“The Cherubian, the Lindworm & the Portal”
Thunder on the Battlefield: Sorcery
A sword and sorcery anthology edited by James R. Tuck and published by Seventh Star Press.
BEHOLD! the clash of war. Steel upon steel and heroes fighting shield to shield. The only true victory is a brave death and the destruction of your enemies. These stories harken back to a barbaric past that never was. A time when heroic men and women cut glory from the cloth of a sorcery-filled world and stole gold from the hands of the gods themselves. This is fiction that takes no prisoners. No quarter asked. No quarter given. This is SWORD AND SORCERY.
M. B. Weston’s story: “The Cherubian, the Lindworm & the Portal” is part of the Elysian Chronicles universe. It takes place long before A Prophecy Forgotten when Davian and Eric were runts. It tells the story of Davian’s battle with mornachts and a reptilian beast that breathes sound waves instead of fire, setting the stage for Davian’s eventual rise to power within the Elysian Military.
“The Cherubian, the Lindworm & the Portal” preview:
Davian crouched, shifting his gaze between his lieutenant and the sixty-foot-high trebuchet silhouetted against the moon only twenty yards away. The counterweight-powered catapult could hurl a three-hundred-pound boulder over two hundred yards. This crude contraption seemed innocent, nestled between a few trees and silhouetted against the moonlight, but it could cause serious damage in battle the next morning if they failed to destroy it.
Davian pushed back some of the blondish-brown, unkempt hair that poked out from under his bronze helmet, which he had earlier rubbed with mud to keep it from glistening in the moonlight. He and the other soldiers in the Reconnaissance Sabotage Order, prized their roughened, scratched helmets and breastplates and refused to polish them. Leg muscles taut, ready to spring at the officer’s signal, he completely ignored the twisted creature with leathery, pitted skin that lay unconscious on the ground a foot away from him. It still held the notched sword from before he took it down, and its breath reeked of whatever foul thing it ate for dinner. The creature was a mornacht, and Davian wished he could kill it. On both sides of the trebuchet, over three hundred of their enemies slept, though several kept watch. Besides Lieutenant Dane, the other twenty-eight members of their team were scattered throughout the camp sabotaging catapults and other contraptions. Any slight misstep that attracted the mornachts’ attention would expose them all.
He looked back for orders. Dane signaled for him to hold.
Davian’s arms and legs tingled with anticipation. He adjusted his helmet with impatience, checking his pack to make sure he could reach the contents inside with ease. Only four mornachts guarded the trebuchet, three of them taken down by himself, Dane, and a soldier named Eric. They needed to find the last one, which had crept around the other side of the contraption.
Despite the cloudless night, the moon’s light waned for several seconds as though a shadow had passed in front of it. Davian glanced up but saw nothing unusual.
Something creaked behind him. He spun. A mornacht only ten feet away aimed an arrow at him. Saliva dripped down its spindly teeth, and burst blood vessels painted its eyes.
The mornacht released the arrow.
Davian ducked. The arrow hissed by his ear, narrowly missing him.
The mornacht bounded at him. Davian jabbed his fist in its throat before it could screech. The mornacht stumbled back, gagging while holding its neck. Davian clamped his hand over its mouth to keep it quiet. He grit his teeth as the mornacht’s fingernails sank into his arms. He slammed the mornacht face first on the ground and ran his fingers up the sinewy, dry flesh along its spine. He hit three pressure points, pushing them in like iron spikes. The mornacht slumped, rendered unconscious like the others.
Blood started to seep out of the mornacht’s half-opened mouth. Davian’s muscles grew tense. Had he jabbed it to hard? It only took three minutes for a mornacht to completely decompose after it died, and the decomposition process ended with an explosion. Slaying even one now would create a set of problems their mission could not afford.
Davian waited until the mornacht began to breathe normally. He glanced back at Dane and Eric, hoping for the signal.
The lieutenant convulsed on the ground with the arrow that missed Davian embedded his neck. Acid from the arrow’s poisoned wood burned into his skin, the tissue and blood bubbling around it. Dane’s clenched hand shook inches from the arrow, as though he wanted desperately to yank it out but knew the poison would attack his hands, too. Eric knelt beside him, staying composed as he fumbled in his pack for medical gear.
Davian joined them. He yanked his knife out of his boot and slit off a section of the lieutenant’s brownish-green kilt. Taking care to avoid brushing against the protruding arrow, he twisted the material into a small rope and placed it in Dane’s mouth for him to bite—all he could do under the circumstances.
Dane’s face turned red. Sweat poured down his forehead as his teeth crushed down on the material, almost cutting through it. He grasped Davian’s forearms, his fingers crushing into the tissue.
Davian locked eyes with Dane’s until the grip on his arms subsided.
No one should die alone….