Chapter 37: "Low Tide"

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"The end of the world is on people's minds. We have the power to destroy or save ourselves, but the question is, what do you do with that responsibility."

- Nicolas Cage

"Darkness, horror, death and then... nothing."

- The Collected Prophecies of Tamara Walker

1

Red Rock

Twenty-seven hours, three minutes, forty-two seconds... that was how long the tiny city-state of Red Rock and its allies were able to hold out alone. They'd done the impossible and accomplished it with grit, will, and 'never say die' their ancestors had passed down from the days of darkness and ice. After the collapse of the line and the heroic stand and sacrifice of the single Glitterboy Jockey on the battlefield, the walls had been their only option. Red Rockers and Grey Bears reinforced the impressive city walls and waited for what would be an intense but brief final fight.

They were prepared to die.

The New Lazlo Expeditionary force arrived just as the fifth wave of Thorns broke against the Red Rock walls, and they weren't alone. By one's, three's, and dozens, the residents of southeastern Michigan joined the column. For the first time since the cataclysm, the Southern Michiganders were polarized, with a common threat to face together. When the army arrived at Red Rock, it'd nearly doubled in size and power. It was that force, like mythical Nemans of old, which broadsided the Thorns and broke the siege of Red Rock... temporarily.

"What is that thing?" General Raynott Lin asked. The smell of weapons fire and death clung to him.

"That, General Lin," Colonel James McCoy responded darkly, "is the reason we won't be able to win this fight without help."

Far in the distance, the creature lumbered toward the small community. Even at this distance, it was clear it dwarfed all other features on the landscape. As the battle for Red Rock raged, the defenders were forced to watch as the beast lumbered toward them at a painfully slow pace. Tentacles the length of football fields lashed out from the undulating mass, toppling trees, hills, and ruins in broad single swipes.

"Is it Ast-Murath?" Raynott asked, fear creeping into his normally calm and measured voice.

"No," the wizened voice of Master Grell responded. "If the monster were free from its prison, all would be lost, no matter who stood on this field to face it. That is merely a foot soldier of the adversary." The Wolfen Sorcerer leaned heavily on his staff, fresh bandages bound multiple wounds on his arms and legs.

"According to the scout, team Telicum and his elite guard are still assembled around the crack, but fuck me," McCoy whispered, unconsciously patting his battle burned and pitted armor, "if that's the undercard, I don't want to see the main event. We barely survived round one."

In the distance, Thorn hordes (reinforced by thousands of unnamed horrors) regrouped. They were just out of weapons range, and clearly itching to be let loose on the town once more.

"Why all the effort on this one place?" McCoy asked, turning to the wizard. Since the arrival of the New Lazlo forces and their allies, he'd been anxious to get a moment with the two commanders. "I mean, yeah, it's a small island of resistance, but they are putting a lot of effort into erasing it."

"Prophecy, Colonel," John Anders muttered, limping toward the knot of commanders. He was being supported by a very concerned looking Miranda Sliverwaters. His youthful face was now obscured by bandages and padding covering the multiple burns he'd suffered during the Air Corp's desperate attack of the Thorn forces. "It clearly says, in their holy tomes, that they must lay waste to every obstacle as they present themselves. None may be bypassed."

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