Diamond Cascade: And My Other Name Is…

Alturiak 5: Even as Diamond Cascade and his brave friends prepared the defences that would hold the orcish hordes for those precious few hours, a ray of hope descended. Soldiers from Osmuld, a small party of mounted men watching the borders. Appraised of the situation and of the desperate plight of the Halflings, these brave men at once offered to stay and add their swords to Diamond Cascade’s own. A fine offer, yet one that was refused. Let them ride, away to spread the word, let them rally the brave swords of Osmuld against the invader, let them spread the word of Diamond Cascade and his deeds so they might inspire others to follow in his path. Let the tale of one brave sword and noble heart that stands in the invaders way forge a hundred, and those hundred each forge a hundred more! Let righteous might and thunder rolls through these hills and scatter evil to the sea!

Swayed by the wisdom of Diamond Cascade’s words, the good soldiers of Osmuld quickly galloped away to sound the alarm and call forth the good swords of the north, but it is not before the mystery of Stalker’s memory is solved: It seems he is none other than Lord Corren, nephew of the King of Osmuld himself! This joyous news flooded our hearts, and as the sun set, we steeled ourselves to face the orc once more. Nor did they disappoint us. Goblin wolf-riders, drawn to our lures. Long and hard Diamond Cascade and his valiant fellows fought them off, slaying many. Many a wound was taken too, yet in the end, Diamond Cascade prevailed and the orc was turned away. For good? No. But for long enough for the poor beaten halfling wretches we had seen on the road? Yes. Tired, battered, bruised, bleeding, yet with soaring spirit, Diamond Cascade and his friends turned north once more to Osmuld.

We find ourselves a hill overlooking the refugee road. A place we can defend. We set some traps and some alarms and wonder why we are doing this. I don’t think half of us know. But I do.

I reckon I was fifteen years old. You lose track of time in the army, and what with half of us trying to make out we were older than we were so we could join the regular foot and the other half pretending we were younger than we were so we didn’t have to, it all got a bit confusing. We’d been fighting for most of the summer. We’d been pushing the slimeys and the the thuggers back. Didn’t know much about where we were. March here, march there, draw battle lines, a mad few hours of fighting, that was about it. Even the locals hardly knew whether we were pushing forward or pulling back, and I came from the other side of the island. But I’d say we were winning. We’d had a few skirmishes and one hard pitched battle and we’d come away intact. I’d seen a lot of dead slimeys by the end of that summer, a lot more of them than of us. Most with our arrows sticking out of them.

Late summer. We were on the march again. Hard and fast, off to some town called Barresford. Never heard of it. What I can tell you now is it’s a place you can cross the river that marks the border Osmuld. We’d pushed the enemy right back to where they’d come from. Didn’t know that then, though. Two days of marching, all the time being told we were up for the biggest battle yet, that this was going to be the end, we were going to trap the enemy and slaughter him, put an end to the slimeys and the thuggers once and for all. We’d driven them back, there was nowhere left for them to go and now we’d dam the river with their corpses. That sort of thing. We were ready.

We were a day late. They’d crossed the river already. Mostly. Twenty thousands soldiers, waiting for us on the other side. An advance force had arrived, though, a few days earlier. A thousand men. Freed the townspeople and told them the war was nearly over, that the last horde of the enemy was about to be broken, right on their doorstep. Whipped them up into a mad fervour. So when the horde came and the Osmuld regulars still hadn’t arrived yet, the townspeople and that one regiment of the King’s Guard, they stayed. Didn’t run away like sensible folk, but stayed and fought.

They were slaughtered. A thousand men-at-arms, as many again men, women and children. All of them. Slimeys didn’t have time to do much more than kill them and then set the place on fire; they knew we were coming and they knew they couldn’t face us. So they heaped up the bodies or just left them where they lay and torched the place and crossed the river. We caught up with them while the rearguard were still holding the town. Fought them through the ash-blackened streets, choking in the smoke and the stink of burned flesh. No battle lines drawn, no choreographed cavalry charges. No mercy, no remorse, no quarter, no pausing for breath. Just raw hate.

Barresford. It’s reek sank into our clothes. We stank of it for weeks. Burned flesh.

The slimeys, when they come, are cautious and disciplined. Not the sort of slimeys we’ve faced before. If they were anything else, I might even have some grudging respect for the way they fought. It was a long, bloody, brutal skirmish in the dark. I don’t know if we even killed any of them. Hurt a few, and they hurt us too. In the end they withdrew. Don’t know why. As soon as they were gone, so did we. We did our bit. Barresford or no, I’m not dying for bunch of lazy fat halfgits.


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