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Games of Shadow

Word Count: 851 Words

Shas’la Kuo’no Or’es Shi darted through the decrepit streets of Adrianople as swiftly as his hooves could carry him. The metallic highway exploded around his feet from where a heavy machine gun exploded into it. He kept his pace. The more he weaved through the maze of rubble and abandoned fortifications, the more inaccurate the entrenchment weapon became as it tried to track his position. In the end, he settled behind a tall barricade of thin steel resilient enough to deflect the ammunition being hurled in his direction.

He paused for a moment. The pulse rifle he cradled close to his chest he dropped onto the pavement. He needed a moment to breathe. The noisy rattling of the machine gun tapered off after a minute of concentrated fire. Silence reigned for a quick moment. Or’es used the time bought to think of his lost comrades. They had all perished. At the hands of an invisible foe, no less. He had tried to stand with them. Tried to find an enemy to neutralize. But there was nothing but shadows.

Now he needed a savior.

Or’es leaned his head in every possible direction to glean his surroundings. He was in the center of a crossroads where eight lanes joined. A swathe of buildings populated the flanks of each road, kept at bay by a large steel wall. That had not kept the debris from spilling over after many of them had suffered from loss of structural integrity. There were open lanes for vehicles to come and go, but the rest of the highway was locked down by layer upon layer of fortifications.

Or’es licked his cracked lips. “Where are you, you Gue’la?”

He searched the nearby manufactorum directly in front of the barricade for movement, but discovered nothing even with the aid of an enhanced vision device. The human was there somewhere. Either Or’es would outmaneuver the threat or he would be here until the threat eliminated him.

There was a distinct thump scant feet away from his position. Months of intense training had taught Or’es not to leap at the first sign of danger. Instead he picked up his pulse rifle, gently threw his back against the barricade, and made himself ready to spring out and catch his foe by surprise.

Three… Two… One…

“For the Greater Good, Gue’la!” Or’es shouted at the top of his lungs. He rounded the corner as quickly as he could manage. He physically shrank from the gigantic figure standing in the waning sun, painted in varying degrees of shadow.

Perhaps the figure could not hear him? That was impossible. Or’es was bellowing like a mad Ork.

Or’es realized his peril and did what seemed natural for him to do in such a situation. He did nothing. He was paralyzed, not exactly by fear, but astonishment. What was this creature?

The figure turned his gaze away from the sun, planted one sure foot forward after the next until he had rounded the first barricade. He approached slowly, but his movement was not born of caution, but of confidence.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

The shadows peeled away from him like layers off a serpent’s skin. The right half of his armor was a gory red tint that reflected the sun’s rays with a polished sheen. The rest stayed in the shadows even as it came to light. It was a darkness that the sun could not destroy. The golden Aquila of the Imperium was emblazoned across the chest plate. Decorations of what appeared to be feathered wings flanking a massive bloody teardrop was emblazoned upon his left shoulder pad. Or’es could see nothing of the creature’s face, but an empty mask with emerald visor slits.

The creature’s voice thundered like a wrathful storm. “Quid est quod tibi placuerit , hostem dignam?” (How is it that you wish to die, worthy foe?)

Or’es straightened himself, but could not find the words to say anything.

The creature drew a long metallic blade with a deadly serrated edge. He raised it high overhead and admired the craftsmanship. As if noticing Or’es for the first time, the mutated Gue’la leveled the blade at his foe.

The swipe was quick. Faster than anything Or’es had ever seen before. Had Or’es not naturally stumbled and fell over himself, he would have been split into pieces. The creature came closer. Thump. Thump. Thump. The blade flipped in the Gue’la’s hands as he made to thrust downward into Or’es exposed gut.

There was a visceral, wet explosion that came from within. Or’es’ expression was fixated in horror as the sounds laced through the innards as if a string being worked back and forth. The creature paused, head cocked to the side in puzzlement. A great well of blood erupted from his mouth and came through his mouth grill. Or’es scrambled away from the massive Gue’la as it fell onto its knees before keeling over.

It was dead.

Or’es rushed to his feet, searched this way and that, but found nothing but shadows playing in the dark.

Mocking laughter echoed across the highway. Then nothing.
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