The first taste is free.

In his excitement Dave’s voice could probably be heard by the approaching ogres. “Oh man, oh man, oh man, a real war!”

Jinsoku chided, “War isn’t something to take so lightly, Gordon. I hadn’t meant you to get involved in one.”

Hans said to Jinsoku softly, “We should have sent him back last night.”

“Wouldn’t have worked, remember? The Queen said that she can’t open any more portals for a while.”

“Weird that she didn’t notice until this morning.”

Jinsoku stopped short of the hut’s doorway. “That is odd.”

They dashed inside and could be heard clearly by anyone nearby, though it was just an old raven.

“What do I bring, what do I bring?” Dave’s voice rang out.

“Everything,” said Jinsoku, flatly.

Something crashed.

Hans yelped.

“Sorry.” Dave and Jinsoku said together.

“That was my fault,” said Hans. “Gahh! There’s juice all over the place.”

“Leave it for the ants,” ordered Jinsoku.

They stepped outside, Hans scuffing his feet. Jinsoku wore camouflage army fatigues with a pair of katana in scabbards, across his back. Dave was wearing his gauntlet, a white disk strapped to his chest, and a small pistol in a holster on his hip, all from the same white plastic. His usual pack was already strapped to his back.

“Ready?” asked Jinsoku.

Hans wondered, “I was expecting you to wear black.”

“There’s a time for tradition, and a time to embrace technology my friend. This is a lot more comfortable on a hot day, trust me.”

They practically bumped into Za, who had been waiting on them.

Za scowled. “It took you long enough. The enemy approaches the gate.”

Hans along with Jinsoku and Dave followed hot on Za’s heels. Hans noticed for the first time that the whole compound was set behind a huge log palisade. A large open yard separated the gate from the first set of buildings, much of it planted.

She rounded a corner and came to a halt.

“Why is the gate still open?” she yelled.

The gate, fashioned from timbers and set into the palisade, was indeed open. Just wide enough that one ogre after another was able to push into the compound.

Several women, most unarmed, pushed for all they were worth against the gate. A small circle of warriors defended them from the invaders. They had already been cut off from the rest. Hans guessed they wouldn’t last long, especially if they got the gate closed.

One of the women pushing against the gate, a warrior, waved with a handless arm, the bandage seeping blood. She yelled back. “It will not close, Captain. It holds as though mortared in place.”

Za said something under her breath.

“Lord Madison, lend us your strength at the gate, please. Friends Hasaki and Gordon, I beg you do what you can.”

“Hold your position,” she shouted. “I bring Lord Madison.”

Za took Hans in tow and headed off to the right. Jinsoku nodded to himself. They would avoid the worst of the battle and reach the gate in a minimum of time that way. There were easily 30 or so ogres in the compound already, and only 50 or 60 warriors defending it, with several of them up on the walls using bows to discourage the ogres outside.

As Za led him to the gate Hans recognized the ogres as the “cavemen” he’d seen earlier. This time some had swords and a piece of armor or two, but most seemed content to use clubs, big clubs.

One confronted them as they moved along the wall. It died, split from shoulder to groin. Hans hadn’t even seen the flash of Za’s blade.

* * *

Jinsoku took Dave by the shoulder. “Gordon. I want you to stay back. Even with your toys you’re no match for these things.”

Dave looked up to his friend. “But I want to help.”

“Your glove. It’s the medical one, right?”

“‘Field Explorer.’ Sheesh, don’t you know anything? I’d never take the medical one out of the box. It’s a limited edition, remember?” Dave rolled his eyes.

“But this one’s got the scanner and the knitters, right? And you’ve got all the first aid certifications, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Then you’re the medic, the most important man on the battlefield.”

“Aye-aye, sir.”

Dave snapped a salute to Jinsoku, which he returned. Out of habit, Dave guessed. He watched Jinsoku draw his swords, just like a real warrior would, and walk toward the fray.

Dave unslung his pack and found himself watching the carnage. One of the ogres broke through the line of elves, followed by another. Jinsoku let out a bloodcurdling yell and charged the ogre. He blocked its club with his left blade, and made two swift cuts across its midsection with his right. The ogre fell to the ground, in two, three pieces. The one following stumbled over the remains to be pierced through the heart.

Dave’s fascination faded and he was momentarily sick. Then he heard the moaning. He spotted an injured elf nearby, pinned under the ogre she had slain. Dave ran over to her. He pulled his pistol and shot a charging ogre which sank to the ground, stunned.

Dave knelt next to the elf.

“Check for pulse, ok. Check breathing, ok. Is the subject lucid? No, she’s out like a light. No wait, first make sure the subject is out of danger.”

At that an ogre was literally tossed over his head.

“Yaaa! The subject is not out of danger and neither is the rescuer.”

With quick push, Dave rolled the ogre off of the elf. He saw that she was bleeding from a thigh wound.

“Crap. Arterial bleeding. That’s very bad.”

Dave carried the elf easily. She was a head taller than he, but probably not that much heavier, even in her armor. But he was very strong for his size. He chuckled at how Jinsoku had fallen for his old nickname, “Donka,” referring to something else. He was above average in that respect, maybe, but that was it.

He looked up to see Jinsoku hacking away at ogres. No sign of Hans, but it wasn’t like he could see over the heads of anyone, even here.

* * *

“Move aside,” Za commanded. “Let Lord Madison try.”

They’d made it to the gate without a second confrontation. The warriors had held, even one of the unarmored women had picked up a sword. There was no sign of the handless warrior that had hailed them though.

Feeling a bit guilty as women guarded his back, Hans worked his way close to the edge, but not quite, no sense in getting speared while his hands were full.

Hans pushed. Nothing happened. He set his shoulder against it and pushed with all his strength. He felt, something, straining against him.

“Something’s holding it,” he grunted.

Another ogre pushed in through the gate, it turned toward Hans, club held high. Za speared it through the throat with her sword and as it fell, dared a look out the gate.

“I see nothing,” she said, rejoining the line guarding Hans.

He pushed again and felt the same strain sensation.

“It’s like it’s in my mind,” he grunted.

Za spat. Blood, Hans noticed. Then he noticed she had somehow picked up a nasty bruise on her cheek.

“Magic,” she said as though it were a curse. “And I’ve sent Gná away. We’ll have to give up the gate.”

Hans pushed again, this time sensing something give.

“NO! I think I can do it. Help push, everyone that can, help push.”

Za turned to counter a club swinging for her head, neatly deflecting it with her shield and slicing open the wielder.

“Even if you close it, Lord Madison, we still have the caster to contend with. It takes magic to counter magic,” she said, her back still to him.

Hans grunted as he pushed against the gate. “Maybe, but if that’s so, why aren’t we seeing more magic?”

Za, her attention still on the battle, shrugged. “That, Lord Madison, is a question for my sister.”

Five or six women, none of them armed, joined Hans in pushing. Hans pushed, they pushed, and he pushed in his mind as well. The gate gave an inch. Hans felt like his muscles were tearing. Pain exploded in his head, then a flash that wasn’t light, and a crack that wasn’t sound, and the gate slammed shut.

* * *

Dave kicked two wooden benches together and set the elf gently down upon them. The wound on her thigh had gotten worse from being carried, but he’d had no choice. He flipped open the screen of his gauntlet. Even though he’d seen it work a hundred times on TV, its chirp in response still caught him off guard. He started punching buttons.

“This had better work. Yes, I know she’s not human,” he addressed the glove, “Life form classification: elf, female, non-hostile. Analyze her condition.”

The glove chirped twice.

“Activate knitters. Seal perforated artery on left thigh.”

Dave positioned the glove over the wound and a beam of light shone down as it made a whirring sound. Dave continued to look in the screen.

“That’s a lot of blood loss. Negative, no transfusions available.” He looked down at his charge, “Oh hang on lady.”

* * *

Three of the women slammed the bolt shut with the ease that comes of practice. Hans realized they were in trouble when the women cowered next to him. The closing of the gate had gotten the undivided attention of every ogre that was now trapped inside the compound.

Hans drew his sword. A large ogre, almost as tall as he was, knocked two warriors aside and charged right for him. Hans stabbed it right through the heart. He felt himself go numb was he watched it, no, him, die. He withdrew his blade, unsure of what to do next. He’d just killed someone. This wasn’t some crazed beast, but a man. Another man came at him from the side. Without even thinking about it, Hans’ sword flashed, spilling the man’s guts. Hans couldn’t bear to watch as he died as well.

Hans stumbled forward. Another man died as his blade bit into his neck. He didn’t want to kill anyone, so why was he doing it. It was Jinsoku’s doing. His good friend, Jinsoku, had made a killing machine out of him. Two slashes across the chest sent another man falling back.

* * *

The beam snapped off and Dave dressed the wound with bandages from his bag. But before he could relax, a scream, cut short, got his attention. He dashed back into the fray to find another elf, also knocked out, a few cuts and scrapes, but otherwise OK. He made ready to start pulling when he noticed an ogre over him, club held high to smash him flat. He slapped the disk on his chest just in time to see the ogre rebound from the globe that formed around him and his newest charge.

The ogre began pounding away at the shield. Dave could almost feel each blow in his head. Maybe it was the air compressing from each strike.

The shield broke, the concussion stunning him for a moment. That wasn’t supposed to happen. The ogre raised its club high once more. A sword tip sprang from its chest and it sank to ground. It was Hans’ sword.

“Thanks, Madison”

But Hans just, wandered away, as though Dave weren’t even there. Shrugging his shoulders, Dave began tugging the elf away from the fight.

* * *

Jinsoku had quit counting how many he’d slain in battle before his fiftieth year. Hopefully no one here would take up the hideous practice of counting his kills for him. His main concern at the moment was Hans. He was literally wandering through the battle killing one ogre after another. Fortunately Za was watching his back. The made a good team that way.

Suddenly the movement of the fight changed. As one, the 15 or so ogres still alive in the compound broke for the ladders leading up to the wall.

“Let them go!” Za shouted.

Like lines of lemmings they each leapt over the wall as soon as they topped the ladders.

“They’re withdrawing, Captain!” shouted an archer from above.

Jinsoku was used to hearing cheers after a battle was won. As a matter of fact, he might have been the one to start them this time.

Next: CHAPTER 15–AFTERMATH

http://www.tmi-comic.com/web-novels/aelfheim/
Copyright AndyOH! (Andrew F. Odendhal)
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This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to persons living or dead is coincidental.