Blood, fire and death reigned around me, rising and falling with the susurrus and rising crescendos of shouted orders, yelps of panic and screams of agony. Eyes glittering defiance flashed white with fear as I tore through the fray and sent their life’s blood spraying in crimson rain. They fought back, but no matter how they burned, blasted or splashed me, their magic did nothing to protect them from the merciless power of my blade. Some of them tried to tear me from my feet with their dying breath, but I swatted their feeble attempts aside with scarcely an effort. Fools.
I landed in amongst the centre of the enemy force, clawing the faces of a pair of unfortunate warriors who hadn’t got out of my way fast enough. Around me, my brothers and sisters were wreaking their terrible wrath on all who dared stand in their way. Those with wings twisted, dived and screamed, snatching foes from the ground and dropping them screaming to shatter on the hard earth, or into the sea, whipped into a white fury by the thrashing of our earthbound brethren struggling to shore. I laughed, and the Horde replied with a triumphant screech as more and more crowded through the tiny breach. The gap was not wide enough for our full strength to enter at once, but we were more than sufficient to match the forces of the pathetic creatures in our way.
A searing pain shot along my arm. With a snarl of anger, I twisted and drove my bladed elbow backwards into the face of the sword-wielding elf who had dared raise his weapon against me. He fell with a scream, and it was a simple matter of finishing him with the end of my blood-smothered sword. The scent of the magic was thick as a midnight fog around me; maddening, taunting, but not quite tangible enough for me to get my claws into. I snarled and plunged into the battle, following a trail to a small epicentre of the infuriating stench. The mage sent a flurry of air against me, and a hot fire sent blisters rising along my arms. I smirked through my bared teeth. A valiant attempt, but not enough to stop me. Shanahan may be a spineless fool, but he knew better than to forget to proof me against the worst of the faeries’ attacks. She died screaming in a fountain of blood, her throat torn out in one fell swish of my blade.
Do not waste time! The voice cried in my ear, so loud it sent a painful jolt through my skull. Slay the leaders, then find her.
I hissed and took to the air again, reveling in the power of the sinews and muscles as I gained height. To think I had once maligned their presence – what a fool I had been. It had taken some time, and I had near beheaded several of my smaller and less mobile brethren in the process, but it had been worth it. So, so worth it. Wild with bloodlust and the joy in my own strength, I let out a wild scream and shot skyward. A trio of huge screeching chimera-like creatures swooped about me, screaming in their harsh, quorking way. I snarled, and they scattered like dust. They feared the foe, but they feared me more.
There. Among the archers, a tall blond-haired elf was shouting orders. A wave of white-fletched death shot through the red air, felling two of my brethren, sending them crashing into the sea, thrashing in their dying agony. I swooped, aimed myself at the commander, and plunged into a death dive. He looked up seconds too late. Before he could turn his archers, my sword was buried hilt-deep, high in his chest. I roared, but my triumph soon turned to pain as three spots of brilliant white agony exploded in my back. A fourth erupted in the back of my right knee, and I half leapt, half fell off the cliff face as I fought my way back into the sky, out of their range. Two of the fire-laced arrows had buried themselves in my shoulder-blades, and a third in my lower back. I snarled. Though the arrows had not had sufficient time to kindle a true fire before striking me, the shots had been at close range. The smell of my own blood only angered me further, and I wheeled, ready to call my brethren together to smash the elves’ ranks to blood and dust for their insolence.
No! The voice was back, crushing my thought with a fist of iron. Never mind them, find her!
I hissed, and tried to fight it. I didn’t want orders – I wanted to fight, to feel the bones of my foes cracking beneath my strength, to hear their dying howls of terror, to watch their faces change as they knew they had made their last mistake facing me. But the thought of her sent shivers up my back, and another desire, deeper and hotter and as unrestrained as the fury of the sea below me.
The voice was right. Never mind the wretched creatures below me. I wanted her.
Her scent was only too easy to follow. It drew me like a steel chain through a hook in my nose – no, my mind. I couldn’t fly fast enough to reach her. The closer I got, the more and more intense my desire grew, until I felt sure I would explode with it. I hissed in anticipation, kicking out at an errant faerie who had taken a swipe at my feet, but not stopping to see the damage I had done. The archers seemed well preoccupied, and I passed through the army with as little hassle as was possible.
Then I saw her. Standing a way back from the main army, kneeling beside an elf who looked to have taken a hard strike in the chest from a heavy instrument. But she was not alone. A scrawny human stood next to her, hovering attentively and staring like a fool. The very sight of him set my teeth on edge, and some ridiculous memory dragged his name to the surface. Petey. Something told me I’d enjoy the feeling of ridding the world of him. Then, suddenly, I was ripped from the air and smashed into the ground with all the force of a brick wall. I screamed in pain, but the inexplicable force did not retract. It was hardly noticeable, but at this closeness I could feel it, and the ancient power coursing through its being. This was no human, nor a faerie or even an elf. It was old. It was strong. And it was going to rue the day it attacked me.
Her voice split the air as he pounded towards me. I snarled and tore myself free of the elemental power’s grip, raising my bloody sword and showing him my teeth. I stood near two feet above his height, and he carried no weapon that would do more than graze me. I laughed and sprang for him, waiting for the imminent crunch of his bones. But it never came. With a speed I never would have believed, he darted aside and took a wild swing at me with a huge blunt weapon. I ducked the blow, and felt the solid metal whoosh past my ears. He was using a hammer!? I would have laughed, if only his next blow hadn’t smashed me in the face. My vision exploded in a flurry of colour and the metallic taste of blood in my mouth. I roared and kicked out at the boy. Even in my wounded state, I was strong, and my kick caught him in the shins. I felt something give, and the boy howled as he fell to his knees. The elemental power swirled, and hissed at my opponent:
“Ssssstop it! Kill the cursed creature now, before it learnssss your strengths.”
Try and stop me, fool.
I took advantage of his distraction and jumped for him again. I missed, but as he darted away I managed to get my teeth into his arm. Petey roared, and I felt something crunch satisfactorily in my mouth. I readied myself to tear away, but another blow from the hammer, on the top of my head this time, sent me reeling backwards with a scream that made my own ears ring with its pitch.
Then, suddenly, she was between us. Hands spread wide, walls of solid air at her fingertips, face wet with tears. She was shouting something, but I couldn’t hear her. Her scent was so infuriatingly close that it almost burned. I tried to go towards her, but I only ended up on my knees, my world reduced to a swirling mass of confused visions and white blots of pain. Then, out of the nether, I heard her whisper a single word.