"Ha Monte, how long until we reach the Shattering Mountains?"
Ragnar stood with his foreign looking compatriot atop the shoulders of one of the traveling Titans, having climbed there to look towards the thundering horizon. Even from a great distance, the series of volcanoes known as the Shattering Mountains sent ominous rumbles and booms echoing across the plains that surrounded them.
The very open plains that offered no concealment, especially for a thousand strong group of Jotunn.
"Running, half day." His erstwhile friend said, squatting down beside him. "At this speed, one day."
Ragnar cursed. The plan he and Annie had sketched out with the Huna Chiefs would be nearly impossible if the still pursuing Myrmidons, now personally lead by Annie's father and Marcus Ursa, caught up with them. And based on the cloud of dust coming up behind them, only a dozen miles off, the pursuing army would catch them before they even made it halfway across.
"We need to get them moving faster," Ragnar said urgently, "Ha Monte, have them drop what they can, and load people onto the fastest runners. Then gather the Chiefs," He spat, "Because we must decide who will have the honor of staying behind to slow them."
Ha Monte looked at Ragnar with a momentary look of confusion, of panic, but then his dark eyes took on a glint of respect.
"You have learned much of Huna, Son-of-Glass-God," He said, flashing his yellow teeth, "Other Chiefs not able to disagree. Must send men or themselves to fight. Honor force them to."
"And we will stand with them." Annie said, climbing onto the shoulder with them. She had finally rid herself of the filthy and ragged tunic she'd worn from Hannibal, and now wore the same baggy deerhide pants and shirt that the Huna favored. "Or they won't slow my Father down enough for us to lose them in the Shattering Mountains."
Ragnar looked at her, hungry eyes drinking in her glistening, harshly tanned skin. The way her shirt was so open in the front, he could…
"Ragnar." He whipped his head away, though he saw a small smile cross her lips from the corner of his eye. "We'll need at least thirty Huna to help us. My father has likely called up the entire strength of Hannibal."
"At least a hundred."
A warning horn sounded several miles behind them. Every head of the fleeing Huna turned towards that ominous horn, and fearful murmuring exploded around Ragnar, Annie and Ha Monte.
"Annie, let's see if we can't slow them down," Ragnar said, looking at his lover, then Ha-Monte, "You. Get your people moving faster. Get them into the Fire Fields, and prepare the Chiefs to fight."
A handful of minutes later, the two of them stood alone atop a gently sloping hill that allowed them to watch the approach of the horse mounted Myrmidons, led by none other than Jonah Leonhardt. The hard figures of Marcus Ursa, the bastards Bertholdt and Reiner, and eighty other Warriors stood behind him.
Ragnar crossed his arms, glaring down towards them, even as Annie stood completely relaxed except for her clenched fists. Jonah and a dozen Warriors dismounted, wearily and unobtrusively stretching from their long pursuit. Marcus and the rest turned and rode a wide circle around their two foes, heading after the Huna.
"My foolish, traitor of a daughter," They heard Jonah say as he approached, looking much older than the last time they'd laid eyes on him, "Where did I go wrong?"
Annie remained silent, but Ragnar felt the anger and resentment flowing off of her like a physical wave.
"Go back to Hannibal," Ragnar said in response, putting as much force as he could behind his voice, "And pursue us no more."
Jonah's eyes widened, and he actually flinched at Ragnar's tone, but then he shook his head and made a small signal with his hand, before using a ring on his right hand to shift. The rest of his force joined him in shifting, and Ragnar and Annie shifted a moment later. For a moment longer, Jonah and his men held back, sizing up their two opponents, then they charged.
Ragnar flicked a look towards Annie, admiring her new form for a moment, before his scythe blocked a pair of blades. Another set skittered off his helm, before Annie came to his aid. Never before had they tried to work in tandem, but over the past few days, they'd decided to try it seeing as they had very little to lose by trying.
Now, get them, Annie!
Annie's armored fists tore into the two Warriors attacking him, bursting completely through their bodies in a welter of gore and steam. Momentarily stunned, Ragnar dealt them each a death blow, and then turned to confront another pair, Annie at his back. She took the lead this time, sliding between the quartet of striking blades, grasping their foes by their necks and slamming them into the ground with bone-crushing force. Ragnar's scythe whirled in his grip, dismembering them as the rest grew wise and charged them as a single group.
"Disperse the serum to those I've listed, then have them meet us at the rally point. We will be waiting."
Levi's eyes gazed down at the case in his hand, and the envelope listing the members of the Titan Legion. Then he simply turned his horse and rode away without another comment. Erwin watched him go, and then patted his pocket to make sure his own vial was still secure.
I can't lead from behind anymore. He said, taking a moment to straighten his uniform before returning to the rest of the assembled Legion. With that serum, I can once again take the lead!
"We have a mission to complete, to recapture Historia Reiss, and Eren Jaeger," He said, looking at the fifteen people who had followed him on their pursuit towards Ragako. The figures of the Outsiders were further off, though close enough to hear his clear voice. "This will not be easy, and it is likely most of us will die as we pursue our foes towards the inner walls. But the serum that has been administered to you will give you a much greater chance of survival."
Squad Levi, sans the Ackerman girl, had had the drug administered. Hanji and Levi had steadfastly refused to have the serum administered, Erwin allowing it only because he respected both of their wishes, but several of the Squad Leaders had taken it, and were even now experimenting with their new abilities in the distance.
"You will have six hours to become accustomed to your newfound powers," He continued after a moment's reflection, "And then we must continue our mission."
He watched as the youngsters turned and as a group strode towards the far fields. Then, alone at last, he finally removed his own syringe. The needle was cold as he slid it into his arm, but as soon as he pushed the plunger, fire burst in his veins, and every muscle in his body clenched.
As he had expected, he was soon encircled by a cloud of steam, though he still retained his mortal body. And still his missing arm stayed missing. Awkwardly, he pulled one of his blades from its sheath and removed the stump of his arm. Intense warmth enveloped him, as he was suddenly blinded by…
This power… He thought, as his vision snapped back into being, and he beheld the great, pale skinned arms of this god-like form that was now his.
With this, I shall remove all evil from this world!
At first, Ragnar didn't know of the assistance being rendered to him from afar. That was because he was on his back, flailing at his dozen attackers, hands rending the face of one unlucky Warrior who had tried to strangle him.
He didn't know where Annie was, but could feel the thudding of several more huge feet, and he could hear her grunting in her struggles. But then he suddenly had a few less attackers, and the others were retreating outside of Ragnar and Annie reach.
As he rolled upwards, he heard a noise in the distance, and then felt a rush of air as something cracked past him. Then a wave of pressure slapped him in the face and he watched as something decapitated a pair of Warriors.
Annie and he shared a glance, just as another of the things flashed into view in the blink of an eye, shredding Jonah Leonhardt's legs. The last one Ragnar was able to glimpse, and his eyes widened as he watched as several meters of crystal arrow ravaged Annie's father. In less than a minute, they were alone, save for Jonah, who was struggling out of his Jotunn's body.
Little prince, little prince, hear my thoughts.
Ragnar clamped down on his own thoughts as that sultry, feminine voice spoke into his mind.
I know you can hear me, little prince. Your mother herself taught me how to Speak.
Annie moved towards him as a pair of figures appeared from left and right. At once, Ragnar knew it was the women who had been with his mother. They were similarly built, looking much as Annie had when he'd first met her, but there the similarities ended, with the one he believed was Sekhmet being dark of skin and hair, with a heavy covering of crystal across her chest and wrists, while the one known as Dian was fair of skin, but with fiery red hair, but with matching crystal armor. And in clenched tightly in each of their right hands was a great bow, nearly as tall as the two of them.
You… He ground out, anger building as he remembered the glinting of that plunging knife as it swept towards his mother's womb, towards him.
Little prince, please hear us out. This was clearly a different voice, and he turned to look towards Dian, as both of them came to a stop not to very far from Jonah, who was moaning on the ground. Your servants are in great danger. The Warriors of Hannibal are nearly upon them.
They are not my servants, woman. Those his lips drew back in a snarl and his teeth stayed clenched, he kept his tone as even as he could.
Whatever you wish to call them, Little Prince. Sekhmet replied, spreading her arms as if calling him to an embrace. We know you wish answers to what and who you are, and why you are. And we can give them to you, if you will only let us help you.
Ragnar, tread carefully. Annie warned. You saw how they slaughtered my father's troop.
We only wish to serve you. They both interjected in tandem, bowing slightly, strange little smiles splitting their faces. Now, may we assist you in defeating those horrible men?
Ragnar didn't respond, and simply strode towards the tiny figure of Jonah, stooping to pick his squealing form up as he attempted to sneak away. He looked down at the man, who began to gnaw on his own hand in an attempt to shift, but only succeeded in wetting himself in fear.
Annie. He turned and found Annie watching him closely. It is your choice what happens to this… man.
He handed the now silent man to Annie, and watched ghosts and demons flashed across her eyes as she looked down at the man who had made her what she was.
Her hand closed tightly, her arm cocked back, and then she sent her father soaring far into the air. Ragnar and their two new 'compatriots' watched the body tumble lifelessly through the air, only to smash into the ground far out of sight. But Annie had turned back towards the Shattering Mountains and began to run.
For a moment, Ragnar wanted to catch up to her and throw his arms around her. To whisper that it was okay, to caress her with his hands, his lips, but thought better of it. He knew he would want to be alone with his thoughts in her situation.
Instead, he turned towards the two Jotunn, who seemed to be waiting patiently. He attempted to shield his thoughts from Annie, trying to direct them only in their direction.
If you betray us, I will kill you. Hurt Annie, and I will make you wish I'd killed you. He thought angrily.
We swear not to betray you, Little Prince… Dian said, looking him squarely in the eye.
And stop calling me that! I am Ragnar, Seventh Prince of Jotunheim.
They nodded, eyes glinting with humor as they looked at him. Turning and seeing that Annie had stopped and was waiting for them, golden hair spilling across her shoulders. He trotted up to her, saying nothing. Dian and Sekhmet were close behind him.
They shared a significant look, bronze eyes staring into blue, and then were both off at a flat run towards the huge dust cloud left by the troop of Warriors. After a half dozen miles, they came across the first signs of a battle, with the steaming corpses of a dozen Huna surrounding a pair of Warriors. Again and again, as they charged towards the erupting volcanoes, they came across the same scene, with the Huna paying a huge debt in lives to even take a single Warrior with them.
Be careful! Someone's thoughts hit Ragnar like a boulder, as the ground seemed to jump beneath him, and the top of the mountain they were heading towards blew outwards with a power that Ragnar had never experienced, far surpassing even the explosion during his escape from Yggdrasil.
Huge, fiery stones began to fall all around, and a wall of smoke and debris rushed towards them. Into this Ragnar took the lead, his armor fending even the largest pieces of debris away. What he wasn't ready for was the massive hand that ripped out of the smoke, snapping his left arm off at the elbow, and sending him hurtling into the sky.
A pained scream escaped him as he smashed a furrow fifty meters in length in the tough ground that made up the side of the volano. It took him only a moment to get back to his feet, but in his dazed state, he failed to register the other figure charging towards him.
Reiner slammed into him with nearly as much force as the hand that could only belong to Bertoldt had, and once again, he felt his armor shatter all across his left torso. The Armored Titan followed up almost immediately after Ragnar's broken Jotunn came to rest once more. His hands found the edge of the cowl that covered the nape of Ragnar's neck, and with all this might heaved. The helm was not just a covering, but was seemingly integrated with the Jotunn's skin and muscles, and all tore with the strength of the Armored Titan.
No… It can't end like this! Ragnar despaired, as Reiner seemingly took a moment to gloat, mouth opening in a sickening caricature of a smile.
"Alll… overrrr…" His Jotunn ground out with a voice like a rock grinder. Only then did his hand slice down towards the exposed neck.
Ragnar could not see what happened next, but when deaths hand was stayed for a moment, he rolled quickly away, pain searing his every nerve. Reiner was now standing a few dozen meters away, clutching at the shafts of a pair of crystal arrows. Out of the smoke came the pair who had once served his mother, Sekhmet striding towards Reiner while Dian kneeled over Ragnar.
How dare one as low as yourself think he can take the life of an Annunaki, the Gods Above All. Sekhmet's anger carried even into her thoughts, as she let loose another arrow. For that, you will die!
And then a cloud of smoke covered them up, as Ragnar waited for his body to heal. But his thoughts, now beginning to clear form their own cloud of pain, thought only of Annie.
Prince, you must concentrate on healing. Dian's thoughts carried an image, of Annie's Jotunn gripped tightly in the hands of Bertoldt's massive form as he stalked further up the mountain. Your mistress seems to be in no danger. You are.
She suddenly drew her bow, a graceful movement that brought the nock of her arrow to the hinge of her jaw. The arrow leapt from the bow with that telltale crack, and the string, which Ragnar noticed in a moment of clarity seemed to be made of the same fibers as a Jotunns muscles, snapped againt the crystal armor on her forearm.
Another arrow, in a burst of steam, formed in her hand, already on the string. This one followed the first, then a second, then a third in the space of a trio of breaths.
Bones, broken during Reiner's attack, began to snap back into place, as Ragnar took heed of Dian's words and forced his tortured Jotunn to heal. It took a full minute to form his missing arm, and even longer to repair the shattered armor all about him, but he was finally able to struggle to his feet. The helmet was the hardest, as the crystal formed, he felt it changing, taking on a different form. As he thought about it, his newly grown armor seemed to have a different appearance, being even thicker in some places than before.
You are transforming again, Prince. Dian explained. All Anunnaki do it before they reach their True Form. Before they reach true beauty.
Ragnar had almost no idea what she was talking about, but couldn't deny that his Jotunn form was changing. Already steam was bursting in ever greater volumes from all across his body, as portions of his body stretched, shrunk and changed.
He never knew how long it took for the transformation to complete, but when the steam cleared from his body, he felt completely different. Careful exploration of the newly changed form revealed a massive growth between his shoulders, which seemed to have been formed from the huge vents that had been between his Jotunns shoulder. Now the vents were covered in muscles, and could be rotated… for whatever purpose. His armor was thicker, and his helm was more ornate.
You look much like your mother, My Lord. Sekhmet said as she strode out of the mixture of steam and smoke, her eyes wide. Very much like her.
When this is over, you will tell me about her. He replied, looking down at his palms. Having noticed the change in Sekhmet's style of address, he added. Please.
We shall be pleased too. Dian said. Now, there are still a dozen Warriors around here someplace, likely with your Mistress and the big one. I believe it is time to end them.
Ragnar nodded, and together they began to move up the mountain, smoke swirling about them.