The first time wasn't a struggle. It wasn't even a battle. But when Ginnunga claimed the territory Balenos for the second time it was anything but a easy win.
Sinful unclasped the strap of her quiver and felt the familiar pain sting her shoulder. Blood rushing back to pinched skin and muscle, reigniting nerve ends. A thousand times she had strapped that quiver, a thousand times it had been too tight. The pain in itself a ritual. A final reminder of the battle fought.
She squeezed her fingers under the ornamented steel armor and rubbed the bruised skin. The pain would soon be gone, but the memories of the last few hours were sure to linger. She couldn’t help but smile.
She fastened the quiver to Mists saddle bag, gave the huge mare a loving pat and slumped down on the ground, leaning her back against the horses hind leg. Mist didn’t flinch. She never did.
”We did it”, Sinful thought to herself. ”We... actually did it”.
The week leading up to the battle had been a turmoil of itself. She didn’t like that part of warfare. The endless talks. The planning. The not knowing. She wanted a clear target for her arrows, be it the back of a friend or the face of a foe. But she had been fighting far too long to underestimate the importance of diplomacy.
After taking Balenos uncontested the week before the political landscape of Croxus had changed around Ginnunga. Maybe not so much changed as been thrown into complete chaos. ShadowElite were furious after what they perceived as a backstab from Addicted in Valencia and in their rage they rallied what ever guilds they could behind their banner to exert revenge.
It was true that Addicted did not defend Balenos when Ginnunga took it, but the friendly gesture of not taking it straight away, rather waiting for the fight to be over in Valencia, had been interpreted as a declaration of alliance by ShadowElite and their bannermen. How ever erroneous it made Ginnunga a target, even if the enemy was Addicted. The truth didn’t seem to matter as much to ShadowElite as sheding blood.
ShadowElite themselves set their aim at larger prey than Balenos. Instead Lazarus and their hired mercenaries KHAOS were to lead a unknown number of guilds, some said two, some said eight, to take the crown from Ginnunga.
Sinful chuckled to herself as she thought back on the talks. Lazarus and KHAOS, so certain of themselves, had tried to win the territory without a fight.
”You don’t need to fight us!”
”Be smart about it.”
”You’ll never win…”
And she remember how after listening to their threats and offers Ernesto rose from the table with a sly grin. He paced around, slowly, weighing his words and finally spoke.
”We’ve heard all about your plan, and it’s a good one. Don’t get me wrong. A strong plan indeed. But you have forgotten about one thing, just one little detail: You’re talking to the Lord of Balenos. The Lord of Balenos will not go silently. The Lord of Balenos will fight with the strenght of a thousand tigers. If you want to take what is ours you better bring it all. Bring every guild. Bring every man. The Lord of Balenos will NOT go silently!”
Lazarus and KHAOS hesitated for a second, but filled with self certainty they did not back down.
”There is no way you will own Balenos after saturday. NONE! That’s already for certain. How you go down is up to you.”, Glassy_Boi of Lazarus exclaimed.
And with that the talks were over. The line had been drawn.
Sinful pressed her fingers deep down into the soft grassy ground on which she sat. She clenched her fist and raised it up while letting the dark, rich soil pass through her fingers. She looked up on the surrounding farm lands. The rows of corn around Toscani farm and the potatoes soon ready for harvest at Bartalis. This land. The people living of it. This is why they fought. This is what mattered.
Ginnungas informants and spies lept into action and possible enemies and allies were soon mapped out. Friends of old, HYDRA, were quick to offer their aid. On the other side of the line the number of guilds rose with each incoming report. Lazarus, KHAOS, Geeking, Urna, TemplarOrder, Marauders and a number of lesser guilds were all in the talks. It quickly became evident that something had to be done to lessen the enemies forces before the battle had even begun.
Ginnunga set to work and had a second fortress built, this one in Serendia, home of Marauders. Once completed word was sent through back channels that Ginnunga was planning to abandon Balenos in favor of less defended lands. As was hoped this angered ShadowElite and their allies. Taking Balenos would mean nothing if Ginnunga ended up with a territory. Thus Marauders were ordered to all out defend Serendia and were given a additional allied guild as reinforcements. The enemy had taken the bait.
As the day of the battle drew closer odds were still in the enemies favor. Six guilds were said to show up, but only four did. Still two versus four. Ginnunga and HYDRA versus Lazarus, KHAOS, Geeking and Urna. A fools errand for most. A challenge for the Lords of Balenos.
There was no room for a complicated plan. HYDRA was to keep as much of the enemy forces occupied as possible, while Ginnunga put the entire weight of their force on a single enemy base. It was a bold play going on a full out offensive, leaving their own base with no more than a handful of defenders, but the enemy had to be broken quickly if there was to be any hope.
The evening of the conquest Sinful gathered the Ginnunga forces inside Velia, close to the north east entrance, a mere arrows flight away from their own base. Seconds before war broke out she ordered a complete turn around and led the army in full gallop out the western exit, taking a sharp turn to the south once the towns border had been cleared.
The enemy had hardly time to draw a breath after the had war started before Ginnunga descended upon Lazarus base. Horses crashed into barricades and bodies alike meanwhile the back line quickly dismounted to give cover to the melee. Sarya and Quiwi shouted orders to the wizards who tore the sky apart to rain down lightning. Papercuts and Cupes hands became a flurry of motion as arrows were fired as quickly as new ones could be knocked. Knus raised his shields and charged straight into the fray, drawing fire from enemy mages and rangers while Gromk and his assassins picked them off one by one.
Meanwhile Ginnunga pushed in from the north HYDRA assaulted from the west, targetting the crucial recovery centers that kept the base defenders alive.
Time and time again the enemy tried to drive the attackers back. Time and time again they fell short. Ginnungas line never broke.
But as the assault progressed on Lazarus base Ginnungas own base was being ravaged. KHAOS had ordererd their entire force to attack and the brave few set to defend were outnumbered one to six. Crusaders calm voice cut through the chaos of battle:
”Flamer reloaded, hit them to the east!”
”Push out to the west!”
”Hwacha, focus fire to the north!”
The effort was heroic but in the end there was no stopping the enemy, only delay.
As Lazarus last recovery center fell to HYDRA the order was given to push further in, surround the enemy tower and focus all efforts on tearing it down. The race was on.
”Lazarus base at 60%”
”Ginnungas base at 80%”
HYDRA fell back to fight off Geeking who were assaulting their base and to intercept what they could of the forces of Urna and Lazarus seeking to defend the crumbling enemy tower.
”Lazarus base at 30%”
”Ginnungas base at 55%”
Himechan, Nexi and Lyngs rained cannonballs down upon the Lazarus defenders who struggled to reform their ranks.
”Lazarus base at 10%”
”Ginnungas base at 45%”
And with a deafening roar the tower of Lazarus fell. The head of the snake had been cut off, but its body remained.
Ginnungas tower was dropping quick and the order was given to once again assemble in Velia. But there was no time to recover and not seconds after arriving in the coastal town the army was given new directives:
”Follow Sinful, we’re going home!”
Charging up the hills towards Cron Castle the Ginnunga force crashed into the assaulting KHAOS warriors like a tsunami upon a beach. The hard fighting mercencaries who were just minutes away from victory lay slaughtered within seconds. The tower still stood tall. The heart still reigned.
With a big portion of the enemy army eliminated Ginnunga and HYDRA set out to finish what they had started. HYDRA assaulted Geekings base while Ginnunga made quick work of KHAOS. After both had fallen HYDRA, still hungering for blood, was left alone to play with Urna while Ginnunga took a well deserved break in Velia. At last the order was given to tear down Urnas base and the weary defenders could do naught but watch their final fortress collapse.
The day was won and only a formality remained: tearing down the HYDRA tower. In celebration Ginnunga brought out its most beloved member, George the war elephant. His triumphant trumpet echoed over the hills as he smashed through the barricades surrounding the tower with the elegance only a elephant can possess.
And then there was silence.
It had been only minutes earlier, but as Sinful sat outside the smoldering ruins of HYDRAs tower, leaning her back against Mists hind leg, it felt at the same time a distant memory. Something from a tale of old. A tale of victory against impossible odds.
”Are you done moping around yet? There’s talks of victory mead at the Velia inn and I heard Cogency is paying. Doesn’t seem likely, he’s a cheap bugger if I ever knew one, but considering what we just did, who knows.”
Glancing up Sinful saw the swelling thighs of DancingChimp outlined against the setting sun. The valkyrie offered a armor-clad hand and with ease pulled the ranger to her feet.
”You remember that old saying, Chimp? Those who draw steel against the heart…”
”…better know there will be blood?”, Chimp finished.
They exchanged a glance and burst into laughter.
”Aww fuck it, let’s just get drunk!”
A big thanks to HYDRA for once again standing by our side, couldn't have done it without you. Also thanks to our enemies, for a epic fight which we’re sure to remember for a long while to come.
Ginnunga holds Balenos another week, what happens next is a tale yet to be told.