Fantasy tale, ringing in the start of a new era, with a bloody battle.
For years they had served their masters, living in fear and bondage, but now the vermin have the audacity to rise up against their masters and declare war!
Dawn of Ascension
By Rob Smith
His blade flashes in the moonlight, taking the creature in the throat and sending an arc of arterial spray through the cold evening mist. The creature slumped to its knees grasping at the lifeblood as if he could hold on to life just that little while longer by holding on to it. As the light in the creature’s eyes went out and its body slumped over in the long damp grass of the forest floor, he suppressed the urge to roar out his triumph. There were more of them, he could smell their cloying dirty smell and it made him feel sick. Such creatures as these should not be suffered to live, and he revelled in his sworn oath to rid the world of vermin such as this which lay before him in chill mist that night.
At first the elders had believed they could be cowed and used to serve his kind as slaves and for sport. Yet they had failed to see their low cunning and many had paid the price when the creatures rose up against them. Spreading like rot through good oak, their numbers swelled and were soon equal to, if not more in number than their own kind. They grew bold, swarming into outlying towns and camps, raiding food, tools and weapons, before disappearing back into the night. As the years went on, the attacks grew more frequent and the savages were learning. Better equipped hordes were reported to be wearing crude armour not of studded leather but of plates of metal and wielding good steel in their hands in place of rocks or stolen farming tools. Now the vermin had become organised and were no longer content to just raid, they wanted land. They raised buildings of shaped stone that would not burn; they built bulwarks from trees of the great forest and established their own settlements and towns on the bones of their former masters’. This was a dishonour never before encountered in the annals of history. Dishonour demands blood.
So here he stands on the hundredth night of the great cleansing, the blood of his kills still wet on his blade. He listens to the sounds of the forest animals mixed with the clash of steel, the curses of the living and the screams of the dying a cacophony of battle. He rolls his heavily muscled shoulders and flexes arms like tree trunks, feeling the familiar burn of heavy use over a short period of time and welcomes it like an old friend. He hears a skirmish off to his right, unseen through the fog. Battle lust is once again upon him, so he heads off toward the sound with a speed that belies his massive size. As he draws near the familiar sound of sword play echoes off of the massive oak trees and sings to him the glorious song of the final dance.
He pushes his way through bracken and brush, ignoring the tugs and scrapes of the thorns, finally reaching his destination. A clearing, surrounded by huge oak trees looking down on the scene before them, silent sentinels. A brave brother stands defiant in the midst of six foes in the centre of the clearing, spitting curses and goading them to attack, but the damage has already been done. His battle brother is feathered with arrows and breathing in ragged wet gasps. The warrior has taken a savage cut to the right side of his face, from chin to forehead, which is bleeding heavy and fast over the ruin of his eye.
They have him surrounded, three of them in heavy plate and armed with a three and a half feet long steel blade and shield. Although puny in comparison to his own blade, he had the scars to show how effective they could be; thin where his own blade is broad, straight where his is barbed. Two of them stood with backs to him, these wore leather jerkins and bore longbows made of sturdy oak, likely taken from this very forest. The last stood in front of his stricken brother.
This one was different, larger than the others and permeating an aura of calm confidence. Its armour is scribed with intricate runes and markings; it bears a sword that dwarves its comrades’ and is near as tall as the creature itself. The sword has more of the strange runes etched upon it but unlike the armour, it is incandescent with a pulsing blue light that hurts his eyes to look at. Upon Its head, nestled in the long yellow fur that flows down lankly in the wet, to its shoulders, is a golden circlet. The circlet bears no inscriptions, gems or devices. Yet despite its lack of adornment it lends an air of majesty unto its bearer. This is the vile creature that had the audacity to rise up and gather a vast host of its fellow vermin and proclaim itself, their leader, theirKing.
With an order from their leader the three dressed in plate advance on their injured foe, the archers notching arrows to their bows. With a roar of pure rage he bursts from his vantage point and swings his blade with an undeniable strength. Taking the first lightly armoured archer’s head clean off, the slash continues and buries itself in the side of the second. His blade hits the spine of the pathetic creature before it even knows what has happened. A quizzical look crossed its face as the blade is yanked free and he dies with that same stupid look on its face.
He tears his gaze away from the bisected remains of the archers, immediately looking for the next most immediate threat. Steel on steel rings out and he sees brother sluggishly block blows from two of his assailants, grunting with the effort. The third attacker meets no such resistance, sliding its blade in under his brother’s arm and bursting out through his chest in a gout of black blood. The warrior groans, dropped his blade and grasps feebly at the exposed steel before collapsing in a heap and yanking the blade from its owner’s grasp.
The vermin king has noticed his arrival now and bellows at its comrades, pointing in his direction. He launches himself at the recently disarmed creature, bringing his blade down in a crushing blow. The cretin had enough sense to jerk its head aside but it is not enough. The two handed blow cleaves through metal pauldron, skin and bone alike. The arm hits the floor shortly before its body and the creature’s screams cut through the night like a knife.
The other two are upon him in an instant. He parries a blow from the first and side steps the second assailant’s cut. They are skilled with their weapons and it is all he could do to parry, dodge and sidestep blows for the moment. After a while the weight of his opponents armour and their inferior size begins to show. Their cuts coming slower, their breath is laboured and their strength was ebbing slowly out of them.
Within a few moments one of the fools overreaches and stumbles, off balance into the path of his blade, its lifeblood exploding into the air in a visceral explosion. The metallic tang of the creature’s blood fills his mouth and he turns to face his next opponent. Taller and more powerfully built than the last, it was still no match and falls quickly to a rending blow to the stomach. The barb shape of his blade decimating its internal organs as it is ripped free. This leaves just one more. The head of the serpent, remove it and the body would soon die.
“Foul beast, you shall pay for the blood of my people!” the king spat at him, pulling the glowing, oversized blade to bear. “We will no longer live in bondage, slaves to your vile kind! For centuries we have been treated no better than animals, killed on your whims and for your sick sport”, a single tear glistens as the moonlight catches it rolling down his left cheek. This pathetic display of emotion meant nothing to him; he would end this here and now and crush the fool where it stood.
To his surprise the puny, pink skinned insect is the first to strike. An over head slash with such force that it sends a shock resonating down through his arm as he his own blade comes up to meet it. As their blades clash, the luminescent glow of his opponent’s blade flares, all but blinding him in its glare. The next blow is blocked with instinct alone, gained from a lifetime of soldiering. Again the blade flares and he backs off, but this time he is too slow and takes a glancing blow to his side. The leather of his armour parts like silk to a knife and he hisses in pain as the blade carves into his flesh, which immediately begins to bleed out.
More blows follow in quick succession and finds him on the back foot, using all of his skill and strength just to stay alive. This fight should have been over in a matter of moments; he outreached, outweighed and was three times as wide as his foe. He had yet to make a strike against this creature, a fact that has him bewildered. How can one such as this challenge a warrior of his renown? Blows continue to rain down on him. Two at his head, two to his stomach and one aimed at his legs, coming in rapid succession each as strong as the last and accompanied by a flash of searing light.
Still on the back foot, fending off blows he desperately searches his memory and training for some way to deal with this near overwhelming force. A cut aimed at his head comes in from the right but his block is too slow and he takes a cut just above his temple. The blood starts pulsing from the wound in time to his thumping heartbeat, the warmth of it seeping down his face onto his chest and shoulder.
He bares his teeth in a vicious snarl and throws all of his strength into a blow that would fell one of the mighty oak sentinels that stood impassive around them. An explosion of light blinds him once again, accompanied by the sound of steel shattering like glass. There is warmth in his chest as he brings his blade back to bear, his vision slowly swimming back into focus. As it clears he is surprised to see his opponent still standing before him, by all right his blow should have pulped the vile creature. The creature is breathing heavily; sweat beading its brow, a look of exhaustion and pain on its face. A shard of steel is embedded just below its blue eye, blood welling around it.
He brings his blade back, aiming at the exposed face of his rival but something is wrong. A few inches above the pommel, his blade stops in a sharp jag of metal. As he studies his shattered blade, the warmth in his chest begins to spread and he looks down. A gilded steel blade infused with an eldritch glow is piercing his broad, heavily built chest.
The warmth becomes a burning and the skin around the blade begins to blacken and crisp, sending thin tendrils of smoke rising into the air. The creature twists the blade and with a grunt of shocked pain, he drops his own weapon in response. He falls to his knees as the greatsword is yanked free of his torso, leaving behind only the searing heat that is slowly and excruciatingly consuming his flesh both from within and without.
As he kneels there paralysed in front of this lesser being, body slowly being consumed by the burning agony, he realises dawn has stolen upon them. A grey light has begun to shine through the shroud of mist surrounding them and a number of shapes were now emerging into the clearing. The shapes took on form and to his bewilderment it was not the host of his brothers that had taken to the field in their thousands. It was the vermin that came, filtering through the trees of the mighty forest, bloodied and bruised but with a look of pride on each and every one of their faces. He turned his gaze once more to his opponent and could see that same look was mirrored by their king.
They gathered before their king, keeping a respectful distance away from their liege and his fallen foe. An expectant silence had come over them and their king began surveyed his people and after a few moments began to speak, “My brave warriors, nay, my brothers! On this morning we stand at the very edge of a new era in the history this land. An era of peace and of freedom, this is the era of MANKIND!”
A mighty roar went up from the crowd but he could no longer hear them. They hugged, wept and danced in the glow of the rising sun, but he could no longer see them. His lifeless corpse sank slowly to the ground in its eternal slumber, as mankind rose to greet the dawn of a new age.