June 22, 2109
The fiery whip slaps across the back of the Arocñian man, Norwalk. His reptilian hide is covered in the deep gashes that ooze crimson blood. The rain patters on his skin as each droplet burns into the wounds. His black claws dig into the mud as he uses what little strength he has left in his arms. He reaches for the ivory spiked club that is buried into the ground while another painful lashing tears through his forearm. Norwalk lands into the puddle as mud splashes his back. He looks up with bruised and swollen eyes. The veins bulge within his muscles as he unleashes a heinous growl revealing his massive incisors. He feels the ground shake beneath his body, while the trees crack from the strength of his roar.
“Muridia!” he exclaims, looking up at the eyes of a corrupt queen. “If you kill me, Armond will have your head!”
He looks into her dim violet eyes as she cackles a wicked laugh. Her royal blue armor tightly clasps to her body with the family’s insignia, a swirling vortex, carved into the steel chest plate. She taps the handle of her sheathed sword. The golden crown that is nestled within her brunette hair turns to black as a skull appears within the emerald. Ivory rises from her crown like daggers as she morphs into the creature that all Mariknians cower away from. The X’lu.
“Damn, Arocñian, do you think turning your back on me was the best choice to make?” she laughs as she swings the whip behind her head and across the back of Norwalk as a chunk of flesh slings in the air.
Norwalk falls flat in the mud again in a bloody heap of meat. He looks up at Muridia and grinds his teeth.
“He will come…” he exhales as he lies his head on the ground.
“Are you referring to your precious, Armond?” She kneels to the ground, leaning close to his head as her pitchforked tongue slithers from within her black lips. “You’ll be dead before your chief gets here.” Her tongue slides across the scaly skin and wraps around Norwalk’s neck.
He grimaces from the slimy and leathery textured tongue. His eyes close as his strength perspires. Blood stains his teeth and lips as he breathes in deeply.
“I will not succumb to your lies, Muridia,” he says weakly. “My family cannot live in the shadow of your kingdom.”
“Think of your family, Norwalk. Your children and wife. How would they react to your death? I mean, children without a father never turn out well,” she says, grabbing the handle of the club. “I can only hope you will reconsider my offer.” She pulls it out of the ground and rests it on her shoulder.
“I will not betray my people, or my family. I would rather be tied to four clausterous, and my body be torn limb by limb than follow under you.” He presses his knuckles into the ground and rises to his knees, looking Muridia straight into her eyes. “Armond will come, and when he discovers these crimes you have committed, he will ask for the worst punishment a Mariknian can receive.”
Muridia laughs and rears back to whip Norwalk. This time her lashing is fierce and brutal as the leather digs deep into the shoulder of the Arocñian. He whales into the air as he rises from the ground. The little strength he has left erupts within his muscles as anger floods his mind. Norwalk pushes her to the ground and clenches her ankle as he slings her into the tree behind him. He hears her scream as the armor loosens on her chest. His swollen eyes burn as rage drowns him, and he can no longer resist the urge to kill. He charges at her and rams her through the trunk of three trees. Her crown cracks as lightning streaks across the sky. His fists pound relentlessly against her face as her grasps his neck tightly with his thick fingers. He slams her against another tree as the bark flies in every direction. She slaps his forearm, begging for air through her blocked throat.
“Please… Please… I can’t… breath!” she begs in airy whispers.
Norwalk squeezes tighter, feeling Muridia’s life slowly drift away as her slaps weaken. “This is for the good of Mariknia.”
“Release her, brother!” The bellow of an elder erupts as Norwalk remains blinded by his anger. “RELEASE HER, NOW!” The elder roars as the wind grows heavy and the ground rattles beneath their feet.
Norwalk loosens his grip and drops the queen. He looks over his shoulder to find Armond standing tall with his cane. A green orb resonates on the handle of the cane as Armond glares at Norwalk. He walks away from Muridia to return to his chief. His footfalls shake the ground as he kneels before his chief. He looks up at him with his swollen eyes and torn hide.
“I’m sorry, Armond. I lost my senses,” Norwalk says, returning to his feet.
“I understand your anger, but we must not succumb to the ways of their kind. If we kill, consequences will come upon our village. You must remember that,” he says, rubbing his white beard. “Muridia,” he says. “Are you okay, or have you had enough of this barbaric nonsense!”
A chill runs down Norwalk’s spine as he hears Armond’s bellow.
“What a surprise. I was starting to wonder if you were going to let me kill him,” she chuckles as she rises from the mud. Her hair tangled in bark and face swollen.
“We are no longer at war with you. Why are you still causing trouble for my people? Are you not satisfied that there is no war?”
“Sometimes I do it out of boredom…” she says, wiping away the blood from her lip. “Today I just felt the need to kill another one of you pathetic bottom dwellers.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way, Muridia, but you know that Helioseté and I have a treaty now,” he says. “I would suggest you leave now, Muridia and put today behind you before this gets out of hand.”
“Oh no, Armond, things are just getting started,” Muridia says as glowing eyes appear around them in the storm. The low hums of the X’lu resonate as her army approaches Armond and Norwalk. “I knew you couldn’t let one of your own precious people die. Norwalk was just the bait I needed to get you out of your territory, Armond.”
Norwalk looks over his shoulder as the creatures appear at every corner of the marshlands. The water rushes up to their ankles as the marsh is disturbed by the X’lu.
“The X’lu,” Armond says with a nod. “I never thought a queen of your stature would resort to deals with the devil.” Armond turns towards Norwalk and pats him on the shoulder. “You ready?”
Norwalk looks up at his chief and feels the ground quake beneath their feet. His looks up at Armond with a grin.
“Muridia, I am going to warn you one last time. Pull back your army and let us walk. The consequences will be dire, if you choose to continue this senseless fight,” Armond says calmly, pressing his cane into the mud.
“You’re surrounded, Armond. There is nowhere to go, and as far as I’m concerned, today will be a new era for Mariknia…” she says, clenching her whip firmly in her palms. She rears it back behind her, but the ground loosens beneath her feet. She lands on her stomach as the mud bows upwards. The top crumbles as an Arocñian pulls itself from the mud.
Its hair is cut in the shape of a Mohawk as it shakes its head fiercely. The muscles bulge from chest to calves and it slams its fists against the tree trunk aggressively. More Arocñians appear around the perimeter as Muridia crawls on her back towards a tree. Her eyes wide as the tribe surrounds her.
Her army of X’lu infected soldiers appears from the water with multiple appendages flailing behind them. Their teeth are razor sharp and eyes are beady like insects. The hunger in their eyes boils as they continue to approach the perimeter.
Norwalk looks around him waiting for the first attack to start the fight. He stands beside Armond watching the Arocñians appear in every corner of the gradually flooding island in the marsh. He looks at Muridia who has a wicked smile etched across her elegant face.
“Let’s not keep my interest from fading, Armond. I think both sides are even now,” she says in her evil chuckle.
“We do not send the first blow. If this fight is meant to happen, only you will start this,” Armond says, looking each Arocñian in the eye. “As I said before, it would be wise for you to walk away from this fight and return to your home.”
“I do not surrender to bottom feeders!” Muridia exclaims as she unsheathes her sword. She turns around and jabs the sword into the belly of the Arocñian with the Mohawk. Her eyes are enflamed in purple. She looks back at Armond and rips the sword from the Arocñian’s belly. “I guess sacrificing one is the only way to get any kind of reaction out of you.”
Armond grips his cane firmly as the orb glows a bright lime green. He looks back at his tribe and belts out a roar so monstrous, his own people are startled. He charges Muridia with his cane armed in both hands.
Norwalk grabs one of Muridia’s creatures. He holds both torso and legs in each hand and pulls hard, feeling the snapping of bone, cartilage, and arteries in his hands. The creature’s entrails hang from its torso as Norwalk flings the legs into the swap and the rest of the body into the trees. Its arms sporadically flail as it hangs from one of the branches and blood drips over Norwalk’s head. He pounds the trees with his fists and belts out a roar like Armond.
The tribe attacks all of the creatures with relentless force as body parts are tossed everywhere. The decapitated heads roll all over the ground like marbles. Norwalk crushes one of the heads beneath his bare feet as he looks over his shoulder at Armond fighting cane and sword with Muridia.
Norwalk rips his club from the mud and swings the massive weapon in the flesh of multiple enemies as they are tossed into the swamp. Red stains the tips of the ivory as Norwalk growls and huffs at the next clan of creatures. His eyes are enflamed as he rewinds the torture from Muridia and flattens the creatures into the ground with his club. The broken bones and bursting organs sprain into the air as the liquid sprays across Norwalk’s face. He glances back at the tribe and Armond, seeing the fight is close to finished when Armond corners Muridia against a tree trunk.
Armond rips his sword from his sheath and presses it firmly against the jugular of the queen. Blood drips from the sword from the cut on Muridia’s neck. Enjoyment and hatred burn inside her eyes as her menacing grin brings chills down Norwalk’s spine. Both leader’s eyes lock onto each other. Norwalk breathes heavily from the tiresome fight.
“I see you have me cornered, Armond,” Muridia says with blood staining between the whites of her teeth. “I underestimated your strength.”
“I should leave your head to rot in this swamp, Muridia. It would do the rest of Mariknia good without your damned presence,” Armond says. “Your flesh is so tainted even the scavengers would resent its smell.”
“It’s as simple as one thrust, Armond. It’ll finish this once and for all, but we both know you can’t kill me.” Muridia looks up at him twisting her head left and right.
“Who says I won’t!” Armond’s roar bellows in the air, scaring the birds from their nests in the trees.
“My death will not bring a stop to this war, Armond. It’ll only feed what evil is brewing in the air. I cannot die that is what you do not realize! I am not like you… I am a…” She is interrupted by an unsettling quake in the sky. The clouds crash and roll overhead as lightening branches across the sky. An explosive boom erupts around them as the pebbles tremor across the ground.
“I was wondering when you might make your presence, Helioseté!” Armond exclaims, pulling the blade from Muridia’s throat. An explosion of rock and mud flies into the air from a lightning strike as Armond’s tribe hides their eyes.
Norwalk hides his eyes from the lightning strike. He pulls his hand away from his eyes to see a tall and hulky man stand before them all. His black hair unravels down his back as his beard waves in the wind. The storm grows fiercer but the man before him is not bothered by the wind. His ice blue eyes glare at Muridia and Armond as he points his scepter towards his wife. He steps towards Muridia with his arm extended out with the scepter pointed at his wife.
Helioseté narrows his eyes as he presses the end of his scepter to his chest. His cheeks are red and eyes are blood shot with anger. He grabs Muridia by the armor and tosses her aside in the wake of his destruction. He turns his head towards Armond and looks at the tribe with eyes of death and torture.
“Take you brothers and sisters home, Armond. I will not tolerate this act of treachery,” he says with a shaky and calm voice.
Armond looks up at Helioseté with a raised eyebrow. He looks around him at the rest of his tribe. He nods and tilts his head towards the marsh. Norwalk looks up with defiance and steps forward.
“Brother, you can’t let her live!” he exclaims, slamming his club into the ground.
“Norwalk, I urge you to leave now with your leader!” Helioseté exclaims.
“I don’t take orders from…” Norwalk says, charging towards the king, but Armond stops him in his tracks.
“Norwalk, stop. We cannot keep fighting. We need to live at peace,” Armond says, placing his hand on Norwalk’s shoulder. “I know it is hard, but sometimes walking away is the best answer for these kinds of disputes.”
“Not when you’ve been tortured and mangled by a corrupt queen!” he exclaims, slapping Armond’s hand off his shoulder. He charges forward at Muridia when a sharp pain shoots down his forehead to his spine. He falls to his knees as his muscles seem to twist and bend inside his body.
“I understand, Norwalk, but right now, we must return to our village. Leave them be. We cannot engage another war with them,” he says, holding his cane in the air as though controlling Norwalk’s muscles with telepathy. “Will you stop this aggression if I release you?”
Norwalk groans and fights the pains, but he eventually surrenders to his leader. “Fine,” he huffs, kneeling on the ground as the pain wears off.
“Good,” Armond answers as he looks up at Helioseté. “I would hope you would control her better. Especially with the X’lu corrupting her mind.”
“I’m well aware of the situation, Armond,” Helioseté answers, looking back at his wife. “We will leave you in peace, and I assure you our truce will not be broken again.” He looks down at his wife with anger. “Get up.”
She looks up with fright in her eyes as she reaches for his hand.
Armond nods and returns to the swamps with the rest of his tribe as Helioseté stands alone with Muridia. A lightning strike flashes around them. Norwalk looks back to discover Muridia and the king have both disappeared. He looks up at Armond, gritting his teeth angrily as the wounds on his back sting from the lashings. His eyes boil.
“You know this will not be the last of her, right?” he says from the back of the tribe. “She will come back. Next time it will be more of them, possibly something else!”
“We will be ready when that time comes, brother,” Armond answers.
“How do you know? This time it’s a two dozen. Next time it could be thousands!” Norwalk scratches his head. “I just don’t understand why we have to follow the order. The longer we hide and keep their blood off our hands, the more of our own with die.”
“Norwalk, I understand.”
“No, I don’t think you understand, Armond!”
The tribe halts and everyone stares at Norwalk. Armond turns around and looks up at Norwalk with saddened eyes. He pats Norwalk’s shoulder and looks up at the angry eyes.
“I know you are angry, Norwalk, but your head is unclear. You are blinded by hatred and that will only grow as you continue to let it fester,” he says, looking at the tribe. “Anger does not resolve problems, it only makes things worse. If you think killing her would be beneficial to our tribe, then I encourage you to do it yourself, Norwalk.” He looks away and leads the tribe again. “I will not be burdened with someone else’s blood on my hands. One senseless death could be the cause of our extinction, and I only hope that you all will heed my warning when I say, going after her will lead us to ruin.”
Norwalk shakes his head and closes his eyes.
“War never solved anything. It only caused more harm than good to those neutral,” Armond says as he continues his journey back to the village with the rest of the tribe, and Norwalk trailing behind.
If you still haven’t checked out Horizon, check out the kindle link in the menu above! Hope you guys enjoy!