The ground was damp underfoot.
It squelched with every step, giving ever so slightly, sliding just as you rolled into the next step.
The mud was slick, fed by rotting corpses and blood.
The bare morning light was quiet, eerily so, as a damp fog descended upon the valley.
Shon-Xan will never know true peace. This war has spread more blood across these lands than the rain that falls from the heavens.
The ground was soft from the bodies that lay rotting in the sun from the day before had grown bloated and foul, their bellies bulging from beneath the cracked and smashed armor they had once worn proudly. The bodies were not just soldiers, and their wounds weren’t just from blades and arrows. The corpses were misshapen and deformed, bones twisted and skewed at odd angles, protruding from beneath melted flesh. Rags decorated the bodies of several small corpses, far smaller than the rest.
“Even children do not escape the horrors of war.”
The young captain toed the corpse over with her boot, covering her nose with an arm to try and remove the stench that escaped the body. She grimaced, forcing herself to swallow the bile that rose in her throat and burned her nose.
“Something the matter, captain?” One of the soldiers slowed to a stop next to her, raising a eyebrow as he watched her gaze. “Captain Riven?”
“Kirill. It’s nothing.” Riven said, shaking her head as she pulled her hood back and shook her hair out. She grimaced as she shifted the massive sword upon her back, the strap cutting into her shoulder. “I don’t like seeing so many Noxian uniforms spread through the corpses. It unsettles me, considering we were only met with half the enemy forces Intelligence predicted.”
“These Ionians may be peasants, but they fight like savages.” The massive sergeant Kirill remarked with disgust, shaking his head. “Shall I slow Fury Company and clear the road?”
“No, we don’t have time.” Riven shook her head and stepped away from the body. “We’re still lagging behind the 42nd Standard. The longer we delay here, the farther behind we fall.”
“Very well, captain.” The man said, taking a deep breath before gagging, shriveling up his nose and shaking his head. “Bloody putrid stench.”
“Kirill, I want you to take your platoon forward and scout ahead.” Riven ordered. “And send a courier forward to connect with the 42nd. I don’t want to get opened up on in this fog.”
“Of course, ma’am.” Kirill barked, snapping off a salute and stomping away through the mud. Riven felt the bile rise up in her throat again, it wasn’t just blood that was staining her boots a putrid brown color.
“Captain!” The cry came from the front of the formation.
“Erin?” Riven blinked a few times as the slender, raven-haired woman panted, hunched over her axe. “Erin, what’s going on?”
The woman straightened up, snapping off a quick salute. “We’ve got a survivor, ma’am.”
“A wha…” Riven shook her head. Survivors were an unfortunate part of an invasion. “Show me.”
“Of course. This way, ma’am.” The raven-haired soldier took off at a jog, forcing the captain to keep pace with her, running to catch up.
“Where did she come from?” Riven growled, her soldiers watching her with unsteady eyes as the company ground to a halt. To the soldiers, civilians were a hassle, a pain they were forced to deal with instead of embracing the thrill and glory of battle. Riven forced herself to wear a straight face; if any of her soldiers saw her show even the slightest mote of weakness, the effect upon their morale would be ten-fold. Only the strong survive, so for the sake of my men, I must remain the strongest.
Their advance ground to a halt, Erin pointing forward to where Kirill stood, his platoon around him, weapons raised.
“Step forward with your hands raised!” Kirill shouted, gesturing the pale form forward with his axe.
“Why stop, sergeant?” Riven asked, stepping up beside him, her hand straying to the sword upon her back. “We’ve dealt with civvies before…”
The distant specter swayed slightly, drifting from side to side as the form of a young woman faded from the fog. Long black hair was streaked with dirt and blood, matted against her slender form. She appeared older than riven, her green eyes cold and distant, the eyes of a woman who had seen too much horror. She clutched a bloody, cloth swaddled bundle to her stomach, the pain on her face and the horror of her cries more than enough to tell Riven what the bundle had contained at one time.
“Oh.” Riven muttered, taking a deep breath. “Kirill, take Johannes and move her off the road. Give her something to shut her up. I don’t want to deal with this now. Not in this weather, not here.”
“Shit…” Kirill muttered, running a hand over the side of his shaven head. He took a slow deep breath and then nodded. “Right, captain. Johannes, on me.” The younger soldier snapped to attention, saluted and bounded forward, his armor clanking with every step. “We might as well get this over with.”
“Yes sir.” Riven could hear the unease it his voice. She watched as the two men swept forward, their weapons sheathed and tucked away behind them. Riven shivered. She ran a hand over the back of her neck, her hair standing on end.
Something’s not right…
“Ma’am…” Kirill approached her slowly, inching forward, his palms toward her. “Ma’am, you need to get off the road.”
The woman’s eyes narrowed, the fear and distance evaporating instantly. Her hand lashed out impossibly fast, a long weapon with hooked blades at each end appearing and disappearing again, an arc of crimson blood left in its wake. Riven blinked once, the action had been so fast she had barely seen it. Two splashes could be heard in the perfect silence as Kirill’s hands hit the ground in front of him. The sergeant looked down, two bloody stumps held up in front of his face as blood splashed over the young girl’s face. She spun, dropped low, and tossed the swaddled bundle, the blanketed lump landing amid the remainder of Kirill’s platoon, a hand full of steps away.
Ice coalesced in Riven’s stomach as the battle around her seemed to slow. The world around her was surreal as corpse rose up to reveal Ionian soldiers clad in black and brown. Some had hid beneath corpses, others were painted red with blood like demons come to life.
Only half the expected number… Riven’s own words rang in her head. The realization struck like a fist to the gut.
Around them, Ionians rose up like an army of the damned, here to drag Fury Company to the depths of hell. They charged like madmen, their fear of death and of the invaders broken, leaving only pure, distilled rage for the butchers that carved through their land. It was as if an army of undead were coming to call, coming to exact is revenge in a toll of blood from the Noxians.
From Fury company…
From Riven’s company.