The air of the outpost was thick as mud, choked with sand. When the news that the sweepers were closing in on the fort got to Artemis, she called together the several hundred warriors within. They immediately made for the warehouse where everyone rushed to prepare for the fight.
Greenland Fort was an ancient building that had been reinforced over time. Its tall, sturdy walls gave its denizens a sense of safety as well as ample space for many to live. As a result it had become the symbol of Greenland Outpost.
However, not everyone lived in the fort. Housing within became a reward for the outpost’s elite, so in addition to being the safest place in the compound it was also were the strongest congregated.
“Quickly, quickly! Get everything that can be used!”
Artemis opened the warehouse to anyone who could carry a weapon. The outpost’s best equipment was stored within, but in this moment of crisis she didn’t mind offering up items she’d typically be loath to part with. Everything was on offer, so long as it could be used to protect them from the demon; bows, guns, rockets, anything.
Cloudhawk spotted a ballista and started to push it out of the warehouse.
This old style defensive artillery weapon was taken from the wilds, snapped up when an Antiquarian passed through. Seekers were the next class up from excavators – explorers who not only dug up useful tools from the past but also researched their functions and knew their secrets. Hydra had also gotten his panacea injections from the Seekers.
When Hydra bought the ballista it was nonfunctional. It took the better part of a year to fix it but was ultimately too heavy to put to use. It was a defensive tool used to ward off invasions, and Hydra’s rule had been a stable one for the most part. Thus it sat in storage, gathering dust.
At this moment the sounds of combat surrounded them. Had the sweepers killed their way to the fort so quickly?
“You all come here and push. Artemis, let’s take a look!”
Cloudhawk waved a group of soldiers over to take his place behind the ballista then ran with Artemis toward the sounds of fighting. They first ran into a group of a dozen terrifying fort residents fleeing the other direction. Artemis easily snatched one as they passed and was pressing him for information when suddenly the whole fort began to tremble like they were caught in an earthquake.
All of a sudden Cloudhawk was struck with surprise so potent he was rendered senseless. “I can feel a power – a huge power coming this way. We can’t keep going forward!”
Artemis looked at him in confusion. “What are you talking about? What power?”
The building continued to shake, more intense with each passing moment. Sand shuddered off the walls as tremendous cracks appeared. They spider-webbed across the sturdy stone, joining into even larger fissures that stretched deeper into the forts hallways. Once the cracks reached the sides of the wall huge chunks began to fall away. The way forward was reduced to rubble.
After it collapsed an enormous figure beyond belief was revealed to them.
Cloudhawk stared in absolute shock as before his eyes rose a monster eighty feet tall.
Son of a bitch, what the fuck is that?! Is this the demon?
The colossal sand beast was enormous! By comparison it was like a grown man standing over an ant. Not only was it massive, it was also incomparably strong. It obliterated anything in its path like an eroding gale, be it flesh or fortress.
Greenland Fort was hardly an obstacle!
The wastelands were not lacking for massive creatures dozens of feet tall, but in contrast to this thing humans had ways to deal with those titans. The wasteland beasts were flesh and blood – living things that needed air and a beating heart. They could be injured, they could be killed.
But this thing before them? He didn’t even know what it was! The monster was far outside the scope of human understanding. Like the mythical demons of old this thing was immortal and stronger than anything ever seen.
“Use the molotovs!”
Guns and melee weapons weren’t the only things stored in the fort. Molotov cocktails were also among its goodies. When Hydra took over the Greenland Outpost he had a wealth of oil and other explosive materials which he used to create throwable weapons. The outpost was a difficult place to assault and the fort itself was a fortress. Molotovs were concocted to make taking it even harder.
But now wasn’t the time to dwell on these facts!
Several soldiers that had followed them lit the molotovs and flung them toward the monster. They sizzled through the air like comets, ultimately exploding into blinding balls of fire as they struck the sand colossus. Strong though the creature was it was also slow, and as a result six or seven bottles of burning liquid were smashed against it.
Its chest was a lake of fire but it didn’t seem to concern the sand giant in the least. It had no flesh to worry over, so the fiery bottles were nothing to fear.
“It isn’t helping.” Cloudhawk shouted to the others. “Be careful, it’s going to attack!”
A group of soldiers who were too slow to get out of the way were struck by the colossus’ massive hand as it raked by. All of the water within them was soaked up in the blink of an eye, after which their desiccated bodies were flung backwards. When they struck floors and walls their corpses shattered into chunks.
Those who’d managed to evade the attack gaped at the horror. No normal person could fight this thing!
No bullet, arrow or blade could cause the colossus the slightest harm. Slow though it was every attack from the monster was catastrophic, leaving its victims dead or irrevocably harmed. Besides that the power it released turned everything it encountered into lifeless sand.
Artemis was thoroughly dumbstruck by the scene. “What in the name of the demon’s puckered asshole is this?!”
Fire was useless, as were guns and blades. How were they even supposed to fight this creature?
In that moment the sand colossus noticed their presence. It slowly stepped back and lifted its enormous right arm, whereupon sand all over its body began to ripple like chorded muscle. Hundreds of millions of grains of sand gathered together to form a fist the size of a car, and compressed so tight it was solid as stone.
The sand colossus’ truck-like fist plowed into the fort.
In the midst of his desperate escape Cloudhawk felt everything behind him shake with bone-jarring force, followed by a deafening crash that hurt his eardrums. Its fury was conveyed all through the stone walls, which instantly cracked and fell apart like shattered glass.
Artemis and Cloudhawk, covered in dust and debris, survived the attack. But they didn’t dare catch their breath.
The sand colossus was throwing a second fist their way and once again it pummeled the fort like a wrecking ball. A dozen soldiers were smashed flat before they could escape.
The outpost’s leader saw that they couldn’t escape. Unwilling to give in she heaved her massive hammer and swung it at the monster’s fist as it bore down on them. Steel and stone collided, the force of their meeting causing the stone beneath Artemis’ feet to break apart. Every bone in her body popped as blood leaked from her nose and mouth – and yet she’d managed to hold the blow back
Even Artemis’ impressive strength was only barely enough to keep them from being crushed.
Yet to their shock and terror her mighty hammer was showing signs of erosion. Metal turned to sand and fell away, little by little eating at the only thing between them and the monster’s fist. As Artemis began to feel it give, suddenly a nimble figure darted into view. She exploded onto the scene from within the fort, soaring through the air and slamming into the creature’s wrist.
The Bloodsoaked Queen wielded a long sword which she buried in the monster’s appendage. Her feet stuck to it like dual magnets as she whipped around and around its arm leaving blazing sword light in her wake that seared against the beast’s sandy exterior like the threads of a screw.
The sand colossus’ entire arm broke off, instantly dissolving into a torrent of sand that spread everywhere.
In reaction to the Queen severing its right arm, the sand colossus swiped at her with its left. However, to the eyes of the demonhunter this creature was laughably slow. The Queen shuffled a few steps to the side, leapt up, then landed on its left arm as it came her way. Step by step she sprang up the appendage like her shoes were made of spring. She was in front of the colossus’ face before it could react.
A spray of sandy arrows issued from the creature’s maw.
A curtain of light from her sword separated her from the arrows. They dissolved harmlessly back into sand before causing her any harm. Left with an opening the Queen counterattacked by thrusting her longsword into the monster’s throat. All four feet of steel were buried in the sand with only the hilt left jutting out.
She held the grip with both hands and dragged her blade around its throat in a full circle. A cold light shimmered in its wake. As they watched the sand colossus’ enormous head peeled off of its body, ultimately exploding into a cloud of sand as it crashed into the ground.
Artemis stared with shocked and hopeful eyes. “Is it dead?”
Cloudhawk’s eyes were pinned to the beast’s body. “It’s still going!”
This creature was not created through conventional means, so conventional logic did not apply. Its body was a creation, so losing its head was akin to losing a finger. It was perhaps irritating, but not fatal.
Just as Cloudhawk figured, the loss of its head had almost no affect. Once it crumbled into sand the grains were immediately swallowed back into its body. The humans looked on as a head-shaped structure began to emerge anew from its neck.
But the damage had to have weakened it!
Cloudhawk shut his eyes and searched the sensations around him. He could feel waves of power faintly emanating from the center of the colossus’ body. Unless he was mistaken, that’s where its power came from.
“Get that ballista over here!”