Black Metal 1
July 23, 2011 § Leave a comment
Black metal, a three foot shaft with a head clad in spikes, it crashed down and crushed tallow flesh, suet and slime spraying from ravaged meat already gone bad even as it screamed in pain. Not dead, they were not alive, at least not life as she knew it. She did not care. The metal danced, at once ponderous and fluid, and crushed a jaw on the upstroke.
Her armor marked her as a daughter of Alron. The insignia, an oval with two outstretched hands presenting a sword as the device, marked her as chosen of Galia, daughter of the Dagtal. In the dim light of the minor moons she reflected the silver accent of stars as the length of iron in her right hand ruined an eye, spraying humor in an arc.
They were the size of men. This much she could accept. She could not accept that they were men. Men do not smell like the pit behind the abattoir. Men do not shriek like tomcats, or run crouching on all fours. And men do not stop to eat their own fallen when they fall. So little light reached down upon the scene that she could only see half shapes, jagged and distorted, and trusted more to smell and sound to tell her where they were. Trusted to the feel of her familiar length of metal to tell her when she’d struck, shuddering back up into her arm. She drove the edge of her shield down where she knew a leg had to be and felt bone snap under the rim.
If they were men, they might have broken ranks. Thin air, rocky ground, even this pass through the ludicrously steep Erythni Mountains was forbidding and terrible at night. Instead, it seemed that for every one she killed more were coming. The other guards had long since stopped screaming, as had the horses, as had the fat merchants and their pampered, overdressed, balm smeared courtesans. Ironically, having failed to stop the slaughter around her had prolonged her life, as many of them had stopped to eat even as she was still up and fighting.
She had no intention of stopping, either. Sweating, panting, she swung her shield arm full in the face of a smeared form leaping at her and was rewarded with the sound of crushing bone and raining teeth. Her high spirits were dimmed when she felt that the shield was noticeably lighter, knew she’d cracked it. Snarling, her short hair matted down into her eyes under the helmet, she hurled the shield’s remains at another of them and used both hands to swing her mace around her in the dark. Everywhere the head completed an arc, flesh or bone suffered.
Her feet encountered the crushed bodies of the creatures, or of her former employers and fellow travelers, there was no time to stop and see which. She stepped around or over them, constantly in motion, constantly lashing out even as her arms and shoulders protested with tightness across the whole of her back. There was no time to be tired, now was just fighting free. A faint hiss behind her was all the warning she received or needed, pivoting on her mail clad hip to swing the weapon in an arc as she turned. The blow sheared right through the neck, pulverizing bone and shredding flesh, spraying what simply could not be blood across the slivers of the moons. The head itself, crushed inward, twirled in the air as it traveled away from its body, matted snarls of hair waving as it flew.
She knew it was hopeless. It did not make her want to fight any less.
Eventually she found her path blocked, which was not a surprise. Even in their disjointed and feral way there was only one possible purpose to their attacks and that was to herd her. She’d allowed it because it had allowed her to place her back against the side of the mountain itself, controlling their way to her. Between their yellow teeth and filthy nails and her flesh were her armor, still intact despite repeated strikes, and the black metal in her hands.
The mother moon had risen to the crown of the sky, bleeding blue light down on her as she waited, her breath hot bursts of mist in the ice toothed air. Under her helmet her skin crawled knowing how it would end, and she grit her teeth and tasted her own blood in her mouth.
Warbringer, she prayed, if I’m going to die here, don’t let them eat me.
A crowd of them had fought their way to the pass with her, and were now waiting, watching her with eyes of livid green from just out of her reach. She had taught them caution at last.
“Lost your taste for it, then?” Her lips curled into her thin, tight smile. “Waiting to see who dies first?”
She leapt away from the stone wall and struck out with the mace in one hand, spinning one of them backwards with his entire chest crushed in. Armorless, they died at a strike, but their numbers were still a concern and she refused to present her back to them. Back against the wall even as they fell to eating their wounded comrade. That, at least, they had not learned worked against them.
It gave her time to look around. There was no way up, and even if there was, it would just be this exact same place further up. There was no better defense than the stone all around her, forcing them to climb or come straight in, either of which she could exploit. She knew that place would be her death, but it would also be their death. She would pile them in the hundreds before she fell.
So it was the will of the Warbringer, then. She didn’t do anything stupid like drop to one knee to pray, she simply did, a wordless prayer of narrowed eyes and a shifted grip on her mace. From the moment of her dedication, this death had always been a possibility. Step to the left, find the most solid ground.
Two of them burst in on her, hemmed by the walls, and she kicked out with an armored foot directly to the first’s face and let his momentum carry him into the second while using the force to spin herself, driving the butt of her weapon into the second one’s back. Both on the ground before her, the mace swung up and then down like a comet in the pale light, crushing bone. She heard something over the sound of her own rattling metal, something distant that changed her mood in an instant from fatalism to determination.
Stepping over the crushed bodies at her feet she set her shoulder in a charge and bore herself into the crowd at the gap, driving them back with spikes to the limbs and a stunning armored backfist to the biggest one’s face that drove its shattered nose into its eyes. Back down the treacherous rocks she drove them, striking at knees, shoulders, any vulnerable joint. Outside the sound carried more freely to her. It had been lost, buried by her own exertion, but now she could hear it. The same howls, shrieks and gibbering that had followed her the whole way up, somewhere down below her. Someone else was fighting them.
Someone else was still alive.
Two left, and then one as she slid her grip down the haft and used the mace to push one clear off of its feet and tumbling to be smashed to death by the rocks below them. The last one lashed out with claws that would have killed her if not for her helmet, the blow still sending her back with ringing ears, but her knee came up purely by training, directly into where a man would keep his stones. The impact drove it back, but it did not appear to feel it.
It felt the next three blows, each accompanied by a furious scream, the first she’d let loose that night, pure hatred at its presence in front of her. An overhand blow that snapped the collarbone, then switching to a one handed grip so that she could drive her left fist in a sweep across its face, and a kick directly to the chest that left it prone at her feet. It did not even have time to consider its situation before that spiked metal crushed everything above its shoulders into the rocks.
She could hear more of them in every direction, but for the moment, the path in front of her was clear. The sound of fighting was that way. Whoever it was, it was not the things that pretended to mankind. Therefore, it was at least a chance to live. Galia appreciated a noble death, but she didn’t insist on one.
She took the mountain path in bounds despite the growing pain in her limbs and side. There was no time to be tired. She could be tired when it wouldn’t kill her.