“Shot off,” yelled the soldier on the net. McGurk looked at his watch, counting off the seconds
while the round winged its way to the target. At the count of eighteen seconds there was a bright
flash on the other end of the valley, a light too bright to look at, followed in about eight seconds by a
* * *
The fortress was actually an outpost of the Imperial Army of Ellala’lysana, and not a stronghold
of some lord. It housed a couple of regiments of cavalry, a regiment of Ellala infantry, and a
squadron of dragons. Over five thousand of the elves called the structure home, including service and
support staff. The walls were of dwarven fused granite, making it as hard as the mountain it was
built on. And it boasted a full two score of dedicated battle mages, as well as numerous priests. The
Ellala felt confident in the ability of the fortress to withstand any attack mounted by the strangers
and their weapons of war. And the mage summoned protective field over the fortress added to that
The air mage in the fortress had already learned, during the bombardment earlier in the day, to
feel the rounds of the enemy projectile launchers as they cleaved the air on their way to the target.
But the one he felt now was different in some way. It made a knot in his stomach as it came in, as if
it represented some deadly danger.
“Hold the shield,” she yelled to the other mages who stood on the walls, their heads below the
crenulations that protected the ordinary soldiers. “Put all of your power into it.”
The other mages, a score of wizards who were drawing on the power of the mountain and the
air to erect the shield, grimaced in concentration as they reinforced the spell. Most thought that the
spell would surely have to keep out whatever the strangers were sending toward them. For only the
power of a larger group of mages, or some mages of immense power, could crack the shield. And
they knew that the strangers did not have either numbers of mages or powerful mages. Or the power
wielded by a God. That could crack the shield. But again it was known that the strangers did not
have that kind of divine connection.
The air mage could tell when the projectile was a second away, and added her own powers to
the shield, bringing up the blowing winds to try and move the shell from its trajectory. It probably
moved the shell twenty feet from where it was going to strike, which mattered not with the weapon
they were about to receive.
The shell detonated with a bright flash, then a painfully bright flash that instantly blinded all of
those outside the fortress, whose attentions had been caught by the initial light. The shield held out
the hellish flame that roiled away from the fortress, and a thunderously deep rumble came to those
within the castle. The mages could feel the energy of the shield being used up like firewood in a fire.
The energy levels dropped precipitously. They tried to throw in more energy, but they couldn’t match
the building power of the nuclear explosion, especially when they were all in agony because of their
The shield went down suddenly. One instant it was there, blocking the waves of heat and
radiation, forcing the blast up and away from the fortress. The next it was not, hundreds of
thousands of degrees of heat vaporizing those elves on the battlements and out in the courtyards of
the fortress. The blast effect tossed anything that was not securely fastened to the mountain, in
many cases torching things that did not ordinarily flame, then blowing them out in the next instant.
Rock melted, then was blown apart. The fronts of structures in the inner wards blew in, the heat and
fire blasting down doors and through long tunnels. Even the dragons died in almost painless
instantality, from fire that dwarfed their own internal flames, or objects that were thrown at
thousands of feet per second. There would be a few survivors, a pitiful couple of score that huddled
deep in the fortress, really into the heart of the mountain. But the combat power of the garrison, and
the defensive power of the fortress, was a memory.
* * *
The Ellala in the fighting position sat up as the flash of light turned into an expanding ball of
fire. They tensed for a moment while the fire lapped at the magical shield, seemingly repelled. They
almost jumped out of their skins when the thunder of the blast wave reached their sensitive ears,
followed by the hurricane winds that tore at the tops of the trees on the ridge. Two screamed out
when the magical shield failed, the fire swept into the fortress, and the mushroom cloud reached up
high into the sky.
The major allowed them to watch the entire spectacle. The forest in the valley burned, and
flaming timber was thrown into the air. Ash started to rain down from the sky, and McGurk felt
himself cringing just a bit from the fallout. It was a relatively clean weapon, but the major still
thought it would be a good idea to decontaminate the vehicles and allow the men to wash their
clothing and themselves after they left this area.
If the Ellala died of radiation later in the week, or cancer much further down the road, that was
not his concern. As long as they conveyed to their superiors what a bad idea it was to face the
strangers from another world. Kind of like the Japanese in World War II, thought the officer. The
Japs didn’t know that the United States only had a couple of weapons at the time the two were
dropped on Japan. Maybe the Ellala would not know that the humans only had three weapons, and
would, in their fears, multiply in their minds what the Earth people had to use against them.
After the cloud started to fall from the sky, folding into itself, the major crawled out of his tank
to walk over to where the elves sat in the fighting position.
“Take them to their horses,” said the major to the guards. “Make sure there are at least a half
dozen men there when you untie them. Then set them on their way.”
The guards nodded. Hustling the Ellala to their feet they moved them down the ridgeline, while
the battalion commander considered what his next move would be in this area.