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Nidhogg's Fall

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    Story Nidhogg's Fall

    Hi folks,
    I'm back! Again! (Third time's the charm as they say)
    I'm still dabbling in writing and look forward to sharing this and that. This is one I've shared elsewhere, but I'd like any feedback/thoughts. I am always interested in improving my English.

    -

    It is the time of the harvest. The prospect of a harvest fills us with excitement, we never feel more alive than in the midst of a raid, but for me, I feel it more so, such that I can feel myself trembling with anticipation. This is my 81st raid, my 9th raid by 9th raid. A sacred number. To acquit myself well here would be to earn the rank of Captain-aspirant. To fail is to have my flesh recycled for the next generation.


    The thoughts of recycling do not linger long in my mind, for today mine is the glory. Today, my craft will bear me to the dizzying heights I had only dreamt of as a shard so long ago.


    In the hangar bay of the carrier Naglfar, I run my gloved hands on the flanks of my assault ship, Malice Striker. She is as beautiful as she is deadly, sleek curves and deadly purpose rolled into a single machine. Naglfar's Captain has chosen a world we have visited before, as a kindness to me, a sign of his favouring my aspiration. It is a crude and uncivilised world, an easy target.


    I slide open the access hatch and take my place in the command chair. It is a matter of casual ease to sweep my hair out of the way to allow the interface blades to cut into my head. It hurts, but the anticipation of the raid makes it easy to ignore that.


    My eyesight fades, replaced by the sensory packages of Malice Striker as I look out onto the hangar deck, seeing my fellow raiders. I look around, my sensor node moving, before I extend my wings, testing the control surfaces. Satisfied, I retract them. Harvest claws clench and unclench. I ignite the plasma thrower. My vision flickers through the spectrum before settling upon my favourite band, a rich host of colours that bring life to the hangar.
    All systems optimal.


    The time is now.


    The Naglfar's armoured hangar bay grinds open, the minute scale-like armour of the carrier gleaming in the light of this world's yellow sun. We launch, sliding out of our launch cradles and angling down towards the green and blue world below, wings tucked away to thrust into the atmosphere with blade-like precision.


    Our entry is marked by sonic booms and fire before external sensors reward me with the feel of atmosphere pushing against my control surfaces. I extend my wings, catching the atmosphere and banking, swirling with my fellows.
    I will miss that most when I am the Captain-aspirant. The thrill of atmospheric entry, the fearful moment when sub-orbit defenders might knock us out of the sky if they were ready. The heart squeezing pressure of gunfire on Malice Striker's armour and the savage joy of rending a defender in two.


    My brethren take wing, each seeking their own targets, scattering across the winds.
    I head north, over the hills and valleys, swooping down as the land below changes from the verdant green to a stunning white. My sensors pick up my target, a small settlement. I would not normally bother with such a small target, but this has been the Captain's private request of me. As he has chosen to honour me, so I shall honour him.


    The creatures below enter a panic as my silhouette coasts over their rude wooden hovels.
    It is time to collect new flesh.


    -----


    I land heavily, my drop assault crashing through one of their long wooden structures. Malice's landing struts absorb the stress of the heavy landing without a single groan of protest. Battle is joined as these shaggy wild creatures are thrown about, scattering as I tear their home down, using Malice's wing surfaces to scythe through the structures.


    They are primitives. Most primitives will respond in one of two ways. They will see their doom upon them and flee, or they will seek to appease, falling to worship power beyond their imagination. These primitives are worthy of praise though. They do not have Taldari sonic harpoons or even Qrei lightning guns. No craft rises up to intercept me, no vehicle rolls out to engage me. But this does not deter them.


    They don their metal armour, grab their axes and charge willingly into the fray. An arrow bounces off my sensor node as they approach. Their weapons cannot pierce Malice's armour, my armour. I activate Malice's plasma thrower, venting jets of superheated plasma through their ranks, melting the snow in an arc around me and vapourising the closest of them.


    Still, they come. If anything, the deaths seem to give them courage. A howling bearded creature slams his axe down over my forward landing struts, a scratch at most. It does not concern me. It makes the harvest easier.


    He is the first to be consumed, shredded as I activate the bladed manipulators at the end of the landing struts and sweep a blow across the creature's chest.


    Red scores across my vision, splashing the steaming ground beneath me as he is separated from himself. The second attacker, I grab and force his head into the collection node below the sensor suite. Mechanical jaws slam shut, hydraulics squeezing, mashing the creature to a pulp before moving the flesh to Malice's belly. There is purpose to the savagery, something they will never appreciate.


    To see such fighting spirit, even against such odds makes the harvest all the sweeter. When one harvests a crop of cowards, one cannot help but wonder if some of that will bleed into the next generation of pilots. This world, we have visited before because the Captain knows it to be a world of bold creatures, of indomitable spirit, even when facing one such as I.


    But there are any number of brave worlds in the vast cosmos. In truth, there is another reason we have returned, a stain on the Captain's honour that he wishes to have cleansed from his record. And as I move towards the center of the settlement, reaping a bloody harvest, I spot my target.


    There, one of our assault craft lie, battered and bleached with age she is stretched out as a trophy, a grisly monument to the sheer luck these primitives have had and an insult to my Captain who lost a raider 9 by 9 cycles ago.


    These primitives had mocked this proud vessel, coating it with reams of cloth and leaving tallow candles in the pitted sensor nodes.


    My fury is righteous now as I lay waste to the settlement, sweeping away the creatures that gamely fight on. But no more time lies for playing with them, now the fighting turns to purpose, every motion perfectly synced with Malice Striker as I pulp those that remain. Refraining from the art of savagery I bring quick, brutal purpose.


    I am mere feet from tearing down their insult when a creature steps out, standing between me. A female of their species if I have judged their appearances correctly, and...
    I froze. Malice froze with me, growing still as I looked down at this one.


    And saw myself staring back. She glares, anger visible. Her hands clutch a weapon concealed by cloth.


    It is not uncommon to find creatures with some common genetic traits. The flesh vats will sculpt, carefully analysing and deciding upon the best sequence of data to use from the compiled ruin we bring. As a result, sometimes a pilot will share some similarities, like looking into a mirror through a cloth.


    But this, this is uncanny. I am entranced by this creature that is me and yet is not. Take away the hair on her scalp and replace it with neural ports, remove that rude garb and clothe her in a pilot’s suit and she would fool anyone aboard Naglfar.
    The idea is scandalous but delightful, no wonder they are so very brave. Or perhaps better to say, no wonder we are so very brave. For we are a refined copy of them.


    She hurls an insult, calling out challenge in the tongue of her strange kind and the moment breaks. She breaks into a run, tufts of snow kicked up before she leaps, swinging her barbaric weapon across my manipulator as I swing in turn. Her feral warcry is picked up by my sensors.
    “Týr!”


    And then she drops, landing on her feet behind me. I turn and I fall. Shock fills me as the diagnostics show what I have just discovered. Her blade has severed one of my landing struts. A clean cut so fine even the implants that tied me to Malice had not felt it.


    How was this possible? I pick myself up. Malice rises, spins, but too slow. I can feel booted feet clambering up my fuselage. Another scream and pain this time as the savage creature stabs into Malice’s void hardened armour.


    I feel wetness. I unfurl my wings, flailing the control surfaces until I feel the intruder tumble away. I was caught unprepared, but no matter, for she has come to rest by a charred hovel. She has lost her weapon. I take a step, but the controls feel stiff, and that sensation of wetness grows. I feel cold. I feel pain. Malice falls again, for the second time.


    Too late, I see the blade thrust deep into Malice’s heart. It is not the ship that is failing, it is I.
    The blade has punched through the armour and found a home in my chest. The wetness was not snow or flesh beneath Malice’s armour panels, but my own life force, leaving me.


    I have no strength, I am helpless. I cannot even summon the strength to open a channel with Naglfar, far above us in the stars. The blade is pulled out, I scream. As it leaves me, I realise my error. It is no blade, it is a talon from the old ship’s manipulator. Our own tools turned against us.
    Excited words tease at my fading awareness.
    “Odin’s balls, you have done it! Do you hear the outlander within? It is as the Skald surmised, it is vessel.”


    The access hatch slides open, revealing my doppelganger as she steps in. The charnel smell from the harvest overwhelms me from beyond, but I am too far lost to care. I have but minutes.
    Minutes to relish the horror of what the creature says.


    “You see those rods in her head? Bring the Skald, cut her head open, then we shall see if we can use this dragon against the outlanders.”
    She pulls me out of the command chair, letting me fall to the floor. Hands grab me and pull me away, towards the outside. To the cold snow. I can see my doppelganger tracing Malice's name with her fingers.


    "Níðhöggr."


    Berr sér í fjöðrum
    He carries in his pinions

    —flýgr völl yfir—
    -he flies over the fields-

    Níðhöggr nái—
    Malice Striker, corpses-

    nú mun hon søkkvask.
    Now will she sink.
    macrorufus's Signature
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  • #2

    Hey! Welcome back! Nice to see an old face come around again. With everything that's been going on over there, I'd wondered if you couldn't come around anymore. Either way, it's nice to have you back!

    I'll be giving this a read later today, for sure.
    Daryn's Signature



    “Just when you think humanity has found the limits of stupid, they go and ratchet up the standard by another notch.” - Bob

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    • #3

      There's a brutal effeciencyto this civilization. What's going on, though? This is a small slice of what I can only guess is a much larger idea?
      Daryn's Signature



      “Just when you think humanity has found the limits of stupid, they go and ratchet up the standard by another notch.” - Bob

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      • #4

        Hey, Daryn!
        It's nice to be back.

        The idea I was dabbling with was what if Norse myths were real, but perception had turned them into what we know today.
        Malice Striker is the literal translation for the dragon called Nidhogg.

        The premise being that this rather violent society uses their assault ships to gather up and build their next generation.
        Mild critique of mankind in that the narrator and her doppelganger look identical, therefore mankind is a violent people.

        Edit: It's just a short story. I like them to be windows into an idea.
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        • #5

          Originally posted by macrorufus View Post
          They don their metal armour, grab their axes and charge willingly into the fray
          Haha, very nice. It took me a while to get where this was going, but this was the line that tipped me off. Very clever! (Not finished reading just yet, but wanted to say now that I appreciate the concept behind this)

          And after finishing: Huh, not the direction I was expecting it to take from when I commented above, but still very good! I wasn't expecting the humans to know it was a ship at the end, I thought they'd still believe it was a dragon. Very good though, a thoroughly entertaining read!

          As for the harvesting and recycling of flesh, I love that concept! It's an intriguing civilisation you've conceptualised here. Have you done anything else with them, or do you plan to?

          On an almost unrelated note, I always wonder how much I've been influenced by Incarceron. That book had a giant prison world which was a closed system, so they had to recycle the animals inside, and each generation they became less animal - the sheep were mostly half-robots by the time of the protagonist. That concept really stuck with me, and now I come across concepts of recycling flesh and bodies and I just think "Oh yeah, like that book I read as a teenager, sure." Hah, what an odd concept for me to be really familiar with!

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          • #6

            Many thanks Slice. ^^

            This is the only piece I wrote for them, I usually dabble in a singular idea.
            In this case the civilisation was backtracked from the Prose Edda (where Nidhogg/Malice Striker is said to lurk at the roots of Yggdrasil and slurp at the entrails)

            Edit: I am curious though where you thought it would have gone!
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