"Long live the fighters!" The battle cry echoed in the narrow canyon. Our fighters beat on their shields and chanted the warcry.
Dawn had broken a couple of hours ago. The dew in the long grass had evaporated, too. Now the field was to become a battleground in the eternal balancing act between good and evil.
My horse whined nervously. It had picked up my spirits. Patting him on the neck I surveyed the plain. By the time we would have to meet the enemy, we'd have the sun on our left. By the time the battle would be over, the sun would shine in our eyes - or on our dead bodies.
We had fought our way into the mountain range for months. Our goal was to find the fabled mines of Cyrax. A huge army doesn't travel without being noticed. More than one lord had thought we were trying to capture his lands and put up a fight.
Mostly, the well-trained hired warriors of my army had run them over, stocked up on rations, and then moved on. We would leave a decimated and dazzled ragtag of soldiers behind us.
That, however, was long behind us now. We had been traveling in peace for more than two weeks. We were almost beginning to think we had left civilization totally behind us.
The day before, our scouts had come back. Well, one scout. Badly wounded, hardly coherent in his speech. "They're faboulus fighters," he managed to say before dying.
None of the other four scouts came back.
So we retreated back along the valley to this plain. Here we would meet these faboulus fighters, and run them over.
The men buzzed in anticipation. The wardrums echoed, the battlecry rose. Adrenaline poured into the veins. They were preparing to fight and fight. They would fight to the end.
A signal from the forest's edge! Our scouts waved colored rags. The enemy was closing in on us.
Officers made the last rounds among their men. Most of them were in an hypnotic state, unaware of anything other than the lust to fight.
There! The first movement in the darkness beneath the trees. Then, the first shapes walked out into the plain. Grey silhouettes advancing, their feet making dust rise, obscuring their faces.
Our men were eager to rush forward, but discipline held and we awaited the signal. It came when the enemy was far enough out from the trees not to be able to make an hasty retreat.
"Forward! Forward! Forward for the fight!" I dug my heels in and the horse rushed forward. By my side, officers did the same. Behind us the lines of men began to trot. An avalanche of men, flesh and bone, swords and spears, daggers and clubs.
The trotting accelerated to run. We were getting close, but I still haden't seen the faces of our enemies. They were still hidden in a cloud of dust.
Soon we would see their faces and the colour of their blood.
I lifted my sword in a signal to the flanking troops, commanding them to advance.
My duties done, I could engage wholeheartedly in the fight. The moment took hold of me. I was here to fight, and fight to the end, like my father and his father before him. Like all the proud men of the warrior-house of Gelam. I shouted, unaware of the words that I shouted - I was beyond words now.
I was only movement and destiny. I was no more a part of the world. This was the moment I had waited for my whole life.
There: A figure, the first enemy! I rose on the horseback with sword high. The figure leapt. It was an amazing leap, he came right at me. Unarmed. I cut him. Blood and hair speckled me, but he managed to tear at me.
Around me, the men made the same discovery as I: they weren't human!
Claws of the creatures tore at human flesh, swords cut and cut into they grey fur of the animals. We were advancing.
My sword took its toll on their numbers, but they came, and kept coming. Fatigue set in on me. My arm was numbed by the slashing.
My horse was tired too, starting to trip over the bodies on the ground. In a rare moment of lull in the fighting, I looked around to see most of my personal guard to be gone. Lifeless on the ground.
I had to retreat, but there was fighting all around me. Grey fur, grey fur and claws. Nothing else.
Something grabbed me from behind. I slashed, but was dragged from my saddle. The claws were huge, sharp, and deadly. I saw them as they struck against my throat...
(This message has been edited by moderator (edited 09-04-2001).)