Banners arched through the sky. Their tattered tails of flayed skin, whirring in an unholy cadence, as they fell once more towards the misshapen hands of their owners. Symbols clashed, pinpointing a dissonant chorus of maddening sound, as the Tauran forces prepared for war.
High atop the battlements of The Fortress, the Lord avidly drank in the excess below him. The self-flagellation of the fervent, the mutilation of the unworthy; all was pleasing to his eye.
Waiting for him below was his war chariot, the still living bodies of the newly sacrificed, nailed to its sides. Their bloody bodies hanging limply, jerked into occasional animation by the prodding of the priests’ sharpened staffs.
Hideously deformed K’ran sat in the chariot’s traces, jaws snapping at any unfortunate who ventured too closely. Their enraged madness, mimicking the seething mass outside the walls.
A shout caught the Lord’s attention, there outlined starkly against the brow of the hill were the pitiful few who thought to challenge him. At their head he saw a cluster of shapes surrounding what must be their leader. He squinted, as the very side of the hill seemed to waver, to blur in and out of focus. An undulating, seething, seemingly endless carpet. The K’ran!
Walters waited as the K’ran flowed past, each body imparting a further spark of energy to that already within him. The touch of cloth against his skin was excrutiatingly painful, as his charged body struggled to contain the increasing influx of power. It began to leak from him, the static discharge causing K’san’s fur to bristle in response and arcs of blue-white light played around the halberd in Berbatov’s hand.
Sargeant James looked back and rubbed his eyes. It was difficult to look directly at the Major, his shape had become hazy and indistinct. One moment he was there and the next his body appeared to writhe uncontrollably, causing the Sargeant’s eyes to lose focus. James blinked and his vision cleared. Major Walters was there, but interposed was a shimmering halo, whose outline followed the contours of the Major’s body, his every movement. It sparked and flashed, but no longer wavered, the shape of the beast was clear and strong.
The K’ran saw it too and they began to whine. Weakly at first, but gaining in intensity, until it was a joyous howl.
Walters had never imagined that he could experience something this intense, this invigorating. He drew in a deep breath and felt the material across his back tear. Impatiently he tossed the remains of his greatcoat away, his tunic following closely after, and stood bare-chested, thrilling to the touch of the light wind playing across his skin.
A pressure built within him, unstoppable in its intensity and he flung back his head and screamed his defiance. The K’ran, his men, all of them, joined him and the cry rang clearly across to the Fortress below and the thousands upon thousands of enemy soldiers in their massed and capering ranks……. And they trembled, they feared.
At a slow, funereal pace, Walters marched down the hillside. All around him, his forces kept to his measured step. They followed him willingly, lovingly, to battle, and on to death if necessary.
Alarms shrilled stridently, and the Executive Officer rushed to Captain Arnesson’s side.
“Sir, we have multiple vessel signatures, at least three.” reported the Officer crisply.
“Ah, that would be the General’s surprise gift, I believe,” responded, the Captain reassuringly.
“Incoming transmission Sir, from ……”
“Yes, yes. I know who its from.” interrupted the Captain. “Patch me through to General Wolfe.”
The first rounds from the Taurans punched into Walters forces, but they neither changed formation, nor direction. Inexorably they advanced, returning laser fire calmly and methodically. Walters paused for a moment and then began to run, gathering speed and momentum. The K’ran loped alongside him, matching him stride for stride. They hit the front ranks as one, but Walters’ entrance amongst the enemy was devastating.
The sword hung unused by his side, the pistol forgotten, as he swung his arms. Vast, gaping rents appeared in the flesh of those who faced him, as though slashed by gigantic claws. Yet, he carried no weapon. One heavily armoured monstrosity swung a great, double-bladed sword towards him and he effortlessly sidestepped the attack. Walters grasped the horned helm in one hand, holding the creature in place and stabbed his other hand forward. His curled fingers hooked into the beast’s breastplate, cleaving through the blood-red armour as though it didn’t exist.
Onward they travelled into the chest cavity, bones snapping beneath the implacable advance. His hand gripped the creature’s still-beating heart and in one swift movement, he raised the squealing monster up high into the air. Taking one step back, he slammed his other fist into its head, the force propelling the thing backwards, smashing through the Taurans before him, the steaming organ still grasped firmly between his fingers.
Walters lifted the heart towards his mouth, he sniffed it once and then threw it away disdainfully.
“Onwards!” he screamed, springing forward once more.
The whip snapped forwards, its barbed length tearing skin and fur from the lead beast. Time and again it lashed out and the chariot gathered momentum. The Lord brandished his sword in one hand, the whip in the other, needing no reins to control the vehicle. His animals cleared the path through his followers, their snapping jaws indiscriminate as to target.
The bodies swayed rhythmically in time with the chariot’s motion, banging and slapping against its sides as it picked up speed. The Lord had dropped his whip and stood, his weight evenly balanced, as he came closer to front of the battle. He raised one hand and dropped it sharply and in answer heavy guns roared from the battlements, their rounds falling indiscriminately amongst friend and foe. Smashed bodies were hurled high into the air, cartwheeling gruesomely before crashing again to earth. Engines snarled, smoke billowed and his machines of destruction rolled ponderously from the Fortress’ open gates.
On the battlefield Walters paused, one foot on the throat of his latest victim. He pressed down, crushing breath and life out of the squirming thing beneath him. To his left Berbatov drove the point of his halberd into a Tauran’s chest, twisted the blade and withdrew it. The man collapsed backwards and the Sargeant turned to look at Walters. The Major’s eyes were now a blazing green fire, yet he still smiled at the Sargeant.
“Wait here,” said Walters, even his voice had changed, each word carrying a growled undertone. With that, he bunched his muscles and sprang high above the crowd, clearing at least five rows of troops before coming to earth. He smashed through them without stopping, striking in a blur, and each blow tore a massive hole in their lines. The K’ran surged behind him, ripping a ravening path of destruction.
Captain Arnesson waited patiently for the arrival of his guests; their leader had asked formally to meet him, to be appraised of the situation on the ground below. It was really a courtesy visit, already the Attack Cruiser was finalising its preparations for the deployment of its cargo. They had wasted little time in niceties, demanding full cooperation.
He heard the sound of booted feet and the metallic clang as something struck the side of the door.
“Captain,” announced his Executive Officer, “May I present …..”
“He knows who we are,” rumbled a gargantuan voice, “Now where are the Tauran scum…?”
Sargeant James was amazed at the brutal disregard of the enemy forces for their own, armoured vehicles crushed their way through, tracks churning through man and beast alike. Rounds flashed through those too slow, too dumb, or too engrossed to get out of the way. This eagerness was aiding the Sargeant; taking a terrible toll on the Tauran Forces and allowing him time to direct his men.
He had for the moment lost sight of the Major, but having his own pressing matters to deal with, he was unconcerned. At his side, one of the troopers dropped to the ground, unlimbering his weapon.
There was something different about him, about all of them today. His movements were sure, unhurried. He took time to sway away from the downward swipe of a blade, drawing his combat knife in a fluid motion and stabbing into the eye of the man above him. Calmly he cleaned it on his trousers, re-sheathed the weapon and continued in his preparations.
General Wolfe waited on the landing platform in eager anticipation. The area was a hive of activity, as troops were marched into transports and armour was loaded. The comfortingly shrill tones of the Inspectors rang out, followed by the occasional sound of a pistol discharging. This was how it should be, this was order.
High above, he heard the roar of approaching engines and congratulated himself. His plan had worked. Walters had been fooled completely, by his acceptance of the ‘Major’s? promotion.
Whilst Walters had taken care of the K’ran, Wolfe had been busy. He had sent a transmission to Fleet Command, asking for assistance, specific assistance. The content of the message had helped, he had at first embellished the note but things were falling nicely in line with his report. Walters had converted Church Troops, he had joined with Tauran Forces. The only part that was not strictly true was how the General had manipulated him into destroying the K’ran. However, Walters and his followers were now engaged in a type of mutual destruction with the enemy.
If he timed this right, he could lead a victorious assault, smiting the Church’s foes in His Name. Self-contentedly, he smiled at his officers as the craft landed.
Guest post with D.P. Prior
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