What’s that roaring sound? Harou wondered, hearing it despite the tinnitus ringing in his ears. He staggered on his paws and shook his head, trying to clear it and focus. The battle was not going their way. He avoided the swing of an axe aimed at his head and lunged, pulling the attacker’s feet out from under him.
The human made a gurgling sound as Harou’s teeth cut through the soft tissue of his throat. The taste of blood in his mouth helped clear the lycan’s head a bit. He looked around for his unit’s healer. If he died, their whole unit would be wiped out. Harou had to find him!
The roaring in his ears began to fade with the tinnitus, and Harou realized it was the sound of his own blood, combined with the tinnitus to drown out the sounds of battle.
Damn that mage! That was a powerful fireball spell; how strong is he? How did these barbarians get a mage that strong?
Harou leapt on the back of another leather-and-fur-clad man and bore him to the ground. His teeth crunched through the man’s spine just below his skull, and he went still.
As Harou wove through the battlefield, cutting down enemy human soldiers with ease, he took stock of his own injuries. A few minor burns on his left side from when the fireball landed, a brain-rattling bruise on the back of his head, and a few minor cuts. Nothing particularly worrisome now that his focus was returning. The blow to the head was the only thing that could’ve caused problems at this point.
Finally, the red and brown lycan spotted the healer! A black-striated brown lycan with witch blood in his lineage, he was capable of healing wounds with magic as well as mundane medicine. He was responsible for keeping the lycan unit alive this long.
«Solomon!» Harou barked. He sprang forward and grabbed the leg of a half-orc approaching the other lycan from behind, yanking him off balance. The barbarian was larger, heavier and more skilled than his human allies, and managed to catch himself by jamming his spear into the ground. He counter-attacked by kicking back towards Harou, and the lycan jumped away, dodging.
The distraction was enough for Solomon to turn and see Harou and the barbarian, and darted forward to attack with Harou. The four lycans attacked from different directions, and the half-downed half-orc was limited in how he could defend himself with his spear driven into the ground. Harou and Solomon were able to dispatch the enemy, but not before the barbarian drove a crushing blow into Solomon’s ribs.
The black and brown lycan coughed, blood spilling from his jaws.
«Rib pierced a lung,» he informed Harou grimly.
«How do I help?» Harou asked instantly.
«You can’t. If I were treating another with a pierced lung, I’d have to go in surgically first. Magic can close the wound, but it will trap the rib in the lung,» Solomon explained, wheezing.
«That would only stop the bleeding, though!» Harou protested. Solomon nodded weakly.
«I have to. I will die at this rate. If I can stop the bleeding, I can walk you or someone else through fixing it surgically later. If I don’t stop the bleeding, I will bleed out in a few minutes,» he said, his eyes glowing blue as a faint light began to emit from his side, showing where his magic was going.
«Sol… you’re just going to–»
«I know! It doesn’t matter! We have to move!»
Harou nodded and followed Solomon as the two lycans began seeking out the surviving members of their unit. Solomon healed whatever injuries he could while the lycans regrouped.
What’s that roaring? Harou wondered. He shook his head, trying to clear it. Was that his blood in his ears, again? No, it couldn’t be, it sounded different when he moved his head, the sound distorting by direction and distance in a way only real sounds could.
Harou and several other lycans looked towards the sound, ears swiveling to catch it better. It was hard to see over the rolling hills of the borderlands, especially when there were many tall, burly barbarians struggling with their allies furthing blocking line of sight.
The lycans couldn’t stay distracted by the sound for long. The battle didn’t wait for their attention. Enemies wielding swords, axes and spears sought to take advantage of their neglect. Being one of the largest lycans in the unit, Harou was a popular target. None who came for him lived long enough to regret it. He tore enemies down with impunity, seeking the most efficient ways to end their lives. He ripped out throats and crunched through spines at every opportunity.
If he saw any barbarians his allies couldn’t handle, he tore at Achilles’ tendons and hamstrings to cripple them and make them easy pickings. The humans were generally no problem for the lycans. The half-orcs sometimes took teamwork, especially for the smaller lycans, but the real problems were the full-blooded orcs. They were hulking brutes who seemed largely unaffected by pain. Thankfully, injuries that hindered or prevented movement by the severing of muscle and tendon were effective whether they hurt or not.
It was very obvious that the troop of lycans was badly outnumbered. Yet still, they held the line, and decimated the enemies’ ranks. Even so, their numbers were gradually decreasing. Despite Solomon’s healing and Harou’s vigilance about aiding allies in over their heads, wolves were falling. It was also clear that Solomon’s powers were weakening. His own grievous injury slowed him down, made it difficult to breathe, and reduced his capacity for magic.
The thought came to Harou again, that the battle was not going their way.
«Solomon! We need to retreat and regroup with the main army!» Victor, one of the smaller lycans, cried out as he bolted to Harou’s side. Victor’s speed was an asset against these barbarians, but his smaller size made it harder for him to knock down or cripple the non-humans.
«Go, Victor! You’re the fastest, go alert them. We’ll hold them off as long as we can!» Harou told the smaller wolf. The blood-splattered gray and brown wolf dipped his head in acknowledgement and bolted away, weaving between enemy legs.
“Not so fast!” came a voice from, of all places, above the battlefield. All the lycans’ heads snapped up. Harou’s amber eyes widened in fear and surprise at the site of the fireball-casting mage riding astride a dragon-like beast. No dragon would bother itself with a border contested by humanoid nations; such things were beneath their noble attention, and they would never acknowledge human sovereignty in the first place.
This beast was sinuous and serpentine, significantly thicker in the middle, like a snake that had fed recently, with two bird-like legs drawn up against its pale belly. It swooped through the air on enormous, bat-like wings. The pale gray of its underside gave away to a purple so dark it looked almost black. Whenever the light struck the beast’s thick scales, they shone with a sickly green iridescence. That purple-green color, the draconic visage, the jagged teeth and thick talons glistening with venom could only mean one thing.
«POISON DRAKE!» Harou bellowed. The lycans immediately scattered, abandoning formation to escape the gout of poison fumes they expected to billow from the drake’s jagged mouth.
The mage atop the monster’s back cursed as the lycans scattered, making it difficult to engulf several at once. The beast zeroed in on Victor. The hapless lycan scout let out a single, wailing yip as the beast’s venomous bite drove into the back of his neck. He hung limp in the drake’s mouth as the beast ascended, its sickly green eyes surveying the field for the next target.
“Go for their healer!” the mage directed the drake, pointing at Solomon, who was healing a severe cut from an axe on one of the other lycans. The drake casually dropped Victor, and the lycan’s corpse hit the ground with a sickening thud.
«Solomon! Look out!» Harou cried. He bolted towards the healer, racing against the drake. The drake reached the lycan healer first, but Harou jumped and sank his teeth into the beast’s tail. The weight of the lycan falling yanked the beast backwards and forced him down faster than the creature had intended. It hit the ground hard enough to be very briefly stunned, its teeth clacking together scant inches from Solomon’s shoulder.
The beast turned towards Harou, who was still clamped onto its tail. Harou quickly realized he had the proverbial tail of the tiger, and that was a problem. As the drake lunged towards him, curving its body to meet its own tail, Harou released his bite and tried to take the creature by surprise by leaping towards its head instead of away. As a result, the drake missed him as he sailed over the creature’s head. But the drake was no simple animal. It was intelligent, and able to adjust its tactics on the fly. Its sinuous neck arched up, colliding with Harou’s belly and knocking the lycan out of the air.
The barbs along the drake’s spine drove into Harou’s belly, and he gasped in pain. Fortunately, there was no venom on them. Still, bleeding and winded, Harou couldn’t react in time when the drake’s head whipped around towards him again. He rolled away, preventing the monster’s teeth from biting into his back and through his spine. He attempted to push himself away from the drake by kicking against its head, but the drake wasn’t done trying to bite him. Harou howled in agony as the drake’s envenomed teeth crunched into his left hind leg.