Fan Fiction

26 May 2004, 11:29 PM

Part II: Pride of the Mountain by Jonathan Goss []

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"Stay with the archers, Human!" Umbra Tempest shouted as he thundered towards the approaching Myrkridia. It wasn't half a minute since the throng of ravenous demons appeared beyond the broken walls of Muirthemne's outer gardens that the Trow were rushing to meet them.

Three Trow against seven Myrkridia. If Thirteen Mountain Storm knew anything, he could bet on a slaughter. Those Trow were going to pulverize the monsters. But regardless, no one bossed the Heron Guard around, especially not Thirteen Mountain Storm... and especially not by some Trow.

"Don't throw orders around, you oversized salt pillar!" Thirteen shouted to the Trow descending the ramp. Umbra Tempest didn't acknowledge his retort, nor did his comrades. Thirteen grunted in frustration.

Beside him, Nine Crane Flooding Wind stood patiently, twin sabres in hand. His ageless face wore a look of bemused apathy. Thirteen had been his friend for countless years, and despite the endless time given to their deathless order, Nine Crane had noticed that his friend had not changed one bit. He still was an arrogant sot. Despite that, they were friends. They were brothers. They were Heron Guards. And Thirteen Mountain had saved Nine Crane more than once on the battlefield. Loyalty was a staple of the elite immortals, no one questioned that. Beside him, Nine Crane could see Thirteen begin to pace anxiously.

"Easy, ole chum." Nine Crane said soothingly. "It'll come."

Thirteen Mountain whipped his head around to face Nine Crane. "I know it'll come, Nine Crane, I just don't want those trunk-footed Trow to get all the glory." He spat for emphasis.

Behind them the snap of bowstrings could be heard and felt, the six archers at their backs beginning to line up and take shots at the advancing Myrkridia. Volley after volley arched over Thirteen and Nine Crane's heads, plummeting towards their foe. But no sooner had the bowmen begun than the Trow had closed the gap with their prey. As the archers relaxed their yew shafts the maddening thud of Trow pounding Myrkridia reached Thirteen's ears. He and his companion watched in gruesome satisfaction as the hairy bodies of the Myrkridia were flung and splattered across the dusty tundra. The shrieks of the demons echoed in the still desert air. It was a manic chorus of hideous death.

Nine Crane could not help but wince a bit at the sight of the Trow kicking the Myrkridia into piles and puddles of goo. He had remembered what it was like to fight them seventy years ago, during Balor's war. The same fate had befallen countless warriors and berserks of the Legion, and now, in mirrored contrast the same fearsome fate was being dealt to the Myrkridia. The poor beasts never had a chance. For a moment Nine Crane thought that he felt a twinge of sorrow for the abominations. But it was fleeting. And false.

In moments it was over, and the Trow stood as a triad of silent pillars. Pillars of iron. The bowmen let out a chorus of jubilant shouts in triumph of the Trow's victory. Nine Crane heard Thirteen Mountain Storm scorn the jubilation under his breath.

"Damned luck," Thirteen muttered more to himself than to Nine Crane. "The bloody trunk-feet get first blood."

Nine Crane laughed a little. "I'm sure there will be plenty to go around." He looked at his friend. "You're such a glory whore, Thirteen." He teased.

Thirteen Mountain smiled with that same old devilish grin. He knew what he was. "I prefer the term 'glory hound.'"


The ground beneath their feet began to rumble as the Trow returned to the ramp where the rest of the defenders waited. Nine Crane gazed across the three massive hulks. Umbra Tempest's elephant like feet were covered in the crimson blood of Myrkridia all the way up to his knees. Mergus Crepusculum, another of the Trow, had bits of hairy flesh gooed into his belt of skulls. Blood speckled on his face, reflecting slightly in the hot desert sun. The other Trow, Magnus Caedes, stood most covered in the gore, bits of flesh and chum trailing behind him as he thundered with the others back towards the defense post. Behind the idle Heron Guards and bowmen stood the ancient and scarred walls of Muirthemne, a few feet away. To their fore was the wide ramp leading to the dusty tundra beyond. And the enemy. Nine Crane looked upon the faces of the Trow. None seemed to exhibit the pain of wounds, nor the exhaustion that comes from an intense bout. In fact, the Trow looked, for lack of a better word, bored.

Suddenly the sound of crackling thunder pierced the afternoon air. It came from the ramp north of them. It was the Dwarven Mortar Brigadiers. Another attack had commenced. Perhaps an ill-timed two pronged assault by the Dark? Regardless, the sounds of mortar fire reminded Nine Crane of the rolling thunderstorms that used to blast the coast in the spring time. It was a never ending cacophony of explosions, no doubt a shower of wrought iron death for the Myrkridia.

"Damn," Thirteen grumbled. "They're really getting it in the dog blossom, aren't they?"

Nine Crane laughed. A genuine, "limbs to the dirt" laugh. "Sounds like it! I hope they don't do too well over there, though."

"Why's that?"

"Because," Nine Crane explained mock-casually. "They'll think it impregnable. And attack over here."

Thirteen chuckled. "I think that's going to happen no matter what."

"Hey!" Shouted Lewis, a lanky, bearded bowman. "Check it out!" He pointed a finger into the distance, towards the sections of broken walls and sloping hillocks. There, mingled among the half visible crouched forms of snarling Myrkridia, loomed a shadow of noticeably enormous size. Far larger than the known Myrkridia. It seemed to pace steadily back and forth behind the wall, just as two ranks of six Myrkridia each gathered on the sides of the brick section.

For a moment Thirteen thought he met the gaze of one of those beasts. In the red eyes time slowed, and the Heron Guard's skin crawled in fearsome anguish. Even for this grizzled warrior, the meeting of eyes with a Myrkridia seemed to disarm him, rendering his lungs useless, and his heart pounding so hard it seemed to be trying to escape its cage. What hellish thoughts and desires festered behind those red eyes? Did any thoughts reside at all in their minds? Did anything except the need to rend and taste flesh linger in that psyche? Would it matter, in the end?

Like a flash of lightning the train of thought ended for Thirteen, and as quickly as the gaze was met it was broken. Half a moment later the beasts were rushing across the broken landscape, sprinting in manic fury towards the ramp.

Towards Muirthemne.

Towards the allies.

The things moved so quickly that the eyes of lesser men would not be able to comprehend their speed. But the Heron Guard were superior for a reason. Thirteen and Nine Crane easily tracked the throng of Myrkridia as they advanced onto their position. The dust they were kicking up obscured the landscape beyond, creating a storming wall of dirt and sandy earth. It seemed to roil and choke the space behind the running Myrkridia, as a sand storm issued forth from the mouth of the Darkness.

Mergus Crepusculum turned to the Heron Guard. "You wish to meet them?" He asked, his voice literally shaking the straps and metal links of Thirteen's armor.

The Heron Guard snapped his head up to them, a lustful smile creasing his face. "I wouldn't have it any other way." Mergus smiled slightly at the man, a look of coy amusement on his chiseled face.

Nine Crane watched the force close the gap between them. Two Heron Guards could not take twelve Myrkridia and prevail. No amount of pride would save them here. He turned to his comrade.

"I think it would be wise to have the Trow aid us this time." He said guardedly.

Thirteen wheeled on his age old friend. "They've had their turn, Nine Crane." He spat venomously. "It's our chance at glory!' With speed that sliced the air Thirteen Mountain reached behind him and produced the twin sabres from his back scabbards. He twirled them a bit in his hands, warming up the metacarpals for their use.

Nine Crane turned surreptitiously to the Trow who stood patiently aside from the pair of men. He met the eyes of Mergus. "You might want to come in a bit behind us, sons of Nyx." He spoke quietly, making sure not to let Thirteen hear him. The Trow captain simply nodded his affirmation, his arms folding across his wagon-sized chest in eased complacency.

Seconds later the Myrkridia were in range of the archers, and the sound of six bowstrings loosing their broad-head arrows one after the other wafted past the Heron Guards' ears. The arrows flew in at all manner of angles, those of the more experienced bowmen finding their marks in the flesh of their targets. The greener bowmen were not so accurate in their archery, their arrows either falling short of the prey or soaring high over their heads. Moments later, Thirteen charged.

Nine Crane rushed to accompany him, the two elites crashing into the wall of hellish fury. Chaos ensued. The glinting flash of unstained steel biting and slashing the dusty air. The howls and screams of their ancient enemy piercing Nine Crane's covered ears. The spray and splatter of blood as he and Thirteen Mountain carved their way into the throng of flesh-eaters. Time seemed to be nonexistent, only the swinging of Myrkridian claws and the plunging of Heron steel resided in Nine Crane's reality. He could no longer see more than six feet in any direction. The dust wrapped around him. The sand and dirt clogged his nostrils and scraped his eyes. It ground into his gums and tore into the small cuts and lacerations of the Myrkridian attacks. He felt his left arm pauldron sunder under the weight of a Myrkridian forearm. The cold, alien sting of claws sinking into his skin. Nine Crane turned in a furious flash onto his attacker, his left hand sabre coming skyward in an uppercut to the beast's sternum, the second sabre arching down across the back of its neck, severing the head in a clean swipe. Blood issued forth in a gruesome stream as the headless body of the Myrkridia slumped to the ground. Nine Crane removed his weapons and inspected his wound. It wasn't bad, nothing half a mandrake couldn't solve when the foes were dead and the fight over.

Thirteen Mountain found himself in a soggy spot: four Myrkridia lunging at him from all sides at once. With ageless agility and god-like speed the Heron Guard twirled and danced among the attacking throng. The world spun and wheeled as Thirteen torqued into a crouched position, his blades slicing effortlessly through three of the four attackers. The last, a small, wiry Myrkridia, halted half a meter away from the embattled Heron Guard. Thirteen Mountain turned to face the thing. And promptly found it useless. The beast was bristling with arrows, one even lodged through the cavity of its left eye. It just stood there, still in the red-soaked earth, still as a bronze edifice. Taking no chances, Thirteen plunged both sabres into its chest, sending the thing back to the hell that spawned it.

A moment later the two immortal men found themselves the masters of the field, a garden of gruesome death and carrion plowed into the earth at their feet. Nine Crane was breathing heavily, his chest rising and falling like a tide under the constraints of his armor. He looked over at Thirteen Mountain, a few meters away. He smiled at his comrade, who he could see was covered in blood. For a moment it reminded Nine Crane of the Emperor's crimson armor, and one could almost envision the man's face replaced by that of Alric, their new emperor. Thirteen raised his swords in honor to Nine Crane, who replied in kind to the salute. After a fashion the older Heron Guard wondered as to the extended gaze of his friend.

"What are looking at now, Nine?" Thirteen slurred through his heaving lungs.

"You just look a fitting candidate for the Crimson Mantle." Nine said, referring to the Emperor's armor. Thirteen grinned, all teeth. "I hope that'll wash off!" He said, pointing a sabre tip to the red stains on Thirteen's armor.

The other laughed. "They keep throwing their troops at us like that and we'll be sure to find out."

Both shared a hearty laugh. But a shadow lingered in the distance of the still rolling dust cloud. It grew larger and larger, until Thirteen and Nine Crane both were overshadowed by it. The two stumbled back a bit, a twinge of uncertain fear entering their armored hearts for the first time in countless centuries. The two Heron Guards began to back up, trying in vain to escape from the ever growing tower of shadow now looming over them. Neither said a word, and even Thirteen questioned the value of holding their easily won ground.

Suddenly it appeared. Out of the dust storm burst forth the most hideous and frightening image ever to sear itself into the eyes and minds of the two Heron Guards.

It was a Myrkridia.

A goliath of a Myrkridia.

Around its corpulent waist was draped a loin cloth made from the skins of lesser flesh-eaters. The thing was a cannibal, the blood and tissue of a Myrkridia still hanging in dripping tendrils from its claws and fangs. The thing was easily as tall as a Trow, and sizably wider. Its hating, vicious red eyes glared with a bloodlust from atop its foetid head. Nine Crane and Thirteen Mountain both felt their blood run cold. What in all of creation was it?

"Wyrd's Nightmare!" Screamed Thirteen Mountain. It wasn't a blasphemy, but a call to their god. A terror induced shriek of their very essence; their souls.

Without thinking the two ancient warriors closed the gap between themselves, drawing closer together. They moved, out of fear and obvious necessity, into a shoulder to shoulder stance, right knees pressed together. They would have to fight as a dias, a pair of interlocked, co-working soldiers. A maneuver used to maximize efficiency. A maneuver saved for desperation. Perhaps this was it? Perhaps the two Heron Guards would die here, in this blood-muddied earth?

As the thing bellowed stifling breath from its lungs, issuing forth a blood curdling howl, the two Heron Guards, Thirteen Mountain Storm and Nine Crane Flooding Wind, raised their swords and braced themselves for the inevitable. This was suicide.

From behind them the ground rumbled, the familiar sounds of tree trunked feet growing more distinct at their backs.

The Trow were coming to aid.

~ You have reached your journey's end ~