EarthBorn: First Days

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Berserkers & Beasts

Seconth Day 8th Quarter

The pace is quick and light, the only illumination comes from the two moons years from colliding but on course that glow far off the size of pennies, their warped reflection on the hard rippled glass shows fossils and lost relics through it’s surface, a museum seen at night through green hues, only dead wood trees sealed within the glass long ago breaks the volcanic floor all shrubs completely vacant here with no crevices or holes to seed, the blackness of the glass perfect for stealth they stick to the right upwards of the easterly wind that sweeps down, mound to rocky hill the terrains nature seems endless , Rune up front rounds the foot of a jagged rock that too breaks the black glass ground merely strides from enemy activity, immediately raising his fist to halt everyone he can hear heavy snores a few metres around the other side. He turns to Wayke who nods in acknowledgment, he can hear the beings very blood plunge through it’s veins with every heartbeat , Alone Earth thane slides against the rock to try and round it to get a view of what rest in the dark just around the corner, six side steps after he stops, he lifts the back of his head off the rock face to find a portion of what he seeks feet away, two thick hind legs claw tipped with a tail of girth that sits still in the two moons light, no movement compels him To take it further, edging off the rock left foot forward with eyes fixed on the beast it seems to take an age for the creatures full might to appear...

‘’CRUNCH!’’... A sound in the darkness, sound echoes far at dusk forcing Rune to retreat back to the rock , he raises his index finger to his lips in gesture to the others to stay statuette and breathless, The freeze broken by a clash in the distance, two foul beasts snarling and savaging each other rings loud waking the predator just feet in front from it’s sleep, climbing to its feet the creature shakes off it’s slumber before thundering over to the commotion to join in the fight leaving the immediate area clear to make a move...

Rune lifts his body from the rock once again to see where the clash is taking place, the silhouettes lit by the moons backing giving shape to shadows two of the same horned at the head ram and batter a loner of difference, arachnid in nature keeping the unprovoked mauling at bay with immense gripping claws and it’s many limbs, Rune signals the rest to move past while he stands a watch, the arachnid beast fight bravely defending against two at once, a harrowing roar it takes a hit from a horn and is put down with a punctured abdomen, fighting to the end one victor begins to feast while the other continues to ram and dance upon the wriggling prey assuring easy feeding, he joins behind Legion to the other mound away from the predators making no noise . They circle around the other side to find more and more resting beasts , too dark to make them out they can only get worse for the bodily grunts and snores get louder, sticking to the outer mounds they repeat the process, checking with a fraction of their eye on show then crossing, Fortem only quiet as without riders to guide them he is as good as food for the creatures himself ...overlapping the mounds all the way to the final outer wall made of compacted mud and nobody knows what as mortar bindings, rough faced crooked with no stairs cut into it makes for uneasy climbing with only decayed bones and rotten tusk to hold too, the higher they go the narrower, the more vertical the gradient becomes, the higher they go the more they can see the extent of enemy beneath and far to both to the left and right of them, thousands of monstrosities roam freely the whole length of the crescent wall the ground is alive it crawls with primitive instinct, the best of security at the gate with noses ears web and teeth in a moat pen, entering that way is suicide, Legion needing both hands takes the captive Fortem onto his back for this is a climb which becomes too difficult with no hands attached, the chain dangles beneath them in a loose loop rattling in the wind, his handless arms wrap around Legions neck and shoulders gripping tight as he can so not to fall, the top within sight the walls get warmer to the touch, the stench of stagnant water body odour and exotic ground compounds fills the nose they hold their breathes only taking air when necessary...

Reaching the top they look over the peaks edge to check its clear but, it is far from clear that much is clear, even with a two metre width of space which is the wall top the inescapable sounds of cave men can still be heard, they pull themselves up and crawl to the other side...They come faced with pools of water black with concoctions filled with bathing Berserks, passing gas picking orifices and chewing the jerky of long passed quarry, surrounding the foul pond megalithic stone shelters roofed in only the biggest of beast hides from lands unknown rendered with the skulls of unknown creatures great and small. The opposite side of the wall half domed cast in the shape of clawing hands sheltering any view of the keep from there, flames of the posts do not flicker nor crackle in breeze only lighting to a sunset hue, They rise to a crouch and begin to make their way around the perimeter wall, they stay low hidden by the dark with no guards the Enemy gift them free entry, rounding the last quarter, stairs leading up and out of the baths come into view, they hurry to them and do not check the corner taking the exit freezing immediately... a berserker heading to bath stands 3 steps from Rune staring down at all the company...

‘’What the.....’’ Rune immediately seizes him and drives his shield blade through his chin slamming his mouth shut as it enters, twisting and retracting he catches his body before it falls placing it in a resting position on the stairs facing the wall...

’’Move now!”... He whispers they all climb the stairs at pace the sounds of the horde ahead growing ever dominant the winds growing ever stronger like the gods try blow them down backwards, the case is long and drawn out the top arch entrance glows blue from within signalling the journey is drawing to an end, their prize is near, cresting the stairs breaking through a huge tunnel gale they come ascend face to face with Cades Keep...a huge courtyard every corner industry rackets and echoes constant rings, the rivers of sulphur lava pour down fuelling the flames of war, thousands work moving hoisting hammering and sharpening, the foot of the cliff gives place to a huge central alter blocking the entrance to the cave behind only the hierarchy may enter there, the same monstrosities from the splash arena plaster the cliff face overlooking the people unchecked they were the mightiest ,the scout cannot hold his amazement it’s surreal to his sheltered eyes...

‘’ There’s twenty thousand at least! That is not with what lurks outside either’’...Wayke corrects him in direction to Rune....

‘’ Thirty three thousand including outside!”....But Rune doesn’t say anything , the work begins to slow grinding to a halt all seem to be linked it’s so sudden, the Cave dwellers horde together and head towards the alter from every possible, out of sight included, all eyes fixed on the alter plateau, two figures, one cloaked, the other formidable and battle armoured, they take the alter shrouded in familiar fogs, Fortem drops to one knee the knight and scout look at him his actions already answer their question, he only bows to one ...SET-MORTEM!...

The cloaked figure who stands to his side does not flinch at all standing completely motionless, all eyes fixed upon Mortem and the mist that accumulates around him all falls silent with the lowering of both his arms, a ghoulish shadow cast back onto the rock face he appears gargantuan to those at the rear of the crowd...Mortem punches the sky unleashing the deafening cheers of his faithful, the sound of belief powers through the knights leaving all unsettled and shaken....Rune grabs Fortem by the neck squeezing hard and questions him while the crowd covers his words...

‘’What is this?!speak you bastard!’’...Fortem forces his neck round tensed in Thanes tight grip grin smeared ear to ear, Mortems loud clear howling voice takes precedence the company listens intently...

‘’The time has come....the time my people to take this world has come about, the sapiens have found what was once lost...they have found hope again...champions from another plain come to usurp us and usher in the age of sapiens...this cannot BE ALLOWED TO PASS!...there can only be only be peace with ONE RACE, ONE DOMINANT SOECIES ON THE END, the Sapien bloodline is weak, wasteful and driven by greed...SO CHISEL YOUR BLADES SHARP, MUSTER THE BEASTS FROM THEIR DARK DWELLS , REST YOUR HEADS DOWN ON YOUR TROPHY BONE BEDS, FOR AT THE TURN OF THE NEW STAR WE MARCH, WE MARCH FOR WAR MYYYYY ROCK STACKS!’’... the crowd changes from cheers to surging elated bloodthirsty rage, the roars lower in tone but more intimidating, more animal then man ,Rift realising the stories were wrong cannot hold his tongue and stands up straight and tall forgetting his environment...

‘’Rock stacks!...Rock stacks! they live...that’s impossible’’...

‘’ Sit down you fool!’’...Fortem makes a bolts for it, with plenty of forgotten chain free he runs fast and tries as hard as he can to tackle Rift off the edge, Rift being nimble manages to side-step sending Fortem tripping over the edge screaming down towards the floor alerting the rear members of the horde, as he plummets he manages to get a grip a little way up the chain with enough strength stopping the severance of his spine but, leaving him high up off the ground still chained to One Legion, he bellows loud...”OOOO”... the entirety of the hordes attention now turns from front to back all eyes on them ,even Mortem cannot ignore looking up at them, the entirety of keep gaze up at the group of intruders in unrealized silent stare, Rune can see the cloaked figure make a quick exit into the darkness while Mortem steps forward in front as if to catch Runes glance mid air ending any more learning...Legion starts to rapidly reign in Fortem via his chain hoisting him up to the edge then stamping his foot onto the chain to hold the berserker hanging steady , the others start to back off down the stairs but Legion remains in place, staring down onto the pit at Mortem and his army he slowly takes the hammer shaft from his back and fires it up, with all the possible eyes fixed upon him he brings the hammer above his head one handed rippling it’s energy and holding it’s brunt, all are frozen in stare at the formidable Knight who does not fear their thousands he too does not blink, then, with all he has with an almighty crack he brings it down with fury, the entirety onto Fortems body, the terrace shakes and shatters crumbling like soil in the wash ,the overlook with Fortem underneath goes thundering down to the ground in grains large and small of stone, the whole rear of the courtyard goes up in choking clouds of rocks dust., it takes a couple of moments before the cloud of dust begins to clear enough to see the aftermath, the horde look up once again, Legion has gone...‘’HUNT THEM DOWNN! BRING ME THEIR SKINS!’’ ...Mortems command chases them down the narrow stairs and into their bones as if he was at their backs just feet behind, the back rows roars soon follow and begin to get closer, many breakaway from the massed horde to give chase while others go to find Fortems body among the calamity, Earth Thane and the company bound down the long stairs taking two to three a single leap, Legion taking half a dozen leaving cracks on each of the steps he land upon, the bathing berserkers fluster and wake up slowly from limbo with the calls of their thirsty angered kin, the path around the wall remains open they waste no time and with Fortem not a burden they charge around unhindered, berserks can see them up on the wall but with no way up the overhanging wall but a swim and sprint to a single set of stairs they can only scream frustrations and make their way if they wish to join the hunt.

They fling themselves over the wall edge holding tight with both hands and they begin climbing down as fast as possible, Legion jumps from the top crashing to the floor hard cracking the thick volcanic glass alerting close by beasts to their presence, the come about and charge with the formidable horns aimed true, he does not take his hammer, instead going into his pouches to get out the metal spheres he collected at the bridge, taking to a pitchers stance he launches them like harder then any cannonball downing the beast instantly with single accurate shot ,its head but a red mist that vanishes with the wind, two more charge receiving the same traumas, one to the chest the other again to the head leaving the area clear for a few moments, he hails the rest to hurry their window is short, jumping the last 3 metres in succession they all make it down and take off into the deadly fields the way they came in...

sprinting along the edge to avoid the masses they encounter little with the calls drawing the majority to the gates , Legion downing any beast that dare give chase with thunderous consecutively pin point pitching of the spheres , the beast fields falling behind the land fades back into the flatted glass mortuary plains, Rune stops atop a boulder to look back seeing the glass plains speckled in single flames the wrath of black cliff extending it’s darkest reach, the hunters now become the hunted, Wayke returns back and joins Rune in view...

‘’ We will draw the chase out to the plains and engage them at the forests edge, we don’t want to stir the nest just yet ‘’... Rune tells Wayke...

’’We won’t have to do that either , the next sky change they unleash Hell “...Wayke replies...

“ well we will have to give them something think about until then won’t we”... They turn and move fast down to join the others making for the way back to light, all haste for the contrast bridge, the sound of marching rabbles in the distance constantly on their heels far but ever present the flame topped posts of the bridge come into sight, the fog covers the other side only the cleansing row of coral tree can be seen, they quicken the pace, they sprint within five moments stride of half safety when, four beast rider’s charge down from the eastern side, as the company felt some relief seeing the crossing their Hearts now pump hard again...Rune slams his helmet down and takes his hilt in hand....

“DO NOT STOP! ALL OF YOU ACROSS THE BRIDGE NOW”...veering off to the left shoulder down Rune charges towards the riders to end their advance and draw them away from his men, the riders lower their lances and ready for impact, they take the ruse and adjust to meet heads down eyes on Rune only, waiting for the last moment Rune slides long across the thick glass under the two lance tips his blade now unsheathed , he rises back up arms spread like an eagle slicing open the two riders dismounting them and their blood thirsty steeds hurtling down on their sides , one impales itself on the shattered lance of it’s master and remains on the floor dead, the second regains it’s feet, circling behind Thane it’s bullish bulk giving away it’s position every step he does not need to face the creature , following in the remaining two riders have nothing held back, the first is side stepped and redirected towards the lone beast behind him with a harsh elbow to the side, the pairs own momentum killing both beasts and rider from fractures with the impact, swinging back hand he takes the last charge down by chopping the legs of the beast at the knee slaying the last chaser and eliminating the only resistance to escape, not stopping he runs to re join the now safe few across the bridge, the smoke forest does not slow the pace regardless of the dangerous events before they sprint through causing the spherical reaction which this time serves them well crushing a few forward hasty hunters who try to come across the ancient bridge buying themselves some vital minutes, they climb the hairpin cliff wading the shallow water through into the grinders frozen splash rock arena, Rune before exiting the other side takes up handfuls of grit and casts it like sowing seeds into the water in every corner bringing the grinders to alert who went already from their own disturbances’...

“ Maidon hasten to the keep, take Rift with you and bring the army forward to the first plain you have a couple of hours at most”...Rune looks to Wayke and Legion”... We three, we three shall buy them as much time as possible!”... Rift steps up...

“ But I can fight, I won’t run and leave you!” ... Wayke places his hand upon Rifts shoulder...

“ We need you to go back with Maidon, they will not believe her word alone, we need your word with hers to be heard loud...we will re-join you soon” ... He backs off slowly reluctant to turn, the sounds of the horde grow louder...

“GO.....NOW”...Wayke shouts at Rift and Maidon , they turn and with all they can muster make for the keep to bring forth the waiting army. Earth Thane , Earth Heart and One Legion left standing alone formulate the plan, they need to stall the rock stacks for as long as they can to bide time...

“ Legion seal the exit!”... He takes his weapon and starts pounding the wall above the exit trying to collapse the rock into itself and succeeds, Wayke chimes in with the first stage executed, the grinders will feed again imminently...

“ We need to get back to the tree line, I think I know of some who may help us”... Rune is confused but does not question...

“ Trust me!”...the sound of the horde filling the arena shows the enemy is relentless and quick even with deathly obstacles before them commands roar out faintly , they will not stop ...

“Clear the opening now! You lot, keep the grinders at bay while they work! ...

“I knew that bastard Fortem was lying!”... All they can do is continue for the liar Fortem is already dead and has already been served justice, they set off to make the tree line and bring Waykes plan to fruition, stinking easily waded through with only the three of them to worry for, the sapphire path glows through the shallow water showing them the way back, the path they followed in over the harsh solid plains where tuffs and marsh fungi root , the hunters cries and thirsty howls carry to the ears of Wayke on the early dawn air, heard for miles ahead and all directions the calls propel the knights onwards like fuel an engine, luring the Rock stacks exactly where they need them to be...

“ They have broken through the arena! The plain lay just up that slope!”. .. heading up the gradual slope confident strong legs like hydraulics cresting the top they look back scanning the gauged and scarred terrain for any movement from the pursuers’ spotting an advanced party at least seventy strong, they are bounding through the marsh at speed weapons drawn scenting the knights taste in a closing pursuit, the three head down the plain with enemies fast gaining.

Maidon and Rift with no distractions or Star Fathers to track they can make excellent ground, both nimble and proficient a straight line run back to the keep won’t take them long, they are gone before any predator notice they were even there, Rift unable to match Maidons legwork slows his pace to a walk and catches his breathe in the forest while she, she shows her true speed and leaves him lagging behind alone taking the last two miles with ease and in timely fashion, she halts outside the gates and calls out aloud...

“THE TIME HAS COME, COME OUT!... THE TIME HAS COME, COME AND FIGHT WITH US! ”... No reply comes back, she waits and waits for what seems hours to her eager brain, left standing too long in her eyes she turns looking back at the dawning wood betrayed unable to act and powerless against the colossal stone gates alone , she has not the strength to beat down the doors within herself, the grave yard silence seems to linger standing there she’s staring into the dark nothingness all appears to be hopeless ...Great horns sound fro beyond the wall all around sending motionless unseen Airborne’s fleeing to the horizons ,The gates begin to fold open and down in all their relieving racket debris and dust sent far aloft limiting her vision, from the cloud comes rows of flames lighting all the paths of the city, the veins of the city, men wielding fire , Captain Gore gallops out of the gritty cloud mounted and looking to Maidon, he draws his sword rising it above his head, rearing back his steed he calls out...

“FORWARD”... Light drums fifes and the following religious faithful in gothic chant’s come from within, the army marches double time from the gate feet stamping hard, a double take sound that all can hear loud, a full grin climbs across Maidons face, she has her rabble, an army that now marches from the gate ready to take the field she can return to Rune pride in tact, the columns’ head parading past along fast reaches Maidon, and she joins along side Gore and all the generals mounted and proud, the main force does not stop for anything they March past, out of time and undrilled it looks more a protest then a trained force, a welcomed help...

Anuk and his Hillsiders follow with lieutenant Charge and his Calvary they will take the rear of the column, they march quickly fresh well rested and fed , the best they can be, with new confidence in their saviours ability to bring them victory they do not show any hesitation, they March unknowing what lay just through the forest...

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