps, I was just acting in instinct, an instinct for battle that I never knew I possessed. Later, I wondered if maybe I had learned something from my reading. I don’t recall tactics being particularly detailed in my readings of the battles that Arthur fought, or any of my other readings, but perhaps something had lodged in my brain.  All I knew was that I was going to defend my home, no matter what the cost.

Behind me, Maric shouted something at his men, something about taking the gloves off. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but I soon found out, as many of his men suddenly shifted shape. Instead of men, I was fighting alongside werewolves, vampires and other creatures I did not know the names of. It should have surprised me, but somehow it didn’t, and frankly I didn’t particularly care. They were on my side, and in their monstrous forms, they gained a new ferocity and strength for the fight. Battle continued, with no apparent let-up, or any reduction in the number of the horde. I had not even realised there were so many sluagh on the island, but they just kept coming. I called for oil to be brought, so that we could throw it and burn the enemy down. I called for rocks and timbers to be thrown, to impede their progress up the hill. I did not know where any of this came from, only that I knew I had to defend my home. In between commanding sluagh to hold, so that we could lop off their heads, I alternated with commands to run away, in the hope that the retreating sluagh would confound those who were still attacking. And still the battle raged on. I started to tire, and my aim faltered. My sword buckled on the skull of one sluagh, who still went down, but I was now weaponless. The line was holding, so I felt I was able to retreat, a short respite from battle and a chance to replace my weapon. And respite I took, but it was not for long.

Running Up That Hill

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