The enemy just kept coming. Wave after wave of oddly armoured soldiers carrying crossbows that fired some sort of magical energy. Taika had never seen anything like them but she didn’t have time to analyse their armour or weapons.
The soldiers, unlike her own, were disciplined and efficient. They worked in formation and cut down the legion.
“Their armour is absorbing any spells we cast!” Yelled Julien.
“They’re coming through the gate. We need to shut that down!” shouted Pat.
The one advantage they had was the spells that let them give commands directly with voice while the enemy relied on horns and runners. It wasn’t enough of an advantage. They were down to two thousand in the legion, less than half, and only one hundred of the five hundred battlemages when Taika started to consider retreat through teleportation.
“Knight Commander,” one of the knights from the legion yelled, “The Panos are breaking through behind us.” She had never heard that the Panos were capable of fighting on this scale.
“Put the communication spell on their leader and move your men to the front, we need to get to the gate.”
A woman’s voice, speaking perfect common, replied, “I couldn’t agree more. I am Aleenia, temporary War Alpha of the Western packs. I bring you two hundred hunters and twelve Shamans. I need to get through that gate.”
“Welcome! Move your people to the eastern front, they seem to be weakening on that side.”
“No. They are preparing an ambush there. I’m a seer and I say we move forward.”
Seers were unheard of in the Maneean mages but the Panos seemed to have one or two in each pack. Most couldn’t tell what time they were currently in, or who they were talking to. It was shocking to have one not only be coherent but leading a war party.
“You heard the War Alpha!” Taika yelled at her commanders.
The battle did turn and they started pushing the enemy back but they just kept coming out of the gate and Taika’s forces were starting to tire and dwindle.
“We need to shut that gate down,” Pat yelled again.
“He’s right, but I need to get through it first,” Aleenia replied.
“Ok, we’re fighting like battlemages and Hunters. I think we need to start fighting like spies. Julien and I are going to take Aleenia and ten soldiers under an invisibility spell and shut down that gate.”
As they prepared for the stealth offensive, their army tightened their formation and moved as if they were preparing to either retreat or regroup.
Adeleine recognized the War Alpha immediately, she walked with confidence and radiated power. “Aleenia War Alpha, I presume?” There was something else in the way she held herself, an impatience that was more than battle anxiety.
“Please, Aleenia is fine.”
“Who’s on the other side of the gate?” Taika was being blunt to the point of rudeness but she needed to know that the other woman understood this was a one way trip.
“My betrothed tried to stop all this and failed, but he managed to get the alarm out.” She gestured around.
Nodding, Taika went back to preparing the invisibility spell. When she was almost done, Julien walked towards her and said, “What are we going to do with them when we shut down the gate?”
“When the gate shuts down, Pat has orders to teleport everyone out. I’ll activate the volcano.”
“But that’ll destroy everything and everyone inside the wall, millions will die.”
“Not if we can create a big enough shield to contain the army and the blast.”
Julien’s eyes grew wide and he looked like he was going to argue, instead he stood straighter and said, “We need someone on both sides to create a powerful enough shield…”
“No. It’s my plan and I’m going to be the one inside. That’s an order.”
There was no more argument, they formed a tight line, and she cast the invisibility spell. They spent the next hour dancing around the enemy troops trying not to be noticed. The spell hid them but didn’t make them intangible.
As they finally reached the gate, it was guarded. They’d expected the guards but something else was going on here. Half the guards wore comfortable looking uniforms. She assumed they were battlemages but she hadn’t seen any one the field. The others wore the regular armour.
A handsome man who wore no armour and carried a sword was yelling at another man. Taika directed a full stop and quickly cast a translation spell. The yelling man stopped and looked at them before going back to yelling, “Is this what the glorious Empire is about? Torturing children?” He gestured at a small enclosure, there were four Panos youths, no more than five. They were tied to stakes with steal wire.
Read Conclusion (November 23)
If you liked this, why not read more stories set in The Tree of Worlds: