La stormed towards the gate, fuming. An occasional strand of long blonde hair stood rigidly into the air from her bangs, charged with an angry voltage. It was a frightening sight. Raul, Oocus, and the Candy Knight hurried after her, each carrying a new load of food purchased from the inn. It price was expensive for simple salted meats and cheese, but they had little other choice as the innkeeper was the only one willing to accept Hakoins. La had searched the town to make sure of that, but finally she conceded. After all, they needed to eat. She was in no way happy about losing all her (and Raul’s) money. The rest of the group heard snippets of her angry muttering.
“…that was all of our money, Tchershich damn it, and I thought I was going to make a profit with this venture… that dumb bitch.”
She was about to barge through the gate when she crashed into a gathering crowd at the entrance. The villager in front of her jumped as he received an accidental shock from the Fifth Retainer of Tchershich. La scanned her environment for the source of the commotion and quickly found it. It was not hard to notice.
“Holy shit.” Raul said as he stood on his toes looking over the crowd. Beyond the cast iron gate stood a huge, hulking bison. Earthy, shaggy fur stuck wildly in all directions. Its massive horns spiraled majestically in impossibly intricate designs, embedded liberally with broken arrow shafts and spear tips. Small, black, liquid eyes fastened unblinkingly on something in the distance. La looked up at the creature as it approached the gate with a placid, gentle slowness. Its head clearing the gate by a good seven Hakian feet, the bison was three times as large as any other bison La had ever seen. Children cried and individual members of the crowd split off and retreated nervously as it approached.
“What is that?” Raul asked nervously.
“The Great Bison Guardian, I think. It is one of the lesser spirits of nature, tasked with the duty of protecting the great migratory bison herds.” Oocus answered, seemingly unconcerned.
The bison finally stopped, and spoke Ancient Epitric with an agonizing slowness. Its voice resonated with power unknown to mortals.
“…Bringeth to mine side… the soldyre of lands… beyond this place, the one who doth answers… to the name Modus…”
A flurry of scared, hushed barbarian speak erupted from the crowd.
“What are they saying?” La asked Oocus as the crowd rushed past them,
“They’re going to drag that Hakian infantry unit from the inn out to the bison.” Oocus answered mildly.
“Oh. Well this should be interesting.” La said, “Come on guys!”
The crowd gathered at the inn, where a protesting Hakian infantryman was being dragged from the doorway. Two big Beyondsmen finally forced his hands to his sides and carried him out. Their bruise-covered faces grimaced with pain as they tried to roughly bound his hands. “I’ll kill all of you!” the Hakian roared, twisting and kicking with a determined rage.
“As the Commander of the Imperial Fourteenth Reconnaissance Unit I command you to release my soldier or suffer retaliatory measures from the Empire!” the commander of the unit, hastily donning his imperial gear, boomed officially. The rest of the soldiers poured out behind him. The innkeeper also appeared, flustered at the commotion.
“Mmmmmodddddusssss.” The iron gate at the front of the village groaned on its hinges; the iron bar keeping it locked began to twist and bend, and finally snapped as the Great Bison Guardian leaned against it.
“Oh shit.” The Hakian soldier, apparently the one called Modus, said as he caught sight of the monster plodding towards them with slow, methodical steps that quaked the ground at each impact. The two Beyondmen holding him let go and backed off skittishly like the rest of the crowd. The Candy Knight grabbed an entranced La and Oocus with either hand and dragged them behind Raul, who had taken off sprinting moments earlier. Even the Imperial Fourteenth Reconnaissance Unit retreated back around the inn and into the stables, leaving Modus standing alone in front of the colossal animal. It stopped before him and lowered his head slowly, tilting its shaggy bison head so that its dark, watery eye was at level with his wide, scornful Hakian eyes.
“It was thou who cometh enth slew mine bison… letting them rot where they fall… gleaming neither flesh nor horn nor pelt… from the bodies…. Thou hast slain mine son among the herds… The… punishment for such an offense…” The gigantic bison clacked its teeth. “…is death by devouring… or… a ritual of atonement at mine shrine notte far from hyre… thy choice is thine.” The bison’s eye blinked questioningly back at Modus. Modus stuck a dagger in it.
With a ground-shaking bellow the Great Bison Guardian swung its head back, blood pouring from the puncture in its eye. The spirit stumbled backwards and knocked through the corner of a nearby sod house before righting itself. Modus unstrapped his spear and drove it through the beast’s thick furry leg where it lodged, eliciting another angry protest from the spirit. It lifted an enormous hoof and brought it heavily down on Modus with a sickening crunch, then proceeded to grind him into a bloody hole in the ground.
“Oh gross.” La said, aghast. They were a safe distance away from the scene but were close enough to see the splattered remains of the Hakian soldier as the Great Bison Spirit scraped its hoof off across the road.
“Looks like the Snow-cone valley during the spring,” commented the Candy Knight aloofly.
A loud wumph! thwacked behind them and something rocketed overhead; the Great Bison Spirit’s eyes swiveled inwards comically, fixing on the massive bolt of metal sunk between them. Its knees buckled and the great beast fell shuddering forwards, its head scraping to a stop against the ground. The Great Guardian Bison lay dead in the center of Mericahaeinth-Ack, looking a good deal less celestial than any spirit should.