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Grimdark Magazine Battle-Off: Dragonfly by Raphael Ordoñez

Dragonfly by Raphael Ordoñez

This is an excerpt provided by the author for the Grimdark Magazine Battle-Off Competition

"What do you owe these people? You're nothing to them!"

"That's true," I said. "I was nothing to Granny, either, and yet I tried to save her. I don't know why myself. Hand me my helmet."

Seila brought it to me. "Goodbye, Keftu," she said. "I'll wait for you here."

"We all will," said Joanna.

"Wait at the pyramid, then," I said. "Maybe I'll be back." I set off at a sprint over the springy turf, making for the foundation-wall. The chimeras lying in pieces all over the cemetery were still flapping disgustingly. The only ones not moving had been felled by flamethrowers and fireballs.

When I reached the foundation I climbed to the top, entered a building, and dashed up the stairs to the roof. From there I went bounding from rooftop to rooftop in pursuit of the ships. They had already cleared the wall of the Cheiropt; the hoplites had all been incinerated, but at the sacrifice of one ship, the Arrow, which lay in the street, a flaming wreck.

The other two were only a few blocks from the rift when I reached them. I threw myself into empty space over the nearest and landed on its envelope. I rent it as I'd seen the chimeras tear through the transport's balloon, releasing a small tempest. When the envelope sagged I leaped to the next and treated it as the first. I rode it to the street. As it touched down I leaped to the pavement, dashed another block or two ahead, and turned, standing between the Misfit and the rift.

The Misfit's men poured out as their ships slowly settled. Jairus strode forward through the ranks, setting them in order. Soon his small army stood in formation, serried from wall to wall of the street. There were at least a hundred men.

Deinothax was white-hot and smoking in my hands. My legs were spread wide. Jairus gave the signal, and his men charged.

It seemed at that moment that I had ages to wait until the tide of steel reached me. The light of the sinking sun shot slantwise down the street, and each cloud wisp, window, and mote stood out as something tragically and eternally beautiful.

The wall of warriors was a block away now. A girl with green hair was watching from a balcony, calm and serious. I looked at her, and our eyes met. She was the girl I had saved from the slug. She waved at me; I waved back.

The length of two buildings lay between me and the Misfit now. A new light flashed in Jairus' eyes. He slowed and stopped in the middle of an intersection. His men drew to a standstill behind him, bunched up and tense, watching him with confused eyes.

A slow and growing thunder was in the air. I looked at the sky, but the sky was clear. Then the quiet was cloven by the voice of a savage horn, awful and lonely, such as might have led the Wild Hunt through the moss-forests at the dawn of time. The street seemed to pulse and vibrate under my feet. I heard a sound that was something between a squeal and a roar, and wondered why it was so familiar.

A cry of panic went up among the men. They started to divide down the middle, on either side of the intersection. But it was too late.

A score of angry behemothim thundered across the street, trampling the warriors like cockroaches. They wheeled when they saw the men and drove into their ranks, tossing them with their tusks, crushing them between their great flat teeth. I stepped aside as the beasts passed, and they went off down the street like a tornado that strikes and misses.

The air was full of wails and groans now. Three pale giants strode into view, eyeing the survivors with their great cartwheel eyes, bearing sickles in their soft gray hands. It was Arges and his two brothers. My friend raised one hand in greeting, and I returned the gesture. Then the three cyclopes set about harvesting the remainder of the Misfit's men. It was a red harvest. The warriors were stricken almost senseless by the eyes of their foes, and hewed one another down in their desperation to escape.

Only Jairus remained unaffected by the cyclopes' coming. He saw the greeting I exchanged with Arges. "So," he said, "it was true what my men told me about your escape that night. We keep underestimating you. Well, it takes only one man to do what I set out to do. Out of my way!" And he ran at me with flaming eyes.

I thrust Deinothax still smoking into its sheath and hurtled toward the Misfit, head down. The move caught him off guard, and I was within his circle of defense almost before he knew it. I grappled with him like a wild thing, pounding him with my fists and tearing at him with my fingers. He threw me off with a bellow of terror. I struck the pavement and rolled, then rocked to one side to dodge his descending longsword. Yanking it from his hands, I leaped to my feet, snapped it in half across my knee, and threw the pieces far down the street. We eyed one another with smoldering eyes.

 "You fight like a beast," said Jairus.

"I fight," I said, "like desert vermin." And once again I threw myself against him, pummeling him with my fists. With each blow I drove him backward a step. I began striking at his chin, and his iron-helmeted head snapped back again and again. He tripped and fell on his back, and I was on him immediately, beating his head against the pavement. The giant fell limp at last.

I rose unsteadily to my feet. The cyclopes were standing in a ring around me, stained red up to their elbows and knees. "I thought you'd never come," I said.

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