The roar of the charr charge was deafening, rattling the leaves of the trees. Fear soon followed the war cry, and the warband followed the fear. As soon as they hit the ground, the ferocious warriors immediately began to assume a spearhead formation. The humans looked upon the aggressors with uncertainty.
Haggaz hauled a thick tower shield off of his back, taking the point of the charge. The bulwark of tribal iron protected his entire body. Howl and Grym joined him at his sides, readying their own shields, and the rest of the warband falling in behind them. Their dewclaws thundered upon the stream, the icy chill of the water was no deterrent for their lust for battle.
Lieutenant Bernard was a wily officer, however. With a single hand motion, the Ebon Vanguard had spread out, understanding their commander’s silent order. Their uniforms of spiky black metal tumbled and sprinted into the forest, melding with the shadows of the trees. Only Elanor remained… A twisted grin like a scar across her face. She began to chuckle.
Holding her walking stick, a sturdy, six foot branch of some elegant tree, Elanor cast her hand outwards, as if she had the power to stop such a force of primal rage. The most observant of the charr might’ve noticed strange glyphs and symbols beginning to etch themselves into the environment. Upon a nearby tree, sadistic green light began to carve out a symbol so complex to look upon it for too long would scratch one’s mind.
The symbols chiseled themselves into trees, rocks, below the earth, and seemingly everywhere. The charr did not notice. Or so they thought. There was a crack of air, something that sounded like a blade of lightning striking the ground, and Elanor turned her head. It broke her concentration.
“Duck, you fool! DUCK!” Hinter had called from an unknown location.
She did. Curling her body down, something whipped by her head, a sharp whistle cut through the air and embedded itself in the ground. The Ebon Vanguard instantly knew the Charr’s ace in the hole. A Sniper. They shifted in their hiding places, Elanor scrambling to get away. Crack. Crack. Crack. Crack.
The bullets rained down like an unseen lightning storm, the sound of its thunder rivaling the roar of the advancing force. Elanor dodged and ducked, throwing herself in random directions trying to avoid the hail of metal bullets. Crack! Crack! Two more shots fired off in rapid succession, the first missing and–
The force of the impact was like her childhood days of getting shoved around by her brother. The paralyzing feeling that was pain surged from her ankle, causing her to trip and fumble into the dirt of the forest. She cried out, but she had to keep moving. The shots rained down around her in a steady staccato.
“Damn it…” Kalc muttered, reaching for another clip of bullets. Smoke billowed from the hot metal of his rifle. He ripped out the empty magazine from his rifle and reached for a new one, slamming it in and cocking his rifle again. It shouldn’t have taken this many shots. Kalc was one of the best marksmen in the Black Citadel, the heart of Iron Legion.
Yet, he only managed to land one shot upon this unarmored human. An ankle shot. He had aimed for the head, lungs, stomach, thighs… Any bullet should’ve completely neutralized whatever threat this single human possessed. He humphed as he reloaded.
The charr continued to charge… They were through the stream now. They surged with the single mind to destroy their enemies, even if they could not see them. They would sniff them out like the dogs of war they were, and they would annihilate them. Their dewclaws pounded the soft earth like a stampede. They did not see hungry glyphs of insidious green begin to blur and vibrate.
There was a new storm. The sound was nothing like powerful thunder of the sniper, but a reverberating shriek that tore through all its listeners’ skulls. Rygak Banefang approached a symbol on the side of a rock, only a single moment of perplexion crossed his muzzle before the maddening symbol exploded. Green energy pierced through Rygak, leaving a limp body bathed in its own blood.
“What was that!?” Gryx called out, turning his head to the ear-shattering explosion. He received no answer as an arrow knocked his skull.
“Where are you, damn it!” Haggaz roared in frustration, his axe cleaving through underbrush. His frustration was met with the angry snap of a pistol, the bullet embedding itself within his flesh.
Benson silently cursed as a charr with white fur, shoulder stained red, turned its wild gaze upon him. He leapt from behind a thick tree and darted for the next patch of cover.
“I found you now, mouse!” Haggaz Banesoul growled, as he charged for the human. He surged through the thicket towards his prey. But another human appeared, seemingly from nowhere, and lodged a sword through his eye. Haggaz felt the cold steel pierce him and there was a moment of panic, he gurgled as blood ran from the wounds, staining his fur crimson.
Lieutenant Bernard tore his blade from the charr’s skull. It was a swift kill, with minimal suffering. He had fought charr for nearly a decade, but he believed that all beasts deserved a shred of mercy. Bernard gave a signal to Kaitlyn and disappeared into the shadow of the forest.
Another shrieking explosion shook the battlefield as a glyph exploded. Elanor’s wicked grin had never left her face. This time, it had not been a charr that set off the mark, but Erik. It’s okay, she was planning on killing him anyways. Looking to her ankle, the charr bullet had shattered it, embedding itself in the bone. Under normal circumstances, the wound would’ve been crippling. Perhaps she would never be able to walk right again, especially if the wound went untreated. She shook her head. The pain was still intense. It clouded her mind, but she still had a few tricks left.
She held a hand over the wound and began to grunt in pain. Her ankle began to vibrate, the agony ripping its way to her head, but she held her focus firm. Her face twisted in suffering, but she kept her gaze locked upon the wound. Suddenly, the bullet began to peek out of her boot. Still it vibrated, and then it leapt out of the wound, flying into her open palm. Her fingers wrapped slowly around the bullet.
The magic did not yet stop, however. Next, the blood around the bullet and the boot began to blur as well. It also vibrated slowly before coming to life, moving. Elanor’s concentration was sharp now, the worst of the pain passing over. Her blood crawled from the ground, from the bullet, and from her boot back into the hole in her ankle. Her bones began to slowly move.
The fractures sealed. The flesh knitted itself together. The skin weaved over it all once more. With a gasp for air, her hand fell down and she let her head fall against the log, short blonde hair falling over her face. She merely sat still, grasping at the air around her. She merely sat still as she heard two more piercing explosions shred charr and human flesh. She merely sat still as a wicked smile curved her lips and her eyes slowly opened. They were an insidious, sadistic green.
Riege was still sprinting to the ambush point when she heard the shots of Kalc’s rifle and the strange, ear-piercing explosions. She knew the humans had tricks. Whatever traps they had laid, her warband had walked right into them without thought. Without guidance. Riege damned any gods that watched over the humans. She damned the Dead Gods of the charr. She damned everything as her brothers and sisters, family and friends, were dying. And then she saw Rigg.
“Rigg!” Riege Banerazor shouted in relief to at least see one soldier alive.
Rigg Baneblood merely crouched behind a large rock formation, his gaze hollowly staring at the ground. He shuddered. It took him a few moments before he turned to Riege, which now padded up to him. His words wavered, as if he was seeing a savior… or a ghost.
“Snap out of it, pup!” Riege backhanded Rigg’s muzzle as she growled. “We’re Blood Legion! Status Report, now!”
It had worked. Rigg recoiled from the blow and stood, shaking himself. “Warband charged with the signal. I refused to move until you showed up, sir.”
“Burn me!” Riege snapped before pausing. She continued, calmly, “What’re we facing?”
“It’s… horrible…” Rigg began to relapse into his sorry state before shaking his head. He spoke again, “They’re some kind of magic bombs, sir! They flay the pelt and flesh off a soldier. The Vanguard are using guerilla tactics to try and get as many of us as they can with the bombs!”
Riege spat. It was worse than she thought. She opened her maw and growled, “Alright, soldier! We’re going in. Stay behind me and keep an eye out for whatever these bombs are! CHARGE!”
Grym Banefang grinned as his mace had crushed Mac’s ribcage.
Jonathan returned the favor with his warhammer.
Elise unleashed pinpoint after pinpoint strike with her arrows.
Kalla Baneblade unleashed Elise’s head.
Hinter frowned as beads of sweat rolled from under his helmet. This charr was monstrously strong, and skilled as well. A creature with night-black fur that swept over its eyes, this charr wielded a large shield and a wicked looking dagger. He had laughed inwardly at the combination before, but now, when he fought for his life, he understood the deadly combination.
Normally, what a human dagger-wielder lacked in reach and weight, the long and muscular arm of the charr made up for. Hinter slashed at Howl Banetail’s knee, but the blow was intercepted by the hard steel of the charr’s shield. Howl laughed in the thrill of battle, his notched longknife darting out like a serpent. Hinter swayed to one side, the bite of the blade striking air before returning to the safety of the shield. Another strike from the longknife came, an underhanded slash to a vulnerable point in Hinter’s armor. The armpit.
Hinter danced out of the way and tried to bring his sword down on the charr’s thick arm, but his stroke was met by the weight of the beast’s shield shoving him away. Hinter fell backward on his rear, his blade landing a foot away from him. He reached for the blade, but he saw strange green light carving its path under him. By the time he recognized the symbol, it was too late.
When the charr lowered his shield, he had not imagined what he would see next. Within seconds, the burnt and bloody corpse moved. It twitched. Howl furrowed his black brow as he lunged at the corpse, driving his longknife into the human’s spine. The blade pierced through singed black armor, thrusting itself in still hot flesh. Blood oozed from all over the body as Hinter slowly stood up, spasming, and pulled a knife from his belt.
Howl growled as he jabbed his blade into the human’s head, the strike shredding through its helmet. He growled again in frustration as he wrenched his blade free of the human’s skull and drove it again through its neck. Consumed with anger, he thrusted and stabbed, slashed and shredded, and did not notice when Hinter brought his small dagger into Howl’s still-living throat.
Elanor continued her sadistic enjoyment as she watched the corpse of Hinter kill the black charr. The beast was confused, its expression questioned how this could be. It stabbed one last time at the dead body before it too, collapsed. Elanor let her hands drop and the body of Hinter dropped as well. She chuckled a little bit, before gasping for air once more. It took a great effort to puppet the newly dead.
“STAY DEAD!” Kalla Baneblade shouted as she hacked at the corpse of Elise, each blow of her greatsword freeing chunks of flesh from the human’s body. In a single moment of rage, Kalla grasped her massive blade with both hands and hewed Elise’s body in half, the strike splitting her left half from her right. The body fell, lying limp on the ground. Kalla thrusted her blade into the body one final time before a grin of triumph pressed its way onto her muzzle.
Elanor swayed her arms and body in a trace, hidden in her roost. Where her companions had fallen, she puppeted their bodies to fight on. She pictured the necrotic symbols in her mind and swayed her arms as she conducted the slow dirge of death. This is what she signed up for. An opportunity to practice her necrotic arts in the field. Her magic was turning the tide of the battle… to her side.
The charr did not fare well against the new tactics. The risen dead fought on, the humans would fight until they could move no more. The charr roared, their weapons falling upon still hot and still bloody flesh. They knew something foul was at play, but they could do nothing. The fierce warriors turned their bloodlust into raw will to survive.
Faster. Riege sprinted through the cold stream, her large heart beating faster. Faster. She had to move, to salvage whatever mess her warband had gotten themselves into. She ran faster, adrenaline flooding her veins. She ran faster, her paw moving to her scabbard. Her claws gripped the wrapped leather handle of her weapon as her legs ran faster. Faster.
Crack! A blast thundered out through the forest. Kalc gnashed his fangs. Crack! Crack! No matter how much lead he emptied into these humans, they fought on. They ripped apart Fezz and Loryk, and fought on still. His mind raced as he fired two more shots. Could it be puppetry? Crack! Machinery of some kind? Crack! No. Humans disliked machines. It had to be magic. Crack! It had to be that human female, the mage. Click.
Kalc lowered his rifle as yet another magazine of ammunition ran out. He pulled it out and sighed… Standing, he got a better look at the skirmish. Charr blood wet the earth while human corpses fought on. He had made a bad call. He should’ve waited, avoided them, observed longer, anything but this. He then felt a stab of pain as a crossbow bolt lodged itself between his ribs. His good eye bulged.
“Got him!” Kaitlyn laughed, reloading her crossbow. She jumped from the tree branches and landed on the ground with a soft grunt. Sprinting through the trees and brush, finding herself in a clearing by the stream. Just then, she saw a charr. She smiled, priming her crossbow.
The creature was rather beautiful, Kaitlyn mused. It had fur the color of the flamegrass, native to Ascalon, and four elegant horns that swept backwards… but it was all nothing compared to its eyes… Its eyes pierced through her. They shined bright green, primal and ferocious. They burned bright like some supernatural fire.
It’s almost a shame to put this beast down…
…Riege had thought. She charged towards the human and closed the gap with ease. The creature raised a crossbow at her, but she merely snickered. Easy prey. By the time the bolt fired, it was too late. Riege had leaned down, crouching onto all fours. The bolt whipped by her, definitely aimed at her head, and she pounced.
Mid air, her paw ripped out a long blade that blocked out the sun’s light. It reached over five feet in length; yet every inch of its wicked edge was covered in large fang-like barbs. The sword whistled as it sliced cleanly through the wind, and the human let out a scream as the black blade sank its fangs into its prey.
The slash tore through the human’s leather and black plated armor, biting into its neck and freeing a fountain of blood. Riege did not stop. She slashed the blade into the air, the blood of its victim leaving its cold edge. She continued and sprinted through the forest, looking for more of her warband… or more enemies.