Chapter Thirty-Eight – Akhen Departs
Akhen stood beside a crumbling mud brick wall. From all around him his brothers made their way to where he stood. His magnificent body was bloodied and scarred from the vicious hand-to-hand battles of the night. Khan’s left arm was severed below the elbow. Max’s chest was badly lacerated, exposing bone and muscle. Apis limped from the deep cuts to the thigh of his right leg. Akkad’s head was wrapped in a crude blood soaked bandage shielding his severed ear and the cruel gaping wound across his handsome face, caused by a berserker’s sword slicing his cheek open to the bone. Shansur and Manesh held each other up. Both bloodied warriors hobbled on their one remaining good leg, dragging the other, now useless mangled limb, along the ground behind. Nusaan crawled along the ground on severed stumps with his intestines dragging through the sand. Besal and Seti were untouched, but their shields and broken swords bore testament to the savagery of their encounters with Shu’s berserkers. Despite everything that Shu had thrown at them, the brothers still survived for now.
Shu’s eyes searched for the whereabouts of Akhen and his band of brothers in the sea of death. She watched as ten of her guards descended the dune following her order to find and destroy her only real threat. The sound of violent explosions and a fierce sword fight drifted back up to where she stood waiting. Then an hour later out of the smoky haze six figures emerged, standing shoulder to shoulder with the sun glinting on their blood soaked swords. Akhen’s voice broke the silence as he delivered a fearsome challenge from the very depths of his tortured berserker soul, quickly taken up by his five remaining brothers. Shu’s eyes flashed with anger, tinged with fear. She turned her back and returned to her stallion that was stamping his hoof in the sand, impatient for action. Akhen turned and led the way back to where his dead brothers lay piled in a heap of tangled bodies mixed with the bloody pieces of Shu’s guards. The molecular charges had wreaked havoc. Now only he, Besal, Seti, Max, Akkad, and Khan, were left alive. (These six berserkers were the ones I was most concerned about, and still am, as I wait patiently for the evil one’s appearance in the years to come.)
Shu did not attempt any further incursions that day, fearful of the radiation soaked ground before her, and the deadly unseen molecular charges protecting Akhen. When night descended, the six brothers were many kilometres away approaching the outskirts of ancient Adab. Akkad cleaned and dressed his brothers’ many wounds before attending to his own. In the glow of the campfire, their grim faces spoke volumes. They were the last remaining free survivors on the planet. As they sat in silence eating their first meal since the final battle began, each of the six brothers vividly remembered the terrible events of the last few hours. The nightmarish visions would haunt them for the rest of their lives.
Seti shivered and yawned in the hour before dawn. The fire was only a pile of scattered glowing embers. He threw precious handfuls of wood from his scavenged supply onto the embers and soon the warmth from the flames helped ease the aches and pains that racked his body. His brothers still lay around the fire where exhaustion had overtaken their weary frames the night before. As the fire grew, Seti looked at each of the sleeping berserkers in turn. Akhen was missing! Where was he?
Hurriedly waking the others Seti scanned the area surrounding them in the depths of the ancient ruins searching for a clue to Akhen’s whereabouts.
“Look, he’s written something in the sand.” Besal pointed to the levelled ground by the wall. Akhen’s scrawled message told them, ‘I am going back to face Shu. Do not follow!’
“We’ve got to go after him!” Akkad exclaimed.
Khan shook his head. “No, if he doesn’t succeed, we must find a way to destroy Shu ourselves. She won’t leave until we’re all dead! Better to stay here, arm ourselves, heal our wounds, and prepare for what must be.”
Shu had already decided their fate by sending one of her ten remaining personal guards across the vast Saudi Arabian desert towards where her shuttle was parked, with orders to transform the remaining three hundred thousand human prisoners into another berserker army. Miniature flashes like bolts of lightning filled her eyes; Akhen and his accursed brothers will not survive for much longer!
The fearsome warrior’s feet kicked up small dust clouds as he sped effortlessly across the featureless expanse of desert. The easy motion of his stride made his shield and sword sway across his powerful back. The red crystal in his belt buckle glowed intensely, increasing his stamina for the long journey. By the early hours of morning on the third day, he saw the shuttle silhouetted by the moon, where it stood in readiness on a rock outcrop. When he was less than a kilometre from it the shuttle rose into the air and flew towards him. The quadruple spinning barrels of its crystal powered laser cannon shredded his protective shield, atomising him, leaving nothing but a thin red layer of particles, which briefly discoloured the sand he had stood on, before being swallowed up. Akhen turned the shuttle and headed toward Kalki.
Next time – Chapter Thirty-Nine