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First Wave

by Del S

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The soldiers marched. Fifty men of the Cornelian army, all armed with a bow, a short sword, a shield, and chain mail armour. Their captain was at the head of column, a feather in his silver helm, and carrying a crossbow like the other officers. Sunlight glinted off the polished metal the soldiers wore, and as they left the castle, the people of the town quickly moved out of the way. They had heard of what had happened, and they knew these men were going on a mission related to it.

'Left, right, left, right...'

A sergeant beside the captain shouted the march. Few of the soldiers were pleased.

'Captain, I still cannot believe this...' a lieutenant muttered

'Lieutenant, none of us can truly believe that Garland has turned against the king and kidnapped the princess, but it has happened, and he is a traitor. And we know how we deal with traitors...'

Another sergeant shouted at the rear of the ranks. Some of the men had been murmuring their discontent a little too loudly, incurring the wrath of their NCO.


The column marched out of the town, and towards the forests. Goblin attacks had been increasing lately, and the foul creatures had been attacking in almost regimented fashions.

The column had marched for three hours, and had entered the forests fifteen minutes prior when a goblin lofted a stone at them. It bounced harmlessly off a soldiers helmet, but the soldiers swiftly returned a volley of arrows at the goblin. The creature fell, a dozen arrows sticking from its corpse.

'Defensive positions!' the captain yelled, as the soldiers moved into a box formation, those on the outside, shields raised and swords ready, those behind the shield-wall with their bows ready.

The goblins came, led by two captains, a disorganised rabble surging from the trees. Stones rattled off the shields and helmets of the soldiers , and arrows flew off into the oncoming horde. By the time the goblins had reached the soldiers, the had lost about half their number to bowfire and cowardice. The creatures ran at the soldiers, their crude swords waving. The well-trained troopers simply parried the few blows that landed with their own weapons, then sliced at their enemy. Within a few short minutes, the remaining goblins had fled.

The soldiers stood to attention as the captain reviewed the situation.

'Lieutenant Archer!' the captain said.

'Yes, captain?'

'Take some men and scout ahead of the main column. The little bastards will probably be setting up more ambushes.'

'Yes sir,' the lieutenant said to his captain. To the soldiers: 'Smith, Harvey, Cooper, Barson, with me.'

The five soldiers ran ahead of the group, which resumed marching.

It was another hour before anything else happened. A loud rumble ahead of the main column, a cloud of smoke and dust. An explosion. The column ran forward, finding a blasted area of the landscape, trees and bushes burning, the five soldiers who had scouted ahead lying dead.

'What happened, sir?' asked a trooper. The captain answered quickly

'Gunpowder. Dwarfen-made. Garland must have stolen some from the castle and set a trap here...'

As he said this, the trooper who had asked the question gasped. The captain turned, and saw the arrow in the man's stomach, blood spilling from the wound. More arrows began to rain down, and the goblins screamed a war cry as they charged. The soldiers returned fire, and prepared to fight.

The goblins did not flee this time, the crude bows that some carried seeming to give them a morale boost. The captain aimed his crossbow at a goblin guard, and the creature fell with the bolt in it's face. More of the beasts swarmed from the trees, and as a goblin was put down by a sword, another took it's place.

The screams of the dying creatures and of some of the soldiers were drowned out by the clash of steel. The goblin horde seemed never-ending, and the soldiers were surrounded in their box formation.

Suddenly, the goblins seemed to realise they were unlikely to all live, and some turned to flee. The last captain of their group began wailing at them not to flee. The human captain silence the foul goblin by shooting it in the back of the head with a well placed bolt.

That broke the rest of the creatures, and they fled, arrows chasing them.

The captain looked at the carnage once more. Twenty dead in all. He solemnly ordered his men to dig graves for the dead, and had six soldiers stand guard. After an hour, they moved on.

They did not move for long. They exited the forest, and atop the hill, could see the ruins of the temple of chaos twelve miles away. They could also see the sun slowly slipping towards the horizon.

'It will be nightfall soon. We had best establish a camp. Rotate the guard duty and stay alert!' the captain said. The soldiers went to the task swiftly, setting up tents from their packs.

***

It was around two in the morning. The captain had awoken, and heard voices whisper outside his tent. He listened.

'...can't believe the captain's doing this.'

'Aye, I was expecting him to never believe Garland would do this...'

'He had better have though. If we lost men because of a misunderstanding... '

'What? What will you do if it is all a misunderstanding?'

'...resign from the army. Leave the country. This country no longer trusts people, not even it's most loyal servants.'

'And where will you go? The world's not trusting anyone these days. The monster attacks, the feelings everyone has that the end is nigh... There's nowhere to go.'

The captain turned over and went back to sleep. There wasn't any point in even letting the soldiers know he had heard their talk.

As the sun rose, the troopers were moving. By noon, they were a mile from the temple, and they had encountered a few more small bands of goblins, swiftly dispatched and slaughtered. But as they got closer to the temple, there was a large group of goblins in formation. About forty of them in two regimented groups, standing outside the temple, and now advancing clumsily. The soldiers were infuriated, and divided into groups of fifteen, marching in tandem, synchronised. The beasts stumbled and walked randomly, barely holding their formation as the straight lines of soldiers closed on the two groups.

The Cornelians halted, five soldiers in the rear rank aiming their bows, and firing. Goblins in the front of their ranks fell, and the squares of beasts broke into the unwieldy charge goblins usually attacked with. The soldiers drew their swords, and stood their ground. The goblins never even reached the lines before they had suffered from the ten bows and turned tail.

They moved towards the temple, and, at the entrance, the captain yelled into the ruins.

'Garland! If you are in there, release the Princess and come out quietly. We do not wish to have to bring you back dead.'

Silence. The captain nodded to the men, who drew their blades, and walked towards the gate. Then garland walked out from behind a wall.

'Captain Lynch. Good afternoon.'

'Garland, release the princess, and come with us back to Cornelia. We can... We can take note of your years of loyal service, we can go easy on you,' the captain shouted, sincerely.

'We both know, Horatio, they never go easy on traitors. Nor do they go easy on those who kidnap the king's daughter. Still, it's mutal. You won't go easy when you come in, and neither will I,' the knight replied, drawing a dagger and spinning it slowly in his hand, catching the light.

'For god's sake, Garland! I have thirty men! You are alone!'

'I've beaten those odds before. Never as well trained though,' he mused, flipping the knife up into the air. He caught it, and returned it to its scabbard.

'This can end peacefully. The king will be lenient, you can stop this!' the captain yelled. Garland stared at him.

'...bit late for that now,' he said, drawing the dagger again, and hurling it at the captains throat. The officer fell, clutching at the blade and gargling. The soldiers aimed their bows and fired, but Garland had ducked back behind the wall. The soldiers moved in.

From behind the walls, three more blades came, and three more soldiers fell. The troopers moved on, and eventually, came to the very centre of the temple. Rubble and detritus was strewn throught the hall, and skeletal forms lay along the walls. There, they found the princess lying unconscious before a black crystal on an altar. Garland was nowhere to be seen.

A sergeant moved towards the princess, and as he neared, there was a shriek. The skeletons stood, and ghouls were dropping down from the roof. The soldiers screamed, and tried to fight the undead creatures, but they were torn apart. The last three attempted to defend the princess, and the ranks of skeletal soldiers and undead monsters surrounded them.

Garland marched forth, the creatures ignoring him.

'Ordinarily, I would let you live. Let you flee, let you tell the king he has lost. But today, you are unlucky. I brought my own messenger pigeons... And thus, have no need for you.'

The traitorous knight walked towards the terrified soldiers, and simply walked right in amongst them. He picked the princess up, and walked away, unchallenged. As he left the room, he turned.

'Try not to make too much of a mess as you die,' he said, walking from the hall as the creatures advanced, and the men screamed one last time before silence fell upon the temple.

* * *

As the message arrived the next morning at the castle, four warriors walked towards the town. The king had been foolish not to have waited for them, but he had been unable to rely on prophecy. However, fifty men had died for his impatience and lack of faith. The first wave had failed. The second would triumph against the odds.

The four warriors were hurried to the castle by the guards, and the king burned the message as they arrived. The light warriors of legend were here, and he had been a fool to send his own soldiers off to die. But he knew these four would not fail...

Caves of Narshe: Final Fantasy I
Version 6
©1997–2017 Josh Alvies (Rangers51)

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