Birth of a Legend

Lily skidded to a stop in front of Victoria, tossing the flag aside. Narrowing her eyes, Victoria raised her spear into the sky and shouted so all the soldiers could hear.

“Negotiations have failed. The enemy will not turn aside. All there is left for us is to fight, to defend our home. Not all of us will survive. Not all of us will make it through today. But those that fall, fall knowing that we will forever honour your sacrifices, that your deeds on this day will never be forgotten. The hour of reckoning approaches, and I applaud all of you brave souls, who have elected to stand here by my side today. May we taste victory upon our blades. For honour and justice!”

“Honour and justice!”

The soldiers echoed out Victoria’s war cry – her family’s motto. Over and over they repeated the shout, their voices blending into a chorus, accompanied by a backdrop of metal striking stone as they beat their weapons and shields against the ground in a rhythm of war. Lily and Prei stood aside, keeping an eye on the approaching enemy army. The war cry was necessary to steel the nerves of the soldiers, but Lily and Prei did not share fully in the bonds of the soldiers – they could draw no strength from this cry. Instead, each of them steeled themselves in their own particular ways – Lily by focusing her complete attention on an analysis of the battlefield, Prei by taking deep, meditative breaths while adjusting her grip on Myriad. Their plan required for the enemy to get closer. They would only strike when the enemy had crossed half the distance. This would reduce the distance their own soldiers would have to travel while maximising the amount of terrain the enemy had to traverse while still keeping a safe distance from the city’s walls. Against numbers like these, any advantage was welcome.

Victoria’s spear point stayed raised in the air as she watched the approaching army, waiting for the same moment as Lily and Prei. The chants around her grew louder, more powerful, as the soldiers found themselves filled with the strength and camaraderie that comes from sharing a fate. Lily mouthed the remaining distance under her breath as she watched.

“One kilometer more… eight hundred meters…five hundred meters… two hundred meters… fifty… now.”

Victoria’s spear tipped forward, and the army of defenders surged forth as one with an explosive shout, running out the gates and towards the enemy with Victoria at the lead. Lily looked to Prei and nodded, then they both set off as well. The gates swung shut behind them.

Running across the plains at a speed beyond the capacity of regular humans, the demons quickly covered the distance, though they were still significantly slower than Prei and Lily. Prei and Lily were the first to reach the enemy lines, and Prei was the first to engage in combat.

Plunging headfirst into the vanguard of cavalry, Prei announced her entry by jumping and landing in the middle of the cavalry battalion, Myriad in its spear form skewering three different riders as she did. The moment her feet touched the ground, countless spears made of the four elements she had control over materialised over her head and began raining down on the enemy. The soldiers immediately around her were instantly impaled. The rest of the vanguard did nothing for a moment, overcome by shock at the sudden, bloody descent of an enemy. This moment was enough for Prei’s spears to strike tens, hundreds of men, felling them and leaving their horses riderless and frightened. The riders at the very front of the vanguard found themselves confronted with a wall of fiery spears, causing their mounts to rear back in fright, throwing off their riders. Any men who did not suffer death at the end of one of Prei’s spears found themselves trapped in a melee of confusion and chaos, trying to avoid getting trampled by the frightened horses. Kicking the bodies off her weapon, Prei switched Myriad into poleaxe mode and cleaved through the waves of men – any men unlucky enough to reach the center of the battalion were bisected by Prei’s blade. Any men lucky enough to avoid that center were trampled to death. Any men who tried to escape beyond the confines of the cavalry vanguard’s ranks found themselves impaled on a wall of spears. Within seconds, Prei had decimated the vanguard, leaving only a few token stragglers to tell the tale.

With the vanguard rendered impotent, Prei turned her attention to the main company of cavalry, transforming into her dragon form with a great, earth-shattering roar. Her maw tore through armor with impunity, her claws felled tens of men with each strike. A hail of arrows sailed through the air to strike her, but they bounced off her magnificent scales as raindrops against glass. Even her wings were made of sinew and skin so tough and hard that the arrowheads could not penetrate them. With a dismissive roar, the same elemental spears that had wrought such havoc in the vanguard appeared in the air and sailed downwards, each finding a home in the heart of an archer which dared to shoot at Prei. The cavalry, crumpling under Prei’s one-dragon assault, desperately pleaded for help, but the rest of the army was likewise engaged in their own nightmarish battlefield.

The infantry had faltered when Prei leapt into the vanguard – it was inconceivable that the damage they were currently seeing was being perpetrated by a single opponent. But they could only express this wonder for a short moment, before they were beset by an opponent of similar ferocity. Victoria and her unit charged into them, cutting down waves of men before they could react, stunned as they were by Prei’s impressive display. Each demon had the strength of fifty men, and every demon in this army was a veteran who had seen countless battlefields. The gap in strength and experience was astounding – the demons killed and maimed with no hesitation, acting on a mixture of instinct and judgement. No opening was left unexploited, no lapse in focus was left unpunished. Each demon took on ten men at once and emerged victorious. And chief among them was Victoria. Swinging her spear in large arcs, she mowed a path through the enemy soldiers, crushing their defensive lines and shattering their morale as they witnessed their formations caving under the assault of a single woman. Any who attempted to strike her were quickly felled by a short stab of her spear, or else at the hands of one of the soldiers who followed her lead. Many of the infantrymen began to turn and flee in terror, unable to comprehend the terrible power that they were now faced with. In their earlier attacks, though the demons they fought had been powerful, none were as ferocious or as frighteningly powerful as the woman before them. It was a terrifying sight, enough to make even the most stout of heart quiver. Several infanteers screamed for magical support just prior to being cut down, but the magical support never came – the mages had a bigger problem.

When the fighting had begun, Lily had approached the infantry line, but instead of engaging them, had leapt over their heads, stepping on a few of them, making a beeline for the mage division. They were her priority – she had the important task of disrupting the mages. They were remarkably well-trained – they did not panic, nor did they fumble with their spells. The moment they saw Lily on approach, the foremost battalions had erected magical barriers, while the others began the processes for offensive spells. It was an admirable strategy which would probably have forced Lily to withdraw if she was any other opponent.

Unfortunately, Lily was not any other opponent.

Her right arm glowed a bright white, with ManaScript rapidly encircling it as she activated one of the many devices she had built into her limbs over the years. Many of these devices were created out of sheer curiosity, or else were the inadvertent result of some other line of research, but this device was one of the few she had created on purpose, remembering her humiliating defeat at the hands of the phantom creature in Saphiz. Drawing her arm back, she punched at the defensive barriers, causing them to instantly fracture and disperse.

A mana disruptor – learning from one of her books that phantom creatures were beings made of pure mana, Lily had taken it upon herself to research a way to deal with similar creatures. What she had eventually created was a miniature resonator that sent multiple short bursts of data into a body of ManaScript, causing the scripted process to corrupt and collapse. Naturally, while this weapon did serve its intended purpose of giving her a way to fight incorporeal beings, it also served as a highly effective anti-magic weapon.

Seeing their defensive spells effortlessly destroyed, the mages finally began to show signs of shock and fear as Lily smashed her way into their midst. Many of the mages instantly ceased their incantations as they scrambled to get away, but a few stout-hearted mages continued casting, fighting back the urge to flee. Lily felt a moment of passing respect for their tenacity, but quickly released the cables from her wrists, impaling the casters through the throat before they could finish their spell. There would be time for respect later. A number of lower-level spells with minimal casting times were launched at Lily, but her cables whirled around her and intercepted each attack, dispersing the mana each time. Fireballs were reduced to harmless, aimless embers. Windblasts dissipated into thin air. Bullets of water became inert and fell harmlessly to the ground. As the mages began to fall into despair at watching their magic fail before their eyes, a second set of cables emerged from her elbows and knees. These shot out without warning, mercilessly impaling all in their path. Every enemy in a forty meter radius from Lily found themselves skewered on a thin metal cable. Then, with a great heave, Lily jerked her body, sending the corpses suspended on her wires hurtling at the other members of the mage division, forcing them back and opening up a larger space from which she could stage her slaughter. Throughout it all, she wore a neutral, impassive expression, which only served to deepen the fear that struck the entirety of the mage division as the mages wondered what manner of monster had attacked them. Then there was no more time for thought as Lily tore into their ranks and decimated their numbers.

Stories of this battle would be recounted for centuries. And while the names of the key figures themselves would have been lost to time, all the stories would tell of three legendary warriors who walked the field on that day, painting a landscape of death: The Peerless Demon, The Dragon of Chaos, and The Feared Puppeteer.