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Battle Report Contest Honorable Mention - Victorum Aut Mortis

Tristan
Aurora, Colorado, United States

I do not recall the names of those we waged war with, only their faces. Faces filled with anger, contempt, and loathing: the faces of our enemies. Battle is all we know, this group was nothing special. It began simply enough, the morning breeze cool against my cheek as I surveyed the battlefield. Brother Mardin joined me on the battlements, his gleaming platemail reflecting the light of the rising sun. We watched and waited in silence, for we could both smell the battle coming, as inevitable as death itself. At last he spoke.

"What is our plan Sister?" he inquired. I did not answer immediately, instead content to view the lush terrain of Kryta we were about to soak in the blood of our foe. Even the Gypsie Ettins remained out of sight, they too could foretell the carnage to ensue.

After some hesitation I replied, "Standard pattern." He gave me a curt nod, bowing his head only to have it disappear within the confines of his grim helm. I could not read his eyes through the small slits, but I knew that, like me, he was unafraid. Mardin Ocure stalked off to brief the mercenaries we had hired, stopping briefly to hoist our sacred standard into the air. Satisfied the enemy was not yet marching on us, I nodded to the nearby archer and made my way down to the courtyard where my brother-in-arms was preparing for battle. As the sun grew steadily higher in the sky, I looked over the ragtag group of mercenaries we had hired with some disdain. We were always small in number, our recruitment standards were high and when we received word that our enemies had found us, only Brother Mardin and I were available to respond to the threat. The Black Templar are the finest warriors our race has to offer, but sometimes it isn't enough. Numbers were often the key to victory. To this end, we had purchased the services of a few swords-for-hire. Nothing more that fodder really, but that is all we needed. They would die well this day.

"Prepare yourselves!" I shouted, regal voice resounding off of the fort's outer walls. The mercenaries grudgingly procured their gear as Mardin once again raised our banner high. A gate sentry looked down at me questioningly, I nodded in response, the signal to open the gates. The heavy wooden doors creaked open, displaying the peaceful jungles of Kryta. Sadly, they would not remain peaceful for much longer. Looking over my shoulder at our assembled party to confirm their readiness, I tied my hair back and slapped a chain coif over my head. "Forward!" I roared, letting loose the Templar war machine. We charged forth from the gate, knowing our enemy was doing the same.

The valley ahead was to see the first blood spilled this day. Two stone towers overlooked the pass like vigilant watchmen. It was then I saw our foes. They too were charging toward the center of the valley, intent on claiming the position for themselves. I urged our forces onwards, bracing myself for the coming impact.

Tranquility, then entropy. The clash of steel on steel, the searing heat of mages' firestorms, and the storm of swift arrows heralding death for those caught in their path. I found myself in the midst of this maelstrom of carnage, sword working furiously at any target of oppurtunity. A jarring impact on my raised shield informed me of the presence of an enemy soldier, futilely trying to protect the rear ranks of his allies. Grimacing, I ignored my assailant as I struck down a monk with a vicious sweep of my blade. There would be no spells of healing for the enemy, for the time being at least. An archer let loose another arrow at my comrades, unaware of my proximity as I nearly hacked him in two with a brutal strike. A rousing cry caught my attention, I turned to see Brother Mardin proclaiming victory as he firmly planted our standard in the ground. He drew his menacing blade, a blood-stained and rust-covered monstrosity, and swung ferociously at his opponents. My attention was ripped away from the spectacle as the warrior from earlier caught up to me and attempted to avenge his fallen friends.

"Unf!" I grunted as the sword smashed against my mail. Ignoring the minor injury, I let loose with a hail of counter-attacks, blade arching through the air to clash with his own weapon time and time again. We stood against each other, locked in combat when Brother Mardin appeared at my side, cutting down my foe with one crushing blow from his cleaver. Glancing about, I noticed we had won this skirmish as the valley prominently displayed our heraldry and the bodies of the fallen. Ours were few and far between. Nodding my thanks to Mardin, I gathered our troops to prepare for the inevitable assault.

They charged with a renewed ferocity. We fought once more, my blade claiming several lives. Alas, it was not enough. Our men were forced back and I watched as mercenary after mercenary fell to the enemy's spells and arrows. A tactical retreat saw those that remained of us in front of our gates, regrouping as the monks tended to the wounded and fallen. The enemy took the central valley, desecrating our sacred banner and replacing it with their own vile insignia.

And so we waged battle. For hours I led charge after counter-charge, assault after counter-assault. The valley changed hands too many times to count as morning dragged into midday, midday into evening. We were battered, broken, and the troops were fatigued. Only Brother Mardin and I still possessed the resolve to continue the fight. Our foe pressed the attack yet again, driving us back into our keep. I saw our archers fall, slain by spells and arrows alike as our battlements were lost to the enemy. They pressed on, pushing us back further still until we were backed into a corner. Nothing is more dangerous in this world, however, than a Black Templar forced into a corner with nothing to lose.

Those few of us that remained held our final bastion of defense, our inner sanctum. The mercenaries had long since been slain or routed. Only a handful of archers and a couple of clerics remained. I looked with some modicum of satisfaction at the sieging force, as their numbers had dwindled significantly. All was not lost. They charged, broke, and charged again well into the night. Not a single tear was shed as I watched Brother Mardin fall to a mob of attackers, taking several with him to the grave. We all knew our duty. He had done his well, but the clerics could not save him now.

I held my position in our last line of defense. Taunts and jeers could be heard from what remained of the enemy, though they underestimated our resolve. Another charge, another slain enemy. We would not break now, not ever. There was no surrender. For we of the Black Templar, life is simple -- Victory or death.