The Devil, The Witch, and The Wicked World of Delirith
Sometime ago in Exiled Delirith, somewhere in the frozen alpine tundra of Tuskhorn Range, gathered a herd of Tisons; tusked bison with extra fat, hair, and ferocity compared to their non-tusked counterparts.
Like every herd of herbivorous bovines, the Tisons loitered around munching on grass, leaves, and any minimal vegetation it could find miraculously growing in the freezing mountain range. And like any herd, their predators would spy on them some distance away, awaiting the right chance to strike.
Surrounding the herd of Tisons from front and back were a group of masked hunters cladded with bronze, leather, and fur, and two-horned mask-helms like that of a demon’s head. A few hundred yards behind the herd a dozen hunters stood atop branches of towering trees, while a few hundred yards ahead of the herd ten or so holes were dug no deeper than two meters, and no more than two hunters sat waiting inside it.
The hunters’ plan was simple; when the time was right, the one on the trees would scare away the herd forcing them to flee ahead. Upon stampeding away, the hunters inside the hole would trap and finish them off from their holes. Of course, reality would always be harder than any theoretical plan, hence the hunters awaited their leader on the trees to initiate the plan at the perfect time.
Meanwhile, inside one of the holes sat two hunters; a little girl no older than eight, and a juvenile boy twice the girl’s age. The boy’s horned-helm seemed to have snapped one of its horns after an accident years ago, earning himself the title ‘the one-horned’ by his peers. He observed curiously the little girl seemingly struggling to fix and clean her hunting rifle.
“You good Fyra? You’ve been wiping that gun for quite some time now-”
[ AZAR ]
The One-Horned Devil
“Oh I’m good alright, if I could just get this damn breech to unlock-”
[ FYRA ]
8 year-old girl. Still has two horns
“Dear lord, sis-”
Fyra accidentally fired a shot to the sky as she tried to yank open her rifle’s breechblock. The sound of gunshot was heard by everyone across hundreds of yards, including the Tisons. The herd was frightened by the sudden bang hence they started to stampede away- opposite from the dug holes- opposite from where the hunters wanted them to flee to.
Now that their plan was thrown out of the window, the hunters inside the holes were forced out of their hiding and chased after the stampede on their modified snowmobiles. The hunters on the trees on the other hand braced themselves as the stampede charged beneath them, holding on to the branches as the trees shook hard every time a panicked Tison rammed onto it head first. Once the whole stampede passed below them, the hunters jumped tree to tree chasing after the fleeing herd.
“I’m sorry Azar! That was really freaking stupid of me! I should’ve cleaned my gun before we start this freaking hunt!”
“Nevermind that, Fyra. Just stay focused!” Azar ordered, driving their snowmobile speedily alongside other fellow hunters while Fyra sat behind him.
The hunters on top of the trees jumped onboard some of the chasing snowmobiles that only had one rider. They drew out their burning-tipped spears, prepared to stab the Tisons once they closed in enough by the stampede’s side. Fyra drew out a burning spear too as she prepared herself to do the same.
The snowmobiles got into position and immediately brought havoc amongst the fleeing herd. Stabbing the Tysons lightly and firing blank shots to the air, the hunters attempted to single out some of the herd where they would finish off those that got separated from the group.
Azar and Fyra did the same in playing their part, but misfortune struck when a random Tison suddenly rammed them from behind. Fyra was thrown off the snowmobile immediately. However, she managed to stab another random Tison deeply on its nape and now, the girl was holding on to her spear dearly as the beast carried her away from its herd in panic.
“HOLD ON FYRA!!” Azar chased after the Tison currently rodeoed by Fyra.
The beast swerved left and right, ramming to trees occasionally trying to shake off the girl riding on its back. It didn’t take long before the Tison completely lost its composure and fell to a small inclined terrain after tripping its hooves on a rock.
The poor beast sled and rolled downwards the snowy incline, throwing off Fyra who sled and rolled downwards as well. Fyra crashed into a tree, finally stopping her rolling descent while the Tison too crashed into another. She got up to her knees slowly and painfully, and to her dismay, so did the beast.
“HRRGGHHH!” the Tison grunted. A hint of rage could be heard from its grunt.
The two ton furry beast charged straight towards Fyra. The girl froze in fear and panic, staring helplessly at her incoming doom when the sounds of engine was suddenly heard
Azar jumped into the scene, ramming his snowmobile straight at the Tison’s face. The force from the full speed collision plus its already injured nape was enough to put the beast down for good. Azar got out of his ride and immediately attended Fyra.
“Are you alright, Fyra?” Azar asked as he offered her his hand.
“Y- yeah. Just some small wound, that’s all-” Fyra grabbed Azar’s hand as he pulled her back to her feet- “t- thank you, big bro. I thought I’d die there and then.”
“Heh, you’ve still got a long way to worry about that sis- maybe five years tops before you can start considering.”
The two of them turned their attention back to the Tison, now dead and ready to be harvested.
“Well, let’s just tie it up to our ride. We’ll bring this one back home as a result of our hunt,” Azar suggested their next move, and the siblings did just that. They dragged the body along as they reunited back with the rest of the hunting group, who needless to say weren’t that welcoming upon their arrival.
Everyone had their helmets off at this point, revealing faces of men and women of various races, species and shapes, and each snowmobile tied to their own spoils of hunt. The hunters’ leader; a grey haired elderly but muscularly fit man emerged from the crowd and confronted Azar and Fyra. The duo took off their masked-helm and bowed to his presence.
“Which one of you fired that shot?” the leader asked in a stern and fearsome voice. The duo remained silent.
“Let me ask again-” the leader took a step forward, leaning his face closer to the duo- “which one of you two, fired that shot?”
Preparing to face the music, Fyra was about to lift her hand when Azar suddenly intervened-
“I did it sir! I was testing my rifle’s trigger not realizing I had it loaded all this time!”
The leader looked at Azar for a while before punching him square to his face. The teenager fell to his knees, before being pulled up by the leader by his jacket’s collar.
“I know you didn’t do it boy,” the leader whispered to Azar. “But your sister is still under your care, which makes you equally responsible-” he released Azar back to his feet- “you gotta stop covering for her boy. The next time either of you screw up, I’m gonna assume it’s your sister’s fault and punish her instead, you got that!”
“Yes sir! I’m sorry for my mistakes sir!” Azar replied loudly, being the only one who heard the leader’s whisper.
“Good. Now pack up everyone! Despite everything that happened, our hunt today’s a success! With these, we’ll bring home plenty of fuel for our clan’s fire!”
The hunters went home that day with plenty of spoils from their hunt. Though everyone’s relatively satisfied, Fyra had her head down throughout their journey home, feeling deeply guilty for letting her brother take the blame for her mistake.
It was then Fyra felt a hand holding softly to her shoulder. Looking up, Azar greeted her with a smile, gesturing to her that “it’s okay”. She couldn’t help but reply with a smile as well.
Somewhere in the frozen valleys of Tuskhorn Range, stood a fortress-like city inhabited by a nameless clan residing in this alpine tundra. The fortress-city held a name; Infernia, as the clan called it, was a city of iron buildings, steam pumping towers, and idolized flames- emphasis on the last part, for fire was considered a sacred element for the livelihood of the people of Infernia.
For every 50 or so steps taken journeying inside Infernia, one would stumble upon either a torch tower or an iron circular basket, bursting out flame at its center serving as a fireplace for the locals to gather and warm up. On their homes and vehicles, there will always be a dedicated pipe or exhaust installed to blow out fire constantly or in timely intervals. Weapons, armours, tools, and other metalworks were made able to spew out flames one way or another. Even in their woven looms, artworks and paints will be embroidered with motifs of fire.
In short, the clansfolk of Infernia idolized fire and flames in the middle of this freezing tundra. Because of this, the Infernians proudly called themselves ‘Devils’ for their deep obsession and lifestyle revolving around fire were like that of the demons of hell.
The city’s main gate opened that day, welcoming the group of hunters that brought home with them their spoils; tons worth of meat for food, fur for coat, bones for craftwork, and fat as fuel for their fire. The last played an important role especially for out of all fuel sources in the alpine tundra, none burned longer and better than a Tison’s fat.
Thus, it was the hunters job to provide fuel for the city, the miners job to mine for fire rocks to provide heat for the fire, and no one’s job to find oxygen because it's pretty much present everywhere in the planet.
The hunters delivered their spoils to a storage house where it will soon be harvested and distributed by those responsible. By the end of the day, the hunters received their pay in the form of food, water, fuel for their house’s stove, and copper coins that served as the city’s currency (it’s viability outside depends on whether the trader values copper or not). Azar received a small pouch containing all those payments and went home with Fyra.
“Ah… Home sweet home~” Azar stretched and yawned, before collapsing on the mat floor.
“Yeah… I’ll prepare the bath,” Fyra announced, heading upstairs where their bathroom’s at.
“Oh? You’re preparing the bath for me? How sweet of you lil sis~”
“Screw you, I’m doing that for myself,” Fyra blatantly replied. “You ought to prepare dinner while waiting. We’ve already made that chicken stock last night right? All that's left is to reheat it and pour it into bowls.”
“Heh, fine,” Azar got up and went to the kitchen.
The sibling’s home wasn’t exactly big in the first place. A simple two-floored apartment room, each floor less than 150 square feet, became the duo’s living space as far as they could remember. They had all the basic necessities such as a bathroom, a kitchen, and a bedroom, and a fireplace in the living room to keep themselves warm in their 24 hour sub-zero climate city.
It wasn’t luxurious but it’s cozy, and that’s all the brother and sister needed after a long tiring day of hunting.
Azar and Fyra had a simple chicken stew dinner that night and once meal’s over, they immediately went to bed. They shared a single bedroom upstairs. It had no beds as the two shared a huge stitch filled futon, simply because they couldn’t afford more. The siblings weren’t exactly the ‘luxurious’ people inside the city for reasons you’ll soon find out-
“Hey bro, before we sleep, can I ask you something?” Fyra requested out of nowhere.
“Uh, sure I guess?”
“How’s it like when you grew up with Father Lucius?”
Her question caught Azar slightly off guard. Lucius the Exiled, was the adopted father for both Azar and Fyra who took them in eight years ago after encountering them wandering outside the city walls. The siblings weren’t originally a clansfolk of Infernia but rather, children of some random migrants who died following their travel across Tuskhorn Range.
Lucius took them both in and since then, the two integrated themselves into Infernia society. Their time together was short though, for before Fyra even reached the age of two, the man was banished by the clan for reasons unknown.
Despite that, Azar learned a lot from him growing up and taking care of his family. Lucius entrusted his adopted son completely to take care of his younger sister before his banishment. Because of this too, Fyra had little to no memory growing up with the man before his banishment to the Swamps of Dakota.
“Father Lucius… He was a great man…”
“No offence, but you need to be more specific brother,” Fyra replied rather annoyed. “That’s what everyone would say about their beloved father.”
“Oh be patient will you. We’ll get there when we get there.”
And so, the big brother went on to tell all the tales and events he recalled growing up with their adopted father. Stories on how he taught the boy how to hunt, how to shoot, how to read, cook, and play around with tools all within their short 18 months of being together. He recalled all the funny stories they had dealing with an infant Fyra, the suspenseful event of how she lost one of her eyesights which nearly cost her life (and their hearts), and of course, the heartbreaking news of their adopted father’s banishment.
“Lucius- his way of thinking, isn’t exactly aligned compared to everyone else here. In fact, he’s a known rebel against the leaders and elders,” Azar described. “What he rebelled against is something I’m not so sure of myself. But what I do know is that’s pretty much one of the reasons why we all grew up in this shitty home.”
“I wouldn’t call this home ‘shitty’ y’know? I like this place!” Fyra interrupted.
“Yeah, me too. But what I mean is compared to others, our home’s pretty… suck-ish..?”
“Yeah, I get where you’re going. Now go on…”
“One day, the news of his banishment came. They never explained to me the specific reasons other than ‘he had gone too far’, as well as an insult or two, but everything they told me got in one ear and out the other.”
“Before he left though, Lucius told me one last thing; he wants us to be better than him, and to always be there for those you love and are in need…”
“...What does that mean?” Fyra asked.
“To be honest, I have no idea,” Azar casually replied. “I mean, does he mean to be there for those you love AND for those who are in need, or does ‘those you love’ and ‘those in need’ refer to the same person?”
“Beats me. But from what I’ve seen from you, it seems you assumed the second one,” Fyra replied.
“Well that’s because I’ve yet to meet someone that needs my help other than you. Now let’s get some sleep, ey? We have another big hunt tomorrow and HOPEFULLY, you won’t forget to clean your gun before.”
“Nah I won’t- cross my heart.” Fyra motioned her hand crossing her chest.
With nothing else left, the two went to sleep that cold night embracing each other in arms.
“You DID check your gun before right?” Azar asked suddenly, turning his sight to Fyra.
“Of course I did! I’ve crossed my heart yesterday dammit, look!” Fyra pointed her rifle upwards and pulled the trigger. Azar’s heart skipped a beat seeing her sister’s action but luckily, the rifle wasn’t loaded.
“F***ing hell! You just gave me a heart attack there!”
The brother and sister waited patiently inside their hole, because just like before, the hunting group had surrounded a herd of Tyson both front and back. Without the cock up like before, the hunters were able to pull off their plan smoothly as their leader, currently on top of a tree, raised his hand and shouted with all his might.
The leader’s roar echoed throughout the range’s woods, frightening the herd as they stampeded away in panic. The herd fled straight ahead and without warning, bullets started to fly towards them from in front.
The hunters hiding in their holes got up and fired rounds after rounds of incendiary bullets to the herd. A good five-six shots was enough to take down a single of the near one ton beasts, but having hundreds stampeding at you at full speed meant that landing a good shot would be mostly improbable.
Because of that, after taking down one or two Tysons after firing hundreds, the hunters got back down and quickly changed their arsenals as the beasts got closer. The hunters quickly equipped and warmed up their powered bracers, before blasting streams of fire upwards from their holes with said bracers.
The blind Tisons (forgot to mention that their blind) felt the heat as they charged closer but it was too late for them to retreat. Many walked right into the flame, burning their thick fur causing them to choke and die from asphyxiation. The fire itself dealt minimal physical damage to the massive beasts, but the smoke produced by their burning fur easily deprived them of breathing, and whenever the beasts collapsed and fell into the dug holes, the hunters would finish them off and put them out of misery.
The stampede had completely passed through all the dug holes at this point and many Tisons were killed from it. Even then, the hunters wanted more, for they had to hunt more today to make up for yesterday's losses.
“AFTER THEM!!” the leader shouted as he hitched a ride on one of his men’s snowmobiles.
Everyone quickly got onto their rocket-thrustered mobiles and rode after the fleeing stampede. Just like the day before, the riders caught up by the herd’s side while the other hunter seated behind would try to single out some of them by poking them with their burning-tipped spears.
AND JUST LIKE YESTERDAY, a random Tyson rammed Azar and Fyra’s snowmobile and now the girl was seen rodeoing one of the beasts away from the herd. Azar had to catch up to his sister much to his displeasure.
"I'M COMING FYRAAA!!" Azar called.
The Tison ran through a tight hillside tunnel filled with rocks and whatnot, forcing Azar out of his snowmobile too big to maneuver inside it. The one-horned devil took out his flaming-tipped spear and rifle and chased after the Tison by foot.
Inside the tunnel, the huge beast rammed and smashed through rocks and walls several times due to the place's narrowness and its gradual loss of composure. All that ramming made it hard for dear Fyra to hold on until finally, she was thrown off from the Tison to the side.
Fyra fell through ANOTHER smaller tunnel conveniently present there and then. Rolling through the slippery slope and colliding with small rocks, Fyra’s rough descent finally came to an end as she flung out of the tunnel and landed on a thick pile of snow.
“Ugh…” Fyra groaned, her body sore all over. She rested for a while before getting back up to her feet, where she noticed that a few two meters behind her was a cliff’s edge- a VERY deep cliff’s edge.
Fyra let out a sigh of relief knowing that she would’ve plummeted hundreds of meters below had she not stopped rolling one more time. Looking over the edge, she noticed another hill on the other side of the valley. There’s a hillside road on said hill at far lower altitude than the one Fyra’s on right now, but observing there, she witnessed a shocking sight she had never seen before.
Traversing across the hillside was a group- no, an ARMY of armoured men and armoured trucks. Marching in disciplined formation, some of the army group carried a banner displaying their clan’s symbol; that of skull and bones. The armoured soldiers all had skeletal motifs painted or shaped on their armours, while their vehicles were mounted with a plethora of guns including flamethrowers occasionally blown out to the sky to warm up the marching group.
In front of the army led their leader, riding on a robotic horse. The leader was a cyborg skeleton, with flaming purple eyes, grand caped-wear and an iron halo attached on the back of its head.
He is the highest leader of the Skull Clan, and the army marching behind him was none other than the dreaded Skull Clan themselves.
Of course, Fyra didn’t know about their name and reputation at this point in time, but had a feeling that their presence meant a bad omen. No other clan or group of people resided at Tuskhorn Range saved for her nameless clan, and though there were plenty that passed by this mountain range, never had she seen or heard an entire army marching through the alpine tundra like the one she witnessed right now.
For better or worse, she must warn the elders about this. Who knows what would happen should an army of this magnitude crossed paths with their city which, truth be told, wasn’t exactly hidden from plain sight.
Fyra observed the marching army once more when all of a sudden, the leader signalled his men to stop. He looked above to his side- and locked eyes with Fyra, who immediately fled from the scene in panic. Whether or not he actually saw the girl was a mystery only the leader knew its answer to.