Fiends of the Desert
The golden grains were thrown about as if they were nothing. Pushed from where they lay to a new home. It didn’t change the overall look of the vast desert but it was annoying to those who wandered through.
Nicholas sheltered his eyes with his hand as he followed his guide to the throne room of Queen Ysmay of Idovia. He’d been requested, or at least a Slayer had been requested, by the Queen. He just happened to be the first one sent out by the guild. He let out a small cough as he entered the throne room, clearing his lungs of the sand they’d collected on the short walk in. “Nicholas Northman,” the Queen spoke and Nicholas’ attention was instantly on her, “I’ve heard things about you. King Brom of Welthereon says you saved his life. That’s quite an impressive feat.” Nicholas gave a subtle nod of appreciation as the Queen appraised his heroics. “Well, my liege, I was just doing my duty. Slayers protect those who cannot protect themselves, and are not being protected by others.”
“Quite a specific group that you protect then. Perhaps I have misunderstood your role?” The Queen stood up and walked towards Nicholas, “You will protect me, won’t you, Slayer?” Nicholas nodded, but remained silent. “Good. Well, I do need it. As well as my guards are doing, I lose at least one every night to those blasted daemons. I don’t know how they made it down here, but they have.” Nicholas’ eyes followed Ysmay as she circled him and then headed back to her luxurious golden throne. “Daemons aren’t particularly known for their travelling, my liege, are you certain that they’re your pests?”
“Well, I don’t remember hearing about any other monster that eats men alive, so yes, I’m certain.” She snapped back at his simple question. Nicholas remained quiet, he was thinking.
Yes, he thought. There have been cases of daemons eating men, women and - unfortunately - children but they were very rare. Perhaps the Queen has a special kind of daemons plaguing her lands…
Nicholas gave the Queen a nod, expressing his willingness to complete the quest, then left the room. As he entered back into the sandstorm, he covered his eyes again. He found his way back to his trusty steed and brought it to a local stable, where he knew it wouldn’t be terribly affected by the great gusts of sand being thrown around mercilessly. He gave it a quick pet, before bidding it farewell and heading back out into the storm.
The storm slowly died down as the warm rays of the sun vanished and the darkness of the night engulfed Idovia. Nicholas stood guard, with two other men, on the city walls. He stared out into the vast nothingness of the night and watched for any activity. He couldn’t see much as the torch, he had a hold of, only glowed so bright. As he watched the still desert in the dark, a voice caught his attention, “There it is! I see it!” Nicholas turned his head sharply to where the guard was pointing. He wasn’t wrong, there was something moving. He watched it for another moment, trying to figure out what it was, when, to either side of it, two more creatures rose from the sand. “There’s more!” The guard cried out. Nicholas looked on, in utter shock. He hadn’t the faintest idea about what these sand-crawling creatures were. “Ready your weapons, men.” He commanded the guards. Their bows raised up, and their arrows were drawn back. Nicholas held his torch in front of the arrows and their arrowheads lit ablaze. “Hold…” He watched the creatures carefully. When dealing with something new, a Slayer is taught to observe and act smart rather than just attack as most guards, soldiers and knights do. Once they were in range, Nicholas signalled for the guards to let loose their arrows. The burning bolts whistled through the cool air and caught their intended targets perfectly. The creatures dropped to their knees as they were set alight, and burnt alive. “Good job, men.” Nicholas appraised the guards. Then his eyes were turned back to beyond the city walls. Tens more of the sandcrawlers rose from the sand and made their way to the city walls. “Great.” Nicholas removed his sword from its scabbard and readied himself for combat. “You’re not seriously going to try and fight them in close quarters, are you?” The guard to his left asked. Nicholas took a few steps back, “We don’t have much of a choice.” As the words left his mouth, one of the crawlers poked its head up, over the wall. The guards fell back in surprise, and joined Nicholas in standing a few steps from the edge. “Ready yourselves…” Nicholas took a deep breath, and focused on the fight that was about to happen, “here they come.”
Several sandcrawlers burst over the wall and Nicholas, in one swift and effortless movement, decapitated all of them. The guards drew their swords, preparing to fight the next wave with Nicholas. “Protect our sides, I’ll focus on these coming over.” Nicholas commanded. The guards obeyed and turned their attention to the left and right, respectively, preparing to fight off any that came from those directions. Another wave of five, or so, rushed over the wall and Nicholas planted his feet firm. As they came towards him, he dodged to the side as the first to attack tried to bite him, and sliced it in half. The creature’s black blood stained his blade. The next charged at him with haste and Nicholas thrusted his blade straight into the crawler’s chest. As his blade was deep inside the crawler, another threw itself at Nicholas and tried to bite his arm. He saw it coming, though, and threw a backfist strike at its head. As the iron armour that protected his leather gloves connected with the crawler’s skull there was a harsh crack. The crawler dropped to the floor, and became lifeless. Nicholas pulled the blade from the previous crawler’s stomach and in a sudden spinning motion, sliced the last crawler of the wave into two. “Nicholas!” The guard to his left cried. Nicholas’ attention turned to the guard, and he noticed that he was becoming overwhelmed by the crawlers. “Stand your ground!” Nicholas demanded. Another couple started their ascend to get over the wall. Nicholas peered over the edge and saw them coming. “There’s more!” He cried out. But as he turned around, he was overwhelmed by crawlers coming from the left. They’d managed to overpower the guard, and a few were now sat beside his corpse, pulling flesh from it and gnawing at it. “Dammit.” Nicholas mumbled under his breath as he fought back against the ever-growing waves of crawlers. “Nicholas! There are too many!” The other guard cried for Nicholas’ help as he, too, was becoming overwhelmed by crawlers. Nicholas knew he had to get the guard out of there - he didn’t want another death caused at his hands. He tossed the final couple of crawlers he had to fight over the edge of the wall, and back into the sandy wasteland, then turned his attention to the guard.
They’d already gotten him. Nicholas turned around and saw a group of three crawlers pulling the man’s eyeball from its socket and chewing on his leg. Their faces were coated with his blood. He closed his eyes for a brief moment, coming to terms with what’d happened and opened them again. Anger was now his ruling emotion. He swung his blade in fury. The black blood of the crawlers painted the stone walls and floors of the wall. Once Nicholas had finished his fiery rampage, the scene looked as if unfathomable amounts of oil had been spilt. There wasn’t a patch, within his immediate vicinity, that wasn’t caked with their blood. He stood there and breathed rapidly. There were no more crawlers. There was just him. Alone.
The throne room door flew open. Nicholas stood there, silently, then tossed one of the crawler’s heads at the Queen. “Where are the guards I sent with you?”
“Dead.” Nicholas snapped, as soon as she’d finished her last word. The Queen looked at him, in shock but also, rather pleased. “But you dealt with it?” Nicholas looked up at her, and began to walk closer. As he entered the throne room, the torchlight revealed the copious amounts of blood that his armour and clothing was stained with. It wasn’t just crawler blood either, it was the blood of the guards too…
Nicholas placed the guard’s body down, next to the other’s. “I’m so sorry…” He mumbled as he dropped to his knees. He began to cover the bodies with sand. It was the best grave he could give them…
“Did I deal with it?” Nicholas barked, “Look at me!” The Queen stared him right in the eye, trying to remain the dominant one. Nicholas got just a couple feet away from the Queen before the guards armed up and stopped him. He gave a grimace of disgust at Ysmay. “I did it.” Nicholas hissed in a quiet tone. Ysmay nodded at him,
“Good. Then you are dismissed.” Nicholas remained exactly where he was.
“You don’t care. Do you?”
“About what? My own security-” Nicholas cut her off.
“About the two guards, the two men - real people - who lost their lives tonight.” Nicholas continued, “The two men I had to watch get eaten alive. Get ripped apart, limb from limb, and gnawed at. You don’t care about their sacrifice, do you?” The Queen stood up and walked down from her throne to face Nicholas. “No. As long as I’m alive, I don’t care. They were just doing their job.” Nicholas takes a moment, trying to calm himself but he can’t. He spat in Ysmay’s face, and turned around to leave. “Guards, arrest him! Kill him!” The Queen fumed. The four guards in the throne room readied their swords. Everything froze for a moment. Nicholas stayed where he was, and the guards watched him - trying to prepare for his first move. “I highly advise against that.” Nicholas cautioned the guards. But they didn’t listen. The first came from his left. Nicholas simply tripped the guard up, and sent him flying across the room. The next came from the back. Nicholas could hear his armour clank as he charged. He wanted to remain non-lethal in this fight, as the men were just obeying orders and had no serious desire to injure him, but that didn’t mean he had to remain completely peaceful. The guard got within range and Nicholas drew his sword. He thrusted the iron pommel into the guard’s nose and blood squirted out as he dropped to the floor. There was another moment of pause. Everyone watched everyone. Nicholas twirled his word, taunting the guards. Then chaos ensued once again. The next Idovian guard charged Nicholas and received a strong kick in the stomach. He was thrown back, to the floor, and stayed there as he gasped for the air Nicholas had knocked out of him. Then there was one. He charged Nicholas but stopped as Nicholas raised his sword and pointed the edge at his throat. The guard dropped his weapon and forfeited.
Ysmay stared at Nicholas, as Nicholas stared at her. Both gave the other a look of pure hatred. “Leave.” The Queen ordered. Nicholas more than happily obliged. He sheathed his sword and exited the building.
Morning came. The sun rose and graced the land with it’s warm, golden beams. Nicholas saddled up and spurred his steed onward. They trotted through the desert sands, each step taking twice as long as it would if they were on a stable road. By nightfall, they’d made it back to the Idovian border. Nicholas dismounted his steed and tied it up besides where he’d be camping. He started himself a campfire and sat beside it, underneath the stars. The sky was clear and the stars were bright. Nicholas looked up at them and tried to make pictures with what he could see. As the wood in the fire burnt out, and he began to feel the cool night’s air against his skin, Nicholas lay down on his bedroll. He continued to watch the stars as his eyes slowly closed. He soon drifted off into a deep and wonderful sleep.