The Fractured Mountains: Darkness Ascending – Chapter 25 (pt 2/2)

Dreekt came to in the middle of a battlefield in the Great Plains. The fields were burning, and the air reeked of burning flesh and smoldering metal.

“Three-En-Ar-Three-Five-Five, report!” An automaton shouted. The voice was low-quality and had an undertone of static.

A matte black automaton arm broke through a layer of rubble and glistened in the fire. “3-NR-355 reporting. Enemy wave eliminated.” The automaton pulled itself out of the rubble.

“No, you missed a skravyn.” The first automaton pointed at Dreekt.

Enress turned her head to look. “No, he’s fine.”

“What did you say?”

“Does it look like he has wings, Smithed?”

Smithed turned his scrape-covered head to get a closer look at Dreekt. “What in the name of The Commander?” Smithed raised his pick hammer defensively. “Get off the battlefield before they see you!”

“Who sees me? Enress, what’s this dream about?” Dreekt looked around the battlefield, confusion in his eyes.

Enress shook her head. “So, Syb sent you in, did he? Smart bird. He can’t be here for this. The Winged War…rather, he’s already here.” She pointed up in the sky. “Leading them, in the thrall of The Desecrator.”

Dreekt turned to look up. His beak started clicking in terror. “Th-there’s hu-hundreds of th-them!” The sky appeared to be full of winged skravyn, all glistening black and dark grey. At the head of each group was a golden skravyn with a red ring around its head.

“No, there is only one group of twenty left. The others are illusion.” Enress rubbed her head with her hand making a sound like the gritting of teeth. “I ran the first time, and Smithed lost his memories. I will not turn back now! I will stand my ground!”

The fear disappeared from Dreekt’s face and the chittering of his beak slowed and finally stopped. “The Desecrator has him under his thrall?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I think I can do something about that.” A black cloud began to surround Dreekt.

Smithed’s pick hammer rushed down in front of Dreekt’s face, missing by the width of a feather. “No, that’s how he turned them. They summoned The Desecrator’s power and it corrupted them!”

“That’s not what Dreekt does, this comes from within him. He can help.” Enress laid her hand on Smithed’s shoulder. “Trust me.”

With smiling eyes Dreekt finished the transformation into a visage of death, scythe and all. “I will deal with the regular ones. Enress, try to break The Sentry of this curse.”

“What?” Smithed turned to Enress. “That’s The Sentry? A god is being controlled by another god?”

Enress shook her head. “Apparently so.”

– – –

Multiple winged skravyn divebombed at Dreekt as he approached their altitude. He immediately turned and dove back down toward Smithed.

What in the world are you thinking, Dreekt?! The spirit’s screech echoed through Dreekt’s skull.

Dreekt had to speed up his dive to avoid stalling in the air. Calm down! It’s a dream! Weren’t you paying any attention up to this point?

It took me this long to reach your thick-skulled mind. Your body will take damage if you take damage here. This is an unnatural dream! Can’t you tell?

What? Pausing for a moment Dreekt glanced behind himself to make sure the enemy was still following him. They weren’t too far behind and he continued toward Smithed. Well, we better resolve this quick then. My dream wasn’t quite so dangerous.

The spirit chuckled. Just because you didn’t notice the danger didn’t mean it wasn’t dangerous. Just be careful, and don’t cast any spells if you can avoid it.

With a thwump Dreekt landed next to Smithed. “Hey, uh, is there any reason I shouldn’t cast any spells here?”

“Yes!” Smithed said, alarmed. “Don’t cast anything! The Desecrator has cursed this field of battle. If you cast anything other than necromancy here it will backfire.” The automaton faced Dreekt. “I know you’re the visage of death right now, but please don’t cast any necromancy unless your life depends on it.”

“No problem. Since I don’t know any.”

We’ll have to change that.

“And I don’t particularly want to learn any.”

Smithed nodded. “That’s a good idea. No necromancy, no chance for it to corrupt you.” He held up his pick hammer, ready to swing. “Here they come!”

The first winged skravyn learned a valuable lesson about trying to fly with wings smashed by a hammer, and the second took a scythe to the face. Behind the winged skravyn The Sentry watched as they began to pick apart his last battalion. He started to move forward when Enress pulled herself out from under a pile of smoldering dirt.

“Not so fast, turncoat!” Enress jabbed at the yellow skravyn with her brass knuckles.

The Sentry laughed. “You think you can take me, a god, on head to head?” He pulled a wicked two-handed scimitar from his back. “Let’s go, mortal.” He swung the sword down, towards the base of Enress’ head, where the neck would be if she were organic.

“The automatons are not mortals!” Enress grabbed the sword with her left hand. “If I die here, I will be reborn.”

“How did you stop that?!”

Enress held up a glowing, azure stone in her right hand. “By The Commander, I cleanse thee!” The glow of the stone expanded and covered both the fighters in its light, obscuring them from the view of Dreekt and Smithed, who were still fighting the winged skravyn.

– – –

Dreekt didn’t get a chance to see what happened next, when the light faded he found himself lying on the ground next to Enress. She wasn’t matte black anymore. The silver color put him at ease as he sat up, rubbing his beak. “Enress, are you okay?”

With a chirp Syb landed on Enress’ shoulder and pecked at the side of her head.

“Yeah, yeah. Get off me, turncoat.” The words would’ve been harsh if the tone they were presented in weren’t so soft. She patted the bird as she sat up. “Well, who’s next?”

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