Hedgeboars (flash fiction)

Merkador’s army stood in battle formation, ready to charge. A few of the soldiers lined up in front felt the armor on their legs jiggle. They glanced down and noticed ripples forming repeatedly in the puddles of day-old rainwater next to their feet. Confused, they looked at each other, wondering what was happening. They tried to brush away the feeling of concern that was growing in each of them, but they couldn’t – in light of what happened next.

Soldiers who were the closest to the forest were the first to hear limbs snapping and to see leaves dispersed like fireworks.

“Hedgeboars!!” yelled one of the soldiers.

The first wave of wild beasts broke loose from the forest and into the open plain. Fear gripped the soldiers’ hearts, and terror filled their eyes. A few stood fast, though, and tried to calm the others around them.

“Steady, men! …Steady! Hold your positions!” came from those men who had strong hearts and loud voices. The words seemed to equalize against the timbers that broke in front of their eyes.

“Ready your weapons!” came from elsewhere in the ranks.

Men up and down the line shifted their bodies and weapons into an attack-and-kill position. The entire army seemed to flex and pivot in cadence under the verbal orders, in light of the impending assault.

Hedgeboars could cause overt devastation within the blink of an eye. They were mean, extremely hungry, and horribly ugly. They weren’t the fastest animals in the forest, but they weren’t terribly slow, either. They seemed to operate on the method of mass momentum. Once they got started, it was hard to slow their moving force. And that’s exactly what their “owners” were counting on: spook them in the woods, drive them out into the open, and watch them run right over everything (and everyone) in their way. Blind fear and seemingly directionless energy pushed them forward to the hedges that lie in the distance.

Hedgeboars, by themselves, were stupid – hence, their force was directionless and awkward. But by putting them together in one big group, their massive force was one to be reckoned with and feared. Even a dumb animal was one to be afraid of, if it was heading right at you – ready to trample – and these were.

Merkador’s chief architect of war was aware the enemy had considered enlisting the hedgeboars’ help through conscription, but he didn’t believe they were actually capable of directing the beasts in a useful fashion. Apparently, he was very wrong. In fact, the exploding treetops were proof that the army from the badlands had indeed figured out a way to herd the hedgeboars together and direct their force as one.

By now, the edge of the forest looked as if giant drops of green rain were falling to the ground. Large chunks of brown limbs and bark also flew through the air for a few seconds, then finally found a resting place on the ground, in other trees, or on top of some of the soldiers. That, coupled with the sound of snapping limbs, caused the right amount of fear in the onlookers to discourage them from wanting to hold their position and line. It was a strategy so well-played by the other side that the Chief Architect wished he had thought of, first.

# # #
This story was adapted from one of Reep’s upcoming books.  For ones currently published, go to www.Amazon.com/author/reep

 

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