Bonus Story: Opening Skirmishes

on July 14, 2008 in Other Tales

Friday, Calendula 17th 221

Spectators filled all six sections of stands which surrounded the battlefield a mile outside of town. For this game, the visitors had selected the heavily wooded side five for their home base, leaving the home team defending side two.

The visitors’ team was actually a coalition from two smaller school districts, one of which overlapped an elven forest. While all their fighters were ostensibly human, they had an unusually high concentration of skilled archers and lightly armored, highly mobile infantry.

They’d managed to hold their wooded turf with a small number of defenders using traps and hit-and-run tactics, freeing the rest of the coalition to concentrate on offense.

It seemed like a good strategy on the face of it, but two hours into the skirmish match it was becoming apparent that the coalition’s generals would have done better to reverse the starting positions, forcing their opponents to try to defend the wooded section against a force of highly-skilled elfbloods.

Instead, the home team had erected their standard on the largest hill on side two and massed their defenders around it. The two-school coalition had lost so many men in their assaults on the hill that they would lose handily by default once the five hour mark was passed.

As the tipping point had already been reached, they couldn’t wait the other side out… if they couldn’t win outright, they would have to inflict more casualties. They’d begun to get creative in their attacks.

Five different groups of archers launched volleys of arrows in waves, concentrating their aim near the top of the hill. Each flight of arrows was obviously smaller than a massed volley would have been, but by loosing their projectiles in turns they were able to keep a more or less constant stream going.

A wavery blue energy shell appeared in the sky seconds after this assault began. It was curved like a section of a dome, and it intercepted most of the arrows. They were ready this time, but the defenders’ wizards hadn’t always been so quick, and the side of the hill was dotted with shafts, and a handful of bodies lying motionless.

A figure stood near the top of the hill, dominating the scene in much the same way that the hill itself did the surrounding terrain.

She, too, was dotted with the red-fletched arrows of the opposing team. The arrows’ tips hadn’t quite penetrated through her tough hide, and while she could no doubt have just brushed them off of her arm like the irritants that they were, she instead left them in place so that anybody who charged up the hill would see them sticking out of her arm like the quills of a porcupine.

At the same time that the rain of arrows began, a magical wind rammed into the line of defenders who guarded the hillside in a ring halfway up its slope. One group of lightly armored fighters in red charged through the hole this made. The wind-battered soldiers picked themselves up and quickly closed the gap, fighting back the rest of the attackers and preventing any more from joining the charge up the hill.

However, the attackers started to lose momentum almost as soon as they were past that first obstacle. They slowed, their formation losing cohesiveness, and more than one of them actually glanced behind at the path of retreat through the enemy line.

Just as they’d known would happen, the massive figure gave a fierce bellow and swooped down in a counter-charge, sending the lead warrior flying with a swipe of her gauntleted arm, bowling several over, and breaking up the tight formation. The other hilltop defenders rushed in after her, slaughtering the scattered and distracted soldiers. The attack was quickly repelled with no casualties among the hilltop group, though two soldiers were sent down to replace those who’d fallen on the line.

The hulking fighter hadn’t even taken the sword off her back.

On a floating disk hovering high in the air ten yards outside the hexagonal boundary of the skirmish field, a representative from Magisterius University watched with an air of practiced skepticism.

“Let’s be honest,” he said to the head coach. “She’s not that great a solo fighter. She broke their formation with momentum and because they’re afraid to engage, but in a straight one-on-one fight I think a good swordsman could take her out.”

“That’s why she’s a skirmisher, not a gladiator,” the coach said. “Look, we’re seven and two so far this season and she wasn’t even playing for one of those losses.”

“Well, she holds the line well enough on a small field like this,” the man said. “But we have one of the largest skirmish fields in the Imperium.”

“That means you’ve got a lot of spaces to fill,” the coach said. “You can’t tell me that you don’t have room for an ogre among them.”

Half-ogre,” the scout said. “Raised by a human parent. ‘Belinda’ doesn’t sound very imposing, does it?”

“When she’s out on the field, the other team doesn’t know if she has a flower print comforter on her bed or if she has jam and toast with her tea,” the coach said. “And for somebody who’s never met a full one, she’s ogre enough.”

“Still, I can’t guarantee her a spot.”

“Are you telling me you’ve got other players on the hook that can hold a hundred and fifty yard radius all by their lonesomes?” the coach said. This was an exaggeration, of course, as the figure on the hill was hardly holding the entire field, but the scout was used to dealing with hyperbolic coaches. “Look, I know you’ve got a bigger operation than we do, but you give her a squad to lead and she’ll do the same thing for you that she’s done for us as team captain.”

“Being the captain of a small team isn’t anything like being squad leader on a big team,” the rep said. “Do you think she’d be able to handle that?”

“For a chance to play with the big boys?” the coach said. “We didn’t start her out as captain. She worked her way up. She knows how it goes. Anyway, why so many questions? You can see how she handles herself. You’ve met with her. We know you’re not going to have an answer for her immediately… but you know, of all the teams that have scouted us—and that’s a lot of teams this year—nobody’s seemed as, well, skeptical about our little Lindy as you are.”

“We’ve been burned before,” he said.

“What do you mean?”

“Nothing I want to talk about, but let’s just say I’m going to be damned sure they’re really interested in college skirmish before I sign any more ogrebloods.”

“You won’t be burned by her,” the coach said. “Skirmish is her life… literally. Maybe I’m not doing her any favors by telling you this, but you have to understand, she’s got no prospects, nothing to look forward to. Her grades are shit right across the board. We help her out, but she just manages to scrape by with the minimum passing grades. She doesn’t have any interests or aptitudes except for fighting. I’d be worried about the kid, but we both know she’s got a future with some school’s program. I guess it’ll probably come down to who wants her the most.”

Monday, Astera 7th 222

“This is your squad’s room, Belinda,” the earnest young woman with the clipboard said as she led the half-ogress into a long, narrow room that looked more like a hallway with beds and footlockers. “As freshmen, we had to let the school assign you dorm rooms but you’re more than welcome to stay here.”

“What was that other room?” Belinda asked.

“What other room?”

“The barracks one,” she said. “The big open one.”

“Oh, those are the regular quarters,” the coach’s assistant said. “Since you guys in the seventh squad are kind of a special project, you get your own all to yourself.”

“We don’t get to be in the main room with everybody else?”

“Only the best squads get their own quarters. Oh, and see that door at the end? That leads to your personal quarters. It’s also your office. The joke around here is that the officers’ quarters are just broom closets with the signs painted over, but in actual fact, they are slightly larger. Now, if you’d like to meet some of your squadmates…”

“They told me I could pick my squad,” Belinda said.

“Who did?”

“The recruiters.”

“Oh, well,” the assistant said, flipping through the pages on her clipboard as though they had any information aside from room assignments and schedules on them, “of course squad leaders are allowed to have some input, but the final choice belongs to the general coach.”

Belinda glowered. While what the assistant said was technically true, everything she’d ever heard had led her to believe that skirmish team officers had a more active hand in things and that the coaches only moved people around after seeing how they fit together.

“But if I’ve already got squadmates, how can I have input?” Belinda asked.

“Well, again, the seventh squad is a special project this year, and in order to maximize the effectiveness of your unique contributions…”

“Whatever,” Belinda said. “Let’s meet them.”

“Go ahead and send them in, John!” the assistant called.

One of the doors opened and an extremely varied group of beings began to file awkwardly in: a half-orc, a woman made of rock, a big burly bear of a man with a bushy brown beard, a minotaur, a weedy-looking human boy dressed in black and wearing heavy eyeliner, a harpy, a muscular triclops, a ratman, and three lizardfolk… two in a pair and one who stood off alone. Some of them were freshmen, like Belinda, and they looked around the room and at each other. Others simply glared at the new squad leader. These were returning students who’d played on other squads and who now found themselves reassigned under a freshman.

“Belinda, these are the men and women of the seventh squad,” the assistant said. “Squad, this is Belinda. She’ll be leading you in battle.”

Nobody said anything.

“Well, I’ll leave you all to get acquainted with each other. You all are free until three, when you need to form up on the practice field for team orientation,” the assistant said. “And, if nobody else has said it yet, I’d just like to welcome the new fighters to Magisterius University.”

With that, she left. About half of the seventh squad did, too. Among those who remained, no one approached Belinda immediately.

“This is bullshit,” the dark-clad boy said to nobody in particular. He went to the one of the twelve beds that was furthest from the officer’s room and dumped the contents of his duffel bag out into the locker at the foot of it. “This is my bed. Nobody take the bed next to it. I want a buffer between me and all you freaks.”

“Watch who you’re calling freaks, corpsefucker,” the stony woman said.

“Watch who you’re calling corpsefucker, freak,” the boy said. “I am a necromancer, and I wouldn’t even be wasting my talents on this stupid game if the narrow-minded nitwits who run the university had given me any other choice. Honestly, they acted like I’d siphoned an entire soul… meanwhile, an actual corpsefucker just got a semester of community service… in the vaults. Three years, and I never had to lock my materials up before.”

Belinda watched the exchange, absolutely bemused. She hadn’t had any idea what to expect, but she’d had a vague idea that her squad would consist of squishy little full humans who would be intimidated by the sight of her. Nobody in the room seemed especially intimidated.

The woman rolled her eyes at the necromancy student, then strolled over towards Belinda.

“Hi,” she said, holding out a hand. “I’m, uh… well, just call me Rocky. I was a squad leader in high school… they usually had me lead charges and take point on difficult missions. I wondered what kind of strategies do you prefer to employ?”

“Uh… I like to make people come to me,” Belinda said. “But I like going on the attack, too.”

“Flexibility,” Rocky said. “I like that. They said you were captain, your junior and senior year?”

“I was,” Belinda said.

“What was it like leading an entire team?”

“I didn’t really do much leading, actually,” Belinda said. “I just went where the general told me to.”

“But you were the captain.”


“Oh,” Rocky said. “Okay. Well, good to meet you. I’m going to go stow my stuff. Are you planning on assigning bunks?”


“I’ll just go stow it, then,” Rocky said. “And if you need any help with strategy, or planning, or anything, let me know. I was a good officer.”

Friday, Astera 11th 222 (Morning)

“I think our squad’s really starting to shape up,” Rocky said as they watched the rest of the squads practicing coordinated maneuvers. “With Hissy coordinating our movements, you on point, Scylla doing air support, and Jimmy’s skeletons to do surprise flanking, I think we can be a real force to be reckoned with.”

“Yeah,” Belinda grunted.

“I think once they see us in action, they’ll start fitting us into the overall strategy instead of using us as a bunch of ‘scary monsters’ to spook the other side,” Rocky said. “I mean, we can fight. Even Jimmy can. It’s stupid for them not to make use of us. We are good for something besides holding a spot they don’t want to have to defend.”


“Well, there are two weeks of practice between now and the first match,” Rocky said. “I’ve been working on getting the coaches to put us on the field wherever we would most likely be during the actual match… supposedly so that the rest our team gets used to us, but hopefully everybody will see how well we do our things.”


“I mean, you’re used to standing there and looking scary, but some of us are real fighters,” Rocky said.

Saturday, Astera 19th 222

“I have great news!” Rocky announced, after walking into Belinda’s private room without knocking. “I’ve been talking to Coach John and after seeing us beat squads one through three during practice maneuvers, he says they’re going to revise the battle plans for the game against Blackwater. Instead of just cutting off one chokepoint, we’re going to be working with one and three. Depending on which side BPC picks, we might actually be the ones capturing their standard.”

“Really?” Belinda said. “That’s… awesome.”

“Isn’t it?” Rocky said. “I’ve worked up some contingency plans based on the side they think Blackwater’s general will pick, and the rest of the squad is excited about them.”

“The rest of the squad?”

“Oh, yeah, I showed them to everybody,” Rocky said. “Actually, I wanted to get Knossos and Scylla’s opinions before I did anything, but I’ve got everything just about finalized now. If we can pull off what I’ve got in mind, we’ll never be relegated to static defense again. It’ll be tricky, but with Hissy coordinating and you soaking up their attacks, I think we can manage it.”

Friday, Astera 25th 222 (Final Practice Before The First Game)

“Where’s Belinda?”

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8 Responses to “Bonus Story: Opening Skirmishes”

  1. pedestrian says:

    my experience with female leadership was never in a combat situation. but I have my doubts that Belinda would tolerate Rocky’s assumption of authority.

    Current score: 0
  2. pedestrian says:

    my experience with female leadership was never in a combat situation. but I have my doubts that Belinda would tolerate Rocky’s assumption of authority. she seems rather passive in her reactions.

    and early in the storyline my impression was that Belinda and Mackenzie could have developed a relationship similar to Viktor and Steph. Perhaps this is a future possibility?

    Current score: 0
    • MackSffrs says:

      That is most likely not a future relationship, having seen the way that Mack dominated Belinda, not just physically, by show at least, but obviously mentally. That impression probably will not wear off.

      Current score: 1
      • Maesenko says:

        I’m thinking that Mackenzie might become a sort-of higher ranking person than Belinda as a result of that scuffle, which might in turn give Mackenzie more pull with Viktor if he should find out about it.

        Current score: 2
        • Arakano says:

          What, kind-of winning against a half-ogre from a human culture, who will probably be considered more of a human than an ogre by Viktor, should impress him, an ogre-raised warlord-prince? And how would he learn of it, anyway? He ain’t a very social type, and seems utterly disinterested in skirmishing, much to the university’s annoyance…

          Current score: 0
          • Kat says:

            He’s an half ogre, too. And she is certainly hell bent on being as ogre-ish as possible so I don’t think that’s a real problem.

            Current score: 1
          • Anon says:

            Nah, it would just put Belinda below Mack’s level.

            She’s got no prospects or plans or even interests besides fighting. But she never learned to fight properly, since there was nobody who’d take her on in a straight fight growing up. So she was put on the field as a big scary figurehead to snarl at collections of soft scared little humans, and she was good enough at scaring useless mooks that she never learned real strategy. So she comes to college, where there are real fighters and she’s not the scariest thing around anymore, and she can’t really fight, she sure as hell can’t lead, so she’s practically useless at the one thing she had.

            Finally she tries to take back some semblance of control of her life by declaring a formal sorting-out-of-the-pecking-order, and loses that, placing herself formally beneath the half demon girl, who has already voluntarily placed herself three levels below Victor.

            And then just to top everything off, Belinda refuses to even acknowledge Mack’s obvious victory, throwing away the tattered remains of her ogreish honor to say it wasn’t over and run away.

            I think that at this point Victor would lose face just by speaking to Belinda, and Mackenzie’s victory over her highlights how pathetic she is more than it speaks of anything impressive about Mack.

            Current score: 1
  3. Moridain says:

    So far Belinda hasn’t shown the mental fortitude to Dom anyone, let alone someone like Mack.

    Current score: 1