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|Waves of Stone|
July 14, 2013
New strategies do not guarantee new victories...
Chapter 6: Waves of Stone
The journey was far but Tiros was glad they had made good time. On the voyage back to the mainland, he had read the letters sent to him in detail. A former officer of the army, Lesun had staked a claim on the southern belt of the Earth Kingdom. The 'kingdom' was centered around Iseran, a small but fortified city that stood parallel with Omashu.
Lesun's 'forces' were largely wild bands of marauders raiding villages and burning them down. But amongst the chaos, they noticed that young and fighting age men were missing in the wreckage.
Lesun was conscripting himself an army to go to war. While this was troublesome, it did not bother the Earth King absolutely, hence why he sent assassins to take care of the rebel. This is where the problems began. As patrols of loyal troops and assassins encountered the marauders, any confrontation that involved Lesun ended in failure as killing him seemed impossible.
His men have since become galvanized by the repeated failed attempts and call themselves Immortals after their leader. The Immortals are now causing defections as troops fear what they will suffer if they lose.
Tiros and Melasa headed for the nearest fort to Iseran still held by loyal troops. Michyu had over two thousand men and served as a training outpost for soldiers. Tiros and Melasa saw the fort ahead as they rode their ostrich horses.
The fort was sizable and defendable, but in no way was a threat to Iseran, and yet it was the first line between it and Omashu. Tiros worried for this region. If things were as bad as scouts reported, these men would fall like a house of cards when attacked.
Spotters noticed them and archers readied themselves on the gate.
"Halt! Who goes there!?"
"I am Avatar Tiros, this is Melasa. We have been summoned by the Earth King to help."
"What are the words to the gate!?"
Tiros took a serious note, the men feared treachery from outside that you needed to know the words to get in, "No men are immortals."
Without responding, the gates opened as men stood at the ready to fight. They reeked of fear, but still stood ready to fight for their lives. That was at least some small consolation. The two trotted in on their mounts. An officer stepped forward with his stance ready to earthbend. Tiros has had no lessons in earthbending, not even rudimentary.
"I am Captain Sajin, state your purpose."
"I am Avatar Tiros, I have been requested by the Earth King to help as I can before war breaks out."
Sajin eased and stood up, "War has already begun," he ended resignedly as he looked to a doorway as another approached.
An older man stepped out. He was still resolute and firm in his power. He had a fierceness in his eyes that spoke of an experienced warrior. "I am colonel Shyo, commander of this outpost. We are honored by your presence, Avatar Tiros. We are in a situation, lets discuss this in better places."
Tiros nodded his consent as he and Melasa dismounted. Two soldiers took the mounts as the men marveled at the witch. She had a red hood on, but her hair flew out in the wind. The men had never seen a red haired woman before.
The two visitors joined Sajin and Shyo. Led up to a high tower in the outpost, they reached an office where a few lieutenants attended to work and messages as well as working on maps. "Lieutenant Mir, get the letters, the rest of you, go outside and inform the men that the Avatar has arrived."
"Yes, sir" rung from the room. All but a handsome man with black hair that hung forward in a very non-militaristic fashion. He smiled at Melasa and the Avatar as he handed the letters to Colonel Shyo.
Shyo, Sajin and Mir sat down and beckoned for their guess to do so as well. Shyo began, "The war has begun, whether the Earth King realizes it or not. Lesun has an army of over ten thousand, if not more. Iseran has become a massive fortress teaming with fanatics who fight with a bloodlust worth ten men each."
"These letters," he handed them to the young firebender, "are the reports from our scouts and spies about the activities of Lesun and his Immortals. Lesun is sloppy as far as command structure goes. The entire rebellion is centered around him. If he dies, the war dies with him. Security sucks too, but assassinating Lesun has fallen through so many times that we stop bothering with that."
"Apart from these failures, Lesun's rebellion is formidable and his men are fierce. Our men are not enough."
Tiros' amber eyes read through the letters, deciphering the information before responding. He then handed the letters to his companion, knowing a second pair of eyes wouldn't hurt. He turned to the three officers, "What is their current goal, beyond taking over the south?"
"At present? Us," Lieutenant Mir responded, "Michyu stands as the only obstacle between Iseran and Omashu."
"Two thousand against ten thousand is not good odds," Melasa put it bluntly.
Sajin interrupted, "Two thousand is not fully accurate. We have two thousand recruits and trainers from Omashu. Our formal forces number about fifteen hundred strong, though five hundred are out in the field in scout and patrol capacities. My peer, Captain Kyo is in command of these forces and personally leads them on the field. He is due to come today and report."
The senior officer spoke, "Even then, we are outnumbered three to one. A great number of our men are far too fear-stricken to fight if it comes to that without reinforcements. And Omashu isn't sending anyone, as they are preparing for a siege."
"Can your spies and scouts in Iseran sabotage their war efforts? At least something to delay and stall them while we try to figure something out?"
"Its possible, but it won't do for long. Lesun doesn't have patience, even for his own men."
"What is the deal with this man?"
"If only we knew. Any attempts to kill him fails. Whether this is by his skill or some other factor is unknown as no one lives to report back. Our most pressing concern is finding a way to whittle down his army."
A deep voice broke their discussion, "Which is larger than we thought."
A man entered the office. His wear was worn and ragged but he held the bearing of a strong and powerful man. Shyo acknowledged him, "Captain Kyo, you're earlier than expected, were there complications?"
"Only learning that they have a small port where they are getting the resources and holding another three thousand at least."
Sajin and Mir dropped their heads, "You're kidding me. Three thousand more? That is almost as many as we have here. If they all march, we are going to be in dire straights."
Tiros sighed heavily as Melasa kept her usual demeanor. Kyo introduced himself, "Its an honor to meet you, Avatar, I am Captain Kyo."
"A pleasure, Captain, thank you for this information."
He then shook Melasa's hand respectfully as she answered, "I am Melasa, the Avatar's servant."
"A lucky man, no doubt," he sat down by the map and started, "The port is bringing in the food and supplies that raiding can't as well as slaves for the men."
"Women. These savages go through women like they're food, so they import slaves to keep their men happy," he had a dark look on his face as he spoke about the situation.
Tiros clenched his fist, but Melasa interrupted, "Master, we must deal with the first priority, which is this man, we can go after his followers once this is done."
He nodded as he knew she was being reasonable, despite how he hated the matter. "So Lesun leads raids personally?"
They nodded in agreement.
"Is there any particular region that he goes to?"
"No, he attacks as he pleases."
"Hmm, then confronting him directly will be difficult. How many of the outlying villages still stand?"
Kyo answered, "About a dozen."
"Rather than send out so many patrols, focus men in these villages and and have fewer but larger patrols ready to reinforce if attacked. With luck, Lesun will attack and Melasa and I can handle the situation."
"Are you sure you want to drag a woman into this? Especially these savages, if they capture her, it will be worse than death."
"Melasa is far more dangerous than she looks and far more powerful than anyone can believe. I worry for her enemies."
Melasa's lip twitched up for a second in amusement before returning to her usual stoic nature.
"That plan may work for a time, but if Lesun catches on, he will send larger parties to attack and it will eventually come to a point where we can't defend anymore without taking too much from here."
"Agreed, which is why we have to act fast. The sooner we discover what it is going on with this warlord, the better."
Melasa sat on the great mountain peak and waited as she peered out into the beyond. Her sense of perception was far beyond that of men and so she volunteered to be a scout. She and Tiros now were apart of one of the new patrols. Rather than scores of small groups of ten men, they had six parties with over fifty men each.
They would ride out and reinforce whichever village was attacked, which was also now defended by men, unlike before. Tiros hoped that this time was lucky for them.
"Master," Melasa spoke up as she looked down onto the plains, " We have ten scores of men riding for the closest village, they are not Earth Kingdom regulars."
"That's our cue, let's go."
The men mounted and readied for battle. The party was a little large but to be expected if Lesun used scouts at all. The nearest village had just under a hundred men defending it, and even with the sixty coming, they were outnumbered.
"Will we beat them to the village, Melasa?"
"No, but they will have just gotten there when we arrive."
Tiros rode harder as he and the patrol tried to get there faster. Sweat began to bead on his head and thoughts of the past ran through his mind.
Blurring and distorting his sense of time, he was called back to his senses, "Master!"
He shook his head and saw that the village was right ahead. He narrowed his eyes to survey the battle that had started.
Pikemen and archers had managed to keep the steeds at bay and earthbent walls to narrow and block them. The marauders had responded in kind by demolishing the walls and a dozen or so of their men had made it in. The rest noticed the reinforcements and followed an order to charge them.
The forces crashed as Tiros sent blasts of air out in compressed cyclones. He took the spear of an inattentive raider and used it to send swipes of wind at the enemy ahead.
Melasa kept charging her steed, despite its own reluctance. Finally, it crashed into another as it crashed over a marauder and crushed him as it toppled him and his mount. Her own ostrich-horse fell over and she leapt calmly into battle, drawing her fearsome sword.
As horse-height, she beheaded the man ahead and hopped from his mount over to the next, repeating the action. She rolled down and ran into the storm of stampeding animals. With brutal efficiency, she took out the legs of the approaching steeds in a flurry of blade work before jumping and beginning to behead attackers again.
The charge of the marauders stalled and soon men were on foot fighting each other in locked engagements. Archers fired over their heads and into the attackers as the raiders attacked viciously.
The Avatar was soon sent flying and one of the rebels gored his mount with a spear that stopped it in its tracks. Tiros immediately spun up and sent attacks out to keep from being surrounded.
He noticed Melasa in the crowd cleaving her way towards him in a calm manner as if cutting sugar cane. Even other swordsmen were no hope as they all fell to single strikes that didn't warrant her attention. As she finally reached the Avatar, men yelled, "Retreat!" "Fall back!"
The mess of retreat was not knowing whether to have mercy or to kill indiscriminately. Men had their backs to you but you in turn would if that was how you fought. As Tiros watched the remnants of the raiders saddle up and flee, he looked back to the defenders. A few were slain, but not so many as their enemy, who littered the floor. Only a quarter of the attackers must have survived at most. He looked to Melasa, seeing that her blade was drenched in blood. He could only wondered how many she butchered as they looked on her as a simple woman when they should have regarded her as a deadly warrior.
The Earth Kingdom soldiers seemed to have realized this. They were whispering about their victory and how they had beaten superior numbers, not by the Avatar's aid, but by his servant's. Melasa swung her sword in a fashion as if drawing it, soon, all the blood that was holding on flew from the blade, leaving a clean sword behind.
As men began looking over the dead and returning to the village to inquire on its status, Melasa discreetly sheathed her sword and spoke with the Avatar.
"These men were clearly not their best, Master."
"Agreed, these men weren't even fit to raid any village that had a sense of defense. Why would they attack then, especially after reinforcements arrived?"
"I'm not sure. I fear that this raid was a distraction."
The patrol returned to Michyu as another patrol replaced it and the two travelers reported to hear about the first round of raids.
"Well?" Tiros said as he approached Colonel Shyo in the command room.
"So far, the news is good. Eight outposts have reported in that the new tactic is working and that any raids or attempts were halted quickly as strong patrols reached them quickly."
"That's good. What about the other four villages?"
"No word yet, but they are the farthest most from both Omashu and Michyu."
The wait of another day was agony for Tiros as he paced around Michyu for word. He expected the worst, that they had all fallen and burned as Lesun had gone through one by one. Melasa just sat calmly as always, waiting patiently.
"Master, I think that your concern for anyone is admirable. Its a quality that is truly defining in an individual and makes you special in a way that even being the Avatar doesn't. I think that caring enough to break tradition to help those in need shows just how strong your character is. However, fussing over this won't change how soon the messages come. We can only do so much."
He breathed slowly, "I know. You're right, I can't do everything, but if I wait, things only get worse. I seemed to be cursed with the worst luck on that."
"How so, Master?"
Tiros seemed to bite his lip before beginning to speak when Captain Kyo arrived. His face was forlorn.
"The village of Onira is gone. It was burned to the ground, along with all its people, defenders, and the patrol. Several heads were put on stakes around the village. Lesun was leading the attack."
Tiros looked on in shock and horror as he sat down, taking in the details as Kyo continued on his deep voice.
"It failed," Tiros muttered.
"Lesun burns whatever crosses his path. We need to ensure that he encounters you directly."
Melasa spoke up, "Then perhaps we guarantee that he will come."
Tiros was hoping for a bit of a better outcome from his new tactic. Hanbao will return in Chapter 8.
Storms of the Future Cycle
|The Journey of Tala|
|Book 1 - Sand and Steel|
|- - - - - - - - - - - - - -|
|Book 2 - Blood and Swamps|
|- - - - - - - - - - - - - -|
|Book 3 - Pyres and Storms|
|- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -|
|Fates and Vows|
|- - - - - - Ilera - Solace Fade - Scions - Sovereign|
|The Rise of Lirin|
|- In the Morrow - The White Dragon - Faith in Blood - The Great Gates - Lord Avatar - A Red Sun - Faceless - Faction - Tempest - Rally of Crows - Rally of Eagles - Dragons and Serpents - Kings and Men - Storms of a Spirit - Princes - A Battered Land - Seas of Ichor - Arbiter - Return to a Grave - Declination - Disaffection - Epilogue|
|Myths of the Empire|
|Pacification - Assassins - Empire - Red Sun Under The Empire - White Snow - Heirs|
|The Reclamation of Arein|
|Book 1 - Chaos|
|Refugee - Rogue - Ghosts - Dark Roses - Doyen - Divulgence - The Plan - Abscond - Mists of Illusion - Madonna - Syndicate - Playing the Stakes - Purge - Brothers|
|Book 2 - War|
|Alliance - Temple - Tensions - The Fall - Hunters and Prey - Lussuria - Shades of Relevance - Broken Star - Defiler - Strikeforce - Secrets of the Lair - Eminence - Swarm - Wanderer|
|Dreams of Melasa|
|Book 1 - Servant|
| - - - - - - - - - - - - -
|Book 2 - Shadow World|
|Faint but Clear - Ghost in the Steel - Kurotama - Loyalties - Servants of Shadow - Game of Fate - Shadows and Reflections - Tomb of Blood - Broken Blades - Hill of Shadow - Souls and Swords - Home|
For the collective works of the author, go here.