In the misty peaks, where the passage of time becomes sluggish, and where no king truly rules, you could find a small hamlet, one at the end of a bridge overlooked by four guardian statues. This bridge arched over a massive trench, the bottom of which merely disappeared into the endless black one could imagine seeing beyond the door of death. The bridge was masoned finely when i was built mysteriously, just as the statues were finely carved, but the rain over the ages and the lack of maintenance had worn it. If the masonry were left in pristine condition, however, it wouldn't take too much a toll upon the imagination to see that it was built by the same unknown architects that built the castle up higher.
But this fine artisanry was not shared by the hamlet at its end. The settlement with cobble for its walls and roads, but not the same brickwork. The thatch roofs, a whole foot thick, but nowhere near as wondrous the craftsmanship of the tiled roof of the castle. As one strays further from the bridge, they would see the housing degrade in wealth and sophistication, as one would see houses become cottages, and cottages become shacks. Those would be occupied by the less wealthy.
On the down-hill side of the hamlet, under alpenglow of morn, a young man worked at a broken tree stump with an axe. He was an apprentice. That of a blacksmith. Every morning, he would go out to the stump with some firewood in need of splitting, so he might have more time to practice how to use a sword, determined to be the world's greatest swordsman.
The apprentice, who for our purposes, we will call Osgar, was made burly by the constant physical work, and because of the funds a blacksmith tends to earn, had enough good food to grow tall. His head was crowned by long locks, the colour of the wood he chopped, and the leather he wrapped around sword grips, and his pale face was adorned by groomed facial hair. And by no means could he be considered dull; blacksmiths work more out of knowledge than brute force, after all.
He chopped with his heavy axe, the wood falling over the sides of the stump, and by the end of it, he gathered the firewood up, leaving his axe buried into the stump.
But as he approached the blacksmith, smoke streaming from the chimney constantly, he had the sharp senses to see the shadow being cast against the hamlet as the sun rose; turning to look at the column of black smoke rising high into the clouds. He turned back to the colony, and the tower behind had lit its flame at the top.
He dropped the wood there, and rushed, for that signal means only that they were in the path of a fearsome enemy. The hamlet lacked the defenses to hold an army, so everyone was taught to evacuate up to the castle in the event of an attack.
As the soldiers at the tower tolled their bells, the ringing echoing across the mountain, it didn't take long for the people to wash into the road, grabbing whatever they needed, as they embarked on their path to the castle.
Yet not even entirely out of the hamlet, and they came into a complication in the form of a fallen tree on the road. The men who could lift an axe tried clearing it out, but alack. With the footsteps like pounding drums approaching, they knew they would not clear the blockage in time. They had to fight there.
The women and children were forced to climb over the fallen tree to the other side, while the men would have to hold out at the bridge. But they resisted often; they wanted to defend their home as well.
The men grabbed up their spears, bows, axes and swords, and donned their helmets and shields hastily, rushing to make formation at the end of the bridge; archers at the front, spearmen behind to defend in melee.
There, they finally spotted the enemy at the other side. But the archers failed to string their shafts, as they saw the enemy they were facing, and so did the men behind; they saw the corpse-like creatures of the blistering sands. Their alien blades and armour terrifying many, without mentioning their horrifying, mummified visage, their milky, featureless eyes, unblinking, their jagged teeth, filling even the strongest wills with dread. Even the veterans were terrified.
Their will for domination insatiable.
They marched onto the bridge, and just after the archers of the hamlet loosed their arrows, they met the unfathomable resistance of the armour, all bouncing off.
The army didn't seem to like the arrows, so they delivered them back to their archers, the arrows travelling at such unimaginable speeds they ran through the archers, burying into the shields behind in a spray of red.
The disciplined warriors then progressed across the bridge, brandishing their unnatural swords. Just their mechanical movements, their demonic gaze, was enough to force the defense to retreat a few steps each time the warriors came within striking distance. This was stopped when one of the militiamen, either out of courage, fear, or stupidity, thrusted their spear at one of the warriors. The warrior's bronzed, baroque armour stopped the spear without even slightly deforming to account for the impact.
The warrior then raised its blade up above his head, and chopped, cleaving through the militia's shield and helmet effortlessly, slicing through the flesh and bone even more effectively, cutting the man clean in half.
Cooler heads would aim for where there was no armour, but to no avail, as the warrior's ability to defend themselves far surpassed the militia's ability to strike, as one by one, those men died at their hands. The otherworldly attackers butchered the defense without effort. They destroyed all that stood in their path.
As the invaders broke the men's bodies and spirits, it all devolved into a panicked, chaotic mass melee.
Now let us return our attention to Osgar, who was dispirited by the sight of his friends being butchered without emotion. Without hope of defeating the merciless opponents. This did, however, fill his veins with untold rage, as he tried pressing forward to kill. But before he could, he was stopped by his master, the blacksmith, who stood in his path. When Osgar stopped, the blacksmith thrust his hand to reach his forehead, and after that, Osgar blacked out, as he lost consciousness.
He felt helpless in his unconscious space in his head. But through the pitch-blackness, he saw something. A blue, ghostly light. He approached it, but he recoiled, thinking it might be "The light at the end of the tunnel." But the light then zoomed towards him, landing through his breast, filling his body with... Something...
But before he could tell what it was, his eyes opened, and were blinded by the sunlight for a moment.
As his eyes adjusted to the lighting, he felt restrained, and held in mid-air by a rope. He looked down, and saw those same Corpse-like soldiers climbing up a rope against a rocky cliff face, trying to get to him.
Terrified, he squirmed helplessly, stopping when he heard a familiar, gruff voice with a strikingly thick accent behind him, "Stop it, boy! It's 'ard to climb wit' ya writhin' like a babe!"
He turned his head, and saw the back of the head of the blacksmith, climbing up the rope, up the rocky cliff face.
"Hildebrand!?" "Yea, it's me! Now make yerself useful an' throw some o' these rocks at the soldiers, boy!"
Hildebrand sounded particularly irritable at the moment. He always had a "tough luck" attitude, very rough with how he interacted with others. You could be a god, and he wouldn't have a care in the world for how he talked to you. He took no stock in titles or monikers, only merit. The fact that you're a king means nothing if you can't make a spear out of a stick with a knife. What is, is. He always was rather gruff when speaking even to his own apprentice, but now it's so much more urgent a tone than telling him to heat the armour until it's blue.
If Osgar is muscular, Hildebrand is a suntanned behemoth of it. Bigger, stronger, tougher. Atop his broad shoulders is his old, wrinkled head, topped with short grey hair. Set into his skull, he has two brown eyes flecked with traces of green.
"What are you doing?! The enemy is here! We need to fight--!" "I couldn't agree wit' ya more! But not now!" the hardened blacksmith barked, climbing as fast as he could. "What do you mean, 'not now'? our family and friends are dying, and here we are, retreating like cowards!" "An' it's the one's who retreat, knowin' victory is impossible that live to telltale! Now throw some bloody rocks, will ya?!"
As much as he hated it, Osgar knew he was right. They had been caught unprepared. And by the most uncanny enemies possible. Their armour seemed indestructible, and their swords cut through armour like paper. A fight would be hopeless. But even so, everyone he loved was fighting for their lives, and he could do nothing about it.
He finally relented when they reached the top. He was tied from his master's back and set down onto the stones at the top, as the Hildebrand came back to the rope to cut it to buy themselves some time. But after cutting the rope, one of the soldiers caught onto the edge of the cliff, as the others fell.
Osgar jumped to his feet, picking up a stick to fight off the soldier, but stopped when he saw Hildebrand simply slice at one of its gauntleted hands with the dagger, severing its fingers, which alarmed the soldier enough to stop and look at its hand. No blood flowed from the wound, no bleeding. Then the old blacksmith sliced at the other hand, severing its fingers. The soldier then fell to the ground on its back, and didn't get back up.
Osgar was startled by this. He peered over the cliff, as one very elaborately armoured warrior came to the last dead soldier, kneeled at its side, and examined the injured hand. The warrior then turned with an unnatural motion up to the top, first turning its head horizontally, then vertically. Its gaze met Osgar's, which more than unnerved him. Then the warrior stood tall, and walked off.
His eyes followed the warrior, until he saw the burning remains of the hamlet. He saw no movement but those of other soldiers. All he could spy of the militia were corpses littering the road, baptized in their own blood. Body parts scattered everywhere, bones strewn randomly, and entrails and heads left wherever they fell. He couldn't see a single Enemy corpse among them.
He then looked down, the dread and misery too much for him. At just that moment, he had noticed that the fingers Hildebrand had cut off the soldier were severed, even through the armour.
He then turned, shaken, when his master said "Ya comin', boy?" Osgar then looked back at the fingers, this time noticing that the stone itself had been cut.
Confronting the old man, he questioned "What was that?" which Hildebrand replied "... That?... Me savin' our sorry hides. What else?" "You know what I'm talking about. You're no fool. You just cut through that soldier's armour... And stone!" "So?" "'So' how did you cut through armour plates that arrows and a spear couldn't even pit, and... STONE, using a dinky little dagger?!" "Ya mean this 'dinky li'l dagger'?" he said, raising it up, shaking it.
Osgar was seriously shocked. Not only was it not a dagger; it was a spearhead. Even then, not just any spearhead. The same old spearhead that would hang over the hearth of the forge. He would always suggest selling it or melting it down for its steel, but Hildebrand would always dismiss the suggestion without hesitation.
"That?! That old thing?!" "Yes." "I'm surprised that old piece of junk is even still in one piece! How did you cut through armour and stone with that?!"
"Because this 'ere ain't just some 'old piece o' junk'. It's the head o' Gaebulgr. The legendary spear o' Niall." Osgar was then surprised yet again. "Niall? Niall the Great? Gaebulgr?!" "Yes, yes, stop bein' me echo, boy!" he said in an irritated tone. "This isn't the time for jokes--!" "O' course i' ain't." "Just tell me, what's with that spearhead? Why did it--" "I told ya already; it's a magical spear forged by me great great granddad to be used by Niall the Great!" "Niall the Great is a fairytale! A fantasy! What I'm talking about is--" he hesitated as Hildebrand started laughing, looking into Osgar's eye "Fairytale? hah hah hah. Fantasy? Hah hah hah! I thought this wasn't the time for jokes." "You mean to tell me that Niall the Great was real?" "Yes." "And that everything that happened in that book... Really happened?" "Well, not everythin'. Me granddad told me that me ancestor was there for the whole debacle about his marriage to Lady Shinutre. Apparently the part 'bout her dyin' was just meant to make the book more suitable for younger readers. What 'appened was a lot worse than her bein' gutted like a fish." "Wait, wait, wait. So you're telling me that whatever is happening here, it has something to do with... Shinutrimordes?" "Yes."
"Wait, so why has the head of the spear of one of the greatest heroes in history been hanging from the rafters of some shabby old blacksmith?" "Because me ancestors didn't like bein' straight forward. I suppose it was a force o' habit in my case." "Why is it just the spearh--" "Ye'r askin' too many questions right now, me boy. We need to move!" "Well, answer one question for me now, won't you? Who were those corpses?"
Hildebrand stopped, and turned to Osgar "... They're the At'Azraqa. The natives o' the Blisterin' Sands far to the south. The only thing on their minds is domination. They don't know fear. They don't know pain. They don't know compassion, and they're goin' to kill many more before they're stopped... Now let's go." He said as he started going up the mountain.
With no home to return to anymore, Osgar ventured with his old master. Nothing else to lose.
I was originally going to make a spur of the moment short narrative, but obviously, I got carried away. Oh well, it's a gold mine of an idea this is.
In any case, this is really good art.