The setting sun continued to bake the wastelands with its scorching, parching, and blazing light.
The gates to Blackflag Outpost were tightly shut. Men hefted weapons in their hands, arranged in tight ranks as they waited patiently. Thousands of bloodshot eyes scanned the wilderness. It had been two days and two nights since any of them had slept.
Facing them was an army of more than a thousand sweepers arrayed in a dense formation.
Where did these sweepers come from? What did these sweepers want? No one knew! Two days ago, the mutants had suddenly appeared out of nowhere. They surrounded the outpost but didn’t attack it, just staring at it from afar. The warriors of Blackflag Outpost were kept in a constant state of tense nervousness. They didn’t dare to fall asleep, and their nerves were shot. They were close to the point of mental collapse.
The sweepers were led by two commanders. The first was a beak-faced youth who had wings and could fly in the air. The second was a muscular man with two curved ox-like horns and whose skin seemed to be made out of some sort of black metal.
The winged youth looked rather impatient as he irritably scraped his twin scimitars against each other. “Why is our big brother taking so much time to deal with a few miserable mercenaries? Blackflag Outpost is no big deal anyhow. The two of us are more than enough to wipe it out. Let’s just start.”
“Did you forget how our little brother died?” The horned man was seated on a rock, and he spoke in a deep and patient voice that was completely different from his brutish appearance: “Wait a bit longer. Don’t get impatient.”
The winged man couldn’t fathom what his brother was worried about. “Surely you don’t think that bitch is stronger than our master?”
“We can’t rule out that there may be traps. The master must be vigilant – he protects from the shadows, doesn’t fight from the front.” The horned fellow swung his eyes toward his companion. “In the grand scheme our lives don’t mean shit. Our job is to make sure not even the smallest danger threatens the master.”
The winged man was silent, he knew second brother was right. There were forces at play in the wasteland they paled in comparison to. The wasteland needed a master.
Just then a cry broke the relative silence. A ragged wasteland airship was coming their way, kicking up a torrent of wind and sand. It was a hundred meters tall and split the twilight horizon as it made its way toward Blackflag Outpost.
Was he finally back? Could they start the slaughter?! Excitement gleamed dangerously in the winged man’s eyes. His horned companion unfurled from atop the rock and stood.
All of a sudden a fierce wind was kicked up all around them. Billowing clouds of sand arose as though they’d been stirred up by giant, invisible hands. The clouds swirled around and around until they become a tornado.
The outpost’s defenders were stunned as they witnessed the supernatural disaster form before their eyes.
“The hell is this?!”
As though on queue the tornado tore forward, throwing everything in its path high into the sand-choked air. The sound of it was like a hundred thousand rattlesnakes beating their tails.
The cries of elite soldiers hollered out to the others. “Hit the deck!”
Half a moment later the tornado struck the make-shift parapets and tore it to shreds. Ten soldiers where flung into the sky like detritus, even their screams were lost to the deadly sands. Nearby buildings of weaker construction were reduced to rubble by the tugging winds alone.
As the summoned storm pierced the Outpost’s defenses, it rapidly started to decay. Far from being a cause to celebrate, however, it spat out plumes of sand in all directions and blinded the defenders. As their world was cast into a choking fog, chaos erupted among the Outpost warriors.
A crazed fanaticism burned in the horned man’s eyes. “Master blesses us with cover. Tear this place apart!”
The winged commander let loose a howl of excitement. His wings beat furiously, thrusting him into the air and leaving whirling dust devils in his wake. He shot like a bullet into the sky, to the chorus of bloodthirsty cries from the sweepers below. Together they advanced through the wind and sand toward Blackflag Outpost’s crumbling walls.
At last, the battle had begun!
“Everyone, get ready for a fight!”
Warriors shuffled through the unnatural darkness, rushing to try and maintain some sort of defensive formation. One wastelander clambered over the wall and met the defenders with a swing of its heavy axe. It cut through a warrior’s head with a sickening crunch before being wrenched free and turned on another.
Bloodcurdling howls echoed through the sandy darkness. The two sides clashed.
There were three times as many sweepers this time as there were in the last assault, while Blackflag Outpost’s defenses had taken a big hit. What remained of their elite squad used their survivability and organization to rally the defenders and prepare for the desperate fight.
A shadow stretched over them. Peering through the stinging sands the outpost’s fighters could make out an oval shape lumbering through the skies above them. It was the black-clad man’s airship. That was about as far as their thoughts went before they were interrupted by a series of cracks.
“Ahh! Aarrgghh! Agghh!!”
A hail of bullets descended on them, ripping through the defenders and turning them into howling fountains of blood. What flesh and blood creature could survive a tempest of hot lead? It was spat from a rare treasure of the wastelands, a minigun bolted to the frame of the airship. Already it was clear which side held the advantage.
Disaster had befallen the Outpost warriors. Wherever the enemy airship passed it left piles of corpses and rivers of blood in its wake. Sweepers broke through the walls in droves to swarm over the hellscape and look for victims. Men, women, children – it didn’t matter, if it breathed it was torn apart.
Could this even be called a battle? It was genocide!
Blackflag Outpost had fallen. This bastion of society in the wasteland was no more. The Bloodsoaked Queen walked through the slaughter, swaying slightly with every step.
All of these people were dead because of her. Although she was a child of the gods, a noble demonhunter who spurned these heathens, witnessing their heartless massacre wasn’t something she could simply put out of mind.
They were lives of ignorance and evil – but they were lives nonetheless!
No question remained as to who would win this conflict. The overwhelming numbers and advantages of the sweepers proved too much for the Outpost. Even if she were stronger, the Bloodsoaked Queen couldn’t turn this foul situation round.
Blackflag Outpost was destined to be wiped into obscurity. Its denizens were either consigned to rot as corpses, or fled in whatever direction their legs would take them. All the while there were screams, blood, murder, brutality – how could anyone not be scarred by this nightmare?!
A group of four or five sweepers came across the Bloodsoaked Queen. They immediately brandished their axes and, with a guttural battle cry, flung themselves at her.
In one fluid movement the Queen kicked her foot, lifting an iron sword that’d been half hurried in the dirt. She caught it in midair, and before the mob could even draw close they were met by streaks of cold light. Precise, deadly, vicious. One after the other the sweepers fell to the ground, spurting blood from their open throats.
Demonhunters were the mightiest warriors of the elysian lands. Even if absent their godly relics, no typical enemy could stand against them.
Out of the wind-borne sands a cluster of bone-tipped tentacles shot forth. They whipped and cut through the air like a meat grinder, fast and cruel. Erratic and deadly, the sudden attack was practically impossible to defend against.
Clang, crack, bang!
The crude iron sword in the Queen’s grip seemed to take on a life of its own. Like a viper it lashed out at the tentacles, blocking each one. None managed to slip passed her cover.
A shrill cry rang out from overhead. What little light remained glinted off of a pair machetes, carving a deadly path her way. They were aimed to meet at the snow-white flesh of her neck, ready to sever her head from her body.
The Bloodsoaked Queen reeled backward just in time. She could only see the light of the machetes as it flit by, shaving several hairs in its passage. A moment later a figure appeared behind her bearing the offending weapons. Fast as lightning, the shadow struck again.
She swung the sword around and held it backwards in her grip.
Clang! The iron sword knocked the machetes away!
Next the earth shook beneath her feet, followed by a thunderous roar and the sound of splintering stone. From the corner of her eye she saw a massive figure, pitch black, burst through a structure on her left. The wall didn’t appear to slow this monster down in the least, and it bore down on the Queen like a bloodthirsty rhinoceros.
Again she swung her sword around to meet this new threat. What followed was the grating sound of steel breaking apart. The Bloodsoaked Queen staggered backwards with the ruins of a sword in hand. The sheer force of the impact had practically turned her weapon to dust. Whoever this foe was, they had strength to surpass both Grizzly and Mad Dog.
“Protecting yourself from a combined attack with nothing but a crude sword.” The unsettling man in black emerged from the sandstorm. On his left was the bull-horned monster that had nearly flattened her. On his right was a younger warrior with a pair of wings. They glared hungrily at the powerful Queen for a time before the black-clad aberration spoke again in its low, gravelly voice. “’Bloodsoaked Queen’ is a well-earned moniker.”
As he spoke figures began to close in on them, silhouettes barely visible through the sand. They revealed themselves to be twenty elite sweepers, with bows drawn and arrows knocked. All deadlier weapons than the splinters of the Queen’s ruined sword.
Her face hidden behind the demonic mask, none of the Queen’s assailants knew what she was thinking. Almost flippantly she cast the hilt of her ruined weapon aside. Her bare hands were quickly filled with balls of roiling flame.
These three mutants were not your typical foe!
The one in black, she knew, could regenerate quickly. Only a single, definitive attack could put him down, otherwise he was practically impossible to kill. The bull-horned man-beast was strength-focused, and a single blow from him would either cripple or outright kill her. The winged youth was possessed of supernatural agility, with great speed and keen reaction time. Against him, life or death could be decided in the blink of an eye.
Against the three of them even the demonhunter was outmatched. She needed to use relics!
The Bloodsoaked Queen, mighty as she was, had her limits. Battling against these three mutants, how could she protect herself from this host of assassins that had surrounded her? What’s more, she hadn’t fully recovered from her wounds and quickly dispatching of her three most irritating assailants would be no easy task.
The black man’s voice slithered out, cold as the grave. “Kill her!”
The twang of bows loosing their payload filled the air.
The Queen threw herself behind a collapsed wall, causing the deadly bolts to bury themselves in her cover. With a gleeful cry the winged mutant shot into the air, only to descend upon her like a meteor. The man in black and the horned warrior raced after her on the ground. They converged on her in an instant.
Ten sweepers were right on their heels.
She could be twice as strong and still the Queen was outnumbered. Not only did she have to dodge arrows fired from the darkness, she also had to protect herself from the three mutants and a contingent of sweepers.
Thud! The Queen felt something strike her shoulder and a spray of blood spat forth. She’d been struck by a sniper, injured!
With perfect timing the winged man attacked with his machetes. The cunning monster in black lashed out with its whip-like tentacles. The twin-horned man charged ahead regardless of obstacle, flailing his inky-black fists.
Wrath, indignation and cold-blooded homicidal intent sprang up in the Bloodsoaked Queen’s eyes.
She clenched her right fist and her glove burst into flame. She lashed out, and like a belching flame from a dragon’s maw a plume of fire erupted outward. For all his girth and muscle, the bull-horned mutant was blasted several meters away like a ragdoll.Previous Chapter Next Chapter