Ryan didn’t think the headlong rush toward Moloch deserved a name as dignified as a charge, or that the group of monsters should be called something as orderly as a mob. If he had to give the collection of beasts perusing them a collective noun, he would have called it a chaos of monsters. They were currently enraged chasing after Resheph’s drones, but as soon as they got scent of the divine they would be diverting their mass.
Ryan hoped that would be the case. The plan falls apart if they don’t. Granted, in Ryan’s opinion, if the attack on Moloch was too much to call a charge, if the monsters didn’t deserve to be called a mob, then calling “unleash the monsters and rush at Moloch and hope they kill him and his followers before they kill us I guess” a plan was a grave insult to the concept of plans.
At least it had accomplished one thing. Moloch did not look smug, or arrogant, or haughty. He certainly didn’t look like he was in control, bellowing orders at his followers and his monsters. His eyes were wide, his movements exaggerated, and kept shouting uncertain glances at the approaching horde.
Whatever else, Moloch was off balance.
“Get your targets, everyone!” Ryan shouted. The other gods didn’t need to be reminded, of course, but Ryan felt he should shout something. The situation was as dire as it got, the stakes as high as they could be, and his sister’s life hung in the balance on top of everything else. But part of Ryan was both terrified and thrilled to be fighting his target.
Crystal was peeling off from the group as soon as she spotted her target, the hydra that was under Moloch’s command. She dodged the Hecatoncheires hands, she can dodge the Hydra’s heads, Ryan thought to try and reassure himself. He watched for a moment as she launched herself into the air, but didn’t have time to see her first attack land before the next of their group spotted their target and split off to face it.
Anansi had spotted the ddraig goch, a dragon from Welsh mythology with an eagle’s beak. And so it went, Dianmu breaking off to fight the three-headed balaur, a creature that looked like it should be more at home in the water but moved across the land with serpentine grace, and Athena to fight her old nemesis in the drakaina, which looked to Ryan like the Medusa on steroids but thankfully lacked a petrifying glare.
Then Ryan saw his target, a creature from French mythology, and inspiration for one of his favorite creatures in roleplaying games.
The dread Tarasque.
It stood on all six legs – legs that bore more resemblance to a bear’s than anything else – with a massive shell covering its back that was dotted with spines as big as Ryan. As he approached the monster, it roared at him, revealing a mouth full of teeth fully in keeping with its leonine head.
I’m going to kill a Tarasque. Ryan thought as he propelled himself into the air by amplifying the force of his leap through twisting the acceleration his jump provided. As he came down towards it, part of him couldn’t help but add or die to one.
Ryan held off on twisting reality as he came down. They all were going to fight their monsters as much as possible with their weapons and wits and only minor alterations to reality. We have to save our strength for- ohgodspike!
Ryan twisted in the air to avoid impaling himself as he came down on the creature’s back. The result was that he had to roll instead of the sword-down landing he’d been aiming for, nearly falling off the Tarasque’s back before he managed to catch himself with one foot. Graceful, Ryan, he thought to himself.
Okay, you’re on the shell of a dragon-turtle-lion-bear hybrid, now what? Ryan considered trying to twist reality – the other part of the plan hinged on taking down the monsters before Moloch could empower them – but conserving power was more important.
Instead he started to make his way across the Tarasque’s back as it thrashed, trying to toss him into mauling range of those claws. It was like crawling across the roof of a bus on a bumpy road, when the bus was made of teeth and claws and malicious hate.
As difficult as it was, with each passing moment Ryan grew closer to the creature’s neck, holding onto his sword as best he could as he crawled along the slick shell of a beast that was large enough to bite Ryan in half lengthwise.
A month ago you were trying to decide how many days you could hold off before you had to go to the Laundromat. The thought rose, unbidden, and once it was in Ryan’s head he couldn’t shake it. A month ago his concerns had been the laundromat, and if he was going to eat prepackaged noodles or splurge on fast food burgers. He was worried about getting progress reports done for his boss and – Holy crap I never quit. I forgot to quit my job.
Well, he’d been all over the news running around being the alleged Antichrist, so he was certainly fired by now. Not that it mattered. He’d only wanted the health benefits really, and he didn’t exactly need those anyway.
Ryan thought they were odd thoughts to have when crawling across the back of a beast that had terrorized fifth century France, but for the life of him couldn’t figure out what normal thoughts would be under these circumstances. The Tarasque’s neck was ahead. Ryan was almost in striking distance.
Then it rolled.
Ryan had to twist reality as it did to avoid being crushed by its bulk, pulling all the air around him into a thick cushion. As the Tarasque rolled onto its back, Ryan got glimpses of Moloch’s soldiers being crushed by shell and spines, then it was darkness as his hastily constructed air shield was buried into the ground. The Tarasque began to thrash above him, grinding him further and further into the dirt, and Ryan held onto the cushion of air for dear life.
After seconds that stretched into an eternity, it rolled off him. When Ryan came out of the ground, it was wheeling towards him. Upon seeing he was still alive, it bellowed and charged, its mouth opening to devour him whole. Ryan’s heart pounded. If you don’t get this right, you’re going to need a miracle.
Ryan reached out and caused the air around the Tarasque’s face to release a sudden burst of photons, a face-first flashbang that blinded the beast. It still charged, it still bellowed, but that was enough for Ryan to roll forwards under that snapping jaw and raise his sword above him.
It was just high enough. The first half-foot of his sword buried itself in the Tarasque’s underbelly, and its mass was too great to stop itself. Ryan just had to stand there, sword raised above his head, and let the Tarasque’s momentum combine with his own divine strength to disembowel the creature from sternum to stem.
The stench was horrific as black ichor and monstrous viscera splattered free of its stomach to slosh on and around Ryan. When it was done, Ryan looked like he had been doused in ink. He wiped his face, feeling his stomach churn.
A bit behind him, the Tarasque’s momentum ran out. Its body flopped lifelessly to collapse among Moloch’s army and the chaos of monsters, scattering both forces with its bulk.
Ryan dragged himself to his feet, looking for where in the chaos he was needed most. Already burned some power, and haven’t even started to bother Moloch yet. If I’m not careful-
Ryan gasped at a sudden, sharp pain in his side, and looked down to see the sword running halfway through his kidney.
“Oh, my,” Moloch whispered in Ryan’s ear, “I have so missed getting my hands dirty.”