Gjallarhorn: Semper Danyu
Grass rustled underfoot.
The yawning, umbral maw of a rock strewn cave gaped menacingly.
There could be no mistakes.
This, the provincial execution, was the holiest of duties; fit to be carried out solely by Danyu’s sacred warriors.
Kina loped soundlessly through the field, her fellow Shepsut spread around her, Chief Boro-Neen surging ahead at the front. Each of their tribal tattoos burned brightly under the midday sun, an audacious promise of certain death to their prey. Kina felt the weight of her fire pistols at her sides, the solar rod sheathed at her back, coils of Dakshi Tree fiber looped at her waist. A primitive looking spear jostled loosely betwixt her fingertips. The Shepsut honored all generations of weapons, believing the first principle of the true warrior to be wisdom in the weapon he or she chooses to wield. The antithesis to being a good soldier is not progress, but rather, faulty loyalty.
As one, the Shepsut gathered their legs beneath them, springing with the agility of wild mountain lions and the power of a splinter hurled from a hurricane. They soared up through Danyu’s shifting gravitic pull, increasingly inconsistent as the entire world spasmed upon the precipice of non-existence. The last day of the 27th year was in two days. If they did not catch and slay the Sacred Beast, the Alwashsh Almuqadas, today then there’s no telling when they’d get the opportunity again. Certainly not within two days.
The Shepsut landed feather light on the cave’s outer edge, instinctively falling in behind Chief Boro-Neen, charging into the depths of the darkness.
Malsonakiv could taste the scent of the Alwahsh Almuqadas on the edge of his lips, and it nearly drove him mad with anticipation. Ever since he was a child, training under his father’s harsh tutelage, he’d dreamed of jabbing his solar rod into the Sacred Beast’s eyes and blowing its life out through its tail with one mighty blast. Chief Boro-Neen’s skid to a stop disrupted the young warrior’s reverie. Chk, chk. Two clicks of the tongue. Three fan out right, three fan out left, Chief Boro-Neen would stay on point. This meant the creature must be right in front of them.
The Shepsut fanned out accordingly. Chief Boro-Neen closed his eyes, inhaling deeply. He could feel the Alwahsh Almuqadas’ presence. Chk, chk, chk. Three tongue clicks. GO!!
The Shepsut leaped out from the cavern walls they’d been clinging to, Chief Boro-Neen diving straight towards a thick dark mass. For an instant, the sacred warrior questioned whether there was anything there and if this was about to become a spectacular suicide, when suddenly there was a dull roar and glittering purple light was thrown across the cave. The Alwahsh Almuqadas reared its glowing head, swiping its paws at its assailants. The Shepsut struck with the full force of their training, niftily evading the massive claws scraping against the stone, tiny bursts of yellow light exploding from their solar rods against the creatures nigh impenetrable hide. Chief Boro-Neen whipped and whirled around the deadly feet, swinging his lethal sword with unrelenting accuracy, seeking to lop off the paws at the knees so that his team could finish it off unencumbered.
“Set me up and I’ll go in for the kill.”
Malsonakiv mumbled quickly to Kina.
She nodded tersely.
With a shrieking war cry, she bounded into the air once more, firing gouts of burning metal from her fire pistols. The Sacred Beast roared, its green eyes lighting up brilliantly as it finally began to feel pain. Those big, green eyes locked onto Kina’s violet ones and her breath caught in her throat. Sadness. The Sacred Beast didn’t want to die.
Before she could process any further, Malsonakiv’s cry of victory ricocheted across the cave as he landed with his solar rod directly in the left eye of the Sacred Beast. Just as he’d always planned. What he didn’t plan for was the jerking cry of pain and rage that would send him flying across the room. His body slammed into the cave wall and went still. The dark cave grew ever brighter as the purple light pulsed a wave of energy that slammed into all of the surrounding Shepsut. Before they could recover, the Alwahsh Almuqadas wailed terrifyingly as it reared up in the air, scratching mightily. There was a popping noise and then the sound of glass being sucked away.
And suddenly the Sacred Beast was gone.
** ** **
The temperature display on Jason Gitter’s cell phone made his lip curl in disgust. It wasn’t the heat (which was awful), it was what came with the heat. This terrible contradiction that didn’t happen all that often, but when it did happen was already too many times.
The weather was hot and muggy outside, and yet, somehow, the sky still had the audacity to pour forth rain. Jason shook his head. Looks like this will be a Netflix and Instagram scroll kind of day.
He’d just slipped out of his socks and tucked himself into the most comfortable position on his couch, when he caught a flashing red light in his periphery. Oh no. It was his cell phone. Blink, blink, blink. It was at 5% battery life. And the charger… was in his car.
Out in the muggy rain.
Jason groaned, but in vain. There was no way around it. Better do this quick, like pulling teeth, so he could get back to his day. He bundled himself up, grabbed his keys, exited his apartment, took the elevator down, and dashed into the sloggy, humid mess.
He was drenched in seconds as he fiddled getting his car door open. There it was. Right on the driver’s seat. He snatched it out and slammed the door, but right before he could dash back inside, there was a flash of red light and a popping sound filled the air. He leaped back in horror as the figure of a woman fell out of thin air, thudding into the hood of his car. His legs locked as she approached him. She looked like some futuristic Amazon straight out of a fairytale, hair slicked down around her shoulders under the rain.
“Mgashtick ek tenu!”
Jason looked at her, aghast.
“MGASHTICK EK TENU!!!” she said more forcefully.
Jason was dumbfounded. The strange woman must have perceived the lack of comprehension on his face, because her eyes narrowed and she began muttering frustratedly to herself. Next moment, he found himself caught in her vice of a grip. She stood on the hood of his car, holding him firmly with one hand and a spear in the other, while shouting into the rain. She shouted again and again, making a jabbing motion with her spear.
Suddenly that popping noise erupted around them again. The woman grinned and through him into it, leaping after him herself. There was the sound of broken glass being sucked away, and then his world went black.
** ** **
“This is not Alwahsh Almuqadas.”
Chief Boro-Neen stared stonily from where he sat with the lifeless body of Malsonakiv in his arms. Kina took a breath. They hadn’t been able to get Malsonakiv the aid he needed, because it had taken a whole day and a half to scrape together enough power to send her after the Sacred Beast into whatever realm he’d fled to. But, of course, she couldn’t just be sent… she had to be brought back too. And it had to be her. She was the only one who’d seen the eye of the beast face to face. She was marked.
“Chief. You told us that no matter where the Alwahsh Almuqadas goes, he is bound to Danyu. And with the power it takes to break apart the walls between realms, it’s impossible for him to stay gone for long, and when he returns it must be to this place. His lair.”
Chief Boro-Neen’s gaze was stony.
“What does this… thing… have to do with any of that?”
Jason stood slowly to his feet, surprised that he could now understand everything that was being said.
“I’m not a thing. I’m a human. And my name is Jason. And, actually, I’d love to go back home. Uh. Please.”
Kina shoved him back down to the ground.
“He’s marked. Whatever route the Sacred Beast took, he came in contact with this Jason.”
Jason opened his mouth to speak, but a withering glance from Chief Boro-Neen made him reconsider that objective.
“We have eleven hours Kina. That is not a lot of time. Danyu grows more out of phase with every passing minute.”
The eruption of a nearby volcano, belched through the air as if to underscore his statement.
“Chief. We don’t have much choice.”
The silence from Chief Boro-Neen and the rest of the Shepsut was answer enough. They didn’t have any more options. The warriors slept in shifts. All except Kina and Chief Boro-Neen. Jason crept closer to her.
“I don’t understand,” he said quietly. “Who are you people? Why am I here?”
Kina turned her big, violet eyes on him, and he saw a small sigh settle her shoulders.
“This is Danyu,” she said. “We are a rare world. Many worlds bear the luxury of ignoring their myths. But us? We are ruled by it. The Alwahsh Almuqadas- the Sacred Beast- is a children’s tale. A thrilling story for bedtime. But every 27 years, the Sacred Beast is killed. And Danyu is granted another 27 years to remain. But this time, something went wrong.” A strange look passed over her face. “We could not find him. The prophets were either blind or lying, the stories we told the children offered no insight, and it was not at any of the common holy sites. The search for the Sacred Beast has always been the duty of the Shepsut, but we are the first to ever truly hunt for it. And by the time we found it… it was almost too late. And then it escaped.”
“Into my world.”
Jason was following better than he thought he was. Kina nodded affirmingly.
“Into your world. When I got there, I saw its scent all over you. You must have had some contact with it and not known it. So I grabbed you. Gambling that it would follow its own scent on the way back.”
“I’m the bait.”
He said it with such plain recognition that Kina almost felt sorry for him.
Suddenly she and the Chief shot a look at the cave’s mouth. Someone was approaching. The Shepsut slipped like shadows to the mouth of the cave. Kina lurked back to guard Jason.
“What is it?” he asked nervously. “Is it the Sacred Beast?”
A small commotion erupted at the mouth of the cave, prompting Kina to grimace regretfully.
“Worse,” she grunted, dragging him back and tucking him behind a rock. “Assassins.”
Kina sprinted across the cave grounds, lighting up the darkness with bolts from her solar rod. These assassins were spiritual sociopaths. Despots. It was no secret that they longed to harbor the power of the Alwahsh Almuqadas for themselves or let Danyu and all its inhabitants die trying. Jason squinted through the light of the campfire, dimly making out horned mask figures battling with their naked hands against the sheer blades of the Shepsut. He gasped as a deflected projectile decimated the space where his head had just been.
While the two factions dueled, Jason back away further and further into the cave, his mind whirling with everything. I just wanted to watch Netflix!! He scooted across the dirt, until his back came up against a smooth surface. He pressed himself up against it, praying for the darkness to thicken and render him totally invisible.
In total rejection to his entreaty, the entire cave began to be shot through with multicolored lights, the air humming with chaotically eerie tones. Kina parried two lethal forearm strikes, somersaulting over the spring loaded blade hidden in the assassin’s chest plate, landing with a smirk on her face. Another explosion of light erupted, one of the beams landing squarely on the assassin who’d snuck up behind, fully about to decapitate her. His body exploded in the light.
That was close.
“The light beams are lethal!!”
Chief Boro-Neen ducked and bobbed, and shot, and stabbed with mounting vigor. He lived for the thrill of genuine battle.
But this was something different. Danyu was coming undone.
“Get to Jason! We need him to lure-“
Kina pointed and both assassins and Shepsut alike turned to gape at the spectacle.
Jason was glowing.
One of the multicolored beams had hit him, but rather than disappearing or making him explode, it stayed. Like a laser sword mid-impale. More and more light beams struck him, all sticking upon impact. Jason looked down at himself totally confused. Burning in agony. His hair exploded into fire. His face shone with a light too white to look upon.
And then he understood.
“Yok teni Alwahsh Almuqadas.”
I am the Sacred Beast.
With that simple admission, the false cerebral barriers of his dichotomy shredded from his mind like tissue paper in a hurricane.
Jason Gitter was gone.
Consumed by the Sacred Beast.
The Sacred Beast hadn’t marked him- it had BECOME him.
Whatever disruption changed how the Alwahsh Almuqadas operated, had apparently given it a brand new power as well.
The cave shook harder as Danyu began to vibrate itself into non-existence.
And Jason knew what he had to do. He took a deep breath, and the Sacred Beast’s powerful lungs summoned the spear from Kina’s hand.
“No!” she cried out, unsure why even as she did so.
Jason held the spear over his navel, sweat searing lanes across his forehead as he fought the force within him. The Alwahsh Almuqadas still didn’t want to die.
“I… Have… To…” Jason inched the blade closer to himself. Kina darted forward, but Chief Boro-Neen put a hand out to stop her.
“He doesn’t know what he’s doing.”
“Yes. He does.”
“But what about his family? His friends? They’ll never know the nature of his sacrifice. Not just anybody can merge with the Sacred Beast.”
“Truth. It is a special calling to be Sacred as both Beast and Warrior.”
“They’ll never know who it was that walked among them… they’ll never know what they lost.”
“Sure they will.”
Chief Boro-Neen looked her in the eye.
“Every time there’s a summer rain.”
With a screaming cry sounding like nothing on any world, Jason plunged Kina’s spear into his stomache and up through his heart. The lights staggered in miscellaneous frenzy for several minutes. Danyu shuddered. Existential phase folded back into realignment. Then Jason’s lifeless body dropped from the air. Kina leaped to catch him. She laid him down almost reverently, looking up at her Chief.
The Chief nodded.
“It is finished.”
“Now we can begin.”
Joshua Evans is a prolific writer and sci-fi/fantasy enthusiast who believes story is central to everything and that mythology can change the world. He currently hosts two youtube shows- The Truth About Superheroes and Comic of the Week. If you would like to further be a part of his cosmic psyche, you can join him on Twitter and Instagram (@comicsinspire) or simply subscribe to this story reel… and remember- sharing is caring! Cheers!