December 31, 2012
This Serial Began on 9/13/12
Dark and weeping tendrils dripped down along the fire escape stairwell. Jack paused for a moment, assuming they would soon be reaching out for him like the tentacles of some lovecraftain beast. When they failed to assault him, Jack leaned in for an examination. They appeared closer to corrupted veins than anything else. Grey fluid pumped through these sick arteries. The foul, viscous substance headed downward into the impenetrable darkness below.
“Looks like I have another reason to go up,” he mumbled to himself. He still expected an attack, but not came. Moanings and dark horrid shadows continued to confront him. At times, he was tempted to close his eyes as apparition after apparition haunted him. Dark ghosts melted into visions of dying men and women. Children leapt at him screaming. He would flinch, but instinct took over and every time he lashed out the vision retreated, before decaying into an image of festering death and rot.
“I almost can’t blame these guys for trying,” Jack said through clenched teeth, as he swung his morning star through a blood covered specter that blocked the staircase with its crucified body. “Any normal person would have run out of here long ago. I guess I’m not that smart.”
Looking over, he could still make out a large number four painted on the door to his right. “Half way there.”
And that was when he heard a banging coming from the basement below. Something rattled loudly and dozens of metal objects were spilled over a stairway. These noises sounded different that the ghostly moans that had plagued him. He clenched his weapon tighter when he realized the apparitions had faded. Only the muted pulsing of the sickly fluids could be heard.
Then there was a flap.
Jack started moving.
More flapping, like slabs of wet meat were being flung at the stairs. They were drawing closer—coming up the stairs after him. Seconds later, they began to move at impossible speeds.
Jack paused at floor five to look down and all he could see was a streaking grey blur.
He started to run.
He had made it past the sixth floor when something blocked the corridor ahead of him. It looked like a giant, bloated sack of flesh. Easily a dozen feet in diameter, it blocked his passage only yards short of his goal.
Turning, he freed his sledge hammered from where it was slung on his back. Setting his morning-star against the wall, he clutched his hammer with both hands and braced himself. He didn’t wait long.
The frenzied flapping drew near and then slowed. Pale arms reached over the lip of the staircase. They wobbled and blurred like reality itself became distorted by their presence.
He waited and then had to bite his lip to keep from crying out when an elongated neck topped by a half rotted head came into view. More skull than man, this obviously dead thing, leered at him as it moved onto the landing. It opened it mouth and let loose an eerie moaning that sounded worse than a graveyard full of sinners tumbling into Hell.
Jack’s answer was to heave his sledgehammer into the thing’s face.
It might not have expected such a sudden attack for it failed to block to blow and the lower part of its face shattered in an explosion of brittle teeth. With a manic cry, it charged him. Fingers extended, like claws, as it rushed forward.
Jack went to grab his morning star, but the fat sack of flesh burst and a wave of puss hit him like the waters from a released dam. Both he and his weapons were pushed toward the stair. The fiend levitated over the spray and clawed at his face as the liquid filth pushed him under the Xemmoni. Jack blocked one attack, but the other ran long gauges across his right cheek.
He cried out, but quickly had worse problems at the wave sent him down the flight of stairs. His body thrashed and fought back as laughter echoed down from above. The laughter was short lived however, for as Jack whipped around another landing, he heard the undead thing utter another insane scream as it floated toward him.
“Screw this,” Jack yelled and his foot shot out into the doorjamb. The grey liquid had thinned and he was able to stop before the next flight of stairs. He struggled to right himself as the glowing thing floated closer. “One can never have too many weapons,” he growled as he pulled a hand-axe out of his jacket. His left hand drew out his dagger of Yig and then it was on.
It came at him, clawing and rending, but Jack did some rending of his own. He tried to tuck in his head and feed the floating Xemmoni his leathered shoulders. This along with his protection from Yig kept him from being racked apart instantly.
Jack plunged his dagger into the center of the things chest. “That should keep you in place for a second!” Then Jack hacked at the thing’s right arm. It took three blows, but soon the appendage fell into the glistening muck below. The thing began to fight and kick, but Jack maintained his grip. He was halfway through the thing’s other arm, when a blow from a cold foot sent his hand-axe toppling over the rail and down into the darkness.
Moments later, the skullish face tried to latch onto Jack’s skull, with the remains of its shattered teeth.
“Oh, I don’t think so!” Jack yelled, as he grabbed the thing by the neck with his free hand and then with a mighty push slammed the undead head-first into the cement wall. The skull broke into a hundred pieces that were quickly swallowed by the slime below. Jack wasted no time tossing the remains of the body over the stairwell.
He spend a minute looking for his missing weapons, but when more sounds echoed up from below, he gave up the search. Keeping his war dagger in one hand and he drew a throwing knife and approached the area that held the bloated lump of flesh.
Its emptied form hung loosely and it was a simple matter from him to cut through the thin layers of half-decayed flesh. He reached the eighth floor, his mother’s floor. “You creeps better pray to your dark gods that nothing has happened to her,” he whispered under his breath and then opened the door.
To be continued next Monday
December 17, 2012
December 10, 2012
This Serialized Story Begins 9/13/12
Jack was up with dawn’s first light. He used a large share of his mystic strength to heal up the majority of his accumulating wounds, but kept a goodly amount in reserve. Who knows what horrors I might end up facing today?
By the time Alex showed up, Jack had already carved down a huge morning star into a more manageable size. This weapon was made from a young tree that had eight foot long nails driven through it.
“Good to see you Alex. You don’t mind if I claim this for myself?”
Alex set down a bit of food and then tossed some more wood into the stove. “Take whatever you like. After what happened last night, I’m not sure this house will ever be the same.”
“I’m so sorry about what happened to your friends. I wish-”
“I’m not ready to talk about that yet.”
“I understand,” Jack said, and for a long moment nothing was heard except the crackling of the fire.
It was Alex who broke the silence. “So what’s the plan now?”
“Well, I still need to check in on my mother and see what might be happening to her, but these Templar scum also need to be taken out hard. Part of me almost wants to just see if my mother is okay, or maybe get her someplace safe so I can focus on those Temple of Pain bastards.”
“But if she’s in trouble, maybe even bigger trouble, then we could get caught up in that while Blake is being tortured or something worse.”
“I’ve thought of that. It seems like I have two colossal problems that both need to be taken care of yesterday. But hell, we don’t even know where their temple might be.”
“I called in reinforcements. Maybe we could try to find it while you check on your mom,” Alex said. “You told us you met those first two in a bar. In the winter, people tend to drink near where they live.”
Shaking his head, Jack said, “Good thinking, you might end up being a Stalwart yet.”
“Yeah, if I can live long enough,” Alex replied, without looking Jack in the eye.
Jack broke the silence this time. “I wish you hadn’t contacted your friends.”
“Screw that,” Alex said, his voice rising. “Those evil pukes killed two of my friends, not only I, but my buddies want revenge too!”
Jack saw a flash of himself in the young man and knew better than to argue. He also knew he needed the help, he just wished there could be another way.
* * *
One of Alex’s friends was late to arrive, but they still kept with the plan. Alex, along with John and Jerry would drop Jack off near his mother’s apartment and then scout the area around the bar where Jack had first fought the Templars. The teens promised to wait for his support before they did anything. With luck, Jack hoped he could figure out what might be going on with his mother before sun set, meet up with the teens, take out the Templars, and still be in time for last call.
After confirming that the teens would make no move without him, Jack stepped out of John’s ride and headed toward his mother’s apartment.
During the day, the place lacked the dark tendrils Jack had seen the night before. It appeared normal enough on the outside, maybe a bit run down, but when Jack enacted his Detect Darken spell the place almost knocked him over with the waves of glossy black evil it radiated.
“Crap, maybe the Templars would have been easier than this,” he grumbled, but then moved through the front doors.
Once inside, everything changed. Threads of pulsing black moved along the walls like diseased veins. Clouds of rolling fog obscured the floor. Vivid dark faces breathed through the walls, like demons trying to emerge into his world. Goosebumps formed on his arms and his quickened breaths released mist into the frigid air.
“Damn it, mom,” He whispered and was only answered by hollow moans that echoed down the hallway. The sounds of stones being ground together caused his head to jerk back the way he had come and before his eyes, the entrance became walled over by jagged black stone.
To be continued next Monday…
Find out how Jack’s Adventures Started… Here!
December 3, 2012
This Serial Began on 9/13/12
Like a light being switched on, Jack started coming to. One second he was completely comatose, the next, his consciousness returned in a flood. The memory of the worse pain his life had yet endured lingered like an amputated limb and he struggled to take in where he had ended up.
And as his lower back banged into what might have been a street curb his first guess was—no were yet.
Someone dragged his body over brittle packed snow and it crunched against his ear. Jack braced himself to fight, even before his vision focused through the dissipating pain. But a voice hissed down at him that he recognized as Alex. “It’s me, keep quiet. I think we might have escaped them, but they’re close.”
“Let me go. I think I’m out of the range of their Bestows.” Alex complied and Jack stood up and took his surrounding, before hurrying Alex into the back of the house he found them in front of.
One of the bedroom lights illuminated the snow their boots tore through. Jack spotted a shed and headed toward it. Once inside, Alex flicked on his lighter and Jack was pleased to spy both a wood chopping axe and a sledge hammer. Keeping the sledge, he handed the axe to Alex.
“What about your friends?” he asked.
Alex looked like he was barely holding it together, and Jack cursed himself for allowing these teens to become involved with his running nightmare.
“Eric’s dad. I’m not sure about Rich, but he might be to. The only reason I had a chance to rescue you was that I wailed on the one that got Rich and the others were busy grabbing up Blake and the bodies. I think their leader is a woman.”
“I saw that too. And if she’s the one that hit me with that Agony Bestow, then yeah, she has to be the boss. “I’ve never been hit by anything that horrible before. I fought a few Templars down in New Orleans, but they were nothing like this.”
Alex tried to maintain his voice, but lost the battle when tears rolled down his face. “Crap, what are we going to do now?”
“First off, we need to get out of here and get you somewhere safe.”
“Screw that!” Alex said way too loud. “I want to help you. I’m not letting these scum bags get away with this.”
Jack stared at him in the shadowed darkness. “We’ll address that later. Right now we need to get out of this place. They could be looking for us and I think they might have a way to detect me, because that attack was way too convenient.”
“I think you might be right. She said something about using a Sensory, what did you call it, a Bestow?”
“Yeah. Bestows are the name of the spells the different races of Xemmoni use.”
“Wow, I have a lot to learn. But should I call John or something? He can borrow his brother’s car some times.”
“No, this place is too hot. I don’t want to risk any more of you. Come on, let’s just do this the old fashioned way.”
“You mean yard hop?” Alex managed a forced smile. “We drill each other on this all the time.”
“Good to know, now let’s go. If we can get to a store or something, I can call a cab.”
They hit a bar first and Jack suffered five worried minutes where he rushed to call up a cab, while the teen was required to hide outside with their weapons.
Eighty minutes later, Jack trudged through the hard snow back to the house the teens had made in the woods. Alex promised to not do anything without Jack’s approval, but the night still haunted the Stalwart.
How could I have let those kids get hurt—killed? How could I have been so selfish? I should have just waited, but my mother… Thoughts of his mother tumbled in on him. He had seen the tendrils of darkness clutching at the sky rise apartments before the attack. The Templars had claimed it was a new species of Xemmoni and he had little reason to doubt them.
Jack arrived at the dark frigid shack feeling lower and more worried than ever. Flinging the stove door open in disgust, he berated himself while he got the fire going. “What the hell was I thinking? I should have rescued my mother at once. Now, I’m not an inch closer to dong anything to help her and who knows if she’s okay or what might be happening to her?”
“Instead I get mixed up with a pack of Templars, who I didn’t need to fight in the first place, and end up getting some kids killed and even worse captured.” He’d seen one of their Temples of Pain before and groaned at the thought of Blake and maybe Rich being brought to such a place.
As the fire came to life, a string of foul curses escaped his lips and he slammed his fist into the log wall. The log snapped in half and fell away, instantly letting in a draft. “Great,” he muttered and opened a beer. Soon he sat by the fire and nursed his ale while feeding the blaze log after log. It was a merciful moment when he finally let sleep claim him.
To be continued next Monday