Chapter 496: Northern Gate
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Chapter 496: Northern Gate

 

  …Hollow Shade Outskirts… Grasslands…

 

  Thunder echoed across the night sky. The clouds lit up with flashes of green lightning, followed by deafening thunder. In the small moments of light, the silhouettes of dragons and dragonbanes were illuminated among the clouds.

  Ophelia watched the battle in the sky unfold with great trepidation. There was only one being she knew that could create lightning of the color, her master, her dark patron, Caligo. Her master enjoyed playing with his food, but the fact that the storm had been going on for close to half-an-hour now alluded to something entirely else. Caligo was battling against a god of great power. And if the dragon brood of the Rupture Mountains was here, then that could only point to one foe. The Azure Sky, Kaleidrog. The one opponent who actually posed a threat to her master.

   The thought sent a shiver down her spine. 

  “Your majesty?” Sylaril asked carefully.

  Ophelia blinked and turned to the Adder Tribe chieftess. “What did you say?”

  “I wanted to know what our next move is.”

  “Our next move?” she asked slowly.

  “The dragons have somehow managed to barricade the molten breach. Our three battalions that went in have been effectively cut off from support. We have managed to get some men on the walls, but the gates have been holding strong, especially the Northern Gate. Should we have the troops stationed in the east relocate somewhere else, perhaps to the southern or western gates?”

  “No, if we move the eastern troops the enemy may try to escape through the Eastern Gate.”

  “But if we do nothing—”

  “Besides, it’ll take too long for the troops to move around the entire city.”

  Sylaril furrowed her brow. “Too long?”

  Ophelia stared at the sky with a troubled gaze. “Our Master is engaged in battle, he may need our help. We need to break through the city’s defenses as soon as possible.”

  “What would you have us do?”

  “Forget about bombarding the city districts. Aim the trebuchets to gates, starting with the north.”

  Sylaril frowned. “But Your Majesty, our warriors are battling at the gates.”

  “Your point?”

  “The trebuchet’s boulders, they’ll shatter on impact. It will kill our people too—”

  Ophelia narrowed her eyes. “Your point?” 

  Sylaril licked her lips and gripped her cane tightly. “I’ll order the engineer to change the trebuchets' trajectory.”

  “Be quick about it.”

  “As you wish, Your Majesty.”

 

~~~

 

  …Northern Gate…

 

  To the right and left of the Northern Gate, over twenty ladders were attached to the shade wall. Valley warriors swarmed up the ladders and rushed the gate. They clambered over countless bodies strewn across the magestone walkway. A small group of Hollow Shade soldiers stood atop the gatehouse, fighting off the seemingly endless enemies. 

  Freya Goldelm stood side by side with her older brother, Cedric. The floor was slippery with blood. She could taste iron in the air. Her breath was ragged. Her mana was spent and her mind was waning in and out. The sound of steel clashing against steel and the cries of dying men filled her ears.

  “Fire! Freya, FIRE!” Cedric shouted above the cacophony. 

  As if by instinct, Freya felt orange mana filled her veins. She leaned over the merlons and poured fire down on the horde of barbarians cramming their way past the gate. The fire scorched their skin and their fur. They screamed horrifying sounds before falling to the ground in a thrashing fit.

  But it didn’t matter. Where ten had died, twenty more took their place. The gate had already been destroyed by a few blue mage barbarians. The majority of the Goldelm troops stood below the wall, fighting off the hundreds of warriors trying to break through.

  “Freya!” Cedric shoved her to the ground.

  An arrow whirred right past her and struck a Goldelm soldier standing behind her. He gasped a gurgling sound and collapsed.

  “No!” Freya cried out.

  A pair of barbarians rushed towards her, axes held high. Cedric channeled Yellow and with a wave of his arm, slammed a gust of wind into them. The barbarians screamed as they tumbled off the wall.

  “Get up!” Cedric shouted and pulled her up by the arm.

  “T-Thanks,” Freya said breathlessly. 

  “Shut up and fight!” Cedric raised his war hammer and fell into a defensive stance as several more enemies sprinted towards them.

  “AAAHH!” Zorn Goldelm roared and pushed past his soldiers.

  “My lord!” shouted Commander Randall worriedly.

  But the words fell on deaf ears. Zorn lifted the golden war hammer Oginum and swung it down. The spiked head crashed into a warrior’s shield. A blast of energy exploded on impact and crushed the shield and the man behind it. Zorn spun in a circle and swiped Oginum in a wide arc. Bursts of energy detonated with each strike, crushing bones and sending men flying.

  Freya stared in awe as her father became a one-man army, like a berserker, cutting through the enemies like chaff. She had never seen her father in battle before nor had she witnessed the might of Oginum, though she had stories; how short those stories fell from the truth.

  Lord Goldelm was single-handedly pushing back the eastern front. Warriors tried to swarm him, but with every strike of Oginum, their bodies flattened under the hammer and were blasted away in sparks of golden light.

  A dark shadow flitted over the entire gatehouse. Freya turned to look up when a boulder the size of a wagon crashed right in front of her. She was hurled backwards into her own soldiers. Her head smacked into an armor plate and her vision went dark.

  A high-pitch screech rang in her ears. Freya blinked repeatedly, her vision gradually returning. Blood trickled down her forehead and her cheek. With trembling limbs, she got on all fours and looked around. 

  The boulder had shattered on impact, sending shrapnel and dust flying everywhere. Goldelm soldiers and valley warriors lay dead around her. Viscera was torn out of them in long streaks of blood. Limbs and entire torsos had been ripped off on impact.

  Cedric was leaning on the merlons next to her, his Yellow scales were cracked, but he seemed alright. Her father was—

  “Dad!” Freya screamed and scrambled towards him.

  Zorn was slumped over a shattered section of the battlement. A large chunk of rock was sticking out of his stomach and coming out his back. Freya slipped on a puddle of blood and fell hard on the ground, but she crawled her way to him.

  Her father’s golden eyes drifted in her direction and a quiet groan escaped his lips.

  “No, no, no, no!” Freya cried. White mana flowed into her hands and she pressed her fingers over his wound, weaving healing spells into his flesh.

  “Father!” Cedric shouted. He was next to Zorn’s side in a moment, lifting him to an upright position. “Hold on, father! Freya, do something!” he cried out panickedly.

  “I’m trying!”

  Blood seeped between Freya’s fingers and flowed down Zorn’s armor plate. His once bright blonde beard was dyed red. His carefully groomed hair was in disarray.

  A second boulder crashed into the wall, ten paces away. Cedric through himself between Freya, their father, and the shrapnel. The shower of rocks broke several of his protective scales, chipping his armor and slicing into his flesh. He grunted in pain and grit his teeth.

  “Cedric!” Freya shouted worriedly.

  “Forget about me! Save our father!” he yelled.

  From among the second boulder’s remains a dark silhouette emerged. A stone golem stepped out of its shell and stomped towards them.

  “Cedric, look out!” Freya said.

  Her brother turned around and blasted the golem with a funnel of wind. The golem was pushed back a few paces, but its heavy weight kept its feet on the ground.

  “Shit!” Cedric cursed under his breath anxiously.

  Atlas vaulted over his head and rushed the golem. It swung its heavy fist in a surprisingly quick punch, but Atlas was faster. The giant drow caught its arm and channeled Green. Stone spell weaves swirled into the golem’s body. Atlas snarled and ripped the magestone core out with a flick of his wrist. The golem crumbled apart at his feet. 

  Atlas turned back to the dwarves and frowned sympathetically. “We need to retreat.”

  “Not without my dad!” Freya said.

  “...It’s too late for him,” Atlas muttered. “The enemy won’t stop until they take the gate, even if it means bombarding their own warriors. We all need to pull back.”

  “We can’t just leave him!” Freya screamed.

  “...Ce…dric…” Zorn mumbled.

  “Father! I’m here!” Cedric rushed to his side and held his hand.

  Zorn gazed at the golden war hammer lying next to him.  

  “Oginum?” Cedric asked. He carefully picked up the ancestral hammer and placed it in his father’s hand.

  “...No…” Zorn mumbled. “Take it… to… Aric…”

  Freya and Cedric’s faces paled at the implications of his words. To give Oginum to Aric, Zorn’s firstborn, meant the passing of leadership.

  Cedric bit his trembling lip and nodded, “...I’ll do as you command, Father. I swear it.”

  “Mm…” Zorn closed his eyes and his head drifted to the side.

  “No! Dad, NO!” Freya cried.

  “Get up, Freya,” Cedric said quietly.

  “Captain, they’re launching more!” shouted Kaitlin, healer of the Singing Willow Troupe.

  “Lieutenant, take our people and cover the soldiers’ retreat. I’ll cover the sky,” said Atlas resolutely. 

  “Aye, Captain!” Kaitlin nodded and drew her sword.

  Powerful winds swirled around Atlas and levitated him off the ground. He soared into the air and held his arms to his sides. Azure flames ignited in his palms. As the boulders flew towards them he hurled bolts of blue fire at them, knocking them out of the sky in bursts of flames and smoke. Some boulders went through and crashed into the wall, sending tremors through the magestone.

  “Freya, we need to go!” Cedric yelled.

  “I won’t leave him!” Freya screamed.

  “Then I will carry him,” said Randall solemnly.

  Freya looked at the old dwarf. Blood speckled his grey beard and sweat covered his brow. Yet his brown eyes were unwavering.

  “Commander Randall…” Freya swallowed hard. “You’ve served under my father for many years.”

  “Aye, since he was a young lad,” Randall said softly.

  Freya sniffed and nodded, “Then serve him one last time.”

  “One last time,” Randall nodded and carefully picked up Zorn’s body in his arms.

  “RETREAT!” shouted Atlas from above.

  “What are your orders?” Randall asked Cedric.

  “Aric is leading the medical encampment,” added Freya.

  “And that is where we shall go,” said Cedric.

 

 

 

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