“So.... why exactly did you immigrate to Demacia in the first place?”
“Shut yer trap and wait for the order...”
Piercing green eyes strayed to the older, darker skinned man. A frown darkened the green eyes. “Still no dice?” The elder man ignored him. “Still no dice?” He spoke slightly louder as he repeated himself, but the man continued to ignore him. He grunted inaudibly and shrugged and sighed. “How much longer are we going to wait? Half of these damned tales have simply been fool's errands. How do we know this one is any different?”
“We wait until the captain tells us to stop waiting.” The darker of the two pulled off his helm to scratch at a fresh scar that decorated his temple, running from the crown of his head, down across his ear, and ending just behind his jaw line. “Now shut up and keep watch, before I report you to your daddy.”
Hidden amid the rocks along the edge of the desert, the pair of men were hunkered down, taking shelter from the sun and the slashing winds that crested the sands. Green eyes responded with an unintelligible grunt, but he shut his mouth and dropped down amid the rocks. He crossed his arms over his chest as he continued to look out over the desert landscape, kicking his legs out. He brushed long brown hair from his green eyes, glancing left and right and then scratched his head in frustration.
“What am I watching for anyway?” He muttered, gesturing out at the sand dunes as the wind that whipped across the top of the ripples of unbroken tan. “All I see is sand. All I've seen for the past two weeks has been bloody sand!” He looked over at the man who sat next to him. He didn't appear much older, but the hardened flesh around his eyes betrayed the fact that he has seen too much in too little time. Black hair hid the crease in his brow, the dark skin pulled taunt over the deep scar that ran from his hairline to his jaw. He held a gloved finger up to his lips and looked out towards the sands of the desert.
As if on cue, two rocks, each not much larger than his fist, stacked one on top of the other, started to rattle. One could have been forgiven for missing the rattle at first had there been any noise at all, but with only the distant howl of the wind to be heard, the rattle came as a welcome sound, breaking the constant silence.
“You shouldn't have been watching obviously...” The second man, visibly older and more seasoned, said with a wry grin breaking onto his face. The wrinkled flesh, tightened by the sun and too much tension, betrayed his age. “You should have been listening.” He pointed to his ear and winked, patting the younger man on the shoulder, a scowl appearing on his young companion’s face as he ducked down and set about collecting his belongings. He threw his dust cloak over his shoulders, pinning it in place with a small clip. Decorated with light blue stone, it took the shape of a circle with a feather running around the side and top, flaring away from it, with two more feather-like shapes below it.
“Wha-...” The younger man said, his eyes going wide as he watched the smooth, round stone rattle, the vibrations getting more and more violent.
“We're moving! Come on!” The older man shouted, ducking out from under the overhanging rocks and sticking his head up to look over the top of the rocks.
“Holy...” The green eyed soldier froze, staring up at the towering monster as it lumbered past.
“Damn, it's a big one!” The darker skinned soldier tossed his sword, shield, and pack up onto the rocks and then clambered up behind them, sticking a hand down. “Hurry it up, kid!” The younger man grabbed his arm and was hauled up onto the top of the rocks, the sunlight blinding him for a brief moment. He raised a hand to shield the sunlight from his face and his jaw dropped as he watched as a monster as large as a mountain strode directly towards him. He felt his knees go weak as he watched the great beast come thundering forth. It easily stepped over him, its long, slow steps carrying it hundreds of feet with every stride. It had wrinkly brown skin and thin, long front arms for gripping and maneuvering. Its back legs were rippling with muscles as it took a stride over his head, its foot, easily forty feet across, crashing down into the sand dunes. A long tail covered in spikes swayed overhead as it took another long stride.
“It's headed towards the canyon. Follow me, Shore!” The younger man nodded silently, reaching down for his gear, unable to take his eyes off the beast. The older man had already taken off at a sprint, raising a horn to his lips. The sound was deep and mournful, but it carried through the air as the man paused on a rocky rise, as the cliffs started to grow.
“What is that thing, Sergeant Argyle?” Shore asked, his breathing quickened. They had sprinted ahead of the beast to the highest point along the ridge that made up the walls of the canyon. The mountains of the Great Barrier dominated the sky to the north, reaching all across the continent from shore to shore, with only the treacherous Mogron Pass, at the base of mount Targon, to bridge the continent across the barrier.
“A legendary Shurima Strider....” The sergeant wore a grin that Shore could only call 'cocky'. “You know those legends, the tales we heard? Well they not always just legends, kid.”
“It's massive.” Shore muttered under his breathe, as the beast simply strode on past, completely ignoring them. “How exactly are we going to take that thing down? We're like ants to it...”
“Usually... an ant has no quarrel with a boot, yes?” Argyle said, pointing along the canyon wall, far ahead of where they were standing. The canyon deepened and narrowed, but the strider seemed content to continue along the path he was taking. “That doesn't mean the ant cannot sting...” Argyle winked at the younger solider and nodded. “Caught your breath yet?”
“Yessir.” Shore said, a smile starting to form on his face.
“Follow me.” Argyle said, taking off along the top of the canyon wall, picking his steps carefully, but making good time.
“He's upon us, sire.”
Hidden amid the rocks, seven men stirred, waiting as the thunderous vibrations continued to grow more violent with every rumble. The sound of a horn echoed along the canyon, the low pitched sound like music to his ears. With short brown hair and green eyes twinkling amid a face hidden by wrinkles and a beard, one man stood out from his peers who all appeared substantially younger than him. He smiled sweetly and sighed. “Ah, how I love the call of battle in the morning.”
“Call it, Lieutenant.” The captain said, putting his boot up on the small shelf they were hidden behind, an imperious smile upon his face.
“Yes, sire.” The man said, bowing his head and letting a smile of his own slip onto his face. He turned and faced the men who were waiting behind him. “Alright, gentlemen. Textbook take down. The Prince will wall the beast's path off and then we move in to disable it. Safety ropes and charges. Two teams of three, one leg a piece. Go for the tendons and keep each other alive. Quick, easy, simple.”
“Sir.” A resounding chorus of responses came from the men, each one steady and silent, waiting for the prey to wander deeper into their trap.
“Jean, Laryn and Forsythe, you take the closer leg.” Three men nodded, each picking up their long shafted spears that had been set off to the side of the small washed out area they had camped in. Long ropes had been tied to each spear, and as they drew the spears from the amassed arsenal, each man took the length of rope and tied the end associated with it to his own belt. “Orion and Torn, you two are with me.” He pointed to a massive solider with dark eyes and skin, jerking a thumb over his shoulder, the last man among the group rolling his eyes with a grin. He was scrappy looking young man with long brown hair, but the excitement on his face was clear as he picked out a spear from the far wall. He set about quickly knotting the loose end to his belt, giving it a firm tug when he was finished. “Watch the far rocks, gentlemen. Good luck, and happy hunting.”
“It's here...” The captain said quietly, holding his lance at his side as he watched the beast's enormous shadow begin to eclipse the entirety of the wall along the far edge of the canyon. “Stand with me brothers...” He looked back over his shoulder, his grey-blue eyes gleaming with the excitement of the hunt. “Today is a good day to topple such a great foe. Good hunting, Lieutenant Isaacs.”
The men whooped a battle cry as they rushed to his side, watching as the great beast, still towering above them even though his legs were down in the depths of the canyon hundreds of feet below, approached with each step bringing him lumbering forward. The captain tilted his head from side to side, a deep cracking resounding as he stepped up onto the ledge. He wore armor decorated with the talons and fangs of his kills, the polished, dark spikes gleaming in the afternoon sun. His armor was marred with hundreds of small nicks and scars from his fights, each with its own story. The man who wore the armor had jet black hair that was picked up by the wind waving majestically behind him, his broad shoulders flexing as he set off at an easy jog, letting the Shurima Strider beast catch up with him. He lifted his lance above him as he started to sprint, banking to the side as he dove off the edge of the cliff and into the canyon.
“For the king!” He bellowed as he dropped into the canyon, summoning all of his strength, the power flowing through him as he brought the lance down over top of his head in a single massive blow, the end of the lance striking the rock at the very bottom.
A shock wave echoed out along the walls of the canyon, rippling up and down the walls, small rocks shaking loose and tumbling down into the bottom of the canyon. Ripping up through the ground, a wall of stone exploded up from the ground behind him, great shards of stone erupting and arcing towards the sky. They cut through the air like a jagged knife until a saw-tooth wall of stone stood directly in the Strider’s path, from the bottom of the canyon to the top.
Confused by the sudden and violent appearance of the wall, the Strider lurched to a halt, its body swaying dangerously as it ground to a halt. The beast let out a groan that echoed as if the earth was opening up and shattering. It shifted from foot to foot, its massive head swinging from side to side as it looked at how close the canyon walls were. It let out another groaning bellow.
“Charge!” Six spears came arcing off the cliff and with it six men came swinging, each leaping off the cliff as soon as the spear landed. Three men dropped towards the canyon floor, swords drawn as they hit the end of their lines, jerked once and started swinging down and then back up again. Three landed quickly upon the beasts legs, hanging onto their swords and the leathery, wrinkled skin of the beast where they could as they pulled themselves up. The other three swung under the beast's body as it let out another low bellow, shaking slightly as it did, the ropes jerking as it did. One of the ropes snapped and the man tumbled down towards the ground, but he was able to tuck and roll. He hit the ground hard but he was up on his feet immediately, blonde hair billowing in the gusts of hot air that swept up the canyon.
The two remaining men hit the apex of their swings, and begun to swing back down. They drew swords; the weapons barely looked like toothpicks next to the strider. As they swung back, turning in the process, they collided with the Strider's leg. Their swords cut deep through the beast's thick skin before they could bounce or swing away. Knives were drawn as they started to work their way up the wrinkled skin of the leg to start their devious work. Using their knives as anchors as they climbed, the men used the beast's skin like one giant climbing wall.
“Sink anchors!” The lieutenant bellowed, leaning backwards, hanging onto his knife, sunk deep into the flesh of the strider beast. He looked left and right at his men, frowning at the snapped line that now hung from the spear, whipped about by the wind as it cut through the canyon. His men drew heavy, reinforced knives that had a loop of steel along the top of the grip. It could be used for multiple things from fighting styles to tethers, but more rope had been looped through and then attached to the belt. Each man sunk his blade deep and angled it high, tugging on it to ensure it was stuck in place. Isaacs looked left and right, getting a thumbs up from Orion and a nod from Torn.
“Explosives!” The lieutenant hollered, as he reached to his belt. He pulled a small burlap sack out of a satchel and shoved the pouch into the gouge in the Strider's leg that now leaked a thick blue blood. Isaacs yanked his hand out of the sticky mess, and grabbed the rip cord and gave it a yank. He was rewarded with the sparkle and crackling of the fuse burning. He checked left and right and felt a proud grin tug at the corner of his mouth of his mouth. Orion and Torn were both half way down, sliding down the rope and bounding down the side of the creature's legs with reckless abandon. Isaacs yanked his combat knife from the beasts flesh and leaned back, hanging onto the rope. He slid the knife into his boot to clean later, and then started running backwards down the beast's leg, letting the rope slide through his hands. He hit the deck a bit harder than he had intended and struggled to recover, rolling on his hip and pushing himself up to his feet despite the pain in his tailbone.
“Move!” He shouted, grabbing Forsythe by the arm and hauling him backwards, tossing the tow headed young man to the sand and he dived, covering his head with his arms.
A series of sharp detonations cracked and shook around the canyon, each a staccato snap compared to the roar and rumble as the Strider bellowed in pain and shifted from foot to foot, struggling to stay upright. The gargantuan beast's efforts were unfounded as it teetered briefly before it came crashing down upon itself, collapsing to the side, striking the canyon wall and then scrapping its way to the ground, sending cascades of stone and dust into the air as it threatened to collapse the entire cliff.
Isaacs lifted his head and was barely getting to his feet when he heard the crack of a standard getting fired into the air. He had to try and peer into the sky as he tried to catch a glimpse of the banner arcing through the air, losing it in the sun. The standard landed atop the beast, cutting into the leathery flesh with a splatter of blood marking its impact. A shimmering blade cut up and out of the settling dust, a barbed section of lance hooking onto the standard. Jarvan accelerated himself up and out of the darkness, tossing himself into the air, retracting the lance and raising it above his head as he arced through the air towards the beast's head.
“DEMACIA!” Jarvan bellowed out his war cry as he brought the lance down with earth shaking force.
Blood splattered up and outwards as Jarvan struck a killing blow into the Strider's skull. He sunk his lance deep and wrenched it to the side, receiving a gush of blood that splashed over his boots. He ripped the lance out and spun it above his head, casting the blue blood off of his lance, slamming it down with a triumphant smile upon his face. He raised his fist above his head, a cheer going up among the men.
A smile cracked upon Isaacs face as he hauled Forsythe up to his feet. “Make sure you keep your gear maintained next time.” He clapped the man on the shoulder as he inspected the young soldier for injuries. A quick glance up and down told Isaacs there were no physical wounds but he could see the anguish on the man’s face despite how Forsythe towered over him.
“I'm not going to hear the end of this for a while, am I?” His eye twitched as his shoulders sunk with a heavy sigh. Isaacs barked a brief laugh as he cuffed the younger man lightly on the back of the head.
“With an attitude like that, you bloody well won't.” Isaacs picked a knife from the sand and wiped it upon his trousers, handing it over to the younger man. “It'll keep ya sharp as this knife though.” Forsythe groaned as he accepted the weapon from his Lieutenant.
“Damnit.” Forsythe muttered, sheathing the weapon. “More guard duty I assume?” Isaacs pushed his helm further back on his helm and scratched his brow, looking up at the young man.
“Most likely.” Isaacs said, struggling to bite back a chuckle. “But hey, it builds character.”
“Character?” Forsythe rolled his eyes. “Yeah, right. Exactly what I need. And what exactly am I going to need character for out here?” Forsythe grumbled, trying to hide his obvious displeasure with a forced grin.
“You never know.” Isaacs said, starting to turn away, offering the man a wink. “You might run across a fair lass in distress, looking for her prince charming.” Forsythe sighed and Isaacs shrugged, laughing.
Forsythe rolled his eyes again as he grumbled to himself, Isaacs chuckling as he departed to tend to the rest of his men and to start organizing things for their grand feast to celebrate their kill.