William Martin slammed into a wall of scales and hard greenish-black flesh.
His drunken consciousness was rudely shaken out of its blissful stupor. He turned on his back. Blearily, he opened his beer-challenged eyes, but Liam found it hard to focus. It was all blurry shapes and flashes of color. The movement around him was too fast for his inebriated senses to catch up. And the noise! A din of growls, hisses, and the clang of metal upon metal. He could barely hear human voices, but the words didn’t make any sense. He closed his eyes again as he slowly merged into to the crumpled mass resulting from his impromptu piling up.
What a maggot thingummyjig.
Suddenly, hands, gauntleted ones, grabbed him and pulled him out of the fallen heap. Liam was quickly dragged away, two figures each on his sides holding his arms, his feet making small furrows on the black ground.
These blokes carrying me to the divvy van? I’m not that legless. Okay, I am pissed as hell. All I need is do a chunder to make it official.
After a few seconds, Liam made it official.
Three months later.
The border between the Void Lands
and the Dual Monarchy of Akkad and Sumer.
The Fortress of Amelatu.
William looked at the three commanders across the map-filled table. Large maps were strewn on the table with the largest one spread out in the middle with small carved tokens arrayed on its surface.
“Are you sure, Girnita Balashi?” he asked.
“Yes, Anu Liam,” came the answer.
“Another new incursion. That makes five in two months?” he asked.
“Correct, Anu Liam. At least we got some reinforcements in addition to the replacement for casualties. Three nim battalions and a battalion of niskum.”
“What kind of creatures are we facing this time, Girnita Enkara?”
“Scouts observing the portal report a form of beastman with some flying creatures. The enemy is still coming in and consolidating. The preliminary estimate is around twenty-five thousand.”
“Well, gentlemen, the usual then. Traps to whittle down their ranks and a solid defense. Add more. If those barbed wires I designed had arrived, deploy them as I instructed. The new archers better build good defensive positions against the flying beasts. Order the skakattims, nugalas, and ubandas to check on the spear, javelin, and arrow supply. Double the javelin issue per man. I doubt if these beastmen will die easily. Girnita Sikkuru, doublecheck our support artillery. Make sure the axehead scorpion artillery I designed has an adequate supply of ammunition. ”
“How about the chariots, Anu Liam? They’ve been disappointed about not being in active fighting for two battles now.”
“Tell them the usual. Our final reserve. Praise their courage and tell them what they want to hear. This is a defensive battle. That’s why we are in these redoubts, not in that fortress. That’s our last recourse. We can do a lot more killing on level ground. The moment we face them in the open, we’re all kimchi.”
“Kimchi?” asked Girnita Enkara.
“It’s a term for a delicious though odorous dish,” replied Liam. Dammit! I still remember losing that Asia-Pacific Competition against that Korean team! That’s the reason why we all got plastered in the outback and the cause why I am here now. And if not for that botch, we would have won!
“If there are no further orders, we better go see to our duties. By your leave, Anu,” said Girnita Balashi.
“Go, and Enlil be with you.”
As the three men left the command tent, Liam sat down. Here I am, using the name of a long-forgotten Sumerian deity, he reflected. In command of a desperate effort to stop beasties and whatever from coming over to human lands. A fucking irony for a gamer who specializes in strategy.
Maggot, legless, pissed – Australian slang for really drunk.
Thingummyjig – Australian slang used when one doesn’t remember what something is called.
Divvy van – Australian slang for the police van.
Chunder – Australian slang. Vomit.
Amelatu – Sumerian. Gatekeeper.
Anu – Sumerian for “heavenly one.” A title used in the story for William by the Sumerians.
Girnita – A variation of the Sumerian military rank “gir.nita,” roughly equivalent to a battalion commander. By Liam’s time, the status already meant one leading a force of three thousand six hundred men. Sumerian military units were based on the sexagesimal system. A battalion would have six hundred men.
Nim and niskum – Sumerian. Nim refers to archers and niskum to royal and therefore elite soldiers.
Skakattim, nugalas, ubanda – Sumerian. Officer ranks. Skakattim is originally pronounced “pa. pa/sha khattim.” The story modified the original spelling to make it simpler.
Botch – A gaming term, meaning an unforced error. Also known as a fumble.