The Red Warrior
As the sun rises outside of Glass Gate, it reflects off of the shimmering stone walls, making for a wondrous sight. From the outside the city almost appears peaceful and calm. The black smoke rising from within shatters that illusion for those waiting at the gate to offer aid in response to the few white birds that managed to escape.
Three separate territories have sent soldiers in the hundreds to answer the call of Lord Glasstien. The first group of men hail from Iron Grove and are commanded by none other than guard captain Token, now the self proclaimed steward in the absence of an heir of Lord Ironglave’s. The second group is from Sliver Bay, led by Sir Prandon, also acting in place of an actual lord.
The final group has traveled all the way from Lord Madine’s territory. They are led by a man named Cashak, a warrior skilled in both bow and lance. He wears shimmering chain mail but no actual armor, unlike the majority of the soldiers under his command. Somehow it is obvious just from their appearance that they had to trek through swamplands and marshes just to be here.
“Alright, this strategy meeting is officially underway,” Token announces as he welcomes the two other leaders underneath a tarp he has set up to shield himself from the sun.
“Why should we even bother with a strategy meeting?” Sir Prandon is the first to respond. “The call for aid was received days ago and was probably sent long before that. As we waste more time holding this useless meeting more and more people are dying in there. We need to go in now.”
“No one is stopping you from entering the city of your own volition,” Token assures him. “I simply want to be sure we are all on the same side here.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Cashak glares at him. “Are you insinuating that we are not loyal to the lords? Just because our Lord Madine is not a rightful heir of King Doryan’s does not mean we are all scoundrels.”
“I meant no offence.” Token holds up his hands defensively. “I'm not insinuating that any of us are openly against the lords. I merely want to be sure we will not be turning our weapons on each other the moment we step inside the city walls.”
“Why exactly would we do that?” Sir Prandon is now on guard. The only reason he can think of that would cause Token to suggest this is if he is planning to do exactly that.
“This isn’t an invading force laying siege to a comrade’s territory. This is an uprising of Glass Gate citizens. Depending on who you align with, we might very well end up fighting each other,” Token tries to explain.
“It’s quite simple; we align with those still loyal to Lord Glasstien.” Prandon crosses his arms confidently.
“No it’s not simple,” Token argues. “How do you know who is loyal. Like I said, these are all citizens of the same city. They all look the same.”
“He’s got a point,” Cashak agrees. “Why exactly are the citizens rebelling? Did the lord do something unfair to them?”
“If I understand his message correctly, one of his head knights started a rebellion, causing the lord’s own guards to split factions. They are now at war with themselves.”
“Greedy ungrateful knights,” Cashak spits. “They get everything from the lords, power, money, women, and what do they give in return?”
“A lifetime of servitude and loyalty!” Prandon interrupts him.
“I wasn’t suggesting you were greedy or ungrateful,” Cashak grumbles.
“This is exactly why I called this meeting.” Token spouts. “We need more information about what is going on inside before we can act. I suggest we each designate a spy to infiltrate the city walls and…”
“And do nothing while the Glass Gate burns to ashes,” Prandon stops him. “The message was urgent. We don’t have time to wait. I'm going in now. If either of you plan to shoot me in the back, I swear you’ll regret it.”
“And how do you plan on penetrating the great walls of Glass Gate?” Token frowns at him. “Unless you have a catapult or the means to build one, we’re going to have to scale the first wall and march all of our soldiers over tiny planks to reach the second wall. We’ll be easy targets for anyone inside.”
“I'm starting to like this guy,” Cashak laughs. “He’s preachy but smart.”
“If you’re so concerned about being shot off the wall, why don’t we ask that demigod to go first?” Prandon suggests. “He won't die if he falls, will he?”
“I'm sorry, but I don’t exactly trust demigods anymore,” Token admits. He has seen more than his fair share of demigod’s abusing their power.
“Oh, and you were doing so well.” Cashak shakes his head disappointedly. “You can't have it both ways, mate. You can't just deny all of Prandon’s ideas and then not give out any of your own.”
“I gave you my own,” Token snaps.
“Which we rejected due to time constraints,” Cashak reminds him. “In fact, we’re wasting too much time as it is. I say we ask the demigod for help. It’s his job anyway, isn’t it?”
“If he chooses to involve himself in this, he’ll have to pick a side as well,” Token informs him. “What happens if he decides it is time for Lord Glasstien to step down? We could end up fighting a demigod.”
“What other choice do we…?” Cashak’s rebuttal is interrupted by the sound of a man shouting near the tarp. All three men leave their shady cover to see what is going on.
“There she is, stop her!” Several men are in the process of chasing after a woman in blue flowing robes as she struts through their encampment.
“I'm sorry, sir, she wouldn’t identify herself,” one of the men quickly explains the situation to Token.
“Go get Brand,” Token’s response is immediate.
“I thought you didn’t trust demigods,” Cashak mocks him.
“As much as I don’t trust Brand, I trust her even less,” Token gulps nervously as he watches the woman trotting through the camp until she comes to a stop directly before the shadow of the city wall.
“Who is that?” Cashak is curious now.
“She calls herself Maumolla,” Token whispers through gritted teeth. Despite the fact that he has only ever encountered her once before, he is deathly afraid. She may have killed Turok and ended his unlawful rule of Iron Grove but that does not make her a friend. All he knows is that she is capable of killing demigods. That is more than enough reason to avoid dealing with her if at all possible.
“Who’s in charge of this mess?” Maumolla shouts at the soldiers now surrounding her, all cautiously holding spears. “Why hasn’t anyone tried to enter the city yet?”
“Hello, Maumolla,” the familiar voice of Brand interrupts her complaining.
“Damn.” Maumolla winces at the sound of his voice. “I really didn’t want to meet you here,” she admits while spinning around to face him.
The men surrounding her have lowered their spears after hearing her name. “Is that really Maumolla?”
“It’s the Violet Champion. It’s another demigod.”
“There’s two of them now. Maybe they’ll do all the work.”
“The demigods are here to save us.”
Maumolla glares at each of them in turn before responding. “How blindly trusting can you imbeciles be?” she screams angrily. “What would you do if we were here to kill you and not save you? Have you ever thought about how doomed humanity would be if the demigods ever turned against you? Learn to fight your own battles already. The demigods are busy.”
“Busy? Busy doing what?” the chatter only increases.
“Busy fighting each other.” Brand clenches his fists.
“Are they serious? Are the demigods not on the same side?”
“It appears not,” Maumolla sighs while readying her staff. “No weapon, Brand?” she taunts the larger man. As the successor to the Red Warrior it is not surprising that he stands at an impressive seven feet tall, almost the exact same height as the now deceased Turok.
“Do you really think I need a weapon to fight you?” Brand’s feet are creating cracks in the ground already.
“I suppose it wouldn’t do any good to ask you to willingly give me the power of the Red Warrior, would it?” Maumolla decides to try reasoning with him, if only halfheartedly. Brand’s response is to leap at her and punch her in the stomach, causing her to keel over while skidding backwards from the sheer force. “You don’t hold back, do you?” she groans while straightening her posture.
“That was holding back,” he informs her. Maumolla leaps to the side in time to avoid his next attack while simultaneously extending her staff into his path. Obviously it is unable to break his skin when he accidentally punches it instead. He quickly withdraws his hand though as a sharp jolt of numbness startles him.
“Even your aura can be absorbed by my Arma,” she reminds him while sending a slew of shards out from the end of her staff with an elegant wave. Brand is careful not to let a single one touch him as they sail past. Knowing he can not fight against her weapon, he decides to try separating her from it. He takes several heavy steps toward her, cracking the ground as he goes and causing her to lose her balance.
She extends her staff to the ground like a cane to steady herself. Brand uses this opening to grab her wrist and the weapon and wrench them apart. He tosses Arma Vec away immediately to avoid giving it a chance to absorb too much of his aura but his hand is already shaking. It feels almost numb with the absence of its normal fortitude.
Maumolla grits her teeth as she tries to wrench her hand out of Brand’s grasp. She actually seems slightly worried without her trusted weapon nearby. When Brand only tightens his grip, she realizes what she has to do to escape. With an audible pop, her wrist snaps awkwardly before slipping through his fingers like liquid.
Brand is clearly shocked by her resourcefulness. He is even more surprised when she manages to punch him in the chin almost immediately as if her wrist has already healed. It does her no good though. She may have increased energy and strength but it means nothing when punching a solid stone. Instead he knees her in the stomach, sending her skidding backwards along the ground again until she actually collides with the wall of Glass Gate.
The pained look on her face lasts only a moment before she manages to compose herself. She darts to her right in an attempt to retrieve her lost Arma, but Brand is faster. He reaches it first and kicks it as hard as he can, knocking it even farther away. Maumolla is visibly annoyed but does not say anything. She simply takes a deep breath while preparing to continue fighting Brand hand to hand.
The men surrounding them watch in awe as the two demigods trade punches and kicks in close combat. Brand’s movements are slower but much more powerful. Every time he lands a hit, Maumolla is pushed further back toward the wall behind her. None of her hits seem to do any damage though. Brand does not even bother to dodge half of them.
Finally, Maumolla decides to change her approach. Brand is startled to see her eyes suddenly glowing two separate colors, orange and purple. Her aura becomes visible as she uses the power of the Titian Witch to control what part of her body it is focusing on. Her next attack, a jumping knee to Brand’s chin, actually knocks the tall man over, forcing him to somersault backwards to avoid getting stepped on when she lands.
Obviously he is not injured but he is in shock. By focusing her violet aura on her knee she was able to attack him with nearly ten times as much power as before, which was already twice the strength of a normal human. The smile on Maumolla’s face reveals that her confidence has been restored.
Brand grits his teeth as he charges at her. He is becoming more and more enraged by the second. Rather than weakening at all throughout the fight, Maumolla seems to have been analyzing his movements and figuring out how to counter them. Any other demigod would be running out of energy by now. Maumolla is the one and only exception.
The next three times Brand attacks, Maumolla is able to block him by focusing her aura on the specific area he is striking. After a while it becomes apparent to Brand that he can no longer harm her. He must find a way to increase the power behind his attacks. He charges at her again but rather than trying to hit her he simply leaps above her head, using his own ability to make himself almost weightless so he can fly higher and farther.
Maumolla spins around to stare in awe as he hits the wall behind her and promptly begins to run vertically up the side. He makes it nearly a quarter of the way to the top before kicking off with such force that the shimmering rock actually cracks beneath his feet. Maumolla backs away from the wall while focusing as much of her aura on her torso as possible. She is not fast enough though.
Brand’s fist punches straight through her chest, creating a gaping hole right next to her heart. A crater actually forms in the ground beneath the pair due to the sheer force of Brand’s weight. Maumolla spits out a mouthful of blood while staring at Brand’s face. He slowly removes his bloodied arm from her chest and watches patiently, waiting for her to collapse.
She stumbles backwards slowly, moving her mouth wordlessly but she does not fall. Her eyes are glowing brighter than before and her purple aura is still visible around her torso. Brand stares in utter disbelief as the wound on her chest slowly starts to heal. “What have you done?” he gasps. She can't answer but he can already guess. She now holds Brecha’s power to control her aura and is therefore able to focus her endless vitality on any part of her body at will.
Brand does not wait for her to heal herself before he attacks again. He punches her in the face hard enough to crack her skull, which is completely defenseless while her torso requires all of her aura’s attention. She actually crumples to the ground this time, her eyes wide and her mouth agape. She is almost completely unresponsive. If she could fall asleep she would most definitely be unconscious.
“What is wrong with you?” Brand is furious. He has yet to face an opponent he can't destroy with his bare hands. He kicks her in the side of the head, twisting her neck horribly but she locks her feet in a proper stance to keep from being knocked over. “Go down!” he screams at her. Slowly she shakes her head, making a horrible cracking sound as her neck snaps back into place. She knows the moment she hits the ground she will not be able to stand back up. Brand will pummel her into the dirt until nothing remains.
“I said go down!” he repeats while grabbing her shoulders and head knocking her. Some of her teeth actually chip as they grind against each other. Her jaw is now broken and her eyes are spinning dizzily. When he lets go of her shoulders her hands move instinctively behind her for support. She is now staring up at him with blood pouring from every orifice on her face. “Why won't you just go down?” he begs her.
Her jaw cracks as it moves back into place. “If you’re hoping to avoid killing me this way then I'm afraid you’re wasting your time,” she spits out more blood as she talks. “If you want to stop me you’ll have to kill me.” Brand grits his teeth in anger as he raises his right foot, preparing to stomp her head into the ground. “Too late,” she whispers as he sees the hole in her chest finally close.
Her ribs are still broken and one of her lungs has yet to re-inflate, causing her breathing to be haggard and raspy, but she is finally able to focus her aura on another part of her body, her skull in this instance. Brand almost falls backwards when his foot comes into contact with the artificially enhanced piece of bone. Maumolla stands up immediately, pushing him the rest of the way over onto his back.
He pushes off the ground with his hands, launching himself into the air for a moment and landing on his feet again. Maumolla is already gone though. He spins around in time to see her sprinting toward the wall again. He quickly gives chase but she has already found what she is looking for, Arma Vec.
Brand’s feet falter and he starts to skid. The staff has already begun to change form into that of a large butterfly axe. He gulps nervously while turning on his heels, still sliding toward her for a moment before he manages to reverse his momentum. He has no plans of coming into contact with Arma Tua ever again.
It is Maumolla’s turn to chase Brand now. Her aura focuses entirely on her feet, allowing her to run even faster. The men watching them are shocked to see the Red Warrior fleeing in fear. The moment Maumolla catches up to Brand, she slashes him across the back, leaving his cape and his armor completely intact but still inflicting a terrible wound.
Brand tumbles forward a few feet before turning around to face her, still crouching low to the ground. He is doing a good job of hiding the pain he is feeling but not good enough. Maumolla walks toward him slowly, swaying her axe back and forth menacingly. “Are you ready to concede?” she asks hopefully.
“I will fight to my last breath,” he warns her while rising to his feet. He is obviously using his power to control the blood in his body to keep his wound closed until it heals.
“I really liked you, Brand,” Maumolla sighs. “You are by far the noblest of all the demigods I have ever encountered… that doesn’t mean you should even be a demigod though.” She slashes him across the chest with her axe. He manages to bring his arms up in front of him but her weapon simply phases through them, creating a diagonal wound from his left shoulder to his waist. It is not visible though as she once again chose leave his armor completely intact.
Brand drops down to one knee while coughing up a small amount of blood. Controlling two separate wounds is much more difficult. He does not understand why she will not just kill him. “I hate Turok,” he sputters breathlessly. “I hate him and his monstrous axe.” In his mind it is not fair. In any other fight, he would be the victor. She is holding the one weapon in the entire world that can injure him.
Maumolla places the handle of the axe in her mouth and bites down to hold it in place so that she can use both of her hands, which she places on the sides of Brand’s head. He jerks away instinctively but she steps forward and repeats the action. A strange feeling fills his body as one of her eyes glows bright blue while the other one glows purple. Using Ardine’s power she is pouring her energy into him while replenishing it instantly with the power of the Violet Champion.
“You killed Ardine,” Brand whispers in disbelief. The wounds on his back and front have already started to heal now that he has the energy to feed his aura.
“I didn’t kill Ardine and I'm not going to kill you,” she mumbles while making sure not to drop the axe from her mouth.
Without warning he kicks off the ground with one foot, leaping backwards and landing on his feet again. “You shouldn’t have done that,” he laughs.
“Hold still!” she growls at him.
“Why should I.” He starts to shuffle backwards, increasing the distance between them. She frowns at him while striding after him as quickly as she can without actually running. It is a strange sight to behold, one demigod walking backwards while the other one chases him with an axe in her mouth.
“I'm trying to help you,” she pleads, almost dropping the axe but managing to catch it with her right hand.
“I bet that’s what you told Turok and Brecha before you killed them,” Brand scoffs.
“Brecha isn’t dead!” Maumolla screams while tossing the axe at him. He is unable to dodge it. It pushes through his stomach, creating a massive hole causing him to keel over. He rips off his iron chest plate so he can assess the damage. There is more blood than he can control with his power alone. “Oh no.” Maumolla tries to touch him.
“Stay away.” He shoves her. She digs her feet into the ground but is still pushed back several feet. “I can heal you.” She shows him her purple aura, which with Brecha’s power she will be able to transfer to him. “I will not rely on my enemies to save me,” he spits out a mouthful of blood.
“I'm not your enemy.” She steps towards him again.
“You are an enemy of the nine and of Genlock,” he spouts.
“You’re not Genlock… and I'm not Maumolla,” she adds after a moment. “I'm not the same insane woman who wanted to rip your predecessor’s skin off. We aren’t demigods, Brand. We failed, you and me.”
“Don’t you think I know that?” he screams at her. “How am I supposed to live up to Genlock? Please tell me? I'm trying as hard as I can but I can't seem to do anything right. I failed to save Lodar, Wan and Husk. I'm always too late. If Genlock could see me now, he’d be ashamed.”
“Who cares what Genlock thinks? You’ve done more than should have ever been asked of a vassal.”
“What would you know of being a vassal,” he scoffs.
“I would know,” a voice interrupts them, emanating from behind Brand.
“Oh, so you’re here.” Maumolla smiles at Prain. She is once again holding her two duel scimitars in preparation to fight Maumolla. “Don’t hurt yourself,” Maumolla almost laughs.
“Stay back,” Brand hisses at her. “You can't fight her.”
“Is it true? Is Brecha alive?” Prain directs her question at Maumolla.
“I swear on my life, I did not kill her.” Maumolla nods.
“But you did take her power?” Prain confirms. Maumolla shifts the color in her eyes to orange as proof. “And you can do the same to my master?” Prain asks in a hopeful voice.
“What are you saying?” Brand growls at her. “I will not yield Genlock’s legacy to the likes of her.”
“Maumolla’s right though.” Prain drops her swords and hugs Brand from behind. “You’re not Genlock; you never were. Just give it up, Brand. The power of the Red Warrior was never meant for you. You’ve done the best you can to uphold Genlock’s legacy but it’s over. Please, just let her end this.”
“What would your father say?” Brand’s voice is trembling. “He trusted me to protect you, the only remaining vassal of the Red Warrior.”
“I never wanted to be a vassal of the Red Warrior.” She shakes her head slowly while giving him quick kiss on the cheek. “I did all of this for you. You can't have not known that.”
“Yeah, I guess I always knew,” he sighs while turning his head to face Maumolla again. He doesn’t have to say anything. First she touches his chest with her glowing hand to extend her aura to him and heal all of his wounds. Then she places her hands on the sides of his head and transfers more energy than his body can take.
Prain steps back as the red light descends from the sky, not wanting to accidentally inherit the rapture. Maumolla can hear the voices of Genlock’s memories entering her mind. It is like a thousand people all talking at once. “How do you stand this?” she groans.
“Silence?” Brand whispers while standing up. “It’s finally silent,” he is almost laughing.
“Wait, what’s up there?” Maumolla points toward the top of the wall. She can not see it but the very top of the chapel is in that exact direction.
“It’s Arma Lita,” Brand answers. “You can feel it now, can't you?”
“Why can I feel it’s presence like this?” Maumolla grabs the sides of her head. “Why does it hurt?”
“Part of Genlock’s mind was trapped in it,” Brand answers. “You will not know peace again until you hold it in your own hands.”
“And you lived with this for ten years?” Maumolla stares at him pityingly while also being partially impressed.
“You’re the one who wanted to be the Red Warrior. It’s your problem now.”
Maumolla glances up at the wall longingly for a moment before taking a deep breath. “So there, all of you have witnessed it for yourselves; I am the Red Warrior, I am the Titian Witch, I am the Violet Champion, I am the Azure Savior. Four of your demigods are here. Will you follow them into battle?”
At first only a small number of the men respond but slowly the noise grows until all of them are chanting, “Hail to the demigods.”
“Excuse me.” Token pushes his way through the crowd of men, stopping a safe distance away from Maumolla though. “How exactly do you plan to enter the city?” He crosses his arms condescendingly. “They have barricaded all of the entrances.”
“If no opening presents itself, then create your own,” she answers ominously. Token simply continues to frown at her. The rest of the men all watch as she starts to twirl her axe around her wrist. Eventually it transforms back into a staff before breaking away from her arm and sailing high into the air, still spinning end over end.
Suddenly both blades extend, one hitting the ground and sinking in several feet while the other hits the shimmering stone wall and curves in order to anchor itself. The men watch in awe as the staff starts to shrink again. The ground actually starts to move as Arma Vec attempts to pull down the entire wall by itself. “Impossible.” Token shakes his head in disbelief.
After several minutes, the pieces of stone surrounding the area the staff anchored itself to explode, raining rock down below. An entire section of the wall has started to lean forward. The men run screaming in all directions as it teeters and falls, kicking up an enormous amount of dust when it hits the ground.
By the time the dust has settled, Maumolla is already standing in the center of the rubble, holding her staff which she has only just retrieved. “Are you coming?” she asks the men who are all still staring at her in awe. There is a mass of equally stunned people on the other side of the wall, all holding spears and other weapons to defend themselves with. It is obvious they never expected an attack such as this.
Maumolla lifts her staff up while transforming into the shape of Arma Kalo, a massive metal bow. The terrified men raise their spears and begin to charge. When Maumolla pulls back on her bow string, rather than forming the normal single blue arrow, she forms four, each a different color, orange, blue, purple and red. The moment she releases the string, four of the charging men fall as the arrows pierce through them with ease.
“With her on our side we’re sure to be victorious!” the soldiers behind Maumolla shout.
“Follow the demigod!”
“Into the city!” they all cheer as they charge after Maumolla as she cuts her way through the rebels with slew after slew of arrows. They quickly chop down anyone she leaves for them.
“Come on.” Prain retrieves her swords from the ground while running alongside the men.
“You don’t have to fight with us,” Brand argues. He is having trouble keeping up with her without the power of the Red Warrior. Even though he no longer has his demigod aura to keep him young, he does not seem to have aged at all. His body has been kept in pique health by his power just like Ardine’s.“Technically I am Maumolla’s vassal now,” Prain reminds him. “I will not abandon my master when she goes to war.” Brand frowns at her in annoyance. It is hard to hide his displeasure at the fact that she no longer strictly serves him. “Don’t worry, former master. You have a different role to play.” She grabs his hand and pulls him close so she can kiss him while they run.