• Solo • 3. Thunderbolt

27th of Cylus 720

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Kasoria
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3. Thunderbolt

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27th trial, Cylus, 720

Continued from here


The leader roared its rage and hatred out into the wall of men, but not its fear. It simply wasn't capable of it; the rudimentary understanding of such things as self-preservation, mortality, and finite existence was not built into it. Its masters had created it to be fearless, not just without fear, but incapable. Even pain was just a simple if visceral neurological warning system, telling it damage had been sustained and it stood a better chance of fleeing to survive and attack again, rather than stay and die fruitlessly.

That had been the way during the siege. When it had not yet been a leader, and hurled itself along with its kin against the walls. But it had been wounded, grievously, and forced to retreat. When next the masters had called... it had a new task. One of sneaking and ambushing and harrying, rather than brute force assault. Thus it had become a leader of scattered Heathounds; thus it had begun its campaign, though such concepts would elude it utterly.

The leader roared, but this time, it did not flee. All around it were foes. Enemies. Targets. Meat. Meat meat meat blood blood bone flesh and squishy soft and tasty things to be charred and that part of it that had been shoved in amidst the prefabricated and the manufactured cried out for satisfaction and no, no it would not run.

It did not know it would die. The thought did not cross its mind. It simply fought until the blackness took it.

"Hell's Shit," Sir Fredrik snarled, in a very un-Knightly manner. Not that he cared much in that instant. The largest of the Heathounds - the leader, he was sure of it - practically demolished Sir Quinn with that leap. Hundreds of pounds of armored body behind a gaping more tore the Knight clear off the back of his horse and was chewing into his armor before they'd even hit the ground. "Help him! Take it down, damnit! Take it-"

The words were buried a moment later, as Sir Quinn started screaming.

Kasoria heard, but did not see. He had his own enemy to fight. The moment he landed, the thing was on him. Eyeless face roaring around that maw, lunging at the one that had impaled it with that fucking human spear. Kasoria's ax pulled back and he held out his hand, as if he would catch the lunging creature by the throat-

CRACK

The Heathound seemed jump straight into a wall that was not there. One moment it was leaping for him, feet off the ground, unstoppable and inevitable compared to the skinny old man with the ax and cloak. Then it smashed into something that not only broke every tooth in its skull, but sent it flying back as if struck by a god's hammer. By the crazed light of a dozen flashing, fleeing, running torches, anyone watching might see the feral smile sliding across the old man's face. He shook his hand, and the glow in the center of it faded.

Barrier and Backlash. Fast becoming my favorite.

He didn't give the stunned creature a chance to right itself. As it writhed on its side, spitting teeth and boiling blood, he dashed over, ax raised-

SHUNK

-bringing it straight down like an executioner, bearded head ripping through armored scaled and into the flesh-that-was-not-quite-flesh underneath it. Facsimile muscles and tendons parted as the human braced one foot on the ax and instead of ripping the ax up and out-

There was a terrible, daemonic scream as Kasoria forced all his strength into ripping the ax back towards himself. Parallel to the ground. Ripping the ragged hole wider through the monster as he pulled it free. Ripping and tearing like a rotten sail being pared by daggers mingled with the shrieking. Guts and effluence poured from the wound made into a geyser instead. The Etzori wasn't content with a quick, narrow wound. He wanted this thing mangled and insensate with agony to the point it couldn't even think of attacking. That it would bleed out in trills, not bits.

He'd seen what they could do, even when hewn with mortal wounds. He wasn't taking chances. He ripped clear the ax and when the shattered head swung towards him again-

THUNK

-the ax struck out again, from the side, into where he assumed the creature's brain would be. Even one-handed, he could put a truly brutal amount of force into the blow. The ax head vanished into dark, reptilian scales... and when he pulled it clear, the blue glow in its mouth sputtered and began to fade. Right before it slumped down to the ground with a gurgled sigh.

One down...

He looked around and saw a familiar scene of nauseating, desperate chaos playing out around him. A caravan waylaid and assaulted on the road. Travelers and their guards, engaged in wild melee with ambushers. Only this time, it wasn't bandits and fat merchants with their hired muscle, but travelers and Knights and Fire-born monstrosities. Kasoria shoved a slew of old memories from his head and found his footing. The guards were forming a rough line between the carts and wagons and the Fire-born. The Knights had slammed into the back of the pack... and the monsters were in the middle of that sandwich. Trapped and surprised, nowhere to go but back into the dirt.

And by the looks of it, that's where a few of them had already gone. But not all. And not the big one.
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Kasoria
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Re: 3. Thunderbolt

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These were not the men he'd met and led at the start of the siege. Ser Fredrik could see that now, proof in their actions that night that stretched on through the season. Even in the darkness, in the chaos the shadows made of the battle, he could see flashes of faces that were no longer turgid with fear. These men and boys that had seen only a scrape or two, perhaps a duel or a bandit hunt for the mos veteran of them... they were all grizzled old hands at this business now. They didn't shirk away nor run screaming from the Heathounds, like they had that first trial.

They stood their ground. On their horses or on their own feet. With spear and bow and sword and ax and shield. Hemming them in and trading blows with monsters from the depths of hell.

The old Knight was always ready to be proud of those he commanded, and convinced they would redeem his hope in that. That night, his faith was rewarded.

"That's the way, that's the way!" He shouted to his side, as a pair of boys who'd no beards but fresh scars on their faces struck as the flanks of one of the monsters. Spears in its sides, pinned and thrashing, it was easy meat from a third that came up from the front and jammed his sword into the beast's maw. The Heathound shuddered and cough and died under them. "Find another one! We're nearly-"

"Sir! Sir Fredrik, look-"

Instinct saved the Knight. He turned and brought up his longsword in the same moment, grip two-handed and it was that steel in his muscles and five-feet of immaculate sword in the way that stopped the pack leader-

-when it sprung at him from the remains of Sir Quinn, face now a mess of glistening blood and glowing etheric blue. The Knight was thrown onto his back and grunted, snarled, spat up into the maw that was snapping around his trusty blade. The Knight was struggling just to keep the sword between him and those jaws, face lit by the unholy blue behind those fangs. Claws scrabbled and slashed at his sides and belly but could not pierce his armow. The thing snapped madly, furiously, uncaring as arrow after arrow plunged into its back. Spears followed, swords, but Fredrik knew madness when it was spewing blood all over him.

It's going to kill me, he thought with sudden, sickening clarity. It's decided it won't die until I'm dead.

Panic. He felt it well in him and yet refused to scream. No, he'd not give satisfaction to this faithless monster. Even as his arms started to tremble and the teeth came close, pack leader straining its muscles to get in one good bite at his face-

Then it was... gone. The damnedest thing.

Sir Fredrik didn't know what he was seeing for a moment. The face, the maw, the teeth, the eyeless mask of hatred... it was getting smaller. He assumed at first his mind was simply snapping from fear, but no, it was... moving away from him. He felt the great, crushing weight leave his form. He looked up, unable to look away, and could see the Heathound lifted into the air. It thrashed for a moment, until all at once all four stubby legs snapped to its body, as if-

Chained.

A memory. A lesson. The words and actions of a mage, from long ago. Then one more recent, and it was like he knew where to look before he saw the movement-

-and the Etzori strode into sight. One hand heavy with a bloody ax. The other raised... and glowing.

"Ugly cunt."

That was the mage's sole verdict. The rest of the pack were dead. The surviving Knights and their men were staring at the last, the largest, the cruelest and most vicious of them. Now floating five feet off the ground, lashed and gagged by magical energy... and then, Kasoria clenched his hand into a fist.

The sound the creature made drew pity even from Sir Fredrik. It was the choked, strangled, denied whine of a tortured man with his mouth sewn shut. The air around the monster rebelled against it, hardened and firmed up into ether thick as metal. It tried to scream and the Knight wondered why... until he got to his knees... and could see.

It was being squeezed. Those chains around it, invisible and magical, weren't just holding it. They were crushing it. The foreign mage's hand clenched tighter, until his knuckles went white and the Heathound started to convulse. They could hear things crack and pop and burst within that squat, ugly body. Organs were squashed like rotten fruit. Bones snapped like branches put under too much pressure. Blood... and other things, began to leak out of orifices Sir Fredrik did not want to think about.

"K... Karim?" He managed to cough out as he got to his feet. The leaking had become a trickle. Then a torrent. Blessed Llharen, it was like he was forcing all its guts out from its mouth! "Finish this! End it!"

The man looked at him, for a moment. It was not the coldness in those black eyes that made Sir Fredrik pause. It was not the ruthlessness they implied. He was old enough to know that a Knight needed that steel in his spine and conviction in his soul. Sometimes... a man's vows required terrible things. Actions and choices forced a Knight to make only bad decisions, for the day presented bad, and worse. Sir Fredrik knew that, accepted it, and forgave it the first time he'd seen the flicker of it in the mercenary's eyes.

No. It was the question, that frightened him, if only for the briefest trill. Evoked by a subtle tilt of Kasoria's head, and a frown a moment after. As if he didn't quite understand... why he wouldn't make a monster like this suffer, if he could.

But before he could build more from that, the mercenary shrugged, and opened his hand. The leader came crashing down, blood splattering from its mouth and... other places. Before it could even gurgle or groan a dozen blades were besieging it. There was no defiant last stand for it. No fleshy enemy dragged to the darkness in its jaws as it died. Its insides were pulped and its legs were broken thrice-over. It lay there, gasping, and let them kill it. It met the darkness with a bloody sigh, and felt nothing more.
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Kasoria
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Re: 3. Thunderbolt

"That was... excessive, Karim."

Uh-oh. Old boy ain't happy.

Kasoria didn't bother playing dumb, though. He respected the knight too much for that. He looked up from cleaning his ax and found Ser Fredrik standing there. Flanked by his squires, features stern and not judgmental. Kasoria... sorry, "Karim" couldn't help but shake his head. It was hard not to like a man with such a practical mind in his skull. He recognized Karim's gifts and talents, the way they had saved lives that night, including his own... but he had a duty, a code of ethics to abide by, and couldn't ignore them. Especially when knowing and obeying them was essential to the two young man at his sides.

So he needs to make a show, but not insult me in the doing. And he will. Clever bloke.

"Safest way t'get the job done," he said casually, shrugging one shoulder and squeezing some excess water off his cloth. Someone on the caravan had provided him with a cloth and bucket. "Could a' gone wiv' me ax. Might a' worked. But would a' taken time. Might a' seen yer face get chewed off 'fore I finished the big cunt." A smile. Again, he couldn't help it. "So... magic. That was faster. That was surer. An' it worked."

"You did not need to-"

"Torment it?" Kasoria had limits, and his tone showed it. He was not a Knight. He had no code nor vows and his honor was as thin as the edge of that ax. A flash of disgust crossed his black eyes. "A monster? That would a' torn apart ev'ry soul 'ere an' eaten 'em at the same time? Dun lecture me, Knight. I ain't one of yer lads there."

There was an awkward, ugly silence. Kasoria hated that it got to him. Hated it had been long enough with these people that he couldn't just ignore it. He polished the clean metal and saw the shadow of his reflection in it. He sighed and shook his head.

"Youse're an old enuf hand t'know this business'z fuckin' ugly. Y'do what yeh can, when yeh need to. Ain't nothin' excessive, when yeh got lives on the line."

"You inflicted pain, Karim, and wantonly." Fredrik's gaze was granite, but his tone seemed to beg some understanding. He took a step forward and pointed to the mutilated wreck of the leader. "You could have held it there, and i could have ended it. Quickly and cleanly. But no. You crushed its insides. You broke its bones. You brutalized it, your tortured it-"

"An' I'd do it agen," Kasoria said, standing suddenly, though he barely came up to the bigger man's chin. "Cuz it wuz the quicker way, it was the efficient way... an' it saved yer life. Dat's what mattered t'me." His eyes flickered left and right, then back to the Knight. "But I ain't no Knight, that's fer true. Yer lads dun need to learn the shite I do wiv' me wyrd. But if they should see it... too bad."

Sir Fredrik knew not to push certain people. There was no... not helping them, but no changing them. They would only do that when they wanted, and when they were ready. Karim was too strong in himself to be otherwise, this he knew immediately. The little man had likely been reaving and killing his way across the world for a long time. Fates, he knew him, after all. He recognized him. Dirty and bedraggled and festooned with steel and bearing a half-dozen heads for bounty money. Yet this was not the same man he had met the arc before. Somehow better, and worse, at the same time.

The Lightning Knight sighed, but did not bow his head or shake it. He had to maintain appearances, for his squires.

"I'm glad to hear it, Karim. You fought well tonight... and you have my thanks."

The man they called Karim put a fist over his heart, and bowed at the neck. There was a short burble of words from him in a language that Sir Fredrik didn't recognize. "And what does that mean, sir?"

"Short translation? Means yer welcome, Knight." The Raggedy Man slid the ax back into place across his back. "Now lets find the fuckin' horses, eh?"
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Re: 3. Thunderbolt

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Kasoria:

Knowledge:
Skill Knowledge:
Blades (War Ax) x2
Abrogation x2
Socialization x2

Non-Skill Knowledge:
NPC Sir Fredrik: Canny and Experienced Knight

Loot: -
Wealth: -
Injuries: -
Renown: 10
Magic XP: -
Skill Review: Appropriate to level.
Points: 10
- - -
Comments: This was a well-written sequel. I liked that you wrote another post from the perspective of the Heathounds and not only from Kasoria’s and his companions’ perspective. The combat scenes were quite exciting to read, but you didn’t forget to describe people’s thoughts and feelings either. Such is always interesting in my opinion. I also enjoyed the little argument in the last post where Ser Fredrik criticized how Kasoria dealt with the monster, by the way.

Enjoy your rewards!


word count: 120

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