So, I'm not totally happy with this story, but I got a bit bored during the downtime, so I typed this up. This story was inspired by The Exiles Tale (the original comic), based on the concept that Malum and Ackar had once been much closer then they are now, and that Malum was once a little more cool and collected before the shattering. (But still very much the same character.) Anyway, its set in the Core War, during the month-long battle at Iron Canyon. So um...on with the show then!
Of Soldiers and Savages
It was a depressing, spectacular sight, looking overtop the high cliffs that formed the walls of Iron Canyon. The view was unlike any other, for certain, but the gray sky up above was a bitter reflection of what was taking place on the ground far down below.
Ackar raised his hand over his eyes, out of habit, not need. There was no sun to impede his sight, but this was the first sight like this he had seen in two weeks, so it felt only natural to do so. The maze of rocky passes and trenches in the earth that lay below him had been Ackar’s only reality since the Fire Tribe forces were sent to Iron Canyon, and thus experienced the most brutal fighting Ackar had seen in this war so far.
Just below on the elevated peaks Ackar watched from, his fellow soldier Malum sat lazily on a large boulder, arms crossed and eyes fixed on the grounds below. His impatience was obvious, but he hadn’t spoken so far, letting Ackar do what he needed to, keeping focused on his watchdog duties. Finally, he stopped trying to hold back his reaction.
“Honestly Ackar, how long does it take to look at a bunch of cliffs? What exactly can you see up there?” Ackar sighed, both in exhaustion an amusement. He’d practically been counting the minutes to see how long his comrade would last before speaking up. In fact, he’d been surprised in some ways at Malum’s tolerance for the situation, impressed at this change in attitude.
Well, temporary change in attitude.
“Not enough, not nearly enough.” Ackar replied, shaking his head. “I don’t have a clear view into the passages, we’ll have to scout on foot.” Malum grunted, and Ackar really couldn’t tell if it was a laugh or a derisive snort.
“Reconnaissance on foot in this cursed canyon is sticking your hand in a crevice to check for scorpions. If our mission provides any results, it’ll be when we run headlong into our enemies, and that’ll be the end of this ‘reconnaissance’.” Ackar grimaced, knowing it was true, but nevertheless took his sword in hand and turned back down the slope.
“Orders are orders. Our forces can’t afford surprises in conditions like this. We have to try.” Though he shook his head, Malum stood up from his boulder and drew his sword as well. Malum was a barely contained inferno, but he hadn’t disobeyed an order in this war yet, and he wasn’t planning on starting.
The two warriors descended one by one from their high up perch, far down into the narrow rocky corridors below. Ackar in the lead, the two drifted into total silence as they walked down the long paths, shrouded in darkness, each of them alert to every movement and every sound occurring around them. Leading every corner turn with his Thornax Launcher, Ackar was perhaps more uneasy then he ever had been in this campaign. Ackar knew it had been a difficult decision for his field commander, sending both him and Malum, two fighters renowned for claiming many victories in this war, on such a mission that would more than likely end poorly. But balancing this had been the need for a successful recon, and if any of the soldiers on this side of the canyon could get through it and survive, it was them.
“These insects have been everything but predictable so far, hm?” Malum had broken the silence this long trek had brought them, and Ackar chuckled to himself a bit. Malum wasn’t the necessarily the most intellectual of the Fire Tribes soldiers, but he wasn’t normally prone to such obvious statements. Ackar knew it was only because the two warriors felt the same way about their current situation. The Sand Tribe warriors had been a mix of straightforward, barbaric charge tactics in these caverns and coordinated, deadly ambushes that had already laid dozens of warriors from Ackar’s unit to rest.
“The only predictable thing about them is the devastating results of what they do.” He replied, trying to cut off the conversation subtly. Malum didn’t have the same intention it seemed.
“They’re not right. Any of them. Their Agori too. I don’t know what the desert does to them, but fighting them isn’t the same. Not just because of those tails either.” This time Ackar didn’t reply, his ears catching on something further up ahead. Awkwardly waving his sword up and down to signal silence, even his confusing attempts at hand signals transmitted his message effectively, as Malum immediately stopped talking, and raised his sword in preparation.
The two cautiously continued down the path, Malum struggling to look past his comrades shoulders in the cramped corridors. The noises Ackar heard he recognized as weapons clattering about. Had they reached the rest of the unit again? They weren’t that far away, it would be no surprise. But just as likely Ackar knew it could be a Sand Tribe patrol, and thus prepared both his sword and launcher for the possible threat. They were nearing a crossroads up ahead, and when they turned the slight angled corner up ahead, they would see what exactly awaited them.
Turning the corner, Ackar’s hand tensed tightly around the handle of his launcher, only to loosen at the sight of what awaited them up ahead. Down the sights of his launcher, Ackar saw only a small team of Fire Tribe soldiers, who were likewise prepared to fire back at him. Even so, he began to duck behind the corner, if only to protect himself from the possible friendly fire of surprise. None came however, and Ackar only looked over his shoulder to mutter ‘friendly’ to Malum before stepping back out toward the crossroads where the other soldiers remained.
“Ackar, we weren’t expecting you.” The leader called out. Not the usual sort of revering respect the veteran was generally used to, but straight to the point.
“Where’s the rest of the unit?” He responded bluntly to fit, backed up by a confused grunt from Malum behind him. The opposite soldier raised a hand to quell Ackar’s worry, knowing the concern Ackar already felt.
“We were separate by an ambush, but last we saw, the unit maintains strength. Worry not, we can regroup down that path,” The soldier gestured toward the off-branching path, between the opposite corridors that Ackar and Malum had emerged from and the others had emerge from. “We don’t think they followed us.” Ackar nodded, although he wasn’t so sure. There were six, counting himself and Malum, and the San Tribe warriors didn’t make a habit of attacking soldiers without reason. A four man band of aimless warriors wasn’t much of a target, and to be frank, neither was a recon team of two. But a band of six was a little more formidable, perhaps more worth attacking in their enemies’ eyes. Contrary to this worry however, Ackar lowered his weapons.
This proved a poor idea only a moment later, when the pathways bringing the two groups together filled with shouts. Sailing through the air appeared a Sand Tribe Javelin, which found its place in the back of a Fire Tribe soldier. As he collapsed to the ground, the all-too familiar sounds of Thornax Launchers firing filled Ackar’s ears, exchanged from both the remaining Fire Tribe soldiers and the oncoming Sand Tribe soldiers, filling the pathway opposite from Ackar.
Swiftly lifting his launcher from where he had left it hanging at his side, Ackar fired off several explosive Thornax at the oncoming warriors. They too were limited in how many they could force through the tight spaces. One by one they fell to the Thornax, killed or knocked back by the explosions. Their own shots claimed another soldier’s life as he turned to fire back, and Ackar was forced to push aside his dead comrades body to merely get to his oncoming opponents.
Hefting his weapon, Ackar ran to the split in the path and met the first warrior sword to sword, blocking an overhead swing before taking his weapon in two hands and landing blow after blow upon his adversary in retaliation. Once he had fallen, Ackar took advantage of their being force into one-on-one combat. Cutting own several more of the savage fighters, they began to work past their corridors. Shoving bodies of their slain out of the way, the remaining opponants began to climb atop each other, just long enough to fire a Thornax or throw a spear. Despite his skill, Ackar was still struck hard by this onslaught, and after his armour had been torn open by their launchers, he was thrown to the ground by the oncoming force.
His armour was to be parted yet again, as one of the enemies hefted an axe high above his head, to bring down on Ackar. In the nick of time the soldier’s attention was forced elsewhere however, when the hulking figure of Malum, just barely fitting in the rocky corridor, formed over top of Malum, swinging his sword downward to strike Ackar’s would-be-killer. The soldier parried with has axe, and attempted to force forward when Malum reversed his sword in his hands and rammed it into his enemies’ torso, again and again. The figure dropped, and Malum only reached forward and grabbed him by the neck, shoving the body to the ground so to let him slam his fiery mass against the remaining opponents behind him. As they fell back on themselves, Malum hefted Ackar under his arm and dragged him from the corpse-strewn pathway, dodging back down the pathway to where the other Fire Warrior had said they would find their unit, their two remaining allies falling in behind him, covering their rear from attack.
Ackar gasped for his breath as Malum let go of his wounded form, shoving Ackar ahead of him and demanding he start running as well. Every time Ackar lost speed, Malum gave him another forceful shove forward. He felt like collapsing, but under facing Malum’s battle-worn wrath, he gave all he could into going further, and faster.
Finally, Ackar was given some relief when he saw the crimson glimmer of Fire Tribe armour ahead. Marching in their lines one by one, it took a moment for any soldier to realize they were approaching, but as soon as one looked, he pointed his nearby allies towards them.
“They’re behind us!” Ackar called out, and immediately, every soldier at the corridors end tried to get their launchers and bows and weapons of any sort pointed down the corridor, not even able to fit their heads in to aim. Sensing the impending onslaught, Ackar and Malum both tossed to the ground, an easy and somewhat relieving task for Ackar. Behind them however, only one of the followers made it to the ground alive, as further behind, the last Fire Tribe fighter and only one who had spoken to Ackar fell under a two handed blade. His death was paid for quickly enough however, for as his fallen form blocked the pathway of the oncoming soldiers, every one of them stopped one after another and witnessed the oncoming launch of thornax, arrows, fireballs, and every other projectile those at the corridors end could muster.
Cries of ‘fall back’ were scarcely heard over the explosions, the cries, and the crumbling off rocthat ensued. As the rocky
walls of the corridor collapsed, the advance of any soldier that could have survived was stopped by the paths sudden end.
Sheathing their weapons again, the Fire Tribe soldiers spared not a moment to get back into marching formation, and started back into their great moving line. After all, what was left of the separated soldiers must have appeared alright, despite Ackar’s wounds, as no help was offered, and they were expected merely to get back into line.
Helped up and shoved forward by Malum, Ackar limped his way into the long marching unit, falling in naturally ahead of Malum and the other survivor. Word travelled up the line their scout party had returned, and the only encounters they had experienced were dispatched. The field commander would be pleased to know of their semi-success an survival. As for Ackar’s wounds, that would have to wait until he got some degree of rest.
Almost relaxed not that he was back in the unit, Ackar gazed up and down the black 15 foot walls that surrounded him, back and forth along the long, marching form he was part of once again, and wondered if he truly would ever be rid of Iron Canyon.
Comments and Criticism are welcome and encouraged!
Of Solidiers And Savages
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