The most WIP WIP ever.
The Torgud tribe: This desert tribe does not wear any clothes, choosing instead to cover their bodies almost entirely in a white paint created from mud, lime, and bone meal. The paint helps to reflect the relentless desert sun.
The midsummer sun was struggling to creep over the horizon on the steppe at the back of the four hundred warriors of the Torgud tribe who had lined themselves along a rise in the plain. Four hundred naked bodies glistening in the early morning heat, it was already oppressively hot. Four hundred warriors Chortan mused I've never seen so many warriors of our tribe in one place at one time. It was necessary, the Dotharl raiding bands had been attacking outlying groups of their tribe for weeks and now, finally they had brought them to battle. They were clearly outnumbered and while the Dotharl were terrible foes they couldn't hope to beat the Torgud warriors. They would attack eventually anyway, they always did.
The Torgud were in no hurry to meet them however, they held the top of the rise and were more than happy to stay there. Let the Dotharl come and break themselves on their shield-wall. If they tried to leave they could fetch their horses from where they were picketed and ride them down one at a time. As always the Torgud had dismounted to fight their similarly horseless foes. They would stand together on that hill and that the whole world could not overrun them.
Chotan looked over at her partners in the shield-wall, Nergui to her right glared at her and pointedly avoided her gaze. The older woman disliked her intensely. Most of her peers disliked or distrusted her, she was the freak, the demon child or whatever other ideas their parents had whipped up in their heads and passed down to their children. Her body marked her out as something other and it's hard to hide your body when you don't have any clothes. If it hadn't been for the elders of the tribe she would have probably been left to die long ago.
For the third time since she'd risen she checked to make sure the sword belt draped over her hips was still secure, her eyes sliding over the portentous body part, busying herself with the buckles of her belt to distract herself form thinking about Nergui's hateful glare. The elders had been convinced that she was a sign from the Dusk Mother. Quite what her birth had been meant to portend they couldn't say but they had been clear, no harm was to come to her, she was not to suffer any wilful neglect. So she'd grown in the normal way, learned to fight in a normal way, all while completely alone except for the elders who had saved her from a terrible fate. She'd had few friends but two dozen grandparents who had been dear companions and teachers to the young Au Ra. But the gentle elders of her youth were all too quickly being replaced by the distrustful adults who had recoiled at the sight of her all those years ago. I suppose I'll soon lose my place among my tribe. The prospect saddened her but she'd understood it was inevitable since she'd been old enough to comprehend death and was resigned to her fate. One day she would be cast out of her tribe.
She looked again over the shield wall, they stood side-by-side their round shields and outstretched spears marked a line that the disorganised Dotharl could never cross, they knew that with a bone-deep certainty. A murmur started somewhere in the middle of the wall, a few moments later the news had passed down the line: riders. The thunder of horses hooves could be heard now from behind them. Reinforcements? Now? Why are they riding so close to the lines? Our horses aren't bred for war, they'll panic. She turned her head and her heart froze in her breast. She recognised the characteristic high saddle bows of the Goro. There must have been more than five score riders moving towards their position.
"Don't panic," Nergui chided, "The Goro are our allies."
"Allies we didn't send for." Chotan added unconvinced.
Moments later a light hunting arrow shot from one of the Goro's bows pierced the shoulder of Nergui's lover Ogul dropping her from her place in the wall.
"Mercenaries!" someone shouted. It made sense the Goro tribe was more than twice their size, food was scarce right now, the Goro would rather die than slaughter any horse for food. It would not have been impossible to buy the services of a handful of fighters. In an instant the panicked Torgud warriors spun on their heels to face the new threat, raising shields and spears. The riders had no luck on their first pass they didn't even try to attack with their long lances, wheeling at the last moment and throwing javelins ineffectively at the Torgud wall.
A shout came out from down the line, "Two ranks! Two ranks!" The meaning of the shout was lost on most of the warriors and came too late besides because at that moment the Dotharl rained down sling bullets and arrows on their exposed backs, breaking bones and piercing flesh. Panic set in among the warriors, they turned first from one threat and then to the other, unable to interpose their large shields at all the threats they were at risk from both.
And then the horse riders were upon them. They crashed through the line killing any of the warriors who had turned their backs, trampling their corpses. The battle line quickly degenerated into a chaotic melee, some of the less skilled riders had been mobbed and pulled from their horses or pierced with spears but most of the Goro tribe were too skilled on horseback to fall so easily. The fight would only last until the Dothral mob reached them, once that happened it would all be over. How did we underestimate them this badly?
Whipping her head around she saw a scruffy horseman bearing down on Nergui, his spear aimed between her bare shoulders. She took two quick steps and thrust her own spear towards the rider, it pierced his bare leg, she felt the spear tip bite into his bone before he rode away jerking the spear out of her arms. Bent low over his horses neck he passed withing ilms of Nergui who spared her a brief shocked look before returning to the melee. Chotan began to lay about herself with her sword to little avail.
"Pull back! Back!" Someone cried but there was nowhere to pull back to. They'll have overridden the rear guard before they fell on us, without horses how can we escape? Those that could began to break away from the fighting, first individually, then dozens at a time. Before long it was a full rout. Chotan felt someone grab her sword arm and pull, she reared back, intending to strike her assailant with her shield when she recognized Nergui and heard her bellowing.
"We have to go!"
After a long moment she nodded.
"Why would they" Chotan replied breathing heavily "They want to raid our settlements not pillage our corpses. They've already got more weapons than they can carry - and probably our horses too."
"They'll be moving on to the villages?" Nergui asked in a small voice.
"We've got to get home." Chotan said in confirmation.
They ran for the entire day and well into the night, the one man who hadn't been from their village had splintered off around noon and struck out on his own. As night fell they stumbled into the lee of a giant boulder and collapsed thre. They had covered less than half of their way home but they could move no more that day, their naked bodies were streaked with dirt and they were shivering with exhaustion. They set no watch but drifted off together into an uneasy sleep.
Chotan woke with a start, something heavy had landed on her driving the air from her lungs. Someone had planted his knee on her chest pinning her to the dirt other hands were binding her ankles and wrists.
She is pragmatic, straight forward and earnest but while she might never let on her feelings are easily hurt.
Nothing there but ghosts and shadows