January 27, 2014
After Cleo slit the Darcarre’s throat from ear to ear, the small female Gloom became much more talkative.
Jack leaned in over her, while Phillip stayed busy sharpening his knife. The gentle stoke of the blade over the oiled whetstone, punctuated the room with a gritty rhythm.
The Stalwart of Yig continued to lean in until his unshaved chin loomed only inches before her wizened face. “So you’re known as Wisp?”
“Yes. I’ll tell you that much, but why should I tell you anything else? You’ll just kill me anyway.”
“There’s also that whole torture thing, that’s best to avoid,” Cleo said from behind her.
“Stalwarts don’t torture…”
Phillip looked up, his blazing brown eyes just visible under the rim of his hat. “Jack might not, but I’d have no problem with it. The only thing worse than being kicked out of my city by Xemmoni, would be kicked out of my city from Xemmoni that aren’t even from Boston and by the sound of your accent, you weren’t born in bean town. So you must have been imported to help take over my city. Is this true?”
When she didn’t say anything, Jack prompted her. “Is this really where you want to draw the line in the sand? I suggest you answer him.”
When Cleo rested a hand on the Gloom’s shoulder, she said, “Okay, yeah, I’m not from Boston. Darken has ordered all of us to meet in Boston.”
“What do you mean all of you?” Phillip asked and Jack noticed the deep lines of concern playing over his friend’s face.
She leaned forward, which hid her glowing red eyes. “Listen, I don’t know everything, but I’d like to know what will happen to me if I tell you what I do know?”
Jack lifted her chin so his green eyes met her red. “Let’s just say the more you tell us the more body parts you might get to keep.”
She sighed and then let her gaze drop to the floor. “Lord Darken instructed all of the members of the Dark Alliance within America to head to Boston.”
Phillip spoke slowly. “What do you mean all the members?”
Wisp showed some Xemmoni fueled aggression for the first time. “Just what I said, Stalwart. We’re all supposed to meet in Boston.”
Jack moved back a pace and chuckled. “What all of you. Every Gloom, Darcarre, and Caradon is supposed to head to Boston?”
“That’s what I said.”
“But that’s impossible,” Phillip said.
“And insane,” Cleo added.
Jack spoke next. “It would seem to be that if that many Xemmoni showed up here the city would implode to the point where reveling the existence of Xemmoni to the general public would be a real possibly.”
Wisp had gone from being terrified to perhaps enjoying herself in as many seconds as it would take so say it. “You’re forgetting two things. The first is, certainly not all Dark Alliance Xemmoni are aware of Vile’s order and many that are, either can’t or have chosen not to travel to Boston. The second is,” and she looked up and let her blazing eyes burn into his as she spoke, “Soon Vile Darken will be reveling himself to this planet and nothing you can do will stop that.”
“Interesting,” Jack said. “Wrong, but interesting. Just one other question for now.” He paused, but then moved in closer again. “Why are all the Xemmoni being brought here? What is Vile attempting to accomplish?”
Wisp appeared lost in thought perhaps weighing her options. “Since you can’t do anything to stop it and telling you might allow myself to live long enough to see the glory of the eternal night… I’ll tell you.” She paused for affect, but then spit it out when she saw their patience waning. “Vile intends to use the power of every Xemmoni he can find to reenact the Everywhere Spell, but this time use it to kill all of the Stalwart archetypes throughout the Multiverse.”
“So I was right,” Jack said in a low voice. “But you were wrong about something.”
“Oh yes,” she hissed. “What would that be?”
“That we can’t do anything to stop it.”
To be continued next Monday
January 20, 2014
Pit looked over at his dark mate, Midnight. Although much of her tight ebony dress had splashes of blood covering it, it pleased him to know she had fully healed herself, which appeared to be more than he could say for the rest of the whining rabble that filled the black van with him.
Riding in the back were what remained of the dozen Xemmoni who had positioned themselves around the Stalwart Doctor’s home. A full half of them had been slain when the Serpent and the Grape had come calling, which had become the tag the Xemmoni of Boston had given Jack Primus and Phillip Brownhurst. The only satisfaction he got was when the Doctor refused to join the three Stalwarts when they fled, with their tails between their legs, back to the suburbs. It hadn’t been a difficult decision to give chase.
One of the Caradon’s annoying voices, a man named Sender, sounded over his shoulder. “Hey, a few of us could use some more healing back here, including me.”
“I already told you that you have all the healing you’re going to get from us tonight. We aren’t going into this final battle with nothing.” He passed to add a lie. “Besides if one of you goes down hard, don’t you want us to have a chance to save you?”
This seemed good enough for the Caradon and he sat back down on one of the benches that lined the side of the van.
Pit opened up telepathic communications with his mate. “They act like there’s some reason I would want any of them alive. Boston has always belonged to the Darcarre, despite who our elders had been foolish enough to align themselves with. As far as I’m concerned, let them all get killed off. It will make for a more pleasant Boston when the last of the Stalwarts are cleaned out.”
She placed her pale, delicate finders on his leg. “Yes, my dark prince, but we may need them before this night has closed. Primus and Brownhurst have a way of surviving.”
“Bah. it’s only the protection afforded by their Pagan gods that allows it to be so. With enough concentrated Bestows, they’ll go down.” He could just make out glaring red tail lights of the truck the Stalwarts drove fleeing before them. It mattered not if he lost sight of them, for he could detect their presence far past what his eyes allowed. He needed no headlights to see in the night and the van sped after the retreating truck like a giant black bullet. “They know their minutes are numbered. They must have been wounded before the battle even started. Why else seek out their best healer. We will crush them before sun up.”
The only other female in the van, a Gloom, interrupted their silent communications. “I worry that the surroundings become more rural,” she said. “Perhaps they have no hide out and are just retreating into some random farm.”
“Wisp, are all Glooms as paranoid as you?” Pit’s voice kept its cruel edge. “You should be thankful that you’ll be honored by being with us when we eliminate the last Stalwart threat.”
“Their vehicle slows my mate,” Midnight said.
Wisp, who still had her wizen grey head between their chairs, “I think it’s stopped.”
“I know that,” Midnight affirmed quickly.
“Ready your weapons. Get ready to be the monster you’ve always wanted to be. We’re hunting Stalwart!” A ragged grunting cheer answered him and he wondered once again how he got stuck with such obtuse ‘allies.’
He knew an ambush would be impossible since their presence glared at him like to colorful splinters in the night. “They had already fled their vehicle. Get out, they’re fleeing, there’s no worry of attack.”
The other Xemmoni did as they were told and they eight of them entered the harsh cold of the Massachusetts winter. There was a trail wide enough to drive a car down on the other side of the Stalwart’s truck. The couple chuckled when Sender instructed the Caradon to help him flip the pickup over.
Wisp appeared less pleased. “The sign here says, Easterbrook Forest. I was told never to fight Stalwarts in the wilderness.”
“Idiot! You would come all this way just to let them go? We could even just freeze them out if we had to.” But looking over at his mate he realized he wouldn’t be popular with her if he made her wait outside in the middle of the winter in just a mini skirt. “Sender, your kind can track by smell correct?”
“It’s actually done by following the trace particles-”
“Enough, do it find the trail.”
The Caradon began to grow and stretch. They let out a howl and both their arms and legs elongated to twice their normal lengths. They looped into the woods, building speed as they went. Pit nodded and the Glooms drew their sickles and a fog began to grow within the forest as they joined the case. Wisp however remained close to the Darcarre. She kept her hooded back to them as though they might forget her foul presence.
He was just about to command her forward when the yelling started. Shouts of alarm became screams and the screaming was over far too quickly
“Pit,” his mate looked his way. “Perhaps we should…”
He saw that Wisp already fed toward the van and gave a shrill scream when the trees came alive and appeared to be attempting to draw and quarter her.
Within seconds both he and Midnight were also ensnared by the mighty bows of the trees.
Primus came walking out of the forest. A bloody axe filled his hands. “You know what the great thing about this spell is?” When his answer was only him witnessing their struggle to escape, the Stalwart continued. “It doesn’t matter how resistant to Magick you might be, they are still only trees and trees hate Xemmoni… a lot.”
“I’ll show you Magick, fool!” Pit yelled as he sent his Black Veins Bestow crashing into the Stalwart.
Jack took a step back and grunted as the Bestow hit him. When he raised his face, a grin could be seen there. “That hurt. Congratulations. You get to die first.”
Pit’s awareness toppled through unconceivable pain long enough for him to figure out he had been decapitated two seconds before he died.
To be continued next Monday
January 13, 2014
The days had stretched long while Jack, Phillip, and Cleo, not only healed their wounds, but also refueled their spend Ki. Their second day hadn’t been so bad for the group had healed their wounds and the McBannons brothers had dropped by for a large poker game. Pizza and shots, mixed with craft ales and Jack got some much needed R and R. It did his soul good to be able to relax as a normal person, even if his guilt still ate at the back of his mind. It didn’t surprise him much when Cleo and Phillip won most of everyone’s money.
On the third morning, the trio of Stalwarts gathered to meet before they headed back into the dark city. They had all agreed that a gear-up run should occur before they reached the city, but other issues proved more complex.
Phillip and Cleo sat around the remains of the poker game sipping coffee while Jack paced around the room downing can after can of Mountain Dew.
Jack broke the building silence. “I would think the first thing we need to do is contact the other Stalwarts that hopefully are still with us.”
“I contacted Blaze, through Email,” Phillip said. “He’s still kicking. He has a secure site base that’s spread over the web so he can’t be tracked.” Phillip looked up from his steaming cup and met Jack’s eyes. “But he did a little net-running for us and told me that our cells, and such, are tapped. He said that if we need to contact anyone a face to face would be safer. At least that way they won’t know we’re coming as quickly, but he also said that he thinks Lanna and Felix are being watched.”
“Well at least that means they are still alive.”
Cleo spoke up. “They have probably been left alive so they can be used as bait to catch us. We killed a bucket load of Xemmoni. I’m sure we hit number one on their shit list, real quick.”
“Let’s table them for now,” Jack said. “Whether we get more help or not, we need to think about our chief goals.”
“Which are?” Cleo asked.
“My gut reaction is to do what they’re trying to do to us, to them.”
Phillip made a face. “You want the three of us to try to make Boston Xemmoni free?”
Jack stared back at him. “Yes. I’m not as worried as much about some random Selector living in a sewer as much as the real members of Vile’s crew.”
Phillip massaged his forehead. “Now I know we kicked some serious ass out there, but those were low level thugs that couldn’t pierce our Damage Protection well. But if we go up against that same amount of powerful Xemmoni they can disperse our flesh to the winds before we get within thirty feet of them.”
“I am aware of this. That’s why I don’t intend to fight fair. What if we head in, ambush a few of the bastards, and then escape the city before sunrise.”
Cleo spoke up. “I see a few problems with that plan. Firstly, we won’t be able to come back here or everyone here will end up dead.”
“Secondly, the Darcarre are huge in Boston and then can sense Stalwarts better than any other race of Xemmoni and for that matter there’s some evidence that Glooms are the runners up for this skill. Surprising these guys is just this side of impossible.”
“And, if I might add,” Phillip said. “If we’re fleeing we have to get past their range or then can just follow us wherever we go.”
“They might think differently when they see where I take them.”
The Dionysus worshippers eyed each other.
Jack smiled. “When I said I wouldn’t fight fair, I meant it. We have all the cards stacked against us, so screw these pricks. I’m not saying we will wipe out the whole city before they get wise, but the first few times I want these Darcarre and they allies to follow us out of the city. It will be the last thing they ever do.”
“Whittling down their numbers wouldn’t be the worst idea,” Phillip said.
Cleo looked at Phillip and then Jack. “This idea only seems appropriate if this is what we’re really trying to do. Are we really going to try to take back Boston?”
Jack answered her. “I know no city can ever be completely Xemmoni free, but we can make this city too costly for Darken. Besides if he’s trying something big in Boston, we can at least make sure he won’t be able to do it on our world. We owe it to… well our other selves.”
Phillip downed his coffee. “Okay, I’m in. What the hell. It’s my city and no one kicks me out of my home.”
Cleo drew a deep breath. “You know you’re both nuts right?” She paused. “Okay, count me in too. Everyone has to die sometime.”
To be continued next Monday
January 6, 2014
Jack sat in the small living room of the lake side house and watched the snow cover the earth in silent white blanket. For once he hadn’t argued when his Dionysian allies had suggested they stay an extra day in the rural outskirts of Concord. It would be good to start their next step at full strength, but he worried they could end up getting snowed in.
This didn’t seem to be a concern with Phillip as he sipped on an ale and channel surfed like a pro. There had been some concern over whose bed Cleo would share or if she’d chose either of theirs and make one of the men sleep on the floor. Jack couldn’t have answered whether he felt disappointed or relieved when she chose her former boyfriend Phillip over him. She was a beautiful woman, but Jack could also use the rest.
The owner, one James McBannon, turned out to be a man of Yig, which had surprised Jack, but he had barely gotten a chance to speak to the man. James had married and chose to leave both the Stalwart life and the city behind. He had only stopped by long enough to let the small group in before rushing back to western Massachusetts to be with his growing family. Even though Jack knew they could use the help, he didn’t have the heart to press the man to risk leaving his family fatherless.
Such thoughts lead him back to the few Stalwarts they had left behind in Boston. Sure, most of them had been given a chance to either flee or join them fighting back, but besides Cleo, none of the others had done either.
Cleo was in the shower, so Jack sat in a large chair that faced the television. He took a long sip off his own ale before asking, “So have you tried to contact the Stalwarts we left behind?”
“Blaze emailed me,” Phillip said without moving his eyes away from the rapidly changing screen. “So I guess he still lives. I suppose we’ll find out how right Lanna and Felix were about them having nothing to fear from this Xemmoni ultimatum.”
“It could be possible that we did enough damage to them that they’re licking their wounds for a few days like us and this storm could help settle things too.”
Phillip looked over and smiled. “We did do a pretty good number on them, huh? What, we waxed about fourteen on those Dark Alliance bastards.”
“I thought it was fifteen,” Jack said.
“You must be counting the Hyades.”
“Well, I did decapitate him.”
“That doesn’t always work, with them,” Phillip said while taking a long pull.
“We’ll see, but what should we be doing now? We can’t stay here forever.”
Phillip looked back at the TV. “I wish we could. This New London Pizza is the best I’ve ever tasted.”
Jack leaned forward. “I think we need to discuss something else.” When Phillip didn’t reply, he went on. “I think we need to figure out why the Xemmoni want Boston and what they intend to do with it.”
“Xemmoni want well… everything, don’t they?”
“Yes, but I have a feeling this is different. Isn’t there some evidence that Darken and bunch of his villains, and even we, are associated with Boston on multiple worlds?”
“I try not to think about those things. The dreams are bad enough.” Phillip looked at his beer, the television, and the falling snow, anywhere but toward Jack.
“Maybe since Boston has been so damaged on this world, Vile is trying to use our Boston to create some effect that could damage multiple worlds. It’s the type of thing he might try to do. And if he does, we would be the weak link letting every other world battling for survival down. If multiple worlds are robbed of their heroes, then it could cost us the whole war.”
Phillip finally looked his way. “You have quite the imagination.”
Cleo walked into the room wearing nothing but a towel and a serious expression. “He does, but the sad thing is… he’s right.”
To be continued next Monday