A few revolutionaries took potshots at the flying Power user. The arrows swiveled mid-air and were shot straight back into the ground. Grizzled archers fell, screaming. The man dipped down and delivered an airborne kick with each leg that took out two more archers, then rose back up into the air, out of the way of the retaliatory fire.
Further down, Forge’s red-hot flames blazed over the lines. Screams followed. Kiren craned his neck, but he was just too short to see what was going on.
I need to get a better view, somehow.
He looked around and saw a number of wooden crates stacked up against a butcher shop. The three-story building it was attached to had escaped the worst of the fire with only a few blackened bruises. It would make a decent vantage point.
Kiren jogged towards the building, dodging between Villains. Someone shouted a slurred derogative and grabbed at him, but Kiren ducked underneath his grasp and kept going.
He jumped onto one of the crates and used it to climb onto those stacked higher. He leapt and reached a second-story window-sill with the tips of his fingers. He wriggled his fingers until he had a sure grip, then hoisted himself up. He edged his feet onto the thin ledge and repeated the process with the next window above him.
He pulled himself onto the sloped, sleet-tiled roof of the building and rolled to safer ground.
A series of terrible cracks made him stiffen and curl up as the roof shook with heavy vibrations. The wood splintered where he had just lain and roof tiles were thrown into the air. A solid iron ball larger than a human head had torn a large hole in the wall and embedded itself in the roof, attached to a rusted chain.
Kiren scrambled away. The ball was yanked out and part of the wall fell out with it. He stared at the iron ball as it fell into the street, smashing a revolutionary under its massive weight. It was pulled along the ground, knocking men over and producing an unholy scraping sound. It was picked up by a woman with the mass of five men, the other end of the chain wrapped around one of her meaty forearms. She was maybe even larger than Father when he was using his Power to the fullest.
“Wow. That was scary, wasn’t it?”
Kiren spun around in a crouch. A pair of loose ceiling tiles flipped away over the edge of the roof.
A girl clutched the brick chimney, wide-eyed and pale-faced. She was perhaps a year or two older than him, with mousy-brown hair down to her shoulders. She wore a white dress with only a rip or two that fluttered about her skinny, shaky legs.
“Who’re you?” Kiren said quickly. He backed off as far as he dared.
“You came to watch the fight too, didn’t you?” the girl asked. “I thought…” She glanced towards the battle. “I didn’t know it would be like this.”
“Who. Are. You?” Kiren growled. He crouched, arms high to protect his vital organs. he didn’t have a knife, but she wasn’t that much taller than him, despite the age difference. If he had to, he might be able to push her off the roof.
“My name’s Lace,” the girl said. “My dad’s a Hero.” Though her voice was breathy and she stumbled over her words, she still somehow managed to beam with pride. “You might have heard of him. Gale, the C Rank Hero!”
Kiren shook his head. He had not heard of any such a man. He kept his eyes fixed on the girl.
What’s wrong with her? Doesn’t she understand what’s happening here? What I am?
“Oh. Well, what’s your name?”
“Is your dad here too?”
“Don’t have one.”
“Oh, okay. Well, we can both watch my dad beat these Villains, then!”
The girl, Lace, got down on all fours and crawled over to the edge of the roof. She sat up on her knees, clutching the rim tightly.
Kiren didn’t move.
Lace swung her head back to face him. A tangle of hair went in front of her face. “Here! Come!”
Kiren moved over to where she was sitting. His bare feet curled over the slate to find purchase. He sat down next to her, leaving some distance between them. She was a Hero’s offspring, after all. No one associated with the Heroes could be trusted. Father had been very clear about that.
He finally got a good look at the fighting. Dozens of Heroes in colorful outfits met the line of Villains, Power users fighting with every inch of their ability. The fluidity of their movements, the ease with which they employed their Powers, was in stark contrast to the Villains’ raw brutality. They were holding the Villains at bay, at least temporarily.
And yet, there was a desperation in their actions. They took risks, flung themselves headlong into the midst of the battle, allowed themselves to be surrounded only to break free. They knew they were on the losing end. Rather than ball up and let themselves be slaughtered like deer cornered by a pack of wolves, they chose to fight.
Civilians spilled out of the buildings behind them. The Heroes protected them with their very bodies, and not all were blessed with augmenting Powers that boosted their resilience. Several Heroes fell. They would never rise again.
Each minute that passed, dozens of citizens fled out of sight towards the Second Sun. At this point, it was the only place in Goldbrand which the Villains had not yet impregnated.
The Dark Eye’s commanders were not deterred by the Heroes’ efforts. Fade the Skinchanger warped his body like wet clay to avoid blade and blow and delivered shallow cuts in return, his longsword discarded in favor of two slender daggers tipped with barbed hooks. Whenever he managed a scratch on a fighter, he immediately moved on to the next, like a whirling dance. His thin blades were coated in a virile poison. Within minutes, those affected would be convulsing on the ground. A minute or two after that, a painful death. Heroes and the guards sent to back them up had already started to drop dead from his machinations.
Few weapons existed which could pierce Forge’s body. Heroes dulled their swords over his chest and arms, and he retaliated with molten fists and raging flames. He punched a hole straight through a man’s chest. The flesh sizzled and spat around the wound. He yanked his fist out and kicked the man at two of his comrades, knocking them over.
Father was different. Forge and Fade were wicked men, but at least they fought as such. Father was an animal. He bounded between the lines of the Heroes as his limbs swelled and deflated with muscle mass like forge bellows. He tore men apart with his bare hands and beat their comrades with the severed limbs. His eyes were wide with glee, and the whole time he roared his contempt at the Heroes standing in his way.
“That’s my dad down there!” Lace said, pointing. “See?”
Kiren looked where she was pointing. The airborne Hero he had spotted earlier—Gale—had now touched down. He extended his hands, and a whirling gust of wind blew a dozen arrows out of the sky that, preventing them from reaching a group of civilians. The wind knocked over the archers as well and they swore as they fell into each other.
Fade was about to slit a guard’s throat when Gale pushed them both out of the way with a rush of air. The wind carried the Hero over to where they both lay. He helped the guard to his feet. Fade contorted his body as he stood up and leapt for Gale. The Hero pushed him back with an invisible push from his outstretched hand and Fade tumbled back into the ranks of Villains.
Most of the civilians had already escaped, so the Heroes were no longer forced to take risks in order to keep the Villains occupied. The huge, muscular woman swung her iron ball in wide circles, keeping Father at bay. He struck with his mace over and over and hit nothing but cobbles. The woman managed a blow on one of his over-inflated arms and he reeled back, teeth gritted in pain and rage.
Creator’s corpse, she’s holding her own against Father. How is that possible…?
“Who’s that?” Kiren asked. He tugged at Lace’s sleeve.
“Oh, that’s Titaness,” Lace said. “B Rank. Dad says she lifted a whole house over her head, once.”
She threw herself onto Father with all the grace of a bear. They both crashed to the ground, their weapons forgotten. The impact sent tremors that Kiren felt all the way up on the roof. Father’s body boiled as muscle sprang up all over and shifted around to where he needed it. Titaness’s Power, however, seemed to grant her an even, constant boost in strength and size.
Father’s left arm swelled until it was the size of a man’s torso. With a violent swipe, he threw Titaness off of him and immediately descended on her. He punched her mouth bloody. Father's blows rained over her with cracks like thunder, blindingly fast despite his unwieldy size. Although her great stature and muscled body afforded her some natural protection, it wasn’t enough to resist his strength.
There was no way she was going to survive that for long, human or not.
Kiren’s stomach knotted.
Of course no one could beat him, you fool. He has the Unmaker’s own strength.
He watched as Titaness grappled with the beast. She squirmed and wriggled, but each hit he landed sapped away some of her strength. Her face was a mangled mess, purple and red, one eye swollen shut and the other running with tears of blood.
“S-she will be okay,” Lace said. “She’s just having some trouble. I’m sure one of the other Heroes will save her.”
Kiren looked around. The other Heroes seemed far too occupied with their own struggles to mount any kind of rescue. She was already dead. Kiren knew it.
The only person he had seen to give Father any pause in combat.
That couldn’t happen. He couldn’t let a person like that die at Father’s hands.
Kiren stood. He wedged his hands under one of the slate tiles and pulled out the flat, square piece of stone. He judged the distance between Father and himself. It was pretty far. He’d have to give it all he had.
Can I really do this? If Father sees me...
Father cracked his fist across Titaness’s face. Blood dribbled over her chin and down her blocky bosom. Her grasp on his body loosened and her resistance waned. Her one working eye swiveled from side to side, seemingly looking for anything that could aid her.
“Damn it all,” Kiren muttered.
He drew his arm back and threw. He held his breath as the tile sailed through the air amidst arrows and thrown-up rubble. It struck Father on the back of the head and shattered, pieces scattering across his shoulders. Father’s body stiffened, a pair of light scratches beading with blood.
A pair of arms clawed at Kiren’s clothes and pulled him down flat against the rooftop.
The bull of a man spun around, feeling the back of his neck. His eyes scanned keenly across the battlefield. He shrugged and turned back to Titaness.
Not as dazed as she had appeared, Titaness brought up her thick legs and pushed off, sending Father flying off her.
Kiren held back a whoop. Lace let go of him and clapped her hands.
“Wow, you really showed him!” she said. “You saved her life, Kiren! That’s amazing!”
Yeah. Hopefully, I didn’t end my own.
The Heroes were cornering the Dark Eye bit by bit. Many of the Powerless fodder had already fallen, leaving the more elite Villains to prop up their sagging offensive. The Heroes welled in around Titaness and protected her while she stood. Gale whipped up strong winds that repelled any revolutionaries foolish enough to approach. Forge dragged Father away, presumably so he didn’t sign himself an early grave.
If the Dark Eye lost this battle, if Father was killed or taken away, he would finally be free. It was certainly looking that way. But the knot in Kiren’s stomach didn’t loosen.
He knew better than to put stock in a fool’s hope.
A series of orders were barked down the line of Villains. The commanders put their warriors into more orderly ranks and they split down the middle, making a path.
A black-robed man strolled down the street. He had a spring in his step as if all this carnage had put him in a rather good mood.
Lord Ender had decided to get personally involved.
Creator, please, no.