The Battle of Magdalene Fields

Hi-yo, Silver, away!

 

The Do’s Series: Segment 13

 

© Grandpa Jim

 

 

“Magdalene Fields.” Tidbit waves a hand across the wide plain stretching before them.

Dew clings to the wet grasses and glistens in the light of early dawn. Gossamer mists swirl and lengthen to white threads floating on the morning breeze.

“I remember.” Truss stands in the stirrups. “Across there are the ruins where we first met.”

“Aye,” TidBit adds. “That was a good day. Today, it is a long way. A long way.”

LoveJoy surveys the open land. “From here, there is no cover,” she observes. “We will be exposed. If any lie in wait, they will see us.”

“Let them see.” DawnRunner smacks her staff against her hand. “Let them.”

“We ride then.” Truss settles himself firmly into the saddle. “On my signal. As fast as the ponies will gallop. At the far wall, there is a narrow break. Make for that.” Truss raises his right hand. “Ready.” He drops the hand. “GO!”

The four bolt from the narrow glade and sprint onto the meadows of Lady Magdalene’s Fields.

At their backs, the bright arc of the morning sun breaks the edge of the hills.

“Faster!” Truss shouts and lowers his head to the pony’s mane.

The shod hoofs of the animals bite the turf. Dirt sprays behind the riders and settles back among the quiet blades.

A soft cool wind whispers over the undulating carpet of waving greens.

 

“SIR RICHARD!! SIR RICHARD!!”

Cries and grunts shatter the morning calm.

“THE FIRST COUNT!! THE FIRST COUNT!!”

Dark blades lift, clink and clatter.

“THE SWEEPING LANDS!! THE SWEEPING LANDS!!”

To Truss’s left, brown robes break from the covering trees. Hundreds upon hundreds of BentOnes launch themselves in a bushwhack assault. One brown column veers in front of them to block access to the guardwall before the ancient ruins. Another column circles behind to cut off any retreat. The main body of brownones directs its howls and aims its blades at the four riders crossing before the groping mob.

The ponies lower their heads and gallop at breakneck speed.

The BentOnes lift their weapons higher and increase their lunging pace.

SchirmerShutzen HirschTruss glances at the dark misshapen waves that work to engulf him and his friends. His heart tells him the four cannot reach the ruins without a fight. He pulls his sword.

LoveJoy and DawnRunner lift their staffs.

Tidbit raises his blade, the bright stiletto flashing in the sunlight.

 

“TOPHOUSE!! TOPHOUSE!!”

The boomboxes of the spiderbuglers blast the “William Tell” Overture of Gioachino Rossini.

 

 

“DROPKELLS!! DROPKELLS!!

Rushing music in fast-paced beats accompanies the trumpeted battle cries of dwarf warriors.

“TOPHOUSE!! DROPKELLS!!”

Booming voices join the blasting rhythm of Rossini’s cadences to shake the earth and lift the plainsong in the morning light.

“DROPKELLS!! TOPHOUSE!!”

To the right of the four companions, tall prancing battlespiders crest a low knoll. Spider legs flash, claws scrape, mandibles snap. On each ridefight spider, a long-bearded armored dwarf raises his voice and his battle-axe to the battering beat of the music. Bright blades flash a blinding answer to TidBit’s sharp point. The first line of SpiderRiders launches with explosive force. Line after line of SpiderRiders follows. Each rank crests the hill, leaps and jumpraces with practiced precision. Two hundred SpiderRiders thunder across Lady Magdalene’s Fields. Song and Shout. Shout and Song. The SpiderRiders of DropKells sprint to join the fight and smash the foe.

“TOPHOUSE!! DROPKELLS!!”

“DROPKELLS!! TOPHOUSE!!”

 

HirschTruss reigns and turns his mount to face the brown line of BentOnes. He lifts his sword, then lowers it toward the horde.

 

“SCHWANGAU!” the young swordguard shouts as his pony leaps forward.

“FARWAY!” echoes LoveJoy to his left, her eyes focused, staff extended and ready.

“CLANROCK!” sings DawnRunner, SandRunner beside SandRunner, friend with friend into the fray together.

“THE LOW HILLS!” yells TidBit at Truss’s right. The mouse rides high and fearless, waving blade and staff, shouting as he goes.

 

The four speed toward the enemy ranks.

 

“SCHWANGAU!”

“FARWAY!”

“CLANROCK!”

“THE LOW HILLS!”

 

The SpiderRiders close fast behind the four charging companions.

 

“TOPHOUSE!! TOPHOUSE!!”

“DROPKELLS!! DROPKELLS!!

 

A white battlespider leaps over Truss and LoveJoy. Suspended in midair, Gil SpiderBack smiles down. In a strong even baritone above the blasting beats of the overture, the SpiderRider singsongs with operatic panache: “HI-YO, SILVER, AWAY!” The white spider lands ahead of the four and takes another monstrous leap. The flying arachnid and bearded dwarf flatten to projectile format: spider legs folded back, claws snapping, mandibles biting, dwarf sharp axe poised to swing and crack. A speeding bullet, the lead SpiderRider of DropKells slices arrow-like through the front line of the BentOnes. Two heads with spikey greased red hair sail into the air. Brown bodies twist and crumple. A wedge-shaped path of devastation extends deep into the ranks of the brownrobes. But, the maneuver is not finished. Gil’s white spider slows, heaves up, extends its legs and assumes a low fighting profile. Mandibles and claws reach and clack to divide torsos and sever appendages. Above his battle mount, Gil SpiderBack sings, cleaves and smashes as the two carve a way deeper into the enemy formation.

More SpiderRiders jump the galloping ponies and repeat the artillery-shell assault on the enemy front, disrupting and dismembering the ranks of the enemy soldiers.

The brownone forces sag and splinter. Huge gaps appear where BentOnes once stood and bodies now cover the trampled ground. The Count’s servants reel back. More SpiderRiders attack and more BentOne sections collapse in disarray. Brown-robed soldiers drop their weapons, turn and run.

The four companions leap brown bodies and pass through the gaps formed for them by the SpiderRiders of DropKells. Truss slices between spiders and BentOnes, swinging and stabbing. Motionless brown forms sink beneath the dancing legs of the SwordGuard’s pony. LoveJoy and DawnRunner ride side-by-side, staffs swirling, cracking, stabbing, felling. Downed brownrobes pile in long lines behind the relentless SandRunners. TidBit knocks and cuts. The Mouse’s hands are spinning windmills of deadly motion, as he spurs his pony to guard Truss’s side.

BentOne officers scream and shout. The brown-robed superiors force the fleeing to turn and fight. Fragmented brown lines sag, hold, waiver and push back.

From the cover of the trees, brown reserves emerge to march and fill the gaps in Sir Richard’s fractured ranks. The new BentOnes heft long pointed poles. Jabbing and planting the sharp sticks, the brown fighters injure and pin charging spiders and unseat dwarfriders.

Multiple lances lift a squirming spider into the air. The arachnid is dropped onto its back. The dwarfrider tumbles free. Dark blades chop at the twitching legs of the spider and batter the reeling dwarf warrior. Another SpiderRider jumps and clears a space before his fightmate. The seated dwarf offers a hand and pulls up his fellow fighter. The ridefight spider jumps and swings with both SpiderRiders chopping and crippling with their axes.

Another spider goes down.

Then another.

Unsaddled dwarves hammer and sunder the growing brown forces.

BentOne bodies form mounds that grow to small hills and impede the movement of the battle.

At spaces between the brown-robed dead, upended spiders twitch and stop moving.

Dwarf warriors sink and cannot rise, swinging their axes until no air can enter their chests and their hearts burst.

A black sword cuts the front legs of Truss’s pony. The animal somersaults forward, throwing Truss from the saddle. The swordguard rolls free of the dying pony, lies winded on his back and stares up at an ugly curved blade lifting to strike. TidBit leaps from his mount. The mottled hand of the BentOne freezes in mid motion, the fingers open and the weapon clangs to the ground. The Mouse pulls his dagger from the BentOne’s back and helps HirschTruss to his feet. Back to back, TidBit and Truss parry and thrust, jab and cut. Around them, brownones surge and push, forcing the two fighters farther from the center and closer to the ruins.

Between strokes, the SchirmerSchutzen searches for the SandRunners. The swordguard stabs the chest of a large oaf who coughs red and collapses. Truss pulls his sword back and glimpses LoveJoy far off on her pony. At that moment, the lead dwarf atop his white spider jumps the spider next to the chestnut haired SandRunner. The dwarf grabs LoveJoy and sets her before him in the saddle of the spidermount.

 

“What are you doing?” LoveJoy shouts over her shoulder at the dwarf captain.

“Taking you to safety, M’Lady. There are too many of these brownones.”

LoveJoy sights DawnRunner seated in front of another SpiderRider.

Gil SpiderBack maneuvers and turns his white spider.

“Wait! My other friends. We must get them.”

“We will, if we can. We must ride now.”

“No. We can’t leave them. . . .”

A large black ball of swirling particles floats in front of LoveJoy and Gil. The individual dark specks separate, grow and contract, coalesce and rearrange themselves into a pattern, a form, and then a face.

“I know you.” LoveJoy reaches her hand to touch. . . .

“You must not!” The dwarf’s axehand slaps LoveJoy’s arm away. With his other hand, Gil SpiderBack lifts a silver tube to his mouth and blows hard.

The particles forming the dark face dance wildly. The shape unforms and reforms in a rough elongated mass that drifts away in the cold wind blowing from OverMountain toward the wood that camouflaged the BentOne army.

Gil catches site of more brown columns emerging from the treeline.

“Hold tight!” the dwarf shouts to the girl as he goads the spider. The white spider leaps and lands, leaps and lands, over and between BentOnes, finding an open space to move its eight legs faster and faster.

The SpiderRider of DropKells and the FarWay SandRunner outrace the brown forms.

Across the field of battle, dwarf buglers singsignal, “WITHDRAW!! WITHDRAW!!”

LoveJoy stretches back and watches as other spiderfighters disengage, jump their spiders, and streak toward the tradeway, leaving behind them the still-growing brown ranks.

BentOne commanders scream and point. They strike and shove. Ugly cries and threats cut the air. The mass of brown robes thrusts forward unevenly and haphazardly to follow after the fleet SpiderRiders and the two SandRunners they guard.

 

“HirschTruss!” TidBit shouts over the din. “The ruins. We are close. This is our chance.”

Truss slices a BentOne running at him with a raised scimitar.

“Now!” the Mouse screams. “While they’re confused.”

Truss swings around and nods. Understanding, he lowers his weapon and looks toward the ruins.

Together, the Mouse and SwordGuard sprint.

No brownones follow.

The sounds of battle die away and are lost.

Panting, the Mouse and the Prince reach the rough stone of the wall and spin into the narrow passage. Ducking and squeezing, they run and drop to crawl through the short tunnel into the dim light of the wide-columned room.

“Good.” TidBit points. “The torch is there. You get that.” The Mouse touches the circular plate in the floor. “Light the brand. I’ll shimmy down here and be back to open the trapdoor.”

“You do not need to disturb the Lady,” Truss gasps, catching his breath.

“What?”

“Stay here. There is another way.”

HirschTruss holds the torch with one hand and presses a small object into his ear with the other hand. The SwordGuard inclines his head, listens and walks over to a section of wall between two niches containing statues of female warriors. “Yes, this is where I remember it was.”

“What was?” TidBit frowns. “We must hurry.”

Truss raises a fist.

“What are you doing?”

“Knocking.”

HirschTruss strikes the wall with three quick raps.

“I don’t see. . . .” the Mouse begins.

A deep low scraping is followed by a hollow rasping. A crack appears in the wall. Dust settles to the floor. A tall rectangular shape outlines itself in the stone. The section of wall pushes outward and swings open from one side, stopping after a space about the length of a warrior’s forearm.

“A door!” TidBit exclaims.

“Precisely. To the dwarf tunnels and TopHouse. I think.” Truss hands Tidbit the torch. “You first.”

“You think?” The Mouse bows slightly to his friend, pivots and slides through the opening. A musty smell tickles his nose, and a light breeze moves the flames of the torch. TidBit aboutfaces and pokes his head back into the room. “It smells old. . . .” He stops in midsentence.

Truss lies unmoving on the tiled floor.

Above the SwordGuard, a dark shape floats in the half-light.

TidBit lifts his head to see who. . . .

A knifepoint stabs at the Mouse’s eye.

TidBit jerks back.

The door rumbles and slams shut.