~ a short story
A trail of gore winding through the central thoroughfare of the chapel revealed a monster surfacing from behind the dais.
A wolf. A giant. A god.
Executor Nexe halted his trained approach and let the sensors on his suit prime. Dripping, bloody claws scratched at the inner wall of the temple, enveloping the corner and thrusting forward a wobbling silhouette over six meters tall. Wolfine and gangly, furry and ferocious, it stood tall on two legs like a Man. A maw full of razor-sharp teeth and bits of priest opened and let out a shuddering breath. Four lengths of advantage with a fist that could crumble him even inside his counter-pulsing iron, Nexe let himself take one step backward as he looked upon the monstrous beast codenamed “Wolf-God.”
Just one. Suddenly bouncing and balanced on the balls of his boots — like a cat — the young exo-hunter steadied himself for agile combat. His sol-suit’s inner grav matrix kept his strides swift in spite of the two-x weight of the moon’s atmosphere upon his armor’s bulk. He would not retreat against this mighty foe; this was his job after all. Exterminate and explore.
1.6 hours ago a distress beacon surfaced from a “Temple of Nyarl” on Thore IV’s lesser moon, then pinged off an exo-base on the surface of the planet peopled by gas-fiends and smugglers. Some lesser religious practice, with scattered temples across the galaxy, the Nyarlean priests and clerics liked to keep to themselves as they practiced strange rituals and spoke in a harsh language most reviled and few could understand.
The wolf-like monstrosity stepped into the light of the ruined temple’s main passage to square off against the lone Executor. Out of the microfabrics and nanobots of Nexe’s left gauntlet materialized his trusty auto-rifle. Priming a shot from his HUD, Nexe surveyed his surroundings in an instant, the battlefield-to-be.
A massacre. No survivors. The grey humanoid Nyarl priests were wiped out, ripped to shreds in pieces throughout the now-wrecked temple. The stench of loose limbs would be insufferable if not for his helm’s sealed environ. Fading sunlight draped the interior in crimson through ceiling and wall holes the size of dreadnought blasts.
“Invader” and “God” were the only two recognizable sigils the priests inhabiting the temple had been able to transmit to Nexe’s employer, Exo, via the distressor; strange and meaningless as much of their language had been thus far to Exo’s translators, they did place these two jagged, roiling Nyarlean symbols. The closest Executor, Nexe, responded in his personal cruiser through three warps and an impulse shot directly onto the moon’s surface. He’d headed right into the temple, through snowy and rocky terrain, sighting no other ship or much civilization in the lunar wilderness surrounding this lone structure nestled in a hillside. Nexe was struck by how old the temple was, by sight and sensor alike.
The creature must be capable of self-transmission.
Some aliens and most demigods were capable of moving their own forms through time and space, no iron or warp core needed. From the look of the bodies and the hard stone of the temple, this beast was certainly as strong as a demigod. Exo, the multigalactic corporation he served, often tasked its strongest hunters with extraplanar misadventures which sometimes had them hunting demigods. The execution rate on those jobs, according to inner records, was lower than 10%. Nexe hadn’t been working at Exo for long, but even he knew that figure was as close to zero as a number could get.
The fear in the man’s 29-year old frame, underneath all the iron and foreign gravity and sun, began to culminate in potential death-defying strategies. They’d need to be employed efficiently, with the calm execution of one befitting his role.
The Wolf-God at last emerged in its full glory. Two marks set Nexe in furious motion: the beast was injured. And the beast was BIG. Laceration injuries soaked its torso, arms and legs; holes and cuts covered it, some deep and surfacing dark red source. The creature stood tall but wavered, still holding itself up upon one of the broken temple walls.
Had the priests put up a fight? With what?
Nexe saw no weapons, no auto-defense infrastructure within the zealot’s environment that could’ve inflicted such things upon the superior fighter.
The Wolf-God looked exhausted, in need of rest or soon to be unconscious. And yet, it stood. Red eyes glowered down at Nexe. It raised a claw and tensed the sinew in its limbs, readying a lunge forward, to end another challenger to its endless massacre.
Need to move fast.
In a half panic aided by muscle-memory and survival instinct, Nexe threw his autorifle into his left hand while his right reached down to his explosives belt. Filled with stun grenades and thermal detonators, six a piece, the belt came loose and was in the air between the Man and Beast. With a mighty heave, Nexe launched his entire belt at the monster, aiming for its central mass with his rifle.
A voice bellowed from the mighty Wolf-God,
Nexe heard the word and fired in the same stroke.
It speaks our language!
A singular plasma dart pierced the central detonator and summoned an explosive boom which shook the temple waste and put Nexe on his ass. Red smart-flames swirled around the beast, targeting and affixing themselves into its wounds, deigning to maximize damage and bring down the creature as quickly as possible.
The Wolf howled, aflame with the fury of a God, and did not fall.
Through the ash and mist of the massive blast radius produced by Nexe’s dozen-strong cocktail of micro-nuclear destruction, the Wolf-God rushed toward him. Still burning hot and orange and screaming in pain, the beast brought down its right paw with the velocity to splatter him across the cracking thoroughfare of the temple. Nexe rolled to his left, dodging the heated pound into the stone, ready to plug the beast with plasma hollows. But the creature was faster. It swept that downed arm across the crackling ground and smashed Nexe across the room’s expanse.
He collapsed back-first into a pillar and aided in its final, crumbly topple. Nexe’s HUD was alight with notifs telling him numbers and warnings. 23% damage load; limb stress acute; microfractures in his legs and back. The suit’s power let him ignore the pain and stand. The trained assassin steadied his rifle arm toward the burning, howling, raging Wolf-God. The crimson therma-fire absorbing the beast lit up dusk at the temple; the dying monster appeared as something from a nightmare, screaming and clawing with the madness only agony can unveil.
The shrieking seized right as Nexe started to pull the trigger. More hacking words surfaced from the monster. A strained voice in the eerie baritone of a man. The words halted Nexe’s combat instinct — and his trigger finger.
“I came to kill the abominable summon. And I have. But now…” the words choked away, and a gaze the color of murder resumed.
Burn you monster.
Nexe fired upon it. A full mag dump. The Wolf-God lunged sidelong, intelligent enough to attempt a dodge. But the autorifle’s hollow point plasmas found purchase anyway, drawn to the heat of its target. Nexe watched as the points invaded the melting flesh of the beast, exploding more blood and gore upon the cracked stone. Each shot from an Executor’s auto — custom-made and designed to aid in a long-range, galaxy-wide hunt — carried enough stopping power to pierce cruiser hulls and psyker carapaces alike.
The Wolf-God’s body was shredded and leaking and did not stop. Its screams turned to a singular, heaving, icy breath as it dropped to all fours and rushed within melee range. Nexe sighted his next shot between the eyes, nearly point blank. But he never got it off. A uppercut slash borne of the vestiges of the beast’s fading consciousness brought Nexe a dose of his own harrowing pain. The Wolf-God’s left claw connected with his autorifle first, mangling its inner machinery and loosing it from the Executor’s sure grip; next came that grip, as the elongated and superheated claw tore through his iron like a hot knife through butter — opening him up, taking Nexe’s left arm with it.
The Executor’s own lifeblood poured from the grievous wound upon his torso. But Nexe’s steel activated trauma mode and did its good work, sealing off the bleeding nub that used to be his left arm and shooting icy healing goops upon the remains of his chest skin. Nexe gritted his teeth and reached toward his boot. Too late. In a flash, the wolf’s right claw was enveloping him, crushing him. Shock and trauma and the prospects of a painful death had Nexe staring into the now-burning eye sockets of his monstrous foe with mesmerized candor.
What a hard death. Valhalla surely awaits me… a crisp smile crossed Nexe’s scarred lips. He believed it a fitting end for a man who’d only ever known such violent delights, from tube to grave.
The Wolf-God raised up Exo’s fifth-ranked “Knight” like a snack, high above his now-blinded head and spoke with a lifeless tenor as he tried to mangle his bones with pulsing strength from his fingers. Nexe silently listened, fading away under the strain of its strength.
“You’ve unfolded an apocalypse here today, Executor… But my curse ends with me. My watch ends alongside this burnt husk …carried me for so many eons… From moon to moon, slaughtering my lessers to prevent my greater from ever again walking this ‘verse.”
The words landed not in their content but their tone. Nexe marked the Wolf-God’s intelligence. Knows my status as an Ex. “Eons.” Moon to moon. Nyarlean priests were summoning something…
The words intrigued but it was not until Nexe sighted the open maw full of teeth that he exploded back into conscious animation. With a torquing burst from his remaining arm, Nexe wriggled free a gauntlet and fired its inner laser sword to life.
Nexe let loose a battle cry, “Your curse ends with ME!”
The young, prodigiously talented Executor screamed with all his soul and swung down, slicing off the fingers gripping him as the Wolf-God’s last meal. He fell from the demolished hand in a spin. No more pain surfaced from the monster, now burnt nearly to a crisp, blinded and losing the will to continue the fight. Without its fur and with visible holes blasted throughout its form, the beast stood as a stickly specter, all teeth and shadow, a mystic abyssal trespasser not long for the world.
As he fell, Nexe reacted as if in slow motion. The intergalactic warrior shuttered his helm, silencing the busy alerts from his armor HUD in disarray at all the damage. The thin air of the moon’s atmosphere washed over his sweating features. The windy quiet helped him focus his failing attention for one last shot. Descending alongside the severed fingers — black and gnarled and carrying the unmistakable stench of an accursed rot — Nexe reached for his boot with his right, laser blade dematerialized.
Falling backward, with the cool air of Thore IV’s nameless moon washing over his utterly hairless head, Nexe closed one eye as he wrested his trusty sidearm from the boot and fired.
Carrying the same plasma points in his rifle, the well-aimed pistol shot did the job. The Wolf-God’s lulling head exploded with a resounding splat as Nexe slammed into the ground from a six-meter fall. Unconsciousness came so fast that he assumed it was the end. Nexe fell away with a smile, his foe vanquished. The percentage would tick up a tad because of him.
Nexe awoke later to stillness, a pleasant night breeze washing over his features. He sat up and let his muscles ache and relax. He turned down to his left arm, severed and now sealed by the smart-steel of his suit. Once more, the hunk of junk saved his life. Nexe got up, thinking about the forms he’d have to file in order to requisition Exo for a new arm. Again.
The Executor hobbled over to the decapitated body of the Wolf-God, still smoking. On-command, cannabinoids flooded Nexe’s system from all panels of his suit, soothing him. The heap of blackened beast, without a head or much fur left, with blasted-apart musculature it looked so much smaller than that initial vision. Was it all a dream?
Did I nearly die in combat with a wild dog?
A pulsing shriek split the thought asunder. Maddening pain and the unmistakable sense of the sound’s nearness almost toppled the Executor right out of his boots. Another pulse shuddered his bones. Not a sound, Nexe realized. A feeling. Extrasensory and filled with dread. A psychic remora, latching onto his brain. It was near, coming from inside the temple. Nexe was already moving in its direction. Down the thoroughfare and away from the Wolf-God’s corpse. Toward the dais. Toward the shadows of the room from where the beast had initially emerged.
Smoke drifted continuously from behind the clawed threshold where the giant had stepped from, directly into mortal combat with him. Night unfurled through the silent temple remains as Nexe shambled into the backroom of the Nyarlean Temple on Thore IV.
Nexe entered the fetid air and toward the sight of a crater. Meters deep and smoking black to grey, the air was heavier near the hole. He moved toward the edge and peered down. What he saw was flesh, splayed out as if exploded, all bloody and serpentine and spider-like. The ruined mess of a creature of nightmarish form. Red and grey, pulsing and burning; the smoke emerged from the flesh. Worm-like appendages kept twitching and bubbling; pieces of the thing were still alive. The longer Nexe stared the more his head hurt, the heavier his armor felt.
The ancient name sprung to mind. An immortal figure. Awe-inspiring. Divine.
No. Nexe shook his head. A monster… The “summon” the Wolf-God arrived here to end. An Old One. A nightmare. Something to be feared, destroyed.
Nexe’s head suddenly shot up, through the ceiling above the crater. Into the night sky of Thore IV’s moon he looked and saw a path materialize. As if his sight was somehow extrasensory itself — Nexe could visually chart the route through deep space this comet took, all the way to its point of origin. The path the Wolf-God took. Nexe suddenly knew of its home planet, could see it among the stars. He knew it as if he’d been there before…
Nexe backpedaled to look at the body of the beast again in the thoroughfare. Steam wafted off a skeleton. Black shadows on the cracked stone encircled a corpse, tiny relative to its former height. All that remained were the bleach-burned bones of an average-sized humanoid. A man, like him.
Nyarlathotep will return!
The message pulsed into his heart. A shocking pain bulged in the nub where his left arm used to be. Nexe felt his body begin to inexplicably grow. From every cell, down to the well-shaved hairs on his scalp, face, eyebrows — the pain of growth demanded all his attention. Near the dais, Nexe fell to his knees with a clang; his panels of armor began to dent and fold under the immense weight of an exploding form. Brown fur peaked through the panels.
Nexe wanted to scream. Instead, he used all his conscious energy to try to contain the pain, to try to end whatever monstrous malady was taking hold of him. The sight of the rank demigod’s corpse in the heart of the crater below had Nexe raise his arms as if in ritual praise to its death. He breathed deep the fumes of its flesh and shut his eyes. Roiling visions of destruction and madness — crawling chaos the colour of capricious carnage — filled his mind’s eye and made his teeth rattle.
The pain there became the worst of all. Nexe’s incisors were becoming fangs in one go. The nerve-wracking pangs from the transforming little knives in his bleeding maw made him want to howl. And so Executor Nexe did. All night long, ’til the long hunt for Nyarlathotep began anew. ~