Chapter 9 Battle Of Goum
The team left for Vaneeratrum some time ago, and the monastery once again settled down in tranquillity. Master Yuerloz returned to his private enclosure and conducted his meditation, saying his prayers with hope for peace. The old sage believed that in any ways their God, the Farum would protect them and allow good to triumph over evil. The Farum would surely guide them through this hardship now.
Master Yuerloz could have been sitting reserved all day in this absolute stillness, yet incidentally, he was again disturbed. The old hinges of the chamber doors creaked noisily as an unidentified visitor pushed his way in. Though he did not see the person’s face in the gloom, but in mind he knew who it was.
Karl entered the room, paced warily across and settled beside the friar, without a sound.
“I knew you’re coming all along. You’ve a lot of problems in heart, Shjrous Karl,” Yuerloz uttered, still in meditation.
“You don’t know my problems, Master Yuerloz. It’s far too complex for you to know what I’ve been through. No one understands me.”
“Since I’m not that knowledgeable, then it’s pointless that you seek me for advice.”
“I…” Karl stopped short at his words, realising a few blunders in his speech. “I’m sorry I said that, Master Yuerloz. Please, tell me what I must do.”
“Tell me more, then.”
“Sometimes, I have this wish that I was never born to this world. The world hates me, bringing me to this existence where no one accepts you in the society. I feel lonely living in my own shadow, lonelier to be living in someone else’s shadow.”
“Have you not friends, Shjrous Karl? Aren’t them your friends?”
“No, they never liked me. They will hate me even more if they find out who I am.”
“It’s not difficult to foster friendship, Shjrous Karl. All it takes is to earn their trust, and make sacrifices. Regardless of who you are, if the intention is sincere, they will certainly accept you.”
“It’s not that easy, Master Yuerloz. I tried to be a better person. I fight for peace and justice just as much as everyone does, but nothing turns out the way I want it. Am I being too adamant in changing my life? Or I really don’t belong here. I’m destined to become evil, if that’s what’s written in my birthright.”
“No, my poor child. No one is predestined to become good or evil. There’s always a choice, but many sway from them. Good men do succumb to the temptation of evil, and criminals do turn over a new leaf. It’s only you who can control your life and future, not others. You decide who you want to be.”
There were tears of touched emotions, and Karl said, “ I can’t think of how to thank you, Master Yuerloz. Even though we just met, but it seems that you knew me since I was born. Perhaps you’re right, Master Yuerloz, I should continue my fight for peace and justice. But, what should I do?”
“Go now, Shjrous Karl, and join your friends in the salvation,” said Yuerloz, and spoke no more.
“Is that all what we’ve got, officer?”
Keith read through the statistics and reports of Callec’s Imperial army. There were prominent weaknesses of the Grodon’s forces: although the air strike defences of Vaneeratrum were strong, there were only about two hundred thousand trained personnel, and a few thousand ragtag warriors recruited just recently. And the air forces were too puny to even make an effective barrage.
“How many ships exactly have we in orbit?” Keith asked with a strained voice.
“Existing, there’re only fifty two left. The Arzankans shot down many, but we’re still resilient,” the Captain explained.
“How come our aerial forces fair so badly?”
“We Grodons never expect to go to war, not to say upgrade our shipyard. We uphold peace, many colonies knew that. But in times like this, we’ve no choice but to defend ourselves. Still, it’s a wonder why the Arzankans would attack us. We’ve nothing here for them.”
“You don’t, but you’ve something here that can kill them. It’s obvious – they want to control the Erulium mines before more of these poison get into enemy hands.”
“It’s certain that we’re fighting a losing war, sir. Yet anything happens, our nation must persevere. We’ll only die as heroes, not surrender.”
“Not necessarily, officer,” said Keith, looking at the city plans and the map of Callec, “you’ll all live as heroes. This war’s not lost until the last man standing. The Arzankans may be mighty and ruthless, but they don’t have brains. We’ll subdue them with strategy.”
Keith pored over the map and geographical status of the battleground. A broad grin came over his face, smiling as he contrived, “officer, tell all of your pilots to make way for the enemies. If we cannot beat them in space, then we’ll tackle them on ground.”
“But sir, this will be exposing ourselves more to their fleets!”
“Not to worry, officer. I’ve set the perfect trap for them, if they really do rush their way in to the city. Just man all the turrets at strategic and shoot them down. Lure all of them to the barrens of Goum, and then set off the firebombs. This will take care of them, and we’ll charge at the remaining. I ensure the deliverance of your victories in no time.”
Keith and his teammates and the rest of the Grodon soldiers hid behind the trenches they dug earlier ago. On higher grounds of Goum, the gun turrets were camouflaged with the rocks, waiting for orders. It was quiet, but too soon for repose when the battleships suddenly emerged to sight. Five fleets, they could count, approaching nearer every second passed. The tension rose.
“They’ve not shown firepower yet,” mentioned Sarah, loading her rifle with ammunition, preparing for any sudden attacks.
“The Arzankans are a brutish tribe,” said Zurho, watching as the spacecrafts came nearer, “they don’t have a penchant for technology or weapons; they only want to kill with their own claws, and feel blood draining from their talons.”
“But they don’t know either what we have lying here waiting for them,” Keith snapped, “They think they’re invincible, but now we’ve a remedy for that.”
The ships soon touched ground, and Arzankan troops marched out from their vessels. Long flights seemed like an imprisonment to them, and in the open their eyes burnt red in blood, their fangs gnashed like sharpened knives. They appeared fierce enough, yet something kept them from aggression. They only managed a stir, and lumbered slowly forwards crossing the garrison.
“We still stand a chance to win,” Keith explained briefly, “the air here is very thin, and Arzankans are heavy breathers. The lack of oxygen will stifle their movements, and we have an advantage by our side.”
The Captain flared the signal, high up to the sky. Immediately, the front line began firing at the enemy troops, drawing their attention. Aggravated, the Arzankans bellowed unearthly howls, and stormed their way to their assailants. All five fleets conjoined and rushed in, their numbers were extremely immense.
The soldiers retreated with haste and fear seeing the massive onrushing stampede that scared them off their jitters. The ground trembled like a six-degree earthquake. As soon as the horde entered the valley, the turrets started firing rounds from the autopods ceaselessly, but no matter how many they shot down, the advancing multitude remained huge and unstoppable.
“Do not dread, my warriors,” shouted the Captain, “in this war shall we stick together and stand our ground till we fall. Crush those savages and protect our divine lands from the invasion of the foul. We must all prevail.”
The Arzankans were approaching the final garrison. At once, Keith ordered the detonation of the firebombs planted on the enemies’ path. The explosion, simultaneously, was tremendous, and very effectual. As the flame ignited, it spread all over to the charging wave, conflagrating the enemies, scorching them with heat. Many were charred, but still, many survived. And the blaze had provoked even more and empowered them with ferocity, becoming even more evil and fiendish than before.
“It’s time,” said Keith.
In his hand held the sword, the infamous Kashykan once wielded by a legendary intergalactic hero. Too absurd it was to even link a total stranger and his relic to himself, but somehow he had the closest relation to both the man and the sabre. The sword that surpassed too many bitter conflicts, and claimed too many lives. And it was dubbed the Ultimate Weapon of Destruction, which was too grave a name to bear.
“Listen, my good men,” cried the Captain, raising his black Nazrec high, “for the sake of our sacred world, for the sake of entire Generon’s future, we all must fight to the end. Show them no mercy, because they will be merciless to us. Now my warriors, strike, and let them come to the point of no return!”
A battle cry shouted, and the troops charged unto their enemies. The front line halted their retreat, and turned back to fire at the Arzankans. The soldiers behind armed themselves with swords, and rushed into a melee with the opponents. The team also joined in the skirmish, fighting bravely side by side.
Keith clutched the sword tightly in both hands. It was heavier than he thought – to swing it and slash his opponents – it required great strength and swiftness. Nonetheless, he managed to cut down a dozen more of the beasts, before more of them closed in, having him surrounded.
Keith observed his enemies, waiting for their move. In this frenzy, when everyone was engaged in combat, he was on his own. In his mind he recalled the many wars he fought against the Arzankans, and many of his comrades fell to their slaughters. The past memories tantalised him, building his rage. And then, with a chaotic scream, he swung the sword madly, hacking violently at his assailants.
He was furious, he was fast. He spun the blade around him like a glaive, killing them with one blow. His livid eyes searched for more, and his arm drove the sword to any Arzankan he could find. He slashed incessantly at his enemies, even though they were already dead on the floor, he would not stop chopping their corpse and mutilating them into shreds. He had gone insane.
Gard had already cautioned about this, but failed to realise the fact that his anger had devoured him, turning him into one of them. He had forgotten who he was, and what he was doing. His mind was clouded with wrath, and slowly, he had been thinking like the Arzankans. The urge to kill more.
The battle was almost over. The Arzankans were driven back by Callec’s Imperial forces. However, Keith was still going berserk, hacking away anything he saw, unable to control himself. Gradually, a horrible transformation took place: his muscles grew rapidly, bursting through his clothing; his teeth suddenly grew sharper, protruding from his mouth; he dropped the sword, unable to hold it anymore, when his hands became jagged claws. He still appeared human, but his purple skin showed a bad sign.
“What the heck is wrong with you?” yelled Karl, who had been watching Keith rampaging around. With teeth gritting, Keith turned to Karl with annoyance, and trudged groggily towards him. Karl jolted with fright when Keith lashed out his claws, but dodged nimbly. Without even hesitating, Karl knocked his head with the butt of the rifle, fainting him.
Karl heaved heavily after the close shave, standing over Keith who was shaking violently. “Somebody help me out here!” cried Karl.
However, there was no one around, only dead bodies all hideously maimed strewn towards the bleak horizon. The bloody battle downed many, but was never over until all Arzankans were eradicated. Karl saw no choice but to carry his once enemy-turned-teammate back to the city safely. Perhaps it was also a good opportunity for him to patch up sour ties with the team, after some malignity he had caused them.
Keith Gunter was heavier than he thought, and the additional burden of the Kashykan almost wore him down. Eventually, he managed to drag his way to the soldiers’ encampment, and more he called for help. This time there was an answer. Zurho hurried out and went to his aid. He was shocked at the sight of Keith abominable condition.
“What happened here?” Zurho demanded.
“Beats me. He turned wild so suddenly. I had to knock him out.”
“You what?” Zurho thundered. Then, he turned to look at Keith again, and lowered his tone, “never mind, Shjrous Karl. It happened before back there. Well, give him some rest, and he’ll be fine.”
Keith awoke from his unconsciousness with a terrible headache and a blurry vision. While the pain slowly subsided and his vision came back, he found himself lying on bed. A few persons he could recognise were Zurho, Gerard and Karl, and some Grodon officers. However, whatever happened to him, he could not remember.
“You owe your life to Shjrous Karl this time big one,” Zurho said, and told Keith the story.Not too long afterwards, a soldier ran into the camp excitedly, and cried, “report from the battlefield, sirs. We’ve won the war!”