Teller waited for the last of the new hatchlings to settle in around the campfire before opening his graying eyes. Their chirps of restlessness made his neck-feathers ruffle in amusement, but he knew he couldn’t keep them waiting too long. Reaching out from under his shawl, he held up a feathered hand to silence them. The crinkles around his nearly sightless eyes were the best smile he could accomplish with a beak, but it was enough of one to tell the hatchlings that he was finally ready. He took a moment to clear his throat before speaking in an ancient voice, one full of experience and wisdom.
“Other Tellers might say that the Fallen-King came to our world in a ball of fire, and yet others say about how he climbed down a mighty pillar of heavenly light to join our fight against the treacherous SkyLord Clan, but I can say that both are untrue. I know, because I was there." Teller said with another smile around his eyes. “When our clan met the Skylords on the field of battle, a shimmering pool of light appeared in the air between us, looking for the entire world like the ocean to the west of us. The sudden appearance stalled the battle and as we watched, a bronze figure came through, a golden spear of light in his hand as he fought the most horrifying creature we’d ever seen…”
Fourty Years Ago, A World Away
Hero-At-Wall scowled in his armor as he crept through the sewers, phase-spear in his hand. He had been sent to stalk a mutant “Skitter” that had taken out a Peacekeeper squad hours before and he was finally learning to regret his unwillingness to use a gun. As unhonorable as it might have been, a shotgun would have made this hunt much easier. Skitters were ghoulish creatures with long rubbery limbs and a maw that could swallow a person whole, so a mutant of one could be quite the monster. Even in his Praetorian armor Hero couldn’t help but hope it would prove to be enough to protect him.
With a reflexive twitch of his neck muscles, the Kzinti slid his helmet back, allowing his large ears to listen for any sound that may betray the location of his prey. He’d use his nose, but the sewage masked any trace of scent he might have found. It took only a moment for his keen ears to trace the source of the echoes made by claws on stone. To keep from revealing his position, Hero took a moment to activate the hoverboots integrated into his armor before continuing his stalking. It took a few minutes, but he came to the mutant soon enough. The monster stood half again Hero’s seven foot height, and that was while it was hunched over. Unlike the mostly human looking Skitters, this one had four heads, a massive belly, and nine taloned limbs. Mutant sighted. Hero sub-vocalized into his communicator only to be met with a wash of static instead of a reply from HQ. He cursed mentally, cringing at the sound and instead grabbed a location transmitter from his belt to slap onto the wall. The mutant’s heads rose at the sound of the beacon being set, making Hero curse again at his amateur mistake.
The creature turned its eyeless faces to him just in time for a bright light to shine from behind the Kzinti, startling them both. Before Hero could react though, the Skitter regained its senses first and tackled him, shoving them both through the portal. Minutes later, it shuts behind them, leaving the beacon blinking alone in the dark.
The Other Side
Even though he knew his back was on the ground, Hero’s head spun from a sense of vertigo. He didn’t know where he was, just that the monster was on top of him and trying to stab through his armor with its mighty talons. It took just a moment for his helmet to redeploy, but it couldn’t have happened at a better time. The first of the four heads tried biting down on it, but the teeth couldn’t get through the heavy alloys. With a roar of anger, the Kzinti slipped his boot under the monster’s belly and turned on the flight system. A whump of concussive force blasted the creature back to land thirty feet away, screeching in fury as it scrambled to right itself. The creature’s limbs cracked and snapped as it finally got three of its legs under it only to have a shaft of golden energy pierce its body, pinning it to the ground as Hero leapt at it with his clawed gauntlets. The mutant’s rubbery flesh might have protected it against some weapons, but not against Hero’s enhanced strength and the razored blades that adorn his fists. Within moments great chunks of flesh were being torn away as the thing screamed in pain and agony. Hero-At-Wall grabbed one of the four heads and twisted, rending it from the body before holding it up into the air with a cry of triumph.
Only then, with the creature struggling underneath him, did he catch a good glimpse of his surroundings. The light was muted by a canopy nearly a half-mile above him. Surrounding him seemed to be hundreds of bird-people wielding weapons and a similar number of them lying dead on the ground, obviously killed in battle. The sight distracted him long enough for the Mutant to finally collect itself enough to wrap three of its sharp limps around his right knee. Before he could react, the limbs sliced right through the weaker armor of the joint, cutting clean through his leg in a spray of blood. Hero collapsed roaring even as the powered armor he wore began pumping his system full of painkillers and stimulants. The creature’s struggle threw him to the ground and as his pain faded, Hero watched as it began to pull itself off of his spear. He didn’t know if it’d work, but he could only reach down to his belt and grab a pair of micro-grenades to hurl at the creature.
“When the Fallen-King hurled the twin orbs of what we had believed to be divine power, the Demon he had been facing blew apart, having been smote from this world or any other.” Teller tells the hatchlings before smiling with his eyes once more and taking a drink from the wineskin in his lap. “Even though the Fallen-King had been grievously wounded by the Demon, he was still more than merely mortal. It had been obvious to me, a mere Spear-Slinging at the time, but for the Skylords were arrogant and sought to take his power for themselves. Two of them let out a warcry before descending on the wounded warrior, but with a flick of his claws they were both on the ground, throats torn out even before Fallen-King had even regained his footing. Before our eyes, his bronze armor sealed his leg and his bleeding stemmed, proving once more that he was not from our world.” Teller stopped for another moment to put new wood onto the bonfire. At his pause, one of the hatchlings spoke up.
“How did we get him on our side then?” The blue feathered female asked with her eyes wide with curiosity like all the others who haven’t heard this story. Teller smiled but didn’t reply until he was seated once more. “With the deaths of two of their highest warriors, the Skylords went berserk and wanted retribution. Fallen-King was weakened and it had been shown that he could be hurt.” He tells them before shaking his head and neck a bit as his feathers ruffled in amusement. “Our clan simply stepped in front of him.”
Even though the drugs kept him up and moving, Hero could feel the weakness in his body. Whoever the two bird-men at his feet might have been in life, it seemed that they had been important to the others wearing red. With another slow glance, he felt a little thankful that both sides were primitive and without firearms, but that didn’t mean he would be impervious to their spears, slings, bows, and knives. It just meant it’d take a little longer to crack open his armor. When the Reds began to form up in combat lines, Hero sighed and hopped a step over to grab his phase-spear, using it to balance himself. He no longer felt the absence of his leg, but he knew that if he forgot it, he’d end up sprawled on the ground and that would spell his death. Let these people fight it out. I need to get back. he told himself before turning around to look where the portal should have been. When he turned, all he saw was more forest and a group of feathered people wearing blue.
The portal was gone, and with it, any hope of returning home.
Before he could even growl, a swarm of the Blues swept past Hero, forming a defensive line of spears even as dozens of arrows shot over them and into the Reds. A small group of Blues still stood in front of him and the one that looked the oldest because of graying in his dark feathers tilted its head to try to tell him to follow them. Seeing that there wasn’t anything else he could do here, Hero took his remaining beacon from his belt and activated it. After dropping it to the ground and stepping on it to dig it into the earth, the lone Kzinti followed.