The Dragon King
Chapter 24

Copyright© 2015 by Allan Kindred

It was still dark out, but the Dragon King's forces were in position and ready. The enemy had split their force into the main group of seventy thousand, and arrayed a force of thirty thousand for Shadow Brigade. Christopher guesses they want to take them out of the fight early, and then that way they can focus their entire might on the Allies main force.

"We were not going to be so accommodating."

Christopher has eight hundred of his thousand strong cavalry lined up two rows deep. Christopher's girls on top of the centaurs and another hundred cavalry will come with the infantry and fight amongst them, coming to the aid of whatever sector gets into trouble. After the first line makes the initial impact with the enemy cavalry, they are going to line up ten wide and as deep as their survivors can muster, then they will run straight through the first group and continue on into the main group, hitting their rear lines and archers. Of the initial eight hundred cavalry of the first line, one hundred are riderless centaurs. Even though the initial impact is going to be one of heavy cavalry, the goal is to move around causing havoc and great hit and run damage, like light cavalry.

Of course, just before the two cavalries meet a hail of arrows will precede them into the enemy's ranks. Not the hail of arrows that Christopher is sure their archers will also be launching, but from thirty mobile catapults that can shoot a hundred arrows each at a time.

Christopher also pulls aside ten dragons for special duty. They will lift huge bags high into the sky and release them at the right time. But these bags don't have the wizards little flash bombs. These bags hold a thousand arrows each, and they will fall into the back ranks of the group facing Christopher's force.

By now the Shadow Brigade's fairy numbers have reached five hundred, and they do carry the wizards' little bags of tricks. The flashes will no doubt momentarily blind the enemy for the initial attack.

"If we can't have the rising sun at our backs, then these will have to do."

Christopher had read stories where the flamboyant and charismatic leader gave an inspiring speech to prepare his troops for battle. The time for words was over. The time to bleed is at hand.

Only just three hours ago Christopher had flown on Ember over to the main force command center to make sure they were on the same wavelength. It is almost always impossible to avoid, but you have to limit friendly fire or you'll win the battle for your enemy.

Christopher is very impressed and proud. The northern army is brilliant and beautiful, but many of his kinsmen have shown up to fight for their freedom. The main force has to easily number fifty-five thousand strong. Plus they have put amazing labor into making the catapults that number fifty strong. The initial assault on the enemy is going to be devastating. To top it off, almost every single one of their dragons has a witch or wizard on them. Apparently Christopher's engineer showed them much.

"Dragons up. Catapults at the ready. Charge!"

For the first couple hundred feet Christopher keeps trying to yell out corrections, but it is useless. The pounding of the horses is so loud and powerful that it seems the entire world is coming apart.

Now, being one never to miss an opportunity, Christopher also has bows and spears made specifically for the cavalry that are to remain hidden until just before contact. By the time the enemy's arrows start flying into the ranks of Christopher's cavalry, the Shadow Brigade's catapults are on their third volley.

They are half way there now. The infantry should be on the move. Three fourths of the way there now. The sky, just barely turning blue with the promise of a nice weather day, momentarily darkens again as the ten thousand arrows drop from high in the sky by the Dragons of Kind

"Another ten seconds and we will be upon them. Bows and spears out. Launch. Fairies blind them." The fairies fly at phenomenal speed and follow the last of the arrows to the enemy.

The enemy cavalry facing them has already taken heavy casualties from the catapults, but this last minute surprise truly opens up some gaping holes in their defenses.

"We crushed their cavalry. By the time we were past them and onto our second stage, their fifteen hundred strong cavalry was down to no more than two hundred. Some of the arrows our dragons dropped hit amongst their archers, so their artillery was much less than it would have been otherwise."

The remaining six hundred and fifty cavalry of Shadow Brigade is heading right for the enemy infantry. The human soldiers start backing up and falling all over each other to get out of the way, so Christopher thinks to change the order and stay spread out and attack this confused melee, but they have to move past within the given margin of time because very soon more volleys from the catapults are going to start falling in amongst them.

Trolls may be dark vile creatures who are a little smaller than the average human man, but they sure are crazy. Not only do many of them not run from the advancing cavalry, but instead of attacking just the riders, they are attacking the horses with a strange mixture of a squeal and roar with their sickle like swords.

Christopher's cavalry starts to funnel into the triangle point that will be ten horses wide, and then they'll ride right through this group into the main group, hopefully throwing them off their game plan. By now the first of Shadow Brigade's horses have reached the back of the lines of the force arrayed against them.

"They seemed quite happy to be rid of us once they saw we were headed to the main group instead of turning around to hit them from the rear, while our infantry began their engagement at the front lines."

Dragons of all colors, tints, hues and patterns were dropping everywhere taking out whole groups of soldiers on both sides. Every once in a while one of the dragons would put their air battle aside to make a quick swoop through some ground forces with their fire. The smell was horrid, but the sight of a massive dragon with its wings spread wide and a stream of fire spewing from its mouth engulfing all in its path was a nightmare of beauty.

Once the dark dragons see what Shadow Brigade is doing they begin doing the same thing.

Wizards, witches, sorcerers and dark priests are everywhere. More than one time a bolt of energy flies past Christopher's head. Just to his left he sees an enraged harpy fly hard into one of his cavalry officers knocking him, the horse and the harpy hard to the ground to be run over by other Shadow Brigade troops.

"We were just seconds away from hitting the back lines of the main enemy force and they still hadn't maneuvered to prepare for us."

Christopher can see enemy officers yelling and pointing at them, trying to get them to do that very thing, but between the steel on steel clashes up ahead and to the right and the screams of the dragons overhead they never do hear them.

"I think they actually felt the rumble first, and by the time they glanced our way we were upon them."

Christopher has no doubt that they kill just as many of them by running them down as they do with their swords.

Even with the great power of cavalry, the immense tightly packed ground forces start slowing their advance. The Shadow Brigade cavalry hasn't been riding among the back lines for more than a half hour when physics win out and their cavalry comes to a stand still. The enemy is advancing at every angle. Arrows, battle-axes, rocks and magic are flying into their ranks very effectively.

"We were taking heavy casualties so I turned my force around and started heading back to our lines. By the time my cavalry cleared the main enemy forces we were down to four hundred horses."

Christopher spreads his arms out to the sides and violently keeps pushing them out to the sides so his soldiers will fan out and hit the back of the original force hard.

"The third stage is at hand. Come back around and reinforce our infantry."

Christopher's first line cavalry hits the rear lines of the forces arrayed against his southern force, and start heading towards the front lines. Off to his left he sees a majestic sight. His girls on the centaurs are fighting effectively. Christopher points his group of cavalry in their direction, but it is going to be a running fight all the way. By the time they reach that sector, the most spectacular sight he has ever seen takes Christopher's breath from him. He sees Caitlin turning this way and that firing her bow at a phenomenal speed devastating the enemy. She turns to fire in Christopher's direction, but recognizes him, stops and smiles.

As Christopher is smiling at her and noticing her raven hair that is soaked with sweat plastered about her face in the most unruly and adorable way, Christopher sees a black wave of trolls hit her cavalry. Christopher urges his group to her side, and now that her forces and the centaurs themselves have run out of arrows they are fighting with swords and battle spears, which are to be used for continuous fighting not throwing. Christopher plows his horse into a group of trolls that are trying to pull Caitlin's centaur down. With vicious swings of his sword green goo is being splattered everywhere.

The centaurs and the rest of the cavalry reform their line and are holding their own again, when a flight of harpies hit them from above. Not ten seconds after the harpies attack, Christopher hears a roar that can be heard over the din of battle. He looks over his shoulder and sees a group of allied minotaurs charge into the fray. Off to his right Christopher sees a minotaur impale a harpy with his horns, although he thinks it was accidental. Off to his left he sees a minotaur with a harpy in his hands who is trying to fly away, but the minotaur has her by her feet and is swinging her around, hitting trolls and enemy human soldiers with her. The fighting is chaos, but there is an odd beauty to it.

Christopher comes up to the side of Caitlin and pushes some of her sweat soaked hair out of her face while saying, "Caitlin, you and your forces continue to reinforce the infantry here, I'll take my group west up the front lines to try and end this once and for all."

"Okay." she says, smiling, but just then a huge troll comes at her, but her centaur decapitates, it spraying green goo all over Caitlin.

The disgusted look she sends Christopher's way before he rides off makes him smile. What a strange place to smile and find beauty.

Christopher takes several hundred of his surviving cavalry west and cuts a swath of devastation through the enemy ranks. As time goes on both sides start to falter.

The battle has been raging for three hours now, and at this point more soldiers are standing around wearily staring at each other instead of fighting, breathing very hard and trying to lift their weapons in their exhausted arms.

All of the horses on both sides are foaming at the mouth. Even the skies start to clear, as the dragons can no longer stay aloft.

"Fall back! Fall Back!" Christopher goes up and down the lines yelling for his forces to fall back to their staging point. It is funny, but even the enemy forces follow his orders and also falls back to their original lines.

Christopher looks around and the carnage is massive. Thousands upon thousands of people are dead or in various stages of dying. Now that the clash of steel is silent all you can hear are the moans of the suffering.

The skies clear completely of dragons, and the only activities on the battlefield are the efforts to get the wounded to their care centers. It is probably around ten o'clock in the morning now. The sky is crystal blue and the air is crisp.

Now that round one is over, Christopher has to assess their damages and successes. He rides back to Shadow Brigade's main camp, and as he pulls back on the reins of his beautiful white steed he falls to the ground dead. Christopher hadn't noticed it during the fighting, but his horse has three arrows sticking out of him, with multiple sword cuts and one spear sticking completely through his neck.

"Wow, this was one hell of a horse!"

Christopher calls Ember to him. They leap into the sky to get a bird's eye view of the battle. As the remaining forces on both sides fall back to regroup, the ground is still dark with the dead as far as the eye can see. He doesn't know where it comes from, but as he is flying on Ember a strange and mysterious smile comes to his face, and he remembers how Sarah had always wished she could fly. Then he thinks he hears a little giggle come from nowhere. But then, while still on his way over to the northern army, it dawns on him that he had not seen Caitlin after he moved on westward.

They land hard and fast, and when Christopher jumps from Ember they are still moving, so he tumbles along for a bit until he lands with a final thud on his ass. Christopher gets up and runs over to the command center and gets the general idea of the situation. They agree that at one o'clock they will begin round two.

Christopher runs back over to Ember and tells him, "Brother, make haste back to camp because I need to find Caitlin. I did not see her after the battle. Damn it!" And find her he does.

By this time she is back at the main civilian medical camp. She is still in surgery with both doctors and fairies, but from what Christopher can gather when he can slow somebody down enough to get a jumbled answer, it appears that Caitlin has lost an arm.

Christopher knows everything that can be done for her is being done for her, so he leaves for now to go and find his commanders. All the ones that are still alive and the others that were lucky enough, if that is what you can call it, get battlefield commissions.

Christopher tells them, "We attack again at one o'clock."

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