Amris Meneldir had seen wars of every scale in his life. He had fought unimaginable things and triumphed against impossible odds. He had always held a singular truth in his heart – in the name of the Seven Hills, he would hold the line.
With his brothers and sisters in arms by his side, Amris could grind any threat to Plovdiv to dust.
Until nine days ago.
For nine days, the Sevenhillean armies had been fighting off the accursed still-Sparks and their endless black-armored minions.
They had struck with such ferocity that even the Kingdom’s veteran armies had been caught completely off-guard.
They had done the impossible.
The Tenebrans had reached Plovdiv and laid siege to her. In a handful of days, they had brought down her great walls and breached her gates.
All efforts to hold the walls, to push back, to retake, had been met with failure. He had burned down houses and whole streets trying to slow the enemy down.
It had not worked.
Everything the army had tried… Had not worked.
At least King Tirion had managed to get out. And he had an army with him, bolstered by over half of First Elite. They would regroup with the other nations and mount a counter-offensive. They just needed time.
All Amris had to do now was give them that time.
Hold the line.
Slow the advance.
To die standing.
He was at the gates of Old Town. They had been pushed back to Plovdiv’s heart. With him were one hundred and seven men and women. Heavy infantry, light infantry, mages, sevenpathians.
Structure didn’t exist anymore. He was told to hold the line with these souls.
At least until the final defenses of Plovdiv Keep could be complete.
He would hold the line.
He would die standing.
For King and Kingdom.
And so they came. The five-hundred-strong black-armored mass came out of the ruins of his beautiful city. Their straight lines, marching in near-perfect unison could awe even a Sevenhillean.
His Sevenhilleans, however, hated the invaders far too much to offer them anything but cold rage. They stepped up in their own formations. Interlocked shields in front, bracing to hold against the approaching tide. Long sharp spears behind and to the flanks, prepared to pierce armor and flesh alike.
Bows, crossbows and balistae on the wall, prepared to rain down hell.
Mages and sevenpathians at the flanks, standing side by side, ready to harass the enemy.
They would hold the line.
They would die standing.
The handful stood against the many, heads held high, green and black banners flapping in the dust-thick air of a dying city.
The sun had almost set now. The symbolism wasn’t wasted on him. Amris did not expect to see it rise, either. He could smell ash on the wind. So old man Siegfried and Lyralei had done their job in the Keep. Good.
He was known as a man of flamboyant and inspiring speeches. Not today. Today he had only hatred to give. Hatred and death.
He called for Tarik, his second in command, to relay his final orders before the battle.
Before he could, Markovo Tepe exploded.
Night turned to day. Rock and earth rained from the sky.
The shields lowered for a moment.
The spears wavered.
A moment was all it took. The Tenebrans were upon them now. Amris yelled for the shieldwalls to hold steady. For the earth mages to bolster them. For the spears to strike. For the arrows to crowd the sky. For the life mages to stay back and heal the injured. For the aquamancers, the air mages and his trusted pyromancers to engage. Though he knew few of them would survive.
Surprisingly, they held. First for a minute. Then ten. The Tenebrans fell back to regroup after the twentieth minute.
This happened three times.
By midnight, Amris had been brought back from death three times. He had gone through two spears and three swords. He had been out of magic for three hours.
And now, he was almost out of comrades.
The Tenebrans came again against the survivors, thirteen all-in-all. This would be the last stand.
The bells of the Keep started ringing. They were ready now.
He had held the line.
He thought he could hear a familiar marching song.
At sunrise of the tenth day, when the gates of Old Town were finally breached and Plovdiv fell, there was a lone man impaled to the gate. Very much dead, yet smiling.
He had held the line.
And he had died standing.