The Great War
It's like waiting for the hammer to fall one last time. I cannot stand it. My anxiety is coming back, and that must mean the drugs are finally wearing off, but it had come back with a vengeance, set upon rending me to pieces. We cannot supply the caravans fast enough, nor with enough of anything but food and water. Each time their requests are smaller. Our people are dying by the thousands, and I am sitting on my furry butt making arrows!
Oh, Bigfat will pay. Someone will pay. I swear it.
The caravans are now reporting attacks coming at them while they travel to and from the house. They are all soldiers, and dispatch the attacks without great difficulty, but the ambushes aren't meant to stop the caravans - only to delay them. So I came up with a tactic of my own, and after finishing a batch of arrows, went down to the sub basement to see it done. It meant talking to royalty, but I'd seen my master do it plenty of times.
We are short on supplies and weapons. Our armor is worn and chipped. Our mounts are tired, as we are. It is looking grim. We cannot last much longer, and my father knows it. We are past tricks and tactics now, and both sides resort to the best tactics they know, which are met by the same, and we both lose great numbers. They lose more, because their forces are unarmored and slower, the weather being bitterly cold and dry. We lose some anyway because the dead simply do not fear death. The stench is unbearable. The enemy has the very flies attacking us now. The bees have at least one hive over our heads at all times. The fighting goes day and night. We sleep in hour long shifts. Where once our colors had shown bright and high, we are all now the color of dirt and blood. It is a heavy temptation to call Squibble's Hordes out here. They are a thousand of our very best. They might tilt the scales to our advantage, but my father refuses. I understand his reasoning. Squibble is too precious to risk. Too important to leave unprotected. He doesn't understand, but he is our messiah. I just wish he weren't so fragile.
Then at last came our chance to truly rally against our enemy. It began in the evening of this fourth day. A messenger came to us and told us to be ready to charge when the moon rose past the mountains. We gathered up, as told, for the messenger was from the house. Not knowing what to expect, we set our lines by the river, as always. And, as always, the enemy retreated back to form columns a hundred feet from the same river.
Then an awful, shuddering noise racked the ground, and fearing some new horror, my father and I ordered our troops to back step. But immediately upon giving the order, we saw half the enemy's entire army fall into the ground as it gave way beneath them. A section of the earth, not smaller than eighty feet cross, fell in on itself, burying half their troops! Our eyes looked on with stunned shock as we saw the ants swarm from the pit, attacking every enemy in sight, taking them to pieces.
My father looked at me and smiled broadly. The ants had come to our aid! More, they had planned and carefully executed their attack on the enemy caves, which now were no more. There would be no more hiding for our foe!
We charged instantly, with renewed vigor, slamming into the enemy forces and cutting them down like wheat. We took every last one of us to the assault, praying this would end it. The ants had dealt the black mouse a mortal blow, and given us the opening we needed.
As we were nearing the very center of their camp, and victory was within our sight, a terrible thing happened. My father was beset upon by great serpents, one after another. He swung and swung, lopping their heads with each swing, but they came still, attacking in fanatical fury, heedless of destruction. I rushed to his aid, but he was too far from me. The second one snake fell, another struck, and from all sides. His guard circle was down in mere moments, and his steed struck from him in the next. I was but seconds away when the last snake struck him full in the chest, knocking him from his dying steed and flinging Excalibur from his grasp. I watched the sword go flying out into the battlefield. I felt my heart skip a beat as its holy light went out.
And in the dark, I heard monsters rise.
It's killing all of us. Waiting here. The caravan has not arrived. We have their equipment ready for them. The ants I sent have not returned, so I can't know how my plan worked. What could this mean? Were they all dead? The hours crawled by like a snail on ice.
Finally, I couldn't stand it anymore. I ordered scouts to make for the front line and return to us with news. Five scouts went, camouflaged and stealthy. As the kind human watched them go, he sat up.
"I've had just about enough of this crap," he growled, stepping off the porch, grabbing the curved sword from the wall, and striding in the direction of the war. Our side let loose with cheers and cries of encouragement.
Well eat that, blackie. Eat it.
We were being butchered. The monsters fell upon us as though they knew hunger. We had defied them through the entire war, and now they took it out on our hides. Hundreds of us fell in one minute to them before we could regroup to fall back, and even that did not save us. We could not outrun them. An entire pack of rotting coyotes. Twenty sightless possums. Bobcats, housecats, snakes, raccoons...all the dead the field had to offer, mutated and gifted from Hell beyond Nature's reason, and all against us. We were going to fall now for certain. All that was left was to put up a courageous end, and take as many of them as we could with us to our judgments. We must give the safe house as much of an advantage as possible with our lives.
I found my father. He lived. I righted him in the battle fray and opened his visor. He was knocked out cold from the force of the blow, but the snake's teeth had not penetrated his faithful armor. He was not wounded. I gave him to my own guard and told them to make for the other side of the river with all haste. As they launched themselves for safety, I waded through the enemy in search of the sword. The ground was uneven and broken. Ants were everywhere, covering everything. I had a general idea of which way it went, but that was all. It was trying to find a needle in a haystack, but what choice had I? Without the sword, we were doomed. The monsters lay about everywhere, biting, clawing, thrashing, twisting and stomping. We were perishing, and no commander at the front to issue orders.
Then, in the darkest of night before dawn, we heard the thunder of great footsteps. Against the horizon, we saw a towering silhouette of a man. I thought to myself, O great Mousegod, has the black mouse grown so powerful that he now commands men? I had but a moment to look before a coyote set himself between me and the sword. The ants warned me, but I could not dodge in time. The valiant rat beneath me bucked and sent me flying as the coyote lunged. Its decaying teeth snapped shut over where I had been. My mount died saving me from that dread blow, and I hit the ground hard. In the air, I saw three of the great undead beasts in hot pursuit of my father. He would not reach the river.
Then thunder rang out. As I landed, I saw fire in the air. A coyote fell. Another thunderbolt, and another fell. The last coyote lunged for my father with its gaping maw and was cut in half by the human's gigantic sword.
Out titan had come to save us.
"I'll be damned if I let you kill my children!" He screamed. His voice was like an earthquake. He cut the monsters down before him as my father ran between his feet to safety. The titan's wrath was upon our enemy; Fate had cast in our favor again.
I saw the sword upon the ground at the same moment as they coyote above me. We both raced for it. He was huge and I was quick - it was a toss of the coin who would make it first. I slammed opponents aside and blurred around obstacles as I made for our salvation. For the coyote, it was one short step.
I beat him, but he caught me beneath his paw. My armor cracked. I felt his weight bearing me into the dirt. My fist closed around the hilt of the sword, and I swung blind, severing that paw from its wrist.
Ignoring its own crippling wound, the dead coyote opened it mouth and slammed it down over me. I saw its rotting throat; I was surrounded by its blood stained teeth. In a mouse heartbeat, it would bite down and I would meet my end. I placed Excalibur above my head so that in the bite, the monster would impale its own brain and die. My life would have a steep price.
Thunder. The coyote snapped back, its teeth slamming shut two inches over me as the top of its head was vaporized. A mighty boot swung across the field and lifted the monster high into the air and gone. The human reached down and I grabbed his sleeve, rushing up his arm to his neck while he blazed away with his guns and swung his formidable katana. The monsters fell about him like dolls. High above the battlefield, I saw the enemy in disarray, and I saw our side regrouping on the other side of the river.
It must have infuriated the black mouse. I felt his rage at this unexpected intervention. I saw serpents coming for us from every angle. Hundreds of them. All the enemy had to throw at us was aimed at the human. I held the sword aloft, hoping for the light that blazed at my father's touch. It did shine, but not nearly so bright. Not bright enough to keep the snakes away.
The human emptied his six-gun, then his rifle, then used the shotgun to finish off the rest of the monsters so that we would not have to. He knew the snakes were coming, and he knew that if he used his ammunition on them, the true monsters would kill us when he went down. Our human was every bit as valiant as we.
He was bit. Again and again. These snakes, so recently dead, had venom. Many of the blows were deflected by his motorcycle boots, and his sword chopped snakes by the score in two, but he was bitten too many times. He fought for minutes until he fell to his knees. Our army rushed to his aid, killing the last of the snakes, but it was too late. I leapt from his shoulder as he went down, a tower falling to the earth with a shattering crash.
The side of his face in the dirt, he looked at my father and I.
"I tried," he said, and then closed his eyes. I saw the tears in my father's eyes, matching my own.
The sun rose across a bloody battlefield. We went into our fifth day of the war.