Preview #2 - The Defenders of Dembroch
The defenders of Dembroch huddled in the tower, awaiting the worst. Swords were held with the loose grip of inexperience. Haphazard pieces of armor clung to their bodies as sweat moistened their foreheads.
These men and women were most of the remaining members of the Reserves, volunteers from all walks of life, aspiring heroes, cowards, and charlatans. They hid in the Cliffside Tower, waiting for Sir Kenneth. Of these last Reserve defenders, Sir Kenneth alone had devised a final, desperate plan to save the kingdom and his fellow knights and dames. And though Sir Kenneth had come upon a great idea, it was ultimately ill-informed, shallow, and—to be blunt—stupid.
Sir Kenneth was deep in the Horror Hollow. His brilliant plan? To retrieve the fortissium blade, a sleek sword of black, indestructible metal. All around him, the monsters of the hollow hissed as though warning him to not take the blade from the Storm Stone. The blade too resisted him, sending jolts of electricity through his fingers. But, at long last, he rent the sword from the stone. As he did, the stone’s dial was wrenched out of place and a blast of winter winds came out. The gales blew Sir Kenneth, sword in hand, out of the Horror Hollow. He found his feet and ran, headed for the skybridge. Around him, the mountainous terrain of Ryderwyle, normally green and lush, was quickly coated in snow and ice from the winter wrath unleashed. The monsters of Horror Hollow shrieked after him.
Huffing and puffing, Sir Kenneth made it to the skybridge, the path connecting the mountain island of Ryderwyle to Dembroch’s main island over a channel of deep ocean. He sprinted across it. The fortissium blade was heavy in his grasp.
Just then, when the knight was almost across the skybridge, the Dreadnaught arrived. It slammed into the bridge, smashing it to smithereens. Like dominoes, the bridge began to collapse. Sir Kenneth leapt just as the structure crumbled beneath him. He crashed into the water. Salt bit at his wounds and the cold cut to his bone, but he did not stop. Sword still held tightly, he swam along the channel to a calm inlet. He scaled the cliffs and ran deep into the woods.
Miraculously, Sir Kenneth made it back to Cliffside Tower. His fellow defenders cheered heartily at his arrival, but there was little time to celebrate. The Dreadnaught appeared right behind him, crashing through the trees. Sir Kenneth, too far away from the tower to beat the monster in a race, turned and stood his ground to face the beast. He bore his new sword offensively. The black metal glinted in the summer’s heat.
The Dreadnaught kept charging. It roared. There was the buzz of a million ticks and clicks. And then, the sky turned black. Sir Kenneth’s bravery faltered ever so slightly.
The monsters of Horror Hollow, beasts of fangs and fire and flight, had followed Sir Kenneth, the thief of their treasure. They bore down on him now, the Dreadnaught scuttling into the fray too, a million teeth aching to sink into the knight’s flesh.
Sir Kenneth swung mightily with the fortissium blade, that indestructible sword that could cut through anything—should have cut through anything—and it glanced right off the monsters like water off a duck’s back.
The knight did not get a second chance. He was swarmed by the monsters, lost in a sea of teeth and blood.
It was the last anyone saw of Sir Kenneth. There were shrieks and squelches, rips and tears. A second later, a severed arm, still clutching the black-bladed sword, flew high into the sky, fell through the tower’s window, and landed with a splat in the upper room amongst the defenders. The blade was spattered in crimson blood. The fingers twitched.
No one tried to grab it. It was all too clear: the sword would not aid a thief, let alone these cowardly defenders.
Beyond the tower walls, the world seemed to rumble. No one had to look to know what was coming.
The monsters of the Horror Hollow landed on the tower’s top. They clawed through, breaking into the upper room. At the same time, the Dreadnaught assaulted the walls, breaking large chunks away. The defenders fought for all it was worth, but they were indeed ill-equipped and inexperienced. Some were gobbled up by the Dreadnaught, others were skewered by the monsters of the hollow. It was an extermination, and the cries of terror and agony were the stuff of nightmares.