So, I know it's not a new chapter of A Shadow of Wings, but I've had such terrible writer's block that I had to try something. Wrote this drabble thing, I hope y'all like it, even if it's not the normal stuff. More Shadow coming soon, I promise!
PS: I don't own this. It ain't mine.
It's like the ice of the valley around him has crawled into his very bones, and he shivers inside his armor, grip tightening on the sword in his hand, hilt heavy and familiar in his grip. Dark is just falling and he's perched on the wall overlooking the forested lowland, bracketed on either side by towering hills, and shadows creep in from every angle, barely fought off by the torches they'd thrown down early in a desperate attempt to abate the creeping night.
Around him the other dwarves shift and mumble as night descends further over the valley. Older dwarves, more experienced in their battles, clutch swords and bows and peer intensely over the same valley as he, their gazes steely and their bodies rigid with tension. And yet younger dwarves chuckle and laugh, joking as they clutch worn tools in their hands, making bets on who will kill the most with their shovels.
But he knows better. Thier days are numbered. There are so few of them left already, they number just a few dozen, and the few that remain are almost all battle-worn. He gives them a few days at most.
And isn't that a grim thought? To think that he's measuring his remaining time in days instead of years or even decades. But he knows, and he's accepted it. Not like some of the others he knows. Or knew. Some had fled, others had ended it. Some had traveled into the woods some hours ago and for all he knew, they too were dead.
Their Heroes now numbered only three. The Old Man, their leader, and his trusted right and left hands. Roamin the Paladin, trusted warrior, strong and steady on the field and Nisovin, bizarre and brilliant in equal measure, both held in highest regard and esteem by the dwarves. And they felt it too, that they were closing in on the end of an era. He could see it in the tense set of Willaker's shoulders, in the way Nisovin fingers his wand anxiously, in Roamin's rigid steps as he paces the front walls.
Death comes for all dwarves in the end. For them it just comes a bit sooner.
Night descends on the valley not gently, like the rain, but quickly and with full harshness. It blankets them in cruel darkness, and the chill seems to sink deeper into him, freezing him for a minute. His breath catches and he shifts his feet from his spot and tries to shake himself aware again, with only limited success.
Then he hears it. A sound he has never heard before. It's wretched, this high-pitch scream, like metal on metal, like a pickaxe dragging against stone. It pierces his mind, his heart, his soul and freezes him as terror grips him, his breath leaving him, choking him..
And then it starts. A scream, a dwarf in pain, and then a gurgle, like someone choking on a throatfull of blood. A sob, a sound of terror, and he watches, horror-struck, as dwarf after dwarf falls to some mysterious force. He watches, a scream building in his throat, his eyes wide, as the dwarf next to him falls to the ramparts, dead, his neck twisted in an ugly shape, his eyes wide and glazed and lifeless.
And he looks up, looks into eyes of deep white, of endlessness, of his own death. This creature, towering and black, stares at him, opens his mouth, and screeches. He falls and clutches himself and he swears his heart freezes, if only for a moment. And then the feeling is gone. His breath rushes back, his limbs regain feeling, and he staggers to his feet, rushing over to the wall long enough to empty the sparse contents of his stomach.
He can not look at his fallen comrade any more, lest he lose what little fortification he has left.
Willakers and the other heroes are rushing around, trying to regain order, trying to shuffle the dwarves back into a semblance of a fighting force. They manage, just in time. Down the bracketed lowland comes the echo of groans, the clank of bone on bone and even the quiet hiss of the first of the horde.
He sheathes his sword and takes up his bow, checks his quiver and makes sure his healing ale is easily accessible before he braces himself, draws his bow to the echo of the remaining dwarves, and waits. It doesn't take long, and soon the first monster breaks the tree line.
Taking a deep breath, centering himself, he lines up his shot, steadies himself again, and looses his first arrow. The sound of dozens of arrow pierces the night, a whistle of air and then a thunk. He watches a few of the monsters fall over, dead. There will only be more in their place. Down the line a dwarf catches an arrow in the shoulder and has to step back to take it out and sip his ale quickly, hoping the potion does its job before he has to fight again.
He sees the green fur of a creeper running for the wall and goes to knock and arrow, but he's not quick enough. Just as he lets go of the bowstring a hiss fills the air and then a sharp bang, echoing in the valley. The walls shake, and closer dwarves stumble. There's a hole already, and one drops off the back to patch it as best as he can.
Some of the braver dwarves have dropped on the ground from the front, and they're fighting zombies and skeletons and creepers head-on, trusting the other dwarves to provide cover. He can hear their battle cries over the sounds of the monsters, and they hearten him for now as he rains arrow after arrow into the crowd.
And then Willaker's voice echoes over the battle, amplified no doubt by the horn he carried around. "Spiderlings Dwarves! We have to keep them away from the walls!" His blood freezes a minute before he tosses his bow aside and grips his sword again. Spiderlings are fast and spit corrosive venom that can melt even the strongest of stone and mortar. And they're fast. His bow will be no good here.
With a howl he launches off the wall and into the fray, runeblade finding a zombie's flesh easily. They break off from other little knots and converge on him and he soon finds himself busy. He can feel his mind shutting down, entering a state of of frigid clarity with only one thought. Kill. He cuts a swath through their numbers, roaring defiance as he goes.
He's briefly aware that one of the dwarves has only just called the all clear for the spiderlings when a new sound. enters the cacophony. Heavy thumping, like blocks of ore being set down, reaches them. Willaker's gives a quick, terse shout of "Golems!" and his heart sinks. The already damaged walls will fall soon. He let's the archers work on the slow moving behemoths for a while before he sucks a breath and leaps forward.
He manages two swings before he is flung hard, body impacting into the stone of the main wall. He gives a scream, but his vision has gone white, and he can do nothing about it. He's weak, exposed, and he can hear the groans of the zombies. Then a hand grips the back of his armor and he can feel himself being dragged away. He opens his eyes briefly only to see another dwarf take his place and fall quickly under the overwhelming number of zombies.
They stop moving and cold glass is pressed to his lips. He drinks deeply, tastes the faintly fruity, faintly cold taste of the healing ale from his belt. It takes a minute but the pain leaves him and awareness returns and he struggles to his feet. He clasps forearms with his rescuer and the grim faced man spares him a tiny smile before he frowns again.
"We must run. The shrine will fall soon." His heart sinks and he nods, both taking off. The golems have long since busted through the walls that were protecting the shrine outside, and the shrine itself is covered in mobs. Here and there dwarves still fight but he knows it's too late. It's tainted, destroyed.
The shrine goes with an echoing bang and Willakers calls for a retreat into the Keep. He struggles to help a few stragglers, but the number of monsters is too many, and he watches five more of their number die viciously at their hands.
Roamin falls as he reaches the steps, set upon by wolves, which bite and claw ferociously, howling and snarling. Roamin falls still after a gut-wrenching scream. Behind him, he can hear Willakers and Nisovin's shouts of pain and denial, but they too drag themselves into the keep, looking slightly disheartened.
He comes back to himself, throws down a few torches to give them light and starts when he feels wind in his hair. Hand reaching up, he's dismayed to feel his helmet gone, most likely shattered or fallen off, broken, when he hit the wall earlier. He'll have to do without.
There's a moment of silence before he steels himself, and he and ten other dwarves station themselves in the hallway, motioning for the others to go on. After sharing a quick, but meaningful, look with each other, Nisovin joins them at the barricades. He spares them all a wide smile, his face covered in blood and grime and other things, and he gives one of his signature cackles. Nisovin knows this is his final stand, but he choses to go down in the manner in which he lived. Smiling and laughing like death didn't terrify him.
The monsters come in with a bang and he launches himself straight into the fight. He takes a few blows, but from behind he can hear the sound of Old Man Willaker's horn, and for a time he feels flushed with strength, with energy, like nothing could kill him, and monster after monster falls under his blade.
But even that leaves him, and slowly they can stand no more. He takes and arrow to the arm and then a blow to the head. He howls one final time, all primal rage and defiance and fear and takes down a few more of the stubborn beings before he catches an arrow in the throat. His howls are cut off and he staggers as blood fills his throat.
He tumbles slowly to the ground, the sound around him deadens. He watches with fading attachment as a few more dwarves fall, and even Nisovin is forced against a wall before he is stabbed through by a zombie, his cry quiet as he fades. He lets his head turn towards the roof, sees the familiar and comforting sight of the stone and lamps and torches. His breath gurgles in his chest and then he stills again, this time for good.
And he is cold again.