Second Church Protectorate
This was, Berbatov knew, what he was created for; his halberd was a whirling, slashing promise of death. Its blade sparkled with power, flashing back and forth, leaving only dismembered husks behind. His laughter rang out and his men joined in, their battle madness total in its abandon.
One Tauran planted himself in front of Berbatov’s armoured figure, in his hand a distorted sword whose blade’s form wavered as buzzing flies coalesced around it. The Tauran’s armour moved as though it carried something hidden inside; a writhing and shuddering constantly wracked the hideous frame.
“Time to die!” it buzzed, as bloated insects entered its open mouth.
“How trite, but true,” responded the Sargeant carelessly cutting the mutated figures in front of him out of his way.
“Ready, when you are!” he said cheerfully and swung his halberd.
Marius climbed down from his cockpit and watched as the two delta-winged craft flew past. Only five of his men had survived the brutal dog fight, and they too had landed with the hope that Walters’ troops had somehow managed to find sufficient ammunition to allow them back into the air.
“Sir! Sir!” called a voice nearby, and he turned to find a young infantry Leftenant waiting nearby.
“Yes, Leftenant?” answered Marius, returning the fresh faced Officer’s salute.
“Captain Marius, Sir,” he said snappily, “I formally relinquish command, Sir!”
It was only then that Marius saw the soldiers hunkered down nearby, staring warily in his direction. He peered into the gloom and saw the distinctive shape of tanks, their turrets pointing out towards the enemy.
“Command?” he queried, only now noticing the distinctive short swords and cap badges.
“Yes, sir!” responded the Leftenant, looking at the eagle emblem stitched onto the front of Marius’ tunic, laurel leaves grasped in its claws as it screamed its defiance, “What are your orders?”
Zone of Conflict
Second Church Protectorate
Viker opened his bleary eyes and saw Corporal Johns’ weather beaten face staring down at him.
“Welcome back, son,” said Johns, standing and moving away.
“W-what hit me?” asked Viker, every muscle in his body aching.
“You have been blessed,” returned the Corporal, “given a great gift, which you must use wisely.”
“Pardon?” said Viker, his confusion evident.
“Our Lord has chosen you, endowed you with His power,” stated the Corporal, “Are you ready?”
Stiv checked his body carefully, there were no obvious wounds and he swung his legs off the cot, carefully testing his ability to stand. He moved in front of the mirror and stared in amazement at the face looking back at him. The thing that struck him most were his eyes, their normal ice-blue colour had changed to a deep green. Unknowingly he began to growl.
“Exactly,” echoed the Corporal, “so I ask you again, are you ready? The boys are waiting.”
He looked enquiringly at the Corporal who grinned savagely, “There’s plenty more of the enemy out there,” he said, his arm waving generally in the direction of the Tauran forces, “have you finished in here?”
The young soldier felt energy begin to pour through his body, revitalising him and nodded at Johns.
“Good!” snarled Johns, “Let’s get going then!”, and without another word he sprang out of the door, Viker following close behind. Suddenly, Stiv felt imbued with an incredible strength, the growl in his throat turning into a full-blooded howl. From all around came his answer and he saw shapes racing to join him. In leaps and bounds they came, bodies changing as they sprang to his side; muscles writhed, teeth were bared in anticipation and weapons were tossed aside.
Then he knew, he could feel Walters ahead slicing his way through their enemies. Without conscious thought, his claws snicked into place and at last Viker joined his pack.
Arn waited with the rest of his men aboard the Galleon; he would not be needed, things seemed to be going exactly as planned. The fat transports waited too, their cargo would soon arrive; at this moment it was being created in the maelstrom of battle below.
Amongst the seething mass of Tauran troops, there were two clear islands of relative calm. Within the eye of this tainted plague infested storm, Church troops replenished ammunition, repaired equipment and then once more smote their enemies.
Captain Marius was in one such place, the remaining Eyotalians gathered around him as he spoke. He had utilised the cockpit of his now stranded fighter as a platform from which to address his new command.
He spoke of Walters, of his call to battle and pointed towards the spearhead of Berbatov and his troops who were carving their way methodically through their foes. Marius’ oration included their long and proud tradition of battle, and the opportunity they held within their hands today; they too could write a glorious page in the history of their people. His speech was crowned by the more than symbolic gesture of unsheathing the short sword belted to his waist.
The men roared in approval and, as one, hundreds of sparkling swords joined in this veneration,” Walters!” they screamed, “A-ve! A-ve!”
Walters was surrounded, a score of Tauran Elite had him pinned within the circle of their pestilent weaponry, or so they thought. He merely smiled as they advanced, waiting patiently, his arms held loosely by his sides. The furore of the battle field had faded into insignificance for all of the players in this cameo performance.
Suddenly, Walters moved, his arm flashing forward and catching one of the Taurans by his wrist, with a quick twist Walters snapped his bone cleanly. He twisted the dangling hand and slammed the owner’s sword into his own chest. Powering backwards he stamped his heel into the chest of another opponent, shattering armour and ribs alike and punching the Tauran off his feet, to fly uncontrollably into two of his fellows.
With a shrug of his shoulders, Walters claws slid into view, energy crackling around them. His subsequent strikes were lightning fast, cleaving armour, chopping flesh and tearing immense wounds wherever they touched. The Taurans demon-augmented bodies were snail-like in their responses, in comparison to Walters speed, and his wild laughter rang out.
A savage howling impinged on his consciousness, but he did not stop; each death brought him closer to the ordained moment.
Berbatov could now see Walters and the fact that he appeared alone, drove him to new heights. His whirling halberd was a blur, powerful double strokes pulled him through his enemies. He no longer danced nor moved to avoid incoming blows, he simply smashed his way through them. At his side came the rest of his men, their brutal attacks mirroring his own, nothing could stand in their way.
Those that tried to flee or were simply too far away were cleaned up by Marius and his men. Their disciplined and methodical pace was awesome; shoot, stamp and strike, they cleaved their way through with finesse. Tanks rolled on behind them, their battle cannons tossing shells far ahead, gauging huge holes in the Tauran ranks.
This escaped Berbatov, his only thought was to reach his Lord’s side, he cared not how many of the enemy interposed themselves in his way, all would die.
From almost the opposite direction, Viker led the charge. His new found powers melded naturally with his transformed physique and he roared, howled and killed. Johns stood by him, deflecting blows where needed and protecting Viker’s back. He seemed to have automatically fallen into the role, yet it seemed so natural.
Uther and his men rejoined Walters, crashing through the final resistance to reach his side. Their help was not needed, as even as they rushed to his aid, Walters skewered the last of the Taurans on his claws, driving them through his putrid armour and into his sternum. With a wrench of his shoulders he ripped them back out and howled his triumph to the skies.
“Are you well, my Lord?” asked Uther, kneeling in obeisance.
“Never better!” replied Walters and as they watched his body began to glow.
Troopers moved slowly across the field, harvesting souls for their Lord. A whine of pain would attract them, a swift slash of claw or knife would stifle their cries and on then the gruesome work would continue.
Marius watched his men as they too did their duty, his thoughts turning to the rapid change in his fortune. From fighter pilot to leader of men in one short day; he missed the exhilaration of riding his war beast, but today he had found something new.
“Sir!” cried one of his men, pointing at an incandescent point of light, “What is it?”
Saying nothing, Marius began to run, his men swiftly falling in behind.
Second Church Protectorate
Arn felt the change, the burgeoning godhood of his Lord, and fell to his knees, arms raised in adulation.
Berbatov had now reached Walters’ side and he too crashed unbidden to the floor, his men following his example. An unbearably bright light suffused Walters’ body, radiating outwards and painting the surrounding terrain an eerie shade of green.
Far across space others trembled or roared their defiance and on one small planet, a beacon began to glow.
Guest post with D.P. Prior
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