It was cloudy, that day, on the fields of Antor, fields that stretched unbroken by tree or bush for near to a hundred miles. There were no trees, no bushes, but only cliffs that clawed their way through the plain. Crags and grass, dirt and the occasional cave, in a seemingly impenetrable forest of rubble that many considered to be the remnant of a vast range of mountains, blown to bits by some unknown force before the dawn of man. But if one looked carefully, one would find a smooth ride from end to end on a narrow path, which, though being preferable to the rocks around, still made for an arduous journey. A more religious man would call these paths a reflection of His will, His plan, but not Karan. But this was no fault of his faith, mind: he simply knew that the paths were made by determined shepherds crossing the plains many thousands of years ago.
Karan looked around him and sighed, a sigh of regret, a sigh of weariness. And as he sighed, his horse Red, as it was aptly named, did the same. His sorrows slashed with a grin, Karan patted the ugly roan on it neck, his armour crating noisily with every movement.
“I swear, you two grow more alike with each passing day. I don’t know who’s rubbin’ off more, you or the horse. If you start eating hay, I swear…,” Marc, beside him and astride a much more lovely horse, shook his head in mock resignation.
Alfred chuckled from behind them. Next to him was Karl, a foolish grin plastered on his freckled face, and behind them all, stretching for near to half a mile, were even more men, mounted all and armed to the teeth. The Royal Cavalry of Hapella rode to war. Here and there a banner rolled in the breeze, a lavender eagle flying gallantly upon a field of burgundy. Some bore stripes depicting noble houses, and some proclaimed heroic deeds and knots of rank. But only one flew above the rest, only one was gilded in gold: the banner of the King.
Karan faced front, no human obstacles in his way. With Marc, he took point, and their spot at the fore had led to minor injuries for the both of them on this journey. There may have been a path through these rocks, but it sure was not a wide one, and easy to miss in the tall grass. And the time it took to get an army across was outrageous. But that is why it seemed such a sneaky move to make, one that the generals in Sorai would surely not expect. But now, Karan was doubting the wisdom of his King. Already they were running low on supplies, and so many horses had gone lame that many men had to carry their supplies with them as they rode. Soon, there would be knights afoot.
Lunch was approaching, and the first thing to remind Karan of this was his stomach. With a grunt, he spurned his weary eyes to scan the surroundings. It had been a while since he had heard from the scouts, and worry was starting to replace hunger in the pit of his gut. Soon enough, a metallic glint among the rocks several hundred paces ahead ahead captured his attention.
“Hey Marc, “ was all he could say before he saw the true source of the glint, and he had barely enough time to yell before a long shaft sped out from the thick grass that was hiding a strange construct, one fashioned in the shape of a huge crossbow. This shaft took Marc squarely in the chest, and it knocked him backwards off of his horse and into Karl’s, impaling the second man in his leg and killing the horse he rode upon. A weak, wet gurgle was all that remained of Marc’s last words. Shouts rang up and down the line as similar shafts raced in to greet the cavalrymen.
Shouting again, Karan leaped from his horse to the relative shelter of a large boulder, several feet taller than himself and just as wide. And it was good thing he did, for Red fell victim to the ambush moments after Karan fled the saddle. The deadly rain of four foot spears continued, pouring through his comrades with ease, and the din of the dying was deafening.
It seemed as hours to him, but it may have been only a few seconds, a minute at the most, before the flow halted. In fact, all sound was muted but for the groans of the dying. Karan looked from side to side before placing his shield covered back to the massive rock and drawing his sabre. Though the massive round shield, three feet in diameter and emblazoned with the lavender eagle of Hapella, was a formidable thing indeed, it seemed as paper in face of those massive quarrels.
Steeling himself for death, he turned his gaze to either side and to the front, looking for the creeping death about him. But all he saw was ruin, for barely half of his column remained alive in sight; though he expected that there many more of the men taking cover as was he. But with no signs of life nearby, but for the wounded Karl, all he could do was wait for the unknown enemy to show himself.
But the only clue he ever had to them was the widening of Karl’s eyes, as death came from above.
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