The War for Cevanti [The Front Lines] (2024)

* ~ *

Alexander Anderson

* ~ *​

In a whirling, flashing storm of blades, Alexander Anderson swept through the battlefield. Beside him, his Iscariots fought to their utmost in turn, knives and glades and gunfire flashing and clashing in tandem with his own fury. None of them could ever hope to keep up, mere ordinary men and women driven solely by rigorous training and zealotry rather than the inhuman abilities of the Regenerator among them. In a drawn-out, pitched battle they would no doubt have dropped and fallen one by one, but they were wise enough not to stick around for that. When they had received injuries enough to falter, they would fall back and aid the other wounded in less immediately threatened areas.

Until, at last, Anderson stood alone. Perhaps not truly alone, not entirely; there were still others, defenders of Markov certainly, and a seemingly endless horde of enemies stretching in all directions ahead of him. But the last of his unique sort, the last one with such a burning, zealous fury burning within him.

It would have to be enough.

In a blur of movement, his cassock flapping in the wind of his passage, he sprinted forward. A driving lunge, his bayonets piercing twisted and corrupted flesh, and he ripped another monstrosity in twain. Whirling about with the force of his momentum, his sleeves billowed as more bayonets flashed into his grip from seemingly nowhere and were flung wide in a gleaming arc around him. A dozen more fell, pierced in many places by glimmering silver through their bodies and heads.

A flying leap carried him over a twisted pile of bodies, and he vaulted over a pile of burning wreckage a step later, coming down in a scything arc that tore through another three unmade ghouls. And then he saw them, his eyes slowly growing wide in horror. The prisoners. The great shells strapped to their backs with chains and ropes. Cursed sigils and emblems and scars burned and carved into their flesh, with the glowing form of an omega symbol burning clearly and brightly on their body. They screamed, they howled, they cried.

They charged.

For as many corrupted and nearly mindless broken souls warped by Darkseid’s Unmaking, there seemed to be just as captured prisoners from Markov’s defenders, weeping and screaming and pleading as they were driven forward.

Even the blazing fury of the righteous Paladin was momentarily quelled by such a sight, leaving him slowed and lost, a chilling dread creeping into his bones as he could only stare. Stare and watch as the first of them reached the defenders…and lunged forward. With a gibbering, screaming, howling noise they lurched through retaliatory gunfire and blades and grasped onto one of Markov’s still-living defenders. Purple light pulsed, the shell on the warped creature’s back flaring brightly, before exploding in a massive conflagration of noxious purple flame and crackling lightning.

Anderson’s eyes slowly went wide in horror, his jaw falling momentarily slack.

….but only for a moment. Then his teeth ground together, gnashing so hard that for a moment sparks literally flew, blood dripping down his chin. His eyes flashed with freshly renewed fervor and rage, and his body twisted into a hunched over posture, hands clawing at the air.

“Such acts…are beyond unforgivable,” he snarled.

“Drive them forward!” a hissing voice bellowed from within the unmade’s ranks, followed by the crack of a whip and tongues of flame and smoke washing over the wailing heads of those bestrapped with bombs. “Make them all s—”

A blur of gray and silver broke through the ranks, and in an instant the whip-cracking driver found himself relieved entirely of his jaw and much of his face. “Hold your tongue, abomination,,” Anderson snarled, whirling about to plant a large bayonet directly in the thing’s chest. It pieced and ripped through armor, blackened and twisted flesh, warped and engorged muscle, fused plates of bone, and out the back in a single, bloody thrust. “The dead don’t speak.”

As red light burst from the hilt of the impaled bayonet and smoke hissed out in all direction, the killing judge of Iscariot leaped high up into the air. An explosion rocked the ground beneath him, ripping the bomb driver to pieces and propelling him higher into the air, where he spun about and reached into his coat with both arms. A flourish of both hands withdrew a pair of large times, deep blue and bound in iron, inscribed on the cover with a gleaming silver cross.

They both flew open, pages of scripture beyond counting flying out in a swirling storm of golden parchment and ancient, bronzed lettering. A pale glow of yellow-golden light suffused him, and as he was hidden entirely among the pages…he vanished entirely, with only a soft fluttering noise of wings left in his wake.

The pages of scripture exploded out all at once, raining down and blanketing a massive stretch of the battlefield. Countless nails, each one several inches long and with a heavy square shape, fell in a gleaming, silver rain to embed and pin the scripture to every available surface, blanketing ground and trench and fortification and enemy. A thin, pale mist of silver and gold hung over the area, the unmade in the area screaming and clutching at their faces, clawing at their eyes and ears, as they stopped in their tracks.

”Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” Anderson’s voice echoed as a flurry of scripture pages whirled out of seemingly nowhere, the mad priest reappearing in mid-stride as he swept through the temporarily immobilized horde around him. ”In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” He strode forth undaunted, his fury burning ever higher and brighter by now, as he swept another bayonet into either hand. ”For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

His voice was at once level and even, though held an incredible volume, carrying over the din of battle with such clarity it was as if projected through immense speakers. “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” Every one he passed, among the unmade’s ranks, fell beside him in his wake. Those bearing the bombs crumpled and fell to their knees, those fighting in earnest on their own measures with their screaming fury were cut down, their arms and legs flying in sprays of blood and gore.

”O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” Bullets and swords and flame and things much fouler struck him, washing over his body. Blood sprayed from wounds he suffered, his cassock ragged and scorched from the threats he waded through, his determination unflagging and unfaltering. ”The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.”

A hulking brute, forged of flesh fused with metal and bristling with blades, stepped into his path. Screaming madly, it rose both arms and lunged forward, sweeping and striking with reckless abandon and wild fury. The sheer mass of the bladed limbs shattered the bayonets that Anderson brought to bear, cleaving through them and ripping into his body in a bloody arc, sending him spinning and staggering back through the air to land in a crumpled heap.

For a moment, the mad priest lay there on the ground, as if felled by the blow.

”...but thanks be to God,” he whispered, through a mouth full of blood, as his body convulsed. ”...which giveth us the victory…through our Lord Jesus Christ.” As if pulled on strings, his body rose up at the waist into a sitting posture. The gashes in his chest mended and healed, flesh knitting shut and closing to scar tissue within moments, as he slowly rose to his feet. ”Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,” he intoned, as he thrust both arms out to either side, a fresh pair of gleaming silver blades springing into his hands. ”...forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

In a flurry of silver and blood, the killing judge of Iscariot broke through lines and stepped foot into the warped killing ground that stood around the blighted husk of Okor Paleblood. His breath heavy from effort, coated with all manner of blood and things much more vile beside, Anderson beheld the colossal figure with only a moment’s hesitation.

”Ah…and so another one comes to…throw himself into the fray,” the death guard spoke. ”Will you also struggle against…all that we seek to do here? In refusal to understand the true gift…of freedom that Darkseid seeks to bring to these worlds?”

Anderson shifted forward, ready to spring silently into battle…but sucked in a breath as blood poured down his face. The ancient scar on his cheek slowly split open, the countless wounds of bullets and blades both peeling open and oozing anew down his face.

”Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might,” he hissed, steeling himself as he finally lunged forward, heedless of the old injuries reopening over his body. His regeneration surged, working feverishly to mend the; as one slowly knit itself closed and healed another would split open, fresh blood seeping through his vestments and clothes. ”Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

A flash of silver and his bayonets came down in a gleaming arc, carving a twin trail of shining blue light across the flesh and armor of the plague marine…to virtually no avail, the blessed blades shattering outright in a shower of metal shards as their strike finished. ”For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

With pure instinct alone, Anderson threw himself backward into a flipping dive to avoid the great scythe that swung for him. It was only the weapon’s sheer size, and the ponderous bulk of it and its wielder that saved him, as it ripped and shredded through his cassock and missed him only precariously.

”Your fervor is…admirable, in its own way,” Okor spoke as he hefted the great scythe back up again. ”What stake have you in this…battle, I wonder? This place is not your home, these…people are not yours.” He lifted an empty hand, clawed fingers turned upward. ”You are trapped here just as…we all are. Even you must realize…the lies of this place.”

”Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” A grimacing snarl split the Regerator’s face as he whirled back upright, his hands each full of a cluster of new blades. Leaping back with a quick series of steps, he flung the blades. ”Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” As each arm flew forward, hurling its half dozen holy swords, he rolled his wrist to refill his grasp with more, until he had sent flying countless dozens of them, in a gleaming rain of silver.

Okor strode forward slowly, undaunted and unperturbed by the blades even as they broke against his armor and embedded in what exposed flesh there was, he simply hefted the scythe again. ”I see that you are set on being…difficult in this. A pity.” He swung the scythe, in tandem with an old wound opening on Anderson’s leg. As the paladin buckled, the scythe whipped around in a soundless, arcing slash.

Blood flew, and Anderson’s left arm was cloven through from hand to elbow, blood and muscle and bone flying in a gory spray as the zealous priest staggered back, momentarily collapsing to a knee. Nary a sound of pain passed his lips, as he rose up in a whirl of his cassock, his remaining arm rising up with bayonet in hand. ”Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” He surged forward, leaping up and planting his boots on either shoulder of the death guard as he drove his blade down into the face of the plague marine, the blessed silver erupting in a shower of sparks as it skittered and caromed off the lenses and armor and sank into the exposed, withered flesh of his neck below.

Okor’s free hand lurched up, grabbing the priest by his already half-broken leg and wrenched down. There was a sound of popping joints and snapping bones as the paladin was pulled down and slammed against the earth with enough force to make the ground shudder. Blood and spittle both flew from Anderson’s lips as he convulsed and struggled to breathe, as Okor lifted up one leg, prepared to quite literally squash the mad zealot like a bug.

Smoke flew from the bayonet jammed into his neck, red sparks flying in a steaming, hissing fountain. The three lenses of his helmet slowly flickered over to regard it only a moment before it erupted in a plume of fire, the explosion a deafening bang of fire and noise. It was enough to stagger the ancient marine, turning his death stomp for the downed paladin into a stumble that nearly toppled him.

”And take the helmet of salvation…” Anderson wheezed, his breathing grown difficult by now, as he slowly picked himself up off the ground. ”...and the sword of the Spirit…which is the word of God…” He regained his feet, swaying unsteadily, as Okor batted away the last of the smoke from the exploding bayonet. ”Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” As his left arm began to slowly knit and repair itself, his right hand flourished with a new bayonet as he prepared to throw himself back into the fray.

”Such dogged perseverance, in the face of…the inevitable,” Okor murmured.

”And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly…” Anderson lunged forward, leaping up as high as his damaged body would allow. “...to make known the mystery of the gospel.” His glasses flashed bright silver, the chain around his neck glowing gold, as he bared his teeth in a vicious snarl as he brought his blade down with all the force he could muster. ”AMEN!”

Anderson has deployed a swathe of holy scripture barriers over a large area to temporarily immobilize and slow as many of the bomb-Carrying prisoners as he can. This is a temporary measure and will buy a little time at best, and didn’t get all of them.

He then moved on to engage Okor directly, in another holding action.

The War for Cevanti [The Front Lines] (2024)
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