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The Amber Arrow: Chapter Twenty Six

       Last updated: Wednesday, September 6, 2017 21:23 EDT



The Invasion

    “Those blood-eaters have to come soon,” said Captain Jager. He stared down the road and waited for the approach of the Romans.

    But it took a while for the blood-eaters to show up. Wulf could hear them long before he could see them. Their scale armor clanked. Their coronets, the battle horns used by the legions, blared. Then the eagle standard appeared down the road. The first one hundred square was marching toward them.

    The Imperials carried a bronze eagle on a pole with the legion’s name and number. Wulf couldn’t make it out from this far away. When they grew closer though, he saw it was the IX Legion. A big one.

    Which meant there could be up to five thousand soldiers descending upon them.

    The town people were streaming out to the north as quickly as they could. Many of the human elderly and children rode on the backs of centaurs. Normally this was absolutely forbidden, but the centaurs made a sensible decision to let themselves be used as transport in this instance. So the Romans were descending on a mostly vacated town.

    The Roman army at a quick march could soon overtake anyone on foot. And their cavalry could range far ahead and attack whoever they came across. They had to be held here if the town people were going to make an escape.

    “Would you look at that!” Jaeger said. “See that flag hung from the crossbar on that pole, m’lord?” He climbed nimbly on to the back of one of his master sergeants who was a buffalo man. Jager pointed. “There, about two ranks back?”

    “No. . . . Oh yes, I see it now,” Wulf replied. It was a blood-red streamer hanging from a short stick nailed to a poll held upright. The bottom of the banner had jagged edges cut into it. “It’s a flame gonfalon.”

    “Does it mean what I think it means?” Jager asked.

    Wulf continued to watch a bit longer, then his mouth felt dry and he swallowed. He looked at Jager. “It means ‘give no quarter,'” he said. “They plan to either kill us or make us slaves. No prisoners of war.”

    “That makes things pretty clear,” Jager growled. He turned to face Ahorn, who was nearby. “Are they ready with the water ram?”

    Ahorn nodded. “Yes, Captain.”

    “All right, Lord Ahorn, bring on the flood,” Jager said. There was something wild and menacing in his catlike smile.

    Ahorn saluted with a bump to his chest. He charged off, carrying Jager’s orders.

    Wulf waited. The Roman boots pounded like distant thunder. The dust cloud they kicked up grew closer and closer.

    In front of the dust cloud raised by the approaching Romans, water came pouring out. It poured from either side of the forest. Two big torrents of water. It covered the Montserrat Road. It ran in streams down the wagon tracks. It flowed from the road and filled the ditches and grassy shoulders lining the road.

    It turned the ground to muck.

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