Original Stories Fan Fiction ❯ Badass ❯ Witch-Gunner Part 1 ( Chapter 2 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]


By Sidewinder, 2009.


The sound of beating wings thundered as they carried darkness, death, and destruction towards the village; cruel laughter joined them as the gargoyles returned to burn, kill, ravage, and loot to their hearts' content. The villagers who were unable to find sanctuary-- in faraway lands; in Baron-Foreman Wilhelm's iron keep-factory; or braving wolves and bears in the relative safety of the forest-- bit their lips to silence cries of despair as they hid, clutching crude weapons or religious symbols.

Maria imagined feeling the lingering warmth of her father's hand as she gripped the knife he thrust between a gargoyle's shoulder blades, allowing her to flee from the devil's clutches-- the same knife the gargoyle used to behead her father, avenging the flesh wound he inflicted. A boy, his hands around the pitchfork towering over him, half-kneeled before her-- Cousin Johann, determined to protect the women hiding in the pit behind him, and fulfill the duty his father gave him.

The straw covering their hiding place, which Johann's father placed before he left to meet or flee his fate, muffled the sound of falling thatch as a gargoyle crashed through the roof; it didn't deaden the tremors Maria felt as the devil walked about the farmhouse. Maria heard or thought she heard sniffing, followed by laughter; then a roar accompanied a blood-red light and the smell of smoke.

"Gasp!" Priscilla, Johann's mother, quickly covered her mouth; it was too late. The laughter became louder as the devil waited to see what would kill the humans first: the fire, the suffocating smoke, or the gargoyle himself when the humans burst from their hiding place.

Johann, choosing to risk the latter, charged; the pitchfork reached for the gargoyle's belly. A slashing talon sent the crude weapon flying from the boy's hands; a second slammed him against the floor. "Ah!"

"Johann! Ahhhh!"

The boy saw the hem of a woman's skirt above him; his head turned to see Priscilla's throat in the gargoyle's grip. "Release... Argh!" He struggled to rise to his feet, only to cry again as blood shot forth from deep cuts on his chest.

'Father, I pray you, lend me strength and courage.' Maria drew the knife and...

Rat-at-at! Rat-at-at! "Howllll!"

"Ah!" Maria found herself on the floor, having tripped over a severed limp-- the talon that gripped her aunt's throat. 'My knife!' The weapon lay on the floor, between the gargoyle's legs.

The gargoyle's attention turned to the hole in the roof-- the humans' turned in the same direction-- to see a shadowy figure on a winged staff, a machine pistol in each hand. "Who dares?!"

The figure wore a pointy hat with a wide brim, and a dark cloak that hid the silhouette, but Maria sensed the figure was a woman-- a scandalous woman whose every breath step sent forth lust and seduction. She glanced at the gargoyle she literally disarmed, and then rocketed out of sight; beastly howls of pain quickly overwhelmed the humans' cries of pain and screams of terror.

Being ignored apparently enraged the gargoyle more so than the wounds. "You will pay in blood and agony for...!" He scanned the farmhouse, seeking a weapon; then he caught Maria's knife between his teeth. Despite the loss of both arms-- or because of it-- he leapt through the roof, the seized weapon reaching for his enemy's back. Boom!

Maria used the distraction to get up. "Johann!"

"Mother!" Despite his injuries, Johann's first concern was to the prostrate woman lying before him. She was alive, but in shock; the rise and fall of her chest was the only life sign.

Maria glanced at her cousin's injuries. "I'll carry her. Can you move under your own strength?" Johann answered her with a nod; the pain made it near impossible to breathe, let alone speak. Maria reached under Priscilla's armpits and dragged her aunt out of the burning house; once the older woman was a safe distance away, Maria stepped forwards to help her cousin, only to see the boy running.

"Ahhhh!" Johann collapsed before his mother, his body twisted by pain. One hand covered his chest-- he felt blood rush between his fingers-- the other reached for Priscilla's wrist.

Maria knelt between her cousin and her aunt, and checked Priscilla's pulse-- faint but steady. "She lives." She watched Johann smile in relief, and returned the expression.

Then the boy's eyes widened at something behind his cousin; thinking it was another devil, Maria's head turned to see... "Lord of Valhalla!"

Dead gargoyles littered the town, their blood painting the ground black. Some formed dotted lines, suggesting a single blow from a powerful weapon killed them all. 'Who is she? A witch-gunner?' the child and near child thought of the gunfighter who flew overhead.

The young woman tore strips of cloth from her skirt; as she bandaged her cousin, she saw Johann's lips move, and lowered her head to hear him whisper, "Weapon." Risking death to prevent that of her family, Maria ran into the house to retrieve the pitchfork; when she returned, Johann had risen to his knees, an incredible feat of physical and mental strength.

Maria returned to place the weapon in her cousin's hands. "Our fathers are proud of you." Johann smiled as he used the pitchfork as a crutch. "I must help the one who saved us. Can you stay and protect Aunt Priscilla?" A nod answered her. "Thank you." Searching for a weapon, Maria saw the gargoyle whose talons were shot off; another burst nearly beheaded the devil, leaving little more than the jaws still locked around the handle of Maria's knife. The young woman freed the weapon and, gripping it, raced towards the sound of battle.

A stream of blood led Maria, her skirt torn and her legs free, to... "Ah!" She tripped over another headless gargoyle, and looked up and into a machine pistol's burning red muzzle. "Wait!" She released her knife and raised her hands. "I mean you no harm."

Golden eyes burned in the shadow of the gunfighter's hat, the pistol in her left hand targeting Maria, the pistol in her right targeting a dying gargoyle in the opposite direction. A golden serpent-- 'No, it's electrum,' Maria noted, recognizing a natural alloy of gold and silver-- was coiled around the gun barrel. 'It moved!' The inlaid decoration writhed to better see the young woman.

Then the gunfighter lowered the pistol that targeted Maria, into a wooden holster at her left hip. Silence fell; the battle was over. "Have you ever tasted battle?" she asked while reloading the pistol in her right hand; her left wrist twisted to remove the empty magazine and insert one with 20 rounds of ammunition.

"What...? I mean yes; my father died in a previous gargoyle attack."

The gunfighter lowered the weapon her right-side holster, drew the second pistol one again, reloaded the weapon, and then returned it to the left-side holster. "But this is the first time you bore arms against an enemy?"

Pain gripped Maria's heart; remorse tightened its grip on the young woman. 'If I was stronger or braver, would Father remain among the living?' "Yes."

"Never approach a warrior from behind; the warrior's first thought will be, 'The enemy is attacking from the rear!' and you will die."


"Death can come in within the split-second it takes to ask, 'Who goes there?' Now, am I correct in assuming you're a resident of this county?" A second rifle landed on the witch's right, its wings folding into a bipod.

Maria rose to her feet; now she could see the gunfighter more clearly. Dark armor protected the gunfighter from throat to groin, outlining a figure the young woman thought was natural. 'She looks so beautiful, so young and so old! Is it true the gods grant witches eternal youth?' "Yes."

"Good. I am Witch-Captain Freia. At Baron-Foreman Wilhelm's request, Duke-Director Friedrich summoned my partner and me to deal with the gargoyle clan now challenging his and the Baron's authority. I have questions I want you to answer-- truthfully-- so we may better complete our mission." A rifle whose length was greater than her height-- a weapon so powerful, it could and did send a single bullet through the stony flesh and bone of a dozen gargoyles, killing them all-- rested on the ground behind the witch. Freia picked up the knife as she sat upon the rifle, examined Maria's weapon, and then returned it to the young woman.

The weapon resembled a bolt-action rifle designed by Meister Weapons, Limited, made under license by the Baron's factory, and wielded by his men-at-arms; but it towered over those rifles as a god towered over a man, and there was magic in its craftsmanship. An electrum band in the form of Jormundgand, the great serpent whose coils encircled the world, encircled the stock and barrel; the folded wings formed the bipod. "13.2 x 92 mm SR" was stamped on the barrel.

Maria bowed and met the great serpent's eyes. "Yes, Milady." She shivered when the great serpent's head dipped towards the now dead gargoyle; a forked tongue extended to taste the devil's blood.


Uncle Victor, her father's brother, greeted Maria when the young woman returned to help her cousin and her aunt. "Maria! Thank the Lord of Valhalla, you live!"

The young woman froze when she saw the bandages-- burning blue with magic-- wrapped around her uncle's head. "I am grateful the gods did not..." Then she felt Victor's arms around her. 'He feels like Father.' Maria began to cry as she returned the hug.

Sensing an unasked question, Victor said, "The witch-gunners saved me. I fired the shotgun at the gargoyles-- I doubt the weapon was effective, but I was trying to draw the monsters away from my wife, my son, and you-- and then ran towards the tree line. A gargoyle appeared before me, and brought down its talons; then..."

"The witches likely brought the devils upon us! They consort with evil to gain unnatural abilities-- they cut out their own hearts so that devil's blood may flow through their veins!" The speaker was an older man, whose long white robes-- obviously impractical for anyone who worked at a farm, a field, or a factory-- bore the golden "X" marking a purifier, proponent of the Moral Purity movement.

"Human blood flows through Frank veins, but they kill, maim, and..." Burning pain spread across Maria's face. "Ah!"

"Silence, wench, or I shall deliver the discipline your father apparently..." The purifier felt Johann's fist break his nose, avenging the slap. "Argh!"

"How dare you...!" The boy stopped talking when doing so became too painful; the magic bandages, straining to keep his wounds closed, burned brighter.

"You little beast!" The purifier's own hands closed into fists, but Victor stepped between both parties before more blows were exchanged.

"Please calm down... Mentor Priess. We should not contribute to the pain the devils inflicted upon us." Victor's hesitation was understandable, considering the conflicts between them. Purifiers insisted women must remain indoors and beyond public view, performing childcare and other domestic tasks; laymen insisted a family needed all its members to contribute to their welfare, and women should work if possible, even in "promiscuity-promoting" places like farms and factories.

Priess' fists remained closed as his hands lowered; he knew Johann's father was physically stronger. "Very well, but you are damned if you allow the witches to remain one moment longer." He turned and stomped towards his rectory, shouting, "You are all damned if you do not expel the witches immediately!" He froze when Freia appeared before him, accompanied by a witch whose eyes shined like emeralds.

"If you bear such hatred for us, why do you not force us out? Is your moral purity so weak, you cannot stand against two women?" Silence answered the golden-eyed witch's questions. "Coward." The electrum serpents growled in contempt as the witches, their rifles in hand, walked past the purifier.

Johann bowed to the emerald-eyed witch. "Thank you..." He stopped when the witch put a finger before her lips, the universal gesture for silence.

"Hush; rest and let the bandages do their work." Something about the emerald-eyed witch drew Maria's attention.

'She's... younger than Witch-Captain Freia. I see... innocence in her eyes, as if scenes of bloodshed still shocked her.' Maria noticed the leather holsters at her hips. 'Revolvers?'

The witch's emerald eyes met Maria's. "I am Witch-Ensign Isolde. It appears my partner and I require three to five days' time to complete the mission. Is there a place we may rest until then?"

Silence answered Isolde-- Priess wasn't the first to voice suspicions of a witch-devil relationship-- until Maria said, "My father is-- was a blacksmith. He has-- had a large workshop, where farming implements were made and repaired. It's boarded up now, awaiting another smith to..." She mouthed, "To replace him," words too painful to say aloud.

"Thank you, Dear Maria." The emerald-eyed witch bowed to the young woman, who returned the gesture.


Maria noticed the disgust her uncle tried to hide, a familiar sight when he handled the manure used to fertilize the fields, but that scent was conspicuously absent. "May I help you, Dear Uncle?"

"You need not handle pigs' blood." He answered an unasked question with, "The witches' weapons are biomechanical. Their magic binds a live animal's flesh and spirit to metal, giving it unnatural life; the weapons must feed, as we feed."

The young woman recalled Freia's rifle tasting a gargoyle's blood. "I'll deliver the blood, Dear Uncle."

"But...!" The buckets left Victor's hands before the sentence was completed.

Maria entered the workshop to see Freia lying upon her rifle; the witch's arms crossed behind her head, her pistols in hand. 'What discipline allows her to use the weapon as a bed, and not fall off?'

"Good evening, Dear Maria." Isolde's rifle was disassembled, the components lying upon her cape. Maria could see wings with three fingers, which the garment hid-- the wings of an Infant Basilisk, a scavenger resembling a crow with a snake's head, with venomous fangs in the back of its upper jaw, once thought to be the legendary dragons' chicks. "Please put one bucket beneath the head of Captain Freia's weapon, and one here," she pointed to her own weapon.

"Yes, Milady." The young women watched the electrum serpents' heads dip into the bucket and begin emptying, their master taking care to not let the guns themselves touch blood.

"I too was orphaned when an inhuman beast-- a dragon-- attacked my hometown. A witch-gunner saved my life; I chose to become one so I may spare others the pain of being orphaned." When Maria's eyes widened in surprise, Isolde added, "Your wonder was upon the surface of your mind, allowing my limited powers to read that thought. No, we didn't consort with beasts to gain our powers; you may safely disregard rumors we'll betray you to the gargoyles."

"Is this too the reason Witch-Captain Freia...?"

"To become a witch is to endure pains beyond death, erase the lines separating us from beasts and monsters, for the strength to fight beasts and monsters," the unmoving Freia said, simultaneously alert and asleep. "If you live long enough, you'll learn this is no great sacrifice, for humans are the cruelest and most destructive of all monsters, especially towards each other."

"Have you...?" Maria didn't need to finish the question.

"Yes. I served Prince-Executive Eduard-- known as the 'Deathly Prince' for his skeleton armor and his prowess in battle-- at Aquitania, Pictavi, and Remi. If the Franks had the gargoyles' strength and abilities, the rivalry between our states would lead them to do as the beasts do; likewise if we had such strength and abilities. Such is life."

Maria's lips parted, and then closed before a word slipped past them; her age bridged childhood and adulthood, but she already saw enough to know the ideal of a world without war, of "the lion shall lay with the lamb," was that of the ignorant, the deluded, and the insane.

"Thank you, Dear Maria." Her weapons cleaned and reassembled, Isolde rose and then exchanged bow with the young woman. "May you spare us a moment tomorrow? We wish to survey the area to better defend it."

"My uncle..." Maria stopped, remembering Victor's injuries. "I'll ask for his permission." The women exchanged bows again; then Isolde slept upon her rifle, the electrum serpents on her revolvers-- 'Sturm & Waffen', '10.9 x 32.8 mm R', she read the markings on the gun barrels-- feeding from the other bucket.


"Has the Master of All Frauds stolen your mind or your sanity?" answered Maria when she told her uncle of her plans.

"But the gargoyles..."

"The medicine may be deadlier than the venom it's meant to cure."

"Does it matter which will bring the Lady of Death?"

A now conscious Priscilla, remembering her childhood history lessons, began, "Humans are..."

"The cruelest and most destructive of all monsters, especially towards each other," the golden-eyed witch finished.

"Gasp!" Priscilla clutched her heart to calm its thundering beats. 'How...?'

'Can she teleport? Become invisible? Enchant my eyes or my mind so I won't see her until she's within arm's reach?' Victor wondered when Freia appeared behind Maria, who calmly turned and began to bow.

"Spare the gesture," the witch said, stopping the young woman. "Speed is life."

Johann looked and felt awkward, having stopped in the middle of a bow. "Do you need any provisions? We've not much, but," he turned to his father, "we may spare a day's meal, yes?"

"Thank you, but that won't be necessary." Freia turned to the door. Maria understood, and-- noting the witch left through the backdoor, out of the neighbors' view-- followed Freia out her uncle's now empty stables.

"Will Witch-Lieutenant...?"

"Isolde will remain here to defend the farming community as we survey the area." Freia released her rifle; instead of hitting onto the ground, Jormundgand spread its wings, suspending the weapon above the ground. The witch took off her cloak and handed it to Maria, along with a birdlike mask. "Put them on. The mask will allow you to breathe at high altitudes." She watched the young woman comply; then Freia straddled the gun barrel. "Sit in front of the bolt assembly, so you won't interfere with the action. Put your arms around my waist."

Maria nodded and then complied, her arms encircling... "Gasp!" Jormundgand carried its passengers towards the heavens, with a speed an arrow would envy. The young woman quickly found herself kilometers above the ground; trees now resembled blades of grass, rivers and lakes now drops spilled from a heavenly cup, mountains and hills now rocks and pebbles. 'Incredible!'

'From which direction do the gargoyles attack?'

Maria was shocked; the voice in her head was not her own.

'Just as I read your mind, so may I insert thoughts into your mind,' Freia explained. 'No, you will not become a witch's puppet; I cannot make you believe the inserted thoughts are your own. From...?'

The young woman pointed at a plume of smoke rising, as if on wings, from a mountain-- an extinct volcano. 'Surt's Helm.' Smaller peaks flanked the mountain, reminding Maria of ancient tombs, guarded by statues with horned helmets-- appropriate headgear for the fire giant king who'd challenge the gods at the world's end.

'The smoke conceals the gargoyles when they fly near the mountain. It's toxic; but a gargoyle can resist for days toxins that'll kill a human in minutes. They must believe it a good base of operations.'

Aurochs-- giant oxen of fierce and indomitable natures-- roamed around the mountain, eating plants hardy enough to resist poison. 'Why...?'

'The gargoyles were once lords over this land and all its beasts. Their raids are motivated by pride and indignation, not hunger and starvation.' As the winged rifle approached the mountain, Freia added, 'Remain calm; the mask will protect you from the airborne poisons.'

'But what protects you?' Maria's question was unanswered; it was forgotten when she noticed the cloak changing colors like a chameleon. As they dove, red lights became visible and then invisible again as the smoke consumed them. 'Campfires? Forges!' the young woman corrected, seeing humanoid figures work as her late father did. 'The devils have enslaved blacksmiths?'

'No human hand works at the forges. Remember, the gargoyles were once lords; they know how to make bronze weapons, though flight is near impossible when they must bear arms and armor.'

Boom! Jormundgand rolled to let darkness and death sprint past the women's heads.

'They can cast cannons. Interesting.' Freia's calm reaction was an inverse of Maria's, who nearly panicked when a gargoyle squad-- their approach covered by the cannon's thunder-- attacked. She drew both pistols, using one to parry the bronze short sword in a gargoyle's talon, the second to shoot the devil, and then reusing this technique against another gargoyle.

The third gargoyle slashed at Freia, who blocked the sword in his right talon, only for the devil's left talon to cover the ejection port, trapping the weapon and the hand wielding it. "Growl!" 'Now!' Maria imagined the gargoyle saying. The fourth dashed forwards, his sword reaching for Freia's throat; the fifth dashed towards the witch's left side, his weapon for her jugular vein.

'Duck!' With this command, the serpent reared from the pistol and bit the third gargoyle's talon, loosening the howling devil's grip. Freia rolled off the rifle's side, towards the gargoyle.

"Gasp!" Maria felt the Lady of Death's caress, the bronze swords missing her by millimeters as Jormundgand dived. Her head turned to see an inverted Freia crown the third gargoyle. Maria heard the machine pistol fire a three-round burst; then Freia, completing her cartwheel, simultaneously shot the fourth and fifth. The basilisk wings spread, suspending a now upright witch in midair as three headless gargoyles fell.

"Roar!" A sixth gargoyle dashed before Jormundgand, ignoring or failing to see the cloaked Maria. The young woman drew the knife; her arm extended towards a leathery wing, letting the devil tear the wing upon the knife point. "Howl!" No longer able to fly, the gargoyle fell to his death.

'Well done. Now keep your eyes open as I lure the beasts away from you. Isolde and I will question you later.' Flames shot from Freia's boots-- rockets to let her climb, as she lacked the muscles to beat her wings and fly instead of glide-- while Jormundgand continued its descent.

Maria's eyes searched for the cannon that shot at her. She found it and its brothers on wooden sleds, many of which were yoked to aurochs teams. Gargoyles with spears-- 'Ogres,' she corrected, noting the devils were wingless-- jabbed the aurochs' hindquarters, urging the beasts forward. The aurochs, bellowing in anger, tried to shake off the heavy yokes; then a team succeeded.

"Growl!" "Roar!" "Howllll!" The ogres struggled to subdue the loose aurochs, a near impossible task when the beasts were enraged. Horns and hooves gored and crushed stony flesh and bone, crippling and killing a dozen ogres before the aurochs were finally killed.

Then Jormundgand turned away from the mountain. 'Find Isolde and tell her what you saw. Ignite blue beacons to warn the noble-engineers, and then evacuate the town. I will meet you when my task is done.'

'But...!' The "Rat-at-at!" of Freia's machine pistols were fading; then Maria was deaf to the sound of battle. 'One against... How many gargoyles and ogres are there? One for every soldier in the Baron-Foreman's platoon? In the Countess-Supervisor's company? The Marquis-Superintendent's battalion?'


Molten bronze burned through flesh and bone as it flowed through cracked and cratered forges; howls of pain and rage reached the warriors flying kilometers overhead.

"You rebel, use cowardly weapons against your lords, destroy our works, and now you dare flee from our judgment?!" The gargoyle lieutenant's outrage was a feral growl to human ears-- the last slave to understand the masters' language, died millennia ago-- but the fleeing Freia didn't need this knowledge, or telepathy, to sense his anger and hatred. "Your stolen wings cannot bear you as they once bore a bird! You only delay our judgment, which will increase your suffering! You...!" A black fist with a long tail-- 'King's Dragonfly,' the lieutenant thought-- hovered amidst the gargoyles.

"Firestone!" The warning came too late; the stick grenade, which Freia's magic suspended in midair, exploded. The gargoyles' howls matched the little bomb's volume; the pursuit was broken off by the few who could glide on torn wings.

A red pillar-- smoke colored by an additive to the fire-- rose before Freia. 'Well done, Maria.' Then the witch dived into a river, risking a watery death to bathe and deny the enemy her scent. Her body burning with fatigue, she nearly lost her grip on the rock she climbed to reach shore. The witch faced the warning beacon and began walking; at this rate, she'd return in two days. 'I pray the gargoyles are weakened enough for Isolde to face alone.'


To be continued...

Freia's wandguns are based on the Mauser M712 Schnellfeuer (Rapid Fire), a variant of the C96 pistol. Isolde's are based on the Smith & Wesson Model 29, the famed .44 Magnum. Both witches ride the M1918 Tankgewehr (Tank Rifle).