The Shadows Chapter 15

Hope Dies

By Keith Adams

Lieutenant Commander Gaston paced across the creaking wooden boards of the 2nd story of Porre's Inn, back and forth, back and forth. He was conflincted - he didn't know what he should do. Captain Alexander, the arrogant and extremely talented Captain of the Knight's of the Square Table, was dead by his own sword. His uniform had been found on a cliff overlooking where Zenan was, and his body was found floating with a sword in it in the canal below. Gaston ran his fingers through his hair - Alexander didn't like him; no that was an understatement. Alexander had hated him; Alexander was no longer capable of hate. Wherever he was, he was sure to have been in a better place than where Gaston was now.

The Knights of the Square Table, and the Kingdom of Guardia, were losing the war against the Mystics, the Shadows in paticulair. All the power of the Kingdom of Guardia had come to naught. The Shadows advanced, and the Knight's were killed or retreated. The Shadows advanced again; and again, the Knights were filled or forced to retreat. They had lost Dorino, Denador, and the entire western coast, and the northern half of the eastern coast. And there was nothing any of the Knights could do to stop the Shadows; so far, three Shadows had been killed, two by Gaston himself. But that was not enough; intelligence estimated that there were well over one thousand Shadows, and possibly more. One thousand Shadows could destroy Guardia itself without lifting a finger. The only good news was that the Shadows were avoiding the terraforming station in the desert - Fiona's house had become a temporary shelter to Guardia only knows how many people that once lived in the desert.

There was perhaps one who could drive back the Shadows; the hero Frog. But Frog was nowhere to be found. Things were going from bad to worse. A few weeks ago Gaston was an over-eager, underexpierienced young officer. Now he was a senior officer, in command of Zeta Century, nearly one hundred troops. Gaston mulled over his orders to find Frog and promote him to Knight Captain. Frog had refused such orders before. So that left Commander Themain to run the entire Military of the Southern Continent.

There was perhaps one bright spot; the Shadows hadn't advanced onto the Northern continent. Perhaps it was because the Mystics were poor shipbuilders, but the Mystics would study that area eventually. But still, they should have advanced. The only possible explanation was some form of hidden purpose, something they were after that could only be found on the Southern continent, perhaps.

Gaston cursed himself; when the war began, he had been looking for ways to win. Now he was looking for ways to appease these Shadows, to get them to stop, as if they couldn't win. And perhaps, thought Gaston, we can't win this war.

Commander Themain was dealing with a conflinct of his own. He had over thirty thousand troops, and the mightiest barricade ever seen, filled with crossbowmen and new weapons called cannons at nearly every point encircling Porre. But he also had over forty thousand refugees from farming lands, who were being sent aboard huge transport vessels to Choras and Truce. And some five thousand of Porre's seventy five thousand remained in Porre to entertain and service his troops. An army like this could have beaten Magus in the Mystic wars. But Magus was nearly forgotten now. Now there were enigmatic, undecipherable Shadows. Magus had provided a common foe. But they didn't even know what a Shadow was. The only thing of relevance was that the Shadows were advancing. Themain hoped they could be stopped here.

Gaston and his century had been elected to guard the barricade from attacks. Utterly boring work, and a complete waste of resources. He surveyed his men, sitting, perfectly still, on their horses, bored out of their minds. He wanted to say something inspiring, but couldn't. Gaston knew that they had lost, that they were in a box.

Suddenly, in front of the barricade, nearly one thousand feet away a huge blue portal opened, strectching across the horizon as far as the eye could see in both directions. Hench, Gargoyle's Imps, and Shadows stepped out of the portal in a huge, bloodthirsty horde.

"Archers, fire at 250 paces," Gaston barked. He knew they had to eliminate as much of that horde as possible. Fortunately, the horde was only ten ranks deep or so; even then, however, there must be at least a hundred thousand, and proabably more, commited to this assault. With their hammers raised, the Hench began to run foward. Archers from the centuries and from the cannons above him cut into the horde; the cannons let off a huge boom as they were let loose. The Cannons devastated the tightly packed Mystics ranks, but the charge continued. Suddenly his men were battling Hench, who pulled them from their horses and trampled them. One by one, each man fell. Ovehead, exploding columns of light appeared in the sky. They were winning. They were actually winning. Gaston hacked hench to pieces, but there were too many. Hench appeared, and one of their hammers broke one of his horses legs, and Gaston has thrown into a group of Hench. A hammer snapped his spine before the Hench could use the body for food, fortunately.


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