UN Army Major Stephan was a veteran of the Empire War and also took part in the reclaiming of the New Kingdom of Mecca from the Protectorate. He and his battalion of the 1st Rifles had been shipped off from the NKM and dropped here to the Isles to perform peacekeeping operations. Upon arrival, his first important mission was to secure and provide security for the House of Law, where an important closed door hearing of two former Fleet Masters was to be held.

He had worked out the assignments with the Marine commander, Major James whose Marines were going to be pulled out to join the UNS Vengeance once the battle carrier makes a port of call at the city. Today, he headed down to oversee the security at the House of Law only to be caught up in the sudden unrest that broke out throughout the city.

High Command had already informed him of the situation and that reinforcements were fighting their way towards his position. But suddenly, they were attacked by a large gang of masked men. Thankfully, he was reinforced with a Marine company and an auxiliary company of local troops, boasting his own two company of riflemen.

An unexpected sneak attack of firebombs had shattered his troops and they fell back from their exposed positions and now his Army boys and the Marines were holding the entrance into the House of Law when something expected happened again.

The unnatural mist appeared out of nowhere and it rolled over the plaza quickly before pausing just at the steps of the House of Law. Its appearance spooked the troops and they nervously watched their fire lanes while the guardsmen locked shields and found courage in their close numbers.

He frowned at the sight and he quickly ordered both the Marine and Army platoon's machine gunners. "SAW gunners! Give me suppressing fire into that mist!"

The gunners laying prone on the side of the pillars swept their muzzles left and right as they fired in controlled bursts into the mist, hoping to suppress or kill anyone in the bullets' path inside the mist. Tracers spat into the mist and shadows lit by the glowing tracers flickered wildly from within the mist. Strange cries and roars echoed out from the mist and the smoky tendrils recoil back slightly as if the mist was a living creature and the gunfire was hurting it.

"Fix bayonets!" Major Stephan ordered next as he drew his pistol and bayonet sword out and readied his weapons. Clicks and snaps answered the Major as the troops locked their sword bayonets in place. "They are coming! I can hear them!"

"How I wish we had a couple of flamer units!" Mills let out a sigh as he watched the strange mist. A sudden shower of crossbow bolts rained upon the entrance into the House of Law. The metal of the bolts kicked up sparks upon impact against the stone works and Mills watched one of the crossbow bolts skittered past his position behind the stone pillar.

He leaned out of his position and saw a rough company sized masked group rushing out from the cloud of dark inky magic mist that allowed them to advance across the open plaza. The mist had paused at the steps of the House of Law which meant Mills and the attackers were only separated by a short flight of stairs.

"CONTACTED!" The cry came from several troops as they spotted the masked attackers. Rifles barked and bodies fell. Mills fired his pistol at a charging masked man and his shots connected, sending the dying man tumbling down the stone steps. Gunfire erupted from across the front of the courthouse and bodies fell before it suddenly became a mad melee.

"Guardsmen!" Mills yelled and pointed to the front. "FORWARD!"

"AHHH!" The shield locked guardsmen let a roar as they advanced forward to support the line. The Marines and Army soldiers quickly took the opportunity to disengage from the masked attackers and allowed the more melee proficient guardsmen to handle the masked men. The fight was quickly over and the UN troops gathered themselves and the medics became busy again.

"They should give up by now?" Major Stephan asked as he watched the troops searched the dead for any information and usable before piling them into a sort of grotesque barrier. "We must have killed over two or three companies worth of these guys..."

"I doubt it..." Mills shook his head as he gestured to the mist. "Damn magic is there."

"Fark..." The Major cursed as he too noticed the magic mist was still not dispersing, meaning that whoever that cast the spell was still feeding it with mana to keep it sustained. "We better be ready for round two!"

"We need to ration our ammo," Mills added. "We do not know how long we have to wait here until our reinforcements arrive."

The Major nodded and he started to give out orders to consolidate and redistribute their ammo. "Check and see if our boys found anything to ID these attackers."

"Yes, Sir!" Mills replied before he headed over to the pile of items that had been retrieved from the search of the enemy's dead. "Anything?"

The sergeant in charge of consolidating the loot shook his head as gestured to the separated piles of equipment. "Nothing, Sir."

"Nothing to identity any of them, except for this tattoo found on their bodies," The sergeant handed over a piece of paper that was torn off from a notepad. Mills saw a simple 'X' was drawn on the paper and his eyebrows rose in surprise.

"A x?" He asked in surprise. "Some kind of organization?"

"We found this 'x' tattoo on their bodies," The sergeant said again. "Other than this mark to identity them, there is nothing else."

"Even their weapons has no marker's mark," The sergeant pointed to the piles of equipment that had been sorted by type. He picked up a short sword and gave a flick on the blade, creating a ringing sound. "I been a blacksmith's son before signing up and I can tell you, these weapons are of a high quality!"

"Usually, weapons and tools have a marker's mark," The sergeant continued as he handed the sword over for Mills to look over. "I found nothing on it, so we can't even identify where these weapons come from."

"How about the design or style of these weapons?" Mills asked as he gave the short sword a few experimental swings. "Surely the style of these weapons can be identified?"

"No, Sir," The sergeant shook his head as he replied. "These were all made in the most common design and style of the entire New World! There are thousands of smiths and armouries that use these swords make!"

"Someone must be really not wanting us to know who they are working for..." Mills mused as he tossed the sword back to its pile. "Anything else?"

"No, Sir," The sergeant gave a shrug. "Not even a piece of silver or any jewellery..."

"Get the guardsmen leader," Mills said as he pointed to the pile of crossbows. "Equip them with the crossbows and any weapons they need or lack here."

The sergeant nodded before he called a runner over to pass on the command. Mills stared at the piles of cold steel weapons for a moment longer before he went back to find the Major to make his report. As he was moving across the entrance, there was a loud screech that broke out from the magic mist. He turned in surprise and noticed the mist seemed to be quivering and another screech could be heard.

"Make ready!" Mills could hear the Army Major calling out to the troops whose weapons were already up and ready aiming at the mist before them. The Isles guardsmen hurried into formation and this time the back row was armed with crossbows looted from the masked dead.

Mills hurried over to the field aid station where the heavily wounded were overseen by the medics. He grabbed one of the rifles of the wounded stacked on the side and ran over to an Army sergeant that was redistributing ammunition.

The tense silence was broken by another ear piercing screech and sounds of something very heavy moving could be heard in the mist. Major Stephan raised a hand to stop the machine gunners from firing and hissed in a low voice, "Wait... wait..."

Suddenly, a massive shadow burst out from the mist. A giant long necked avian appeared, it had grey bat like wings that ended in vicious claws, with a huge dirty yellow cruel looking beck and feet while its body was covered in golden brown feathers and it had a yellow green lizard like tail.

It cocked its chicken like head and its red beady eyes locked onto the troops holding the entrance before it let out out a mighty screech of challenge. The sharp sound battered the UN troops, forcing them to cover their ears despite the use of earplugs.

"A- A cock- Cockatrice!" Someone stammered out in panic. The cockatrice cocked its head towards the sound, its body standing at almost twice the height of the tallest Ork in the line.

"OPEN FIRE!" Major Stephan yelled once he recovered his senses and putting action to his words, his service pistol roared continuously as he ended his magazine at the monstrous beast. He yelled at the machine gunners "Pour it on!"

Mills cursed as he felt his eyes watering as the effects of the sonic attack faded. Thank god he worn his earplugs or he would be like that twitching soldier passed out on the ground with foam coming out of his mouth. The familiar thunderous roars of guns calmed his heart as he raised his rifle and joined in the fight, and for the moment wondered if he should join the Faith of Superior Firepower.

The cockatrice screamed as bullets found their marks on its body and thick almost black crimson splashes of its blood burst out. It suddenly swerved its body, dodging the gunfire and charged up the stone stairs, its sword like clawed feet leaving long gouges on the stone surface as it scrambled madly up to its tormentors.

"Ahhh!" The troops cried out in panic as the full body slam of a cockatrice weighting at almost a ton, slamming against one of the stone pillars and cracked it. The troops nearby fled away from the enraged cockatrice as it used its powerful beak to peck at the retreating troops. An unlucky soldier was pecked into bloody pieces as the cockatrice leapt on his back and trapped him under its clawed feet.

"KILL IT!" Major Stephan roared angrily as he witnessed the death of one of his men. He reloaded and fired. "Farking kill that damn oversized wyvern!"

Tracers from machine guns chased the screaming cockatrice and its feathers caught fire from the burning tracers. It flapped its bat like wings angrily and charged the UN troops again. For its size, it moved surprisingly fast and its beak attacks were lightning fast and deadly.

A retreating Marine thought he had dodged in time only to find his arm missing from his shoulder. The cockatrice let out a last defiant dying screech which knocked the wounded Marine out and stunned those in the path of the sound wave before it faltered under the barrage of heavy gunfire and it toppled down onto the smooth stone floor leaking blood everywhere.

"Watch your sectors!" Mills yelled at the curious troops who wanted to check the cockatrice. He shooed the troops back to their lines. "There might be another attack!"

As if hearing his words and granting his wish, a loud screech broke from the mist, followed by another and another. Large shadows could be seen moving from inside the mist and Mills's face turned pale as he turned to look at Major Stephan whose expression mirrored his own.

"Oh fuck..."

A note from neo Koh

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