By Paul Smith.
Woad Interlude I (Cult of the Butterfly 7)
Copyright 2017 Paul Smith
This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to people, places or events is purely coincidental, and bears no malicious intent.
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‘For the CoK crowd.’
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The first stars gazed down from an indigo sky, casting the battlefield below in eerie twilight. Mist curled from the edges of the forest, obscuring all but the malevolent red sparks drifting in pairs amidst the boughs.
[Are you ready for this?]
Seb looked at Miss Murder, resplendent in her Warrior Queen garb. [The correct answer is ‘yes’…?]
She snorted in contempt. [Well obviously.]
He aped enthusiasm, swinging his sword in a complex mandala before him. [Then bring it on!]
She nodded, turning to the rank and file. [Stand firm people! On my word!!]
Up and down the line, well muscled torsos straightened, woad-smeared chests puffing out.
It was all rather homo-erotic.
At least until you got to Rudolph’s Howling Banshees on the end. The elite shock troopers had clearly been coded by some geek with no concept of the effects gravity might have on actual breasts. Though to their credit they weren’t too ridiculous in size. “Insanely Perky” was a phrase often bandied about in clan chat, usually by Ruph or Theroux.
Their typing tended to get a little sketchy during said conversations. Seb couldn’t possibly imagine why…
He scrolled to each of the boys now, then on through the to rest of the alliance, receiving the thumbs up response. Prating about in chat was fine, but Murder did not tolerate it on the battlefield. Of the smaller Tribal coalitions theirs was one of the most successful, with good reason.
And that reason is stood next to me.
Raina had a true gift for inspiration. She had pulled this rag tag group together, forging something special from the disparate individuals that made up their number. Under her leadership they had taken on far more powerful tribes (statistically) and prevailed, simply because of the united front their forces presented.
The trees stirred as if in the wind. A lone howl went up. It was joined by another. And another, the night filling with that blood curdling sound.
The twitching down the line ceased, eyes gone steely as individual players pulled their rank and file into line. Power ups were dolled out, jewelled sweets like glittering stars come down from the firmament consumed by the choice amongst the amassed forces. Druids began their low incantations, grim faced warriors smiled as swords were raised and arrows nocked.
The howling rose in a crescendo.
The tree line erupted, fur clothed wrath spilling out like animate shadow, pounding across the meadow towards their waiting lines.
Teeth flashed, claws extending in anticipation of first blood. Behind the nightmare ranks burly warriors stepped forth, their own casters muttering dark lines of force into the night.
Seb glanced at Raina. Her eyes never wavered from the approaching wall of death, hand raised.
When her fist dropped Seb was ready.
Adrenaline surge through his veins as the cry escaped his lips, star blade raised to the heavens.
Flaming blue arrows leapt out from their lines as their own people shot forwards, swords raised above an almighty roar. Men, women and things other shot forward across the hallowed ground, kilts swinging about their knees as they closed with the enemy.
Seb laid about him with his blade, the burning fist of his left hand become claw like as magic coursed through its flesh, scalding all it touched. He’d initially found it a little disturbing, the way the butterfly was able to reach through onto their virtual plane, but after witnessing the results through the first few battles their alliance had faced he’d figured why complain? The others thought he’d picked up some rare mod in one of the wishing well draws. Only Raina knew where the blue fire licking about his arm from elbow to fist really came from.
A massive uber-bear reared up before him, bellowing like thunder. He responded with his own cry, dreadlocks flying as he charged forwards, grinning at the look of surprise on its face. Claws flashed out and his blade met them, grin turning fierce as his struck out with his left, burning fire raking the thing across it’s face. It cried out, bellowing in anger as it knocked him flying backward into the turf.
Flexing, he launched himself back onto his feet, raising his blade just in time to deflect the follow up blow. Took a second to dust himself off as the skin changer swerved in its charge to come round for another go. This time he was ready, sword raised in a feint that it fell for, hook line and sinker. His other fist stole through the gap in it’s guard, plunging deep into it’s fur covered chest to close on the beast’s heart. He tore it free as the monstrosity collapsed to the ground, irate text bubbles clouding the air above it briefly before he banished them with a wave.
[Stop posing and get in here!]
He glanced over his shoulder to find Raina and the Banshees [Band name?] [Shut up Laikee! Pay attention…] hemmed in by one of the opposing Chieftains and his Karls, more clan warriors closing in behind ready to strike the final blow. With a cry of rage he leapt from the bloody corpse, charging in to break the enemy blockade. Rudolph and Jonas joined him, the later bringing her own troupe of Banshees to bear. The Karls died screaming, their lord fleeing in fear of sharing their fate. Together they all turned on the clansmen, who routed in the face of their now superior numbers, fleeing for the treeline.
And so the tide turned, the last of the skin changers beaten back into the woods that had birthed them. Seb and Raina stood triumphant atop one of their corpses as thunder tolled overhead, the victory rain that signalled the end of the bout falling about them in cool, cleansing sheets.
[Job well done M’Lady.] Rudolph, his square jawed avatar grinning round a nasty blade wound to the face.
[Indeed, congratulations to all I think.] Raina accepted his hand, climbing down off the mountain of fur. [Though I am starting to concede we should invest in some of these monstrosities ourselves. Might help even out the girl’s weakness.] And she gestured to the milling Banshees. Quite as you’d expect, given who’d programmed them, they were taking the opportunity the rain afforded to strike a variety of alluring poses, striping off blood soaked garments. There was a suspicious air of ‘frolicking’ that left Seb grinning.
Raina nudged him, gesturing at the vacant look Rudolph had adopted. Moana and Jonas joined them, and Ruph seemed to realise abruptly he had an audience. He cleared his throat loudly, making a show of looking around at the rest of the assembled.
[S’alright mate, we won’t tell your Mum,] quipped Jonas, slapping him on the shoulder.
[Meet back at the roundhouse in ten?] offered Seb, deciding to take pity on the kid.
Rudolph nodded eagerly, disappearing from the battlefield in a shimmer of misty starlight.
[I swear that boy spends most of his time here with his cock in his hand,] Raina observed, turning slowly and raising a hand in acknowledgement as one by one the rest of their side quit the scene.
[Well, at least it doesn’t affect his other sword play when it counts.]
She rolled her eyes, but there was the hint of a smile there.
[No circles this time.]
Raina nodded, serious now. [I’ve been doing some reading: you have to ‘charge’ them beforehand with sacrifices. Think we got lucky with our timing, caught them with their pants down a bit.]
Seb nodded soberly. [Something I’m sure they won’t let happen again.]
[Quite. All the more reason to sew our own set of Teds.]
Seb shook his head grinning. [So, to the bar?]
[Yes, but not for long.] Murder waved distractedly. [We’ve still got the ground floor to finish, and Lucy has swimming so I’m up first thing.]
He nodded… [See you in a few…] …and he quit the arena, leaving the Captain for her traditional moment of solitude after a win.
A quick peek at his stats (not too shabby, if he did say so), and to answer a query from Devan about meeting up the next evening and he headed over to the roundhouse, where all was noise and joviality.
There is a murderer stalking the city of Shensang. His name is Sebastian Laikee, and a blue butterfly stirs deep in his soul, shaking out fractal wings. As the storm of possibilities unfolds he must choose his path (and his allies) with care if he is to succeed. ...installment of 'The Cult of the Butterfly', my latest piece of serial fiction. Keep an eye here or on my Deviantart page for future chapters.