Tythel had exactly two advantages over the imperiplate soldiers. One she was aware of as she charged in: she wasn’t weighed down with a hundred pounds of steel. She immediately she put that advantage to use to start ducking and weaving among them. She didn’t even waste time trying to press an attack. It was seven on one, she couldn’t afford to expend the effort for an assault.
As she ducked ducking an unlight sword that cleaved through a lamppost behind her, Tythel realized her other advantage. If the imperiplate soldiers hit her, death would be instant as opposed to painful and drawn out.
Speed and relatively fragility were not great advantages to rely on. She managed to find enough of a gap in the frantic melee to let out a burst of dragonflame. As before, the armor held against it. She’d need more time to hit them long enough to start doing serious damage to their armor. In the open air, one on one, she might be able to manage it. Seven on one, however, was a whole different problem.
I don’t think I thought this through, Tythel thought, blocking an overhead sword strike with her shield. If the imperiplate allowed the soldiers to move any faster, she would already be dead. As it was, she didn’t quite manage to avoid the axe that came down from behind.
Tythel fought back a scream as the unlight that was aimed for her shoulder caught her on the side of the arm. The axe didn’t sever the limb, but lances of agony raced from from where it broke through dragon scale and into the soft flesh beneath. Before Tythel could recover from the blow, another imperiplate soldier thrust with an unlight sword. The blade cut through the back of her calf. It was shallow – given a few minutes to recover, she’d be fine.
She didn’t have a few minutes.
Tythel found herself falling to the ground. She managed to roll and bring up her shield as an imperiplate soldier with a hammer brought the massive weapon down. The energy of the shield shattered into a thousand specks of unlight, and the soldier raised the hammer again.
Tythel took a deep breath and hit him full in the face with a burst of dragonflame. It sent the man stumbling backwards, giving Tythel a chance roll over and catch herself on one knee. The soldiers started to advance, and she pulled the shield off her arm. With a quick flick, she hurled it like a discus into the face of another soldier. The unlight crystals within the shield detonated upon impact, and that soldier went down.
His armor was smoking, and he wasn’t moving.
“So…” Tythel panted, doing her best to seem confident through the pain and terror. “Is that the best you can do?”
The soldiers seemed unimpressed as they resumed their advance.
I’m not done yet. I’m not going to die like this!
Then, before Tythel’s eyes, one of the soldier’s imperiplate abruptly stopped glowing. It came to a halt and began to slump over. Eupheme stood behind him, holding the unlight crystals that had been in the back of his armor in a heavily gloved hand.
The soldiers were turning to face the new threat when arcwand fire began to lance down from a nearby building. It hit the back of another soldier, and this one’s suit didn’t shut down. It detonated, an explosion beyond what Tythel’s shield managed, and the two soldiers next to him stumbled to the side from the blast. Eupheme vanished into the shadows again. Tythel glanced up to see Armin on a roof. He expelled the spent crystal from the arcwand and slapped a fresh one into the slot.
The imperiplate soldiers were adapting, starting to pick targets. Weapons came back to operation as they switched back to their unlight rifles.
Whatever they were using to target, however, was not built to pick foes out of a high variety of targets. Bats began to fly in and among the imperiplate soldiers, a massive cloud of squeaking, fluttering fur.
Then Haradeth, Ossman, and Duke d’Monchy lead the charge into the imperiplate.
Imperiplate was a terrifying weapon, armor that made a man nigh invulnerable. But nigh invulnerable did not mean perfectly invulnerable, and the prison had held thousands of soldiers. Even with the crude weapons they could drum up and the relatively simple arcwands of the guards, the imperiplate soldiers were going to get overwhelmed.
Tythel felt someone’s hand under her arm, helping her to her feet. She didn’t recognize the man. Some prisoner that had joined in the melee. He looked only a bit older than her. She thanked him, but it was drowned out by a sudden roar.
Of the seven imperiplate soldiers who attacked initially, three were down. The other four were using the unlight in their greaves to take off into the sky. “Run away, you cowards!” someone shouted. Tythel cheered along with the man.
The armory was only another block away. They were going to make it. Tythel bent down to scoop up a shield dropped by one of those shoulds and, limping slightly, began to head with the army.
“That was too easy.”
Tythel turned to the speaker to find out Haradeth had snuck up beside her. “What do you mean, too easy? I almost lost my arm!” Tythel held up the injured appendage for emphasis.
“They retreated too easily,” Haradeth amended. “Four of them could have slaughtered hundreds of us. Why would they run?”
As if in answer, they both saw something streaking through the sky. It landed in the center of the disorganized mob. Men started screaming.
Tythel turned to push back through the crowd, trying to make her way to the source of the danger. “Keep everyone moving!” she shouted at Haradeth. “Everyone!” she pointed to Armin with the last word, the only one of her friends. “We need the armory!”
Haradeth scowled but gave her a curt nod. “Light heal you and Shadow protect,” he said, then whirled to help ride herd on the army.
Tythel began to push against the panicked mass. She hadn’t ordered everyone back because she thought she could handle whatever was sowing chaos in their back ranks. She didn’t think anyone could handle it. After all, in sixteen years of war, no one hand managed to kill one of the creatures she expected to find as soon as she pushed past the last soldier.
There she saw it, standing in the middle of a rapidly expanding ring of corpses. Tythel’s mouth went dry at the sight.
Rephylon had arrived.