The Perks of Immortality - Chapter 13 The Battle of Valleyforge
Kegan’s suggestion of running from the army, was met with every kind of response. Jotun began laughing, Tanzeeb turned contemplative, another man got angry and started calling Kegan a coward, and the last two just immediately accepted the solution and started talking about whether it was feasible.
Jotun walked up to Kegan and put a hand on his shoulder.
“Boy, I have to admit, you’ve surprised me. I thought you were like the backwards tribals I fought during my time in the legions. But this might just be the smartest idea anyone has had for dealing with the empire.”
Everyone else seemed to be surprised to hear Jotun say that, and the side conversations ceased. Jotun spoke to everyone:
“We need to wake everyone and get them moving right now. If the legionnaires are moving quickly they could be here as early as mid day tomorrow. Make sure people are taking only the essentials.”
“Where are we going to run to? Won’t they just chase us down?”
“We’ll head for Woodhaven first. Gather up everyone from that village and then head for the mountain pass.”
“You want us to walk into goblin infested lands with all of our women and children?!”
“Your choice is death and slavery for your family fighting against the legion, or a life of fighting off goblins.”
The man had no answer to Jotun’s last statement, and Jotun didn’t wait for one he began walking into the camp and shouting at everyone to get up.
Kegan and most of the warriors were ready to head out almost immediately since they had already only brought what they had carried.
There were six other villages that had sent warriors here. Jotun was talking with each group of them individually. Kegan overheard that three of the villages had likely already been attacked, Jotun promised these men a better chance at revenge if they stayed here and fought together. One village was in the direction of the mountain pass, and they would be joining up with woodhaven. Jotun sent all those warriors away to get their families evacuated. Two other villages were likely going to get hit the next day. Jotun tried to convince these men to stay and join forces, that they would just die pointlessly if they ran back to their villages. He failed to convince most of them.
In total there were about 70 warriors that were going to remain at the village and fight whatever empire forces came their way. Jotun told them all to get some rest. Kegan decided to stay with them as well. He was confident he could outrun any humans, so if they lost the fight here he would just run away and join back up with the villagers of Woodhaven.
The morning came quickly for everyone in the village of Valleyforge. As soon as the sun came up a large group of people set out towards Woodhaven. The group included all of the women and children, most of the men from Woodhaven, and most of the men from Valleyforge. There were a few brave souls that decided to stay and fight the empire to give everyone more time.
Kegan had time to hunt, so he killed and brought back three deer throughout the morning. A few other hunters also came back with food. Everyone ate a good meal and waited nervously for the enemy to arrive. Parts of the wall were taken apart and driven into the ground to act as a barrier. Jotun had said they would fight outside the village first, and only use the walls as a fallback position. They had set up with the village to their back, and a field of grain between them and the forest road.
It was past mid day when they heard a slow and steady beat on a drum. Jotun perked up at the sound “That’ll be them, right on time.”
Out of the forest emerged hundreds of men wearing shining armor on their torsos and heads, carrying large wooden shields, and spears that seemed twice as tall as them. The beat of the drums shifted and the men spread out into a formation at the edge of the forest. They split into two formations on either side of the road. Each formation was about fifty men wide and four men deep. Everyone in front of the village shifted nervously seeing this display of military coordination.
The last thing out of the forest was a group of twenty horseman, and then five wagons pulled horses. Each of the wagons had a large cage on top of it. One of the wagons already seemed to be full. Some of the horsemen dismounted and moved to open it, they dragged a woman out and then closed the cage again. They proceeded forward on foot followed by three of the horsemen. They got within range, and Kegan took out a javelin, ready to throw it. Jotun stopped him,
“Don’t, we’ll see what they want first.”
The procession stopped and one of the men on horseback shouted
“We are here to accept your unconditional surrender. If you do not immediately lay down your arms, then this woman and her kin will be the first ones killed today.”
At this point one of the men next to the woman grabbed her hair and pulled it back, She’d been staring at the ground before, but now everyone could see her face.
One of the men in the line shouted. He was about to run out there, when the men next to him grabbed him and restrained him. He was growling at them “Let me go, thats Avelyn.”
Jotun shouted back,
“You’ll kill her and all of us as soon as we lay down our arms. Your word means nothing when you have slaughtered innocent citizens of the empire.”
A man on horseback wearing the fanciest and shiniest armor suddenly perked up.
“Jotun? Is that you? What brought you out to this backwater shithole?”
“I got a land grant for my retirement. Is this how the empire rewards its loyal soldiers?”
“Hahaha, Jotun, you left in disgrace. This was just the shithole they exiled you to. Anyways, the retirement plans have changed. We get slaves now, and I think you will be helping me retire early.”
At that the man turned his horse around and started trotting back towards the army.
Jotun turned to Kegan, “Ok now you can throw.”
Kegan didn’t hesitate and flung the bronze tipped javelin he was holding at the man that had been talking.
The javelin struck the man in the back, but it hadn’t penetrated the armor very deeply. The whole group quickly rode off, one of them helped to pull the javelin out of the commander’s back and toss it away. Kegan didn’t even see any blood on the tip of the javelin. Kegan was horrified ‘How are we supposed to kill men with armor like that’ he thought to himself.
He turned to look at Jotun, and Jotun must have realized the question in his eyes.
“Eh don’t worry, it was a longshot that you might kill him. He is the kind of man that would pay for the best armor rather than good boots for his men. Hopefully he crapped his pants though.”
The drums started up again and the soldiers started marching towards the line of waiting warriors. Jotun began shouting encouragement to the men.
“Hold steady men, keep those shields up and your spears ready! This is what we’ve been training for. We’ll make them bleed!”
As the soldiers got closer half of the warriors in the back of the line took out bows. Jotun commanded them to fire all at once. And for all of them to target the 2nd group.
As soon as the arrows were released shouts went up from the soldiers, all of the groups immediately raised their large shields above their heads.
A couple dozen arrows rained down on the soldiers, but the shields had come up in time and most of the arrows thudded harmlessly into the shields. There were one or two screams from lucky arrows.
Three more volleys went off before the soldiers had gotten close enough, but the shield formation left the soldiers way too protected.
The soldiers advanced right up to the wood stakes in the ground. Both side were reaching out with their spears to jab at the other side. Each side was yelling at each other and making a lot of noise, but Kegan was looking around and realizing that no one was really getting hurt or dying. Both formations were just too defensive. However the warriors that Kegan was with were slowly being pushed back from the barriers. The soldiers spears had slightly more reach, and they were better coordinated with their spear thrusts.
Once the soldiers were right up against the wooden stakes in the ground some of the shields in their formation suddenly opened up. Large men that were better armored and carrying axes leaped out and started chopping away at the barriers.
The soldier’s became more aggressive to provide an active defense for the men chopping up the barriers. One of them was just about in front of Kegan, and Kegan was getting sick of this stalemate. At the right moment Kegan leaped out from the line batting aside half the spears with his shield, and thrusting his own spear at the man’s armpit where the armor didn’t fully cover. His spear landed and he twisted it making the man scream in pain and recoil into his own shield wall, but the shield wall opened back up to pull him in.
An instant later Kegan was getting swarmed with spear thrusts. Quite a few of them partially yet painfully poking through his own armor. Kegan was able to rejoin his own spear line. The men in his own line that saw his attack were cheering him.
Further down the line Jotun had rounded up some archers that were firing arrows at the other soldiers trying to bust up the barrier. One by one they fell to a hail of arrows. But not before they had made a few openings in the barrier.
From the soldiers line a command was shouted and then repeated by each of the four groups “Into the gap!”
Suddenly three soldiers from each line started pushing forward into the open sections. The soldiers behind them also moved up and their combined mass was pushing back the line of warriors at the barrier. One of these pushed began happening on Kegan’s right hand side, but they were having the most trouble here because the barrier of stakes was the least damaged.
Kegan let himself be pushed slightly back and let the soldiers get further away from the protection of their line. Then he rushed in again, batting aside the spears, and thrusting his own spear over the shield of a man who didn’t see him coming. Kegan’s spear landed in the opening of the man’s helmet driving it into his eye socket. The man screamed for a half second before Kegan thrust deeper into his skull and ended his life.
Kegan wasn’t able to quickly wrench his spear free, but the soldier falling down allowed kegan to get closer to the line of soldiers. Kegan pulled his club from his belt and started bashing at the shields and spears around him to open up some space.
As Kegan got in close a short metal sword flashed out towards his stomach. He deflected it from being a direct hit, and it instead lodged awkwardly in his bone armor. Kegan’s second blow from the club landed on the soldier’s hand holding the sword. The soldier screamed and pulled his mangled hand away. Kegan’s club found the man’s head a moment later, denting the metal and either killing or knocking him out.
Kegan dropped his shield and took the sword out of his armor. There were twelve soldiers that had pushed their way through the barrier, and two of them were now down, and Kegan was in the middle of the remaining ten. The two soldiers in the middle of the formation had tried to move out to fill in the gap created, but the warriors behind Kegan were using their spears to keep them at bay.
Kegan began laying into the soldier on his left that was just past the barrier of stakes. He would bash the man’s shield aside with his club and then thrust in his stolen sword. The soldier was protecting his face well and his armor was preventing any of Kegan’s sword thrusts from being fatal. But he was quickly worn down from Kegan’s onslaught. Eventually Kegan knocked the man’s shield clear. Two warriors thrust their spears into the soldier’s armor, and Kegan was able to get a swing at the man’s head taking him out of the fight.
One of the soldiers from the middle of the line stepped out to try and bash Kegan with his shield as well as stab him in the stomach. Kegan used his left forearm that was holding the sword to lessen the blow from the shield, and he managed to get his club in the way of the sword. He quickly dropped his club, and used his free hand to yank the shield towards him more, pulling the soldier along with it. Kegan’s sword stabbed over the shield into the soldier’s face killing him instantly.
The next twenty seconds were a brutal melee, but with the soldier’s formation broken, and the warriors surrounding them they were all dead by the end of it. Kegan kept more of the soldiers from breaking through to reinforce their comrades.
The line had been re-established in front of the barrier, but there was the sound of a horn being blown which was the signal for them to fall back to the village.
As Kegan and the other warriors backed up Kegan was able to get a look around at the rest of the warrior line. In the other middle section to Kegan’s right it appeared that the archers had been able to stop the break in the line. But at each end of the line, the soldiers had broken through and were pushing back the warriors. The warrior’s spear line was about to snap from the pressure, and Kegan realized they would have been surrounded on both sides if they had continued to fight here. Kegan was once again impressed by Jotun’s knowledge of fighting other humans.
The warriors soon backed up far enough that they were no longer in contact with the soldiers front line. The soldiers had begun filing through the gaps in the barrier, but weren’t rushing to pursue immediately. The warriors soon rushed back to the walls of the village. As they all got in position on top of the walls Kegan heard a loud bang and shouting from behind him in the village.
He and the others turned around. From the other side of the village the gate had burst open Some soldiers ran through carrying what looked like a giant metal tipped tree trunk. They set it down and began filling into the village. Right behind them came more soldiers on horseback. Jotun quickly began shouting orders, the archers turned and started loosing volleys of arrows into the new group of soldiers. Unlike before, the arrows were having a deadly effect. Not enough of the soldiers had shields up and ready.
Jotun turned to Kegan, “Kegan, take your squad and hold the bridge in the middle of the village. If they get behind us this is over.”
Kegan and the men in his squad rushed down off the wall to meet the soldiers in the village. Kegan sprinted ahead of his squad worried that the soldiers would overtake the bridge before they could all reach it. Two soldiers on horseback were also rushing for the bridge and they were easily going to beat Kegan there, but suddenly a dozen arrows flew over Kegan’s head and hit the two charging cavalry. One soldier died instantly with an arrow to the face, while the other was mostly protected by his shield. But both horses were unarmored and each took a few arrows to the neck and chest making them both whinny loudly in pain and rear up.
Both riders were thrown off their horses just in front of the bridge, and the horses ran off into the village. Kegan made it to the bridge a second later, he pulled out his copper dagger and finishing off the still living rider that had fallen to the ground off his horse. Kegan took the man’s sword because it seemed better suited for his fighting style. The point of the sword was not very sharp, but it was heavier and longer than the other swords he’d seen.
More soldiers were coming up to the bridge. They looked very different from the soldier Kegan had faced out in front of the village. Most of them were wearing light leather or mail armor, carrying smaller shields, and had a variety of weapons.
The first one came charging in with a spear and no shield. The man trusted in his momentum too much, and Kegan used it against him. Turning aside the spear thrust just barely Kegan got inside the man’s guard and used his new cavalry sword to cave in the man’s skull.
Kegan had backed up onto the bridge in fear of being overwhelmed. The bridge was about fifteen feet long and four feet wide. There was a slight arch in the middle.
The next two soldiers that came were both carrying round wooden shields. One of them was carrying a strange curved blade, and the other was carrying an axe. They came up to Kegan cautiously, covering themselves and each other with their shields. They switched their weapons to their outside hands so they could swing at Kegan simultaneously.
Just as they were winding up to swing Kegan rushed between them and slammed his body between their shields throwing them both off the bridge. But they were immediately replaced by new soldiers running onto the bridge.
Kegan had entered a battle trance. He lost track of how many men he fought. Each one brought different weapons and armor, some of them would get lucky hits in and wound Kegan, but Kegan always took the opportunity to end their lives with a blow to the head or their vitals. Many others he would just push off the bridge into the river.
Kegan was vaguely aware of what was happening around him. The men that tried to cross the river away from the bridge were stopped by the squad of warriors he’d brought with them. At some point the soldiers started shooting arrows at him, but Kegan’s hardened leather and bone armor was surprisingly effective at mitigating the damage of the arrows. And occasionally arrows would be shot back at them from his side.
Kegan didn’t know how long he had been fighting, but he realized that it had suddenly stopped. The soldiers in front of him had backed off and give him room, and they were looking behind Kegan with smiles on their faces. Kegan risked turning around for the first time, and what he saw was devastation. The wall was collapsed inwards at one point and covered in bodies.
He’d turned around just in time to see the last few warriors being cut down by the soldiers he’d fought earlier. The warriors had been defending his back. But now he was surrounded on both sides. Everyone he had fought with was dead. He could feel emotions breaking through the battle trance that had carried him so far. Anger, sadness, frustration at the unfairness of it all, and finally a resignation to his own fate.
Kegan screamed and charged at the irregular soldiers. He stabbed and swung at them, but he could feel swords and spears repeatedly stabbing through his armor. His vision became faint. Soon after, the pain stopped. Death had taken him once again.