UnWar

Not really sure how to explain this one. So I’m not going to. I know counter-intuitive but hey, it is what it is. What I will say is its a fantasy sort of tale and may not go how you expect it to. Not saying anymore than that, but I guess I did kind of explain. Anyway, enjoy UnWar.

The end is nigh. Soon this war will be over. Seven weeks of exhausting fighting. Elliott can barely remember what it felt like to be at peace; to sleep, rest, relax. They are all things he has been lacking since the onset of this barbarous campaign against the Elvira Collective.

As one of the few Tennison guards, he is counted as part of the elite. Those tasked with bringing a decisive end to this short but calamitous war. The toll is unknown, at least for now. When the progenitor of it is dead and gone the count can and will begin. A period of healing, peace and reflection will undoubtedly follow. After all, it’s been some nine generations since the last war. No one ever imagined another would forsake the world and yet, it has.

Elliott wonders how one person could be so filled with hate and violence that they could instigate something such as this. He does not know how, and cannot contemplate the reasons for he is in the heat of battle. Sidestepping a driving spear head, Elliott, in his armour, does a quick pirouette followed by a counter strike. It misses, barely. Lethargy has made him impatient as well as imprecise. At any other time he would chastise himself for this failure, he should and does know better, but after five days without rest it isn’t surprising his capabilities are less than they ought to be. That is why he pushes the attack immediately. His feeling is if he waits he welcomes potential disaster. Three quick jabs of his sword, followed by a slash push his attacker back. All around him similar confrontations rage. It’s not surprising for this is a battle, a small part of a much larger offensive. Still, he cannot help but wonder how The Un’s were so easily able to advance like they have. It shouldn’t have been possible. They are not comparable in number to the collective. They are a relatively small band.

A dive roll to avoid a waist high swing saves Elliott’s life. At its conclusion the Tennison guard leaps forward, driving his blade out ahead of him. The tip stabs piercing armour, then flesh. The adversary, The Un, roars in dying agony. Elliott, in his dirt caked once silver grey armour, takes a breath, drives his sword deeper still. A choked sound escapes the impaled soul. There is no sense of victory, achievement, pleasure on Elliott’s face. His brown eyes hold only determination, a will to survive. The same cannot be said of those he and others from the Collective are fighting against. It is as if their enemies are monsters pulled from the depths of the Chasm Fire, reborn with only an urge to fight. Even as a trained soldier warrior he does not understand it. Maybe it is a part of the Un’s code.

Do you they a code? He cannot say. He does not know. Time has not been afforded to him to learn such things. Perhaps if the Collective had known an attack was imminent.

Would you wish to know if you could?

He doesn’t dare answer for he fears what the truth might be.

Am I like them?

If you ask yourself such then the answer is already known.

Then what is it?

A new combatant joins the invisible arena around the grey haired Tennison guard. This new opponent screeches like a blood demon. Elliott hears the sound above the din of the battle around him. Quite a feat it must be said, and so he prepares himself; noting he and the other remaining guards are almost at the Halls of Domination.

The Halls are ancient fort castle built during the fifth age when the world was at its most dark and lost. Something suggests to Elliott that might not be true in light of events currently unfolding.

It will be over soon. Can you not taste victory?

He daren’t be so bold as yet, so drops into a ready stance. The Un, faceless in their encapsulating armour of yellow-red, charges. They brandish twin axes. Their size suggests they are endowed with formidable strength. If Elliott were not a Tennison he might not observe such a thing. Mercifully he is which means brawn, might, not be complimentary tools in this face off. Not an issue for the grey haired Tennison can always resort to brains. Something, in his opinion, The Un’s seldom seem to show.

Rather, it appears as though they throw themselves into battle like reckless fools. Surely, they cannot be so deluded as to believe pure strength can best finely honed skills?

Why would they not? They have taken the Halls of Domination.

The fort castle for Elvira Collective is of great historical and strategic importance. Even if it was built by the first warriors who made efforts to unify the fractious fife-kingdoms of their era. They succeeded too. If they had not the fort castle would not be in one piece still to this day.

For reasons he cannot give, Elliott takes a glance at it. A section of wall is missing revealing a fire scorched room gutted and listing. The sight of such a heinous tragedy fuels the fire in the Tennison guards’ gut, for he knows that room well. It was the one in which his great grandparents once housed, back when the Collective trained all those that served in the name of Elvira here.

Axe blades clash with Tennison Steel. The Un is even stronger than Elliott had anticipated. He struggles to hold against the might of the force being exerted upon him. Getting an idea, he suddenly relents; a feint. It works. The Un stumbles forward, thrown off-balance. The Tennison imagines beneath that pointed faceplate of a helmet the expression is one of shock. Imagining such feeds his drive, his will. He sidesteps so as not to be collected by the Un’s stumble. The enemy shoots past him. Elliott spins a hundred and eighty degrees, leaps forward. The Un wrenches their body round. If Elliott had not witnessed it he would call it an impossible feat to achieve while still as off-balance as they are.

Axes begin to swing, slice and carve at the air. They miss Elliott by chance rather than design. The Tennison will give his thanks for the fortune at a later time, when not in battle, his life hanging by a thread.

Before the Un can recover to deliver a potentially fatal onslaught, Elliott drops to a squat, flicks his leg out in a sweeping motion across the floor. His armoured boot catches the Un’s leg at the ankle. They let out only a burped expulsion of air rather than topple. The Tennison skips backward expecting an immediate counter. None is forthcoming. Rather, the Un charges, axes crossed, a chattering exhale to accompany the mindless advance.

Unsure of what the Un might have planned Elliott braces himself for a massive hit. Instead he is thrown backwards, not by the Un but by something else.

Scrambling, reclaiming his sword and then staggering to his feet, Elliot gazes with a spinning set of eyes unable to focus. In the time immediately after that he tries to suck air down into his lungs. It’s difficult. Winded, is the state he determines he is in.

He manages several more steps. They are just as off-kilter as his first. Such a discovery, an admittance, is troublesome and not at all normal. After all, Tennison practice regaining from such difficulties and become quite adept at it as a result. Yet, it appears to Elliott as if he has never undertaken such training.

That cannot be. He tells himself, battling his body which until now he has been at one with, like all Tennison are.

What have The Un’s done?

It has to be them. There is no way this is not part of some plot, and so Elliott takes a deep breath. It should right whatever wrong this is. Instantly, he regrets this for his nostrils become clogged with a fetid odour. Not the usual stenches of battle but something much worse. He takes his eyes off the ground ahead of him. He sees disaster, bodies strewn, burning around craters of mud partially filled with fragments of clean polished Ironstone. He chokes. The smoke filling the air robs him of oxygen. His face begins to turn purple-red. Desperate, Elliott ambles as quickly as his body will allow. He sees no other living soul, no movement. He is left to wonder if he is all that remains. His vision narrows while his chest grows ever tighter. He drops to his knees, sword still in gauntlet, he crawls through the mud. Slipping and sliding Elliott almost tumbles into several craters until he can crawl on all fours no more, his body exhausted he drops to his front. Caked in mud he lies there sure this is the end, his end. This isn’t how it is supposed to be.

What did the Un’s use?

With a gasp he tastes air. It remains fetid but it isn’t smoke infused, which is something.

Keeping his face low to the ground, to the mud, Elliott crawls on his stomach.

Sometime later he crawls out of the smoke cloud, rolls over and gasps awkwardly. The sound in his ears suggests he is dying. Yet, he feels better than he did, he thinks.

“Elliott, you live!” The exclamation is barely heard by the grey haired Tennison who is suddenly accosted and dragged. The air gets cleaner, easier to swallow. His chest loosens; his body begins to return feeling to his extremities. Elliott had not been aware their locomotion had been lost. He had definitely been dying.

Heaving breath after breath for what feels like a week is followed by a face forcing itself into his narrowed, but once more widening, vision.

A quarter smile appears across Elliott’s face, recognition in light of his saviour, Elan, another member of the Tennison.

“You need to get up. We cannot stay here. Do you think you can stand?”

Elliott manages only a wobbly nod in confirmation before he feels his arms grabbed and his body hauled out of the mud and to his feet. Dizzy and confused, Elliott’s brown eyes search around but see nothing. A quick slap from Elan soon fixes that.

His eyes back in focus, Elliott feels compelled to press them closed, then opens them swiftly. It’s a process he repeats a handful of times. It has the desired affect he was hoping for, clear vision.

“There are so few of us left Elliott, even less than there were, but the way is clear. We can end this. We must end this; for Elvira, for the Collective. For our brothers and sisters lost.”

More interested in his surroundings that the words of his fellow Tennison, Elliott gazes at the devastation all around. The bodies splayed; choked of life, cut down, crushed, the craters, the murderous cloud which continues to loom without signs of dissipation.

“How was this done?” Is all the grey haired Elliott can manage to mutter in a voice most foreign to him, for it is seldom more than a wheeze.

There is no answer, no reply from Elan. Fearing this might not be real, that he might realistically be dead, Elliott turns. Without question the man beside him is alive, beaten, wounded, but not some twisted vision in the final moments of one’s life. Yet, the expression on his face informs Elliott he does not have an answer. It is not surprising. If one Tennison does not know then why would another? Obvious! Fool, why did you…

Elliott sees movement in the cloud. His first instinct is to prepare for combat. He feels a hand on his arm. Looking to Elan he gets only the shake of the head. Cocking his own in silent query; Elliott stares at his comrade awaiting an explanation. It does not take long for one to be delivered.

“They are not foe.”

Hearing those words sends Elliott’s blood cold. His jaw drops. Pain floods his chest. He demands his legs move. They refuse. It’s as if they are ignoring him. He urges, demands, roars mentally for them to relent, to obey. If he has too he will scream aloud, regardless of if Elan and the others thinks him afflicted by madness or not. After all, he cannot stand and watch as a member of the Collective dies in that smoke, that cloud.

From outside of it, as he now is, the cloud looks barely dense enough to call a fog, but inside it felt as though you were blind, wading through soup it was so thick.

How can that…?

What does it matter? Just allow me free reign over my own…

Elliott’s body relents. He moves. At last, he utters to himself. One step, then two, three, he will reach the cloud soon. He will guide the lost soldier out of that suffocating air.

Elan grabs him. “You cannot. You will die.”

Blocking Elliott’s path, grasping him tightly by both shoulders, Elan stares into his comrades’ eyes. They are filled with panic, with pain.

“What do you mean I can’t? I made it out before. And we cannot leave our own to that fate. We are Tennison. We are the Collective.”

“It’s already too late.”

“It’s not! I can see them. They are heading this…”

The fumbling body in the smoke cloud topples. Elliot writhes. Elan’s hold is strong, it keeps him in place. He curses, swears, demands, even pleads. All are in vain. The Collective soldier moves no more. They are dead. Another life claimed by the cloud of death.

Elliott’s shoulder sink, lower than they have ever previously in his life for this is a feeling he is not accustomed to; despair.

“We could’ve saved them.”

“She was already lost.”

“How do you know?”

“Because I had to watch you all die.”

Elliott stares into Elan’s eyes. His words are truth. There is no doubting them. How that is, he does not know and isn’t inclined to ask. The pain, for them both, might be too much.

“…while the Un’s just walked away, unharmed.”

Shock becomes etched onto the grey haired Tennison’s face as he looks at Elan, the blond haired member of his order. Elliott wonders if they are all that remain. Yet, that isn’t a question he finds the most pressing to ask. No. The most pressing question is, “What do you mean the Un’s walked away? They were in battle. They must’ve suffered losses too!”

Elliott can feel his voice becoming hysterical, his rationale becoming lost.

Is this part of the smokes doing?

“Not from that smoke. They cast those polished rocks of Ironstone, which burst upon impact releasing some sort of gas from within. That cloud you see lingering.”

“The Ironstone was hollow?!?”

Elliott is incredulous. It sounds like a fairytale. It cannot be true. Elan must be brain addled, confused. The Un’s possess no such capabilities. They were little more than a tribe before the sudden onset of this war. There is no way they could achieve this.

Something is wrong, very very wrong.

“We must end this.” Are the next words out of Elliott’s mouth. He has many questions but they can wait. The Un, even if Elan is right and are unaffected by the gas contained within the Ironstone projectiles, continue to number few. With the losses they have suffered there cannot be enough of them to best what remains of the Collective’s troops.

“What numbers remain for battle?” Is the demand uttered by the grey haired Tennison.

“Turn and see for yourself. We have assembled, gathered for the push.”

Elliott does as Elan suggests, he turns. His brown eyes cast over what remains, not of the Collective’s soldiers, but the Tennison. It seems all the soldiers here perished. Horrifying to have to admit for their must’ve been thousands in the battle.

Luckily, Tennison are far superior warriors and what remains is in excess of fifty. A quick calculation from Elliott ends in a conclusion that they total enough. Not comfortably so, but that is of little importance. Enough is enough and with enough they will bring this abomination tarnishing what had been lasting peace to a close.

“Rally! We march on the Halls Of Domination post haste.”

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