Thursday, November 16, 2017

Spotlight on Risen by Roxanne Heath

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Ragnarok – the cyclical occurrence resulting in the slaughter and resurgence of the universe – is once more coming to pass, taking with it the best warriors that can be offered up to the jaws of Fenrir and his monstrous kin. When three of the best and most burnt-out warriors decide that dishonor is their only hope of permanently escaping the cycle, they abdicate their home world and make the jump to Earth. Taking refuge in unsuspecting members of a fragmented family they find that, while the fallen soldiers of their home are returning to fight in the battle, Earth’s deceased are mistakenly doing the same. The dead are rising, and their only call is to destruction.

At that moment the three of them hear a snapping twig and the low sounds of someone or something shuffling through uncut grass. When they hear the wet snarl that accompanies it the three of them wheel around to see several creatures stalking out of the trees, their gait awkward and their eyes blazing yellow.
Ása is the first to her feet, reaching for the staff she’d propped against the log. She takes a firm hold on the canvas-bound grips at either end and begins to rotate them in opposite directions, feeling the internal mechanism engage. Under pressure of her grip the blades swiftly begin to protrude from inside the hollow, thick-walled staff. As the rotational abilities of Ása’s wrists come to an end the blades lock into place, a gleaming fourteen inches of sharp, oiled metal protruding from each end of the weapon. She takes several wide steps towards her enemies, giving her ample room for offensive maneuvers. Behind her and to either side she hears Ari and Egill draw their weapons, and she need not look to see where they’ve positioned themselves. She knows their tactics as well as her own.
Ása closes her eyes for a moment, taking the split second to trigger within herself an adrenaline rush that slows the scene to half-speed. She takes hold of the spear by the middle grips and begins to twirl it, positioning it to her left and to her right, picking up speed until she is essentially wielding a silver blur that makes her both lethal and unreachable. The first of the Risen makes its way into her range and she moves the spear upward, catching it under the chin with a sickening crunch as metal meets bone. Its head snaps backward and it falls. Another takes its place and she catches it in the cheek with the staff itself, watching its rotten face splatter open. With no close enemies she resumes the twirling pattern, backing up towards the sound of Egill’s voice.
The creatures take her retreat as their cue to break from a slow shamble to a fearsome rush. Ása turns away and sprints to the outskirts of the area in which they fight, crossing the mock boundaries in her head and creating a viable gap between herself and her enemies. She stacks the Risen – keeping one positioned behind the other at all times – and when the next of the monsters closes the gap she brings the spear up and twirls it, swinging it against its face twice as she finishes out the move. The momentum of the blunt force trauma to its head snaps its neck, and as the creature stumbles Ása shoves him back. He is the last to fall, and Ása returns to the others where they stand, chests heaving, among blood-stained grass and remains.
“We may be too late,” Egill says in the post-battle silence, slow to catch his breath. “They have already begun to rise.”

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