Bhelith lowered the horn from her lips and, for a few moments, she let herself appreciate that the soldiers that had heard her call to battle were pouring out of their tents with their rifles and various cultural weapons in hand. She could spy the battle occurring on the small knoll where the others were, but Bhelith had made the camp at the entrance of Gor Gozen, thinking that the overwatch provided by the Asteria high above the clouds would have warned them of troop movements on the surface.
Clearly, she would have to chastise someone after this.
On the other hand, the delve had been soon, and Bhelith had geared herself for it with all the expectation of doing battle with the automatons she knew would guard the place. A surprise attack would kill some of her soldiers, but it gave the Lord Empress no anxiety that she could feel consciously. Her breath didn't gasp, her heart didn't pound, her gut didn't clench. Ages had worn all of that out of her. She rolled a shoulder and felt the sun on her exposed skin. Her Stag-horn bow, Cútathar, thrummed warmly in her hands as she fit one of her black-fletched arrows to the string.
The daystar rose high, the clouds drifted along sparse and small, white and merry in shapes of all sorts, moved by a breeze that she could feel in her hair as it tickled her cheek and her ears. She took a moment as the gunfire began to bind it back, scanning the battlefield at her ease. The Knights of Kowloon were a competent group of soldiers and would survive without her direct intervention for a few more minutes at least.
It struck her as a good day for a fight.
When she picked up her bow, she joined the fighting at the eastern side, where it seemed that the Atraxians had attacked most swiftly from. They had a little more high ground than she would have wanted, but when first she drew her bow, she sighted up easily enough.
She spoke a word of power and the shaft of her arrow wavered like a mirage in the sunlight.
The second part of the attack was begenning, this time on Bhelith's portion of the camp. Another machine gunner was moving towards a large boulder, though he had not quite reached cover. Two arms men were advancing with their heavy shields that appeared to be armor plates torn from the flanks of a fallen walker or tank. These troops had heavy back packs with all manner of kit, clubs, and their armor was crudly painted to match the country side. The machine gunner was covered in a thick push he had fastened to his gear, and if he sat down, he would be indistinguishable from the country side at a distance.
The truth of the matter was that as much as any soldier or guard would get chastised for this sudden Atraxian attack; Atraxian Commandos were very dangerous enemy for any military unit. Their attacks were often shockingly well coordinated, though maintained the brutality of Atraxian fighting. Commandos as they were called enjoyed getting in close and then springing sudden attacks on what was usually a very suprised enemy. In fact at this moment, Rorik's words about Kowloon soldiers being more intelligent seemed to come out and bite them. These Atraxians knew how to wage a war, and these were their special forces.
The soldiers' accompanying Bhelith took up their positions and began firing on the incoming Atraxians, only to see their rounds patter off of their heavy shields harmlessly. Or worse, make it through to bite into Atraxian flesh and body armor to little effect. The two advancing armsmen let out raucious laughter and kept on coming.
Bronzi was at the Center of the camp when the attack had begun. The Gartagen in his heavy armor, tossed his rifle to the ground, and yanked out his Gafi Stick. A weapon, similar to a Tonfa, only it was mechanized to deploy. Which, gripping its handle, the weapon snapped out deploying a long hard double forked end that doubled the length, and crackled with magical energy. Bhelith through her own sense of magic, saw that the weapon was imbued with energy. Sura, grappled Mona and pulled away, only to be blocked by a loud thump and rattle.
Something had just dropped down from the cliff and crashed into the midst of the camp. Something big. The impact of the landing caused a cloud of dust to engulf it. Bronzi, however, was a capable fighter, and Bhelith had grown a little bit sentimental for her soldiers over the years. There were only three Atraxians here, and though they were arrogant, and laughing, and they clearly thought that going up against small arms fire was another walk in the park for their shields, Bhelith had a mind to drive them off.
Bhelith decided that screaming, this morning, would be preferable to laughter. She calmly sighted down at the two approaching armored Atraxians and, winding another word of power into her arrow - though nobody around her would understand the language of Jord, it roughly translated into 'blast' - and before that word had escaped her tongue, the arrow lept to flight. The bow sang, glowing faintly as the power surged out of it, and the arrow whistled as it went.
Bhelith's vision shifted as she channeled energy into her spell. The world around her shifted to the realm of magic. She saw all of reality tied together- the rippling wave of sounds, and the pulsing life energy from Bronzi, his child, her soldiers, and the Atraxians. Behind her, she sensed something concentrated around Lukina. She didn't turn to look. Bhelith could feel the presence of something different on the field, and put it out of her mind. If there were one of those meddling things roaming the battle, she could do little enough about it.
Her arrow did not streak through the air- it tore it apart creating a magical contrail as it crackled with energy, exploding with a sonic boom, and a flash. There was a delay, strucking the Atraxian on the left, and an orange fist sized hole glowed in the middle of his metal shield. The magical energy detonated inside of the Atraxian, transmogrifying flesh, bone, and metal into a green mist, and flung his companion into the nearest rocky out cropping. The commando's crude equipment clattered as the Atraxian impacted into the stone, he struggled for a moment before the life fled from his body and he laid broken and limp on the ground.
Her eyes burned with gold fury, appearing to all around her as though she were containing a small golden sun. The Warrior-Arcanist drew another black arrow out of the quiver at her hip and rolled her stag-embroidered half-cloak back again to notch the weapon to her bow. This time when she enchanted the arrow, causing it to waver, she spoke to the wood and caused the black ash to burn with lines of liquid fire as the words trailed its length.
Her soldiers could handle a single dazed, probably even dead Atraxian by flanking him, now that his shield partner had been obliterated, but she had for a moment lost track of the machine gunner. She looked for him.
Through her new sight, peering through the realm of magic, she searched the Atraxian out among the brush or, perhaps, behind the rock.
The Atraxian was easy to locate. They were astonished at the power of Bhelith's weapon and were reconsidering the value of continuing this fight. Only the earth shattering landing of its boss seemed to get her back into the fight. Bhelith sensed that the Atraxian was female, and bursting with life energy- pregnant, and budding. She locked onto that life energy, wove it into the arrow.
As Bhelith glimpsed into the inbetween, the female Atraxian bellowed and her energy spiked. The machine gun popped up and belched out a torrent of inaccurate supressing fire of heavy, primitive black powder bullets. An Azalea company man was nearly torn in half by the sudden burst and his body flipped over backwards before thumping onto the blood and viscera soaked earth.
The Atraxian that was felled by Bhelith's arrow struggled to its feet as Bhelith's soldiers opened fire on him. He growled in pain as the space aged weapons of Kowloon cut through his ramshackle armor like butter and hurriedly pulled his shield into place in front of him.
In the center of camp, Bronzi flipped his Gafi stick around, and struck a defensive pose. Sura and Mona backed off, ducking low as the inaccurate machine gun fire saturated the camp.
The dust cleared, and a few stray rounds struck Staraxia and Bronzi tensed. At six feet two inches, Bronzi stood eye to eye with Creature and Bhelith and his bone and muscle structure was thicker than his brother. He glared up into the red eyes of the Atraxian that growled at him.
Staraxia stood at around eight feet tall, and wore a roughly stitched together, thick sleeveless leather jacket that was stitched together. His foot steps thundered as he advanced, pebbles danced on the dirt with each powerful stride. The Atraxian reached to his armored thighs and drew two "daggers" or at least, they looked like daggers in the hands of this monster, they were very finely crafted, broad edged blades etched with fainty glowing red elven script. "AROO? Garty-boy eh? I was fink I wuz gunna be skinn Knife ears an oomies, but Garty boyz? Hur? I gotta be killin Garty Boyz!" "GAAAAAAH! KOMMANDOZ ATTACK 'EM KILL 'EM AAAAALLLL GWWWWWAAAAAA-AAAAH!"
Bronzi did not wait, he rushed forward and sent his weapon spinning around into a quick blunt strike right into the monstrosity's chest. It would have collapsed the rib cage of a regular man but it only yielded in the interuption of the Atraxian's war cry and forcing the green alien to take a step backwards. Bronzi continued attacking, his weapon swung, and whipped around, striking the massive Attraxian until he released the energy of the weapon. The resulting magical detonation sent the monsterous Atraxian tumbling end over end across the canyon floor.
"Empress!" Bronzi called out as he advanced on Staraxia. "Got tha' boss here! I think he is fixin' on havin' some words wit' us!"
"Hold him there," she ordered, from where she had crouched away from the returning fire.
Once more, the Lord Empress drew the bow back from where she had crouched behind the cover that her soldiers had erected. Regrettably, a few more eyes traveled to her business than to the enemy's, as she hooked a boot against the brace of the bow and rolled onto her back. Most of the humans with her had probably thought that the Lord Empress using a bow in the age of modern warfare was anachronistic at best, and foolish at worst - now, she felt more than happy to show off for them. Cútathar the longbow couldn't be fired from a crouch, but she wouldn't have to be accurate. This time, she aimed upwards and let the arrow fly without any other words required; in that brief glimpse of the ether, she had bound it into the energy of the Atraxian mother. Again, the bow hummed, her eyes glowed, and she breathed the magic as she released.
It didn't particularly bother Bhelith that there were pregnant Atraxians on the field. She hadn't let that slow her down. Atraxians didn't garner any sympathy on that account. The arrow, like a hunting dog, would have her scent.
The bowstring slapped her boots, and she rolled back into a crouch and looked at the fight happening in the center of the camp.
Staraxia rose up, wiping green blood from his gold plated toofy maw and grinned. He smirked and suddenly broke and ran directly towards the Empress. Bhelith had revealed herself when she responded to Bronzi's call and every Atraxian involved with the invasion had been ordered to take the Empress and bring her to the Boss for "Interoggashun."
Bhelith focused on her magic and loosed her arrow. The arrow buzzed and dodged, hovering through the air like a dragon fly scouting around for prey. It flickered and bobbed through the battle zone, as another of the camp defenders was struck and fell to the ground dying, crying for her mother as the bullet ransacked her insides. The Arrow flashed and struck the Atraxian woman with a small explosion from behind her cover. "AAAAAAAAH! FREGGIN BOOMY STUFF!" She exclaimed with a deep, husky voice and for a moment, the machine gun fire halted.
Staraxia was shockingly agile. Bronzi struggled to keep up as he rushed after him. The massive Atraxian launched himself with an acrobat's grace from a rock and vaulted over Bhelith with an axel flip. He then crossed his blades and sent a blindly fast scissor strike down at the Elven Empress, before landing behind her, placing the Empress inbetween his pursuer.
There came a flash, and then a boom, and then a sudden absense of sound like the battlefield nearby had stopped. For a second or two, something happened, energy rushed back into the world like a rubber band that had snapped.
And then the Mikado stood up.
- - -
Bhelith discarded the sundered Cútathar and scrambled back onto her feet, her jaw clenched hard in anger that she suppressed only with great discipline. The weapon had been shattered in her hands, as she had been forced to use the horn-backed bow to defend from the Atraxian's sudden strike. No living being could move that fast without magic, and Bhelith had not counted on the Atraxian periphery war parties having someone capable of using the Word, the Song, or any other premutation of her craft.
Her hand found the familiar hilt of the Misting sword she carried, drawing it out and willing the transluscent, silvery blade into a deceptively solid form as it cleared the leather sheath. It answered her, becoming solid, and when she had drawn it she flourished it. It was just long enough and slender enough to resemble a rapier, though the grip had not been made for elven, or even human hands. She hooked a finger over the wirelike hilt, familiar with the weight. This sword had been given to her, and was not of her own craft, but the weight comforted her regardless. Bresal, her strange knight-retainer, had trained her well enough to slaughter the unwary with it.
The pale silver of the blade coursed and glittered like moonlight.
She took the measure of the Atraxian with a weather eye, and then without looking away from him she raised her voice so that the fighters nearby could hear her, "Deal with the others! Do not allow them to interfere! They are injured, not dead!"
Bhelith saw the hulking Atraxian standing before her with his two finely crafted blades in his hand. Her sense of the magical realm told her these weapons were infused with some sort of magical force. Yet, his speed and agility were unlike that seen in Atraxians. The large green hulk's mouth spread wide revealing rows of jagged teeth, as he rushed at Bhelith. He sent a swift left right lef slashing combo at the Empress, each move matched by a shuffling of his heavy ironshod boots across the ground. Though larger, more muscular, and smellier; the Atraxian moved with the grace and precision of a dancer. Like a partner, Bhelith danced back in a manner that could be described as elvish grace, weaving the Song into her off-cloak with a dance of her own. She took a few steps and parried, thrust, catching one of the swords and directing it outwards to throw his aim.
When she wrapped the black cloth around her gauntleted hand and used it to deflect the other one of the Atraxian's strikes, sparks did not fly, and the mesh-weave cloth held. In her other hand, the Misting sword let off small tufts of magic as she parried and wove, metering her breathing while she took account of her enemy's abilities. They clashed. They fought. Bhelith began to draw on her armor's enchantment, bolstering her muscles, though not enough to show; she could feel the armor tightening, but it breathed around her shoulders, flexed around her midriff. Some blessings could be curses.
With her added strength, she could thicken the blade, and she shifted her grip as it grew. He seemed to be able to match her, so she corrected her earlier assesment. He was a passable swordsman.
Behind Bhelith the battle raged on, as her troops redoubled in their courage at seeing their Empress engage the enemy rather than flee fought hand to hand with Staraxia's soldiers. Bronzi him self turned to face another Atraxian warrior who had hopped down from the canyon cliff, and Sura took up the line with the soldiers, supporting them with fire from her own Edjia Rifle.
The Lord Empress decided a quick victory would give her troops more heart for the fight, so she danced backwards, careful of her footing on the uneven ground. She drew from her bond with Lukina. She drew somewhat from the golden gem within her forehead, and she could feel energy course through her and into the blade she carried. Her breath hummed with magic, and the golden glow of her eyes played around the edges of her vision.
Bhelith, the world having gone a little slower for her, stopped making distance when her feet found rock. She coiled her arm and, shifting her wrist, snapped the sword out to the side towards empty space. The momentum eased the Misting sword's transformation, and it lengthened and snaked like a whip uncoiling. Turning her strength forward, she and launched the slender, silver blade like a lash across the distance, looking to behead the Atraxian outright.
Staraxia however did not stand still, and as she back peddeled he did the logical thing anybody with some level of training could do against a whip like razor blade. Staraxia thrust his right sword into it and streched out his arm giving his wrist a hearty flick down, to change the weapons momentum. The meeting of the two magical weapons caused a surge of magical energy to manifest into the world. It sparked and popped, pulsating. The lifeless pebbles beneath the magical clash reacted. Some of the little rocks grew legs and began scurrying about Staraxia's feet.
The burly Atraxian snapped his head down as the whip coiled around his blade and the tip lashed out in a circular motion, narrowly missing his eyes. The whip went up and finished its coil biting into his armored for arm. Beneath his jack, he wore crudely fashoned scale mail. It didn't help him, and the whip-blade bit through and green blood began to drip down his sword and onto the ground in oily slick puddles. Staraxia grunted in annoyance brutishly jerked Bhelith's weapon.
Battle sometimes felt, to Bhelith, like a game after all these years. It had gone to guns, and she had answered with armour and shields that could reflect the bullets. The energy weapons could be manipulated and were excellent conductors. For every human mechanation there seemed to be a good answer from the Word or her craft. Fighting in an old way, against a brute of an alien who fought like she did, after all these years, should have terrified her like it threw off her soldiers, but it did not. It felt like putting on an old set of boots.
With a flick of her wrist, she uncoiled the blade with all the tension of a spring. He yanked at it and she let it slide instead of catch, so that the whole of the effort of drawing on it got put into its release. The Atraxian jumped forward, and she went to catch the blade with her gauntlet as her own sword tore apart the beast's left hand. He had lost, she had won, and she began to plan the angle that she would have to throw this stolen blade to impale the gunnery Atraxian who had decided to peek her head out from behind the rock again.
Then, for some reason, Bhelith's world shattered and she found herself seeing something entirely different. She saw Dallas McClosky laid out on the floor, saw a Gartagen deity looming over him, hands outstretched. She felt drawn like a bowstring over the distance as she was forced to view the process, made to see something through her Herald's eyes. She thought she recognized the deity and something that the meddling thing did pulled on her connection with Lukina.
The damn god was trying to sever it, Bhelith realized with sudden, unmitigated fury. Some god was fucking with her. Instantly, she poured her effort into maintaining the link, until she could feel Lukina again, draw from her power, feel her connection and her sworn oath. Until the light of the last star's dying, the girl had said. Who would dare? It was old magic. It was deep magic. Damn the gods that played with souls!
Then the wind went out of her. She didn't think too much of it until something happened to her legs and she felt damp beneath the waist.
She wondered at it until her vision came back and the Atraxian was in her face, its hideous features too close to her for comfort. Stunned, she looked down to find that its sword was sticking out of her guts, and that the wet feeling she had along her thighs was her own red blood.
The Lord Empress grasped at the hand that held the sword in her, finding that her fingers wouldn't grip like she wanted them to. She opened her mouth to speak words of power, and found that the only voice she had came out in blood. He had nicked her lung, too. All she managed was a gurgled gasp.