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Saturday, 10 December 2005
Tales From the Knights of Dissay

   “Another lance!” Renaud yelled from atop his warhorse. “Knights, rally to me!”  

Four knights aligned themselves in a vertical line, two positioned on either side of him. “Hurry, damn you!” he barked with an impatient tone as the peasants scurried to bring the knights new lances.

   The first charge had been successful but it was only bait. The War Herd had patiently waited, and once the initial charge concluded, the Beastmen horde sprung their trap. Outnumbered five-to-one, with the majority of lowborns already broken in combat, the situation seemed dire.

    “For the lady and the Grismerie!” Renaud yelled. The knights released a battle cry and charged toward the mass of chaos.

    The herd stood awaited the charge. Even in their savagery, they marveled at how the beasts of burden were able to move so quickly while carrying their armored masters. But the time to ponder this spectacle was short-lived as the knights rammed into the heart of their center line.

   Lances tore through bone, muscle and flesh. Shattered bodies released an abomination of tainted blood and slime upon the battlefield. Renaud and his knights drew their swords and hacked at anything with fur and horns. With every stroke, a Bretonnian sent another foul creature to its death.

    It was another successful charge, but the shear numbers of the beasts kept them from losing their nerve. The knights fought with fervor but the horde continued to press in. The knight on the far right of the line was pulled from his horse and cut down by a swarm of ungors.

    Renaud turned to give a fellow knight instruction, but before he could issue any order, a battleaxe tore through the torso of his comrade. The gash sprayed Renaud, drenching his armor with blood. The wounded knight violently hacked to keep from choking on his own fluids until he fell unconscious along the length of his horse. With his footing still secured within the stirrups, the horse continued to buck to fend off the beasts that attacked both it and its rider.

   After seeing his friend fall, Renaud wheeled his horse around to face the foe that felled his fellow knight. He pulled tightly on the reins, and the warhorse struck the Minotaur squarely in the chest with its front hooves. What would have normally crushed the chest cavity of any normal creature only stunned the monster. It rose just in time to block the knight’s strike. Renaud stabbed again with his sword, but the beast effectively parried the blows. He then purposefully struck wide, and as he hoped, the Minotaur overextended to parry. Renaud then reversed his swing removing the head of the gruesome animal from its shoulders. He then joined the bulk of knights centered at the battlefield. He swung violently, cleaving limbs and beastly meat as he advanced. He saw another knight fall and a full unit of men-at-arms slaughtered all within seconds of each other. The battle is lost. The beastmen have almost completely surrounded our position, he thought as he killed another creature within his reach. He then caught a glimpse of a yeoman, who for the moment was unengaged in combat. He gestured for him to come and when he did, Renaud grasped his shoulder. “Lad, we do not have much time.” Renaud pointed toward the Horde’s outer perimeter. “They are at their weakest there. Do you see?” Renaud shouted.

“Yes, my lord.” the yeoman answered.

“Ride as fast as you can lad and don’t look back.”

“But my lord…”

“No time! We have fought with honor, but this battle is lost. Warn the Dissay. Tell them the threat is not just a raiding party, and more are pouring in from the mountains. They will descend and strike with full force as soon as the snow melts, if not sooner.”

The Yeoman stared at him with both a shocked and fatigued look.

“Now Yeoman, ride!” Renaud yelled, slapping the hind end of the horse.

   The horse sprinted forward, toward a small line of Ungors. The smaller beastmen were no match for the speed and strength of his horse. What he could not outmaneuver with speed he gouged with his spear. In mere seconds he had broken through the horde’s perimeter as their stronger warriors focused on the knights and militia.

“That’s it Yeoman, ride! Ride!” Renaud shouted.

   A spear clanged against Renaud’s shield and he countered by slashing at a Gor’s face. His sword caught in a mesh of bone and flesh, making it difficult to pull it free. As soon as he dislodged the blade, an axe struck him in the helmet, propelling him from his horse. He fell to the ground, the wind exploding from his lungs. His helmet was torn open and blood gushed from the side of his head, and its taste was upon his lips. He groggily searched for his sword but it was not in sight. Instead, he grabbed a pole arm from a fallen peasant. His sight strongly impaired by pain and blood, he wildly swung the weapon around himself, uttering a small prayer to the lady that only foes would be struck. 

    Soon, the whole tumult of battle took on an eerie muffled sound. Time seemed to slow regardless of how quickly he wielded his weapon. A large Minotaur, bigger than the one Renaud faced earlier, approached with daunting strides. Unarmed, it roared in defiance, and charged at the knight. Renaud thrust his weapon forward, but the Minotaur caught the pole arm underneath its arm, and with its other muscled arm, smashed the pole at its center. With a reverse swing, it back-handed Renaud across his face sending him off his feet. After landing hard on his back, Renaud tried again to see through the blur. If only my sight was not impaired, my last breath could be with honor, he thought. While still on the ground, he focused harder with his eyes. Detail began to take shape. The next clear vision Renaud saw was a stared glance from a dead knight.



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