132 All Impending Doom
Dusk came soon to the canyon. The Asurai warriors were preparing for the night, repairing their gear as best they could with what they had. Commander Taigen had already spoken to General Saigo and the Lieutenants about the coming wave of beasts, but the atmosphere hanging over all of them was thick with tension and foreboding. Nobody could put their finger on it, but everyone felt uneasy about the quickly coming night.
Taigen looked over the list of remaining, able-bodied warriors in his hand with a grimace. They did not have enough. They were at the most defensive spot available along the canyon, but they had barely enough troops to form two lines across its width. No doubt that number would dwindle even further tonight.
He looked up and spotted the huge figure of Ssaul assisting some of the men with building a makeshift berm out of fallen rock and dirt. It wouldn't hold back the beasts, but every little bit helped.
Ssaul was the odd one out amongst the Asurai, who were all human. He was from the far west, and of a reptilian race of people known as the Carzivore. The Carzivore were born big and strong, and their tribal nature ensured that they were no stranger to combat growing up. Ssaul had been a friend of Teigen's father, and had been with the Asurai for as long as Taigen could remember. Ssaul was respected and honored as if he was one of their own, and to Taigen he had been invaluable as a advisor and mentor in the time since he had taken over the mantle of leadership.
But Taigen was afraid that even the fabled might of the Carzivore would not save them from their impending doom. That aside, he could not afford to let himself get lost in the spiral of thoughts that was swirling about in his mind. His warriors needed a leader now more than ever
He focused his mind, straightened his back and headed to his position. He had his own duty to fulfill before the beasts came.
The preparations for the defence were completed shortly after nightfall. The torches were lit, casting eerie shadows along the canyon walls as the warriors formed up their lines and the Lieutenants make their final checks. As everyone got ready, Taigen stepped up onto a rock where everyone could see him and called out.
His powerful voice drew the attention of all the defenders to him. Everyone stopped what they were doing and silence settled in anticipation. Taigen looked out across the upturned faces and felt a pang of pride mixed with sadness in his heart. If he could trade his life to save theirs, he would do so in a heartbeat, but for now, all he could do was give them purpose.
"Tonight, our purpose will once again be tested by the beasts. Tonight we will once again look death in the face. The beasts will come, and they will come for our blood!
Warriors of the Asurai, we are all that stands between oblivion, and those that we hold most dear! We are the ones that must stand firm! We are the ones who stare death in the face and defy it!
Take up your blades! Gnash your teeth! Tell the gods that no beast will claim your life this night!
We are ASURAI!"
His final roar brought forth a thunderous reply from the warriors as they responded to his words. He could see the fire in their eyes now, he could sense their resolve. This is what is meant to be Asurai, to stand and fight despite the odds against you.
Taigen made his way to his position just as the beast howls started to drift up the canyon on a sour wind. They were coming.
He stood in the center of the canyon with his men behind him and drew the azure blade at his hip with a flourish. The flash of light once again raised a cheer from the warriors as they drew their own weapons and started to chant as they always did.
Boots stomped and voices thundered as the cadence shook the ground.
The warriors of the Asurai were ready.
Out of the dark came the beasts, snarling and howling, all teeth, tusk, claw, and hungry for blood. An ordinary man would quake at the sight, but the Asurai warriors had been tempered in misery, they had fought their bloody way through the depths of hell itself, and they still had fire in their eyes.
The two sides met in a furious charge where bone and steel clashed in a discordant symphony of battle. Desperate howls and growls were met by stubborn defiance and battle shouts.
At the front, Taigen's azure katana cut through the beasts as if they were paper, leaving behind smoking flesh and bone.
On the left flank, General Saigo wielded his naginata style weapon with veteran precision, striking weak points with accuracy and never allowing a single beast to close in around him.
On the right, the claws of Ssaul tore the beasts appart with incredible force as his armored reptilian tail hammered down blows on any nearby beasts.
Behind the valiant commander and his supporters was the line of Asurai warriors. They held the beasts at bay with blades and shields while the second line used their spears to strike at opportune targets.
This continued on for an hour of combat before the beasts started to thin out. The defenders quickly killed of the remaining few, and caught their breath. The wounded and tired were quickly switched out with fresh troops while they waited for the next round to begin.
They didn't have to wait long. The beasts came at them once again, and were met with cold steel and dogged determination. Blood soaked the ground, running in streams back down the canyon as more and more beasts were cut down.
All seemed to be going well until one of the defenders slipped on something, perhaps some vicera on the canyon floor. Before anyone could react a rat-like beast had darted forward and sank its teeth into the man's leg! If it wasn't for the warriors nearby reacting quickly and grabbing the fallen man, he would have been dragged into the beast horde and devoured in seconds.
But it was not over there. As his comrades tried to pull the man back to safety, more beasts darted in while the beast that still had the man's leg in its mouth tried to drag him away. The other warriors jumped up to defend and try to help, but once the beasts had tasted blood, they went into a frenzy! Just as it seemed like the entire line would be buried by the beasts, a flash of azure lit up the night. Commander Taigen appeared and with a slash of his mythical blade freed the warrior's leg by dissecting the rat-like beast's head. He then brought his blade up to his left in a vertical slice that separated a beast's head in two, then another vertical slice back down on the right that felled another beast.
As the warriors dragged the wounded man away from front, Taigen held the position on his own, the dead beasts piling up around him as if he intended to form a barricade with their corpses. The line was quickly reformed and defence resumed, allowing Taigen to fall back and rest for a moment.
However, as he caught his breath an eerie quiet suddenly fell on the canyon. He looked up to see what happened only to find that the beasts had stopped throwing themselves at the defenders and were frozen in place, quivering as if afraid of something.
The Asurai warriors all looked at the beasts and one another in confusion. This had never happened before! Taigen quickly got back to the front of the line just a strange wailing cry drifted up the canyon.
It was a horrifying shriek of disharmony, grating on the ears like a thousand tortured souls. The wailing dragged on as an unnatural chill settled in, causing some of his men to cover their ears and shiver in discomfort. The beasts were no better off, as Taigen could see some of them cowering on the ground whimpering in fear.
He stared down the canyon as the chill grew deeper and the sense of foreboding grew more pronounced. Whatever was coming was a far greater threat that the beasts, that much Taigen could tell, but what in the name of all the gods was it!
Then, Taigen finally saw a form darker that the shadows that surrounded it slowly take shape as it approached. The monster in the shadows was so steeped in darkness that the light of the torches seemed to be on the verge of being sucked into its unnatural form even from this distance.
When he finally could make out the complete silhouette of the thing, Taigen was gripped by a fear so base and profound that he nearly collapsed. Most of the men at his back actually did collapse as their instinctive fear completely overwhelmed them.
This was a horror so grotesque that Taigen's mind could not find the words to accurately describe what he was looking at.
This creature from the abyss was the illest omen, it was the all impending doom, and Taigen knew that this was his fate, the undoing of his people. As brave and stubborn as the Asurai were, this monster was beyond them.
Taigen knew in his heart that this would be the end of their story.
He would make it an end worthy of his ancestors!
His shaking hands raised up his blade, then he took a breath and let lose a roar with all his strength.
The ground cracked and dust flew as Taigen Asurai brought his strength to its peak. The azure katana gripped in his hands flared brilliantly in response, setting the monstrosity before him into stark relief against the area illuminated by the glow.
His name was Taigen Asurai, and he would face hell itself to protect his people, regardless of what he faced!
With his mind clear and his purpose set, Taigen stepped forward to face the monster made of horror that approached.
That one step would be the most important step he ever took.