The relentless desert sun knew no mercy as Samuel Ford and his soldiers forced themselves across the arid red sands of the Morroak Desert. This place was harsh and unforgiving – like a giant furnace with no ends. The air was hot and dry to the point where it was almost unbreathable and the sun’s glare reached out with thick hands, causing the eyes of the soldiers to ache and burn.
Sam’s horse reigned beneath him and galloped strong while he sorted his men into battle formations. The sun against the sand burned his eyes and the heat tortured him and the men who stood beside him shared a look of despair as the army of djann warriors gathered in the distance. The desert fell silent – only the neighs and whinnies of horses, the whisper of the breeze, and the whistle of the train oncoming from Surra were able to break it. The steaming train had come a long way. The city of Torren was just visible over the dunes in the distance.
Sam watched the train speed along from high on his horse when a younger man in uniform came to him. “Commander, the men are positioned on the right flank. The admiral orders that you advance when ready.”
“Good.” Sam drew his sword and trotted back along the front rank of his men. “Prepare yourselves!” he shouted out, shooting a look to encourage the others. “The djann are a perilous army, but they do not begin to match the might of Taelliwey! Stay sharp! Stay strong! Watch each other’s backs and we will push them deep into the sands from whence they came!” The ranks erupted in a pre-triumphant roar as they raised their weapons to the sky. Sam aimed his sword high at the sun and then forward at the dark ranks of the djann before them. “Advance, men! Cut them down!”
They advanced and the desert shook as the trembling beat of their horses’ hooves bashed upon the sand – at the same time the djann began their advance on horseback. Sam led the approach. He did not feel the chilling confusion of fear and excitement that would normally embrace him before a fight. He meant what he said by the djann being a perilous enemy. They were incredible in desert warfare, the exact battle that was currently being played out. However, in his defence, Sam and his men were trained excessively in djann combat.
As the gap between both sides came to a close the roaring grew louder and the atmosphere more powerful. Sam gripped his sword hard until his knuckles turned white and the unruly mass of dark skinned beasts with searing eyes approached. And then contact was made.
Sam singled out his first kill and the end of his sword became fixed on the djann’s fiery eyes. With a firm strike its head was lopped off and the creature and his horse crashed into the men behind. Sam brushed aside a pike that collectively shielded the enemy lines. In only a few moves he and his men had breached the line, crashing like a ferocious wave against the enemy forces. What followed was a confusing collection of hacking and carnage. It was, in Sam’s eyes, something to be described as devastating. The clamour of the colliding masses filled Sam’s head and his mind raced like the horse beneath him as he tried to stay aware of each of his enemies.
In many ways, Sam was able to think of battle as some terrible game – a game that, for himself as a commander, was one of strategy, however for a mere soldier, it was simply a game of chance. The entire battle was brutal, but Sam was careful not to show any regret or remorse. That is what he had learned in the academy – you do not love them so learn to hate them, it’ll make your job easier.
The battleground had broken up now and riflemen were building walls out of sandbags for cover. The djann split into groups and tried to encase Sam’s men, circling around like sand-sharks from the outside. Sam still fought on the front lines. He was too deep in the carnage. He charged reluctantly on his horse towards an individual cluster of djann.
The sun caught on the rough texture of their blackened skin. Without stopping he drew out his revolver and fired it into the group. It made a loud bang and purple gun smoke was carried off by the wind. The djann at the end of his gun fell back onto the sand and was trembled by horses.
When Sam had emptied his revolver he threw the weapon at the next approaching enemy and then drew his sword. The djann rider flinched slightly after being hit but easily recovered, only to fall victim to the thrust of Sam’s blade. The soldier lashed at another, finely slitting a gash in its chest. At this stage of the fight Sam’s upper arms and torso were soaked in the grey-coloured blood of the djann, and the robust salty smell of it on his skin was overwhelming.
Sam spun around quickly to the sound of a powerful yelp, only to be tackled off of his horse by a very muscly and shirtless opponent. The creature had missed Sam’s body and caught only the fabric of his jacket, but it was still forceful enough to throw Sam down. His jacket was yanked off. Sam crashed into the sand under the weight of the djann and had the breath knocked away from his lungs. His heart dropped. He gasped and winced at the sudden pain in his chest. He was entirely vulnerable, and in his moment of weakness there was only one thought on his mind: Where the hell are my snipers!
It was at that moment, as if his prayers had been answered, that a blue rally of devastating sniper fire carried over the battlefield like a deathly rain. Sam was so shocked that he could hardly move, and he covered his face as a bullet carved its way through the heavy djann on top of him with unrelenting force.
His team had arrived, and just in time too, because his own men were falling weak. Sam lifted his body despite the pain that radiated from his probable broken rib and he glared over the high dunes under the might of the sun. Along the dune was a line of men bearing long rifles. They were his snipers, and they were doing their jobs well. One by one the vile Djann warriors were picked off before they could murder any more of his loyal soldiers. As their blood soaked the red sands it seemed obvious that the djann had lost, but they were persistent. Sam knew that they would never give up so easily.
With a remorseful cry he rose to his feet, clenching his sword in his right hand and his chest with the other. He was partially doubled over in pain, and he knew that he had to get away from the fight. He called to his lieutenant.
“Ryan! You’re in charge,” he commanded. “Wait until reinforcements arrive and then push the djann back into the dessert.”
Ryan could only glance over for a second before he was locked into a duel. “Yes sir!”
The timing was perfect for Sam as a fresh battalion of cavalry soldiers surfaced from behind the dunes and charged upon the retreating djann. A gift from the admiral, Sam smirked. The look of fear in their scarlet blue eyes was painful to Sam for some unknown reason – a repressed feeling of guilt – and as he hobbled with his guards to the safe-zone, he could not keep the word massacre from coming up in his head.ns 126.96.36.199da2