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. 

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