Hildmoor - balloon raiding party

The balloon raiding party consists of seven or eight hot-air balloons, powered by crude steam engines. The balloons are painted dead black, and each bears its own insignia in the form of a demon head painted on the canvas. Suspended from the balloon is a wicker basket, big enough to hold four or five men and their equipment: bows, arrows, rocks, and big vats of liquid fire. Dangling from the basket is the occasional enemy corpse. The balloon raiding party answers to no one, except the highest of authorities * which are never seen on the battlefield. When they come, horns can be heard from afar. Then everyone on the Hildmoor battlefield, friend or foe alike, ceases fighting and looks up at the sky in terror.

On the barren slopes of Raven Hill a score of ragged men that had survived the night was having it's finest hour. Heaps of dead and broken bodies surrounded them. The enemy had been held at bay, and they let out a coarse cheer. But now another charge was called. "Tear them down! Kill them all! Go! Charge! Give no mercy!", the engineer shouted. His supervisors where watching, leering from the skies above. On the hill, the last brave stragglers where frantically putting up new sharpened spikes, jutting them out through gaps in the wall of overturned vehicles and other pieces of rubbish serving as their final line of defense. With the prospect of a certain death, these men (and women) had retrieved a courage and ferocity unprecedented in recent years of war. Pride swelled in Demon's heart. And also sadness.

"Gather round!" he cried. His comrades drew close to each other. They were up to their ankles in greasy black mud, and their faces were ashen and bloody. "Nomad, Rogue, swords to the flank. Now comes our last charge." Raven Hill looked like a hedgehog waiting to be trampled by a mammoth. Archers, now down to a score of twenty, gathered what arrows they had left, sticking them in the ground in front of them, readying their bows. Then Nomad looked up at the sky. Behind the rim of the mountainrange, against a dark foreboding sky, a shape rose up. Followed by another, and yet another. Nomad witnessed these spectres with surprise - only spectres they where not.

The enemy commander had seen the shapes as well. Balloons. The raiding party had come out. "Stand down!" he ordered his men. "Lower your bows. Do not fire." Then the bearded man looked up at the fortified encampment, and almost a pity came over him. They were all doomed now. "Fly, fools," he whispered. He retreated from the battlefield. Mouths gaping, all others looked up. "Not like this..." Nomad whispered. With bursts of fire a balloon hovered itself over the fort; shouts and cries could be heard coming from within. Nomad closed his eyes. "Charge! To ruin!" Demon shouted. Then suddenly, the thing above vomitted a stream of what seemed like liquid fire from hell. The fire poured over the men on the hill and peeled of their skin. They where all screaming, clutching. In a private world of pain, Nomad stumbled out of the barricades, rolling in agony on the muddy ground trying to extinguish his sticky fiery clothing. The sreams were horrendous, and the sight turned the stomach of many a soldier regarding the spectacle. The archers saved their arrows and all waited for the screaming to end, which seemed to last for ever. One of the archers dropped to his knees and vomitted. Most turned away in shame.

Later that day, all that was left on the mountain slope was another blackened stain. The balloon raiding party continued its flight.