Weapons are levelled at those gathered in the tavern as the soldiers of the Endless file in after their smiling leader. Outside more torches can be seen, and the stomping of iron-shod boots, shouting, and the unmistakable sound of steel clashing. Screams come through the fog, made hollow and strange by distance and the air.
The wind roared and I roared with it as we tore through the sky. The power that I had gathered exploded out, ripping its way up through my throat.
Someone pat my shoulder from behind and I all but screamed as I turned around to face my would-be attacker, preparing to unleash magical hell on them, only to see Abigail smiling like a fiend, eyes luminous, her power an invisible mantle that writhed around her. “We will clear the air for you,” her voice was sharp, clear, and I’ll be damned if she didn’t sound almost anxious. “Try not to die, all right?”
I was about to unleash a caustic, witty response but was plucked from the ground by a giant purple tentacle and only managed a strangled yelp as I was hoisted into the air. “To arms, wizard!” Petit crowed from atop her saddle on Reine Laid. Somewhere she had found a sword, more a long knife, and whirled it in vicious arcs around her head, something peculiar flashing in her flat eyes as she stared out at the clouds. The absurdly proportioned octopod slapped me down on its back behind the demented, diminutive doll, rattling my teeth in my skull. “Now is the time, Thomas Grey.” Petit turned in her seat, cracked face split in a grotesque parody of a smile. “Shall we go spit in the face of a mad god?”
I swallowed. Chewed my lip and cast a glance up at the darkening sky where the razor-winged minions of the Devourer were descending. “Yeah. Yeah let’s go do that.”
And then we were launching into the sky, into the storm, Reine Laid’s tentacles a snapping backbeat to the din. I stomped down on my fear, on my anger, on everything but what needed to be done. Petit shouted and sawed on the reins and Reine Laid cut away from the incoming horrors. “Let them break their teeth on his Majesty’s forces,” she called back to me, “we shall attack their flank.”
I think I managed a nod, busy as I was clinging to the saddle for dear life while trying to formulate what exactly the hell it was I intended to do aside from scream belligerently at the monstrous abstract entity barreling down at us - it was then that I made possibly the biggest mistake imaginable, one that threatened the outcome of all our hastily, hopefully wrought plans.
I actually looked up at the damn thing.
Not tangentially, not sidelong so that the immense horror of it all was kept safely in my peripheral, no. I swung my head around and stared firmly at the Devourer.
There was something inherently wrong with what I was seeing, wrong on such a fundamental level that every inch of my being down to the core recoiled at the tableau of dread that sprawled across the horizon, filling the entirety of the sky with nightmarish malevolence.
Waterbears can go without food or water for more than a decade. They can survive temperatures from zero to above the boiling point of water, pressure six times stronger than the deepest ocean trench, radiation hundreds of times higher than the fatal dose for a human, and the vacuum of space.
I’ve never seen one in motion. :O
A shout cut through the wind, the words lost but fear made the meaning apparent. Everyone had stopped what they were doing. I looked over to see the warrior who had shouted pointing up, away, to the clouds where slivers of darkness were detaching and winging closer. My heart lurched up into my throat. There was no more time.
'He lunged forward in what should have been an impossible contortion, a blurring corkscrew of elongated limbs and seemingly liquid bones, weaving through the storm of Telluran blades as if the soldiers were blind men swinging at a ghost. The monstrous head of Garth's maul roared through the air and where it struck there were detonations of thunder and cries of agony, and through that bone-crushing rush of destruction the old man's face remained peaceful, almost detached, as his faded brown eyes stared straight through his opponents - and at the noble wretch who held his niece at the end of a length of wicked steel.'
My vision flared white and there was a sound like roaring waves crashing against the shore.
When everything cleared and the world filtered back in the dream-eater had collapsed to its knees and my hand was wrapped around its throat. It felt like a dry branch in my grip, brittle, begging to be snapped. The light in the Others’ eyes guttered as its arms floundered at its sides and a pained moaning came from its gaping mouth.
“I am scared,” I heard my voice as if it were coming from somewhere far away, “and there’s an awful good chance I’m crazy. With good reason, too.” My whole world narrowed down to my fear, anger, and the inhuman creep on its knees in front of me. “I’ve seen what’s coming, man. I’ve looked it in the eye and seen the future and I have heard the death-cry of the multiverse.”
A shadow fell over us. “Let go, Thomas,” Uncle Satan said. His voice crashed like a bell, ringing through my skull, driving out the howling static and leaving behind a yawning silence. “It is all right.”
I let the Other drop and it collapsed with a sigh.
"It was during the fifth and final lap of the race that day at the Turling Track that Desper and dread Hamagor tore through the ranks like a hurricane to claim victory, annihilating the competition and shattering persistent rumor that rider and dragon had been grievously injured weeks before during a private, sanctioned duel against a mysterious opponent. In a staggering display of power and skill Desper proved yet again why he is and always will be the Uncrowned King. Reporting for the Eye, from the shining heart of Elda City, this is Vanar Red. All Hail the King."