Greetings! It's been a long time since I updated this blog and, after a lot of changes, the new story direction may finally be forming. I do hope you'll stick around to see this story grow into something more complete, but for now we pick up a few chapters in as Niiko is beginning her journey into a new and dangerous world...
“Bring it down!”
The voice drifted across the fields as Niiko crested the hill, the scene ahead unfolding before her eyes.
A small city, walled all the way around by a crude barrier of masonry and debris, most likely the remains of the destroyed city limits that surrounded what was left, stood by the sea. Outside its walls lay an army of undead warriors, bearing down on the defenders – a hundred men or so, dressed in mismatched armour standing in an arc around the main gates – and the back seat generals shouted angrily from atop their solid wall.
“By the gods, bring that fucking thing down!” One of the generals was pointing to a large mass wading through the undead ranks.
The massive creature was pouring itself through the horde of undead warriors, kicking the unfortunate ones out of its way in its merciless quest to reach the city gates. It was a three-metre-tall bulk of rotting scales, huge legs of torn flesh and exposed muscle carried it inexorably forward, its titanic arms covered by rusted plate armour and almost dragged through the mud.
The titan threw back the long snout of its reptilian head and let out a blood curdling shriek, showing the enormity of its gaping maw and the rows of sharp, jagged yellow teeth that lay inside.
But that shriek. Niiko could still feel it rattling around inside her skull and she brought her hands uselessly up to the sides of her head, a futile gesture that offered no help in warding off the pain.
“Not now,” she whispered into the wind.
Yes, now, the horribly familiar voice rasped from within.
“It's charging! The goddamn thing is charging!”
The voice seemed to be in another world as Niiko's vision began to fade into an orangey-red filter, her eyes fading from the combination of one dark red and one ice blue, to unified black eyeballs with the irises pigmented white.
She knew this day would come but would her training finally pay off? Would she be able to control the inner demon or be lost to its wrath?
She would have to find a way to control it soon, as the demon had already catapulted her from the hilltop perch into the path of the undead titan.
“Who the-” the general began, the shock cutting him off and rendering him speechless.
The flame-haired girl had seemingly flown into the fray, creating a small crater that erupted in showers of mud and water between the valiant defenders of Leynas and the incoming torrent of the undead.
The massive creature had also been taken aback, skidding to a halt before this new threat – or at least what the general hoped to be a new threat – as a wave of muddy rubble leapt up from the ground before its massive, taloned feet.
Everything seemed to slow down, time itself forming an odd frozen image in the rainy evening as both sides tried to make sense of this new development.
Niiko felt herself reaching for her weapons, the familiar weight of the curved scimitar in her left hand, counterbalanced by the short hand axe in her right.
That was a good sign. She knew it meant the demon's control was slipping, that her strength was returning and she could begin to use the power for her own ends.
In unison, both sides of the battle let go cries of wrath and the behemoth shrieked again. At the same time, Niiko's own scream of fury sounded in the hissing rain as the mismatched blades swirled around her.
She glared at the oncoming mass of torn scale and muscle, its feet now pounding at the soil as it resumed its charge.
By the gods, she was scared.
But by the gods, she was not going to show it.
General Alvaro watched from the battlements, his mouth agape as this young woman leapt at the colossal reptile charging toward her.
Her axe buried itself in the creature's face, the girl clinging to it and swung herself around, wrapping her legs around its long neck for purchase as she dug the curved blade of her sword into the reptile's side.
The titan ground to a halt, a piercing howl ringing out as the red-head's attack continued, the clawed hands now swinging uselessly upward as it tried to strike down this new opponent.
Niiko grunted as she fought to avoid the swinging claws, all the while still trying to jab the sword into various areas of the torso in an attempt to find the titan's heart and bring it down for good.
It was a common misconception that the undead could be killed merely by removing the head, Kross had taught her, but the reality was that the heart would regenerate any lost body part – including regrowing an entire head!
This thing's heart was buried somewhere very deep within the torso, its massive bulk possibly proving too big for her relatively short blade.
She may require assistance.
The undead had begun to swarm around the hulking beast and headed toward the waiting defence force, straight at the vulnerable gates of Leynas. Rotting, pale green flesh hung limply from grinning skulls, the angry red of exposed muscle and sinew stood out on arms, legs and chests, barely covered by pieces of shredded cloth or rusted armour plates – all speaking of past lives now forever lost to the Great Void.
Jin was terrified that he would never see his family again, but that only prompted him to realise that if he did not make it, chances were that his family would not last much longer once the hordes burst through into the city proper.
This spurred him on, renewing the fury inside. The fiery stranger now attacking the titan rejuvenated his courage and he charged, screaming as loud as his lungs allowed.
Blades cut screaming arcs through rotting flesh, hissing faces of dead things rose and fell around him as dark blood sprayed across his dull armour. Steel rang against steel as some of the fiends brought weapons into the battle, human screams of pain and death were drowned out by the roars of those that fought on.
Another scream of agony ripped into the rainy night as another of the girl's stabs hit home, causing the undead ranks to buckle in confusion as their leader – or at least their beacon of strength – began to falter.
That last stab had caught something, the power surging through her offered her a glimpse into the “vision” of her weapons, a connection that allowed her to feel an enemy's weakness more keenly.
The scimitar's tip had punctured the titan's heart slightly, causing it to buck and twist in fear and pain, loosening the axe's grip in the scaly neck.
Suddenly it gave completely and Niiko was thrown to the floor, landing awkwardly on her back and knocking the air from her lungs, her head filling with brightness as her head snapped back and hit the floor.
The titan let go a furious shriek and raised a foot in order to squash Niiko. Her vision returned in a blur, seeing just enough to realise this shadow above her was ready to crush the life from her.
She rolled quickly onto her front as the clawed foot shook the muddy ground where she had just lay. Roaring in frustration, the beast readied a clawed fist but Niiko was ready and whipped the axe through the air, sending it thudding into the reptile's jaw. It whimpered as it reeled from this fresh pain and Niiko seized the opportunity this opening had afforded her.
Climbing quickly to her feet, she screamed in boundless fury and leapt at the exposed chest of the titan, both hands wrapped around the hilt of the scimitar as she drove it into the heart of the beast.
It fell backward almost instantly, landing dead on its back as Niiko stood, breathing heavily, on the scaled chest.
Jin felt the force of the monster's fall, a small shockwave sending up chunks of dirt and fallen stone from the ruins surrounding Leynas.
The effect was staggering. The undead footsoldiers instantly reacted to the giant's demise, some fleeing instantly into the Dead Forest to the east while some simply stood and stared in disbelief at the corpse.
They did not stand for long.
Jin ran the last one through with his dagger after splitting its head with his halberd, then turned to survey the battlefield.
The more unaffected men scoured the field for surviving undead, plunging spears or swords through their hearts to keep them from rising to kill again. Some battle-weary soldiers tended to the wounded humans, pulling them to the safety of the keep now that the doors were being opened, heavily armoured guards of General Alvaro had been sent down to defend against any desperate attacks.
Jin found himself drawn to the young woman stood by the corpse of the titan.
“Thank you,” he said softly, before driving the tip of his halberd through an undead survivor by his feet.
“General Alvaro,” the young soldier stood to attention before his commanding officer, clearly wincing as he did so.
General Alvaro was a tall, sturdy man of sixty years. His rapidly-greying hair swept back gracefully over his head, leaving his face to be framed only by his black and grey beard, notched slightly on one cheek by an almighty scar that reached up just below his eye.
“You're injured, son,” Alvaro replied as he moved to aid the young man.
“I'm okay sir, I came to report our victory at the gates.” The young soldier tried to wave away Alvaro's aid but he would not hear of it.
“Good job...” Alvaro tilted his head slightly, pausing.
“Ralma, sir,” came the reply after a brief, awkward silence.
“Good job Ralma,” Alvaro threw his arm under Ralma's armpit to keep him upright. “Now let's get you to a medic."
“Who are you?” The blood-spattered guardsman had asked after thanking her.
She found herself staring at the floor, not knowing what to say.
What do you say to somebody after you have just waded into a war zone, as a complete stranger, and taken down an undead titan without blinking an eye?
What can you say?
“Are you injured?” the soldier pressed, somehow not willing to accept her silence as an answer.
“No,” Niiko whispered at length, still not taking her eyes away from the floor.
“How did you do that?” he nodded toward the giant corpse at her feet.
Another silent reply. She at least looked him in the eye now.
He took a step back. “What happened to your eyes?”
For a moment she took in his features, the faint blonde stubble speckled with dark blood, the strong jaw strangely at odds with his thin face, his narrow eyes suggesting he was native to this area even before the scourge of the undead Blighted had ravaged the land.
She found herself beginning to smile, her vision returning to the darkness of the night as the rain began to fall away.
“Name's Jin,” the bloodied man offered as he extended his hand.
“I... I need to lie down,” Niiko's words began to slur, her legs wobbling beneath her as the surge of power left her body.
The last thing she remembered was Jin's arm reaching out as she fell to the floor.
Copyright © G. Bailey 2010