The New Lands of Ruins (rewritten)
Killigan felt like his body was warping and twisting and in every conceivable direction. Even the laughter of the pillars around him sounded like a cacophony of sound and screeches.
He put a hand on his mouth and keeled forward. ”Oh, I feel like I’m going to vomit...and pass out at the same time. I want this to e--"
The boy couldn’t finish his thoughts that he was thrust forward against a table and fell over. The air had been knocked out of him and he felt a large pain in his chest and stomach. Luckily, a pillar flaesc was around to check him.
“Did he break anything?” Levitum asked.
The pillar shook his head. “Hm. Nope. He’s fine. Just a little shock from the jump is all.” The flaesc focused some cold energy into the palm of his hands and placed them on Killigan’s stomach. “That, and impacting the table really hard. Don’t worry, neophyte. You’ll be used to the traveling soon. That way of ours is really only for us pillars. We can resist the tremendous amounts of magic in there.”
Levitum sighed in relief. “Good. I was worried that he would have been harmed already.”
The flaesc chuckled. “Well, it’s already trauma applied to his body. I guess that’s a start for the genetic sequence to start mutating his body?” the pillar wondered.
Levitum pondered on that thought and nodded in sincere agreement. “Yes. You’re right. I would have never thought of it that way, but here’s hoping he actually survives the planet we get--”
An alarm interrupted Levitum’s hopes and an alert followed through the ship’s entirety:
“The Ellor System is currently under siege by the Puwandese. The regimentary navy is currently overwhelmed, and thousands of the blue aliens have made landfall. The four other planets of the system have reported no activity. Additional Regimentaries have begun diverting to Marvus. Pillar Scieldans requested in aid.
Note: Marvus is mainly tropical due to a terraforming error. Apply camoflauge holograms to suits when walking through the forest and prepare accordingly. Positions will be relayed to squad leaders as required.”
The ‘see-through’ windows allowed everyone aboard the vessel to witness the battle occurring far from them in orbit above Marvus. Explosions and beams of light originated from large figures in the distance. Some explosions were from ships splitting while others were just from detonations on the surface of their hulls.
“Prepare for immediate deployment!” Levitum shouted.
Killigan hid behind the pillar to avoid the stampede around him, but he still had time to ask the giant a question.
“Where do I go?”
“Hm? You’re not getting cold feet?” Levitum pondered.
“I...” Killigan gulped. “I am, but I have to overcome it or I won’t be able to help anyone.”
A grin formed in the corner of Levitum’s mouth. “Look at the walls there.” He pointed towards the wall where the window was. “Those signs will tell you where to go, and a sergeant for neophytes will direct you.”
“To our deployment ships?” Killigan asked.
Levitum chuckled. “No. You’re scouts. The vyrdes are for deployment directly into the combat zones.” He made an ominous moment of silence. “You’re going to be deployed wherever the sergeant decides, now go!” he bellowed.
Killigan was already going on his first assignment. It had quite literally been mere hours since he received the injection to become a pillar. He couldn’t decide whether it was good or bad thing that he would be thrown directly into combat considering he never really fought before. He arrived in a cramped room that felt more like a box than anything. Like most of the ship, the walls were black and looked like all their pipes and circuitry were bare for everyone to see and toy with, making the boy question the design choices thoroughly.
Killigan was behind a large number of people just like him, and all with varying physiques. Well, ‘like him’ in the most general of terminology. They all carried a threatening demeanor about them, and after careful consideration, he figured that they were all regimentaries. He never thought to see soldiers part of the Regimentarium again, and because of it, he had a mixture of emotions concerning them. It took several minutes for the pods to warm up and all checks to be made, after which their engines would belch flame and let the pod plummet through the chutes. When a next one arrived, the boy was put in a group of four other regimentaries. That being said, the one verifying their equipment then letting them in appeared scrawny and short for what was seen so far on the ship.
“You don’t look like a pillar,” Killigan noted aloud.
The man’s irritated expression didn’t change. “That’s ’cause I’m not,” he replied whilst verifying Killigan’s backpack and visor. “Now get in there,” he ordered with a push to the back.
Killigan stumbled into the pod and sat on a chair while sporting a flustered face. Two women and two men were in there with him, all four far older than he was by several years. The walls of the pod were round and extremely tight, and there was nothing to see aside from a little blue light glowing in the center of the narrow ceiling. Clamps stretched out from the sides of the walls and held the five in place while additional clamps locked onto their legs and laps.
The not-a-pillar placed one foot on the door exit and pointed at the five. “Now then, you five are going to land on the outskirts of one of the cities and scour the landscape.”
“What?” one of the women exclaimed. “I thought we were going to be sent to the front lines to kill whatever is there!” She looked away. “I wanted to kill something,” she grumbled.
“Sorry, but it’s not your birthday.” He had partially turned around before looking back at the group. “And even if it was, no one would care,” he stated dryly.
The door slammed shut, leaving the group in silence and dim lighting. This left Killigan with a few seconds of respite to view his companions in the scouting mission they were assigned. One of the men had scruffy brown hair and was very large in musculuar stature. The other had black, fuzzy hair and was of average size, although his grim demeanor and many facial scars showed that he had been in quite a few battles already. Adding to this was his left arm which was replaced by base prosthetics, something Killigan had rarely worked with. The woman who had shouted just minutes ago was quite muscular as well and had a very gruff tone to her voice and composure. Her brown hair had been tied into a pony tail and she was currently clinging to the clamps. Judging by her face, she didn’t like the idea of being in a drop pod and falling from several thousand feet. Even sitting down, she was still the tallest of the group, though. The last one had a shaved head and a metal prosthetic on the left side of her neck. She seemed completely apathetic to everything around her and was waiting for her deployment.
The giant man broke the silence after noticing the gauntlets Killigan. “Hey, how come we didn’t get gloves like that?” he complained
“Because they’re not our equipment,” the smaller man explained. He analyzed Killigan’s ‘trophies’ and huffed. “That’s not even standard equipment anywhere I’ve seen.”
“Look at what he’s wearing, that’s obviously custom built to wield those huge tools,” the smaller woman noted.
“What is your name?” the giant woman asked with a smirk of interest on her face.
“K-Killigan Ghor,” the boy replied nervously.
“Pleasure to meet you.” She was about to extend a hand, but found herself stuck by the clamps. “Oh. Forgot about these. I am Yuva Yomra.”
“I am Gilliam Matro,” the giant man said.
“My name is Jeffer Fowl,” the smaller man bowed as best he could from
“And I am just Black. I find it is best to forego with old names and choose a simpler one until I earn a true name when I become a Pillar,” the shaved woman explained.
Jeffer nodded. “Ah, quite a bold thing to do. Perhaps we should all strive for that?”
“No.” Yuva boomed. She narrowed her gaze and made the man shrink.
Before they could continue, the pod jittered and shook its occupants.
“Here we go!” Black noted.
They felt enormous pressure climb up through their bodies and to their heads as they were dropped out of the ship and shot towards the planet. They couldn’t see what was happening to the burning hull of their pod, but after a while, the clamps released their captives and the blue light of the bulb above expanded and filled the drop pod with blue magic. It took several more minutes for the pod to create one more shockwave and the only door to finally open up to a jungle scenery untouched by warfare or human expansion.
“I’ll go scout the area first,” Gilliam said. “A hundred meter diameter?”
“Make that sixty,” Black said.
The man went ahead out of the pod and hurried into the jungle. The others but stayed near the pod, stretching and taking in the choking heat and moisture around them.
Black groaned in disgust. “This place is horrible. I HATE forests,” she emphasized. She was pacing around and scratching her arms.
Yuva shrugged. “I don’t know, I find them refreshing.” Yuva took in a deep breath and exhaled calmly. “Reminds me of home.” She slapped Black’s back, nearly making her topple over. “Go ahead! Take it all in! Just the wild forest’s air makes you stronger!”
Jeffer checked his gun and looked down the sights. “Killigan, was it? You seem like the type to know forests. What do you think about this place?” he wondered.
Killigan glared at him. “I lived in an arid part of my planet. Almost like a desert but not completely dried up.” He crossed his arms. “So no. I don’t know what it’s like.” His mood gradually changed to awe. “But I’ve never seen a forest, before. It’s...huge.”
“Ah. I see. I must apologize. I am, as some would say,” he rolled his hand in the air. ” ‘direct’ with my thoughts?” He chuckled. “I cannot really restrain them, so I learned a more polite way of speaking. “His smile took on a more glib appearance. “I could use in combat, but...”
The niwcumen pillars had landed directly in a thick part of the forest, the pod having punched through several trees and practically melted a stone when it landed. The drop pod itself was shaped like a metal bolt, using the top ‘disk’ to stabilize and redirect its trajectory through rotation and multiple fins. Trees, vines, bushes, and various mushrooms surrounded the group and made the forest. Most of them were green and had a fern-like appearance, similar to those from the home of humanity. Nary a ray of sun light pierced through the thickets above, leaving the many vines and parasitic flowers worming their way in and around the bigger trees and bushes to illuminate the lands below in a pale yellow glow. Gilliam came out from behind a bush and gestured for everyone to follow him silently.
“I found a way to the city,” he whispered. “There’s a checkpoint in the middle of this forest. If we take a vehicle from there then we can hurry to where the action is and spot the enemy as well as artillery positions,”
“What?” Killigan blurted.
Black stared at him in horror. “You weren’t a regimentary, were you?”
“Of course not!”
“Then you best stick close to us, and shut up!” she whisper-yelled. “You might learn something and not die immediately once the enemy pops up.”
“Who is the enemy, by the way?” Yuva asked. “I was not informed.”
“I don’t know. They didn’t tell me before we were sent off either,” Gilliam noted.
“Strange that they wouldn’t, although I guess there is only one real possibility regardless.” She tightened her pack and held her weapon up. “It’s time we go out there and find whatever we can.”
It took the group near an Earth hour of vaulting and walking through the forest to reach the first checkpoint where the smooth road ended. A few destroyed vehicles, whose metal bodies lay completely twisted and melted beyond recognition, lay next to the remains of a checkpoint leading to the city. There were just a few sections of broken wall remaining, and massive metal gates capable of holding down a tank rushing into them having been slightly bent and torn off its hinges and left on the floor.
“What happened here?” Yuva wondered.
Jeffer walked up to the gates and dragged his hand across their bumpy surface. The gates were easily six meters in height on top of their thickness. “Well, these gates were busted outwards, so whoever came here attacked this place to get inside the capital perimeter.”
“Why wouldn’t they just drop directly onto the city?” Killigan asked.
“Because this system was colonized a long time ago and so has large swaths area around the cities fortified and filled with detection beacons and scanners, not to mention the orbital defenses in the atmosphere and anti-orbital cannons on the ground most likely hidden in the foliage,” Black explained. “This place though...” She looked around again to be sure. “Seems to have been the least fortified area. Likely a new point of expansion.” She put a hand to her face and shook it. “Would’ve been NICE if we had SOME information beforehand,” she growled behind her teeth.
“What? But anti-orbital ground defenses would have to be enORMous!” Killigan shouted.
“No one said they weren’t,” Gilliam chuckled as he passed the boy and walked towards the vehicles. “Damn. Looks like they were all destroyed.” He kicked a twisted hull. “We’ll have to continue on foot.”
“On foot? But that will take ages to reach the city!” Jeffrey whined.
“It’s better than probably getting ambushed because we’re driving a non-military vehicle.” The man shrugged. “These things are just unarmored transport vehicles for regular citizens,” Gilliam knocked a burnt chassis with the back of his hand.
Jeffrey nodded but still dropped his arms in disappointment. “Fine. Let’s go.”
Killigan followed the four into the forest, instinctively keeping closer to them since he did not know what to do nor what to expect. Always following. He felt it was all he did lately, but what choice did he have in these situations?
As the local sun was setting on the horizon, the five niwcumen pillars neared a checkpoint close to the city, and Killigan witnessed the first alien species he would see for many years to come, and he didn’t like it. His muscles tensed, his heart started to beat faster, and he felt a weight upon his body crushing him down.
The boy’s stress was increased when something flew in suddenly and smashed in front of the group, tossing dirt and stone everywhere. Prompted by a morbid curiosity, Killigan was tempted to approach it, but Jeffer intervened.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he warned.
“I believe now would be the best time to let him see the smallest of things he’ll confront in the future,” Black spoke in a hushed tone as she brought her weapon to bare. “I really hate these things. Barbs,” she spat. “Not efficient in any way to the more specialized weapons.”
Killigan ignored her ramblings and pushed apart the bushes after Jeffer and Yuva followed him. The boy’s stress increased evermore, but pushed himself to rolling the object over to see what it really was and reeled back in horror and disgust. They were the burnt, mangled remains of regimentaries fused together. Bones battered, skin torn and cooked, and faces far too indiscernible to be recognized visually.
He took a moment to calm himself and looked at his golden gauntlets. He found them for a reason, and they saved both him and his father from murderers. They were even some sort of special weapon of olden times that the pillars left him with. If the gauntlets had a will of their own, Killigan hoped they would help him through these troubles. Whatever did this to these regimentaries, the gauntlets would prevent happening to him.
“Had your fun?” Yuva asked with a brow raised. “This is war, and there’s FAR worse that can happen.” She snorted and reeled back to clench her nose after the pungent odor reached her nostrils. “This is just an average event, truth be told.”
“N-no, but I know what to expect now.” Killigan took a deep breath and relaxed his nerves. “What are those things?” he asked whilst point to the distance.
At the last checkpoint outside the forest, before entering the city via a long bridge in the distance, were a few strange creatures fighting a few regimentaries. Unfortunately for the regimentaries, the creatures were far bigger and stronger than the humans who found themselves crushed under the aliens’ monstrous strength.
“Those are Puwandese: A race that thinks only of warring and killing,” Yuva explained.
These humanoid creatures stood two heads taller than the average human and were completely filled with muscle. Their skin was rough, callous, and painted a sickly blue. There were lumps and various dents in their bodies, and some of them had a jungle-green sheen to their skin.
“Well, that’s what I want to say.” The giant woman scratched her neck. “Those of us who fought them know better. Even though the smaller ones just want battle, every Puwandese Warlord endeavors to unite all of their kind and raze the galaxy then eventually go to the next.”
“Not to mention the bizarrely advanced tech they’re capable of producing,” Black whispered. “They shouldn’t be capable of such feats.” She sneaked through the foliage to get a better shot at the aliens. “We might see an example of such a thing in the city.”
Killigan looked back to Yuva. “But they can’t unite, can they?”
The Puwandese faces were as deformed as they were ugly. They possessed a very large head connected to a thick neck and sloped back, and said heads were a shiny, bald sheen. Their upper jaws gave them a very large overbite. Their lower jaws were much thinner but held sharp, elongated teeth that pushed upwards out of their mouths. A few unfortunates saw these tusks pushing through their skulls. Their noses melded into their upper jaw, giving the impression that they had holes where a nose used to reside.
“No. It’s because each warlord fights each other for control, and there are warlords that come from the Puwandese horde of another and can either kill the previous warlord to take full control or run off with half their horde to make their own little clan.”
“Not to mention that quite a few have displayed...strange goals,” Jeffer added. “Like the one that raided a regimentarium fleet just for the mast of the flag ship.”
The Puwandese all wore rags of varying colors on their torsos and arms, solidly laced pants, and torn shoes on their feet. There were about seven of them left, their comrades strewn about the checkpoint with the corpses of regimentaries as company. The remainders were bloodied and beaten, but unlike humans, they were showing off their wounds to each other and bragging about them.
“These ones are just runts. They’re too stupid to actually develop any sort of strategy,” Gilliam noted in a flat tone. “Just be careful of their Oomphers,” he told Killigan
Killigan slowly turned his head to Gilliam with a look of bemusement. “What? ‘Oomphers’? I know I’m only fifteen, but come on. I’m not an idiot.”
Jeffer smirked “Perhaps not, but they are quite the fools themselves,” he said. “Most weapons they have are named after the sounds they make before or after firing, or what they cause to the wielder.” He adjusted himself to get a better look through the bushes then pointed at the guns. “In the case of that pathetically constructed contraption, those who hold them are often punched in the stomach by the cartridge that sticks inwards rather than outwards.”
Five of the blue creatures were holding the oomphers. While they all looked like they were made from scrap metal and had no actual conformed appearance, they were all round in shape and had an excessively long cartridge sticking out from the left or the right, depending on how the shooter wielded the weapon, and threatened to hit its holder when fired. The remaining two held melee weapons. One of them held two axes whose heads were welded shards of random metals. The hilts were fashioned from bones too big to be human. The other held a giant pole he uprooted from somewhere unknown. The metal wasn’t gray and smooth like the light poles that had been bent or broken into pieces.
“So what do we do?” Killigan asked.
He waited a moment, but when he got no answer, Killigan looked to see the others had already disappeared, leaving the boy to fend for himself. There was nowhere for him to go except forward no matter how much he wanted to leave. He watched the Puwandese spread apart and look around the checkpoint for whatever reason ran through their minds.
Two of them remained at the checkpoint and started looting through the bodies and rubble. The others went their separate ways around the forest, but much to Killigan’s dismay, the axe-handler decided to walk towards him instead. With every second that passed where the puwandese got closer, the louder specific sounds became to the boy. The footsteps of the blue giant, the explosions in the distance, and then his own heart.
“What’s this’n? There’s nae anything ‘ere. Oy was expecting samthin’ better’n this greens. Ey hate greens.” The puwandese punched the bushes and trees angrily, but was stopped by the sound of rustling distinct from its actions. “What’s dis din? S’probably sem animael.” It shrugged. “Well, dis is better ‘n huntin’ humes. Probablehy goin’ ta troy ’n tame itz if it’s big enough ohr scary enough.” It made a single clap and smiled. “Oy hope s’a big bug with eh gelhden shell.”
Unfortunately for it, the only thing golden it saw through the plantlife were the giant fists of Killigan bolting for its face. The connection was so loud that the cracking echoed quite a distance. The puwandese was jettisoned through a thin tree and slammed against another before falling down. Its face had been completely caved in.
“What was that?!” one of the niwcumen yelled.
“Crap,” Killigan groaned.
Loud explosions filled the air and nearly deafened the boy who jumped behind a tree. Once the noise calmed down, Killigan peeked around the tree and saw the other puwandese were all dead.
“What? How?” he mumbled in disbelief.
Gilliam was standing on one of the Puwandese, his gun smoking. Next to him was Jeffer cleaning his hands of blood. He had jammed a large shard of metal through the throat of one of the aliens and was quite apathetic about the whole event. The others came out from the forest, with Yuva dragging the two giants she shot in the head behind her.
“Well, that was a good workout,” Yuva laughed.
“The city is right there and we have no time to lose.” Jeffer adjusted his collar and cleared his throat. “And you’re here laughing about ‘working out’ with hunting giant, sapient aliens,” he berated. Yuva shrugged with a smile on her face. Jeffer shook his head in disappointment. “I’ve already alerted our ship in orbit about how the Puwandese entered the city and how the reinforcements are getting there, but we need to leave now.” He looked around the surrounding wall of green. “No telling what else is in this massive land of trees.”
“Before we do that, I want to know what that loud noise was,” Yuva said. “It actually made me jump.”
Killigan coughed. “That was me.” He lifted his hands to show his gauntlets. “I punched one of them with this. I kind of...caused his face to cave in.” The boy smiled sheepishly.
Yuva laughed heartly in approval. “I like this one. His first encounter with an alien and he caved its face in with his special trinkets,” she shouted to the others. She looked to Killigan and slammed her hands against his back. “Looks like you really were quite worthy of them. Keep up the good work. Maybe you’ll learn a thing or two while you’re out here.”
Night had fallen by the time they had reached the city, and the gigantic mass of spires and towers surprised the young boy. He was both in awe and fear. The city he knew at his home was big, sure, but this was at least ten times its size. How many people lived in Marvus?!
Almost no buildings were left intact with the city’s streets. Holes and rubble littered the ground and fires grew everywhere. The shapes of the building were warped by fire and war, and their architecture lost to the invaders. Now everything was a uniform mockery of what the city once was, its remains now a compliment of irregular shapes in blocks of concrete and metal. Even the gigantic spires reaching towards space weren’t intact. One even had its peak lopped off, and Killigan could only imagine the terror that must have filled the people below its impact point...or even the damage incurred for that matter. Even though the streets were wide enough for five trucks to drive next to each other, their size meant nothing thanks to the metal struts embedded into them and the holes dotting their surface.
“Come on, Killigan.” Gilliam grabbed the boy by the shoulder. “We need to go through the buildings. On the streets you’re an easy target regardless of whether you’re a human or a puwandese.”
Killigan nodded and followed. The ex-regimentaries were experienced in urban warfare more so than jungle warfare as demonstrated by their actions and behavior.
The boy looked to his hands, seeing his reflection. “I should try and emulate their knowledge. If I am to be a pillar, then I need to confront my fear with knowledge and experience,” he thought to himself.
The group used whatever cracks, holes, and apparel were around them to see around corners. If they noticed any puwandese were around, they would shelter the boy behind them until the threat had passed. He was still easily able to crush their heads, too, but terror coupled with inexperience renders any weapon useless.
“You got them with surprise attacks,” Black whispered. “I can see that you want to prove yourself, but a novice looking for battle is folly.” She glared at Killigan, sending a shiver down his spine. “Watch us. Follow us, but DO NOT pass us!” There was a moment of silence. “You’ll just get in the way.”
When they finally stopped for a moment to recover, it was near a concentrated point of the battle within the city. Bullets flew through the air and explosions rocked the area, causing debris and dust to fall off the unstable buildings. Killigan cough from breathing in the dust. Gilliam, Yuva, and Jeffer all left in their respective directions to get a better vantage point, leaving the boy alone with Black.
“Alright. Killigan, we’ll need you to watch the doors below while we relay artillery coordinates from here.” She looked at the boy. “Can I trust you with this?” Black asked. Killigan nodded nervously.
“Good, now get downstairs and--”
Black’s commands were interrupted by an explosion rocking the wall behind her and blasting it to pieces. However, the pieces did not fly off and were, instead, held in place within a grouping of blue energy. They were all dropped off a few feet above the ground, landing with a loud thud.
“So, yeh thought yeh were sneak enough teh make ‘em flying barrels o’ yers teh bomb us? S’not happenin’, hume.”
The taunting came from a Puwandese towering over the two humans nearby. He was so tall that his head scraped against the ceiling. His skin looked like it was covered in large scales and darkened lumps, and he was even greener than the rest, creating a weird transition of blue and green. Black was the first to come to and tried to take her weapon out, but she was grabbed by the behemoth and crushed within his grip, her body landing limply next to Killigan and jolting him awake. He scampered backwards, much to the amusement of the puwandese present.
“Haha! Ey leyk dis hume.” He looked to the dead human on the floor and frowned. “Yeh humes iz too skinny, though. Yeh kent give eh prehper fight.”
A beam of focused light blasted through the building to Killigan’s left and faded into frost-like particles, and Gilliam fell out of the rubble, his body lifeless and completely white.
“Dats our own ‘magus’, as yeh humes like teh call ’em,” the puwandese bragged.
From the rubble a voice yelled outwards. “Dis gump troyd teh foyt us wif his feysts!” It was punctuated by hearty laughter.
Perhaps it was his last bits of courage coming through or desperation, but Killigan stood upright and punched the giant in the stomach, causing him to keel over and give a stationary, facial target. The boy was certain that he got the giant in the head, but when he did not fall down and only his head was pushed away, the boy dropped his arms. The puwandese giant grinned, wiped his mouth, and spat out some teeth that were knocked loose.
“Now theht wasn’t very noice. Yeh knocked meh teeth out. Now oy’ll be eatin’ all funny.” He stood upright and cracked his shoulders. “Ow’s about I show yeh what heppens when yeh troy teh outpunch theh puwandese?!” he shouted angrily.
The giant threw a punch at the Killigan but was intercepted by a gauntlet. He reeled back and shook his hand from the pain.
“Oy’m gettin’ royt tired uf yeh. Gumps, get ’ere and help me kill dis squishy fing.”
Several puwandese similar to the others at the checkpoint earlier walked forward with weapon in hand; be it melee or ranged, and weren’t laughing or grinning, unlike the one ordering them around. The young boy stared at them. He couldn’t fight this. He wasn’t even a pillar yet, and he didn’t even have proper combat training. This was it, then. He wanted to return to his father with the foundation and his exploits and he wanted to see his father be successful at his own endeavors. It seemed that was not to come, so he waited. Waited for the giant to crush him.
The puwandese giant chuckled. “Dose shiny gauntlets ’o yers will mehk eh feyn addition tae meh shiny metal, now take yehr arms off so oy can take ’em.”
The attempted dismembering was interrupted by a huge wave of blue, crackling energy akin to a starry night punching through what remained of the walls of the room where the giant entered. The wave of energy wrapped itself over the puwandese like a blanket. Several of the smaller puwandese were drained of their essence and left to fall heavily upon the floor. Those that resisted were left upon their knees and too weak to stand.
Killigan tried to speak, but was stopped when a huge claw burst through the floor, bringing the puwandese with it and causing everyone to fall down a floor when everything collapsed. The culprit was a sawol vice, like the giant mechanical creature that threatened Killigan back in the hangar of the heavy cruiser.
“Now that you are here, I can use my hands,” it spoke in a booming echo of a voice. “Your existence is ended,” it finished in a somber tone.
The pyramidal hand of the sawol burst open to reveal vertically placed saw blades all buzzing in a vicious roar. The pieces of the fist clamped around the puwandese giant’s head and crushed him while they chopped his head to bits into a gruesome mess. The rest was turned to pulp while the sawol pushed its hand downwards.
“When did the Pillars arrive?” Killigan asked with a trembling voice.
“Theh Big Humes is here!” one of the puwandese on the street shouted. “Tell the othahs!”
One of them was wearing wood on his body with bits of cloth underneath. On his head was a poorly made mask possibly trying to resemble a skull but failing horribly. He lifted a staff likely made from a white table leg into the air and created a buzzing orb of green and orange at the tip. It spun around in the air whilst letting little bits of goo-like energy seep off of it and evaporate the instant they touched the ground. It eventually exploded in the air, surprising everyone around and attracting the attention of the other puwandese in the area.
Killigan scampered onto his feet while the Sawol Vice stepped on the remaining, weakened puwandese around. It was immediately struck by explosive missiles fired from Puwandese aircraft vomiting toxic gas and fluids everywhere. They were roughly built and, as Killigan started to notice, were customized to their owner’s likings. The general shape of the two flyers were two wings, a tail with two fins in the back, and a round cockpit. One of them had three wings, a second, smaller one on the right just above the main wing; The second had a belly gunner firing at the ground for no apparent reason other than to amuse the gunner. Both were sloppily patched up, showing that they were built after the city was conquered, and the fumes and flames they were belching from their rear engine and wings wasn’t a good sign about their survival.
The sawol vice wasn’t in good condition from their attack as its right arm was blown off into pieces and a large chunk of the armor was melted, but the legs were still fine. That’s all it needed.
“Puwandese quality. Insufficient to fully damage my chassis,” the sawol scoffed.
“What’s going on?” Killigan shouted.
The sawol’s body screeched loudly as its gears struggled to turn it around. “What is a niwcumen doing here?” it wondered.
“I-I-we were going to relay artillery coordinates to you,” Killigan stuttered. “We weren’t expecting this to happen.”
The machine plucked a large piece off stone from the rubble and chucked it at the woodwearer outside, impacting it and taking two others with it before falling off a steep ledge further down. “And these two were your companions?”
Killigan looked at the dead bodies of Black and Gilliam, and felt a cold grip surround his body.
“Yes. They were,” he answered despondently. “There’s still two others who I was with around here somewhere.”
“They are most likely dead,” the sawol stated flatly. “Do not feel compelled to mourn them.”
“I won’t, because they’re most certainly not dead,” Killigan responded angrily.
The sawol’s body creaked loudly and smoke came out of its damaged side. “I recall a time of comraderie like you, as ill-fated as it would be, but now I no longer care.” Its body screeched in pain at another attempt at movement. “I am...an empty husk. All I knew are dead, and yet I keep going.”
A few puwandese jumped out of the building right across from the two and ran forard while firing their oomphers. Killigan grabbed one’s throat after it passed the sawol vice’s damaged side and crushed it while the machine smacked away the other two into a pile of rubble further down the street to the right.
The metal giant creaked loudly and much magical essence erupted from its damaged side, blowing out like hot, blue steam through a crack.
“Remain with me, niwcumen, and you shall survive this onslaught.” It remained silent during its scouting of the area. “Now, do you see the tower at the center of this city-sector?” the sawol pointed to the smoldering spire off in the distance.
“How could I not?! The tip was blown off and crushed everything beneath it!” Killigan shouted.
“We must reach that tower and reactivate the global defenses that are scattered about. The rotflesh cut the cables and destroyed the control bunkers, but there is a backup that converges into that tower.”
“If we stop it, this war ends?”
The sawol gave its best attempt at a bellowing laughter, but the distortions in its voice only worsened. “A single act like that will not stop the rotflesh. It will only tempt their big’un boss into personally appearing to kill everything.”
“Big’un Boss? I thought it was a warboss.”
“The general populace calls them like that, but a Pillar knows the enemy better than the civilians.”
“So...” The boy looked down in despair. “This won’t end?”
“Only after several weeks, now come. You might still become a mighty Pillar Scieldan yet,” it encouraged.
The trip through the warzone was not one Killigan enjoyed, much like most things this day, or rather night. Many of those strange aircraft often flew overhead while pillars could be seen running through the streets and paths high above the current floor. Killigan hadn’t noticed because of the constant fighting since reaching the city, but there were several layers of roads and buildings on top of each other that the city was made of. Strangely enough, while most light in Killigan’s area was created by the fires and vehicles, those above still had some semblance of artificial lighting. The boy was perplexed, and some thoughts pointed to each layer having its own generator.
One of the puwandese aircraft flying above during the trek suffered a collision into its side with a vyrde, resulting in a loud detonation and cloud of smoke in the air. The vyrde in question came out of the encounter unharmed with naught but bits and pieces of flaming metal clinging to its hull in some semblance of will to still destroy its enemy.
A pathway leading directly to the spire ran along a ‘super-bridge’ possessing several kilometers of width and dozens more in length. Killigan hadn’t yet realized it because of where he had come in, but he had not landed within a forest on the lowlands, but one high in the mountains. The bridge hung above a giant stone pit below it that fell for such a distance that even light could not reach the base.
The sawol vice left Killigan in the care of pillars tasked with reactivating the defenses that stopped for a moment next to the structure. They were busy discussing several notes of paper they received from scouts. One of the pillars, however, stood out. It was a magus. Unlike other magus Killigan knew of, this one wore armor underneath his robe and his two weapons of choice were magically fabricated daggers of a blue sheen; their existence leaving behind a blue, wispy trail.
“Enemies incoming,” one of the pillars shouted.
They immediately took up their weapons climbed the frame of the support beams to reach the maintenance catwalk. Despite their weight and rough landing, the thick metal cat walks held fast.
“Look! In the distance,” one of the pillars shouted.
The magus took a few steps forward and looked down the bridge. In the distance came a tall, tower-like, flat-faced machine belching fires from its whole body and tossing aside all the rubble, destroyed vehicles, and pockets of combat between regimentaries and puwandese along the bridge.
“It’s a mega blok!” the previous pillar added. “It’s at least twenty-three stories tall!”
“It’s too high!” another pillar shouted. “If it hits the arches the bridge might collapse!”
“It’s already hit three. One of them collapsed already. If it gets anymore, the whole thing will go down.”
“What purpose would the puwandese have in creating that here? It can only go back and forth on the bridge...unless...”
Everyone looked back to the destroyed city and the titanic columns holding the layer above. The magus exhaled angrily and lifted the hilt of one of his daggers just below his right eye. A focusing lens of mana formed upon the flattened blade. “Hmmmm. This is quite a gigantic abomination the puwandese brought in.” he calmly commented.
“So they didn’t just sloppily build it? There are pieces on the sides that are flapping in the wind like flags and more flying off!” Killigan commented.
“Not everything a puwandese has is hashed together using scrap. They have their own technology and equipment...mostly,” he trailed off. The magus lifted his to daggers up and locked the hilts together. “And their love of swarming and wreaking as much destruction as possible as fast as possible leads them to create such poorly designed abominations.”
The air started to darken more despite wild fires being about, and the daggers started to glow like stars. The magus mumbled ‘Magis Breath’ and joined his hands together. the air around him glowed a bright blue as the surrounding mana rushed towards his body.
Everything became silent as the spell manifested into a visible gust of blue wind pushing against the machine, tipping it more and more the further it went down the bridge. The boy could see the magus struggling to push it off, but he seemed determined to end the threat. Finally, with a loud screech of desperation, the machine fell off the side of the bridge and crashed into the reinforced mountain wall below, creating a shock wave and casting a thick cloud of searing heat above the impact point while the rest of the body crumbled into the abyss.
Killigan shielded his face from the heat wave. “Gah! That’s hot!” he shouted.
“The path is clear,” the magus said. He struggled to stand back up and so settled to rest upon the ground. “We must continue through the rubble.”
“Can’t we take a vyrde?” Killigan asked.
“No. The Puwandese planted air batteries on the bridge. The mega blok didn’t go along the whole length, so there are still threats. We go forward.” He gasped. “On foot.”
The other pillars nodded, slid down the ladder, and hurried forth while the young boy hesitated to follow. The magus couldn’t follow his comrades.
After much debate, Killigan stayed behind. “I’ll stay here and help you out.”
“You’re injured somehow. I can’t leave you behind.”
The pillar grimaced. “You are indeed strange, niwcumen. I am simply. That spell was far more taxing than I thought.”
Killigan laid the pillar gently against the arch. “Then I guess I’ll be staying behind.”
“Do not be foolish. You will never become a pillar if you tend to all your wounded comrades. We protect humanity. It is our duty. If we fail to do so--” Another gasp interrupted the man’s speech. “-then we are not fit to rest within the realm of Mana Magis upon our deaths.”
Killigan didn’t know who Mana Magis was, but he had more urgent priorities than a thirst for knowledge at the moment. “You say we protect humanity, but we are also humanity. We must help each other. If we don’t survive, who will be left to protect our people?”
The magus looked Killigan straight in the and his laughter pierced through the protective metal. “You truly are a sight to behold. You ended up in the wrong foundation, boy.”
“Each foundation has their own philosophies, and yours go against ours.” He raised his hands. ” ‘Protect humanity at the cost of even your lives’. We can’t consider ourselves as more than just barriers, now can we? We gave up everything for these new bodies and powers,” he explained as he punched his chest. ”It’s melancholic, really.”
“Go. Follow the others. You’ll be helping these people, after all.” The magus looked at Killigan who looked back at him. Irritation was starting to fill the pillar.
“Niwcumen, not all soldiers of war are remembered. Not all can become heroes.” He readjusted himself against the bridge. “Most soldiers ‘participated’ for one reason or another. We’re all just common men and women in the end, and our names are eventually forgotten, but not our deeds.” The pillar took a deep breath. “Think about that.” He pointed to the distance. “Now go.”
The boy begrudgingly took off to join the other pillars that had already made a good distance. The magus shook his head disapprovingly.
A voice bellowed from a far distance in the smoldering ruins. “Oy fownd anotha one ’o ’em ‘magpie’ types.”
" ’IS CLOTHS ’ERE MINE!” another replied.