Oh wowzers. So, I saw the Feature Fiction fantasy writing prompt just yesterday and I went absolutely ape churning this story out. Two days, 7800-ish words, and enough errors to make a grammar teacher faint… my fingers hurt. But anyway, this is my first submission in Featured Fiction. So, hopefully I didn’t royally bungle it.
Hope you enjoy it~
“She doesn’t like the taste of human,” Silas said.
“She’s going to eat it or she’s going to starve,” Eman said. He took his own wolf’s reigns and yanked on them, turning them back to the castle. “I doubt there’s anything worth eating in there.”
“No,” Silas admitted. Shifting out of his saddle, he forced Ruin’s head down into the small piles of bodies. Over three years of riding together and she was still a stubborn bitch. Regular wolves were bad enough. They were always too proud- always concerned about the pack and the young instead of pure strength. Rage Wolves were even worse. I suppose that’s what happens when you’re suddenly turned into an alpha predator, Silas thought. The magic of the Changed had, in turn, reshaped and Changed the wolves into something greater. Now with a suit of natural armour made of bone, as well as standing at three times the size, and with twice the ferocity, Rage Wolves lived up to their names. The sounds of loud slobbering and munching told Silas that, for now, Hura had abandoned her damnable pride and ate what was in front of her.
“Your soldiers appeared to be in rather ragged condition,” Eman said. “Even for slaves.”
“If we didn’t have to ride so hard, maybe we would be a bit more presentable. But the unexpected summons and short notice did not help much either.”
“You mean you had to ride hard. You made the Slaves run the whole way, didn’t you?”
“I never heard any objections from them.”
Eman sputtered out a chuckle. “No, they wouldn’t. Will they be fit to fight soon?”
“They’re ready now,” Silas said. The Slaves might be aggressively stupid by nature, but they had at least some of the great strength of a true Changed. They could perform marches that would tire out a human twice over if the weather was good. In had rained half of the days Silas was marching his men, but a proper leader could overturn the wrath of nature to a Slave. Silas tended to think of himself as proper leader. “Still, you expect us to bring the whole castle down? With so few numbers?”
“I expect you to finish what I started months ago,” Eman said. He was trying hard to hide his exhaustion and wounds well, but Silas knew his friend better than that. He could see past how Eman was guarding his chest wound with his gauntleted hand and how Eman tried to sit as straight as he could, despite his constant sneer of pain from doing so. Also, he would probably never allow Silas to know that a human managed to get the better of him. Eman was chosen, by nearly unanimous vote no less, to be the king-to-be of the Changed people and of their aptly-named Inevitable Kingdom. Anyone could see that Eman wasn’t the most diplomatic or charismatic of leaders, but Silas had recognized his inner as well as outer strength almost immediately. Diplomacy and charisma are the tools of a king who already has a crown. Strength and passion are the tools of a king who is still fighting for that crown.
“Do you really think we can finish the siege with so few?” Silas asked. His messengers had told him that Eman had fewer than a thousand Slaves at his disposal and Silas had gathered only four-hundred as he made his way across the countryside. Eman had sent for his friend directly, so Silas had to abandon the other battlefront he was managing to round up whoever he could find on his way. Needless to say, Silas recognized, though did not care terribly much, that he drove his soldiers so hard on their march mostly because of his own sour mood.
“We spent months hammering at this castle, Silas,” Eman said. “At one point we had over one-hundred Changed and fifteen-thousand Slaves surrounding those walls. Now look at them. They could hardly even be called ruins. Our war has called away all of the rest of our men that we had once spared to this siege but that makes no difference. Two Changed and fifteen-hundred Slaves will be more than enough to put an end to some cowering humans.”
“As you say,” Silas said, still mostly unconvinced. His fighting on the other fronts had taught him to never underestimate human tenacity. Their knights and mages weren’t as terrifying as a Changed of a similar profession, of course, but the humans understood that fact too. They turned to crafty tactics when strength of arms failed them.
Even though the castle was about half a mile away, it still appeared dauntingly large. It was an enormous grey and white stone fortress, using dozens of towers and two curtain walls to protect the inner keep. Silas had objected to storming the castle in the first place- Kingbreaker was aptly named, Silas had told Eman. It had stopped conquerors and emperors from laying claim to the whole continent. Its walls could hold thousands of knights and men-at-arms, all trained and grizzled. Silas frowned when he had reached the battlefield and learned just how costly taking two of the castle’s three walls had been. It was true that those thousands of knights and men-at-arms were probably just a small handful by now, but the red and gold tabards of the Changed were much more numerous than the greens and blacks of the humans. The Changed had brought war the to the entire continent and were just now beginning to feel it- the Slaves were numerous and strong in an idiotic kind of way, but now even their numbers were being stretched thin from the dozens of battles elsewhere in the land.
“If your Wolf is quite finished,” Eman said, “we can proceed. Your Slaves should have gathered by the western gate by now. If they have any brains about them at all,” Eman stopped to laugh. Silas knew that his friend was always a great enjoyer of irony. “If they have any brains about them,” Eman reiterated, “they will have remained hidden behind the ruins of the walls. We should be able to take the western gate with one final, glorious charge.”
Silas nodded, letting himself grin a bit. We can do it, Silas thought, we can break the Kingbreaker. Silas will be laughing about that for years when he’s on his throne. Hura went quiet, eventually full. Or, she had simply stopped tolerating the horrible taste. Either way, Silas kicked at her sides to urge her onwards.
Before either Silas or Eman could go a handful of yards, however, they caught sight of a Slave running and painting towards them. There was a battered shield in one of his hands and a rolled bit of paper in the other. Despite commanding the Slaves for four years, Silas could still never truly get used to their strange appearance. Slaves lost all of their hair upon failing to become true Changed and the enhanced bony features of a Changed body lost all elegance and grace when in a Slave. Growths of bone sprouted from this particular Slave’s skull like small spines or horns and the mutation had forced its smile into a perpetual grin on one side. Silas didn’t look at the man for very long when he took the paper.
The Slave bowed wordlessly and ran off again. Silas quickly inspected the paper and made note that it had not exploded or turned into a swarm of angry bats upon his touching it. He was quickly satisfied that the parchment was not trapped with any kind of magical trap and handed the note over to Eman.
“Well,” Eman remarked with short bark of laughter. “It looks like the lord of the castle would rather cross words than swords. Typical of his kind, trying to avoid dueling with their betters.” Eman tossed the paper to the ground and his Wolf smashed it into the ground as it walked over it. Silas was quick to follow his king.
Kingbreaker’s keep had a much weaker defended gate to its east. The gate was made out of timber with only sparse iron reinforcement, which came in the form of huge nails and bars. Even before the siege had started months ago, the Changed commanders decided that when the keep was finally within their grip, they would attack from the west. The leaders thought it would only taint their victory to strike where the enemy was weakest- they wanted the most glorious spectacle possible when they were the first to bring down Kingbreaker.
Silas was skeptical of the whole situation, regardless of how much sense it would make for the lord of the castle to surrender. He was utterly surrounded with no hope for escape, so if anything, his attempts to preserve his people did credit to his honour rather than harm to it. Regardless, Silas scanned the towers and windows for any figures. He found none, however, and breathed a bit easier.
“If Kingbreaker’s lord wishes to speak with his betters, let him do so now,” Eman called. “If you have only called us here to stall and waste our time then know that our wrath will double for it.”
Before Eman could finish his threat, however, the large gates swung slowly open and a lone figure atop a tall, strong-looking black horse rode out. The man was clearly in no hurry and had an air of power, relatively speaking by lower human standards, about him. His armour was dented and beaten, but the steel still held its sheen well. His long green and black cloak looked like it had been set ablaze at some point and, if what Silas learned about the siege was true, that might have been entirely possibly. Fire magic and flaming arrows were a favourite amongst many of the Changed, so this man appeared to be a lucky survivor of one or the other.
“Lord Penn,” Eman said. “I haven’t seen you in some time.”
“Nor have I,” Penn said. Silas noted that the lord’s face had more in common with a mountainside than the visage of a human. It was almost entirely bald and was hard and craggy, covered with scars and his frown practically cut a ravine through his entire face. “It has been many blessed days since I saw you last, warlord.”
“Say your piece, Lesser,” Eman snarled, “or scurry back into your hole.”
The lord deeply frowned when he heard the derogative term thrown his way. Silas might have smiled if this was any other man in any other situation. The sheer fact that humans still frowned and sputtered and cursed when they were called Lessers meant that the Changed still had the advantage. A stronger man would brush the name off as just a word- nothing but sound and empty air. But humans were rarely “stronger men.” Even Lord Penn seemed vulnerable to a petty name.
“I simply wish to speak,” Penn said. “For the sake of all of the people of Kingbreaker.” The man’s voice sounded sincere, but if humans had any kind of irrefutable talent, it was for lying.
With an unspoken signal between he and Eman, Silas reached out towards Penn’s mind with his own. He started gently at first, poking and prodding at the innate defences of the Lesser’s mind until he felt confident to proceed further. All humans function the same way, Silas knew- they disliked danger, would flee rather than fight, and would defend an obvious lie to the death, if only so that their fellow humans would not call them craven. Penn was a leader of a weak and tired people with only death around him. Needless to say, Silas knew that his knowledge of humans once again had not betrayed him. Silas reached out with his mind again, this time turning his magic into a sharp spike to drive straight into Penn’s thoughts.
Silas screamed. Even Hura whimpered and slunk back. Silas’ instinct was to rip off his helmet and plug his ears, but he was smarter than base Lesser urges. He shook away the pain quickly enough, though his eyesight was blurred enough so that Lord Penn only looked like a smudge in his vision.
“Do you suspect me of falsehood?” Penn asked.
Usually, even the strongest of humans had to divert a good deal of their concentration to defending against a mental probe. As part of their glorious Change, all Changed could reach out into the minds of lesser beings. Animals, plants, Slaves, humans, all their minds became easy to touch and Silas had a particular talent for the skill, as he quickly learned. And yet, Penn had soundly rebuked him without any kind of visual effort. Silas did not suspect the man to be a mage; he did not have the haughty and arrogant look about him. Only those with inclination to the magical arts could defend so easily against a mental attack. Who is this man? Silas wondered.
“No,” Silas said, still shaking off the nausea, “I… apologize.” He had to practically choke the last word out, but if he didn’t, the entire meeting might be thrown into jeopardy. “I am accustomed to your people’s attempts at trickery and I only wished to ensure that there would be none here.”
Penn raised an eyebrow at Silas but was otherwise unmoved. “You can expect none of that here,” he said. “I did not come here to deceive or spread lies. I only wish to reason with your warlord.” Penn turned to Eman. “Kingbreaker cannot be taken, warlord. Men far greater than you have tried for far longer. This castle has stood for centuries. It will not fall now to one such as you.”
Even if Silas could read the mind of another Changed, he didn’t think it was ever necessary with Eman. Even now, Silas could practically see the fires that radiated off of Eman’s head. The king’s many earrings jingled and his short light hair shook as he quaked with barely-concealed rage. “You mentioned that you speak for all of the people of Kingbreaker, yes?”
“And how many of your precious Lessers are still alive in that keep?”
This time, Penn didn’t frown. In fact, he barely even acknowledged Eman’s presence. “Just over one-thousand,” he finally said, still outright refusing to make eye contact with Eman.
Maybe one-hundred of them are actually men fit to fight, Silas thought. Perhaps our meager numbers will really be enough after all.
Eman, still trying to present himself as the indomitable and unkillable conqueror that he fancied himself to be, didn’t seem to be disturbed by the show of disrespect. “That’s quite a few,” Eman commented. “I suspect you have seen much war in your time, Lord Penn?”
“There are thousands of soldiers dead at our walls who all happen to wear your colours. You tell me if I have seen much war.”
Silas wanted to laugh. Usually it was up to him to prod at Eman, to get him to remember that he was a mortal just like the rest of the world’s people. It was refreshing to have somebody else take over that job for once. Although, if Penn decided to laugh in Eman’s face like Silas usually did, Penn probably wouldn’t have a face of his own for very much longer.
But still, to Silas’ surprise, Eman was relatively unmoved. Hagnur was a mite less pleased, though. He snarled at snapped at the tension-filled air between the two parties with his eyes, which were red and full of wrath, fixated on Penn’s black horse.
“Allow me to tell you, Lesser,” Silas said, “that seeing your people slaughtered in war will be nothing compared to seeing them Changed.”
“You do not have that power,” Lord Penn said.
“Ignorance,” Eman snarled. “How unexpected of you. And I thought that humans weren’t paranoid little mice. You have proved me wrong, my lord.” Eman allowed his sarcasm to drift around the open air for a while, before he cut through it by saying, “All us Changed have the power to create more of us. The humans that survive are blessed enough to become true Changed. As for the weak… as you said, there are thousands of dead Slaves around your walls… we will have to find replacements somewhere.”
“Even if what you said was true,” Penn said, “I can at least take comfort that however ignorant and fearful we humans may be, you Changed are every bit as blindly arrogant. I won’t say that you were wrong in one aspect, though. Your kingdom is indeed inevitable. An entire species of despots will bring down any civilization eventually, even their own.”
“And if we are truly so ignorant, how is it that we know where your changed beings came from and you do not?”
“Divine action is not something to question,” Silas said. He had heard just about enough of the two irate men snapping at each other. “The gods saw you humans as being corrupted and lesser, so they bestowed upon us a Change that made us greater in every way. If you want to dispute a divine ruling, Lord Penn, I can only wish you all of the luck in the world. Perhaps with all of that luck, the gods will leave your body as ash after they smite you with lightning.” One can’t really argue with the words of a god, Silas thought. Hopefully they’ll shut up now and Eman can cut this man’s head off already.
Instead of the fear Silas was used to seeing in a Lesser’s eyes when they learned about the divine creation of the Changed, Penn smiled. It wasn’t a smile born of humour, but from scorn. It was the smile of a man who knew a secret that nobody else did and he was fully aware of the value his private knowledge.
“The truly ignorant of us would still call you the ‘Changed’ or perhaps something less tasteful like ‘freaks,’ ‘monsters,’ or ‘abominations.’ But there is no need for that. There are some of us who truly know what you are and can call you by the most fitting name possible. You are Mistakes. Plain and clear as day, you are accidents.”
Both Silas and Eman laughed. They laughed straight into Penn’s face. Silas only stopped laughing at the absurd notion when Eman eventually coughed and went quiet. Silas suspected that Eman’s chest wound was probably the only thing that stopped him from laughing until his deep brown skin turned blue.
“A mistake?” Silas said with the whisper of laughter still on his tongue. “Please tell me, Lord Penn, just how did just two ‘mistakes’ manage to bring the continent’s most powerful castle to its knees? I wonder if you realize just how much you accidently shamed yourself by thinking us ‘mistakes.’ Because, looking at all I see around me, if the mighty Kingbreaker castle fell to mere ‘mistakes,’ then the humans who had tried conquering it before must have been babes and simpletons.”
“Deny and fume as you will, warlord,” Penn said, “but you Changed have inherited something from your parents that cannot be denied- you have inherited our hubris. I admit, we humans were discontent, even as masters of this land. Perhaps the gods were wrong to give us the power of magic, for we have made great monsters with it. You were not even the first of our monsters.”
“Believe your delusions as you like, Lesser,” Eman said. “If you were truly one of your ‘monsters,’ then at least be content to know that when you finally perish at our hands, you will know for certain that we will be the last of your creations. There will not be enough of you left to light a candle with your magic.” Eman spat at the feet of Penn’s horse. “It pains me even to breathe life into your petty insane falsehoods. Die thinking whatever you wish, Lord Penn. What you think will not matter in the end.”
“Lord Penn,” Silas edged, “is this truly the only reason why you sent for us? To ramble off lies and madness?”
Penn was quiet for a moment, his eyes seemingly scanning the skies. Perhaps he was plotting something all this time… Silas bit his lip, knowing full well that he could not read the man’s mind. Penn did eventually look back at Silas, though. “Perhaps,” he said with a heavy sigh. “Perhaps I simply wanted to, as your ‘king’ said, ‘speak my piece.’ You truly are our children, though. You are just as arrogant and blind to the truth of things, even as they stare you in the face. I don’t believe that you ever would have seen reason or truth in what I have to say, but a leader must take all avenues before admitting defeat.” With that, Penn wheeled his horse around which still as impressively stone-faced despite the snapping and snarling of the Rage Wolves, and started to ride back into the fortress. “Farewell,” he said.
“Is this it?” Eman shouted. “Now that your last gambit has failed so miserably, will you submit? Is this how you wish to end the legacy of Kingbreaker?”
Lord Penn did not turn around but he said, “I will end Kingbreaker’s legacy once I have exhausted all avenues. There is still one avenue left…”
With that, the heavy gate closed and Eman rode away in a huff. Silas followed his king behind the closest curtain wall as they made their way towards the west gate.
“A ploy,” Eman spat, “A trick to buy time. A lie to break morale. That’s all it was.”
“Agreed,” Silas said. “To think that we Changed were the result of some human spell gone awry. I have seen no other ‘monsters’ of human making, so why should we be considered amongst them?”
“Mm,” Eman said. “But no matter. Soon the keep will be breached and this will all be behind us. Silas, when the battle is joined, leave Penn to me. If he truly believes us to be monsters, I will show him just how monstrous we can be in battle.”
“Certainly,” Silas said. “I-“
The ground shook. Silas immediately looked down at Hura, thinking she had gotten spooked by something. But the Rage Wolf returned Silas’ questioning look.
“You felt it too,” Eman said. His own Rage Wolf sniffed the air and growled, lowering itself down into a pouncing stance.
“Perhaps the humans had some siege engines left,” Silas suggested. “If the Slaves are poised to strike the western gate, it would make sense from the rumbling to come from over there.”
Another rumbling ran through the ground. This time it was noticeably stronger.
“This kind of shaking wouldn’t come from catapults or trebuchets,” Eman said quietly. He yanked on this Wolf’s reigns so that it came out of its pouncing position. Eman craned his neck towards the castle and started his Wolf towards the western side. Silas slowly moved Hura along, letting his powerful Changed ears take in the sounds of the distant battle. Wait, Silas thought, Something’s not right. Where is the battle? No matter how he strained his hearing, Silas could hear the shouts and screams of the Slaves, but that was hardly a rare occurrence. Most of the time the morons would whoop and shout like wild animals hours before a battle even began. But aside from that, there was no sound of thundering stones from siege machines. There was also no sound of clashing steel, flying arrows, or charging horses.
“Silas,” Eman said, suddenly coming to a halt. “Look at the keep.”
“What about it?”
“Something’s wrong with it.” To most other listeners, Eman’s voice must have merely sounded curious. But Silas was wise to his friend’s ways. Anything that Eman was not certain of only unnerved him. For such a confident man, his nature crumbled easily in a situation he was not in full control of. Curiosity in his voice was virtually the same as fear. In battle, Silas thought, things are easy. Simple. Pure. I can only wonder how Eman will handle the intrigues of court life once he’s a king.
“I’m not seeing anything there,” Silas said.
“Exactly,” Eman said. This time there was legitimate fear in his tone.
“I-“ Silas stopped. He set his eyes, which were stronger and clearer than any human’s, around the keep. It was imposing as ever, a huge grey behemoth of stone, glass, and history. The lights in the windows were still blazing. In fact, they appeared even stronger than ever. The four great towers of the keep seemed the same as they always had, with-
Four towers, Silas thought. There are supposed to be five.
“Eman,” Silas said, “what happened to the Breaker’s Tower? Where is it?” This is ridiculous, Silas thought, what could have possibly happened to such a massive structure? That tower was a hundred feet taller than all of the others. Our slaves couldn’t have knocked it down and it certainly wasn’t structurally unstable. It’s not like it could have got up and walked away…
“There it is,” Eman said, pointing. Silas tried to follow Eman’s finger, but stopped when he noticed his friend’s shaking. His whole body was shuddering from end to end. Even his Wolf had tucked its ears in close to its head. Silas took in a deep breath and followed Eman’s gesture.
Silas lost his breath almost instantly. “The humans weren’t hiding…” Silas spat out, “they were biding their time. They were preparing.”
The Breaker’s Tower strode across the western side of the castle. It moved on legs born from the splitting of its lower half so that it had hips and other features of a human. Its arms, hands, and fingers were all wrought from the stone of its high, strangely shaped supports and the head of the terrifying enormity was formed by the peak of the tower. The battlements forming what looked like a crown right which above a pair of what Silas had first thought were windows. Now, though, the glass around them was shattered and smoldering orange eyes with thick black pupils sat inside.
Lord Penn’s words came unbidden into Silas’ mind. Perhaps the gods were wrong to give us the power of magic, for we have made great monsters with it. The shadow of the massive figure cloaked everything around it in shadow. Great monsters indeed…
The monstrosity moved about the castle, its enormous fits smashing into the ground and shaking the ground. It even smashed down parts of the remaining curtain walls, evidently so driven in its cause to protect the people within the castle that it was willing to bring down the remains of the castle to do so.
Is this castle called Kingbreaker? Silas wondered, Or is it simply named after that monstrosity? Silas, to his dismay, suspected the latter. The Breaker. Certainly a fitting name for such a creature.
“They had a golem all this time,” Eman said, “and now is when they unleash it?” Eman laughed, but it wasn’t the laugh of any happy or sane man. It was a sputtering, halting affair- a laugh of failed rationalization. Eman’s thin bravado collapsed further after Silas noticed that Eman’s eyes never left the Breaker. He never even turned to face Silas “We must have them on the run. Rally together the Slaves, Silas. With one more push at their gates, we can claim the fortress before night arrives.”
“Eman,” Silas said, urging Hura closer to him. “That is not just a golem. Golems are perhaps twice the size of a man and they are only ever a collection of stones held aloft by magic. You yourself have struck down over a dozen of the things. You know the difference between a golem and… that.”
“It can fall like anything else,” Eman insisted. Silas noticed he had stopped guarding his chest. The dent that Silas saw in Eman’s breastplate, which had a spattering of dark red on it, was the only confirmation he needed about what he had been suspicious of the whole while. Still, more unnerving was now Eman’s hand simply rested limply as his side. It even brushed the handle of his sword a few times, but he made no attempt to reach for it. “It was constructed by the Lessers. What could they possibly create that could pose a threat to us?”
They make swords and spears and bows, same as us, Silas wanted to say, and with those, they kill more of our Slaves than they kill of them. Silas kept his mouth shut, though. This was hardly the time to be debating petty philosophy and semantics. Still, Eman was at least putting on a bravado of confidence now. Perhaps it will be enough to gather the rest of the Slaves after all…
“I must lead by example,” Eman said. He quickly untied his helmet from his back and tied it onto his head. “Do your best to rally the Slaves, Silas. I will stand my ground and show them all that they have nothing to fear.”
Eman’s great bascinet was forged into the vague shape of a wolf’s skull and Silas had to admit that Eman looked every bit a battle-hardened conqueror when he wore it. Silas also noted that since the only thing of Eman’s face that he could see was his eyes, it was much harder to see that the man in the helmet as probably still scared out of his wits. And yet, Silas felt strangely serene. Of course, the siege around Kingbreaker was collapsing at catastrophic speed and the Changed’s king-to-be was potentially sweating himself to death out of fear… but Silas could only remember one thing with clarity.
“Believe what you wish, it will make no difference,” Silas could still hear Penn’s words echoing in his head. I’m not afraid, Silas thought, because I know that he was right. Whether or not the Lessers had one-thousand or just one of those Breakers, it didn’t matter. The Changed were superior and no human construct could stop them. So, at least Eman has that straight.
“Nothing to fear,” Eman said again. “Nothing to fear. Nothing to fear…” Eman turned to face Silas. “A king must show no fear, yes?”
“It’s what makes a king who he is,” Silas said.
“Nothing to fear…” Eman said again. Then, as if he had become oblivious to all of the Slaves around him and even to Silas, Eman kicked the side of his Rage Wolf and started towards the stone monster. Eman drew his sword and held it high above his head, wailing as his Wolf howled. They both screamed in their fury while Silas sat and stared, dismayed to see his friend and king-to-be ride to his death with shattered sanity. Eman and his Wolf howled in battle fury until the gargantuan fist of the Breaker fell upon them like a mountain. Both figures disappeared almost instantly underneath the huge stone hand.
And so, the king is broken… Silas thought, biting down onto his lip. He only stopped once he started tasting blood and he was snapped back to reality. Silas dared to close his eyes for a brief moment and said a quick and quiet dirge for his lost friend and king.
Slaves still rushed past Silas and appeared to be congregating towards the eastern gate. That is to say, the gate that was furthest from the advancing monstrosity. Silas quickly turned Hura around and rushed her back to the eastern gate to head them off. The Slaves were streaming through the holes that their war machines had created in the months-long siege. The simpletons even ran, and sometimes tumbled, right over the bodies of their dead comrades and enemies, all in a desperate bid to escape.
Hura was quicker than all of them, though. She carried Silas with impunity past the retreating Slaves until they were nearly at Kingbreaker’s first curtain wall.
“Get back here you inbred bastards!” Silas shouted, wheeling Hura around and positioning himself in front of the retreating horde. He unbound his spear and held it aloft. The red runes running along its wide leaf-shaped blade shown like blood in the setting sun. The feeling of otherworldly power that the spear gave to Silas was the one glimmer of hope he still had. If these filthy peasants won’t help me, maybe I don’t even need them. Still, the Changed didn’t get this far without hedging their bets. “If any one of you broken shits try to pass by me, my spear will pass right through your empty heads!”
A Slave seemed to not even notice Silas or Hura as he tried to run past him. He did notice, however, when he had over a foot of steel rammed into his skull. The man crumpled without noise or struggle.
Silas pivoted in his saddle and struck down the next Slave who tried to run past him. The enchanted spear ran clear through the man’s body. Silas pulled the weapon back just in time to strike down the next Slave. And then the next, then the next, then the next.
Silas howled in rage and even Hura took to destroying the fleeing Slaves. No matter how many the two of them destroyed, they still seemed almost completely oblivious to Silas. Their entire world seemed to be composed of the stone enormity now. Silas looked up and noticed just how close the walking eclipse was getting. Perhaps they have a point after all… Silas thought. He could no longer deny just how much his legs were shaking in the stirrups and how hard seeing was becoming with all of the sweat dripping into his eyes.
Perhaps Kingbreaker was lost after all. It was hard to make such a decision given the maelstrom of pandemonium swirling around Silas. Perhaps, he thought, if I retreat along with the Slaves, we can hold the surrounding land until reinforcements arrive. We don’t need to take the castle… we just need to stop it from being liberated. With that, Silas had made his decision. He turned Hura around again and started running alongside his blubbering and cursing soldiers. What he was doing felt smart, but Silas knew that it didn’t feel right… It didn’t feel like what a Changed would do.
Silas quickly realized that it wasn’t his decision to stop fleeing. Hura had dug her massive claws into the ground and made herself into an anchor, refusing to move. The Rage Wolf looked up at her ride and, probably for the first time in his life, Silas saw something other than murder in Hura’s eyes. He didn’t think it was concern, that emotion had likely been scrubbed away like so many others when Hura was Changed. No, it was something close to concern, but something more benefiting the Rage Wolf’s nature. Shame, Silas thought. She’s ashamed of me.
“Defiant in our desolation, champions of the Change, righteously wrathful against the Lesser,” the words of the Changed race was what had given Silas’ life purpose once he found he had experience the Change. At first, he was inconsolable- a freak in his own small town, both cursed and blessed with great power. But then, when Eman arrived with his band of missionary-knights, Silas heard the words of the Changed for the first time. They gave him something far greater than any of his newfound physical or mental strength. They gave him hope. “We are outcasts no more. Now, we rule,” he concluded. Hura’s head bucked and rolled about and she let out a quick little bark of joy. Silas had to grin in spite of himself. At least he wasn’t going to go into the jaws of hell alone.
With one quick, defiant movement, Silas threw off his helmet. He doubted it would do much good against such a colossal opponent. The polished steel sallet landed with a loud metallic thud, though it was barely audible over of the golem’s steps. His hair’s usual white-blonde colour, a hallmark of sorts with the Changed, had become nearly dark brown from the sweat that hung in it. Silas drew his dagger and sheered his damp bangs away. I want to have a good, clean look at this thing when I kill it, Silas thought. With both his spear and dagger raised, Silas gave a shout for battle and urge Hura on. The Rage Wolf followed her rider’s commands and charged towards the Breaker with a wild howl at her lips.
The Breaker’s eyes glowed brighter for a moment as it saw Silas approach, evidently pleased at the chance to kill another would-be conqueror.
The great stone creature swung its colossal fist at Silas and he managed to dodge the blow only by Hura’s quick reactions. Still, the amount of stray earth and wind that was stirred up from the attack blinded and unbalanced Silas for a moment. He managed to clear the dirt from his eyes just in time to duck underneath the enormity’s next strike, which passed barely a handful of inches of his head.
Silas directed Hura through the Breaker’s legs and wheeled around its legs. Silas’ eyes feverishly scanned at the Breaker’s ankles and feet for some kind of weak spot- some place to ram his spear so that the monster would fall to its knees. I don’t know where I’ll go from there, Silas thought, but at least it’s a start.
Silas found that he was able to breathe somewhat easily for a moment after he passed from underneath the Breaker’s legs. The giant didn’t seem to realize where its opponent had gone- it was so enormous that it would doubtless easily lose track of such a small foe. Silas raised his spear and dagger again and began to wheel around in the open courtyard. As he was completing his turn, Silas’ breath caught in his throat as his eyes met those of the Breaker again. The monster’s body had completely pivoted at the waist and its arms were raised again to strike.
The Breaker’s next punch barely missed Hura’s backside as she ran away from the creature. Silas urged her on even faster and a pair of earthquakes told Silas that the Breaker was not going to let his prey get away easily. Each subsequent punch drove straight into the earth behind Hura and, as Silas noticed with some dread, was getting closer to hitting its mark each time.
Silas maneuvered Hura into a sharp turn using the curvature of the keep to their advantage by using one of the corner towers as a way to the Breaker’s line-of-sight. “I didn’t see any weak spots down on its ankles,” Silas said. “Did you, Hura?” The rider didn’t wait for his mount’s answer, whatever it may have been. “I’ve got an idea, but it’s a bit on the insane side. So, I’m sorry for that.” The rumbling of the Breaker was getting closer again, even as Hura rain straight along the western side of the keep. All around him, Silas could see the broken bodies of dozens of Slaves who had either failed to fight or failed to flee the Breaker. But those are just Slaves, Silas thought. We are above them… Being careful with his dagger, Silas leaned down and patted Hura on the side of her head, right in-between two plates of her natural bone armour. “We can do this.”
The rumbling of colossal feet finally came to a halt when the Breaker’s massive frame finally managed to navigate around the curvature of the keep. Evidently the creature was supposed to be nothing more than a guard dog for the castle and not an asset to be used in an assault or siege. Silas had to admit that he regretted that Lord Penn hadn’t let loose the Breaker on other battlefields- it would have been much more spectacular to bring down the giant with dozens of Changed and thousands of Slaves at his back.
“Oh well,” Silas said, leaning down and lowering his spear. “Not even the Changed can have their way all the time, I suppose.” He kicked at Hura’s side and the two charged forward.
The mighty stone figure didn’t seem fazed in the slightest, if it could even feel emotions at all, and sent one of its huge fists straight towards its opponents. Silas counted the seconds in his head until he found just the right time- he jammed his spear into the soft ground and Hura ground to a halt from the sudden resistance. The Breaker’s fist slammed into the ground, barely a few inches from Hura’s muzzle.
When Silas yanked his spear free, Hura cleared the rest of those inches in one swift movement and started running with all of her might up the Breaker’s hand. Silas lowered his spear again as Hura climbed further up the giant’s arm- the incline was just shallow enough for Hura to use all of her great strength and speed without worrying about slipping on the stones. As they climbed the Breaker’s arm, Silas felt a mixture of awe and fear for the enormous creature. It was only as wide and as tall as the Breaker’s Tower, which, despite its admittedly great height, was never too terribly impressive to Silas. But that was before it started moving and trying to kill me, Silas noted. Even so, the shadow that the Breaker cast from its head alone smothered everything, including Silas, with a bizarre blanket of darkness. Only the Breaker’s burning eyes shone in the dark. The sight should have been unnerving, Silas knew. But instead, he wanted to thank the Breaker for it. It was giving Silas a very obvious target and a light to find it by.
The Breaker must not have been known for its intelligence, as it just then fully realized that it had a pair of mites running up its arm. Silas thought he heard the huge creature growl, but instead decided to focus on the fact that the massive stone arm was starting to turn. Hura’s footwork was quick, however, and both mount and rider continued their advance.
Neither was so lucky the second time, however. The Breaker’s great strength sent Hura and her rider flying. By luck or divine intervention, both managed to land back on the monster’s stone arm. Silas quickly scrambled to his feet, gathering up his weapons and turned back to Hura.
Silas met his mount’s eyes just before she was smote by an enormous stone hand. Hura’s form became limp as it tumbled to the ground below. She didn’t even yelp or whine; Silas knew she was too proud and strong for that. When the Breaker drew its fist back, the stones that composed it were splattered dark red. Silas allowed himself one last look back, then he gripped his weapons so hard that he could feel his skin start to break and he started running again, his eyes locked on the quietly burning pits in the Breaker’s face.
Silas’ mind moved and shook like the world around him. The Breaker was becoming more agitated with the one remaining flea on its body and it was starting to throw its arm about in an attempt to dislodge it. It was a vain attempt, Silas knew. I knew I would be killing this damned monstrosity before… think of how disappointed Hura would be in me if I didn’t live up to my word.
The Breaker’s free hand swung towards Silas but he avoided it with a quick jump forward. Now at the monster’s elbow, Silas used his enhanced Changed strength to work his way up the rest of the Breaker’s arm. His dagger served him well as he stabbed it into the chinks in the dark grey stone and used it to pull himself up higher. Eventually, Silas’ limbs started to scream in pain as he climbed. He almost stopped to catch his breath if it wasn’t for the massive jolt of movement from the Breaker’s arm that nearly sent Silas flying off the arm and several feet into the air. Silas’ face slammed into the stone as he recovered from the jolt. The stone felt cool and dry against his hot and sweat-soaked face. He allowed himself to breathe to just a moment.
I hope you’re watching, Penn, Silas thought with a toothy grin, I hope you’re seeing just what a “mistake” can do. We can still make inevitability into reality. To be honest, I don’t even really care where we came from or why. If we Changed can still bring you Lessers to your knees, I wager our origins won’t matter much.
With a small laugh, Silas continued. The Breaker tried to remove him a few more times, but Silas clung up until he eventually stood atop the huge stone giant’s shoulders. Silas sucked in his breath, readying himself. All around, he could see the ruins that Kingbreaker had become. The corpses of both Slaves and humans lay about like sprouting weeds. They were the only things that gave colour to the dark brown ground in the failing sunlight. The last sparks of light from the torches that had been held by the Slaves as they made their attack on the western gate were nothing but embers now.
Silas knew that, more than ever before, he was the only one to stand up against this behemoth. He was the only person who could break the Kingbreaker. And what a poetic foe to be defeated by, Silas thought, a Changed should be the one to bring down an old legacy. It’s in our name, after all…
The Breaker, evidently having lost all patience with its opponent, reared its head back and loosed a roar that sounded like two mountains rubbing up against each other. Silas couldn’t even see a mouth on the blasted thing, but his attention was elsewhere anyway. He lowered himself into a stance like a Rage Wolf about to pounce…
The Breaker affixed its burning orange eyes on its enemy and Silas could see its free arm start to rise and its free hand form into a fist.
One strike, Silas thought. That’s all I need… that’s all it needs…
The mighty stone monster let out another thunderous roar and Silas returned it in kind. He ran forward, throwing away his dagger and taking his spear, which thrummed in his hand from its inlaid magical might. The Breaker’s fist came like a meteor towards Silas and Silas rose up like a thunderbolt. Silas closed his eyes and raise his voice further, his target engrained so clearly in his mind that he knew he could never miss.
Silas suddenly became aware of the sound of rushing wind in his ear as he thrust his spear out with all of his might…
As a sidenote: I used “Stone, wolf, fantasy, and castle” as my inspiration.
All I can think of after seeing this finished is Bernard Hill yelling “Victory! We have Victory!” I even felt like I had to slay 10,00- Uruk-Hai in a short amount of time, too. Now, if you’ll excuse me (provided you’re reading this and managed to get all the way through the story. By the way, have a drinking game called Count the Errors. I am not responsible for your liver), I’m going to go tend to my writer’s delirium.
Good luck, you brave writer folk!