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Short Story • 3 Minute Read

No One Lives

By Graham McNeill

Icy waves crashed on the bleak shore, red with the blood of the men Hecarim had already butchered. The mortals he had yet to kill were retreating over the beach in terror. Black rain doused them and stormclouds boiled in from the mourning heart of the island. He heard them shouting to one another. The words were a guttural battle-cant he did not recognize, but the meaning was clear; they actually thought they might live to reach their ship. True, they had some skill. They moved as one, wooden shields interlocked. But they were mortal and Hecarim savored the meat-stink of their fear.

Lore

Icy waves crashed on the bleak shore, red with the blood of the men Hecarim had already butchered. The mortals he had yet to kill were retreating over the beach in terror. Black rain doused them and storm clouds boiled in from the mourning heart of the island. He heard them shouting to one another. The words were a guttural battle-chant he did not recognize, but the meaning was clear; they actually thought they might live to reach their ship. True, they had some skill. They moved as one, wooden shields interlocked. But they were mortal and Hecarim savored the meat-stink of their fear. He circled them, threading crumbling ruins and unseen in the shadowed mist rising from the ashen sand. The echoing thunder of his Warpath hooves struck sparks from black rocks. It gnawed at their courage. He watched the mortals through the slitted visor of his helm. The weak light of their wretched spirits was flickering corposant in their flesh. It repulsed him even as he craved it.

"No-one lives", he said.

His voice was muffled by the dread iron of his helm, like the corpse-rasp of a hanged man. The sound scraped along their nerves like rusted blades. He drank in their terror and grinned as one man threw down his shield and ran for the ship in desperation.

He bellowed as he Devastating Charge galloped from the weed-choked ruins, lowering his hooked Rampage glaive and feeling the old thrill of the charge. A memory flickered, riding at the head of a silver host. Winning glory and honor. The memory faded as the man reached the dark surf of cold breakers and looked over his shoulder.

"Please! No!" he cried.

Hecarim split him from collarbone to pelvis in one thunderous blow.

His ebon-bladed glaive pulsed as it bathed in blood. The fragile wisp of the man's spirit sought to fly free, but the mist's hunger would not be cheated. Hecarim watched as the soul was twisted into a dark reflection of the man's life.

Hecarim drew the power of the island to him and the bloody surf churned with motion as a host of Onslaught of Shadows dark knights wreathed in shimmering light rose from the water. Sealed within archaic plates of ghostly iron, they drew black swords that glimmered with dark radiance. He should know these men. They had served him once and served him still, but he had no memory of them. He turned back towards the mortals on the beach. He parted the mists, reveling in their terror as they saw him clearly for the first time.

His colossal form was a nightmarish hybrid of man and horse, a chimeric juggernaut of brazen iron. The plates of his body were dark and stamped with etchings whose meanings he only vaguely recalled. Bale-fire smouldered behind his visor, the spirit within cold and dead yet hatefully vital.

Hecarim reared as forking traceries of lightning split the sky. He lowered his glaive and led his knights in the charge, throwing up giant clumps of blood-sodden sand and bone fragments as he went. The mortals screamed and brought up their shields, but the ghost-knights charge was unstoppable. Hecarim struck first as was his right as their master, and the thunderous impact splintered the shield wall wide open. Men were trampled to bloody gruel beneath his iron-shod bulk. His glaive struck out left and right, killing with every strike. The ghost knights crushed all before them, slaughtering the living in a fury of thrashing hooves, stabbing lances and chopping blades. Bones cracked and blood sprayed as mortal spirits fled broken bodies, already trapped between life and death by the fell magic of Blade of the Ruined King item the Ruined King.

The spirits of the dead circled Hecarim, beholden to him as their killer and he reveled in the surging joy of battle. He ignored the wailing spirits. He had no interest in enslaving them. Leave such petty cruelties to ThreshSquare the Chain Warden.

All Hecarim cared for was killing.

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