Cythera Chronicles: Cities of Fire I
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Nex necis ea poventus
The Private Journal of Captain Jace Harran, 4th Division, Cytherian Legions
4th Halimath, Cademia, the 82nd year in the rule of Alaric.
I love the fall. It makes me think of peace, the harvest, and home. Especially Kiera and little Jacen waiting at home for me back in Iuna. I love Iuna. It’s such a small, simple village, but I like it that way. There are so many memories there, at the headwaters where Prusa used to teach the children. But that time is gone. Here I sit, in Cademia, in the middle of a war. This war has raged three years, with no relief for the troops. Here on the sea, we defend against the constant siege and onslaught of the Cashormin troops. From across the sea, they come in endless numbers. The rumors that spread around camp say that these attackers are from the mainland south of here. They do not attack because they wish to conquer us, but rather, they wish to conquer the forces north of our island. Our peaceful land of Cythera is the perfect launching point for their crusade. Though we may be defeated, I hope that our defense will prove a stronger crusade than the dark forces beyond. Yet also, I wish to see my family again. More than ever, the wear of three years siege hurts. We can support ourselves indefinitely, we grow food in the city and have plenty of water, and also find gaps between one force’s death and another’s arrival, every month or two. It is almost time for me to give the wake up call, by the sundial, so I must leave this text for another time. May the war end soon.
“How are we doing, sir?”
“Another pair of ships are on the horizon. Do you see them, Lieutenant Keth?”
“Yes sir, Captain Harran, sir.”
“Good. Two warships, that’s twenty men, and five passenger ships, that’s one hundred men. Five score men, Lieutenant Keth, do you think we can handle them?”
“Yes sir, Captain Harran, sir.”
“Good, keep your morale up. Are the supplies securely in?”
“Yes sir. The last wagon train left ten minutes ago, sir.”
“Good work. Go rouse the men. It’s time to prepare for battle.”
The sunlit sea shown with a brilliant radiance. Jace hated it. It was so beautiful, that it should not be able to bear so many instruments of destruction. There were anywhere from eighty to two hundred men arriving every day to continue their onslaught against the Cytherians. Every day they arrived steadily. No doubt, back in Cashorm there were troops training from ages sixteen and up, ready to be shipped off and thrown away, in hopes that they might eventually wear down the Cytherians and drive through their land, subduing its citizens. And yet, Jace was also suspicious. For years, there had been troops every day. The first onslaught was the largest, but following that, numbers only decreased slightly. For the past three months, troop numbers had been slowly, and steadily decreasing. It was a good sign. Finally, they were running out of troops.
Not many hours later, the next onslaught arrived. The entire 4th division, as usual, took the walls facing the sea. Their bows were out, and loaded with freshly fletched arrows.
“Ready!” Called Jace down the line.
The bowstrings drew back.
“Hold!” Jace’s voice followed.
There was a momentary pause. It seemed like a minute had passed to Jace, who slowly inhaled and exhaled.
“Warship!” Jace ordered, and all the bows immediately swerved, aiming at the decks of the two warships. Sensibly, all the soldiers were under the decks as they passed into firing range.
“Unit Three!” He continued, “Washers!”
Jace was trying a new strategy. Instead of trying to take down passenger ships, he was trying to take down warships, warships that distracted the walls from the passengers unloading. The passengers would get out fine, but would have no cover from the side walls, the foot soldiers, or gate guardians. The torchers stood in place, ready to light all the arrows of division four with their deadly flame. Well... almost all arrows. The arrows of unit three would be taking shots at the washers, whose job was to put out any fires on the ship. Unit three was known for its accuracy, and had previously been employed to try to kill the soldier operating the tiller. Jace was taking a risk. Hopefully, it would work.
“This will not be their day of triumph,” Jace muttered, and then cleared his throat.
“FLAME!” He called, loud and clear. The torchers stepped forward and lit the arrows. “ FIRE!!! ” Jace’s voice screamed, and the arrows flew down burning quickly. A few hit the sails, others the deck, and one lucky arrow hit the tiller itself. Soon, if things went right, one ship’s ability to steer would be up in flames. There was one washer left on the first boat, and three on the other.
“ALL UNITS! WASHERS! NOW!!” Jace yelled, and twenty arrows flew off toward the washers. Looking upward toward a tower at the corner of the wall, Jace ran for the stairs. Climbing them as quickly as he could, he ran to a catapult, loaded with a keg.
Most of the alcohol in the entire city went to the war, for the sole purpose that Jace was about to employ. Releasing the catapult’s arm, a keg of alcohol sped toward one of the burning ships. It missed. Jace was already loading another, and had launched it at the second moments later. The shot was a success, and it hit. The ship, which before, was just beginning to warm up, burst into flames. The other ship moved steadily on. Jace called down “More flames! At the first ship!” They began to fire, and Jace launched another keg. It clipped the back end of the ship, leaving a small puddle of alcohol.
“BURN IT!” No sooner had it been ordered, that three arrows plunged into the puddle, and that ship also ignited. Smugly, Jace noted that the arrows had come from unit three. Their part was done. Casually, Jace yelled “Fire at will! At the passenger ships!” The ships were already docking, but it didn’t matter. Any solid hits made the Cytherians better off, and the Cashormins were worse.
At the end of the day, Jace was pleased. Commander Kator had informed him that his new strategy worked, and well. In fact, he had been ordered to employ it in all following battles. Tomorrow would be a good day. He would use his strategy, and like every day, the battle would end. Then he would continue, and somewhere in the future, he would go home.
“SIR!” A violent whisper shook through Captain Jace Harran’s little home, which was more like a cubicle, in the Division Four area of the city. He awoke, and looked around. It was dawn. His night watch wasn’t for another hour. He looked over to see a horrified Lieutenant Keth.
“Gods, Keth, what is it?!?” Jace demanded.
“Captain Harran, sir, you had better come see this, quickly!”
They ran up to the battlements. It was still too dark, and as Jace looked out over the horizon, he couldn’t see any ships. He smiled.
“Keth! THERE AREN’T ANY SHIPS! WE’RE FINISHED! THE WAR IS OVER!” He called out, still quiet so that he wouldn’t disturb the men. Lieutenant Keth was aghast.
“Sir, no sir.”
“Keth,” Jace chuckled, “I know that you have the best eyes in the division, but look! There aren’t any ships!”
“Sir, please watch.”
Calmly, Jace turned toward the horizon. The sun was rising. It slowly grew lighter, and lighter. After a few minutes, Jace could see.
“ ** COMMANDER KATOR!!!!**