Zone of Conflict
Tauran Disputed Zone
Turning, Walters surveyed the prostrated men and K’ran before him. How could he explain what had happened, he was still unsure, uncertain. His death had been imminent; K’shir’s blood burning him both inside and out, eating away his resistance, corroding his will to live. His only conscious thought had been to rip the thing’s throat out, tear it from this world and drag it into to the next, joining him in his pain.
Momentarily he had felt that joining, had lived temporarily alongside the mixture of K’ran and monster, whose possession had abruptly been broken, but not so his connection with K’shir. They had spiralled into darkness together, the beast within him railing at the injustice of its end, and he had fought.
Spitting and snarling he had clawed his way back, until he felt all restraint break and he had been suffused with an incredible energy and vigour. He was conscious of his heart’s beat, of the blood pounding through his veins, cleansing his body of the vile blackness. Somehow the K’ran’s blood had catalysed this reaction, changing him, and now here he stood. Still he was Major Walters, yet he was that and more. Energy flowed through and around him; he could feel his vast reserves of power, drawn in part from the adoration of his followers. And yet, there was something else.
His thoughts were interrupted by Leftenant Wilson, who nervously spoke.
“Is it you, Major?”
“Who else would it be?” said Berbatov, jovially cuffing the young officer across the back of his head.
Walters desperately tried not to break into laughter at the look on the Leftenant´s face. Wilson, obviously didn’t know whether to be affronted by Berbatov’s personal attention, or ignore the matter. The Leftenant glanced quickly at Walters and then decided that caution was the better part of valour.
“Indeed”, said Walters, breaking the moment of tension with his grin, “How can I help you?”
“W-w-well, Sir,” the Leftenant stammered, pointing at the battlefield, “What about this, Sir?
“Have you been taking lessons from Sargeant Barbatov, Leftenant?” quipped Walters.
“What are we going to do, Sir?” blurted out the Leftenant, “We’re right in the middle of a war here!”
“Not any more,” responded Walters his face darkening, and then more calmly, “Not any more.”
Captain Arnesson stared thoughtfully into the distance, before replying. It had taken time to assimilate all of the relevant data, but now he was sure. They had stopped fighting and appeared to be waiting for something.
“Send a message to General Wolfe and appraise him of the current situation.” he said in a clipped and disciplined tone to the subaltern.
“And the General’s request, Sir?” asked the man respectfully.
“Do as he asks, although I am not quite sure that I agree with him fully” replied the Captain.
“Sir?” queried the man.
“Nothing. Nothing. Carry on, son,” and with that Arnesson returned to his musings. What was Walters up to now?
Zone of Conflict
Tauran Disputed Zone
Walters crouched down next to the injured K’ran, its laboured breathing the result of the broken ribs, received courtesy of K’shir.
He laid his hand gently on the beast’s shoulder, “How are you, my friend?” he asked softly.
K’san responded with a muted whine, which seemed to resonate echoingly inside Walters’ head. The sound rose and fell and then returned in strength as a violent buzzing. He clasped his hands to his ears, as it became an all encompassing roar and fell to his knees. Blood started to drip through his fingers and he bent forward, his forehead touching the cool earth beneath him.
An angry growl began in his throat, rising in pitch and tempo and with it he came to his feet, eyes tightly shut and fists clenched by his side in a vain attempt to combat the piercing pain. His eyelids flashed open and again the feral green and yellow orbs gleamed for all to see. With a noise halfway between a growl and shout, he looked down on the K’ran below him who unconsciously trembled beneath his gaze.
“What have you done to me!” hissed Walters.
“My Lord!” whined K’san in despair and Walters stopped, his fist half-raised to strike the beast.
“I want ….the truth!” he half-pleaded, half-screamed.
Across the field the K’ran responded, leaping to their feet in ecstasy, their Lord had spoken, they had understood, he was looking for The Truth.
“My Lord!” K’san eagerly barked, “How?”
“I do not know.” replied Walters quietly, burying his face in his hands.
Berbatov glanced once towards Walters and the strange scene depicted there, then resumed cleaning his halberd. The Major continued to surprise him, now he could talk with the puppies! He spat onto the burnished metal and continued cleaning off the caked and drying blood. He knew that whatever had happened to the Major was for the best, or at least he hoped so.
They would have little time for rest, as they still had both General Wolfe and who or whatever dwelt within the Fortress to deal with. Neither of whom would be particularly happy about the charming scenes being played out here. He grabbed another, cleaner, cloth off Williamson as he passed by, sending the private scuttling away as Berbatov swung a boot in his general direction.
Whistling happily, the Sargeant continued his work. He had a feeling he would be needing his weapon soon, real soon.
The Lord smiled as the last of the sacrifices were brought into the room, their squealing was most invigorating. It was quite strange how those who professed their undying devotion to his cause, tended to change their minds when asked to demonstrate it. The altar was old, older than the fortress itself. He had brought it with him, being attached to it both literally and metaphorically. It was his conduit with his master, which he rarely used, but he felt drained and in need of renewal.
He nodded to the priest who began to intone the rite, the barbaric phrases calming his Lord. As the ceremony reached a crescendo, the hunched and cowled priest reached into the first victim’s mouth, gripping his tongue firmly in his clawed hands and slashed down with the consecrated knife. There was a squeal, a spurt of blood and then the glorious moaning began. The Lord was impatient, the ritual took too long. Drawing his sword he pierced the priest’s back with a savage stab and then reversed the blade in a sweeping motion, neatly removing the man’s head. The cowl flapped open, revealing the suppurating visage beneath and he laughed.
With incredible speed he struck again and again, resulting blood from each sacrifice spraying onto the altar and running into the neatly carved design on its surface. The stone seemed to shudder in delight and a point of light appeared, rapidly growing and swirling with a myriad of colours. Sickening to the eye, he drank it in and laying full length on the now sticky surface, gazed fervently into the portal.
General Wolfe vomited onto the floor, uncaring of the watchful faces around him. The thing that had been his spiritual link with the Church lay curled into a ball before him in his Command Room. The woman had screamed once, long and hard, then stood still, silent, as her skin began to melt. First one blister, then five, joining together in a strange and convoluted tattoo of pain, etched into her face.
There had been no sound as the blisters burst and the fluid ran down her chest, boiling away. The stench had been unsupportable and Wolfe’s stomach had rebelled. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve and gazed in a horror at the mutilated body before him. In God’s name what was happening? Had he been too late?
None of the priests dared to enter the altar room. Every now and then they would hear an evil cackling, closely followed by a deep bass rumble. There would be a terrible pause, a sucking, tearing sound and then it would start all over again.
Generals cowered in corners, misshapen monsters tore their own flesh from their malformed faces, yet still the priests waited. Each time they ventured close to the entrance, thinking that it was safe to do, the dreadful sounds drove them backwards.
Walters too was not unaffected, the hairs on the back of his neck rose in response to the unnatural summoning. His lips curled back, baring his teeth and he snarled in challenge.
His tunic seemed too small for him as his chest expanded with each shuddering breath. Then it was over, whatever had called to him was gone.
When they entered, the priests found The Lord splayed across the stone slab of the altar top, his body covered in blood. Not only that of the victims, but his own in equal measure. It ran from his eyes, ears and nose in deep, dark rivulets. He gabbled insanely to himself, speaking in a strange and foreign tongue.
The bravest of them touched him with the slightest of caresses and screamed, his right hand blackening and shrivelling instantly. He fell to his knees, his face a picture mirroring an undescribable agony. Transfixed on their peer’s torment, the priests did not notice that The Lord had returned to them, until the meaty thud of his feet on the cold stone reminded them.
He stood beside the altar in all his corrupt majesty and then a new sound commenced, the harsh scrape of metal against stone. It was a persistent, grating sound as he drew the serrated blade back and forth against the side of the altar. With each stroke the smile on his face broadened, and then he laughed. It was a short, dismissive laugh, and the priests laughed nervously with him. The laugh grew infectiously and one by one they howled with him in uncontrollable mirth, until they began to die. The serrated blade rose and fell, tore and rent, yet still they laughed.
Outside all trembled, and waited.
Zone of Conflict
Tauran Disputed Zone
The rage was unbearable, all consuming and so he had climbed to the top of the hill to be alone. He felt as if he was on fire, each muscle burning with a coruscating heat. Spasms racked his body, in a continuous roiling wave as he struggled to contain the warring forces within him.
A primeval urge to destroy, bubbled upwards and he drew his blade, but this was not enough. He threw the weapon away and smashed his fist against the unyielding rock, once, twice and then again. The tempo of his strikes increased incessantly, blow after blow and that which had withstood timelessly against the elements yielded. Stone exploded outwards, smashed into the tiniest of pieces and finally he was satisfied.
Walters looked down at his hands, at the unmarred surface of his skin wonderingly. What had he truly become?
K’rantu lay hidden, his eyes fixed unwaveringly on his leader’s back. He had been charged with W’ratr’s protection once and had failed, he would not do so again. He had watched reverently as the rock had bent before W’ratr’s will and his heart had been filled with an almost divine joy.
Making as little sound as possible he slipped away, K’san must be told, he must bear witness.
It was almost dark when Sargeant Berbatov and his patrol found Major Walters. They had at first found his sword lying discarded amongst the rocks and had begun to worry.
“Good evening, Major,” Berbatov casually greeted Walters, “Wanted a bit of you time?”
Walters smiled in spite of himself and responded, “Just needed some time to think, Sargeant”.
“Ah,” said the Sargeant, “Does that take a long time or are you about finished, Sir?”
“Just about finished, Sargeant. Did you want anything in particular? Or ….”
“No, Sir,” replied Berbatov, ”We were out for a stroll and thought we’d pop by, sir. Thought you might be hungry.”
“Very well, Sargeant. Lead on,” said Walters, suddenly realising he was famished.
At that moment Sargeant James appeared, with two K’ran.
“A party, Sargeant.” Asked Walters sardonically.
“Good idea, Sir!” chuckled Berbatov.
Sargeant James stopped and stared at the battered rock face in shock. Cracks ran up its surface and there were two distinct holes, whose lower face was patterned in a row of evenly spaced indentations. He ran his finger over them and whistled in amazement.
He realised he was being left behind and hurried to join up with Berbatov’s party and then he grinned to himself. He must remember to remind his fellow Sargeant not to upset Major Walters, ever.
Guest post with D.P. Prior
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