Vol.1, Ch.3, P.5


 
 
 

Soot-Steeped Knight

煤 ま み れ の 騎 士

 
 
 

Volume I
Chapter 3 – Part 5

 
 
 

Written By
Yoshihiko Mihama

Translated By
Vagrant

 
 
 

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From ahigh, a hill overlooked both the Des Ailes Greatbridge and the fourfold points of deployment leading into the Erbelde’s waters. Upon that perch were Mareschal Tallien and his Owlcranes gathered, looking on as far below, Mareschal Tiselius herself took position upon the embattled bridge. Such was necessary to fully dictate the battle there, but alone she was not, for her own Owlcranes stood ready by her side.

Amongst them could be seen Lindell, a sight not lost to Emilie. Her eyes cut a gashing glance at his distant form before swiftly turning away. It would seem she cleared the hurdle, one of putting her emotions aside for the battle at hand.

Below our overlook at the riverbanks, the columns of forders were already assembled at their respective starting positions. Four points, four columns: one composed of the 1st Order, the remaining three of our own, the 5th.

Our boats were finite. They could not rightly avail the whole of our fording efforts. But by going afoot instead, we could commit to the operation an unrestricted number of forders. From their starting positions, it would take nearly seventy passūs of river wading to reach the enemy banks.

Such unassisted toil is not a strange occurrence for folk who live in bridgeless lands, so long as the rivers themselves are calm. There are labourers, too, who earn their living like so. Without boats, they brave the waters whilst carrying passengers upon either their shoulders, or wooden boards as a makeshift litter.

The Erbelde seemed at present just the kind of river for such folk: its currents were calmed, and at their deepest, the waters reached no higher than the hips. Fording it would be a simple chore.

But this was no pastoral scene—it was a battlefield.

Our foes were fain to commit every arrow and every spell available to them to stop our charge. The forders, for their part, had palings and greatshields to defend with, while upon the bridge, the 1st would commence a constant offensive to draw in the foe’s aggression, pulling it away from our vulnerable forders as much as possible.

The whole of the operation hinged on this tactic, and upon the shoulders of none other than Mareschal Tiselius was borne the responsibility of its command. But from the vantage of this hill, I discerned not a tinge of ardour upon her expression. Estelle Tiselius: the master of blades and the whisperer of armies—not even a decisive battle like this could dare shade or sallow the hale hue upon her face.

But our own Mareschal Tallien shared not in her mountainous resolve. Though abundantly divorced from the battle upon his high perch, he could do little to free himself from the anxiety now writ boldly upon his visage.

The 5th Order he so commanded had little combat experience to call their own, and now they were to be let loose, to gingerly ford a river so dearly defended by a vehement foe. Of course, that was to say nothing of the 5th’s fatigued condition, or of the fact that some amongst their ranks have never beheld a Nafil before this day.

The forders stood poised to begin crossing the river. The reality of it all began to sink in for some as they silently questioned why they were even there to begin with; after all, they were careerist passers-by, not personages of courage.

Yet it was also true that the 5th stood much to gain from this conflict: to answer the 1st’s call for aid in a month-long battle they could not win alone, and emerge victorious at the end of the day, itself presented no small degree of potential prestige.

Those who thought as much, and those who thought little of it—both ventured their first steps into the river. The battle had begun.

 

 

Mareschal Tiselius’ industry was a marvel to behold. Under her command, the knightly offensive upon the bridge was as an unceasing torrent, shearing off droves of the foe’s numbers in its course. The Nafilim were left to perpetually refill their bridge-stationed ranks, thinning out their efforts to stall our forders below. All was going according to our designs.

The 1st’s mareschal herself commanded the battle from all the way up to the midpoint of the bridge’s span, verging on the fiery edge of the frontlines. This was clearly not the stage upon which a commander should play her part, but Tiselius was a hero unbound by conventional wisdom—this stage was made for her.

Indeed, Tiselius’ performance saw her rushing headlong into the frontlines, fire-ensorcelled sword in hand. With but a blazing swing of her weapon, hellfire flashed forth, blasting a ghastly hole through the enemy ranks.

But it would not remain unfilled for long, for the Nafilim restocked their stations and pulled their fallen back for treatment, all immediate and without a single wasted effort. Our foes were fain to have their fair share of the spotlight, it seemed. Yet even for them, their surgiens were limited in count. And of those precious few who could treat the grievously wounded? None.

As such, the Nafilim’s numbers upon the bridge were unable to sustain themselves, and more were called in from elsewhere to fill the void. All this culminated in the diminishment of aggression upon our forders. Only arrowfire, scarce and scattered, greeted their approach, but with greatshields to deflect the bolts with, the columns of river crossers made slow but steady progress.

Mere iron comprised these hulking shields, yet enough odyl coursed through them from their vanguard wielders to be effective in their purpose. And further bolstered by arrow-repelling palings, not even the foes’ ensorcelled arrows could bear any teeth.

Our forces were faring well. By this point, the tangible progress of the forders found them reaching the midline of the Erbelde’s drifts.

“They might as well hand over us laurels already, why don’t they?” spoke Raakel. “A mite shame we’ve tasted not a lick o’ the action, eh loves?”

“Indeed,” Sheila responded. “The enemy shores are soon be breached, Yoná willing.”

We held the advantage, that much was true, but I could not, with clear conscience, match my mind to the sentiments of those two.

“Looks like we’ve a ribbon to deck our first battle with, right Rolf?” said Emilie with high spirits.

“Ribbons better to tighten our boots with, I’m afraid,” I doubted. “We can’t count our laurels just yet.”

“Oh? Why’s that?” she asked.

“Victory is only certain once the winning cries resound, my Lady.”

“What’s it now? Don’t ye go waggin’ that tongue like ye know what’s up, me good ninny,” Raakel pricked. “A bit smart ye were, sure ‘nough, gettin’ us through that maftin’ march like ye did, but that’s naught to be full o’ yerself with!”

“I merely voiced a generality, Lady Raakel. But what’s more, the 5th’s forders are slow in their pace—moreso than Mareschal Tiselius would like, I fear.”

A closer look at the riverbourne 5th betrayed their ill-endeavoured movements. As I thought, the march’s toil had exacted from them a toll too steep, and that price was neither lost to Tiselius as she both commanded the battle and checked the progress of the forders below.

Sensing this unevenness, orders roared from her lungs to Under-Mareschal Behrmann back at the bridgehead. The old soldier heeded this at once, and after relaying the mareschal’s words down the ranks, the forders of the 1st slackened their wade to match that of the 5th’s.

“…Slow on account of exhaustion, you mean to say?” Tallien’s inquiry dripped with resentment. Choosing the wrong route was a wound to him, and it would seem my words had unwittingly salted that bitter seam.

“There is that, yes. But there are yet many within our ranks whose eyes have never laid upon a Nafil—not till this very moment,” I presented of a different view, for I was not reckless enough to injure our commander’s pride any further. “That their deeds could ever hope to match the 1st’s expectations was never in the cards.”

A deflection, I admit, but one that spoke the truth. Tallien offered only a disinterested scoff in hearing it. Turning to Emilie, I continued on.

“Moreover, for more than a month, the Nafilim host has managed to keep at bay the 1st Order, of all armies. Not once has our foe ceded the bridge, and here they yet hold the line. They are able beyond our liking—I cannot fathom they will yield so easily.”

And as if waiting for my words to finish, a growl of a boom hammered the air. The origin: the bridge. Looking down, another hole had opened through the ranks—those of the 1st, that is. The work of a Lancea Calōris spell. It would seem the Nafilim saw fit to bring their magi to the fore. The timing was conspicuous: they had waited till Tiselius backed off, and with the frontline threat abated, ran the knightly ranks through with a magicked pillar of fire.

The 1st’s forward press was halted. Meanwhile, the Nafilim formations regrouped. Their ranks now optimised, more of their number was reassigned to dealing with our forders, who for their part, had come into range of the enemy’s spellfire—what was pummelling the river crossers now were not arrows, but powerful magicks.

“Ach!” groaned our mareschal as he beheld a forder collapsing into the waters. Solid shards of bloodied ice protruded from that poor soul’s abdomen—the work of a different spell, the Glārea Pruīnae, fired straight through a crack in the column’s protective paling.

That column being one of the 5th’s.

The nearby forders scrambled to get the wounded soldier into a boat, covering it with another paling as it was pulled back to friendly shores. A valiant effort, but with a horrid wound like that, a doomed one.

Elsewhere, another mighty spell, the Flagrum Grandinis, was unleashed upon a fording column, this one, too, belonging to the 5th. A reaching tendril of water snapped across the air, landing a direct hit upon three forders. In the wake, a head was ripped off its neck. Instant death, no doubt.

“That Tiselius! Why does she tarry!? There’s a massacre upon our men! A massacre, damn it all!” came Tallien’s outburst.

But the sheer artistry of Tiselius’ actions was all but lost to his eyes: down upon the bridge, the hero-dame wagered her own life to minimise casualties upon the knightly forces, while in tandem dictating their every movement. The Nafilim by all rights should have held the advantage, being the defenders in this contest, but by Tiselius’ valour alone, such advantage and more were firmly in our hands instead.

Once again, the 1st re-persisted in their push through the bridge. Meanwhile, an engorged gale slammed into the enemy shores, utterly hewing down a trio of Nafilim soldiers to their deaths: Lūstrāns Ventulus, an aeolian magick, woven by one amongst the fording 5th.

“…Felicia!” Emilie cried out with delight. “That was Felicia’s!”

A lieutenant and commander of the 1st Sorcery Brigade. The keenest spear, as it were, of all the forders. My sister, Felicia Buckmann.

From her staff flew forth two more swordwinds, unmitigated and unrestrained by their master’s unsteady foothold, up to her waist in water as she was. Her marks avoided the spell by the skin of their teeth, but the effort was useful enough as suppression. The foes backed off, re-erecting their own palings. With enemy aggression lessened for the time being, the forders continued their advance.

From up high, I could not make out Felicia’s expression, but the determination instilled within her movements was to me as clear as day. Perhaps out of disdain for our Nafilim foes was she so freed from the fear of losing her own life.

“Good going, Felicia!” Emilie cheered. “This tides well for us!”

“Hah. Oi, ungraced. You pretend well the touting pontiff,” Gerd started, shooting a look at me, “but too bad your words were as hollow as your mitre, eh?”

“Was that not your sister, my silly swain?” Sheila observed. “How sweet that a superb sibling as she would assay so, that her beloved brother might know a moment of relief.”

Only, there was none. A flicker of foreboding fell upon me. The scene below. I peered and peered.

Something was amiss.

But what?

“Dearest swain? Have you no words?”

…It can’t be. The fates conspire!

“Lady Emilie! Mareschal!” I yelled with sudden thunder. “Pray pull back our forders! Right away!”

“R-Rolf!? What are you saying?” asked Emilie, startled.

“The river! It rises!”

 
 

──── Notes ────

Ensorcell

(Original name: “Enchant”) The act or state of being enchanted by magicks.

Flagrum Grandinis

(Original name: “Hail Whip”) Water-elemental battle magick. A spell in the form of a long tendril of pressurised water, made to lash through several targets. Rends and dismembers on impact.

Glārea Pruīnae

(Original name: “Frost Gravel”) Ice-elemental battle magick. A spell in the form of shards and/or stumps of ice, directed towards a target at high speeds. Pierces and/or pummels on impact.

Lancea Calōris

(Original name: “Heat Lance”) Fire-elemental battle magick. A spell in the form of a long spire of flames, shot towards a target at high speeds. Pierces and explodes on impact.

Lūstrāns Ventulus

(Original name: “Breeze Glint”) Wind-elemental battle magick. A spell in the form of a shrieking galeburst, directed towards a target at high speeds. Slices and dismembers on impact.

 

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3 Comments

  1. Thanks for the chapter.

  2. There are a lot of well translated and written novels on this site. But, I have to say, THIS is by far the best one by my reckoning.

    Fantastic stuff, thank you Vagrant! Keep up the epic work

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