“I will not slink through the woods, led to my cowardice by common thieves,” Ballack spat.
“Then you can die, proud and arrogant prince!” Camille, the young woman, said coldly.
The young man, Graeme, stepped between his sister and the warlock dwarf. He raised his hands in a submissive manner and tried to reason with Ballack. “They have the whole area blanketed with swamp rays. There are many trolls waiting in the river. Nobody was meant to get across that bridge. Don’t you see?”
Ballack watched as the people he had sworn to protect poured into the woods. “I see cowards following sneak-thieves.” The dwarf prince raised his hammer high, and his soldiers formed ranks.
“You truly mean to attack the bridge?” Graeme asked incredulously.
“Consider it a distraction, if it makes you feel better,” Ballack answered. “Every dead troll makes the world a little safer for you and the rest of them.”
“It’s suicide,” Camille said.
Ballack looked and her and stated, “Shut up.” With that, he let out a yell and charged the bridge. The ghost on his left started his drum dirge, while the specter on his right raised the Dundersnuff banner high. The dwarven phalanx, as well as several therians who wanted the trolls to pay in blood for the attack on their city, plowed toward the troll ranks.
“Let’s not waste his sacrifice,” the young Pavee said sadly as he followed the last of the refugees into the woods.
Ballack and the others charged the bridge. The dwarves, who were more accustomed to the hard stone of the mountains, were not prepared for the swamp rays. The creatures could create electrical pulses as well as attack with their barbed tails. Being encased in metal armor and standing in water only amplified the damage of the rays. It was the start of a one-sided battle.
The first few dwarves were immediately dropped as they stepped on the swamp rays. A werecoyote also stepped on a ray, and felt the wicked barb pierce his calf. Intense pain shot through his leg, but was quickly healed by his therian blood. It hardly mattered, for the trolls poured over the advancing troop in a savage fashion. Ballack and his troops were some of the finest fighters in all of Delphia, and many trolls fell to their weapons. However, there were simply too many of them.
“Kill as many as you can,” Ballack shouted. “Beat them into the mud,” he screamed as he sent his hammer through the rib cage of a troll enemy. Then he touched a dwarf who was kneeling and healed his friends wounds. “Get back in the fight,” the prince urged. The initial advantage of the trolls had stalled as the dwarves formed their defensive diamond around their prince.
It was beautiful to watch the dwarves as they killed troll after troll. Ballack called upon his magical powers and had the corpses writhing and pulling at the legs of their comrades. The few therians that had accompanied the dwarves were already dead. They were tough, but could not hold up against the trolls even with their innate healing attributes. Ballack did not sympathize; they knew the risk.
One dwarf fell. Then another. Ballack could not heal them all, he was too busy trying to keep the trolls at bay. Another dwarf down. The diamond was broken. “On your own, then!” Ballack called, and each dwarf broke ranks to gain a more comfortable zone to work alone. They fought valiantly, bringing death to many trolls. One by one the prince’s troops were killed. It was a grueling battle for the trolls, one that took more time and cost more lives than they wanted; but one they would win.
Only two dwarves remained; Ballack and one they called “the Hook”. The two were back to back with Ballack using his necrotic magic as a protective orb. “I can keep this up all night, scum!” the warlock promised. At that moment to the south, a huge pillar of fire shot into the night. The trolls had been instructed to return to Shadowmire with any captives upon seeing the pillar of fire. Most of the trolls hustled away from Ballack and his cruel hammer. A few remained, but they never made it back to the therian city.
Ballack and the Hook limped away from the battle at the bridge. The warlock was pleased with the results; more than a hundred trolls were dead in the mud and the others were travelling in the opposite direction of the mass of survivors. He honored the fallen dwarves with a few words, then pressed on toward Oliveloft.