The Battle of Nepenthe


Turning south, he saw them, many following his example, cheering at the sight. Clad in full plate, the likes of which even knights envied, the Legionnaires of Steel marched, their metallic steps booming in perfect tempo. Their great claymores were balanced on their shoulders, a ceremonial weapon for most, an instrument of death for these elite warriors. They had no banner, not in the platoon Hunfrid could see at least, but the Armatellum Dragon flew prominently on their kilts, protruding from the plate, the Legion’s own insignia carved on each legionnaire’s pauldron. As the command to engage was given, Hunfrid had to stop looking but he heard them. 

“Steel!” cried their commander.
“PARATUS!” answered the Legion and the marsh shook from their voices, as they opened their pace.
“That’s it, kid” said a man next to him, smirking. “The day is ours, aye?”
Hunfrid nodded, smiling weakly. Aye, he thought. The day is ours, surely. […]

Then, it came. 
Hunfrid didn’t see it then. His eyes were pinned on three brutish forms from the north, charging at their flank, one falling, pierced in tens of places by Junger’s sharpshooters. It made little difference, really. Two of them were more than enough to crash the men-at-arms, each arm a battering ram holding a massive, bladed fist-weapon. From far to the southeast, he saw another trio, one of them slashing upwards in an uppercut. A man arched in the air some fifteen feet high, his limps as lifeless as his crossbow that flew next to him.
“Steel!” cried the centurion’s voice again from behind. 
“HOSTIBUS!” came the roaring answer and the Legion brought their blades on their hands, charging. If any could stop the brutes, it was them, Hunfrid thought, before he noticed they were charging west, towards the rear of the knights. Searching for their target, he finally saw it. 

Despite its size, it looked like it crawled, multiple legs flaying around in a sickening motion of unnatural joints. Clawed feet dug into mud and earth, propelling it forward with a speed greater than that of a galloping horse. While the legs looked beastly, the body was insectoid, the abdomen and thorax covered in a black shell of a bug or ant. The insect’s head was twisted on its neck, its mandibles turned upwards and backwards, but for a pale, humanoid mask that looked forwards, cold, expressionless. Long arms, like logs, protruded from the thorax and were pulled back, the abomination ready to fall on the knights and claw through them, like a thresher upon weed. 
The Legion centurion got to it first. Holding his claymore upside-down from both hilt and blade, he roared as he pierced one of the abomination’s feet. It stalled the beast for but a moment, before he was crushed by the leg behind, but the charge had been interrupted. Rushing to their commander, great swords in hand, his men fell on the monstrosity with vengeance. Some tried to hit the joints, others the heels, while few pierced upwards trying to crash through the shelled abdomen. Black liquid and an alchemical stench run from its legs but the abomination paid little heed. With swiping moves, it lowered its clawed hands towards the humans that would pester it. 
Hunfrid had never seen plate being slashed and pierced so easily in his life. In mere moments, it was standing on a spreading pool of crimson mingling with mud, dead bodies and torn plates around its feet. From deep within its body a muffled whimper echoed, like a soft serenade or lament. In his shock, the man-at-arms wondered if it were for the death and gore it caused or for its own, accursed soul. 

Extract from Nepenthe – The Last Argument

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