Onslaught, Return of the Humakti
The streets were dark, the lamps unlit, as they always were these
days in the Old
Quarter. The dank cobbles clattered against the iron nails in his boots,
echoing with a
grating sound that vibrated up his spine with shivery oscillations at each
step. He didn't
notice. His mind was preoccupied with the ominous situation he was about
Tactics, stratagems, plans all whirled through his brain at
frenetic speed. He'd
have to be careful. He'd have to be cunning. He'd have to be ready for
anything. For all
his concern, Onslaught felt no fear. Such things were beyond him as his
vow to Humakt
made his will iron and his heart stone. Yet for all that, an anticipation
of dread dogged
him like a thick fog.
He hated uncertainty. His confidence and surety in battle were
legendary, but now
he trod on broken ground. On ground not of his choosing. Press on! Press
thoughts and experience demanded. And he did. His step never faltered,
right up to the
doorway which he knew he must enter.
His mailed fist raised, then paused. He examined the door
carefully. It was solid
in construction but old, very old. The latch was bronze as were the
hinges. The green of
aged metal blended into the rancid mold of the wood. A spreading stain, a
The building that the door faced was two stories of old brick,
cracked but still solid, though it had been there a hundred years. It
probably looked like
this when newly built and would look like that in a hundred years. It had
an aura of built-
Steeling himself, he rapped his Iron-bound knuckles hard against
the door. Once.
Twice. Three times.
For long moments there was silence, dank silence, the silence of
the tomb. Then a
shuffling noise penetrated through the thin timbers. A rattle. A clatter.
The door opened.
An old lady, hunched, gray and rheumy of eye peered up into the
face of the
"Hello mum." he said.
The house was much as he remembered it.
The main room was lit only by the fire and a single low-burning
reflected with orange hue upon the members of his immediate and extended
were a score of his kin in the room. In corners or on beds they sat,
huddled or hunched
together for warmth. Some were his brothers, some were his sisters. Some
wives, some were their children. One was his father.
His mother slowly moved into the room with inching steps that
bespoke of her age
and declining vitality. "Its our Aldarch! 'e's come home to us Byll!"
She said to her
Byll, the Rat Catcher, stood slowly, his mug of beer in his hand
and a moustache
of froth on his old, hard face. For all the sagginess of his skin there
was a fierce, beady -
eyed ferocity about the old mans gaze. "Oh aye?" He said dubiously.
"Aye Byll, its your eldest returned to the family and he's a big
"Hello dad." said Onslaught. He wasn't really too sure what else
he should say.
His usual conversational openings like "Do you want to see my sword?" or
"Oh you come
from Esrolia? I've killed a lot of Esrolians." didn't seem to work here.
"Hello dad?!? HELLO DAD?!?" Growled the old man as he stalked
Onslaught and gave him a heavy cuff around the ear. "I'll "hello dad"
"Now stop that Byll!" screeched mum. "Leave the poor lad alone.
He'll want a
nice cuppa, its cold outside."
Ignoring his wife as she wandered off to make a cup of tea, Byll
peered at the iron
armoured giant in front of him who visibly hunched to avoid the low
ceiling. He noticed
for the first time the beweaponed appearance, the scars, the black eyes and
the smell of
death that hung on his oldest son like a miasma around a latrine. "Where
have you been
these last score years boy?" He asked, curious now at the change in his
Onslaught shrugged. "Around. Killing people mostly. I'm a Sword
He said with a hint of pride in his otherwise monotone voice.
"Humakt?" Byll questioned. "Killing poor folk for a living eh?
Call that work? I
don't. Real men don't go swanking around with big swords and shiny armour
all toffed up
trying to impress folk with the size of their weapon! Real men work for a
Marry! Raise children, carry on the family name."
"I've sworn to chastity in the name of Death. Women interest me
not for I live
only to fight for Humakt's glory." Intoned the big warrior.
Byll looked incredulous. "You what? Are you telling me you're
some sort of
woofter like those painted Esrolian fellas? My eldest son a brown-hatter?
Onslaught frowned, accepted a steaming cup of tea from his mum and
back a reply. "I forgo all pleasures of the flesh as they only distract
from the purity of
His mum; Irene, known to all as 'rene, watched father and son argue
forth and felt warm inside. They're so alike she thought. 'Course he's
got Bylls looks,
Byll spat his anger. The lad could have had it all, taken over his
family contract to
be the chief rat catcher of the city. It was a honourable trade, a fine
living that afforded
Byll his luxurious house and allowed him the support of a big family.
Instead all his eldest
had was a big sword and a bad attitude. "I suppose all you've gained for
your troubles is
that big sword of yours eh? What's the use of that?"
With flickering speed Onslaught drew his sword. One moment he was
without a weapon, the next it appeared in his hand as if summoned. Byll
blinked at the
glittering iron, the runes, the aura of power. "With this sword I have
struck down the
mightiest of foes in the name of Humakt. I have killed kings, princes,
champions, monsters and innocents. Death is my forge for I am one with my
bring ending, I bring the final separation that is part of the cycle.
Without me life would
have no meaning, without Death life would be lifeless!" snarled Onslaught.
"Rene shrilled in alarm. "Put that away Aldarch, you'll have
someone's eye out
Onslaught noticed his family cowering around the room away from his
sword and put his battle-blade away somewhat sheepishly after slicing it
into his palm to
make sure it was blooded. "Ah, er sorry mum..." he muttered.
Byll shook his head sadly. "Aye? Well, I don't know about all
that but I suppose I
should hear your story or your mum'll never stop her nagging! I'm off to
the pub, you
might as well come with me but you'll have to take off the armour and
weapons or you'll
attract to much notice."
Onslaught cocked his head in thought and slowly unbuckled his
armour, leaving them in a heap on the floor. "Very well, lets...go to the
pub dad." he said
The Block & Tackle was the neighbourhood local. A festive place
that was always
full. The clientele were ageing slowly as the younger folk sought more
entertainment in the newer quarters of the city but "The Tackle" as it was
known still filled
up on a Windsday night.
Byll ambled towards his local with the bow-headed trudge of a man
low places. He talked at Onslaught, not with him, about all the local
news. "Aye, old man
Henshal died of grief t'other day when he heard the tannery is
closing....The beers not
what it used to be when I were a lad and Esrolia's going to hell....I
remember the good old
days when the Pharaoh was in charge and working men had their fair share.
damn foreigners are poncing about owning everything, bringing strange
Onslaught soon ceased to listen but grunted or nodded occasionally.
one for small talk at the best of times and now he was beginning to wonder
bothered to come home. He supposed he'd felt a duty, much as Humakt had
for his kin
and father, even after the separation of Kin Ties. Though spiritually he
was free to follow
the path of Death, his childhood had memories that were hard to forget and
he owed them
a visit while he was in the city.
Father and son walked into the crowded pub. Byll waved above the
throng to the
barman, Gest Big Club, an old friend and yelled for his usual. He turned
"What do you want lad?"
Onslaught pondered the question. Realised that he was referring to
beverages which he was sworn never to partake of and said "Water."
Byll was about to launch into another tirade but saw the look in
his son's eyes and
changed his mind. "And a tankard of water." he yelled.
The barman soon produced the two tankards and Byll collected them
from the bar.
He was about to reach into his purse when Onslaught tossed a Gold Wheel
onto the bar
from his bulging money bag. Byll looked at the glittering gold as did the
barman and a
dozen others. "Keep to the change. "said Onslaught.
Gest the barman picked up the coin tentatively and bit it. "T'is
real gold." he
muttered with awe. A gold wheel was a rare sight to anyone but a noble or
Byll glanced uneasily at the suddenly silent crowd around them. A
eyed Onslaught's money bag with serious intensity. One big group of men,
the looks of them, and a rough crew at that, exchanged meaningful glances.
Then the moment broke and the happy noise of the pub continued as
led Onslaught to the quiet end of the pub called the lounge and sat in his
usual spot. Two
of his oldest friends sat there playing Match-hole and Bylly joined them
without a word.
They played a few hands while Onslaught sat and watched his father match
holes of the little wooden strips to each other to win by emptying his
Finally Byll nodded towards Onslaught and grunted; "Me son.
Eldest." The two
old men grunted back. Onslaught remembered them from his childhood. The
one with no
hair and an eyepatch was Jarn Bonesmith who'd been one of the cities finest
workers till a leaping hunk of red-hot bronze had burnt his eye out. Now
horseshoes and other simple items. The shrunken old man with the
was Fen Armsman, once the strongest arm-wrestler in the city, now a frail
old man in his
eighties. Like Byll, both men were models in taciturn stolidity.
Onslaught was growing restless amid the physical inaction of the
game of Match-
hole when he sensed hostile movement behind him. He moved on his stool to
dozen dockers shoulder their way through the throng like a ships prow
breaking ice of the White Sea. They were all big men, scarred, muscled,
strong. Most had
clubs or blades of one sort or another on their person and all of them had
the kind of facial
features that one associated with folk who had been on the wrong side of a
fist or two.
The largest of them placed himself in front of Onslaught and looked
him up and
down disdainfully. "What's this piece of shit doing in here? We don't
like foreigners and
strangers in this part of town!" His whole manner radiated contempt.
Onslaught grinned his dreadnought smile. Byll peered up at the
dockers and gave
them the benefit of his gemstone gaze. "'Ere, you lot, bugger off, we'll
be having no
trouble tonight. This is my lad here and any son of mine is no foreigner
in this part of
The big docker growled. "Shut up old man or you won't be old much
looked at Onslaught and pulled out his club. It was heavy and stained from
many a fight.
"Hand over that purse and we may just forget your trespassing on our turf."
Onslaught didn't bother to look. "I'll not fight you nor feed your
greed. It's my
dad's night and I don't wish to disturb him at his game." He looked back to
the table and
watched as the old men carried on their play without pause in the sudden
silence of the
lounge. Each placing of the match-hole caused a click that reverberated
clarity around the room.
The docker went red with rage at being ignored and brought his club
down on the
table hard. The match-hole pieces flew in all directions and the old men's
beer upturned all
over the place. "You will do as you are TOLD or I'll smash the lot of you
- starting with
this old codger here" The docker pointed his club at Byll.
Byll looked back at the docker without fear, anger flushed his
face. "You spilt me
beer! That's just plain bad manners sonny. Aldarch me boy, kick his head
in for me will
Onslaught smiled once more. It wasn't reassuring. "Certainly
dad." He stood,
turning as he did, to face his foe and received the full weight of the man's
club on his skull
for his troubles. It broke in two over his head with the power of the
Onslaught grinned through the blood coursing down his face from the
strike had left. "That's the spirit! My turn?" The docker just gawked.
with snake-like fluidity and rammed his gnarled fist in a looping uppercut
straight to the
dockers chin. There was the crack of snapping neck bones as the man flew
up and back
into his mates, clearing a space for the big Humakti. He followed up his
and moved among the gang like Death incarnate. Which is what he was.
Their yells of rage soon turned to yelps of fear and he demolished
mechanical precision. It wasn't even the carnage that he created that
scared them and
stunned the watchers. It was the casual indifference of his blows, the
ease with which he killed and maimed that terrified all present. Nothing
except the sprays of blood from the fountaining foe.
In the midst of the struggle Byll yelled advice to his son. "Leave
that fellas head
Onslaught replied cheerfully. "Righto dad!" and tossed the head he
aside to move to his next victim. Suddenly there were no more dockers. Or
Most of the pub had cleared out rather than be mistaken for one of the
antagonists or to
be sprayed with the offal of their defeat.
Returning to the table Onslaught rearranged his stool and sat. He
wasn't even out
of breath. A dozen corpses littered the room behind him. Byll gave him a
sharp nod of
approval. "Never liked that bunch, always the trouble making kind. Nice
to have you
"Its good to be back dad!" grinned Onslaught. Home isn't as
boring as I
remembered it he thought.
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