The Red Hand Part 25
by Shane Migliavacca
The Red Hand Part Twenty Five Battle of Dars Muru
There it is! The mine. The source of the current pain in my ass. We’re close now. So close I’m peeking up over the wood railing to keep out of sight. The mountain, stands alone in the desert. Appearing more like something that fell from the sky, then sprang up from the ground. Dars Muru they call. A giant stone wall encircles one side of the mountain, built from one end to the other. Built into the wall’s front is a large wood gate King Kong would be proud of. Suspended between the side of the wall and a natural stone pillar is the guard’s booth.
I slide down out of sight. We’ll be there soon. Can’t take a chance of blowing it. Second Gar is up here with me, as is Fourteenth Fain. Another of my squad. Why I got choose for this I don’t know. Though I suspect it’s so Second Gar can keep an eye on me. His one good eye.
We wait in our hiding spots. Fourteenth behind the wagons large steering mechanism. Second Gar and I behind the railing. We’ll be just out of site of the guard booth, on either side of our Troika prisoner. He’ll be the one doing all the talking. He so much as breaths wrong and we’ll cut him down. Can I do that? Or will I hesitate? There’s no question that the others would do it in a heartbeat, but me?
The Troika is rubbing his newly untied wrists.
The crew captain orders for a complete stop as we pull up to the guard booth. Second Gar motions to the Troika.
“Greetings.” The Troika says.
One of the guards responds. “How was your journey?”
“Not terribly exciting.”
My hand grips the ax handle tight as I listen to them exchange pleasantries. Finally one of the guards gives the go ahead. A loud horn blares and the wood gate creaks to life. The sound of the mechanism drowning out everything else. After countless minutes the captain issues the order to move forward. The whole time my eyes are fixed on the Troika.
The wagon’s crew and those beasts have been working since we left the ruins. I feel sorry for them. Can’t imagine how tired they must be.
The wagon moves forward slowly. The shadow of the gate passing over us. I take a deep breath. This is it. Once we’re in all hell is going to break loose in this place. My thoughts turn to my friends. Tenth and Third are down in the cargo hold. Tenth. We’ve avoided talking much after my embarrassing moment yesterday. I can still feel the touch of her lips against mine. Rough and dry. What made me do that? All this sadness and tension I’m carrying around? Got to be it. I’ve never thought about her like that. Only as a friend, nothing more.
Can’t let that cloud my thoughts right now. I’m going to have to go on instinct.
The door begins to close behind us. This is the moment. Second Gar springs up. He orders Fourteenth to guard the prisoners.
“You’re with me.” He says pointing to me. “We’re going to make sure that gate stays open.”
Great I get to tag along with the boss. “I thought Eighth and Twelfth had the gate.”
“I gave them new orders.” He says. Adjusting the cloth tied over his missing eye.
Could have shared this with me.
The floor of the cargo bay has two large wooden doors for lowering cargo and loading it. Right about now they’ve sprung open and our forces are dropping down. My friends among them. No time to argue about it.
I grab the coil of rope. In my off duty time I’ve fashioned a little grappling hook from one of the dead blue lizard’s weapon. We’re going over the side of the bridge. He can climb down with his claws. I on the other hand need a little something to help me.
I attach the hook to the railing. Taking maybe one last look at the prisoners. Fourteenth could kill them after we go, for all I know. My duty is to the others right now. Don’t think about it.
We go over the side to the sounds of clashing metal and shouts of alarm. A symphony of pain and destruction below us. We hit the ground running. Headed in the general direction of the gate. We’re in a large courtyard. There’s large crates and some stone structures. I’m just blindly following Second Gar. The chaos around us is staggering. As armed guards take on our warriors. One guard’s body drops a few feet from me, chest sliced open. Another one falls to my left clutching his severed arm.
I want to find Tenth and Third, make sure they’re okay. Just catch a glimpse of them. No. Got to keep focused on the goal Serena. The goal. The mechanism that controls the gate is there, through the smoke and battle. I see some blue lizard’s struggling to turn the large wooden wheel that moves it. About forty feet ahead of us.
A high pitched sound cuts through the clamor around us seconds before the ground in front of us explodes. My ears ring from the blast. Stumbling, almost falling. Another explosion behind us sends dirt flying everywhere. We half crawl, half run behind a stack of crates. Second Gar pulling me along as much as I’m pulling him.
I press my back against one of the crates. Rubbing dirt out of my watering eyes.
“What sorcery is this?” Second Gar asks.
Before I can say something I see them, through my hazy eyes. There are two blue lizard guards positioned on a large rock near the gate. Holding what look like…guns!
“There!” I say. Pointing at the two on the rock. We watch as they fire on some of our squad taking them down with well-placed shots.
“We have to get up there.” I say.
“Yes. They’ll cut down our forces before we have a chance to gain a foot hold.”
He peeks out, scanning the area between us and the shooters. After a few seconds he turns back to me. “I’ll divert their attention. You should be able to slip up there behind them.”
“Sir, I should be the one to distract them.”
“Be quiet! Do as you’re told. Understood?”
“Wait till they fire at me then go.”
He runs out into the middle of the battle. Screaming insults at the two shooters. It isn’t long before they’re taking shots at him. Bastard has guts, that’s for sure. Now I have to make sure his guts stay intact.
I sprint from behind the crates. Covering the ground between me and the rock quicker then I’d thought possible. Sliding up next to it. I don’t think they noticed. I can hear them firing away above me. I take a deep breath. Feeling my energy flow into the ax in my hands. The backside of the rock has a gentle incline. I peek up at them. The pair are prone, firing away without a care.
Another deep breath. I run up the side of the rock, drawing the ax back, ready to swing.
“Yo! Bitches!” I scream over the blasts over their guns. “Guess who?”
They turn. The look on their faces would be hilarious if it wasn’t for the fact that a second after they made it, I cut them down. My charged ax cutting through reptile flesh and bone easier than any god ever intended.
I look down at the weapons they were using. They have a long barrel, with a thing of crystals set in the back near the sights. I’ve seen something like these before. But where?
Second Gar hollers up to me. Shit. The fucking gate. They have it almost closed. I slide down the rock’s incline. Running at the three lizards working the gate’s controls. I scream like a mad women, holding my ax high.
Run, run you assholes! Please. Don’t make me.
But they don’t. And I cut down two of them before the third one abandons his post, attacking me.
Time slows down as he comes at me with a short sword. He swings and I block it. I push him back, using his own momentum. As he staggers back I bring my ax around into the back of his leg. Nearly severing it. He falls to the ground. Holding his broken leg. His screams of pain join a chorus of others.
“Enough messing around.” Second Gar says. Running up beside me with another of our squad. Twenty something or other. I don’t really know him very well.
The three of us using all our strength to move the wheel. The mammoth gate starts to open. I pull till I think my muscles are going to snap right out of my arms and then I keep pulling some more. With the gate a little over half way open we stop. Second Gar jams the wheel. He has Twenty something grab the bone horn used to signal for the gate’s opening and closing. Using the horn, He lets out a loud mournful blare.
They’ll be coming now. The beast riders. Can it be we’ve won? This easy? I look at the fighting around us. The broken and still bodies. No, not easy in the least.
After the beast riders come it’s mostly mopping up the few remaining guards. They all go down fighting, I’ll give them that. Every last one of them. But those are the guards. We haven’t seen anything of the miners. It can’t be that the guards were also mining. Second Gar decides that a small group of us lead by him will go into the mine. They’ll see if there’s anybody hiding down there. The rest will stay topside and secure the courtyard. The gate is closed again. If somebody comes knocking, they’re not getting in unless we let them. Second Gar hasn’t said if we’re holding the mine, or if we’ll hand it off to some of our other forces. I’m hoping for the later. I’m really not too psyched on the prospect of staying here for any length of time.
It’s my bright idea of using the Troika prisoner as a guide in the mine. This gets Second Gar to assign me to the detail.
“Watch him.” He tells me gruffly.
The Troika, his hands tied again, walks ahead of me.
I look back at the others as we enter the mine. Third and Tenth are there. After the battle I went looking for them. Both came through the battle okay.
The lucky group headed into the mine, besides me, the prisoner and Second Gar, consist of Fourteenth and two members of Tenth’s squad.
The large entrance to the mine is rounded. It’s as if somebody shoved a large straw right into the mountain. Inside, large wood beams line the walls and ceiling. I wonder how sturdy this thing is. If we get into a fight down here, is the whole place going to come crashing down on top of us?
I was hoping I’d get to stay topside. I wanted to get a better look at those guns the blue lizards were using. See if I could get the suckers to work. It’ll have wait till later.
“You ever been down here?” I ask my prisoner.
“Yes. A few times.”
“What can we expect?” Second Gar asks.
“I’m not sure. Without counting the bodies of the fallen, I can’t say if any escaped down here.”
“And the miners?” I ask. “What can we expect from them?” The thought of cutting down maybe civilian miners fills me with dread.
“Yes. But I don’t know how they’ll react to you.”
We walk further into the main tunnel. Stopping at a large intersection.
“Why is that?” I ask.
Somewhere in the darkness there’s the rattle of chains. Shadowed figures emerge from the dark. Holding picks and shovels. Chains on their wrists and ankles. Lizards of various colors, blue, orange, red, purple and green. Every one of the races are here.
A large blue lizard, holding a pick steps out of the group. Scars cover his bare chest. Black hair hangs down over his shoulders.
“What’s your business here?” He asks.
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