A Setback

When her home is threatened, Necran Queen Necrael, or more commonly known as Death, must fight tooth-and-bone to defend it.

 Among the shifting mist and creeping shadows, trees of dark wood and blue leaf stood, silently speaking to one and other. Eyes twinkled in the undergrowth like stars in the night sky and a calm wind blew the light, ankle-high mist to cover the forest floor. Above, the black walls of a cave stretched to block out the sky save for a small portion that was left as a gaping maw into the true outside world. This opening was high above, from which moonlight shone through. Between a clearing and a cliff face, shadowy figures slowly crept toward the nearby forest. They were men, mostly, and were adorned with thick black cloaks, chestplates and gauntlets of a chitinous material, and sets of bows and quivers. The figures slunk from the clearing and into the undergrowth, travelling swiftly and silently for some distance before coming into a far more open area. The figures stopped abruptly at the edge of the treeline, staring out with bright, deceptive eyes. Their gazes fell onto the oblivious bodies of red-skinned creatures that resembled an orc twisted by foul magic. Horns sprouted oddly from each redskin’s head, their eyes alight with a maniac’s fury. Accompanying them were massive, bulky, hellish machines made of cracked wood and blackened steel and flame. The red orcs did not simply stand still, however, as no creature with such a desire for chaos could. Instead, each redskin marched this way and that, swinging axes into thick bark and sending ancient trees tumbling to the ground only to feed the wooden corpse to the ever-hungry maws of their machines. The figures watched in silence, one of which feeling particularly upset by the act he witnessed. He despised the redskin’s kind, he wanted nothing more than to tear each and every orc’s head from his body as trophies. The vile creatures desecrated his home and he would not stand for it. He was Morik, a warrior of stealth and cunning and taught in the ways of the Reaper.

 Raising his left hand into the hair, he flicked his fingers in an intricate command, sending each of the other figures around him scattering in different directions just as silently as they had approached. He, however, made a more direct and loud approach.

   Morik, who had been leading the party, stood up from his crouch, pulling his hood back to reveal bleached, chitinous skin resembling a human skull with intricate black markings swirling around his face, his eyes a stark red in contrast to his skin. He then pulled his bow from his back, drawing a special arrow and striking a flame to light it. Then, aiming upward before the fuse reached its base, sent the arrow up passed the treeline. It exploded into bright blue and red light after a moment, showering sparks downward and catching the attention of each and every orc. Then, sheathing his bow, the figure thrust both his arms downward and caused blades of bone like rapiers to slide from his wrists, took to a sprint, and expertly severed the head of the closest orc to him.

  A short distance away, a small army of dark figures loomed, the mass of orcish machines and militia stationed just down the hill. At the lead of these new figures was one clearly female, her body adorned in a form-fitting set of silver steel, white chitin, and black cloth, a hood and cape flowing behind her. Her eyes were piercing white as the hottest flame, sharp and jagged black marks crawling along her skull-like yet beautiful face. In her right hand she held an intricately designed scythe, one clearly never meant for anything but battle. A skull topped the hilt, spines of bone lining part of the shaft and the rest made of black wood. The steel blade was a shimmering silver, much like her armour, and glistened in the midnight glow of the moon. Upon her shoulders were pauldrons formed from the skulls of monstrous, horned daemons, each of which were kills of hers. She was Necrael, Queen of the Necran, though most referred to her as the Dark Lady, or, most commonly, Death.

  Necrael stood at the ridge of the hill, anger burning in her chest and left hand alight with black inferno. She would not stand for such destruction of her home, much less by the wretched creatures that were called the red orcs. Even in the short time that they had invaded her land they had devoured a fifth of the great forest, leaving only desolate dust and ash in their wake. They had to be stopped. Summoning her elite soldiers with a nod, she tensed and raced down the hill, shouting a battle cry while her brethren did the same. As soon as she reached her first combatant she leapt into the air, her body exploding into bones in a split second and rebuilding itself just as fast behind the orc. She then brought her scythe down upon him, the blade sliding through his skull and silencing him instantly. Her soldiers all spawned bone blades from their wrists, expertly besting each of their combatants. It took several moments for the first of Necrael’s men to fall, and he did so whilst taking four orcs with him. She had no time to mourn any losses, now was the time for action.

 Teleporting again, she appeared between five different orcs, dancing in a spin to swing her shadowed scythe through each one. The orcs were sliced in half at the waist, collapsing in their own entrails. A second later, two orcs rushed her. She waved her left hand at each one in turn, sending a bolt of shadowy fire from her palm to send both of them flying quite a distance away. Looking around, Necrael spotted a massive orc that she knew to be a warchief. If she could kill him, she could end the conflict quickly. As she raced toward her target, she was intercepted by a small army of royal guard that were all too eager to sacrifice their lives for their chief. The Dark Lady was not phased, however, and instead welcomed the challenge.

 She swung her scythe at the first two, slicing off one’s arm and beheading the other in but a moment. The next two were just as easy, and the fifth succumbed to a bolt of black fire from her palm. The next three were rended in half vertically by a line of dark energy, leaving each of them cleanly cut in two grotesque halves. Still, about a dozen remained. She dodged a swing from an axe, inserting her scythe into his abdomen and leaving it there while she sent a blast of energy into three others to leave them as only blackened skeletons. Then, retrieving her scythe with a macabre crunch of flesh and bone, Necrael delivered a kick strong enough to send one orc flying back into its brethren and stunning them. This left the warchief open for attack as he beheaded one of her elite soldiers.

  In blind fury, Necrael leapt into the air and swung her scythe toward the warchief’s head. Just when she had thought her blade would meet flesh, she was shocked and mortified when she found it had not. Instead, her weapon had stopped abruptly just an inch from the chief’s face like it had been suddenly frozen in a block of ice. She then found that she herself, while still in mid air, could not move.

  At first, Necrael was confused until she realized the trap she had fallen into, her heart sinking into a black abyss. The red orc chief laughed a deep, mocking laugh as green energy kept Necrael frozen in mid air. The magic came from the bony, skeletal hand of an old orc that stood just behind the chieftain, his maw of gnarled teeth pulled back in a grimacing smile. This new orc may have been a shaman at one point, but now he seemed nothing less than a vile daemon-spawn.

  As the once-shaman grinned, the warchief pulled a jagged and rusted blade from his belt, slowly aiming it at Necrael’s abdomen. As she was held in the air in an aura of foul magic, she felt her energy swiftly fleeting. Whatever magic it was that she had fallen prey too, it was proving far more powerful than she ever would have thought the orcs capable of. She had underestimated her enemy and that mistake seemed to have been fatal.

 The chieftain laughed menacingly again, “The Queen of the Necran was far more foolish than I had thought.” said the red orc. “This land will be claimed by the legion,” the chief got so close to Necrael that she cringed at his foul breath. “And there’s nothing your pitiful empire can do to stop us.”

  Just as she watched him tense to impale her, and watched her life flash before her eyes, something shifted from behind the red orc. A blur of black cloak and white chitin told of her knight-in-shining-armour. Swiftly, a blade was inserted into the warchief’s side, sending him keeling over. Necrael knew it wouldn’t kill him, but a stun was all that was needed. A moment later, another blade of bone flew into the shaman’s shoulder, ending his magic’s hold on her. Necrael fell to the ground hard, her limbs weak. She felt like she had lost most of her blood or as if she hadn’t slept in days. She barely pushed herself up to meet eyes with her savior and beloved Morik before he was then grasped by the foul magic that had trapped her.

“Run!” Morik shouted as he was lifted, helpless, into the air. “Run, and don’t look back!” The warchief swiftly got to his feet again, tensing his sword arm. “I love-” Morik’s voice was cut off by the terrible crack of chitin, bone, and flesh.

 The Necran’s head came clean off in a shower of dark blood, hitting the ground to roll away with a permanent expression of terror. Necrael was stunned, a feeling of overwhelming horror taking over. Without thinking, she willed herself to teleport away, appearing at the base of the hill from whence she came.

“Fall back!” she shouted to her forces below, her voice grief-stricken.

 Glancing up in surprise, her elite forces took one moment to think before teleporting after her. Two of her men shouldered her weight as they made their swift escape, the red orcs racing behind.

 Atop a somewhat distant hill, several figures watched the aftermath of the battle. At the head of them was a female form, her horns curled back around her naturally purple hair, ears sliding back like daggers, body adorned in finely crafted armour of oak, hide, and steel. From behind, another elf approached.

“Should we assist them?” asked a male voice.

“No.” the female elf answered after a moment. “Not yet, at least.”

“They’ll surely die out there, the orcs are headed on a straight path and they won’t be stopped.”

 The woman turned to the man behind her. “Then at least we’ll no longer have to deal with one enemy.”

“Trade one enemy for another? Are you sure that’s wise?”

 The woman looked back out onto the fleeing Necran.

“We shall see.”

The End

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