Of Gods and Man - Wallace's Gambit Ch.10
The sun rising over the gently sloping dunes seemed less like a morning ritual and more of a harbinger. A harbinger of hope for an end to this seemingly endless turmoil the once civilized races had to face for years. No matter the outlook, one thing was clear: With their minds burdened by thoughts of the morrow, very few had gotten much sleep the night prior.
Former guardswoman to her homeland, Senera spent her time among the troops, sharpening her blades, fletching arrows, and otherwise practicing her steps. Anger fueled her, her elven brows furrowed as she eased steel to whetstone. This was the first step in a long time in taking vengeance for her home.
Toren and his Florian servant, Thystle, handled the logistics, delivering food and blankets to the worn troops and ensuring arrows were stocked. One of their stops being to Relomas, Toren's younger brother, who, despite optimism, felt dreadfully out of his depth and submitted to pacing, soothing himself with chanted words of encouragement. Understanding Toren's duty to his brother, Thystle continued the chores and left the two to their comforting banter.
Gillibee and Knalalumper sat at their respective, portable workbenches, the pair of Gnomes brewing potions and tinkering with contraptions alike, practicing equal parts silence and diligence. It seemed they were attempting to distract their worrying thoughts with work, though this silence was broken as Gillibee paused pensively and cleared her throat."Ahem, Knala?" "Yes, my sweetest?" He questioned, lifting the welding goggles from his eyes. "Have I told you I loved you today?" "You have not." "Well, I do." A tender smile curved his cracked lips, "And just how much?" Gillibee had placed the cork on one of her creations, hopping off of her stool and waddling over to the man, wrapping her arms about his shoulders from behind, "By my calculations? 39.5% more than yesterday, but 60.83% less than tomorrow."
His smile remained, softening even, as he closed his eyes and placed a gloved hand on the back of her arm...a single tear of joy tracing the outline of his bulbous nose.
Even the three Halflings, Vigo, Moro, and Lalia lit the pipes once strapped to their travelling pack and recounted tales from back home. As light hearted as they attempted, a hint of melancholy nipped at the heels of every recounting.
Lobir, however...Was mostly unchanging. His already dour demeanor was right at home among the downtrodden. When asked, he led the midmorning prayer, though was eventually silenced when wished everyone a painless death by a hand upon his shoulder and a gentle shaking of a disagreeing head.
Everyone's morning ritual came to an abrupt halt, however, when they saw a lone black figure peaking over the hill and heading straight for them, shouting frantically."It's here! It's here!! Everyone!!"
The lone black figure was one of the perimeter scouts keeping a watchful eye for the Ebon Scourge, and no sooner did he collapse his spyglass did Gelathorn raise his sword and thrust it forward, rallying the troops that all gathered behind the tattered ballista. With a mighty heave, they worked to angle the ballista, using the sand dunes as their prop. Sure enough, cresting one of the mesas, was Yogregoriondiolaguvin, the Ebon Vessel, itself, massive and mighty, chasing Alanishaudalin who had been darting to and fro, keeping its attention while also leading it towards the ambush. Just before they had reached the barrier, however, a gout of flame caught the blue dragon unaware and caused her to sway, slowing her motion just in time for her to be caught by massive teeth and fiercely bit into.
"No!!!" Shouted Toren, his hand thrust towards the scene of teeth clenching a limp corpse. Just as the fierce titan was to savor their kill, its head breached the invisible dome, revealing the battalion of soldiers previously hidden, and more importantly, the ballista aimed right at it.
The hope of every soldier hung upon that last bolt that launched directly at the creature, and just when it was about to connect, the Ebon Vessel curled their wings with intent to roll away. In her last moment, however, Alanishaudalin tensed her upper body and came to drag her claws over its lip...A distracting enough lash to cause it to flinch just long enough for the bolt to launch into the junction of wing and hide, and more importantly, topple it towards the sands below.Now was their moment to take back what little ground they could recover.
by Phase Runner
No sooner did the beast land were the soldiers upon it like ants to discarded food, swarming and attacking with desperation, their worn swords and cracked spears stabbing recklessly towards its flank and hide. The moment where it was dazed and trying to stand were vital, and with fervor they took advantage of their time to attack, slinging rope across its gnarled wings and stabbing at the scaled hide to wound and rend. Quickly wheeling a cart, stuffed with black powder and whatever shrapnel was gathered from broken arrowheads and splintered armor shards, to its face, Knalalumper lit the fuse to his ramshackle, spur-of-the-moment cannon. A temporary hiss followed by an abrupt Bang! was the punctuation mark on the opening gambit, covering the visage in soot, metal, and a mighty plume of smoke that followed its rearing bellow, as well as slinging the Gnome back from the sheer recoil, tossing him into a gnome shaped crater just behind.
It was only wounded, however, stunned and eager for retribution, goading it to unfurl its shredded wings and throw off the bindings that had been slung over its shoulders. Soldiers were tossed into the air, joined by geysers of sand as the beast rose a powerful hand and slammed it into the dunes, with others thrown by its long, serpentine tail whipping from one side to the other.
From its mouth a whispy, verdant smoke roiled, summoned by its bloating neck that glowed a noxious emerald. Memories of that fateful day so many months ago were reflected in Toren's wide-eyed stare...How he rode away only to see his home destroyed, and no doubt his wife with it. How the dragon who saved him was killed between those teeth naught but minutes ago. How quickly it devastated his once peaceful life. He was stunned, frozen in fear, too terrified to deny his fate of being burned with the rest of the soldiers, when from horse back galloped Relomas, speeding towards him and snatching him at the last moment, pulling him into the saddle as the flames licked at their hooves. In its wake, the soldiers caught were disintegrated...No burning, simply armor turning to dust and their flesh soon with it. Before any yells of agony could be released into the air, they were already skeletons, and shortly thereafter, ash. It was a harrowing sight, but one they could not dwell on."Hold on tight, Toren! Do you still have that sword?"
From his cloak he unfurled the blade, its faint shimmer casting a dim glow even against the midday sun. Relomas whipped the horse once more, turning it about to head towards Gelathorn and his unit that were harassing the beast's face. The commander was certain to spot the horse speeding towards him, and with his eyes spotting the weapon, he pointed thrust his spear into the sky, shouting above the din of battle,"On its back! Stab it Toren!! Right into its skull!!"
With a nod and a slow, shaky stand on the stand, he readied himself as Relomas rode closer and closer, and just when the titan slammed down to smash his stomach onto the sands, Toren leapt onto his back, clinging onto one of its vertebrae spikes, hanging on for dear life. Like the last leaf in a whirling tempest, his body was jerked with the sudden movements, but in short order the vile creature steadied, readying for another devastating cone of life ending mayhem. It was here that Toren had the best view of the landscape and the battleground that lay before him. Wide, frightened eyes, staring into the throat of the beast, mirrored his own concern, though they had no Relomas to save them. They were doomed. At least until the gravely, booming shout of Gelathorn woke him from his awe."Now! End this!!"
And with his hand clutching the blade, he thrust it downwards, and true to its mythos, it was able to pierce even the steel-like hide of the monstrosity, plunging through its skull and whatever vile thoughts lay beneath.
A rumble emerged from its throat, far more preferred than the breath it was soon to unleash, as it rolled forwards and slumped into the sand, sending a spray of desert as its outline was printed into the dunes below.
There was silence, not out of contemplation of victory or otherwise, but what this meant. Could titans be killed? Was this a turning point? A victory after nearly a year of suffering? The casualties were many and their forces thinned, but surely it was worth it?
"For all that is just!!!"
This was the cry that echoed the desert, joined by the relief filled 'Hooah!' of soldiers raising their swords, spears, and bows. Gillibee and Knalalumper threw their arms around one another. Vigo and Lalia joined in the dogpile as they leapt on top of Moro, laughing at how lucky they had been. Even Lobir, wistfully sighing another death unfortunately dodged, was picked up and swung around by some hearty survivors, much to his grumbling of,"Keep my feet on the ground!" But if these were the cries and cheers heard around the desert?
The ominous bellowing laughter that filled the air, seeming to come from nowhere and everywhere all at once, was the dreadful chuckle heard all around the world.