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The Song of Steel

Book One - Chapter 6

By W.R. Logan


Copyright 2004 W.R. Logan

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Warrider Claymen Chapter 6


The moans of the wounded made sleep impossible.  The healers had done all they could to ease the suffering.   Most of their supplies had been lost in the druid attack, so they made due with what they had.  Warrider Claymen knew these healers hailed from the castle and would have no forging skills.  In the days of old, the druids would send their healers to accompany the Steel Tide.  Today, the druids stood against them.


Warrider Claymen was fifth generation Steel Tide.  His family had served the Geiger line since they had won the throne.  Each one of his predecessors boasted victory in a history making battle.  They had all served a Geiger king that had helped the realm.  But he, Gregor Claymen, had sworn his sword to the Mad King Geiger.  The times of freeing slaves in Vale was a thing of the past for the Steel Tide of today.  What legacy would Gregor leave behind?


Many of his men had died this day and many more would die soon.  Countless of them could have lived if he were able to transport them back to Karal.  That was an option not left open to him.  Queen Jillian would have them beheaded and named traitors to the crown.  The dead men’s families would be stripped of their lands and sold into slavery.


No, Gregor swore, The Queen of Whores will not fill her pockets with the lives of my men.


Gregor would wield the sword of mercy himself for each one of his men before he let that vile creature abuse them as such.


All of his company knew that they had little chance of living to see the end of this battle.  Already, four hundred of the original nine hundred lie dead or injured.  No one knew how many druids lay in wait for the tattered company or how far it was to the Great Circle.  They did know that it would be harder to get there on foot.  The faithful steeds that had brought them so far from home rebelled against them.  Not one would allow a man upon its back.  The horses had become the men’s only remaining food source.


The water of the river ran black with the mud of the druid spell.  Fresh water had to be carried from the small stream miles from the camp.  Some of the men that braved the wild to fetch water failed to return.  Gregor suspected that many had deserted the doomed campaign.  Others had returned with tales of a huge white wolf with bright yellow eyes killing from the shadows.


Questioning of the brownie ranger they had captured gave them only more bad news.  The ranger claimed to have been traveling with a group of two thousand brownie rangers on the way to the Great Circle.  The brownie had stuck to his story even after a sound beating and being marked with the brand of the cresset moon.


Gregor still did not fully trust the brownie’s story but the questioning had come to an end when the brownie had lost consciousness.  When the little one awoke, Gregor would have the truth.  And the Steel Tide would have their first kill of the battle.


“Ouch,” Gregor protested slapping at his neck.


The bugs had started the nightly feed fest.  The buzzing in his ears was amplified by his helm.  He swung his hand back and forth at the unseen pest.  His men had claimed these to be of druid magic as well but Gregor believed the men to give more credit to their foe than they deserved.


A man in a red and silver striped cape made his way to Gregor.  The man swatted at his own pest as he walked up the muddy path.


“We have had another wolf attack,” the man reported.


“How many does that make?”


“Five, and all with a death.”  The man looked to the brownie lying limp against the tree trunk.  The things hands were bound tightly behind him and then tied around the tree.  “Most think it is his doings.”


“What would you have me do, Pike,” snapped Gregor, “Set him free so the wolves will leave us alone?”


“I was thinking more of killin him.”


“After I get the information I need,” Gregor confirmed.


A clap of thunder startled both men.  Even in the night sky, Gregor could see the clouds blanket the heavens.  Rain would be a welcomed sight.


“Get the barrels out,” Gregor yelled to his men, “Let the rain fill them.”


It was a sensible idea.  There was not a man left that wanted to endure the long walk to the stream to fetch the stuff.  Especially, with the white wolf waiting in the shadows.


Thunder cracked again, louder and closer.  A streak of lightning divided the night sky in half.  A light humming filled the air.  Gregor could feel the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.  It was not a natural storm.


A bolt of lightning struck the earth in the middle of the camp.  The smell of charred flesh filled Gregor’s nose.  Faint voices of the druid chant carried on the wind.  The weather responded as the chant quickened.


Men hid themselves under the barrels that were meant to catch the life giving water.  Gregor tried to shout his commands over the swirling wind only to have his voice carried away.


Rain fell in buckets.  Gregor could feel his feet begin to sink in the black mud.  It was beginning to soften under the downpour.  In some spots, he could already see men sunk to mid thigh.


The Tide’s own mages began to chant counter spells.  Their voices mingled with the song of the druids trying to throw them off rhythm.  Hoping for a weakness in the spell.  Searching for just one feeble link in the circle.


At first, Gregor thought the mages had found their salvation.  The rain slowed.  But it lasted only moments.  When it returned, the rain had frozen to hail stones.  The ice came down in chunks as big as a man’s fist.  It pelted the men stuck waist deep in the black muck.  The noise of ice bouncing off the armor began to drown out the clashes of thunder.  And then, as quickly as the storm had begun, it ended.


Gregor lay face down in the mud.  Blood drizzled from his mouth.  He struggled to push himself to his feet making it almost to his knees before crashing back down.  The world began to spin.  The moaning of the injured that was such a bother sounded soothing to him now.  It seemed like a sweet song calling him to sleep.  If he could just rest there a few minutes, everything would be fine.  Just close his eyes for a moment.  Sleep would make everything all right.




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