The putrid smell of burning flesh was everywhere, there was no escape from it. The carpet of carcasses stretched towards the far end of the sand valley to the other end, growing thinner from the sides, like its threads were unravelling. The killing fields were being devoured by the fire, purged from horror, only the pace was dreadfully slow. It was an absurd nightmare, more absurd than any maddened mind could conjure. To see so many battle-mutilated carcasses at once, the visage grossly clashing with what a mortal mind considered normal, your reaction would not have been to scream. Any man or woman to see such a thing, would have been gripped by awkward laughter instead. Charred ribs and skulls trodded randomly in the most awkward of angles, many stuck in the sloppy mass of other corpses, like skeletons having rough, bloody intercourse. The brush strokes were countless, the golden canvas of the killing fields was the stage for a comedy of bones.
The corpses posed not just a sanity test, but a physical challenge for those wishing to traverse across this red line. The desert had effectively been cut in half for a second time in its history. The indomitable colossus stood still on his post, unfazed by the carnage.
“None of this makes any sense. Why would he throw his whole army away?” Karma whispered, while the surviving band of soldiers were progressing from laughter to erupting into cheers.
“We’re rich!! It’s only us to divide the royal reward!” the handful of soldiers were cheering.
“I’ll drown myself in women after this!! Bitches on my dick till the day I die!” another man jeered.
As if summoned by his words, Nembra appeared in a smoky puff, her robes awash, her hem dripping, hair dyed and face smeared. The men were at first startled by the sight of the scythe-carrying broad who’d just finished off innumerable undead, but they quickly resumed their celebrating, which frankly resembled a mental breakdown. The fierce look she gave the man who’d spoken of drowning himself in women, made the soldier freeze, like turned to stone.
The laughter and cheers collapsed. The female mage-hunter was shaking, her strained expression not settled to any singular emotion. She looked to be on the verge of going mad.
“We haven’t fucking won!” Nembra shouted.
Tarot jumped. Like shot from a cannon, he jumped. As he soared to reach eye-level with the monster, innumerable feet above ground, the two stared at each other. The beast’s four arms flung at him instantly, with overwhelming force that would’ve crushed anything in the world. His body took every punch from fists that were the size of boulders, grinning grimly, as the thunder-like impact landed. He had no wounds, yet ink-like substance poured out of every pore and hole in his body, like a dam had been broken. Abundantly flooding out from between the fists still squeezing his body into a ball, the chaotic liquid rapidly took shape, and soon in place of that gushing stood a spiky spined creature as large as the colossus. As the two giants began exchanging punches, the desert air was filled with deafening blows that shook the ground, felt by the people watching the spectacle from the side.
Karma took his hood down, his head bowed, as he began to explain:
“Inside of my brother is a malevolent spirit, that assumes violent forms.”
“That fucker is your brother?!” Boros exhaled.
Everyone was now looking at him, Nembra included.
“A cure must be found. I tried truly everything”, the monk stated.
The two giants exchanged more ground-shaking blows, which came to a dead stop. The spikes on Tarot’s back grew thicker and longer, his fluctuating form sharper at every edge. His maw begun gaping, new teeth formed out of thin air, he sunk the monster’s tentacled head in his mouth. As the monster being devoured was trying in vain to fling its arms to connect with anything, its rapidly morphing opponent grabbed one of its four arms and pulled it off its socket. The monster was impaled by spikes that shot out its enemy’s body, it was consumed by a mouth that expanded to encompass its upper body, three of its four remaining arms tore off, falling to the ground like dead tree trunks. It was no battle, just a slaughter.
If it ever was a god, it was now a dead god. And the victor, still hugging the disintegrating body tightly, was devouring the creature with new circle-shaped mouths that moved along its skin from the back to the front, stretching via appendages that relentlessly gnawed at and eventually punctured the creature’s armor, violated its insides, while the two bodies melted, then fused together to become one. The abomination was eaten, if whatever had transpired could be described with that word.
“Are you able to turn him back?” Nembra asked, gripping her scythe with both hands.
The sea of cut corpses around them twitched nervously. Ripples and waves. Red skulls, their flesh now burned, turned to face the fluctuating shape. Countless arms were rising towards it pleadingly. Clusters of white eyes formed on its body, like boils on a plagued man’s skin. And then it turned to face them.
Karma stepped forward and began to sing, while the hulking mass of blind eyes rumbled towards them, crushing heaps of bones below its mountainous weight, the crunches echoing in the blood-stained valley among the dunes. The surviving soldiers fell on their knees with their hands in prayer, trying feebly to mimic the monk’s singing, to amplify his words in vain.
Several of its many eyes closed. Lumps and pieces of it fell off as it closed in on the party, but those were peddles of the boulder rolling towards them. Nembra took a step back, her intent to escape evident on her strained face. Karma suddenly paused his singing to the shock of everyone.
“Have faith”, the monk said calmly.
He did not resume his song. It was complete. The words had either been recited on time, or not. There was nothing more to be done. Alas, he kneeled in silent prayer, head bowed under his hood.
At the edge of the digsite, the deserter commander surveyed from the shadows the new monster. He felt blank while gazing at the gruesome spectacle, not even a ripple of disgust gripped him. He was alone with his master, to whom he was bound. If he perished, would he perish too, he could not physically care about that. How any of the rules worked did not matter to him. Blank-faced, sitting on his butt, he leaned on his hand that took support from his knee, bored, as skeletons stirred and cried out in chorus. Distant like a dream his feelings had become, yet he still felt curiosity. And very curiously, the hulking mass had fallen and crumbled, leaving a naked boy to walk out of its flat carcass, to be embraced by his brother.
The man turned away. He looked back, and there, sitting peacefully in a meditation position, the monolith behind him, he was making no obvious attempts at escape. He had been bleeding a lot, the sands near him were red. The closer you watched him, the paler and more sickly he looked. The slender man was indeed dying. And yet, both rows of his teeth were exposed. He was smiling.