Note: This is the second part in the series. Please read the first of the three-part series: The Shock of War.
It felt like a hundred years. It was an endless battle no man had ever experienced before. Our enemies defended their territory fiercely. We could not gain an inch over them. Glowing rocks embedded with gemstones, blasted twenty metres above our heads, shredding the rock to shrapnel. Warriors had to shield themselves with an alloy of titanium, which was light and could protect two warriors simultaneously. After years of battle with the enemy, research and technology lifted many barriers. We were fortunate to employ such equipment. Those who fought during the initial stages of the war did not realise what they were fighting against, and perished quickly. The shields were worthless in battles against magic of high magnitudes. The explosions made the shrapnel cut shields like a knife through butter. The commanding officers during those times could watch in horror as their groups fell limp immediately.
Half of the warriors I had known during training fell without warnings. The magical explosions targeted both a specific area and specific group of warriors. Our enemies saw us when we were thousands of miles away. We never knew until we entered the charred lands initially. Minutes after we placed our feet on the grounds into the burned lands, explosions occurred killing warriors instantly. Half of our commanding officers died instantly when mines exploded simultaneously. Moreover, triggering some of these mines did not make them explode instantly. They backfired upon us after a certain time interval. Warriors in the rear became its victims. It was a massacre. Those who survived knew how to save themselves from triggered mines, if any. Run as fast as possible. If the warrior were fortunate, the magical shrapnel would not bite.
We lay trapped along the front lines, our supplies cut off. We discussed in small groups about the magical threat, which lay half a mile ahead of us. Clearing the gap in between was treacherous. Bodies of warriors lay everywhere around in the trenches, and the open ground which stood ahead of us before we reached the magical barrier. Our battalion had brought modern equipment. Some of the warriors scanned the scene, analysing the magical threat from this far. Our eyes would not see it clearly. Observation was critical during such stages in battle. All-out offence did not work every time.
I recollect when we had to use our instincts, never to look back, and move as fast as possible. With my horse to ride on, I pushed on and on, as fast as I could. It was not me, but also the horse’s life at stake. My horse was twice my size and would be an easier target. Shortly when the explosions began, everyone had orders to run as fast as possible. Our troops of horses ran together, and had to separate itself from those of the infantry. The battalion formation was lost as individual groups ran into their own fate. The giant mammoths, which stood in front, had heavy shield to fend itself. Most of the infantry took their positions ahead of the mammoths. The plains led us to rolling hills. By the time our regiment rushed forward, we saw a city in the distance, a city that burned bright. It glared with the oncoming night. We hoped no trouble would come. We needed rest desperately. Passing into the hills ahead, we secured high and low regions after searching for threats. None came to be true. All we saw were dead bodies everywhere; some of their parts lay a few feet apart. Within the jumble of body parts, we rested, only for a while.
We spent days, working on extending our trenches, getting closer to the magical threat. Day and night, we worked picking up spades in turn to collect and transport gravel and mud that gave into the openings inside the trenches. It took half a month to reach close to the magical threat. However, impervious rocks obstructed us when we reached as close as a hundred metres from the magical threat. After creating the trenches bordering the rocks, we spanned as close as fifty metres at one end. The regiment decided to get in position for the assault to destroy the magical threat ahead of us. We wished for sound sleep desperately.
It had turned out to be difficult sleeping, with visions of death we had witnessed earlier that day. Most of them slept. Few of those who could not sleep took to take watch. Our battalion lay under our eyes as they slept in the valley below. It was our small scouting party over the crests, looking for trouble. Until midnight, we did not encounter anything. However, as the skies moved and filled with bright stars everywhere, we never doubted it until it came over us. The skies started to shower a rain of fire. We could not do anything. Even before we tried alerting, it was already showering heavy. Similar showers fallen before had created craters in nearby valleys. It was a dangerous spell cast to lead us to our deaths in such fashion. The enemies were smart, knowing, and intelligent. The destruction was immense as the fire bombs exploded on impact. Many died instantly. Some parted with parts of their bodies, while others took burns and injuries. The scouts watched down as hell poured into the vale. It took a few minutes to realise we were not alone. On one of the deserted crest of a hill, there stood three men in robes, their hands extended towards the sky. Moments later, we surrounded them and enforced them to lay off the firestorm. After the destruction had stopped, we took the prisoners into the valley, but the rest of the commanding officers had ceased to live. Our regiment was in shock, but we stood up for those next in the line of command, and they came up front nervous and shaking. We have held onto our captives since then, for they might be useful to us some day.
It was an achievement while we were in the rolling hills. Our captives allowed a safe passage into the dangers we held in front of us. No more threats, explosions and weird deaths occurred within our collective group of warriors. Now, when we were so close to the magical threat, it was decided that the captives be used to destroy what lay ahead. With each rejection from them, we provided them an example of cuts and wounds over their bodies. They would agree exactly after four times they were tortured. Therefore, they have done the same this time. They stood in the trench, their legs tied so that they would not run away. The three captives extended their hands towards the skies, and the rain of fire showered over the magical threat. The process destroyed it. All of us rejoiced, and thanked the deities. Everyone rested in the trenches, for they knew not what might be next that they would have to confront. The supplies marched into the trenches, feeding the warriors with building up their strength. After I had finished eating, I took food bowls to the captives. Nevertheless, they refused it. When I enquired why, one of them stated that they never ate or slept. A shocking realisation crept my mind when I heard their loyalty towards the knowledge of alchemy. Our enemy never slept, and always remained on guard at all times. Their pursuit for knowledge was so desperate in priority that the even greater knowledge consumed people engaged in it, implying the need for greater power. This information shocked us all. Did our enemy work like machines without a pause? Only time would give us answers. The captives never answered any of such questions. Even with torture, they were ready to accept death on themselves. Things would grow sinister and dangerous every time we slept or took a respite. There was not much time. The enemy worked at all times. Hence, we began our journey ahead, hoping that we were not late to defeat our foe.
[Please note: This short story will continue soon within a few days. Thank you for your patience. :)]
This post is inspired from The Daily Post’s Writing 101 June 2014 Challenge – Day 13: The Serial Killer