My partial retreat afforded me a good vantage to survey the carnage. Launce had appeared wearing a full suit of shining plate armour, wielding a sword that looked too thin to be a broadsword and too large to be a rapier. He struck at every beast in range with remarkable speed, seemingly unhindered by the bulk of the armour. Every swing of his sword found one of the beasts. And every strike killed. His boast about his skill may well have been accurate. Guenhav stood near him, her arms folded and her face wearing a glower. She made no effort to attack the beasts, looking irritated by the whole situation. And then a beast leapt for her, Launce was otherwise engaged and whilst my bow was ready to fire I didn’t want to waste the special arrow on one of the beasts. I needn’t have worried. She caught the beast in mid-air, ripping it apart. She still looked irritated.
Ishmael was wading through beasts, the sight of a child fighting the creatures would almost have been comical, were he not wielding a sickle with such speed and precision. The boy carved a path through the beasts towards Chax and began ineffectively hacking at his side. By this time I had gotten far enough away to fire on Chax. The arrow with feathers of Michael and a blessing of the Pope perched on my finger as I pulled the drawstring. I sighted along the shaft focusing on the centre of Chax’s back. They said pierce his heart. If nothing else, a shot there would damage, and possibly foul, his wings. I released the string and the shaft flew towards its mark.
What happened next I still cannot fully explain. The arrow struck the fallen angel in the back and he surged forward, as any normal person would when hit by an arrow. He started to twist around to focus on me, however, he moved as if he was trapped in tar. His shoulder turned towards me, but it was painfully slow. I had another arrow on string and fired before he had even done a half turn. I got the vaguest impression that he was in some form of bubble, and my new, improved senses told me that it was coming from a side-street opposite. In the shadows of that street, stood the Prince and Daeryn. There were several dead beasts lying before them though neither appeared to have engaged in hand to hand. Emrick had a look of intense strain, or concentration on his face. Whatever was happening to Chax, he was responsible.
“Ettori, press your advantage!”
Ettori was too busy to give even the shortest of sarcastic replies to me. His mace rose and fell on Chax, who stood up to the brunt of it but must have been concerned enough, as his focus shifted back to my comrade.
“Who’s less interesting now?” Yelled Ettori. He told me later that when Chax had taunted us, he had told Ettori that he liked to listen to him too. But that he was less interesting. That must really have annoyed him.
“You are.” Chax caught the mace on a downward swing and held it aloft, preventing Ettori from being able to apply his full force. The bubble was gone, and I noticed that a swarm of the Beasts were on the Prince, and he was having to defend himself. Chax pulled the mace towards him, turning slightly away from Ettori and then flinging it, with him attached into the wall of the inn. He then turned to me, looking utterly unimpressed as another arrow plunged into his chest. I reached for another arrow, hoping it would slow down Chax. The plan was falling apart. The Prince and Daeryn were being overrun by a legion of the creatures. Dandrain’s militia were crumpling, even with his assistance, and the healing of Dayna. Launce’s armour was still immaculate, and he still swung his sword, smiling the whole time. Guenhav was covered in gore, the broken bodies of many beasts lying at her feet. Kordell wielded a mace much larger than Ettori’s, and it ran with the blood of fallen beasts. And above the sound of breaking bones, and tearing flesh, was the terrifying laughter of Ishmael. The Elders were holding the position but we were being flanked. I could hear screams from the city, and a visceral roar. The beasts had swarmed the other gates and were tearing through everywhere they could. Solitary guards were run down, if their corpses were anything to go by and the only defence the rest of the city had was Myrrdin Emrys. The roar was him. He had said he could summon a mighty beast to our aid. His cryptic statement was actually quite literal. A force of beasts ran towards us from behind Dandrain’s position with the militia. They were not intent on murder, but flight. And I could see why. Behind them standing two heads taller than anyone, was a creature of nightmare. A mess of flesh, oversized muscles, protruding bones mismatched bulging eyes, and a maw big enough to devour cows pursued them. The gift of the fiends to transform into monsters.
I loosed the arrow, and Chax batted it away with ease. “I am disappointed, I expected better. Do I need to show you what a monster truly is?”
I reached behind me for another arrow, and then I heard it for the first time. Perhaps heard is the wrong word. I felt it. A spark. The beast is rage. The beast is survival. The beast is instinct. I have sensed its intentions from time to time; its desire to kill. And on occasion it has taken control and turned me into a rampaging monster. This spark was something new. It was talking to me. It drew my attention to Emrys, the most visible representation of the terrifying creatures that we are and reminded me that I could channel that terror.
“No, Chax. I know exactly what a monster is.” I summoned the spark and felt it grow from ember to a blaze. What remained of my gums tore as my fangs grew in size all the while the blaze within me swirled, waiting to be unleashed. I snarled at the fallen angel with all the power and fury of the beast that I could muster, a snarl louder than Ishmael’s laughter, louder than the beasts swarming our position and louder than Emrys roar. Chax faltered and stepped back.
I hit him with it again, and he retreated another pace.
Chax’s beasts seemed to sense that their master was shaken, and faltering. It gave them pause, which allowed Emrick to fight his way free of the swarm, flinging the creatures left and right. Several of the creatures nearest Daeryn simply exploded. The bald man showed no emotion. And then Ettori struck. He had abandoned his mace and swung his sword at Chax’s wing. Focused on me, and on trying to regain control, he was unable to muster a defence which allowed Ettori to cleave his wing clean from his back. That got his attention, for which I was immensely relieved as I do not believe I could hit him a third time.
And then Chax began moving slowly again allowing Ettori to run him through with his sword. Emrick must have used his arts once more. I loosed another arrow into his back, which penetrated but immediately burst into flames. My beast retreated, wanting me to follow but I refused its call to flee. Ettori was applying considerable effort into carving his way through Chax’s bowels, and I did not intend to let him fight alone. I leapt onto his back and rammed the only arrow that had not burst into flames further through his chest until it burst out the other side. The blessed arrow.
Chax crumpled, perhaps from the trauma of Ettori’s sword or perhaps from the arrow piercing his heart. Either way he fell to the street, the Prince standing above him placing the chains on him. I hadn’t even seen him move. One moment he was with Daeryn, the next he was beside me holding the chains, faster even than Launce or Ishmael were moving.
Chax’s body began to crumble to ash, and as it did so I heard a faint voice. “You have won for now. We will meet again.”
The battle was won, but this wasn’t over.
The Mycroft Journals is a serialised fiction, written in response to a roleplaying game I play in. It serves multiple purposes. It acts as a permanent reminder of what happened in the story (so, it helps us players), it acts as an advert for the game, and I think our Games Master has provided us with a compelling story, which other people should get to experience.
Featured artwork is by Barry Martin. Check out his page