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The Creation of Maximus, Shatterer of Runes

I could feel the cold stone beneath me growing warmer as the blood flowing from my wounds pooled across its surface. As the sticky heat of my life's blood soaked the stone I realized that I would not survive losing much more.

The percussive sounds of combat filled the air, and as I lay there a burst of blue fire roared over my head, followed by a nearby explosion and a rain of debris. On my right I heard the liquid syllables of an incantation suddenly cut short by the sound of shattering bones and a sudden tremor in the ground.

I could hear a voice. A woman's voice, yelling hoarsely between gasps for breath. “Maximus! Maximus stand up!”

Another tremor shook the ground as a spray of dirt and rubble rained down on me. As the last of the debris fell a figure appeared standing above me. The image resolved into the figure of a woman, covered in dirt and streaks of blood, her hair plastered to her face with sweat, blood, and ichor. Grabbing my arm, she strained to pull me to my feet, wincing as she did so. “Maximus! Wake the fuck up. Geerus is dead. We need you to move!”

With a final heave, I regained my feet and things began to come back into focus. Looking down I could see my club of bleached bone still tightly held in my hand, my knuckles white with effort.

Suddenly a colossal metal fist struck the stone between us, barely missing as we leapt to either side. As I regained my balance another blow from the leaden hand struck my shield. Despite only being a glancing blow, I was sent sliding across the room to slam into the stone wall. As my eyes refocused I could see the crushed and shattered body of Geerus a few feet away, almost unrecognizable save for his blood caked metallic scales. 

Kalira and I charged. Slamming my shield into the creature, I watched Kalira strike with a dagger. Sparks flew as the blade scraped harmlessly across its carapace, but I was able to use the moment to block what surely would have been a death blow to Kalira as she dove between its legs.

As the creature turned to face her, Kalira sat bolt upright and slammed her dagger into its spine while I put every ounce of force I could into a swing with my club. It was a solid hit to the thing's arm, but there was no force to the blow. It was as if all the strength poured into the attack just drained away upon impact. It surprised me so much that I failed to see the next blow coming.

I could feel the bones of my arm break and my shield deform under the power of the thing's attack, but while it forced me a few feet back I retained my balance. As I reeled, the creature kicked at Kalira who mostly dodged the blow. Mostly. Glancing over at her pained cry I saw her clutching the chipped and bloody stump where a moment ago one of her horns had been.

“Vali, we could really use that rune about now!”

“I’m still deciphering! This text is harder to read than I expected!”

At the furthest wall of the crypt, Vali inspected the lines of eldritch lettering that filled the smooth stone of the wall. Were it not for his reply he would seem oblivious to the combat raging tens of feet behind him. Kalira and I ducked and weaved, raining blows on the metal giant as it pressed toward the white haired elf. For a moment Vali turned, his pointed ears seeming to flicker golden in the light. Twisting one hand into a painful looking gesture he whispered a single, percussive syllable and an emerald ray lanced from his hand to the ground behind our opponent. Vali turned back to the wall, not even bothering to watch the eruption of vines he had summoned burst from the ground and attack the metal man.

Our hopes for a moment of respite were to be denied. It took the barest moment for the creature to pull free, ripping and shredding the magical plants as it continued toward Vali. Hurling Kalira and I to the side with a sweep of its arm, the metal giant advanced upon our comrade. As we started to shout a warning Vali's voice rang out. 

“I found it! Right Here..”

Vali pressed his hand against a symbol that began to glow, slowly separating from the stone as the metal titan raised its fist behind him. He must have seen the thing's shadow because as it began its strike Vali turned, a blue sphere of energy beginning to form around his hand which dissipated as the metal fist slammed into him. With the sharp pop of broken magic and a sickening thud, his body hit the stone wall, sliding down to the ground, inert.

“Distract it! I’ll get Vali." I shouted, letting my shield fall from my now useless arm. Kalira nodded, grimacing through the blood from her broken horn, and sprinted towards the beast. As she dodged around it, almost dancing, she rained down blows that would have felled any lesser opponent. Blows that failed to mar the metal of her adversary's skin.

Kneeling, I assessed my friend's wounds. I could not believe he was still alive. His chest was crushed, with most ribs broken and several protruding, and what little fading breath he had was coming in shallow, wheezing gasps.

“It… it broke my spell. Like it wasn’t there. Like it didn’t notice. What a marvelous automaton.”

A true scholar to the end. Of course he would marvel at such a creation, even as it took his life. His hand twitched, one finger pointing at the glowing rune, which now floated in the air a foot from the wall. . “That rune.. It looked different. You must take it and flee!”

Vali smiled grimly,and raising a trembling hand began to chant something in Elvish. Flames began to wreathe the form of the creature. Dully glowing patches of red began to appear on its brass armor, slowly spreading as the metal visibly softened. The blazing creature turned toward the dying elf and began to trudge forward. Eyes unfocused, the light of life dimming in them, the elf's body convulsed as he continued to cast. Recognizing his intent and sacrifice I nodded and fell back to cover Kalira, shouting to her to grab the rune as I did so.

The metal giant, now a walking inferno, closed on Vali, grabbing him around the neck with a titanic molten hand. Even as his body began to burn, Vali's voice continued to chant, his pitch rising to screams. Then Kalira reached the rune, snatching it from the air. Instantly the golem-like creature turned, hurling the blazing corpse of her comrade into her.

With a shout I rained blows upon the creature, hammering it's half melted form with blow after blow from my club. Rage gave me strength far beyond my own, and as the flames died along with Vali I put everything I had into one last strike aimed at the widening crater I had opened in its chest. Just as my club was about to land, one of its red hot metal fists sent me flying across the room to land next to Kalira and Vali, or what was left of them.

Vali's labored breathing had ceased, his body a crumpled and broken mass upon the tiles. Behind him was the form of Kalira, sitting on the floor with the rune clutched tightly in one hand. Her body was slumped slightly forward, enough to see the smear of blood on the wall behind her and the crushed and suppurating back half of her skull. 

Dragging myself toward her with my one good arm I could hear and feel the heavy thuds of the beast's footsteps as it lumbered toward me. As my hand closed around Kalira's and the rune I could feel a warm and prickly static, and then everything surged. Suddenly my blood was a raging tide in my veins, and it felt as though lightning was crackling through my body as I pulled myself to my feet. As the looming figure's fist launched toward my face it seemed as though time slowed to a crawl. While I could no longer feel the rune in my hand, the pressure of the energy running through me increased until I could not draw breath. Suddenly a searing heat exploded in my chest, and without thinking I ducked under the punch and grabbed my club.

The next thing I was aware of was waking up to cool musty air and a vast amount of pain. It felt like every muscle and tendon in my body had been grossly abused. Even the notion of movement brought on an almost nausea. Turning my head, groaning at the ache as I did so, I saw the motionless form of my metal adversary. Now cold and unmoving it lay on the ground next to me, the center of its chest savagely ripped open. Around the wound and on the ground near the creature was caked a strange dust, like fine sand.

"What the fuck just happened?”

I shut my eyes and tried to piece it together. Images of debris raining down on my head as it missed me and hit the wall. A flash of being on top of it, pounding at its chest and pulling the metal apart with my hands. Then, clearest of them all, a dim glow within the beast's chest. A symbol unknown to me that I nonetheless instantly knew as the Rune of Brass. After that came fleeting images of a man holding the rune while etching intricate symbols into the cooling metal form of the thing I had just vanquished. Then I saw my own hands, reaching into the beast's chest as it futilely tried to claw at my face. I heard my own voice screaming as my hands grasped something so cold that it burned like fire. And then, with a sound of shattering glass, the vision faded, leaving me cold and alone with the bodies of my friends and the remains of my opponent.

As I stumbled from the crypt into the morning light, the stench of death strong in my nostrils, I was haunted by the face of the man in my vision. I had an unshakeable certainty that he had created the metal monstrosity that took my friends' lives. I also knew, without knowing how, that it was merely one of many that he had made. What had started out as a mission to recover a lost rune and return it to the wizard who hired us had now become a point of honor.

To hell with the wizard. I decided that I would hunt down this man, dog his footsteps to hell and back if necessary, and destroy both him and every one of his brass abominations. I would not rest until I held his rune, broken, in my hands. As the first direct light pierced the canopy overhead a name echoed through my mind. His name.

" Warrior #10812. I’m coming for you."

Entered by: 0xe72f…A53e

Maximus Shatterer of Runes (#668)
Owner: 0xe72f…A53e