.:: The Blighted Lands ::.
-::- Nathan -::-
Wave after wave of earth rushed towards us, like tidal waves that swept across a rocky coast. At the centre of the ripple, crouched the Abomination, who regarded all of us with extreme caution. It seemed to always be aware of it’s surroundings and dealt with each and every attack that headed it’s way with mechanical precision.
I summoned all the magic around me to abide my will, and it obeyed. Motes of mana swarmed from the sky, the Earth, and even from my allies, who released it to aid me. All of it amassed at my spear, which glowed with a brilliant, scorching golden light that subdued all colour in the surroundings. I had to make each strike count, for magic was limited here and these lands will eventually be swept by a storm to even out the depression left behind by our war. I can’t afford to drag this tomfoolery any longer. I remembered what happened a few hours ago. Just as I was preparing my ultimate skill, the abomination had apparently noticed something was wrong and it commanded it’s Corpse demons to attack. How they escaped our notice all this time was still a mystery to me, and I had to deal with a whole bunch of them with the assistance of the archmages who fought along with me. That exhausted a considerable amount of our resources.
Now I had to make this one strike count, or we will be forced into retreat, losing an opportunity like no other.
I leapt, my right foot finding purchase on a large boulder in the shifting wave that rolled forward, and I used it as a platform to jump over it as the wave washed past me. In the corner of my eyes, I saw the mages trying to blast past them while warriors followed my lead, rushing over each wave with utmost effort lest they be buried beneath the rolling earth. Some succeeded, some… not so much. We didn’t even have a moment’s reprieve, for the Abomination was unyielding. The Land was laid in corruption and the corruption was its to command. The ground before me erupted as I saw even more of the foul undead crawl out, they were relentless. Very much so.
I held back. I couldn’t strike right now.
I bit my lip as the charged towards me.
Suddenly, their bodies exploded as they were pelted with enchanted projectiles. My eyes caught a squad of explorers rolling over a wave to my right. They were holding long metal contraptions reminiscent of a crossbow. I didn’t know what they were but they were formidable weapons of war, but sadly not enough to hinder the abomination. I saw the pellets bounce off harmlessly against its protective wards, barely a few made it past and scraped bits and pieces of useless flesh off it’s already rotting form.
I had to admit, the thing was proficient with it’s magic. Even so, I thanked the explorers in my heart for clearing my way as I moved on.
My fellow warriors managed to catch up to me as they readied their lances. A smile broke across my face as I saw a man run next to me.
" Albert. " I nodded at him.
He wore a silver plated armour that was wrapped over his form tightly by blue cloth. The insignia of a griffin etched into it, clearly visible despite the mud and dirt that did nothing to mask their unyielding form and composure. It was the very same uniform that I wore myself.
He returned my nod with a smile which I could see under his gleaming helm, which was carved to look like an the head of a great eagle, with wings spread out on either side.
Despite the situation, I smiled.
I was happy for I was not alone, because I was surrounded by friends, Allies.
They were called the Storm riders, The mages of the Eternal Storm, and known by many such names. It was a group that had existed since ages past, long before the adventurer’s guild came to be, but were drafted into it during its rise. They even had deep ties with the Empire, and were made up by a few who were Knighted, made into nobility because of their actions, their very might. Even so, as much as the Empire pushes them around, they were still adventurers at heart.
They were a legendary bunch, told of in fairy-tales to children, and I grew up listening to their might and glory. Such was why I persevered to join them as a trainee long before the signs of the Goddess manifested on that fateful night.
But I shook my head as I charged ahead. I needed to concentrate.
The abomination, apparently noticed that it’s effort to hinder us were for naught and so It raised it’s six arms as the hand it the centre of it’s torso flexed it’s fingers.
It shifted it’s full attention towards me. Eyes all over it’s body locked onto my movements.
The mouth split across it’s palm once again as it’s Coarse voice boomed across the landscape.
“MORTAL PAWN, YOU ARE NOT MEANT TO BE HERE. FLEE OR FACE YOUR DEMISE!”
I’ve heard the creature speak once before, in its own outlandish language, but hearing it talk in the Empire’s tongue made my brain freeze.
But then again, This makes things easier.
“ CREATURE, It doesn’t MATTER if I’m not worthy, or if I am not meant to be here. I didn’t come here to prove ANYTHING to you, my purpose here is to deal you your end! “
The abomination crouched low, it’s six arms holding it up just above the ground. The way it stood made me feel like I was staring at some sort of messed up spider. The tentacles that made up its lower body tensed and the red fog that rolled down it’s body ceased. Instead, an eerie red glow started to emanate from inside of it. Suddenly, it burst into an explosion as black corrupted magic seemed to shroud it’s form in what seemed like a misty armour.
“ THEN SO BE IT, YOU SHALL SEE DEATH! ”
With that, the thing switched back to it’s native lingo and the accursed words of power rolled across the landscape once again. It that tore apart my head, my mind started to cloud and my confidence started to break as I held on to my sanity as the thing continued.
My grip tightening around my spear as I tried to shake off the feeling of dread as I dashed forward, halting the thing in it’s chant.
Then it struck it’s fists down on the earth, sending tremors up my feet.
Suddenly, pillars of rock propelled into the sky like spears thrust into the air, trying to impale me where I stood. I glanced around and noticed that I was suddenly surrounded by a forest of earthen trees. I realised my mistake too late.
“ I went too far ahead. “
I cursed under my breath, as the creature had succeeded in separating me from my allies, who were busy trying to whittle down the advance of the rising pillars that threatened to strand everyone in the middle of an unfavourable terrain, and impale them while doing so.
My situation was worse.
Mainly because I was here, alone with that THING.
My fate was looking bleak, but my spear was still saturated with power, and I could probably kill it with a clean strike, but the Abomination had lots of cover to hide behind now. One wrong move could cost me my life.
A sinister laugh echoed around me as I spun around, searching for the source.
The creature was speaking and I heard it’s whispers from behind, promising death.
I spun around to see nothing.
Then I felt a presence behind me again, as well as impending sense of doom.
I twirled around, only to be greeted by empty air once again.
The atmosphere was heavy with the bloodlust as the creature focused its attention towards me.
I bit my lip.
There was a crash to my left, and I spun around in a reflex, nearly letting go of my spear in a thrust, only to pull back at the last moment.
There was nothing there.
My memory flashed back to how the Abomination swam through the Earth, cutting through it like a sword. It was indeed fast, and it was taunting me into wasting my only chance at killing it.
Sweat dripped down my face, as my attention was diverted to my own self for the briefest of moments. My heart was beating like a stampede of horses, threatening to tear itself out of my chest.
I tied to calm down, forcing myself to take longer breaths, and I slowly started to become calmer, more aware, my mind clearer. I need to be at my calmest right now, or I will fail miserably. Blood tricked down from bruises on my thigh. I have no idea on how I got those, and I was pretty sure I made it all the way here unscathed.
“ Maybe I scraped myself while dodging the pillars. “
I shook my head, and was pleased to notice that there were no other damage. Although… my pauldrons were bent out of shape, and it obstructed my movement a little bit, so I used my free hand to unstrap them off my shoulders. The glinting metal fell to the ground, breaking the eerie silence that was cast over the distant explosions from afar. The others were probably pushed back significantly.
I cursed my luck once again.
How can this creature be so powerful? It was beyond reason!
But then again, if it was using the corrupted magic that saturated these parts, then it had plenty to go on. All it needed after that was a proper circuit to process it for it’s use, and it probably had plenty of time modifying it’s own body, which was obvious when considering it’s appearance. It’s not like a normal living creature would even have six arms, tentacles for legs and a hand for a head.
It was so obvious that I cursed myself for realising it so late. Perhaps the mages had already made that connection but it's not like it changes things. I might have accidentally skimmed over it too. I really need to pay more attention to reports but my predominantly inattentive brain doesn’t help things. Maria did say that I was the stupidest hero to ever walk the world. Maybe she’s right.
I stood still, clearing my mind of all distractions once again as my eyes darted across the landscape.
Suddenly, I heard the grinding noise of more pillars shooting up in close proximity as I spied an explorer platform veering into view. My jaw dropped in shock. I was absolutely flabbergasted.
The explorer platforms were employed for vital communications and they’re DEFINITELY not intended for use in combat. They would never use them to travel right into the heart of a battlefield, because it meant certain death for those riding it as well as a waste of expensive Magitech!
Then things made sense as I saw who were riding it.
I tried to shoo them away but then I saw a man clad in bulky black armour decorated with black pieces of cloth and was astonished to see him leaping off, onto a rising pillar, and then use it as a foothold to hurtle himself to the next and continue towards me with such skill and agility I had never witnessed before in my entire life, even so with such seemingly heavy armour. Even the Winged warriors of the Dawn couldn’t possibly be so agile! The others, whom I recognised as two half-elves, one of whom was an explorer and the other some kind of a mage, which was strange. But then again, I was an exception to the limitataions of half elves so I couldn't really say much. Then there was a strange woman with completely white features and a guy who seemed to be some sort of blade wielder.
It was a party which was absolutely out of place.
Another pillar shot up and I watched as the platform swerved to avoid it, sending it spinning onto the ground, completely out of balance, threatening to send its riders falling to their doom. I kept track of it in the corner of my eye as it disappeared from my sight. I shook my head.
THAT’S why you don’t use levitation platforms in the middle of a battle.
The man in the black armour landed next to me on both feet, perfectly in balance. If not for my current predicament, I would have applauded him for his skill.
Without any prompt, he dashed next to me and stood behind me, back to back.
He spoke in a deep voice.
“Hero, we may have underestimated the scale of this monster’s prowess in magic I see.”
“ Call me Nathan, please. And yes, it seems that way.”
His horned helmet dipped and he spoke again.
“ Of course, good sir, I am known as Nirlam.”
“ Nirlam the Defier? I’ve heard about you. You’re quite famous, you know. I admire your courage.”
He paused as well.
“ It is indeed an honour to receive praise from one such as yourself, Hero and –“
Our conversation was cut short as the creature’s voice echoed across the Pillars that surrounded us.
To my confusion, Nirlam suddenly dashed towards my Right, in the complete opposite direction of where the voice seemed to originate from, and he struck a pillar the width of a house, shattering its base as if it was glass.
I admit the lad has some strength, but why-
“Oh” I mumbled.
Several dozen feet above Nirlam, I saw the pillar ripple as a seven hands emerged.
Six of them gripped the sides of the fissure, and propelled itself forward, leaping over the both of us as the pillar collapsed. The falling stone didn’t cause too much disturbance as it was caught and held in place by the adjacent one. Even so, It raised a fair bit of dust which washed over all of us.
For a tense, few moments, I stood still waiting for the dust to clear.
I heard shuffling and the scratching of multiple bodies on rock as what I assumed to be the Abomination started to circle me. The atmosphere shifted as I felt the wind rippling around me.
I readied my spear to strike but held back as I made out Nirlam through the cloud of dust as he swung his blade, cleaving through the dust and almost-, ALMOST landing a critical strike on the thing’s central hand. It stopped its dash midway and used its six arms to propel itself backwards like a spider.
Was Nirlam a sensory type? I haven't heard of anything of the sort and he was too strong for it as well, but his actions speak otherwise.
The Abomination didn’t attack again.
We waited for the dust to settle down.
After a tense minute that felt like an hour, my eyes could finally make out the Abomination’s silhouette. The thing was probably low on magic as well, as it most likely expended an astronomical amount to raise this forest of pillars. It wasn’t the optimal move but the most effective one. Its magic was nearly depleted, just like me. And Nirlam being here didn’t make things any better for it. However, considering it's sheer strength alone, it was enough to end things as a stalemate.
I took a deep breath before readying my stance once again. My right hand wrapped around my spear and my left stabilising my balance as I prepared my skill.
Time seemed to stretch on as I heard my heart beat, felt my sweat dripping off my face. My knuckles were white from the intensity at which I held the spear. The ache in my arms and back flared up in intensity. Even the bruises on my left thigh were acting up but I ignored all of it. I forced myself to. My thoughts shut down as my mind zoned in on my sole objective. I was entranced in a moment of focus so intense that it felt like the world had come to a standstill.
I dashed forward.
And so did the Abomination.
It crouched onto the ground like an arachnid and glided over the Ground like a bird skimming the skies.
And then we clashed.
Hands tried to grapple me from all directions. I blocked, parried, dodged, countered and swung with the hilt of my spear, it’s magic tense, ready to explode but still reigned in. I needed to find an opening to strike, for it’s arms, despite the obvious signs of decay, felt like it was made of diamond. I shouldn’t risk any damping effect whatsoever. I rolled underneath it and twisted upwards to drive the spear into it’s torso but the abomination planted all six of it’s arms into the ground and it heaved.
It lifted it’s entire writhing form up into the air like a drawbridge being raised and twisted its body, positioning it’s colossal form down on the ground behind it once again with graceful ease. It released it’s six arms and they spun like a top around it’s torso as it’s twisted form straightened itself while I heard the sounds of countless bones snapping and grinding against each other. It was unbelievably flexible, something I never expected.
I was too careless.
I dashed to Its left while Nirlam moved to it’s right as we tried to flank it, but it just pushed itself off the ground, throwing itself backwards to escape our grip.
It’s central hand, protected by the cover of antlers, split across the middle of it's palm as its mouth opened and started chanting a spell. I was shocked. The rate at which it amassed magic was phenomenal.
And we were too far away from it to interfere. As I tensed myself, preparing for the worst, a boulder came out of nowhere and crashed into the creature, bending two of its arms into an odd angle and interrupting it as it’s form skidded across stone from the force of the impact.
My eyes darted to my right as I saw the girl with white hair lifting another boulder without tire and throwing it once again. This time, the abomination was prepared as it skilfully dodged the flying rock and its hands straightened itself as if nothing ever happened.
I saw the biggest frown I’ve ever seen spread across its face as it regarded the girl.
Then, ignoring both me and Nirlam, it shot towards the girl like she was suddenly the most important thing in the world.
The girl, obviously startled, paused before hurling the boulder she held. Then continued, dashing into the cover of the pillars, running and screaming "I'M SORRY!" like a frightened child. The abomination, for whatever reason it may have held, was so immersed in the chase that it completely shut out it’s surroundings. It was then that Nirlam threw his weapon, which impaled itself onto the creature, right between the protective cover of the antlers and barely a few inches next to its central hand.
That stopped the Abomination in its tracks while I heard Nirlam curse himself for missing.
It finally brought it’s full attention back to us as the girl ran past us, and took up an elven sword with both hands, holding it up awkwardly.
The Abomination ROARED.
The sound shook the ground below us, and the sheer power and vibrations of the emotion in it leaked reverberated in my lungs.
I felt the denial, the RAGE, the unrestrained bloodlust that leaked into it’s voice as it screamed at us.
As if on cue, rain started to pelt down like knives from the sky. Lightning rumbled in the distance in synchrony with the monster as it thundered forward.
My heart felt cold, numb.
There was no longer any fear, for I was already terrified beyond reason, but like a cornered animal, I bared my teeth and dashed forward to meet its charge.
This was a situation of life and death, and if I didn’t do anything, I will certainly,
I leapt, my spear’s light pulsating as it grew in brightness till it washed the world in a golden light.
And then I brought it down on the creature like a guillotine.
No longer shall I care for openings, or rules of battle, or even my own safety. This one strike held every ounce of magic I had left in my body, and all that I had accumulated for this very moment. More than that, it held the hope that had been placed upon my shoulders by all those who believed in me, it held my rage, my sadness, my despair, my loss, the courage from overcoming all that terrified me to the bone and most important of all, it held,
And then I threw the spear with every ounce of strength I had left.
“ You were a worthy opponent, despite your evil. “
I whispered, as I saw the spear passing through the Abomination's antlers, cutting through it as if it was water.
And then the world washed in white silence.