Awesiaki - Chap 14
Unspecified Date, September 1637
As the smoke filled the sky, the spirits shown me yet another visage; Mahalia leading her troop towards the gates, and from her sack she pulled her capsules, spilling it’s contents all around the gate and surrounding walls, setting fires, and even a couple of small explosions. Beasts and animals on both sides were picking each other off, and I could see the shapes of the giants, moving through the trees, which were also set aflame. Three were making their way towards us.
Mahalia and her troop, must have made a distraction for us, however temporary, and now they were literally at the gate. And we were to be caught the middle of the siege.
I turn and see the Chase’s house. Standing on the balcony was Greeshawn Chase himself, staring at the carnage in disbelief, before he looked down at us like a predator cornering it’s prey.
I kept receiving visions of what was happening at the gates.
After reaching the gates, I saw Mahalia tell her clan to get behind him. Gun powder was poured out in a line just in front of the gates “Every fire, starts with a spark.” She mutters to herself, as the Forest people back up to to a safe distance and awaited the explosion.
Mahalia tossed her torched to the gates. In a giant blaze, and a terrible sound, gate of the correctional was little more than broken and burning logs. The giants sounded their cries, as did the wolves and gugwe. Several men armed with rifles advanced towards the smoking wreck and began to fire. After the smoke cleared, Mahlia and Big John rushed to cover behind a large tree.
Mahalia, trusting in her makeshift armor, stood in the open, taking a rifle in hand. Mahalia picked up her rifle at the opposing gunmen, and in a matter of minutes, more smoked clouded the vision. As the other animals charge through the wreck, Big John scoops up a limper and tossed him several yards away into three advancing gugwe.
My mother, Jaralath and I stood before Chase’s house, and saw Greeshawn himself standing upon a balcony, watching as the makeshift army advanced forwards.. Greeshawn was glaring at the three of us, and as we saw the giants lumbering towards the fight, he points at us with a shout “KILL THOSE THREE!”
Mahalia and her party made it to the house just as the giants turned their attention to us, and everything erupted into chaos. Dozens of men, the dog-men, Gugwes, surged forward, trying to hold a line while Greeshawn slipped away. The animals and the forest people lunged through them and charged towards the giants, wolves, and bears began to bite and scratch, rip their way Chase’s brood.
In moments, Awesiaki was alive with the roars, bloodshed and gunfire, as man and beasts on both sides fought each other. In fearful desperation, Jaralath tells my mother and I to run, handing my mother a a pitch fork and pistol. Jaralath lets out an ungodly roar as he too dove into the battle, slashing at the abominations left and right to reach Mahalia , who was back-to-back with her adopted father and holding their own.
It would seem that the way the abominations were born made them weak and sickly, hardly as stron as they where years ago, but they were still as vicious. Perhaps their lack of feeding didn’t help in that development.
As my mother and I start to run, I spotted Jaralath bite down onto the arm of one of the giants as it swung a branch down. The giant lets out a roar of it’s own, swinging it’s branch trying to shakes Jaralath off. In the process, it strikes the second giant as the latter tries to aid it. In the process, the other giant’s own club knocks on it’s head, and the other giant itself, falls onto the tree. It’s branches sticking through it’s body. Jaralath climbs up the giants arm, onto it’s neck, inflicting tearing bites upon it as he made his way up. Jaralath tears into the giants neck, and using both of his arms, ripped a hole large enough to rapidly drain it’s blood.
My mother took me by the hand and tried to run towards the mines. Five of Chase’s followers – two of them human, corner us as we run through the village. They immediately try to swarm us, but as soon as they lunge, they where knocked back with the swing up a tree branch. Just as we thought they were giants, he saw Big John barreling through behind us bellowing a battle cry as he swung left and right, smashing them repeatedly. He even backhanded a man that tried to get up and reach for his gun.
He looks down, and picks up a set of keys. Big John turns towards us, and hands the keys to my mother. He points to the direction of the mining cap, and made noises as if he were talking to us. Instinctively we know what he was trying to say, and my mother takes the keys resume out run, as he resumed his fight.
In the mayhem, we saw twelve giants making their way around the village. Sure enough more creatures were fighting throughout the street. The remaining giants barged through, swinging about, clawing and biting down at the smaller creatures fighting at their ankles, seeming to not care that they could be killing those ostensibly on their side. It was like a stampede of rampaging elephants. Through it all, we saw three getting impaled by their own branches or clubs. Jaralath’s work not doubt.
By the time we reached the mining camp, Greeshawn’s men were being picked off by wolves and coyotes, and visa versa. We spotted Mahalia and Jaralath reach the entrance of the camp, just behind us. By the looks of it, they had to put up a bigger fight getting here than we did; Mahlia had and ax in hand, and bow over her shoulder. Jaralath seemed to have been alternating fighting with his teeth, to picking up whatever discarded weapon he could use, or tossing the weapons to Mahalia. Mahalia’s armor was broken, leaving little the imagination, and what remained of Jaralath’s clothes was barley a set of rags, also leaving little to the imagination. Both were covered in red, the blood also marring their hair.
“This is his prison ?” Mahalia asks us, as we made our way to it’s metallic door.
“That’s the place.” Jaralath affirms “He’s been starving them, thinks that will keep them weak and in line.”
My mother tries to open the door to the mines entrance, when an arrow hits her through the hand, pinning it into the door. By dumb luck, the keys slid underneath the doorway. We turn to see Greeshawn standing at the entrance, with a bow of his own in hand, surrounded by dozens of ungodly beasts and the advancing giants.
“You’ve come so far, but at this point it is of little matter.” He readies an arrow, it’s tip aflame “You three have been a knife in my side for so long, I could speak so much about the crimes you inflicted upon me,” He points his arrow to Jaralath “Thief and defiler.” Points to Mahalia “Temptress, seductress, and heathen.” Points to me “Usurper. False prophet. The words of God are wasted on you.” And finally he puts towards my mother “And you ? I just don’t like you.”
“Feelings mutual.” My mother says through gritted teeth.
“For the longest time, I have built a kingdom in the name of the one true god. I was to bring about a dynasty, and bring my family name out from the gutter, and back into power. And yet the world conspires against me. Why even the one I lived my life for believe you, a child to be a superior successor to me. I could go on but the truth is…I just want to kill you now.” Greeshawn grins, pulls his bowstring back and prepares to fire.
It was then I remember the gunpowder barrels, and the words the Devourer spoke to me; Greeshawn rigged the camp to explode should it come to this. Everything above ground would burn and what was bellow would be buried.
Just as the arrow fires, there was a moment of time that seemed to stop. I would see just over Greeshawn’s shoulder, the dark shape of the Devourer, watching on with a manic grin. But as quick at it started, it slowed down with a flash of white and grey; Big John stepped out in front of the arrow, and his fur was singed in flames.
Big John let out a bellow and roar, echoed by Mahalia screaming. Regardless, Big John charges, his large arms taking Greeshawn into a bone crushing bear hug. Greeshawn himself screamed, as his robes catch fire, as does his hair and skin. In the chaos, the beast swarm and dog-pile Big John and begin to beat him into the dirt, beating off the flames.
The flames where doused, by at this point a further enraged Greeshawn began to kick and beat the downed elder. As he started, he glanced over to see, the rest of the Forest People and more animals making their way to the frenzy. Arf was among them and he onto Greeshawn, beginning to bite and claw at him. Two of the Forest People pull Big John to his feet, as the rest began to fight.
Just as Mahalia and Jaralath made their run towards him, Greeshawn took Arf’s upper and lower jaws, and began to pull them apart. A loud snap and yelp was heard as Greeshawn tossed Arf aside. This put Mahalia and Jaralath to a stop, the latter let out a mournful sounding howl, as Greeshawn got up.
“Sorry, he was always a bad hound. Need to be put down I’m afraid.” Greeshawn said with a grin. He turned towards his creatures, and pointed to us “Kill them both!”
That’s when we heard the voice; the Devourer howled over the camp like an evil wind “NO-O-O-O-O! THE LITTLE ONE IS MI-I-I-I-I-INE!” The voice picks up with the wind, so powerful were the gusts that a small cyclone was formed from the ash. Barrels of gunpowder were knocked over, and so mixed with the ashes in the cloud.
In the middle of the cyclone stood the Devourer’s shape. A giant wall of fire formed, separating Jarlalath and Mahalia from Greeshawn and his army. At the sight and gaze of the being, just about everyone back down from the fight. The wind calmed, if only slightly as it stood before us glancing down with looks of hate.
I recall a lesson Mahalia taught me as a child of how even the giants feared the Devourer, and seeing them bow their heads and shrink back in fear at a considerably smaller visage of it proved it.
“She’s mine. My property! No one will touch her, for she will lead us into a new world. Built in fire and blo-” It starts, before I interrupted.
“Release them! Now!” I shouted over it’s voice. I must have been a very, very stupid child to yell and demand things of it. It looked towards me and lears down.
“The little one says what of her new master ?“
Timidly, I speak once more “You want me to do what I must ? I can’t without my mama and papa by my side.”
“If that is your price…” It spoke, and with that the arrow within my mother’s hands was pulled out by something unseen “Your father’s cell is at the bottom of the pits.” With that the earth shook slightly, and the door creaked open “Go, claim your prize, and take your place.” It points to the knife it had given to me, still sheathed at my side.
“What are you doing ?” Greeshawn asks, looking around at his brood “What are you sniveling twats doing ? Kill her! KILL THEM ALL! THEY ARE TAKEN WHATS RIGHTFULLY MINE! IT’LL BE YOUR ENTRAILS SPILLING OUT, AND YOUR FLESH THAT WILL FEED THE STRONG!” He unsheathed a cutlass from under whats left of his robes. The handle starts steaming, and Greeshawn drops the cutlass, hissing out in pain.
My mother and I descended down through the mines. I was telling her what I intended to do, and she agreed with me. We knew my father’s cell was surrounded by more of those creatures. There had to be a dozen of them in the pit alone.
Which is part of the reason why my mother took to breaking several locks from other cells and letting the prisoners out.
The wind picks up and it screams again “THI-E-E-E-EVES! THEY MUST NOT BE RE-E-E-E-LEASED!”
One by one, cell doors opened, and despite the state the prisoners where in, they all rushed to every other door, tearing them from the hinges with inhuman strength before running to the mines entrance.
That is when the ground and earth began to quake and boulders began to fall from the mines ceiling. The largest ones blocked the exit and smaller boulder collapsed onto my mothers leg. I can’t recall just how many prisoners were down there with us, but it had to be anywhere from several dozens to a couple of hundreds.
This did not stop them. Sure, many screamed in fear or frustration, others cursed like they were motherless, but the lot of them began taking the smaller rocks and tossing them aside. From outside we could hear others, probably Jaralath and Mahalia, also tossing stones aside.
There was one thing standing in everyone’s way, an especially large boulder taking up the entrance. We could barley see past the corners, but it had to have been four people trying to lift it out of the way. By the sounds, it had to have been Mahalia, Jaralath and two of the forest people.
A fifth one joined them, and with a shove and a groan, the boulder was lifted from the caves floor and and onto someones shoulders. It was none other than Big John himself, who held the rock with more strength than the other four could muster, and with a great heave, held the stone over his shoulders.
Everyone looked awed as the sight of a beaten, burned, elderly creature holding a boulder four times his size on his back. But when he made noise, they listened; “Go. Take your lives back!“
The prisoners emerged from around Big John.
There were more than I could count; men women, children. Their skin all seemed to pale or grey a little, and their eyes alternated between bloodshot or dead looking, almost exactly how Jaralath looks; they had to have had the same condition as Jaralath. They didn’t have looks of fear or despair on their faces, but rather anger, hatred and hunger. All this was directed at their former captors.
The Devourer had a look on its face I never expected to see, one of mortified disbelief. “They’re free…loose again…This can’t be happening!“
In the silence, another arrow flies, and hits Big John through his leg. While everyone was caught off guard, two more arrows hit him through his chest. And a final one through his neck.
Still holding the rock on his shoulders, even if he was staggering, Big John swayed back and forth, but did not collapse. He took several steps back turned towards Greeshawn’s crowd and tossed the boulder at them. This caused them to scatter, but managed to crush several unlucky ones.
Greeshawn was the only one who remained somewhat sober “How can this be ? You should be weak! Dying!”
Jaralath turns towards him, having an almost satisfied grin on his face “You shouldn’t have been feeding them my blood boy. That’s one of the ways it spreads.” Jaralath turned towards the crowd of freed prisoners and points to Greeshawn “There he is. The man who put you through this Hell! And there’s his would be god!” He said pointing towards the Devourer’s visage “The one who has started this whole mess! I say we return the favor.”
And with that, the Deathless army marched forward.
Once again chaos consumed Awesiaki. The Devourer’s imaged dispersed from the clouds, and a great wind picked up. As the fire began to spread, the prisoners began to swarm the abominations, and they were swarmed in return. The giants tried to bring down their clubs, but this only got them covered up and ripped apart by the living dead. The dogmen, gugwes, genoskwa, all the same. They’d get their faces ripped off, sometimes their heads. Entrails would spill out, limbs would be thrown aside.
I saw Jaralath and Mahalia fighting side by side, Mahalia now carrying Greeshawn’s sword as she hacked a gugwe in half with a single swing. Jaralath took a particularly large dogman by the leg, ripped it off and tossed it aside. A few of the giants fled from the bloodbath, some could hear Greeshawn’s voice telling them to go back and fight, but somewhere in the fighting Greeshawn fled to the back of his army.
The ground was becoming red from the blood shedding, and more and more of Greeshawn’s creatures fled in the chaos. In the madness, the fire spread towards a discarded barrel, with it’s flammable contents spilling out onto the ground. It quickly the barrel, in turn sparked the gunpowder, and the wind picked up. Would could only be described as a hurricane of fire swept through the camp, bringing with it burning debris.
In the middle of the dust clouds and flames, the image of the Devourer once again formed. His hateful stare was one that cuts through the soul. It spoke once more “YOU WILL NOT TAKE MY KINGDOM FROM ME AGAIN! YOU AND YOUR KIND BELONG IN THE GROUND! WITH THE REST OF THE PARASITES!“
Bit by bit, the camp began to explode, many getting caught in the blasts; despite their injuries the living dead would only get back up and scatter to safety. Jaralath and Mahlia themselves disappeared in the frenzy.
I myself was a considerably safe distance, watching the mayhem from the cave. My mother’s leg still pinned beneath the rock. She had spent her time trying to heave it off her, and I was trying to help her;when he spotted me; Greeshawn Chase was hiding from the chaos, not too far from the mines entrance when he spotted me and advancing towards us.
“You,” he starts to laugh “You and your filth have been pests to me for far to long. It’s not that often I get so full of rage, so you at least have that achievement in your short life!”
Understand, that as a little girl, I was naturally terrified as was my mother. There was little more than try aside from pelting mere pebbles at the man. As Greeshawn continued striding forward, and my mother turns to me and tells me to run.
With little else to do, I sprinted as fast and far as my little legs could take me. My mother, still subdued made a desperate attempt to grab at Greeshawn’s legs “You’ve already lost you rotten devi-“
Greeshawn shoves her aside and kicks her head, continuing to make his way towards me “Don’t be greedy now, you will get yours shortly, harlot. Let’s see if you have that fight in you after I’m finished with her.”
As I hear my mother calling for someone to help, I was forced to stop running when I saw the edge of the pit. I found myself pulled to a halt, and turned only to see Greeshawn standing a few yards away from me, with what can only be described as an angry smile on his face.
I look to my side, and I could count myself lucky to spot a displaced hammer at my side. I just needed a few more seconds to distract him. I picked it up and swung around at the air between us.
Greehawn steps forward, takes the head of the hammer and forces the handle into my chin. As I collapse I noticed how sharp Greeshawn’s teeth were, as if they were previously sharpened into another set of weapons.
Greeshawn leans down at me, wrapping his hand around my neck, licking his with murderous glee. It appears I have only bought myself a few more seconds.
“I have waited too long for this.” Greeshawn hisses, and in a flash he rolls off.
I open my eyes to see Greeshawn and Jaralath rolling just at the pits edge. Greeshawn was pinned to the ground, and Jaralath smashed his fists into Greeshawn’s head. Greeshawn manages to fumble his hand around him, and despite his strength, he couldn’t push the angry man off. Each strike looked hard and painful, and I couldn’t avert my eyes. After a dozen swings, Jaralath reduced Greeshawn’s face to a caved in nose, swollen cheeks, a bleeding mouth, and black eyes.
And then Greeshawn reached for the discarded hammer beside them, grabbed hold and swung it to Jaralath’s face. Greeshawn let out an ungodly shriek and in one fluid motion, rolled to the left and threw Jaralayh off of him. Jaralath landed on his side and before he could react Greeshawn was on top of him, striking repeatedly with said hammer.
“YOUR ALWAYS WERE A DIRTY BOY, YOU THIEF! ALWAYS GOING WHERE YOU DON’T BELONG! STEALING FROM THE KINGDOMS AND THEIR RIGHTFUL RULERS!” Greeshawn shouted between each strike of the hammer. His voice barley sounded human at this point.
My shock-frozen brain thawed and I could feel my heart before I could feel my legs. I try to sit up, and a mixture of fear and exhaustion filled me.
Greeshawn grabbed Jaralath and slammed his head into the cavern ground. Jaralath spat blood at Greeshawn in defiance, and lifted a knee between Greeshawn’s legs, causing him to collapse. “You mistake me for someone weak, Chase. That scared little boy you beat in that cave is out for blood!”
The two rolled back and forth at the pits edge. They fought not like men, but animals; angry predators fighting for the right to eat. Greeshawn rolled out from under him kicked Jaralath back, but Jaralath bared down on him and stomped into his stomach.
They claw, punch, kick and even bite, when Greeshawn managed to get behind Jaralath, circle both arms around him, and force him to the ground. He drew his fists together and brought them down to Jaralath’s head. I finally felt my heart and legs start again, and tried to get to the hammer, taking it into my hands when I get close to it.
With what strength I could muster, I slam the hammer into Greeshawn’s knees with a wet crunch. His arm slipped just a little, but enough for Jaralath to break free. Jaralath grabbed Greeshawn and pushed him all the way into the caves wall. He began to slam his head into said walls, when Greeshawn growled and swung his leg up, nailing Jaralath between the legs.
As Jaralath slumped to the ground, Greeshaen placed his good leg onto his back, pinning him down. I too the chance to strike again, this time on Greeshawn’s ankle. With another wet crunch and a bellow, Greeshawn staggered back.
Seconds later, Greeshawn screamed in agony as Jaralath bit down onto his shoulder. He beat on Jaralath’s head in an attempt to shake it off. Forcing him to kneel down, Greeshawn grabbed one of Jaralath’s arms and bit down. From ones arm to the others shoulder, both drew blood from each other, staring with hateful eyes, as if waiting for the other to break.
The two kept their biting hold before a fourth person entered the fray. Mahalia charged with Greeshawn’s sword, and with one strike rammed the sword into Greeshawn’s back. Both men yell in pain as their teeth were forced to release their bites, gushing excessive amounts of blood.
Greeshawn continued to stagger, his hate filled face glaring at the three of us as he tried to roar out in defiance. Mahalia backed away, having released her weapon. She made a run towards the sword. Greeshawn makes a run for her, Jaralath and I make a run for Greeshawn.
Jaralath gets to him first, once again taking him into a fighting embrace, bites down onto one of Greeshawn’s eyes, pulling and spitting out what had to be one of said eyes and eye stalk. Jaralath takes another bite at his neck, this time pulling out what had to be a vein.
Mahalia took this chance to charge, swinging the cutlass down through into Greeshawn’s shoulder, dropping his arm and kicking it off the ledge. While he howls, Mahalia brings the sword down through Greeshawn’s stomach, and his blade drove into him to the hilt.
Whatever resembled a man in Greeshawn was now twisted into something ugly with blood, rage and pain as he stumbled back toward the edge. His feet gave out from under him and he dropped to his knees, struggling to take a step towards us.
Too much for my liking, I gave one last swing of the hammer, striking Greeshawn’s head as he tumbled off the edge of the pit.
The three of us looked onward, and I knew this was the place; were my father was imprisoned, and what was left of the tainted ones await beneath us.
“My papa’s still down there. We have to go help him.”
I heard my mother groaning from up the tunnel. Jaralath turns to me “You stay with Mahalia and your mother.” He turns to Mahalia “You help Anya, if I am not up by the day break, you scout ahead and search for survivors.”
Mahalia nods, but I shake my head “Please, I have to be there for him…”
We stare back into the pit and we could hear the creatures beneath us moving about, waiting for something else to drop in.