Shan smiled as he entered the small room. Three Ori sat in front of a large table, upon which were clearly defined a series of red-lined zones. Small figurines populated each zone, with others ranked in front of the respective players. Holographic screens hung before them and a heated debate was in progress. It was all too easy.
“You cannot change the rules now,” snarled one, “even if two of the zones have become one. No more dice rolls for you. It´s my turn.”
“But you cheated,” whined another, “you have extra pieces, undeclared pieces, which are effecting the game. I need a judgement!”
With this he whirled to the third member at the table, who seemed somewhat aloof.
“My decision is that they are valid. No one controls them. Something which has never been seen for ages. It will add a little sparkle to the Game!”
“Enough!” roared Shan, indicating for his men to fan out and secure the room, “There is a new player in town, and I will decide what is right or not!”
“Who are you to…?”
The unfortunate Ori never finished his sentence as Shan drew his pistol and shot him. He kicked the corpse aside, twisting the chair around and resting his crossed feet on the table.
“Gentlemen,” he began, “as I said, the Game has changed…anyone else care to argue?”
There was no reply as Shan flicked his finger across the holoscreen.
“This,” he said, “is the one time that I hold all of the cards.”
Zone II Unknown Location
Silence reigned within the cave, except for the dripping of a small rivulet of water onto the slime-covered rock below. The peace was broken by a grating, screeching sound and the weed-entwined grill covering the cave’s mouth strained upwards.
Inside something stirred; a grumbling, groaning noise followed by a muted growl. A large red-clawed hand grasped the bottom of the grill and heaved, tearing it free from its green restraints. A cloven hoof was planted outside as the creature twisted its body back into the cave, looking for something.
Finally it emerged, a huge axe in its right hand, flames jumping between the horns on its hideous head. Twin rows of serrated teeth were opened, and a deep, bass laugh rang out. It ripped free the pistol from the holster on its hip and fired into the surrounding vegetation, the explosive round smashing a nearby rock into dust.
“Death and destruction!” it roared, following the strange bobbing light which appeared. It always brought satisfaction.
Ruined City Zone II
Inspector Burton rolled groggily to his feet, spitting out a mix of dirt and blood. He had been left in an untidy heap, behind some sheltering rubble. Tapping on his communication link, he heard the faint hiss of its operation and spoke rapidly into it, “Sargeant, report!”
“Sir!” responded Harms, “You are alive, thank the Prelate!”
“Yes, indeed, Sargeant,” replied Burton scanning the area, “what is your position, can you see me?”
“No, sir. We had to take a detour around the back of the Taurans, fighting our way through. We should be close to you in a few minutes.”
In fact, the Sargeant was perched on slightly raised wall, hidden from the Inspector’s view.
“Be careful, when you get here." said Burton, "That magician and his follower are around. They have already tried to attack me once, although I did fight them off.”
Harms stifled a laugh.
“What’s that? Sargeant!”
“Sorry, Sir,” replied Harms, “had to cough, we’ll be with you shortly. Out!”
Just in front of him sat the ‘magician’ and his follower. Laughing to himself, the Sargeant waved his men forward.
Grishak stopped and sniffed the air. The first fight had been disappointing; one or two poorly equipped humans had tried to stand against him, their strange and antiquated armour proving little challenge. Now though, he could smell fresh blood and death. The familiar odours of burnt flesh and recently spilled guts drew him on.
His ears had heard cries in praise of his own Demon God and he knew he was close. Parting some annoying branches with his axe, he saw the city in front of him, starkly highlighted by burning buildings. The sound of rifle fire flowed like music to his starved and twisted soul.
Roaring his challenge he burst through the non-existent barrier and entered the streets, a startled group of Church soldiers turning to fire at him. This was more like it, he thought as he charged on, here there would at least be sport and without doubt death to glorify his name.
The first swing of his axe sent a head spinning into the air, his pistol firing indiscriminately into the mass of bodies before him. There would be time later to educate the Taurans to his identity, but for now there was war.
Inspector Burton had managed to round up a few recalcitrant troops; it was necessary to instil a little discipline into one or two of them, but that was why he was here. He had just ordered the troops to remove the still warm bodies, when the beast had attacked. Up until now, they had not seen one such as he, but there was no mistaking the Tauran Elite.
“Kill it!” he screamed, firing his pistol as an example and a ragged volley of rifle fire lashed out in response. Nothing seemed to affect the Tauran, as it shrugged off the weapons fire and ploughed into the Church soldiers.
Harms and his men had come up to Cornelius’ position unseen and the vain attempts of the strangely dressed man to swing his sword had been quickly suppressed. A rifle butt to the jaw had calmed him down. It was as Butt responded to their attack that Grishak slammed into the Inspector and his men. Sargeant Harms ignored Butt, quickly ordering his men into position. His Sniper, Burns, snapped off a shot which ricocheted off one of the creature’s horns, but did nothing more than infuriate it and give away their position.
As the huge beast turned to begin its assault of Harms’ men, he heard the strangest of sounds, Butt was laughing.
I was checking on my KDP Amazon site and found out that I am now available in the US, UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy. What I now need to do is get my finger out and translate something. My deductive reasoning process would suggest that the easiest would be The Wildwose, so I now have a New Year´s resolution which is to have The Wildwose in Spanish available for download by the end of January 2012.
Other resolutions are to continue posting SDIV here and to finally complete A Cold Dish and my new novel, ELDRID, Officer Of The Guard for publication before the Summer.
Curiously, I am now selling more via Smashwords (Barnes & Noble and Sony included) than on Amazon and have made the decision not to put my books on the KDP Select programme. Those that are free, remain free and I would rather have a diversity of Distribution Channels, rather than restrict myself just to Amazon.
Inspector Burton watched the two strange creatures through his gunsights as they crossed over onto the paved road. He had seen the portal open, the strange vegetation beyond and he knew it was some type of demon-spawned witchcraft.
One of the two was wearing normal clothes, in some vain attempt to fit in, but had a strange mutation attached to its neck, with another head lolling down. The second of them was dressed in a baggy jerkin, spotted with a strange variegated pattern, and ambled by its side.
“Just a little bit closer,” he said encouragingly, under his breath, “that’s right.”
He looked up to make sure that his men were in position; this war had seemed to last forever, they were constantly repelling attacks from a mixture of Tauran forces. This, however, was quite new, a change to the typical bombardment followed by assault. They had long ago lost their armour and were reduced to hand weapons and the one or two explosive charges that still remained.
Burton had tried to raise Command by communicator, but it seemed that they were isolated here. He had picked up a rag-tag band of men, from different worlds and different regiments as the fight had continued, in fact the mixture of units had called his attention a number of times. However, he believed in the command structure and as such his blind faith in their judgement kept him from taking the matter further.
Raising his hand he signalled to his Sargeant, the highest ranker apart from himself, and saw the man pat the top of the soldier’s helmet in front of him. He had already chosen his best man, Burns their sniper, to deal with this potential threat. Two clean shots and it would be over, he thought, just before the rocket screamed into view, barrelling directly for his position
“Well, it seems pretty quiet,” said Cornelius, squinting at the nearest building, “I think whatever fighting took place here was a while ago.”
He had hardly finished his sentence when the first salvo of rockets slammed into the building, sending chunks of material high into the air. Butt thought he saw a body mixed amongst them, but was unsure and covered his head to protect himself from the falling debris.
At that moment Clari decided to demonstrate her preoccupation, her scorching breath whistling past his ear.
“You …” he started, leaning forward to chastise her, and in so doing, saved his life.
The sniper had a clear shot, or so he thought; at the last minute his target had jerked violently and instead of the head shot he had taken, the slight movement caused the laser to score off the top of the creature’s head. Cursing, Burns took aim again and it was then the second load of rockets struck.
“F**k!” cursed Butt, diving to the floor, his head burning. The round had parted his hair cleanly, leaving a stripe of burned flesh where his mohican had once stood proudly. He rolled back and forth in agony and screamed for Kam to get down; the dazed Taartun stood open-mouthed, marvelling at the display of violence all around.
Cornelius grabbed his sleeve and dragged him down as a horde of screaming Taurans rounded the corner.
Groggily the Inspector climbed to his feet, the remnants of his command strewn all around. He saw the Sargeant waving at him and signalled back, speaking into his communicator.
“Get ready!” he spat, “They’ll be coming soon!”
Almost on cue, the Tauran forces attacked, storming their position. Rapidly Burton gave his commands and a volley of fire blasted forth. He had forgotten about the other two creatures as a more pressing problem appeared.
“Over there!” shouted Butt, indicating a recently created pile of rubble and set off at a flat run for the cover. By now, Kam seemed to have realised that his life was in danger and soon overhauled the gasping Cornelius.
Sliding to a halt, Cornelius ripped out his pistol and took aim, the distorted features of the Taurans leaving no room for misinterpretation of their intent. He snapped off a couple of shots, the first one missing, but the second striking directly into the open mouth of one of the mutants.
However, as firepower went, they were vastly outgunned and a trio of Tauran troopers split off from the pack and raced towards them.
“We’re going to die!” he muttered as they came closer.
“Speak for yourself!” snarled Kam, using the rubble as a launching pad for a tremendous leap. Sword in hand, he vaulted over the first attacker, and with his weapon held firmly in both hands, used his momentum to slam into the other two. His attack obviously surprised them, knocking them unceremoniously to the floor. Kam stamped down hard onto the first’s neck with the heel of his boot, hearing the satisfying crunch of bone. He pivoted and slashed outwards, his blade ringing against the crude club in the second Tauran’s hand. The shock of the strike caused it to lose its grip and without a visible pause in his movement, Kam buried his blade to the hilt in its chest, wrenching the weapon out as he had been taught, in order to widen the wound.
Looking back he watched Butt scurrying backwards, trying mightily to avoid the serrated weapon in his attacker’s hand. He saw the little man raise his pistol, holding it against the stomach of his attacker. There was a flash, a roar of pain and the Tauran arched upwards. By now Kam had covered the distance between them and punched his sword into the Tauran’s back. Once, twice and a third time he struck until all signs of resistance disappeared.
Butt picked up one of the discarded rifles from the floor and scurried back behind the barricade. Shaking his head, Kam followed; Butt had to be better than this or else they were in serious trouble.
The Inspector knew he had a problem; he was the last of his squad, had one ugly spit-drooling face pressed into his, was bleeding from numerous wounds and more of the abominations had arrived. Therefore he took a decision.
Screaming, “For the Prelate!” he braced his legs against the floor, took a firm grasp on the Tauran’s tunic and heaved it backwards. His pumping legs propelled both him and it out of the second storey window, straight down to the welcoming floor below them.
It seemed as though his prayer was answered as the flailing inter-tangled pair crashed down onto a group of Taurans passing below. Their fall was broken and the Inspector rolled away, in pain, but alive.
That was when his luck changed, he felt the weight of a heavy boot pressed into his chest and looked up into a horribly disfigured excuse for a face. Sunlight glinted off the blood encrusted blade as the axe was raised above him and by now even he had stopped in his pleading for divine intervention.
As the weapon began to descend there was a sharp crack, the creature’s eye socket exploded outwards and he was suddenly free again. He closed his eyes momentarily, giving thanks for such intervention and apologising for his lack of faith. When he opened them, he saw the grinning face of Butt above him, his anti-mohican cut, adding even more to his strangeness.
“Thought you might need a hand,” he said, holding out what appeared to be a normal human appendage, “what do you say?”
“Tauran scum!”, roared the Inspector, kicking his foot upwards, straight between the unfortunate Butt’s legs. As Cornelius collapsed, his mouth opened in a silent scream, Kam brought his sword hilt down on top of Burton’s head. He then grabbed a handful of Butt’s shirt and dragged him back behind their shelter, muttering to himself in disgust.