November 18, 2013
Jack managed to find a clean shirt before he and Phillip entered the trendy coffee shop. Phillip had an extra trench coat in his truck. When Jack had looked surprised by this, his fellow Stalwart had just shrugged.
Feeling like a Viking at a quilt convention, Jack inwardly winced when most of the eyes in the joint took them in. College students mixed with artists and other fashion conscious youth. Everyone looked like they tried so hard to be an individual they had become part of a counter culture that made them all appear the same or at least belong together.
Jack caught an odd movement out of the corner of his eye. When he looked, he saw a security camera, mounted high on the wall, following them as they moved. Its lens glared like an angry red eye and Jack jerked when Phillip’s cell phone buzzed.
Gazing down, Phillip said. “I got a text. It tells me to go open the lap top… Oh there it is in the corner table.”
“Someone just left a lap top here?” Jack said, but then followed Phillip to the corner booth. His aching muscles were more than happy to take a load off and he collapsed in the booth so hard it creaked loud enough for two young college girls to glare at them before returning to what could have been their homework, but was probably Facebook or Twitter.
With a sigh, Phillip pushed the computer to the wall and then opened it so they could both see it. It flared to life humming for a moment before the image of an exploding fireball filled the screen. This transformed into a cyber image that was half machine and half metal. “Always a show off,” Phillip muttered.
“I heard that,” a young voice chirped from out of the device. Seconds later, a thin faced man with blinding red hair appeared on the scene. “So Phillip we met again.”
“In the loosest sense,” He said. “This is my friend Jack. He’s a man of Yig.”
“I could have guessed that, I think. Now what’s so urgent? I’m a very busy man and have a meeting with some folks from Germany in a few minutes.”
“Oh nothing important,” Phillip started, “it’s just that the Dark Alliance Xemmoni have given all Stalwarts until sunset to leave Boston. After that, they state we will be hunted down and destroyed.”
Jack held up one of his wounded arms. “And they even started a little early with us.”
Blaze looked more serious than they others they had told. “Well that isn’t good. I doubt they could find me, but even I like to head out of the town once in a while. It might become a little boring being the only Stalwart in Boston.”
“And dangerous,” Jack couldn’t help but add.
His eyes glanced as Jack, but then addressed Phillip. “So what is your plan? Do you intend to fight or flee?”
The two men looked at each other, but it was Jack who spoke first. “I think we need to fight. Besides the obvious reasons, we feel that Boston will be used for a tool to cause a greater evil.”
“And this evil will be?”
Phillip answered. “We aren’t sure about that one yet.”
“And you want me to help you in this vague notion of fighting back, against impossible numbers, I might add, because they could be planning something worse than just simply abusing Boston.”
“Either that or just give you a warning so you have the option to leave,” Phillip said, losing his energy.
“I take it no one else has joined your fellowship?” The tinny voice asked.
“Not yet,” Phillip answered, but we did warn Lanna and Felix.
“And Lanna thinks her looks will keep her safe and Felix’s believes his indiscriminate healing will protect him.”
“And I’m sure that your ability to hide will have you thinking that you are safe,” Jack had to add.
Phillip shot him an angry look, but it was Blaze that answered. “Yes, most likely it would. But I’m not one to ignore bad tiding and hope for the best.”
“So you will aid us?” Phillip asked.
“Yes not in the manner you might expect. Phillip take this lap top and continue to warn the others. There are some things I will look into. I’m a better net runner than fighter in most cases. Warn the others and I’ll be back in contact with you soon.”
The image disappeared.
“That was better than the last two,” Jack said
“Maybe, but now we need to find, oh wait, looks like one of them found us.”
To be continued next Monday
November 4, 2013
This Jack Serial began 9/30/13
As Phillip advanced with his cutlass, Jack drew twin hand axes out of his jacket.
“You’ll never even reach us, putrid Stalwarts,” The lead Gloom yelled. “Give them the Flesh To Mists!”
Jack knew what that meant and clenched his muscles in preparation for the incoming pain. All three on his side hammered him with their Bestow. Phillip looked like he fought of the effects of one attack, but something both Dionysus and Yig followers had in common was their mystically enhanced protection from damage. They could still be killed by most attacks, but it took a lot of damage before they started to feel it.
The Bestows crashed into him. First his jacket, then his clothes, and then his flesh began to drift away before his eyes. Both leather and skin became a fine mist and left holes in his clothes and body. The effects proved painful enough that Jack cried out, but this didn’t stop him from leaping into the Glooms.
The hatchet in his left hand blocked a swung sickle from that direction, but his right weapon arced down and split the skull of the center Gloom. He tumbled back with a wet grunt, but also took Jack’s axe with him. The third Gloom charged him with a roar, but a kick to the man’s stomach send it smashing back into Phillip’s pickup.
The one to his left swung his rusty, hard iron, sickle again, and once again the Stalwart was able to block it with his remaining axe. With a growl, Jack balled his right hand into a fist and smashed the Gloom in the center of the face. An exploding nose left the man’s cheek’s as red as its glowing eyes.
This stunned the Gloom enough that Jack was able to grab the Xemmoni and toss him into his ally right as he ran toward Jack’s back. They both went down in a tumble of ratty robes and pale, fish belly, skin. Jack fell on them like an uncaged savage. His axe flew in blood drenched arcs. He didn’t look at what he hit, but just focused on hacking as hard and fast as possible.
Soon the Glooms under him wailed in agony. One hit him with another Flesh to Mist spell and he drew back with a curse. The Gloom regained his feet, his red eyes glared hatred. It looked like his fellow Gloom wouldn’t be joining him in the attack or anything else… ever.
“Filth ridden, Stalwart. Too stupid to run while you could. Too stupid to know what’s happening here and what it will mean for all of you. Once we control Boston we’ll finally be able to-”
Decapitation ended his oratory and Phillip blood smeared smile was visible once the Gloom collapsed
“You know he was telling me why they wanted Boston, just then.”
Phillip rubbed the back of his neck. “opps, sorry.”
Jack sighed. “Why would they give us until sunset to leave and then attack us at three in the afternoon?”
“I’m not sure. Xemmoni aren’t well known for keeping their word.”
“I think it’s something more than that. Too stupid to know what it will mean for all of you, he said. Who’s all of you?”
“Stalwarts I guess,” Phillip said.
“I’m not so sure. And once we control Boston we’ll be able to… sounds like they have a goal that goes far beyond just having the ownership of America’s oldest city.”
“Well,” Phillip started, “whatever is happening it doesn’t change the facts that all the Xemmoni will be hunting us and now they aren’t even waiting until sunset before they start. None of the other Stalwarts have agreed to help us. We’re in serious life ending trouble.”
Jack tore off the ruined arms of his leather jacket and tossed them into the back of the pick up. “No matter what, we need any help we can get, so who’s next on our list?”
“Blaze wanted to meet at a coffee shop not too far away from here. Coffee shop,” he tiffed. “Some people.”
To be continued next Monday
October 28, 2013
“No free shows, Brownhurst,” Lanna said while observing their reflections through her makeup mirror. “You need to pay a door fee like everyone else.”
Phillip held up his hands, as if in surrender, “What there isn’t a Stalwart discount?”
Turning, she graced them with a view of her trim, and just this side of perfect, body. Her waves of golden hair covered more of her than the tiny pink lace bra and thong she wore. “Discount,” she tiffed, which caused her tight breasts to bounce ever so slightly, “I should charge you double after all the trouble you and your kind get me into.”
Phillip moved in closer. “It’s not our kind you need to worry about now, gorgeous. The Xemmoni are gearing up to-”
“Who’s your friend?”
“Oh, this is Jack. A rogue man of Yig.”
She graced them with a smile that could have melted a foot of ice. “I tend to like rogues. Him, I might be willing to give a Stalwart discount to.”
Jack felt the heat rising on his cheeks, but walked forward and tried to keep his eyes on her face while he said, “We’re in a very serious situation, miss. You might want to stop and listen. You may not make it through the night if you don’t.”
“How exciting,” she said, still smiling. “You Yig types are always so full of action and adventure.” She stood up and moved her slim body close enough to his that she was able to reach out a run a hand down his arm. “Am I going to need a big hero to protect me?”
His arm tingled at her touch, like she was made of electricity. “Ah… quite possibly.”
“Well why don’t you stay and see my show. If you like it, you can fill me in on all the spooky dangers we all face later on when-”
“That’s just it, Lanna,” Phillip blurted out, “There might not be a later. The Dark Alliance seeks to claim Boston for its own and have demanded that all Stalwarts leave by sunset or be exterminated.”
Lanna almost looked serious for a moment. “I’ve dealt with Xemmoni trying to screw with me before.”
“This is different,” Jack said. “They want to claim this town and I’m sure it isn’t for a good thing. Some evidence we have received points to Boston being special to Vile Darken.”
“What that old boggy man. I doubt he even exists.”
“He does exist. I fought him. Currently he’s the only Xemmoni I have fought that is still alive.”
She eyed Jack again. “You fought him, huh? What are the others saying?”
“There aren’t many of us left,” Phillip said. “Felix seems to think that his healing will keep his safe, while you obvious tend to please in your own fashion. But this time, I’m not sure it’ll be enough.”
Throwing out a hip, she said, “What are you proposing that I pack up a suitcase and move into a van with you two. That might be fun for a day or two, but I get bored quick. Besides I have family to take care of here. People that need me.”
“We could fight back,” Jack said. “That’s what we should do. But we’ve fought a few of them and they’re powerful. We’d need everyone.”
“Honey, I’m not a charge em, kinda of girl. I like to fight behind the scenes or if needed, shot fish in a barrel. I’d rather not go toe to toe with a bunch of ugly creeps that would rather eat me than kiss me and I don’t mean in the good way.”
“I think you should come with us. No matter what happens we’ll be able to protect you,” Jack said.
She placed a gentle hand on his face. “Oh sweetie, you are still a young one aren’t you? I’m not trying to be mean, but I’d imagine I’d be in thirty times the danger tooling around with you two. But tell you what, do what you need to do and if you’re still breathing find me here after midnight. We’ll compare stories and if I’ve been forced to fight off any Xemmoni I might change my tune and if I’ve just had a normal night, I’ll buy you a drink.”
Jack sighed as they exited the strip club. “We aren’t doing to well, are we?”
“I guess not. As I told you the first day we met, Boston has been hard on its Stalwarts lately. The few that remain all think that keeping a low profile will save them where their brothers and sisters perished for fighting back against the night.”
“So where to next?” Jack said without much enthusiasm
“Blaze wanted us to meet him at a coffee shop not to far away from here.”
“Oh you won’t be meeting anyone ever again, little Stalwarts,” a dry voice hissed from over their shoulders. Turning, they saw six Glooms stood between them and the pickup. Their glowing eyes cut through the gathering fog with would soon conceal the whole scene from the street. “At them and no mercy. Ghost wants them all dead!”
“So much for giving us till sunset,” Phillip said as he drew his cutlass.
To be continued next Monday
October 21, 2013
After their run in with the armored Hyades Xemmoni and the powerful Darcarre, The Baron, Jack and Phillip knew they might be fighting for their lives at any minute and despite their lingering wounds, they needed to act. Also of chief priority was the ultimatum The Baron had given them. All Stalwarts were required to leave Boston by sundown or be exterminated.
As they drove to their first stop, in the old pickup, Phillip was the first to break the somber mood. “I figured we’d drop by Felix because he will be the easiest to find and it never hurts to have a healer on board.”
The silence dragged until Jack said, “I’m still not sure what the game plan is and shouldn’t we figure it out before we see this guy?”
“What do you mean?”
Jack sighed. “Are we going to tell them we should all be fleeing, pile everyone into the back of a big van, and split town and then just leave Boston for whatever foul purposes these servants of Vile have planned? Remember with this Dark Alliance growing, it could be something bad. These guys aren’t just draining bums anymore; they’re trying to overrun the whole Multi-verse.”
“So you’re saying you want to stay and stop them, I take it.” Then lower he added, “You’re more like a Yiggite that you might realize, buddy.”
“If that means I don’t want to let them use Boston as some sort of hub for an evil enterprise then I’ll take that as a complement.”
A minute later they were pulling up in front of Felix’s office. A giant eye stared at them from a dust covered windowpane. “He’s an optometrist?” Jack asked.
“Yeah, I guess. Everyone’s good at something.”
It took some time to get a message through the receptionist and Jack felt oddly normal sitting in the waiting room for ten minutes until the current client was finished with her appointment. Phillip leafed through magazines like they weren’t going to be hunted in a few hours and it annoyed Jack when he brought up the most recent celebrity pregnancies.
When at last Felix would see them, he looked more like a computer geek than a warrior. Thin wire frame glasses sat on a thinner face, perched over an even thinner body. Jack must have had a least a foot in height on the man and Felix didn’t even bother shaking their hands before he indicated two low chairs for them to sit upon.
After sitting himself, Felix said, “So what is it, Brownhurst? You coming here isn’t exactly helping my low profile.” The doctor sat quietly while Phillip filled him in on the threats that had been made against them. When the man of Dionysus had finished, the doctor leaned back in his chair and said, “This is all very interesting, but I’m sure it doesn’t affect me in my position. Although it pains me to do so, I have kept the Xemmoni at bay by healing them at times and this has kept me off their hit list. I see no reason to change things now.”
Jack spoke up. “You can’t be serious. They say they’re going to hunt us all down and you don’t care. Even if what you say is true and they spare you, what about the rest of us?”
“If you are worried for your safely you still have time to leave. I see no reason to either uproot myself or engage in some violent conflict where I imagine we’d find ourselves outnumbered ten to one at best. Unlike the followers of the war god Yig, we of Hermes are healers, we embrace neutrality and I see no reason to change my whole life because you two stirred up a hornet’s nest, now if you well excuse me, I have patients to see. Good day.”
Jack tried to argue, but Phillip placed a hand on his shoulder and whispered, “Best that we don’t alienate a healer. One way or another we might need him later and if they try to axe him, he might yet be forced to join with us.” They did manage to at least get the doctor to completely heal them before they left.
Steaming as he power-walked outside, Jack looked toward the sun as it began to dip to the west.
Phillip spoke again. “We maybe have four hours left, be had better get moving. Lanna will be just starting her shift, we should probably check in on her next.”
“Where does she work?”
“Lanna is a stripper.”
“Oh believe me, she is.”
Jack just groaned as he followed Phillip to the truck. Neither of them spotted the glowing red eyes that followed their movements. If they had, they would have seen the hooded figure withdraw a cell phone and speak a few quick phrases before getting into a primer colored van and following the pickup out into the busy streets of Boston.
To be continued next Monday
October 14, 2013
When Jack could finally recover enough to use a table to help him regain his feet, he looked over at Phillip.
The man in brown said, “That sucked. A friend of yours?”
“Never seen him before. We probably just should have tried to kill him.”
“Which is so much harder to do when your body in rolled up in a ball writhing in pain,” Phillip said while patting the dust off his battered hat.
Both Jack and Phillip used parts of their Ki to heal themselves, but since Jack had already used much of his soul’s strength in his earlier battle with the armored Hyades this left him both physically and mentally exhausted. “So what are we going to do anyway? He said he left us alive so we could warn the other Boston Stalwarts that we need to leave the city by sunset. Are we going to do that?”
“There really aren’t many of us here. Dionysus followers are usually low on the Xemmoni hit list because we run bars and make good connections to help fed the more hedonistic aspect of the dark ones lives. And like I told you, a group of Darcarre made it their mission to clean Boston out of all its Stalwarts a good nine months back.”
“Was this guy, The Baron, one of them?”
“No, I think I would have remembered that guy. Perhaps he might have been behind the attack though. I heard rumors about a powerful Darcarre working with a Gloom and a Caradon up north. Perhaps they were preparing to make Boston their own. This could make sense, for I think Boston has some association to Vile Darken and his plans.”
But then seeing the look on Jack’s face, he held up his hands. “Don’t ask me how I know. I just know that out of all the cities in America, some high rolling Xemmoni decided that Boston should be the first town that hunted down and eliminated all the Stalwarts. The only reason we’re still around is that like most things which happen in the Xemmoni world, they have a short attention span. They figured they killed us all and in this case I believe they moved on to killing those of their kind that weren’t involved with the Dark Alliance.”
“Okay, Mr. longwinded, you’re mostly saying we’re in way over our heads, there aren’t many Stalwarts we can warn, or for that matter get help from.”
“Yeah, like I said, sometimes for various reasons, they let some Stalwarts remain mostly unmolested.”
“So tally off the list for me,” Jack said and then groaned when he forced his body over to the cooler. Removing a cold Samuel Adams Ale, he said, “I think I’ll join you in that beer-thirty now.”
“Well…” Phillip started slowly. “There’s that Tez guy, Bruin that’s so damn evil the Xemmoni probably figured he was one of their own. There’s Lanna, who they probably spared just because she’s so smoking hot. Felix has been allowed to live, because he’ll heal anyone for the right price, but since the Darcarre can also heal themselves, he might be in the danger zone now. I heard that Mitch was recently axed as was the town’s last witch. After old Galla died, they rest of the Hecate witches fled to Salem.” Phillip paused again, “Which just leaves Blaze, who might be hard to get a hold of, outside of the internet, and ah…Cleo.”
“She’s my, er, she’s another Dionysus, and um…. I guess we dated for a while and-”
“Okay, I get it. But out of the whole city of Boston that’s it for Stalwarts?”
“Like I said, the Darcarre hunted most of us down. Killed everyone in the team I was part of except me and Cleo and after going through all that Hell, we, you know.”
Jack eyed his friend. “Why don’t you start making calls and try to email that Blaze guy. I’m going to start getting weapons ready.”
* * *
Rabid pinched a boil that had formed on the back of his hand until it burst, sending blue tinged puss several feet in all directions. Ghost stood near the table and flinched when the jet of thick liquid splashed his tattered grey clock.
The Gloom’s burning red eyes glared his way for a moment. “Watch yourself.”
“Screw you, Ghost,” Rabid said. “Your clothes would be ignored by a naked homeless man in the throes of freezing to death.”
Ghost drew a rusty sickle from within is bellowing robes. “I don’t have to take such from the likes of you.”
Rapid leapt to his feet so quickly that his chair flew out from under him and shattered against the grimy basement wall. Stretching to his full seven feet, he glared down as the rag covered man. “Care to test that theory?”
Things might have gone south, if the lights in the room hadn’t dimmed.
Ghost looked up at the bare bulb, them Rabid. “The Baron nears.”
They both watched, as with a sweep of his Victorian cape, the Darcarre entered the underground chamber. “They have been warned.” He said simply. “The Stalwarts will either flee or be killed by tonight.”
“I don’t see why a warning is needed,” Ghost said, his flaccid lips flopping. “Stalwart Ki is sweet. I say we have a little dinner before we finish the matter at hand.”
The Darcarre looked down as his manicured nails for a moment, perhaps taking pride that he was as handsome as the other two were hideous. “Our plan is too important to have any slip up. If any of the Stalwarts are too foolish to flee, you will have your chance. For now we need to focus on having Leadhead eliminate the real competition posed by the other Xemmoni races. Once we have the city in our hands the true conquest for our Overlord can begin.”
Rabid spoke again. “So are we sure none of the remaining Stalwarts are those on Vile’s list.”
The Baron waved his hand as if swatting at a fly. “Yes, yes, my minions all but cleaned out the city several months back. We killed the Devons family and several others on his list.”
“But not all of them.” Rabid said, while shaking some lingering puss off the tips of his fingers. He made sure it flew in Ghost’s direction. “Who were the Stalwarts you gave the warning to? What were their names?”
“As you know, rare are the people that can hide their thoughts from the Darcarre. The two men I all but killed today were named Jack Primus and Phillip Brownhurst.”
The Baron had barely gotten the last word out of his mouth before Rapid rushed forward, unsetting the table as he moved, and grabbed the Darcarre by the throat with one of his meaty hands. The Darcarre clawed at his hands and wrist, tearing open blisters and removing flesh as Rabid lifted him off the ground.
“You fool!” the Caradon roared into his face. “Are you so concerned with your minions and experiments that you remember nothing? Primus and Brownhurst are at the top of Vile’s shitlist! If he finds out we let them escape, we’ll be killed in their place.”
He threw the Darcarre into the corner. “Time to gear up, whelplings. We’re going hunting!”
To be continued next Monday
October 7, 2013
This serial began last Monday
Figuring that he probably wouldn’t be getting into another fight before noon, Jack used his most recently acquired spell and healed himself. Looking down, he took off his new leather in disgust. He had bought it for himself with the money he had taken from the Ripperkah in Pennsylvania. He still had plenty, but when one is unemployed you needed to make you cash flow last.
“Guess I won’t be picking up any chicks wearing this.” He said while tossing the slashed jacket onto the chestnut colored bar. A minute later, he was using the land line to call Phillip. He saw the silhouettes of police officer poking around in the alley behind the bar. He watched them move as he filled his friend in on the Xemmoni attack.
Nine minutes later Phillip walked through the front door of the pub he owned. “You look like hell,” the man said while motioning toward the huge blood stain surrounding the rent in Jack’s shirt.
“Look who’s talking,” Jack said, while pointing at Phillip’s wrinkled ensemble of loose fitting brownness. “It looks like you didn’t even take off your trench coat before you went to bed.”
Phillip laughed. “Well, how do you think I was able to get over here so quickly?”
Then they grew serious as Jack filled him in on the attack he received from the armored Xemmoni. Once he was done, Phillip said, “Yeah, sounds like a Hyades alright. But I never heard of the silent stalkers using armor. They are hard enough to kill normally.”
They both leaned back in the bar chairs and Jack winced when Phillip opened an ale. “Starting a little early I see…”
But Phillip held up his hand in a silencing motion. Someone stood outside of the bar’s front door. A second later a hard rapping sounded, like the door had been struck with a solid object.
Jack slipping back into his bloody leather while reaching behind the bar for the big wood cutters axe he hid there.
Phillip was strapping his Sword of Mecca back to his waist when both Stalwarts froze.
A darkness seemed to be eating the sun itself. It poured under the front door like a spreading puddle of filthy ink. Black webbing covered the windows thrusting the insides of the bar into darkness. Thorns of grasping ebony grew over the interior walls. Like grasping hands, they covered the ceiling.
Phillip drew his cutlass and motioned for Jack to open the front door, but as the neared the street side of the bar the front door flew open with a loud bang.
A man defined by pure darkness stood in the doorway and despite themselves, each of the Stalwarts retreated a pace when he stepped into the room. Stark black eyes burned at them and waves of malign evil poured off the man like steam. A stygian overcoat matched a large angled hat and both appeared to arc away from the figure in odd jagged angles. A mahogany cane stayed clutched in one pale hand.
“Darcarre,” Jack whispered.
“Certainly,” the figured whispered. “And I am aware of what you attempted to do not long ago. One of you fools tried to hurt my pet.” He waved a gloved finger at them while his red lined lips cracked into a grin under his pallid face. “Not that you could, but we don’t need to attain publicity just this yet. We have more important things to attend to. This is why I, The Baron, am offering you a single chance to leave Boston before nightfall. If you flee this city at once, you will be allowed to continue your misguided existence,” his smile grew wider, “for at least a bit longer.”
Jack had never faced such a creature, let alone had a conversation with one. Cold fingers of dread scratched at his scalp. He could feel the power flowing from this Xemmoni and it caused him to have to focus to keep from shaking from the onslaught.
Phillip found his voice first. “Why spare us at all?”
Waving a dismissive hand, The Baron continued. “Stalwarts are like rats, or perhaps roaches. You kill one and their father’s sister’s boyfriend’s dog will be chewing on you leg the next time you are entertaining. I have serious issues to attend you and for the price of your lives, I expect you to call every ‘would be’ hero you know and tell them to flee from this city as well. I have no time to deal with such minor issues.”
“Some of the Xemmoni we met in the past didn’t consider us minor issues,” Jack Spit out.
“Oh please,” The Baron said, and then with a motion from both hands he sent two of the hugest Black Veins Bestows he had ever seen straight into the chest of each man. With a gasp they were both thrown backwards over chairs as growing black curse that spread over them like veins of evil. Agony owned them as their flesh turned black and burst. Jack tried not to scream, but realized he already had.
The Baron turned and his overcoat whipped around him like a vampire’s cape. “Remember this will be your only warning. You and any other Stalwart seen in Boston will be exterminated after sundown.” He gaze the one final icy look of hatred, “in the most unpleasant of ways.” As he exited the bar, the door slammed shut on its own accord and the returning sunlight did nothing to lesson the torment as the Stalwarts were left curled in moaning balls of pain.
To be continued next Monday
September 30, 2013
Authors Note: The following story takes place between The Chronicles of Jack Primus book I and book II. Jack is still living in Boston, spending most of his time studying the ways of the Stalwart with the ‘Man in Brown,’ Phillip Brownhurst.
Even though almost three months had passed since Jack moved into the storage room in the back of Phillip Brownhurst’s tavern, it was still hard for him to get used to having a bar be his home. Phillip had his own place not too far away and although the Dionysus follower spent much of his time with Jack, on most mornings Primus found himself wandering through the chairs and tables alone.
He bellied up to the bar and focused on downing a half-dozen cold chicken wings and getting some caffeine into his system. He had just opened his second can of soda when he heard a cry coming from the alley behind the bar.
Slowing only long enough to grab a baseball bat, he was half way into the alley when he remembered that perhaps he should have called Phillip first. Too late now, he thought as his boots took him into the early morning mists.
Gray still owned the morning and made him wonder if the Glooms could somehow be involved with whatever occurred behind the tavern. Phillip had warned him that Stalwarts often see Xemmoni everywhere when there was plenty of mundane evil to go around without any help from supernatural masters.
The strange thing was he couldn’t see anything. Then he looked down and spotted small circles of darkness on the cracked pavement. It didn’t take him long to recognize it as blood. It looked like a trail, but did it head left or right. He might only have seconds…
He enacted his Detect Darken spell. His Ki sent it moving through the clinging mists. He wouldn’t help him detect a decent person or maybe even an evil uncorrupted man, but if a Xemmoni was involved it would alert him at once.
At first he thought that he had stumbled into a more normal conflict, but then his spell reached something moving to his right. Like a thorn on malign energy, a sick purple aura stabbed through his awareness. Violet, the color of decaying flesh, disturbed and distorted the very reality it passed through.
“A Hyades,” he whispered. “The silent stalkers.”
Whatever it was, it appeared big and powerful. Crap, Jack thought. Maybe I should have called Phillip first or grabbed a better weapon. But then the scream sounded again, maybe a hundred feet away and certainly female. Screw that, he chided himself. I never had help before and I’ve been through worse with less.
A second later he was running west. A second after that a strange banging could be heard echoing through the lonely alley.
Whatever chased the woman was between Jack and the screams. Something tall, wide, and loud loomed up out of the fog. Jack slowed his sprint. The figure had to be almost seven feet tall, but even from the distance, it looked odd. Everything about it seemed square. Like a child had created a giant out of building blocks. Legs and chest were rectangle in shape as was its head.
As Jack drew closer, he saw the cause. Whatever this thing might be, it appeared to have made a suit of armor for itself. But this was nothing like medieval armor that matched a person’s form. This armor appeared bulky, like some guy used a blow torch in his basement and welded thick sheet of metal into squares, which covered most of his frame.
Just past the Xemmoni, Jack could make out a woman dragging herself along the pavement. One of her legs appeared useless and she released a third scream as the steel giant moved in for the kill.
“Hey, Tin Woodsman,” Jack called out. “Care to see what it’s like taking on someone who isn’t helpless or are you too chickenshit for that? Maybe you should just stay at home and pull the wings off of flies you poor man’s Iron…”
But Jack’s bravado faded with his voice as the thing turned toward him. Glowing violet eyes cut through the fog and for a moment, Jack wondered if maybe the creature could be a machine of some kind, but then the booming metal feet started to come toward him. The armor squeaked and rattled, but looked thick and sturdy. Along each of the Xemmoni’s steel legs, as well as its forearms, large knives nearly the size of machetes appeared to be built into the armor itself. The space on its left arm was empty for a two foot, back hued blade already rested in its right hand.
Jack didn’t wait to be attacked. He yelled for the woman to flee and then went in low and tried to smash the mountain of metal on the knee. He might as well swung at a lamppost. His fingers throbbed from the impact, but it didn’t slow the man down for a second. It swung its blade in a wide arc and Jack was just able to move back in time to keep from sprouting a second mouth.
Jack swung again, but the Xemmoni just held up its armored left arm. And there was another bone rattling blow to his hands. This time, with surprising speed, he hacked down at Jack. The Stalwart cried out when the blade cut him from his right collar bone to the bottom of his ribcage. If he had been a couple of inches closer his bowls would have spilled over the pavement.
As it was, Jack almost lost his footing as he back pedaled away from the Hyades and healed himself. The wound was bad and he felt a sliver of fear when he realized he’d already burned through half his KI.
But the creature proved relentless and rushed at him swinging again. This time Jack blocked it with his bat, but at the price of losing a foot off the tip of his weapon. He lunched what was left at the Xemmoni’s face. It hit the stark helmet there, but the unexpected blow caused the man of metal to take a step back. During this pause, Jack rushed away. But he remained weaponless and hadn’t even hurt the thing yet.
Sirens cut through the cold morning air. The Xemmoni stared at Jack. Their eyes met and Jack felt his blood run cold against his spine. Yet, instead of attacking him, the killer drew an object off its back. It proved to be a crowbar and with no great hurry it moved to the nearest manhole, pulled the top off, and then climbed in. The top was replaced and Jack was alone in the alley.
Alone in the alley… with cops coming. Some luck remained with him for he was still only a few hundred feet shy of the tavern and he was just able to make it through the back door when three squad cars tore into the alley.
“Son of a bitch,” he panted. “Phillip isn’t going to believe this one.”
To be continued next Monday
September 9, 2013
Jack’s body still contorted in agony as the Carnie’s spell completed its horrid transformation. He could no longer speak and could barely do more than writhe in pain as his limbs fused together.
The carnie lowered himself and whispered into Jack’s ear. “I left you your hearing, but little else, ignorant Stalwart. Since I am now your master, you should know my name is Mr. Horrendous. But you can just call me God.”
But Jack’s mind moved elsewhere. Driving through the pain, he focused the remainder of his Ki on a transformation of his own. Calling on Yig’s own gift of shape shifting, Jack struggled to become a King Cobra. He couldn’t be sure if his spell would override Mr. Horrendous’ but he had to attempt it. Giving it every fragment of his will, he pushed aside the foul binding of the Xemmoni Bestow and let the green light of the All-Father snake enter his bones and blood.
The evil spell fought back, clinging to him as the carnie’s putrid words continued to mock him. But Jack didn’t listen. He fought, but not in the way he had become accustomed to. This was a psychic battle of will and although his will was strong, for him Magick was little more than a tool for keeping him alive long enough for his hands to do the work.
He battled on anyway, every fiber of his being screaming to be free, crying out for the right to remain himself and not be befouled by evil.
He wanted to scream, but had no mouth.
But then he felt his body struggling to change. It started slowly at first, but his body knitted together in the manner he had felt a dozen times. Instead of a horrid monstrosity he had become, he stretched into a streamlined creature of the Earth. A very angry one.
Mr. Horrendous was still insulting him when Jack turned and bit down on the man’s calf with his three inch fangs. Mr. Horrendous cried out and backed away, but Jack drew himself up to his full serpentine height and struck at the carnie again, this time striking him in the face. The carnie screamed in terror and continued to back away right into the remaining freaks that had just begun to pour into the room.
Sensing weakness, they fell upon their former master. Years of horror and abuse flowed through them and they began to tear Mr. Horrendous apart. Due to the strength of his Xemmoni nature, it took a very long time. Jack could still hear the man’s screams long after the long slide had returned him to the ground.
No one opposed him when the lit the ride on fire. Since all the other carnies had fled from his wraith, their rides went up too. The sun was just beginning to stain the eastern horizon a violent purple when he finished burning the last of the carnival.
It proved a simple matter to siphon off a bit of gasoline from one of the carnie’s few remaining vehicles and without a look over his shoulder Jack headed west into an approaching storm.
A New Adventure Starts next Monday.
September 2, 2013
Jack could still hear the undulating horde of distorted circus freaks following him as he forced his battered body to press on. “As long as I get to kill that damn carnie, I could die happy,” he grumbled under his breath as drops of his blood rained onto the floor with each passing step.
“Oh, is that true?” A voice echoed through the darkness. “So you won’t mind if I hunt down and torture your mother for weeks because of the pain you caused me or if our master Vile Darken devours your whole planet, not that you could have done anything to stop him even if I healed you completely and sent you off with a bag full of sandwiches.”
Jack clutched his dagger tighter. “The only thing I want from you is your head.”
“Well then come and get it,” the top hat of the carnie bobbed on the other side of a long room, just under a dim source of light.
Jack hurried forward and grunted when his face collided with a transparent pane of glass. Beyond this, a myriad of mirrors elongated and twisted his reflection into bizarre parodies.
“A hall of mirrors, I should have expected another cliché, you foul puke pile.” He growled. “I don’t have time for this.”
Then he noticed that the mirror’s frames where made of wood. He smiled inwardly and touched the top of the glass he had just collided with. From behind, the noises of the pursuing freaks grew louder.
Focusing some of the last few drops of his precious KI, Jack called on his patron Yig, the allfather snake and the lord of nature. The power of the forest pulsed through him and like a striking serpent, lashed out through the maze of wooden frames.
The brown frames swelled and grew. The sounds of mirrors cracking began slowly at first, but then drowned out all other noise as the glass exploded in loud bursts. A rain of jagged shards pelted the floor. Jack cracked a grin as the last of the glass fell and his path became clear.
He hurried over the mess and his boots crunched through the piles of glass as he rushed toward where he had last seen the evil carnie.
He had just passed through the destroyed maze of mirrors when he came upon a large red slide that descended down into the darkness. He wondered if this once might have been a normal ride, before the Xemmoni moved in and this was the method when the patrons had returned to the ground. But such thought didn’t linger long when he saw the Carnie appear out of the shadows and gaze at him with eyes full of malice.
“I hope you are proud of the destruction you have brought down upon my humble existence. You have cast me greatly, Stalwart, but in the end, I will cost you more.”
“We’ll see,” Jack said through clenched teeth as he continued to march toward the Xemmoni.
“Oh yes, we shall,” the man hissed as he brought his hands up and mumbled an incantation.
Jack braced himself, but there was no way he could have anticipated the horror that crashed into him. At once his body twisted and broke, pulled and stretched. He screamed in agonizing pain as he flesh bubbled and burst. Bones bowed and Jack plummeted to the floor unable to move as fits of burning pain tore through him.
“Since you have killed some many of my freaks, it seems only fitting that you help me replace them. Some fine tuning may be needed, but I think I might have found myself a new creation. Half man-half snake. Perhaps I can call you the Serpent man… yes that has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?”
As growing scales sealed his mouth closed, Jack became unable to scream.
To be continued next Monday
August 12, 2013
As Jack fell, he caught a glimpse of the top-hated carnie that kicked him back into the shambling horde of side show freaks. Strangely their bloated and mangled bodies protected him from greater damage. The one beneath him perished in a fit of snapping bones and jagged screams. Three others were knocked aside.
This gave him just enough time to get to his feet and yell, “You want me so bad, come on!”
Then his axe cut huge paths through the disfigured mass of freaks. Under normal circumstances, Jack would have felt pity for such tortured creatures, but regardless of their past state, the Xemmoni had corrupted their souls. It might not have been fair, but Jack knew that pain filled hearts became Darkened easier than most and the evil eyes that glared at him from forty skulls confirmed this.
Jack stepped into his wild swings and then drew back and braced himself. He tried to keep moving and the foe wouldn’t grow too thick, but within seconds he was forced back into the dead end. Bodies had already piled at his feet, but the horrid enemy came in waves. Elongated arms lost their hands and fat heads coved in odd growths were split in half. Hands, nails, claws, and ratty teeth tore at him. With most of his jacket already destroyed, he had only his hardened flesh of Yig to fall back on. So far it kept him alive, but the numbers grew overwhelming.
His eyes darted toward the opening he had carved overhead. So close, but it might has well been on the other side of this Yig-forsaken town. There was no way he could fight his way free of this press and make it up there without the freaks pulling him back down.
He braced a heel against the wall of the dead end, took a deep breath, and then roared. It was the roar of the savage fighting to keep from being devoured, the Viking storming the shores on an unknown land, the cave dweller defending his mate.
The freaks withdrew for a moment, but then the carnie’s voice shouted down. “At him, rend the flesh from his bones or his fate will be yours!”
Then they came.
Like a tidal wave of flesh, they descended at him. Midgets mixed with giants. Some had too few limbs, while others had twice the amount they should.
Jack unleashed with a primitive fury. His eyes glowed with the green of Yig while his axe ripped through them in bloody arcs. They fell by the half dozen, but still pressing in. Soon their blood painted his body. Drops of crimson flew from the ends of his hair and rolled down his arms in strings, which mixed with his own more often than not.
Still they came. A nightmare of mutated flesh. Mouths snapped where hands should be. Bodies seemed to flow and join together until he couldn’t be sure where one enemy started and another ended. All the while they hammered and gibbered, clutched and bit.
The sea of flesh parted to let a thundering form charge him. Big enough to be five men, the circus fat-man lurched toward him. Its blubber bounced in stench-ridden waves the size of his thigh. The foul head resting above the swollen form seemed overly small and insane laughter erupted from a mouth full of splintered teeth. Hands the size of baked turkeys slapped together, like they already anticipated tearing him apart. To be caught in those hands would mean his death.
Some times in life you have to do something stupid to stay alive.
Jack threw the axe at the thing’s head.
The move was so unexpected the fat-man had no chance to block the steel headed missile and the mighty axe split its skull. The pale mountain of obesity toppled backwards with a drawn out moan and killed four of his former allies when he crushed them flat.
Another oversized freak had been following the fat-man. This was a hairy giant that could have been mistaken for a Bigfoot. No clothes concealed the layers and layers of course matted hair that sprung from the towering figure’s form. Its gait and profile both had an apish feel, as thought this creature was a throwback to an earlier predecessor of man. This eight foot tall giant tore the axe out of his fallen friend with a roar and turned to face Jack.
But Jack was already moving.
Between the minions of freaks moving aside for the fat-man and then being either crushed or cut off from him but its colossal bunk, Jack had a few feet of clearance around him. Drawing his hand axe, he raced up onto the chest of the boated corpse and jumped onto the top of the maze’s wall he had so recently perched from. Losing his balance, he began to topple back toward the giant axe welder and his remaining freakish followers, but the hook of his hand axe lashed out and caught on the lip of the hole he had cut into the ceiling.
“Oh I don’t think so,” the carnie said and Jack heard boots thumping toward him. At the same time, he spotted something he hadn’t slowed down long enough to notice before.
From where he stayed perched, he could see the exit to the maze.
Behind him the hairy giant prepared a blow that would cut him in two, while above him the booted foot lined up to kick his hand axe away.
With a yell, Jack reversed the grip on his hand axe and sent it cutting into the carnie’s shin. This caused the bastard to scream as Jack flung himself over the wall—seconds before the Bigfoot’s axe cut through the air where he had been.
He hit the floor on the other side of the wall and sprinted toward the maze’s exit. The hairy freak and its foul fellows gave chase, but he found the exit and hurried through. After frantically searching for a door he could shut, but finding none, he raced forward. Jack quickly traveled past what he guessed was the empty freak show. Once through the cages and filthy display cases, he found a staircase in the back going up.
The undulating horde of flesh followed from behind while the carnie and other tribulations waited for him ahead.
Jack wiped the lingering blood from his eyes and pressed on.
To be continued next Monday