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Mother of Monsters Chapter 03

Page history last edited by Sea Foam 6 years, 6 months ago

    Ever had one of those days when things just don’t go your way? When no matter what you do nothing turns out right? When I have those days people die.


I was definitely having one today, and the sun had yet to rise.


    A cacophony of bells, shouting, screams of pain and moans of pleasure made any attempts to think futile. Situations like this were why you always drilled for emergency situations though; I didn’t have to think. Instead, I stuck to the plan: head to the designated spot and wait for whoever in my crew wasn’t dead to show up. It was a solid plan, but the thought of the hero Tusk acting like a child in a fire drill was still humbling.


    I casually cut down what must’ve now been a nekomata chasing a young man and ran a block out of my way to bang on the door of Clubfoot, my party’s elder mage. There was no response and he hadn’t left a sign that he already left like he was supposed to. Had it been anyone else’s house I would have kicked the door in and gone in to check on him, but barging into a living wizard’s house was a great way to commit suicide, become the laughingstock of the town, or both. Yet at the same time no wizard would sit back with the world falling to pieces around—they would be busy putting up more wards or something, and even if I couldn’t feel that I should at least be able to hear him panic.


    Against my better judgement I rapped on the door and yelled one last time.

“Hey Clubfoot, you fat sack of shit, I’m coming in! If I turn into a frog or something I will make you pay for it!”

The door flew open with relative ease and I had to catch myself on the doorframe to keep my momentum from sending me past the threshold. The room inside was dark as I peered in, though that was hardly surprising at this time of the morning. I tossed in a rock and ducked behind the wall before it hit the ground. Nothing happened, so like a man waiting for an ambush I stalked to the stairs.

“Hey,” I shouted, “This is Tusk, I’m coming up!” Still no response. Man, I really hoped he’d just forgotten to leave a mark and I was wasting my time. Still, I proceeded to the wizard’s room and opened the door.


    The place was a mess. Everything that could be thrown on the floor had been and I had to step around shards of pottery to walk in. At the least I managed to find the wizard; he was lying pantsless and sweaty on the bed. Fucking gross! Doing my best to ignore the saggy old man’s junk I picked my way to his side.

“Masturbate later old bastard, we have work to do.” Nothing. I tentatively reached out and flicked his nose before diving to the ground, detritus everywhere or no. Not even a single panicked fireball flew across the room. Okay, now that was strange.


    I found my feet again and took another look at the wizard. His eyes were open but not focused and didn’t react to my hand waving in front of them until I brushed his eyelashes, at which point he blinked. Whatever happened to him he wasn’t dead but he just wasn’t… there. He certainly wasn’t going to be of any use to us and I couldn’t help him now, so I settled for covering him and placing the door into some semblance of closure as I left.


    The edge of the graveyard marked the point where I could finally let myself slow down. I reached the mausoleum on a hill our party had, uh, borrowed and turned into a cache, and peered into the deeper darkness of the entrance. There was a whistle from above and I jumped before looking up to see Forge, my archer, peering down at me. We’d chosen the location in part because it had a good line of sight and he’d chosen a high spot to extend that even further. Yes, I was expecting that. I was not surprised at all.

“Where are the others?” I asked.

“Mulberry and Cutter are already here.”


“Here.” The rogue’s voice before me brought my head snapping back down.

“Stop that!” The black-cloaked figure before me shrugged.

“Your fault for not paying enough attention. I was right here the whole time.”

“Fine, fine,” I said with a dismissive wave. “Then let me guess, Mulberry is in that shadow over there.”

“This one, actually.” I managed to suppress yet another jump as the swordmage allowed an unnaturally dark shadow to dissolve and revealed himself.

“Then where are the others?” I asked. “I was sure I would be the last one.”

Cutter shrugged. “I doubt any more will come.”

“They will.”

“Look,” Forge said, jumping between the rogue and I, “I checked on Tuber myself. Her door was locked but no one was inside and she’s not here. She’s gone.”

“That hardly means—”

“THINK, Tusk!” Forge yelled. “She’s a mage, and a damned decent one. If nothing happened to her do you think she would go down without fanfare? Have you heard any magecraft at all tonight? The monsters have been killing every mage in the city, and doing it well.”

My mood suddenly darkened. “No, not killing. I found Clubfoot on the way here, half naked and half dead like he’d had his soul sucked—oh.”


     The mages would hardly be difficult to find; those wards they liked so much would probably work like beacons. Old Clubfoot had taken an extra hour to go to bed he wrapped so many around himself. Mulberry had likely only been spared because he went without. If the monsters really had gotten every proper mage that would mean the guard would have none either. This was going to be difficult to salvage.


“Yeah,” Cutter nodded. “So what we need to do is—”

“Find the others,” I interrupted. “We may have lost Clubfoot and Tuber, but Icefall, Lightning, Dingo—”

“Were weak.” Cutter cut in again, “you know they could never make it on their own if they ran into trouble.”

“—And Brute—”

“Oh, I found him.” This time Mulberry stopped me. “His armor was still red hot when I passed. Something got him good.”


Ever the pragmatist, Cutter continued. “We can mourn him later. Right now we have more than enough supplies, with the four of us we can get through whatever patrols the monsters have. Hopefully the next city over hasn’t been attacked, I have some friends there that can get us jobs or transport.”

“You intend to run?”

“You intend to fight?” he snapped. “Tusk, you killed one big monster. Letting this ‘hero’ business go to your head will get you killed. The best course of action is to—”

“MY PARENTS LIVE HERE! MY FAMILY, MY FRIENDS, EVERYONE I’VE EVER KNOWN IS IN THIS CITY! I WILL NOT RUN TO SAVE MYSELF!” My outburst caused even the unflappable Cutter to flinch. Shakily I took hold of my anger and continued in a growl. “I thought you cared about these people too. Run away with your tail between your legs if you must, I will protect my city.”


    I had nothing left to say to any of them, so without another word wasted I turned and headed back the way I came. To my pleasure Mulberry fell into step beside me. To my surprise Forge did the same.

“Wait!” Cutter called out, scurrying behind the three of us, “Look, if we’re smart we can at least grab your folks, but going back to fight is suicide!” No one said a word. “Fine! Go get yourselves killed, see if I care!” The rogue let out a frustrated grunt, and was gone. It was for the best that he’d chosen not to come; he’d be the least helpful of those remaining and he might just have a chance of making it out on his own. Or so I told myself.


    Transit time was planning time. There was no need for me to do so as I knew they would already have done so, but I had Mulberry and Forge go over their equipment one more time. We were as ready as we could be.

“Okay, this is what I think: the guard is not trained or equipped to deal with the monsters as they are. Back when they were stupid, maybe, but not now that they’re laying ambushes and especially not with mage support.”


“We haven’t enough men to do anything ourselves, so we need to form up with the guard. If nothing else our expertise should be useful. You two head to the east wall’s garrison, I take the north.”

Forge looked at me incredulously. “You can not be planning on going alone.”

“Only for a while,” I said with a dismissive wave, “Fret not, if I see anything I cannot handle alone I can simply run away. At any rate, Mullberry, you are most likely the last semblance of an actual mage, you support whatever is left of the troop with Forge watching your back. I will bring my group to flank any force you encounter, rinse, wash, repeat. Simple enough?”

“I suppose,” the swordmage acquiesced, “just try not to get yourself killed.”

“Ever the plan, friend.”

“Good hunting.” Forge gave me a mock salute before we parted ways.

“And to you.” Then I was alone again.


    The attack on the town had begun in the dead of night. It was almost sunrise now and most of the fighting in the center of town had died down. The guard already regrouped to defensible locations and those that could barricaded their homes or fled. That left the invading “army” to settle down to a semblance of what victorious forces often did: no burning, not so much pillaging, but a lot of raping. It pained me every time I had to pass a group of the monsters surrounding a man crying out for help, but time was of the essence. Soon we would retake the city, and then there would be no more of this.


    What had the beasts even become? Before when they were just vicious animals things had been simple, but now? They had all the cunning of a human, some of the strength of a beast, now they were beginning to organize themselves and, of all things they could use magic. They at least tended to spare the men now, but how many husbands would have lost their wives by the time this was done?


Husbands and wives. Mother and Father. I fought back the urge to go and check on them. All of the men in my family were tough and I knew mother had a good enough head on her shoulders to get the house locked down well, I could trust them to take care of themselves, at least for a while. Time was of the essence; my main concern should be with organizing a counter-offensive and clearing the city before anything broke those defenses.


    No, perhaps that was thinking too far ahead. Forge, Mulberry and I were all good, but even with the three of us assisting the guard we were in for an uphill battle. If Pillar and his group was here things would have been different. If they so much as touched a hair on Waltz’s head my brother would single-handedly carve every monster in sight to pieces. That was nothing more than wishful thinking though; I had faith the stubborn son of a bitch would come back soon, but in the mean time I’d need to do without him. It would’ve been nice if he at least left some gear behind, however—I would probably never have a sword as good as that again. One month. He had been gone for two weeks past his planned return date, but I could give him that long before I lost hope. In the meanwhile, I had another opportunity to make him jealous.


    There was a scream nearby, and a winged figure took to the air with a child kicking in its grip. I set my jaw and picked up my pace. I had no intention to stop until making it to the stronghold at the nearest garrison, but the sounds of clashing blades in the distance grabbed my attention. Had they moved this far out?


    The answer was a resounding “no.” What I found, rather than any decent fighting force, was a group of guard recruits surrounding a monster. The crimson scales and flaming tail marked it as a salamander. Probably. I’d yet to fight one on two legs. It—no, she as I was forced to acknowledge—was absolutely wiping the floor with anyone that dared approach. Several young men already lay on the ground bruised and bleeding, but conspicuously lacking any mortal wounds. Had they actually rushed her en masse they likely would’ve succeeded in killing her, but as they were unseasoned and she’d already dispatched several of their comrades the group as a whole just sort of shuffled about until she chose to dart in and take one out. Pathetic.


AVAST, YOU LOT!” I bellowed as soon as I was within a decent distance. The salamander paused to glance at me as she held one soldier dangling by the chest piece. Upon acknowledging me she performed a half spin and sent the guard in her claws flying to knock down two more. Her eyes locked onto mine as soon as her hands were free and she acted as if the men she was fighting moments before didn’t matter at all. They may as well not have; the fools parted before her gaze and didn’t attack even though I had her distracted.

“A-aren’t you the hero...” one of the guards squeaked.

“Aye,” I responded. I found myself momentarily wishing that the men still on their feet had the wherewithal to be anything but a liability, but quickly shrugged off the thought. I could handle one lizard, flaming or no. “You men get back to the rest, I will be along shortly.”

“Y-yes sir!” I had zero authority over them, but not a one protested to my order. A few even snapped off salutes. The power of a little celebrity and swagger, eh?


     The wounded ones that could picked themselves up and limped away from the lizard as well, leaving only her, me, and the few unconscious soldiers left. I spared them a brief moment of attention while I had the chance. From the looks of things sending a medic would be a waste; there would be many headaches, but none seemed ready to die.


“Don’t worry, I left ‘em alive,” the salamander informed while rolling her shoulders, “that was hardly even have been a fight. The first couple had balls though.” She was going to talk? I had been running around for what felt like half the night and I could use the rest a bit of banter provided, but was she really going to give up that advantage? Stupid girl.

“I’m glad you approve of their manhood. Tell me, just how many men have you taken the measure of tonight?”

“Dunno, maybe twenty or thirty?” Her eyes narrowed as she struggled to catch my real meaning. “Wait, that was one of those innuwindows, right? I think you lost me.” For crying out loud, if you want to banter at least show a modicum of wit!

“I was calling you a whore.”

“Oh.” She blinked. “Hey, are you in command of those guys?”

“Me? No, my men are elsewhere.” And one of them refused to follow me.

“But they listened to you.” Her eyes seemed to shine as brightly as her tail as she came to a sudden realization. “Hey, does that mean you’re really good?! I’ve been looking all night for a good hard fight! I want someone to mount me and pound me until I pass out so bad right now!”

Was she some kind of masochist? “Um, do you realize what you just said?”

“That I want someone to force me to the ground and have their way with me?”

“I still feel as if you fail to realize the implications—”

“Well, no necessarily the ground. Kicking, striking, swordplay, anything is fine so long as I get to fight! I just don’t feel alive unless I’m doing it with an opponent that makes me feel like I’m going to die! What?”

“My head is starting to hurt.” That was hardly an exaggeration; this girl seemed incapable of keeping up with herself, there was no way I could.

“That’s no good. Hey, we should get going already, you should forget about that headache if we fight! Get it up and try to stick it in me! You rested long enough already, right?!”

“Enough! You want to fight? Fine, I can spare no more time for you.”



     The flames on the salamander’s tail blazed higher, their color shifting from orange to a brighter yellow. For the first time I could see more of her than a simple silhouette. As I’d noted earlier she was lean of build, but now I saw that she still had exceptional muscle tone for a woman and heavily bronzed skin. She was mostly naked save for a loose wrap around her smallish chest, a codpiece, vambraces and greaves, all oversized gleaming steel and heavily padded to make up for the incorrect fit. Those pieces looked familiar, but the trigger of recognition was the sword she held. Long, perilously thin and, in the reflected light, aglow with an air of nobility. Fireweave, Pillar’s sword.

“Bitch!” I exclaimed.

“Huh? The name calling is supposed to come after I start winning, not before.”

“I’ll have you return that sword to me, woman.”

“This one? It belongs to me.”

“It does not! What have you done with my brother?!”

The lizard cocked her head. “Brother? So… that makes you Tusk, right? Mom put a reward out for ya once the goat told us about you.” She smirked before adjusting the grip of her clawlike hands on Fireweave and shifting her stance. “This is going to feel amazing.”

“I know no goats, but I do know that you will tell me where Pillar is before this is through.”

“Well, I guess you wouldn’t know any goats technically... Tell ya what, if you win I can tell you where to find Ol’ Pouty, and if I win… can you introduce me to someone stronger?”

“I will introduce you to death.”



    I let the lizard take initiative. ‘I’ll have you return that sword to me’ indeed. With her wielding a sword like Fireweave I could hardly just charge in to hack and slash until she died like I would have liked. Doing so would result in the destruction of my blade and my own defeat. For me this would be a battle of finesse and footwork. I never was good at either.


    The first blow was a blurred lunge I just barely managed to sidestep because it was so straightforward. Expecting her momentum to carry her past me I set myself up to slice at her exposed back, but to my surprise she stopped herself in a single step with those giant clawed feet and twisted. I snapped what was supposed to be a slice into an angled guard and leaned back as the blade raced toward me. The impact of her sword hitting mine was lighter than expected and the clang of steel came from the wrong direction entirely. Namely, from my feet. I looked down to see the top third of my sword lying on the ground before me.


Well, that was worse than expected.


    My weapon hadn’t even been broken, but sliced clean through leaving a clean edge. I could still thrust if I needed to because of the angle it had been cut at, but my range had diminished and I couldn’t even slice with the very tip for fear of damaging the blade more. The salamander smirked at me as she retook her guard stance uncomfortably close but still outside of my new striking range.


    This time I stepped in, baiting attacks and probing for weaknesses in the lizard’s guard. She wasn’t especially skilled, but her reactions were quick and because I had to be careful not to take a solid strike when she blocked or countered I still had trouble landing a hit.


     Metal sang as we pulled the initiative back and forth. Each clash of the blades ended with another notch somewhere along the length of my sword. My weapon quickly became little more than a jagged steel bar, and one more inopportune strike knocked another piece off entirely. I swept my eyes across the battlefield in hopes of finding something useful. There!

“You seem to be growing a bit short, Tusk.” The salamander sneered.

“The only thing growing short is my patience. Would you be so kind as to die?”

“You need to work on your quips.”


    Let her laugh while she could. We finished most of a half-circle around each other and I shifted backwards slightly, groping with my feet until I found what I needed but staying careful not to look down. A momentary raising of my guard invited her to attack in just the way I wanted. The reptile lashed out in a navel high horizontal slash. I immediately dropped to one knee, raised my sword up to deflect her blow upward one-handed and reached down to grasp the hilt of the downed guardsman’s sword I saw earlier. The new blade sliced and arc counter to the salamander’s as she followed through, but the woman, seeming to see the sword at the last second sprung backward and landed hard on her shoulders before my blade did more than graze her.


     Not waiting to miss a second of my advantage I sprung forward and thrust at my enemy’s unprotected chest as she brought herself to her elbows. Shock registered on her face when she saw the tip approach her, but her reaction was immediate. A turn onto her side allowed my stab, aimed at her heart, to pierce fruitlessly into the ground. At the same time she brought both legs up and slammed into the lower half of my chest plate with a double kick that sent me staggering back despite my momentum. The salamander regained her feet with an expression somewhere between a grimace and a smile plastered all over her face.

“Yes! This is how it should be! Come on, fight me harder!” She yelled, stepping towards me once again.

I allowed myself a glance at the sword my last attack left embedded into the ground, then looked back to the lizard.

“Fisticuffs?” I asked, praying she wouldn’t simply cut me down while I was unarmed.

All traces of a grimace left her visage at the question, her face twisting into an all-consuming grin. “Fisticuffs,” she answered, sheathing her sword. As I watched the flames on her thrashing tail grew even higher. “It’s been forever since I got a good fisting.”


     More to my surprise, her hands doubled in size. Before those hands had seemed small on the sword grip meant for an adult man, but now they were quite a bit larger than mine. Her claws seemed to grow with the transformation as well. That was a new trick. Following my gaze, the salamander cracked her knuckles and grinned.

“Pretty cool, right?”

“This will certainly be the first time I fight someone with hams for hands.”


    This was how it would have to be. The few monsters I’d fought as they had become were tough bastards, but at least this way I would no longer need to worry about having bits of my sword chipped off until I was stabbed. Truly, I was lucky the fool was more interested in fighting than actually killing me when I was clearly after her life.


    The ready stance a fighter takes often reveals quite a bit about their fighting style. What my opponent chose was odd. Hands half open like she couldn’t decide if she was going to punch or grab me, an aggressive forward lean to her shoulders as if to keep her legs out of reach, yet a foot positioning so long she barely accomplished that. All told, I got the impression she either wasn’t used to changing stances or had no idea how she wanted to approach me. In all likelihood she would have little skill in either style, but to be on the safe side I reminded myself not to let my punches linger and to keep my guard up.


    I’d been expecting more posturing before either of us made a move, but in her excitement the salamander simply rushed forward, right arm cocked back for a full force hook. I jabbed her in the nose, then followed up with a cross as she recoiled. I advanced, not willing to lose my advantage for a moment. I kept the girl reeling, blow after blow piercing through or going around her outstretched hands. Her defense was amateurish, most of her blocks were closer to swats than anything else, but her disproportionate strength and the size of those claws meant I still landed fewer hits than I should have.


    It was a one-sided fight. How could it not be when the beast only had hands for two weeks? Due to that and perhaps her nature, most of her attacks were straightforward and easily readable. She also kept her hands amateurishly low so her head was exposed; it became a game for me to twist out of the way and smack her  in the face before she managed to pull her hand back. Despite her predictability, however, she was still a beast—when she did manage to hit me it was like being struck by a sack of bricks. The body blows hurt even through my armor.


    Never before had I fought an opponent so unwilling to go down, either. After a few minutes the girl before me stood beaten and bruised, blood still trickling from the nick on her stomach I’d delivered earlier, one eye swelling shut and a slow red stream dripping from her nose, but still she refused to drop or give up. Every punch only seemed to excite her more and I was quickly growing tired. If I failed to end this soon I would have nothing left with which to aid the guards.


    That was when I spotted the sword. Firebrand’s pommel was thrust proudly towards me in easy grasp. This one may have been a tough bitch, but even a monster would die if you cut its head off. Once again I continued the fight, regarding my real objective with measured indifference. I decided to screen my reach when I made it: I feinted with my left hand to divert the salamander’s attention, then reached down with my right toward Fireweave’s familiar handle.


A scaly hand caught my forearm before I could reach the sword, claws wrapping around my vambrace like a vice.

“Dumb move,” the lizard growled. She’d done a cross body grab to catch a movement she couldn’t have seen. Shit!


    In a fluid movement, clearly practiced or at least rehearsed in her head, she yanked my arm right and down to pull me off balance while she stepped left behind me. Despite my awkward attempt to get my balance back and simultaneously push the lizard away she slid in behind me and clinched her arms around my waist with an iron grip. The lizard grunted, heaving, and my toes left the ground. She tilted backward and I screamed with my arms clawing madly at the air.


     As the sky blurred through my field of vision it occurred to me that she had not been keeping her arms low the entire fight because she knew no better, but because she was waiting for me to attempt to steal her weapon. Of course she was prepared for that, for as long as she’d been able to hold a sword she had one that could turn others into scrap. I had underestimated my opponent in the worst way.


    My trip back to the earth was short. One second I was screaming in the arms of some lizard girl, and the next there was… not much of anything. I felt a strange detachment as my enemy crawled from under me and sat on my stomach with her fist held high. I blinked at her to see through the stars floating through my vision and strained to hear over the ringing in my ears. When she spoke there was no triumphant victory or proud gloat in her voice, merely resignation.

“How disappointing.” Then her fist descended and there was no more.



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