False Dawn

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

The impact was enough to numb Drenk’s very bones – enough to knock the bracing scrum back from the Eastern gate. A mage let loose a bolt of red power from the side murder hole, the searing energy tore through the air like thunder and exploded with a deafening force that rattled the fortress dome.

The Night Fiends screeched, but the sound was dulled by the ringing in Drenk’s ears.

“Get back in there you pansies! Hold the gate!” The order was a dull bark.

Drenk grunted in response, “HEAVE!” The scrum of defenders braced against the gate as the next ram attempted to batter it down.

The hinges screamed in protest, the steel dented and bent as the Night Fiends clawed it in frustration, but it held. The mage fell back with a gasp as black talons reached through the murder hole and raked him to bits. A soldier with a lance charged past the mage’s dying body and pierced the Night Fiend’s limb in place.

“We can’t hold till morning,” Drenk rasped, he glanced around the fortress dome – a barn sized fortification conjured by the Sun Mage when they were ambushed – dead and wounded littered the area and warriors defended the other gates with waning fever. “We need support.”

“We have to hold,” another soldier said, “Do you know what they do to people, have you heard the stories?”

“Where’s the Sun Mage?” Another cried, “Can’t he conjure the light to banish them?”

“Only the real sun can disperse them, all he can do it is track it,” Drenk shot a look to the centre where the sun mage sat cross legged, murmuring under his breath to keep the integrity of the fortress dome.

The gate shuddered with another impact, the Night Fiends screeched in frenzy.

“We have to hold,” the first soldier said.

“Light!” a cry from the defenders on the far side, “bright light! The sun is rising!”

The screeching beyond the walls reached a crescendo of fury and then receded as the Fiends retreated from the coming day. Drenk allowed himself to sag with relief as a cheer rang up from the men.

“Don’t open the gates on the dark side,” an order rasped out from the wounded commander to Drenk’s position. “They can still linger in the shadows.”

The defenders on the dawning side were safe though, they started dismantling the barricade as the warm orange glow oozed through the murder holes next to the gate.

So bright, so… something was wrong. The Sun Mage still sat in the centre, murmuring, concentrating with all his will.

Drenk couldn’t fight off the sense of dread and rushed to the Sun Mage, shaking him from his concentration. “Mage, daylight draws near, why are you still so focused on shoring up the defences?”

The Mage peeled one wary eye open, his lips still mumbled cahnts even as his real voice croaked, “And where is this daylight drawing from?”

“The… western gate,” Drenk answered. The Mage rolled his eyes before closing them to focus on his spell. Drenk bolted for the fools who were opening the gate. “NO!” He cried, but too late.

As the soldiers removed the last beam the gate burst inwards – Night Fiends swarmed in, shambling, humanoid terrors with black claws. They were silhouetted by a titanic bonfire which raged upon the hill within the night.

A cunning trap for fickle prey – a false dawn.

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