Chapter 1 As small children, young members of PSR remembered when they had farmlands that existed many miles outside the city. They recalled the city's ability to grow things for trade with their father city Espen (pronounced ESPN). They also remembered seeing enormous carts filled with so many fruits and vegetables that they were literally falling out, as the younglings ran up immediately and began chowing down on the fallen food. The Eagle clan remembered their uncle Mistabob, who helped raise them and the rest of the Eagle Scouts, as well as members of other clans going out behind the walls, ensuring that PSR's farmlands stayed safe from them. Them being the Brutes, man-like beings that moved on oversized hands and feet. They existed in the wastelands many miles outside the farmlands. According to Mistabob, there was once a time when entire years went by not only without an incident, not even a single sighting. But that was years ago.
They remember Mistabob coming back.
They remember hearing stories how every once in a while, one of the creatures becoming bold, getting gutsy and crossing into the farmland, not the help themselves to a few stalks of corn, or mushy and apples, but to go into the inner ring of the farmstead where they kept the cattle at. At the very most, they made off with a single pig, never getting an opportunity to consume their catch as once the flare was sent off, the Eagles, assisted by the fighting corps, known as the Giants, as well as the trackers, the Redskins made short work of the creatures.
Those were the good ole days, days when the other senior would brag about how easy it was to take out these creatures, who in the beginning were physically no larger than an overfed teenager. Also the PSR members outnumbered the Brutes 10-to-1.Then the for some unknown reason, as the years crept by, the advantage in numbers suddenly lessened, while oddly enough, the Brutes kept getting bigger and faster. The next thing they knew, the farmstead kept repeatedly getting overrun, with them losing more and more cattle. Then what should have considered was the inevitable happened. With some of the members of the Cowboys and Giants out on another mission, the Eagles were sent out, Drew22G, MtHollyBill, KasonavaKing, and more importantly, one of their most beloved, Mistabob. None of the team that departed that day with Mistabob ever returned. One month later, the farmstead fell, as we were left with no choice but to abandon them and storage outposts and cut off communication with Espen. Again, PSR had no choice but to grow inside its walls, which didn't have anywhere near the space available to adequately sustain long term. They knew, if PSR had any chance for survival, PSR has to live once again outside the walls and successfully re-establish contact with Espen. The only way that can only happen if we defeat the one foe that has cost them dearly. They had to destroy the Brutes.
Chapter 2 - The City The town of PSR was established just over fifty years ago when a small group of senior Espen community leaders no longer liked the newest set of rules the current leaders of Espen were implementing. This sudden "robustness" meant to limit the civil rights of many life-long residents by implementing harsh penalties for simple transgressions as well as an unfair clean-water tax that appeared to be made up overnight. It didn't take long for over a hundred Espen residents to take the fifty-mile journey through the unexplored wilderness till they came across a vast clearing. This valley included a narrow, flowing river. Those leaders decided that this was the perfect location to establish a town. Initially, Espen was upset with its members departing. Still, after a few years, hostilities lessened, leading to an eventual trade route between the two cities. While those who remained at Espen felt betrayed by PRS's exit, most cherished the brotherhood between the cities. In the early days, after fenced perimeters of PSR were established, the closest forests were cut down to provide the necessary materials to build two-story dwellings near the city's entrance. Shortly after a more secure six-foot wall was erected around the exterior, a second wall was established to create a buffer area between the living quarters and the business shops. These' areas, later on, were called Districts. Finally, a third and final was established, which would segregate PSR's leaders from the rest of PSR's citizens. It was at that time when PSR finally had a capital. During PSR's first decade of existence, the only thing that separated PSR from the wilderness was that same wooden fence. That all changed on the day when several PSR members coming back from trade with Espen were attacked by beings that would later be called Brutes. While no one was seriously hurt, leadership at the time issued a new decree that the front wall be increased in size by three times the current height. After the walls were erected, at all times, at least two members from any bird clan had to staff them, as their keen eyesight would make the perfect first level of defense against any pending intruders. The housing in District 1 was simple, small two-story dwelling with a rear door that leads to an alleyway for waste disposal. This district contained 65% of PSR's residents. Vines were triple-woven together tightly and attached to the top of homes to act as means to pass notes back and forth between the residents. The housing in District 2 was more prominent, better furnished. Despite its size between twice that of District 3, only 20% of PSR residents lived there because of the growing fields present. District 3, the final district, is where the PSR capital resides and the city's officials. To walk through the doors in the wall that lead to District 3 made one feel like they were entering into a new town altogether. As few as they were in number, the houses were adequately spaced out, giving their owner plenty of space to walk around without leaving the confines of their abode. Living in District 3 meant you lived better, ate better, and we basically royalty. Finally, outside the walls of PSR existed a small handful of outposts, established shortly after District 1's wall. These outputs were initially established as a temporary home away from home to earlier PSR explorers, who needed respite or a safe, warm place to crash on their way to or from PSR. If not for these outposts, many a PSR member would have never made their way back to the city in one piece.
Chapter 3 - Return of Bema It was Lo, from the Seahawk clan, who was on top of the third wall when his eyes locked in on a figure so small, only a member of one of the bird clan would be able to possess the keen eyesight to pick up on anything that far away. Lo's eyes narrowed on the figure, "Is that Bema. Where the f---k is Juice?" Lo turned to the right, where his duty-mate EagleRob was at. "Do you see what I see?" EagleRob, being one of the veteran Eagles' clan, was one step ahead of Lo, "Yes, I see it. It's Bema. But where the f-ck is Juice?" EagleRob turned grabbed the large bell by his side, as Lo did the same thing, and both wall watchers immediately called out at the top of their lungs, "We've got a walker returning!" As Bema got closer, it was apparent that the veteran Patriot was favoring his left leg. By the time he got to the gate, he was met by two of the front-line warriors, Lord Cornelius and Bearcat. As soon as the front gate doors opened, Bema collapses into Bearcat's arms. "What happened out there?" Bearcat asked. "And by the way, where is Juice?" Bema's mouth moved for several seconds before any recognizable words came forth through from his lips. "Council… I've got to talk to the Council immediately!" "One just doesn't command an audience with the council, especially when you return from a failed mission." a grizzled voice emerges from the rear of the increased gathering. Bearcat and Lord Cornelius turned around, and parting through the crowd was BuckeysRevenge. He was District 1 official representative to the council. Although he repped District 1, his title allowed him to live in District 2's posher environment. He also seconded as an elder in both age and experience. "Great that you are here then," Bema says whispery. "Because you can tell them how important it is for me to talk with them." BuckeysRevenge stepped forward, bringing a closed right hand down on his left palm. "Did you make it to the outpost or not? That was your mission, was it not?" "I did! But instead of making me have to share my ordeal twice, how about you assist with setting me up with that audience. After Bema was allowed to recover his energy with a meal, he got his wounds attended by Dr. Jerry. Then, he was escorted into District 3, where the only four-story building of PSR, the Capitol Tower. Already standing awning him inside at the sizeable oval-shaped table sat Craigster, Lige, Bingerips, Recently, Becks, and Fleet. Off to the side of the table sat veteran dignitaries, which included Modo, Arenas, and Blue. "Welcome, Bema!" the booming voice coming from the man known as Fleet, the council chair, announced before sitting. Upon doing so, the rest of the council and visitors sat as well. "I understand you have a lot to share with us today." As his eyes still took in all the richness the council hall provided, Bema didn't respond right away. This was not Bema's first time inside the hall, but they had made such improvements since the last time it felt like a new dwelling altogether. "Bema?" Fleet said, this timeless welcoming than his initial greeting. "I believe you told BuckysRevenge that you were not in the business of repeating yourself. Trust me when I say,… neither am I!" Bema immediately swallowed hard, still savoring the boiled potato he ate before arriving, thinking how more than likely, that will be his only meal for the day. "I.. I'm sorry, Fleet, I allowed my mind to wander for a bit. As you and the council know, Juice and I were given a critical mission to determine if one of our old outposts was still present and determine if it still was stocked with supplies, supplies that could desperately help out in our current condition. On that initial front, I am proud to announce that Outpost Zeta not only still stands but is as stocked as the initial notes said it was. A brief smile comes over Bema's face as his mind takes him back to two days ago. "It had been so long since I've seen so many cured meats in salt storage. There were seeds… felts… arrows; you name it, it was all there. " "Did you indulge??" Councilmen Craigster says as he rises to his feet to address Bema. "Irrelevant," Modo protested, cutting an eye at the senior councilman. "IF he said no, how could anyone prove it?" "Councilman Craigster," Bema said sternly. "I implore you as hungry as I was then, me… nor Juice didn't partake in any food there because we never had a chance to. Just as we start taking a full itemization of what was left, we heard it. I… If we took a Redskin with us, or even Bearcat, we could have heard it sooner and could have gotten out quicker. By the time we got outside, there were three of them, 25 feet away and closing fast, those huge arms already bulging in anticipation of bludgeoning us. Juice wanted to make a stand inside the house cause the weapons cache was still secured; I agreed with him till I saw something that blew my mind. Just as they got close, the Brutes suddenly stood up on their hind legs, and-" "Bull f-cking sh-t!" Craigster suddenly exploded. "Everyone here knows that Brutes don't stand up for any significant matter of time. Why if one were to stand up at their current size, it would be over ten feet in height." "Try closer to thirteen," Bema added, which immediately caused a hushed stir around the crowd. "We grabbed the weapons and tried to engage, but there were soooo f-cking fast! When they suddenly split up, we tried to seize the advantage by stepping outside and taking the fight to the lone one before us. Just when we flanked it, it turned in our direction and came at us at full speed. It took two arrows in its neck and kept coming. With a quick pull back with its right arm, it took Juice out with one hit, its closed hand punching Juice in the chest, caving it in as I heard his breast and collarbone give way like the sound of old wood being folded in on itself. It immediately knelt over top of him and began to use those giant hands of his to tear away at Juice's entrails. I made a break for the horses, as I could hear the other Brutes circle back. By the time I got the horses, they were on top of me. While one Brute tearing into Juice's horse, I had a slight head start. In seconds it returned to all fours. The freaking thing caught up to my horse… yes, my horse before it got to a full gallop. It deadened my left leg with a punch that almost toppled my horse before it clipped my horse on its rear hindquarters. I give my old girl credit; she went on for two miles before it could go no further. I kept my head on a swivel the entire time, thinking I would see one of those things on my tail, but it never happened. If I weren't a Patriot…the bravest of the brave, I probably would have passed out over the fear alone. " "I say put this man behind bars!" Councilman Recently exploded as he stood to his feet. "Just wait a moment!" Modo protested. "You have no right to jump to any conclusions." Councilman Lige stood up, "I agree with Modo, we need to take our time here; gather all the evidence." Recently stares heavily in Lige's direction, and quickly concludes it will take more than an icy look to intimidate the veteran councilman. He then leans towards Bema from his position at the table, "First we have walking Brutes, and then he left a teammate behind. Methinks I've drawn a pretty accurate conclusion at what's going on here." "ENOUGH!" Fleet demanded, his words ricocheting off the walls of the Capital. "For those who are in doubt of Bema's story, there is ONE way to confirm his words." Councilwoman Becks stood up, "Fleet… you cannot mean…." "Yes, Becks. We have to do it this way!" Fleet quickly responded in her direction with a head nod before returning his attention to Bema. "B, you either go back out there or face confinement. This time you aren't going with just one man. I'm sending you with an Eagle for sight, a Giant for strength and a Cowboy for weapons support, and anyone else I can think of. Rest up, Bema, and for your sake, if you aren't telling the truth, I'll give special orders to one of your companions to execute you. You will never know who it will be. It could be EagleRob or Modo." And with a thunderous hammering of his gavel, the meeting was adjourned.
Chapter 4 - The Journey The following day, PSR members Bobdonson, Twist, BigBlue, Steggo, and Bearcat patiently wait outside the tiny home on the south side of District 1. Steggo looks up into the sky, allowing the sun to peer through his fingers before it hits the ground. "This is the time Fleet said for us to be here by, now it on him." BigBlue releases a heavy sigh, "I swear, if he's not out here shortly, I will kick his door down and drag his azz out myself. Why do we even need him anyway? We know where the outpost is at. Hell, with Steggo with us, we may even find a faster route." "There is no faster route," Steggo interjects. "All the routes were scouted out a long time ago by Redskins before me. Nevertheless, I possess other skills that will raise the chances of the success of this mission." "Besides," Bobdobson interrupts. "Bema has to be there because his recollection of what happened is on trial here. If what happened out there didn't occur the way he issued to the council, then he's not going to make it back here. I know Fleet put you in charge of this outing, but I personally think-" Bobdobson breaks off his words as the door to Bema's house suddenly opens. "Took you long enough," BigBlue says, as Bema yawns in the doorway of his home. "Bema looks over his escorts and shakes his head, "Great… the JV squad." This just goes to show how much they really wish to get to the bottom of this." As the others start to bicker about Bema's slight, Bema jumps on his horse and proceeds to move towards the main gate. As the massive gate at the wall opens up, Bema recalls a time in the past where huge crowds would proudly send off the town's gathering. Minutes later, they were out on the main road, knowing that many miles stood before PSR and the last outpost. During the long travel, no members of his escort talked to Bema outside of the occasional check-in, which made him wonder which of them were given the order to execute him. "I wish one of them would try to take me out," Bema thought. "I'm a god-damned Patriot. We don't go down easy. Unless, of course, ALL of them have been given the assignment." "Up ahead!" Bobdobson suddenly called out. "I can see the outpost!" Leaning down over his horse's head, Steggo tried his best to squint into the distance. "Damn you, Eagles, and your supervision, I can't see ish!" "It is just one of my great talents," Bodobson adds with a smile. "I saw it before him," Bearcat adds. "But you don't hear me bragging." "Sure you did," Bobdobson adds. "You were just going to keep it to yourself the entire time." BigBlue raises his hand for attention, "Eyes open, you two. You are our first line of defense. If there's a Brute approach, you will see it long before any of us." As the outpost comes into full view of the rest of the party, Bema can't help but feel a sense of dread wash over him. It was less than two days ago since he lost a close friend that he's known since childhood. "Status?" BigBlue asks back in the direction of Bobdobson and Bearcat. "Still nothing," Bearcat says. "And I mean absolutely nothing." "It's odd," Bobdobson adds. "If I can speak for Bearcat, I do not see even small rodents or birds in the area, but I did make out something that corroborates Bema's story. Along the side, I see the remains of Juice's horse." Bema looks into BigBlue's face, "See, I told you so!" Moments later, they arrive outside the door to the outpost. They leave the horses untied and as close to the front door as possible, so if they have to make a swift retreat, they don't have to waste time getting to them and free them. Once inside, those who have yet to see this particular outpost or haven't seen it in a long time marvel at the supplies present." With his head on a swivel, Bobdobson is taken back but what he sees. "It's as exactly like Fleet told us about Bema's testimony." "Again, I was telling the truth," Bema says pointedly. BigBlue begins to shake his head approvingly. "Alright, alright, I see your point. I see some seeds over there that would be great for our farm. So, Bobdobson, Bearcat, and Steggo, you guys stay outside with the horses. Let us know the SECOND the moment that you guys detect even the slightest disturbance. The three veterans PSR members step back out and immediately push their abilities to the maximum. Then, Bema, BigBlue, and Twist begin gathering supplies. The trio of the initial line of defense wasn't out there for very long before Steggo started feeling something in his gut. "Guys, I don't want you to think I'm a wimp or anything, but I'm telling I'm picking up something." Bobdobson and Bearcat begin to scan the area before them. "I've got nothing," Bearcat says. "And with my superior vision, neither do I," Bobdobson adds. Steggo leans inside the door of the outpost. "Speed it up, guys. I have a feeling we aren't alone out here." BigBlue turns to Twist, "Go join them, me and Bema will wrap it up from here." Twist steps outside and retrieves a giant crossbow. "New toy?" Bearcat asks. "You can say that," Twist says. "We don't need for such things inside the walls, but with this mission, I figured it would be necessary. These things pack a wallop. Trust me when I say if we nail a Brute with one of these, it's doubtful it will see the sunrise the next day." Bearcat looks around to where Bobdobson is standing. "Hey, Bob, why don't you make yourself useful and head around back to see if you see anything. Bobdobson begins to make his way around the back of the outpost. "And Bob…" Bobdobson immediately freezes in his tracks. "Try not to get beaten to death." "I'll make it my highest priority," Bobdobson replies before turning the corner out of view. The story will be later told that nobody knew when or how Bobdobson died. But when BigBlue and Bema emerged from the outpost, their bags filled with supplies, Bearcat called out to the Eagle, only to have silence return as his answer. "Bema, you and Bearcat start your back. We will stay back and look for Bobdobson," BigBlue announced before making his way around the back of the outpost. Soon as he turned the rear corner of the outpost, his eyes locked in on the bloody trail at his left before a meaty fist that seems to come down from the heavens themselves struck him to the ground. Twist saw Bobdobson's blood. He saw BigBlue fall. There was no point in him asking any questions. He immediately turned the corner and went instinctively down on one knee, avoiding the attack that would have decapitated him, and launched an arrow into the chest of the Brute that just tried to kill him. The Brute effortlessly plucked the arrow from its chest like it was a toothpick. "Damnit!" Twist said. "Going to need something heavier. BigBlue, guys, buy me some more time!" Steggo reached behind his back till his fingers grabbed firm the handle of the tomahawk he kept strapped back there and hurled it end over end at the monstrous Brute, just for it to duck to the side at the last second. In doing so, two powerful hands grabbed the Brute at its waist and took it to the ground. The face the Brute gave would be best described as a shock as it believed its second foe of the day was dead from his initial attack. "Thought I was a goner, didn't you?" BigBlue said, sporting a swollen knot at the top of his head, which was far from lethal while painful. "You CLEARLY haven't fought a Giant before. We don't go down that easily!" The Brute threw BigBlue off of him and positioned itself to begin the fight anew when a steel bolt entered into its left shoulder from the rear, making the huge man-beast cry out in a bestial scream. "Cowboys don't go down easy either, bud." With those words, Twist launches another bolt that misses the already hurt and lands square in the head of the Brute that followed up the first one. "There's more coming!" BigBlue screams back at his comrades. "Unless you have half a dozen more of those bolts, you and Steggo better go!" Steggo retrieved his tomahawk from the tree and holds it high in the air, "We ain't leaving you behind, BB!" Both NFCeast seizes hold of BigBlue and helps him stagger back around to the front of the outpost where their horses are waiting so they could make a hasty retreat. The trio round the front of the outpost, and their collective hearts fall to the ground as a Brute was standing over top of the crushed skulls of their horses, as it had already knelt to start feeding on the rest of the horses s finishing off the last of the remaining horses. With a Brute before them, and untold numbers at their back, the three brethren made back to the outpost, hoping that the same doors that had kept the outpost secure all this time would hold up long enough to withstands the Brutes long enough for reinforcements to come. Steggo made it a small distance before he was suddenly and soundlessly plucked away by the Brute who had eviscerated the horses. By the time Twist realized his rear was unguarded, another Brute hit him from the size. So soon as he hit the ground, he fired his last bolt, but it sailed just to the right of the Brute's head. The Brute ripped Twist off the ground with a steady hand and brought him up to his eye level. Twist leaned in closer and yelled so long that saliva showered the front of the Brutes neck and chin. "Do it!" The Brute did. Twist's headless body laid on the ground, twitching uncontrollably until even that automatic response ceased. BigBlue knew the others were goners, but the door to the outpost was almost in reach. "If I can last for a more-" BigBlue cut off his own words as the door from the outpost opened from inside, revealing a Brute so large that it had to get down on both knees to duck under the large doorway. BigBlue turns to run away, only to make it less than two feet as strong hands grabbed him from both sides, lifting him high into the air. BigBlue tapped into the strength he could muster to try to break his foe's grip, but it was all for naught. BigBlue looks up towards the Brutes head, just to see his world become darker due to his initial entryway into its cavernous mouth. Then, with one quick snap of its mighty jaws, BigBlue's head is crushed. Seconds later, the rest of BigBlue's body followed suit.
Chapter 5 - licking wounds Bema didn't remember getting back to PSR. He didn't remember EagleRob and Lo announcing incoming riders, as they let off a red smoke signal flair upon seeing his approach, "Red flares?" He recalls thinking. "That means a threat of danger. So why would they do that?" That's when Bema remembered he wasn't alone, but with several other riders, kids, teens he met on his way back here after Bearcat fell. How did Bearcat die? So many things were a fog to Bema right now. Then just that quick, is memory started coming back in spurts. He remembers Bearcat being attacked by Brutes that fell upon them by overhead trees, crumbling the Falcon's horse. Then these kids came out of nowhere, began waving him over to a nearby cave, whose entrance was so narrow he barely fit. The pursuing Brutes tried to follow but were too large to fit through the narrow crevices of the cage. Inside there were a total of seven juvenile humans, all living in conditions that were one step above squalor. While things were tight inside of PSR, they were all living like kings compared to these people. They shared what little they had with Bema, who in turn offered them residence inside the walls of PSR. They were hesitant, having known no other life outside of living on the land. Still, their oldest one, a young adult by the name of Nas, convinced the teens that it was a good idea since the night beasts (what they called the Brutes) were getting more and more aggressive. It took Bema a moment to realize that the only reported attacks of the Brutes all seem to come into the evening. He never thought for a moment that they didn't attack during the day. With his horse appearing devoured, Bema suggested the group leave with everything they could carry, which clearly didn't look like much. If they were lucky, they'd make it back to PSR before the sunset. They weren't lucky. As the sun started to set, the youth amongst their group became restless and lethargic from the long journey by foot and knowing what it meant to be caught out in the open as the sunset. "We are sitting ducks," Nas said, his head on a swivel." Any Night Beast out there can see us from miles." "There she is!" Bema darn near squealed as the walls of PSR started to rise over the horizon, which wasn't a moment too soon as the howls of the Brutes could be heard off in the distance from their rear. "MOVE!" Bema commanded as he immediately pushed his brisk walk into an all-out sprint. He felt for his new companions, as they lacked the proper footwear to engage the rugged terrain as he did. But what the youth lacked in traveling boots, they more than made up for in energy reserves. In seconds, not only did they catch him, but they quickly managed to surpass him. Bema had gone from first to worst in a matter of moments. He looked up at the walls and hopped that EagleRob and Lo's eyes were as good as they bragged they were. When he saw the red smoke signals rise high in the air, he knew his prayers were answered. If luck would be on his side tonight, he might actually see the next day. But as luck would have it, Bema's lack of concentration had him miss Nas's last-second warning. A Brute had overtaken him and hit him with such tremendous force that it knocked him out cold. When he awoke, he was inside the walls but surrounded by the senior level of PSR's defense, made up of Patriots and Cowboys. They all had their most formidable weapons trained on him and his new companions. Now that he was home, he had wished he too had perished.
Chapter 6 An emergency session of the council was put forth, as Recently and Craigster were threatening to have Bema and the new visitors executed on the spot. Craigster shouted so loud in front of him that saliva nearly gave Bema a second shower. "You stand before us a second time in less than three days as the only survivor of two expeditions. You are either incredibly unlucky or incredibly naïve to think we'd believe anything you have to say here! And to add insult to injury, you bring strangers to our walls? If it weren't for the quick actions of EagleRob and Lo, you and your new accomplishes would have died on the doorstops. Now give us a reason why we don't kill you all right on the spot?" "No… please," Bema protested. "We need to go back out there with more than just a few guys. Twist was out there unprepared cause he didn't believe me. Please give me another Cowboy! Please give me another Giant and one of my fellow Patriots. Give me EagleRob, and Lo! Give me a quality team, and I can provide you with quality results! "May I speak?" the new visitor name Nas spoke softly. "You have no say here!" Craigster admonished. "You aren't even a PSR member, so keep your damn mouth shut!" Modo stood up, properly raising his hand to address his turn to speak, "But he should, because he too is on trial here." "So what!" Craigster responded. "He and their others are equally tied to Bema's fate!" "Which is all the more reason why he should get a proper audience," Modo added. "Let him speak," Fleet said, his voice booming throughout the room. Nas looked up towards Fleet, "Thank you," and then refocused his attention back towards the rest of the council. "What your Bema has stated is correct. There used to be more of us, till it wasn't. The Night Beasts, what you call Brutes, have taken out so many of our own, we are nearing extinction. Everyone you see with me our family. Saska and Kindred are brothers, while the rest are first cousins, including our only female, Enigma. She is our only hope for our clan not to die off. When we're near our last reserves when we saw Bema, and the one you called Bearcat, who sadly fell." Lige stood to address Nas, "How have you lived out there all these years?" "Our forefathers lived in a small village many days ride from here. But the Brutes destroyed it, making us flee this way. We've been raiding what you guys called outposts," Nas responded. Craigster immediately stood back up, "I thought you said Outpost 4 was fully stocked?" "If you are referring to the most wayward outputs, we avoided that location. It is literally in the heartland of the Brutes. Before the outposts, we had gotten by raiding a city that looked like yours but was bigger." Immediately Craigster leaped to his feet, "You gained access to Espen… unlikely! Our brethren wouldn't have allowed you access." "I'm sorry," Nas said in a low voice, his gaze momentarily avoiding direct contact with the council. "But if you are referring to the large city two days ride from here, there was no one there to deny us access or otherwise. On the contrary, the city is totally abandoned. It appears as though the Brutes took it apart a long time ago, before me being a youngling." "IMPOSSIBLE!" Becks said passionately as she stood up." There were hundreds of people there when we left. Back then, the Brutes numbers were too low to have caused such devastation." Nas pounded the table with his right index finger, "I'm tellin' you what I've seen with my own eyes." A low grumble traversed its way through the council, their faces becoming saddened at the news. Although PSR had no contact with Espen for over a decade, the thought was that as long as the father city existed, they wouldn't be alone in the world. Hesitantly, the youthful visitor by the name of Morkim stood up, "Listen… we can escort you to your old city." "We know the way to our ancestral home!" Becks pointed out. "I know that, but we can take you on a route that, for the most part, avoids the Brutes," Morkim added. Another series of grumbles washes through the council. Finally, Lige stands up and faces Bema's group. "If your word is bond, and you can safely escort us back to Espen, we will grant you full asylum to PSR." BuckysRevenge stood up from the delates table, "You have no right to make such a unilateral decision!" "And you have NO RIGHT to directly address me during a session!" Lige immediately shot back. After hearing no further rebuttal, he faces of the new visitors immediately light up in happiness. Fleet clears his throat loud enough to gather the attention of the new visitors, "Before you break out into hugs and kisses, know this… you won't be escorting senior members of the council, at least not all of us. Instead, you will be escorting our most expert warriors. If this is some sort of double-crossing, where you lead us back to Espen, and the rest of your clan is held up, you will be executed on the spot, youthful or naw. And don't think we are stupid enough to let you all go at once. Half of you will make this expedition, and the rest will be held here under armed guard. If our team doesn't return in, say, in five to six days, this so-called 'last clan' of yours will be done for." With three hard gavel strikes, Fleet signals the end of the council meeting. Bema looks over in Nas' direction, "I hope you know what you are doing because I'm pretty sure my fate is also tied to yours."
Chapter 7: Second Journey At first light, PSR's finest met at the front interior entrance of District 1. EagleRob, Lo, 610, BigDaddyTorr, E-Nice, MGH, Cmart, and Osi stood ready and poised to begin the mission. Unfortunately, gone from the gathering was the one man who's had back-to-back meetings with the Brutes. As he predicted, Bema, with Dr. Jerry by his side, was on a stringent house arrest, along with Enigmar, Saska, Jancey, and MO. However, Fleet decided to forgo temporary imprisonment, just in case they were telling the truth; throwing them in jail would be a poor way to start a relationship. Furthermore, Fleet decides by keeping Enigmar and splitting the brothers, it lessened the chances of any funny business by the prospective prospects. Joining EagleRob and the others were Nas, Morkim, and Jindred. As soon as the visitors were brought out, E-Nice stood before the gathering, "Just to be clear, I'm running point here, which to you new folk means we don't sh|t unless I say drop trou! Is that understood?"
Not fully understanding the point being made, Nas's group looked at one another and just shook their head in agreement anyway, seeing as though they had little choice in the matter. A two-horse-drawn enclosed cart was brought out to the front. Alice looked towards it, then averted his gaze towards Nas and friends. "Inside, ladies." Nas and his group obliged. Before they began their travel, Councilman Craigster and BigDaddyTorrr, who had his arrowgun already unholstered, sat opposite them. BigDaddyTorr remained perfectly still, not speaking a single word. Instead, he just looked at them intently, like a cat does a cornered mouse he's about to attack. "We're off!" E-Nice commands from the front. The large doors of PSR open, and the group makes their way.
The first half a day's travel goes without incident as the entourage follows Morkim's obscure route to Espen. As complex it was for E-Nice to take the advice from this stranger, so far, his route remained true. Not at any point did any of the PSR members see or detect any brutes in the area. As the sun began to set on the first full day, Councilmen Craigster urged E-Nice to make camp for the nearest outpost, which happened to be Outpost 3. Just as the sun set under the distant horizon, leaving the sky a dark orange, the PSR members were safely inside. At the same time, their horses and cart were safely tucked away inside Westin's attached barn. After the group settles in and begins to partake in the snacks they brought with them, they each take in the fact that this has been this far away from PSR. "I have a question," MGH bluntly states. "Why aren't we dead?" "Because of me," Morkim says, not hiding the pride in his response. "Face it, what we've said is true. If you guys had tried to do this on your own, more than half, or possibly all of you would be dead by now." "You don't know that," 610 states as he chopped down hard on the apple that he just recently retrieved from his outer pocket. "As mentioned before, we left, you are dealing with PSR's finest. If the same number of Brutes who've bested Bema tried to pull that on us, it would be their last day alive." Morkim retreated within himself on 610's response. But, at the same time, Nas seized it as an opportunity for a follow-up, "Perhaps, but you have to admit, judging by everything Bema told me, you guys hadn't had a full victory in almost an entire generation." Several present-party members immediately stood from their seats as they take offense to Nas's word. "Are you just trying to get your azz kicked," EagleRob states, flexing his arms at the shoulder. "Because if you need a demonstration of what we are about, I'm pretty sure we can take care of that for you." Nas waved off at his hands dismissively, "That won't be necessary." "Everyone sit!: E-Nice commanded. "It's been a long day, and nerves are undoubtedly frayed. However, don't lose your cool at this point because we still have a full day's journey ahead of us." As they all began to settle back down, BigDaddyTorr stealthily walked up to the recruits, "I'd watch my tongue around my friends. Like 610 days, you really don't know what you are dealing with. It would be a shame if anything happened to you guys en route." "You need us!" Nas said through gritted teeth. "Perhaps, but don't act like Espen is some magical place we haven't been before. This is our outposts… we know the way!" "True, but you don't know the way as we do," Morkim added. BigDaddyTorr begins to turn to walk away but suddenly pauses, "You do realize your usefulness is immediately cut in half the minute we get to Espen, right? I mean, we have Cmart, who is a Redskin. Every twist and turn is going to his memory. So again… drop the arrogance." And with that, BigDaddyTorr finally walks away. When the sun rose the following day, the entire contingent was happy that they lasted the night without incident. Nas and the others had already packed their cart and were eager to begin the next phase of their journey. "C'mon guys, let's get an early start so we can get to your Espen by nightfall." 610 and BigDaddyTorr glance at one another as if to say, "What happened to the pricks from last night?" Minutes later, they were on their way, passing many visual landmarks that many thought they'd never set eyes upon again. Then, many uneventful hours later, they look down upon the approaching valley, their set eyes upon walls of Espen. Craigster stood up inside the covered cart, his eyes squinting into the distance, "You see! The walls are still intact! The city's fine." 610 began shaking his head woefully before looking over towards Lo, "If he only had our vision." Lo nods his head in agreement, "Well, he'll see the truth soon enough." Minutes later, they arrive and can see the true nature of Espen city. While the walls were indeed still intact, but the main doors were not secure. Craigster was eager to be the first one through the doors, and soon as he entered, he collapsed to the ground, "My city… my birth city. What happened???" As the others filled in, some of who saw Espen for the first time, they couldn't believe the devastation that existed before them. PSR was built off a similar blueprint as Espen, which means there should have been rows upon rows of residential dwellings until the secondary wall separated the classes. Instead, half the homes in the immediate area were in shambles, some being completely burned to the ground. They traveled onward, trying their best to focus more on the collateral damage and less on the skeletons that literally the walkways or draped outside of second-story windows. When they got to the second wall, they realized that those doors were undamaged, and the doors were unsecured. Inside the second area, where the homes were more considerable, fancier, they witnessed the same level of destruction and decay. In Espen, like in PSR, the livestock pens and agriculture area was kept in the second area, although most of the workers came first, third class. The pens were all duet, whereas the fields were overgrown with a mix-mash of all types of vegetables that hadn't been cultivated in years. Finally, they arrived at the last wall, which separated the first two classes from Espen royalty. The doors leading to that area may have been locked at some point, but they were broken down as of today. "Oh, Boiler," Craigster says somberly. "How did you live out your last days? Did you you you cower in fear under your velvet-topped table, or did you meet the threat head-on with the rest of Patriot security?" 610 pulled E-Nice over to the side, "What do you think happened here?" Resting his chin into his hand, E-Nice seemed to dig for an answer that he found difficulty concluding too. "I can answer that question for you," MGH interjected upon his approach. When MGH saw 610 readying to ask how he picked up on his private words, he pointed to his ears, "Panther hearing, remember?" While I lack the full evidence to prove it, it appears that is the first two walls weren't forcibly breached, only these were." "So the attack came from within? Some sort of civil war?" MGH pointed at his nose, "This whole area reeks of the way Bema smells, i.e., the Brutes. They were here, and I do mean everywhere." "How many you think?" Alice asks. Cmart comes over to join the gathering. "While I lack MGH's acute hearing, I did pick up enough. I stopped counting at twenty footprints that were not human-size. I bet you if I were to do a full breakdown of this area, I'd come up with twice that." "Forty Brutes inside of Espen," 610 said. "They didn't have a chance. I would still like to know who let them in since it is clear the front doors weren't forcibly breached." "Given the circumstances, we'll never know," E-Nice says before lowering his words at the approach of Craigster. "What have you guys come up with so far?" Craigster demands. "Speculation," E-Nice quickly responds. "We'll need more time." "You have till first light, then I want to get out of here," Craigster states bluntly. "We'll bring back without whatever we can, but by the looks of things, it's not much left." "Depends upon your point of view," Lo states. "Exactly!" EagleRob added. "What do you mean?" Craigster responds. Lo opens up his arms around him, 'Look around! You have a city almost three times PSR." "This is a dead city!" Craigster responds. "To live here now-" "We show honor to our ancestral home!" EagleRob says. "We are living on top of each other in the first two classes. Perhaps you are used to living decently in first class, but the rest of us don't have it so easily." "Watch your tongue, Eagle!" Craigster says. E-Nice slowly takes a step forward, his hand on his bolt caster. EagleRob took a step back, his palms raised in a sign to placate acknowledgment. "I'm just saying the fields alone are nearly four times of what we have present. And with an area for livestock, we can start having meat again." Craigster calms down before approaching EagleRob. "Despite your disrespect, your words carry some merit. I'll bring it to the council's attention. Perhaps they will see your point as being a valid one. Craigster then walks over to Nas and Morkim, placing a hand on Nas's shoulder, "We treated you guys with suspicion and contempt, and all you've done is come through for us. Assuming all goes well on the return trip, I'll make sure I put in a good word to the council." Night came, and the PSR contingent set up in Espen's council district behind the third wall. Osi and BigDaddTorr had first shift duty. It was BigDaddyTorr who just happened to come across Nas and Morkim walking along the interior of first class. BigDaddyTorr would have done anything to have MGH's ears right now. "Hey, you too! How about you turn in for the night inside the citadel." Nas turns around quickly on BigDaddyTorr, "Look! You aren't in charge of us! Why don't you go back to man the walls!" "Excuse me?" BigDaddyTorr says, his head hovering near his weapon. Morkim and Nas begin to spread out as they slowly approach them. "These young toughs are trying to flank me!" BigDaddyTorr thought."How am I going to explain to Craigster how I had to kill these two punks." Then, just as BigDaddyTorr was about to engage, he looked past Morkim and Nas and saw Osi quickly approaching. "Hey, what's go on here?" Osi asked. "Great!" Morkim sighed dismissively. "Another one!" Osi grabbed Morkim by the shoulder, and no matter how much Morkim fought, he couldn't break his grip. "When a Giant grabs a hold of you, you don't move till we decide otherwise!" Osi says before releasing Morkim with a shove. "I think you guys need to sleep off with whatever's eating at you. Return to the citadel." Nas turns to face, Osi, "We don't have to-" "It wasn't a request," BigDaddyTorr says. "Neither one of us will be starting it again." Without any more protest, the two newcomers storm off back towards the citadel. After they are gone, BigDaddyTorr gets within earshot of Osi, "This is the second night in a row these guyshave gotten loose with the lips. So we are going to have to keep an eye on them."
The next morning, the PSR contingent exit Espen, taking with them as much as their covered cart could hold. Inside the cart, with goods and other various items rising to his upper shin, Nas leans in towards BigDaddyTorr, “I’d like to say sorry about last night. Me and Morkim get nervous at night. We are used to sleeping in tighter, more secured areas. Being out in the open... especially at night is unnerving.” “Are we going to expect the same behavior tonight?” BigDaddyTorr asks. “No, we should have gotten used to it by then,” Morkim replies reassuringly. They began their travels, having nothing occur out of the unordinary as Outpost 3 appears into focus to Lo way before any of the avians. After getting inside the outpost perimeter fencing, they disembark from their horses and begin to rest their road-weary bodies; Craigster was the first one to approach the outpost’s weathered main doors. With his hand inches from opening said doors, he was immediately snatched away from the door by MGH. “We need to go!” MGH says, quickly tapping his nose twice. BigDaddyTorr and Eunice go for their bolt weapons, while Smart and Osi go for their blades. “Osi… the door,” Eunice says to the resident Giant member. Osi goes to pull on the door, but before it fully opens, the door explodes outward as a Brute with hands the size of fruit baskets steps from under the doorway. The door’s detonation takes Osi to his feet, which was suitable for the armed co-patriots behind him who unleashed a series of arrows and bolts into the body of the Brute, who immediately cries out in pain, its giant fist desperately tries to tear away at the impact areas of the attacks. Osi was on his feet and began to hammer away at the Brute, his blows taking his injured foe to the ground. Smart tosses Osi his ax, who caught it at its hilt and was seconds from delivering a decapitation to the Brutes neck, when a second Brute emerged from the doorway, shattering the top of the doorway’s frame into splinters. The Brute bellowed an unearthly scream before making its way towards Osi when five darts thrown by Lo thudded into his left arm. The Brutes’ left arm immediately flopped down to the left side of its body, now rendered useless by the nerves leading to said arm is being severed. E-Nice looks over towards the Eagle clan, “EagleRob… 610… you’re up!” The two Eagle members, who had donned their large capes before leaving PSR, leaped high in the air extending their cloaks, which catches the wind, taking them even higher in the air. At their highest point, both men reveal cylindrical launchers with anchored metallic spearheads sticking out. With thumb-triggered releases, the spearheads explode from their launchers, criss-crossing each other, landing into the walls behind the Brute. No one knows if the Brutes carry any real intelligence, but if they did, they and the untrained eye would assume that the errant shots by EagleRob and 610 were done by accident. Their conclusion would be further from the truth as with a flick of the same button, tethered footholds retract, pulling EagleRob and 610 towards the wall at near blinding spend. Since their lines crossed right before the Brute, it never realized that at the last moment, both Eagles would withdraw their swords, catching the day’s last vestiges of sunlight upon their downward strokes. By the time EagleRob and 610 made safe contact with the wall, both of the Brutes’ arms had been severed, while its neck was dangling by what was left of its spinal column. The Brute stood there motionless, armless, before eventually toppling over face-first. BigDaddyTorr turned toward a stunned Nas and Morkim, “THIS is why we are the best and why prepared. We have nothing to fear from the Brutes. We’ve lived too long cowering behind our walls while our ancestral home and outposts have fallen. So after we get back to PSR, we are going to come back out here and retake this entire region.” “Hey, guys…. “ MGH calls out from inside, his voice low and measured. “You’re going to want to see this!” Others quickly assemble inside, with Lo being the last one to enter. “Well, well, at least I’m no longer the only non-Eagle amongst the avians.” Laying on a table bloody, battered, and missing an arm, but still alive laid BearCat. The veteran PSR member coughs several times as he struggles to look in their direction, “What took you guys so long? They were about to start on my other arm next.”
When the traveling party finally arrived outside the walls of PSR, green signal flairs were released, along with a chorus of bells and light fireworks. It was a momentous affair to those on the inside of the wall, making their way to the front gate. "I can't believe they're back!" SimpleSandwhichman says. "I heard they didn't even lose anyone," celebrates CoC. "I heard that they even brought back Bearcat!" announces TitiumTree. "Plus, I heard they killed not one, but TWO Brutes!" By the time they make it inside the last wall, Fleet and the rest of the council met with them outside, congratulating them upon their arrival. Bearcat was immediately taken to Dr. Jerry, who woefully shook her head for patching up. At the same time, the rest of PSR planned a feast to welcome back the expedition and celebrate the lives of those lost at Espen. During the ceremony, Fleet took a moment to personally thank every one of the newcomers for informing them about Espen and giving them multiple safe routes to navigate between the outposts. For their help, coupled with the council's earlier suspicions, Nas's group were each awarded their own home, which they graciously accepted. Nas stood up, holding his drink high in the air, "We've never lived in a real community before, and the only family we've only known is each other. Now… having a rough over our heads that doesn't allow water when it rains… is something we will always be grateful for. Craigster suddenly stood up, holding his own cup high into the air, "Enough with the pleasantries... LET'S DRINK!" A cart was suddenly brought out, which displayed the council's private stock. "We had been saving this for a special occasion. I can't think of anything more special than this. The possibility of moving back to Espen…" "It's not a done deal yet," Becks states. "That being said, we definitely could use the room, especially having our fields closer to home." Fleet is about to open his mouth, but instead, his eyes just narrow in deep thought. Becks notices his concerns and saddles up next to him. "Penny, for your thoughts?" Fleet looks around before continuing, ensuring that the words he is about to share are privy to Becks' ear only, "I don't know, I'm still a bit troubled by Craigster's report." "You talking about the damage to Espen?" "I'm talking about that lack of damage from Espen's exterior. How did the Brutes attack if the front walls weren't compromised?" A smile came over Becks' face, "They flew in?" Fleet reaches over and removes Becks' wine away from within her reach, leaving a thin, purplish streak behind. "Okay, it would appear somebody has had too much of the good stuff." As the gathering broke apart, everyone slowly migrated back to their living quarters, except Osi, who had guard duty for District 1. Every hour on the hour, he'd do a walkthrough of the area, then report back to whatever avian clan was manning the top of the walls. Even though he had indulged himself at the gathering, just as much as everyone else, he was fine for doing his duties that night. Nothing out of the ordinary occurred till Osi saw someone out the corner of his eye duck down a narrow alleyway. Osi's impression that this person's sudden movement was that they were trying to avoid him. Giants were far from fast, but Osi made it down the street quick enough to see the figure duck back down a connecting adjacent alleyway. "Son-of-a-b-" Osi cursed to himself. "Somebody's had too many tonight and are now trying to play with me. Better pick them up and let them sleep it off in lockup." Instead of following in the same footpaths, Osi went back the way he came, hoping he'd lap back around and catch the person peeking around the corner, awaiting him for the next game of cat and mouse. Osi's plan worked as he slowly approached a small figure at the end of the alleyway, looking in the opposite direction in which Osi came. With a quick grab of the left tricep, Osi grabbed his suspect, "GOTCHA!" The individual he grabbed quickly wheeled on Osi, coming face to face, startling him so bad he almost fell over. Osi leaned closer, squinting his eyes into the dimly lit alleyway, until finally, a face of recognition washes over him, "You? You really shouldn't be out here, especially this late." These would become Osi's last words, as what happened to him next occurred so quickly, he never had a chance to scream out. Osi's mouth was covered before his spinal column was severed in three places, instantly paralyzing his entire body. If this were a typical night, somebody would have seen his body get carried off. But because of the earlier rivalry, the streets of District 1 were empty, thus Osi's initial disappearance would go unnoticed.
It took almost a full day for the citizens of PSR to become fully aware that Osi was missing. Finally, it was Modo who brought it to E-Nice’s attention when the cocky, often arrogant veteran Giant didn't show up for dinner. As he and E-Nice walked Osi's security route, the Patriot elite slowly shook his head, "Numerous witnesses said he was drinking very heavily last night."
Immediately taking offense at Enice's accusation Modo closed the distance to E-Nice, "We're Giants. We tolerate our alcohol better than anyone. Our metabolism quickly burns up everything. By the time he would have started his patrol, he would have been fine."
"Well… there aren't many places he could be," E-Nice said, "It's not like he's avian and has to man the top of the walls. Shoot, we all remember that time a drunken Lo took a header. But-”
"But Lo's a Seahawk, not a Giant," Modo hastily points out. "I fail to see what that has to do with it since my clan nor yours goes near the top of the walls. It's not like him, nor anyone else to go missing like this."
E-Nice takes a moment to survey their surroundings before, placing a hand on his left shoulder, before the veteran Giant shrugs it off, "Tell you what keep this between you and me, for now."
"You want me to help you cover this up?"
"No, don't think of this is as a cover-up. Think of it as under investigation. Because if it's our worst-case scenario, then we don't need to cause a panic."
Modo turns and walks away, making it several steps before pausing. "And if someone else goes missing while you are secretly investigating, will you take the blame for not alerting the rest of PSR that we have a killer amongst us?"
"Then I guess I'll have to stand in front of the council."
"And I will help testify against you."
"It is within your right to do so."
Later that same night, Modo, whose residence resided in District 2, because of his duties as a Giant to assist with the security of that sector, tossed, in turn, all night in the dark, his mind racing over the answers or lack thereof of Osi. Just when he was seconds from drifting back off, the floorboards outside his bedroom hallway began to creak. As a Giant, Modo didn't possess any secondary abilities that would have allowed him to sense or detect any presence near him. That being said, as a Giant, his strength and near invulnerability more than made up for that shortcoming. Modo stepped into the hallway and was immediately thrown into a nightmare of violence and chaos. Punches, kicks, and random hot phalanges were attempting to pry their way into his eye cavities as Modo tried his best to catch his breath as every sensory organ in his body registered pain. In the darkened hallway, the only flashes of light he saw were the starbursts going off into his vision as repeated blows came down on him, taking him closer and closer to a sleep he knew he'd never wake up from.
"The he|| with this," Modo screamed in his head, as he reached out with both his hands and grabbed anything he could get his hands on. With all the might he possessed charges forward, taking himself and one of his invisible foes out of the window leading out the rear of his house, and down to the alleyway below. But, unfortunately, by the time Modo recovered, his assailant had scampered away into the night.
Several hundred feet away, BigDaddyTorr did not have Modo's struggles with rest, as he had already been under the sandman's touch for several hours. In his darkened bedroom, he dreamed the dreams of all Cowboys, living out in the open, running and gunning. He was immediately brought out of his slumber when a firm hand suddenly collapsed down over his mouth, putting so much pressure upon his body that his bed frame started to groan from the weight. This pressure was so unbelievably intense that tears began to well up in BigDaddyTorr's eyes, a fact that he'd later omit if those very same eyes see the light on the next day. BigDaddyTorr gripped the arm of his unknown foe, and he almost recoiled how hot the flesh was to the touch. Immediately his opponent used its free hand to pin BigDaddyTorr's arm to the right side of his bed. BigDaddyTorr knew that as a Cowboy, his physical strength paled in comparison comparison to a Giant, a Steeler, or even a Redskin. That being said, he was still a large man, so he found it challenging to grasp how easily he was being manhandled. His attacker's hand that was initially covered just his mouth maneuvered itself to cover his nasal passageways.
"I can't believe this ish!” he cried in his head. “I'm going to die in one of the worse ways possible, without even giving off a shot."
Suddenly the sky outside his bedroom went off with a red burst of light, as emergency flares warning of danger were sent off throughout PSR. While this momentary shower of light wasn't enough to see the face of his foe, it did momentarily distract them, allowing BigDaddyTorr enough leverage to reach out with his left hand and secure his boltcaster. Through gritted teeth, BigDaddyTorr took aim, "You should have secured my shooting arm, you son of a-"
BigDaddyTorr's bolt exploded through the air, landing into its victim with a dull 'thunk.' BigDaddyTorr's attacker cried out in agony before its footfalls disappeared from his room and into his hallway. BigDaddyTorr leaped from his bed, his mouth and lips still stinging from pain to the point where they almost felt numb, and ran to his front window, "BROTHERS… TO ARMS!!!"
Not far from BigDaddyTorr’s home, Cmart, too had a rough night trying to sleep. He went to his kitchen, candle in hand, and used his hand crank to create a negative vacuum on the underground well, which produced him a full glass of water. Cmart was on his way back upstairs when he received a knock at his back door. Cmart paused, thinking to himself why someone would come to his back door in the middle of the night. But, his fears were quickly dashed when the midnight guest announced himself.
"Hey Cmart, it's EagleRob… let me in. Something is going on in PSR!"
Cmart approached the door and was seconds from opening the door when his heightened Redskin senses kicked in. To Cmart, nothing about the individual on the other side of the door told him that was Eaglerob. Not his smell. Not his voice. Not even his entire aura. Cmart backed away from the door, reaching for the tomahawk he hung from his kitchen wall.
"Cmart? Come on, man, let me in. Some events happened tonight that I have to update you on.”
Cmart was one of PSR’s bravest, but when the figure on the other side of the door began shaking the door latch, he could feel a tingle starting to go down his spine.
Gripping his tomahawk tight in his right hand till his knuckles whitened he whispered, "C'mon in, I promise you won't leave the same way you enter." He had backed himself back far enough to get maximum torque on his throw. With his fake comrade on the back door, Cmart senses suddenly go into high gear as he detects another presence in his house. Cmart turned around, and immediately his candle is slapped from his grip, detonating against the adjacent wall.
"YOU SHOULD HAVE GONE FOR THE AXE!!!" Cmart yells before bringing the axe down with all his might. Cmart's downward blow would have easily killed anything it contacted. Unfortunately, his attack was thwarted when his attacking wrist was seized and quickly broken in an inferno-like embrace. Cmart hit the floor in agony, hearing the blade of his axe get dragged off the floor. "They are going to kill me with my own weapon… what a way to go."
Just when Cmart thought his life was seconds from ending, he saw the red flares go off outside the window of his home, shortly followed by BigDaddyTorr's plea, "Brothers… to arms!"
Cmart's axe hit the floor, embedding itself several inches into the old wood near his thigh. Cmart stumbled to his feet, quickly lighting another candle with his one good arm. Still, by the time he provided adequate illumination to his surroundings, his attackers, both inside and outside, were gone.
The following day the council met in an emergency session, allowing anyone who wished to be present audience inside council chambers. Fleet stood up, shaking his head slowly, "I don't know where to begin, but by now, you are all aware of what has happened last night and the night before."
"Night before?" Dr. Jerry asked after raising her hand." I heard about last night attacks, but something else happened before that."
Fleet momentarily lowered his head, avoiding direct contact with Dr. Jerry. "It would appear that Osi went missing during his patrol. There are signs of a minor scuffle, but we've yet to conclude his whereabouts."
BigDaddyTorr raised his hand to speak, "Why weren’t we informed? We could have done something. But, instead, we weren't prepared even a little bit."
BuckysRevenge stood up next, "E-nice believed he could do his investigation better without alerting the public."
"And how did that all work out?" TitiumTree stated, without showing the proper courtesy of standing.
"Okay, things are getting out of hand," Becks said. "Some of you are showing borderline disrespect."
Fleet glared at Nas coldly, finally releasing a heavy and elongated sigh, "I'm sorry Nas, but all this occurred the minute you and your group showed up. You have to look at it from our point of view. We've NEVER had anywhere near the level of violence over the last two nights. And I can't help but to think-"
"I can't believe this!" Nas says, exploding from his seat. "Once again, we are regarded with speculation. We will not stand for it!"
"You don't have a choice!" Craigster said after standing up. "I suggest the immediate arrest of Nas and his crew."
Without any hesitation, every guardsmen present took immediate action and escorted Nas' flock from the waiting area.
"I don't like this,” Lo said to 610.
"It's fine by me, 610 said with a chuckle. "Like mentioned by the council, this all started as soon as these guys got here."
Lo stood up to exit the council area, "But don't you see, if they performed these attacks, why show up for this when they had to know they would be fingered for this."
610 stood to join his avian comrade, "All that means is that they are stupid. With this measure, I will definately sleep better tonight. Besides, they are lucky they didn't come after me. I would have killed several of them for their efforts."
As the sun set on PSR, the usual single-man patrol was now bumped up to three. Although Nas's crew was held overnight in District #1's holding pen, Fleet felt it would be better to beef up patrols… just in case the obvious really wasn't as apparent as he thought. So it was 610, TitiumTree, and Lord Cornelius who walked not only the grounds of District #3 but walked through the secured walls of District 2 and 1. As the trio walked past each house, most of them still had their candlelights in their bedroom windows, their concerns still motivating them the possibility that a possible attack was imminent.
The night was calm till they saw a lone figure trying their best to stay just ahead of them. The only thing that the person did not know is that 610 had made him already. So the figure tried to duck down a narrow alleyway, only to find the barrel of TitiumTree's bolcaster pointing at his head.
TitiumTree's eyes squinted in the darkness before him, "Bema?" What are you doing out here? You okay?"
The three patrolmen looked over Bema, who had recently been released out of Dr. Jerry's care. The veteran PSR member was sweating profusely from all over his body.
"I'm fine, just… don't feel so well," Bema responded.
"Well, you look like ish," 610 says. "You really shouldn't be out here like this. Need an escort back home?"
"No, that won't be necessary. Trust me, guys, I'll be fine."
Patrol let the veteran PSR go home alone. The only problem is, Bema didn't return home. Instead, he went to BearCat's house. BearCat had been released from Dr. Jerry that morning, astonished how a man who got his arm ripped off was doing so well. As soon as Bema's hands were inches from BearCat's door, the heavy wooden door opened up before his eyes.
Bearcat, his eyes as red as apples, slowly stepped from his doorway, brings his voice close to Bema's ear, "You feel it too, huh?"
"I do," BearCat says. "I didn't think it would be this way, but nevertheless… here we are. What did they do us???"
Bema looks around, "Doesn't matter at this point, does it. It's done, so its time to get started."
With that, Bema and Bearcat make their way towards the PSR holding pen.
At the holding pen, a secure facility in District 3, veteran members Richie and Bern stood silent and stalwart outside the main doors when Bema and Bearcat slowly approached. It was Richie's keen bear senses that picked them both up way before his eyes locked eyes on them. Just as he was about to give his verbal confrontation, Bern had beat him to it. "Guys, what gives?" You guys can't sleep or something?"
Bema looks nervously at Bearcat before turning his attention to Bern, "Something that Dr. Jerry gave us for pain, it's not helping us with sleep, figuring a walk would help.
When the two explorers stood there, Richie whispered to Bern, "Something's wrong, be prepared to-"
Bema withdrew an arrow gun from his back and fired a shot directly at Bern, who dove out of the way before turning his aim towards Richie. Bema's second shot missed Richie over the top of his head. The third shot, Richie managed to slap out the air. Bearcat rushed in, delivering two blows to Richie's head, only to be knocked back effortlessly by the more physical opponent.
"I don't know what's gotten into you two, but you are going to have to do better than that," Richie says. "You both know as a Bear my strength is on par with the strongest Giant here."
Bema tried to attack Bearcat from the side, only to be intercepted by Bern, who lowered his head and drove Bema through the security door of the pen. Bern definitely didn't want to open the doors. Still, with his durability and Richie's raw power, he knew the two of them were more than enough of a match, despite being outnumbered nearly 4:1. That overconfidence was quickly diminished when hands so scaldingly hot gripped Bern from behind, taking him into the air so silently that Richie wasn't aware he was in deep distress till he heard the sickening sound of Bern's bones being broken scream out in the confines of the pen's interior. By the time Richie charged in, he couldn't believe his eyes. He turned to make it for the door but was cut off by Bearcat, who slowed him down just long enough for the others to assist. Richie gave up a good fight, and it's possible even being outnumbered nearly 8:1, he would have been the loan person walking from that pen if everything, and everyone, was normal. But at this point, this was far from the case.
With Bearcat and Bema, Nas's group made for the wall that separated District #3 and #2. They did a good job sticking to the shadows when they turned the corner to the primary walkway and walked DIRECTLY into Dr. Jerry, who was escorting BigDaddyTorr to his home. Upon seeing Nas's group, BigDaddyTorr, tilted up his hat, "You know… I may have been out of it under the care of Dr. Jerry here, but what I do know is that you guys… you should be in jail."
Dr. Jerry slowly withdrew a small blade from her hip. "What I like to know is why two of my most recent patients are with them."
Bema stepped forward, his arms raised in protest, "What a minute, guys? Fleet wants us to escort them to District 1."
BigDaddyTorr smiled brightly before looking over at Dr. Jerry, who returned his gaze. He then withdrew his crossbolt and cocked it to the side.
"Whoa.. whoa...whoa... "Saska said suddenly, noticeably grimacing as he raised his right arm into the air.
"Something wrong with that wing?" Dr. Jerry says toward Saska before stepping forward and pulling back his sleeve and seeing a wound so nasty it was noticeable even in the city's low lamplight.
"I KNEW IT!" BigDaddyTorr screams." Dr. Jerry hit the ground!"
Dr. Jerry doesn't ask a question as her face hits the dirt seconds before bolt after bolt flies over her prone body, thudding loudly into the bodies of Enigma and Jancey, who immediately collapse. Before BigDaddyTorr can reload, Morkim punches him so hard in the chest, precious, life-sustaining air violently leaps out.
Saska stands over top of BigDaddyTorr and glowers, "Broke your got-d@mned wrist the other night. I promise you in a few moments you will pray for that pain to return in comparison to what's coming."
Saska begins to breathe heavily as he looks to Nas, who nods his head in agreement, "I think the need to hide is over."
Saska's face begins to widen, distorting its normal human proportion. The same thing happens to his arms, legs, and feet.
"It's not possible!" Dr. Jerry says, the blade in her head suddenly feeling heavier and heavier.
"Oh, it's possible nurse lady," Nas says, as his face too begins to distort.
"RUN!" BigDaddyTorr screams before a giant foot lands down on top of him, silencing his warning.
Dr. Jerry reaches deep into the pouch at her waist and withdraws a handful of white powder.
"What are you going to do with that?" Morkim states mockingly, his voice now distorting as he slowly transforms into a giant Brute.
"Wait!" Bearcat screams. "Get back!"
Before Nas' Brutes could move, Dr. Jerry blew the powder high into the air. Saska was the first to inhale Dr. Jerry's nerve agent. One by one, each of Nas's groups fell to the ground, clutching at their necks. By the time they recover, the feisty doctor is.
"She'll alert the guard!" Bema shouted in panic.
"I am counting on that," Nas replies shrilly. "Everything is going according to plan."
Chapter 13 EagleRob and Lo were manning the exterior gate when they both heard the first scream… then another. Moments later, a red flare went up, followed shortly by another a few blocks away. "Wtf? People are getting attacked again? This soon?" EagleRob says as he tries his hardest to pierce the dimly lit city with his Eagle vision. Lo attempts to do the same, only to be disgusted at his own failure and shrugging his shoulders in disgust. "I guess it wasn't Nas and his crew. The council will have to apologize to these guys." "I don't get it," EagleRob says bluntly. "If it's not them, who can it be? Lo is seconds from abandoning his search when his eyes focus on something that makes his skin crawl. "Oh no!" EagleRob matches his gaze, his hand immediately going to the hilt of his blade. "BRUTES! Inside the city? How is that possible? We need to down there! With our experience and abilities, we could…" EagleRob pauses his words when he realizes that Lo is no longer right next to him but instead is peering out over the exterior outside of PSR. "I don't think we are going to have to go down there, bud," Lo says, shaking his head and reaching for the red flares because I have an awful feeling they are coming this way." EagleRob joins alongside him, blinking several times before rubbing his eyes as he struggles to come to grips with the sight before him. Lit only by the overhead full moon, EagleRob was able to make out close to one hundred Brutes stampeding in the direction of PSR's main gate. Lo grabs a red flare, while EagleRob grabs an orange flare. Then, as both men simultaneously give a head nod, they launch their flares high into the air. ___________________________________-
Down below, Nas and the rest of his fellow Brutes had maimed and mutilated every PSR commoner they've come across. Gene Parmesean stood little chance as he jumped off the top of his rooftop while releasing a battle cry with his short sword. Jancey plucked him out of the air like a frisby and made him release a different sort of cry. Nubulater and Vikes both attempted a rear assault, only to have Saska and Jindred wheel back in their directly kick them back into their own houses, shattering half the bones in their bodies. Slack positioned himself in the middle of the street with both his blades extended high. MO witnessed what was about to occur, quickly deciding that it was now his turn to get in the mix. MO's charged at Slack with full speed, raising his massive fists high into the air. Just when he was going to flatten Slack into just a red smear, arrows from several adjacent homes' upstairs landed in both of his forearms. Enigmar reached up into the bedroom of one of the attackers, tearing a laughing Jsc104 who still bow in his hand. While across the street, Saska tried to do the same thing to recoil from his hand immediately tore through the initial facade. When Saska withdrew his hand, his fingers were nearly severed. The Brutes look up to see Smitty standing there with two bloody swords. Morkin took two giant steps and destroyed the entire second floor where Smitty stood, but when the Brute turned to walk away, the rubble shifted, showing a smiling Smitty emerging, barely scathed from the impact. "Steelers don't go down that easy!" before retreating further into the darkness of his home. "We can't get slowed down like this!" Nas says to his group. "There's nothing they can do to stop us, so ignore all this annoyance. The main gate is up ahead." At the primary entrance of PSR, an ever-growing contingent of the city's finest was starting to form a blockage between the Brutes and the entryway. "I don't get it?" Doctor Jerry inquired, merging from the shadows. "If they are trying to leave, why won't we just let them?" "Because they aren't trying to leave," a voice says from above. Doctor Jerry turns around to see Lo says, descending from the top of the wall, his cape flapping at its maximum. "There's more Brutes on the other side of that wall than I thought ever existed. Nas and his group are powerful, but they know that our numbers will continue to grow as we become aware of their presence every minute that passes. But, of course, with an all-out assault with PSR's best at the helm, this will be over before it starts. But if they can let the others in..." "It will be JUST presumingly like how Espen fell," Cmart says, as he joins the other with his axe draped over the back of his shoulder. "We always wanted to know how Espen fell without any signs of external damage to the walls. Now we know. Nas and his group probably tricked their way in, the same way they did us." "No!" The distorted Brute voice of Nas called forth as he and his approached the wall. "We tricked no one! On the contrary, we were welcomed in!" "BS!" 610 calls out from an adjacent alleyway, with another half down PSR members with him. "Our kinfolk would have never welcomed a bunch of strangers in their walls." Brute Morkim stepped forward to align himself with Nas and gave each of the Brutes a few feet. "They would indeed welcome us in since we were the descendants of lost Espen expedition from long ago. That's right… we came from Krista, BostonGirl, and a few others who were ambushed by Brutes, who did unspeakable acts to them, all the while they prayed Espen would send a search party to locate them." "The search party never came!" Brute Jindred added coldly. "When we arrived at Espen, we were met with initial hesitation," Brute Morkim said. "But after we were able to provide them with the exact details of Krista and the others, there left very little doubt on who was." "I take it you left out the part about being half-Brutes!" Doctor Jerry says. "Nobody asked!" Brute Saska added. "This is all nice and good, but we know why you are here, and we aren't letting you bring in help." Doctor Jerry pulls her knife out, "Wait a minute. I want to know what the deal with Bema and Bearcat is? You didn't mate with our friends, did you?" Bema and Bearcat immediately take offense to Doctor Jerry's words. Brute Nas releases a chuckle, "No, it doesn't work like that. When you are in close, immediate contact with us over long periods, it creates a type of 'familial relationship, which makes you susceptible to our whims." "If that is true," 610 responds. "Why not be patient, integrate into our society, and make us all familiars?" "I am starting to bore of this," Nas says to Morkim before turning his attention back to 610. "Because you've kept us for the most part… together. Besides, it would take too long, and since you are related to Espen, we pretty much just want to eliminate you as we did them." "You will lose!" 610 says. "As strong as you are, you are in the middle of a gauntlet." "That's what the fighters of Espen said," Brute Jindred pointed out. Nas looked over his group, nodding his massive head approvingly, "Now it begins!" TitiumTree emergences from the being a cart fires a massive bolt into the center of Jancey's chest, felling the large Brute before he knows what hit him. And with a confident smirk looks up to Nas, "No, now it ends."
From the perspective of PSR's finest, the fight against Nas and his brute crew was going well for them. The members at the gate and those who brought up the rear unleashed their full arsenal on their once new friends turn enemies. One by one, each of the Brutes collapsed under the overwhelming onslaught. Smitty rushed in from the rear, and instead of attacking, which is what he wanted to do, he listened to Dr. Jerry, who insisted he swiftly secured Bema. EagleRob swooped in, grabbed the one-armed Bearcat, and swept back out.
From Nas' perspective, his brethren were dropping one by one. With their brutish regenerative abilities, Nas knew that their wounds weren't fatal. Still, each time one fell, it allowed the warriors of PSR to focus their attack on his remaining squad.
"It's now or never," said a Brute Saska muttered from behind Nas. By the time the Brute leader turns around, a flailing Morkim was falling from several PSR members' attack. Nas sighs deeply before tightly closing his eyes and begins the long, arduous process of what he and his fellow brutes knew what was inevitable. As crossbolts and arrows find their way into his body, Nas curls his body inward before unleashing a monstrous roar through his suddenly expanding airways. To the average PSR fighters, who knew they had the Brutes on the ropes, seeing Nas transform yet again, was almost demoralizing. Brute Nas began to grow, and grow and grow, not stopping till the top of his head touched the top of the wall. At his unbelievable size, PSR weapons suddenly became useless.
Hurled Axes bounced off his back.
Thrown knives didn't pierce his calf.
610 took to the air, using the wall to catapult himself at tremendous speed towards the back of Brute Nas at tremendous speed. When 610's blades struct the back of Brute Nas' neck, they shattered into a dozen pieces, as its shards reflected the area's candlelights like mini meteor showers.
In a slow, methodical movement, Brute Nas approached the wall entrance and, upon drawing his right leg back, did what everyone knew what he and the rest of the brutes came to District 1 to do. The shattering of District 1's walls was so thunderous that the council heard it in the towers of District 3. When the awaiting Brutes poured through the remnants of PSR's primary defenses, the hearts and minds of PSR's finest momentarily fell.
Seconds later, Cmart picked up his fallen axe and, after being lifted high off the ground, turned towards his browbeaten brethren, "Come on, brothers! All Nas has done is given us more Brutes to kill!"
One by one, PSR's members grab fallen weapons and confront the new intruders head-on. The first dozen and a half brutes through that step foot into PSR are cut down. For the second dozen, only half of them fall. By the time the third wave entered the once-sacred grounds of PSR, they had come through unscathed as bloody blades, axes, and bolts lay strewn about on the ground, never to be picked up again.
It took Brute Nas all his strength to bring down the doors of District 1. Once he completed this task, he not only lost his Goliath Brute form, but it reverted him back to a normal human. It was Jindred's quick decision to y scoop him up that stopped him from being trampled by the very brutes his actions just allowed inside.
While the initial Brutes who didn't get immediately cut down by PSR finest went out in all directions, MO and Saska had recovered enough from their wounds to begin the process of leading the brutes towards the doors of District 2. On the way, bolts and arrows would detonate from darkened bedrooms of PSR members who silently picked off passing brutes. Sadly, for the residents of PSR, for every three brutes they took down. Kindred wanted to personally tear down every home that these weapons fire came only to have Nas wave him off. "No, my friend, this would just slow us down. We have to stick to the plan and keep moving forward."
At the rear of the brute horde, a rope went neck of one of the last brutes, yanking it away from the crowd. When one of its brethren noticed his comrade disappear, he turned to see what had occurred, only to fall to a faceful of arrows.
"This is pointless!" TitiumTree as he steps over the brute he has killed. "Picking off the stragglers is a waste of time and energy.
Smitty emerges from the rubble of a fallen building, shaking off dust and debris from his attire, "They can only be heading for one thing. They can move faster than us on foot, but their numbers are slowing them down. So let's regroup at the wall and make another stand there!"
A half-block down, 610 catapults himself to the second story of the closest home. "Then what are you waiting for? Let's go!"
On the District 2 side of the wall that separates District 1 and 2, CincyGreg, CoC and SimpleSandwichman stand steadfast on patrol, never at one point does at least of them are in eyesight of the wall.
"OH NO!" SimpleSandwichman says as he suddenly freezes in his tracks. But, unfortunately, by the time he races back to the wall, his other brothers on patrol have caught back up to him.
CincyGreg puts his ear up to the giant door, straining his ears to pick up on any signs of a disturbance. "What do your senses tell you, SSM?"
SimpleSandwichman slowly places his hand against the wall before inhaling deeply upon the cool night's air. "Brutes, my friends. Brutes are within the walls of PSR, and if my senses aren't failing me, we aren't talking about a handful. I'm sensing more than I've ever seen before in my life."
CincyGreg begins to slowly back away from the wall, "That can only mean-"
"INVASION!" Coc cuts him off, before slamming his right fist deep into his left hand. Biting in on his upper lip, Coc paces back and forth before returning his attention back to CincyGreg. Bud, what we need over my brawn, and SimpleSandwichman's fighting prowess is speed. With everything you've got, get to District 3 and let the Council know what is going on. There's a chance we may still be able to-"
Coc's words are cut off as the much-weaker fortified wall suddenly explodes inward, sending wood shards towards two of the three guardsmen on patrol. Cincygreg Bengal reflexes allowed him to be half a block away by the time the first brute stepped into District 2.
The first brute who stepped through the breach lost its left leg to a pinpoint toss by SimpleSandwichman's tomahawk toss. The second brute fell from a sword to the chest by CoC. But when Brute Enigmar stepped the wall, she evaded the ax meant to sheer have her face off and caught CoC's sword thrust between her hands. She then delivered a quick kick to the sword's wielder that would have crushed the ribcage of a lessor PSR member if not for his Steeler abilities.
CoC's body didn't stop rolling from Brute's Enigmar's blow for an unbelievable thirty feet. By the time the veteran PSR member gathered himself to stand, dozens of rampaging brute feet had trampled him into unconsciousness. By the time SimpleSandwichman managed to pull him to safety, over a hundred brutes had passed their location. SimpleSandwichman was seconds from assisting CoC back into one of District 2's larger houses when the last half-dozen brute stragglers converged on their location.
"We're not going to make it!" CoC grunted through gritted teeth.
SimpleSandwichman withdraws his last remaining blade, a small throwing knife with a six-inch blade. He hands the knife to CoC and smiles, "You give this a toss. With your strength, you just might be able to take out two of them at a time.
The two PSR members look at each other and laugh.
CoC takes the knife by its blade end, "Bro, my lungs hurt with every inhalation. I'd be lucky to hit the ground in front of their feet with this toss."
The brutes are seconds from overtaking them when their bodies are suddenly cut down by a volley of arrows, swords, and harsh swears. Then, emerging from the darkness of the night PSR sky, a horse-drawn cart appears. Just as its passenger's driver pulls up, 610 lands before them.
"It looks like we were too late to slow down the brutes, but we were right on time to save your azzes!"
From the rear of the cart, TitiumTree steps out. "There's absolutely no chance we catch them now, is it?"
Smitty was to least to emerge from the rear of the cart, and immediately begins to shake his hand before the verbal part of his response begins. "Seeing how District 2 is half the size of District 1, they will be at the be at District 3's gate in less than a few minutes, and the worst part is, the council will never see the threat coming."
CoC haphazardly raises the index finger of his right hand, "About the whole thing about the council not getting a warning…."