Hegemony – Marcos Lupernikes

Marcos Lupernikes; Spartan deserter, vagabond, general , Kalshodar, punisher of the guilty…

Once, he was known simply as Marcos the Spartan but dramatic events one day changed that. He picked up the name “Lupernikes” or “The Victory of Wolves” that day in what would be one day called Nepal.
The army had been camped on a frozen plain for months while Alexander did gods know what inside the mountain. Big armies get restless when they’re inactive; with no enemies to fight, they look for action closer to home.

By this time, Alexander’s army was made up of Macedonians, future Greeks, Persians, Sogdianians, Scythians, Indians, various Asians along with thousands of “camp followers” (suppliers, wives, children, artisans, entertainment)…division was already very much present. Some of the younger soldiers formed gangs of the kind often found in less salubrious neighbourhoods.
The “little wolves” ran various extortion schemes, petty theft, prostitution rings, protection rackets…the usual. They were tolerates until they crossed into murder and rape…

They raped young prostitutes and then viciously murdered them and Lupernikes got to hear about it.
Their leader was a cocksure little pup; full of vim, verve, and fancy Athenian ideas. He felt he was owed something. He felt his band were fighting oppression and his little pack would be instrumental in liberation Greece from the Macedonian Tyrant. He gave such a speech as Lupernikes sat in judgement.

Lupernikes, who was going to whip them all and them hang them had another idea…he told the assembled army thusly;

“You are big bad wolves chasing away the dogs, eh lads? Biting the hand that feeds and maintains you too? See, rape is rape and bullshit is bullshit, lads, no matter how you season the dish. You little dogs are no threat to Alexander or, by extension to me! Call yourselves wolves? Bollocks. Wolves don’t yap, wolves watch, wait, and when the time’s right, they do. Little dogs yap.
You say me letting you off, as you’re certain I will – in the spirit irresistible fellowship and all that – will be the victory of your wolves, right?
Right. Only, see, there is no victory of the wolves, there is only me.
Geld them. Chain them in the yard for the night and any little pup yaps, end the lot of them, clear?”

So he became the big bad wolf that are the balls of the guilty or The Victory of Wolves from then on because army humour is rarely sophisticated. As a loconic Spartan, we think Lupernikes liked the titles.

Lupernikes here, in his excellent 3D model, holds Wolf-breaker, his imfamous black sword that is longer than most men. Note how his armour varies little from that of his fellow Kalshodar. This probably shows his laconic spirit as well as his practicality. A soldier is a soldier no matter his titles. Achilles dressed like his men, so does Lupernikes.

#Hegemony #Kalshodar #Lupernikes #alanjfisher #conceptart #scifi #digitalart #concept #bookseries #bookart #characterart #bookseries #writingcommunity #writerscommunity

The Forgotten War

The year 79AD is fraught with mythological significance. There was the destruction of Pompeii, terrible Norse rumours of Ragnarok from the frozen North to stormy Lindisfarne. Several prophecies hinted at dark events on the way.

According to history, the worst thing that happened that day was that two Roman towns were buried in ash, killing hundreds in mere moments. Terrible as this event was, it was not the worst thing that happened that year, it is simply the worst thing that people remember…

Asmodeus did a very, very good job in erasing the most significant historical event since, well since anything, from anything but Viking and Celtic legend, which nobody believes anyway.
On August 25th (modern calendar) AD 79, the world ended but it also did not. It was a very close thing.

This battle, called variously ‘Lucifer’s Folly’, ‘The Harvest of Heroes’, or ‘The Neverwar’ , depending on who you listen to, two vast armies faced one another in the shadows of the Megiddo valley in Isreal/Palestine. In the foremost ranks of one army stood the greatest heroes you have every heard of; Nephilim every one.

Opposing them, the seemingly unending ‘armies of Hell’; imagine orcs, kobolds, trolls, giants, ever type of monster you could imagine and some you wish you hadn’t…

“He was most amazed by the fact that it was a lot quieter than he’d thought it would be. He didn’t really know what he’d been expecting but not this. He heard the gentle ruffle of banners being pulled at by the wind, the jingle of harness as the soldiers around him moved from foot to foot or stretched to keep muscles from cramping on them.

Otherwise, silence, pretty much, which only made the waiting worse.
Across the other end of the valley, they were gathered. It looked like a huge wall of shadow from here, so large was the mass of enemies. Some early calculations based on what their local scouts told them, said that they were outnumbered somewhere between 450-1 and ‘it doesn’t really make much of a difference we’re all going to die anyway’.

Of course, thought Fionn, as he tightened then loosened the grip on his spear, they had almost every hero that had ever lived on their side so those were pretty good odds to some of them…but only if you actually believed the stories…

He smiled as he rotated his shoulders and looked around at the men and women beside him.

There was a knot of big Norsemen over there, all axes and hammers with their winged helmets and shiny armour. Big fella with the hammer had sparks jumping all over the place which was something Fionn considered unwise in the presence of so much nervous metal. They were clearly bonnie fighters though, he’d heard that the big one with hair and beard of the purest white had cut his way out of the dragon that’d tried to eat him. He caught Fionn’s eyes and cocked an snow-white eyebrown in greeting before turning his head back to the bigger fellow with the fancy hammer and sparks.

Fionn’s group of hairy, tattooed warriors stood in a loose knot of aggression, clustered around the Big Man himself, him as had brought them here from the Eagle Isles far away in the Mist.

The Wolf was big. He held a claymore casually over one shoulder, its metal full of strange blue reflections which danced along an edge that was, from certain angles, not entirely there. A large bearded axe, heavy with runes and knotwork designs, was being used to draw patterns in the dead desert dust.

Not a good place for fighting, Fionn spat in the dust and watched the moisture vanish almost right away. Already enough death here but he could feel the thirst for even more blood rising from the barren rocks like smoke.

The Wolf looked down at Fionn, or at least his heavily carved silver wolf mask did. Fionn never had figured out how Cú saw through those blue jewels his war mask had for eyes but on those rare occasions the Big Man felt inclined to speak, he’d said “clearer than you can imagine. Like eagles on the wing and wolves beneath a full moon see, I’d wager”.

The azure gaze lingered on Fionn long enough to cause the wiry hunter to finger his fine beech bow with a barely repressed shudder.

“Big Man likes you, so he does” Bran had said through bright red moustache. “The wee giant is his best mate, sure he is.”

At 5’10”, Fionn was small for a giant, slight of build and sparse of beard. His Da had been the giant that’d built the Causeway to get across to where his mother – daughter of some distant cousin of Bran Boru, a nasty lesser Lord of Ulaid- was being held prisoner as was the fashion of the time and Fionn the half-giant was the result.

The Big Man was near a foot taller than him and a great deal older, folk said. He came from the drowned lands under the Morimaru off the coast of Albion. They said he’d fought these fellas, the Fír Bolg and Bálor’s kin before. They said him and that blue-eyed devil with the two most beautiful swords Fionn had ever seen beside him went way back. Back even before the ice left and the sea came in.

“About bloody time,” the Big Man said to no-one in particular. He gestured towards the storm gathering over the Fír Bolg with his impossible sword held loosely in one hand. He bumped the blue-eyed devil, who appeared to be asleep standing up, on the leg with the flat of his axe. “That uncle of yours has decided to show up.”

The odd significance of those words made the hairs of Fionn’s heavily tattooed arms stand up and he gripped his bow even tighter.

“I know you’re in charge here, Sable,” Big Man continued all nonchalant as one of those priests getting off a boat in his dress to chase of the snakes Eíreann never had anyway. “But I’d suggest it’s time for that signal.

The one called Sable appeared to awake and look towards his friend. Fionn felt his gut tighten as those devil-blue eyes brushed his and fought the sudden wave of terror down with great effort. Sable nodded and waved one of his beautiful silver swords up in the air.

Far off, the deep growling scream of a war horn sounded, setting Fionn’s teeth on edge and his heart pumping harder. Another answered it, this one bright and singing like the way Fionn imagined a swan’s one and only song would sound. Across the valley, answering horns and trumpets winded, their discordant cacophony bouncing off the valley walls.

Big Man nodded and indicated the horizon with his sapphire wolf’s eyes.

“Here they come,” his normally booming voice barely above a whisper. “If you’ve any ginger on you, Atlantan, I think the men’ll be needing it soon.”

Sable nodded and rolled his neck, producing some fine crackles of bone Fionn most approved of. He said nothing and kept those eyes fixed on the black storm-front, crackling with lightning that could not be natural.
It took a moment for Fionn to see how right that assessment was…

The storm was no storm, it was…
In the boiling inkiness of the tortured air he saw them, colossal figures that were nearly not there. They looked like pictures of light projected into the storm…like…like…like ideas trying to take a shape.

They were like the star-creatures dropping from above, trying to become what men said they should be but struggling. He thought he could see four creatures slowly striding through the lightning but they kept blurring and changing like pigment in water, swirling and coming apart before reforming again.
Then, his temples pounding and his eyes threatening to turn themselves inside out, his mind let him see them. His béan sidhe heritage let things hidden from mere men reveal themselves to him.

There were four figures but, seeing them clearly now was not the blessing he’d thought it would be and he prayed for ignorance now.
As big as the sky and each filled with lightning, they strode over the innumerable Fír Bolg.

In robes the colour of the grave drifted the first, his raised hood empty and arm of bones holding a massive scythe whose blade was larger than the sky itself, it seemed. A smoke swirled around it and, as he felt horror knew at his gut, Fionn swore he saw faces in that smoke or, better said, the smoke was faces, millions of them. The scent of long abandoned tomb mounds drifted towards them.

As the second figure moved, the scent became stronger, richer and riper. This figure also bore a scythe in one emaciated hand but it looked normal compared to that which the first carried. The rest of the figure did not look normal. Every inch of its bare flesh not covered by crumbling rags was the deep black-brown of the long and dried up dead yet somehow it retained an unholy gloss to it . Atop stooped and bowed shoulders was the skull of a great ox or steer in place of a head, baleful and sickly fire burning from the eye sockets.

Compared to the bandy, famine-wracked frame of his neighbour, the next creature was a giant. Corroded heavy iron armour covered all but one corpse’s hand and splayed lizard-like feet. In one iron-clad hand, it gripped a vast bow of shining metal and in the pallid, diseased bare one it held an arrow from which unhealthy light did not shine so much as ooze, like pus from a wound. Its face was an outlandish mask of dull material covered in tubes and pipes with an opaque glass plate over its eyes and two great drums either side of where a mouth should be. From these drums a fog of a colour one could only describe as unhealthy huffed in and out periodically as if the creature were breathing it.

But Fionn had eyes only for the fourth figure for it was glorious. Behind it’s heavily armoured body spread vast wings of living flame. Where the other figures appeared to now be waiting and quiescent, this one was in constant motion. In one hand it held a whip which appeared made of broken blades hammered together and ending in a glowing skull of white-hot brass; it coiled and snapped with the sound of a heavy infantry charge with only the slightest movement of the creative’s right shoulder. In its left hand, it held a double-headed axe of molten iron easily as long as Fionn’s father had been tall. Upon its jagged armoured shoulders, brutal fire the colour of burning blood blazed from the dry sockets of the skull of a great ram. The eye wateringly bright fire that filled sockets and skull grew brighter and softer, brighter and softer…as if it were the breath of the creature. As it ‘breathed’, the stench of shit, and blood, hot iron, and fear sweat washed over Fionn and he was certain that the blaze of its gaze fixed upon him and only him within the multitude; weighing him up.

Fionn tore his gaze away, counted, and thought on his impressions of them; they scrabbled at and dug up something deeply primal within him and, when realisation finally broke the surface of his thoughts, the words fell from his quivering lips before he was even aware of the thought that heralded them.

“Oh shit, are those what I think they are?” he wavered. “Now we really are f-“

Sable, who it was now clear had been watching Fionn the whole time, cut in adroitly, his voice level and deep, filled with a confidence Fionn knew his lacked. “That’s them, half-giant,” his voice had a laugh to it for reasons Fionn could not fathom. “This is, indeed, IT”

Fionn said nothing but this time, when he met those blue eyes, it was not fear that he felt, it was hope. He licked dry lips and nodded.

“That one,” Sable indicated the burning whip cracker with one silver sword. “That one is mine, Conan.”

Such was Sable’s quiet assurance that Fionn felt certain that a million Fír Bolg would barely slow a man like that down.

“Everyone’s got to die sometime!” Big Man roared in reply, butting Sable with one shoulder, over the nervous clatter of a thousand suits of armour. “I want to see what colour that big sheepie bastard bleeds for myself!”

It was not even that funny, Fionn reflected as his voice joined the rising roar from the rest of the army, but he laughed along with the rest of them.

“This blue-eyed bugger has killed giants for fun so I’m for getting to that shiny bastard while there’s still big fekkers left to fight!” He roared even louder and stabbed claymore at sky. “Who is with me?”

In a wall of noise; terror transformed into desperate bravado, screams of rage, swords beating shields, and the sounding of horns from a hundred nations which filled the plains of Meggido from end to end, fifty thousand men and women told him that they were.

As they charged forward into certain ruin, the battle at the end of the world began…

Giant Killer

Here, we join Enoch and Sable on one of their earlier adventures. It would appear that Sable had thought to teach him quite an important lesson but only managed to ruin his robes and nearly get him flattened.

Enoch decided to ask the question which had been nibbling at the back of his mind for a while. How had Sable just appeared right when Enoch had needed him to exactly when he’d needed it? Had Sable been following him?
“No, Enoch I was spying out that patrol and you just happened to cross my path.” He laughed and raised an eyebrow. “Or The Creator sent you into my path as that stupid lad said.”
Enoch ignored the obvious sarcasm and agreed that this was likely. He was still interested about what had brought Sable to this country in the first place. Enoch was of the opinion that he seemed to know his way around quite well.
Sable looked over to the stand of what were probably the last vertical trees for miles around and grinned. “You’re about to find out.” He said cryptically with a grin.

The tops of the rather tall trees were waving as if stirred by a brisk breeze, only there was no breeze. Something was making them do that, something rather large … oh dear! He realised that he would probably regret asking that question earlier, he usually did when Sable was around. Speaking of Sable…

The Nephilim had run out onto the churned land close to the little wood. He had drawn his swords and was waving them in the air. He was also screaming at the top of his lungs in a language Enoch did not recognise. There was something almost familiar about the words, but he could not place them. He did his best to reconstruct them;

“Gå! Lakuna mácà semba, ke!” Sable yelled at the trees as if they would answer. “Geleh pala kume mah lekka!”

Enoch stayed right where he was and watched this with a very bemused expression on his face. He sat down and pile of earth to watch his crazy friend be crazy. He heard what sounded like thunder in the distance and looked up at the sky; it was clear and blue; he could see no clouds anywhere. It sounded almost like… no, that couldn’t be right…

“Makâla felu mesa kå!” Sable bellowed. Was he replying to the thunder now? Enoch began to wonder whether Sable had actually gone terribly mad, were his actions yesterday not at all spiritual and actually due to a broken mind?

Again, there was a noise of thunder … no wait…it sounded….it sounded like words … “Fee Fi Fo Fum!” Enoch thought he heard, followed by unintelligible rumblings.

“Fyafe Kiloh Ful?” Sable echoed, still waving his swords. “Naka hëla fyè sah muh!”
There was a bellow like nothing Enoch had ever heard before followed by the splintering of and cracking of trees. The earth shook and Enoch realised he had stood up only when the moving ground made him fall down onto his behind painfully. Panic seized him as he thought back to what Sable had described the Flood being like round the campfire last night; that the earth shook and broke before the waters – and the angels – came to destroy the land of his home. Was Heaven coming for Moab now too? As was his habit he looked around for options; there really were none.
It was when he looked at where all the racket was coming from that Enoch felt his bladder loosen against his will for the second time in as many days. It came from the trees, bellowing and booming. It was as tall as the trees and hugely muscled. Enoch forgot his shame and struggled to rise, the desire to run was overpowering but his legs would not obey him. The giant, easily ninety feet tall came out from the trees, pushing them aside like they were grass. It was bellowing and spitting with incoherent rage. As Enoch watched it took hold of a tree, a big and long one too, and easily tore it out by its roots. It weighted its new club and thundered across the plain to where Sable was calmly waiting, swords held loosely in his hands. A tree! A big whole tree! It was using a tree as a club and Sable was waiting to fight it – for his words had clearly enraged it – with splinters! Enoch was now completely convinced that the Nephilim had lost his mind.

The giant surged toward Sable, swinging his cudgel as he came, bellowing what Enoch was sure were withering obscenities. Sable did not move. He simply adjusted his stance a little, widening his legs, shifting his feet a bit, he swung is swords and appeared to take, hold and then slowly release a breath, it looked like his lips were moving but Enoch heard nothing. Twenty seconds, it could be no more

… Enoch did not see what happened. One moment Sable was at his ease, apparently muttering away to himself the next, the giant swept by and Sable had swarmed up its back. It bellowed even more now, swinging the tree round and round. Enoch narrowly escaped losing his head, he was sure time slowed, like one was moving through syrup as he watched the tree trunk pass within inches of his face, and he fell onto his back and stayed there. The ground continued to shake and, this close, the giant’s screams were deafening, making his teeth feel funny. A foot the size of a cart smashed down into the ground beside him and Enoch regarded it stupidly, not really knowing what to think. He observed the foot coverings of wound cloth or leather. He remembered thinking oddly why giants wouldn’t have giant shoemakers or tailors for this one wore nothing more than a huge loincloth of who knows what material. He could see its toes through the ‘shoes’ it wore and was sure even the pinkie toe was longer than he was.

Halfway through his study Enoch realised what a stupid idea this was as the immense foot rose and crashed down even closer. He scrambled backward .and tried to get to his feet, but he was just digging holes in the loose soil. I am going to die! He realised. Squashed flat by something I hadn’t believed in until it killed me. Murdered by accident as a giant is trying to get my insane friend off its back. This close the stink of it was immense. A powerful earthy and musky stench mixed with offal and refuse. Enoch fought to resist the urge to gag and tasted blood in his mouth. He had bitten deep into his tongue in his panic … He started to laugh, the complete strangeness of the situation and his panic subsided, replaced by a very curious calm. He breathed, only then realising he had not been and was starting to feel light-headed. With a strange kind of detachment, he watched the foot move away, felt the booms and shaking of the ground but heard nothing. Had the roaring giant deafened him? No, he could hear the pounding of his own heart….it sounded like the ocean at night only sped up. Slowly and with great care he got to his feet and began to back up as unnoticeably as he could. The giant was not looking down at him though; it was trying to find Sable. The further away Enoch got, the more he saw. What he saw was beyond even his ability with words to describe.

Sable had dug his swords into the creature’s back and was struggling to hold on as the giant wove and jerked about, keeping himself flat or occasionally letting go of one sword to slash at a questing hand with his knife if it got too close. He had positioned himself in what Enoch called the can’t quite reach the itch spot’ though; all the huge and blunt fingers could do was brush him. He clung on grimly, waiting for his chance. The giant was tiring and breathing heavily. Blood was running for a multitude of small cuts and gashes Sable had made. Ichor weeped around his embedded swords too, caused rivers of life-stuff to steam down the giant’s back. The Nephilim waited and Enoch found he was holding his breath again, frozen to the spot. Sable adjusted his grip on one sword; the giant was sagging and breathing like a hurricane, sweat pouring down its flesh. It rested its house-sized hands on its thighs. Carefully Sable prepared. The giant was clearly exhausted now, Enoch almost felt sorry for it until he remembered the stories he had heard about them. Sable tore first one, then the other sword loose, held both in one hand and, dug in his knife instead, clinging on grimly with just one hand.

Enoch replayed this moment in his head several times later and believed it less with each repetition. With incredible agility, Sable vaulted up onto the top of the monster’s head leaving his knife where it was as he took a sword in each hand. The giant, almost falling from exhaustion, took a moment to realise what had happened. A moment was all Sable needed, it seemed. He leapt off the building sized head and executed a twisting backflip in the air, arms held out wide. Time appeared slow down for Enoch again as he marvelled at what happened next. Twisting in mid flip with no apparent effort Sable swung with both arms and buried a sword into each of the giant’s temples. The swords bit to the hilt as if not encountering thick skull along the way.

The giant made no sound, it just stood there, humming stupidly to itself, Sable hanging on like some odd form of headdress. Its eyes crossed, trying to look at him to see what he was. A drop of dark blood easily the size of a horse, fell from its right nostril and hammered into the mud. It was followed by another, then another from the left. Before long, a torrent of bright blood was pouring from both nostrils and running down its chest. A sudden powerful gout of blood struck Sable where he hung and flung him through the air, dropping him into a surprisingly intact tree. The giant chose that moment to fall flat on its face, causing a huge dust cloud to explode into the air and an impact which threw Enoch from his feet and Sable from his tree. The giant was dead.

By the time Enoch absorbed all that he had seen and decided that the giant was definitely not getting back up again, by the time he was sure it was safe enough to walk over to where it lay, Sable was back on his feet and approaching the corpse. He smiled at Enoch as he set a foot to the huge head and pulled his sword out with both hands, his face going bright red, the cords on his neck standing out. He looked like he’d bathed in blood and was swaying slightly, his breathing was even but heavy and he had an odd look in his eye. Saying nothing he cleaned his sword of blood and brains with the giant’s hair and sheathed it, moving around to, with equal effort free his other blade. As he cleaned this one the same way, he looked at Enoch and smiled again. His eyes were glazed, Enoch realised and staring at nothing. He continued to smile.

“That was my fav’rite knife an’ tha’ big bugger s’gone an’ broke it!” Sable slurred drunkenly. He gestured behind him and made to step over to the old man but fell instead into a heap beside the dead giant.