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Grimdark Magazine Battle-Off: Nysta by Lucas Thorn

Nysta by Lucas Thorn

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

“Fuck you, Eli,” Sharpe struggled against two soldiers. Buried his sword in one's guts while his long arm desperately seized the throat of the other. He squeezed, his powerful grip twisting hard. The elf called Nysta didn't hear the neck snap, but the soldier dropped quickly.

Flin skirted the elf's position, spear flashing out. For some reason, Spoonfed fought in her wake. The goblin's face was serious. His mouth a flat line. As someone reared up behind the girl in an attempt to drive his sword into her back, the goblin leapt fast.

Goblinknife met mail armour. And chomped through without effort.

Flin twisted, sensing what was happening behind her.

Dragging the heavy weapon free, Spoonfed whirled away, allowing Flin the room to drive the spear through the screaming face.

Count Steele, surrounded on all sides, suddenly shrieked above the rushing sound of chaos. Nysta saw him rise above them all, held aloft by the plunging swords which ripped up through his torso. Seven of them. His eyes searched the heavens for something only he could see, then settled oddly on hers.

He seemed to nod before his body went limp. Tears of pain and loss streaming down her face. What he was trying to say, she couldn't guess. But her heart froze for just a second.

Flin caught the moment and glanced at the elf. “You knew him?”

“Didn't know him from Adam,” she said, shaking her head. Then looked around. She'd lost Quietly. “Shit.”

Three goblins, streaked in blood and wearing matching grins, exploded from the ragged line of Grey Jackets. For a moment, the elf could see the narrow path of bodies they'd left behind.

The middle goblin held a saw-toothed goblinknife whose teeth clung to strips of flesh like grotesque ribbons.

His face looked different to the other goblins, thanks to a series of scars which made it look like his skin had been melted to wax before being stretched back over his skull.

In the distance, one of the wagons was burning. Smoke billowing and the crackle of wood roaring above the noise.

The three goblins lashed out, forming a small circle into which the Grey Jackets didn't want to press. More goblins broke through the Caspiellans to join them. “Bloodhand!”

The strange-faced goblin walked up to her as if there was no fighting around him. As if the whole world belonged to him. When he spoke, he stuttered erratically.

“I He-He-Headroom. Looseto-t-toof Mob. Quietly say you g-go that w-way.” He pointed off to his left. Scratched his head. Changed his mind and pointed right. “N-n-no. Th-th-that way.”

“You sure?”

“Uhhh, I sh-sure.” Headroom's grin didn't make her feel any easier.

“You better be, feller,” she said, the icy ball in her belly shuddered. The chaos was overwhelming her senses. “Or you'll be seeing me twenty minutes into your future.”

She couldn't see a way to get through the fighting. But she bared her teeth and moved fluidly. Knives bringing death to the first few Caspiellans in her path. Then Headroom shouted from behind her; “B-b-b-bloodhand! Bloodhand ki-ki-kill thieves!”

“Bloodhand!” The shout echoed in her ears as more goblins hooted cheerfully, their voices a shrill chorus lapping at the mad screams of the dying.

Boe staggered in front of her, a broken swordblade sticking through his throat. He looked at her, not recognising her. Reeled in a circle, his own sword still in his fist.

Then dropped at her feet, dead before he hit earth.

She stepped over him and kept moving.

A wart-covered goblin lifted the eyelid of a fallen soldier. Peered critically into the glistening orb before raising his goblinknife and bringing it down hard to split the soldier's skull. Blood sprayed.

Satisfied, the goblin jumped off the body and caught her gaze. He waved her further into the fight. Glanced at the corpse twitching behind him. “He faking,” the goblin explained as though she'd given him sign she was interested. “Eventide have him now. He make good target for goblinknife throwing.”

Blood and violence made the air thick with its putrid stink. A stink which churned the worst of mortal nature. Hate. Fear. Pain.

Her mind felt raw with it.

Nostrils filled with smoke and death.

“This way!” Stormer rushed out of nowhere, snatching at the elf's leg. She pointed with her gore-drenched goblinknife. Began tugging the elf through the chaos. “Hurry, Bloodhand. Kill thief!”

She allowed herself to be led, deviating only once when she was forced to dodge the fumbled attack of a young soldier who looked surprised to see her push through a few soldiers battling a handful of howling goblins.

So young, he reminded her of Daved. And she wondered where he was. If he was still alive.

Remembered she still owed him.

Though, perhaps it was a debt she'd not be able to repay. The chances of him, or any of them, surviving this slaughter were slim to none.

The young soldier died, choking on Ethics Gradient. She hadn't even felt herself move.

“Bloodhand!” Stormer called, voice shrill. “Move out of way, stupid trollshits!”

More goblins answered shrilly. “Bloodhand!”

Stormer stopped with a suddenness that made the elf almost walk right over her.

Looking up at the dazed elf, Stormer's face was bright. Almost envious. She held her Goblinknife with both hands. Searched for anyone getting too close, and was ready to kill. “Almost time you fight, Bloodhand,” she said. “Quietly be here soon. He say we wait.”

And then a small tide of cackling goblins rushed up behind her, leaping at the elf's back to send her sprawling through the last wall of Grey Jackets, who they pounced on in a shrieking mass of teeth and brutal goblinknives.

Blood gushed volcanic.

“Wait!” Stormer yelled, swallowed by more soldiers and goblins. “We not ready yet. Quietly not here. Bloodhand! Wait!”

“Bloodhand!” came the answering cheers, mindless of Stormer's desperation. “Kill!”

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