Tales of a Blood Earth is a serial flash fiction series set in the “Blood Skies” universe.
Get get caught up on previous installments here.
Korva bit her lip impatiently. She fingered the silvered blade at her side and adjusted the HK94 on her back. Trask, Halo, Drage, Fort: some of her most trusted men waited nearby. They paced around in the bloody mud, their nerves on edge and their weapons ready.
The extraction team had been gone for far too long. Her men were exhausted and on edge. The remaining prisoners had been pushed to the edge of a muddy ravine, where they waited, huddled together and afraid, so covered with muck they looked like walking lumps of black clay. The morning sun cast beams of crimson light through the thick armor of blue-black clouds. The air smelled like old steak, and tasted like sickness.
The airship gunners kept the guns locked on the hole that Frost and his team had used to descend into the tunnels. Trask had asked permission to go and find them, but Korva refused.
She already knew what had happened. It had all happened before. They were all dead, including the girl. Soon, she’d emerge for a measure of revenge, and Korva would have little choice but to stop her.
If only there were some way to break the cycle, she thought. If only there was some way to avoid this happening again.
When Gath screamed from within the hole, the Revengers gathered their weapons and made for the open wound in the soil. Blood-colored vapor drifted up from the utterly dark pit. The earth trembled, as if afraid of what was hidden below.
I’ve lost track of how many of us there are, Korva thought. I keep hoping one of them will have what we need. The means of returning, and paying the debt.
The way to get home.
A cyclone of blood-soaked earth erupted out of the hole like a geyser.
Rooke, who was at least the eighth known avatar manifestation of the alien being called The White Mother, emerged from the ground in a film of blood and with wings made of razor steel. Her skin and eyes were dead and cold. Black blood like oil and ice slid out of her wounds and down her body.
She was already dead, and no longer of any use to them.
So close, Korva thought. So close.
She gave the signal, and the Revengers opened fire. The air erupted into an avalanche of muzzle flashes and bullets, acrid smoke and ear-shattering blasts. The dark sky was lit with their violence.
Korva watched impassively. None of the bullets would matter, and she knew it. Nothing that any of the other Revengers did would hurt the girl Rooke.
She called the cease fire. Smoke as thick as iron hung low in the air. The smell of gunfire was heavy and sour. Weapons were reloaded, men changed positions. Boots moved in and out of the heavy mud.
Korva saw an angel emerge from the fog of gunsmoke and blood. Everything that had been remotely human and living had been wiped away from the girl.
Screams issued from deeper in the fog, near the airships. Korva heard vampire howls and the cries of her men.
Of course, she nodded sadly, now that you’re here, they won’t wander mindlessly anymore. They’ll rise up in your defense.
More gunfire, this time the stacatto booms of the mounted B.A.R.s. There were shouts of pain and voices that cried out for mercy, both prisoner and Revenger alike. She heard small explosions and the sound of blades sliding into skin, the slurp of feedings and the violent crunch of undead being decapitated.
Korva ignored it all. She kept her eyes locked on the razor angel. The angel stared back. Her wings unfolded like steel flowers. Her stance and the manner of her approach issued an unspoken challenge. Korva drew her curved silver blade, a thin broadsword with a landscape played out in incredible detail on its hilt — a miniature topography of torn hills and rivers.
The Revenger discarded her guns and let down her hair. She stepped onto the rust-colored field of mud while her men died in the fog.
The angel moved swift and deadly. Her wings were so keen they sliced the air open. Korva fell back and let the wings fill the space where she’d stood. She felt the sharpness of metal come within inches of her face.
Her blade moved in a blur. Pale flesh opened, and cold blood flew out in a purple arc and splashed on Korva’s cheek.
The angel fell to the ground. Korva felt a dread chill ripple up her arms from the blade, which turned black as Rooke’s blood crept up it. Korva dropped the sword and let it melt on the ground in the avatar’s blood. It had served it’s purpose. It wasn ‘t the sword that had killed Rooke, but the power of the sword bearer.
Korva looked down at Rooke’s body. The fighting continued in the distance, off in the bloody smoke. Shouts and screams echoed and faded into the budding day. Korva paid them no mind. None of the vampires would hurt her.
Rooke clung to undeath. Even as necrotic fluids seeped out of her dead veins and melted the soft earth around her body, the girl gasped for air, not rememberig that she no longer needed it.
Korva saw her own reflection in Rooke’s wide eyes. Since Rooke had been awakened by the throne down in the tunnels below — the tunnel network was only one of the White Mother’s many hideaways — she would now be able to see Korva for what she truly was. She’d be able to see that they were the same: avatars of the White Mother.
Only we can find the way home, Korva thought. The Black came here looking for us, for the creature that we used to be. She didn’t make it. Not all of her. That missing piece is out there somewhere. That core. All of the avatars in the world won’t matter. Until we find the frozen heart, the world can never heal. In the end, one of us, one of the White Mother’s avatars, will have to sacrifice herself to take the rest of us home.
Korva walked away from the body, back towards the airship. The sounds of fighting slowly faded. She guessed that her men were all dead.
I have to try again, she thought. She had to find the frozen heart before the The Black could be forced back to where it came from; before the Grim Father would give up his campaign.
An avatar of the White Mother will have to sacrifice herself, Korva thought. But that sacrifice won’t be me. I intend to go home.
To learn more about The Black, check out BLOOD SKIES, on sale now! And be on the lookout for BLACK SCARS, Book 2 in the “Blood Skies” series, coming this November!
Korva herself will return in SOULRAZOR, Book 3 of the “Blood Skies” series, coming to you in early 2012!
Copyright © 2011 Steven Montano