This Is Speartip
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The first thing Outis felt was pain, pain as if he was being crushed into an infinitely tiny point.
What is a point? What am I that I should feel pain?
The pain of being crushed only lasted for an instant, a point in time as well as space. Then there was the pain of exploding into being. This pain also only lasted an instant, and faded into nothing as he took his first breath. He could feel the cold stones on his knees and knuckles beneath him, the heavy shield on his back and the spear in his hand. He could feel his helm, his cuirass, and his boots, both binding and protecting him.
Stand. Look at me.
The order came into his head and he could do nothing but obey. There in front of him was his king, his ruler, seated on a throne, and next to him his prince, the king’s heir, seated next to him. Until he had opened his eyes he had not known who either was or what either was. But now he knew. And he would croak for either one at an instant.
As he looked at everything in front of him, words came into his mind and the meaning instantly after. Throne. Ruler. Heir. Scepter. Chiton. Many, many more words as he stared and thought. Warlord. Hits. Attack. Defense. Spear.
“Speak your name.” this time the king’s lips moved as the order came.
“Outis, sire.” He spoke his name and heard seven other voices speak the same.
“Good. None of you shall be disbanded immediately. Your name is Outis. In the tongue of the Titans that means Nobody. Every fresh Stabber in the Lake Demon Kingdom is popped as nobody. Until you prove yourself, you are nobody. You will begin the Agoge now to prove your worth.” He stopped speaking to point to Outis’s left.
Outis looked to the left and saw a wide, empty, stone doorway set with glowing gems. The hex beyond it was hilly, but it didn’t look impassible. Now I know what hexes are—and what my Move stat means. Between him and the doorway stood four of his stackmates: tall spearmen with giant, round bronze shields on their backs. Each of them had a red cloak and a helm with that made them look even taller—but not as tall as the bronze-tipped spears each held in their right hand.
“You have three turns to make your way from the foot of Mount To-Get-Us around Lake Demon back to the gates of the city Speartip that you have been popped in. You must bring your spears, your swords, and your shields or you will be turned away. The weak will croak. The strong will live. Do not be weak—SURVIVE. THIS. IS. SPEARTIP!”
The prince spoke next, his voice was not as deep, but he spoke with the same command. “You will need to croak others to keep from being croaked. You will need to forage for food or you will depop at dawn. The weak will croak. The strong will live. Do not be weak—SURVIVE. THIS. IS. SPEARTIP!”
Left face. Forward march.
His king’s orders resounded in Outis’s mind and he reacted without needing to think. In one motion, he lifted his spear and spun on his left heel and his right toe. He brought his right foot forward to the ground next to his left, and the instant it touched he picked the left one up and started marching forward. The four spearmen he could see moved as he did, as one.
As he marched forward, Outis saw his stackmates go through the glowing doorway. Their cloaks turned gray and they disappeared. When he reached the doorway, he saw why they disappeared. The king had marched them off a cliff. He marched forward confidently, and then, as his own cloak turned gray he asked himself, why am I marching off a cliff? He’s not my king? But it was too late. He had already stepped off the cliff and started falling.
Outis woke to the feeling of pain again. This time it was more localized. He had lost most of his hits and some of his ribs were broken. Someone was tapping them with a spear butt. “Wake up Outis. Stand to your feet if you can. Are you still incapacitated?” The unit poking him had a torn cloak, but didn’t seem to have lost as many hits.
“I-I think so.” Outis rolled to his knees.
“Then do so. I have to check on the others.” The other unit walked to one of the other stabbers lying on the ground at the foot of the cliff. He poked this one a couple of times and then rolled it over. Even through the eye slits, Outis could see the X’s where the other’s eyes would have been. Croaked. No use to anyone anymore. The other could see them too. He moved on to the next stabber, who was already getting to his feet, cradling the place where one of his hands used to be. He must have landed on one of the spears and cut it off. He was still standing though. Outis wasn’t sure if that counted as a critical fail on his landing or not.
Finally, they were all standing in a small circle, the five of them that could, at least. Two of them were croaked, and a third unit had broken both his legs. He looked badly enough incapacitated that he would likely croak at turn’s end. The unit that had woken Outis up brought his spear down with a ringing crack on one of the croaked unit’s helms.
“We are all named Outis, or we were. We must choose other names to call each other as we make our way back home to Speartip. I am Dekaneas.”
“Dekaneas?” one of the other units replied in a higher voice. With a start, Outis realized that she was a female unit, but he didn’t know why that would surprise him.
“Yes, I was popped as your stack leader, your dekaneas. Since you echo my name you will be Echo.
“What if she doesn’t want to be Echo?” another stabber said, “What if she wants to be Defteros, since she spoke second.”
Then she shouldn’t have echoed me. You are Defteros, since you spoke second after her.”
Defteros frowned at this, but he didn’t say anything.
“I guess you’ll call me Aristera, since I only have my left hand.” the other female stabber said.
“If that is what you want. And you,” he said turning to Outis, “What do we call you?”
“Outis, I was popped with that name. Until the king gives me a new name, I am Outis.”
We can’t call you Outis, you need a new name like the rest of us.” Defteros protested.
“No I don’t. Names are to tell us apart and now I am the only Outis. It will serve.”
“It will serve.” Dekaneas said. “For now, we have to survive. We may have become barbarians, but we were popped in Speartip. We were popped as Lake Demon’s stabbers. We must prove that we are Lake Demons. We must survive. We can live off forage as we circle the lake. We can survive. We can take our place in Speartip.”
“We?” Echo said.
“Yes. We. If we stack together we will be able to survive battle better. I suggested it, so I will lead. Now stack up.”
“What about him?” Defteros asked, pointing at the incapacitated stabber.
“Heal him or come with us.” Without a look back, Dekaneas marched off toward a break in the cliffs to the northwest. Outis and the others followed him, only Defteros looking at their former stackmates as he walked away.
The hex they were in had been travelled often. There was no road, or even a path, but every unit knew that they were not the first to come this way, nor would they be the last. None of them said anything as they marched; they had the feeling it was the Speartip way to remain silent. Outis spent the time studying himself and the others as he walked. He could tell nothing of them but the calm, easy way they carried their weapons. Even Aristera, her shield strapped upside down on her right arm and her spear in her left. It looked like they were all injured, but he couldn’t tell how many hits they had.
He could tell his own stats though:
[Outis]: Level 1 Elite Stabber
Specials (Reach, Dance-fighting, (hidden))
Reach was obvious to him, his spear was much longer than the sword at his side, so any enemy that tried to attack him with a sword was going to take hits before they dealt them out. Dance-fighting—now what did that mean? No point in guessing, it would come to him when he needed it. And (hidden)? That was a complete mystery. No need to worry about mysteries, he was a Speartip. When three turns were up he would be one of Lake Demon’s own. He would be told what he needed to know.
They marched in a chevron, like the sign on their shields. Dekaneas was in front, his helm moving slowly from side to side watching the hex as they marched out of the narrow canyon they had landed in. He had Echo and Defteros next to each other behind him, and then behind each of them, and farther apart, Outis marched next to Aristera, each of them with their shields on the outside to guard against danger.
As they marched, Outis thought about what the king had said about foraging, that they would need to find food or depop. He saw a likely-looking plant with frilly leaves, so Outis grabbed a few of them and started chewing. I’ll call this stuff Paltry. It tastes good, but it doesn’t do much for my upkeep. Aristera looked over and asked him what he was doing.
“The king said we’d have to forage to survive, so I’m foraging. It tastes good, but it doesn’t help much. I call it Paltry.”
Dekaneas signaled for a halt. “Show me.” So, Outis pointed over to another Paltry bush. Dekaneas tried some and then said, “Strip it, we eat marching.” It didn’t have the force of an order, but it made sense, so they all took some. The problem appeared when they were done stripping the bush and realized they didn’t have anything to carry with. So, they just stood and ate there before marching on. It was better than one handful, but it still wasn’t enough forage.
They continued the march, and about noon they made it out of the ravine hex they were in and as soon as they crossed the hex line the dry, dusty rock turned to verdant forest. The tree trunks were tall and green with rough, brown leaves sheltering them from the sun high in the sky. Golden yellow Brew Jays with white heads and black and white Oreo birds flapped around and sung in the branches.
Dekaneas called for a stop, seeing the opportunity for forage and they tried to hit them with rocks, but no-one had any luck. Outis even had a critical fumble—he missed the bird, the branch it was on, the tree the branch was from, and even the ground. The rock just sat there floating an inch off the ground. When he went up to poke it, it flew off away from him and finally hit the ground. No-one tried again after that.
They headed on, and after they had crossed about half the hex, they heard voices baying from off to their left, “Beware! Look out! Caution! Caution! Take care! Look out!”
They turned to face it and from out of the bushes three wolves slammed into their shields, shouting warnings as they came. ‘Warewolves—everyone knew them on first sight by instinct—tough, predatory ferals.
“Tighten ranks, spears out!” Dekaneas shouted. They each moved closer to each other and got ready to stab the enemy. First battle, first chance to stab! thought Outis.
They tried to move forward as one, but they all moved separately. It was clear there was something missing from their attempts to act together. Finally, in frustration, Dekaneas threw his spear at one of the ‘warewolves, then drew his sword and slashed at another. It was over for him in moments. Both ‘warewolves dodged his attacks and then all three jumped on him as one. With one ripping at his legs, another tearing at his throat and the third going for his sword arm he was croaked in the time it takes to tell it.
“Everyone, stay together,” Outis yelled, “Dekaneas croaked because he got impatient. Advance together and protect the unit to your side!” With a more explicit set of plans they were able to stay together more effectively as they moved. The three ‘warewolves seeing them coming, stopped tearing at Dekaneas’s corpse and turned to face the stack. They were too slow this time, though. Two sets of spears stabbed out at two separate ‘warewolves, and they croaked without another warning. The third, seeing his packmates croaked tried to circle the Speartip stack and get at them from behind. Seeing the final ‘warewolf turn away from him, Defteros threw his spear at it and drew his sword—to the same effect as Dekaneas.
Echo got a good stab in as it went past her, then Outis got a crit and left his spear in the ‘warewolf. He drew his sword, the crit giving him the speed to make a weak slash at the ‘warewolf. Weak, but just enough to croak it. He suddenly felt the rush of experience as the engagement ended with the last feral croaking.
Defteros went over to retrieve his spear. “What do we do now, Dekaneas is gone, we have nobody to lead us.”
“We have Nobody to lead us,” said Echo, “I will follow him.”
Aristera looked at her for a moment, and then, brightening, at Outis. She dropped her shield and slammed her bracer against her cuirass in salute. “As will I.”
Defteros looked at the three of them and then at Dekaneas. “Nobody would definitely be better than this unit.” He saluted also. “What do we do with the ‘warewolves? And with Dekaneas?”
“We forage the ‘warewolves.” Outis said. “We strip the corpse of anything useful. We do nothing to Dekaneas; he is beyond us now. Defteros, gather wood for a fire; Aristera, strip the corpse; Echo, help me skin and butcher these ‘warewolves.”
“Help you skin and butcher—right.” They all bent to their tasks.
The ‘warewolves tasted horrible, but they did fill everyone up. There was still daylight left and move left when they were done eating, so they continued to the next hex, a plains hex that only took one of their two remaining move. As they crossed the plains they could see Lake Demon off to their right. The hexes that bordered theirs were storm hexes: the wind whipped the waves up into frothy peaks that were immediately hammered down by the slashing rain.
The plains hex they were in gave way to another, so they continued marching, changing their direction to keep the storms of Lake Demon close on their right. They marched on like this until the sun set, and the stars were the only light they saw. They reached the hex edge and Outis called for a halt. “Remember, we have nothing to fear as long as we stand by each other. Think of your first turn’s events as you sleep.” They sat together, back-to-side in a square, and covered each other with their shields as they fell asleep.
The dawn came, and with it a hunger, a need for food. Outis’s move was back up to full though, as were his hits, and his ribs didn’t hurt any more. He looked over and saw that Aristera’s hand had regrown, she went to pick up her shield with it, and then paused and picked up her spear as the others were doing.
“We have nothing to forage here, so we move out.” Outis said. “We will march today with Aristera and I in front and Echo and Defteros in the second rank. Keep your eyes and ears open for forage and enemies.” They looked at each other for a moment and then stacked up behind him and the stack moved out. They crossed the hex border into another forest, and marched on through another peaceful forest. Remembering what had happened to them in the last peaceful forest they were in, the entire stack remained on guard.
Again, they reached the border of another forest, again they lost another two Move, and again they turned to keep Lake Demon on their right. They passed through this forest without event also, and reached another forest hex beyond it. They had ben marching half the day, so Outis called for a rest. The set their spears and shields down and went looking around nearby for forage. Defteros found some wild berries, but although tasty, they weren’t very filling.
“It looks like we have to fight for our forage.” He said, “What comes to hand is pleasant, but not filling, and what we fight for is filling—.” He opened his mouth to say more, and then thought better of it. Defteros had said everything that needed saying, and more.
“Well, let’s stack up and go hunting. Same route though, we are only in this hex because it leads to Mount To-Get-Us and home. We! Are! Speartips!” The rest of them echoed his battle cry and loaded up to march out.
They had only marched across half the hex when a familiar prickle ran through their spines. They were engaged with ferals, but this time the ferals weren’t giving out warning cries as the ‘warewolves had. They looked around wildly, and saw nothing, so Outis formed the stack up in a square, with spears and shields out.
“Look up!” Aristera yelled suddenly, and as they did they saw their enemy. Up in the trees were pink, hairy four-legged animals with white wings on their backs and sharp tusks poking out from underneath their blunt snouts: Ham Hawks.
“Spears up! Keep position! Remember, don’t throw your spears; we’re not ranged units, so it’s a waste of time.” Outis called out. “They engaged, so they’ll come to us.”
“But they’re straight up, with the sun behind them.” Defteros complained.
“Then we fight in the shade.” Aristera snapped, “Now shut up and listen for orders.”
The Ham Hawks grew bored with watching them and flew down off their branches, circling the stack, looking for an opening. “Spears back.” Outis called, “Let them get close. Remember—we’re stabbers—not ranged units. Now hold until I give the signal.”
The ham hawks started swooping down, closer and closer. They could sense their prey behind the metal shields, but couldn’t get at them. Finally, they were coming low enough to scrape the stabbers’ shields with their hooves and tusks. Then, when they were beating at the shields and snorting and squealing in frustration Outis called, “Break!” All four spears struck out as one at separate ham hawks. All four fell to the ground. Three of them were croaked immediately, only Outis’s ham hawk required a second thrust to croak it.
Again, the rush of unknown XP came, and this time it brought with it something else. Outis had levelled.
“You look taller,” Defteros commented.
“Taller and stronger.” Echo said.
“Stronger—and better Signamancy.” Aristera smiled. “What happened?”
Outis looked around at them. Their Numbers were no longer mere Signamancy to him. He could sense each one’s numbers and special. They were the same as his was—or had been. His Numbers were all the same, but his hidden special was now Leadership . He saw that they all had the same (hidden) special that he once had.
“I levelled. It’s dinner time. Aristera, you and Defteros butcher the ham hawks. Echo and I will gather firewood.” All three nodded and set to their work. In short order, they had four ham hawks roasting on spits. They were delicious. And they filled them all up.
“Forage is over. We don’t know how much farther we have to go, or what the terrain will be like. We take advantage of every point of Move. Stack up and march out.” A minute later, the four fires and the piles of bones were the only sign they had been there.
The next hex was also a forest hex—but there was something different about this one.
“Something feels wrong, Defteros said, looking from side to side.
“This hex is contested.” The others knew at an instant what he meant. There were more than just ferals in these woods, there were thinking units. Sided, or barbarian, and they weren’t neutral either.
“Loosen your grips.” Outis said, “Be ready for anything.”
“LOOSEN YOUR GRIPS?” a voice boomed—laughing, out of the woods, “DID YOU HEAR THAT, SHIELD?”
“I did, indeed, Sword. I did indeed.” Came the reply from another part of the woods. Outis signaled a halt and a defensive formation. After a few minutes two stabbers came out of the woods, with equipment identical to their own, but with some pieces missing. Both stabbers had their spears, but one was missing his shield, and the scabbard of the other one hung empty.
“I THINK THEY SHOULD COMPLETELY LOSE THEIR GRIPS.” The one called Sword lost his jovial tone. “I THINK THEY SHOULD SET THEIR EQUIPMENT DOWN AND LEAVE THE HEX. I THINK THEY SHOULD DO THIS BEFORE WE CROAK THEM. WHAT DO YOU THINK, SHIELD?”
“Sounds good to me.” Shield looked at them unpleasantly, “Sword over there, and I are both level three. I can tell that your stack leader is only level two. The rest of you are first level paídes: meat for the agoge. You can croak and give us your weapons and shields or drop them and run—and live—for a while, at least.” He laughed and got into a loose combat stance.
For a moment, no-one spoke. Then Outis tilted his head and looked at him. “You don’t just want our weapons, do you? You need them, don’t you?” Outis asked. “You need a full kit of weapons to get back into the city. And you lost yours.” He snorted. “Or dropped them. You want our weapons? Molon labe. Come and take them. Form UP!” The other three fell in tight behind him, lowered their spears, and raised their shields.
At this the other two stacked up and started circling Outis’s stack, probing with their spears. Outis had the front two of his stack turn one way, and the back two turn the other so they could rotate evenly without anyone having to move too much. After a while, their two enemies showed their lack of discipline and attacked separately.
Shield came in first, his spear bouncing off Outis’s shield, and his own shield turning both spears that came at him. He stepped back as Sword came in range, screaming, and hoping that Shield’s attack had been enough of a distraction. It hadn’t.
Aristera and Echo hadn’t been able to attack Shield, when he moved in, so they were waiting and eager for Sword. He got Echo with a shallow slash of his speartip, but bound up as he was, he was unable to block Aristera’s thrust. It skipped down off hos cuirass and came to rest in his thigh. Hearing the grunt of pain, Outis ordered Defteros to attack wildly to distract Shield while he did the same with Sword.
With the distraction, Echo and Aristera were able to finish off Sword quickly. Shield hesitated, and looked about to flee.
“Wait!” Outis yelled.
“Why, so you can croak me too?” came the bitter response.
“No. You need a sword. There’s one lying right there. Pick it up and stack up with us. We can use you. Speartip can use you. You can go home.” There was a long silence as Shield stared at Sword’s corpse and his sword.
“He was my friend. You croaked him.” Shield looked back and forth between them.
“And now he’s a corpse. What would he do?” Outis ordered the others to keep their spears in ready, but he stood his up.
And then the moment was broken. Shield put his spear in his other hand and moved toward Sword’s corpse. Outis ordered the others to stand down and then, after Shield had picked up the sword, said, “Shield is no longer a good name for you. We all have shields. I call you Oplismeni—armed. Stack up here and let’s move to the hex’s edge.”
The others nodded as he stepped into place and then they all moved out of the glade—continuing their journey.
The sun dawned on a new turn. Again, their injuries and the scratches on their shields were gone. This turn they were going home. This turn they would no longer be barbarians with gray cloaks. This turn they would receive the bright, red cloaks of Speartips. They moved quickly, none of them wanted to stay away any longer.
They set out on the day’s march, and Defteros groaned when they came to the hex edge to find another forest hex. Oplismeni told him that the Speartips would laugh at him for complaining about anything. Accept what the Titans give you and do what you can with what you’ve got. He also told them that this was the last forest hex before home. There was this, two more plains, and then the city.
As they marched, Oplismeni told them what the city looked like from the outside. Speartip, on the shores of Lake Demon was the only city on Erf with no walls. Or rather, Oplismeni added, hitting his shield, these were its walls. Side after side had brought siege equipment to take the city and found it worthless. No one could believe it—they figured it must be a trick, but it wasn’t; the walls of Speartip were bronze and carried by its stabbers.
When Defteros asked how he learned this, Oplismeni explained that he had been living on the shores of the lake with his friend hunting and fighting for many turns. They had run into a few patrols that were kind enough to tell stories about the city to inspire them to come. They had been waylaid more than once themselves during that time, and were just building up a full kit to return to the city. When they met Outis’s stack, Sword and Shield were heading back to the base of Mount To-Get-Us to try to get the last few pieces they needed.
“He was a difficult unit to be friends with, I’m happier here.” Oplismeni finished up, “He was always trying to prove something. You all know you’re Speartips, and that’s enough.”
“That’s enough.” Echo agreed.
As Oplismeni had said, the next hex was a plains hex, it was quick travel and they were able to get through it with no effort. As they reached the center of the hex they saw a road, going in their direction and curving away to the east. With good cheer, they got on the road and felt their move penalty drop further than it had for their entire journey. The road carried them to the southwest, and toward home.
As they entered the next hex they could see the gleaming tower of Speartip on Mount To-Get-Us in the next one, and as Oplismeni had said, the city was completely without walls. They could also see the enemy army in the hex with them, besieging the city.
“FORM UP!” Outis’s stack moved from the loose chevron they had been marching in to a tight combat position as one. The enemy was still too far away for them to be seen, but there was no point in being sloppy. They looked down at the army below them, they had come ready for Speartip. There were no siege weapons among them.
The enemy colors were black and yellow stripes. “I’ve heard of them,” Oplismeni said, “The Bees. They’ve been fighting us for so long that they know how we fight. We attack them, raze their towns, and then leave them to rebuild so we can raze them again. I never heard any stories of them being bold enough to attack us though.”
“First time for everything.” Defteros replied. “The real question: what do we do? We’re not Speartips yet. We won’t get any bonuses from them.”
“What does it matter?” Aristera asked, “We were popped Speartips, we’ve got to do something.”
“They don’t need us, look at their army.”
“Our army.” Outis broke in. “We are Speartips. That is our army down there. We can’t stand up here and watch while they fight.”
“I don’t want to croak when I’m this close to the city.” Oplismeni said.
“Neither do I. I want to stab.”
“I want to stab.” Echo agreed. “I want to croak them.”
Outis turned back to the stack behind him. “I’m not going down there with anyone who doesn’t want to go. Sure, we’re barbarians, but we were popped as more and we can be more. If you don’t want to come with, there’s the hex boundary right there. I won’t say anything, you can just say that you didn’t make it in time for the battle. No one will know. Except you.” He turned back around. “Now, who’s with me?” Outis could tell that he was still part of a stack of five.
“Good. Let’s get closer, so we can see what we can do, rather than getting croaked uselessly like Dekaneas.” The stack moved forward as one.
When they got closer to the enemy, they could make out individual units rather than a black and yellow mass. The Bees had placed their stabbers in the front and the archers in the rear. Off to the right was a small contingent of mounted troops: stabbers with lances on giant bees. Off to the left were heavies, twolls with spiked maces painted up to look like bees.
“We’ll have to wait until the Heavies and Mounted are committed.” Defteros said. “They can move too fast and stop us before we do anything.”
“We can’t reach their leadership,” Oplismeni observed, “They’re buried too deep. All we can do is attack the archers and try to throw them off their game.”
“Stabbing a bunch or archers pointed in the wrong direction? It almost doesn’t seem fair.” Aristera said.
“It’s fair.” Outis replied. “It’s what they get for not keeping a rearguard. We all know what we’re going to do, our colors should keep the Speartips from stabbing us by accident, but if it doesn’t… Well, we’re bound for the City of Heroes or the City of Speartip—whichever comes first.” They moved down the shallow slope at a walk, spears at the ready.
There is a saying that no plan survives contact with the enemy. This day was proving it false and proving it true at the same time. The Speartips came out in their massive bronze wall formation and started pushing the Bees backwards, just as they always had before. The Bees, undeterred, struck out to each side, with their Heavies and their mounted units while the archers were raining death down on the center. In each case, it did not have the expected effect. The Bees did not break and run after being pushed far enough back, and the wings of the Speartip army were holding against the flanking units. The battle was in a perfect balance.
When Outis’s stack hit, it was like a drop of water in a lake, barely moving the Bees’ massed archers—but like a drop of water in a lake they created ripples. Archers stopped firing to turn and see what new force had hit them from behind. Outis’s stack was so small that no-one could see it, and instead of firing on the massed Speartip army the Bees’ archers kept looking. And looking. And then the Chief Warlord turned to see what was distracting the archers. And then he lost focus on the battle.
The Heavies had not been doing all that well against the Speartip army. While they weren’t being pushed back like the stabbers were, they weren’t moving forward, even as slowly as the mounted units were. Then the pile of dead grew great enough that for an instant they couldn’t attack. But the Speartips, with their long spears, could. If the Chief warlord had been looking, he could have called up other stabbers to help the heavies.
The pile of enemy heavies doubled in the time it takes to tell, and the twolls, never the brightest of units, panicked and ran, trampling the archers behind them. And that was the beginning of the end. In short order, the disciplined right flank of the Speartips turned and crashed into the main line of the Bees’ army, slaughtering it. This slaughter spread, as Speartip stabbers, one by one, with nothing left to croak on the right, turned to the left. The only thing that kept Outis’s stack from being overrun was the dark chevrons on their bronze shields. The Speartip army poured in ranks around them, charging after the fleeing Bees.
“You’re pointed in the wrong direction.” Outis looked over the top of his shield to see the prince of Speartip looking down at him from his mount.
“No, highness, you told me to circle Lake Demon and return to the city. This army was in the way, so we had to clear it out first.”
The prince laughed at this. “Well, I can’t say I like the color of your cloaks. That shade of gray doesn’t look very good.”
“I agree, highness.”
He leaned forward over his mount’s head, “Would you like to change it?”
“Welcome home. Welcome home.” And Outis’s cloak and every member of his stack’s changed to a deep, crimson red. They were home. They were Speartips.