When one has fought countless battles across as many stars, there comes the point where only a small handful will even be remembered. There may be a myriad of different reasons some stick out, but there is one universal. The first time on the battlefield. Death surrounding you, the smell of blood, smoke and sweat invading your senses, whether the clash of steel or the bangs of explosives in your ears.
The first will always be remembered however far away it will ever seem
For Qhira, that first conflict was the Battle of Keelcour Peaks.
The situation was simple, one of the portals into the Dark Nexus was spotted, deep in the mountains, and Dark Nexus conduits were marching towards an Iresian city at the base of the tallest mountain. Given the number of cave complexes in the region built to withstand explosives, a strictly aerial assault wouldn’t be enough. A ground force was needed to purge the denizens of the Dark Nexus before they reached a civilian populace.
Thus the transport flyer carrying several dozen soldiers flew over the forests of Keelcour. Among these soldiers was Qhira, sitting with her standard-issue Iresian Splitter in hand, thrumming with energy. Wearing her orange combat suit but with no jewelry, like she would in the future, only her daggers with her at her hip and a pair of frail-looking bracelets along her wrists. These dark metal devices are her sister’s most recent creation, the Gravity Displacers. The bracers ould press against gravity and slow descent without creating the massive target of a parachute.
Poor mans NeemaShauku if you ask Qhira.
“Approaching the target, prepare for dispatch in T minus 10.” Came the voice of the pilot Aivene.
Everyone stood up and stood at attention in unison, ready for the ground beneath them to retract and send them into free fall.
“Mother crystal guide my aim in this fight and should I fall, guide my soul back to you.” Qhira would whisper one small prayer before she and her companions were ejected from the aircraft.
As the soldiers activated their Gravity Displacers, they would begin to see projectiles headed their way, and it was up to them to dodge on their way down. Though everyone else found the bracelets to be a send from the Mother Crystal, the lone woman among the soldiers felt restricted. As a master of the art that the gravity displacers were based on, it was like feeling the restrictions of training wheels.
As Qhira dodged all the energy blasts sent her way with ease, she heard a particular yell of terror. Glancing over, she saw someone had been hit by an energy blast. The laser would take the man’s hand and one of his gravity displacers with it, and without both gravity displacers, he was losing all control and falling to the ground far too fast.
That was the last straw. With a fluent motion, Qhira would grab for one of her grandfather’s daggers and slice the bracelets off of her wrists quickly before using her own natural control of gravity to speed herself up and fly straight towards her imperilled comrade.
The ground was approaching fast, but Qhira approached faster. Her dagger still in hand, she sliced the other gravity displacer off of his wrist before wrapping her arms around his torso.
“I’ve got you; just hang on!” Qhira yelled as she closed her eyes and focused. Straining herself as altering two people was far more challenging than one. She would just barely manage to slow them both down enough to survive the fall, albeit with injuries on Cornin’s part. Namely, a broken leg from how he landed.
However, no one had time to contemplate that as a rat-like creature tried pouncing at them. Qhira lunged first. Stabbing it through the head before it could complete its lunge.
However, as the creature died, a more humanoid-looking one would line up a sword preparing to charge. With no time to go for her rifle, Qhira readied her own knife only to watch the creature be blasted away and shattering into crystalline triangles.
“Nice hero work there!” Came a surprisingly calm and happy voice from behind Qhira, Rexxik was his name, the large man with green skin and brown snake eyes, the giant of a man had a Splitter cannon in his arms that had to be the size of Qhira’s entire torso. Well, the Ikari, after all, were known as being much mightier than the Iren people that Qhira was of. Shame so few of them were willing to join the army.
“I’ve got more where that came from, big guy,” Qhira said as she pulled her rifle from her back just as more of their comrades began landing around them and energy blasts rained down on the Dark Nexus force that was coming out of the caves around them.
As Qhira and Rexxik joined the attack, Cornin struggled to get to his feet between his broken leg and missing hand. Before he could do any more damage, however, a medic named Dova ran up to him. The dark-skinned man sporting a slightly different uniform as his orange combat suit featured streaks of bright neon red on it, and he had a technological backpack where other soldiers kept their rifles.
“You are getting evacuated.” Dova said, but Cornin just scoffed, “Just fix my leg and give me the painkiller for the arm… it’s not even my dominant hand anyway.”
“By the Crystal, I hope not everyone is as stubborn as you,” Dova mumbled as he did as instructed. A beam of red and purple energy would ebb from the medics backpack towards Cornins leg while the medic himself pulled a syringe and injected something into the spot where Cornins hand should be.
Meanwhile, as Qhira and Rexxik began moving forward, they would hear an update from Aivene through their given radios.
“A batch of general level Dark Nexus is in the cave at coordinates V12. Main attack group still moving down the original path.”
“Cave V12?” Someone would yell in a panic. Rarin would be his name, the soldier in question being a lanky build with what seemed like little muscle to him by comparison to his comrade. The panic in his voice was very evident though it was not for any danger he himself was in. “That cave has a hidden path that leads straight to the base of the mountain!” He yelled, but it seemed no one would hear him over the calls for reinforcements on the frontline.
well, a small handful would hear him
Rexxik, Qhira, Dova and Cornin heard him.
“We can’t just block it?” Rexxik asked with a smirk as he would gently toss a grenade in his hand
“That cave complex is hardened by Titan Grade crystal shards, no way to bring it down with explosives,” Rarin responded.
Qhira nodded; these mountains were used as a defensive holdout during the Great Nexus War 100 years ago. Of course, any tunnel would be fortified for combat.
“Then we go in ourselves,” Qhira said, visibly gripping her weapon and cocking the
“What no absolutely….” Dova began, but then as he looked around, he saw all the other soldiers were not even second-guessing the directive. This might be against the original battle plan… but how many strategies survive the first contact with the enemy anyway.
“Lead the way, Rarin,” Qhira said, and the Lanky soldier smiled and nodded before running ahead into the cave, the other four not far behind. All of them turned on the flashlights attached to their rifles or his pistol in Dova’s case.
Rarin would take the front position with Rexxik staying close beside him. the larger Ikari man holding his fist up, no doubt ready to overcharge his armour. After all, due to his ability to carry more weight, the power woven into his suit was far more durable. Rexxik knew this and was more than happy to put it to the test instead of making his comrades take those hits.
Rarin, who was actually native to this region, however, was looking around. Having been a troublemaker in his youth, he knew these caves as he led the group through the winding paths down the path he knew for absolutely sure would lead to the city at the base of Keelcour.
“Wait,” Cornin called to all of them as he stopped.
“We don’t have time if you can’t hold with your injuries….” Rarin began in a hurried tone. The one-handed soldier just raised his hand and closed his eyes. in reality, he used a technique he learned in his day’s hunting. A scan of sorts that lets the user detect all kinds of movement around.
Before anyone could question him further, Cornin lunged at Qhira, pushing her just as something came bursting through the ground. A giant and sharp and glowing red claw smashing through the rock exactly where the woman had been a second prior. As the rest of the creature the claw belonged to burst forth from the ground, it would be revealed as one of the Dark Nexus generals. Based on a hero of the Nexus known as Dehaka, the monstrous dinosaur-like monster with claws and spear tipped tail glowing red. It would thrust said spear out and, in one motion, would blast right through the barrier protecting Rarin and impaling him in the lower chest.
Before he was pulled towards the beast’s open mouth, Qhira would once reach for her daggers, the mighty steel slicing the end of the tail off and freeing her comrade, all the while Rexxik would shoot the monster at point-blank, blasting it backwards.
As Dova ran up and administered a needle of nanotech healing on the injury, Cornin, Rexxik and Qhira would begin unloading their Splitter rifles on the Dark Nexus creature. Yet their rain of laser fire only seemed to annoy the creature as it started charging at them again.
“Thanks doc.” Rarin would mumble as he pulled from his belt a grenade and threw it.
“No…” Dova yelled as he saw the grenade whizz past the other three’s heads, only to land right inside the mouth of Dehaka.
As the explosion went off, the thick body of the Dark Nexus contained most of the blast… but didn’t protect it from slumping over dead.
“You…. you could have killed them!” Dova yelled, horrified.
“I never miss with this throwing arm, doc.” Rarin said simply, “now let’s go!” His grin turned to a scowl as he continued leading the way.
As the group moved, Qhira couldn’t help but smile as she moved beside Cornin, “AkiliShauku, I thought the hunters of the East were secluded away from society.”
“And I always thought NeemaShauku practitioners were a bunch of pacifist dancers; I guess we’re both glad to be wrong,” Cornin responded with a smile back.
Thus Hunter, Dancer, Giant, Troublemaker and Medic moved through the caves all different yet with one singular goal in mind.
Eventually, they would catch up to the other two Dark Nexus Generals. One a slightly hunched over figure with a hood, both hands and face glowing a devilish yellow, based on the Nexus Champion known as Gul’dan. The other, a body floating on mist with red blades and a ribcage with nothing but electricity for a chest, based on the Nexus Champion Alarak.
“Don’t think they’ve got mouths to toss grenades into.” Cornin comments
“No, but their shields are clearly weaker than the shell of the last one.” Dova comments, having pulled out a scanner of a sort from his medics backpack.
“Works for me,” Rexxik said just before getting in the way of a blast of green fire sent their way from Gul’dan, tanking the whole thing while Qhira and Cornin once again took point with their rifles.
The Dark Nexus sorcerer raised a barrier to block said laser fire before sending a wave of dark energy at them, knocking both the shooters down.
Alarak would dash forward at speeds almost a complete blur, but Rexxik had already aimed his splitter cannon, the force of the blast halting the bladed Dark Nexus agent.
As he readied himself for more, however, he would see his suit’s shields begin to flicker as energy was siphoned away. The Gul’dan lookalike was draining the power from his armour.
“Crap, guys!” He yelled for help, and Rarin was the one who answered. Tossing another of his grenades right at Gul’dan. The large explosion made the siphon cease, and the figure was knocked away.
As Dova ran up to give a recharge cell to RExxik, Cornin would turn to Qhira, “Toss a concussion grenade,” He said knowingly while pulling his sidearm and setting pressing a button on the side, removing the safety on the generator on the gun.
Qhira nodded, pulling the concussive explosive from her belt, and as Cornin ran forward, the concussion grenade was thrown. Alarak readied his blades for the charging fighter but would be disoriented by the loud and blinding bang that went off at his feet. Cornin was also affected but holding his focus, he let go of his visual senses and called upon AkiliShauku. Alarak recovered and once again raised his blade.
Two sickeningly loud noises would be heard. The first from the gun’s firing and the second from the gun malfunctioning and exploding in Cornin’s hand… mangling the flesh of his other appendage. His fingers faired better than Alarak. The evil creature shattering into crystals and then dissipated.
Meanwhile, as this was going on, Dova would have the attention of the Gul’dan lookalike. Using the power of his own recharge cells to bide time from the energy siphoning until Rarin could throw one last masterful explosive. The explosive would send the sorcerer staggering forward right into the giant arm of Rexxik, who proceeded to bash the creature’s head right against the cave wall.
“So uh… I got matching hands now.” Cornin said with a weak grin as he raised his now mangled dominant hand. “did we win at least?”
“Yeah, we did.” Dova said, “You are all a bunch of stubborn idiots.” He added
“And you still came with, thank you.” Qhira added with a smile, “now come on, let’s get out of here.”
Qhira would awake with a jolt back in the present. Looking around to see the hotel room she had booked in New Tirisfal, the simple room was, well… simple. Nothing but a bedroom dresser and mirror.
She would get up and go look into the mirror. In it, she would see some kind of red flickering, lines of sorts leaving a trail out the window that clearly had led to her bed. “Whatever you are, do not torture me with those memories… I am not that woman anymore.” Qhira whispered hatefully even as tears began welling up in her eyes, such a realistic dream retelling the events she wished she could forget… no, that was a lie. She never wanted to forget her comrades or Iresia, which only made her mistake that much more painful to remember.
Through tear-filled eyes, she looked into the mirror again, focusing on her forehead, more specifically the six white items made of bone that adorned her head.
The Six Terclaws were part of a sacred tradition among soldiers of Iresia. When a squad becomes close, they will all fashion a set of these Terclaws and pass them around the group. Giving a Terclaw was a mark of trust, friendship, and an oath to remain united and guide each other through danger. The six Qhira had symbolized the unity of her squad. One was her own, the other five given to her by Rexxik, Rarin, Dova, Aivene and Cornin.
All five, she could only hope they found a way out of Iresia after the battle before the realm was lost to the aether of the tertiary realms, but at the same time, she knew she could never face any of them.
Not after what she did.