The Den Games Network Forum RPG
virtualoctopus, CKW, Wesforce, Nyerguds
All the members of the magical council were already well-versed in ritual sorcery, either hermetic or shamanic. But something on the scale they were attempting now had never been attempted in human memory. It was only with the help of the one claiming to be Dunkelzahn in human form that they would ever be able to perform such a feat, or even calculate the formulae.
Because of the overlapping magical styles, neither the shamans or mages got the upper hand in the process - They defaulted to Dunkelzahn's tutelage.
A huge, arcane circle was painted somewhat hastily around the circumference of the inner ring of the room, inscribed with sigils and symbols that not even the world's top human magical theoreticians fully understood.
"Luckily I had all this mystic circle paint with my luggage. 'Big D' brand of course, none of that atrocious WES gloop." The Dragon in man's form joked.
Renwu understood why such a figure could become such an object of derision among Dragons, but one of adoration among humans. The dragon-groupies, at least.
The circle took half an hour to set up, with the ritual materials placed around it in equal intervals, as well as the various mages or shamans. Dunkelzahn then took a good fifteen minutes to explain to the others in a condescending but amusing manner how exactly the ritual should take place.
And then he went for the door, flanked by his men in black.
"Wait! Where are you going? Are you not going to perfrom the ritual with us?" Shouted Weissmuller.
"Typical." Snorted Watanabe. "Condescend to the humans, and watch from the sidelines as they jump through your hoops."
"My dear Miko," The D replied. "I guarantee you this will work. I have nothing to gain by your failure. If not, I'll buy you dinner with me at the Terganon Hilton." He winked.
Watanabe said nothing, but turned very, very red.
"But as you well know, I am needed elsewhere. I ask you all to perform the ritual as we planned. I have left a ritual link to my person in the circle, and I will channel power into that as I go. And go I must - I'm needed out there as much as I am in here. Goodbye, little friends."
And with that, he was gone, a Dragon with a mission.
"What a guy." Simpered Lonsdale.
DeadEye was alone. After Parker's remaining mercs had been ripped to shreds by the demon horde Peter had been left by himself out in the tundra. He didn't know whether he was welcome at the MUNDI HQ or not. He decided there would be a better chance of mercy with MUNDI than with the demons. Peter tensed his muscles and then sprang from his hiding spot and ran, stumbling, towards the MUNDI front line! A few nearby demons gave chase but halted after they realised that they couldn't catch him before exposing themselves to MUNDI crossfire. Peter was panting long before he reached the MUNDI trenches, the effort of running while essentially blind was exhausting. He never knew whether each foot step would end with his foot caught in a tiny crater and trip him over. As he approached the MUNDI lines an articulate voice called out.
"Halt there old bean. State your name, rank and purpose please."
Peter held his SA-126 up in the air and replied, shouting.
"Peter Stephenson, no rank and asylum for the monsters out there."
The voice replied.
"Aren't you the chap who disposed of that second group of mercs?"
Peter nodded slowly.
"Well well, roll out the welcome mat! This Peter Stephenson is now an offical guest of MUNDI! Come on in!"
As Peter cautiously walked up to the MUNDI gates he was met by a familiar face. The MUNDI sniper. The man held out his hand and said.
"Pleasure to meet you. I am Winston. You are?
The sun rose in the sooty sky the next morning. Heavy geneva rain had began to fall, pattering in the earthworks and off fortified buildings.
Soldiers waited, squatted in fortifications and buildings, everything that MUNDI, The Catholic Crusade, and AET, IWS and Vladistok, the three fastest-deployed corporations, had provided. They weren't enough.
Cairns would have wanted more. Lots more. By the current guestimate, they would be outnumbered at least three to one, even up to five-to-one if they were unlucky.
A couple of panzers, the ones not committed to the armoured hammer to strike the daemons agaisnt the anvil for fortifications, buzzed low in the sky. The flying tanks were only here to make this look like the remains of the army that had been attacking the daemons before - in case any observant daemon was watching.
Along the stretch between MUNDI hq and the convention centre, an air of forboding hung with the fog. Filtering yellow light gave the scene a slightly unearthly feel, and time wore on on faceless clocks, as the sunrise became morning.
Dunklezahn, Cairns, Holsten, the three corp generals, and Inquisitor Emmanuel had made a command post in the now empty Geneva General Hospital, where the bone dragon had once fought the vladistok drakes on the huge concrete roof. It was situated just behind the middle of the line, and it would obviously be where the daemons would be headed. As such, defences around it were much thicker than the rest of the line. Cairns stood in what was once a ward, together with Dunklezahn, and Itos, the draconion vladistok general. Cairns didn't like dragons, especially in human form, and liked Dunklezahn even less, but it was necessary for the plan.
All they had to do was wait now.
In the distance, towards the pulsing orange light of the dome, clouds were gathering. Cairns knew they weren't storm clouds.
They were daemons.
The horde was gathering, an almost unstoppable tide. In a few hours, it would most likely attack.
They would be ready.
"Inquisitor... I have something to tell about the Crusader armada before you realise it by yourself."
Emmanuel gasped. Cairns attention was withdrawn.
"These men are not the best because or their combat skills. They have somewhat a "group heal" that helps to cure light wounds and prevents exhaustion for a time..."
He lowered his head.
"A pity the group healing does not work with already dead people... And it weakens throughout the battle..."
Only few people knew this. And Emmanuel had trusted Cairns...
"Anyway. My men need me. I need to go down there."
And Emmanuel left the command Centre.
"We have arrived. We made it." Eva looked at the dropship. It had suffered too much. And it was taken to a repair bay, to get fixed.
Behemoth looked at the skies. Darkness. Contamination.
"So... what will do we do know?" Hammerwing asked.
"Well. We are on vacations, no? I say we split and enjoy our stay." Mist Lotus cheered.
Behemoth and Hammerwing nodded, and headed for the nearest bar, to get drunk till their livers bursted. Mist Lotus went to investigate the guided visits of London...
And Eva... called Wolf.
Illidia stopped crying when the phone rang.
"Allo?" Nick spoke in the Vidphone
"Hello, Wolf, how are you?"
"Eva?" His face was now a puzzle.
"We have arrived at London. We were seeking for you. We must reunite."
Wolf stood a while...
"Hmm... It is a pretty bad time to say it. Meet me at Warehouse 34. We will speak there."
And the vidphone image faded out.
"Look, Varos. We almost have arrived."
Varos leaned out the window.
"These lights...looks like the land is on fire... the Fire of Life..."
She spoke. Just a few minutes, and they would arrive at their destination. The Concorde had been a fast way, indeed.
The members of the magical council sat down at their appointed positiions on the arcane circle, as nervous aides and assistants looked-on. For once putting aside their differences long enough to work together, the Mages and Shamans began chanting, activating their focus materials, beginning to infuse the circle with magical energy. Even to those without astral sight, it was as if the air itself was becoming charged. Hairs prickled on the backs of necks. Loose items began to move around of their own accord. The voices raised, across the room, becoming one consistent chant, gainining in volume each passing moment.
Renwu allowed himself a fleeting moment to think, before the magical circle he was part of became too powerful to allo9w his concentration to slip so:
Incredible. I've never before seen ritual magic on such a scale - 25 of the most powerful magicians in the world! We'd better hope the Wyrms i right about this. Maybe we shouldn't leave so much to him...
At the edges of the room, at the huge doors joining to the circumference corridor, Bodyguards turned a nervous (cyber) eye to the proceedings, but kep themselves to the task at hand - Protecting the magaicians from any would-be intruders.
Lo and Behold, because one was coming to meet them just at this moment...
The APC screeched to a halt all to soon for Zizz.
"UP! UP! Get your fragging arse moving, green-boy!" Yelled the Sergeant Major. One of the other solder's made a gesture behind the man's back, which Zizz caught, raising his spirits some.
Walking down the vehicle's rear ramp, Zizz' bare feet hit cold plascrete and he was ushered into a tent that had been set up on the lawn of a government building where a board of Military Mages checked him over. He was cleared with admirable speed, and then was moved into another tent where he had to sift through a whole managerie of electronic documents, saying that his car and clothes would be compensated for (probably a few years, given the government's legendary bureacracy, divided by the sum total of Corp spanners and illegal Deckers in the works).
And then he was kicked out, simply prodded from the tent by men with guns, back into the wild, weird world. This was a part of London recovering from the night's mayhem. Still relatively few people and vehicles were on the streets, but those braving the checkpoints were increasing as the day wore on and order was restored. Zizz had seen robotaxis humming past when he noticed someone else get discharged from the tent - clearing ground at the same time, also barfoot, wearing only the disposable clothes they'd been given.
Deadeye, despite not being MUNDI personnel, was hastily thrown into the front lines with a flimsy promise of payment from a Mid-level MUNDI officer. All that mattered to them was: He was a man with a rifle, and he could use it.
He fetched up where Winston had led him - To Special Forces Unit 15.
The very people he'd been trying to kill, minutes earlier. Fate has a screwed-up sense of humour - Stephenson knew that all too well - The circumstances that had led him here, for insyance, or when he'd tried to save that woman...
He blocked the memories by trying to help the Special Forces men hump the sandnags around as best he could given his very limited senses. Heavy engines could be heard behind him.
Some of the crazy Catholic Empire fraggers were gunning heavy bike engines, making the MUNDI men wonder what they were planning - They hadn't been told. But soldiers often weren't given the whole picture. And the men returned to their tasks.
It was almost noon. The low rumblings of thunder could be heard in the distance - it would obviously be raining here soon.
The fortifications were still dark from the heavy cloud cover, and the air crackled with a pent-up anger, which the coming storm would unleash. Somehow Cairns thought this weather must be somehow affected by the daemons, the buildup only playing on soldier's nerves.
Cairns hoped they wouldn't be kept waiting any longer.
At six minutes past six, the first raindrops began to fall. Sloshing into trenches, across the abandoned dual-level Genevan 27th expressway, and onto the tower-blocks lining it. Soldiers watched the brown earth turn to mud.
Cairns stood watching from the viewpoint of the Genevan hospital. The clouds of daemonkind were moving this way, as the storm began.
They were attacking. This was it.
The first wave of daemons, mostly smaller, faster creatures with scythe-like claws and gaping maws for mouths broke against the defences. Bursts of machine-gun fire, screams, and a couple of explosions met them, the soldiers entrenched in the expressway cutting them down like corn at harvest. The catholics watched and waited from behind, ready to step in when this first line of defence was overwhelmed.
It would be. Very soon.
Rayi stood next to Cairns, along with the dwarf Holmer and a few other people she did not recognise. She wasn't sure if the catholic inquisitor was down there or not. She hadn't seen him, but she hadn't looked for him either.
"By the light!" she yelled a loud by accident. "T-their hideous!"
She must have sounded like a scared little girl to the others, if they had even noticed her. She didn't want to look away to see their facial expressions, yet she didn't want to look at the disgusting things that had appeared below. She'd have nightmares for weeks just on these first images of destruction, who knew what her reaction would be when the fighting really started?
"Aye...." the dwarf at the right hand side of Cairns said. "All the more so when ah git to stick me hammer in their face!"
Cairns said nothing, he followed the battle carefully. She could see he wanted to be down there fighting, as did the dwarf. Was she the only one with sanity left? She wanted to be as far away from these things as possible! Just the thought of one touching her skin....she shivered.
Fortunately for her stomach, this round of Daemons brought little bloodshed, although their were Daemon guts flying everywhere, most of them were just shot up. But she had the feeling that the fighting would get a lot more gruesome as the bigger ones came.
While outside, everybody was working on the defenses, two people in the makeshift hospital were in a deep trance, trying to find and communicate with the spirit of the Mantis shaman. Unconcious shamans were known to accidently perform astral projection. In normal circumstances there was not much wrong with that, but here in Geneva that could be very dangerous.
Korum heard Mako's voice in his head.
"She is still where she should be... it is safe to lock her in for now."
They performed the spell to put a barrier around her... not to protect her from alien spirits, but to lock her own spirit safely inside her body. The effect was the same, but this was much easier. They just hoped she would understand what they had done when she woke up.
"You know..." Korum said to his ally spirit. "You are not that different from the Bear spirits I normally meet.
As much as you were looking for me, I was looking for you. But you knew that, didn't you?
"Yes, I did... in some way..."
I needed a suitable host, one worthy of my assistance. Us Manitous do resemble animal spirits in a way, and perfer the presence of similar minds. Mako even addresses his ally spirit as Shark.
"He does? Really?"
Yes. It is easier to identify us that way... I am indeed not too unlike the Bear Spirits roaming this old Earth. You can call me Bear if you want... I do not mind.
"Shark seems to have left..."
He has, for now... but he will return when he is needed.
Mako's ally spirit didn't stay away for long.
IT IS TIME. he said.
"Time for what?" Korum asked.
You know for what. We must go. Bear answered. We must find them.
"The Iotui... he found them."
No... he only found their scout... the Spy, as they call him. The same being we saw earlier today.
Mako and Korum's astral projections left the room, and went outside, following Shark. They could see the strong signatures of the different kinds of mages working there, and felt the magic of the Barrier that was being made.
"We have to get back before they complete it... the daemons will go berserk when they notice their reinforcements are cut off."
Do not worry about that. We will. The Bear is a calm, patient animal. A fierce opponent when angered, but strong even when he's not. So are we, Korum.We are the Bear. We travel with the speed of thought, so we can go back any moment. Now, we must be patient.
"I think not!" Korum said. Before them came the first wave of the Daemons, on their way to the MUNDI defenses. They were spirits, without physical form, but they traveled slowly to let the others protect them.
Move away! Some of them will come after us... no reason to provoke them. Shark! Keep tracking the Spy. Now is not the time to be distracted.
Shark's astral form moved on. The Manitous were no threat to the Daemons anyway; they were similar spirits the Daemons did not identify as enemies.
And they weren't - not directly anyway. Even in astral space they had to channel their power through the Shamans to use it.
Shark stopped. A small group of Daemons was surounding them... there was no way the two human spirits were able to avoid them.
"Let's kill some Daemons!" Mako growled.
"I Couldn't agree more." Korum replied.
They felt the power of their allies being channeled to them. This somehow confused the Daemons, since they were unable to identify the 'traitors' as enemies.
Now! Shark shouted.
Mako and Korum had built up an astral shape resembling their Totem, and attacked the spirits with the purest willpower they had. It were not the astral resemblances of claws and teeth that ripped the daemons to shreds... it was their pure faith in the fact that the astral resemblances were real.
The daemons disappeared... their astral presence was destroyed, and all that was left was the mana they were made of. But that was quickly absorbed by other, neural spirits roaming Geneva.
"Mana thieves... Free mana thieves?"
Yes... the spirits the Emantui created to collect Mana for them. Like the Iotui and many other spirits, they are free now; the power of the Rift affected them too, and gave them the power to break free. But the Daemons can easily create more of them.
The astral journey went on.
"Found him." Mako said.
"The Spy?" Korum replied.
"No... I think it's another one... but it is one of them."
The Flier... This one will be easier to persuade, but has less influence on the leader than the Spy. It might be more dangerous though... and we can't help you with this. We can give you strength to assist you in battle, but not to negotiate. Choose your words carefully, Korum... and don't attack, whatever happens.
Shark was getting impatient, with Mako, however.
Better get moving, land-creature! The alien fraggers are coming, and Shark wants a bite!
IT IS TIME.
The voice was heard by the entire magical council, their voices rising to a crescendo, and they all knew it was Dunkelzahn. The voice filled them with a kind of euphoria, as if they never knew Dunkelzahn was capable of the magic he was channeling into their ritual.
A strange thing was happeing at the Astral Rift.
A shimmering lattice of green astral lines was being knitetd together just over the surface of the rift. The glowing bands quickly surrounded the circumference of the dome. A Lesser daemon was knocked flying by one as it strayed into its path.
Dragon magic. Stinking Dragons! I HATE THEM! Was the constant roar in the Red Knight's mind, already rage-filled as it was.
Time to make them pay once and for all. MAKE THEM PAY!
Instantly, all the 'Knight's cohorts began chanting that, as they formed into chaotic lines and began stomping towards the Two buildings, surrounded by the desperate humans.
MAKE THEM PAY! MAKE THEM PAY!
The Jester flitted around between them, chittering insanely.
"Make them pay! HEHEHEHEHE! Make them payyyyyy!"
One moment they had been advancing steadliy towards the unorganised masses of daemons, their Riggers crushing them under tracks with their machine-will, firing thousands of rounds of Autocannon shells into the horde. They had even made advances, ready to link up with the defenders of the two buildings.
The next moment - Chaos.
Two Lobo Panzers were shot from the sky, exploding after being transfixed by arrows the size of javelins, glowing with magical energy. The flaming wrecks crashed to the ground, forcing their squadronmates to scatter.
In the next few seconds the tide of Daemons literally turned. Before anyon knew what was happeing, Several tanks and APCs were burning, not respoding to commands.
"Fall back! Fall back!" The Commander of the 13th MUNDI Mechanize Attack brigade ordered, using his Brigade Battletac net.
"Regroup at the HQ defence line. 4th Battalion, cover for us, over."
The fourth battaion were Mounted Infantry, equipped with Janus combat drones.
Maybe they'll have a better chance than we had.
The commander thought, tasting the bitter tang of defeat he'd never known before, trying not to think about the deaths he'd ordered upon those men.
Tanks can't hurt them. What can? He pondered, remembering the amazingly few losses the Daemons suffered to vehicle fire.
As the Remains of the brigade powered back towards MUNDI lines, the fourth battalion disounted from their vehicles, the Daemons closing inexorably.
LMGs and Assault rifles chattered, streams of tracers from 300+ men converged on the approaching horde. It was stalled for a moment - But only a moment. The prancing, gibbering forms were upon the men, swarming over the troopers, killing those who hadn't managed to attach bayonets. Here and there, using close-combat weapons, men managed to hold the swarms at bay, grouping together in defensive squares using centuries old tactics.
The Daemons swarmed over the ineffectual IFVs, killing those within. The drones they ignored, simply killing the rigger operators in the IFVs.
"Smell of Battle... Near here." Mawroth groaned.
The Vladivostok direct flight was leading him towards the centre of the heated battle.
Dunkelzahn. That rookie. What the hell was doing in Geneva? Fighting Daemons... with LESSER RACE ALLIES? That was a nonsense. That first Class Hell Knight rookie was almost as insane as the Prince Roszondas.
"Crew, I will make an stop here. Surround the area, and try to not be seen. Talon, Ergez, come with me!"
Two lesser silver dragons (Hell Knights of second class) nodded and, with their respective plates, escorted Mawroth to the rear of the cargo plane. As soon as the hatch opened, the three dragons headed towards the made up MUNDI HQ. The voice of Mawroth searched Dunkelzahnīs mind.
"Captain? Captain Mawroth?" Dunkelzahn asked. No one replied.
The alarms triggered off.
"Three flying objects within the secured perimeter... Waiting for ID..."
A few seconds later, the radio shouted.
"Three dragons... maybe of a brood not seen till the day of today... Approaching. Do I order to attack?"
Emmanuel thought coldly. Daemons were approaching. The Crusaders would hold them... but at a high price. Yet he had a hope. He had the feeling... as if someone tipped about it, that Daemons were weak to healing magic. Hope that the healing ability of the crusaders could scratch a little more damage on these beasts.
"Alea Jacta Est!"
Why is it alone? The Iotui are a team... they're pretty much powerless alone.
"Mako... you go find the four hunters. They will most probably stick together. Don't kill them... whatever you do, DON'T KILL ANY OF THEM! We need the entire team! But make sure they know you can. It should gain you their respect. I'll handle this one."
Korum carefully approached the Flier.
Inside the hideous bat-like astral shape he could see something... a small human presence, afraid and confused... and then, it recognised him.
"Shaman..." Korum heard. It was a ghostly voice... a female voice.
The Flier smiled. "So... you came back too, then?"
"I did... and I seek for your assistance."
"Like last time?"
Careful now, Korum he thought to himself.
"Quite like last time. But more careful. My ancestors were careless, and I know it cost you your freedom... but we learn from our mistakes."
"That's a good thing..."
"The situation is quite different now... the Rift will be sealed soon. We ask you, and the other Iotui for help to stop the Daemons from destroying us now. We shall not attempt to perform any spells to send them back. This time, we will destroy them, or die trying."
"I like you... Shaman. But why should I help you?"
"You know the answer to that question. I can see it... inside you."
The Flier looked sad. "You can? You can see me?"
"Yes... you want that freedom back, don't you? Not the freedom you have now, but the real freedom... to join the spirits that crossed the astral space, like you deserve. Finally rest..."
"NOO!!! Why would I want that?! I want to live, you hear me? LIVE!! Not be dead... why would I want to be dead... I don't want that..."
The astral form looked even sadder now, sobbing about her own misery. She didn't want to live like this, but she didn't want to die either.
This will be hard... Let's hope Mako's task will be easier. And let's hope he doesn't kill any of them. We need the entire team.
"You know that's not an option..."
"I was sixteen! I still remember... the day... No, I don't... I don't remember! I DON'T EVEN REMEMBER WHAT I LOOKED LIKE!!!"
Flier started crying... a howling cry echoing through the astral space.
"I can't make you return..." Korum replied. "But I can help you remember."
She stopped crying. The astral form raised its head and looked at Korum. She looked happy; somehow relieved... hopeful, for the first time in many centuries.
"You can? You really can? Oh... I'd be so grateful if you could..."
Woah... I'm gonna play shrink for an Iotui.... this is so surreal. But I could help her... it's been a while since I've done this, but Spirit memories are one of the strong points of the Bear... part of the patience. I should ask an Elephant shaman for this, but she trusts me now.
"Good... just calm down, and look inside yourself... deep inside yourself... through the Daemonic layer that's trapping you. I know it will be hard, but don't worry. I will be there, every step of the way."
There are powerful spirits out there, Chance... The Iotui...
The wolf began, promptly cut off by Chance.
No time for that buddy... We've a lot more immediate problems headed our way!
The soldier was standing on the 3rd floor of the Special Forces commandeered building, together with the two snipers, Winston and DeadEye. Both of the men were cracking off occasional shots... not at the daemons, but at artillery shells buried nose-up in the smashed concrete of the expressway. Out of proximity fuzes for some of the booby traps, demomen had to rely on snipers to hit and fire the big shells.
The first wave of daemon had already run over and suffered from these mines... but more came, crashing against the front of steel put up by MUNDI infantrymen. Positioned right in the front defence lines were large formations of MUNDI machinegunners and grenadiers, each one provided with a massive pavise that they had shoved into the ground in front of them, resting their heavy weapons on top as they fired like bomber gunners in World War 2 air movies, slewing weapons left and right, their tracers continous.
But the daemons kept coming... the small amount of willpower left in the bullets enable to cause more than minor wounds. The front daemons were suddenly amongst the machinegunners... and the slaughter began in earnest.
Desperate MUNDI gunners went down in droves, cut down behind their shields as daemons leapt over them, claws swiping in deadly arcs that sliced open blue armour, helmets and mirrored faceplates alike with ease. More went under the heels of daemons that gleefully held the men and women down in the pouring rain and drowned them in the muck. Zombies, too many of them clad in MUNDI blue, pulled themselves out of the mud after their deaths, their jerky, uncoordinated movement betraying their unholy origins, many still physically crying from their painful deaths but bent to daemon-will by the spirits that had possessed them.
In response, the Catholics started a countercharge at the point where MUNDI lines had been breached... The Special Forces troops hunkered in their building as armoured crusaders ran past in the trenches dug alongside the house, headed for the front. The Christians wore can-style helmets with their characteristic crusader crosses forming up the eye and nose gaps and/or standing on the decorated prows of their crowns. It was surreal... as if someone decided to splice a re-enactment of Middle Ages conflict, Gulf War 3, and a horror show together... swords, axes and shields mingling with assault rifles, Panzers and daemons.
The Catholics went in there with a gutso... the shiny (now mud-splattered) armour glinting in the rain as swords and axes swung and chopped. The Daemons were initally taken by surprise, but responded quickly enough... crusaders soon falling to join the MUNDI troops scattered on the ground, and subsequently the zombies.
The Catholic inquisitor, standing up front amongst his crusaders, was suddenly the center of a mana-blast, Chance suddenly shocked that he could actually see the magic in action now... In response, daemons around him reeled... blood spouting from multiple wounds. It was supposed to be healing magic... but apparently it worked the other way on the daemons. However, the wounds were minor, only slowing down the daemons as they continued their mindless attack, battering the armoured lines of the Catholic crusaders.
Chance found himself biting his lips in enticipation... and to his surprise, it was not of apprehension, but from eagerness to jump into the fray. He suddenly understood what his old friend Tank once said, an Ork waxing lyrical about the wonders of bashing heads... that big guy even wrote a (good attempt at a) sonnet on it.
You long for the thrill of battle, don't you? Lupus said. Stay your fangs, Chance... your turn will come soon.
As if the daemons had heard the wolf, a sudden streak of light... like that of an arrow... arced through the air from the rain-hidden mists of the daemons' side and plowed a furrow through the thickest mass of Catholic crusaders and daemon alike.
WHAT?! The Daemons had artillery?
Pieces of fried flesh and shattered armour were still raining down after the blast... nearly twenty crusaders wiped out, their blood still misting in the drowning rain, weapons and armour blown asunder. The daemons surged... crusaders forced to give ground as the hellish beings battered them back and off the highway.
Soon, they were fighting around the buildings and fortifications at the highway's edge, crusaders engaging the daemons into bloody one-on-one fights in the mud of the trenches.
Weapons roared with a gutso as Special Forces men and women blasted the fuzes of a few more buried shells. Beside Chance, Ash slung her flamer... knowing that the close-quarters battle that crusaders, MUNDI and daemons were engaging now meant that the weapon was just too dangerous. She drew her katana, the Japanese sword, its blade tempered by extreme heat, starting to glow and smoke.
Chance extended combat claws... the titanium-alloy hand-to-hand weapons issued to special MUNDI troops having caught his fancy a short while after he gained his new ally spirit.
Just be yourself... The wolf exposed shining canines in a feral grin, an eager enticipation of bloodlust.
And under his mirrored faceplate, Chance did the same.
Go find the four hunters. Mako had been told.
You gonna take orders from that furry Bear-fragger, land-creature? Shark snarled. You gonna let the Land-dwellers boss you aroud? If we were near the sea I'd rip the fragger to pieces.
"We're not near the sea. We've got hunting to do... Hunters to hunt. That good enough for you?" Mako reasoned.
Huh. Shark snorted. But although the arrogant spirit guide didn't show it, he was mollified.
Zipping around the astral, the horrific tear in space that was the rift looming large, Shark aided Mako's tracking prowess, taking trails of emotion as easily as a mundane shark might folow blood. Until -
There, land-creature! I got something. Like a fellow sea-fragging-dweller!
"Right." Mako agreed, heading for what he and his spirit-guide had found.
But time was running out - Shockwaves and bolts rippled through astral space as the Daemons began their assault, on both the physical and the astral. The death-screams of men and women assaulted the senses.
But they were there. Four of them, armoured in crustacean-type segments. They were stooped, ugly creatures, hunched so their eyes and other sense-organs were near the ground.
Ugly fraggers... If they were in my stretch of ocean I'd rip the bastards to pieces!
"You do that to practically everything, anyway."
Shark smiled at Mako.
You're learning, plankton-brain. Now stand sharp.
One of the hunters turned to assense Mako, standing tall for once in all its disgusting height. It had dripping, powerful-looking claws, their mottled surface dripping with some kind of thick venom. One arm was nothing but a ball of pearl-like shell - A club, and a brutal-looking one at that.
Instantly the rest of the four were there, by it's side.
And then Mako's shark-given instincts took over.
Can't take them together.
He circled them, dropping into a combat stance. he had no weapons here, on the astral. He was naked.
Wrong. You have weapons. Shark reminded. Like me, you are a weapon!
The four were hunters, but so was he. They wanted to go for him, and he wanted them on their own.
One of the monsters lunged for him. He sidestepped, darting behind the thing and landing a heavy blow that overbalanced it. At that same instant, the second one swiped its club-arm at his head. Mako dodged it by rolling, and backed off - for now.
Heh, losers. They have no pack tactics, the other two didn't do anything while you were with the others.
"Thanks." Breathed Mako. He darted around the outside as the Four tied to get around him, trying to flank him. But he found he could, if he was fast enough, fight at least two on his own terms.
He darted in, circling the first creature to keep it off-balance, while snapping off a bolt at the second. By now three and four were getting in on the act, but they were seemingly unwilling to get involved with the others. The Hunter that had been hit by the bolt charged in, and Mako dodged back around the first one, jumping over a low claw swipe and landing snap-kick on it's upper torso as he did so.
If this was the real world, the attack by a small man against a creature like this would have been comical. In the astral, the creature was thrown back by the force, with a cracked carapace.
Bring 'em on! Shark roared, and so did Mako.
The Hunter he'd kicked knocked into and tripped the charging hunter behind it. Both collapsed in crash of carapace and tangled heap.
He's down. MOVE IN FOR THE KILL!
Mako charged in - Just in time for three and four to reach him.
Three swiped his midsection with claws - He jumped back, losing his momentum - And got whacked on the shoulder by four's club.
The blow was a sledgehammer - He was knocked to the ground instantly, his legs forced from under him. He couldn't feel the left arm at all, and only pain from the shoulder. He twisted left, on the ground, in as much agony as anything else - And another hammer-blow shattered the ground next to him.
Don't fight when you're outnumbered. Finish off the weakened one first!
Mako leapt to his feet, and ran away from the Hunters, who gave chase, howling in rage. He headed staright for the two who were downed.
They were still trying to get to their feet. He kicked one savagely in the head, smashing it's face in, and knocking it off. This left the original Hunter exposed, prone -
Do this... The old fashoned way.
Mako bent down - And sank his teeth into the thing's jugular. Shell was crushed under his teeth, and he could feel the thing's life-force between his jaws...
Captain Leonard Wellsworth looked at the vidscreen on the bridge of his airbourne carrier, the Red Dawn, and saw hell unleashed. N'Zar had dragged his personal carrier to Geneva to support the Dragon's attempts to destroy the demon threat. The Red Dawn had orders to stay on station and await N'Zar's next commands. Wellsworth saw thousands upon thousands of abominations swarm towards the MUNDI lines, he saw MUNDI throw everything they could into the demon attackers and fail to even slow their advance. Wellsworth shook his head slowly, this was going to be a massacre. He wanted to intervene but N'Zar had made it clear that the Red Dawn was to act only on his orders. Noone, not even the Captain of one of the strongest airbourne carriers in the world, could argue with a dragon of royal blood. The bridge crew were waiting for his next command.
"Take us higher navigation, I don't want to risk taking any stray shots from either side. Call back the defence groups and tell them to make a tighter network. That is all."
Lieutenant Jessica Hayes, the navigation officer, stood up and yelled.
"You're going to leave MUNDI to the demons? Surely you recognise those monsters as a threat to ALL mankind? We
have to support them!"
The Captain replied.
"Be seated Hayes. I know how you feel, I even agree with you in principle, but N'Zar has given explicit orders to remain on station and only engage under his direct command. My orders stand Lieutenant."
The slim woman remained standing defiantly.
"Captain, I will not allow you to toady to a dragon when humanity is at risk. The longer we delay the less chance our intervention will be decisive! We must act now! Unless you act now I'm going to take command and do it myself!"
The captain screamed back at her, spittle flying from his mouth as he yelled.
"Treacherous mutiny! You call yourself an officer?! I'll have you thrown in the brig for that young lady! Sergeant! Take this malcontent to the holding cells. I'm sorry Jessica but this is how it must be done..."
At that point the communications officer stood up and declared.
"If you're punishing Hayes for being compassionate and working for humanities greater good, you're going to have to jail me also sir."
The fire control officer rose silently and walked over to the comms officer and nodded, he also supported Hayes. In the next few seconds the entire bridge crew was standing silently. The captain sighed, knowing that his life was forfeit, and waved the sergeant off.
"Deploy our attack squadron, I want to see demons blown so high they bump our hull before falling to their deaths. Charge main cannon batteries, aim for targets well away from MUNDI lines and fire when ready."
The bridge collectively saluted and ran back to their posts. Hayes looked at Wellsworth and smiled, the old man let a tiny smirk sweep over his face before his stony visage returned.
"Let's show those filthy monsters the power of mankind's greatest war machine."
Winston and Peter were trying to hold off the demons that had not yet penetrated MUNDI lines. Their sniper rifles were smoking from the obscene number of bullets they had fired over the last few minutes. Ammunition was low and they were growing weary from the constant combat.
"This certainly takes it out of a man does it not Mr. Stephenson?"
Winston commented, calm to the last. DeadEye grunted in reply.
Winston, polite as he was, didn't openly say what he was thinking.
Certainly not a great conversationalist, I'll say. He is a good shot, however. I like the man, not as loud as Evans is but has a certain charm to his style. Stephenson didn't say out loud what he was thinking because he wasn't the talking type. How does this guy keep his cool? I do like him though, he has a sense of honour. Like my father did.....where did my honour go? I've been obsessed with revenge so long I don't know if I'll ever get it back. Doesn't matter, I'll be dead soon..
It was then that the demon reinforcements were swallowed by fire. The horde paused a moment. What had caused the untimely attack? Their question was answered as a squadron of dive bombers pulled out of their dives and screamed over MUNDI lines and pulled back into the sky. The demons were confused, they were caught in the open. No where to run. Except......
As if some collective decision had been made the entire demon swarm began to run towards the MUNDI trenches. Surely the human filth would not bomb their own forces? MUNDI continued firing into the demon attackers. The building Winston and Peter were sniping from vibrated violently as a loud CRUMP! was heard from above. Seconds later a giant shell landed in the demon back lines and enveloped a few hundred demons in flame. Now the MUNDI forces could see the Red Dawn in the sky as it bombarded the exposed demon forces. The men and women of MUNDI cheered as the airbourne carrier annihilated groups of demons at a time. Their cheers died in their throats as a blinding light shot from the demon lines and struck the Red Dawn's broadside. For a moment the entire battle field was silent. The ship didn't move, as if resisting the powerful demon weapon. Unfortunately the carrier was mortally wounded and began throwing black smoke into the air after a few moments. It turned southward and began limping away from the battle. A few bombers dropped their remaining bombs and turned to escort the damaged carrier as it struggled to keep aloft.
The battle started again. The demons seemed to have increased their strength after the Red Dawn 's defeat, feeding upon the pain and sorrow of it's crew. However, spurred on by the carrier's intervention MUNDI fought back just as hard. It was still a battle in favour of the demons but the Red Dawn had evened the odds somewhat.
The Red Dawn eventually crashed a few kilometres away from the battle. It's complement of fighters and bombers turned away to find another airfield to land at. Fortunately, communications hadn't been severed with N'Zar's forces. A rescue team had been dispatched to pick up the survivors. Captain Leonard Wellsworth wasn't one of them. Jessica Hayes put her hands over the dead man's eyes and closed his lids.
"A true hero."
She whispered. She slung am assault rifle over her shoulder, appropriated from the weapons locker after the crash, and ordered the remaining crew to wait for the rescue craft. Jessica thought Haven't used one of these since training, never thought I would have to. I'm going to MUNDI to help fight the demons.
Chance leapt the last few steps down from the burning 3rd floor of the building, landing in a roll of dust and plaster as the roof crumpled in on itself. Ash, Winston and DeadEye were already on the (still-safe) second floor, having evacuated the third as soon as it became apparent that the damage to the roof (caused by a misfired cannon shell from the Red Dawn) was going to collapse.
Chance had experienced the first use of his newly gained abilities up there... without exactly seeing or knowing how, he sensed that everyone in his "pack" was safe, thus allowing him to leave the floor without looking back nor worrying about leaving anyone behind as the roof fell in.
The feeling was strange... yet it felt surprisingly "normal" for him to sense something that he hadn't explored using his ordinary senses. Chance had to investigate that new-found ability someday... Some sort of lupine friend-or-foe radar, maybe?
Turning to his commandos, he yelled for those with ammo to continue their fire, shouting to be heard over the screams and exhortations downstairs, where crusaders and daemons were engaging in wild melee combat. The building was formerly a china-shop on the first story... now the place was a devastated mess. Whatever plates and porcelain still unbroken by the shockwaves of Red Dawn's ordinance were now being crunched underfoot by armoured heels or daemon claws.
Running to the railing on the 2nd floor where a large hole had been designed to let sunlight in from the roof, Chance pounced into the mass of struggling troops below him from the second story with the twin claws on either arm fully extended, finding to his considerable surprise in a moment of rational thought that he was snarling...
Then everything disappeared in a wild sequence of flashing events. A daemon's head swept into view... Chance swiped it from left to right with a claw, ichor exploding out of its throat as the twin titanium blades ripped it open. Another one hovered into range... its face a leering parody of a skull with three eyeballs and a pincer-like mouth. Chance stabbed forward with the power afforded by both anger and fear... The blades embedding themselves in the skull of the thing with a satisfying thwock. A third daemon, both arms cleaved off during battle, tried to charge him head-on... Reacting with sheer instinct, Chance brought his helmeted head down, slamming it onto the thing's skull. The horns failed to impale... but they stunned the creature long enough for Chance with withdraw both claws and bring them crossing in front of him in a lethal slicing movement. The daemon was disemboweled... falling to the floor as its body dissolved rapidly into bloody mush and dust, the astral spirit degenerating together with its physical form.
Ash was surprised at the change in Chance... the soldier had always admitted to her that he preferred the aloofness of long-range gunnery to close-combat. But now he was fighting as well as one of those catholic crusaders. As she watched, he impaled another daemon attacking him front behind as if it was an afterthought... as if some sixth sense had warned him about the incoming threat.
But he wasn't as good as he looked, apparently... A daemon rocked him with a club made of a ripped-off human leg and tried to go for his throat. Stepping behind the thing and taking it by surprise, the redhead reached around with her katana, cutting open the daemon's throat even as it raised its arms in protest towards its violated neck. Chance didn't pause... just grunting his thanks as another daemon beset him from the side. This time, the two headed thing met the bone-crunching head of Evan's industrial-sized hammer... the other still-uncrushed head pausing long enough for Wangfei to slice it (messily) off with her powered breastbone saw.
Everone was fighting hand-to-hand now... save the snipers still on the second level. Even the Frenchman Leon was getting dirty on the dancefloor.
Though the dust of exploded crockery and smoke of burned masonery, Chance glimpsed a sight to behold... A massive COL man wielding a two-handed battlehammer as if it was a toy, smashing daemons left and right. Apparently, even the top leadership was leading by example in the indoor fight. But then there was a heart-stopping bellow...
Chance spun round... as an entire side of the building caved in under a powerful shove from outside.
There was the literal definition of "Big trouble" there... The daemon equivalent of a human-designed mechanical walker. "Ugly" would have been a compliment to it... Looking like a huge grey slime-covered human hand magnified a few hundred times, nearly twenty meters across, and with angry red eyes staring from what would have been the knuckles of the hand, the thing was a nightmare. A mass of wildly-lashing tentacles, each tipped with a wicked claw, writhed from its belly... the "palm" of the hand... as it pulled itself laborously over the mess of daemons and fighting men, arrowing itself for what it sensed as a powerful leader...
The COL man.
Mako heard Korum's voice in his head once again. He sounded upset, slightly panicking.
DON'T KILL ANY OF THEM! We need them all!
Slowly, Mako got up, fighting his instincts, and Shark's.
They are weaklings... why shouldn't I kill them?
Mako replied through the astral mind-link.
The Iotui are easy prey when separated... but they are strong enough to kill a big Daemon when combined as a pack. That is why we need them all. If your enemy is down, leave him down. The others have already seem your power.
Mako looked up to the other Hunters. Korum was right... he mastered them already.
"Take me to your leader..." he said.
No more distractions... I have to go on.
"Now, Flier... tell me... what do you see? Look for it... Look for the green plains of your home. Do you see them?"
"Yes... I see them!"
Good... go on... Project it for me.
Images appeared in Korum's mind. He didn't want to do this before she went past the 'ugly' part... he knew he probably couldn't have handled these memories. But he got her past them, and that was all that mattered now.
"I see the tipi's of my tribe... A woman is coming out of one. She smiles... she smiles at me, calls me..."
"That... that was my name... that was... my mother!"
"Now go on... we're almost there... Chinaka."
"I see water. I sit down on my knees, on the side of the water, and take some water to drink... I put my hands and take some water, and drink it. Then, I put my hands on the side, and watch..."
Before Korum's eyes, a blurry image of a woman appeared. As the water stopped moving the image became more visible.
"Look! Do you see it, Shaman?! That's me!"
An image of a sixteen-year old girl appeared, in all her beauty.
The incredible paradox of the situation struck Korum... a hideous monster, looking at an image of a sixteen-year old girl, and saying that was her... and she was right, too.
Flier had never been happier before.
"Thank you... Shaman. You have greatly earned my assistance."
Korm smiled. "Glad I could help... Now, I wish to see your Leader."
"Leader... I haven't looked for him in a while... but I can find him for you..."
The three Hunters moved quickly to reach their leader, carrying the fourth one.
So they have some kind of team spirit after all... Mako thought, while following them closely.
There they were... the others. The Spy, shimmering through the shadows in both astral and physical planes, the Warlock, with a red jewel hanging over his black cloak, and the Leader...
He was taller than the others, and his hypnotic eyes looked at Mako. Not that Mako cared... his eyes could be just as hypnotic if he wanted to.
"You are the one..." the Leader spoke... "That brought back the Hunters."
Brought back?! What is he talking about?!
"Now we only need Flier here, and we are complete once again."
Then, Mako realized what was going on. They were no longer a pack. Now that they were free, the leader had not been able to stop the Hunters and the Flier from going away... by defeating them, Mako had given the Hunters a reason to come back to their Leader.
"I found Flier." Mako replied. "My... colleague is still there."
The spy shimmered towards them. "There she issss...."
The Flier appeared, closely followed by Korum.
The Leader frowned. "What have you done to her?"
"He made me remember!" Flier answered. "I remember it all... my name, my face, my family... he can make you remember too..."
"I never wanted to remember." Leader said, bitterly.
He has a less innocent past than that of the sixteen-year old girl abducted by Daemons... Korum thought.
"Let it be then." he said. "I will not offer assistance assistance in a way you don't require... I just helped her with what she wanted."
"And I have to admit...I never saw her happier. You two Shamans are great people, each in your own way. I can see that..."
"We have to hurry." Mako said. "The Daemons have begun their attack, and I want blood..."
"Flier seems to trust you... so, so will I. But no funny business, like last time."
"We shall destroy them... not send them back. Is that enough for you?"
"It is." Leader answered. "Warlock... get us there. Shamans... Your physical bodies will serve as beacons. We will get you past the Daemons to safely return to them."
The Warlock's bony fingers moved, and the blood red jewel around his neck glowed.
In one flash of red light they were gone.
"They've breached the lines!"
Cairns swore, and looked at the others.
"I'm going down there. Anyone's willing to come with me, apart from Dunklezahn. He's the lynchpin to the whole operation, and we can't lose him.
Thurmman, Itos, and Rayi instantly pledged their support, and dissapeared into the stairwell after Cairns, leaving Dunklezahn and the corp generals looking on in astonishment.
"He's mad!", began to AET elf, as the others turned back to the carnage unfolding below.
"Brace yourselves! There's another wave!"
Daemons poured forewards, dropping into trenches, and gutting humans, and all other forms of metahuman. Several small explosions met them, tempering the rush slightly, as the concealed firepits blew up, and daemons dropped into them.
Three panzers appeared over the expressway, engines humming, and unleashed a torrent of anti-personel weapons into the daemons, many of which buckled and well, their comrades rushing over them, smashing their bodies into the mud. The daemons retaliated when a huge neck reared out of the tumult of creatures, and, opening snakelike and terrible jaws, unleashed a spray of corrosive bile, that set one of the panzers spinning, mishapen, into MUNDI lines.
Mundi troops at the front of the expressway held out, several with flamethrowers incinerating the daemons washing down into the trenches in an inferno of charred flesh. AET sharpshooters, perched on the upper level of the expressway, fired down into the daemons horde, trying to concentrate fire on the larger creatures, especially those akin to the daemonic seige engines grappling with several large buildings half a mile to the east.
A booming detonation was heard, and one of the buildings collapsed, burying the monstrous form in rubble. A low cheer erupted from the MUNDI lines not engaged in fighting, but suddenly fell silent when they realised that their allies could have been inside the building - surely their superiours wouldn't be throwing away lives to trap the daemons?
Underneath the expressway, seven Vladistok arachnid walkers waited. Their crowd-control gear had been stripped, to two belly-mounted flamethrowers, and a rocket launcher on the roof, ready to move forewards into the horde, as MUNDI troops fell back, allowing time for the trap in the expressway to be sprung. The pilots of these vehicles had volunteered for the duty from the three corp forces assembled, knowing they would most likely die, and ready to detonate the large fuel tanks of their vehicles if they were overrun.
Suddenly MUNDI troops scattered backwards from the expressway, leaving corpses, both human and daemon, behind. A chain reaction in the line caused it all to peel back, as expected, and the daemons to rush after them. Some took hits from the daemons that followed, falling in droves under the bridge. The vladistok mechs strode foreward, and engaged the enemy, buying time.
Rayi's mind was all over the place, screaming at her and arguing within it's self. On the one hand, she couldn't let the silly old fool go it alone, he might have a heart attack. On the other WHAT THE FRAG WAS SHE DOING! She wasn't a fighter, she hid behind the sofa watching horror movies. SHE might have a heart attack!
Holmer was already gaining speed, she could see he wanted to be out there. He had his odd looking gun ready in his hands and his large hammer strapped to his back, the experience and thrill of combat showed in his eyes. Rayi was sure she looked quite the opposite. She wasn't even walking anymore, she was just shaking her way along. Or that's how it felt.
She tried to be brave though, Cairns needed her. She started to picture the Daemons as another low life she was trying to get information out of, but as they reached the bottom of the stairway and out onto the battle field, that image shattered. She drew her sword and hoped for the best, cautiously following Cairns and Thruman to the fighting.
A bright red light came out of the room where the wounded Mantis Shaman was lying. Instantly, the Iotui rushed outside.
Korum and Mako opened their eyes.
"NOO!!! Don't attack them!" Korum yelled, more to the Iotui than to the MUNDI soldiers.
"We have another breach!" a MUNDI commander yelled into his microphone. "Daemons inside the base! Looks like the fraggers can teleport!"
All fire was suddenly directed towards the Iotui.
Korum rushed ourside to calm them down.
But the bullets that were fired towards the creatures that just appeared were effectively stopped by a shield, conjured by the Warlock. Korum found himself inside the shield, with an angry Iotui Leader.
"They... they don't know." Korum explained. "We had no time to prepare them for your arrival."
"Then you better do something about that... Now."
"I can help." The Warlock said.
Moments later, a red flash temporarily blinded the soldiers. Even those with mirrored faceplates and those with smartlinked scopes were blinded, but no more or no less than the rest. All weapons stopped firing.
"These are allies!" Korum shouted. "Do not attack them, for they could be our only hope."
The temporary blindness passed. The confused MUNDI soldiers took a good look at their new allies. They were small; no bigger than dwarves, but they looked dangerous. The Hunter Mako attacked seemed to have recovered completely, and they were ready for anything.
"These are the Iotui." Korum continued. "And they will fight with us. For freedom."
"For freedom." the Iotui leader confirmed. "Will you join us in battle, Shaman?"
"I wish I could... but I am injured. My astral presence is still strong, but my physical body is weak."
"So be it."
The Iotui left. All troops were quickly informed about their new allies, and would not attack them.
Flier looked back at Korum, and smiled.
"We have good luck, Shaman. We have good luck."
"I'm sure you have... Chinaka."
She flew away on leathery wings, to complete the team.
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