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Downfall of General Cathraxes [Original Fiction]

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Ack, Feb 27, 2019.

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  1. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Cathraxes is a demonic general in the forces of Hell. What could banish him to Earth, and what will he do once he gets there?

    Index
    Part One: Cathraxes Ascendant (below)
     
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  2. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    The Downfall of General Cathraxes

    Part One: Cathraxes Ascendant


    [A/N: This story beta-read by Lady Columbine of Mystal.]

    [A/N 2: Inspired by H P Lovecraft’s Nemesis.]


    Cathraxes soared on arching pinions composed of terror and darkness, his burning gaze raking over the blasted landscape below. All within his sight was seething chaos, just as his dark heart desired. Lesser demons and greater imps strove mercilessly against one another, the unholy light of bloodlust bright in their malevolent eyes. Razor talons shredded leathery hide or screeched excruciatingly against obdurate carapace. Jagged fangs stained with blood and more noxious substances crunched on exposed bone or pierced triumphantly through vulnerable skin to release the steaming, stinking lifeblood of their struggling victims.

    Discordantly-shrieking harpies and ominously-silent cambions swooped between twisted spires of black craggy stone, coming together in violent explosions of feathers and blood. In the fog-choked, shadow-haunted ravines far below, sinuous demons of little strength but great stealth and skill with venoms both subtle and sudden stalked one another. Behemoths, huge of tusk and savage of nature, rampaged bellowing through the fetid swamps into which the valleys released their endless trickles of corruption.

    He watched an engineer team of technology-minded imps, even more twisted and unpleasant than their regular soldier brethren, as they squabbled and bickered among themselves, hurling vile curses at the lesser demon leading them. Labouring under the superior infernal's vituperative tongue and equally indiscriminate sting-lash, they were hauling a shoddily-built contraption of war up to the highest vantage point they'd been able to commandeer by force or guile.

    These misbegotten devices, almost as dangerous to their own side as to the foe, were smashed together from anything the thieving, murderous little cockroaches could beg, borrow, steal or slit a throat for. The frame of this particular jury-rigged arbalest was rough-forged metal, the arms built from ichor-oozing timber, fresh from the shaping axe or claw. Connecting the two arms was a braided cable woven from, if he was not much mistaken, scavenged tendons torn from the hind legs of a defeated behemoth. Whether the hapless creature had been dead at the time was very much up for speculation.

    The lesser demon's cracked, ugly voice screeched out orders and the arbalest shuddered to a halt. A crudely-fashioned projectile was set in place, and the motley team of misshapen artillerists grunted and strained to draw back the bow-cable. But either from ill-luck or sabotage, the tendons had been weakened; when almost at full extension, they snapped with a thunderous report. One end, releasing its tension, whipped around a shrieking imp and flung the unwholesome creature high into the noisome air, already polluted with the dust and brimstone ash of hellish warfare. Cathraxes followed the arc of the luckless wight with his eyes; at his best guess, and his guesses were very accurate indeed, it would land in one of the mist-ridden valleys. Even should it survive the fall, its future was bleak indeed, as the ravenous denizens of those inimical rents in the terrain tended to treat all who ventured unbidden into their nightmare demesnes as a meal yet to be devoured.

    Never once did the slightest concern for its well-being or imminent horrific demise cross his mind as he turned his molten-steel gaze back to the happenings below. The other end of the sundered cable had caught the lesser demon commanding the engineer imps across the legs, shearing through them as if he had been mowed down with a scythe. His caustic whip lying unheeded beside him, the demon writhed and screamed and tore at the hard-baked ground with agonised strength. The engineer imps turned as one and hurled themselves upon his supine body with vicious cries of retribution, malformed claws and mismatched fangs sinking into its quivering flesh. Torn limb from dismembered limb in mere moments, the maimed demon barely had the time to lash out at its attackers before it was all over. One of the larger imps thrust its hands into the demon's foul-smelling stomach cavity and pulled out armful after slickly-oozing armful of its gore-drenched entrails. Shouts of vile glee arose as its fellows in murder took hold of the slimy intestines and stretched them out then bound them firmly to the ends of the wooden arms, using to the recently-failed cable of behemoth tendons to make them fast.

    Intent on studying the gruesome ingenuity of the imps on the scoured hilltop, Cathraxes drifted closer, his broad-spread wings imparting the essence of fear and horror to those his shade touched, far below. It was with a sense of mildly irritated inevitability that he saw the imps take hold of their ungainly device and heave it around until it was aligned vaguely in his direction. Once more, the wickedly pointed makeshift projectile was set in place. With the sting-whip in hand, still splashed and stained by the life-blood of his unfortunate predecessor, the largest of the engineer imps slashed at his former comrades, berating them with even more venom and vituperation than the lesser demon had employed. Back came the barbed spear, heaved by the unholy strength of the engineer imps.

    At any time, Cathraxes could have spoiled their aim. In agility, he could not match up to a harpy or even a cambion, but once the great weapon was in flight, it had no means of diverting its course. These imps had to understand that their actions, if they failed, would bring down upon them a retribution matched by few in the hierarchy of Hell. And yet, cackling in ghoulish glee at their daring and defiance of the unnatural order of things, they were indeed aiming their arbalest directly at him with the full—if futile—intent of murdering him with it.

    The strain on the arms of the arbalest had to be enormous; fresh ichor, forcing its way out from beneath where the earlier coating had dried into a hard crust, dripped sullenly to the ground where it sizzled and spat and slowly dissolved the rocks and pebbles. Thrumming like an over-taut bowstring—which, but for matter of scale, it was—the quivering length of recently-eviscerated demonic intestine seemed to bite into the very wood to which it was fastened.

    At a high-pitched squeal from the new head imp, punctuated by a crack from the caustic lash, the perpetually bickering engineer imps released their collective grip on the replacement arbalest cable. The wickedly-barbed projectile sprang forth; impelled by the convulsive unbending of the crudely-shaped arms, it lunged toward Cathraxes like a predatory beast thirsting for his heart's blood.

    But for all the unholy will under the burning sky of this particular sub-domain of Hell, their aim was as yet imperfect. The arbalest bolt, lancing through the miasma of dust and smoke, stood fair to miss him by an armspan or two. However, he had other ideas. Angling the planes of his ominously-arching pinions, he side-slipped directly into its path.

    Down below, seeing their imprudently-unleashed shot converging on its target in such a timely manner, the engineer imps erupted into anticipatory cackles of sadistic glee. Allowing obsidian-black lips to curl back from his razor-sharp fangs to express his own dark humour, Cathraxes reached out and retrieved his blade from the dimensional fold where he kept it until needed.

    Deep within the lowest pits of Hell, where none but the bravest and most foolhardy ventured without leave, the very air sizzled and spat from the heat generated by the great furnaces that ran night and day. Fuelled by the souls of the unfortunates who had not perpetrated evil sufficiently inventive to catch the eye of a lesser demon seeking a protégé, the furnaces rang eternally with the agonised screams of those whose very life-force was being consumed within.

    Using those same furnaces as a forge, for no hotter flame could be found within the realms of the Infernal, the scarred and burned artisans of Hell plied their age-long trade. The furnaces were so hot that none could gaze into them and yet retain their sight, but that mattered not to the Artisans; each one had, long ago, plucked out its own eyes so that it may detect imperfections in its work by touch and taste alone.

    Such were these who had fashioned his unholy blade in long-past eons, from pure unalloyed hatred mined from the rich seam that underpinned the very foundations of Hell. It had stood him in good stead, cleaving foes demonic and divine alike, for no force was stronger and more enduring than hate. The silvery edge of spite that ran the length of the blade could likewise be depended upon to cut deeper and leave wounds that lasted longer than any inflicted by mere mortal material.

    Brandishing the infernal sword in a flourish that was as economical as it was insulting, Cathraxes sliced the hard-flung arbalest bolt from the smoke-ridden air as if waving away an irritating carrion-fly. As the Hell-born blade clashed with the ill-forged steel, an agonised shriek was wrung forth from the impact, sending multi-hued sparks in all directions; the unfortunate projectile burst into a thousand pieces, which rained down willy-nilly upon the combatants below. He had no eyes for it; instead, the white heat of his gaze was fixed upon the battle-scoured hilltop where the engineer imps were still capering madly, not yet cognizant of their inevitable doom.

    Folding back his ebon pinions, he stooped into a dive, dropping toward the importunate artillerists like the judgement of a particularly enraged God; only less forgiving. In the instants before he struck, he saw their premature celebrations stutter to a halt as they belatedly realised that they were about to suffer the full penalty for attacking one's superiors in the hierarchy of Hell … and failing. Too late, they shrilled in discordant terror and attempted to scatter in all directions, perhaps relying upon the vain hope that he would not take the time to hunt them all down individually and wreak his satisfaction upon them. While their feeble attempts were doomed from the very outset, he mentally assigned them marks for trying (in no way offsetting the tremendous deficit they'd incurred by their ill-considered attack) just before he opened his jaws wide and belched forth the purest of Hellfire.

    The roiling flames gouted over the hilltop, engulfing both the arbalest and its luckless crew. Almost as hot as that found in the furnaces far below, they consumed the stout timbers and iron frame alike; when they died away, not even skeletons were to be found. Indeed, such was the intensity of his fury that the top of the hill had been lowered several feet, with molten rock now forming twisted runnels down the battle-scarred slopes to the valleys below.

    Grimly satisfied that all the nearby infernals witnessing the act of summary judgement would take the gruesome lesson to heart—or whatever foul and twisted organ they used for a heart—Cathraxes banked away. His hellishly smouldering eyes roved over the endlessly-chaotic battlefield, seeking out anything else that might be suicidally intent on challenging his supremacy of the air.

    No such challenge was levied against him. He allowed a brief moment of disappointment to pass through his mind before locking his emotions down once more, tighter than a Malebog greed-demon's grasp on a copper piece. Cathraxes had not achieved his elevated position in Lord Harkan's staff by allowing a mere thing such as feeling into his being without his express permission. Next, he mused with the dying embers of amusement warming his inner self, he would be apologising to those serving staff he casually maimed upon rising each day. If such ignorant empty-skull addlebrains didn't know to stay well away from him before he'd had his morning repast, they deserved the punishments he dealt out.

    Speaking of punishments, if he were to avoid a well-deserved scourging from Lord Harkan himself, he knew he needed to cover more of the battlefield before returning. A fresh report had been demanded on how each side was progressing in their never-ending campaign to visit the most inventive of fates upon their foes, and what Lord Harkan demanded, Lord Harkan got. All who served the arch-demon well knew that to disappoint Harkan was to essentially commit career suicide, and occasionally actual suicide as well.

    Flaring his wings and ignoring the shrill screams of unbridled fear from far below as his supernaturally-terrifying shadow drifted across the conflict-torn landscape, he replaced the Hell-blade in its dimensional sheath and recommenced analysing the ebb and flow of battle. Not for nothing had he studied every famous clash of arms from every era of both Hell-born and Earthly history.

    Some may have scorned the efforts of mortal soldiers, deeming their pitiful capabilities not even worth the effort required to render such importunate challengers into bloody shreds. Cathraxes saw what they did not. Lacking claws and fangs with which to shred their foes, humans instead seemed possessed of a positively unholy willingness to do absolutely anything necessary to taste the fruits of victory. Therefore, they had turned their sharply inventive minds toward overcoming that age-old conundrum. And overcome it they did. First with knives and spears and bows, and finally some of the most impressive killing devices Cathraxes had ever witnessed.

    Firearms had transformed the battlefield in ways both immediate and longer-lasting. Combat was joined at much greater range than before, and warriors needed far less stringent training to be minimally proficient with the tools of their trade. Whereas archery required a full mortal generation to produce a true proponent of the art, it seemed that similar skill with firearms could be imparted in less than a year.

    Worse, guns became ever more versatile as the decades rolled on. When they could be used to spit a single lump of metal almost at random, and require minutes to prepare between shots, they could be safely ignored as a force on the battlefield. But they went from one random shot to multiple aimed shots to spraying their projectiles willy-nilly, faster than Cathraxes could count. Worse, their great armoured engines of war now lumbered into battle carrying ever more powerful cannon on their backs. In less than two centuries—barely any time at all—the very existence of firearms had made a crude mockery of the practice of warfare, at least among mortals.

    Watching the bloodshed below as he banked on his great pinions, he felt a dark satisfaction that at least here, the rule of fang and claw and spear was absolute. Demons instinctively understood matters such as that. His Hell-forged blade might dismember his foes as readily as he could pull the arms off of an imp, but at least they were afforded the personal touch. To slay someone—one, ten or a hundred—with one of the mortals’ chattering instruments of death was to admit that one had no understanding of the true meaning of war.

    When he had surveyed enough of the great conflict to be satisfied that he could encompass its span within his understanding, he turned his course back toward his point of origin. The great castle, overlooking a long-abandoned village on one side and a vertiginous cliff on the other, was ancient even by the standards of Cathraxes’ kind. There were few indeed who could say that they had gone before him, but the stone-bound construction had been in existence since his earliest memories of existence upon this dismal plane. Within that starkly primeval edifice were vast echoing galleries, subtly deranged in their proportions, bearing bas-reliefs and gently mouldering tapestries, each one depicting vistas and illustrations so intrinsically wrong that even the hardiest of demonic sensibilities were unwilling to gaze upon them for any length of time.


    End of Part One
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2019
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  3. Warer

    Warer Getting sticky.

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    And as always o.f. gets fucked despite being some of the best stuff on the forums.
     
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  4. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    People come here for Worm stuff. You know that.

    And if I had Taylor anywhere near this guy, people would be vs'ing them within seconds of posting the story.
     
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  5. Warer

    Warer Getting sticky.

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    That is depressingly accurate.
     
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  6. KhazintheDark

    KhazintheDark Probably Insane

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    *grabby hands at new fic*

    Seriously though, this is an interesting concept.
     
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