Kara quickly put her bow and fiddle into her case. Slinging it over her shoulder, she ran to the tree line. Her squad was already positioned up in the trees, ready to attack above the fog. She selected a tree with branches just within her reach and pulled herself up, climbing as far into the treetop as she could. She settled into a crook and took out her fiddle and bow, careful not to drop them. Below, Mona’s squad gathered in the underbrush with drums and fans ready. Forward, Ada stood still, fiddle at the ready, bow raised. The front line watched her, waiting for the signal. The Jormuna were approaching silently in rank and file. As soon as they were within range, Ada fired off a furious song of chaos. Other fiddles and pipes joined in and a storm of sound crashed over the Jormuna.
Gwyion’s banner traced a circle in the air. The Jormuna broke out into squads as they moved towards the Dreezians, each comprised of a jar bearer, two defenders, and a shield carrier. Shields were thrown up in time to protect most of them from the initial onslaught though some fell, doubled over as if punched in the solar plexus and gasping to regain breath. A few dropped jars or defensive nets to cover their ears, blood trickling out between their fingers. The banner slashed forward. Lids were removed from jars and fog rolled out ahead of them.
Mona changed the cadence on her drum, sending loud, resounding booms into the fog and wafting it back at the Jormuna. It rolled around the shields, outlining them. Half her squad set down their drums and picked up large fans to further disperse the fog. The front line of Dreezians volleyed sharp, high notes from fiddle, flute and pipe. They had mined the field before them with dry leaves and sticks which crackled under the Jormuna’s boots, weakening the shields from within.
Gwyion’s banner signalled again. Ollyn’s and Dian’s squads moved to intercept and distract Ada while Gwyion moved to capture Mona. Ollyn shook out a silken net woven from strands of fog. Ada played a quick melody, ordering her troops to fall back to the tree line.
Ollyn threw the net at Ada. It enveloped her fiddle and arm in damp silence. Ada pulled away, startled, and tried to shake it off. Another defender in Ollyn’s squad moved in with a second net. Fog flowed around their feet.
Kara determined that Mona was safe for the moment, her drummers keeping the fog at bay. She set off a sharp report of high violin notes that shattered the nets holding Ada. She stilled the strings as Ada darted into the forest.
Ollyn growled, “Where did it come from?” as he pulled out another net.
Kara pulled back into the leaves as his jar bearer pointed up into the trees.
Ollyn scowled. “Try to chase the fog up there.”
“But sir, if we are caught under it…”
“It will be worse if you are caught under them! Do it!”
The fog from the jar snaked out and wound up the nearest tree trunk. It fell back on itself as wave upon wave of sound washed over it. Dian joined him, her own jar bearer adding strength to the fog. Redoubled, it pushed further through the waves.
Kara whistled, signalling her distress. Mona was no longer stationed below her tree; she could hear the drummers further in the forest now. She looked to the nearby trees; her people were busy dealing with other squads. Several jars had been shattered. It was time to escape. She climb further up into the tree, looking for another route down that would minimize her exposure to the fog.
Then the wind shifted and now came from the forest. She caught a whiff of something familiar – a mixture of damp earth, decaying leaves, frost, and apple blossoms. Her brow furrowed and she glanced downward. Just as the fog started to reach the limb where Kara was perched, it spun back on the Jormuna. Kara moved quickly down the far side of the tree and ran into the underbrush. She turned, adjusting her fiddle as she waited to see if a target would emerge from the fog. She could hear the Jormuna’s confusion.
Dian asked, “What are you doing?”
A jar bearer sounded just as confused. “I’ve lost control…”
The fog fell over them. Sound was dampened but not completely obliterated.
“What is this?” Kara thought the muffle voice was Ollyn’s.
“Did the Dreezians learn to manipulate fog?” asked Dian faintly.
The fog rolled between them, hiding one from the other. Kara strained to hear or see something, anxious about what the Jormuna were planning. The smell of blood and smoke wafted to her. She kept her bow poised over strings, body tense. Then the fog was gone.
The field was strewn with bodies. Kara cautiously crept forward. Ollyn and Dian lay dead, wrapped in nets of silence. Kara poked them with her boot then checked the jar bearers where they lay quivering on the ground, minds lost in some other fog. Kara turned away, not wanting to know what horrors they saw. The wind shifted again, now blowing back into the forest. Kara followed.
copyright 2014, Kimberley Long-Ewing, all rights reserved