Lacking the strength in my legs, I knelt. The power I had just used was flashy and powerful, but highly inefficient. Even after killing dozens in mere moments, it was only enough to make a small dent in their numbers. At least I had bought myself some time by making the bloody creatures wary of me.
The stench of blood and innards rushed my nostrils as I took a deep breath. Broken bodies littered the ground a distance behind me. We were slowly losing this long battle of attrition. Snarling hound creatures that should only exist in fiction fought against my troops, my friends. I watched out of the corner of my eyes as they were slowly pushed back, cornered and eviscerated.
I raised my head. Heavy. Though once powerful, my magical helmet was nothing but dead weight now. I removed it. My precious headgear clattered against the stone floor. The red gem that once shone brightly was devoid of any luster, cracked in the middle. The once thick metal, engraved with mystical patterns, seemed brittle, almost as if made of dry clay.
A wall of snarling beasts threatened to attack me at any moment. They almost surrounded me, moving left and right in their semi-encirclement. As if leaking from the edges, I could see some of them abandoning the formation to charge at easier prey, my allies. I pushed the butt of my spear against the ground, pumping my legs to lift me up. Heavy. Too heavy.
I reached under my left armpit and pulled on the leather strap, loosening my armor. I pulled another strap located below my chest. The armor clanked and lost its form, hanging half way loose.
One of the demon hounds saw this as an opportunity and threw itself at me with its hideous maw open to grab at my arm. Its mouth opened unreasonably wide and it had too many jagged teeth, a sight that would give people nightmares. But here? It was only a tame product of this fucked up dimension. With a whip of my arm I grabbed its neck midair and slammed its head against the cold stone. It whimpered while I crushed its wind pipe under the weight of my gauntlet. The sleek, jointed metal that covered my fingers dug into its flesh and dark blue blood oozed between the seams. It died in mere moments.
As dumb as it was hideous, it chose to disregard the pile of bodies of its equals that littered the floor behind me. It wasn’t unusual for an exceedingly brave, or stupid, member of the pack to make a move to test the waters. It didn’t work in their favor this time.
[You have slain a demon hound.]
[You have leveled up.]
I willed the notifications away. I would probably have been happy if the circumstances were different; I didn't have time to celebrate about such things now.
I cleaned my dirty hand on the corpse’s red fur while staring at the wall of teeth and fur that maintained its distance, once more reminded of its own fragile stupidity. With my clean hand I reached on the other side of my armor and finished unstrapping it. The solid pieces of dark steel hit the floor hard, the loud noises produced by the impact made the demon hounds flinch. My precious magical armor lay on the floor. And as much as my helmet, it had lost all its luster. Cracks and deformations marred the once beautiful dark steel. Its magic stones long gone, either shattered or dissolved into dust from excessive use.
'No matter. I have more important things to worry about now.'
I shook away the grief I felt over my otherworldly possessions. With most of the weight shed, I managed to stand up. I moved my legs into a battle stance, but my greaves proved to be another dead weight, the left one was half broken and the right one deformed. I used the tip of my spear to cut them loose. Much better now. I readied myself, my faithful spear between my elbow and ribs gave me a sense of reassurance. While no longer pristine, it still held power. The magic gem below the blade shined, even if not as bright as it had been.
I readied myself for the carnage that was about to continue. I focused on what was ahead of me, pushing away the sound of the raging battle coming from behind. I reassured myself that even if I couldn’t save everyone, I was where I could help the most. Drawing him out was the only way out of this, and I was the perfect bait. He wouldn’t resist the opportunity to take my life himself.
As if hearing my thoughts, something approached from the mass of demon hounds. They parted, opening the way. The demon hounds knew, even in their crippling stupidity, that they would die otherwise. Like evil Moses opening the sea of demonic dogs, he came with his characteristic sadistic grin and blood thirsty aura. He approached me slowly, no doubt taking his time to enjoy the sight of my battered body, his great axe making an unnerving rasping noise as he dragged it against the stone floor.
Mutated, deformed, inhuman and nightmarish were all fitting descriptions for this once human horror. I closed my senses to everything else but him. His vicious smile and insane looking eyes fueled my determination. With a deep breath I steadied myself and charged. Spear glowing bright as I ran straight into the grinning monstrosity. With his axe held high in his hands, he seemed pleased to welcome my charge. I didn't care.
Before the bloody moon gave way to the red sun I would have his heart on the tip of my spear.
Author's Note: This is a prologue and a taste of what is to come, my writing style and who the protagonist will eventually become. These are not past events, but a glimpse of a future arc.
This chapter has been reviewed and edited with the help of Densor.
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