Emerald Star’s underground city was ringed with angry snarls, bloody corpses and the stench of conflict. It was like stepping into the depths of hell.
Autumn sat upon the back of her dragon, gently playing her flute. Her hair danced on sweeping gusts of wind and her green dress fluttered. Her young, pretty face was serene as she played as though she was lost in her own world. She forgot herself, forgot the carnage – all there was, was the music.
Below her a milling horde of creatures shuffled forward. They crawled over and around one another in a chaotic flood. They snarled and snapped, some releasing balls of fire and smoke into the air. Tension filled the atmosphere as Autumn’s army met other creatures and tore them apart. Meanwhile Natessa and her elite crew followed with thousands of troops in tow. They cleaned up what the monsters missed.
The creatures were strong, but not particularly intelligent. Autumn’s will commanded thousands of them and robbed them of the ability to distinguish friend from foe. Like a buffeting tide they swayed back and forth while soldiers cut them down.
Wave after wave were culled. The brutality and efficiency of the extermination was impressive, especially since the monsters were also at one another’s throats. The number of monsters Autumn was able to control was static, but she could shift that control as she wished. Chaos was the result among the snapping swarm.
Azura led her Awakened through the fray, cutting down scores of beasts. The intensity of the fight was more than they’d expected after being told to evacuate. However, though the scene was drenched in blood only very few Awakened were killed or wounded in the fighting.
Defense was the first priority of Greenland’s troops. Most precious were their Awakened. Of course it was not like they were defenseless themselves. Aside from a few unlucky souls, casualties were minimal.
Pigblossom yelled at the top of his lungs. “Something’s going on up ahead!”
His classmates looked in the direction he indicated. There was a cluster of black buildings on the horizon that varied greatly from the surrounding Elysian-style structures. All of them were connected together, forming a massive honeycomb framework. Yet while the exterior looked like iron, it moved, undulating like some sort of organ. Not alive, more like a nest.
No doubt about it. This was where the monsters were coming from. Whatever spawned them was waiting inside.
Nothing about it seemed godly. Some other intelligent species was probably responsible and the gods merely pilfered it. It was the only way to explain what something this odd was doing here.
But where it came from wasn’t important. Natessa ordered the attack.
Autumn, also noting the alien hatchery, commanded her beasts forward. The nine-headed wolves took to the air, but as they prepared to strike a strange power was released from the structure.
It was formless but palpable, washing through the area with a deep hum. All the beasts were thrown into a frenzy, even breaking Autumn’s control. She scowled at the affront.
This strange power took her by surprise, not least of which because it was so similar to her own. It exerted its will on the beasts, forcing an order among the mindless things. As she watched they formed a defensive perimeter around the hive.
Yes, this was the place. Inside the brood mothers hid, slave to some overpowering will. It made them endlessly produce more offspring and controlled the hordes like puppets. Now, it was aware of the threat on its doorstep.
The Shepherd God tried again to take their minds, pouring more of her psyche into the attempt. She succeeded in domineering several of the wolves and forced them to renew their attacks. With searing plumes of flame they swooped by the nest. The intense heat caused the exterior to crack.
Another pulse of intense psychic energy was released from inside. As though from some enormous, invisible hand, the wolves were snatched up. They struggled and thrashed but could not move as the consciousness battled against the Shepherd God’s control.
She would not tolerate these powerful creatures being wrested from her, so she fought back. Neither mind would back down and as they contended, the wolves howled in agony. Eventually it was the unseen controller that could not sustain.
The ground collapsed beneath the hive as from the ground a number of blood red tentacles burst forth. They lashed out at the wolves, flinging deadly barbs that dug into the creatures. Each of the spines was lined with delicate suckers.
Even more bitter wails rose from the beasts. They shriveled and shrank as all the fluids were drained from them, until only husks hung limp from the tentacles’ grasp.
“That’s what we’re after. Quick, prepare the artillery. Destroy it!”
Natessa knew these tentacles belonged to the hive’s protector, a powerful and terrifying beast whose intelligence matched its strength. The Shepherd God’s power could not overcome its strength of will.
At her command, Greenland soldiers pushed the eboncrys heavy artillery weapons to the fore. A few moments later orbs of highly concentrated energy fired from the ground like small moons or comets. With incredible speed they raced across the caverns and slammed into the heart of the tentacles.
A thunderous explosion followed. More of the stony floor crumbled. However it did not destroy their foe, only infuriate it further. The creature heaved itself from beneath the ground to reveal it’s true face – a colossal, undulating octopus several hundred meters tall.
It was no ordinary monster. Hundreds of tentacles writhed around it, each one a lethal weapon. One swipe could tear through most defenses and attack with elemental energy. Judging by the way it fought off the Shepherd God’s control, it also had the mental strength of a Master Demonhunter.
This beast was a thing from the far reaches of space, placed here to slumber for countless millennia. Here it had slept soundly until these hateful insects awakened it. Already ill of temper, the rude awakening stoked its fury even higher.
A dark gleam shined in the creature’s eye. It was a representation of intense, concentrated psychic power. Where it stared the beasts were forced to capitulate with its will. The lesser beasts fell in line, forming into a snarling army.
As a cohesive unit they threw themselves at the fiends under Autumn’s control. A vicious fight ensued, spawning a shower of blood and limbs.
Whooomm, whooomm, whoommm. The octopus released another wave of power. Its will dug into the minds of the humans like hot iron spikes. Greenland soldiers, unable to withstand the unseen assault, howled in agony and fell to their knees. Even a number of the Awakened screamed in pain and were overwhelmed.
Dozens of barbed tentacles reached out. A storm of wind, lightning and hail blasted through the area. The powers this monster wielded were nothing short of extraordinary. There was no question why it was chosen to defend the hive. If something didn’t change, casualties would begin to swell.
Natessa knew it was time. Her and her elite had to act. “Now.”
The Giant of Hell’s Valley and her core warriors leaped into action. Relics came to life, flinging their power into the body of the octopus. Under their focused assault, the monster suffered terribly.
However, the beast was massive and hardy. While the wounds it suffered were hideous, they were far from enough to take it down. More tentacles came whipping by, bringing with them a deluge of mental attacks.
It was becoming clear to the humans that the octopus was good at ranged attacks, and the powers it wielded covered a huge area. Against a large force like Greenland’s soldiers, this promised to wreak havoc. But against a single enemy the beast had difficulty targeting its ire.
Barb flung herself forward, hacking off a tentacle with one heave of her sword. It sloughed to the ground but instead of falling still the limb sprouted bony spikes. It flailed among the humans with wild abandon, creating a zone of mangled corpses.
“Stop it!” Azura cried.
The Awakened around her fired arrows of energy at the limb. It took two dozen blows before it was too badly mangled to do any more damage.
Azura then turned to the monster. With her short swords she chopped off two more tentacles. Now that she knew what to expect, she quickly carved both limbs to pieces before they even hit the ground.
Elsewhere, Gabriel was weaving his Shadethread. The malignant weave cut apart the beast’s extremities, leaving very little behind. Since the octopus relied on these tentacles to attack, if the appendages were removed the monster would be weakened.
The behemoth was incensed. How dare these arrogant, insignificant vermin try to fight back! It was time they learned their folly.Previous Chapter Next Chapter