“My Lord,” the woman said, a crooked grin growing across her horned face.
“Acrostia, don’t start,” the High General replied.
“Oh but my Lord, it’s important news. Truly,” Acrostia said again, stepping more into the light to reveal her blue skin and the rust color on her horns.
“And when have you ever told me honest news, hmm?” he leaned forwards in his throne, feigning eagerness for the answer to the obviously rhetorical question.
There was much dishonesty among the military in Hell. Everyone knew this, and everyone expected it. Nevertheless, things miraculously got done. Attribute it to a mere keen sense of community when the going gets tough, or to the fear of The Emperor that looms over all of the Hellspawn, it doesn’t matter. You’d never know anyways. The borders are infinitely closed to all but one. He was a messenger of sorts from the outside world, far too old for his body.
After a moment of silence, the general slouched back again. “That’s what I thought. Now, go on.” Acrostia chose her words carefully. “There is... a revolution.”
“A revolution you say? Where? Who? Why?”
“A southern town in your jurisdiction: Mink, I believe. The locals are rebelling against the smiting hand of The Emperor. It’s like they just don’t fear him!”
“And why? Everyone has always been happy under his rule before; or at the very least fearful enough not to step out of line.”
“I’m not certain.”
The man on the throne laughed. “This would be troubling if I believed you, Acrostia. Go back to your post and do not bother me again with such rumors.”
“Yes, my Lord.”
“Come, my brothers and sisters! We have news!” the winged town crier yelled down the main street, bringing the entire small town’s populace around him.
“The noble Acrostia has just sent her word in to the High General Enthos! Rejoice, for he has said he does not believe her. Now we must all pull together for another week to show our ‘true loyalty’ to that wretched Emperor, so that when the General’s scouts come upon us to check, her claims are even more falsified.”
“But Heer! What will then happen to her?” a purple skinned woman in the crowd asked.
Acrostia herself walked through the crowding people, and into the center of the spectacle, a large grin on her face. “I would do anything for the freedom of my people.”
“Alright, so she’s going to jail or on to the next plain. What about us? Why is this helpful?”
“Mindara, we do not have time for your questions. The guards could be upon us at any time. Now, I beg of you -yes all of you- disperse! Seem normal and loyal. Once they have passed, we may all learn the plan for liberation once more,” the crier said in a booming voice, and then turned to leave the main square.
“Take up your weapons!”
“We must protect our position on this mountain, no matter the cost! If even two of us can get out alive, we will have succeeded!”
“Here they come!”
Two armies, near identical in image, faced one another. One was positioned on the mountain already, arms up and ready to strike. The other stood lower on the landscape, having just arrived there by flight, marching, or tunneling. Both sides held a glare of icy determination. The Emperor’s army had the advantage of number.
“You have one chance, foul traitors! Turn in your weapons now, or take the consequence of a long painful death, and utter defeat!” the leading general of the Emperor’s army yelled, making his loud, deep voice heard by everyone, despite the calamity of noise from the chinking of armour.
Acrostia walked up to the crest of the cliff, in full battle armor. “Never,” she said with a crazy grin that seemed only to smile for the blood about to be shed. She leapt down from the ledge, and brought her axe down onto the opposing general’s shoulder, taking his two left arms clean off.
He screamed in pain, and stumbled backwards, leaking blackened blood everywhere. Acrostia wasted no time, and brought her axe around again, chopping his head off. She knew that the key to winning any battle against a larger force was to demoralize their troops, so she had already told her entire side to aim to kill the highest ranking soldiers in their enemy’s army. Since she had done her part in that, she turned and ran so that the lesser soldiers could not kill her as she stood vulnerably above their general’s body.
She dropped her axe, and pushed a large weight off of her back. The weight was to help with her quick descent onto her quarry, but now would only make her run slower, which was something she could not afford. Once she escaped immediate danger, she closed her eyes, clutched her hand around a gem necklace she wore, and teleported back to the central teleportation platform they had set up on the mountains. From there she grabbed her secondary weapon -a broadsword- off of one of the many weapons racks, and charged back into battle.
The battleground was already with the rich scent of the blood of many different Hellspawn. The sweet, yet sickening smell of the black liquid was sharpened by the metal clashing everywhere around. Mink’s Hellspawn were silent and deadly. They had been training as heavily as they would have in active service for two years. The army of the state was less coordinated, as the drafting switch had just occurred a week before. Most of their soldiers were weak and sore from the sudden intensive training.
Acrostia had planned this battle so that every possible factor could be in her favor. She had chosen this time of year specifically so that their opponents would be weaker. She had commanded her army to bring every weapon they could find along with them two nights before, and under cover of darkness, they all set up a formidable base of operations well in advance of the battle she knew would happen. She made sure all of her soldiers were well rested, fed, and trained, and had a good chance to familiarize themselves with their surroundings. She coached each one individually to find their peak, and lead many group exercises to enhance the army’s cooperation.
She was glad the careful planning was finally over, but now could only worry about if it was enough. Sure, her army was the stronger of the two, but the sheer number of troops that had been sent to prevent the escape was alarming, and more than she had planned on. Nevertheless, she continued to charge fearlessly into the battle, and so did her entire army.
The state’s troops were dropping much faster than Mink’s, but the armies were still far from equal in size, and at any moment, the battle could turn for the worse for the escapees. Acrostia was just dodging out of the way of a spear being thrust at her, when suddenly the loud roar of a dragon - about eight hundred years old- was heard from behind Mink’s army. Her army had not been fazed. They had been sleeping through such roars for two nights now, and were rather used to them. But a shiver of fear went through many of Hellspawn of the other army, and Acrostia decided to use that to her advantage.
“You hear? We have the dragons at our back!” she yelled over the clamour of the battle, her wicked grin growing larger. “Retreat while you still can!”
The morale of the opposing army fell in visible wave. Even without the dragon roars, they could see that many of their own had fallen, and only a handful of the escapees had. It was becoming very clear to them that unlike what their generals had told them, these foes were much more formidable than any amateur army was. And all of their leaders were dead. It was only underlings left, with no orders to follow. They were confused as to what they should do- retreat and save their lives since circumstances had changed, or continue with their last orders given and hope for the best?
They opted to continue to fight, but they were even more scattered than before. Each movement was laced with fear and confusion, and Mink’s forces prospered on it. Acrostia’s army made short work of their confused opponents.
When five state soldiers were left, cowering and backing away, Acrostia called out to her army to cease fighting, and they readily obeyed. The ground was covered in bodies upon bodies, blood everywhere. The air tasted so strongly of it, that some of the blood drinking Hellspawn on Acrostia’s side had to retreat to their healers to avoid an overdose just from breathing the vapors of the dead blood.
Acrostia stepped towards the huddling five, and smirked. “Are you quite done yet?” she asked sweetly. None responded. “Yes. Yes you are. You will leave this place, and you will tell our ‘High General’ that we are leaving. And you will not return here ever again. You will not follow us, and neither will any of the rest of the state’s army. Do you understand?”
Three of the five blinked rapidly -The Hellspawn non-verbal version of ‘yes’- and then ran away. The other two lagged for a moment in shock, then joined their three comrades.
What was left of the defending army whooped and hollered. About a fifth of them had survived the bloody battle, and could escape the clutches of this military state. Acrostia led the victorious army up to the teleportation pad they were protecting, and gathered all of them on it. It was a tight fit squeezing everyone in (wings and tails included of course) on the circle, but there was just enough room, and Acrostia wanted everyone to make it in just one trip so they wouldn’t have to wait for the recharge, and potentially another battle.
When everyone was gathered on the stone platform, she queued the teleportation, leaving herself as the only Hellspawn left standing in the mountains. Surrounded by the strong smell of blood, she did her final duty in destroying the teleportation platform. After the stone was shattered, she fell back into the sea of blood, and allowed herself to drift away and join her brethren whom had died mere moments before.