In the First Era of the Anonassi War, the Humans were outmatched physically, so they had to rely on wits, brains and cunning!
This is the time in the game where you can have “swashbuckling” type adventures, as well as face an enemy which exceeds your abilities in every way!
Ira D’Aoust lived for the weight of a sword in each hand, for the feel of the blade meeting the resistance of flesh, for the sound of metal against the horns and claws and bones of the Anonassi. There was an element of artistry to sword combat. The timing had to be right, and movements couldn’t be stiff or practised but rather had to be created on the spot, inspired by a deeper understanding of battle. It was easy to fire a gun, he thought. Aim, pull the trigger, rely on physics to finish the job. Where was the intimacy in that? The artistry? No bullet killed more than once, but his swords had claimed dozens of Anonassi lives.
And now they were charged with helping to reclaim the Rostov maiden, Vladlena, who had been spirited away while tending horses at one of the family’s stables.
The lone witness was a stable boy who’d been watching her from afar, having found the task of peeping unnoticed to be a preferable challenge to shovelling manure. After she was taken, it took him several hours to find the courage to move from his hiding spot and then a further several days to report what he had seen for fear of having to confess to how he spent his working hours.
As such, finding where Vladlena had been taken was an arduous task involving many scouts, and many close calls with Anonassi, all of which were progressively overlaid with a sheen of futility. The Anonassi had no aesthetic taste for pretty human maidens and favoured brutish tactics like murder over ones with a more strategic element, like demanding ransom. More and more, the popular belief became that she was almost assuredly dead.
Until she wasn’t.
The stronghold where she was being kept had been a particularly long and jagged thorn in humanity’s side since its discovery. Small and remote, it should have been easy to capture but the Anonassi stationed there protected it like it was the last bastion of their people. But this time, there was something for the D’Aousts and the Garcias to fight for.
Spinning on his heels, Ira caught one Anonassi Udzeni in the abdomen with his left blade; with his right blade, he parried off the attacks of a Fallen wielding a Kapavuk leg as a weapon, its snakelike fingers wrapped tight around its thickest point. His ears were ringing and he was bleeding from his arm, his face, his collarbone. There was a constant feeling of strain in his legs from trying to hold his position on blood-slicked stone.
The Fallen was laughing, and a malignant glow shimmered in each of its four eyes. It made swiping, taunting advances towards Ira that never made contact with more than his swords, and it moved ever backwards to lure him forwards. But Ira was laughing, too.
“You naughty, naughty thing,” he said, using the voice he reserved for tiny, underfoot children. “What I want isn’t back there – ” He took a leap backwards, narrowly avoiding landing on the Udezni’s still-writhing corpse. ” – why it’s right behind me! So you see, you simply can’t trick me into going in any other direction but this.” Giving his left sword a quick kiss on the pommel, he whispered to it, “I’ll come back for you, girl,” and tossed it at the Fallen, lodging it in its skull, and ran towards the tower from within which poured Vladlena’s indignant screams.
He dodged bullets and globs of acidic phlegm; he barked back at the Hellhounds trying to scale the wall towards him, and he ducked on command whenever one of his allies fired at an enemy that was about to flank him. He regretted not being closer to the action, regretted not being able to put on a full display of his swordsmanship for his predominantly gun-wielding brethren, but the sounds of their gunfire and of the Anonassi wailing in defeat were like music to him, and as he ran he moved almost like he was dancing in tune to it, the kind of marching, lurching dance of the intoxicated.
It came at great disappointment but at no surprise to discover that Vladlena was under heavy guard. Two Hellhounds prowled the room, and a group of Fallen had encircled her so completely that he could only catch a glimpse, here and there, of the pink fabric of her dress. Looking around the room, he soon realised that there was little he could use to his advantage. No torches to knock over, no rafters to swing from, no sharp and pointy objects he could repurpose into weapons.
“I always hate having to break a Molotov for you guys but, well, look how few choices you’ve left me with.”
Vladlena made a vaguely meeping sound and said something Ira couldn’t completely hear about what he was thinking, which was a fair enough question under the circumstances, but which was also a pointless one. He had made his decision, and so he threw the cocktail as far away from her as possible while still hitting the brunt of the Anonassi forces.
This was not enough to fell them, or even to stay their hands, but it did have the effect of scattering the Fallen away from Vladlena. Sensing an opportunity, he rushed into the room, grabbed Vladlena by the waist, and jumped from the nearest guard window, hoping rather blindly that he had correctly determined which one faced north.
They landed together on top of a pile of Anonassi corpses. Several fighters rushed to their side but Ira shooed them away. “Upstairs!” he said, “There’s some stragglers up there.”
When Vladlena caught her breath, she turned to him and said, “I supposed I should thank you but you nearly got me killed in two different ways so would you just take me home already?”
“Home?” Ira gave her a cheeky grin and a slightly suspect wink. “I’m about to claim this stronghold in the name of Ira D’Aoust,” he said. “I was thinking about making you my queen.”
Vladlena rose to her feet so fast that Ira jumped up with her, worried that one of the Anonassi beneath them was still alive. “If you don’t get me out of here right now,” she said, “I’ll shove this entire stronghold right up your arse.”
“Fine, fine,” Ira tried dusted himself off but he was covered in so much Anonassi blood that it just made him feel messier. “I have to fetch my sword first – at least she values my company – but once she has been returned to me, I’ll take you back to your home, fair maiden, you have my word.”