The Battle of Six Fronts
Part One: Lord Saladin Forge
In the Last City the dawn sun rose, painting the sky brilliant and bright orange. From up high on the city wall, Lord Saladin Forge glanced at the sun. He had seen it many times before and had grown more disinterested after every sight. A lot of life’s commonplace features had lost their personal value over time: the sun, the mountains, and even the city itself. He realised that after today the Last City may never see another sunrise again. Suddenly, the sunlight seemed to shine much brighter than usual.
Saladin turned to his left. Stoneborn Titans filled the ramparts. They stood in silent vigil, shoulder to shoulder, with crisp sunlight shining off of their spectacular bronze amour. For the first time Saladin noticed an extra quality in their military posture, underneath the locked heels, the puffed chests, and the raised chins. He felt it too, standing amongst his Titan brothers, the pride of united duty.
Together, they held tightly to scout-rifles and snipers, so that the people behind the wall would be safe from everything beyond. Saladin grasped the guardrail, leaned forward, and then peered down. Three hundred feet below was the hard ground. The wall’s scale imbued a sense of terrifying awe. Tarnished metals, recycled from old ships and classic cities, were built into the facade; then constructed in a thirty mile perimeter around the Last City. Ancient humans must have rushed the construction process, for they had to succeed in building a safe haven. Until now, Saladin had never wondered how the wall was built, he never cared. Warlocks might care about the history, Saladin cared about the tactical power. On his battlefield, a plain of barren earth stretched for two miles outward, and was strewn with hundreds of incongruous dirt mounds made invisible to the ignorant eye. Beyond that, a fence of autumn trees surrounded the northern front. A sharp force dislodged fiery leaves, which tumbled into the dirt.
Fallen Dregs hobbled out from between the trees. The first Dreg carried a crimson standard emblazoned with a white Fallen skull, the banner of the House of Devils.
On Saladin’s right, Jonah Ware, commander of Stoneborn, blew the proud Stoneborn horn. A sonorous toot rang across the wall. Jonah lowered the horn. “These Fallen Devils will never get through the wall. They don’t have the firepower.”
“They’ll need a lot of heavy artillery to break through,” Saladin said.
A Fallen Spider-tank trampled through the tree line, crushing ancient barks into the dirt like twigs. Its most prominent feature was a giant artillery cannon on its back.
Jonah Ware tensed his fingers around the hilt of his rifle.
Saladin raised his right hand. “No. Let them get closer, much closer.”
Thousands of Dregs and Vandals crept onto the dirt plain; thousands more spilled out of the tree line. Their footsteps thrummed, louder and louder, as they scrabbled nearer, united as one massive black horde. Only a Kell had the power to unite the Fallen, and transform their jealousy of humanity into hatred for the Last City.
Saladin searched the horde for a sight of Solkis, Devil Kell. Down on the battlefield four armed Vandals charged their shock rifles, spherical Servitors healed nearby Fallen with a light transmission of ether, and two more Spider-tanks readied their cannons.
When Saladin faced the massive enemy force, he easily forgot about the other fighters around him. He started to feel like it was just him against every single Fallen, and that he could only lose. Saladin pushed out compromising trepidation. Then remembered the Titans around him and the city behind his back.
The Fallen horde stopped a mile out from the wall. They had the northern section surrounded.
On the wall, the Titans fidgeted nervously.
Saladin raised his right hand; with one simple motion he kept his fighters calm and organised.
A large Captain shoved aside oblivious Dregs, and burst out of the front of the horde into open dirt. With all of his three fingers he clasped an unknown human skull, stripped of flesh. Then raised the skull above his pronged head, flaunting his trophy at every Titan.
“Is that Solkis?” Saladin said.
Jonah glanced down the sight of his sniper. “No. It’s Corvis, one the four Devil Barons.”
“Then where’s Solkis? There should be thousands more Fallen at the wall. I’m only seeing a few legions. Where are the rest?”
Corvis’ four sapphire eyes glared at the human skull in his grasp. He slammed it into the dirt, and with one stomp Corvis shattered the unknown skull into broken shards.
“It’s a Fallen ritual,” Jonah said. “Corvis wants us to send out a champion.”
Saladin relished the brief moment that he had to experience a clean battlefield. He breathed deep. “Then we will play along. Open the gate. Send out Jolder.”
“How can you sacrifice an Iron Lord? She will never survive the—”
Saladin glared at Jonah. “She will. She’s a Defender.”
Jonah nodded. He opened a channel through his helmet comm and sent orders to the ground.
Down below, the northern gate swung ajar. Jolder stepped out onto the dirt plain by herself. The gate behind her closed quickly. She began a slow march toward the Fallen in her heavy steel and bronze Titan armour.
As Saladin stared at Jolder his left hand betrayed him. His fingers trembled. He squeezed them around the handle of his scout rifle and the shaking stopped.
“Give her some cover fire. Use scout-rifles only, and aim for the rear of their horde. We need to force the Devils out into the open plain.”
“Titans! Ready scouts! Aim for their rear!” Jonah commanded.
Along the wall every Stoneborn Titan readied in disciplined unison. They raised their scout-rifles, leaned into their sights, and poised at the ready.
Jonah thrusted his knifed hand forward. “Fire!”
The thunderous crack of a bullet storm sent every shot screaming toward the enemy. Stoneborn had trained their Titans to be strong, disciplined, and accurate.
Their bullets lightly pattered against the Spider-tank’s shell, and only murdered a handful of Dregs. All they achieved was enraging Corvis.
On the ground in front of the wall Jolder froze. She turned, and then scanned the ramparts. Saladin knew she looked for him. “Stay strong,” he whispered.
The first Spider-tank lifted its heavy artillery cannon. A red light flashed.
The steel floor beneath Saladin’s feet shook; metal bowed and twisted.
After the structure settled, Saladin dashed forward, leaned over the guardrail, and searched the battlefield for his iron companion.
Jolder lay face down in the dirt, covered in dust. After a short moment she climbed back onto her feet.
Saladin exhaled. Then glanced at the wall. At the base there was a deep gash in the outer layer. He had wanted to save his heaviest weaponry, but if any more cannons hit the wall he would never live to use it. “Show the Devils our artillery. Blast those tanks with every shell that we have.”
Jonah sent commands along the wall to every artillery station. The nearest station was tall and grey with a long gun barrel that poked up from the front. It rotated into position, mechanically calculating the degrees of its gun in relation to its target. Two shells thrummed from the tube, and then whistled through the clouds.
The shells impacted upon a Spider-Tank’s leg. A violent explosion launched nearby Dregs through the air with scraps of burning metal.
Corvis would not turn to witness his crippled Spider-tank. A bold Captain barked at him in harsh Fallen language. He mocked Corvis as a coward. None of the Devils moved from their comfortable position by the tree line.
Jolder stepped closer toward the Fallen horde, taking care where she placed her feet.
At the sight of an approaching Iron Lord other Captains grew bold. A raucous mutiny broke out amongst the Devils as Captains turned on their Baron.
Under his breath Saladin thanked Jolder. Then quickly seized the opportunity to foment war. He picked up the sniper-rifle at his feet, took aim at Corvis, and squeezed the trigger.
A round ricocheted off Corvis’ metal headpiece.
The Fallen Baron roared. A sonorous and earsplitting sound silenced the battlefield. Corvis leapt onto the traitorous Captain, and crushed his neck. Ether hissed from buckled tubes. When the Captain stopped moving, Corvis ripped the crimson cloak off of him and tossed it away.
The other Devils averted their eyes, cowering under Corvis’ stare. Corvis pointed his monstrous shrapnel launcher at the wall and fired a loud burst. He charged forward and the horde charged with him.
As the House of Devils charged toward the Last City walls, Saladin had them exactly where he wanted them. “Quickly, Jonah. We need those rockets now.”
Jonah addressed his Stoneborn Titans. “Mount launchers!”
Saladin reached for his belt and pulled out a wireless remote. He twisted a thick dial, which illuminated a green light.
Half a mile from out and closing, thousands and thousands of passionate Fallen Devils swarmed toward the walls. For one final gamble, the Devils had spread their numbers in a wide line. Their black mass travelled across the open plain like a dark shadow in daylight.
Jolder, now a tiny iron speck, stood between them and the wall.
Jonah prodded Saladin’s side. “Come on, do it now.”
“Not yet. They need to get closer.”
There were four hundred meters between Jolder and the Devil horde. She backed up closer to the wall, but nobody would open the gate as the Devils charged nearer.
Dregs, Vandals, Servitors, Shanks, Captains, and Corvis rushed over mounds in the dirt.
The remote in Saladin’s hand started to buzz.
“Press it,” Jonah cried.
“Just a little closer,” Saladin said.
An inexorable wall of Fallen trampled forward. Moments before impact, Jolder threw her arms out wide, instantly constructing a spherical shield of void light, a Ward of Dawn.
Saladin jammed his finger down on the remote.
From the ground beneath the Fallen’s feet, thousands of web mines sprung up, and then detonated. An electrical storm ensnared the entire Fallen horde. Every Dreg, Vandal, Servitor, Shank, and Captain was blinded and slowed by the thunderous stasis web.
“Fire the volley!” Jonah commanded.
The Stoneborn Titan army unleashed their entire arsenal of rockets down upon the trapped Fallen Devils. Rockets whirled through the air, trailing white smoke. Gravity sped the fall of the largest rocket barrage in Earth’s history.
On impact, a rapid chain of explosions tore open the Fallen Devils. Supersonic blasts rattled the wall as a fiery mushroom cloud blossomed and expanded to a colossal size. Cooked machinery and burned limbs flew miles into the air.
Saladin watched the devastation in awe, while every Titan on the northern front still lived.
Dust and smoke drifted north on the wind. When the smoke cleared craters and Fallen corpses littered the ground.
Jolder staggered out of her bubble shield, and started toward the wall.
After seeing her Saladin knew that the northern front was safe.
Jonah removed his helmet to wipe sweat from his brow. “I’ve just heard from the other Orders. Your intel was wrong, Saladin. The Fallen have surrounded the city. They’ve attacked all six fronts. I pray for whichever Order has to face Solkis.”
Saladin suddenly wished that he had more web mines. “Leave a skeleton crew here. Have the rest move along the wall to support the other fronts. Move quickly, or the chain will break.”
© Copyright 2017 J.A. Greaves. All rights reserved.
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