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For an instant, no one moved.
Then several soldiers detached themselves from the ring of men closing in around the Scarecrow and-
Dee didn't know what they were trying to do. She never found out, because the Woodsman plowed into their midst before they could organize. What happened next set the tone for everything that followed. Only two men died... but it was the WAY they died...
The Woodsman swung one massive metal arm in a horizontal arc, while simultaneously thrusting the other ahead of him as he charged. The spinning blades caught two soldiers as both men tried to throw themselves clear.
The first soldier exploded. The top half of his torso rocketed skyward on a fountain of gore. Everything between his lower chest and pelvis vanished in a red spray that soaked everything nearby. The second soldier came apart like a cheap doll. Legs and arms... one still clutching a useless knife... flew in different directions as the center mass disintegrated with a wet CRACK.
Dee swooned. As a nurse, she was no stranger to the sight of mangled flesh.... but this!? She tried to shout for the Woodsman to stop, but it came out as a breathless whisper.
It wouldn't have made a difference anyway.
"STAND CLEAR! END HOSTILE ACTIVITIES IN THIS AREA IMMEDIATLY! YOU WILL BE REMOVED BY FORCE!"
The rampaging machine continued into the crowd of soldiers. Men scattered before it like cockroaches. Most had clearly never seen a Woodsman. Those who had... ran faster than the others.
Some didn't run fast enough.
The whirring blades sang out with a high pitched 'ZING!', and another man disappeared, becoming a spray of what looked like spaghetti and meat sauce tossed into an industrial fan.
A nearby soldier dodged a descending blade, rolled clear-
-and backed straight into the arms of the smiling Scarecrow.
The Scarecrow sank his teeth into the man's cheek and bit off a chunk of his face.
Dee found her breath, and screamed.
The Scarecrow spat out the flesh and executed an elegant leg-sweep that threw the screaming soldier to the ground. Then he drew his knives and waited for someone to attack him. The maimed and infected soldier crawled away, screaming.
The clearing was in chaos. The soldiers focused on the greater threat, attempting to make a VERY wide circle around the rampaging Woodsman.
Every few seconds, the Woodsman would warn them away, strongly implying that all they had to do was leave immediately and he would stop turning them into pasta.
They didn't leave.
Every time the Woodsman charged, the circle grew wider. Someone rushed in with one of the bladed pikes from the lizard-mounts. It was a good idea, but the man was too slow. The man retreated with half a pike. He was lucky to have his arms. Someone else tried to throw a knife into the machine's armor. Another good idea, but this soldier was just unlucky. The Woodsman turned at the last instant, and the knife bounced harmlessly off of his armor-
-then rebounded INTO the spinning blades, which threw it into the shoulder of another soldier. It wouldn't have been a fatal wound, if the Scarecrow hadn't been standing right behind him. The soldier got a knife to the spine, and fell screaming in agony and waving his one working limb.
The Scarecrow looked down at him... considering. Smiling-
"YOU!!" The lead soldier shouted. He pointed his blade as the Scarecrow. The considering gaze shifted. The expression changed. The smile became a scowl, and then a silent snarl. "This carnage will end NOW! Beginning with YOU!"
He stormed toward the Scarecrow, not running, but clearly not afraid.
The Scarecrow removed his knife from the squirming soldier's back, held it up... and threw it.
The leader dodged the missile, which flew past him and thudded into the dirt a few feet away from Dee.
Almost as if... had he planned that? It was well out of reach, but...
Dee eyed the blade, then the soldiers standing around her. They were either watching the Scarecrow or the Woodsman. Maybe-
There was a CLANG!
And Dee looked up in time to see the Scarecrow spinning away from the lead soldier. Blades lashed out... missed... met... missed again, and the men separated. The soldier swept his legs across the Scarecrow's feet, but the Scarecrow leapt back, and kept moving back as the soldier charged. They both veered to one side, and blades whistled past flesh. The Scarecrow retreated again as the soldier pressed the attack, and kept retreating as they traded slashes and jabs. This man was good.
The ground shook.
Two men on lizard mounts thundered past Dee. Reinforcements?
They separated and approached the Woodsmen from two directions, lances held ready.
The Woodsman turned toward them.
"INVASIVE SPECIES DETECTED!" the mechanical voice boomed. "NON-NATIVE FAUNA WILL BE TERMINATED!"
Dee saw the trap even before it was executed.
The mounts closed in at the same time, but one of them leapt at the Woodsman. The rider detached himself from the saddle and jumped clear an instant before the mini-dinosaur collided with the rotating blade that sliced it in half.
But at that instant, the OTHER rider plunged his lance into the gap in the armor on the Woodsman's left side.
There was a resounding CLANG, followed by a grinding noise. The blades on the machine's arms stopped moving. They didn't slow down... they just STOPPED, as if someone had rammed a large wrench into the gears.
"WARNING!" The machine boomed. "DO NOT INTRODUCE FOREIGN OBJECTS INTO INTERNAL MECH-"
The grinding rose suddenly in pitch, and ended in a BANG. Green sparks leapt from the machine's armor.
"DAMAGE-" The Woodsman began. Then it fell silent.
The Woodsman's blades slid backward, then folded into the housings on its arms. It turned toward the mounted man.
"VERY.WELL." Said the Woodsman. "WE.WILL.DO.THIS.THE.HARD.WAY."
The Woodsman's monstrously large hands reached out and grabbed the lizard mount's head.
The lizard screamed-
The scream ended as the Woodsman tore the head off the beast and threw it into the woods.
And that's when Dee went for the knife.