A breeze blew against General Kron’s face, carrying with it the mouldy smell of the grave. His stoic visage remained unchanged, unflustered as he took in the sight of the skeletons filling the plains in front of him. A veritable sea of bone.
There were birds, beasts and human skeletons in various stages of incompleteness – millennia of death unearthed to challenge the living. In the face of the undead army that spanned horizons, General Kron’s countenance remained frozen in the same grim mask he always wore – an anchor for the morale of the soldiers under his command. It appeared as though even if the heavens themselves shattered, the General would still face it with that same stoic determination. In the care of such a commander, all they needed to do was follow their orders and victory was sure to come.
If only they knew that the reason General Kron stood atop the walls in full sight of them wasn’t to raise their morale. He was simply waiting for the stiff breeze to dry his pants. As to why he didn’t use magic… he was an earth mage and water had always been a difficult adversary for earth.
‘We are going to die,’ observed the pessimistic part of his mind calmly. ‘We are going to die miserably,’ agreed the optimistic part.
‘Why me?’ he questioned himself sometime later. ‘It was supposed to be a change of scenery. A temporary swap with that lucky bastard Adelbrandt. I even brought Evie and the baby along. The Tomb was silent, they said. The Tomb was safe, they said. The Tomb was a cushy assignment, they said. Bastards. Liars. They killed us. Me. Evie. The baby… I hope they rot in hell. Why me damn it!?’
“You’re a brave lad.” General Kron stiffened as an aged voice spoke into his ear in mellow tones and a hand gently patted his shoulder. “Now you can stand down. Leave the rest to me.”
General Kron didn’t reply, he simply couldn’t, as the owners of the hand and the voice walked past him. He didn’t move as the frail old man, supported by the arm by a female of extreme beauty, stepped off the edge of the rampart and nonchalantly walked down the vertical wall as though the laws of the world simply didn’t hold true for them. He didn’t move as the two of them reached the bottom of the wall and disappeared into the bone sea.
Then he shivered from head to toe. If the skeleton army had scared him by virtue of an imminent death, then the touch of the woman and the voice of the man had been a brush with Death incarnate.
‘W-when did they arrive? W-why didn’t I sense them approach? Who the hell are they! I’m a Tier 5 for the Gods sake. Damn it!’
To make matters worse his freshly dried pants had been moistened again.
‘I shouldn’t have drunk that last cup of tea…’
His rambling thoughts ground to a screeching halt as the entire world began to tilt.
Slight tremors rippled through the wall he was standing on, growing more and more pronounced as, impossibly, the entire plain in front of him began to tilt upwards. Steadying himself against the railings, he rubbed his eyes to assure himself of what he was seeing.
As the ground slanted further and further upwards, the skeleton army began to lose their footing and slip down the now inclined plain. The edge of the slab of earth rose higher and higher until it was on par with the General’s eye-level as he stood atop the highest point on the wall.
His eyes nearly bugged out of his head as he noticed the figures of the old man and the woman floating above the slab, rising as it rose. While the woman remained as graceful as always, the old man had shrugged of his shirt, revealing corded muscles that wrapped his wiry frame.
Blue veins popped out all over his body, his muscles bulging as he squatted in the horse stance while afloat, posing like he was lifting an extremely heavy weight. His face was flushed and his teeth were clenched. His sparse white hair and equally white goatee fluttered in the wind as he strained.
An absurd notion floated up in General Kron’s mind. ‘He’s the one lifting the entire plain.’ As soon as the thought arose, it was shot down by the rational part of his mind. ‘Hah! Impossible. There’s no way a single mage can do that. Not even a Tier 5 peak has that kind of power. Only if they are… Tier… 6.’
‘A freaking Demigod!’
As General Kron was busy panicking, the gigantic slab of rock tilted further and further until it was nearly vertical, casting a deep shadow upon the entire army stationed on the wall. Except for the rattle of soil and rocks as they cascaded off the massive chunk of earth, there was utter silence.
Then an extremely loud voice rippled across the battlefield, snapping everyone out of their shock.
“Koschei, you bastard! Just stay in your fucking grave!”
Then with a rumble, the mind-bogglingly large slab of earth was simply flipped over. With a crash that rattled all their bones and sent fissures spidering up the wall, the earth slammed into the ground, raising a dense cloud of dust that obscured the entire battlefield.
Then the strong winds generated by the air displaced by the falling earth ripped apart the cloud of dust and sent it radiating away as a dust-storm.
General Kron activated his Domain, the stone walls of the rampart bending to his will and shaping themselves around his body, wrapping him up in a shell of stone. The whistling gale slammed into his defences and split, flowing on both sides of him. Sealed away in the darkness of his self-imposed stone prison, the General breathed rapidly, trying to calm down.
He only had two good traits. The first was his extraordinary magical talent, the second, the fact that he was a born thespian. His talent had given him his cultivation base while his acting had brought him his status. It had allowed him to keep the fact that he was a coward at his core a secret from the entire world. Even from his wife of many years. Fake it till you make it, he always exhorted himself before putting on his mask of stoicism and stepping out to command his soldiers. His mask had never threatened to slip as many times in his entire life as it had in this hour alone.
Finally, bringing his breathing under control, he diverged his stone shell and took in the altered state of the battlefield.
Nothing. There was absolutely nothing there. Where the plain had been teeming with the terrifying undead regiment a few short minutes ago, now there was only barren earth.
The undead had been buried.
He looked up, squinting against the noon sun to make out the two tiny silhouettes that floated above their handiwork. An old man and a beautiful woman. Demigods.