Poisonroot - Chapter 27

Whooooooooooo! Epic fight scene is epic! Ok, so I listened to almost the entire Portal 2 soundtrack (Songs to test by) while writing this. It's actually really good for writing epic scenes. Lots of electronica-assisted soaring orchestral riffs.

This is quite a wonderfully epic scene for me and it's already got me thinking about how I can top it in the future. Tricky stuff. My inspiration for the Hork-construct monster is part Chernabog from Disney's Fantasia, part 18 colossus from Shadow of the Colossus and a healthy dose of body-horror from Neon Genesis Evangelion.

PAM is entirely grown from the D&D campaign. Thanks guys!


Trip looked desperately around at the chamber. Hork, now fully assimilated into the Tree’s trunk, loomed over them all, growing by the second. He was ten, twenty, thirty feet high, his hands and lower body absorbed completely into the bulk of the Tree. As he grew, his skin stretched horribly over bone, turning a greenish pallor.

More of the vine-ghasts clambered out of the dirt, showering the area with fragments of bone and soil. Their finger-bones were long claws and from their mouths long vine-tongues protruded, lashing around as they tasted the air.

Somehow they let out a hissing noise and the booming voice of the Hork-construct rang out, drowning all other noise.

“DESTROY THEM!” he screamed. He seemed to be trying to free his arms, bigger now around than Victor’s waist, from the trunk of the Tree.

As the new vine-ghasts moved to join the melee, Trip looked helplessly on as Rennin was overwhelmed, falling into Victor; they both went down, a dozen ghasts on top of them. Lauren, pushed out of the centre of the group, seemed to be edging away slightly, Sabir at her heel.

Lauren looked round and caught Trip’s eye. “Trip! I’ve got an idea!” she shouted.

“What are you going to-“

Trip’s reply was suddenly cut short as Anila’s foot caught him in the head. He tumbled over, crumpling to the floor. For a brief moment his head just felt heavy, and then the pain came crashing down. He staggered to his feet, the pain dimming to a localised throb at the base of his skull. Anila was standing right behind him.

She was on her feet, cold eyes glaring at him; her nose was a smashed mess, and she wiped a drop of blood off onto the back of her hand. She looked at the red smear, squeezed her fist shut and grinned evilly at Trip.

When the attack came, it was ridiculously fast. Three roundhouse kicks in quick succession; as Trip ducked under them her fist came up and, as he twisted, caught him on the shoulder. He staggered back a few steps and she pressed forward, spinning completely around with every kick. Then she caught his hip with one kick, nearly knocking him flying again; the next moment she was in close throwing punches at his head and chest that he barely blocked with his elbows.

Above, unseen by all, the Hork-construct wrenched with greater effort at his arm.

Anila, scoring hit after hit, pushed Trip back towards the Tree with each battering strike. Bleeding afresh from small wounds and barely able to raise his hands, Trip saw the light of triumph in her eyes. She double-kicked, one to the knee and the same leg to his head, and he sprawled sideways.

Rolling, he staggered to one knee and when Anila's foot lashed towards him, aimed squarely at his face, he was ready.

-Again in his mind he replays the kick. She is well trained, he has time to think. To admire.-

-He sees her balance, her grace. Her weakness. He overlays the memory on the reality and inserts his own form, hand snaking up and applying added momentum just there-

Trip's hand, moving almost of its own volition, came up behind Anila's foot, following the same arc. He ducked under the leg and shoved, spinning her round like a top; with a yell he hurled himself at her back, his shoulder screaming in agony as he pushed her towards the Tree.

At almost the same moment, the Hork-construct freed its arm. With a jerk, its enormous green-clawed hand lurched out of the trunk and collided with Anila. She was hurled across the room, a rag-doll flying through the air and then rolling bonelessly on the grass. She lay still.

Trip stared as the Hork-construct reached over and pulled its other arm free. Falling forward slightly, it sagged under the sudden weight of its upper body. Then, a hungry grin spreading over its green features, it brought its arms up, fingers spread and claws outstretched. Its teeth were pointed and brown as it began to laugh, filling the space with cacophony.


"You first!" Trip heard Lauren shout. He looked over at where the voice was coming from, seeing only a green swarm of ghasts ripping at something.

Suddenly the entire group exploded into the air, heads and limbs flying off as PAM came to life. Lauren, clearly visible in the control seat, wrenched at the controls as it lumbered to its feet, squashing a ghast as it did so. Nearly twice as tall as Victor, it was vaguely man-shaped, a bulging head with a fearsome expresssion crowning everything. Brass plates of armour glowed dully, held together by creaking leather straps, and a small box at its rear had a plume of smoke emerging from it, giving it a demonic look. It took two steps forward and swung its arms down onto the second crowd. Ghasts were pounded left and right, each one screaming as it was hurled towards the distant walls. Trip ran forward, careful not to get into the arc of the power armour's arms; the remaining ghasts were howling and leaping towards Lauren, finally revealing Victor in the centre.

He was on his knees, bleeding from dozens of deep cuts; his sword was up, teeth bared in defiance. Rennin was back-to-back with him and looked just as battered.

"Victor!" Trip shouted, running towards him. The man's eyes seemed to focus and he looked around.

"What… what in th'seven hells is that?" he said, looking at PAM.

"Lauren," Trip said breathlessly. Rennin looked over and shook his head, then grinned fiercely.

"Might be what we need," he said.

"We need to deal with that," Trip said as he pointed up at the Hork-construct.

Slowly but incredibly menacingly, it was making a pair of fists and raising them above its head. Rennin and Victor got to their feet, both moving away from it with swords out.

"What can we do?" Rennin said.

"NOTHING," the construct said, and hurled its fists down at them.

The ground caved way under their feet. Trip felt his stomach drop as he fell; an immensely wide crater opened up as the ground all around them began to fall into a ten-foot-deep bowl shape, taking everyone with it. Anila's limp body fell, landing roughly and still not moving. As Rennin hit the ground, Trip clearly head a sickening snap and his grunt of pain. Victor landed and rolled, coming up into a fighter's stance. Trip, nearer the Tree itself, found himself rolling between newly-exposed roots that thrust deeper into the earth.

As the subsidence reached PAM, Lauren gasped and pushed at the controls. One of PAM's bird-like piston legs pushed off suddenly, driving the armour into the air and forward; its right arm dug into the trunk of the Tree, about ten feet off the ground.

The Hork-construct howled and threw his arms up in pain as the metal claws dug through the bark. It began reaching behind the trunk to try and dislodge PAM, but Lauren brought the machine's left arm to bear.

Something whirred and clicked, and as Trip watched the left arm reconfigured itself. A flame flickered into life at the end of the long tube that now protruded from the arm's wrist.

Satisfaction painted all over her face, Lauren pressed a large red button on the control panel. Liquid gushed out from the tube, instantly ignited and spattered over the Hork-construct. Almost immediately it was wreathed in flame, the fire spreading unnaturally fast.

Lauren disengaged PAM's grip on the Tree and fell, her landing making the ground shake. The fire quickly spread to the trunk, and almost immediately the entire One Tree was aflame.

Leaves crackled and turned to ash in seconds; Hork's screaming echoed ever-more shrilly around the chamber and the sheer heat of sudden bonfire forced Trip and Victor a few paces back. Lauren brought PAM's arms up to shield herself from the conflagration.

Thrashing around, the Hork-construct's screams were echoed all around the room by the surviving vine-ghasts, most of which had fallen into the crater with them. One by one they twitched and danced as if on fire, then fell lifeless to the ground.

Trip looked up into the burning canopy of leaves. Individual flowers withered and died, incredibly fast; suddenly he saw a shift in the pattern of the branches, and he gasped.

"Lauren! The branches!"

Even as he said it, one of the largest boughs cracked off from the trunk and plummeted to the ground, directly on top of PAM. Lauren looked up and pushed forward on the controls.

The branch hit PAM squarely on her bulbous head; Lauren, sat slightly forward in the control seat, was thrown towards Victor, who dropped his sword to catch her.

Lauren hugged Victor, then looked wildly around. Already the burning branch had set fire to the leather parts of the armour.

"We need to get out of here! The rest of the fuel will explode," she yelled over the sound of burning, "and we don't want to be here when it does!"

"Rennin!" Trip shouted. He ran over to the knight; the old man's legs were twisted in an unnatural way under him and blood was seeping from a wound to his forehead.

"Trip," he coughed, and then spat blood. "Victor."

"Get up, ol' man," Victor said. Rennin shook his head.

"Reckon I've earned a rest, Victor," he said. "Go. Keep your own safe."

Trip looked from Victor to Rennin. "We can't leave you!" he said. Victor nodded to Rennin.

"Come on, lad," he said, grabbing hold of Trip's arm and pulling him away.

"No! We need to go back for Rennin!" Trip said, struggling against the big man's grip. Victor picked him up and slung him over one shoulder, then started running.

"RENNIN!" Trip cried.

Suddenly the fuel tank on PAM ignited. The Hork Construct, still desperately trying to put out the flames covering its entire body, looked down at the sudden noise.

"NOOOOO!" it yelled as an immense fireball roared out from the bottom of the crater, consuming the Tree, the vine-ghasts and the entire Hork-construct. Smoke filled the air, black and thick, and large chunks of ceiling came down, loosened by the explosion.

As the entire building began to fall down behind them, Lauren and Victor, still carrying Trip, burst into bright sunshine. They fell to the ground, panting and coughing, and Trip curled up tightly, tears in his eyes.

It was an hour before the first city-dweller found them, his eyes clear and sane.