Fan Fiction

28 May 2004, 12:30 PM

Part III: Call of the Eagle by Jonathan Goss []

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Nine Crane Flooding Wind plopped down onto the ground beside his comrade, Thirteen Mountain Stone. The two had returned to their station at the top of the southern ramp leading to the walls of Muirthemne. Moments earlier they had charged in with the surviving Trow, Magnus Caedes and Mergus Crepusculum, to hack up yet another of the seemingly endless waves of Myrkridia. The demon-beasts had been attacking the walls of Muirthemne for about an hour straight now, sometimes attacking the southern position, held by the two Heron Guards, the two surviving Trow, and six bowmen, and sometimes attacking the northern ramp, held by two dozen Heron Guards and half as many berserks.

It was the first time in over a hundred years that the Heron Guard allowed themselves to take up arms and fight on the front line. It was the first time in over a century that the flower of Muirthemne's armies was again unleashed upon the forces of the Dark.

A part of Nine Crane wished he were at the northernmost ramp, with his fellow brothers at arms. The sight and sensation of fighting with so many of his comrades was something the ageless warrior had not known in a long time. A part of him wished it dearly. But solace was found in the company of his longtime friend, Thirteen Mountain Storm. This older, grizzly Heron Guard was as tough as he was arrogant. A maelstrom of ferocity and vengeance, Thirteen had garnered for himself a reputation of one who cared only for victory, and in many cases, glory. In no way was he the most virtuous of their elite order, but Thirteen possessed a certain sense of leadership, albeit in his own maniacal way. He was the kind of prideful warrior that inspired others to excellence. And that was invaluable.

Of course, now Thirteen was simply trying to catch his breath, while Nine Crane sat on his rear end in the dust, chest heaving. The two had come close to dying more than once out there. And as the day drew on their strength, though far superior, was starting to wane. Nine Crane had lost count of how many Myrkridia he had either killed or helped killed. Even Thirteen had long since given up matching the notches on his belt with the corpses on the ground. It was madness. They just kept coming.

The image of Umbra Tempest, the third Trow, dying in the midst of the third attack was still gouged into Nine Crane's memory. He had watched helplessly from ten meters away as the mighty Trow warrior was surrounded by eight Myrkridia, each tearing off slabs of clay-like flesh. But what finished it for the ally was a Myrkridian Giant's explosive skulls. Their enormous power had showered Umbra Tempest with liquid fire, immobilizing him with the tell tale pain and shock that heralds the near death of a Trow. It was a noble end to the gorgon, but a gruesome one nevertheless.

But Umbra Tempest had made a good dent or two in the ranks of the Myrkridia before he fell. Nine Crane's memory recalled in particular the instance after the second attack when they beheld the Myrkridian Giant. It shocked him that, only moments after first beholding the horror that was the oversized Myrkridian, the three Trow seemed to thunder right over the dias of frightened warriors. The Heron Guard would never forget the site of those goliaths going at it; the Myrkridian Giant clawing furiously at Umbra Tempest, swathing ribbons of dry flesh from his mammoth body. Of course, the fight itself was over in a matter of seconds. No sooner had the Giant began tearing away at Umbra than the Trow landed a fist right into the Myrkridian's teeth, causing the thing to yelp in pain. In a flash the other two Trow were on either side of him, each wrapping themselves around the Myrkridian's man-length arms. They held the beast down while Umbra Tempest pulverized the thing. When it was nearly dead, the three Trow literally tore the monster apart, essentially drawing and quartering it right there in the dust. As a warning to the others the Trow hurled the limbs and torso of the monster hundreds of meters away into the distance where the other Myrkridia were waiting. The head they saved, bringing it back to the ramp as a souvenir. Thirteen laughed openly at the nauseous bowmen who vomited when the Trow returned with the head and dropped it, sloshing gore and all, into the sand and dirt at their feet. After a moment of regarding the thing the Trow silently returned to the left front side of the ramp, ready and waiting for the next attack.

Nine Crane asked Umbra Tempest moments later if he desired one of the mandrake roots the Heron Guard possessed for such wounds and ailments. The soot colored Trow refused the offer as politely as any of his kind could: with a shaking head and a waving hand. With a shrug Nine Crane returned to his post close to the bowmen.

Now he was glad that he still had the healing plant, for his wounds had grown too egregious to further withstand, much less carry with him into the fray. He had to heal himself before the next attack. He looked up at Thirteen, who was still breathing hard. His armor was covered in blood, and in more than one place Nine Crane thought he spied the marks of torn skin and flesh between Thirteen's armor. He suddenly became worried for his friend. Of course he knew that even if Thirteen was wounded the man would never tell him, nor let it show as best he could. Again, the flaw of pride that seemed to run rampant in the Heron Guard. Nevertheless, Nine Crane reached behind him and produced from his belt the small brown miracle twig. Biting into it he felt the surge of energy issue forth into his mouth, and then down his entire body. He convulsed slightly, then froze in that helpless trance all fell into when healed by the mandrake. A shower of light seemed to course over his body, and for a moment he didn't know who he was or where he was at.

"You're going to need more of those, brother." The distant voice of Thirteen Mountain Storm seemed to say. In a rush to his ears and his blood stream the world returned to Nine Crane, and he suddenly remembered everything. "Look." Thirteen pointed to the area beyond the rampart. "They're coming again, this time with friends."

It was true, Nine Crane looked out and saw what had become an expected familiarity. Ten Myrkridia, one Myrkridian Giant, and three ghols were racing for the alliance defenders. The ghols were the swiftest, covering the distance in a handful of seconds. The defenders had by now learned the purpose of these attacks. The ghol would throw various satchel charges and explosives onto the remaining weak points in the wall behind the allies. Then, in a blitzing rush, the Myrkridian Giant would hurl its fearsome skulls at the pile of charges, thus creating a breach in the wall and sending showers of stone and shards of mortar into the backs of the defenders. So far it hadn't worked. Every attack had been repelled by the bowmen. And now the time had come for them to do it again.

The two Heron Guards flung themselves out of the way of the archers as they began loosing arrows in the direction of the ghol. The bowmen didn't really have the patience to wait; the excitement was too much for them, and more than once a soldier found himself clutching at an arrow lodged in his back from an overzealous bowman. Thirteen and Nine Crane had come too far to let this happen to them now.

In no time the ghol were dead and the Myrkridia were again upon them. The Trow mustered and charged headlong into them. Within seconds half the Myrkridia were nothing more than piles of chum and carrion in the dirt and sand. Thirteen and Nine Crane rallied themselves as well, and lunged into the fray. The Myrkridian Giant was still a good twenty meters away, leaving time for the Heron Guard to hack up some foes of equal size.

Nine Crane swept his left sabre across the chest of a Myrkridia, opening up the thing's chest. Its pain induced howl was cut short in a gurgling rasp by Nine Crane's other sabre, which buried itself through the neck of the thing. In a flash the elite warrior removed his blades and ducked the attack of an oncoming foe. The second Myrkridia slashed madly at the Heron Guard, only to be launched ten feet into the air by Mergus Crepusculum's well placed kick. Nine Crane never saw where the thing landed.

Far to his right, on the other side of the field, Thirteen Mountain Storm was "limbing" two Myrkridia at once; hacking off the hands, arms, and legs of the beasts until there was nothing but a pair of snarling torsos writhing on the ground. Shouts of triumph and joy erupted from Thirteen's lungs as he finished off the helpless monsters. In his zealous rage the grizzled Heron Guard turned to face the next threat: the Myrkridian Giant. The Trow, however, were already closing in for the kill. Thirteen gritted his teeth, determined to bring one of those gorgons down before the day was out. He rushed forward towards the trio of raging giants. Dodging sweeping claws and hurtling kicks Thirteen Mountain moved in to the right side of the Myrkridian Giant. He plunged his right sabre as deeply as he could into the hairy thigh of the monster, then aiming low, rammed the left sabre upwards into its shin, severing the calf muscle from the inside. The beastly horror lurched and faltered, still clawing at the Trow. In a move of lightning speed the foe torqued to its left, jerking Thirteen's sabre-clutching hand forward.

With a sharp ping the sabre broke, blade lodged still in the Myrkridian's thigh.

In a fury Thirteen retracted his good sabre and began carving the Myrkridian's hips up like he was skinning a deer. But the beast was possessed with bloodlust. It swatted at Thirteen with its left hand, claws ripping the Heron Guard's right breast plate off completely, and plowing into the muscle of the man it protected. Thirteen flew backwards, landing on his back scabbards. He felt his back banners snap, and the wind rush out of his lungs. Time froze again on the field of war. The Myrkridian, somehow free of the Trow's fury, now stood over the defenseless Heron Guard.

Phobos gripped the ancient warrior.

The thing seemed to smile at Thirteen Mountain; a hideous, gore begrimed grin. It seemed to herald Thirteen's death.

"Muirthemne!" Came the howling battle-cry of a familiar voice from behind the beast, and out of sight of Thirteen Mountain. It was Nine Crane. Like a sprinting gazelle he fell upon the giant, slashing away in six successive strokes the muscles that controlled the Myrkridian's shoulders. All before the thing could turn and face him. Then the Trow came. Magnus Caedes, no longer the burnt sienna color of his native pigment but a deep and carrion crimson, landed a haymaker blow right over the brow of the Myrkridian, sending a stream of blood out of its nostrils. It shrieked and faltered uncontrollably, stunned by the blow. As Thirteen rose he saw that the force of the Trow's double-fisted attack had popped out the right eye of the Myrkridia. It hung, swinging, from the thing's face.

"Wyrd's figs!" Was all Thirteen could muster to say. That time it was a blasphemy.

The allies- Heron Guard and Trow alike- worked the Myrkridian Giant over for the next thirty seconds, slashing and cutting away at the thing until it eventually died, disintegrating into the ground leaving only a dark, meter sized stain upon the earth. To a normal man's eyes it looked like a giant ink blot spilled by Wyrd himself.

Nine Crane and his comrade surveyed the scene. In front of them laid a near endless field of Myrkridian remains. The ground looked like a plow field of gore and death. The recognizable black patches of earth left by defeated Myrkridian Giants were found in more than one or two spots. And even the crumbled form of Umbra Tempest, his head cleaved in two, was present in the mess. His one visible eye still stared lifelessly into the void, a haunting expression of rarely seen fear etched into his face. Or what was left of it.

As the four allies made their way up back the ramp to consolidate their lines Thirteen began complaining about his sword.

"I had that thing for six hundred bloody years, Nine Crane." He groaned through blood-stained coughs. "To think I had to break it on that slop-sucker."

Nine Crane shrugged. "Better it than you, my friend." Thirteen only grunted. "At least you're alive."

"If you can call it that."

Nine Crane suddenly caught movement from the north. It was a contingent of Heron Guards. Three of them were coming towards them. They weren't sprinting as they do when there is urgency. They were more just running, or perhaps even jogging. Nine Crane couldn't tell, his vision was getting a bit blurry from exhaustion. Thirteen saw it too, after a fashion.

"I wonder what's going on?" Nine Crane muttered.

"Probably want us to come up there and save their hides!" Thirteen joked, forcing a chuckle through his hacking.

In a moment the Heron Guards were near their two companions. Nine Crane recognized all of them. They were all of equally imposing height and build. All still carrying both twin sabres in their hands, the red streaks of bloodshed striped and blotched on their ancient armor.

Seven Fury Iron Wolf

Four Bloody Dire Stone

One Eagle Morning

These three both Nine Crane and Thirteen had known well. They had all fought together in wars previous.

"They've hit us with Soulless." Said One Eagle Morning, the eldest and most revered of the three. "With think they're getting desperate."

"Glad to hear it's them that's getting desperate!" Thirteen remarked. "We were afraid you were coming down here to ask for our help." He began laughing at his own words, to which Nine Crane followed suit.

"We are."

The laughing stopped.

One Eagle Morning continued. "We think they're getting ready to hit us hard up there. We keep seeing the shapes of at least twenty Myrkridia and four Myrkridian Giants." Thirteen whistled in amazement. "It's coming."

"Well," Nine Crane began. "If we have to go we have to go, right?" He turned to his brother in arms. "You want Mergus and Magnus to stay here?"

"Is there a choice?"

Nine Crane turned to his relative superior, One Eagle. "Lead the way."

Seconds later they were racing for the northern ramp.

~ You have reached your journey's end ~