Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Law of the Plains, chapter 15 (penultimate!)

(This is chapter 15 of the Law of the plains. In the previous chapter, the elders of the tribe, their mounts and their gifted hunting hounds fought the horde valiantly, trying to buy some time for the rest of the tribe. Despite their incredible bravery, they still all died and the horde pressed on.)

Kanaretah barked orders as she tried her best to get the tribe to disperse. She yelled so much her throat hurt and her voice croaked and broke. At the same time, she grabbed a young Nʉmʉ, almost an infant, Quanah was his name she remembered. As she was haranguing the stragglers, she held him tight against her and sent Neraquassi in a gallop.

It was useless.

She stared in utter disbelief as she saw snarling morlocks running on all fours gain ground on the horses. Some of them ran past her, trying to catch the humans that were the farthest from the horde, those that were in front of the convoy. She cried as she saw people, the very same people that she could have sworn moments ago were going to make it alive, people she knew and was supposed to protect, being cornered by the ravenous monsters.

She did not understand why the horses could not outrun the damned demons. It did not matter anymore. She grabbed her bow and dropped a few morlocks with well placed shots, but a beast pounced on Neraquassi and tore his throat open. She felt her friend's pain in her mind, it seemed she felt his pain more than her own as she hit the ground. Instinctively she had held the boy tight against her and had rolled on her back so as to break the fall and protect him, but because of that her head hit a stone. The concussion did not kill her though, even the mercy of such a quick death was denied to her. Neraquassi fell on her, breaking her leg, then morlocks swarmed the three of them and dug their filthy fangs in their helpless bodies. There was so many monsters fighting over her broken bones that she did not even know who or what killed her, but she would have been proud to know that in her last instants, she never let out the slightest cry of pain, and that she managed to pull her knife out and gut at least one of the monsters.

The whole fight wasn't one, not really. A lot of morlocks died, it was true, and the Nʉmʉ would have been proud to know how long they had managed to survive, but as Yahneequena had realized, they never had a chance. Within minutes, they were all dead and the only sounds that remained were the slow breeze rustling the grass and the morlocks feasting on their still hot bodies.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Law of the Plains, Chapter 14

(This is chapter 14 of the Law of the plains. In the previous chapter, the horde of morlocks has caught on with the tribe, despite the desperate efforts of Tabbaquena and Yahnee to slow them down.)

Kanaretah cursed the old shaman for daring to take a decision in her stead but she knew he was right. She could save more lives by doing what she did best: leading and inspiring her people. She was the War Chief.

"Disperse!" she yelled. "All the hunters and the teenagers, disperse in random directions! Take 2 horses each if you can, go in pairs! One hunter, one young! Take the closest person to you! Don't think! Move, move, move!"

The band had been paralyzed by the sight of the horde coming out of the fog. Thankfully they were galvanized by their leader's presence and decisiveness. The hunters scrambled and grabbed the nearest kids. A form of order started to emerge from the chaos, they collectively had a purpose. Kanaretah steeled her resolve. The Law of the Plains was very clear as to what had to happen next but she abhorred it. "You leave the infants behind if you can't carry them! You're not a hunter, you take arms and you give these bastards hell! Nothing else matters!" she shouted again. She did not realize it but as she said that, tears rolled down her cheeks.

Boyahwahtoyehe suddenly appeared next to her.

"You did good, dear." he said. "We are all dead anyway, we might as well try to save the few that have a chance of  surviving winter."
"Maybe they could reach Gond." she said, her voice trembling. "The city would give them asylum for winter as their Duty orders them to. Or they would send them to Petrel's Rock by Wind Train, or to a place where there is enough food…They would... "
The old Peace Chief raised his hand. "Stop. Our laws allowed us to survive the pʉetʉyai against all odds for nearly six centuries. Do not doubt them now. Go. It's time for me to die and for you to try and live."

Kanaretah knew he was right, but she hated it, she hated the Laws and her Duty. No, she hated the morlocks, the wretched beasts that had turned the plains into a hellish war zone where parents had to leave their children and rush to their deaths.
Boyahwahtoyehe raised his lance above his head. Behind him, many voices echoed him. The elders of the tribe had gathered around their leader, ready to fight.
"Go, old friend. Make the Great Spirit proud." said Kanaretah.
The horde was getting closer. They heard the winds rise, the dark morlock growl and the winds die. Time was running out. Kanaretah gave one last smile to her friend, then asked Neraquassi to head towards the stragglers. She did not look back.

As a single man, the elders of the tribe charged. Their war cry was so powerful that for a few seconds it covered the sound of the thousand morlocks  feet stomping the ground.
They all killed a morlock with their first strike. But it was only what, maybe twenty dead enemies over a thousand? It was hardly enough…And then  the horde stroked back.

Morlocks were all different. According to legends, they were humans that were once corrupted by Tanasi-pʉetʉyai, the evil Ghost King. They were mostly still humanoid in shape, but their size varied greatly. Some were 7, even 8 feet tall. Some were dwarfish creatures, no more than 4 feet tall. Some were strong, some were fast, some were both. Some had claws that could tear armors, others horns that could punch through steel. The most dangerous ones had fur that turned into blades like the razorcats, others into armor like the morduans. There was no rule, except one. They were all very hard to kill, they could survive most wounds as if they were nothing and heal them in minutes. The only way to kill them for sure was to land a killing strike, either by destroying their brain,  their heart, or inflicting enough damage for them to bleed out before they healed. The problem was, sometimes they had more than one heart, or more than one brain or did not need blood to survive. Each morlock was a particular, deadly problem.

Twenty Nʉmʉ warriors, even veterans such as those that had charged the horde, had absolutely no chance. Twenty morlocks would have killed them all, after a long fight maybe, if they were lucky enough. In front of a thousand, they could only hope to slow them down and even this hope was slim at best. So they did not even try to kill the monsters after their initial deadly charge, they just tried to incapacitate them enough by wounding their legs or blinding them by hitting their eyes. Their only hope was that the morlocks sometimes turned on each other when wounded but even that would not delay them long enough. Even if a fight broke between a hundred morlocks, the horde would keep pressing forward all the same.

Boyahwahtoyehe had landed his lance squarely in the face of a mean looking beast that was covered with chitinous plates all over its body. He spat.
"Should have worn a helmet!" he said defiantly.
He pulled his lance out with the help of the momentum of his horse and described an arc. Half by design and half by chance, because the morlocks were so packed, he grazed the face of several of them, cutting a few eyes and noses, enough damage to drive them to a frenzy and turn them on each other. One had blood drip all over his eyes and was momentarily blinded. When another crashed into him he rammed into the offender. He had barbed bony ridges on his chest and grabbed his adversary in a bear hug, crushing him. When the wretched creature went limp, the barbed morlock bit its neck and tore it open. Driven mad by the smell of blood, the other morlocks around jumped on them. Soon, the indistinct mass of fighting creatures was trampled by the horde that was still rushing forward.

Boyahwahtoyehe's heart sank. It was hopeless. Nothing would ever slow those morlocks enough for the band to make it.
Furious barking around him. The dogs of the band, huge hunting hounds that were either semi-feral or Gifted in the same ways as horses, launched themselves at the morlocks. They killed a few monsters and fought bravely. Even in their simple dogs mind, they knew they would die, but they still fought to protect the tribe. They were a part of it as much as any human or horse.
The massive, muscular canines were ferocious in their own right. They were used to hunting the dangerous beasts of the plains. They were deadly and brave and more than a match for most morlocks... But bravery did not win a fight, especially one with such odds. One by one they died, taking an enemy each in death with them. Still, it wasn't enough.

Boyahwahtoyehe lost his lance. It was jerked off his hands when it got stuck in a morlock's ribcage. He grabbed two arrows from his quiver and slammed them in the face of a small morlock that was holding his foot with arms longer that its legs, trying to topple him down. Another small one jumped on his horse's back, grasped his leather vest and finally managed to throw him to the ground. He landed heavily on his back and was momentarily stunned. He just had time to reach for his knife when a morlock with a mouth as large as its head leaped on him. It opened its maw impossibly wide, revealing three rows of teeth. Boyahwahtoyehe was not Bowahquasuh's father for nothing. With one hand he grabbed the lower jaw of the beast and pulled it towards him. The surface of the old man's skin gleamed, it was as strong as iron and the teeth did not puncture it. The morlock tried to jerk free but Boyahwahtoyehe held him tight and drove his knife in its palate, then through its brain. The thing fell on him, completely limp.
"Ha!" yelled Boyahwahtoyehe in a frenzy. "No dinner for you!"
He never knew what killed him. A huge morlock well over 8 feet, with huge hooves instead of feet, stomped on his head, crushing it. Even iron skin could not protect you from six hundred pounds falling on your face.

One by one, the Nʉmʉ elders died. They fought bravely and fiercely and their horses and their hounds were equally courageous, but they still all died. Despite these overwhelming odds, they killed an incredible number of morlocks, almost a hundred when the last Nʉmʉ fell. If anyone had been there to see that, they would have written songs about it, but there wasn't anybody. They were alone, a small band lost in the vastness of the plains.

Implacably, the horde pressed on. 

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

The Law of the Plains, chapter 13

This is chapter 13 of the Law of the plains. In the previous chapter, the tribe faced a huge horde of morlocks. According to the law of the plains, Kanaretah fled to try to save the tribe. Yahnee, his horse Wakaree, and the shaman Tabbaquena stayed behind to try to slow down the horde.)

Tabbaquena saw Wakaree and Yahnee rush at the kʉtsʉtoya. He knew that they were going to die, but he was happy in his heart that the kid would do so with honor, not petrified like a spineless city dweller.

He dismounted. His own horse was not nearly as gifted as Wakaree, he would not really realize his rider was dead, so the shaman slapped on his rump and sent it back to the rest of the herd. Maybe he would be able to save himself.

The horde was closing in. They were running fast, way too fast. The tribe would never be able to escape, loaded as they were. He had to buy them time. He prayed to his spirits and asked them to help him in this last fight. He got his drum out and started playing a beat, a mean and aggressive beat, the strongest beat he had in him. As he did so, he felt his spirits come to him and lend him their powers. He started feeling as if anything was possible and in some way it was true. He was a Friend of the Wind, like Towasi, but a much more powerful one. So he mustered all the power he had in him, all the power of the spirits that walked with him, and in a great display of will, he manifested the vision he had in his mind's eye, a great tornado that would sweep the morlocks aside.

The winds started to rise and howl and scream their rage at the blasphemous presence of the morlocks. The monsters were shoved aside, they tumbled and collided against each other. For an instant, the rushing line of monsters was disrupted and fights broke out in their ranks as the winds slammed the lightest into the bigger ones.

Tabbaquena saw the disruption he had caused and he was happy in his heart. Maybe he would manage to slow them down enough after all. Sadly, he would never know. All of a sudden a great tiredness overwhelmed him and he fell to his knees. Magic was very demanding, which made it a very dangerous thing. There was always a price to pay for shaping reality and the greater the feat, the greater it was.

Creating a tornado was a great feat indeed.

Tabbaquena felt blood drip down his nose and eyes. His vision blurred, the sounds were muffled. He could only hear his heart beat like a drum against his ears, he could only faintly see his companions rush at the gigantic animal in front of him.

Yahneequena and Wakaree crashed into the kʉtsʉtoya with all the force they could muster. They had years of hunting experience and at the last moment, Wakaree jumped aside, allowing his rider to stab the beast with his short lance.  Yahneequena knew he had only one chance. Normally hunters would wear down their prey with multiple stabs but he was alone. So he went for his only chance to drop the thing. He thrust his lance in the beast's nearest eye. It was a small target but he miraculously hit it with his weight and his horse's combined, with all their speed behind it. Such a powerful strike could skewer a man, it was powerful enough to go through bone and it did. The long leaf-shaped blade punctured the animal's eye as if it was not there, destroyed the eye socket behind it then finally lodged itself in the kʉtsʉ's brain.

Yahneequena would have yelled his victory but the force of the impact was too great. He rammed into his lance's shaft, broke a few ribs and was thrown to the ground. He tried to break his fall with one arm, but he was falling way too hard. The bone shattered and he crashed to the ground. Stunned and barely alive, his body in excruciating pain, he managed to lift his face from the earth and take a look at his enemy. The monstrous animal had been killed on the spot, its legs had buckled under it and it fell heavily. Its rider had not been thrown down however, despite the momentum. Yahnee's heart sank. He had hoped he could have at least wounded him, but the only thing he had managed to do was to piss the  thing off.

The horde was still closing in. The morlock leader let himself down his mount, sliding almost gracefully to the earth. He started walking towards Yahnee, a burning rage lighting the strange golden rings that circled his eyes. He was almost over the young warrior when a massive gust of wind sent him to his knees, his face right next to Yahnee's. The young Nʉmʉ laughed and spat blood to the face of his enemy. "Our shaman is stronger than you, demon!", he croaked.

The morlock rose, standing his ground against the raging winds. He turned towards Tabbaquena and did a sweeping motion with his arm, growling.

"No."

To Yahnee's horror, the winds died down. He coughed more blood and screamed "What are you, monster?".

He had never heard a morlock say a single word before. They were supposed to be barely more clever than a horse! Then he started to realize. "We never had a chance, had we?"
"No." said the lipless morlock once more in his strange guttural voice. He started walking towards Yahnee again. Around them, the horde was surging, but it was avoiding its leader and circled around him like water flowing around a rock. The strange morlock grabbed his black sword ("morlocks never had their own sword" thought Yahnee frantically) and lifted it, point down, poised to plunge it in the boy's body.

A deafening neigh forced him to recoil by a step or two. Wakaree had turned around and had come back to protect his brother. He reared, trying to strike the comparatively small morlock with his hooves. Their enemy was too fast, way to fast. He moved back, just enough to avoid the deadly strike and as Wakaree's forequarters touched the ground, the dark creature ran toward him, jumped and landed a massive blow on the side of the horse's head. Wakaree fell down like a rock, his legs twitching in agony.

"No!" screamed Yahnee. "No, Wakaree, no!" +

He did not grieve for long. The morlock drove his sword in the young brave's heart, then pulled it out.

Yahneequena fell flat on his back. In his last moments, as his life poured out of his chest, he tried to turn around, reaching for and almost touching his brother's mane. "Brother Wakaree, I love you." he had the strength to tell his friend. "Brother Yahnee. Happy." answered the horse weakly. Then they were both gone.

Tabbaquena the shaman saw the amazing strike landed by Yahnee on the morlock's mount. It was his last sight. His spirit had put all its energy into this last magical act and he had none left to keep on living, so he died, like a candle blown by the wind. He died proud of his fellow tribesman and though he never knew it, him and Yahnee died as warriors, their back away from the enemy. He was on his knees but he was still gripping his lance and pointing it towards his foes, as it should be.