latest in the book

(the battle thus far… more to be added)

The mountains had spawned dark thunderclouds. During the last two days the guard had kept their eyes to the north and the black, ominous shapes gathering among the peaks. They watched as the shapes devoured all sight of the mountains beyond the foothills. They felt the wind change direction, the change in temperature, and watched as the appetite of the storm began to feast on the nearby hills. Soon they too would be engulfed in that storm.

During the trip Nicholas had made his rounds around the formation, a long snaking line of horse riders and in the middle, separated by three horsemen, were the wagons. They were spread out to keep themselves safer from area attacks. A wizard’s fireball was deadly, but absolutely devastating to a closed group. After two days of riding with only light armor on, Nicholas had finally given the order for heavier plate. It was rotten timing that this coincided with the coming storm. Plate mail is terribly uncomfortable to wear and it must be properly cared for, particularly after getting wet. But Nicholas was adamant in his decision. The lava fields would be reached on the next day and this close to the orc camps they must surely have scouts out. Though Nicholas (and many of the men) had never fought orcs before, it was well known their love for deceitful tactics and ambushes. Nicholas had sent scouts in light armor on the fastest horses to serve as scouts. He had applied for some divinatory help from Morogon, but the mage had refused, saying that such trivial arts were beneath him and that he didn’t waste his time in copying or learning such spells. Nicholas secretly believed that the mage simply didn’t know how to work such magic. When he conferred with the captain, the captain likewise said as much but said that it was important for Nicholas to play along with the ego of the mage.

“Mages” he said, “are a shallow and egotistical lot. They generally are the weakest members of your party and feel that to make up for this they must make extravagant claims about their power. They are always in the act of the bluff because they know that most of what they have to stop a good sword are the folds of their robes.” Nicholas laughed at the absurdity of it. It was much different than how true fighters acted. If one is seen to have a weakness, it is brought out into the daylight and worked on until it wasn’t a problem any more. The captain opened up his flask and drank deeply. Nicholas turned his gaze to the mountains of the north, or what would have been the mountains were it not for the oppressive black wall of clouds encroaching upon them. He wondered if it would be wiser to stop and make shelter, or perhaps use the time to possibly slip through orc scouts. He was uncertain. In the hesitancy of the moment and without a task to demand his attention, his thoughts went to his wife back home. He thought of her hair and the fullness of her lips, the sound of her laughter.

The captain had noticed the subtle shift in his corporal and guessed where his thoughts were. Since they left the city he had let the young corporal assume more and more responsibility. The corporal had done marvelously well and between the actions of his post he would ride alongside the captain and ask him questions. At first their talks were strictly question and answer, but it began to develop into a deeper understanding between the two men. The captain felt confident in his choice for the passing down of his rank. He was getting old and in the corporal he saw a noble and virtuous man capable of fulfilling all the tradition and duties of the guard. This man would do great things, the captain felt, and he’s worked hard thus far on this ride. He deserves a little moment to himself to reflect on his wife back home.

The corporal abruptly noticed that the captain had put away his flask. “Isn’t it a bit on the ridiculous side to cater to the ego of the mages so?” he asked.

“Yes, it is entirely from the soldier’s view. But you must remember that not everyone in this world is a soldier and so our manners of doing things do not readily apply to them. You are a soldier, and must be a damn good one, so that others do not have to be.”

“But isn’t it in our interest for order to promote common behavior?”

“In an easy world it would be. Just as it would be infinitely more beneficial if all the trees in the forest were to grow in neat rows. Why, if they did we’d be able to move about the forest as quickly as we do on this road. And indeed we can plant trees in rows. But plants have a way of doing things on their own sometimes and in every spot left unattended a seed will take root. And compared to the minds and hearts of men, plants are infinitely more tamable.”

“Then we are doomed to fail then, chaos it would seem is inherently going to win.” The corporal had not thought on such matters as he did now.

“It would appear as such. But there is one important characteristic between plants, animals, and men… and that is choice. Plants and animals follow their instincts, and men all to often do as well. But we are given the choice not to, to reach for higher. Remember our talk that night in the city when I said that there are more interests in the hearts of man than there are stars in the sky? There are so many choices, most of them conflicting, that it soon becomes a war to see who can achieve theirs. In such contests it soon comes about that the interests aren’t contested, but the manner of determining which is best.”

Nicholas was stumped. He wrestled with the thought but didn’t fully grasp the ideal. Finally he asked the captain, “I don’t follow you on that one sir.”

“Take the tradition in some fighting circles to determine justice by a fight of arms. Two fighters, each with a different opinion of the issue, square off against each other. They circle each other, throwing punches and taking hits, each one believing that somehow the fighter with the best idea will be the winner.”

“It is an appealing notion” Nicholas said.

“It is indeed. We want to feel in control of our fate and nothing exemplifies this more than fighting for your position.”

“I don’t want to sound, er… disloyal in our mission here sir, but how is what we are doing any different?” Nicholas asked.

“I’ll get to that in a moment.” The captain replied, pleased that the corporal didn’t shy away from such a question. “In the duel there are two differing opinions. Yet there is nothing in the beliefs themselves that lend to the determination as to which is more correct. The deciding factor in the victor is who is the best fighter. Tell me, honestly, would you say that all of your strongest men, or fastest with the sword, were likewise the most gifted in intelligence?”

“No. In some cases to be sure, but there are some glaring exceptions.”

“Then the fallacy of the duel fight is easily seen. That is why we’ve established the position of Hilt in our city. As you know the hilt of the sword is supposed to be balanced between the blade and the handle. The Hilt, in the city, is an elder who is to render an impartial judgment on matters. It is his job not to look at strength or wealth as cause for determining right or wrong, but by comparing the positions themselves.”

“I see the wisdom in this Captain. However, it is still unclear as to how our mission is much different than the duel fight.” Nicholas didn’t like the sound of his statement, so he quickly followed up with another. “Believe me, I do not falter in our mission to protect the eastern farmlands from the threat of murdering orcs. For that reason alone I’d gladly go forth to battle the dirty beasts. Yet in our discussion that night in the city there was talk of promoting order over chaos. And in truth I felt that this mission, although to protect the farmers, was partly one to promote order.”

“You are doing well Nicholas. I am very pleased with your questioning thus far and the answer is distinct and important. However, we must end the argument for now for the storm approaches.”

The storm had indeed. It was nearly over the guard. The captain, corporal, and squad leaders gathered hastily and quickly debated their plans. Should they continue on and use the storm as effective cover? Or would they make shelter now and wait out the storm. The captain kept silent and listened to the squad leaders give their ideas, but it was Nicholas’ motivation that he accepted. Nicholas had waited for all of the squad leaders to give their recommendations and listened to them all. But none swayed him and he turned to the captain and said “We are not thieves in the night, our cause is just. Therefore let us not hide our presence but instead move into the lava fields tomorrow with our banners open and trumpets blaring. The orcs will fully know who has come upon them and they will despair.” The captain liked the corporal’s conviction and bravado. He too liked the idea. Using the storm would be tactfully superior it was true, but this was an opportunity to make a lasting impression on the young corporal. Either way the fight would be dangerous, and it might be that the storm caused more damage than good. They didn’t exactly know how many orcs were gathered and the prospect of riding through a storm to challenge an unknown foe with no rest did not suit the captain.

The word was spread to break for camp and the guard gathered in a large circle. In the center was the fire and the wagons were kept in near the center but far enough apart so that a large boulder from a hill giant or a fireball from a mage would not take all of them with one shot. Though far from the city, the order was given to change to light armor. The benefits of the heavy armor would be outweighed by the time in cleaning it the next day.

While the guard was making defensive preparations, the barbarian had left the dwarf in his hastily erected tent. It is commonly known that dwarves have no love for the elements, preferring the stability of the conditions deep in their mountain homes. The barbarian, however, was thrilled at the weather. He was overcome with an almost childish joy and he broke from the protective circle of the camp and ran off on foot into the nearby hills. He laughed loudly and jumped from log to boulder to stream. Not caring one bit if he ran upon an enemy. For deep down in his heart this was the work of his god, Cor, the god of the barbarians to the far north. Bring on the thunder, lightning and the wind… he rejoiced in the ferocity of it all and added his own yells to the great howling wind. His god was coming to give him strength for the battle to come with the hated orcs. He would not fall into some river this time, he would not be separated from delivering his horrible wrath upon those that killed his friends.

Lightning split the air and tree tops swayed violently in all directions. He could hear the crack of tree tops giving under the great strain, themselves sounding like thunderclaps. The louder the storm got, the louder he got, trying to match the storm in intensity. It was the only fitting way to greet any great force in the world. Living in the northern wastelands one had to match strength with strength. The region was dangerous in clime and in its inhabitants. There are no pacifists in the far north.

Not too far from the barbarian was Jera. She saw the storm as a very powerful aspect of nature and one to be respected at that. As such she had sought shelter in a small cave. But seeking shelter did not mean to miss observation of such a manifestation in nature. She sat cross legged near the mouth of the cave and watched. The beauty of the ferocity of wind, the sheer power moving through the air, the flashing of lighting, humbled her. Here was only one face out of the infinite forms of nature. She thought of the beginnings of the storm, the forces that it worked with. How something as soft and easily moved as water and air could be used with such destructive force. It wasn’t the rain or the wind that humbled Jera. It was the force behind them.

Back at the encampment, Nicholas moved from point to point in the perimeter. He wanted to complete his rounds and get back to the captain to end their discussion. His question was still not fully answered. But Nicholas knew that his night would be long and the answer would not come tonight. He would just have to ask the captain early in the morning before they made their final approach to the lava fields and the impending conflict.

Inside of Morogon’s carriage things were not much calmer than outside. Morogon was furious. How could he study his spells in such weather! He needed peace and quiet to focus on his reading, for quiet, and more importantly for the carriage to quit rocking from the wind’s battering. He was positively steaming with impatient fury. It was made all the worse when he glanced at the other side of the carriage to see thief sleeping soundly. “Did he drink himself to sleep?” Morogon asked aloud. “The twit! But I see no bottle. How can he sleep in this storm!!!!” he railed in his thoughts. Yet the thief never woke and his chest rose in the rhythm of one in peaceful slumber. Still, Morogon thought that it was better if the thief was asleep for if he were awake that would be one more thing to get on his nerves on this horrible night.

The captain looked over a map of the area. The mountain range was basically like an L shape on its side, pointing down. Their city lay near the middle of the southern edge near the best farmland. Many rivers came through the area and over time had given many nutrients to the soil. The eastern end of the range, which had the crook in it, had the peak of a volcano on it, though its last eruption was in the distant past. Its rivers of lava emptied out onto the plain and hardened. It made a long and wide finger into the eastern fields, which were more hilly than the rest of the plains. The area as a whole was more wild, often traversed by wandering creatures and bandits moving from the southern range to the central range. Not only was it easier to travel across than moving through the elbow of the mountain range, it also offered food from sacking the sparsely defended farmers of the region. Now it seemed that an orc warband had positioned themselves in the lava fields, between the city and the eastern farmlands. The captain had been able to approximate the location of the war camp from the details of the barbarians story. He sipped from his flask, pondering the best means of approaching the camp. In that terrain it was unlikely that his scouts could get close enough to find out their position without being noticed. He preferred to ride upon their camp without notice, blaring trumpets and causing a panic.

Suddenly there were shouts in the camp. High overhead came arrows alit with fire. It seems that the captain’s decision would not have to be made. The orcs had found them first and had the first strike. The advantage was theirs. The guard were in their light armor due to the rain and had already set up their tents and staked their horses. It was dark and the storm was still raging. The orcs were coming at them possibly from all sides, were familiar with the territory, were of an unknown number and strength, and had the ability to see in total darkness.

It was raining fire into the center of the camp, tents and wagons burst into flame as the guard hurriedly gathered themselves together, hiding behind anything they could from the onslaught of arrows. Nicholas ran to the captain, who was already on his way to the center of the camp. They were to split up into two groups, moving parallel with each other, toward the direction where most of the arrows seemed to be coming from. There they would turn toward each other and converge, killing anything that wasn’t human in their path. Then they’d regroup with another tactic, but first they had to survive that far.

A large rock came crashing into a wagon. Luckily it wasn’t the mages wagon. Unfortunately it was the food wagon. “No time for goodbyes” the captain yelled, and he turned to the guardsmen behind him and gave the order to follow him. Off they ran, into the darkness, arrows falling from the sky, the rain and wind howling in the air. Nicholas didn’t waste any time. He turned to the squad behind him and said “c’mon, we can’t let them have all the fun”.

Morogon had just settled down in his wagon and had learned to bear with the storm somewhat when everything happened. At first he was quite upset. Being a novice to battles he wasn’t quick to catch on that they were being attacked. The thief had awakened at once and was quickly outside in an instant. Morogon, more used to his library at home than in any sort of action, sat dumbfounded for a moment. He heard a loud crash near him and when he looked out of the small window he saw the food wagon flattened by a rock. That jarred him into action and he grabbed two wands from a small chest near the cushions he had been sitting on before running out of the wagon. He stopped instantly, and jumped back into the wagon. The air was filled with arrows of fire and he just watched the last of the guardsmen disappear into the night. The arrows stopped coming, but he was now all alone in the blazing camp.

The barbarian was yelling loudly, spit flying from his mouth, the wind whipping through his hair. He was too far away and the storm was too furious for him to hear the sounds of the attack. Lightning split the sky and he held his axe up high, praising his god and promising more than a few heads in the coming battle. He was eager for blood and wished that he did not have to wait until the morning to satisfy his craving. At that moment a piece of a branch came soaring through the air, carried by the wind, and hit him square in the chest, knocking him down. He cursed loudly, getting up from the rocky ground, but stopped when he looked back in the direction of the camp. He could see fire, much more fire than a simple campfire. Thanking his god for turning him around he leapt up and dashed off toward the camp.

The thief could hear the mage moving about. He wasn’t really asleep, only pretending to be such. It was a form of privacy for him to act such. People generally begin to act as if you aren’t there when you’re asleep. The wind howled outside, rocking the carriage. But he heard excited voices and knew that an attack had started. Instantly he was up and outside of the carriage. A hail of fire rained on them from above and he quickly deduced the camp to be an unsafe area. He seemed to remember a small depression in the land just outside of the camp. What direction was that in now, he thought. He didn’t think long however because a large rock crashed into the food supply wagon, shattering it on impact. He chose a direction which seemed to have the least number of arrows coming from it and ran at full speed. An arrow just missed him and landed on the ground before him. Reflexively he jumped and twisted in the air, landed on his feet and continued to run. He was surprised at his mobility but didn’t pause to pat himself on the back. Guardsmen were running past him, grouping together for their assault. Good, he thought, let them be the targets. He just wanted out of that deadly ring of fire. He crossed into the darkness, instantly feeling safer. The darkness was his environment and once he reached it he stopped and crouched, giving himself time to adjust his eyesight and get his bearings. It would do not good if he ran into whoever was firing these arrows. He saw the guardsmen form two groups and rush out of the opposite side of the camp into the darkness. The arrows stopped firing. Morogon was outside of his carriage now as well. He just stood next to his carriage as if he were afraid to move. Idiot. Now that the arrows had stopped, whoever was firing them on this side of the camp would probably be moving to join the fight. There didn’t seem to be any cover around him at all. The best thing for him was to sit where he was at, just outside the ring of light from the burning camp, in the cover of darkness. If it were the orcs attacking them, perhaps the fire would help shield him from their nightvision.

Nicholas lead the charge into the night. He could see the area where some of the arrows were coming from and that was as good a place to start as any. Shield in his left arm, his sword in the other, he ran forward into the dark. The fire from the camp gave some illumination, but not much. It would almost be like fighting blind. He saw a dark shape before him and an arrow flew by his head. Without stopping he crashed into the dark shape, putting all of his weight into the sword, skewering through the middle of the torso. Turning quickly, he went toward the direction of the captain’s squad and ran into more dark shapes. His sword flashed in the firelight and he added two more bodies to the first one. His squad joined him and the sounds of clanging steel rang through the howling storm. An arrow thudded against his shield and he performed a double spin toward the direction it came, not knowing how far out the bowman was. On the second spin he connected with the lower portion of his sword and his weapons became stuck in the body. The orc screamed in pain, dropping the bow and began to flail with both legs and arms at him. He couldn’t let go of his sword in this darkness, and he was being beaten by the furious poundings of the dying orc. He slammed his shield into the area where his sword was stuck and jumped into his shield. Both he and the wounded orc fell to the ground, the sword cleaving further into the orc, through its spinal cord and chest cavity. He felt the weight fall from the sword, it was free. An arrow grazed his shoulder, another landed with a “thap” into his thigh. But the adrenaline was too high for him to pay much attention to this. Up in a flash and toward the direction of the captain’s squad, sword moving in a deadly arc of fury.

Kell, the barbarian, was delirious with delight. To not only have the opportunity to face his foes once again, but to do so in the presence of his god was too much for him. This was his chance to show his skill and bravery in the fight and earn a warrior’s spot in the afterlife. Tonight there would be no river to carry him away from this fight. This was a test from his god. It was obvious that the branch that hit him, carried by the wind, was the doing of his god to get his attention, to notice the beginning battle. Stoke the hearth fire in the Great Hall, for eternity will be filled with stories of his bravery on this night. His hand tightened around the leather-wrapped handle of his great hammer. It had seen many battles, defeated many foes. But none of those battles were quite like this one. As Kell dashed across the landscape toward the battle, the images before him mixed with tales told by his grandfather around the fire. During those long, freezing winter nights his grandfather told stories of when the mountains were young, of the old gods and their struggle against the evil races of giants and orcs. One of those stories told of the time when the young gods had started to build a great hall. The dark ones, in their jealousy, used magic to bring a long, hard winter onto the region. But the proud gods did not buckle under the hardships and continued to build their hall. Seeing that the gods accepted the bitter cold as an ally the dark ones launched a fierce attack on a bleak blizzard night. Giants hurled the tops of mountains down upon the Great Hall. Denizens of darkness crawled from ripping chasms in the ground. A tidal wave of evil rolled from all sides toward the gods in their hall. But instead of defending the walls, instead of waiting for the force to strike them, the gods turned loose a fury of their own and added lighting to the wind, thunder to the wind, and they exploded out of the Great Hall with all the fury that they possessed. The battle was fierce and raged for decades, leveling the mountains into a flat plain and ripping the young earth into pieces. Kell’s recollection of the stories from his grandfather pushed him into a higher state of frenzy. Blood pumped through his veins, his heart pumped, and his mind retreated into a cave to be replaced by a more primal forced… that of his tribal totem of the dire bear.

Kell raced toward the burning campsite, yelling his war cry. Arrows zipped by him. He was noticed by his enemy but he didn’t slow down. There was no thought, no reason, only an all consuming bloodlust and it demanded to be sated. His keen eyes made out shapes outlined by the fire. The great war hammer came crashing down onto the nearest orc, driving its shoulder into it’s chest cavity. Kell’s other hand grabbed the crumbling orc before it could hit the ground and without breaking stride he threw the body into three more shapes. The three orcs had sighted Kell with their bows and fired, only to have their arrows lodge into the thrown orc before it crashed into the three of them. Kell moved with an almost unnatural speed and awareness. After throwing the crushed orc he leapt backwards and twisted in mid air, bringing his hammer down with a two handed grip onto the head of an orc who mistakenly thought he could rush upon Kell’s back side with a spear. It never knew what hit him. Kell attacked without pause, without seemingly any guiding principle, without mercy. He had run right into the midst of a group of twenty orcs holding the northern side of the camp’s perimeter. But it appeared that twenty would not be enough to slow the berzerking barbarian down and the bodies of his foes began to pile up around his feet and like logs at a bonfire they only fueled the bloodlust.

Kell leaped forward and rolled into a crouch. Arrows hit the ground he had been standing on only a second earlier. The berserk rage he was in gave him not only added strength and speed, but an uncanny awareness as well. With his legs beneath him he recoiled out toward the direction the arrows came from. More arrows zipped through the air around him. He crashed into an orc and both went sprawling onto the ground. A handful of others dropped their bows and drew their crude swords. He smashed his elbow into the jaw of the orc below him, twisting its head and breaking its neck instantly. Kell stood up slowly, a wicked smile on his face, the large warhammer hanging in his poised arm.

“Are you the foe I get for my drinking songs?” Kell yelled, his fury matching the ferocity of the wind. The six orcs had formed a circle around Kell with drawn swords, but none appeared eager to join the pile of bodies the barbarian had created. Kell, however, could not wait. He ran full speed between two orcs, hooking his arms around the necks of both and brought them together in one massive smash. Now outside the circle, he turned about the dodged the thrust of a sword. He smashed the arm with his hammer and the orc dropped in agony. Kell didn’t stop but leapt over the orc toward the next, his swinging hammer smashing the head of the fallen orc as he went. The orcs were like a tiny burm before a wild canyon flash flood. More bodies on the pile.

Kell was not amused. The orcs fell too quickly before him. This would not make a fitting tale around the hearth in the great hall. His powerful muscles bulged as he threw his head up and yelled to the sky, demanding a foe equal to his strength, worthy of his wrath. The wind howled around him and he settled his gaze onto the burning camp before him. One of the wagons was smashed into pieces and most of the tents of the guard had caught fire. Kell’s fury railed with frustration. Where was the enemy?

Suddenly he leapt to the side as a large rock came crashing down. He wasn’t quite fast enough and the rock clipped his right side and sent him flying through the air. Landing in the mud he pounded the ground with his hammer and looked up. The attack only stoked the fires within him hotter. He could make out a huge shape ahead of him. A Hill Giant. Kell grinned savagely and bit the corner of his lip, letting blood trickle into his mouth. This was a fight worthy of his clan. Lightning split the air and struck a nearby tree, exploding into fire. Kell exploded from his position toward the giant before him.

Morogon couldn’t focus, the sounds of clashing steel, howling wind, thunder, and the burning remains of the wagon crushed by the rock. This wasn’t what he signed up for. He was supposed to sit back in the rear, launching spells across the troops at the stupid orcs on the field. Being in an unpredictable situation didn’t suit him at all. The trip had given him too many distractions to effectively study his magic. Bah! To be pinned down by heathen imbeciles. That would not do at all. Fortunately he had some powerful items with him on this trip, not the least of which was the robe he was wearing. To the untrained eye it appeared as a red robe with hardly discernable darker red markings on it. Morogon clutched a wand in each hand and drew the hood around his face. The robes blended in with the pattern of the wagon like a chameleon. He wasn’t invisible, but he certainly wasn’t noticeable.

The storm continued to rage on and the driving rain pelted his hood. The mage wanted to get out of the rain to a better vantage point so that he could unleash his magic upon the attacking horde. There didn’t appear to be any area that was safe, no shelter, no higher ground. He had no levitate spells ready. But he did have a darkvision spell. Yes… that would give him a sizeable advantage indeed. To the right he could hear the greatest sounds of battle. Things were much quieter to the left, though he did hear brief yells of something. The choice was made. He’d go into that direction and begin using his wand, providing a flanking attack for the guard. Strategy wasn’t so difficult a thing to master, Morogon thought. If the captain of the guard wanted to see a difficult subject, he should come look at some of his illusion scrolls sometime.

Out beyond the burning camp, Morogon cast darkvision on himself. Instantly everything changed and he could see the world in terms of black and white. Shadows and light no longer had any effect. He couldn’t see much further than a stone’s throw, but he was close enough to see a hill giant throw a rock toward the barbarian, who dodged it with an uncanny ability. Around the barbarian was a litter of bodies. Morogon was indeed impressed. The barbarian managed to hold his own, alone, outnumbered, and blind. He was even more impressed when the barbarian landed in a crouch, looking like a serpent ready to strike. He knew that the barbarian would charge the hill giant. Barbarians are so predictable. Mighty as the barbarian was, Morogon thought he was far outmatched by the hill giant. Dispensing of this hill giant would deliver a blow to the orc horde. Acting quickly, he leveled the wand toward the hill giant and let loose a streaking lighting bolt just as the barbarian sprung from his crouch toward the giant. Ripping through the air with a blue-white fury it struck the giant in the torso. It staggered a step backward. While the storm around them had lighting in it, the giant had enough presence of mind to know that something was not quite right and it turned to the direction of Morogon. Morogon, however, was well hidden and chuckled at the sport. Studying in a library was rewarding indeed, but launching lightning bolts had a juvenile sort of fun to it. The barbarian closed in on the hill giant and threw his warhammer straight at the head of the giant. It was a mighty blow and its struck its target. The giant turned from Morogon’s direction back to the barbarian below. Great mighty arms came slamming down. Kell was too fast and easily dodged the blows with a roll, grabbing his fallen warhammer as he did. Another blow from the hill giant and the barbarian ran between it’s legs and delivered a blow with all of his strength onto a huge ankle. More from reflexes than pain, the hill giant skipped a step away from the barbarian as graceful as an avalanche. Good enough for Morogon to let loose another lighting bolt from the wand. The bulk of the hill giant was more than ample shielding against the barbarian getting hit.


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