Kim, I notice you haven’t sent me any of your sure-fire publishing tips yet. What’s wrong? Is it because I make constant jokes at your expense? No, it can’t be that. Ah! I see. We’re on the internet, right? I keep forgetting how things are done in this age of “tweets” and “likes” and all that crap.
::clears throat:: Kim, please tell me your most worthy secrets! I will gladly check your Twitter at https://twitter.com/byKimAHoward for any advice! Or perhaps you can tell me all about what you’ve learned on your amazing blog over at http://kimberlyahoward.com! I also liked your Facebook page and sent five dollars to your Paypal account.
I’ll shut up now before I lose all hope of receiving a real answer, ha,ha. On to chapter 2!
2 – The Attack
The two conjoined statues left an inverted, blurred image across the surface of the river as they hovered forward.
“Captain, I just received a message from the enemy base. They are taking our intrusion as an aggressive action.” The port hawk paused, listening to a video image on the console before him. “They are warning us to retreat or face attack.”
Elder Sain held up his hand to silence Cougo’s chuckling. “Tell them to either fight or retreat while they can; they will not have long.”
Cougo beat his fist on the armrest of the captain’s chair. “Sain! Don’t let them speak for you!”
Elder Sain hummed. “But Cougo, you trained them to be so polite. If I have something to say I will say it in person.”
“Captain!” the bow hawk announced. He was at the front of the disk, looking out at the pyramid displayed on the wrap-around monitor. The building has ceased its slow rotation; one triangular side was facing the ship. Rows of long windows slid open on the twentieth, twenty-third, and twenty-seventh floors. Starting from one end and moving straight along down the row, a succession of massive spiked missiles were launched. They flew through the air at the tall, chiseled ship.
“Deflector is working,” the bow hawk confirmed. The spread of cannonballs parted as they drew close. They whizzed past both sides of the room.
“Missiles heading astern,” the hawks on the left and right edges announced. Sharp cracks and flashes of light lit up parts of the screens as several of the bombs collided with each other. The rest continued past.
“Pathetic,” Cougo stated, watching them go.
“They’re coming back around,” the stern hawk said.
Darrow, Jelk, Dark, and Tenny were watching the attack from the pyramid’s roof. The wail of the sirens was still swelling out from the hills. The volley of missiles had doubled back to the ship, and they fought to get at it: zipping along the length and breath in tight orbits while small, spherical shadows darted across the statues’ white surface.
“What are you all still doing out there!?” King called from the stairwell. “It’s too dangerous! Get back!”
“Something else is coming out of it now,” Tenny said. “What are those?”
“I don’t know,” Dark replied.
They peered down at where the river circled the base of the pyramid, and the ship had reached the curved edge of the coast. The scorched orb below the statues’ feet had opened a crack, and a torrent of white objects was spilling out. Each one was furry and long, and as they came to rest on the ground they began to change. Legs with padded paws extended out from the thick fur, followed by a head with a pointed muzzle, wide eyes, and triangular ears. The beasts sniffed at the air, moving aside as more of their kind fell from the ship. The cascade of furred bodies continued, with the new-fallen ones squirming to extend their limbs in an effort to hurry away.
With a thump a great mass fell all at once upon the grassy coast. Out from the white clumps of fur a tall woman emerged. The beasts fell aside, their legs popping out; they stood taller than the others: as tall as any man. The woman stood at least twice as tall as that. She moved ahead and the ones that fell with her flanked her sides. The rain of bodies went on at her back.
She turned her head to the pyramid. High above more missiles were flying out from the side facing the ship. Below, where the four sides of the pyramid merged, machines were being lowered by tethers to the ground.
“They come out to meet us!” the woman boomed. Her teeth were all pointed, sharp, and black. A round helmet covered her upper face with a opaque visor that was splattered with red. She wore combat armor, leggings, and thick plates on her shins. Thick, silver hair stuck out from the back of her helmet and the gaps in her clothing. It hung from her forearms in long locks, braided around thick, dirty bones.
“Listen, pets!” she called out. “Spread out in every direction! Wound and maim every creature you find! Claim this valley for me; make it mine!”
She flung her arms out and the bones there clattered. The army of beasts dashed off. Some galloped across the land, others dove into the river and swam. As they blanketed the surface of the valley more kept falling from the ship.
“Slaberdashia has landed,” the bow hawk confirmed.
“I’m sure she’ll have a great time,” Cougo drawled.
“Clance, be ready to help her if she gets in trouble,” Elder Sain spoke aloud as he walked to the front of the disk. He watched the ground beneath the pyramid, where the machines were gathering. They were rectangular, hovering boxes with bronze casing: with long, segmented arms set at each corner. In a display of precise movement every arm lifted in unison and fired a bright stream of flares. A wide cone of color burst from the pyramid’s base, sending shimmering trails across the monitor’s screens. They flew over the heads of the charging beasts to the the hills on each side of the ship: from the peaks all the way down to the bases. As they touched down they split into six smaller flares, marking circles.
“They’re some kind of receivers!” the port hawk announced. At each flare soldiers appeared with a flash. They came armed with bladed weapons and guns, dressed in camouflaged gear that matched the hills’ brown and green shades. The soldiers marched out of the hex doors and took position, bracing themselves as the white-furred beasts pushed out toward them.
“Meet them! Push through the hills!” Slaberdashia cried. She marched to the pyramid with her escort. The horde of beasts on her right reached the far side of the river; the wave of beasts on her left had crossed the valley. Each creature on that side singled out a soldier and rushed him.
The human forces let out a cry and struck with whatever weapon they had. One with a sword lunged at a beast’s face. The head retracted into the body, vanishing into the mass of white fur. Momentum carried the blade into the beasts body, and it kept sinking in; the soldier let go as the sword’s hilt vanished into the fuzz.
He reached for a sheath on his leg, bringing out a knife next. The sword reappeared out of the beast: its sharp edge coming first, attached to the head of the creature. It gored the soldier and flung him aside.
Along the base of the hill the scene repeated; every soldier was losing their weapons as they collided with the thick fur. And every beast joined the weapon to its own body: some with blades as antlers; others with tails tipped with flails and serrated batons. Gun shots from further up the hill sounded, felling some of the beasts.
“Show them what you can be; show them what I made of you!” Slaberdashia cried. A bomb circling the ship buzzed from its orbit and landed in the valley, sending up dust and beasts with a sharp crack. Slaberdashia rose a thick arm and grabbed one of the creatures as it dropped to her.
“Get back over there!” she told him and she swung him around, whipping his singed body off into the fray once more. She steadied herself and with a great huff between her black teeth she spoke a command.
“Grenades!” One of the beasts following her pushed past the others. There were two brown spots on its shoulders. Slaberdashia plunged her arm in between the spots, her hand sinking in and bringing out a long belt. It was lined with egg-shaped bombs, and they were all detailed with criss-crossed, glowing patterns. She plucked one grenade from its spot, aimed her great thumb at the hill, and flicked it. It flew off in a trail of colored light, zipping into the trees in an instant. She took another grenade and sent it off, moving down the line until she had launched them all.
A sequence of explosions ran along the length of the hill, sending up entire tree branches as they were blasted apart. Clouds of blue smoke rose from the leaves, flickering with light as long arcs of electricity lashed out. The arcs snapped to the surrounding trees: catching them on their tops and running the length of their trunks. Soon the hill was alight with fire and clouded with ash. Slaberdashia chuckled and pulled another grenade belt out of her pet.
On the pyramid rooftop Jelk groaned as he saw the opposite hill light up.
“Remember when I said I’d come with you guys?” he said. “I think what I meant was that I wanted to go home and never come outside again.”
“It does look pretty bad, Dark,” Darrow said. “But the safest place to be is with you guys.” He glanced around. “Although I wish Tome were here. Or Vornis. Or Trisk.”
“Or Mean,” Dark finished. “She’s probably wishing we were there too.” Smoke rose from both sides of the pyramid now. “Look, once we get there it will be much easier. I know my way around and there shouldn’t be that many of them looking for us.”
“Yeah no kidding–they’re all here!” Jelk cried. He swept his arm out at the army of creatures. They still fell from the bottom of the ship, and Darrow watched them with unease. A glint through the falling lumps of fur caught his eye.
“Hey, what’s that thing out there? It looks like there’s something way down the river.”
Jelk lowered his arm, squinting. King hurried out of the stairwell, a pair of glasses in his hand.
“Let me take a look,” he said, holding the lens to his eyes. The ship and the creatures fell out of focus; the far end of the river grew in clarity and magnification. Two giant arms were sticking out of the bank, their fingers stretched toward the sky. Between them a tall needle hovered. There were stiff, metallic wings on the top, shining in the sun.
“It’s one of those monsters,” King said. “One of those things–like Hellzoo. Like the one that showed up at the end of the tournament.” He held the glasses over Darrow’s eyes next.
Tenny flinched as several more cracks sounded from the ship. Anti-air rockets were streaming from the hollowed-out woman’s face, seeking the pyramid’s missiles that continued to orbit. “So they dropped it off on the way here? Why? What’s it doing back there?”
“Perhaps the ship isn’t the real threat,” King proposed.
The bronze machines had gathered at the pointed base of the pyramid. They were hard at work swinging their arms; directing their pincers. Large, bronze boxes winked into existence and fell atop each other, stacking to form a short wall. The thunder of hundreds of heavy paws came from the other side. The machines rose their arms again. With a thump Slaberdashia fell from the sky. She landed from her leap, took her long, hairy arms, and seized the closest machine. She squeezed it with a gleeful bear hug, interlocking her fingers and gritting her foul, black teeth. The casing warped inward and the hard muscles in Slaberdashia’s body flexed.
“ERROR THIRTY,” the machine announced. “RUN–“
The bronze casing split apart and red vein spilled out.
“Yes, run!” Slaberdashia said. She took the ruined husk in her giant hands and flung it at the wall, sending rows of the bricks toppling outward and crashing to the ground. The beasts funneled through the opening and leapt over the top, joining her.
“Gun!” she barked, pulling a cannon-sized pistol from the beast that obeyed her command. She leveled the barrel with her visor and fired at the nearest bronze machine.
“ERROR: UNKNOWN SUBJECT,” it said. A hole was blasted into its front and it burst into pieces a split second later. Slaberdashia aimed and fired again; this machine rose its arms, creating a hex door. The bullet vanished, yet four of the beasts assaulted it next, leaping from all sides and grabbing its segmented arms. They yanked them in every direction until they popped loose.
“Smash these things! Find a way in!” Slaberdashia said. The four sides of the pyramid hung over her, converged at one point nearby. A noise came from the long, slanted walls: the windows on the first floors were sliding open. Slaberdashia and the beasts snapped their heads toward the sound of two hundred automated turrets clacking into place.
“Oops,” she squeaked through her black teeth. The beasts braced themselves, their eyes flicking between her and the guns. The turret barrels, all aimed at different targets, drooped in unison with a whir.
“She’s safe; I took their power,” Clance’s voice told the command center of the ship.
Cougo pointed at the pyramid on the screen. “Ha! I told you the bottom would be defended like that! Four walls! Perfect trap!”
The captain coughed. “I was the one that said–“ He trailed off, made a face, and took off his marred hat. He scratched his head. “I said–“
Cougo twisted around in the captain chair. “What was that? You said–what? What exactly?” He awaited an answer with a flat smile.
“I don’t know,” the captain said. He looked away from Cougo to the front part of the monitor. The flat roof of the pyramid was tilting into view as its side tipped toward the ship in a steady decline.
Cougo spun back around. “Clance, you took all the power!?” He pressed his back into the chair. “Full reverse! Evasive actions!”
Elder Sain flicked a glance over at Clance’s immobile body. “Clance, don’t go crushing your sister under buildings, now.”
Tenny was knocked into Darrow as the roof slanted further; the shadows of the stairwell and monuments were stretching as the building continued to pitch toward the ground.
“Oh we’re all gonna die!” Jelk screamed. Both of his arms were wrapped around the railing. The beasts on the plains below were thinning; they had ceased coming out of the ship and were pressing into the hills.
“Calm down; I have you!” Dark said. His rory kept him stable as he hovered over to grab Jelk by the waist. King was braced on the rail, ready to catch Tenny and Darrow as they slid over to him. As they thumped into his wide belly his crown was knocked from his head. It toppled off the roof and fell into the great shadow of the pyramid. With a heavy lurch the building became still.
“I’ve given them just enough power to stand,” Clance’s voice said. “Sorry about that; their power networks are so primitive.”
“Nice work,” Elder Sain told him. On the monitor the pyramid was making a slow recovery to upright position. Cougo was relaxing, pulling at the collar of his turtleneck shirt. To his left the port hawk was muttering at his console.
“Why is that going off?” he wondered at a pinging noise. He looked down at an indicator, his eyes went wide, then he spun in his chair. “Captain! Two hostiles: exceeding supersonic speed, non-magical!”
“Are you sure?” the captain replied. The port side of the screen flashed, followed by a boom that resonated through the chamber. Cougo stood up, watching the ceiling.
“We’ve been hit,” the port hawk confirmed. “Energetic weapons of some kind have pierced the port hull. No vital systems have been damaged.”
Two white jets flew at the screen and split, veering around each side of the ship.
“They aren’t supposed to have those,” Cougo whined.
Elder Sain chuckled. “They must be from the other world. And they damaged the ship? Well, I guess we’d better retreat, then.”
Cougo and the captain laughed. Elder Sain paced toward them with a firm expression on his face.
“I’m not kidding. We’ve finished unloading the ground force and I don’t want to damage the Nameless any more than I need to. Captain, take us back to Arsiling. Clance, kill those jets if they come back into your range.”
“No!” Cougo exclaimed. “We can’t run from them! What happened to showing them our power!?”
Elder Sain snapped his gaze up at him. “For someone with such a good memory you seem to be forgetting who’s in charge here. Now sit in your chair and take this ship back to your angle.”
Cougo’s flat teeth disappeared as he shut his mouth. Looking away from Sain’s face, he lowered himself back into the chair with a sniffle.
King released Tenny and Darrow, setting them firm on the level roof. The roar of the jets was still in the air, and a wide hole had been punched into the female statue’s stomach. Smoke trailed from the hole, leaving dark wisps in the sky as the entire ship retreated away from the pyramid.
“It’s moving off–just like Dark said it would,” King stated. Dark nodded, his rory setting him down again.
“Just get me over there, then get as far away from here as you can.”
“And take me far away, too!” Jelk chimed in. He had red marks on his arms from where he held the railing.
“I wish you luck, Dark,” King said. “I think I found a good spot to send you.”
“A good spot for what?” Elder Sain asked. He stood at their backs as they looked out at the ship. His boots were planted on the pyramid roof and his armor stood as a stark silhouette in the sun. The three spokes were edged with a glimmer as they radiated out from his back to the thin wheel tipped with gear teeth.
“Dark, he looks like you did!” Darrow said.
“King, now!” Dark shouted. “He’s with them!”
King shoved Tenny and Darrow over, flicking his hand behind them. A yellow array of light blazed in a hexagon at their feet and they vanished along with Dark and Jelk. There was a pop and Elder Sain flinched.
“How astute,” he commented. “Just who was that?”
King straightened himself. “You’re the one that attacked my pyramid; I’m not telling you anything.”
Elder Sain walked toward him. “Well if you won’t talk to me then how about your people? You are the one called ‘King’ are you not?”
King ran his plump fingers through the sparse hair atop his head. Sain hooked his arms around the two metallic spokes on his back and leaned forward.
“You don’t have to be so frightened,” he said. “This sort of thing happens on the other worlds, too. Just accept this odd, sudden event. Find the humor in it.”
He straitened up, watching the Nameless shrink into the horizon. The white beasts were leaving bodies in their wake as they spread out in every direction. A black haze rose from the valley’s hills as they burned.
Super-Short First Draft Notes:
– Man, these first draft chapter titles have been pretty crappy. Chapter one’s “Advent of the Nameless” sounds cool, but it’s really just a rip-off of some Tenchi Muyo episode I saw on Toonami one time. And this chapter’s title of “The Attack” is just boring.
Ah well! As I always say: It’s better to have a bland title and a thrilling chapter than a thrilling title and a bland chapter. It’s way better for BOTH of them to be thrilling, though.
– I need to work on Slaberdashia’s description; I don’t have her look and movements down yet. I also need to have her come in contact with a normal-sized person so that the reader can put her large body into perspective.
Man, I should write a scene where she climbs the side of the pyramid, punches her fist through a window, and drags some poor sucker out: Rampage-style.
!!!! That’s it! RAMPAGE! That’s what I should call this chapter! How exciting it must be for you to watch the creative process at work.
– Speaking of creative process and rampages––I was going to have this entire attack take place in one chapter. But once I get going my onslaught of ridiculous ideas can’t be suppressed by any known force. That’s what first drafts are for, after all; I can always cut out some of this junk later.
– I also wasn’t going to give Elder Sain a sense of humor. I was actually surprised that he could make jokes! Once again, it’s true: some things about a character aren’t revealed until I actually start writing their dialog.