Flesh Golem (Lesser)
Formed of the corpses of fallen creatures, this colossal being is as durable as it is strong. Only when a sufficient number of bodies accumulates in a small area can this creature form naturally - as such, they are thankfully rare, but are commonly seen on the sites of battles, where the dead have not been properly laid to rest.
Damn, was the thing massive. And it was, while slowly, still trundling along towards the wall, specifically the gate. Cassandra nocked an arrow and released it at the giant, but despite the blessing on the strike, it failed to leave more than a small pit in its side. One of the heads turned towards her, and roared in defiance. Shaking her head, she turned to Leah, already nocking another.
“Don’t just stare at it, bring it down!”
Shook from her observation, Leah raised her arms, holding another charge of mana ready to fire. She was confident that even if it survived the first strike, she had enough charge left in her to finish it off. Waiting for it to stray into her range, she had no time to realise she might have been getting tunnel vision. Something wrapped around her right arm, and pulled her aim down. The spell, held in careful balance, was disrupted, and chaotically discharged, a burst of Life mana radiating out harmlessly into the air above the horde. She shrieked in surprise, and tried to pull back, looking down at her arm to see what had grabbed it. Her perception of the world slowed, be it an adrenaline analogue or simply her brain kicking into higher gear, but she saw everything in a split second. The tongue, and it was a tongue, was attached to a giant… frog? Toad? She didn’t know the difference, and there was no time to analyse it. Whatever it was, it had somehow gotten below them, waiting patiently at the base of the wall beneath a fallen zombie for her arms to remain over the edge. And now it had a grip on her.
She had little time to react, even with her brain firing on all cylinders, before she was pulled down to the edge of the wall, her feet being lifted up, and she began to tip over. Then, a pair of hands grabbed her feet, and a sword chopped into the tongue, severing it and releasing the pressure on Leah. She was flung back over the wall, landing in a heap on the archer who had grabbed a hold of her feet. Cassandra, who had cut the tongue, was busy stabbing the remaining segment that had fallen off of Leah’s arm.
“Fucking Froggen… where the hells did it come from?”
Keeping their heads low, Leah and Cassandra looked across the wall, to see similar events occurring with the other archers. As they watched, one was pulled clean over the edge by a tongue, and disappeared screaming into a back of zombies. The scream went on for far too long. The fresh guards rallied well, though, and after the initial attack kept their heads low, looking to Cassandra or their local leader for guidance. Cassandra hit the wall, her leather bound fist doing little to dull the impact.
“We’ve been played! Fuck, they must have something leading them… No way is this a coincidence.”
She turned to face an archer who had crouch ran up to her. The man glanced between the two of them, and the tongue on the ground, then back to Cassandra.
“Boss, whats the plan? We can’t shoot with those things waiting for us.”
“Yeah, I know. Wait…”
She leaned forwards, and grabbed a hold of the severed tongue. Raising it to her nose, she gave a good long sniff, then a lick.
“Cass, what the hell?”
She turned to the archer.
“Go get pitchers of boiling water, and have anyone not fighting boil up more. We’re going to cook some frogs.”
She finished with a wicked smile, and turned to Leah as the man ran off.
“If the froggen were dead, boiling water wouldn’t do much more than irritate them. At least, it wouldn’t put them down fast enough. And I had to check somehow.”
She shrugged, and looked down the line. A further archer had heard the conversation, and was passing the message along.
“When the froggen are dealt with, you need to get that golem down as soon as you can. If it reaches the gate, it won’t hold for long, and I wouldn’t bet on the militia dealing with it much better.”
Leah nodded, remembering the size of the thing. Its shufflings and the crunches as it overran a zombie were audible over even the other sounds of battle. Any further discussion was interrupted by the archers return, hauling a bucket of steaming water behind him. His awkward climb was aided by Leah taking a hold of the bucket. She made to stand and haul it over the edge, but Cassandra stopped her.
“No. You need to ready that spell. As soon as we confirm the froggen is hit, you need to fire. Theres no time to waste.”
“Makes sense. Just give the word.”
She handed the bucket back to the archer, who had pulled himself up onto the scaffolding, and began charging her Bolt of Life. Holding the mana, she readied herself as the man stood, and poured the bucket over the edge in one motion. Dropped the now empty bucket to the side, he looked over to confirm, then turned to Leah with a thumbs up. Then his thumb, along with the rest of his upper body, became a fine mist of red, blasted away by some unseen force. To Leah, who had detected the attack a split second before it hit, it was as if it happened in slow motion. His body bubbled and burnt from the touch of a mass of blackness, and everything it touched simply… fell apart. A fountain of blood showered down on the village below, some stay droplets drifting slowly towards her face as she watched. Then, it snapped back to reality. A streak of blood across her face and a pair of legs were the only remnants of the archer left on the scaffold. Cassandra snapped into action far faster than Leah.
“DOWN! EVERYONE DOWN! MAGE!”
Along the wall, those about to throw their own buckets or pitchers of water dropped them and scattered to the ground. Curses rose up from skin that was scalded, but no more casualties arose. Gritting her teeth, Cassandra tried to run through their options, and kept drawing blanks. She turned to Leah, hoping their resident miracle could pull it out of the bag, but she was stock still, staring at where the man had been, eyes wide and ears flat against her head. Her hand rose slowly to the streak of blood across her face. Cassandra grabbed her hand to stop her.
“Leah. Leah! Focus!”
Her head snapped round and their eyes met. Cassandra could damn near see her brain, her eyes were so wide.
“He’s… he’s gone!”
“Yeah, and so will all of us if we don’t think of a way out of this mess. Theres still the golem coming, in case you forgot. And theres no one else who can take it down but us.”
Leah’s head turned back to where the man was once stood, and the rumbling from the golem continued ever closer.
“I saw it all… the way his skin fell apart, everything inside just… rushing out… oh god…”
Her hands went to her mouth, and she doubled over. Clearly the nice approach wasn’t working, if she could call it that. Grunting with irritation, Cassandra pulled her up by her shoulder, and brought her other hand around in an open palmed slap. The crack of impact cut across the noise, and the pain brought Leah’s disarrayed mind into order once more. For once, she was the one calming her submind, which hadn’t felt the pain and was still writhing in panic.
“Ow! What was- Oh, right.”
“That was just a taste of whats to come if we don’t stop that damn golem. The mage can wait, but we need to take it down, and it needs to be done yesterday. Ideas?”
Leah shook her head, still reeling from both the blow and watching someone die in front of her. The panic threatened to take her over again, before her submind replayed the pain of the slap to her again. It was crude, but effective at keeping her on task. At least until the excitement died down and she had a moment to freak out properly.
“Nothing. Not at least, while we’re up here. Can’t pop up, or we get zapped, me included. Zapped… ugh… Uh, right. We let it in, close the gates behind it, and then blast it away. Thats all I can think of.”
“Thats not much of an idea.”
“You’re putting me under a lot of pressure here! Have you got any better ones?”
“Dammit, no. At any rate, theres no point staying up here if we can’t fire safely…”
She dipped her hand into a pocket, and pulled out a small red object.
“Cover your ears.”
Doing as she was told, she watched as Cassandra struck the ball against the wood, and then hurled it high up into the air. A loud crack followed soon after, and a red star burst into being in the sky above them. All eyes rest upon the light, then everyone broke into action. Cassandra grabbed Leah’s arm, not trusting her not to lock up again.
“Come on, we’re falling back.”
Pulling her over to the ladder, she began to descend, Leah not far behind. The scene kept replaying over and over in her head, and where they were coming down would be right where what was left of him would be. She didn’t even know his name, but she’d watched him die… She’d never seen anyone die before, and far less that brutally. One moment they were fighting together, and things were relatively calm. Then the battle became just that - a battle, where death was actually a threat. They reached the bottom, and Leah forced herself not to look at the streak of red across the ground and wall of the nearest building. They jogged over to the gate, where the melee fighters and Byrne were waiting.
“Whats happened? Why are you abandoning the walls?”
“Theres a mage out there. Can’t check them without popping up, and it’ll get whoever does that. And thats not the worst of it either.”
She explained about the golem, and the froggen. Byrne tugged on his beard, and looked towards the gate.
“Damn. Theres definitely something out there planning this. But why?”
“Doesn’t matter now. We need to prepare to fall back to the church.”
“Indeed. Derrek, fetch anyone not fighting, and tell them we are falling back. Oh, and have Alistair join me. Barry, have half the archers set up on the roof, and the rest prepare to cover our fighting retreat.”
The man who was on the gate, pale faced from overhearing what was being said, ran off in the direction of Alistair and the non combatants, another man Leah didn’t recognise running off to meet the archers jogging their way. Byrne turned back to face them.
“So. I’m assuming we are letting that thing in?”
“Its about the only option we have left to save the gate.”
“I don’t like it. But, we have few options.”
He shrugged, and turned back to face his pale faced and terrified men.
“Looks like I was wrong today. You will have glory after all, and its a hell of a kill. You’ll be drinking for free in every tavern you go through from now until the day you die!”
He drew his sword, holding the blade meant for two hands easily in one, and pointed at the gate.
“We’ll be giving that bastard a warm Kryp’s Ford welcome, but the party is only for one! You lot keep out the hangers on, and let us deal with the big beasty. Now get that gate open, and prepare to close it on my signal!”
Two guards ran forward to unbar the gate, and the rest got into formation, leaving a channel down the centre for Leah, Cassandra and Byrne to take on the golem. Alistair ran up behind them.
“I came as soon as I heard. There is a flesh golem amongst their forces?”
Byrne half turned and grunted in greeting.
“Aye. And we’ll be letting it in, too. Can’t take it down from the walls, so we actually need to put in some effort today. Be ready to take in wounded, but that thing is our priority. Even if it means you run dry.”
The unspoken meaning passed between them, and Alistair’s expression set in grim determination.
“Uld will provide. Both can be achieved.”
Byrne turned back to the gate, and settled into a fighting stance.
“Be that as it may…”
With a crash, the gate opened. The two manhandling the bar out of the way were flung to the side, and the golem poured in, its pace not slowed by the mass of lesser undead pushing past it. With a cry, Byrne charged, and the melee fighters followed with him. The better trained mercenaries that had come with their group were arranged in two groups, flanking the main push to clean up any stragglers, their aim to push the gate shut as soon as it was possible. However, it was looking grim. Behind the golem, the entire horde had rallied, and were pushing and scrambling over one another to enter the breach.
None of that was important to Leah, however, as she raised her arms to do her part of the job. Pulling on her mana one more time, feeling it drain away closer and closer to zero, and her bolt readied itself. Beside her, she could feel a build up of mana, greater than her own, and slower, as Alistair readied another spell of greater power. There was no time to observe him, however, as released her spell as soon as it was ready charging, and began preparing another. The bolt shot across the distance between her and the golem, and bloomed against its flesh. A chunk the size of a man was torn from it as the spell ate through the flesh and magic composing the monstrosity, but it held firm. She was right to begin charging again. Midway through her next cast, Alistair delivered his own salvo. An orb emerged from his hands and hovered in front of him for a moment, before bursting into a dozen smaller orbs, all flying towards the golem.
Chunks were torn from it from each impact, smaller than Leah’s, but each one adding up to a greater effect. Even still, the monster powered forwards, pushing past and over more zombies in its efforts to reach the living. Each head was roaring a challenge now, the damage finally getting its attention fully. As it moved forwards, the tide of the guards passed around it, pushing into the tide of zombies and other undead making their way in. A tongue reached out of the dark beyond the gate, and dragged one through, screaming all the while. The golem ignored them, however, and the bloodshed was soon covered by its bulk, rapidly approaching them at a pace that far exceeded its previous gait. Then, it stopped, heads tilting to the side. Another chunk was torn out of it from Leah’s spell, but it seemed unconcerned with her now. Without warning, it turned to the side, and raised its one ‘arm’, sweeping it across the ground through undead and man alike, scattering the mercenaries that were moving towards the gate. With a crash, its arm tore a chunk out of the gate, and it was already swinging around for another blow.
“No! Bring it down, now!”
Leah wanted to comply, but she was already charging her spells as fast as she could. Alistair too, was too slow to stop its next strike, the gate shuddering from the impact. Its third impact was met with Leah and Alistairs combined might, together managing to push it back. It was too late for the villages defences, however. Chunks of wood rained down upon the melee below, and those still alive looked up at the devastation. Byrne cursed in a language Leah didn’t recognise, then raised his voice.
“FALL BACK! BACK TO THE CHURCH!”
He turned to Leah and Alistair.
“You two, get back and ready to fire again. Cassandra, rally the archers and cover our retreat. This is going to be a rout if we don’t move now!”
All mentioned nodded, and set off about their assigned tasks. Cassandra disappeared with the archers, and Leah and Alistair set off at a jog to their maximum range. The narrow village streets would work to their advantage here, and fortunately there was a clear line of sight to the gate. Charging her spell, Leah turned to Alistair.
“Can we even bring that down?”
Alistair, eyes closed and arms raised, was muttering to himself. Clearly ignored, Leah turned back to face the beast, and released her stored mana. Another chunk was blown from it, and still it kept going. The gate down, it turned its attention back to them, then, again, stopped, and turned its gaze down to the retreating guards. Another swipe of its arm took out the tail end of the retreating figures, before a hail of arrows caught it partially. The pursuing undead were halted, giving the retreat blessed time. Leah looked back, holding her charge long enough to see the first wave of archers readying another volley, even as the second wave began to join them. Turning back, Leah released again. And again. Still, it stayed upright. How was it not down yet?!
“Its not working! Alistair, what do we do?”
Her answer was a blinding flash, and she blinked away spots from the sheer power of the light she had inadvertently stared into. When her vision returned, she was greeted with a scene of devastation. Whatever had happened, it detonated in the centre of the horde, right on the golem. And there was nothing left of it, or anything else in its immediate vicinity. No damage to the terrain or gate though, she noted. Alistair grabbed her arm, and she felt his weight pulling him down.
“Come… on… To the church!”
He half dragged, half leaned on Leah as they pulled back, the archers parting to let them through. There, he let go of her.
“Stay and help… I’ll organise the rest… No mana…”
Panting, he pushed past the archers, who had released another volley and were preparing their next one, and joined up with another group making their way towards the church. Checking her mana, and seeing she had enough left in the tank for a few more shots, she turned and prepared her next spell. Clearly, running out wasn’t good for you, she had felt that before, but his reaction seemed… extreme. She had only felt lethargic, not exhausted like Alistair appeared to be. Still, for another time. She released her spell alongside the archers volley, the bolt passing expertly past the massed fighters pulling back to the line. It burst upon one of the many in the horde rapidly approaching them, but still more came. There was no time for another. As the melee fighters approached the archers, they too turned and retreated. An answering volley from the church rained down on the undead following them, again granting them relief from the pursuit as those behind the fallen had to pick past the recently fallen bodies.
As she turned with them, she saw one of the guards at the back stumble and fall, and stopped herself, torn between going back to help, and falling back. Should she? Could she? She would probably die trying, but to just leave them… The moments pause was enough to get her pushed and jostled, and she found herself at the back of the pack. Right as the horde descended upon the fallen villager, who she could see reaching out to the retreating backs of their comrades. It was horrific, and terrifyingly real. Any lingering beliefs that this might be a hallucination were dashed as she watched flesh get torn from bone, from the feet first. Jaws clamped down on bone, stripping it of all above, and inadvertently, Leah switched to mana sensing. She saw bundles of mana, and something more behind it, being pulled in with the flesh, as it slipped down into the fetid and useless bowels of the undead. Unseeming eyes and silent mouths cried out in ecstasy as they tore the man apart completely, everything that once was him being pulled apart and fought over by the seemingly mindless beasts. No, not mindless, just singleminded. And Leah, with a lurch, had a horrible suspicion as to what exactly that extra ‘something’ was. Right as she felt the eyes of those too late to the feast upon her.
She took a step back, as the horde rushed her in an unceasing wave. Then… it broke around her, passing past her without a moments pause. She heard her name being called behind her, desperation clear, but it was unimportant to Leah. She saw IT. A moment before it landed upon her, a black streak flew through the horde, passing through the undead flesh as if it were nothing, skipping past the still screaming man being devoured, and straight onto Leah. An ephemeral hand reached out, and a single finger touched her forehead. And then, all her senses cut off completely.