Tomorrow’s Demise: CH 29

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The Horde Prepares

Buried beneath the shifting sands a grand turmoil emerged. The Berserker horde reveled in their dominant victory over the Imperium. Skulls, weapons, and armor were paraded around the underground city in triumph, all under the watchful gaze of Kargosh, the First One. Only once before had his forces been cast in a position for total dominance. Just once in their long history.

Kargosh scowled, dusty wings shifting restlessly. The moment of his ascension was approaching. That point in time when he would rise above the expectations of the Creator and become a god to his kind. Ironic, considering they were genetically manipulated creations quite without souls.

“You summoned me,” Mnemlath said from bended knee.

Nostrils flared as Kargosh spun. The disdain with which he gazed upon his subordinate was plain for any to see. Berserkers seldom bothered to hide emotions. It was a strength of species that kept the very best in positions of power. Kargosh despised Mnemlath. Knowing he would have already killed the lesser Berserker if the need for battle ready warriors was prevalent, the First One abided Mnemlath’s casual disrespect. For now.

“Our warriors must not devolve, Mnemlath. The victory against the fleshlings was significant but the war is not yet won.”

Mnemlath clenched his clawed fists. “There are none to oppose us.”

“Arrogance is your weakness, Mnemlath. The enemy is broken but not beaten. Our kind has fought for over four centuries and have not achieved a lasting victory.”

Fumes snorted from flared nostrils. “The fleshlings have no strength left, First One. Many Slayers were among the armored ones. Who can now oppose us?”

“The enemy comes in many forms. While we are confined to this world they have many. How many more resources can they throw at us while our numbers continue to dwindle?”

The lesser Berserker tensed, anger threatening to boil over. “We dwindle because of you! Centuries have we avoided finding the technology to rebuild our race. We die because of you.”

Kargosh roared. The sound so mighty rock and dirt collapsed down from the ceiling in a rush. For his part, Mnemlath refused to quail, holding his position even as rock smashed into his shoulder.

“The rule of the Berserker horde is mine and none other. Unless…you think you are strong enough to challenge?” Kargosh whirled, spreading his wings in a bold display of power.

This was an inevitable moment. Two apex predators; one waning the other waxing. Another in an endless string of trials by combat. Kargosh had beaten them all and fed their broken corpses to monster in the lake. Mnemlath was by far the strongest, and highest ranking. A true challenge. But not now.

“Perhaps you are right. Perhaps it is time to resume the quest for reproductive technology.” Wings folded with a crisp snap. Dust clouds sprinkled slowly to the floor. “The portal under Rook Mountain, the one build by the Creator, Death Shrike’s warriors claim it led to a glorious new world ripe with technology. I believe the time has come to exploit that resource.”

Mnemlath jerked back, suddenly suspicious. It wasn’t a stretch to imagine The First One setting him up. Lesser Berserkers had fallen prey to simpler devices. “How?”

“Prepare a force to invade the new world. Steal what we need. The time of the Berserker will rise again,” he said.

Mnemlath remained unconvinced, knowing that the immediate threat on Helscape needed to be dealt with first. “We must secure the deserts before journeying to another world. We have the enemy where we need them. Attack until none remain.”

The idea wasn’t without merit. The vast majority of fleshling forces in the Wastelands were either dead or wounded to the point they were non mission capable. A sizeable portion of Slayers, bounty hunters, and opportunists lay dead in McGregor’s Gorge. Winged agents soared over the eastern portion of the Wastes at night, counting troop numbers and enemy disposition. Kargosh wasn’t willing to rest on the laurels of a single victory. They’d battled too many times in the past and the Berserkers always wound up losing any hard won ground.

Fleshlings reproduced at great speed and in quantity whereas his kind was unable to. Every death suffered hampered his war machine. His army still numbered in the hundred thousands but continued to shrink with each new engagement. Defeating the fleshlings now was doable, but at what cost? Kargosh wasn’t willing to throw away the bulk of his strength in a cleansing action that wouldn’t be maintainable.

He closed his reptilian eyes and recalled the massive battle along the banks of the Angril River. The loss of life, on both sides, had been appalling, ending only in the eventual retreat of his horde. Would today mark another such occasion? Did his horde have enough strength of will remaining to maintain the initiative without denigrating their own combat power to irreversible low levels?

“What of the fleshlings to the city in the east?” Mnemlath asked.

Kargosh clicked his jaws. “They are of no immediate consequence. We will send the bulk of the horde after them while they recover. Keep them occupied enough they cannot mount a counteroffensive. We shall own the day, Mnemlath.”

Wheels began to turn as Mnemlath envisioned the moment when he would finally challenge Kargosh for domination of the Berserker horde. Soon, but not yet. He lacked the support necessary to remain in power for an extended period.

“Who shall lead the force to the new world?” he asked.

Kargosh resisted the urge to give in to temptation. Sending Mnemlath would be too easy. The risk was great, as was the potential for failure or worse. No, he decided it best to keep the impetuous Mnemlath close at hand. There’d be time enough in the future to put an end to any dreams of power once the fleshlings were dealt with and the technology to create delivered unto them.

“Pick one. It matters not. I want them ready to move soon. We must take advantage of the fleshling’s disarray while it lasts. Now leave me.”

Mnemlath was dismissed with the subtle wave of a hand, fueling his anger further. The sheer arrogance exhibited by Kargosh sickened him, bolstering the desire to usurp the throne. Mnemlath dreamed of the day when he was able to finally shred his former master apart and claim dominance over the Wastelands. Any who dared challenge would be murdered out of hand. Fleshling and Berserker alike. A new wind was blowing through the endless desert. A wind of change. A wind of glory. All he had to do was reach out and take it.

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