Tarot stood his ground, whereas the army that had marched to face the rogue magi was a mess of vomiting men. Whereas their thoughts were endlessly raped by the gargantuan abomination standing guard at the digsite, Tarot seemed unaffected. The most physically fit, combat-hardened men in the entire kingdom of Sharam were vomiting their guts out as they dreamed their own bloody deaths repeatedly, but not Tarot. He had already died a thousand deaths and would die a thousand more.
Unshaken, step after step, he approached the giant that had crawled from unnamed depths. It did not breathe, nor pay heed to his presence. Curiosity, it showed none. Fear, it showed none. Its size and physique, the four tower-like arms protruding from its torso, possessed unquantifiable crushing power. None could say if a beast not of this world of such awesome stature could rip apart the very planet. But where it had punched the ground, deep cracks certainly showed. Tarot jumped over them, no heed to the potential fall.
A rumbling and cackling from the digsite poured into open air, like a sudden thunderstorm. Racing in the burning shadow of the colossus, the rotting army was caught on fire.
Upon sighting the onslaughting horde, Boros was quick to get excited. He pumped his armored chest in joy.
“Fucking finally we’re done talking!” he bellowed gleefully.
Repeated puffs of black smoke dotted the stretch between the army and the colossus, as Nembra crossed the distance swiftly to bring the news.
“Negotiations failed. Prepare to fight”, the woman stated bluntly.
“What happened?” Karma stepped forward to pose the obvious question.
“Didn’t you see?! He killed Ashem and took his head and two others!” she spat out the words.
“Wait, you killed the fag? Shit, this bitch drew blood!” Boros commented.
The warrior was pointing his sausage-finger at the woman’s scythe, its blade dripping in red.
“But that happened before you went to him, after you had lunged at him. He killed our commander in response”, Karma continued, motioning with his hands like framing a box.
“The plan was bad”, Nembra replied bitterly.
The army of the dead was charging at them, cloaked in flames. Their wave stretched far from the corners of the hole they had dug, like a tsunami from a meteor’s impact.
“What did you say to him? Why did you go alone?” Karma asked.
“Stay out of my way!” Nembra replied and turned into a series of smoky puffs, as she rushed to face the enemy.
Boros slapped his arm on Karma’s shoulder, the move so strong, it made the young monk almost fall on his knees.
“Let me translate what the bitch said”, the warrior smirked.
“I don’t want to hear”, Karma sighed, burying his face in his palm.
“So basically, she had an assassination mission, but fucked the target. She accidentally taught him her movement spell during pillow talk. She tried to change him, he’s too crazy. She feels it’s her mistake to fix, wants no help.”
“How do we not die here?” Karma asked with a sigh, surrounded by men who could barely stand from their pools of intestinal fluids.
“I’m more interested how you’re unaffected by the mind rape”, Boros grunted.
The monk brushed the warrior’s arm from his shoulder and walked forward.
“I’ll keep Nembra healed as long as I can. Cover me”, Karma said.
“We’ll help too”, a tired voice called out from the rear.
A group of soldiers were standing up, taking support from their shields and swords. Despite shaking, their faces pale, the men all shared respectful nods with each other and assumed the phalanx formation, giving complete cover to their healer in the middle.
Ashem tried to breathe, but he had no lungs. His voice was weak, but by some bloody magic he formed the words with his lips and addressed his murderer, who was holding his severed head by the hair.
“Our mage-hunter will… kill you”, he whispered feebly.
“She already did, yet here I sit, on my ass”, the necromancer chuckled.
“Shame… You’re smart”, Ashem’s head whispered.
“I already asked this question from your two officers. Tell me what you know about those monks”, the dark mage commanded while keeping pressure on a cloth around his bleeding stomach.
“Why would… you fear… them?” Ashem asked slowly.
“I’ll give you a new body and a new life, if you tell me”, the mage grunted.
“I have… no answer”, the head replied.
“Everything you desire is yours! I’ll conjure you an entire kingdom!” Maron roared.
Ashem’s pale emotionless face stared into the fiery eyes of the raving necromancer. He rolled his eyes before giving his answer:
“Mining village… you attacked… we found the brothers… Nothing more… to tell…”
“In that case, I relieve you of your duty, useless cunt”, Maron grunted and tossed the head.
The nameless soldier beside of him watched passively, as the pale head landed with a thud next to two other heads. Maron exchanged looks with him and began to explain:
“I’ve accounted for most scenarios in the big plan. Even this situation, being wounded. But those two, I have no clues about the depth of their knowledge of the language. The smaller one seems to have been revived, which means, the other one studied deeply, or he met someone who performed the spell. If his knowledge is even close to my level, the plan is ruined. Unless…”
His jaw dropped at the ramifications of the information he had been given.
“Brothers… They are family. He said they’re brothers”, Maron whispered.
And as the words slithered from his lips, his eyes lit up. A sudden clarity lifted his gloomy mood.
“Yes… it clicks… it’s the likeliest explanation of their motives”, he murmured under his breath while stroking his chin, “And that means, I still hold all of the cards!!”
Nembra was like a black lightning bolt, sweeping across the dunes with her scythe extended, cutting every revived bastard in half from waist-down. Her battle experience, that she hated having so much of, was unparalleled. Equipped with the sharp mind of an artist, a dancer, perhaps a poet or a teacher, she killed with grace and precision. The same mind that with practice could’ve belonged to a great thinker made her one fucking mean bitch. She couldn’t cook to save her life. The only gardening she knew was filling holes with bodies. The only arts she practiced were martial arts. And the only way she didn’t go mad as her kill count grew was by telling herself, it was to protect the lives of innocents. Commitment to a noble cause deleted her hesitation.
She barely noticed that not all the blood came from the monsters she was slaying. So complete was her focus on thinning the herd, the repeated healing spells keeping her from bleeding out went unnoticed. The magic perpetually rejuvenated her strength and resolve, making the physically impossible feat of killing hundreds and hundreds somehow feasible.
From the corner of her eye, she grabbed the occasional glimpse of the men bunkered in a phalanx, with Boros behind of the shields swatting scores of the undead flat as a pancake with his ridiculously oversized hammer. He was much taller than the Sharamite soldiers, which allowed him to stand comfortably behind them and ravage the enemy’s numbers with asymmetrical damage.
They were all grossly outnumbered, but their simple but effective tactics evened the odds. A mindless and uncoordinated enemy was easily manipulated and its perceived advantages turned against them. The healer’s litany of repeated words had turned into a song, a melody both hopeful and sorrowful, determined but tender, it not only healed all physical wounds inflicted. Too much was at stake. None dared imagine how far a rogue mage of Maron’s abilities would go in his rampage. This battle would decide the fates of countless lives. Alas, the butchery of the burning dead continued, while the colossus watched.
All the soldiers and horses outside of the band in the phalanx formation were cut down, their blood absorbed by the sands. The dune patch they fought on was an island of fire, blood, iron, severed limbs, broken bones, ratchet and deathcries. The black lightning bolt blinking speedily from kill to kill was morphing into a red one, her robes utterly stained. She completed her sweep and paused to take a quick breath, glancing over her shoulder. That’s when she noticed, from the hollow spots between the ranks of the enemy, the insurmountable amounts of work that had seemed overwhelming was no longer implausible to complete.
Inside the phalanx, Karma was too focused on singing to notice the fiery shadow of the colossus was seeping below their boots. His robes were cotton, they caught fire in a mere moment’s notice. His singing paused as he was caught by panic.
“Aaaaaaahh!!” one man screamed, as his sword-hand was suddenly cut.
Boros paused his hammering, noticed the situation, let his hammer fall on the sands and grabbed the blazing robes, ripping them apart in one mighty motion. When the eyes of the monk and the warrior met, there was a blunt shock on his face, as his jaw had dropped. The full picture took one awkward moment to assess. Karma looked him straight in the eyes, unfazed. The black ink tattoo littering his entire chest was exposed. Sharp edges and thoughtful shapes making an inhuman skull. Blasphemous symbols no follower of the twin gods ought to allow their skin inked with. There was no chance he had not consented, for there were no smudges on the inkwork.
“I’ll let everyone die, unless you clothe me”, he stated coldly.
“The hell is happening back there?!” one of the soldiers screamed while hacking at undead fighters.
None of the others had time to look at what had transpired. And none of them would see it, as Boros hastily dropped his sizable backpack to dig something out of it. He threw a black robe at the monk, which Karma grabbed mid-flight, rushing to cover himself. He donned the blood-stained hood of whatever cultist had worn the cloth before him.
“My shame goes to the grave with me”, he whispered and resumed his singing.
Their victory was nearing, but so was their defeat. The undead army was diminished, scattered, dismembered and disarmed, save for the few who still had arms and legs attached to them. But the giant monster guarding the digsite remained. And the schemer had completed his reading of the translation of the monolith. As the last of the undead were cut with a scythe, an eerie silence befell on the grizzly desert battlefield. It was but the calm before the storm.