June 3, 2013
As Jack walked into the frigid carnival some of his fears lessened if only slightly. Men huddled in the back of their booths like any normal human would on such a bitter night. Jackets were hugged tighter over narrow frames and hats pulled lower as another strong breeze blew through the mobile amusement park.
One of Jack’s fonder memories of his deceased father was when he had taken him to carnivals like this. But everything here seemed to be backwards. Jack had always run through the day from ride to ride as the warm sun blessed the summer afternoons. Here, his boots crunched over hard sheets of ice and if it weren’t for the brightly swirling lights, the abandoned parking lot would have been plunged into complete darkness.
No one seemed to eye him as he passed like Xemmoni tended to do with a Stalwart in there midst. The carnival didn’t seem more decrepit that any one the other dozen of its kind Jack had seen. Maybe this is a normal carnival, he thought to himself. It could be they’re from further north and are just trying to raise some gas money as they head south into warmer climes. Still, as another blast of icy wind tore at him he couldn’t help but wonder if there was something dark lingering under the surface.
On a whim, he sent out his Detect Darkening ability. A low lever of taint lingered, but this could usually be expected at any place like this that harbored criminals and outcasts. Jack didn’t have to time to hunt down everyone on the run from the cops or delinquent in their child care payments. His thoughts returned to his empty wallet. From the looks of things, these folks wouldn’t have much cash to spare, but even twenty dollars should be enough to get him to the next town, which would hopefully accept his debit card.
His meandering took him closer to the Haunted Funhouse. He figured he should check it out before he started looking around for the owner—just in case. Right away, he noticed something different about the carnie standing outside of the gloomy place. Unlike the others, he didn’t cower from the cold. Quite the opposite, this man only wore a maroon smoking jacket and an old felt top hat. His thin face was graced with an even thinner goatee. The man regarded Jack as he drew near.
If anyone is Darkened, it will be this guy, Jack thought as he neared the man.
Behind the man, the Haunted Funhouse stretched to almost impossible heights. Jack guessed that it must have been nearly five stories high. The shadow covered greys mixed with blacks on its surface that was designed to look like a house built into the side of a rocky mountain. Only the blaring red neon illuminated any part of it, while also bathing the area before it in a sea of dull reds.
“Care to test your bravery?” The man asked with a wolfish grin.
“That’s about the only thing in the world, I don’t need to do.” Jack brought up his Detect Darkening again, but for some reason it wasn’t functioning, which created a red flag for him about the size of Texas.
“Don’t tell me a Stalwart would be afraid,” then man said and then laughed.
“Who are you?”
“Who I am is of little importance to you compared to how many innocents I’ve fed to the Funhouse, I’d think.” The man wasn’t smiling now. Instead his eyes glowed the same dull red that covered the area around them.
“You son of a bitch.”
“My ancestry is also of little import. If I were you, I’d attempt to save what innocents you can before the ride devours them.” As the carnie spoke, the door to the Haunted Funhouse opened with a long loud crack. The insides of the place looked jet black.
“Maybe I’m just knock the teeth out of your head first…” Jack began, but as his eyes moved from the gapping doorway, he discovered the man had disappeared. Seconds later, a shrill scream sounded from above. Jack gazed up just in time to have drops of blood paint his face. He stepped back quickly as something thudded on the ground only feet before him.
It made a wet smack and then bounced two times before rolling to a stop near where the carnie has so recently stood. The red lights flooded the scene with a thick scarlet haze, but Jack could still make out that it was a severed female head that lay before him. Her once blonde hair spidered out in blood soaked dreadlocks and her eyes held unspeakable horror.
He patted his jacket finding some solace in feeling his extra throwing knives and the small hatchet he had stashed there. “Didn’t even bring any bigger weapons,” he grumbled, as he drew his war dagger from his belt. Another shriek sounded. “Screw it,” he cursed and than after a final glance as the nearly deserted carnival, he rushed through the open door of the Haunted Funhouse and plunged into the darkness.
To be Continued Next Monday!
“What do you mean you only take cash?” Jack didn’t bother to keep his annoyed disbelief out of his voice.
“Out here, it’s just safer. Who knows what sort of tricks people might try to pull on a man like me, way up here in the mountains?” The grey bearded man might have weighed as much as Jack, but then Jack had a foot of height on the Canadian.
Part of him wanted to laugh. A year ago, all he would have had was cash and certainly not much of it. When he fought the Xemmoni Glooms in Kentucky a bank account and debit cards were the farthest things from his mind. Yet after his gift of gold from Loskeep, Jack guessed that he was probably the richest homeless person in North America. Fat lot of good it would do him, though, if these guys wouldn’t accept his card.
The only thing Jack had going for him was the old pickup truck he had gotten his mother to put in her name. Thick straps held the motorcycle upright. Despite his Stalwart status, even Jack wouldn’t want to ride a motorcycle through the Canadian Rockies in the winter.
“So you are saying I’m screwed.”
“Cash always works, man. You kids think everything should be run on plastic. That’s just like a note from your mom, saying you have money.”
“You don’t need to rub it in.”
“I’ll buy your bike for five hundred bucks.”
The man’s jowls shook when he laughed. “I hear the carnie is hiring.”
“What, there’s a carnival up here? It must be twenty below outside.”
The shopkeep eyed him as he lit up a smoke. “Everyone’s gotta make a buck, including you, dochta think.”
* * *
In the past, someone must have thought that the lonely mountain town of Pariah could support a strip mall full of shops along with a major grocery store. The majority of the businesses, including the grocery store, had gone belly up years ago. For rent signs hung in most of the windows.
The barren snow swept lot had been taken over by a dazzling display of lights. Despite the frigid temperatures, the rides and booths all appeared open.
Jack parked his truck a hundred yards away and took the sight in.
A mini-rollercoaster and a twisterwhirl we easy to make out and a rainbow of lights reflected off the patches of snow. But what really dominated the sight and caught Jack’s attention was a black unlit structure. It grew out of the northern part of the carnival like a black thorn stabbing at the sky. No lights graced this building and instead it seemed to almost absorb any color or light that neared it. A red light bled onto the walkway before the ride. Grabbing his binoculars, he took and deep breath and then focused in on the sign.
“The Haunted Funhouse. Perfect…”
As he watched, a young couple handed a man in an ebony top hat their tickets and headed inside.
“Looks like I might just have a job to do after all.”
To be continued next Monday
April 29, 2013
As Jack raced up the last four flights of stairs, the undulating horror bubbled and screamed at him from a thousand mouths.
“Stalwart. You life is numbered in minutes, but your agony will last you lifetimes. I will digest you slowly, never allowing you to perish. Instead you will feast on nothing but pain until the stars fade from the sky.”
“Egoic much?” Jack panted as the turned another corner in the staircase. “We’ll see who lives to see the sunrise you slimy son of a bitch.”
It roared and redoubled its effects to catch him.
Despite this, Jack reached the roof well before it. Now what the hell am I going to do? The roof stretched out before him dark and flat. A few air conditioners and other machines dotted the ice covered surface at irregular intervals. He considered dumping one down the stairs, but it would only delay the inevitable and he needed to use his time more wisely. But to use it for what? Maybe I should have had a plan.
But even as he thought this, a plan started to form. Looking around, he assessed the roof. The western side had a sag where a huge amount of snow and ice had formed. On the lip of this ice was a large air conditioning unit. He sprinted toward it. Upon reaching it, he removed his sledge hammer and began to hit the supports on the side closer to the ice. They buckled. He whacked at the other side’s legs, just enough to break the bolts holding it to the roof.
He had just moved back to the legs in front when the monstrosity burst onto the roof. Forgoing his task, Jack quickly climbed to the top of the air conditioner. He shifted his hammer to his left hand and tossed throwing knives in rapid succession at the thousand limbed horror.
“Is this suppose to hurt as, a hundred mouths drooled and caterwauled at him. We suffer more injuries moving across a floor.”
“All the more reason to kill you,” Jack yelled, as he threw another throwing knife into the foul glob of flesh with a meaty plop.
Fury built within the thing and it raged with frenzied movements as it dragged, rolled, and pulled its huge form across the roof.
Jack threw his eighth and final knife at the monstrous Xemmoni and then leapt behind the air conditioner. A second later, he threw his back against the large machine. At first it wouldn’t move, but then the legs he had damaged on the other side buckled more. With a yell and a mighty push he toppled the thing over. It hit the roof with a mighty clang that sent a huge vibration through the structure.
“Fool, you didn’t even hit us. Now you will join us. Enjoy your last taste of clean air Stal-”
A huge cracking interrupted the insane babbling and its triumph turned to fear as the roof started to collapse. Knocking the machine over the weakened part of the roof proved enough to trigger a reaction. The old roof had never been designed to support the amount of weight the undulating horror had become, which Jack guessed must have weighed in the tons.
With a hundred screams the floor caved in beneath it, but its fall didn’t stop there. Floor after floor of the old apartment were smashed through and the gigantic mound of flesh kept falling.
There was a cracking beneath his feet and Jack quickly realized he was about to follow the horror in its plunge. With a yelp, he leapt for the lip of the roof just as the flooring under his feet tumbled away.
He clung on the edge as huge sections of the roof toppled into the giant hole. “Crew on that crap, you bastard.”
It took him a minute to find a safe place to stand, but once he did, Jack tore the backpack off his shoulders. More than half of his prepared Molotovs had shattered, but at least three were in one piece. He lit his oil soaked backpack and tossed it down the fissure through the apartment. The bellow that he heard when it struck the creature proved most satisfying.
Soon though, he had new problems. Not only was the thrashing monstrosity’s limbs weakening the structure, but the fire was quickly catching and soon he would be in the midst of an inferno. He circled the hole to the stairwell, but it was already too late. It was engulfed.
“Me and my bright ideas.”
Smoke began to billow out of the giant hole like the haunted high-rise had become a manmade volcano. “This sucks. Becoming a snake might help, but I still don’t think they could survive a twelve floor drop. Crap, crap, crap.”
Sunrise appeared to be an hour away, but some of the birds had already risen. Their chatter, a normal thing he had heard ten thousand times, felt so distance. It made him feel removed from the world. Trapped and alone.
Then a murder of crows flew toward the building. “Yig is the master of all animals. My patron blessed me with a Mold Nature spell. I’ve only used it on trees so far, but maybe…”
His fingers twisted into fists as the sparks flew around him. Focusing with every fiber of his being, Jack called out to the crow on the far right. Aid me. Please. In the name of the Earth, help me. They birds kept flying. Please, in Yig’s name.
A bird broke away from the pack and flew toward him. This had better work, Jack thought as he rapidly transformed into a small gopher snake. The bird landed and Jack entangled his serpentine body around the crow. It took off with a loud caw. It had trouble flying at first, but proved able to get Jack to the ground safely.
Its black pupils eyed him for a moment and then it took off with a flurry of wings.
After returning to his human form, Jack watched the building collapse in on itself as it became a true inferno. “I don’t think even that thing can survive in there.” He sighed. “I guess I can finally visit my mother now.”
A mustang pulled up in front of him. “Need a lift,” John said with a grin.
Alex leaned over. “Yeah and you might want to clean up some before you visit your mom, your a mess.”
Jack laughed and climbed into of the car behind the teens. “I sure hope you guys brought beer.” Alex handed him and cold one and Jack sunk back into the seat.
For the first times in months, he allowed himself to relax. Sure he wasn’t done with his work by any means. Vile Darken, his oldest and strongest enemy still needed to be dealt with, but for a moment, if only for his mom’s sake, he would allow himself a break.
As the vehicle left the burning structure in its rear view a pair of eyes watched them depart. “Impressive, Mr. Primus,” it whispered more to itself than the creature standing to its left. “You have some skill. I’ll let you bask in your glory just long enough to feel safe.” A cold cackle emitted from his dark form. “Yes, just long enough to feel safe. Then, spawn of Yig, we will come for you.”
Thank you for reading Jack’s newest Adventure Blood Fear
A new Adventure will begin next Monday
Jack charged up the filthy stairwell taking three steps at a time. Below him the chaotic jabbering of a hundred mouths grew in volume. He had only made it up another level before the monstrosity poured into the stairwell on the ground floor. He paused to look over the edge to see what followed him and wished he hadn’t.
A horrid mix of flesh and random body parts boiled together into a howling mess. Hundreds of bloated, non-blinking, hate filled eyes stared up at him. Drooling mouths muttered and wailed while everything from mismatched feet and hands, even faces, helped propel the horror up toward him.
“Crap, I should have burned the place. Too fucking late now,” he said as he redoubled his efforts to keep ahead of the thing, even if he knew he headed toward a dead end.
He had just turned around another flight of stairs when a new figure descended toward him. Vaguely female, the antler topped Xemmoni had a flowing dark skirt that trailed behind her. But what drew Jack’s attention was the large shotgun she held in one hand.
As the figure raised her gun, Jack dove to the side. A loud blast sounded as the buckshot roared over his head. A few stray pellets hit his shoulder, but between the thick leather jacket and his protection of Yig it caused little damage. Getting a foot under him, Jack dove forward as another blast just missed taking off his head. At all times he remained conscious that each second he was delayed gave the thing below a better chance of reaching him.
“Guns aren’t usually your kinda style,” Jack said as he hit the shotgun to the side with a one handed swing of his axe. A dagger had filled his left hand and he went in for a gut shot only to have the figure’s free hand shot forward and grab him by the neck. A second later he was being lifted off his feet.
The creature opened its mouth, but instead of a single speaker a jumbled mass of a thousand voices spewed forth. Somehow, over this insane caterwauling, several voices joined into a jagged union and bellowed. “Soon you life will be crushed and your soul will join the rest!”
“That’s all I needed to know,” Jack said and then hacked the figure in the side of her face with his axe.
The thing screeched and then hurled Jack down the stairs. His body didn’t stop until it smashed into the wall. Stars spun across his vision and he tried to fling the dagger at the creature, but it got batted away by the shotgun. She cocked the gun loudly and before Jack could recover, shot him in the center of the chest.
The impact sent him crashing back into the wall and turned his jacket into ribbons. If it wasn’t for the protection granted to him by his patron, Yig, his body would have followed suit. Instead, he struggled to draw breath into his punchered lungs as the thing drew closer. Below them both the jabbering monstrosity neared.
He waited until she came closer and then healed himself. She seemed to sense what he did and raised the shotgun, but this time Jack grabbed it with his free hand and kicked up with his boot. The unexpected blow proved enough to free it from her grip. He tossed the gun away as he brought the axe around in a long arc. The blade connected with her neck with a meaty whack. The figure stumbled and Jack stuck again and then again.
Its body collapsed once its head hit the floor, but to his horror, Jack saw that foul beast from the basement was already beginning to pool on the stairwell below him. Two things that looked like arms attached end to end lashed up at him. These grotesque appendages stretched over twenty feet in length and ended with a bloated hand. One grabbed his ankle and pulled him off his feet. A moment later, he was being dragged to the end of the stair. His axe went to chop it, but the second appendage grabbed it from his fist.
He continued to be dragged into the hundred mouth horror as the axe slammed into his head and shoulders. The blows were awkward, but still hurt like hell and didn’t make anything easier.
As he neared the edge of the stair, his groping hand landed on the shotgun. Without thinking, he aimed at the elongated arm that held him and shot it a foot below from where it held him. The arm severed and he pulled away just as the first frothing of foulness began to spill over the lip of the stairwell. Ignoring the blows from the axe that continued to rain down on his battered form, Jack hurried up the next flight of stairs. As soon as he was a floor higher, he turned and emptied the shotgun into the churning mass below.
Looking up, he guessed he had about four more flights to go. Without glancing back, he drew the sledge hammer off his back and headed for the roof of the haunted high rise.
To be continued next Monday
April 15, 2013
Jack arrived at the haunted high rise just as the sun had set. After checking his gear, he let his duffel bag ride on his right shoulder while his axe rested in a sling over his left. His new sledge filled his hands as he walked toward the front door like he owned the place.
The building groaned a warning, which sounded like a thousand dead souls trapped within dark coffins. When this was ignored, a frigid wind crashed against him. It slowed his pace only slightly and when he drew within twenty feet of the door, Jack pulled a Thor and sent the hammer flying at the glass.
A foot shy from contact, something deflected the blow, but this action also caused the wind to cease.
So their power isn’t unlimited and they need to focus on one thing at a time, he mused silently.
Then aloud he said, “What’s the matter? Scared of letting me in. I figured as much. I guess you creeps are smart enough to see your doom when it comes for you.”
A harsh series of rattling cries sounded. An angry scream followed and then the door slowly creaked open. Jack wasn’t sure if he should feel unnerved or pleased that he was able to manipulate them so easily. Either way, it didn’t deter him from snatching up his hammer and heading into the Stygian apartment.
Nothing opposed him for a few yards, but as he left the streets behind him, the doors slammed shut with a dull clang and what little light there had been was extinguished. He paused long enough to pull three flares out of his bag. One went into his jacket, next to his throwing knives, while the other two were lt. The first one he sent bouncing down the corridor, the second filled his left hand.
After throwing the duffle back over his shoulder, he froze. Not forty feet ahead of him, a young raven haired girl, in a dirty night robe, hovered near the ceiling. Her long black locks obscured her face and she wavered strangely, like her presence distorted normal reality.
“Making me fight little girls now,” Jack grumbled under his breath, but he found the sight foreboding enough that a big part of him struggled against leaving. I already rescued my mother… what do the rest of these people matter? Most likely they’re all already dead and corrupted. I should just leave…
“Screw you,” he growled. “Get out of my head!”
“Soon you will have no head,” the girl called down to him in a voice that sent shivers down his spine. “But first you will have no fingers, then no hands, then no legs.” She flew at him, moving quicker than he would have imagined. “And that’s when we’ll start to PLAY!”
“Fangs of Yig,” he yelled as he brought up his hammer. A different man might have held back against a young girl, but Jack new better and batted the apparition away from him with a mighty blow.
She collided against the stairs, but leapt onto all fours in moments. Like a crazy canine, she raced at him. “I’ll eat your soul. I’LL EAT YOUR SOUL!”
“You’ll eat this first,” Jack said, and then swung his hammer upward hitting her square in the jaw. A resounding crack echoed through the barren hallway as both the Xemmoni’s jaw and neck shattered.
She struggling despite her life ending injuries and manic fingers clawed his legs while the limp necked head flopped at him trying to land a bite.
“You pukes are sick,” he said through gritted teeth and set himself to breaking her body. Foul crunches and loud snapping filled his ears. At one point, the Xemmoni made her cry like the little girl she could have been, but that only made Jack swing his hammer harder so the wailing would stop. Soon, a crashed, but yet still flailing body moved under him.
“You bastards are going to pay long and hard for this.”
But then it started again. The rumbling he had heard before. Like thousands of severed body parts slapping against stone. It came from the basement. It came for him. The last time he had run, but he came here to finish this, but how could he hope to fight something so huge, so massive?
Every nerve told him to flee. Run to the street—forget he had ever heard of this place.
And turn to flee his did, but instead of running through the doors, he headed up the stairwell he had taken before.
If they want me, they’re going to have to earn it.
To be continued next Monday
April 8, 2013
Whether it was because of it being a school day or their involvement with funeral proceedings, neither Alex or any of his surviving friends visited him. Jack welcomed the rest and the healing. After being critically wounded for so long, taking short treks through the frozen woods without pain lancing through his every limb proved a welcome change. Food became a problem before long, but he was able to scrounge up a few forgotten cans of peas, which he cooked on the wood stove.
But guilt still dug at him from multiple fronts. Allowing so many of the teens that were helping him get killed was like a dagger through his heart. He tried to justify it by saying this was their city and he had only been helping them keep it safe, but such thoughts didn’t ease his emotional burden. Then there was his mother’s apartment, which was brimming with evil, that he was allowing to fester and most likely continue to eat at the souls of its residents. “Hell, I should be visiting my mom and by Yig’s fangs, I still need to return to Idaho and finish taking out the Vile Darken and the scum that got me involved in this whole mess.”
He sighed and figured since the haunted high rise had nearly gotten him killed last time that another day of rest wouldn’t hurt. As the fingers of the northern chill crept into his bones, he laid his weary body down for the night.
* * *
Part of him felt a certain relief when the hospital informed him that his mother wasn’t able to receive visitors. Her condition remained stable, but it was more of a mental issue than physical, which didn’t sound too good. He let them know he would try again and then returned to where his motorcycle was parked.
“Guess there’s nothing keeping me from heading there now,” he grumbled. He had slept in and realized the morning had already slipped away. Northern winters made for short days and he still had plenty to get done.
The one thing he did have going for him was a nearly infinitive bank roll. After a quick stop at the bank, he rented the biggest SUV he could find. Next stop was a hardware store. Here he bought a new axe and sledge hammer. Hand axes and extra knives went into a large baffle bag. He also bought a new leather back pack. and a length of rope. This last purchase reminded him of something and he made one last stop.
On the way to the motorcycle shop, he gazed toward the west. The sun was already slipping behind the buildings that lined the Saint Paul sky line. He took a chug of his monster-sized soda and squinted against the dying glare. “I guess it’s either go in at night or wait another day. Screw it! I’m sick of putting things off, that’s how people end up dying. I had better go in tonight.”
After buying the thickest leather jacket the place sold, he stepped back out into the cold. He pulled his new leather gloves tighter over his fists. He felt goofy wearing the leather biker chaps, but figured with his luck they wouldn’t survive the night anyway. The last hint of the sunset was long gone and darkness had claimed the land. A stiff wind dug daggers of cold into his body while he hurried to his rental.
One way or anything this will be finished tonight…
Find out how Jack’s Adventures Started Here!
April 1, 2013
Once again Jack woke up in the teenager’s Euclidian shack in the frozen swamp. At once, he realized that he might have awakened because his body had nearly frozen to death. A fire had been lit in the oil drum stove and extra fire wood had also been piled near its side, but the fire itself had burned down to glowing ruby coals.
Jack’s limbs protested and didn’t want to admit that he had regained consciousness. Every movement seemed to tear at his flesh and open his jagged wounds. His shoulders shivered so badly he almost couldn’t pick up the top log. He managed to throw the log into the pit of coals, which disturbed the red globes that stared at him like the face of a demon. He repeated the process, despite the pain, and a minute later, light flooded the frigid room as the logs burst into flame.
After wrapping the sleeping bag around his shoulders, he huddled closer to the fire. On a whim, he checked to see if his Ki had returned and when he discovered it had, he cursed himself for not using it to heal himself before.
An audible sigh escaped his lips, when the warmth of his healing powers flowed through his weary form. Seconds later, not only did his body stop shivering, but his warrior’s mind came into focus.
He attempted to push past the blur of the last battle. The Templar Queen had fallen. Hopefully the teens had burned the place to the ground. He groaned as he remembered how many of his young allies had paid the ultimate price. Who’s even left? He mused. Alex for sure. Probably John and hopefully Jerry, but that’s it.
Then he remembered his mother. He’d been able to rescue her form the possessed high rise, but what about the other residents? Compared to a whole building filled with some unknown race of Xemmoni scum, wiping out the Temple of Pain might end up being as hard as opening a second beer on a hot day.
At least my mom in safe, but how can I leave this city while such an evil lingers?
He sighed again, while tossed another log onto the already roaring fire. The room was finally beginning to warm and he let the heat soak into his tired muscles and wounds. I’ve been up for days, fighting battle after battle, it’s amazing I’m conscious at all. Hell, it’s amazing I’m alive.
Looking around, he tried to spy a note or some clue that Alex might have left for him, but couldn’t see anything. I wonder where they are and how they’re doing. Since they lost six of their friends, I can’t imagine they’re doing too well. Who even knows how long I’ve been asleep? They might be dealing with the cops and all kinds of crap.
With another groan, he laid back onto the cot. At least they’re safe and my mom is safe. I’m going to need to see her, but I think the teens have done enough. I should sneak away, so Alex and the others won’t insist on helping with the Darkened high rise. They have given enough, suffered enough.
Part of him thought that he should try to leave before Alex returned, but in his mangled and bloody state where could he go in the middle of the harsh northern winter? Soon, despite his wishes, sleep again claimed him, but this time he was plagued by nightmares. His body tossed and he never noticed the ice blue eyes that stared at him through the cracks in the western wall.
March 25, 2013
Alone, Jack ran at the Queen of the Temple of Pain and her surviving ally. Jack’s three remaining compatriots still screamed as their bodies writhed in agony on the floor behind him. Jack had knives and other weapons on him, but he let them rest in their sheaths. He hated the Templars with a burning passion and he wanted to finish this with his hammer.
The Templar Queen welded a curved scimitar, while man used some type of spiked war club that had evil, twisted hooks emerging in a myriad of angles. The Queen held back, more than happy to let her man meet the brunt of Jack’s assault.
Jack’s swung hammer was met by the bladed club and the Stalwart was distressed to see the head of his sledge go spinning away. Jack backpedalled away from the tall Templar as the Xemmoni swung his club in wide arcs. Jack attempted to use the remainder of his hammer to parry the blows. He blocked two swings, but the second cost him another foot of his hammer handle.
The Templar continued to press the attack and Jack cried out when one of the weapon’s hooks tore a line pain down his left arm. Jack kept backpedaling until he hit a pool of blood, which caused him to slip. He lost balance and hit the floor hard.
With an insane grin, the Templar moved in to finish him. Jack had other plans. He actually rolled toward the Xemmoni and the spiked weapon splashed into the pool of blood behind him, missing Jack’s head by inches. As Jack rolled, he tore his war dagger from its sheath and sliced halfway through the man’s ankle. It was the villain’s turn to fall. He used the knife to block the Templar’s weapon as he got into position above the fallen man.
Then, like a vampire slayer, he drove the jagged point of the hammer handle into the fiend’s dark heart. The Templar coughed and struggled, but it proved to be the type of wound that even a Xemmoni couldn’t survive.
He was just attempting to get to his feet when another Bestow hit him. The Queen of the Temple laughed as pain ruled his body. This wasn’t an Agony Bestow. It was something else, something worse. Where the Agony Bestow just made you feel pain, this Bestow was tearing his body apart. Flesh split and blood poured from him. Burn marks appeared on his arms and hands. His back exploded in anguish as a hundred whip marks emerged from his swollen flesh. It felt like nails were being driven into his flesh from every angle. His body arched and he Screamed.
The Queen’s laughter could just be heard over his own cries. She moved in toward him in no huge hurry. “You played a good game Stalwart, but cost me quite a bit of time. You know how hard it is to find decent followers? Not everyone can feast on the art of torture and pain. In takes an advanced understanding to fully grasp our goals. But perhaps it is for the best, I had grown tired of most of them and maybe one of those you brought in with you can help me start to rebuild my ranks and give me a new thrill.”
“Go to Hell.”
“Oh, I visit there from time to time. A great place to conduct a little research. Perhaps I’ll show you some of the things I’ve learned there over the next few weeks. For your life force will feed my long and well, Stalwart. It is the least you can provide me after…”
She paused, startled. Then fell to her knees. Alex stood behind her and Jack was just able to see through the red haze of pain that the young teen had stabbed her in the back.
As he drew forth his sword, he said, “I guess you were to busy bragging to remember that your dead buddy had been that one that fired one of your damn spells at me. When Jack killed him, the spell was broken, dumb ass!”
She pointed a finger at Alex, but didn’t have time to finish off her Bestow before a swing of Alex’s sword took off her head.
The torture ceased, but the damage remained. Jack tried to get onto his hands and knees, but passed out instead.
To be continued next Monday…
March 11, 2013
As Jack, Alex, and John raced into the corrupted beauty salon, they heard more grinding and the building vibrated under their boots. This was followed by a loud bang as what had to be the tow truck Jerry drove smashed into the back of the strip mall a second time.
Jack was the first to enter the center of this makeshift Temple of Pain and his stomach churned at what he saw. Body parts were stacked in piles along the walls and hung from rusty hooks suspended from the ceiling. Viscera spread over the floor in stagnant pools and clogged foul drains. Victims in various states of dismemberment moaned on blood soaked tables. Most of them were unknown to Jack, but when he saw Eric’s mangled body, it was like a dagger through his guts.
Strangely, the one thing he didn’t see much of was an enemy. Maybe all of the pukes we’ve already taken out have actually made a difference. But I know their leader, that bitch of theirs, is still around here somewhere.
“Help me. Help me,” one of the men hanging vertically along the far wall called out. Only then, did Jack notice that another of Alex’s friends, Blake, hung there.
Beside him, John lost it and vomited across the already sick floor. “Alex, help him along. We need to be sure we stick close. The only thing we can count on is that this isn’t over yet.”
The trio started to move toward Blake, but Andre appeared out of the back of the building and got there first. “Don’t worry, Blake. I’ll get you down.” The young teen said.
“Andre, be careful,” Jack called out. “Hold up, we need to-”
But it was already too late. Blake hadn’t been chained at all. It was all a ruse and their former friend’s eyes glowed a dull red before he slipped a jagged dagger into Andre’s heart. Andre fell back with a scream—blood already seeping through his lips. A second later, he stumbled over a severed head and his body toppled into a pool of blood with a grotesque splash.
“Son of a…” Jack started as he ran over the slick floor. His other allies hurried to stay on his heels. Jerry was just entered through the same door that Andre had used when Jack’s hand axe went spiraling. The blade took Blake in the forehead and this proved enough to save Jerry from suffering Andre’s fate.
Jack knew that not much could be harder than taking out your own friend, so he saved the teens the trouble and put Blake out of his misery with the sledge.
Looking around for a moment, he found the place devoid of adversaries and only the slow dripping of blood and the weak moans of the Templar’s victims could be heard.
Jerry and the others reached him and Alex asked, “What now?”
“We have to clean this place out and then burn it to the ground. Nothing this horrible can be allowed to fester and regrow.”
“You’ll do nothing of the kind.” The Templar Queen said, as she and what might have been her last surviving follower stepped into the horrid room. Red flashes erupted from the pair’s fingers and John and Jerry’s throats filled with screams before their bodies had even hit the floor.
“The only thing you and yours will do is die at our leisure and be assured it will be a long dance of exquisite pain for all the damage you have done to my temple.”
Having said her piece, the Templar queen and her follower once again fired Agony Bestows at the remaining Stalwarts. Alex collapsing like the others, but Yig burned strong within Jack’s veins and, with a growl, he managed to burst past the spell this time and raced for the scarlet villains.
Alone he faced the evil pair. The lives of the remaining teens were in his hands and he didn’t intend to let them down.
To be continued next Monday…
March 4, 2013
As John dragged Jack through the broken glass and away from the tall Templar, the Stalwart struggled with every ounce of his being to overcome the foul Xemmoni’s Agony Bestow. Pain arced through him that even the cold kiss of the northern winter couldn’t dispel. Jack could just pierce the red pain of the torturous magick enough to see Alex fighting his former friend as the Templar followed after them with the slow assurance of death.
John dumped him on the sidewalk and raised a machete. “I guess it’s up to—ahhhhhhgggggg.” A moment later the teen had collapsed as his body went into spasms of pain.
The blaring red eyes of the Templar burned in the night as he drew near. “Why kill you quickly,” he whispered like a hiss of steam, “when I can enjoy your death for weeks?”
“Maybe so I wouldn’t be able to do this!” a blood splattered Alex shouted from behind him before he brought an axe down on the center of the evil man’s skull. Even such a blow was not enough to kill the terrible fiend, but it did weaken his control over Jack. With a loud yell, the Stalwart leapt onto his feet and tackled the Templar around the mid-section. They went tumbling back through an unbroken window of plate glass and the Xemmoni gasped as several shards pierced his back. Jack narrowly avoided being stabbed himself as one long triangle was driven through the Templar so violently that three inches protruded through the Xemmoni’s chest.
“You must be loving all this pain, you sick freak,” Jack shouted as he smashed his elbow across the man’s chin.
“Jack, get back,” Alex yelled. “I got this!”
Jack rolled away from the Xemmoni seconds before Alex decapitated the Templar. As his head rolled towards Jack, the Stalwart struggled to his feet. “I guess he won’t be surviving that.”
Together the two men checked on John, who had begun to recover from the Temple of Pain Bestow once the Xemmoni had perished. As John slowly regained his baring, Jack addressed Alex. “How did you show up so fast? Most people would have a hard time fighting their friend. Are you okay?”
“I guess when a guy tried to stab you in the heart, you have to figure the friendship is over.”
Alex flashed a blood covered smile and drew his leather back to reveal a strange breastplate man of interlocked steal plates. “I made this a while ago. I never thought I’d ever use the thing for real. Guess I was wrong.”
“I’m glad you brought it with.” Alex clasped the man on the shoulder and tried to not make it look like it was to help him keep his balance. “Welcome to the world of the Stalwart. Now let’s-”
A loud crash sounded from behind the strip mall.
“Crap, Jerry and Andre are striking before we’re ready come on!”
As one, the three men raced into the store and Jack only hoped they could join the fray before it become too late for Alex’s young friends.
To be continued next Monday…
Next week Jack Enters The Temple of Pain