By William j. seymour
Azhana Falls Book Two
One Last Mission
One Final Assignment
The world of Azhana fell twenty-five years ago. In a rage of flame and magic, the world was torn apart and those that lived through the devastation have fought for every inch of soil they can still call their own.
Coleena Armigera, Captain in the Azhanian Armed Forces, knows firsthand the horrors that ravaged this world all those years ago. Since then she has fought to keep the Dragon and its minions at bay.
Now, the danger has returned home. Not on the front line or the battlefield, but in the cities where those who remain seek shelter from the monsters that hunt them.
Find the Enemy.
Protect the People.
“That’s the thing, Captain. I’ve already thought about this, long and hard. I can’t give you the order, in your state the General herself would be lucky to force you into this, but against my better judgment, I’m offering you this chance. One last mission. Thousands of lives on the line. Give us one last fight. Show the dragon that no matter how many times you fall, it will never defeat you.”
Gun fire and smoke.
Explosions of thunder and fire laced with lightning that burns its way across the sky.
The world of chaos and survival, dark shadows and horrid deaths. The monsters continue to come, their hunger for destruction unquenchable and the holes dug in for trenches and last stands not deep enough to get the job done.
The smell of cooling rock in the air. Laced with sulfur and living poison. Spent gunpowder and drying blood coat everything. The screams of the dying and the injured. The anger of combatants locked in mortal combat is real and can be felt on the skin. Each side refuses to give up ground no matter how many bodies fall.
An explosive detonates too close. Dirt rains from the sky. Little drops of crumbled rock and pebbles sprinkle on black army uniforms filled with sweat and blood. Starched collars and creased lines fade beneath a layer of gore or are torn completely away to die as wispy pieces of fabric. Coleena rams another magazine into her rifle and fires a round across the smoke blurred field. Dried husks of dead plants. Hot sand that blurs with heat and chips of broken rocks lay scattered like confetti. What trees remain are nothing more than brittle skeletons of what they once were. Sad reminders of the world they lost and will never get back.
Bright orange blood spurts as lead tears through solid skin and the molten rock inside fountains into the air, cools, and hits the ground as brittle rock. The beast falls. All hardened muscles and razor-sharp talons. Blood made of magma cools and eyes of flame go dark. A final growl of breath and a new target takes its place.
“Incoming!” a hoarse voice yells.
Coleena and the other soldiers of the Desert Spear cover their heads and duck onto their knees as the recognizable whistling draws closer and ends with a rupture of earth and sky.
The ground quakes. Soot and super-heated ash lift into the air burning them where they stand and crawl. There isn’t enough cover to shield soldiers from enemy. Pain and death find them all. There are no innocents on this field of battle.
Blood and the thick syrup of mud sticks to the inside of their mouths as they recover their senses and jump back into the fight.
“Keep pushing them back!” Lieutenant Arkens calls, his voice hoarse and broken.
The man is a machine. Broad shouldered, shaved head, and arms like tree trunks as he squeezes more rounds out his rifle. Black rivers of mud run across his arms as they flex with the recoil of the weapon, brass jingling as they pile at his feet.
Coleena does not hesitate. Back on her feet, she sights down the barrel and sends more projectiles into the bodies of the monsters now horribly too close. Glowing liquid rock flies into the air with chips that rattle as they hit the ground. Howls cry into the late afternoon hour. Growls of triumph come before the screams as more men and women lose their lives.
She can smell the burning magma. Sulfuric and bitter. The life blood pumping through the bodies of the enemy mixes with the shit left behind by the corpses of their victims. The heat of their anger cooks the perspiration across her flesh, bubbling and popping with the desert heat. Hot acid drops from their fanged teeth, sizzling across the ground as the monsters try to clear the distance.
A thunderous boom of another rocket rings her ears into a temporary silence. Dark streaks flash across the sky and the first two rows are obliterated in an inferno of earth and fire.
Shadows move in the collecting dust. Coleena squeezes the trigger and more glowing blood spills, the sound of angry demonic wailing biting at the chaotic sound of war and death.
“Desert, advance to the next trench!” Arkens orders.
The team does as it is told.
Keeping her rifle trained at the wall of smoke and shadows, Coleena watches for movement and fires with her comrades as the monsters fade in and out of her sight. Black silhouettes pass before her, disappearing from vision like ghosts. The crunch of boots over dry gravel a distant memory against the raging of the war machine keeping their enemy at bay.
A man screams. He could be ten feet away or one hundred.
The death cries are followed by the crunch of bones and the bubbling gurgles of a final breath. Coleena holds within the cloud of dust, and her knees flex with anticipation. The rifle sits solid in her grip.
She is alone.
The shadows thicken, a swirling cloud of forgetfulness and imagination. Images flash before her eyes. Men, demons, everything fights around her, but nothing approaches.
She sees long piercing claws rip into the bowels of a shadow that appears right beside her. Their guts spill on the ground, a wet sound full of heavy hopes and wasted dreams. The monster roars with a satisfactory rage born only by the pits of Hell.
Three more rounds exit the end of her rifle. The darkness fades and the monster and its victim or gone. A silent world swirls around her. In the distance she can hear the chattering pop of machine gun fire and explosions as armored T-89 tanks rake the approaching lines of Banshees and Gorgoths. But that is somewhere else. Not here. Not with her. She is alone as she moves forward. A one-woman army.
A shriek rips through the air, and she spins on her heels. Talons sharpened to dangerous points rake through the air, slicing the mist and dream state with a fine edge. The tips cut a gash through the shoulder of her uniform. Releasing the rifle with one arm, the stock locks into place beneath her shoulder, the muzzle swinging free, and she squeezes down hard on the trigger.
Red angry fire erupts from the glowing red barrel and the world is a drumming base of death as the bullets shatter the face of the Banshee less than a hand’s length away. She screams words that even she cannot hear. Orange magma melts through rock hardened skin and turns to black as its head disintegrates beneath the onslaught.
Falling into a heap beside her, she has little time as the next monster jumps from the chaos and barrels into her like a drunken asshole, all hands and hot breath clawing to expose whatever skin it can find.
The weight of three men cracks the bones of her back, and she finds herself flattened to the ground. Rifle spinning away, her hand drops as she kicks and rolls. Releasing the holster to her sidearm, she returns to her knees. Four more rounds open a blossoming inferno of molten blood in the next demon’s chest.
The howl is wet and hissing as the dying monster sits down hard on its ass, the dust of the cracked earth kicking into the air. The orange fires of its eyes cool into solid pebbles and roll from their sockets.
A roar shakes the world around her. The wall of mist rattles and threatens to break.
Rifle back in her hand, she moves forward. The world of gunfire and death returning in a mad rush. Shapes begin to coalesce. Men in uniforms, rifles raised and cradled as they fire into the enemy’s midst, pushing forward through the orchestrated march of the dying and the desperate.
She follows suit. Weapon ready, she keeps a clear sight of the position forward. Arm steady, she takes a deep breath, the taste of poison burning her tongue and speeding the beat of her heart.
“Grenade out!” a man’s voice calls, the words almost lost beneath the chatter of exploding gunpowder.
Coleena drops to one knee and the world no more than a dozen yards in front of her erupts into a shower of dark earth and smoke.
An angry growl defies the combat and they continue forward. A cut through the battlefield opens on the horizon. Reinforced dirt, hand cut and packed to mark the ground they have fought so hard to keep yet have slowly given away piece by piece.
Five feet deep, barely three feet wide. Coleena jumps in. Men and women follow all around her. Dozens of faces. Blood stained and dirty. Tired eyes and hollowed looks. All grit and determination. Fighting to the bitter end, a need for survival and a defiance born of human resilience.
“Wall up, rifles at the ready,” Arkens orders.
There he is again. Stoic in his stance, his presence a solidifying rock that helps keep them all steady.
Coleena turns with the gears of the war engine, thousands of pounds of human flesh molded into a fighting edge, ready to cut both the attacker and the user.
Movement shakes the horizon. A wall of smoke and unforgiving terrain. Scrub brush and open fields ending with a mausoleum of scorched trees, the last remnants of the forest bordering the former country of Orlasara. Soil dried to salt beneath a relentless sun brightens the chocking smoke. Where there is resilient turf refusing to die away, the surrounding ground has been blown to bits beneath the concussion of bombs and clawed feet.
“Here they come!” Arkens barks.
The warning is given though none is needed with a train of monsters shaking the ground. Dirt finds a way to rattle and pebbles shake. Howling and hissing, crying and roaring, the demons rush from behind the clouded wall of dirt and smoke.
Claws rip into ground, pulling them forward with all disregard for death and loss of life as bullets cut through them like angry bees. Their blood spills, cools, and turns the ground to molten glass. Coleena screams right along with the monsters and her fellow soldiers. Her frustration, her relentless anger releasing with each ejected piece of brass as another projectile is sent into the enemies she was born to hate.
The monsters draw closer regardless of their efforts. Bodies heap upon one another, a small wall of living stone turning into a growing barricade of hardened rock. A Banshee leaps over in a single stride, its wide glowing belling a perfect target as it wobbles and screams in its high-pitched wail. Bullets send glowing yellow rock spewing in a dozen directions, the thin stone of its abdomen bursting like a water balloon, its contents spraying over the edge and into the trench line.
“Ah!” the man next to her screams.
Flesh burns and hardens as the magma cools. Coleena covers his line of fire as he drops to his knees. The fallen enemy topples to pieces less than two feet away. Three more jump the growing pile of hardening corpses. More rock explodes, the heated blood melting everything it touches. Burns peel away with ripped uniforms. The screams of the dying and injured fade as the monsters are almost on top of them.
“Keep fighting!” Coleena orders as much to herself as to the others.
The end of her rifle glows red and the smoke blocks her vision.
Nothing seems to matter. The enemy is on top of them. Aiming is of little use. Holding back the trigger and keeping the new magazines flowing is mechanical in operation. Demon bodies begin to fall into the trench beside them. Banshees give way to a mix of Gorgoths who rip into friend and foe alike. Over seven feet tall, the first bastard topples as bullets shatter its kneecap, the lower half of its legs splitting away in a spewing mess of orange rock splattering across the ground. The monster howls, bullets chipping away at its exterior as it claws its way forward, six-inch talons digging into the hard dirt and pulling it closer to its next victim.
Coleena’s rifle goes empty. Reaching into her belt, the satchel flattens against her hand, and she has nothing left.
The man at her feet continues to scream. Half his face is scorched black, the blood beneath his hands running in thick rivers between his fingers. Reaching down, she tears at his belt. Two more magazines and he is dry. Securing them within her grasp, she goes to reload her weapon.
“Ah!” the scream tearing its way from her throat is unstoppable as a searing heat slices through the flesh of her back.
Rolling away from the pain, her rifle drops, and she hits the bottom of the trench beside the screaming soldier. Standing above her, a Gorgoth growls its dismay. Teeth as long as her fingers and pointed into needle like tips open and close with anticipation of the death it will soon taste. Pulling her sidearm from her belt, the recoil rips at the openings bleeding through her uniform as the bullets punch holes through the beast’s head. Blood and brains splatter in sizzling piles. Bright orange blood goes dark. The demon slides forward, several hundred pounds of dead weight pulling it along.
Coleena scrambles to get out of the way, the slow decent of the enemy quickening with gravity. The crunch of solid rock crushing the fallen soldier next to her is a horrible popping noise as organs burst and bone shatters into splinters. Reaching her knees, she scrambles for her rifle. The arm of the monster lays across the barrel, the metal bent into an odd angle and the grip resting in a pool of red blood.
Holding her pistol, her last weapon, she looks up and down the trench.
Men and women stand against the edge, weapons barking death and destruction at the approaching enemy. Banshees and Gorgoths have broken over the edges and fight those closest in hand-to-hand combat between the narrow earth walls, filling the tunnel with screams and death. Coleena goes to stand, the searing pain of her wounds burning through her back and down into the hamstrings of her legs. Another Banshee makes its way over the edge, squat legs bracing as it falls into the trench beside her.
Three bullets splatter its liquid brain against the wall, the smell of sulfur and cooling rock thick in her nose.
Another Gorgoth breaches the barrier and falls down into their newly claimed territory a few dozen feet further down the trench. Men jump on top of it from both sides. Talons rip through human flesh and bullets splatter heated gore everywhere as enemy and ally begin their quick decent into madness. No one lets out a shout as the grenade is dropped at their feet. The eruption shakes the ground. Rock and smoke races its way toward her like a freight train. Coleena drops to her knees, her arm covering her face and neck.
“Retreat!” a voice screams the order.
This time it is not Lt. Arkens. She looks and she cannot find him. The fighting is chaotic. All lines are broken and the masses of bodies piling up is uncountable. Those still capable begin to throw themselves over the dirt wall in the direction that they had just fought to claim.
Just like that, their first moment of victory is lost and already forgotten. Unable to allow herself to hesitate, Coleena climbs out of the trench, her back to the wall of enemies being held down by suppressive fire. Unwilling to let them leave, a Gorgoth leaps the trench and slams into two men less than ten feet to her left. All three go down in a heap, the screams of the men drowning beneath the roar of the monster. Veering toward them, she keeps her pistol at the ready, letting the monster climb itself up from the pile.
A bullet tears through the back of its shoulder, the slight victory forcing the beast to pull itself away from its victims. Ignoring the threat, she is unable to stop the creature as it slams its gigantic fist into the side of the man’s head lying beside him. Bone cracks open and blood splatters as Coleena fires more into the monster. Dirt kicks up around her feet as bullets from those covering their retreat try to take the Gorgoth out. Roaring, the demon lifts itself to its clawed feet, each toe digging into the ground and the body of the second man dangles from its outstretched arm.
Coleena stops running and her weapon goes empty. Red fires glow brighter than the sun beneath its darkened brows of stone and a small grin pulls at its stone lips as it looks down at her. The moment passes and bullets from the mounted machine guns tear through the rock skin of the monster and the flesh of soldier alike as she falls to the side, blood and molten rock spraying its way all over her. Ignoring the pain and the burning, she crawls away as the corpse of the monster and its victim fall into a disgusting mangled mass beside her. Dust and burning smoke obscure her vision, but she forces herself to crawl, head down and her own fingers digging into the dirt. With each agonizing movement, she forces herself forward, not in the direction of victory, but back to where they had started.
Another battle. Another loss. Bullets fired and lives spent. A war without ending and the possibility of defeat without a single victory.
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