Sharing my first drafts with the world


The jungle went silent as the Kroxigor emerged from the treeline. Twenty-five Kroxigor, each one worth a dozen smoothskins on the battlefield. Mace-of-Heaven grinned. It had been decades since there had been a need to amass so many of his brothers; the carnage they would make today would be the stuff of songs for years to come. Yet beneath the bloodlust, there was something deeper, a joy at finally being among his equals, none above or below his station. The Kroxigor captain gazed up at the human palisade. This perversion of Sotek’s world would soon be splinters beneath his feet once more.

“Who goes there?” a human guard babbled in their primitive tongue. The creature was terrified. Good. Activating his Amulet of Communication, he replied,

“I am Mace-of-Heaven, of the Third Spawning, and I am here to reclaim what is rightfully mine.”  

The creature fled and soon returned alongside a white-furred female dressed in their metallic imitation of scales. The female spoke,

“The statuette isn’t here, beast. Now leave.”

Mace-of-Heaven growled, “Such falsehoods! You speak brazenly of the statuette, yet I have not mentioned it once.”

The female looked off into the treeline, frowning, before returning her focus to Mace-of-Heaven, “Don’t play coy with me, beast. I was informed of this attack days ago. The statuette isn’t here.”

Impossible. How could the female have known? None of his brothers would- no… It was those humans and the Gek’ko child. Those thugs had played him for a fool. Mace-of-Heaven roared,

“Enough! The time for talk is done. I will have that relic, even if I must sift through the ashes of this place to find it.”

With that, he charged, and the battle for Tor’Tok began.  


Brother Svenson watched as the monsters charged the palisade. They were each taller than anyone he had ever seen, covered in dark green scales and bristling with weapons. By Rhokir, how many of them were there? Why was no one shooting? Svenson looked over and saw Sister Trudi staring, the crossbow in her hands shaking even harder than she was. Svenson breathed deeply and tried to calm his nerves. This was his chance, he thought. He’d strike the first blow and become the hero of the battle. Maybe Orma from the armory would finally go to dinner with him. Svenson raised his crossbow and fired at the closest beast. By some miracle, his shot thunked between the monster’s chest scales. Svenson whooped in delight, one down! Then his eyes widened. By Rhokir, he thought, the animal wasn’t even slowing down! It roared, and with one powerful leap, soared straight over the walls and landed right on top of Svenson, knocking him to the ground. Something cracked in his chest. Why had no one told him that battles hurt so much? There was no air in his lungs to scream as the green monster wrapped its claws around his face. As the world went black and a vice started to press into his head, Svenson hoped that Orma would at least weep for him.   

 Weapon-for-Justice cackled as he crushed the smoothskin’s head to a pulp. By Sotek, it felt good to kill for a cause again. He had spent too many years mediating the petty squabbles of his pettier kin. Now was the time for action, now was his time. Through the din, he heard Mace-of-Heaven commanding him to wait for the others. What did he know? Weapon-for-Justice had served longer, killed more. Why wasn’t he the one in charge? What had that brat upstart done to give him the right to command his elder? Weapon-for-Justice deflected an axe blow with his arm scales. Ducking under the next swing, he jabbed his hand forward and ripped a smoothskin’s jaw off, throwing his gurgling corpse into the throng of his brothers still attacking the gate. Then it dawned on him. If he wanted to take his rightful place, he would have to prove Mace-of-Heaven wrong. He would be the first one into the fort. He would punch through the humans’ lines and gorge himself on their hearts before his brothers even knocked the first wall down. Weapon-for-Justice crouched and leapt across the chasm between the two walls. The wind soared in his ears, mixing and melding with the screams of the dying. Then everything stopped. It was as if a giant hand was holding him in place. Weapon-for-Justice twisted, roaring at whatever sorcerer had trapped him. For all his strength, he had no opponent to face as he watched a dozen humans point their strange bows at him. As the first bolt pierced his eye, he wondered if Mace-of-Heaven would forgive him for disobeying orders.     

Sister Astrid gasped from within the courtyard and released the paralysis spell. It had taken all of her focus to keep that crocodile-thing in place long enough for the brothers and sisters on the inner wall to turn it into a pincushion. Looking around, the whole situation felt like a dream. Yesterday she had been in the library studying the Eddas of Truthsaying, and today she was defending the inner gate from a horde of bloodthirsty kroxi-somethings. Astrid wished Mother Myrand was with them, but she was already back in the keep. At least they had High Brother Ingmar, but he was no substitute for the real thing. He kept telling them to hold the line as if it were some deep revelation from Rhokir herself. For all his shouting, nothing could stop the green tide. Ingmar’s latest order was drowned out by the sound of the gate crashing open. Astrid tried backing up, but Ingmar shoved her forward, telling her that faith protected. But that was nonsense! Rhokir was Goddess of Truth, not protection! Astrid raised her spear and jabbed it into the nearest Kroxigor. The flimsy thing snapped in half against the monster’s hide. As the beast raised its halberd in the air, Astrid told herself that she’d give Orma a stern talking to when she got back.

Kills-for-Faith closed his eyes as he sliced the young human in half. He hadn’t wanted to go on this expedition. He would have much rather stayed in his dorm poring over the Book of Sotek, but Mace-of-Heaven had ordered him to come. He said he’d ‘toughen him up’. This was the first human he killed, and he hated it. He had tried to stay at the back of the charge, but he had already been hit by a dozen of those bolts and was starting to feel tired. Kills-for-Faith opened his eyes and watched as a single human cut down Hand-of-Sotek in front of him. Mace-of-Heaven always said that dying for Sotek was the greatest thing they could hope to accomplish with their lives. As the twitching heap that used to be Hand-of-Sotek breathed its last, dying didn’t seem so great. The tall human rushed him, screaming something Kills-for-Faith thought was a prayer. He wanted to fight back, but he couldn’t bring himself to move as the axe sliced his arm off. Kills-for-Faith screamed and dropped to the ground. As the human’s axe descended towards his head, Kills-for-Faith saw Hand-of-Sotek’s face. He looked scared.

High Brother Ingmar grunted as his axe split the Kroxigor’s head apart. By Rhokir, he was too old for this kind of work. Maybe in his prime, he could have taken out five or six of these things, but no longer. He backed up and let his bodyguards fight for a few moments so he could catch his breath. Ingmar took a swig from his canteen. The Eddas said water was the drink of truth, but Ingmar preferred rum. By Rhokir, he couldn’t believe how much his hands were shaking. The outer wall was lost. Most of the soldiers in the courtyard were dead. It was only him and his bodyguards left. Brave men and women all, they would hold the line so the flatbows and spells from the inner wall could win them the battle. They were holding well, even managed to bring down a few more Kroxigors. Then something cut Sister Hildi in half. The slash went through her shield and mail like butter. She didn’t even have time to scream, but the rest of the bodyguards did. The line broke instantly. The remaining soldiers tried desperately to get inside the inner gate. They failed. One by one, they were cut down. All but Ingmar. He threw his canteen down and picked up his axe and his shield. A scream on his lips, he charged the leader of the Kroxigors, the one they called Mace-of-Heaven. A grin on its face, the beast met his charge with one of its own. Ingmar had the advantage, he swung his axe as hard as he could, hoping to slice the thing’s arm off at the shoulder. With a ringing of steel, Ingmar’s axe bounced off. The beast’s scales were barely even chipped. Off-balance and off-guard, Ingmar felt something cold slice under his shield and into his chest. Everything went quiet. Ingmar coughed, spraying blood onto the Kroxigor’s chest. It looked down at him, a glint of emotion in its dead eyes,

“Any death in the service of a god is an honorable one, no matter how false that god may be.”

Ingmar collapsed onto the ground. He didn’t know the jungle floor could be so cold. His breathing was getting slower, but at least he would die looking at the sky. Everything was going dark, but Ingmar could swear there was an angel coming down to meet him.

Mother Myrand did not weep at Ingmar’s death. They had known each other for long enough for her to know he would have rather she get even then cry for him. She watched as the leader of these beasts tossed her oldest friends into the rapidly growing heap of corpses surrounding her wall. In an instant, Myrand blazed with fury, summoning every ounce of power she had amassed over her decades of service to Rhokir. A halo of untainted white light burst into existence around her head, a halo of True Light. She felt the tattoo on her forehead burning. Suddenly, her vision expanded. She reached up and found the ink had been replaced with flesh. Her third eye had opened. The blaze of power brought the battle to a standstill. Both sides stared in awe at this display of divine fury. Without a word, Myrand spread her palms and unleashed the power of Truth. Friend and foe alike were bathed in True Light. Around her, the soldiers on the battlements felt their bodies morph and twist under the weight of Truth. Unlike Rhokir, Mother Myrand’s truth could never be objective. Truth without omniscience is forever tainted by perspective, and so Myrand’s magic altered itself to better suit her view. 

The simpering cowards who had failed to defend her fort shrunk and softened, becoming crying children or groaning greybeards. Then came the Kroxigor, the foul beasts who had invaded her home and taken the lives of those she cared for. Beneath the searing light of The Real, they devolved. Some became mundane crocodiles, others still became roaring monsters, misshapen and malformed, their minds lost to the light. Most on both sides died of shock, their souls incapable of comprehending what was happening to their bodies. The remaining Kroxigor warriors were gone. All but one. Mace-of-Heaven’s will would not be broken by something as paltry as the Light of a goddess. He stood before Mother Myrand, badly burned, but unbroken. The two warriors exchanged looks of grudging respect with one another. Still teeming with power, Myrand descended into the courtyard, a blade of white fire appearing in her palm.

“Come, beast. Let’s settle this.”

Mace-of-Heaven grinned. Despite the deceit, despite all the death, despite all the losses his brothers had suffered, he was enjoying this.

The Kroxigor swung his glaive in a low arc, a testing strike. It had been years since he had faced such compelling prey, and he wanted to relish in their battle. Bolstered by magic, Myrand easily parried the blow away and responded with one of her own. The savage slash would have sliced deep into his torso, but he was too fast. Reeling from the parry, Mace-of-Heaven swung his glaive into a defensive stance. He barely managed to keep himself in one piece, the force of the sword made his arms numb. With a roar, he flung the human into the gate behind her, shattering it to splinters and sending her flying into the crowd of terrified onlookers that lay within. Breathing heavily, the female struggled to her feet as Mace-of-Heaven charged. He swung his glaive in a savage arc, meaning to slice her in half. At the last second, she twisted out of danger. Mace-of-Heaven’s blade hissed by her head, carving through several humans who had been unlucky enough to stand behind her. Showered with gore, the rest of the crowd fled screaming into their homes. On and on the battle went, his blows and her magic leaving nothing but destruction in their wake. They tore through the fort, destroying tents, walls, and civilians alike. After what felt like hours, the two warriors found themselves staring at one another once again, back in the courtyard where it all began.

Panting, Mace-of-Heaven knew this would be his last exchange. He was exhausted, but so too was the human. She charged, her sword high above her head. Mace-of-Heaven grinned, her weariness made her careless. Smoothly, he swung his glaive’s haft to block her blow as he had done many times before, already planning his counterattack. Before he realized his mistake, the haft split in two with a gentle crack. The sword buried itself into the meat of his shoulder, burning as it cut through flesh and bone alike. Mace-of-Heaven howled in pain as his right arm sloughed off his torso and onto the ground. Mace-of-Heaven had never been this furious. A human thought it would slay him? Impossible. As one arm fell to the ground, the other rose, clawing at the human’s face. Mace-of-Heaven gouged his fingers into her flesh, blood already welling up from the cuts. He felt her eyes pop beneath his talons and smiled at her anguished screams. His vengeance was not yet complete, though. Mace-of-Heaven turned to her outstretched hand and bit into it as hard as he could. Her bones crunched beneath his teeth, filling his mouth with blood. Screaming, she erupted with magic and the two flew apart. Her hand still between his jaws.  With all his strength, Mace-of-Heaven stumbled to his feet and gazed at the destruction around him. The fort was in ruins. Blood coated the ground; dust choked the air. He looked down at his opponent. She was alive, somehow. Ponderously, he took a step towards her, then another, then another. As he inched closer to the wounded cleric, he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. Looking over, he watched as a human body, one he remembered killing, rose to its feet. Then another, then another, then even more. They weren’t alive, he could see it in their eyes. But still they shambled forwards, dozens of them. Panicked, Mace-of-Heaven whirled around, seeing more and more of them slowly making their way to the last remaining living things in the fort. He would not die this way. To end at the hands of such an unholy foe would be an insult. Gazing at the human, he thought about finishing her off, but he knew that it would also mean his end. With a final roar, Mace-of-Heaven left her to her fate and fled into the jungle. As he passed back into the darkness of the treeline, he felt a sensation wash over him. While he may have won the Battle for Tor’Tok, Mace-of-Heaven would never be the same.

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