Vir's Archive

Monday, April 7, 2014

Precipice Part 12: Junction Under Attack


(okay, still have tons of editing to catch up on, but I had a week off - time to get back to posting)

Jarious raced through bustling streets into alley after dark alley.  He pushed, and each time he saw a crowd or obstacle such as a pushcart that might slow him down, he followed his instincts and chose another route.  He was short of breath, but had no time to lose.  

Street.  Alley.  Alley. Street. 

“Out of my way!” He screeched, violently waving his arms in a futile attempt to will a passage through the gaggle of people in front of him. 

Street.  Street.  Crowd.  Alley.  Alley.  Low Wall.  Street.  Go. 

As he ran, the alleys became wider, the streets more spacious.  Still at a full sprint, he could stay on the main roads as he reached the northern edge of the city.  Buildings whizzed by less frequently as urban became rural.

He could hear the sounds of combat – men screaming mostly – before he saw it.  One more turn, and the road opened into a lazy rolling hills and fields that disappeared in the distance.  Dominating it all, though, was a four meter tall Earth Elemental.  The Elemental was a stone and earth mockery of the human form with a rough barrel-like torso that extended upwards from the earth.  The Elemental had no legs, its body just melded in one large stump into the ground.  The creature’s robust arms ended in three thick fingers on each hand.  The creature had no head to speak of, just a round bulbous outgrowth where a humanoid head should be.  From that outgrowth glowed two white eye-like lights, burning with the intensity of bonfires.  It sloughed off dirt, detritus, and stones as it moved through the earth, gliding instead of walking.  

Around the creature were a dozen or so city guard, most armed with polearms of some sort.  A few wielded axes and shields.  All were armored in the light leather and chainmail Junction’s guards used as a uniform.  They vainly hacked at the towering Elemental, knocking off stone and earth, but doing no discernible damage.  The smarter of the guard used their polearms to try to push the creature back.  The foolhardy would rush up to the creature, usually from the sides or rear, and tack a few swings at the Elemental. 

As Jarious slowed and concentrated on slowing his breathing, the Elemental reached down and grabbed one of the guards wielding an axe.  The creature practically vibrated with pent-up magical energy siphoned from the earth, and the inhuman strength of the creature was too much for the guard’s fragile body.  He was squeezed like an overripe banana, bones snapping and organs squishing in the effortless grip of the stone monster.  His death-scream was mercifully short due to the ruination of his lungs.

Even at this distance, the hairs on Jarious’ arm started to stand up.  The eldritch energy that animated the Elemental permeated the atmosphere like long-lingering remnants of a lightning strike.  The battlefield smelled like stale bread – a smell Jarious associated with Elementals and the magical creatures of nature. 

In front of the Elemental, but well away from the havoc it was wreaking, was what appeared to be the nominal commander of the guard.  Jarious guessed he was in charge because he was the only one not fighting.  To the commander’s right and left were two spellcasters.  The one to the commander’s right wore a light and flowing robe.  The eldritch blue glow from his eyes and hands marked him as a mage.  The spellcaster to the Commanders left wore leather armor and moved his arms and hands as if he were dancing – clearly a shaman enticing the spirits to do as he wished. 

The mage yelled out the last two undiscernible syllables of an incantation and thrust both hands forward, palms towards the Elemental.  Blue light burst forth from his palms and, like sun rays, raced almost instantaneously to the Elemental.  The magical blue rays lasted only a few seconds, but burned away a swath of dirt from the Elemental’s torso that were slow to be filled in.  Where the magical energy disintegrated the Elemental’s body, angry red swathes of molten earth fell away making it appear like the Elemental was bleeding.  The Elemental , had been advancing steadily towards the city’s edge and a nearby storefront, stopped to assess the damage from the mage’s blasts. 

Magic, unlike the weapons of the guards, appeared to be having a significant effect on the Elemental.  

For a few long seconds, the Elemental did not move except for a few uncoordinated sways of its arms. Then, abruptly, it started forward again.  One guardsman was caught off guard by the Elemental’s restart, and was caught in the arc of the creature’s powerful swinging fists.  A single bone-shattering swat later, and the guardsman lay lifeless on the fields, a bloody pulp of flesh and bone.  Being hit by the Elemental had the same gruesome and inevitable result as being crushed by a boulder. 

Jarious ran up to the commander who still had yet to move, “Who are you?”

The man looked back, startled to be directly addressed.  “I’m Sergeant Thadmium Gral.  This is my district.”  He looked at his men as they continued to try to slow the Elemental s advance towards the city.  He unconsciously took a step back.  “You here to help?”

“Yes.”  Jarious had no time for dealing with the Sergeant.  “I’m in charge.  Get your weapon.  Lord Captain Avorian personally ordered me here to take command of this disaster.”

Gral looked to Jarious and then back at the Elemental .  He opened his mouth to protest.

Before Gral could utter a sound, Jarious moved his left hand to the scabbard on his belt and the hilt of the Legacy Sword.   His right hand went up over his shoulder to pull Eartaker free and ready it for combat.  Upon seeing that Jarious wore a Legacy Blade, the Sergeant closed his mouth.  When he saw Eartaker emerge from behind Jarious’ back, his eyes went wide.  The Sergeant wordlessly drew his axe and nodded once.  His head hung just a bit lower. 

Jarious pointed to the Elemental.  “Stand with your men.  Tell them to create a line in front of the Elemental to slow its advance towards the city.  Don’t worry about hitting it right now, just get your men to harass it and slow it.  Can you do that?” 

Gral nodded.  “Yes.”

“Then go!”

Gral drew his axe and started running to the remaining city guard, shouting orders and pointing. 

As Gral drew near to his men, the mage let loose another series of blue rays.  His first two attacks hit the Elemental  and forced it to pause again.  The third bolt went astray and hit one of the guards.  The man’s armor glowed a feverish red, then an intense white.  His flesh evaporated and boiled away.  He took a couple of stumbling steps with what was left of his face buried in his hands.  He did not get far.  He stumbled once, and fell over dead.  Large parts of his face and torso simply gone. 

Jarious turned to the mage, anger in his eyes and frustration in his voice.  “Hold off with those fool magics you are throwing.  You killed one man with your carelessness already; I won’t have you kill another.  Stand right next to me.  Right.  Here.  If I move, you move.  When I tell you to do something, you figure out the best spell you know and do it.  This is about results, not the process.  Understand?”

“I do,” The mage cocked his head to the side slightly and frowned.  “…Commander.”