Hektor cheered along with the rest of his regiment, his crossbow raised in one hand and his helm in the other. He shared a relieved grin with Cleon on his right and even gave the corporal a good-natured thump on the arm. Across the river the goblin force was in a full rout. The battle had been on the Basileans’ terms; the fast-flowing waters had denied the foe their advantage in numbers and forced them to present themselves to the crossbows of Philaon’s company. They had been no harder to hit than training-ground targets as they struggled against the current. The few that had made it across had been easily dispatched with sword and spear, and within mere minutes of their charge the attacking force had broken.
Maybe two hundred goblins had been overthrown by the small garrison, fifty men who had been left to hold the ford when the bulk of their army had marched on. It was unlikely that any other fighting force could have fared against such miserable odds, and Hektor’s heart swelled with pride for the training and discipline of his people. There would be tales told of their defence, he knew it. He could almost hear the songs now.
A flicker of doubt crossed his mind as he imagined how the stories would start. It didn’t make sense. There was no way their foe could have expected to cross the river. It would have been clear to see that the way was treacherous and well-defended. Goblins weren’t known for their masterful strategies, certainly, but self-preservation seemed to be their highest priority, and this was a clearly suicidal move.
He was about to voice his concerns to Cleon when a mighty bellow rose up from the treeline not thirty feet from their right flank. The closest unit, Aethon’s Spears, had spread thin to dispatch the few goblins that crossed the water. Now they hurried to close their ranks.
They were nowhere near fast enough.
The bellow could have frozen the blood of the Celestians themselves, but somehow the beasts that followed it were even more terrifying. There were a dozen of them charging from the treeline, their reddish skin daubed with war-paint. The heavy blades in their hands were longer than the tallest man in Hektor’s regiment, and plates of thick armour were strapped to their massive frames. Ogres!
The sergeants called for their men to wheel and face the new threat, but too many had broken ranks to jeer at their routed foe. Aethon’s unit took the charge before they could form a wall, and the results were devastating. The closest men were trampled to the ground before the beasts even slowed to fight.
Hektor lodged his foot in the stirrup of his crossbow and hauled the string back. He slid a bolt home and raised the stock to his shoulder, sighting on a hulking brute that had just sliced Peiros in two.
His aim was spoiled by a thundering roar from behind him, sending his shot wide of the mark. The smell of blackpowder was unmistakable; were they being reinforced? He turned to see that a score of Tiro’s men had dropped to the ground, clutching at ragged wounds and bloodied stumps. A pall of grey smoke shrouded the trees to their left flank, but it did not hide the second group of Ogres. They were hanging back, reloading the immense wide-bore rifles they carried.
Hektor’s hand dropped to his quiver. It was almost empty; the Goblins had seen to that. He glanced in their direction, and was not surprised to see that their rout had been little more than a feint. Now they stood just out of range, waving their spears and shields in blatant mimicry of the Basileans. Their wicked grins were visible despite the distance.
He reloaded as quickly as he could, a prayer on his lips. Tactics and planning had had their chance. Time to see how faith and luck would fare. The Ogres are a brutal new faction for Kings of War, with rules in the upcoming Kings and Legends book. They are now available to advance order from the Mantic webstore today!