flASH fiction: Volume 4: The Second Battle of Rayward’s Gate (39)

The Second Battle of Rayward’s Gate
By
Jason Pere

The Amurai were perfect. The warriors who bore the armored hound on their platemail filled the gap left by the destruction of Rayward’s Gate, standing shoulder to shoulder. They were the front rank in the fight against the charging chimera mob, with the force of Rayward’s knights at their backs. The Amurai were men and women of flesh and bone but the manor and fashion in which they fought held the chimera at bay with every measure of efficacy as the city’s gate ever had. Chimera fell in droves to the swords and spears of the Amurai. Their defense of the great city was an awe inspiring feat to behold and many of the Rayward knights in the deeper ranks found their discipline lost as they were transformed into captivated witnesses while they saw the Amurai fight off the chimera. The brigade of Iron Men in hound’s armor stood their ground as hardy as a Rustwatch anvil but moved with all the grace and fluidity of a Lighthouse Bay ball room gala.

The city of Rayward had suffered the single biggest blow to its defenses in its entire lifetime. Losing the gate to the wicked sorcery of the chimera had been a heavy upset to morale. The sight of stone and metal raining down form the heavens was enough to sway even the most stalwart of the city’s fighting men and turn them to feelings of hopelessness. The gate had been thought unbreakable but the chimera brought about the impossible with their dark trickery. It was the Amurai that had been the ones to come to Rayward’s rescue yet again but this time it was the courage and resolve of the city’s warriors that they had saved.

The sight of the crushed gate was nearly forgotten as fast as it had happened. When the Amurai moved in to fill the gap in the wall it was like a tide of living breathing majesty. The warriors with the hounds sigil quashed notions of doubt and forlorn with a courageous defensive line of steel and heroism. The men and women of the Amuari fought the beasts of the red rains with greater potency than any human force that had come before them. Their blades cut a path to hope for all who saw them fight. While the inspiration of the Amurai was mighty it was also short lived.

Lesser chimera were being ended by the score at the hands of the Amurai. The dead pieling up amid the rubble of the ruined gate was fast becoming a gross impediment to the chimera’s charge. In the first moments of the combat between man and beast it seemed as though the forced that defended Rayward might win a speedy victory. The tenor of the battle changed in an instant once Koin burst from the ranks of its underlings and made its presence felt at the vanguard of the fighting.

With deadly sharp slashing talons and sickly green fire pulsing from its hands and mouth, Koin quickly began to turn the tide of the combat. The chimera overlord smashed into the Amurai battle line like a boulder of wrath and primal force. Its claws cut through the special armor of the Amurai as if it were only paper. Koin let out a fearsome bellow that knocked several of the nearest human soldiers from their feet. The battleline began to shift and buckle as Koin rained down a torrent of savage wounds upon its foes. With each strike the massive creature slayed at least one of the warriors that defended the city. The Amurai’s weapons did precious little to pierce the flesh of Koin. It looked as though Koin’s normal mixture of grey fur and green scales had become armored in gold. Soon the Amurai battleline would collapse in on itself.

From the ranks of fighting men that stood against Koin, Sir Liam Broadcliff erupted like a bust of pure sunlight. The Helm Breaker met Koin face to face. His counter charge was so forceful that the looming chimera commander halted its slaughter of the Amurai for the briefest of moments.

“You are mine. I own you all,” screamed Koin at the men and women in front of it.

“Their loyalty is spoken for. If you want to claim any more of us you will need to deal with me first,” Sir Liam shot back as he hefted his great maul into his heavy gauntleted hands.

Koin met the Helm Breaker on the battlefield and the two clashed like fire and water. They locked in combat and began a terrible violent dance of attack and evasion. Sir Liam swung his great maul in large sweeping arcs and his blows landed solidly on Koins body. The Rayward man’s strength was profound and staggered the large beast. The Helm Breaker struck with the power of someone twice his size and moved with the speed of a man half his age. By all rights Sir Liam engaged in feats of physical prowess that should have been far beyond any mortal man’s reach.

Though the strikes that Sir Liam was able to land on Koin were sound and caused the beast to sway the blows were not enough to end the creature. The golden skin of the chimera deflected each hit of Sir Liam’s great maul with a loud clang. The fight between man and monster was something akin to watching a blacksmith work a piece of metal at their anvil. Koin continued lashed out with its razor sharp talons but its opponent managed to successfully doges each strike. Though Sir Liam put up a formidable defense, the sustained sting of missed attacks from Koin did not seem to lessen the creature’s morale. It was clear to see that one good strike from either of Koin’s hands would be all that was needed to put the legend of Sir Liam Broadcliff to a bloody conclusion.

The battle around Koin and the Helm Breaker pressed on but with reduced fervor. The battleline where Amurai fought against chimera ground to a stalemate with neither side gaining any ground on the other. It seemed as though the entire heart of the battle had been reduced down to the fight between Sir Liam and Koin. For the second time in the history of Rayward it had come to pass that the fate of the city was placed solely on the shoulders of the Helm Breaker. This time Sir Liam’s enemy was a foe that was an infinitely greater threat then the Iron Lord who had laid siege to Rayward so many years before. Anyone who could spare a fleeting glance or stolen moment of attention to drink in the spectacle of the war between Sir Liam and Koin did so. The image of an old man in hound’s armor standing against a colossal thing of muscle, gold and wrath was seared into memory and became an instant piece of grand history as it happened.

In the fading twilight of his years, the Helm Breaker fought longer and harder than most warriors could ever dream of in their prime but the impossible weight of his advance age finally came to collect its debt. It happened faster than anyone could see. One moment Sir Liam was continuing his gruesome dance with the massive chimera overlord and then the next, Koin had impaled him with the talons on its right hand. Sir Liam grunted and groaned as he squirmed on the end of Koin’s arm. There was a chorus of terrified gasps and cries from the Amuari battleline in response to the mortal wounding of the Helm Breaker but they paled in comparison to the victorious howl that Koin let fly. For half a heartbeat it was as if the battle was frozen still and all time had stopped.

Sir Liam growled as his great maul fell from his grip. He launched his hands forward and clasped on hefty palm around Koin’s arm where it was buried in his abdomen. His other hand found its way to one of the towering goat-things bony horns. Sir Liam was dead below the waist but he clamped down his legendary crushing grip on the chimera’s horn and started to pull with every last measure of his failing strength. At first there was nothing but the sloppy drip of blood and gore spilling from the Rayward man’s body and splashing to the ground below. Even dying, Sir Liam was possessed of strength that was beyond all reason. After several moments of pulling and exertion, the air was filled with a gross cracking sound. Then like a full grown pine tree being split by a bolt of lightning, Sir Liam snapped off one of Koin’s horns. Before the beast could respond to the shocking wound, The Helm Breaker slammed the broken piece of bone and rock into one of Koin’s lifeless black eyes.

Several of the closest lesser chimera fell dead instantly as Koin’s terrible scream of agony broke the heavens in two. Koin cast Sir Liam down to the ground as it yowled in pain. The golden sheen faded from the creatures body as eerie waves of green arcane energy spilled from its mangled eye. Koin covered the crippling wound and fell back into the ranks of its army. Koin withdrew from the battle with all the speed of the winter wind ripping over open ground.

With its leader in retreat the chimera horde fell into disarray and mayhem. The Amurai and Rayward forces did not hesitate to seize the opportunity. The defenders of the city pushed the chimera back from Rayward’s broken gate with impressive speed. After a few more blood soaked moments all that was left of the chimera threat was the sight of the survivors retreating back into the safety of the wilds.

Tinaca was the first to break from the ranks and run to the fallen form of Sir Liam. Tears fell freely from her eyes as she threw down her bow and knelt beside him. Brother Pratt and the Rayward Master of Arms where soon to follow the young woman to Sir Liam’s side. The cheers of victory from Rayward faded quickly and a somber mood fell over the whole of the city as all eyes turned to the spot where the Helm Breaker lay.

“Do not make that face for me lass. It has been long coming,” Sir Liam rasped as he placed one of his heavy hands on top of Tinaca’s.

“You can not leave me. I you are going to live. You always live,” Tinaca said through steams of tears. Though her words were hopeful her voice denoted that she did not believe what she was saying.

“Today is my end. You will not be alone. You have this one,” the Helm Breaker said as he motioned to Brother Pratt. “Lad you best take good care of my girl less I come back and put you over my knee,” he said to the junior Councilman. His face was unexpressive but his pitch carried the smile behind his statement.

“I will, sir, with all that I am,” Pratt said with passionate resolve. He took Tinaca’s other hand in his and held it tightly. The gesture seemed to offer the smallest traces of comfort for the grieving woman.

“You have so much more you need to do. I still need you,” Tinaca said with a quivering lip.

“You have not needed me for some time. Lass, I am more than proud of you. I admire you more than anyone else in this world,” Sir Liam said and he lifted his armored hand to wipe the hot lines of sorrow from his surrogate daughter’s cheeks. “For what is left, you two can see it done. I know it in my bones,” he continued with adoring looks to both Tinaca and Pratt in turn.

“Sir Liam,” started Master Whitehawk timidly. “That is twice in your life you have directly spared Rayward from her enemies. You are the greatest honor that I have ever witnessed come from our kingdom. You are a testament to Rayward courage. You have saved us all,” he continued as he took a knee before the dying man. His words fell over the gathered Amurai and Rayward knights alike. Everyone who saw the Master of Arms kneel to the Helm Breaker similarly engaged in the show of respect.

“No boy. I did not save you. We saved you,” Sir Liam said as he touched the hound’s crest embossed on his armor. “If Iron Men and Rayward knights can fight as allies then anything is possible. We may just be able to win the war against those monsters. United is how Argaia will live. United…” Sir Liam trailed as his breathing slowed and his eyes shut. A few moments of calm silence followed while his chest rose and fell with shallow breath and then he was gone.

An entire city knelt to honor the life and sacrifice of Sir Liam Boradcliff and the brave men and women who fought to hold the ruins of Raywards Gate. A noble moment of quiet reflection and grief ran through the streets of the great city. The first sound to break the quiet moment was that of Tinaca sobbing profusely for the passing of the man who had become her father, teacher and protector. The mournful woman was taken in the consoling embrace of Brother Pratt but his arms could not assuage her sorrow. In fact, the young man dressed in scarlet found himself joining in in Tinaca’s weeping. The great city of Rayward met one of the greatest military victories that it had ever seen with a flood of tears.