If you are even remotely interested in Thoughts of Steel, me in general, or fiction anything, you’ll want to get in here. It’s such a teaser too that it’ll surely piss you the off… in a good way.
In the past month or so—he had begun to lose track of time—Phalax had awoken nearly every day to the sound of screaming, thrashing men, or a knock on his door signaling the arrival of a meal or his wife. One particular day, the former shook him from his sleep. He paid no attention to the racket, even when he heard steel ring out through the hallways, and just tried to fall back asleep. This noise was especially loud and prolonged, as if a band of marauders had invaded the prison and the guards were in the process of fighting off the lot of them.
Daily trips from the cell and out into the daylight kept Phalax sane and also allowed him a mental map of the layout of the facility. He imagined crazed men running through the corridors or beating down the only exit to the outside, a large set of double doors with steel bands across each.
With a renewed curiosity, Phalax got to his feet and pressed himself up against the door. Men screamed, steel clattered, and thuds pounded the walls. What caught Phalax’s attention was that the screams weren’t only screams of agony and anger but also screams of terror. The place is under attack, he thought. And then, all at once, he knew what was attacking.
The tome he had asked Felicia to bring him sat in a corner of his cell. By the wan daylight that streaked through the small, barred window up the back wall of cell, Phalax had read through the entire book in the past month. He had spent a considerable amount of time reading through the section about summoning. In these passages, Phalax discovered that the author of the book claimed to have access to another realm where infernal creatures resided. From this, he could pull demons forth onto Zepzier. The author then discovered that there were many other realms and that each was tied together. Most interesting was that one of the barriers between realms had frayed.
Phalax reached his hands to the eye slit in the cell door and tried sliding the smooth panel out of the way. After several unsuccessful attempts, the metal finally slid to the right. He stood at an angle and looked down the hall as far as the small hole would allow.
The end of the hallway was hidden from view but Phalax could hear something big pounding in his direction, accompanied by a series of terror-stricken screams. Finally, a soldier clad in full plate mail awkwardly and slowly ran into Phalax’s limited cone of vision. The soldier was the source of the terrified wails but not the cause of the pounding footsteps.
Phalax watched the man go for as long as was physically possible then turned his head back toward where the knight had come from, only to witness a mass of flesh fly past the small opening. Whatever it was, its skin looked crimson, and Phalax had to keep himself from jumping back at the sight. Phalax could then only rely on sound to keep track of what was going on, for the soldier, and whatever chased him, had moved past his field of vision. New screams of terror came from the soldier, and then a roar drowned out all other sounds and shook cell doors.
The roar ceased and the screams were replaced by a gurgling noise. Then, he heard a gut-wrenching, sucking sound, and images flooded his mind. Fear threatened to claim him but before he could panic, a huge blast came from behind him and showered him with pelting rocks that cut and bruised his unarmored back.
Phalax turned to see a small hole, near the back-right corner of his cell, through which light spilled. He also realized that the cell that housed the inmate to his right had been the target of the explosion. Phalax could tell that the entire back wall of that cell had been pulverized. The man screamed and pleaded as something sprang into the cell, visible only as a blur when it passed by the man-sized hole in Phalax’s cell. An ear-splitting scream caused such terror to take hold of Phalax that his knees buckled. Then, as suddenly as it was issued, the scream ceased and a splash of liquid could be heard.
Following the creature’s appearance was another blast of flame that tore through the wall of the cell that held its door, and blew the whole structure to smithereens. Another opening was made in the upper-right corner of Phalax’s cell; that time, the debris cut and smashed his face. Between the two breaches to Phalax’s cell, the wall that once separated him from whatever was coming into the prison was just big enough to conceal his body. Creatures sprang forward, straight through the cell and into the prison. Phalax could just barely make out dark skin and glittering fangs and claws as the entities sped past.
Better if he was hiding, he thought, rather than in plain sight. He somersaulted forward and ended his roll by springing to his feet and pressing his back up against the wall that was just barely wide enough to hide his body. The roll hurt him; the debris littering the floor tore into his back and opened fresh cuts.
Phalax uttered a hiss through gritted teeth, quietly cursing the injuries, and listened as something big proceeded through the opening fairly quickly. It seemed to stop short of continuing from the cell into the main prison. It let out a deafening screech that had Phalax covering his ears. Finally, it leapt through the opening and crashed into the hall.
Phalax didn’t relish the idea of trying to escape only to be confronted by some nightmarish horror, but also didn’t want to sit and wait for such a being to discover and slaughter him.
Finally, after waiting a couple of breaths and hearing no more of the beings coming through the portal they had blasted open, Phalax stuck his head out of the small hole on his right. He didn’t see any creatures stalking toward the prison and decided to slip through the small hole and make a run for his house.
As he maneuvered and climbed through the small opening, he noticed that the outer wall of the cell to the right of the one he now climbed into was completely destroyed. As he was leaving the jail and stepping into the glorious fall sunlight, his eyes fell upon the remains of the inmate. His torso and face had been ripped to shreds and he was mostly buried in stone from the wreckage of the wall.
Incapable of looking away from the dead man, Phalax backpedaled until he tripped and fell out of the prison and onto grass. Terrified at having seen the dead man so horribly mangled, he rolled onto his stomach and pressed his forehead into the cool earth. Sobs wracked his body and tears began to well in his eyes. He couldn’t stop, though; he couldn’t give in to the more fragile side of his humanity. He thought of his family and that was enough to dispel his fright and get him back to his feet.
With wet, sullen eyes, Phalax beheld a field of yellow-green abound with white trees whose leaves were yellow, red, and every color in between, covering and falling from the branches. He would have smiled at the beauty of the day on any other day. The sunlight and fresh, cool air felt so serene and pure to him that Phalax feared he might actually forget to keep moving. He’d been in the prison for what felt like so long…He ripped himself from the moment and sprinted along the prison wall, which was perforated with holes similar to the one that he had just escaped from.
Phalax made his way to the front of the prison without incident to behold a sight that struck sheer hopelessness into his soul. He leaned against the wall of the prison and stared out at the scene, trying to make some sense out of the chaos. There were creatures not of this world— demons, he knew, like the one that had attacked him, but bigger. Dozens of them ripped through guards, soldiers, prisoners, and civilians without hesitation. The defenders barely held their ground let alone struck back with any visible success; they were too disorganized. Many people and animals lay dead on the ground. One such corpse was sitting atop his steed, trotting around the killing field without control.
Although every fiber of his being screamed that he should go elsewhere, anywhere other than there, he had a plan. Phalax defied the paralysis his mind had set upon his body. He forced his joints to shake free of the cement that held them fast and prepared himself to plunge into the pandemonium.
Phalax paid no heed to the surrounding danger and the promise death and sprinted for the horse carrying the corpse. The horse was in the middle of a congregation of people near the edge of a line of trees, occasionally trampling people to the ground and dooming them to be slain by three demons harrying the bunch. Phalax sped past a demon, within inches of brushing against the five-foot tall, black-skinned creature. The demon had a mess of mangled, gray hair that fell around two short horns sprouting from its forehead and long, lanky arms that draped past its knees and ended in dagger-long talons that ripped the people to shreds.
Phalax had to shove past a hysterical woman to reach the steed. Without warning, the horse quickly turned and kicked. Phalax twisted out of the way but the woman clinging to him was pulled right into the path of the horse’s kick. Her head was smashed and she was lost beneath the mass of the frantic crowd. Phalax quickly spun to the horse’s side and ripped the corpse’s feet from the stirrups, then yanked the dead rider from the horse’s back. Following the stallion as it commenced another quick turn, Phalax bent low, picked up an abandoned halberd with a broken handle, then leapt up onto the horse’s back and kicked his feet into its flanks.
At first the horse’s only response was a quick buck, but then, once its two front legs landed, it took off and trampled a demon caught off guard by the charge. Phalax urged the horse down the path from the prison to the courthouse and witnessed the same abominations in front of the courthouse, only this massacre saw far fewer defenders and more civilian casualties than did the prison. Phalax cursed himself but he had to make it to his house, which was on the northwest side of the city, and he was currently on the northeast. So he sped past the dying people he had once sworn to protect with his life, only offering glances of regret and sorrow instead of the protective might of his lawful arm.
Phalax traversed the city roads with little resistance and hoped that by some act of the gods, the infernal creatures hadn’t made their way awfully far through the city yet. At one point a demon did orient on him. Covered in green scales that shined like armor in the sun and resting on all-fours, it resembled a canine with two rows of bony spikes lining either side of its back. Even though Phalax steered his mount away from the demon, it still leapt the six-foot gap to intercept them. Before the demon was within striking distance, its jaw popped open and revealed long fangs. The demon could’ve swallowed the horse’s head if it had caught hold of it. At the last possible moment, Phalax swung the halberd and cleaved the demon’s top jaw from its skull and sent it staggering and thrashing to the earth.
Without looking back, Phalax raced through the streets all the way to his house where he could see small packs of demons lurking around buildings and slaying people inside and outside their homes. Phalax jumped from his mount before the horse had even stopped moving and landed in a sprint that carried him straight up his steps and into his house. The interior smelled like brimstone, and although Phalax didn’t see any of the abominations, he knew that they were, and might still be, somewhere within.
Splintered wood along the walls pointed him down the main hallway. He heard his wife scream and something savage took hold of his body. Without a thought, he sprinted to the back room and burst through the open doorway.