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 Chapter One

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Chapter One Empty
PostSubject: Chapter One   Chapter One I_icon_minitimeSat May 05, 2012 2:31 am

Captain Solon sat bent over a table, examining a map and a report from a spy that arrived just the other day. He heard a rustling from the entrance of the tent and he looked up, seeing his old friend walk in. “Report, Lieutenant Milus?

“Captain Solon, our patrol has captured an enemy sulfur pit and has taken eight slingers prisoner. Furthermore, it is estimated that there are sixty slingers positioned in Zafer and its crystal mine.”

Solon nodded thoughtfully and tapped his pencil on the corner of his mouth as he stared at the map. There were scribbles, circles, x’s, and arrows splayed across the map of the island. Solon tapped his lip again and then looked over at Milus out of the corner of his dark, grey eyes and asked, “How many troops are left in my division, again?”

“Twenty-four hoplites and eighteen swordsmen including the two of us, sir.”

“The prisoners?”

“Poor farmers that have lost everything to the empire. We told them to go home, the Phoenix is on its way.”

Solon nodded, as if confirming something to himself, and then, in one fluid motion, marked an ‘x’ over Zafer on the map, stood up, dropped the pencil, swept his helm off the corner of the table, and said “We’re taking Zafer.” Then he pulled the helm over his dark brown hair. He picked up his sword and sheathed it, looking over to his lieutenant.

“Do you have a plan?” Milus asked. “There’s 60 of them, and that’s only the guards. With those numbers it doesn’t really matter that they’re all slingers.”

“May the gods bless our men, then, eh?” Solon winked and strapped his shield to his left arm and grabbed his spear.

Milus smiled and laughed. He knew Solon. He meant he had a plan. It was common knowledge that the captain didn’t believe in all the Olympian god business. “Work your miracles, Captain.” the lieutenant then followed his captain out of the tent and hurried off.

Solon strode out to the center of the camp and stood there, his hands clasped behind his back, and waited as the camp suddenly burst to life. It wasn’t long before all the troops had assembled in lines according to rank before him. The index finger of his left hand lightly tapped his right wrist, tapping off the seconds as they passed. Two minutes, forty-three seconds. Solon thought to himself. He started pacing down the lines and back again, when he reached the center again he pivoted on his heels and faced the troops again and said “As you may already know, today Zafer will be ours.” This statement was met with the tapping of spear butts upon the hard packed dirt and a cheer. Solon raised a hand to silence them before continuing. “Our reports show that the town has just sixty slingers in their ranks, they should be easy enough to overcome with men like you in ours.”

Solon paused and looked each one of them in the eye “Today will be a victory, no doubt about it, and with it we will gain a sulfur pit and crystal mine to aid the Bluinthians to victory against the tyrants.” There were nods from the gathered troops. “Remember who we fight for, remember what we fight for, and one day soon we will achieve the liberation of mankind from the evil that is our enemy. We must prevail, or surly the islands will plunge into the depths of the underworld.”

Solon looked into the eyes of his soldiers once again and said “We are almost there. The Bluinthians have nearly completed the conquering of Tailos. After this we have just three more islands to liberate before Emperor Thorin can be ripped off his throne of tyranny.”

He stopped again before saying “I can’t say it enough. Show them mercy. Show them that the Bluinthians have something better to offer them than what Thorin has thrust upon them. We want to avoid as much bloodshed as possible. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Sir!” came the unanimous reply from the troop.

Solon nodded, approvingly. “They aren’t soldiers. Remember that. Those men are captives, forced to fight for an emperor hardly loved. They are famers, lovers, and merchants. Sons, brothers, and husbands we have nothing against. They do not deserve to die. Tonight, my brothers… we will dine with the citizens of Zafer.”

Solon pivoted on his heels and turned, making a small circle in the air with his index finger. “Form up and let’s march.”

“Yes, Sir!”The men formed quickly into lines and started off at the signal to march.

The small force crouched in the bushes, watching the group of slingers that looked wearily about for the source of the sound from the forest. The men fidgeted, anxious to hear the order to charge. After a few moments Solon turned to Milus and whispered “Milus, send a runner to find General Argos and tell him that Captain Solon requires reinforcements and new orders.”

Milus nodded and then turned, scanning the men for a certain face. When he saw it he crept over and tapped the soldier on the shoulder. He whispered a few words and then the soldier quietly adjusted his position and then crept away. Milus rejoined the captain. “Milus, I want you to take your swordsmen and sneak them around the slinger’s left flank. Wait until the phalanx has their attention and then strike.”

Milus nodded and then signaled for his men to move out and he hurried off, the sixteen other swordsmen quickly followed.

Solon looked to the remaining hoplites and then circled the air above him and pointed two fingers to the area beyond the edge of the forest twice. ‘Everyone, move out.’ The group stood quickly and then charged out of the bushes with a whooping battle cry.

The slingers stationed nearby were startled by their sudden appearance and fumbled to pull their slingshots from their belts and arm them with a smooth, round ball made of bronze. It wasn’t long before the Bluinthians had broken through their ranks and subdued them with nothing more than a good whack on the head with their shields, spears, or flats of their blades, but the rest of the slingers were quickly coming to their aid. Bronze bullets began to whistle through the air and Solon thrust his sword into the air and spun it in a circle yelling “Tortoise formation!”

Almost immediately the hoplites converged and formed a small, tight group. They locked shields, forming an impenetrable wall in front of and above them as the balls rained down around them. A loud thunk and a twitch of his shield told him that one had hit his own. “Forward!”Solon cried and the wall of shields began to advance one step at a time, spears nestled in the small gaps of the shield wall.

Out of the corner of his eye, Solon caught movement as he saw Milus leading the swords men in a charge from behind the slingers. Eighteen went down, and many others as well before the rest had realized what was happening. “Break formation!” Solon ordered and he darted out of the shield wall towards the confused slingers. The other hoplites followed.

Solon darted between men and kneeled next to one of the half conscious slingers on the ground. Solon lifted him off the ground. “Who are you?”

The slinger just groaned and let his head loll backwards. Solon shook him lightly and repeated, a little louder. “Who are you?”

The slinger groaned again and just murmured, “I never wanted to fight… he… he made us… I just… want to go back to work at the saw mill…” He mumbled, while trying hard to focus his thoughts, his head swam from the blow he had received.

“Who made you fight? Who was it?”he needed to know just who was in the area so that he knew what kind of retaliation they would receive.

“He was... it was… genr’l…” and the man faded off and slipped into unconsciousness, his head falling back once more.
Solon sighed and lowered the man gently back down onto the ground before standing up. “Cease fighting!” Solon demanded, and as his words echoed across the clearing outside of Zafer. His men stopped and withdrew back to Solon. Solon speared the ground and shouldered his shield before walking out before his men. They began to follow their captain, but he held up a hand to halt them. “Only Milus.” Milus sheathed his sword with a nod and then hurried after his captain as Solon climbed his way up the slight slope to the remaining dismayed slingers. He could hear them talking amongst themselves, wondering what to do. Shoot, or let them come?

The slingers tightly gripped their slingshots in their right hands; a few rolled a bronze ball around in their fingers as they watched. Solon didn’t so much as hesitate or place his hand on his sword. He held his hands up to show he meant no harm and Milus followed suit. The slingers hardly relaxed. Solon came to a halt a few yards away from them.

“We mean no harm!” Solon called out to them.

One of the slingers took a step forward and called back “Then why did you come bearing swords and spears to cut us down?”

To this, Solon replied “If you look closely, your men are mostly unharmed and will be fine in the morning.”

“They might have a good headache when they get up, though.” Milus added lightly to Solon.

The slinger’s eyes darted to the lieutenant and then back to Solon. “Why are you here?”

“To free you.” Solon offered as he began stepping towards them.

The slinger looked suspicious, but there was a hint of hope in his eyes. He didn’t stop Solon from advancing. In a soft voice, the man asked, “Who are you?”

“I am Captain Solon of the Bluinthian army and this is my lieutenant, Milus.” Solon said with a gesture to Milus.

The slinger’s eyes suddenly lit up—he had heard of the Bluinthian resistance. “The Phoenix! We are saved!”The man exclaimed. He dropped his slingshot on the ground and came down onto one knee, covering his heart with his right hand. “We are in your dept, Captain.”

Solon smiled slightly as the remaining slingers dropped their weapons and took a knee as well. Solon stopped in front of the man and crouched down in front of him, gripping him by the arms and pulling him up to his feet. “Do not thank me yet. Your freedom must first be secured.”

“Of course, sir!”The man quickly responded. “We will take you to him. He houses himself in the town hall with his guards. We will take you to him! His name is Major Ganthrow of the Wendulian army. He was stationed here by the General. We will help you if you will help us, Captain Solon.”

Solon looked into the eyes of the men around him, beginning to realize that some of them were mere boys—no older than nine summers. His resolve hardened and he looked the man in the eyes. “We will help you, and by tonight, I promise you that you will be free from the Wendulions’ rule.”
“We will forever be in your debt, Captain Solon. We cannot thank you enough.”

“Like I said... don’t thank me yet. What’s your name?” Solon said as he looked past the slinger and to the gates of Zafer. The gates were swinging open and a slinger stood there awkwardly as whom Solon took to be Major Ganthrow stormed out from behind him with a line of swordsmen and hoplites behind him.

“It’s...” The man trailed off, seeing where Solon and the rest of the Bluinthians were looking. He turned around, many others doing the same and he saw them. He looked panicked as he turned quickly back to Solon “I am sorry, sir. We had already sent word to the Major soon after you arrived.”
Solon gripped the young man’s shoulder firmly in one hand, “It’s alright.” Solon gave him a smile and then drew his sword. “Summon the men, Lieutenant.”

Milus nodded and then turned, calling out “Come, brothers. Our enemy approaches! Let us give them a taste of our blades!”

The twenty-three hoplites and sixteen other swordsmen cheered as they ran up the slop to stand amongst the still standing slingers.

Major Ganthrow came to a stop and all of his soldiers gathered behind him in ranks. Solon counted a score of hoplites and one and a half times the swordsmen. “Who are you and what is going on here!?” the major demanded.

Solon made his way through the gathered men and stood before them. “I am Captain Solon of the Bluinthian army; I think that should say enough.” Solon called back.

Major Ganthrow scowled and gritted his teeth then shouted, “Take them down, men! Prove to them that the charging bull cannot be stopped defeated by the likes of them!” The Wendulions roared and thrust their weapons into the air as they took off at a run.

The Bluinthians quickly charged back at them with fierce battle cries emanating from their throats, the slingers of Zafer quickly took up their arms and followed the Bluinthians into battle with new found hope in their eyes. They had something to fight for. Freedom. And that was a greater incentive than any they could imagine.

The Wendulions met them with a gaze of fierce intent. Then the two lines crashed into one another and the ring of metal striking metal reverberated through the air.

Solon led the charge and was the first to strike. He parried a blow from a sword and retaliated with a left uppercut. The Wendulian before him parried and then Solon’s foot came up and he planted it on the enemy shield, throwing the soldier back; Solon quickly ended his life with a thrust through the chest. He ripped his sword out of the body and then moved on, making his way towards the major.

One of the enemy swordsmen aimed to cleave his head in two, raising his sword above his head, but Solon thrust it up with his sword, and followed through with a rush, slamming his elbow into the man’s face, he felt the man’s nose give way to the hard joint and he felt the man’s warm blood trickle down his arm and Solon withdrew. The swordsman staggered back and Solon slammed the pummel of his sword into the soldier’s temple and he fell to the ground in a heap. Solon stepped over his body and moved on.

“We’ve got the upper hand, Major. I’m afraid you can’t win this one.” The Captain jeered.

Major Ganthrow narrowed his eyes, throwing aside one of Solon’s hoplites. Solon frowned at this, but he kept his gaze stony and focused on that major. A bronze bullet whistled by somewhere to his left.

“We won’t lose to you filthy scum. Go along and scurry back into whatever hole you crawled out of.” the major sneered.

“How about a dual then.” Solon offered “Just the two of us. That way we can see just who should be scurrying on home.” Solon twirled the blade in his hand. “We can spare us both some bloodshed this way, don’t you agree?”

The muscles in the major’s jaw budged as he clenched his teeth. He realized that he couldn’t back down from the challenge. He would have to accept or he would lose what respect or honor that he had. It would damage his reputation.
“Or are you too scared to fight me? I thought you said that you were better than me?” Solon jested, trying to provoke the major to rashness. To try and get him to strike out of anger and not think of his actions. It would be easier to get rid of him that way. “So what will it be, you wallowing swine?” Solon threw at the major, insulting the major’s overweight stature. He lived the highlife, it seemed, sitting upon a chair stuffing himself with the people’s food.

“May the gods banish you to Tartarus when you die!” the major snarled and then lunged at Solon. Solon stepped lightly out of the way and then grabbed the major’s arm and pulled back, throwing him off balance. Solon lifted his sword hand and as the major stumbled into Solon’s left shoulder. Solon slammed the pummel of his sword down in between the major’s shoulder blades. The major grunted as the air in his lungs left him and he stumbled forward, falling to the ground.

Solon turned and then poised to attack, standing lightly on the balls of his feet as the major recovered and stood upright once more with a cough. The major was already wheezing he noticed. It was a wonder the man had ever gotten the rank.

Solon bounced lightly on the balls of his feet, his armor lightly jingled as he did so. So the major has a temper and can’t take an insult? “You’re so clumsy and sluggish you put a turtle to shame.” Solon jeered and gave an arrogant smile.

The major bellowed and charged at the captain like a bull, so like he would a bull, he stepped to the side, but he added an extra step. He swiveled on the ball of his foot and then planted a kicked on the major’s backside, sending him sprawling on the ground. He wouldn’t do that with a bull—unless that bull happened to be the Wendulian Empire. It was okay, then.

The major scrambled back onto his feet, his cheeks flushed with both anger and embarrassment.

“You’re as lithe as an ox.” Solon shot at the major once more. This was becoming a deadly dance, Solon knew. He had to deal with the major quickly or things could turn ugly.

“This is no fight, insect. Quit dancing and let us give them something real to watch.”

“Very well.” Solon stuck as fast like a snake as he shrugged his shield off of his shoulder and onto his arm and thrust his sword at Ganthrow’s throat. The major blocked it with his shield and retaliated with a downward slash from the right. Solon withdrew and raised his shield, looking at the major over the rim. Solon rushed forward, slamming his shield into the major’s in an attempt to unbalance him and then gave a sideways strike from the left. The major’s sword met his in a resounding crash of metal against metal. Solon stepped back, following through with a downward cut from the right.
The two exchanged a rain of blows upon each other that lasted for several long moments. Then suddenly Solon jumped back, breaking the pattern and then dropped his left shoulder. He dashed forward, throwing himself at the shield; his sword’s hilt gripped in both palms and held out to the side. He used his shoulder to ram into the major’s shield and edge it to the side as he followed through with a thrust of his sword, supported by both hands, into the major’s unprotected gut.

Major Ganthrow dropped his sword and his shield arm went limp. He looked down at the sword and then looked at Solon. “It’s over.” Solon whispered and then he withdrew his sword. Ganthrow remained standing, swaying on his feet, He face went pale and then he toppled to the ground.
The entire clearing before the gatehouse suddenly fell silent. No one moved. No one uttered a word. Solon wiped the blood off his blade and then looked around at the gathered warriors. He looked at the slingers and then nodded before looking into the town. The townspeople had gathered to watch the battle.

Solon allowed his breathing to settle some before he inhaled deeply and called “The Bluinthians came to set you free, and we Bluinthians HAVE WON!”
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