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A note from neo Koh

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Two Steps From Hell - Heart of Courage

Sparks and smoke exploded against the gleaming dome of a Level 4 magic shield covering the Third Fallowfall Regiment of Swords. Commander Elosen dressed in his blue ornate armor, waved his heirloom sword yelling encouragement to his three thousand men. "Advance! Our mages' spell Protection will protect us from their weak magic! Just another 400 paces away!"

The Third Regiment of Swords carried shields and short stabbing swords as standard gear, they were a veteran regiment, fighting in several wars and trained to the highest Imperial standard. Their tactics were to storm up to the enemy in a tight wall of shields and hammer into them, the second line will use their short stabbing swords to stab at any exposed body parts, feet, arms, faces etc. Working like mechanical clockwork soldiers, they grind their enemy down bit by bit and so far no other army was their rival. Their morale was high as they marched in step, shields locked together and followed their commander to victory.

The Regiment's mages held their staves tightly, their faces white and sweating from the effort of holding the Level 4 Protection spell. Each impact against the shield drains some power from them and there is a lot of damage being dealt with the shields as evidenced by the constant sparks exploding on the surface of the shield.

The Third finally exited the cover of the magical smoke and emerged within full view of the Wall, less than a 100 paces away. Elosen's pride swelled as his Regiment will be the first to scale the walls, ignoring the fact that the slave army had already arrived way before him.

He raised his sword and pointed directly at the Wall and roared, "CHARGE! FOR THE EMPIRE!" And the whole world around him exploded.

-----

Skies over Sawtooth Mountain

Flight lieutenant Peter, whooped with glee as he pulled up from a strafing run. "Valkyrie One to Two, did you catch that?"

His Valkyrie dived down over the side of the mountains directly from the flanks just as he spotted a huge perfect infantry square marched out of the cover of the smoke directly in front of the Wall. He gave them a good strafe with a dozen rockets directly in their flanks.

He pulled up and jinked his bird hard as an Empire dragon nearly rammed into him. "Woo that was close," Peter said to himself. The air was thick with Empire dragons and lead from the gun turrets which were blasting away at the highly agile flying reptiles.

Without guns onboard the Valkyries, Peter and Tommy focused on rocketing the enemy infantry, ignoring the dragons. His Valkyrie shook wildly as an Empire dragon somehow managed to latch on his bird. Warning alerts beeped and blared, as he twisted his head back and fore, trying to locate where that dragon has grabbed on to.

"It's on your port wing stabilizers!" Tommy's voice came through the warning sirens. "Directly behind your rocket pods!"

"Oh, you wanna play?" Peter grinned, ignoring the warning alerts. "Let's see if you can handle this!"

He tilted his bird downwards and looped towards the battlefield, lining up for a strafing run. Pushing his head against the armored sapphire crystal canopy, he grinned and squeezed the trigger, firing off a salvo of rockets.

The Empire dragon with its rider gripped tightly onto the weld on stabilizer wings, with the rider using its javelin trying to pierce the magic beast hide while the dragon tried to bite chunks off the beast. But to both the dragon and its rider surprise, the 'hide' of the beast appeared to be made of metal when suddenly the three roundish pods erupted in flames, torching the dragon and burning the face of the rider off.

The dragon fell off with a bird-like cry, as it death spiraled down the air, its wings folding as it slammed down into the battlefield, shattering a company of infantry.

"Woot! First air to air kill! A few more and I am an Ace!" Peter crackled wildly as he looped back his ship, and fired off his remaining rockets, "Valkyrie One, Bingo on ammo, RTB."

"Thunderchief, Roger, watch the skies, forecast today is heavy with dragons and lead."

Peter laughed as he pulled his Valkyrie away from the battlefield in full speed, ignoring the few Empire dragons that attempted to tangle with him.

-----

Sturm hammered the wooden railing and cursed loudly as he watched the black flying creature rain dragon fire on his troops as they finally reached the walls. "Signal the Dragons Corps to focus on taking those two creatures down!" He gave his order to his runner who ran off to the signal flags.

The 17th, 18th, 25th, 26th, and 32nd Imperial Dragon Corps weaved through the clouds of grapeshot and smoke, the dragon crews lobbing flasks of alchemist fire directly at the walls as they flew past. The Empire classified dragons into three categories, light, medium and heavyweight class.

Under 10 tons, lightweights such as the Yellow Swift Wings, mostly function as couriers or the blue colored Lightning worked mainly as rapid passenger transports, While the medium and heavy weights dragons are mostly used for combat doth some were used to transport personnel or goods too.

Medium weights were classed between 10 to 30 tons, were mostly rode by a single bonded rider or with a crew up to four, depending on the breed. The Empire used mostly domesticated Silver Wings named for their silver scales which weight over 12 tons, were renowned for their speed and agility, requiring a single dragon rider to pilot them. The rider normally uses a light crossbow or javelins as their weapons of choice.

The other commonly used medium weight dragon was the Razorback, average weighting around 20 tons, with black and gold scales, and a spiked spine It can carry a crew of up to four and its bonded rider, tho normally a crew of two was used, to reduce the total weight. The crew mostly worked as crossbowmen or as grenadiers, throwing firebombs.

Heavyweight dragons are slightly special, as most heavyweight breeds have breathe abilities, like spitting or breathing fire, acid, lightning or even blasts of compressed air.

The Empire had successfully breed its own fire-breathing heavyweights called Spitfires, weighing on average, 32 tons, with a wingspan of over 15 meters, a body length from head to tail at 22 meters and their scales are a mix of dark blue and dark crimson. Crews of up to a dozen typically served on board with the dragon with its bonded rider or Captain.

The Empire Spitfires wore specially woven baskets and harnesses that allowed the crew to move around the dragon during flight. They can carry ordnance like firebombs to rocks for bombings fortifications.

The heavyweights that did not manifest any special abilities were negated to beasts of burden roles or as troop transports. It allowed the Empire to rapidly deploy its soldiers and move supplies rapidly over vast distances.

An Imperial Dragon Corps consists of twenty mediums and two heavies, and for this battle, Sturm had committed five Imperial Dragon Corps.

Raising his eyeglass, he watched the battlefield, seeing the Third Regiment decimated while the First and Second got hammered by dragon fire despite having Protection spells. "Order the ballistas to load the Dragonlances, a reward of a hundred gold coins for the crew who brings down the rebel's flying beasts."

"Order the left flank to push up and support the assault in the middle," Sturm continuing giving orders as he observed the battlefield. "Have the siege engines brought up, make sure more smoke is cast to cover their approach to the gate!"

The giant siege engines were towed by two heavily armored land dragons. Massive plates of metal and leather covered all the vulnerable areas of the land dragons as advanced up the slope pulling the giant 'door knocker' siege engine. A massive wooden construct designed to destroy walls or gates. Runes and enchantments covered the whole body of the siege engine and hundreds of crews piled up alongside the construct, riding along.

As the massive siege engines approached the gates, a sudden flash of light erupted directly on one of the siege engines followed by another on the second siege engine. Sturm cried out in surprise as the light seared into his eye. He fell back, rubbing his eyes as his guards quickly surrounded him.

As Sturm recovered his eyesight, he looked back at the pass, seeing the burning remains of the two siege engines and the collapsed dying land dragons, which effectively blocked most of the approaches to the gate. "Damn, those rebels! Where did they get such powerful spells!"

"Get the witch here, I want that wall taken down now!" Sturm yelled at his frightened runners. "Once the walls are down, I want the Lancers to push full force in."

"But my lord, the auxiliary slave army is still at the forefront of the battle," One of his lackeys pointed out, "Are we going to... ?"

"Why? You care for those slaves?" Sturm glared at the lackey who spoken, "Than why not you join them at the front too?"

"Eh, no my Lord, I didn't mean that," The lackey bowed his head down and tried to keep himself as small as possible.

"Enough of this nonsense, I want the Witch to destroy those walls now!" Sturm commanded, "I want the Imperial flag raised up by noon!"

Not long, the Witch was escorted up to the viewing platform with Mage Dular following behind. "Great, I want that wall destroyed now," Sturm went straight to the point.

"That is impossible, it is protected by several enchantments and spells," The Witch immediately said, staring at the walls.

"How about the Mountain walls?" Sturm asked, standing next to the Witch and watching the battle. "Can you collapse the mountain?"

The Witch laughed merrily, and asked, "How many lives are you willing to sacrifice? A thousand? Two thousand?"

Sturm's face turned red as he reeled in his anger. "Don't play games with me, Witch!"

The Witch stopped laughing and her face turned serious, "To make the ancient mountain move, will require far more magic than ever. Even if you sacrifice thousands of lives, it might not even be enough!" She gestured at the imposing peaks, "They have been here for thousands of years, the amount of magic has seeped right into their very fabric of existence. And you, just a man, wants to command the ancients to do your bidding?"

She laughed again, "Using the topsoil of the surrounding area to create a way up to the walls is already going against the natural order of things. Now you want to move mountains?" She sneered at Sturm.

Sturm angrily backhanded the Witch, his ring scratched across her face, causing a trickle of blood to flow freely down. "Enough! You are here to help, so help! Or my report back to the Emperor will not be so good for your people!"

The Witch straightened up, ignoring the blood flowing down her cheek. The slap had knocked her hood off, and her thick long silver hair flowed out. Her silver eyes glared daggers at Sturm's threat and she took a deep breathe, calming her anger down. "The next best thing I can do is create land bridges over the walls." She said after calming down. "The rest is up to your men, I can only do so much."

Sturm nodded, admiring at the Witch's beauty, "Dular, bring her and prepare the materials needed for the spells to be cast."

"Yes my Lord," Mage Dular bowed, before gripping her forearm and pulling her back down the tower.

"Get the battle mages to bombard the walls with fire, I want the walls to burn," Sturm ordered to his runners, "And get the rest of the regiments to advance when the Witch's spell is cast." Sturm glanced at the skies where the dragons circled and dive bomb the area behind the walls.

"All forces are to make an all-out attack! NO MERCY!"

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A note from neo Koh

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neo Koh

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