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Writing Prompt: Dialogue - April 10th 2011

2011-04-10 14:53:44 by sinfulwolf
Updated

Writing Prompt
Story Archive

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Theme -- Dialogue
Prompt -- Write a conversation between two characters from distinct backgrounds, be it social class (rich/poor), life station (young/old), or vocation (blacksmith/fisherman), and reflect this in their speech.
Challenges --
o Iambic Pentameter: write only dialogue, and in Iambic Pentameter.
o Prejudice: have their different backgrounds create misconceptions which affect how they treat each other.
o Body Language: in the narrative, use body language to add nuance to the dialogue.
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The loud smack of wood striking flesh was soon followed by a wail of pain from the young Prince Richard. Sergeant-at-arms Michael Thorn had to force himself to hold back a sigh as he watched the young teen toss his training sword and shield to the ground in a fit.

"How dare you strike me. I am your prince and will be your king one day," Richard shouted, stomping his feet on the ground, little fists balling up at his sides.

If only the young prince could listen, if only he could focus all this bubbling rage inside of him; then Michael would have something to work with. As it was he knew the way the royal brat treated his lessons he would lose in tournaments and die on the battlefield.

"My Prince, the pain is temporary, and you must learn to defend yourself. Pick up your weapon," Michael said, keeping his face passive.

Richard looked up at him, a red flush creeping up from under the collar of the leather armour he wore. With his whole body shaking, he jabbed a finger towards the aging sergeant-at-arms.

"You are my servant and nothing more. I will have you hanged for your belligerence," he shouted stumbling through his words as spit flew from his lips.

As the Prince began to walk away Michael looked up to the balcony overlooking the training yard and was surprised to see the king. The balding man held his heavy robes tight around his form and gave a curt nod before turning and stepping back into the castle.

Despite himself, Michael let a smile cross his features as he stepped forward and swung his sword across the back of the boy prince's legs. Another wail filled the air as Richard fell to the ground.
"You dare?" he angrily shouted from the ground.

"You have turned your back to the enemy, showing yourself a coward and earning a quick death. Now defend yourself," Michael said, but without giving the prince any time to grab the sword and shield he had dropped before slashing down and hitting the boy in the gut.

Another scream accompanied with streaming tears echoed in the yard, but Michael did not let up kicking the prince in the side.

"Tears and wailing will not save you on the battlefield. You are a prince but that does not mean servants and peasants cannot strike you down," Michael said, his blows shifting the sobbing prince across the dusty ground.

Richard could not find the words to shout and curse as he curled up into a ball and tried to protect himself from the harsh kicks, only to receive hard slaps from Michael's sword bruising his flesh even through the armour.

"Stand up. You are a prince, these wailings are beneath you," Michael shouted knowing the brat was long past due for this lesson. A heat burned in his ears and his knuckles went white with the grip on the blade as his boots collided with soft flesh again and again.

Finally Michael stopped and stood back. A bead of sweat ran down his face and he held his sword and shield at his sides.

"You will pay for this. I am your lord, I will have you dead by the morning," Richard wailed between his sobs.
Michael just looked down at the blubbering boy, frowning as he noticed the wetness spreading across the dirt from his crotch. Perhaps now he would have something to work with.

"Your lesson is done for today. I expect to see you tomorrow morning my lord," Michael said, and turning walked away, leaving the prince in the dirt.


War of the Damned Chapter 13: Shadows and Shades

2011-04-04 11:08:50 by sinfulwolf
Updated

This chapter is a bit of an experiment, so I hope you all enjoy what I have to present here. Some of it is shorter than I had originally intended but I think it works a little better than it would have been had I drawn it out. Step once more into Gwenhwyfar's world.

Picture by SDGRAPHICS

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Chapter 13: Shadows and Shades

La Perla's extravagant face looked out over the lagoon to the west. Bright light streamed out into the night through tall windows to shimmer across the surface of the water. Strands of ivy ran along the three balconies and up the corners of the brothel, drawing the eye away from the wooden walls, their once rich colours fading with age and the harsh environment. Gentle laughter and the soft music of harps and flutes carried down the street, reaching Gwenhwyfar's ears.

Reaching behind her back to feel the slim dagger sheathed and concealed amongst the lace of her bustier, Gwenhwyfar let out a sigh. She would not need the weapon against any thugs or thieves that roamed the night, however should another one of her kind attack her, the sharp point would help even the odds.

Passing quietly through the door into the light and sound of the brothel, Gwenhwyfar could smell the spice of incense in the air. Women in tight dresses and thick cosmetics coyly conversed with potential patrons, a few troubadours in the corner played their music to instil a relaxing mood; to calm and soothe patrons' coin purses as much as their minds.

Gwenhwyfar could not blame these women for using their bodies to obtain wealth; this society left very little options for a woman to do anything on her own. Gwenhwyfar herself had seduced both men and women to get her own needs fulfilled, whether it be food or power. It did not always turn out so well.

The influence of the Christian church was felt even in this house of carnal pleasure. As Gwenhwyfar moved carefully through the brothel, not one of the girls approached her, though eyes tracked her with suspicion; an unescorted woman who did not work within these walls. Gwenhwyfar kept her eyes moving, searching the women, noting some with a neck band of a deep red, who looked up at her with a hint of fear; they were the concubines who had a deal with the Dragon, offering blood where others would give only their bodies.

On the second floor, leaning slightly on the railing, was a woman with long blonde hair bound tightly back in a pony-tail, her make up more subtle, her dress looser around her figure. Most would assume her just another concubine, while not bothering with her in favour of the ones who prettied themselves up to appeal to the base desires of a man.

With a gentle smile, Gwenhwyfar climbed the stairs, ignoring the looks thrown her way by patrons and whores alike. She approached the woman, earning a slight glance with a hint of annoyance on her features.

"Unless you have an appointment I suggest you move along. I'm very busy," she said dismissively.

"Hella McCormick?"

That got the woman's attention. She stood up straight and turned to face her visitor. A frown creased her brow and her arms crossed across her chest. Gwenhwyfar couldn't help but notice that Hella covered her breasts, rather than pushing them up with her arms; this was definitely no prostitute.

"A friend told me to find you here, to hire you for some select services," Gwenhwyfar said, pulling a small pouch from within her cleavage. The contents tinkled with the sound of coin and Hella raised an eyebrow, holding out her hand.

Handing over the pouch, Gwenhwyfar watched Hella open it, and count the money within.

"There's enough here for three nights, one outside the brothel. What information are you seeking?" Hella whispered, now walking along the railing, gesturing for Gwenhwyfar to follow.

"Do you know of the merchant Amadeo Castrogiovanni?"

"Very little, but I do know he has been getting rather wealthy the past few years with trades from the Middle East. He has a warehouse and a small villa down by the docks. He seems honest enough."

"Yes well he ties do not lie in the mortal world. I need you to find out whatever you can about him. Contacts, trade routes, messages, dealings from the Middle East. Everything."

Looking down at the pouch in her hand, tossing it up and down gently, the spy was quiet as she thought.

"Meet me here tomorrow night, with the same payment, and you'll get your information," Hella finally said.

"Another payment sounds steep," Gwenhwyfar said.

"Welcome to Venice, the city has no shortage of spies, and some quite cheap. You want quality work you hire the best, and I rank amongst them. Another payment for the information, I will not be haggled."

"Very well. I shall be here tomorrow evening," Gwenhwyfar said, and turned away, leaving Hella alone.

The spy leaned against the railing once more, tucking the pouch of coins into her dress and watched the other woman leave.

"You better vampire. Not even your ancient blood will save you should you cross me," she whispered.

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As Alan opened his eyes, he immediately spotted the soft glow of a fire, illuminating the rock walls of the caves he was lost in. As feeling and consciousness flooded back through his body, pain shot through all his limbs and up his spine. His head felt like it would explode it was throbbing so violently. A groan started to pass his lips before a hand clasped over his mouth.

Fear shot through him, his hands desperately grabbing for his sword, a loose rock, anything he could use as a weapon as he tried to yell out screams of defiance. The shadowy figure holding Alan down leaned forward, revealing itself to be Karim who had a single finger pressed against the cloth where his lips would be.

Quieting himself, Alan slowly sat up as Karim removed his hand and shuffled quietly back to the campfire. Picking up Alan's longsword the Afghan tossed it over without a word. Alan took the sword up from the ground, just noticing the thin wrappings around his palms and the dirt caked over bloody flesh where most of his fingernails had been. Everything throbbed, every part of his body vying for his attention. Pulling the sword close he examined the blade; the finely crafted English steel had nicks along the edges, and deep gouges dug along its length.

With a sigh he laid the weapon across his lap, and moved closer to the fire, noting that it seemed to be made out of torches. The very ones dropped in the cavern above.

"Do you have any plans to get out of here?" Alan asked his companion, wondering in the back of his mind if any of the others had escaped.

Karim's response was to press his finger across the cloth once more. Alan looked at him for a moment, wondering if anymore was coming, but there was nothing else save that simple gesture. He didn't know why he even tried; the nomad couldn't even speak his language.

Pulling up the sleeve of his now filthy robes, Karim revealed a bloody bandage tied tightly around his forearm. Slowly he began to undo the knots and unwrap the material while Alan simply watched. As the bloody bandage was tossed into the fire, blood spurted from a deep gash along the Afghan's forearm. Alan wanted to help but saw Karim had it under control as he grasped his own sword which had been resting in the embers of the flames. The steel of the blade glowed red from the heat and the nomad pressed the weapon against his flesh.

Face twisting in pain, Karim held the sword against the wound, not making a sound so Alan could hear the flesh sizzling, searing the wound closed. Eventually Karim pulled the blade away, showing seared flesh with blisters already forming around the edge. His eyes still showing the intense pain, Karim tore off a piece of his robe and wrapped it tightly around the burn which almost immediately began to turn crimson.

'The light cannot save you,' came the voice from earlier, breezing across his mind.

Karim looked around holding his sword close as his eyes tried to peer into the darkness. So the demon could speak the Afghan's tongue as well.

The dark seemed to be pulsating, encroaching on the small haven of light that the two men were relying on for sight, the only advantage they seemed to have over the shambling creatures that lurked somewhere within the tunnels.

Alan tore off a long strip of cloth from his robes, and quickly began to wrap it around his blade. Karim glanced at him curiously before turning his eyes back into the shadows. Shoving his blade into the flickering flames, the cloth around his weapon lit up. Now standing, his head almost brushing the ceiling, Alan moved beside the nomad that had led him here and pushed his flaming sword out towards the darkness.

He had expected to reveal the demon, had expected to see the face of the thing that spoke to him. What he saw instead was Curtis, the scout's face torn to shreds, dried blood crusted on what little was left of his skin and the tattered remnants of his clothing. Empty white eyes stared back at Alan and Karim, his mouth hanging open as he stood and stared.

"Oh God," Alan muttered as he saw the ghoul before him, hoping that it was just an illusion. That hope was dashed when he saw Karim raise his blade out of the corner of his eye.

Out of instinct Alan extended his free hand and placed it gently against Karim's chest. The Afghan looked at him with confusion as a hiss came from the ruins of Curtis's throat. Trying to think of how to communicate with this man that could not understand a word, Alan simply slapped his hand over his heart, and stepped forward, long sword held off to the side so as not to hit the ceiling.

"Walk with God brother. Find peace," Alan muttered quietly, unable to think of anything else to help ease the moment. The blade swept through the air, cutting a brilliant orange arc in the air before cutting through flesh and snapping through bone, severing the head of the scout commander and causing the corpse to collapse to the floor.

Karim bowed ever so slightly to Alan, showing his respect before turning back to the fire, only to find the re-animated remains of Salaam standing before him, reaching out with severed stumps where once had been arms. Acting on pure instinct Karim slashed with his blade across the Saracen's midsection, splitting open flesh and spilling cold guts out onto the floor. With a yell Karim kicked out, sending Salaam stumbling backwards and falling into the fire.

Moving quickly Karim launched forward and brought his sword down onto Salaam's head, the sharp bite of the blade crunching through the skull and into the man's brains. Alan could only stare at the man that had been enemy, then friend, and now corpse. He felt empty, drained.

It happened so quick, just a flash and two close friends were torn forever from this world, and he couldn't even stop to mourn them.

"I am sorry," Alan said to Salaam's corpse as his flesh began to blacken and burn in the fire.

Karim grasped Alan's arm and began to pull; now was not the time for this, they had to move. Down the tunnels, from all around came the sound of shuffling feet. The dead were coming to pull the two into their embrace, and through it all, that demonic voice simply laughed.

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It had not been such a long time since Andrzej last sat in this tavern. The inn keep's daughter even recognized him and offered a smile that hinted at other services. It seemed like months, or even longer though. His hired thugs butchered, torturing a man of cloth, and finding himself involved in something much deeper than the vendetta he had carried with him for years.

Draining the mug of ale before him, Andrzej let out a loud belch, his head light and buzzing. The joy and relief that usually lay at the bottom of his cups was not to be found this night, yet still he ordered another pint.

The night was late, business was slow, and Andrzej was pushing enough coin out to have the inn keep take notice of him, making sure his curvy daughter watched after him. She smiled and laughed at him, touching his hand whenever she took his coin and handed him another mug. Andrzej knew what she was doing, wanted him to fuck her so he could dump more of his coin into this little piss hole of a tavern.

It wasn't entirely working, but he began to wonder if he could find solace this night between a woman's thighs, where the bitter ale had failed so miserably.

When she came over for the next round he grasped her arm, and in a drunken slur asked her how much it was for a room. The answer was ridiculously overpriced, but he didn't care, knowing what the extra gold was going towards. Quickly finishing the last drink he grasped the serving girl by her arm and went up the stairs, stumbling along the way. The girl had to help him, and his vision swam so horribly that he couldn't see the look of disgust that washed over her face whenever she got a whiff of his breath or the sweaty reek beneath his clothes.

Reaching the top of the stairs he crashed against the far wall and nearly fell before the girl helped him to his feet and pulled him along to his room. She unlocked it for him before he stumbled inside and fell onto the bed.

Rolling her eyes, the girl locked the door behind her and began to undress while Andrzej fumbled with his clothing managing to get his trousers down around his ankles before falling to the floor. Managing to get to his feet he turned to see the blur that was the naked girl on the bed, laying on her back with her legs spread.

Climbing on top of her, roughly grasping at her flesh, he shoved himself inside of her without any hesitation. She grunted, though it wasn't from comfort, but Andrzej didn't care and simply began to thrust, his head spinning.

Then his vision cleared, and beneath him was Malina, her pristine face pale from years beneath the ground, blood still gushing from the hole in her neck where the beast had torn into her. She looked up at him, just an empty stare. There was no joy, sorrow, anger, or even an accusation. It was empty, and Andrzej yelled out, hot tears burning his cheeks.

"Oh God... I'm sorry!" Andrzej howled to the ceiling, pulling the corpse of his wife close to him, sobbing in her hair.

The body in his grasp squirmed, before finally pushing him away and letting out a scream. Stumbling backwards over his own trousers Andrzej fell to the floor, smashing his elbow against the floorboards as he watched Malina flee the room.

"Come back, please... come back," he sobbed before vomiting across the floor boards and collapsing once more. He laid there in his own filth, body shaking as the joy he had been searching for was crushed by the sorrow that had hunted him for years.

War of the Damned Chapter 13: Shadows and Shades


War of the Damned Chapter 12: Lost in the Dark

2011-03-08 11:26:19 by sinfulwolf
Updated

Next chapter up for your enjoyment, whoever is still reading this. I seem to be loosing readers pretty quickly, but I'm still going to finish the story regardless, I've put way too much effort into this piece. Anyway, hope you enjoy this next chapter.

Picture by Avelina De Moray

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Chapter 12: Lost in the Dark

It was utterly dark, not unlike what Alan imagined the pits of hell must be like. He acted on instinct, fighting against shuffles monstrosities in the dark, while moving towards where he hoped the entrance was.

Something smashed against him, and he wasn't sure if it was one of the ghouls or one of his comrades. Knocked to the ground, he scrambled along the rock, holding his sword tight, it was his only lifeline down here beneath the earth hidden from the sky and the world of man.

Crawling along the floor, between legs and over bloody corpses he tried to find a way out, looking for any sign of light. He felt fallen blades run along his body, pressing against his flesh. Boots hit him as the living scrambled in the dark for safety sending pain through his body as they hit him. Jagged rocks cut at his palms and knees as he moved as fast as he could, unsure of where he was going.

Something tripped over him, whether a ghoul or one of the hunters he didn't know, but he didn't care. Fear gripped his heart with an icy fist and he tried not to make any noise despite the blood now flowing from torn hands, and the sword scraping against the rock.

He managed to get into a clearing, and get to his feet. Leaning against the wall, a piece of rock jabbing into his bruised ribs, he tried to look around in the black, but couldn't see anything; he could only hear the sounds of struggle as the living valiantly tried to survive this place of death.

Moving along the wall he felt it suddenly give way; a tunnel. The pounding in his chest ceased for a brief moment and elation filled his mind. He hated to turn and run, but there was no way he could go back into the vicious melee and hope to survive. Turning into the tunnel he pressed his way forward, bloody hand against the walls to guide him.

As he moved he felt his heart lower when he realized that he wasn't going up, and there was still no sign of light. This must have been the wrong tunnel. Still, Alan held hope that it was another way out, that he could escape through this passage.

Moving along through the inky darkness he listened for anything else that might be around. The screams of the dying still echoed down the walls to reach his ears as he trudged through the black. One foot in front of the other he moved along, grimacing against the pain that wracked his body as he moved as quickly as he could.

As he went to set his foot down he felt air where there should have been rock. Too late he realized he was at the edge of a hole and despite himself Alan let out a shout of fear and pain as he tumbled downwards, falling further from the eyes of God and into the depths of hell. His body smashed against the walls of the narrow passage downwards, fingernails tore off as he grasped desperately for an outcropping to stop his fall.

His heart pounded in his chest as he fell for what seemed like forever.

The impact on the ground below send pain shooting up into his knees and he thought he heard something crack. He screamed again as he slid down a slope, sliding along the rocks and bouncing downwards, smashing his bruised body against the stone without mercy.

Tumbling forwards, his head smashed against something hard, and he was sent spiralling into unconsciousness.

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The waters of the vast lagoon sloshed against the sturdy wood of the large raft, which glided along towards the floating city of Venice, guided by two cloaked ferrymen of the Dragon Clan. Their long poles dipped deep into the water, pushing the raft along. They did not speak, nor did the passengers attempt to start any conversation.

Standing alongside Adara, Gwenhwyfar watched the city loom closer and closer. This was where their ship awaited to take them to the Holy Lands, and Lancelot du Lac. Vengeance and possibly salvation awaited her across the Mediterranean Sea, but there were matters here in Venice that demanded her attention. Here in the Dragon Clan's territory, she guessed was the threat that had tried to kill her and Elishka back in the forests of the Holy Roman Empire.

As the raft pushed up alongside one of the many docks facing the mainland, one of the ferrymen turned to Gwenhwyfar and Elishka while his comrade tied the raft to one of the thick posts jutting from the lagoon. The shadows of his cloak obscured most of his face, but they could both see his pale thin lips, fangs exposed as he spoke.

"Respect our clan during your stay and you shall have no troubles here. Should you need to feed the beggars are as plentiful as anywhere else and La Perla has a deal with the clan to provide... sustenance," the man said dragging the last word out before a worm like tongue flicked across his lips.

"Thank you," Elishka said curtly though Gwenhwyfar could hear the disgust dripping from her words. Both Gwenhwyfar and Elishka knew about the well known brothel La Perla, and Elishka was ever the prude.

"Tell your lords whatever you must about tonight, but keep our arrival here quiet," Gwenhwyfar said to the ferryman, who cocked his head in confusion.

"But the arrangements made are quite clear. You are welcome in Venice; there is no need for such secrecy," the vampire said.

"There is a rose growing in your garden, and until we've plucked it out as we would a common weed, I'd rather our presence go unknown," Gwenhwyfar said staring into the shadows were the ferryman's eyes were hidden.

It was quiet for a moment, save the gentle lap of water against the dock and the distant laughter spilling from a tavern. Then the ferryman lowered his hood revealing a bald head with a dragon tattooed in green ink crawling up his neck and onto his scalp, where it curved until its snout was perched just above where the man's eyebrows should have been. His eye lids were closed and sewn shut with thick black metal wires, but he still faced Gwenhwyfar directly, his nostrils flaring every few seconds as if smelling her.

"Do you know where this rose grows?" he hissed.

"I have an idea... but it will take some time."

"How much time?"

"A few days at most."

Lips drawing tight the ferryman simply stood still, his fingers forming a steeple in front of his chest.

"I shall see what resources I can get for you... go to La Perla, seek out Hella McCormick. She has no affiliation with us and her... services will be of great use to you," the creature said, and without another word he and his comrade climbed onto the dock and vanished into the night.

"Now what?" Elishka asked, looking down the alley the two ferrymen has disappeared.

"Take the carriage to a stable, preferably one run by servants of the Dragon, then get us a room for the next few nights. I'm going to find Hella, and through her burn a garden," Gwenhwyfar said her lips pulling back in a snarl.

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Swinging down off his horse and reeking of damp leather and sweat, Andrzej walked into the quaint courtyard of the small church. There was no village for a few miles in any direction, so the monks that stared up at him with surprise would have nowhere to run.

He was a God fearing man, but Andrzej feared no living being who walked this earth even if they claimed to be a voice for God. So he had no concerns with pushing open the doors of the church and walking between the rows of pews with his blade tapping against his side with each step. Another few monks backed cautiously away from the man who strode up to the altar where one Brother Davide kneeled before a bronze carving of the son of God.

When the monk heard the approaching steps he turned and smiled up at the mercenary, before noting the look of fury on the hunter's face which melted the smile almost instantly.

Rough gloved hands grasped Davide's shoulders and lifted him bodily from the floor and spun him through the air before tossing him into the first row of pews. The other monks bolted for the doors, desperate to get away. So their pacifism wouldn't even let them save one of their own.

"What is the meaning of this? I am a man o-," Davide started to say before Andrzej landed a solid punch across the monk's jaw sending him down to the stone floor. As the man tried to get back up, Andrzej grabbed his robes again and smashed him back into the pews.

"I don't give a fuck who you say you are. Tell me who you're working for," Andrzej snarled into the man's face.

"I work for the Lord of Heaven, and he wil-," Davide was saying before another punch hit him square in the face.

Andrzej could feel bone break beneath his knuckles, saw the man's nose shift on his skull with blood spurting from his nostrils and coating the front of his robes.

"Keep telling me lies and I'll send you to meet him much sooner than you'd like," Andrzej barked angrily.

"You wouldn't dare," Davide said with trembling lips, fear now creeping into his voice though he attempted to keep up a defiant facade.

In response the Polish mercenary pulled a long dagger from his boot and stabbed it into the monk's leg, just above the knee. Davide screamed in agony, his voice reverberating off the walls as he clutched at the steel that had slid behind the knee cap and nicked the bones buried deep in his flesh. Dark red blood welled up from the wound, quickly soaking the brown robes all the way down to his foot.

"I'm in no mood to fuck around. Tell me what I want to know or I show you firsthand how the Lord Christ felt on the cross," Andrzej said and Davide went white.

"I don't know his name! I swear to God. He just told me that the vile creatures were coming down from the north and that I should find a way to remove them," Davide sputtered tears welling in his eyes.

"You shouldn't take the Lord's name in vain... tell me the whole truth," Andrzej said, twisting his knife angrily.

Davide whimpered pathetically, tears running down his cheeks, the smell of urine filling Andrzej's nostrils as the monk's piss dribbled on the stone floors from under his stained robes.

"His lord promised me immortality, to live forever to preach God's grace. I don't know who the man was, he was just a merchant, just a merchant," Davide sobbed.

"Who was his lord, where was this merchant?" Andrzej demanded starting to put together the puzzle in his mind.

"Venice, the merchant was from Venice. He lives there, he swears his lord will take down the corruption of this world," the monk stammered, snot mixing with the blood flowing from his nose, running over his lips and chin in a drooling mess.

"Who, was, the, lord?" Andrzej said dangerously, spacing each word to punch them into the head of the pathetic blubbering mess brother Davide had become.

"Du Lac... the merchant's lord is Du Lac."

Next Chapter

War of the Damned Chapter 12: Lost in the Dark


Tainted Souls Chapter 1

2011-02-25 00:59:09 by sinfulwolf

The following is a pulpy Dark Fantasy tale akin to the works of Robert E. Howard and his tales of Conan. This is just something that came to me in the mists of dreams really and something I'm working on to the side of 'War of the Damned'. It's something new, something different, and I hope you all enjoy reading it.

Tainted Souls

I

Moving amongst the shadows of the forest, Arlenia kept a single arrow notched on her longbow, fingers holding the missile loosely by its white guide feathers. Hey eyes flicked to the side, seeing the Orc raiding party moving beneath the tree line, their jagged weapons grasped in their fists. Stopping on a fallen log, crouching in the darkness the Elven princess drew the string of her bow back until her thumb brushed against her ear. Aiming carefully she released the first shot, the arrow passing between the twisting branches and dying leaves before striking one of the Orcs in the neck.

The creature grasped at the shaft protruding from its flesh, dark blood bubbling around between its fingers as it gasped for breath. Frothing blood poured from its gasping mouth and the other raiders came to a sudden halt, grunting as they stared into the forest to try and find their attacked.

Arlenia notched another arrow and loosed it, sharp blue eyes watching as the arrow buried itself into an Orc's cheek bone, punching through bone and into the soft meat inside its skull. The creature collapsed to the ground in a heap, while its comrades raised crossbows and sent bolts spiralling into the forest. One hit the log beneath Arlenia's foot, digging out chunks of wood, and she silently leapt off her perch and scurried through the shadows to find a new vantage point.

One of the Orcs, wearing a black sash across its chest, pounded on its chest with the hilt of its serrated blade, weapon clanging against armour as it let out a guttural roar trying to command the emaciated and twisted creatures surrounding it. The crossbow men started to reload, before a knife came spinning from out of the darkness and caught one of the raiders in the shoulder.

Arlenia smirked, leaning against a tree and taking aim with her bow once more, as she watched a woman burst out from behind a tree with a raised sword. The blade came striking down and opened the neck of one of the Orcs, spraying its black blood from the wound.

"That a girl Rynn," Arlenia whispered to herself, shooting an Orc in the back, watching the arrow dig deep just beside its spine.

Tossing back the hood of her dark green cloak, the warrior Rynn raised her blade to block a downward swing, and kicked out against her attacked. The bottom of her boot hit the side of an Orc's kneecap, shifting the bone beneath the skin and making the creature howl in pain before the armoured plates of Rynn's gauntlet smashed into its throat, crushing its windpipe and sending the raider to the ground clutching desperately at its deflated neck trying to draw in a breath that would not pass the damage.

Rynn ignored the dying creature, moving on to the next one and impaling it through the chest with her sword. The tip of the blade broke through ribs and cleaved through its heart, bursting from its back and dripping gore. With a swift kick to the creatures chest she pulled her sword free, just in time to parry a quick thrust towards her mid section.

The leader was moving slowly towards the knight, with only four of his raiders left alive, but his eyes continued to cautiously scan the woods, searching for the archer in the darkness that had struck down enough of his warriors already. Notching another arrow, Arlenia shot at the brute, frowning as the arrow pierced his kidney with little immediate effect. The shot would be fatal, but not quickly enough, so she readied another whilst Rynn head butted an Orc in the face, crushing its nose with a spurt of blood down its chest.

The commander let out a roar of anger, snapping the arrow buried in its flesh off leaving a small stick embedded in its lower back. It moved forward, raising its large two handed sword to bring down on Rynn's head. With a quick glance up at the large weapon about to come crashing down, Rynn dived forward, rolling beside the Orc's legs and bringing her sword up to cut through his calves.

As steel tore through muscle and tendon, the creature roared in intense pain before a second arrow burst through his throat. The remaining four raiders shared glances with each other as their leader died before them.

Getting to her feet, a smile spread across Rynn's features, her sword held by her sword, blood dripping from the tip and soaking into the soil. Cracking her neck, the knight took a step forward, and the Orcs each took an involuntary step backwards.

Holding her sword in front of her, the smile didn't fade from Rynn's lips as another arrow whistled through the trees and struck dead another fiend. The remaining three raised their weapons and charged the visible threat. Rynn leapt to the side, dodging an angry slash and leapt from a fallen log, swinging her blade through the air. The edge of her steel bashed against a skull, splitting the bone and pouring brains over its fading and cracked leather garments.

Landing carefully by falling to one knee, Rynn drove her blade upwards through the guts of the nearest Orc, feeling her sword slide under ribs and through its lungs. She looked up at the raider she'd impaled and watched the shock and pain register in its eyes before her hands twisted the grip, turning the steel buried in its torso. Blood ran down the groove along her blade and dribbled over her gauntlets, running in rivulets down her bare forearms.

"I'll see you in hell when its my time," she snarled and pulled the blade free, letting the dead creature collapse to the ground.

Looking around, Rynn saw the final beast with two arrows stuck into its chest, and a glance over her shoulder revealed Arlenia emerging from the thick foliage of the forest. The Elven princess pulled back the hood of her dark green cloak and began to move around the corpses, pulling her arrows from each body, inspecting the heads to ensure they were still usable.

"They grow bolder each week. It won't be long until they decide to invade," Rynn said, wiping the blood off her blade on a scrap of an Orc loincloth before sheathing it at her hip once more.

"The Elves cannot stop them, and the Prince of Orthel seems to be aiding them," Arlenia said, slipping her recovered arrows back into the quiver on her back.

Rynn stood for a moment, eyes looking for her thrown dagger, whilst Arlenia took a small knife from her boot and cut the steel heads from the ruined arrows. She dropped the heads in a satchel on her hip and tossed the wooden shafts into the woods whispering a small prayer to the spirits of the forest to welcome back the carefully chiselled wood.

Finally finding her dagger Rynn pulled it free, wiping it clean in the grass.

"We need to free Ashavaria. She's the only one who can bring the armies or Orthel to bear in time," the knight finally said.

Arlenia looked up at her companion, and for the briefest of moments a look of fear passed behind her eyes before she nodded.

"To the south then... the badlands await. Are you ready to go home Rynn?"


War of the Damned Chapter 11: Forgive us our Sins

2011-02-11 23:35:30 by sinfulwolf
Updated

Finally, after months chapter 11 is here. This has been put off for far too long, but once again the adventure continues. I do hope you enjoy.

For those just joining, check the table of contents to start from the beginning

Table of Contents/Subscription
Previous Chapter

Chapter 11: Forgive us our Sins

Dust motes gently floated in the coloured rays, where the light of dawn forced itself through the stained glass windows of the chapel. Gwenhwyfar stayed close to the walls; in the shadows away from the colourful patterns arrayed across the rows of pews facing the altar. Her eyes however were locked on Elishka kneeling before the altar, draped in a heavy cloak so the sun would not burn her.

Gwenhwyfar watched curiously, unable to clearly hear the whispered words that flowed from the woman's lips, directed towards the heavens despite looking down towards the ground.

"She prays for forgiveness," a monk standing nearby said, noting Gwenhwyfar's look of confusion.

"Forgiveness? What kind of God would demand his followers ask forgiveness for doing what they must to survive?" Gwenhwyfar muttered angrily; she had never liked the prospect of the white Christ that had spread to her island and caused so much upheaval, chaos, and even death.

"A kind God. The one true God. Perhaps you should open your heart to him," the monk replied.

Gwenhwyfar cast a glance his way and shook her head, but kept her mouth shut. She had never trusted the Christians, not since the final war that claimed her husband's life. Not since they had risen up in arms against him in favour of a corrupt, power hungry man who merely claimed to worship their God.

A frown creased her face as she pushed the memories back down. After hundreds of years they still stung like knives. Behind all the wrongs done to her, every act of cruelty done to her, was the bitter truth of what happened all those years ago. Lust, betrayal and the destruction of everything she loved; it had been her fault.

The scrape of leather against stone brought Gwenhwyfar from her thoughts as Elishka stood from her confession. Moving over to the monk and Gwenhwyfar, Elishka lowered the hood of her cloak and met her companion's gaze.

"We should get some rest if you still plan on leaving at sunset," she said simply.

"Two of our monks are heading down to Vienna. They can accompany you south for two nights before they must turn East. Beyond that you are on your own the rest of the way to Venice," the monk said, waving his hand towards two men in brown robes, black crosses stitched across their backs and long swords hanging from plain belts at their hips.

"The Brotherhood is kind to offer assistance," Elishka said with a small smile, while Gwenhwyfar remained silent. She didn't trust this particular monk, finding his missionary attitude distasteful. In times past she had seen men like him rally peasants into a frenzy, turning once peaceful villages into a blood bath that turned neighbour against neighbour.

"It is the least we can do for the Clan of the Wolf, who march now to save the kingdom's of God," the monk said with a gentle bow.

Gwenhwyfar turned from the man and moved towards the doors at the back of the chapel that led down into the small crypt. The Brotherhood publicly said it was for fallen brothers, but in truth they kept the crypts mostly empty for vampires who needed sanctuary from the sun. There were not many amongst the living who knew of the existence of the Brotherhood of the Moon, a secret order of the monks formed by the Pope to keep a truce between the Church and the Vampire Clans.

As for how well relations were going with the Rose Clan, Gwenhwyfar could only guess. She doubted they would openly act against the clan however, they did not have the recourses for open war, like the other two clans did.

Stepping down into the damp crypts Gwenhwyfar closed her eyes and pushed thoughts of politics from her mind. Politics had ruined her before, and they could again. She was always meant to be a warrior, not a noble woman.

With leather boots tapping softly against the cold floors of the crypt, Gwenhwyfar crawled into one of the long alcoves dug into the walls. Folding her hands over her stomach she laid and rested, slipping into something akin to sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The heat of the sun heated his back through his travelling cloak, fighting off the chill that settled in his bones from the wind. It made Andrzej wish he were back in Italy where it was warm, and he didn't need to spend the nights struggling to keep himself from succumbing to the cold.

With eyes fixed on the small chapel, the hunter spent most of the day thinking on the events he had seen as dawn began to break the sky. The Church had hired him, so why were they helping his targets now? Was this a gathering of heretics?

It would have been so easy to believe, but for the past few years Andrzej has learned not to so quickly jump to conclusions. He was pushing deeper into a world he thought he knew, and the amount of secrets lurking beneath the night sky was starting to frighten him now.

Monks occasionally left the chapel, making Andrzej freeze in place, watching them intently as they went about their duties, or prepared the vampires' carriage for travel once more. Sitting stock still, the cold sank through his clothes and flesh, especially as the shadows of the day grew longer and darker.

Finally the sun had dipped beneath the tree line; it's brilliance a fading memory with only a brilliant orange and purple sky as its testimony until the dawn. That's when they emerged, the two vampires in travelling cloaks that concealed their forms save their pale faces. Both of them turned their eyes directly towards him as they moved alongside the carriage, and Andrzej felt his blood run as cold as his skin. They knew he was here, yet they simply stood there and stared, while the two humans that had been with them the night before guided the unnatural horses from the chapel's small stables.

Andrzej held his breath, hoping not to give himself away with misty breath. His lungs were starting to burn as the horses were finally prepared, and the two vampires climbed up onto the carriage, their gazes finally looking away. He let out a the trapped air in his lungs, mist pouring from his mouth as he watched the two humans from the night before climb inside.

Then two more men came out from the stables astride horses of their own, clad in brown robes and as they turned Andrzej could see black crosses sewn across the backs of their garments. Swords hung from ropes tied around their waists; these were no mere monks. Thinking back through time, Andrzej remembered seeing warrior monks like these men back in Italy, talking with a priest in one of the many churches that dotted the landscape.

These were not heretics, and that prospect scared Andrzej. Why had the church hired him then if they had a secret branch that worked with the undead? As the carriage pulled away from the chapel, back out to the road to continue their journey south, with the two riders following closely behind, Andrzej slunk back into the shadows. He had to return back south, had to find the priest that hired him, and demand answers.

He would not be anyone's political pawn.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One of the Afghan nomads led them through the desert beneath the blistering heat of the sun. Salaam had mentioned the man's name was Karim, but other than that the Saracen knew very little about the nomad warrior.

Alan had left his English made armour back at the encampment, wearing instead the thick tan cloth of the Saracens, and a white wrap over his head and face. The red surcoat with the English lions emblazoned proudly upon it, he refused to leave behind. He may be working with the enemies of his king, but he was still English. Salaam had no problem with it, and Curtis had smiled even as he dyed a yellow lion across the chest of his own borrowed robes.

The small group of a dozen men clambered over dunes, struggling through the shifting sands beneath their feet, and taking long drinks from their water skins. This was not a journey one would make normally. No it was always best to travel at night, or follow the water to stay alive. Necessity however drove them forward, though Karim seemed unbothered by the heat and hardly seemed to drink from his canteen.

Finally Karim stopped, perching atop one of the many dunes. With a wave of his hand he signalled for Salaam, Curtis and Alan. The rest of the men sat down, trying to get into the shade of the dune as much as they could.

Crouching beside the nomad, Alan followed his gaze to a small mountain that was only about an hour's walk away, but out here Alan wondered if someone would yet fall to the uncaring nature of this land.

The Afghan began to speak, however Alan did not recognize the dialect of his words. Even Salaam seemed to be concentrating as he listened, nodding once in awhile. Finally Karim stopped speaking, and Salaam turned to face Curtis and Alan.

"There is a cave not far up the mountainside. Karim says there are ghouls dwelling within," the Saracen explained, and Alan let out a sigh.

"Best get moving then, before the sun falls," Alan said, curious to the reports Salaam had given about these creatures not moving until after the sun set.

Lord Du Lac must have some followers still alive then, Alan had seen him with a retinue back in Acre, during broad daylight. He had said as much to Salaam, who agree that there would have been others to willingly follow an evil creature, and some who might not be aware.

"Agreed," Salaam said, before turning to speak with Karim once more. Glancing over his shoulder Alan saw Curtis merely shrug before standing and starting off towards the mountain side by side with the Afghan, perhaps wishing to prove his scouting capabilities.

The journey across the flat desert to the mountain was long and tedious, and Alan feared the return journey, hoping they would find an oasis or some other source of water soon. He had been right though in his estimation of travel time. It was only a little more than an hour's walk to the mountain.

Standing at the rocky base, Karim pointed up to a large opening in the stone, with a path leading up towards it. Someone was definitely using this place.

Without a word the group began to ascent, each lighting a torch and pulling their swords free from their scabbards before stepping into the darkness of the cave. They were greeted with a long tunnel that went down and deeper into the mountain. Walking carefully, with someone only occasionally kicking a rock that skittered down the floor, they made their way deeper and deeper into the darkness. The tunnel curled and wound around beneath the mountain, quickly losing sight of the sunlit entrance, the torches becoming the only source of light.

Eventually the tunnel opened into a broad cavern, with more tunnels carved into the walls and leading away into a labyrinth of stone. Bodies littered the floor, all clad in blood stained armour and soldier's uniforms, both Saracen and Crusader. They all clutched weapons, and didn't even twitch as the twelve men stepped into their domain.

"May the souls of the departed forgive us the desecration of their bodies," Alan whispered, holding his sword before him like a cross.

"Amen," Curtis said as he stepped forward into the room.

Karim's blade struck first, the curved sword lopping off the head of a former Saracen warrior. The remainder began to move forward, blades flashing in the torchlight as steel bit through flesh and bone. Their raid against the enemy seemed to be going well, the creature's hadn't even moved. Alan began to wonder if they were even resting ghouls at all.

A howl swept through the chamber, and at once the bodies began to get to their feet with raspy calls of hunger. All around them the dead rose, and Alan suddenly realized there were so many more than he had expected. Glancing over at Salaam, he could tell the Saracen was surprised as well. Only Karim didn't seem to care, moving swiftly, his sword swinging through bodies and spilling the blood of his enemies.

"Might as well kill them all," Curtis said, and moved forward to help the Afghan, sword flicking aside a poor spear thrust before decapitating the creature that dared strike at him.

A roar of defiance and anger sounded from the throat of every man in the room as they pushed forward into the now teeming mass of the undead, their swords cutting deep and spraying thick blood through the cavern. The rocks turned slippery; Alan was having trouble keeping his foot, but fought on, desperate to rid the world of this dark menace.

His foot launched forward, smashing into a ghoul's shield, making the creature stumble backwards into more of his ilk. Following through with a vicious thrust, Alan felt his sword punch through the bone where the creature's eye had once been, bursting out the back spilling brain and blood across the floor.

Pulling the long sword free, Alan turned in time to raise his weapon to deflect a mace's blow. The thundering blow reverberated up his arm, through the bone and he grimaced as pain shot through his hand. With a grunt he grasped the creature's weapon, dropping his torch to the ground, and gave it a swift head butt to the face, cracking bone and splitting flesh.

The undead abomination stumbled backwards and Alan lifted the mace above his head and brought it crashing down on the creature's jaw, turning it to bloody pulp beneath the savage blow. Chips of bone shot out from beneath the ball of steel and Alan swung it to the side again, forgetting the fallen ghoul as he struck another in the chest. Ribs shattered beneath the impact but the creature ignored what should have been a killing strike.

A harsh wind tore through the cavern, and all twelve torches flickered, struggling to stay alit. Alan looked down at his own light, wavering beneath the unnatural onslaught.

"You dare enter my domain, and so you shall pay with your souls," a voice sounded on the wind, scratching across Alan's mind. The voice was not Du Lac, it belonged to some other demon.

As the voice faded, the torches went out, and the wind stopped. Amidst the darkness the rotting flesh of the damned moved towards the blind men, and the cries of battle quickly turned to screams of terror.

Next Chapter

War of the Damned Chapter 11: Forgive us our Sins


Lest We Forget

2010-11-11 18:44:23 by sinfulwolf
Updated

Today is November 11th. In Canada it is Remembrance Day.

And so today I raise a glass of beer, and toast friends that did not come home from the desert with me. Today I honour their memory, and those of the men who fought in wars past for this nation, and others. I will not forget, and I will live my life to its fullest for everything that the fallen have given us all.

Today I also lend my heart out to the families whose brother and sisters, husbands and wives, sons and daughter, fathers and mothers came home draped in a flag.

This is a time where not all veterans are elderly, and not all those with memories of the horrors men and women can inflict upon one another are aging. Not all scars are visible, and today I also remember those whose minds were injured from the brutality and bloodshed.

Thank you to all who stood beside me in the sands of Afghanistan, thank you to all who stood in the mud and trenches of wars past, thank you to all who took up arms to defend their nation, and our freedom.

We will not forget.

Lest We Forget


Happy Samhain

2010-10-31 21:29:56 by sinfulwolf

To all in timezones still set in the 31st, a Happy Samhain to you. To all those in areas where the barriers have thickened once again, happy belated Samhain.

There is more to this than simple well wishes though. I still plan on writing a short story for this day, though it will appear later in the week. This won't be entered in any contests so it's simply for the entertainment of the reader. The next chapter of War of the Damned should be coming out next week if all goes well. I also should be getting some more rough concept sketches up within the next month or so, but no promises. Time will tell, it always does.

For more personal matters, I wished everyone a good Samhain rather than Halloween, as I am always interested in the old ways. They are fascinating to me, always draw me in, and just feel right. At least to my soul.

So tonight, sleep safely, and don't disturb the dead. They are amongst us in these hours.


War of the Damned Chapter 10: Game of Wood and Flesh

2010-10-17 13:54:42 by sinfulwolf
Updated

I said I'd get chapter 10 out sooner than 9, and here it is. Bit longer, and starting to implement a few new directions I've decided to take the plot in. I hope you all enjoy.

In personal news, I'll be helping to judge the literary portion of all the Halloween entries here on Newgrounds. For any writers out there, I recommend trying to put something up and get your name out there. I may do a Halloween special for Blood of the Damned, but I promise nothing in case I can't deliver on time.

I'll also be doing a sketch of Gwenhwyfar's sword 'Caledfwlch' that I will be uploading here for anyone curious about how the sword looks in my mind... mostly.

*edit* The sketch is completed, you can find it via my profile.

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Previous Chapter

Chapter 10: Game of Wood and Flesh

Alan's eyes opened to the sunlight trying to pierce the fabric of his tent. The scouts were all still deep in sleep, gently snoring as the knight quietly got up from his cot and buckled his belt around his waist, feeling more comfortable with the weight of his sword pulling down against his hip.

The muted chatter of morning in the Saracen camp greeted him as he stepped into the desert air, the heat already shimmering above the rocks that surrounded this sanctuary. The sun had only just crested above the small cliffs, making him squint against its brightness. One of the Afghans were silhouetted against the blazing orb, and Alan could not tell what the nomad was looking at.

Raising an arm to try and block out the worst of the light, Alan spotted Salaam in the largest tent of the camp, the sides rolled up to offer free access, but still a welcome reprieve in its shade. The Saracen warrior was sitting at a small table and as Alan entered the tent he noted the chessboard sitting atop it. The pieces were beautifully carved from wood, but they showed the wear of the desert. The paint was starting to chip and peel away and what were once sharp angular edges were starting to lose their shape.

"Do you play friend?" Salaam said waving his hand towards the board.

It had been a few days since the unveiling of the undead creature, and even Curtis had been able to see these Muslims as allies. Alan couldn't even bring himself to call them heathens anymore, even when he watched them go to prayer with the rising and setting of the sun. It was alien to him, but somehow fascinating.

"My father taught me. He said that it was not merely a game for kings, but of all warriors," Alan said sitting himself opposite Salaam, adjusting his sword so it sat comfortably.

"Wise words," Salaam said, turning the board so that the white pieces faced Alan, who frowned as he looked down at the figures.

"But I must admit that these do not look the same as I recall," the knight said picking up the vizier piece, or what he assumed was the vizier.

"This is much closer to the Persian game. I assure you though that despite appearances the rules are much the same," Salaam said to which Alan responded by replacing the vizier and moving one of his knights from behind the protective wall of pawns. Salaam raised an eyebrow before settling his fingers on a pawn of his own.

"Sounds much like our two worlds," Alan said, pushing a pawn forward, freeing a path for his vizier and his bishop. In his mind he wondered if the Saracen across from him had different names for these pieces he was so used to. For a moment he remembered the smell of a damp rainy day back in England, his father towering above him as he carefully explained the pieces and their moves, and how they tied to warriors on the battlefield.

'Everything is expendable to a king my boy, so long as he keeps his crown. To win this game you must think like a king. But in the real fields, remember that even the lowliest pawn is quite capable of slaying the king,' his father had said all those years ago.

"Indeed. It is a shame so many can not see past that," Salaam said with a chuckle, though Alan could hear the sorrow in his voice.

He nodded quietly, looking down at the board and its odd pieces. He nearly had Salaam in his trap, and was prepared to spring it, until the Saracen moved a knight to take a pawn still in formation. Alan frowned, realizing his king was in danger. He used a bishop to take the flanking piece, only to find Salaam's vizier taking that same bishop and putting his rook in danger.

"I'm sure you will be happy to go home to see your father in England, and leave the hypocrisy of this land behind you," Salaam said, almost cheerfully, but again Alan could sense the sorrow behind his words.

"A fever took my father some years ago. Still, my wife and son wait at home for me," Alan said, choosing to sidestep the second part of what Salaam had said as he brought in a knight to try and salvage his lines.

For a few moments his opponent said nothing, merely moved pieces carefully across the carved and painted board. It seemed so haphazard, like everything should be easily countered. But every move was calculated, precise. It did not take much longer for Salaam to trap Alan's king with one of his own pawns, and his vizier and a rook.

"Well played my friend," Salaam said.

"If only tonight would be so easy," Alan said looking across the camp to where he saw one of the Afghans drinking water.

"All of life and war is a game. The only difference is that we can change the rules."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Night had long since fallen, and Gwenhwyfar sat at the front of the coach beside Elishka, watching the trees pass by, rays of the moon flickering through the branches and dark leaves of the forest. Elishka calmly held the reins and guided the horses along the beaten road. Gwenhwyfar flicked her eyes forward for a moment, taking in Adara's form as the vampiric beast of war pulled the carriage, a task she had not been bred for all those years before, but one she did regardless.

Both of the horses were draped in black caparisons, their legs and hooves wrapped in dark sheets to obscure their flesh when the dawn came. Unlike living horses, these two would be able to continue eternally without tiring, so long as the daylight was kept off of them.

"We should reach the monastery just before dawn. We can restock for our two companions," Elishka said without taking her eyes from the path, referring to the two humans currently sleeping within the carriage. An aging soldier named Swiegsgard, and Arya now dressed much as a middle class merchant's daughter.

"They will need it, it is not comfortable to sleep in this damned thing," Gwenhwyfar replied, happy that she would be able to rest within proper walls this day.

The two fell into silence once more as the carriage careened through the forest, the horses' hooves thundering on the well travelled path.

A raven fluttered down from the arching branches and perched on the edge of the carriage. Black eyes stared into Gwenhwyfar's own, the bird unflinching as it faced down the vampire for a moment, before taking off and vanishing into the night.

"The Morrighan has given us a warning this night. Be ready for a fight," Gwenhwyfar said, grasping Caledfwlch nestled beside her, happy she was wearing her riding clothes for the journey rather than the gift dress.

Elishka glanced over at her companion, an eyebrow cocked in confusion, before a crossbow bolt buried itself into the wood of the carriage beside her. Figures burst from the trees, many of them wielding crossbows with axes and clubs dangling from their hips. They were clad in patchy dark brown garments and bits of chainmail armour doubtlessly looted from battlefields. Two of the attackers stood in front with long spears aimed towards the horses.

Whether highwaymen or mercenaries, Gwenhwyfar cared not. She leapt onto the back of the carriage, crawling along the top as the two horse's raised up onto their hind legs, letting out whines of distress. Gwenhwyfar looked back to see a spear piercing Adara's chest, dark blood rolling down the length of the spear before the war horse brought her hooves down on her assailant's skull, dropping him to the ground and snapping the spear in two.

The carriage brought to a sudden stop, Gwenhwyfar moved quickly along the top on all fours while Elishka pulled out her own blade and leapt off to meet the bandits head on. Crossbow bolts hammered into the side of the coach, and within Swiegsgard was pulling himself from sleep.

As Gwenhwyfar reached the back of the coach, where her chest for her gear was strapped down tightly, one of the highwaymen leapt up towards her, holding a small dagger. The vampire snarled, baring her fangs as she grabbed the man's wrist. A single twist was enough to snap the man's bone making him scream in agony before teeth found his jugular, tearing through flesh and sinew. Blood spurted from the wound across Gwenhwyfar's face and across her thirsty tongue.

Letting the corpse drop and spitting out the chunk of flesh trapped in her jaws, the former queen jumped down behind the carriage and found her trusted long bow and quiver of arrows. She quickly notched an arrow and turned to face the forest, drawing the string back to her cheek, thumb brushing against her skin, before releasing an arrow towards a charging attacker.

The arrow sliced through the patchwork leather he wore and buried itself in his chest. As the corpse collapsed to the ground clutching at the wound Gwenhwyfar felt an intense pain flare from her thigh. A glance down revealed the bolt stabbing into her flesh, blood coursing around the missile and soaking into her breeches.

Swiegsgard opened the side door of the coach, smashing someone in the face, before he jumped down and hacked down his axe into the fallen man's guts. Gwenhwyfar notched another arrow to her bow and loosed an arrow towards the crossbowman who had wounded her, tossing her ranged weapon back on the carriage when the arrow pierced the man's skull.

The vampire warrior pulled her ancient sword free from its scabbard, the blade glimmering in the moonlight as she moved around the coach opposite of Swiegsgard who was busy fighting one of the assailants, axes clashing against one another.

Gwenhwyfar found one of the bandits climbing into the carriage, where Arya was screaming in terror. The highwayman laughed coldly, before a strong hand grasped him by the collar tossing him to the ground. He let out a single yelp of fear before Gwenhwyfar's steel plunged between his ribs, cleaving his heart in two.

Slamming the carriage door closed Gwenhwyfar moved around the front, where she saw Adara struggling against the reins keeping her in place, blood staining her hooves and a broken body laying beneath her, ignoring the shaft of woof protruding from her flesh. The other horse was much the same but was unable to claim a victim. Elishka however was fighting off four attackers, two already lay slain at her feet.

Gwenhwyfar came up behind one, grasping his shoulder and stabbing him from behind, forcing her sword through flesh and innards, spilling his blood to the ground and letting the now lifeless body slump after the crimson stains. One of the bandits turned from Elishka, chopping down with his sword hoping to sever Gwenhwyfar's head.

Gwenhwyfar easily parried the strike before swinging Caledfwlch down and through his leg. As scarlet sprayed from the stump of his knee, hands clutching desperately at the wound as he lay on the ground Gwenhwyfar turned to her companion who had disarmed one of the assailants and swung two blades at his neck, easily severing his head, before turning to face another.

As Elishka fought, Gwenhwyfar turned to the final man, who started to back away, fear plain in his wide eyes as he reloaded his crossbow, hoping for one good shot at this creature before him.

The bandit managed to prepare the weapon before the former queen grasped the crossbow and head butted him square in the nose. She felt bones break, felt the sudden gush of blood from the man's face as he screamed. As he collapsed to the ground Gwenhwyfar stepped on his chest, looking down at him, before bringing her boot hard down onto his neck, crushing his windpipe with the blow.

Struggling to cling to life, and unable to breathe the man desperately clutched at his throat, staring up at the sky as his eyes began to roll into the back of his head. Gwenhwyfar looked over to her companion, who was wiping her blade clean on the torn jerkin of a dead bandit. With nostrils flaring, the former queen turned her gaze towards the forest, pulling back her lips in a snarl.

"Leave him be. He will not bring any harm to us," Elishka said, smelling the last of the attackers hiding in the wood line as well.

"Or follow us and kill us later," Gwenhwyfar said, lifting the dying man at her feet. She could hear his heart pounding desperately in his fear as death crept slowly towards him.

"Let me speed your passing," Gwenhwyfar said, and bit deeply into the man's neck.

Blood welled up from the flesh, pouring down her throat as she drank deeply from his life. Weakening arms tried to punch her shoulders, tried to break the vicious bite, but Gwenhwyfar would not budge. They were close as lovers, and she could feel his heart slowing as his life faded from him.

After a few moments Gwenhwyfar tossed the body down, her thirst satiated.

"We should continue on my lady. Dawn approaches fast and it would be best to get to the monastery before then," Swiegsgard said from the side, tying his greying hair back in a tight ponytail.

"Agreed. We have to leave as soon as possible," Elishka said, climbing up onto the carriage, while Gwenhwyfar knelt before Adara.

The beast stared at her master, ignoring the pain of its wound. A gently smile crossed Gwenhwyfar's features as she grasped the remains of the spear and pulled it free, letting Adara mend her torn flesh.

The warrior then took her place beside her companion, and leaned back.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Watching from the shadows, Andrzej watched his hired thugs butchered like lambs before the unholy might of the two creatures he'd been hired to kill. It had taken him only a few days to travel up here and hire the wayward mercenaries, and the promise of payment had easily gained their loyalty.

Luckily the hunter had not paid them up front, and the purse of coins still hung from his belt.

The ambush had not been fruitless, he had seen what he is up against, seen what the two vampires were capable of. The scroll had mentioned nothing of the two humans currently in the carriage; daytime guardians. Worse yet, they knew he was here, yet they were sparing him. He didn't know the answers, but he'd been hired to do this job.

As the carriage began to move again, the demonic horses pulling it once more down the road, Andrzej followed as quietly as he could.

Hours passed by, and the sky began to glow with the coming of the sun. Birds began to sing their morning songs, and the nocturnal hunters scurried back to their homes. Dew glistened on the leaves, and the carriage pulled onto a side path that cut deeper into the German forest. Between the rows of trees, Andrzej spotted a single stone structure surrounded by a short wall; a Christian monastery.

Stopping his tired horse, and lashing the animal to a tree, Andrzej crept closer to the structure, peering through foliage at what was unfolding before him.

The two vampires got down from the carriage, meeting with a monk in brown robes who invited them quickly inside while the two humans unloaded the coach. Some more monks emerged to help them, and the hunter watched curiously.

Why was the church helping these two? What had he stumbled upon?

Next Chapter

War of the Damned Chapter 10: Game of Wood and Flesh


War of the Damned Chapter 9: The Gathering Calm

2010-09-30 02:19:13 by sinfulwolf
Updated

So. Almost two months since the last chapter of this was posted. I'm sorry for those who've been waiting, and now I kind of know what George R.R. Martin felt when 'A Feast of Crows' was published. To a lesser extent by far of course. Still it's a good feeling to return to this little universe of mine.I like writing here and fuly intend to continue the tale. I hope you all enjoy a return to medieval Europe through the eyes of a vampire.

In other news, been doing more judging than entering any contests lately. So it's not just this tale that's suffered, but all my writing. I seem to have found my groove again though. Life is still hectic but I plan on getting the next chapter out in the first half of October.

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Chapter 9: The Gathering Calm

The council had been dismissed, and the knights had left to prepare for their journeys east. Gwenhwyfar and Elishka stayed behind, now kneeling before the elder, who sat in his throne of carved stone, expressionless face looking down at the two knights bowed before him.

"A former queen and an assassin. A traitor and a run away. It is quite the pair that you two make, and now members of the Clan of the Wolf. The task I have given you is of utmost importance, for I believe that an elder of the Rose is assisting Lancelot in the human Holy Lands," he said, voice hardly above a whisper.

"How can just us two defeat an elder my lord?" Elishka asked, head bowed before Asgier.

"Do not think the humans will let the crimes committed against them go unpunished. The greatest armies of the world are already in that desert, waiting to thrust cold steel into flesh. You must bring the reckoning of the Wolf, while the others wage war."

"Then it will be done," Gwenhwyfar said simply, before rising alongside her companion, ready to leave the chamber.

"I have arranged transport for you across the sea, with Amadeo's merchant ships. Leave as soon as you can, and show the Rose the fury of the Wolf."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alan lifted his wine skin to his lips, and felt the last drops of water trickle down his throat. With a curse he strapped the leather pouch back to his belt and continued to ride across the sands beneath the glow of the desert moon.

"The camp is not far. You will be free to take whatever provisions you need. Keep in mind however that our resources are finite," Salaam said, riding beside him.

Alan simply nodded, before glancing over his shoulder. Curtis was behind him, his horse trudging through the sand, laden down with the weapons from the battlefield. The scout captain didn't even acknowledge the knight, he simply stared ahead, his back stiff. The other surviving scouts glanced about nervously, their fists tightened around the reins of their mounts, whilst around them the Saracen soldiers tried to march without looking up at their new allies.

It was insane; that was all Alan could think to himself. Two bitter enemies siding with each other to stop an unholy menace stalking Christian and Muslim alike in the holy lands.

The group steered into a narrow canyon, the smooth rock walls on either side blocking out the moonlight. Alan noticed a man with a bow looking down at him from above, face beneath his turban unseen in the darkness.

"The Afghans. They came here searching for the walking dead, after many of their people were killed in the desert," Salaam said, noting where Alan's eyes continued to look.

"Afghans?" Alan asked, watching the shadowy figure vanish from sight.

"Yes. I admit to not knowing much about their homeland myself. But the ones here are simple nomads who have come to aid us. They are good with a bow, and move quiet as shadows."

"Great, heathen ghosts," Curtis muttered from behind the two.

"It is not the spirits of my people you should fear. But the bodies of everyone's dead."

Curtis mumbled something darkly before going quiet once again. They rode and marched in silence save the clink of their armour with each movement, and the soft whiney of the horses. Within a few minutes however, the walls started to spread out, and two flags were stuck in the ground, the fabric as still in this windless night as the guards standing beneath the banners.

"This is our camp," Salaam said.

"Seems small. Reports said Saladin's army was massive," Alan said, glancing back at Curtis who merely nodded.

"We are not part of the army out here. We are on our own. Come I have something to show you," Salaam said as they strode past the guards into the camp.

There were only a few dozen tents about the small clearing, and no one had lit any fires in an attempt to keep their position hidden. It was quiet, and there were very few people about. Alan assumed the rest of the soldiers were sleeping.

Reaching the centre of camp, a few soldiers came to take the horses. Salaam dismounted and said something to them in Arabic, and Alan followed suit. Curtis and the other scouts seemed hesitant, but eventually did the same. The marching soldiers dispersed amongst the camp, but Salaam beckoned for the Christians to follow him to another tent with two guards posted.

"What is it you're showing us?" Alan asked walking alongside the Saracen.

"Our enemy," he said simply pushing aside the flaps and entering the darkness of the tent.

Alan heard something moving against the back wall before it went deathly quiet. The smell of rotting meat filled his nostrils as he heard his new comrade striking flint until a torch flared to life. Flicking light pushed back the shadows, revealing a man in the heraldry of Du Lac chained to two separate posts against the back wall. His tabard was stained with dried blood and his form was slumped in death. A burlap sack had been pulled over the soldier's head.

"What is this?" Alan demanded, reaching for his blade.

"Still your hand," Salaam said reaching out and pulling the bag free.

The man's face had started to rot away, the lips and gums pulled back in decay to reveal broken and yellowed teeth. An eye was torn out and his skin was cracked open, revealing the glimmer of bone beneath. An arrow was still lodged in the man's neck, the shaft broken off near the dried flesh.

Alan was about to pull his blade free, about to scream treachery, when the man's remaining eye opened and the ghoul let out an ear piercing screech.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The troubadour playing in the corner had a long way to come if he wished to play in any courts. To the drunken patrons of the nameless tavern however, he was more than skilled enough. As his fingers plucked at his lute, struggling to find the right notes, his voice cracking as he tried to sing, those deeper into the cups overpowered his soft voice with lilting and vulgar voices.

Andrzej ignored it, simply content alone at his table to drink his ale and sop up his greasy stew with stale bread. No one bothered him, though he wondered if that had as much to do with the sword and crossbow sitting carefully by his side as their own courtesy.

Pain flared in one of his teeth on the right side of his jaw as he bit into the bread, and he let out a quiet curse drowned out by the noise of the inn. He probed at the pain with his tongue for a moment before letting out another low curse in Polish and dragging the bread through the stew on his plate, picking up thin strings up meat.

When the door opened, letting in the night air, no one took notice. A cloaked man made his way through the crowd, pulling his brown robes tight around his form, before finally making his way to Andrzej's table. One of the two serving girls working, both presumably the thin emaciated inn keeps daughters, came up to the table as the man sat himself opposite Andrzej.

Her young face was scarred from acne and her gray dress was spotted with stains. From what Andrzej could only guess, she did a little work in the rooms for rent above.

"Another mug," he said in broken Italian, and his guest simply shook his head before pulling back his cowl to reveal a closely shaven head. The kind of shave that only the rich or monks had, and this man did not appear to have much gold to his name.

As the girl wandered back to the bar Andrzej turned his attention finally to the bald man, who was now fidgeting with a wooden cross between his fingers.

"Are you Andrzej Mikula?" the stranger asked cautiously.

For a moment there was only the sound of the tavern, as the Polish mercenary watched the man opposite him, trying to get a read on him. He moved the lump of now soggy bread to the other side of his mouth to try and reduce the pain in his tooth.

"I am. What do you need?" he finally said.

"I am Brother Davide. I've been sent here to find you and hire your... services," the monk said, dipping his voice so low at the last word that Andrzej had to strain to hear him.

"I'm very specific about my services these days. Gold up front as well."

"We have reason to believe that there is movement coming down from the north. The undead are on the move."

"And why should I care? I'm in Italy tracking one, and his head is rather important to me."

"We need your help, you can stop the same tragedy that befell you from happening to someone else," the monk pleaded desperately.

Letting out a harsh laugh, Andrzej took a swig of his ale and slammed the empty mug back on the table, looking through the inn for the serving girl.

"Why should I give a shit about anybody else?"

Davide frowned and reached into his robes, pulling free a purse that chinked with a sound very familiar to Andrzej's ears. Picking up the small bag, the mercenary felt the weight, using his thumb to help count the coins within. He had no wish to spill them on the table to reveal any type of wealth to this crowd.

"Now you're speaking my language. So tell me, where do I find these monsters," Andrzej said, leaning back in his chair.

The monk pushed a scroll across the table, nestling it beside the nearly finished plate of food.

"All the details are there. Make sure it is done," the monk said before standing up and leaving the tavern.

Andrzej smirked as he tucked both the purse and the scroll into a small satchel. There was some killing to do.

Next Chapter

War of the Damned Chapter 9: The Gathering Calm


St. Michael's Seraphim

2010-07-31 16:17:38 by sinfulwolf

So. I've had some pretty bad writer's block this past month for some reason. I'm still trying to get Chapter 9 of War of the Damned out, but I'm having trouble getting it off the ground. Once it's started it'll come quite quickly, they always do. If anyone is interested in brainstorming with me to see it come out sooner give me a PM. In the meantime the following is a short story I wrote for the June MWC in the Writer's forum. I'm still waiting for a response back about how I did, but I'll let everyone know in a later post. Enjoy this little sci-fi offering.

Story Archive

St. Michael's Seraphim

"Down, down," Sergeant Vikki Fenris hissed at her section, who all ducked behind what was left of the north wall on the second floor of one particular apartment complex amongst hundreds in the city.

As the soldiers ducked behind jutting pieces of concrete and steel bars, dust fell from the ceiling above their heads. The ground rumbled as a column of tanks rolled down the street, infantry walking alongside them, peeking into the ruins lining the road.

"What the hell are tanks doing here? Intel said the Entente had all their armour at the East end of the city," Corporal Jaeger said, almost shouting above the roar of the approaching tank engines.

"Either they moved since we checked in five hours ago, or this is another squadron we didn't know about. Just keep your damn heads down. Kessler, move over to the staircase and make sure none of them infantry get too nosey," Vikki commanded.

The Private in question nodded, grasping his light machine gun and running in a crouch deeper into the building to watch the only remaining flight of stairs leading up to the second floor. Vikki pointed at Private Mann and flicked her hand to indicate he follow the machine gunner. The soldier nodded and moved after his comrade.

Despite the noise of the passing tanks, Vikki knew this was a calm moment, and took the time to remove her helmet and run a hand through her grimy hair. She hadn't showered in five days, not since her section had been dropped behind enemy lines to run sabotage and generally play havoc with Entente forces, while the Coalition moved in over land from the East.

Pulling a pack of cigarettes from one of the pockets on her tactical vest, her eyes ran over the five other soldiers in the room with her. Lighting up, the flick of her lighter silent amongst the rumble, she took a deep inhale. It'd been five hours since any contact was made with friendly forces, and that was only by radio. They had no real idea on how the battle was going, but such was the life of a Coalition paratrooper.

Moments like these, where couldn't talk to even the soldier beside them, were all too common in this city. Just yesterday the section had lain low while a friendly artillery barrage hammered an old office building being used as an operations centre. Thoughts of home crept into the mind, of crawling into a familiar and comfortable bed rather than sleeping in shifts in rubble. Thoughts of standing in a hot shower rather than stewing in your own sweat beneath armour that never got taken off. Memories of friends and family left behind, left to worry about your safety; it all came creeping back unbidden, and Vikki shook her head, forcing the thoughts away. She had a job to do in this hell hole, and that was to keep the men under her command alive.

Pressing the smouldering butt of her cigarette against the ground before flicking it across the room, Vikki took a sip of water from the tube hanging off her shoulder and connecting to the hydration pack beneath the plates on her back, washing away the dust collecting in her throat. As she clipped the tube back into place the sounds of the tanks moved past, and started to fade into the distance.

Vikki held out her hand flat, palm down, telling the section to stay hidden as she peaked through the window above her head, the glass long since blown away. The infantry were close behind the tanks, and it wasn't long before they were no longer a concern.

"Hammond, radio in and tell HQ there's another squadron of armour headed east from our position, rest of you keep watch we move out in five," Vikki said, standing and moving out of the room to check on Kessler and Mann.

Hammond nodded before pulling reaching behind him to turn on the radio. They often kept it powered down to prevent being tracked by enemy electronic warfare.

Vikki found Kessler kneeling behind a turned over desk at the head of the stairs, with Mann sitting beside him smoking. Kessler's eyes never moved from the iron sights of his weapon, but Mann looked up at his sergeant and nodded.

"It's all clear sarge," he whispered, wisps of smoke punctuating each word.

"Good, we move out in five, still have to take out the anti-tank gun two K north east before we link up for extraction," Vikki said quietly.

"Sounds just dandy," Kessler muttered.

As Mann finished his cigarette he tapped his friend's shoulder and the two swapped spots, as Kessler reached for the smokes stashed in the same pocket Vikki kept hers.

Moving back to the central room, Vikki pulled a map of the city from under her armour. It was these quiet moments, where boredom crawled over the fear, that could be the most dangerous. People lost their edge wallowing in these moments, soldiers became complacent, and people died. Vikki didn't let her mind wander, and wouldn't let the minds of her men wander either as she investigated the map unfolded on the floor before her. The other paratroopers all kept watch while Hammond moved over to his sergeant silently.

"Command acknowledges. That was it," he reported.

"Good. We stop for dinner after the gun is down," Vikki said, folding up the map and tucking it away.

This time as she stood, securing her helmet, the others got to their feet as well. Without a word the section moved out of the house, Kessler and Mann falling into the rear of the patrol as the emerged from the crumbling apartment building and dashed across the street into a shadow filled alley.

Their boots made little sound, each soldier a professional; well trained, well equipped and no stranger to combat. Their eyes and weapons all locked into different niches, peering for any enemy that would gladly send them home in a flag draped coffin.

In the distance, explosions rocked the city and machine gun fire rattled off constantly; just white noise backdrop, a constant reminder of the dragging conflict of the soil hidden beneath the concrete.

Cutting through alleys, and moving silently through buildings, long since abandoned by the people who had once lived here, the soldiers made their way towards the coordinates given them hours earlier. They finally stopped in the rubble filled ruins of a basement, lying behind stumps of concrete. Across the street was a two story structure, its original purpose unclear, but nestled atop it on a metal platform and covered in camouflage netting was the objective. Entente soldiers stood around it, assault rifles held loosely in their hands, and Vikki could see another looking out through a second story window.

"All right, quick game plan. Jaeger, Kessler and Mann, you three stay back here and give us some covering fire, but don't start until you hear shooting. The longer we keep quiet the better our chances. Everyone else is on me; we're going in through the left door, nice and easy. Quiet kills if you can make them, but don't play the hero. Petrov, I want the first two rounds in your shotgun to be slugs. Alright, prep yourselves, we go in once we good," Vikki said after sliding down the rubble just enough to keep her head out of sight.

The paratroopers reacted instantly to her commands, rearranging their kit for close quarters, ensuring bayonets were within easy reach. It didn't take long for them to finish; just a minute before they flashed Vikki a thumbs up to signal their readiness.

"Okay. Quick, quiet, clean. Huah?" She grunted to the men.

"Airborne," came the whispered reply.

With that final word, five soldiers scrambled over the rim of rubble, quickly sprinting across the open road hoping that they wouldn't be seen. Kessler and Jaeger took up positions watching the building, while Mann looked the other way, making sure no one came up to shove a knife between their shoulder blades.

Holding her assault rifle in one hand, Vikki carefully reached out and opened the door before her, and stepped into the building. She could hear people talking in low hushed voices, unaware of the enemy amongst them. Moving down the hallway that met her, butt of her weapon firm against her shoulder, moving like a ghost, Vikki didn't need to pay attention to her men; she had full confidence in their abilities.

A door opened to her right, and a man walked out, clad in an Entente uniform and covered in body armour. He was running a hand through his hair, about to put on his helmet, when Vikki's bayonet plunged into the flesh of his throat. Hot red blood gushed around the steel piercing his windpipe, pattering across the floor as he clutched at the wound, trying to scream but not even able to gurgle.

As Vikki eased the body to the floor, Sampson and Petrov moved into the opened room, quietly snapping the necks of the two guards huddled over the radio. Without orders they promptly cut the wires connecting the headset and scrambled the encryption making the valuable equipment inoperable.

Another soldier was coming down the stairs, footsteps echoing off the walls as Vikki hurried, hoping to get to the base to kill him quietly. She wasn't fast enough, and the man let out a sharp yell of surprise, bringing his weapon up. Vikki's finger pulled back twice, her rifle barking loudly in the confines of the building, empty shell bouncing off the wall beside her as the bullets tore through the man's face, coating the stairwell with crimson, chips of white bone and clumps of gray. The corpse collapsed to the ground and rolled down the stairs as shouts of alarm went up on the second floor.

From outside came the punctuated crack of Jaeger's sniper rifle, before the chattering hum of the light machine gun.

"Contact, to the south," someone yelled before shots were returned.

"Petrov take point," Vikki said, using her hands to give orders in case the man couldn't hear her over the gunfire.

Petrov nodded, clutching his shotgun as he started to move up the stairs, Vikki close behind him, aiming her rifle around his arm. As they moved onto the second story they saw Entente soldiers firing out the windows, bullets digging into the wall behind them. As one fell back, clutching at his arm, Petrov let his shotgun roar. The twelve gauge slug punched into the closest soldier, tearing through his armour and crushing through his ribcage. Gore exploded from the exit wound and he crumpled to the floor as Vikki began to fire down the hall. For just a few seconds it was utter chaos as bullets and blood sprayed everywhere, chipping and painting the walls with carnage.

Passing by the first window, Vikki planted a green stick on the sill, letting the three outside know their progress while the other four began to clear the side rooms. Vikki glanced out the window towards Jaeger and pointed up, while behind her the sounds of gunfire flared as her section ruthlessly cleared the building.

Seeing his sergeant's signal, Jaeger swiped his hand across his throat. They were incapacitated in the least. Petrov emerged from the last door at the end of the hall, placing a green stick of his own in the window, earning a thumbs up from Kessler who stopped firing.

Silence fell over their little portion of the city, their ears ringing from the barrage.

"You three get inside. Rest of us are moving up top," Vikki shouted out the window and began moving towards a second set of stairs that led up to the roof. Her heart was pounding, adrenaline coursing through her veins after the quick burst of intensity. The firefight couldn't have lasted any more than five minutes, but it gave her the spike of excitement she always craved. The burst of life that prevented her from ever getting out.

The muzzle of her rifle led the way as her boots hammered on the grated steel of the steps, her ears picking up the others behind her. There was a door between her and the open sky, and she put two shots into the lock before kicking out. The connection of boot on wood sent the door crashing open, and Vikki stormed onto the roof, turning to the right, checking for hostiles. All she found was a dead man, half the contents of his skull splattered across the rough ground.

"Don't fucking move," Petrov shouted, and Vikki turned to see the point man holding his shotgun to a wounded Entente soldier's head who was sitting on the elevated platform, leaning against the cannon.

"I'm not," the man said, clutching at his limp right arm, blood soaking into the dull gray of his uniform. There weren't any weapons around him, though Vikki spotted an abandoned and unloaded rifle lying beneath the weapon platform.

Vikki clipped her rifle to the carabineer on her chest and simply let it hang from her armour as she moved up to the wounded man, crouching in front of him, reaching into one of her abdomen pouches.

"Name and rank?" she asked him.

"Corporal Eliot Taylor. Other than that, I ain't telling you dick," he said, his face calm.

Vikki nodded, and pulled out a package BioCement, some gauze and a bandage from her pouch. Taylor eased his arm away from the wound, letting Vikki use her bayonet to cut away the fabric and find the hole.

"Looks like a through and through Taylor. I'm going to patch this up, then me and my team are going to blow up this gun, and we're going to leave you in the basement with your hands tied. Understand?" Vikki told him, fully aware of the shotgun aiming over her shoulder at Taylor's head.

"You're... not going to kill me?" Taylor asked, watching as his captor opened the package of BioCement and wincing as she used the gauze to wipe away most of the blood gushing from his wound.

"We're soldiers, not murderers Taylor. Even if people have trouble making that distinction," Vikki said, not looking into the man's face as she pulled what looked like black clay out of the package, and shoved it into the hole in his arm. He screamed in pain as Vikki packed the putty into his flesh, blocking every vein and artery. As Vikki wrapped the gauze and the bandage around Taylor's arm, the clay turned to concrete. All the doctors would need to do now is tap it so it breaks, and let it fall out.

"Sometimes even us," Petrov muttered off to the side, pulling Eliot to his feet before strapping his hands together in front of his belly at the wrists.

As Petrov and Hammond guided Taylor back to the basement Vikki stood before the large anti-tank weapon and pulled out a block of explosives. The pliable explosive stuck easily to the weapon's firing chamber, and the detonator slid easily into place.

"Let's get the hell out of dodge," Vikki said, calmly moving back through the building and onto the streets.

The section moved like phantoms back into the desolation, leaving Taylor with a bottle of water sitting outside the building, unarmed. Vikki looked over her shoulder, before thumbing the switch in her hand.

The explosion roared, a cloud of dust obscuring the building instantly, pieces of metal scattered everywhere, bouncing off the surrounding structures and the road below.

"Time to go home yet sarge?" Mann asked carefully.

"I hope so, but I doubt it," Vikki replied, and slipped away once more, to strike again somewhere else.

St. Michael's Seraphim