Angel of Mars – Chapter 7 – Convictions
The Arrow bounced. John felt the thud and was forced to ignore it, his eye twitched with his patience.
The Chief was in tears, he had watched the people he cared for vanish from the world with little more than screams to remember them by. “If you’re not a Factu, what are you?” He spoke while gritting his teeth.
A tickling sensation caught his attention when he tried to answer, “I..” but as the words started to escape his mouth, he found himself silenced. He tried again but the result was the same. John put the Ax down to his side and stared with a deadpan look over the survivors that were struggling to recover.
“Well, What are you?” Chief Bates gave a quick “Hmmph,” lowered the Bow and ran to a few of the Villages that were bleeding but still breathing.
John could tell what the Chief was thinking, it was written across his face. ‘Disappointment, I’ve seen that look on the battlefield. A look of defeat’ He sighed heavily and knelt beside a Villager who was on his last breath.
The youth was among the youngest of the adult men, set to eventually marry Ilani when she grew older.
Kneeling down beside him, John closed both of their eyes. Sadness was not enough, help had arrived too late and he witnessed the man’s final moments. Holding a moment of silence was not enough, John clasped his hands together and looked to the sky. He felt like breaking into tears but they wouldn’t come along with the bitterness of failure.
“God, please watch over these poor souls. They did not know you but they were good people, I don’t know if this is the lesson you sent me here to learn, nor do I know of your intentions. Show me the way, show me the Light in this.” John’s words began to drift near the end, his was frustrated and the symptoms of anguish soured his expressions.
Cries of pain and sympathy from the survivors to the fallen had been echoing around them but the Chief and John seemed to be alone with their thoughts in that moment.
“God?” Chief Bates laughed, “I heard a mention of this from my grandfather, a being so powerful it could save the world on a whim that never did anything.”
“Blasphemy, but God will forgive you. You deny his existence?” John stood up, his ax in hand. He looked imposing but there was no Ill intend in his eyes, his expression changed again and said,“I’m not your enemy.” There were others that were still injured, he didn’t have a lot of time to think things over, triage was commonplace on the battlefield.
Momu came from around the corner. The noise levels having died down considerably, taking it as a sign that the path was clear and hearing the voices of survivors, she knew the situation had changed. Shock covered her face, it was unbelievable in her eyes, fear grew within them and she backed away muttering, “Factu…” She was angry, confused and seethed. Momu picked a loose rock from the wall and threw it at John. It too bounced from his armor, so it caught his attention and his wings spread.
She gasped, falling to the ground. Momu’s face covered behind her hands as she cowered.
Chief Bates shouted out into the Cavern, “Gather, tell me who is left and who has fallen?” His voice traveled far and the disbelief of those who lived could be heard as easily as the dragging of their feet.
“I need help over here.” from another passageway, three children came with one adult. It was Ilani and two of her group carrying one of the Elders. Her betrothed laid on the floor motionless, his eyes forever closed; her father stood over him shouting orders to the Villagers. Strength left her legs and she collapsed with the Elder in her arms to a pitiful mess. “No… No… no… …. no..” As her crying devolved, the others showed her comfort, which only added to the emotions flying around.
“Someone tell me, what happened!?” Bates voice caught everyone’s attention as it projected. “How did they get in here?”
John lowered his wings and returned to face Bates, explaining what he believed had happened. He set the Ax down and knelt to pick up Ilani’s betrothed but a scream came from across the Cave.
Ilani’s, “Don’t touch him…” She raced to his side and a torrent of tears continued to dominate the space. Covering his body, her nerves seemed shot and in minutes, she fainted.
“What would you have me do?” John shook his head, there had been so much suffering. His eyes remained closed, communing with God.
“Why would you ask me? You’re the one to have brought this upon us, whether by chance or intent, it is yours and yours alone. What do you think we should do, this will be the end of our people.” Bates fell to his knees and picked Ilani into his arms. Once he had stood, he scanned the room, “If this is everyone, there is no hope for our future.”
Turmoil and complication were nothing new to the people of the Village, the Chief held onto his daughter.
‘They have lost the safety of their home, they still have each other but for how long.’ John tried to come up with a plan but the children knew their way better than he did, complicating his inaction. “I want to show you something,” It was a quick decision but he felt like it was the correct path forward, perhaps the only one.
“Come with me!” John yelled into the cave but no one moved, they rubbed on their wounds and stared at the dead on the ground.
Chief Bates took a step forward, “Why? We’ve lost so much.. is this not the end for us?”
“The End comes when you accept it, never give up on life.” John’s eyes grew fierce looking, he pointed at everyone in the room, “You choose, what will it be?” He thought about what the answer would be but Bates readied his bow once again.
The Chief fired and the Arrow whizzed past John’s head, a roar came from behind, more of the creatures had come down the path. “They can smell you.” There was aggravation in his voice, so many people had lost their lives.
“Smell?” John hadn’t considered the possibility, he turned around, several more were coming down the tunneled halls.
Ilani didn’t know what to do, still kneeling beside the fallen body of her betrothed. Looking up at her father, she grabbed a knife and got to her feet. “THEY ARE COMING!” Her voice traveled well but not as good as her Father’s.
The survivors gathered.
John’s Ax began to glow again as he gripped it tighter, he flew forward and disappeared into the tunnel.
“What is he doing?” Bates waved everyone to follow him, “there is no time, we have to go!”
Taking the lead, Bates was one of only 3 men that remained in the Village, less than a dozen women and children had made it through the ordeal. They followed the sound of John’s fighting, occasionally passing a dead Factu along the way. Some of them were sliced in half, others were missing parts of themselves and twitching on the stone floor of the Cave.
Everyone seemed worried, in their lives nothing was safe however, they had always maintained their discipline and distance. With the Factu coming into the cave, they had lost their home. More were already on the way and the time they had to waste deciding, had passed.
John made it to the end of the Tunnel, he had slain more than twenty Factu since he had arrived back at the Village and more were still roaming ahead.
The Villagers followed Chief Bates until they were only a few meters from John; They were heading to the forbidden areas, the places that the majority of them had grown to fear their entire lives.
As the Chief, Bates had always had the confidence of his people. Everyone was frightened and the children were not making their best efforts to avoid making noise.
A roar from the Caverns Edge was followed by a trembling of the soil beneath the Villager’s feet.
“Stay close to me” John turned to tell the villagers but they were to afraid to speak.
Ilani grabbed onto her father’s hand and looked to the others, “We don’t have a choice, lets go!” She spoke like a leader, garnering everyone full cooperation.
John nodded, he didn’t care that they didn’t believe in him. A Claw reached around the corner, nearly batting him in the face. His reflexes had saved his life and he was motivated. During his sway to avoid the Factu, he raise the Ax and cleaved a forearm from the beast. A dry thud sounded as the Arm fell to the floor and the Beast reeled back. “Wait for my signal,” John yelled but he wasn’t sure if anyone would listen, he darted into the open space of the Cavern’s Edge and disappeared into the darkness.
The light coming from the Ax revealed his location. The Chief watched, training eyes on the Ax’s light to judge his position. The light moved quickly, darting down a hallway and then toward the ceiling. Trails were left in it’s wake, streaks in the darkness.
A deep Howl could be heard and the Light of the ax flew back toward the group in a tumbling motion. John held onto the Ax, spread his wings and stabilized his position midair. Like a sonic boom had happened in an enclosed area, a circle of dust appeared behind him while he raced back into the fight. There was nothing that would stand in his way, John was determined and his Light of Righteousness had only begun to shine.
The Factu was enraged, losing an arm was something it could not come back from. The creature had some issues maintaining balance but it’s swings were still enough to bat opponents away like a fly.
The creature was enormous, John barely measured to it’s waist, it’s bleeding stump went dry it collapsed. ‘Huh?’ moving closer, he had a confused look on his face but when the light from the ax reflected off the stone beneath his feet, he noticed the tacky sensation under them as well. He was standing in a pool of the Factu’s blood.
The Beast had fought until it’s body stopped moving.
“Go.” Chief Bates saw the light of the Ax die off, he moved his people through the Cavern’s edge in a whisper. It was a bad omen to his people to see the dying of the light.
John found them with ease, their noises from movement didn’t cover up their heaving breathing and panting. Landing in front of the group, he held out his arms to stop them. “I need to take the lead, there are still more on the way. It’s better this way.”
Among the Group, there was no one that was willing to challenge his decisions. The Factu that had died at his hands had died gruesome deaths and he had saved them. If John had not arrived when he had, there would have been no one left.
“Why are you protecting us?” Chief Bates had the question on the tip of his tongue, he knew why the Villagers protected each other but here was a outsider, risking his life to do the same.
John had no time to answer, the Factu had made their way through to the Caverns Edge, it’s scream led those behind directly toward the group. Another flush of Factu began to swarm the hallway ahead, their claws tapping indistinguishably on the smooth, poured foundation while the Light of Righteousness swelled across the Ax. He yelled, “Keep your distance.” before rushing down the corridor.
The Villagers clung to the Chief, none of them dared to even whisper.
Sensing his presence, the lights in the hallway came on all at once. There was movement in every direction and the Factu had no where to hide. Once John had cleared the hallway he went directly into the Machine Shop and took to the Air, the Factu all rushed toward him.
Unrelenting and seething, their teeth seemed to do the decision making in the fight. One of the Factu even tried to re-enter the hallway to run away.
John threw the Ax, it’s Light strobing against the Shadows as it hurled to it’s target. The Creature was pinned instantly to the Foundation, the Ax embedded into it’s chest. John’s wings spread and light surrounded him as it faded from his weapon.
A bright flash consumed the space, the hallway illuminated so much that the Villagers were forced to shield their eyes, having never seen such a brightness.