Haek dashed along the trench until he reached his commander, jumping over the wounded and dead. "Gonfol! Gonfol!" he shouted.
Gonfol the Berserker turned from watching the main battlefield and jumped down from a large rock to speak with the young lieutenant. "Yes, Haek. What is happening?"
Haek stopped, panting for breath. "Two Tamoran squads, commander. They broke through our rear guard and are swiftly coming at the trench from behind us! What should we do?"
Gonfol paused, thinking. His battle-honed eyes scanned the field ahead, then shifted to observe the troops remaining in the trench. This was not going to be pretty, and Gonfol hated to lose even a single soldier in a battle.
"I know a bad situation when I see one, Lieutenant. Send the message; we're pulling out. Have the troops regroup at base of Zanlf Mountain."
Haek saluted his commander. "Yes, sir. I'll see you there." He dashed off, passing on the message and ordering platoons to carry the wounded.
Gonfol watched after him, his eyes shining like multi-faceted jewels.
Night had fallen. Gonfol rose from his bed, then walked out into the cool night air. He felt dirty; this feeling always plagued him after an unsuccessful battle. Troops had died today under the long reach of the Tamoran pikes: troops that gave their lives for a cause that was lost. It was Gonfol's responsibility as the commander, and he did not take it lightly.
Suddenly, a loud commotion sprang up at the entrance to the camp. He saw soldiers running to him, and some of them were carrying something. It was the body of Haek, the Lieutenant Commander, mangled and nearly dead. The soldiers placed Haek on a pallet of straw and grass, then left at Gonfol's request.
"Sir," croaked Haek. "It was the giant. It blocked the sun with its body and had some kind of weapon that it smashed the others with. I barely escaped while its back was turned to me."
Gonfol looked with sympathy at the young lieutenant. "Rest, my friend. You need to heal, and that takes time. I don't want to lose you, too." He stood up and started to leave.
"Wait," said Haek. Gonfol turned to face him. "We saw enough food up on that mountain to feed our clan for weeks. It's incredible."
Gonfol thought for a second. "That may be true, but the giant makes it too risky."
"Take the whole army, and be prepared to use the aerial assault team. He couldn't possibly kill all of us."
Gonfol saw the wisdom of Haek's thinking. A starving army had no chance at regaining the land lost to the Tamorans.
"I'll think about it," said Gonfol. He shook Haek's hand solemnly. "You'll make a good commander someday, son."
Haek winced, then smiled. "Thanks," he croaked.
Gonfol stood before his massed army. The soldiers looked formidable in their armor; black plates with brown interlacing patterns, weapons at the ready. "I want to warn you soldiers that this mission will be our most deadly one yet. There is a vicious giant that has attacked our scouts on Zanlf Mountain. However, there is also an incredible food supply, witnessed by Lieutenant Commander Haek himself. This food supply can give us the strength we need to recapture the position we lost to the Tamorans yesterday."
He scanned the soldiers, noting the steely look in their eyes.
"If any of you wish to abstain from participating in this battle, I will understand. This was not the kind of thing that you agreed to when you joined. At this time, any soldier who wishes to renege may step forward."
Not a soul stepped forth. Gonfol grinned. "All right, troops! Companies form! For'ard, face! Compan-ee march!!!"
Under the glint of moonlight that seeped between a gap in the mountain range ahead, the entire army of Gonfol the Berserker marched upon Zanlf Mountain.
Nearly the entire night had passed, and relay lines had been formed to transport supplies back to the camp. Gonfol stood watching his army with pride. Suddenly, the sun appeared, glaring brightly upon the entire landscape. Shouts of surprise issued from the army.
Accompanied by a loud hissing sound, a large cloud descended upon the plateau. Soldiers dropped left and right, convulsing and hacking in the noxious fumes. Gonfol's eyes watered and he held his breath as he crawled to safety.
"Aerial assault group, form and attack!" he shouted as loudly as he could.
As a humongous dark shape loomed above them, blotting out the sun, twenty troopers launched into the air, aiming directly at the head of the monster. Gonfol watched, horrified, as the giant beast ducked under the assault, then turned and sprayed the group with more of the poisonous cloud. They all dropped out of the sky, twitching and screaming the entire way down to the land.
Gonfol began to crawl to the edge of the plateau, but was stopped as the cloud was once again turned upon him. Holding his breath and summoning the last of his energy, he inched away from the giant. "Haek," he thought. "I wanted to be at his promotion to commander." Tears flowed freely from Gonfol's clouded eyes.
"Damn!" exclaimed Tim. "That one's still moving!"
Sofia walked in, then began to scream hysterically. "Roaches! There are hundreds of roaches in my kitchen!!!"
Tim rolled his eyes. "Don't worry," he said. "I got them all with Raid." He reached over the stove and pulled a spatula off of its hanger on the wall.
"Well, all of them except that one," said Sofia.
"I know, I know," he said. He swung the spatula with both hands, crushing the repulsive insect. He swept the entire mass of the roaches into the garbage can, then walked out and put it by the curb.Acknowledgments: I would like to thank Matthew Martin and Terry Heller for providing me with some well-thought direction for my first revision of this story. Their insight, along with the responses of the class, helped me to see where the theme was too weak. Thanks!
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