Friday, July 3, 2009


I think this story has the potential to expand into a full length novel. Maybe someday I will get off my butt and write it.

"Prepare to fight!"

The magical colors of the transfer portal streamed past him and Josh had to swallow hard to avoid tasting his breakfast a second time.

The stream of light stopped abruptly and Josh found himself standing in the middle of a full blown battle. He felt the weight of the shield on his left arm, heavier than he had expected. Or was that a side effect of the chain armor he was wearing? There was no time to contemplate as the flow of the battle shifted in his direction.

Josh reached a mailed hand across his body and grasped the hilt of the sword belted at his left hip. He unsheathed the blade with a snap. The metal hummed as he brought it before him, ready to receive the rush of the oncoming horde. He steadied himself and watched as a group of four of the fur clad invaders overwhelmed one of his fellow Defenders, then turned his way.

With a bloodcurdling battle cry they came.

Josh registered the presence of two other Defenders, one on both sides, and then the barbarians were upon them.

His opponent was large, standing at least six and a half feet, with a broad chest and thick corded muscles. The sword he swung was equally large, a two handed monstrosity that descended towards Josh' helmeted head.

Josh brought his shield up and the giant sword struck it hard, sending an unpleasant shock through to his elbow. He gritted his teeth and thrust below his shield. He was rewarded with a grunt as his sword slid easily through furs and into the barbarian's gut.

His opponent growled in pain and brought his sword up for another blow. Josh stepped forward, ramming the blade to the hilt .into the man's stomach, then gave a sharp twist. The barbarian jerked, then seemed to collapse, giant sword falling from stiffened fingers. Josh withdrew the blade and spun, searching for a new opponent.

The Defender to his right wore a white surcoat emblazoned with the Red Star of Eldenrest. He traded blows with his adversary, but seemed to have things under control. The Defender to his left, however, was in dire straights. The remaining two barbarians had flanked the blue shirted man and while the first tied up his sword and shield, the second aimed a wicked axe blow at his back.

Josh rushed forward, sword outstretched, and managed to catch the axe head a glancing blow, throwing it out wide. The invader snarled and turned his attention to Josh. He took the double-bladed axe in both hands and launched a mighty overhead chop.

Josh swung his shield up and out, deflecting the sharp blade. He quickly swung his sword before him in a horizontal cut, more to force the barbarian to contend with the weapon than to actually hit the man. The barbarian leapt back out of harm's way and began to circle warily. Josh noticed that the man in blue had recovered and was now forcing his opponent back. He had only a moment to smile before his own opponent charged.

The axe came around from his left in a wide sweep. Josh ducked the swing and stepped into the invader's charge, driving the ridge of his shield into the man's face. The barbarian rocked backward, stunned. Josh smashed him again, and then again, blood spurting from the man's fractured nose. The barbarian fell backwards, unconscious and Josh quickly finished him.

All around him, barbarians were falling. The field was theirs.

Josh cleaned his sword on the fallen man's clothing, then rose to find his fellow Defenders facing his direction. The knight from Eldenrest wore a determined expression. The blue shirted man stank of pure terror. He raised a bloody sword and pointed behind Josh.

Josh noticed the deep booming for the first time now, the sound of hundreds of drums beating in unison. He turned.

The barbarians had reinforcements.

Goblins, brandishing clubs and spears, stood within the mountain pass. Thousands strong, they awaited the signal to fall upon the meager party of Defenders - now numbering less than a hundred.

The knight of Eldenrest spoke, his voice even. "We must hold them here until Lord Avery arrives or Fiernheld is lost."

Josh nodded grimly. "We will hold. We have to."

The drumming ceased and a single horn blast sounded, echoing through the pass. There was a moment of silence and then the goblins descended upon the Defenders like a black wave of death.

The Defenders formed tight ranks and braved the charge.

Josh was forced back a few steps, but he got his feet under him and shield up. A club glanced off the shield. His sword took the legs out from under the goblin, severing the spindly limbs at the knees. He bashed another goblin in the face then parried a blow from a third.

The Defenders shields made the difference, enabling them to fight from a protected position. The goblins took them away.

Josh saw a large javelin headed his way and threw up his shield arm instinctively. The missile buried itself deeply in the shield, it's sharp head piercing through to the other side, nicking his arm. The pain was negligible, but the weight of the javelin drove his shield arm down. He was forced to drop the shield.

All across the battle field, Josh saw similar results. The goblins were not incredibly accurate, and more often than not, they hit their comrades as opposed to their opponents, but those that did manage to strike a Defender took a shield out of action.

The line surged and threaten to break, right where Josh was standing.

With a roar of defiance, Josh waded forward into the goblin host. His first stroke beheaded the goblin before him, the second took an arm off at the shoulder. Two more steps and another pair of the filthy creatures were down, abdomens slashed through by his blade.

It was not enough. Josh saw the blue clothed Defender fall to his right, a goblin javelin thrower having succeeded at hitting its target. Josh sidestepped a spear and swept his sword up under the goblins chin, even as the knight of Eldenrest took a heavy club blow to the back of the head. He went down under a black swarm and moved no more.

Another goblin fell to Josh' sword. Then he felt the hit.

The club smashed into his side with such force that he lost his breath. Another club smacked his hand and he dropped the sword, his fingers numbing. He fell hard to his knees. There was nothing he could do to stop the spear thrust....

But as his vision deepened to blackness he could see the cavalry arrive.

_ _ _ _ _

Josh took off the visor and blinked. His eyes quickly adjusted to the room's fluorescent lighting. He smiled broadly and put the headpiece down next to the machine, then walked out of the exhibit, heading straight for the back of the line. He had to do this again!

A clap on the back caused him to turn.

"Dude, that was the most awesome game I have ever played. Virtual Reality Rules!"

Josh rubbed his shoulder, but didn't slow his pace as his friend Michael joined him. "I know, it was totally sweet! I was the guy in white with the lion emblem. Which one were you?"

"I had a blue tabard."

Josh laughed. "That was you? I saved your freakin' life! You, like totally owe me."

Michael reddened. "Yeah, well, it was my first time and you've done it before. Is it the same scenario every time?"

"Naw, it's random, but the background setting remains the same. The Kingdom of Fiernheld."

"I wonder how they do it. I thought VR technology like that was still years away."

"Who cares! I'm just glad it's here now."

They reached the back of the line. It stretched quite a ways down the convention room floor. It was going to be a long wait back to the Nanosoft booth and their VR machines.

_ _ _ _ _

Lord Avery surveyed the scene as his army mopped up the remaining goblins. So many enemies dead. Where were the defenders? The small number of Fiernhelden soldiers who lay among the dead were certainly insufficient to have held back such a large invading force.

"You wonder about the location of the rest of the defense force."

Lord Avery turned to see Mortessa approaching him on horseback, her small frame belying the powerful sorcery at her command. He nodded. He had long since ceased asking how Mortessa knew his very thoughts.

"I sent a small illusory force ahead to aid the soldiers here."

"Are you saying an illusion did this? I find that hard to believe."

"I have strong allies in other planes," Mortessa said. "They are willing to lend me life forces for a time. I mold those life forces into forms that suit my needs."

"And what do these allies expect in return?"

"What all Warlords desire," she replied, "Control over their world. I just feed them a few illusions."

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