It gave a harsh laugh. “So you speak the tongue.” It said, a vicious grin on its face. “I had given up on finding any other than the dragons.” It twirled the sword. “But your bravado reveals a rather disappointing intellect, the gods do not exist child. No gods were there when my predecessors carved their way from our prison, it was no god that turned us back. There is only man, beast and magic.”
I didn’t reply, steadying my blade and putting my injured foot behind me. The Edratchi walked over to me, letting the blade trail on the ground, wisps of shadow and crackling energy between the earth and the blade. As it drew near I moved to swing at it, the nice thing about aether, it couldn’t be blocked, or… it shouldn’t have been possible.
Its blade met with my own and halted its advance, my swing had carried little force, and the blade was easily stopped. It pushed me back, and I stumbled backwards. Its blade had pushed against my own… Aether was incorporeal… How? “I told you… Magic changes for me.” The Edratchi said, voice a low growl. “Your rules are not mine, and when we take this world we will make it our own.”
“With no negotiations…” I said. “Just sweeping the rest of us away?” I gritted my teeth, putting the Aesor back into position. “Some would call that callous.”
The Edratchi snorted, twirling the blade. “Really? Like you creatures would stand aside.” It gave what looked like a menacing smile as it walked towards me. “And truth be told why would we negotiate?” I brought up the sword, parrying the swing it threw at me, and sidestepping as they used the rebound to swing at me again. “You are weak, fragile, and worse, you locked us back into UNIMAGINABLE HORRORS.” It snarled, sending a kick my way. I braced as it struck me in my side, sending a jolt of pain from my left foot.
I lunged forward, and the Edratchi moved aside, swinging another blow at me that I barely blocked. “Don’t act like you’re all blameless.” I used my momentum to move beyond it, turning around to face them again. “I’ll bet you barely even know your own history, your own atrocities.” I spat. “All you have are stories of that time, and what better proof of that than me… I carved my way through because you had no preparations, no knowledge of what I could do.”
“All because you kept us in the DARKE!” The Edratchi roared back, moving forward. I gritted my teeth, parrying the first blow from its sword. A fist slammed into my stomach, and I doubled over. Knowing its blade would have been readied again I quickly shifted to the side, and its blade clipped my left arm instead of my chest. I winced as electricity jolted up my arm and it kicked me away. “Do you know how many of my comrades were lost to it, changed forever?” It snarled.
I rolled to my knees, grimacing in pain as several needles of pain stabbed into my side along with my foot. I thought to move my left arm to my stomach, but though the arm raised up to my side the forearm didn’t respond to my commands at all.
[Where the blade passed through, your arm has become necrotic.] Page responded. A new type of magic huh? [I do not know how it managed to trigger that response, but it’s not an effect that comes from just mana.] Because if it was it’d have affected me about as much as the damn potions… [It can be fixed.] Page replied. [Quickly even.]
Hope so… what about the foot? I asked, watching the Edratchi warily.
[That… I can stop it from bleeding, and direct the nanomachines to kill the pain nerves there for the duration, but to heal it… It is crushed, pulped.] Page noted. [You will need several days to fully heal it, and set the bones back into their places. At this point it might even be better to cut it off… The nanomachines can rebuild it later.]
I had feared as much, cuts and precision damage were easy enough to heal, but crushing and pulping were extensive, messy affairs… I nodded, bringing my blade to bear on my foot. Stop the bleeding. I told Page. The stump will probably be easier to walk on.
“Ah, a practical man, if slow to understand.” The Edratchi said mockingly as I left the mangled bit of flesh, the boot would suffice as a prosthetic, I mentally willed it to steel, lunging forward.
It wasn’t skilled with the blade, swinging it as an amateur would, a baseball bat rather than a sword. Wisps of shadow extended from its own, trying to ensnare me, and forcing me to waste precious seconds cutting myself free as we fought. My blade stabbed itself into its shoulder, and it screamed, a piercing sound that exploded outwards.
I was slammed against one of the large ice spears nearby. It grabbed my chest, lifting me up even as shadows wrenched the Aesor from my grip. “You are weakened, useless.” It said, jamming the blade into my stomach. I bent over in pain, before moving to kick it in the face. “Save your strength, your death will be slow, and when they see you fall they will submit.” It threw me in the opposite way.
[Do you really not have any plans at all?] Page asked, surprisingly calm as my body tumbled across the ground. Actually I do… I just needed him overconfident, convinced I wasn’t a threat. [Like now maybe?] It said sarcastically. Yeah… Like now…
I reached into my armour, feeling for a handle. “What’s this? Do you have another aether weapon?” The Edratchi mocked. I coughed a little, sagging. “Or is it some memento to keep you centred in your final moments?”
“Something like that.” I coughed out, spinning. At the distance I was, it was easy to find the mark I was looking for, the dagger jammed itself into its right eye. It doubled over, plucking out the dagger as I threw the second, banking on it turning to look at me with its other eye. Bingo. I thought with a satisfied smile as it howled. I got to my feet, drawing two daggers, my arm now healed.
“Still have a trick or two then.” It snarled, dropping the dagger to the ground. “It won’t save you, I can still see… still…” It spun, probably seeking me with magical senses. I moved quietly closer, the Aesor was beginning to gutter out, and the other Edratchi muttered amongst themselves. Several had begun to close, hefting their weapons. Have to end this then…
I hobbled forward, jamming the two daggers into it from behind. “Yes. I do.” I whispered as I worked the daggers under its carapace, and it grunted in pain, twisting away from me, wrenching the daggers from my grip. It swung, and the blade passed just above my knees. I reached out with my left hand, holding myself upright upon its shoulder before drawing another dagger that I slammed into its throat. It gurgled, pulling me into a deathgrip as we both collapsed to the ground.
I struggled fruitlessly as it tried to choke out its last words. Blood and spittle splashed onto my faceplate, and the other Edratchi closed in. They reached out, claws sinking into my shoulder.
[Mission accomplished.] Page muttered sarcastically.
Heh… I guess so. I thought back, jamming a dagger into the hand that had done so. It backhanded my helm, and the Edratchi leered. I grimaced, wondering if this was a good time to just bite my tongue. As it moved closer its face became vacant, and it collapsed onto me. I could hear thuds all around as well, and Delving showed me the ambient mana wiped clean.
I shook my head, holding back a harsh laugh. “That’s the Aerathi I suppose.” I mused to myself. “Finally here to save the day…” Something landed nearby, hovering to the ground. “Over here!” I shouted, switching back to the dragon’s tongue. There were some shocked whispers, before footsteps rushed to where I was. The corpse over me shifted, and I found myself facing a group of what looked like space commandos… They wore a translucent faceplate and matte white armour, modern in make and finish. Well they’ve sure got the tech…
“How are you still alive?” One of them asked me, as they pulled out a dagger and went to work cutting away the Edratchi leader’s arms from my body.
“Just take me back. Please.” I asked testily. I could still feel the pull of the portal, and I needed to go now. That the Aerathi were here, and that they had already wiped away such a large portion of the Edratchi, meant that the war was already won.
They seemed to shrug, pulling me to my feet, as they released me I started to fall over, they hurriedly reached out to steady me, looking over to my limp feet. “Oh… Sorry, we didn’t realize.” One of them said apologetically. As we moved to their vehicle, which looked almost like a flying car, their eyes alighted on the Aesor. “That aether blade’s pretty strong to have survived the blast…” One of them commented. I sighed, motioning them away from it as I deactivated it, I wasn’t sure if it’s hurt them or not, but it wasn’t something I wanted to worry about.
“Looks like the world’s really advanced while we were away.” I shrugged, and they carried me onto their vehicle, which gave a whirr and a whoosh as it rose into the air. They landed next to the command tents, hoisting me out and laying me down onto the ground. “We’ll just go and have a chat with your commanders…” They said. “Will you be alright here?”
I looked around, waving Teal over. “Yes, I’ll be fine…” I said, waving them off. “Teal, I need you to bring me somewhere right now…” She looked perplexed, cocking her head at me.
“But… your legs… shouldn’t you be…”
I interrupted her. “I don’t have time to argue this Teal.” I said, firmly. “Just… quickly.” I said, gesturing to where the pull originated. She reluctantly nodded, putting me onto her back. I hung on. Sticking my armour to her scales as she took flight. I could feel my insides churning as they coped with the necrosis, if the creature had just stabbed four inches higher my heart would’ve stopped…
I signalled for her to land once we got close enough, it was still forest, but Teal obliged by shrinking down, gliding me to the ground. I slid off her back and onto the ground, stumbling forward as she changed to her human form. She gently offered her shoulder, allowing me to use her as a crutch as I stumbled forwards. Then the pull stopped.
I halted in my tracks, looking forward, I spurred myself forward, finding nothing where the portal had once lay. “No…” I muttered to myself. “No no no…” I started to laugh, slipping to the ground and wrapping my arms around my legs. My voice started to crack, and I laughed harder, letting the sound reverberate through the forest.
“Seraph?” Teal asked, shifting uncomfortably on her feet. I stopped at that, looking at her, and shaking my head, furious.
“I’m so fucking tired of hearing that.” I snarled, throwing the Aesor at her. It bounced off of her chest, and she seemed taken aback, her feet sliding backwards a step. “I’m not the Seraph! I never have been. But you didn’t listen, no one did… I had one chance… One. Stupid. Fucking chance. But I just couldn’t walk away.” I gestured around me. “Because for once, I thought I was a bloody hero.”
“Look where that got me…” I snarled. “Almost died pulling it off, and it was utterly pointless wasn’t it?! The Aerathi are here, they’ve basically already won the damn war.” I gave a harsh laugh. “And now I’m stuck here, maybe forever.” I leaned back, laying onto the ground.