Gorefang held the shaft of the spear with both hands, eyes wide as saucers. He still could not believe what had occurred. A single human managed to slip past a thousand soldiers and attack him single-handedly. How had this happened?
Even disregarding the stupendous sneak attack, what sort of devil power was this?
Gorefang saw himself as the strongest Blight-tooth warrior in a hundred years. A normal man couldn’t even get close enough to make an attempt on his life. Then suddenly, this bizarre attack claims his life. His eyes became swollen and red as blood congealed within them. His mouth opened and shut, yet no sound came forth. He wanted to scream, but all that he could managed was a pathetic gurgle and a few drops of blood.
The human’s attack went straight through his heart, and scattered all the strength within him.
Cloudhawk could see the mutant’s desperation and pain written on his face. It was a distress that went beyond imminent death. Living this long, Gorefang must have experienced things a normal person couldn’t fathom, suffered things no living person should have to suffer. Death wasn’t something to fear for people like him. To them the greatest terror was dying before your mission was done.
Cloudhawk knew what was going through Gorefang’s mind in his last moments, but there was no guilt. He ended the sweeper’s life without hesitation, and without mercy.
This method was the right one, it was the world they lived in. Who could take responsibility for everyone? Who was able to deliver all sufferers from torment? Cloudhawk wasn’t out to save the world, he was just an insect. An insect’s only interest was self-preservation!
Blackfang roared and threw himself at his chieftain’s assassin.
Cloudhawk heaved his arms. He lifted Gorefang off the floor, pinned to his spear, then threw the sweeper at his subordinate.
Their reactions were too slow. Cloudhawk leapt onto the stalker beast Gorefang vacated and grabbed the reigns. His eyes were red, and with an infinitely cold command he tried to dominate the beast beneath him with force of will alone. “Go!”
This human’s voice boomed like thunder in the beast’s ear, with a note of command it could not deny.
The pressure to obey was overwhelming, for the creature had met a life form clearly its superior. The urge to do what it was told felt like it was coming from deep within its soul.
Cloudhawk ripped a longsword from a sheath strapped to the beast and gave it a sharp smack on its haunches. With a reptilian hiss, the stalker beast took off. Two sweepers tried to block his path but Cloudhawk cut them down without much effort.
His eyes were a deep sanguine red, like pools of blood. Cloudhawk did not look imposing, but the sheer enormity of his aura forced the natives out of his way.
He vanished into the mist while Blackfang was still struggling with his chieftain. He placed Gorefang’s limp body on the ground and looked him over, questioning how to get the spear free. He wasn’t sure how without causing more damage than was already done. Inside he knew it was too late.”
“Now… you are… Gorefang.” Their dying leader had a few breath left, which he forced from a mouth filled with blood. He grabbed his lieutenant’s clothes and stared him deep in his eyes. “Bring our people…. To freedom… Freedom!”
It was the final words of their leader before darkness claimed him. The last thought to cross his mind – I’m dead…. What will the clan do?
Blight-tooth warriors huddled around, amazed and frightened, furious and hopeless.
Gorefang’s reputation among his tribesmen was beyond repute. He had lead them through the darkest parts of their history, keeping the fire of hope alive in their hearts. He was a giant among the Blight-tooth, a hero!
Their fallen Gorefang was a man like no other, never to be replaced.
Blackfang removed a pair of sharpened teeth from the honoured leader’s mouth.
The tribe was called Blight-tooth because of the poison sacks in their hands and mouths. Both claw and bite was highly toxic. They believed this ability was a gift from their ancestors to keep them save, so their teeth were the most important part of a tribesmen’s remains.
“Find that piece of shit!” Blackfang swore to himself that he would bury his leader’s fangs in that bastard’s chest. “Kill him!”
Cloudhawk was already several hundred meters away.
Blackfang’s furious cries roused the others from their shocked stupor. Their most respected, most adored leader had fallen, the one they turned to for leadership and guidance. With him their world had collapsed.
Could they let his murderer simply get away? The Blight-tooth warriors gathered up to exact vengeance!
Anger and despair tore through the horde. Their hatred for humans had never burned so hot. The Gorefang was dead. Chaos was already starting to reveal itself.
As structure collapsed among the enemy, the pressure on Drake and the others relaxed. He and the remaining humans fell back into the mouth of the cave to mount a defense. While the turmoil was obvious, none of them knew what had happened to the instigator. Claudia was out of breath and lightheaded. He did it, she thought. That guy actually did it.
Cloudhawk succeeded, just as they’d planned.
He’d slipped past a thousand angry sweepers and struck a fatal blow at their heart. If word of this ever got back to the elysian lands, Cloudhawk would be famous.
But there was a nagging regret in the back of Cloudhawk’s mind. He’d stirred up the hornet’s nest, but what would be the consequences?
He darted wildly through the forest atop the stalker beast while a swarm of enraged sweepers gave chase. Every second there were dozens of arrows flung his way, and he used the longsword to knock away any that got too close. But he couldn’t continue this way for long. With a terrible screech the stalker beast collapsed beneath him, and Cloudhawk went flying.
He was more than capable of protecting himself. His mount, however, was not so lucky.
It took seven or eight of the arrows to eventually take the beast down, which proved how sturdy they were. As it began to fall Cloudhawk added insult to injury by kicking off its back. This sent him several meters into the air.
A group of pygmy warriors gathered up ahead.
Cloudhawk hit the ground in a controlled roll, slipping by two of the warriors and cutting their legs out from under them. He jumped back into the air as a pair of riders caught up. He landed on top of one and caved his face in with a savage punch.
There were too many. Cloudhawk couldn’t kill them all.
The second rider threw its weapon to the side and pulled out a gun. At this distance Cloudhawk didn’t dare risk the damage it could do, so he called on the power of stone to avoid it.
A wave of dizziness washed over him, nearly knocking him off his feet. Uh oh, what now?
The rider was leveling a second shot. Cloudhawk lunged forward and whipped a kick at his face. It connected, knocking the eyes from their sockets and causing blood to pour from its ears. Its crushed face was left with a grotesque, twisted smirk.
Cloudhawk gasped for breath. He was spent, not just mentally but physically as well.
Come on, he was the hero! He wasn’t supposed to die like this!
With the phase stone’s power, Cloudhawk could easily have gotten himself to safety. He chose the far more difficult and thankless task of killing the sweeper leader. Why decide to do something so reckless? He chastised himself for it, and decided that he sure didn’t seem much like the hero type. If he survived, he decided to try for less heroics in the future.
There was no escape. He could see the faint silhouettes of riders tearing through the twisting fog. He’d only survived this long thanks to the phase stone, but even it had its limits. He was too weak to call on it anymore.
But maybe there was one more thing he could do!
Escape to another world!
He was certainly no master of that ability. Since getting the stone it’d only happened a couple times, but it had always been in desperate situations just like this. It was his last shot, so he made the decision to try. As the warriors closed in on him, he wrapped his hands around the stone hanging from his neck.
The phase stone felt the call.
An intense energy poured out from it, coalescing into a field of light that spread out in all directions. It started to swirl around him like churned cream. The bullets and arrows that were flung its way were wither knocked aside or incinerated. They left nothing but rippled.
There was still hope.
Life or death hung on this single moment!
Cloudhawk cleared his mind, focusing all of his attention on this process. Then, just at the key moment Blackfang emerged from the mists. He threw a spear at the orb of light, backed by all the despair and rage he held inside. It punched a hole, collapsing the field of energy and any phasing power with it.
The spear was stuck in the ground. A slight breeze past that caused it to crumble into dust.
Blackfang snarled at the others. “Turn this asshole into a pile of rotten meat.”
A swarm of sweepers descended on Cloudhawk. He helplessly watched them come.
As it seemed he would be trampled, something the wasteland never expected came to his aid. From within the forest a hail of arrows descended that immediately pinned the encroaching warriors to the ground. The sweepers were so thoroughly shot through that blood leaked from them like a sieve.
A group of figures gradually appeared from the mist.
Five or six hundred soldiers, dressed in elysian armor, appeared before him. The front lines held their crossbows at the ready. In the lead were three individuals in the uniform of Hell's Valley instructors, along with a dozen or so assistants. The bulk of the valley’s might had arrived.
This was… Hell’s Army!
Blackfang grit his teeth. He wasn’t ready to give up. “Never mind them! Fire your arrows!”
The twang of bowstrings followed. The sweepers were hysterical with fear and anger, and despite the elysian soldiers they refused to let Cloudhawk go. However, their determination was not rewarded. It was unacceptable for a cadet to die under the nose of these instructors.
As Cloudhawk looked on, stupefied, one of the three instructors stepped forth. She was a woman, with a cyan-colored whip clenched in one hand. In stark contrast to normal whips, this one was not ‘made’ of anything, but forged from captured wind. Agile as a python it slithered around Cloudhawk’s waist and dragged him to safety.
They’d fired first, but the woman’s whip still saved Cloudhawk from certain death. Fast as the arrows were, they only served to prove how much faster she was!
Cloudhawk stared in open shock at her. Her age was hard to place, for while she looked to be in her twenties or thirties, her temperament was almost sage-like. She had an appeal different from the likes of Hellflower – like a cool breeze, preternatural and refreshing. Altogether inscrutable.
She was dressed in scholarly clothing that enveloped her in an elegance and mysteriousness. There were men on either side; one was the hideously scarred Instructor Cutter, and the other was hidden in a shell of metal like he was locked in a tin can.
The Giants of Hell Valley had arrived.
Finally a look of despair came upon Blackfang’s face. How did the valley’s forces assemble so quickly? It was only possible if they’d known it was coming.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
The cavalry has arrived, bois! I like how the author gives Cloudhawk a chance to shine, but then gives other badasses a chance to appear as well. Remember - every character you have seen now matters!