Lord Marshall Corin always marveled at the way that the Champions would sweep through an area, taking mere seconds to leave marks that could last years. Had they been using magic? This was the Blackscar! The Gods couldn't field magic in this area. It was, after all, the entire reason they were holding the pass against Apollyon and Vermillion. Trelmarixian marched west of the battle with his own force, but he would never arrive at Mechitar in time to stop the Champions. It was through the Blackscar or nothing; and Corin was confident that they'd already held out for long enough to guarantee victory.
But they were losing. Even with the howitzers disabled (she'd dropped a goddamned triceratops!), the Daemons and Bloodless were simply too numerous; and as they lost another trench, leaving them now with just two, the opposition began pushing forward more aggressively.
And then, there was a shift. It was such a minor thing, such an incredibly small change to reality that Corin might not have noticed it at all; and even as it was, he forgot almost immediately. The rush of sensesickness told him that something was different, but his memory refused to tell him what it was. His mind feared the damage that knowledge could do — being able to hold onto multiple realities at once was something that not many people did, and which even fewer survived. He was lucky enough to be able to remember that there were multiple realities.
Meanwhile, Creel pulled the bolt of his rifle and another spent cartridge leapt through the air to join the many hundreds around his feet. The Daemons had no answer for Creel. The Huntsman was here for one reason only — the hope that Szuriel, the Horsewoman of War, would show up to turn the tide of the battle so that he could get the shot he'd sought for years. Beyond that, he was not loyal to the UAG. He was loyal to killing Daemons, and nothing else. Corin was glad to have him here, but he wasn't even sure how Creel had learned about this battle in time to join it, in the first place.
Creel's gun was unique — he'd designed it, himself. While the rest of the army had to unload and reload cartridges after each shot (which was, itself, an incredible improvement over the powder-loaded weapons they'd been using just a few months ago), Creel aimed with one hand and fed bullets into the magazine with the other. His shots, supernaturally accurate, were never more than three seconds apart, and if he'd missed once or twice, he made up the average with the occasional shot that killed two Daemons.
Creel did not aim for Bloodless. He regarded Vermillion and his minions like he regarded everything else that wasn't a Daemon: background noise. To him, if there were Daemons to kill, then nothing else mattered; and if there were no Daemons, then the only thing that mattered was finding more. It was a single-minded fury of such totality that it would have frightened Corin to think of what Creel would do when there were no more Horsemen; when all the Daemons were finally dead.
But he knew better. Creel was not the sort of man who would live long enough to see that day. He would make a major contribution to the cause — greater than anyone else, perhaps — but his was not the sort of rage that anyone expected him to outlive. Creel's hatred was so unthinkably absolute that it drove him to recklessness. If he survived this battle, he would just go on to do something even more dangerous, until one day he stood at the very gates of Absalom and challenged the Horsemen in their domain. And even if it didn't take that long, reality would catch up with him one day. He was just a man. They were all just men, trying to hold the line against Gods.
But Creel was close. He had his own fair share of worshippers, these days; riflemen and artificers and technomancers across the globe knew that Creel was the very best of what their trades had given to the world, and there was hardly a single one who didn't aspire to rise as high as the Huntsman, one day. Nevermind that the things he could do with a gun transcended the actual physical limitations of the weapon itself; nevermind that he was clearly gifted in a way that no one else had ever been, or perhaps ever would be; nevermind that no amount of training or dedication or technology would ever make anyone as good as Creel. None of them seemed to care. He was their God in all but name.
Even he was a little starstruck by Creel. It was funny, though — he almost felt like he hadn't been, just a few minutes ago. But thanks to Creel, the Daemons and Bloodless were being routed before they'd even taken the third of the UAG's seven trenches. He couldn't begin to imagine a world where he wouldn't have been impressed by the man.