On the Ramparts, Wintersday

27 December 2012


25 December 2012.

The situation is desperate and becomes more so by the second.  The two defenders of Greenbriar Tower, Gandara Borderlands, are all that's left of the attack force that broke out of Piken Square's camp with Commander Seigerazer, built catapults and rams under withering Gandaran missile fire and melee pressure, broke through the gates, stormed the tower and defeated the garrison.  A small gesture, yes ... but one the enemy feels in his heart.  Gandara was proving itself a force to be reckoned with, at times seeming invincible.  At this moment, everything in Gandara's Borderlands belongs to Gandara -- save this one tower.  On the map, it appears as a single point of Piken-Square-green, swimming hopelessly in a sea of Gandara-red.  Gandara badly wants that map to be all red again.

How badly?  The Sylvari Ranger peeks over the wall, aims, looses a few arrows -- and jumps backward to safety as a rain of arrows, energy bolts, lava springs and Ventari-knows-what-else ravages the place where he just stood.  He knows better than anyone how badly Gandara wants it -- at least 20 of them directly below him,  hammering or shooting mercilessly at the ever-weakening gate, only stopping to target the ranger when he dares to get close enough to the wall's edge to fire at them.  Then back to hitting the gate with swords, maces, axes, arrows, energy balls -- whatever they have.  No rams, catapults or other siege engines here -- The Ranger and his friends already wrecked those and apparently the Gandarans are out of blueprints and not bothering to get more, so they hack and hammer at the gate with their own weapons.  Pinpricks.  But prick something long enough, and with enough pins, and eventually it breaks.  And this gate is breaking, make no mistake.

But slowly.  So the battle rages on.  The ranger peeks-aims-fires-retreats.  A whine.  His dog.  "Dammit, Ruff!  How many times I have to tell you to stay the hell back when I do that?!"  But even as he says it, he smoothes out the vegetable material that makes up the dog's "fur", puts a patch over a break to keep the sap in.  The dog looks up at him with apologetic puppy eyes.  The Ranger finishes quickly.  "There.  Now stay back!"   He takes a moment to breathe.  Can't blame the pet, you know ... he wants action.  It's what he's trained for.  How frustrating to remain on the rampart, unable to close with the enemy, effectively useless.

The Ranger pats the dog, favors him a quick smile, then looks over at his single ally:  Bessaria, manning the arrow cart.  Bessaria and the ranger are the only two left of the original 10 Piken Square fighters and the arrow cart is the only machine they were able to build in the short time between Piken Square's capture of the tower and Gandara's attack on it.  The tower's supplies are long gone and no new supply is coming -- they never had the numbers to storm the tower and capture a camp and, even if they had, no supply-laden dolyak would make it through that damned horde downstairs.  And no friendly relief, either -- dawn is breaking and that means Piken Square's "night crew" has already retired, exhausted after all-night combat.

The Ranger darts his eyes to the gate.  Hanging on by splinters and wood chips.  He purses his lips together hard.  They'll be through in less than a minute and that's a certainty.  Back to Bessaria and the arrow cart.  The Ranger smirks.  That girl can work a cart, no doubt.  For the last half hour, she's kept up a steady rain of arrows on the Gendarans, playing hell with them as they hit the gate.  Bessaria can't see most of them -- she aims (or better said:  estimates the impact area), fires, reloads, "aims" again, fires again ... and again ... and again ... one smooth, unbroken series of actions.  Effective, too -- the Gandaran's are short several fighters.

The gate again -- 30 seconds left, if that.  The Ranger grits his teeth, fights with his conscience.  Won't leave Bessaria alone, no no!  But fight to the last?  For what purpose?  He recalls the words of his commander:  Keep yourself alive!  That's how you contribute. If you die, downed enemies rally.  Your allies feel compelled to revive you when they ought to be fighting.  But also, don't run while your allies fight!  Not while there is still hope.  Learn the difference and act on it!

Eyes on the door.  Eyes on Bessaria and that smoking-hot arrow cart.  I won't leave her!  But stupid to die here, two against 20.  He opens his mouth and shouts over to the rampart opposite his own.

"It's time to flee, Bessaria!"

Bessaria pauses, looks over at The Ranger, blinks, momentarily interrupts the fluid regularity of aim-fire-reload, looks at the gate, back at The Ranger.

"Just one more tick!" she yells back.

The Ranger checks time -- the next "tick" is seven minutes away.  May as well be seven hours.  He yells back, carefully annunciates, puts the full force of meaning behind as few words as possible...

"We ... did ... all ... we ... could!"

Bessaria purses her lips in frustration ... snarls ... fires one last volley ... throws down the lanyard with a curse ... and then turns, runs along her rampart away from the gate and disappears over the far side.

The Ranger blows out pent-up breath in relief.  Then he turns as well, runs along his rampart, his dog hot on his heels.  He doesn't need to tell the dog to jump -- it follows him over the side without hesitation.  A short prayer ... and the ground beneath them turns to soft mud just as they land.  The Ranger blows his horn, feels the sudden energy kick in and bolts for the water.  Dog and Ranger leap over the bank, splash into the lake and swim for the bottom.  A bit of distance between them and the battle is all it takes to focus on the Asuran waypoint and activate.  A moment later, they're out of harm's way.


Gandara got their wish for an "all-red" Borderlands map, but their joy did not last.  By nightfall, a resurgent Piken Square conquered nearly the entire territory.  Just one small part in the constant ebb and flow of Borderlands combat.  But often, even the humblest gesture, the most unassuming action, sets the stage for grand events...