Monday, April 6, 2015

Day Eight-Forty-Two: Tactics

Port guns, FIRE!

The port guns fired.

“Bring us ‘round to bear on that cluster of sky dwarves! Block ‘em from moving! They’ll try and join up with that eastbound group!”

The great ship lumbered to intercept.

“And the Non on the ground - “

“Leave them be, Libby.”

The quiet voice at Libby’s elbow brought her out of her battle rage, if only for a moment. She turned to glare at Pagan, who, as usual, was standing a little too close for comfort. She didn’t mind the old man under normal circumstances, but his penchant for getting in her way during skirmishes irked Libby.

“My ship,” she gritted through her clenched teeth. “I give the orders, dammit. The Non - “

“ - are a problem for the zombies. You know it.” Pagan’s lip curled. “Our role is to keep the fliers occupied. Don’t divert us from that. We don’t have enough dragons in the battle to keep Dragomir and his group safe otherwise.”

Libby’s heart clenched at the sound of her husband’s name. Right now, far below, Dragomir was leading - From the rear, she reminded herself, the rear - a large contingent of zombies into battle against a strike force of Non warriors. She suspected that her half-human commander could fight with the best of them, but he nevertheless remained safely out of harm’s way, so as not to reveal himself.

“I know that,” Libby muttered. “Stop with the advice, old man.”

Pagan smiled, bowed, and took a step back. Libby knew he’d return with more advice within a minute or two. That knowledge was less grating than the fact that Pagan’s advice was almost always spot-on. He should be in command, not Dragomir.

Libby turned back to the battle, barking orders to fire on a swooping squadron of Non fliers as they cut across the battlefield. The Sky Bitch’s guns erupted on the pitch-black demons, tearing one to shreds and knocking another out of the sky. The rest blasted towards a tight knot of dragons coming from the opposite direction, and the two groups collided and clashed. Robbed of her targets, Libby turned her attention to the sky dwarves from earlier.

I’m not a soldier, Libby reminded herself. It was a strange litany that always rang through her head in the middle of combat. I’m a carpenter. I make chairs, fer fuck’s sake. How’d I wind up in this weird-ass situation? I’m not a soldier, I’m not.

Yet Libby couldn’t help but grin wolfishly as a large number of sky dwarves disappeared from view. She imagined them as a piece on a Chess board, abruptly removed from play by a deft move.

I’m not a soldier, she thought again. But I’ll be damned if this isn’t really fun.

Once the sky dwarves were out of the way and the skies were somewhat clear, Libby elbowed past one of her crewers to stare down at the battlefield. Dragomir’s zombies and the Non were clashing fiercely below, the numerically-superior undead attempting to overwhelm their opponents with sheer numbers. Judging by what little Libby could see, they appeared to suck at their job.

“This is not going so well.”

Sneering, Libby spun ‘round to give Pagan a scornful rebuff - and stopped short when she noticed that Pagan had apparently lost much of his hair and donned a pair of glasses. Then reality kicked in. “Don’t need your commentary, Baron.”

The older man sniffed. “It’s ‘The’ Baron, thank you. And whether you want it or not, it’s true. Those zombies aren’t made for combat of this calibre.”

Libby wanted to argue the point, but The Baron was right. The zombies were best at urban warfare, using their sheer numbers to clog enemy lines and cut off their opponents. They held no such advantages in the open field, and even with their massive numbers the undead could not hold strong against the much-tougher Non.

“They’ll make do,” Libby insisted. “They have to.”

“We’re going to lose this battle,” The Baron sighed. He shook his head. “Unless we run headlong into a miracle, we’ll be forced back. The Non lines will get away, with few casualties to show for our efforts. Another stupid call by those ridiculous rats.”

“The ‘ridiculous rats’ have made you a prisoner,” Libby pointed out. “Norm, bring us in low. We can provide some cover fire for Dragomir. Get us down there!”

Norm nodded, swinging the Sky Bitch’s huge wheel around. Pagan shook his head and rolled his eyes.

“I might be a prisoner,” The Baron murmured, “but I’m not the only one.”

Though she understood the sentiment, and even agreed with it, Libby decided she would argue with The Baron. She was feeling quite irritated by an awful lot of things these days - the crew’s occasional lapses in discipline, the constant losses on the battlefield, her husband’s willingness to allow their one-year-old son to wander off and get lost in the world - and the battle itself wasn’t doing enough to improve her mood. A biting comment began to form on her tongue.

It never made it to the front lines of her temper, however. Libby was abruptly preoccupied by a new sight, appearing on the ground to the south: a large, roiling mass of brown.

The Baron’s head jolted up abruptly. He looked in the same direction as Libby, a small, rueful smile forming under his cloak. “Ah. I suppose they’re done with their holiday, then. My, but she’s in a bad mood.”

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