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868 CE “2nd Season, 4th Moon, 2nd Week, 6th Day”
~Southwestern Golgotha, Ulfates at Noon
“Fire! Fire!” the people will scream as the town square is ablaze. Every bell tower in Ulfates will ring while the townsfolk and soldiers rush with buckets of water attempting to put out the flames. They will pour and they will pour but the fire will still burn. Instead of growing weaker it will spread until most of the town square will be engulfed. The blaze will be so large it will create a black pillar of smoke that will be seen from every horizon in southern Golgotha.
Lord Bilk, that fat cow of a man, will be drawn out from that fortified town hall of his. He will march down to the town square to see the fire for himself. Being a learned man he will see what the others will not, and when it shows in his eyes. That is when we will strike…”
Bam! “What is this fire you bother me about?” Lord Bilk growls as he slams his hand on the cluttered table. His eyes glance to several papers that fall off of a stack in the upper corner. “Blast, look what you did!” Four trouble soldiers stand in the entrance to his office. “Why can’t you people put out a simple fire. Must I advise everything, you simpletons?”
One soldier, a blond Azurian man, rubs the back of his neck. “We are trying our best sir but this fire is not acting normal.”
Bilk crosses his arms sitting at his desk with a quill of ink in front of him. “I am trying to save the empire a fortune right now.” He coughs. “Think any of you could think of how to do that?” Bilk waits for an answer looking at the men as they remain silent. “Well do you? You all got so silent.”
“No sir.” says a soldier with a few decorative blue feathers on his helm.
“Nore has the empire. They need my brilliance, unlike you lot. I know I am wasting my time but hear this,” he says gesturing with his index finger outstretched. “Limiting the number of links used in chain-mail will save the blacksmith guilds and the empire enough to make a new air ship within a hundred years.” The men look at each other clutching onto their spears.
The captain clears his throat. “Yes, I understand your business is important my lord. However, we need your brilliant mind to stop the fires.”
“Well, I guess you simpletons need me; or else you would be lost. Can’t help but be forced to come to the commonwealth’s aid.” Lord Bilk shrugs grumbling. The soldiers bow as he rises his pot-bellied form from his wobbly chair. With a flat gaze, Lord Bilk blows out a puff of air. A low grumble escapes him as he stretches, his eyes wandering to a sheet of scribed paper. “I was getting to a good part of my proposal. Guess it will have to wait.”
“My lord,” the captain states. “Please come, it is urgent.” This only arouses an eye roll from the portly man.
“Now where did I leave that thing.” The soldier’s movements grow jerky. “Oh, yes.” Bilk pauses before pulling out a drawer from his desk removing a small metallic horn. “There it is. Can’t go to an emergency without this.” he grins taking a few steps towards the threshold of his room. The men all look at each other still bowed. “Well, get up you fools. I don’t have time to be wasting on your lot.”
With little urgency or due to lack of physicality Lord Bilk and the four soldier stroll from the city courtyard. “My goodness, that is a tremendous flame,” he says with slight concern. Just as planned the fire was spreading engulfing the sky forcing several airships to divert their course. Bilk looks over at the captain “You don’t think the fires could spread here do you?” Bilk glances back towards the obsidian tower and returns his gaze on the captain.
“The fires are supernatural. They won’t go out.” says one soldier.
Another pipes up saying “It is fire from Maelstrum. The devils did this.” his voice quivering with absolute terror.
“Nonsense,” growls Bilk. Drawing closer people ran with panic gathering their things trying to move away from the flames. Soldiers scurried up and down the streets pushing carts carrying water. “Whirrr” Lord Bilk turns to see the cart cruising past him. In its wake, a man chases after the out-of-control cart. Red faced Bilk points his finger towards the man screaming “Find that man. Find him and throw him into the fires.”
“Sir, the fires. What should we do?” says the captain trying to distract Bilk from his frustration.
Bilk shakes his head still meandering “Well, I gotta see the damn thing before I decide.” The group continues down the city street until they were just beyond the town square.
When they arrive the smoke pillars rush and whirl dancing in the winds rolling with a sizzling roar. “My, that is a terrible flame.” Bilk says gazing deep into the flames. A spark in the fire catches his eye. He pauses watching the source of the fire spark again. A stone rests in the middle, he gasps as the answer to the “supernatural power” of this fire displayed itself. “Phlogiston….” Bilk whispers making the answer clear to himself.
His eyes grow wide “Phlogiston!” he screams as he grabs at the horn strapped to his side raising it to his mouth. A flash of pain knocks the wind out of him. He falls against the cobble stones scrapping his palms. A shock goes through Bilk’s body as he feels a sizzle and the smell of cooked meat. Someone was screaming, and he wanted them to shut up so he could catch his breath. As his vision returns to him and his ears stop ringing, he harshly realizes that someone was him. He raises his hand up, shaking to see it is painted red, dripping with blood. “They shot me.” He stumbled hunched over as he backs away limping.
While fleeing Bilk sees his men fighting each other. “What kind of trick is this?” The men who were fighting his men had soiled clothing, their capes dirties with mud and their armor tarnished with blood. “Bandit’s” he thought at first, “No must not be bandits they fight like real knights. A these, the Royal Azurian Knights? But why?” he gasps with confusion. “Who ordered this assault?” He cries receiving no answer.
Out of the fighting, he notices one man above the rest. Their leader, a man or a god, dressed in silver armor decorated with many flourishes. His helm was that of a griffin’s head with a pair of powerful mighty horns. His blue cape flows while he uses his large shield to throw a man his shoulder. Marching with his large saber to his side the man is looking right at Bilk. His heart skips a beat as he could feel the warrior’s gaze gripping his neck.
Bilk comes to the horrific conclusion these were not the Azurians. Rather these men were the feared rebels led by Lord Guildred. “How did the rebels get inside the city guard?” Bilk blows the horn as he continues limping back to the town hall’s courtyard.
“Kill him! Kill that man! Kill Guildred!” Bilk screams pointing in the direction of the griffin knight. Guildred stabs the first of Bilk’s soldiers in the stomach with a swift strike. Removing his blade, disemboweling the soldier, he sees a sword coming for his chest. Slamming his shield against the blade with a crash, Guildred slashes the man’s stomach open dropping him to his knees.
“Raa!” another soldier yells as he dives in the air. The soldier thrusts with a long pike at Guildred’s neck. Guildred’s shield guides the spear’s head to his side following the momentum of the strike. He spins forcing the spear into the ground just as Lord Bilk’s soldier is about to land on his feet, he completes the spin slicing open the soldiers gut spilling his lumpy coils all over the ground.
Guildred felt the warm blood dripping off his armor as the tension of battle burned in his muscles. His sight meets one of his men about to be stabbed by a soldier. With swift fingers he aims the barrel to his arctavist from his hip. A screaming pink light strikes the upper body of the soldier splitting him in half. Guildred turns his gazes back to Lord Bilk limping in absolute terror. Bilk looks back as Guildred charges forward. With no hesitation, Guildred throws one of his soldiers’s over with his shield like before. “Stop him!” Bilk cries. Guildred heard the quiver in his voice. Running to Bilk’s aid several more soldiers attempt to block his charge. Guildred’s sword cuts through the men. They slide into pieces from shoulder to gut spraying blood into a mist. Bilk’s jaw drops as he blows on the horn again. “Someone, anyone, stop that man!”
Guildred points his sword towards Bilk as he marches cutting down soldier after soldier leaving a pile of bloodied bodies in his wake. A rather bulky man who blocked the entire street steps in Guildred’s way. He was a giant of man in heavier armor. Guildred stands at most half his height as he squares off with the man. “Well… come get me.” Guildred says from under his helm.
Charging at him with a large two handed blade. The titan of a man swings at Guildred who sidesteps the soldiers strike. As the blade passes Guildred lunges cutting him in the back of the neck. The soldier tumbles to the ground but Guildred is not given a chance to catch his breath. While still in his lunge, a soldier strikes from behind. He rolls forward just as the blade cuts into his cape rising back to his feet just in time to parry the soldiers next attack. His sword just licks the other soldier snapping back down cutting the soldier clean in half.
As Guildred’s blade is returning to his side a soldier spear passes by his flank. Guildred snaps his head over to the soldier who had begun a dance of death. One familiar to Guildred. His footwork moving back and forth side stepping closer with each thrust. Grabbing the shaft of the spear Guildred takes a step closing punching the spearman in the throat with the edge of his shield.
Lord Bilk’s soldiers scatter and falling back. Guildred slows down allowing his men to gain ground behind him. A loud crash from behind has Guildred turn to see one of Guildred’s soldiers backing out of an alley with his shield up. “Village Guard!” the man screams just as three arm sized claws soar through the air into the man’s shield. The man his knocked back several steps the claws stabbed through his shield connected by blue fleshy tethers. The claws retract as fast as they flew into his shield tearing the soldier’s arm off at the shoulder sending the man flying. He screams out in pain getting to his feet as the loud sound of crushing steps rattles Guildred’s helm.
A large metallic colossus walks out of the alleyway into the open street. Guildred found the upper body looks similar to a crab’s carapace. Three large domed amber eyes atop its rust-colored shell. The arms like mighty metallic mastadon legs each sporting three large claws. In the left claw the shield is still speared on the terror’s fingertips, the man’s arm dangling from the straps like peice of meat in a butcher shop. Guildred’s stomach turned for the first time in a long time. With a creak, the colossus spread its mighty fingers snapping the shield into three pieces. The one-armed soldier stood to his feet gazing up at the monster. “You bastard! Take my arm will you.” He charges with his sword raised high.
“You fool.” Guildred thought to himself. The machine strikes the sword with its other arm causing the blade to shatter to pieces. It grabs the man by his last arm and leg with both claws lifting him from the ground. The blades on the claws bite deep into his flesh causing the soldier to scream. A loud series of snaps is heard as the soldier’s spinal column separates. Guildred bites his teeth turning his head to obscure the sight of the man tearing tearing in half. The horror raises both sides of the soldier in the air separating him in the middle, a line of entrails still connecting the two pieces. It throws the man’s body at a couple other soldiers knocking them to the ground. The machine then looks in Guildred’s direction letting out a mighty crackling cackle.
Guildred raises his shield, his heart pounding. He freezes feeling a sense of shock coming over him. As the machine’s gaze locks onto him. It lets out another low cackle, stretching its multi-segmented leg taking a stride that was twice its body length startling Guildred. Another moment and the machine stood infront of Guildred. Like a flash of lightning, its claws stabs the shield scraping a top layer of metal off. Another speedy swing forces Guildred to lunge back just missing its razor blades. Guildred dives and weaves ducking and rolling trying to get some distance from the beast and its swinging claw blades.
All the weight of the machine’s fist comes crashing down like a hammer onto Guildred’s shield knocking him on bended knee. The top half of his shield is dents almost touching his face. He tries to get to his feet but is stopped with another strike. A loud audible snapping causes everyone watching to cringe, Guildred roars with pain, he can feel the burn of his muscle being torn and a harsh stiffness overtaking his shoulder.
“My lord!” yells a man running at the colossus with a spear. He dives into the air onto the machines back. Guildred gets to his feet limping away while nursing his arm. The soldier stabs his spear at the creature’s carapace trying to cut through a connective joint in the creature’s rear thorax. It shouts feeling the blade scraping against its shell. The machine aims its claw at it’s back, firing its fingers, stabbing into the soldier, vaulting him off the machines back. The soldier’s body collides head first into a brick building splitting his face. He tumbles off the building onto the ground leaving a bloody puddle. The creature stands as the other soldiers cower back several steps away from the titanous being.
Guildred plants his feet wide apart. “Giza I hope you’re watching my display.” He says under his breath throwing his shield to bounce off the machine. The machine turns its attention back to Guildred as he fondles the hilt of his saber. It’s claws retracting back into place with a metallic click. The claws whizz right past Guildred as he side steps the attack taking a heavy chop at the machines exposed teathers. The creatures cuticle is cut clear open. A baby blue liquid splashes out of the exposed wound hitting Guildred in the arm. His armor sizzles as the acidic blood eats a hole through the metal plates and muscle fiber of his armor. He screams as a drop hits his bare flesh.
During his stumble, the machine smashes Guildred in the chest sending him flying to bounce off a wall. He lands on his knees catching himself empty handed, his sword several feet away. He tries to crawl away, but the monster is already upon him. The thing’s two toes stab into the ground just missing him. He flips around to see its other foot coming right for him. He rolls onto his back during the stabbing claws. Again the other foot comes crashing down on him. Guildred rolls left then right again trying to escape. He reaches to his side grabbing his knife by his leg. With a loud shout, he plunges it into the creature’s ankle joint. More of the boiling acid blood sprays onto him. He returns to screaming as it sinks into his armor dripping off him. His armor recoils from the burning acid taking on its own will as the fibers attempt to get away.
Guildred rises to his feet while the machine stumbles unable to lower its leg. Guildred grabs his blade off the ground climbing onto the machines back grabbing a hold of the hoses on its neck. With a swift slash he cuts through the hoses sending blue blood gushing out of the monster like fountains. The dying monster lets out a high pitched series of chirps before tumbling to the ground. Guildred looks at his men, his chest rising.
Lord Bilk slumps over his desk. He grips his stomach trying to stop the blood from pouring out of his drenched clothes. His blood lands in splotches just the right color to offset the already red carpet. “I don’t know what to do?” He whimpers into a metal box on the table with many nobs. The box has cables linking to a panel fixture stuck to the wall. “My lord, Ulfates is lost. They were in our city. Guildred and his men. They were here already.” Bilk lets out a series of hoarse coughs and a snotty snort. “I don’t know how long I have. He is coming for me.”
There is silent static on the other end. “Did they destroy the tower already?” Bilk moans. Bilk hears a loud crash at the wooden door sealing him in the room. Bilk turns in horror to see an ax head peeking through. Again the ax head chops into the wood. “Gods, save me. Gods! Where are you? Where is anyone!? Where are my guards! Have they forsaken me.” After three more bites of the ax, the door comes smashing to pieces. Guildred stands his armor damaged and dented dripping with crimson blood. An inky black liquid drips from strange muscle-like fibers fused on the underside the armor’s metal plates. He looks at Bilk who is cowering in the room. “Volkmar!” Guildred lifts his arctavist rifle pointing it in Lord Bilk’s direction. With the pull of the trigger, a pink firecracker light shot clear through the cables connecting the radio.
With no hesitation, Guildred lunges onto Bilk grabbing his throat. “Where is the village guard’s horn fat man.” Bilk gags as Guildred’s grip firms. He can feel his windpipe being crushed. Bilk fidgets at his side raising the horn in Guildred’s face. His grip releases from Bilk dropping him to his feet. “Good, now blow it.”
Bilk raises the horn to his lips blowing it. He feels a sharp pain entering his stomach. His eyes open wide. He looks down to see Guildred slamming a knife in and out of his body. Pain and cold overtakes Bilk as everything grows gray and hazy.
The glow of blue LEDs light the dark room. A shadowed old man is looking out of a large plated glass window. A pillar of smoke obscures the view but the display across the glass gives a three dimensional model of the city in high contrast detail. He is covered in Azurian cloaks sitting on a sculpted throne that hovered a foot off the ground. He strokes his withered chin letting out a soft “Hmmm.” his orange eyes locked onto the horrible sight. He raises his hand as two guards dressed in blue robes approach him bowing. “Go tell Grandor, that Ulfates is under rebel control.”
A man’s and a woman’s voice say “Yes my lord!” In unsilent, leaving the room.
He raises a glass of wine to his mouth takes a sip . Looking out the window he raises his hand gesturing with his fingers, bringing up a hologram of the village guard and Guildred. The two battle with each other slashing and fighting. He closes his hand freezing the frame, he zooms in on Guildred’s face. “Guildred. I found you at last.” He chuckles. “And soon our little game of hide and seek will have ended.”
One Moon Later
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