Vengeance

It’s Wednesday, so that means a new short story. This time I’ve got a fantasy story for you (Its about 3700 words long). Its set as part of a battle, and that’s all I’m going to say. So let’s get into it!

The two armies stand on opposite sides of an open area of grassy land. The cool spring morning breeze gently blowing amongst the chainmail and armour clad uniformed rows of figures that stand at attention with spears, halberds, swords and shields in their hands. Some sit atop large muscular horses adorned with their armies’ colours, vibrant and striking, as the horses stand proud, almost as though they too are adhering to the demand of being at attention as well.

The soldiers of the army of Morhan, several thousand strong, stare across the open green field to their opposition, the soldiers of Bendul, who outnumber them two to one. The Bendul soldiers emblazoned with purple and yellow, their crest a phoenix of black, leaving yellow trails of fire on a deep purple background. Their soldiers armour is angular and aggressive as they stand like statues, snarling beneath their helmet faceplates eager to do battle. They have marched the nine hundred miles from the border of their own territory, claiming each kingdom in turn in the name of their ruler, Emperor Cornelius Valen, saviour of the Bendul and most holy of Emperors. Few kingdoms have offered much resistance against their might, which is why Emperor Valen has only sent such a small proportion to take and subsume Morhan. After all, Morhan is also a small kingdom that borders the northern edge of the river Lensus. Taking Morhan will serve as the last obstacle between the Bendul and their march toward the southern kingdoms.

Nevertheless the soldiers of Morhan are prepared for battle, and death, if it will bring them victory over the Bendul, who have been declared the Unstoppable Tide because of their continuous victories. The Morhan soldiers aim to show that the Bendul are not unstoppable and can in fact have their progress halted before they reach the river Lensus.

Silence hangs in the air as the commanders of both armies wait, but for what Sam, a soldier of Morhan, does not know as they stand a few hairs shorter than those around them. However, Sam stands with sword drawn, ready for battle. Sam has a particular wish to be here, in this battle, and that is so they can avenge the death of their father. His death came at the hands of Marshal Nero Faustus, a violent demon of a man who stands well over six feet tall and is leading this detachment of the Bendul army. Unlike other men of his rank Nero doesn’t sit atop a horse as he holds a spiked mace in his hands, grinning in anticipation of the violence that will soon come. He thirsts for it, craves it. He doesn’t remember Sam’s father and even if he did he wouldn’t care. The enemies of his Emperor, the most holy of his position, are of little concern to him. A number of his fellow Marshal’s think him a monster, but he cares little of what they think or for their idea of allowing their enemies to surrender. Why, Nero thinks, should the weak and blasphemous be permitted mercy if they stand against the great Emperor who has orchestrated the Bendul’s return to power and unprecedented expansion?

Then the call for attack sounds as both armies trumpet the declaration for combat to begin, almost simultaneously. In most cases Marshal Faustus should declare the initiation of battle as that is a mark of his station, but he cares little for the traditions of his station as he flies into a rage that carries his legs forward, the rest of his soldiers around him, all roaring their battle cries with blood curdling screams. Their anger helps to fuel Nero who holds his mace high above his head, baring his teeth from below his faceplate.

Sam’s legs pound at the soft grass below as they race, alongside their fellow soldiers, headlong into battle. Sam holds their father’s sword high above their head as they descend the hill to the battlefield.

The two armies clash as shields clatter, spears jab and swords slash. Immediately the Bendul’s front line rolls right over the Morhan, slaughtering them, though not without suffering significant casualties as the next wave from both armies clash. The ringing of metal on metal as screams of pain and roars of rage mix with the cool air to create a cacophony of noise, while copious volumes of blood spills, staining the once green grass.

Sam ducks the first swipe aimed at their head before spinning a hundred eighty degrees, sure the Bendul soldier will continue their pursuit. Sam is right as the soldier, much larger than Sam raises their weapon high to strike, but Sam quickly thrusts their own sword forward. The blade sinks deep into the Bendul hulks torso, as they let out a howl, which Sam can’t tell if it is the result of pain or rage. Sam doesn’t wait to find out as they wrench the sword free, spin to avoid the slamming downward strike and then stab forward again. The blade disappears through the new Bendul soldier’s faceplate, caving in his skull, killing him instantly. Sam knows the weakest point of the helmet is the faceplate; father had drilled that into them at an early age.

Across the battlefield Nero swings his mace wildly roaring in pleasure as his mace claims life after life with but a single strike. He is sure the battle is already won. How could it not be? He thinks to himself arrogantly with a wide sickening smile, the blood of his enemies dripping off his bare arms, splattering his legs and chainmail covered torso. Nero has always elected for as little armour as possible. It never stops a sharp blade anyway, he knows, and he hates how it limits his manoeuvrability in battle. In fact, he even loathes helmets with faceplates, but he adheres to it only because it comes by way of request from his Emperor, who reasoned that without it Nero’s face would make an easy unguarded target. Nero had understood the logic in his Emperor’s words and so had heeded them from that day until this one. Though, that is not to say that the helmet will stay atop his head by the time the battle draws to a close. It often doesn’t, however, he doubts this battle will last long enough for that, as he grabs a man’s wrist and crushes it. The Morhan soldier had hoped he could get a quick slash at the Marshal’s bare skin, but instead with his wrist limp and broken and his sword at his feet he finds only death as Nero slams the pommel of his mace into the enemies’ unshielded face. The Morhan soldiers face caves in at the force of the blow, his screams silenced as his body topples to the blood soaked field without a thought from Nero, who continues on his bloodthirsty rampage.

Sam, now surrounded by three Bendul soldiers, deflects their blows deftly as another Morhan soldier joins the fray. The new soldier takes the focus of one of the Bendul brutes leaving Sam with two attackers. The first of which thrusts a spear aiming for Sam’s plated torso, but Sam dodges the jab before bringing the blade of the sword down on the bare wood. The wood shatters under the might of the blade as the second Bendul soldier slashes wildly. Sam dives out of the way just as three more Morhan soldiers collapse on the position drawing the attention of the two Bendul brutes who have forgotten about Sam, that is until it is too late. A blade stabs through the back of the sword wielding Bendul that had been one of the attackers. He gasps in surprise at having been impaled. The other Bendul, with the headless spear, turns and roars angrily having forgotten about the three other Morhan soldiers who cut him down without pause as Sam rushes forward heading for Nero.

Sam knows the size and shape of the target as Nero is unmistakable in his shape, as he throws a Morhan soldier at a group of his fellow countryman, who become pinned below the limp Morhan’s body. They try to frantically fight to get free as Nero comes to loom over them. Their struggles continue to mount even as Nero raises his mace high above his head ready to strike, but instead he feels a jab of pain at his left flank. Nero erupts with a venomous roar as his focus shifts to his wounded flank, a spear head protruding from his flesh, the end of the spears shaft gripped by a scared looking Morhan who freezes in panic as Nero swings his mace left. The spiked nodules on the mace pierce the Morhan’s helmet as the full weight of the sphere crushes his skull, killing him instantly. Nero however, simply wrenches the mace free as he feels another stab, this time from behind, grazing across his right shoulder. Nero rumbles with rage as he turns his head to see who dares try and rend his flesh. Stood before him are four Morhan soldiers daring and ready to fight. Nero laughs once as he swings and releases his grip on the shaft of his mace, which slams into the last of the still trapped Morhan soldiers. The blow kills him instantly as it crushes his chest, his two now free comrades left holding their dead countryman’s limp arms. They had been desperately trying to pull him free. But instead they are left standing shocked at the sight of their dead friend in the moments before they are set upon by Bendul soldiers.

Nero meanwhile, thunders toward the quartet of daring Morhan soldiers who explode into a frenzy of slashes and stabs, some of which hit their mark, many of which don’t. Nero, they realise, is a surprisingly agile man for his size as he punches many of their strikes away, much to their shock. His large fist reaching as he grasps one of the swords, wrenching it free from the soldiers grasp. The blade cuts into the flesh of his hand as he swings it like a club, deflecting further blows meant to weaken him, as Sam rushes headlong toward him, only to be cut off by a small group of Bendul soldiers who wear smiles of violence.

Sam knows what will follow as they launch into an attack that forces Sam to block over and over and over, each strike seemingly stronger than the last until suddenly a window of opportunity opens. Sam takes it without hesitation and slashes, seemingly wildly. The group of Bendul soldiers leap back in response to avoid the slash as they fan out to surround Sam, only to find the Morhan soldier is already upon them. They are shocked at Sam’s speed; as the one of the Bendul is forced deflect a blow that comes in at an odd angle moments before Sam’s blade is driven upward, vertically. The blade stabs through the base of the Bendul soldiers jaw and up into his skull. The point of the blade protruding from the helmet for a few seconds before it is withdrawn.

Sam spins away to evade the next round of vicious attacks, but they are slow and clumsy and present Sam with another opening, which they take as they cut down two Bendul soldiers. One felled by a quick slice to the throat, the other a deep gash across the chest. One gargles, while the other simply exhales in shock as their bodies crumples to the bloody ground with a wet thump. Rivulets of blood run across the saturated soil, which the boots of the soldiers on both sides sink into now, slowing their movements. Sam ignores this expected issue as they stab their sword forward, with as much force as they can muster. The blade impales a Bendul through the faceplate as Nero drops to one knee, slamming one of the Morhan soldiers’ backs into it. The Morhan soldiers back breaks, an agonizing scream erupting from deep within as Nero tosses him aside to die in the mud.

But as Nero rises back to his full height he feels several stabbing pains along his midriff. He looks down to survey the sight of the three swords and four spearheads jutting from his gut, but he doesn’t falter. Instead the hulking beast of a man simply lets out a deafening roar, his eyes turning blood red as smoke starts to rise from his bare skin, his face contorted into a grimace.

Sam’s eyes go wide at the sight of Nero whose muscular arms bulge to twice their size. But Sam quickly refocuses on their surroundings as a blade comes whistling toward their head. Sam dodges the attack, narrowly, before spinning and slashing with their sword. The slash finds its mark and cuts deeply into the last of the Bendul soldiers in the immediate vicinity. The Bendul soldier clutches at their gaping bloody throat as they turn on the spot, gurgling before their body slams to the bloody grass with a dull splash.

Sam, without an obstacle between them and Nero breaks into a sprint, while Nero collects the swords and spears impaling him in his enormous hand in the seconds before he wrenches them free of their wielders hands. He laughs and cackles savagely in the moments before he pulls the weapons free of his flesh and tosses them aside.

The Morhan soldiers stand frozen in place by fear as blood flows from the myriad wounds at Nero’s midriff. He knows the wounds pose no threat to him as he swipes his open hand at the soldiers, knocking them clear off their feet in the moments before he leaps atop them, punching franticly. His fists pummel the pile of soldiers into little more than blood, metal and bone before they even have chance to react. Nero’s laugh and smile somehow even more sickening than even the sight of his brutality, which takes only seconds for him to achieve.

But with his attackers dead, he surveys the state of the battle around him in the moments after casting his helmet from atop his head. He smiles as he sees that the army of Morhan is all but spent. He knows his enemies are defeated and he cackles loudly in response, even though in reality his own forces losses are severe as well. But Nero cares little about his losses. A victory is a victory, he knows, as he reclaims his mace. As he hefts the mace up and onto his shoulder he spies a single Morhan soldier. He notes that this soldier is smaller than most, but not usually so, as they race headlong toward him, blade in hand. Nero cackles a deep laugh humoured by the Morhan’s clear wish to die, as he licks his lips eager to spill more blood.

Nero lets the Morhan soldier get closer before he hurls his mace. The heavy weapon topples end over end straight toward the Morhan, but much to Nero’s surprise the mace never slams into the enemy soldier. Instead his enemy drops into a slide, the blood soaked ground allowing them to skid along the wet grass and mud, which permits them a narrow escape from his toppling weapon.

Nero howls with rage as the soldier jumps back to their feet, still running headlong toward him. Still he knows his victory is assured. He knows none can best him, he thinks, as he lumbers forward, building speed as he does until he is within striking range of the Morhan. Nero flails his arms wildly, but Sam evades his swipes while also managing to get in a few jabs of their own by jabbing at Nero’s giant swollen fists. The beast of a man thunders like an animal in a blood fuelled rage in response.

Nero lunges for the sword and wrenches it clean from the soldiers’ hand, with surprisingly little effort he realises, as he flings the blade back at the soldier. They dodge the projectile deftly as it sails past them a few feet and then pierces the mud. Sam scurries for the sword and takes a hold of it just as Nero swings his large fist. It hits and Sam is sent hurling through the air, sword in hand. Nero cackles in response to the soldiers failure as he turns to see them clambering back to their feet. Nero’s eyes go wide with shock. How can this be? He asks himself as his rage boils over to a whole new level. He can’t be beaten, he thinks, as he reminds himself of his Emperor’s own words, while barrelling toward the Morhan soldier. But Sam is ready for him and lunges forward at the last moment, too late for Nero to do anything about the thrust, which stabs through the chainmail and deep into the flesh at the base of his rib cage. He stops, mouth agape as he shifts his focus from the helmeted face and down to the wound in his torso, at which point he cackles as the Morhan pushes against his bulk, managing, remarkably, to unbalance him. Nero falls back, the point of the blade stabbing into the dead horse and soldier at his rear. But still he continues to roar with laughter.

“Foolish Morhan.” Nero rumbles as Sam stands before him breathing deeply, exhausted from the battle.

“No man can kill me.” Nero then thunders with a deep laugh, the sound leaking from his throat.

“Who says I’m a man.” Sam says as they remove their helmet to reveal their face, a woman’s face, dainty, young and pretty. Her face is splattered with blood, her long blonde hair hanging past her shoulders as she stares at Nero with angry blue eyes.

“What?” Nero exclaims in shock.

“This is for my father, Henry Eldridge.” Sam spits as she pulls twin short sword from her back. The short bladed weapons had been sat horizontal along her waist, overlapping one another to help conceal them.

Sam slashes them across one another. The twin blades cut deeply into Nero’s throat. His eyes remain wide and focused on Sam.

Nero hadn’t managed to beat his shock and react before the strikes had come. So instead, a long gurgle erupts from his agape mouth. Blood pours from the wounds at his throat. Nero is at a loss, but refuses to blink as Sam stands over him now, daggers raised high above her head. He doesn’t know if he expected her to say anything, but she doesn’t as she brings the daggers down with all the effort she can muster. Each blade stabs through one of Nero’s eyes and then deep into his brain. He lets out a final sound of pain and terror, knowing that he has lost and that he deserves his fate. It was a fate the Emperor always said he should be wary of.

Sam pants, her hands still clutching the hilts of the daggers as she watches the last seconds of life drain from Nero. Sam doesn’t smile or laugh or cry. Instead, she just stands there, staring at the hulking brutes’ dead mass, the battle over. The remaining Bendul soldiers run for their lives now that Nero is dead. But Sam doesn’t care about the Bendul or the Morhan or the war or armies or kingdoms. She only cares that vengeance has been fulfilled, and that it was achieved by her own two hands, just like her father would have wanted.

Hundreds of miles away Emperor Cornelius Valen braces himself against a nearby table in his tent. He inhales and exhales deeply feeling troubled.

“Your Highness what is wrong?” One of the Emperor’s other Marshal’s asks.

Cornelius knows immediately the blow that has been dealt, as he steadies himself. The nine Marshal’s in his presence stare at him from across the large square table atop which sits a map of the region.

“Marshal Faustus is dead.” Cornelius manages after a few moments.

“A tragedy.” One Marshal offers before another adds: “A great loss.”

But Cornelius knows the Marshal’s better than they think. He knows they are smiling to themselves. They have always hated Nero for his achievements, and for that he hates them. Nero had been the best of them. The strongest, the most capable, the most…violent. He had led every single battle that had brought them victory and those victories had in turn permitted the empire to expand well beyond anything that had ever been achieved before, by any Bendul ruler. That means he knows what will come next, and that he must rail against it. One single defeat against the tiny kingdom of Morhan is nothing compared to their myriad of victories, he tells himself. But he doesn’t believe his own words. He knows they are not true. He should have recalled Nero. If only Cornelius had listened to that old druid, the one that told him he could achieve almost limitless power, so long as Nero never fell to a woman. The Emperor had warned the hulk of a Marshal and had even begged him to don a face plated helmet, but alas his greatest strength had still fallen.

Cornelius had seen the signs he’d been warned about, but he’d paid them no mind. He actually thought he could escape the pre-destined future he’d been warned would come. So for his hubris he has now lost his champion, the herald of his Empire. He wonders what he should do next, but he already knows the answer to that, and he refuses. He won’t take his own life. He will die at war, much like he has lived in it.

Curse that druid, he says, as that old wrinkled and mud splattered face appears in his vision. The druids face cackles, like he knew this was how it would always end, in the moments before he’d been put to death.

“Prepare the army to march.” Emperor Valen orders.

“Where highness?” One of the Marshal’s asks.

“To the Abyss.” Cornelius replies baring his teeth with rage filled eyes. If he can’t take the region without Nero then he will forge a thousand more like Nero, using the madness of that cursed place. And if he fails then at least the continent will drown in blood and bodies.

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