Game of Touhou
Sand. Naught but sand. This was the scenery which Kikuri, a young girl no more than sixteen, was not only used to, but, for some strange reason, rather fond of. The wall-huggers, the city-softened fools from outside of the desert called this land 'the Sea of Demons', a foreboding name for a place that for the inexperienced, led only to death.
However, Kikuri called it home, and laughed at the concept of such a frightening name. Not once had she seen what the wall-huggers called 'Demons', although, at times, she wondered if she herself was one of the demons they feared so much. The tribe she was part of was known as 'Hell's Riders', a notorious horse-riding tribe, famous for attacking their fellow nomads and stealing all they possessed.
The land was not the sort for growing of crops, the land was not rich with gold, like the Minelands, yes, this place was truly worthless to live in. But this was also its greatest advantage, and so long as you were willing to steal, then there would be no sheltered lords or insipid ladies to inflict their unreasonable laws and even more unreasonable punishments upon them. No lord or lady would be strong enough to survive here.
Yet there was still order in Hell's Riders. As she rode her black mare, she looked to her left, she saw the person she saw fit to command her riding alongside- Konngara, a black-haired, rugged-looking woman who could well have been anywhere between twenty and thirty years of age. Her forehead was a mess, covered in burns, and some kind of bone-like horn grew from the centre, ruining an otherwise beautiful face.
"Which tribe is it today?" Kikuri asked, looking back at the several riders Konngara had brought as an entourage, "There doesn't seem to be many riders with us..."
"We are only going to threaten the Nightbug's tribe." the woman said in a bizarre accent, her inflections lengthening on the word 'Nightbug', "They are so weak that if we were to fight them, they would be completely destroyed. We must leave them alive, so that they can keep giving. They know their weakness as much as I do..."
"The moon foretold a bad omen." Kikuri mused, "The Nightbug may have prepared her tribe..."
"They could prepare until the day the sun sets in the east, their horde does not match one twentieth of ours." Konngara calmly reassured Kikuri, "The moon shines for all tribes, not just our own. The bad omen could be for any one of them."
"How far is the Nightbug's settlement?" Kikuri asked.
Konngara pointed to a large dune, "We must climb over that. The Nightbug thinks it gives her tribe protection. But our horses can climb mountains. We shall arrive, and our knives shall be sharp. They shall give us as much as we need."
"Understood." Kikuri quietly replied, unable to shake the uneasy feeling she had despite Konngara's dismissive attitude.
The small horde of about fifty people and their horses climbed the dune with little effort, Konngara's boast of their horses' stamina proving quite true. However, upon reaching the top, the leader's pride and confidence was shot down as quickly as a crippled raven.
Staring down at the group of huts that clearly belonged to 'the Nightbug's' tribe, Kikuri swallowed in fear, as all one could see from the top was... a massacre. Bodies of men, women, children, in varying states of mutilation, lying outside their huts, staining the sand blood-red with their entrails.
"This is the bad omen you spoke of." Konngara muttered, "The Nightbug was a useful person. Her fear supplied us well... and now, she is no more..."
"We should leave." Kikuri said, fear causing her voice to break a little, "Whatever has killed the Nightbug's people must be close by. These look freshly dead."
Konngara scowled to herself, her pride getting the best of her judgement, "We are looking from a distance. We shall check the bodies to see if they are fresh, and if they are not, we shall take what we can. If the Nightbug will not give to us any more, we shall take all as her last gift."
With that, she tapped her stallion with her horse-hide boot, and led her group to the corpse-strewn tribal residence. Upon getting there, the horses became spooked, whinnying and tossing their heads, as if protesting the same concerns Kikuri had been. Eventually, Konngara's stallion, a monstrous beast she prided herself on being able to tame, bucked the leader off its back and bolted from the area, leaving the woman lying on the ground, her reduced horde looking to each other in shock and confusion.
"This area is not safe." Kikuri warned, "They know it..."
Konngara was not one to give in, and got up, walking to a nearby body. She then crouched by it, examining it carefully. Its flesh was pale, rotted, and across its stomach was a great gash, leaving its disfigured innards clear for all to see. Its face was half-missing, with only one eye remaining within its socket. What made Konngara continue looking was an eerie, blue-green colour tainting the eye, making it seem as if it were watching her... however, when she touched the corpse, she felt that it was as cold as a body could be, especially given the merciless heat of the desert.
"The corpses are rotted." Konngara stated, "The killer of the Nightbug's tribe will have left."
"What tribe do you think it could be?" Kikuri asked from her horse, for once feeling a little above her tribal master.
"It was probably wall-huggers." Konngara said, her tone even and resolute, "The Nightbug was foolish, a wall-hugger without a wall to hide in. She wanted the gold and the food of a lord. The perfumes of a lady. She probably raided the wrong wall-hugger and got killed. And they call us 'uncivilised', when this is what they do to the dead..."
"So... should we raid what we can and leave?" Kikuri asked.
"Yes, Kikuri, if the wall-huggers have not taken everything. The Nightbug's tent will have the most items..." Konngara said in a manner implying she knew exactly what was going on. Kikuri could only wish that was the case...
The riders dismounted their horses, and a group of ten walked towards the largest tent of the tribe, assuming that the wall-hugger who never was would style herself in the largest as a way of giving herself a touch of 'nobility'. They were plainly right, as within the tent sat the corpse of a short-haired, black-clothed woman, wearing the cape she so loved to use to a establish a 'regal' air about herself.
Her eyes were wide open, shimmering in the same blue-green tone as the other corpses, sitting on a makeshift throne of rock and lion hide, as if she had simply been poisoned on the chair. Her body was completely intact, but no heat radiated from it. It simply stared emptily at Konngara and Kikuri, slouching like a child monarch, a small knife sitting by her pale right hand.
What surprised the tribe even more was that the various gold she had collected, some of which had been carefully set aside, and her food, was untouched. There, there was enough to let them survive for a good week, and no doubt the rest of the tribe's possessions would sustain them for even longer.
Konngara smiled to herself, and said, "Take what you can carry. This will be a great gift indeed..."
Turning away from the Nightbug, Konngara grabbed a large chest of treasure, as did the other tribesmen, while Kikuri simply stood, staring at the body with suspicion. Something... something was not right. This all seemed too convenient...
...and that it was. Just as Konngara walked past the former tribal leader's body, the sound of movement was heard, and suddenly, a wet crunch was heard. Konngara's eyes widened, her body frozen in shock and pain, before she realised what had happened... the Nightbug was now standing up, her deadened, blue eyes staring at Kikuri as she pulled her knife from Konngara, who dropped her plunder as easily as she had picked it up, collapsing to the floor, blood dribbling from her back as she did.
Her tribe dropped their treasure, and withdrew their swords, Kikuri included. A rush of emotions went though her... fear, confusion, grief... however, there was no time to waste on such things, as survival was the main priority. The Nightbug was calm, seemingly unfazed at being surrounded by enemies, and seemed to be waiting for something to happen.
That 'something' was another tribesman yelling as he swung his sword at the creature, slicing its head off and leaving it to fall on the floor, blood pouring from the Nightbug's jugular.
At this point, most of the tribe seemed satisfied, however, Kikuri was not so much, "Konngara is dead... this area... is not safe. I was your second-in-command, now I am your leader. We should leave, but do not hinder yourself with treasure. Now!"
The man who had killed the Nightbug, or... the Nightbug's corpse, laughed and said, "Konngara is dead, but there is nothing to fear any more. The Nightbug is dead, and we can leave without..."
However before he could finish, he screamed, as something had grabbed his legs. The headless corpse of the Nightbug had started to move again, and at this point, Kikuri decided taking authority was absolutely crucial.
"WE NEED TO LEAVE, NOW!" she yelled, and ran out of the tent, her fellow tribesmen following, bar the man who was now on the floor, being clawed at by his own 'murder' victim.
"Come back! Come back! PLEASE!" the man yelled, but ultimately, the only person who heeded to his call was the only other fellow Hell Rider in the room- Konngara.
Her body rose, her eyes shimmering with the same blue sheen of the Nightbug's eyes... as the Nightbug held him down, Konngara withdrew her sword from its scabbard. Her face remaining absolutely emotionless, she knelt to the man's level, raised her sword, and cleanly returned the favour to the tribesman in place of the Nightbug's corpse...
Meanwhile, the rest of the living Hell Riders were running in disarray as the various corpses that were strewn about the place began shambling about, various groups running from tents half-mauled by the horrific creatures. Kikuri soon realised that despite she was now the leader of the Hell Riders, there was no 'honour' required of her in this situation. The best she could do was run.
Slashing open any monstrous abomination that came in front of her and continuing to run, she searched frantically for her mare, however, when she had got to the spot she had left her, there was nothing but a slab of meat, surrounded by the half-rotten shamblers... they did not even seem to be feeding on the entrails, merely satisfied that it was dead.
Kikuri resisted the urge to scream in terror, the whole situation overwhelming her... she looked around for an exit, any clear path that she could go to escape the area... seeing the dune in the distance, she decided that the best way was up, as rotted legs would not endure such a climb.
Swallowing her fear, she charged towards the dune, making sure that if she was going to take advantage of anything, she'd take advantage of her speed. Limiting confrontations with the beasts to mere slashes while continuing her sprint, she got to the dune, climbing and climbing, only looking back when she knew she was safe.
And it was only when she was safe that she finally had time to let it all sink in... looking over the settlement, now alive with screams of terror and walking, killing bodies, Kikuri fell to her knees, and whispered to herself one simple word, the only thing she could bring herself to say, "...no..."
Author's Note: While infodumps WON'T be all that necessary to follow the story, if you want a little interesting crossover backstory which goes into each 'House' of this crossover realm dubbed 'Noros', my DeviantArt account of the same name has sigils and info on each Noble House of Noros, and a nice little simplified map.