SKY – 07

SKY – Chapter 7

The dawn of the second day opened with increasingly feverous attacks by the mastig fleet. The night shift had to bear the beginning of the onslaught just before sunrise, with the mastigs taking an early initiative. The day units had just started preparing for their turns when the raid sirens went off, alerting the town that the mastigs had begun to drop. Several mastigs had made it past the turrets and nighttime guards, but were met by the daytime troops who had made it out just in time to contain the attack.

Hleis quickly ran to his outpost at the town fortifications, cutting down any stray mastigs that he came across. Vayling was already there, he was one of the first of the day crew to arrive at the wall and was already sniping at mastigs.

“Morning Hleis! Good day for some morning exercise?”

“Ha, morning Vay, right into things huh?”

“Yup. Looks like these mastigs will really be coming at us hard today.”

Hleis had drawn his sword and took his position at the front, next to a member of the night shift. He continued from where he left off yesterday, intercepting the mastigs before they could make their way near the fortifications.

Maltii arrived minutes later with Sota following not long after. With their arrival the night shift retreated back into town to help resupply and recover from the surprise attack.

“Sorry for the lateness. An elite had dropped in with the air raid this morning. We had to help a team take it out,” Maltii said.

“Not a problem!” Hleis shouted from a distance. “Can’t fault anyone for being late to a surprise attack!”

“Is everything back in town okay?” Vayling asked.

“We’ve managed to clear them out, but had some casualties. We lost a mage in the blitz,” Sota replied.

“Not a great situation, but not the worst,” Maltii said.

The day continued on with non-stop combat, as the seemingly endless stream of mastigs poured in. Every now and then the attack would pause as the mastigs halted their offensive efforts, perhaps to regroup or strategize, a good thing for the soldiers on the ground, who took time to get some well-needed rest.

Messengers relayed important communications to members of the defense force. The important message of this morning was that an outpost had fallen nearby and as a result, a gap in the fortifications had been exposed.

“How close is this breach to us?” Hleis asked the messenger.

“It’s just around the corner, we’re asking nearby troops to tilt their focus in the direction of the breach, we suspect the mastigs will begin focusing their assault there.”

“Who will be reinforcing the gap?” Maltii asked.

“The mage captain will be in charge of overseeing the defense over there. He will be accompanied by three mages and the reserve units.”

“Okay, good. Thanks for the update,” Hleis said to the messenger as he left. “We’re close by so we should be preparing for heightened combat where we are.”

“Our captain is strong, the defense is in good hands,” Sota replied confidently. “But, there will probably be a large number of elites attacking there soon.”

“Or even the alpha,” suggested Maltii.

“Then that would be a good thing. To win this battle, no matter what, we would’ve had to fight it eventually. If we can kill it early then all the better,” Hleis responded.

“Easier said than done though, have you ever seen one before? I haven’t but from what I’ve been taught, they’re supposedly giants even amongst mastigs,” Sota said.

“No, West-Hail has never been attacked by an alpha. Cruntiq has experience though I believe, and it’s probably best if we fight it on our ground where we have reinforcements and fortifications,” Hleis replied.

About an hour of ceasefire passed, and just before the light reached the highest point of the day, the mastigs once again started their offensive efforts. And as expected, much of the focus was on the weakened area of the fortifications.

The towers and sectioned walls prevented him from seeing the breach around the corner, but the constant stream of enemies that gravitated towards it showed where it was. Vayling and Sota had taken higher vantage points on the wall to be able to provide long-range support for the gap in the defenses.

Every now and then, the skies would briefly darken. An intense stream of muted purple light flew from the bottom of the walls, from no doubt where the breach was. It would seem to take out every mastig it passed through only stopping at elites.

A horn could be heard throughout the skies around West-Hail. The main doors of the mastig battleship opened and from it emerged a mastig over twice the size of any elite. Large metal plates decorated its chest and shoulders, and a finely decorated metal headdress rested above its face that was covered with grotesque war paint. This was the alpha, the leader of the fleet.

It dropped from the ship and landed on its feet with an enormous crash. Dust flew everywhere as if an explosion had gone off and drew the attention of the humans along the walls.

It landed in front of the breach, but to the surprise of everyone present, did not move towards it, but instead, directed a group of twelve elites to charge it instead. It focused its owns eyes on a part of the wall nearby that had been left undermanned by the reinforcement effort. Hleis moved to help the soldiers targeted by the alpha.

Veindelio, seeing this, leapt into the air and fired a heavy spell bolt towards the alpha, only to have it nonchalantly deflect it with its mace. He shouted something loudly. The mages signaled to the others that their captain couldn’t fight it from a distance and that he had his hands full with the approaching elites.

“Sota! I’m going to help them! Cover for me here!”

“What!? You’ll get killed! We need the captains to come before we fight that thing!” she replied.

“No time! We can’t afford two breaches! I’ll buy us some time!” He shouted back as he leapt through the fortifications.

“Damn it! Maltii! Go with him! Vayling and I will handle things here!” she shouted.

“On it! Good luck!” Maltii replied.

Hleis positioned himself in the way of the alpha with the other close combat fighters who came to aid. Immediately it was apparent that this situation was far more dangerous than any he’s experienced before. He could not retreat from this if things got bad.

They moved themselves down in front of the wall to meet it before it arrived. No fortification at West-Hail was enough to stop this monster; one swing of its mace would tear down anything they had built. This was something that they absolutely had to kill here and now.

The enemy was both large and fast; Hleis knew his only defense would be to avoid it altogether. There was no way his sword wouldn’t break from any contact with its weapons.

If I stay out of its range, I can avoid his swings and get in when it’s safer, but it’ll put me in the way of other mastigs. Damn, looks like I have to stay close by it and within its range, where other mastigs won’t enter. This won’t be easy, he thought.

It was getting close. The other mastigs towards the front retreated to not get in its way.

It raised its mace and swung towards the front line. Sparks and remnants of shattered shields flew into the air; the soldiers that could not dodge it were crushed and tossed aside. Hleis had stepped back towards the walls to get out of its range. Of the fourteen melee fighters who met the alpha, eleven survived its first strike.

The alpha did not hesitate to attack again and lunged forward towards the isolated soldiers. Three did not survive this strike; one was knocked back into the fortifications grievously wounded and unconscious.

Magic bolts or tech arrows would fly towards the alpha, only to have it block it or dodge. The long-range support wasn’t doing damage, but took it’s focus away for Hleis and a couple others to attempt an attack on the creature.

It was faster, stronger and larger than any elite, yet the openings of the alpha were similar. It didn’t move fast enough to cover all angles from Hleis’ sword.

“Damn! It’s hard to cut into!” said one of the soldiers.

“Hleis! Only your sword is large enough to injure it quickly! We’ll keep it busy while you go in!” another shouted.

“Alright! Be careful! Maltii! Can you and the other shield ops block its vision with your disks?” Hleis shouted to Maltii.

“You got it!” responded Maltii.

Hleis’ first real strike at the alpha was able to leave an open wound. The beast shifted its eyes to Hleis. The circling disks hid him for brief moments of time, long enough for Hleis to vanish from its vision. It attempted to destroy the disks, but its wild swings in the air left it open to Hleis’ sword.

The humans had developed a strategy on the spot to deal with it. Sensing this, it needed to disrupt their plans. The alpha leapt into high into the air and aimed at the walls knowing that the humans had no way of stopping the momentum of its body.

A fiery but thick short sword cut across the sky and met the alpha in the air, exploding in an enormous blazing blast, scattering streaks of fire across the skies, stopping it from making contact with its target.

“Gah! I’m not as fast as I used to be!” Cruntiq grunted from the top of the battlements. He was out breath. He ran to fight the alpha as soon as he could, but his age and past injuries were catching up to him.

“Captain! Nice timing! Hleis was able to do some nice damage and fight it pretty well, but I can’t tell you how glad we are to have you here!” one of the soldiers shouted.

“Focus on surviving! You’ve seen enough to know what you’re dealing with now! Do not enter its range unless you see a safe opening to get in and out!” Cruntiq said as he pulled his sword back to his hands and jumped down near Hleis and the others. “Good work so far Hleis. You’ve grown a lot since I’ve last seen you fight, but I’ll play the point now. I’ll keep its focus and will need your help to bring it down. Just survive, and keep an eye out for an opening. Right now, us two are the only ones here who could deliver a killing blow.”

“Yes sir!” Hleis responded.

This was the first time he had ever fought alongside the captain. He had seen him fight before, but never this seriously and against an enemy this strong. He felt a sense of accomplishment for being recognized by the captain.

Cruntiq was strong as expected. He wasn’t particularly fast, but he was precise. He made the movements that he needed to make and swung his sword with a certain weight backed by strength built over decades of experience. When needed, he cast fire magic to distract the creature to guide its movements.

His magic was strong, but Cruntiq was no mage, he could not use it frequently. His sword swings were swift and heavy. He was the only one who could parry the alpha. Despite bringing a sword to its mace, he could redirect its swings with an unknown force. He was certainly able to hold his ground against it, but the same could be said for the alpha, which was not giving any ground to Cruntiq either.

Hleis was hovering around the two of them exchanging blows. The alpha was watching him move. Cruntiq was not the only threat present. Whenever Cruntiq got a slight advantage, Hleis would seize the opportunity to charge in and strike, and when the alpha had the upper hand, it would lunge at Hleis in an attempt to take him down during the brief opening.

Several sudden, bright and focused bolts of red lightning flew in from direction of the breach, landing directly onto the torso of the alpha, catching it by surprise and leaving it staggered. Seeing this opportunity, Cruntiq leapt above the alpha and attacked, forcing it to block from above. He put all his weight into his sword, forcing the alpha to take a rear step and lean back slightly. With both hands occupied, and still dazed by the intense magical surprise, Hleis entered the blind spot it couldn’t cover.

He moved in fast. This was not an opportunity that could be wasted. Cruntiq was putting everything into his strike and the mage captain’s spell would not work a second time.

Hleis jumped from behind the alpha, one hand around its neck, allowing him to hang from the giant, the other hand quickly raising his sword, setting the blade on its throat. He swiftly tore at it, ripping it open, allowing bright red blood to spill from the tear.

The mastig alpha lost its vigor. It fell to the ground with a loud thud. As the dust cleared, the mastigs watched in silence as the blood of their leader left its body. The humans watched in silence as they had just accomplished something amazing.

“YES! Captain Cruntiq and swordsman Hleis have just slain the mastig alpha!” announced one soldier on the walls. “Spread this to the other units and HQ! The alpha is down!”

Cheers were heard along the walls. The news spread amongst the mastig forces as well. The mastigs wore their morale on their shoulders. No longer did they look like the imposing beasts from before. They retreated back to their ships, to regroup and recover from their losses today.

“Woohoo! Nice job man!” Vayling said as he embraced Hleis with an enormous smile on his face. “I was just hoping that you’d make it out alive! Never would’ve imagined you’d kill the thing! Haha!”

“It was the captain and the mages who did most of it. I’m exhausted ha-ha…” Hleis responded with an out of breath chuckle.

“You kept up in a battle involving a mastig alpha and a recognized war hero of CloudStock. And not only that, you were the one who dealt the killing blow!” Sota said as she came to congratulate him.

“That is no small feat Hleis,” Cruntiq said. “Your help was crucial today, they may have even saved this town altogether. With the death of the alpha, our path to victory is now well within reach.”

“Seriously Hleis, you should consider joining the official military, with your accomplishment today, you’ll probably be promoted straight to an officer rank!” said Sota.

“Were you the one who dealt the finishing blow?” Veindelio asked. He had just arrived from the breach. “That is indeed impressive, but let’s not get too celebratory yet. We repelled them today and won a great battle, but we still need to prepare for tomorrow and the days after. They haven’t left yet.”

“Aye…” Cruntiq agreed. “Recover well tonight, all of you.”

***

The battle continued on for four more days, but it was clear that the loss of the alpha had caused the mastigs to grow weaker. With no leader, their assaults were predictable and without their prior fervor. Eventually they retreated fully, out of sight from West-Hail.

The losses endured this week weren’t light, particularly the casualties on the second day, but the town had survived. Knowing they couldn’t stay in West-Hail any longer, now that it’s position was known and compromised. The town packed their belongings and boarded the transport shuttles that arrived to take them to the capital by request of Veindelio.

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