PART THREE: THE EDGE OF THE BLADE
"Stand ready! Take your aim! Let loose!" shouted Gav, bringing his left arm down in a chopping motion as he gave the command. Lieutenants all across the battlefield repeated the words, and Vorti's archers launched their flaming arrows simultaneously. The steel-tipped missiles shot upwards, crested, then sped toward the quatics, a whistling hail of death.
Grundig had expected arrows, but not fire, and it quickly became apparent which was more dangerous. Not many quatics were killed, or even seriously injured, by direct contact, since their hides were tough enough to ward off all but incidental damage. But the arrows which landed in the dry brush flared immediately, and suddenly the advancing edge of the army was caught in the midst of a conflagration, and quatics, swamp-dwellers by nature, possessed little immunity to fire. As the flames spread, all forward movement ceased. Blackened corpses fell by scores.
A second volley of arrows followed the first, and Grundig was forced to move away from the front ranks to avoid being caught in the flames. His force was now in retreat, backing away from the human attack. Fury seethed within the Prophet, and much of the anger was directed at himself for not anticipating this action.
I told you not to underestimate them, whispered Vas from the recesses of Grundig's mind. The quatic could almost sense satisfaction in that statement, as if the dead wizard retained vestiges of his personality.
"Stifle your satisfaction!" barked Grundig, speaking aloud. "If things go ill for me, they do so for you as well."
It isn't satisfaction. Maybe next time you'll listen when I warn you. These humans are not as weak and foolish as they seemed at Tsab. Now you no longer have the advantage of surprise, you will find them a different sort of foe.
Grundig's forces had backed up far enough to escape the wall of fire, but the flames were spreading. There were already one hundred dead, and at least twice that number injured, and he had to stop things before they could become more serious. It hadn't been his intention to use magic this early in the battle, but he had no choice.
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