5 Chapter 5: Captain
"What do you mean we're surrounded?" One of the mercenaries was suspicious.
"They outnumber us by almost double the amount of warriors. The largest group is waiting for us in front of us. I estimate that group to around 30 people and I feel an especially strong presence between them. There are around 15 at each of our flanks and approximately ten are closing our retreat route behind us." Kael stated his observations.
"Why did we spot nothing?" The captain of the mercenary group asked.
"I spent most of my time for the last year around the pubs of Katakar, so I picked up news about a new bandit group establishing in this area. Because of this I was on the lookout for the whole time and I spotted traces of movement a while ago already, but I could only confirm it after we were encircled already. There's not much time left, so get in formation." Kael explained.
Some of the mercenaries got restless and questioned, but the captain gave down the formation order after a quick observation. "There are really traces of movement. Get ready for battle, move the carriages towards the center forming a circle around the civilians. Archers use the carriages as cover and provide backup fire, melee fighters form a two row circle outside. The outside ring raise up their shields, lancers support from the inside."
A formation was formed within barely half a minute. Kael moved towards the roadside jumped on a tree branch observing something and retreated back towards the carriages by the time the formation was fully formed.
"Johann, get into the carriage and tell your mistress to stay inside and hide until they get my confirmation that it's safe." He gave an order to Johann and turned towards the archers and conversing with a few of them.
Right at that moment there sounds of movement to be heard.
A group of ragged people started surrounding the formation blatantly. Kael's estimations turned out to be pretty accurate, with the largest density of bandits in front, summing up to thirty two bandits armed with rusty short-swords and round wooden shields. The back was blocked by a row of eleven warriors in thick plate armor with large shields, almost as big as humans, in their hands, blocking the whole path. The only groups missing were the sides. They probably waited for their chance to provide backup and cut down anyone who tried to flee through the forest.
"Hoooh. Seems like you got someone with keen senses in your group. I didn't think you would notice our trap." A large man stepped forward from the group upfront. He was the only one wearing equipment that wasn't completely tattered. Especially the large broadsword on his back. The flat side reflected the sunlight as if it was just recently cleaned, no specks of rust to be seen, the blade looked freshly sharpened.
"Well. It's not like it really matters. You're outnumbered two to one and your path of retreat has been cut off. From my standpoint you have two options." The man smiled ferociously. "First option. Surrender, hand out all of your cargo, leave behind the women and retreat. Second option, fight back and watch how we plunder your cargo and kidnap your women. What will you choose?"
The mercenary captain didn't flinch. "If you want the cargo or the women you'll need to step over our dead bodies first."
"Ptoo. You heard him, men. Charge." The burly bandit leader smiled and spat on the ground. The bandits started their charge with thundering roars.
Their charge had no tactics and no formation. They charged at the shield wall with sheer brutality. Their short-swords cut down towards the well-maintained shields of the mercenaries, their own shields blocking the pierce attacks of the lances in the back.
"Archers!" The mercenary captain ordered and a rain of arrows rained down onto the bandits. A few slow ones who failed to raise up their shields or avoid the arrows fell down instantly, twitching a few times before their death. The typical smell of blood, steel, urine, and feces spread over the battleground.
The bandit chief saw that the situation turned against their favor and clashed his great-sword towards the shield wall himself. His one and a half meter long sword cleaved two shield-bearers altogether with their shields into two.
"Leave the bandit leader to me. Close up the gap and protect the civilians." Kael noticed what was happening and moved towards the bandit chief to engage him.
The bandit noticed Kael and upon seeing that his counterpart was unarmed he started laughing uproariously. "Haha... You are either overestimating yourself or underestimating me by leaps and bounds to engage me, unarmed kid. You'll pay for this foolishness with your life."
He charged at Kael and swung his great-sword straight down at his head.
"Don't waver in bliss, don't waver in misery, an unwavering mind protecting an unwavering heart, oh steadfast soul, oh steadfast body, dharma enchantment." Kael started reciting and his index fingers started glowing. He drew a sign onto his arm protectors and they started emitting a multicolored light glow. He raised his arm and blocked the incoming great-sword with his left arm.
The bandit smiled as he imagined the picture of his great-sword ripping right through Kael cleaving him in two pieces. But as the great-sword smashed right onto the arm protector his facial expression fell. Unlike his imagination the great-sword didn't slice through Kael and only pushed him two steps to the side. The bandit chief tried to retreat instantly, but before he could move out of range he felt an impact on his chest. He was thrown a few meters backwards and only stopped the backwards movement by inserting his great-sword into the ground.
"You... Seems like I underestimated you guys. My scouts told me that the highest ranked mercenaries among this group would only be Lieutenants so I didn't expect I'd meet a captain ranked warrior here. The ability to use magical techniques requires the usage of qi, which is only available to those above the captain rank. This was outside of my calculations. But..." The bandit chief wiped off the blood flowing down his chin from his mouth and spoke. Then a smile crept onto his face and he glared at Kael, "sadly for you I'm also at captain rank."
Right after the bandit spoke a few chants and his arms started to bulge. And he charged at Kael again. He threw his great-sword at Kael again, with twice as much speed and power.
"Don't fear harm, don't anticipate wealth, a calm mind protecting a calm heart, oh serene soul, oh serene mind, dharma charm." Kael started chanting again and his movements started to change. His speed rose and he jumped, he kicked down onto the spot where the bandits hand held onto the great-sword. Then he kicked towards the bandits face with his kneecap forcing the wielder to loose his grasp on his sword. The great-sword fell into the mud and the bandit was fell backwards onto the ground.
He rose again instantly and quickly retreated backward. He was holding his nose suppressing a bleed. It seems the knee strike struck right onto the bandit's nose.
"An idiot with captain rank fighting power is still an idiot." Kael smirked satirically at the man.