Tag Archives: Chronicles

Rise of the DarkWalker Chapter 5

I stumbled through the underbrush, wondering where the hell Weijia was taking me. She’d set a pretty harsh pace, too. Moving across open ground, I’d have kept up with ease, but moving though the groundcover left me tripping and stumbling like a toddler learning to walk.

“Where are we going?” My breath leaped from my lungs in short, rapid bursts.

“My clan. The Shaman will be able to help you with the lichen on your stomach.”

I stopped. “You’re taking me to an enclave of trolls? Don’t they hate humans?”

She turned with a sigh. “No, Carter. I’m taking you to my tribe. We’re all half-bloods.”

I used the time she paused to catch up. “What’s the hurry?”

“Do you wish to be chained again?”

“Do bears speak Krogan?”

“What?”

“The answer is no.”

“Then why not say so?”

I hung my head and resumed walking. “That’s what you get for trying to be poetic. Dumbass,” I muttered at myself.

“Did you say something?”

The tone of her question told me she hadn’t heard my mumbling. “No. How much further?”

“We’ll arrive near sunset. Can you keep up?”

“Sure. As soon as we get to a path, or something.”

“Paths would make it easier to track us.”

That didn’t make sense. “Wouldn’t one make it harder to follow us? Heavily travelled versus forcing a trail through the woods and all that.”

She glanced to the sky and then back the way we came. Turning to me, she shook her head. “The path will make it easier to track us, but we’ll move faster on it.”

A flock of birds exploded into the air, chirping and screeching. I looked to my right where they’d taken off from in time to see a couple trees collapse with crashing thuds. Without waiting for input from my companion, I turned and bolted in the opposite direction from the destruction.

I raced past trees and bushes. Hurtled a stream and ducked under a low hanging branch. The path was crossed without a thought. A sapling provided enough support to allow me to whip myself behind a boulder without slowing. A root, or rock, or something ended my running.

I belly flopped down an embankment. Dirt, leaves, twigs and other debris went down my shirt. I slid into a wide, yet shallow, brook. I was soaked, scraped up, and a lot cooler.

The water turned out to be rather refreshing. I lifted my face from it and cleared the liquid from my ears in time to catch the last of Weijia’s words.

“ —ter! Why did you run off?”

I blew water from my lips, trying not to think of what was upstream and pissing in as I lounged in the brook. “I ran from whatever was knocking down the trees.”

“Why? You’re the Walker of Worlds.”

“One, I don’t know how to use my powers, nor what they might be.” I stood and sluiced some water from my body. “Two, if it’s big enough to knock down growing trees, it’s big enough to run from.”

“But, you killed Belial.”

That should have been my first clue that Weijia wasn’t necessarily on my side, but the trembling aftereffects of my sprint and the breeze chilling me in my wet clothes caused that to pass by unremarked. I sloshed through the water and held out my hand. She helped me climb the slippery bank, and I pulled off my shirt. Holding it out between my hands, I spun it in a rope and then folded it over, twisted it more. Water squirted from the wrung out deer hide, but it remained damp.

I sighed and tossed it over my right shoulder. I noted her watching me closely, but thought nothing of it. “Please tell me I at least ran in the right direction and we’re now even closer to your clan.” She shook her head and pointed back the way we came. “Damn it.”

 

***

 

As it neared sunset, the surrounding woods grew thicker. The trees grew closer together and seemed to have distorted faces. ‘Pareidolia and an overactive imagination equals rough night sleeping tonight.’ The denseness caused a premature twilight to fall. As we hiked, I gradually became aware the noise of the forest became quieter.

The drumming of a woodpecker seemed to become the wail of a scared child. I stopped and listened intently, but only heard the hammer of the bird’s beak as it searched for insects. I scratched my head and then resumed walking.

A fog rose from the ground and rolled steadily through the woodlands. Indistinct whispers came to me on the breeze.

“Weijia, do you hear that?”

“What?”

“Sounds like a group of people whispering nearby.”

We halted and she listened. After several minutes, she shook her head. “I don’t hear anything.”

I raised my eyebrow, but continued on. The ground became softer with each stride. It was like I trudged through mud. When I took my next step, my foot sank into something warm, wet and fetid. The rank odors of sour milk and rancid meat hit my nose. I recoiled from the sensation of squirming maggots around my ankles and fell to the forest floor.

My heart lurched when I discovered the earth was dry and nothing was on my foot.

“What the fuck is going on?”

“Are you okay, Carter?” Weijia came over and knelt beside me.

“Has anything seemed odd to you?”

She shook her head. “The fog may seem a little spooky if you’re not used to it, but all is normal.” She pushed to her feet and offered me her hand. “Come on. We’re not too much further away.”

I accepted the hand up and the apple she tossed to me. I bit into it with a crunch. I wondered where she’d found the red fruit. ‘Oh well. Doesn’t matter.’ The flesh was both sweet and tangy. It reminded me of a Winesap. I absently glanced down to take another huge bite and discovered bloody teeth with chunks of hairy skin. I launched the disgusting thing away with a cry and puked.

I coughed and spat, trying to clear my mouth of the horrid taste of vomit. I shrugged her hand off my back when she touched me.

Standing upright again, I pinned her with a glare. My body was hot. “What the fuck is wrong with you, woman?”

She backed up. “Carter?”

I closed the distance between us. “Why would you give me something like that?” Each of her steps backwards were answered by one forward from me until her back was against the trunk of a black walnut.

“Something like what?” Her voice was high. “Carter, what’s wrong?”

I pointed at the remnants of the apple I’d been eating. “That!”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know you don’t like apples.”

“Does that look like a fucking apple to you?”

“Y-yes?”

“Are you kidding me?”

I was so close to her face and yelling so hard, flecks of spittle landed on her cheeks. She cried out and cringed away. “Whu-what did I do? Why’re you so mad at me all of a sudden?”

“Look. At. That.” I all but bit the words out as I jerked my finger at the discarded fruit.

Shivering, she turned her head to see what I pointed at. “I don’t know what you want me to see. It’s just a half-eaten apple.”

I whirled to pick it up and stopped in my tracks. The only thing on the path was an oddly lumpy red spheroid with rough white pieces exposed where I’d bitten pieces away. There was no sign of the teeth or the skin. “What the fuck is going on?”

Advertisements

Rise of the DarkWalker Chapter 4

 

The screams echoed off the stone walls and faded away. A large fire pit sent dancing shadows through the room. Another scream sounded as a dark-haired dwarf in blood begrimed clothes pushed a finger into a wound in a human’s chest. The dwarf withdrew his finger, wiped it on a rust brown rag and picked up a quill pen. Dipping it into an inkwell, he made a few notations and blotted the parchment.

He gestured and a pair of orcs turned large cranks, rotating the table with the prisoner until it was flat. Taking up a thin bladed knife, he sliced a line from the man’s left shoulder, across his chest to his right. Then, he did the same at the human’s waist, from hip to hip, ignoring the wails of pain. A line was cut down the center of his torso, connecting the other two. The prison shrieked even louder than he had before. Blood gushed from the new wound. The dwarf placed the blade next to other sharp instruments and picked up a wooden bowl. Gathering some of the contents in his bloody hand, he sprinkled it over the human while chanting.

The orcs watched the black powder begin to glow and change color as it liquefied. Wherever the magic liquid touched, the blood withdrew into the man. The two looked at each other, and then back to the dwarf. He pulled the wound wide, eliciting a scream that sounded like it tore the human’s throat. To the amazement of the orcs, no further blood flowed. They stepped closer to better see, drawing the dwarf’s attention.

“You appear puzzled, my friends.” His voice was smooth, powerful. They nodded. “Allow me to hypothesize. You desire to know why the human’s lifeblood no longer flows.” Another nod. “The conjuration is named ‘Prohibere Sanguinem.’ It maintains life while I conduct my experimentations.”

The orc to the left spoke. “Why do you experiment, Master?”

“I seek knowledge of better interrogation techniques.”

The one on the right tilted his head. “What information do you seek?”

Drago stared at him, stone faced. “You’re joking.”

“I meant that you would need better interrogation techniques for.”

The Dark Dwarf’s countenance brightened. “Oh. It is for when the demons bring me Keeper Dearbhaile. She has the most delicious secrets, I’m sure.”

A door at the far end of the room opened. Moving with a swiftness that belied their bulk, the orcs slipped between their master and the opened door. One orc drew a hammer from his hip and muttered a command word. Seconds later, the small tool has expanded into a huge Warhammer with a wicked looking spike at the opposite end of the blunt one. The other unhooked a coiled chain and stretched it out, spinning the large spiked ball at the end. The two prepared themselves to fight to their deaths to protect their lord from the intruder. None were allowed to disturb him in his laboratory.

When the human dressed in deer skin, with shoulder length, curly brown hair entered, the orcs dropped to a knee and placed their left hands over their right chest, covering their hearts and offering their fealty. She flicked her gaze over them and walked past, ignoring the orcs’ salutes. She didn’t care for the ugly creatures, always cringing in the face of a superior foe, and then plotting behind its back. . Like the demons, but mortal. Drago continued his experiments, unconcerned with who might have entered. The orcen warriors would have given him enough time to prepare for any enemy. Though she hadn’t seen him in battle, she knew enough about his training regimen to believe he’d be a formidable enemy.

She curled her thick fingers into fists at the thought and then reluctantly opened them. This was not the time to challenge him. For now, his enemies provided enough of a challenge to keep her satisfied with being his second. ‘I wonder how Bjorn and Fenrisúlfr are doing? Do they miss me?’ The twins had been her friends and self-appointed guardians for as long as she could remember. She gave herself a mental shake. ‘Focus on the present. Leave the past where it belongs.’

She clapped her fist over her heart. The deer hide muffled the sound, but she knew the keen ears of Drago picked it up. “Belial has captured Dearbhaile.”

“Of course he did, my friend.” He glanced over his shoulder. “Did you doubt me?”

“No. Just the half-demon. He’s constantly coming up short against Carter.”

Picking up a rag, he surprised her with a laugh as he cleaned his hands. “Belial has a twisted sense of humor.”

“What do you mean?”

“He enjoys setting up his opponents to think they’ve bested him only to later strike them down.”

Her eyebrows went up. “He enjoys being cut down with his own sword?”

“The pure white broadsword?”

“Yes.”

“Razorwing cannot harm him. It’s made from his own essence.”

“But, I’ve seen him both decapitated and run through with it.”

“Do not trust your eyes where the Prince is concerned. Or any of your other senses for that matter.”

“Are you trying to tell me he is invincible?”

“Of course not. You just have to know how.”

“Hmm.”

She walked over to the dangling human. Dried blood covered the areas of his flesh that remained whole. His remaining eye was fogged, whether from pain, or blindness, she didn’t know. With the speed of a striking snake, she punched her fist through his heart, putting him out of his misery.

“Why did you do that, dear Sera?” The dwarf’s voice held only curiosity.

“You can’t learn anything from the tortured.”

“On the contrary. I’ve learned quite a bit from this one.”

“But was it true, or was it a lie to get the pain to stop?”

Drago scratched his smooth cheek, sending scales of dried blood to float through the air. “What do you mean?”

“Back in my world, torture is banned because you cannot gain reliable intel from your victim. People will say anything they think you want to know, just to get the pain to end. It is a sadistic war crime to torture.”

He raised his hand. “Your people try to uphold laws in war?”

“Not during, but after. And only some laws. Usually moral ones.”

He leaned his hip on this table. “Even though morals are subjective?” She nodded. “Humans are odd creatures.”

“We’re odd because we have figured out what works and what doesn’t?”

“No, because of the war crimes. Who decides what the crime was versus what was acceptable in war?”

“The winners.”

He laughed, his head thrown back. “Perfect.”

Sera snorted. “I had a feeling you would approve of that.”

He sobered. “Where is Dearbhaile now?”

“Belial is awaiting her delivery to him, and then he will bring her directly to you.”

“Excellent.” A bell tolled once and then went silent. “Excuse me, my dear. I must see to this.”

She clapped her fist to her chest. “I will go prepare the troops for the invasion.”

Drago dipped his head in acknowledgement and hurried off. The young woman watched him go. ‘I will find out what the hurry is all about soon.’

Rise of the DarkWalker Chapter 3

I opened my eyes to blinding light. Squinting them shut, I raised my hand to shield them. A rattle of a chain sounded as my movement came to an abrupt halt. The sunlight on my face almost blinded me again when my eyes flew open. I pushed the pain to the back of my mind as I blinked my eyes rapidly to clear them. I needed to see what kept my hand from moving. A moment or two later, I made out why: I was chained to stakes, my arms spread in a cruciform fashion. ‘By all the hells…”

“…What the actual fuck?” I yanked on the shackles. “Why am I chained?”

“You attacked Lady Orwen, Carter.” Robilar stood over me, blocking the sunlight from touching me.

A flash of my unprovoked assault went through my mind. With it, the memory of feeling like another was in control of my body. My jaw throbbed as my head ached. “What the hell did she hit me with?”

“Her fist.”

I slowly shook my head. “Not just her fist. She held a spell.”

“I do not know.” He glanced over his shoulder and then back down at me. “Why did you do it?”

“Another controlled my movements.”

He shook his head. “That’s not possible.”

“Why not? Wen was possessed by Belial.”

“You’re the Walker of Worlds. You can’t be demoniac. Your nature precludes it.”

“Maybe I’m not really him.”

He uttered a tired sounding chuckle and knelt beside me. “You’ve already forgotten what I am?”

I carefully shook my head. “No.”

“Then you know how silly you sounded.”

“Bite me.” I closed my eyes rather than continue to look over at Robilar. “Walker, or no, something was controlling my body. It was like I was literally outside of it, looking on.”

“In all of my long years, I’ve never encountered anything that could.”

My eyes popped open and I turned my head to him so fast my neck cracked. “What? How can that be? You said you knew me in the future.”

“I did, or do. But, I’ve not come back to this point before. Remember my limitation?”

“Yes. Yesterday you said you couldn’t travel back to a point in the past after you’d already hit it.”

“True.”

“Alright then, how is it that you don’t know about this?”

“In prior lifetimes, we’d meet long after you were the full-fledged Walker. This is the first timeline that I sought you out before that date.”

“So what happened to make you come here?”

“I told you yesterday. The Lamp of Allah-ad-din.”

“Actually, you said your purpose was to make sure Drago didn’t get his hands on it. I’m asking how will being here at this time, help you to do that.”

Before he could respond, Corath touched his shoulder and whispered in his ear. He nodded, rose and followed the Wild Elf, leaving me to lay on the ground, still chained. I lay my head back with my eyes closed. I was grateful this was a springtime sun and not a summer one. ‘How long are they planning on keeping me chained?’

 

***

 

I woke at the sound of my wrist manacles being unlocked. Weijia smiled and placed her index finger over her lips, telling me to keep silent. I sat up as she freed my legs.

“Corath and Robilar are asleep.” Her whisper barely reached my ears.

“What are you doing?” I made sure to speak at the same volume.

“Setting you free. You’re supposed to be our leader, not our prisoner.”

“I did attack Lady Orwen.”

“You said someone was controlling you.” She rose and offered her hand. I took it stood on shaky legs. “I believe you.”

“Where’s the Princess… Queen, I mean?”

“She headed to a nearby temple to pray for guidance from Kellün.”

I followed Weijia as she guided me away from the camp. “I don’t think she’s going to have any success.”

She glanced over her shoulder. “Why not?”

“Remember when she tried to heal me and was unable to?”

“Yes. You got really upset about that, too.”

“I wasn’t upset by not being healed. It was because of what she said, that Kellün wasn’t responding to her prayers.”

“Why is that significant?”

I thought back to the BattleHammer rules for clerics and Warpriests. “A god will refuse to answer a cleric or Warpriest who has betrayed that deity’s tenants.”

“Keeper Dearbhaile said that Lady Orwen was pure. Doesn’t that mean she hadn’t?”

“Yes.” I stepped over the trunk of a fallen tree. “There’s one other time, that I know of, where a god won’t answer prayers.”

“Which is what?”

“When a god is fallen.”

Rise of the DarkWalker Chapter 2

I stalked outside, leaving Adora to jog in my wake. All I found, to my intense displeasure, were Robilar, Corath, and heaps of dead demons, their remains beginning to steam and stink in the early morning sunlight.

“Damn it.” I stopped before the two men and scowled at them. “Did you fuckers have to kill all of them?”

Robilar’s chuckle sounded tired. “We didn’t come close to killing all of them.”

“About twenty minutes ago, the demons broke free, and ran.” Corath wiped at ichor on his face, but only smeared it. “We have no idea why.”

I slammed my sword into its sheathe, cussing under my breath. So much for that idea.

“Where’s the Keeper, Carter?” Whatever he saw on my face caused Robilar to blanch, and back away. “Sore subject. Never mind.”

“I’ll not never mind.” Corath marched up, and poked my chest with his finger. “You have a lot to answer for, human.”

I growled, and reached for my sword. I met Adora’s warm, calloused, hand instead. “Now is not the time, Corath.”

“Tha—”

My blade pointed at his larynx, and a ruby droplet formed at the tip. “Utter one more word. I dare you.”

The Gorauch clamped his mouth shut so fast he bit his tongue.

“Smart man,” the Chronomancer said.

“Robilar!”

“Y-Yes, sir?”

“Ha-How did you do that?” The Lady’s voice cracked as she spoke.

I ignored Adora for the time being. “Can you track demons?”

“I can do better than that.”

I sheathed my sword again, and folded my arms over my chest. “Go on.”

“I can bring one from the past, to the present.”

“Do it.”

Robilar nodded, closed his eyes, and furrowed his brow. He took a deep breath, and held it. Sweat rolled down his cheeks as he rolled his arms through the air like Dearbhaile has when we played in the river at the beginning of our journey from Lady Soo-jau’s palace. Wonder what the Vaush-Tauric is up to?

A glowing white rectangle appeared before the Chronomancer. His eyes flew open, and he thrust his hands into the light. A mighty yank, and one of the wingless bat-like demons with rippling, angry red muscles, and a clear, glistening and viscous fluid to roiling down its body tumbled free, rolling across the ground.

Before it regained its senses, I had it lifted in the air with my right hand wrapped around its throat. “Hello, Ugly. You’re going to answer some questions for me.”

It screamed, and chittered in rage, slashing at me with its sharp claws. When they raked over my forearm, I squeezed.

“Carter, don’t kill it, yet.” Robilar’s voice was a hoarse wheeze. “I’m not going to be up to Pulling another for some time.”

I growled, and hammered the demon to the earth like I was a professional wrestler executing a choke-slam. Where I got the strength, I didn’t know at that point. The demon had ceased its squirming, stunned from the impact with the ground.

Adora’s rough hand touched my shoulder. “Carter, allow me to question it? I speak Infernus.”

“Really?” I glanced at her over my shoulder. “Alright. Make it quick. We’re losing time.”

The demon rolled to its belly and tried to scamper away. My foot in the small of its back sent it flat again, putting an end to its attempt. The Princess, or Queen, technically, chittered at the daemon which made the sound in return. A few minutes of back and forth made my head hurt worse.

I stepped away, focusing on the smoking ruins of the keep. The fiends had used some magic which had melted stone like tallow. An ungodly scream ripped through the air, causing all the hair on my body to feel as if it all wanted to run. I spun around so fast I must have looked like a top, even though it was a one-eighty. Made me dizzy as hell, too.

A silvery-white glow engulfed Adora’s left hand. The bat demon’s right shoulder oozed a greenish smoke. She chittered something loudly at the creature which then shook its head. Her radiant palm clamped down on it. It shrilled. I thought it was pain, but there was an odd note to it. The Princess… Queen… released her grip. The fiend panted. A glint shone in its eyes. She spoke to it, but it cut her off, much louder.

I strode over and caught her hand as she went to touch it again. A thousand bees stung me simultaneously and acid dripped from their stingers. I felt a jolt in the center of my chest and found myself looking up at the sky with no clue how I got there.

My field of vision grew darker for a moment and then I realized I was surrounded by Adora, Weijia and Robilar. “What happened?” I attempted to sit up, but my abdomen felt as if someone had beat it with hot hammers. “Fuck me.” I tried to scream it, but the pain left me breathless. To be honest, I don’t know if I made a sound other than a groan.

Adora took my hand in hers and fire raced up my arm. I recoiled and rolled to my hands and knees, scrambling away about five feet. I tried to rise, but it was as if someone else controlled my limbs.

“Carter? What’s wrong?” Concern hoarsened her voice.

A crimson bolt shot from my up thrust hand. She leaped away and it hit a tree which exploded in flames. A hissing cackle erupted from my mouth, tearing at my throat. I found myself flying through the air as whoever controlled my body leaped to attack her again.

A black aura engulfed her fist. ‘Oh, shit.’ Her hand suddenly vanished from my sight and the lights went out.

Rise of the DarkWalker: The Chronicles of Carter Blake, Book II

Prologue

 

Firelight played over the aged face, turning a silver Van Dyke a reddish-orange. The drip of water from stalactites, the crackle of burning wood, and the sting of smoke were all ignored as he concentrated on reaching out to the untrained mind. It was harder than anticipated. The young one fought for his life against seeming insurmountable odds.

“Focus, Carter. Stretch your mind out. Take advantage of the temporal slow. You can do this.”

The words, crackling with power, seemed to hang in the air. His words had no effect. He’d have to step in. A wrinkled, yet still strong, hand circled on the ground, and then rose up. It briefly faded from sight, before being drawn back. A poisonous green jewel flashed in the firelight as the hand reappeared. Wrapped around a braided leather swathed hilt, and dull black pommel. The elderly man rose to his feet, dragging the hilt as he stood. A saw-toothed, lusterless black longsword came from the ether.

“Are you certain this is wise, Nicholas?” The voice sounded from the shadows, deep, and gravelly.

“I am, Rhynskald. I must aid my grandson.”

“Be careful, Walker.”

Where’s My Into the Realm Updates?

Funny you should ask that. Since I published it on Amazon.com, I also enrolled it in KDP Select. It’s a way for Amazon Prime members to borrow my book for free, and I get royalties based on how many people borrow it. As part of being able to do this, I’m not allowed to sell my book on any other website (or blog), nor am I allowed to post it anywhere, even for free. But, that’s okay. After I pull it from there, I’ll resume posting it here.

In the meantime, taking its place will be Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. You may remember me posting some excerpts from that a while ago, but I’ve been rewriting, and revamping, it. I hope you guys like it.

It’s Finally Available

My novel, Into the Realm: The Chronicles of Carter Blake is now live on Amazon. For now, it’s only available as an e-book. As soon as I get enough money to get the cover expanded, I’ll be offering print versions, too. Here is where you can order it. When my next post goes live, you’ll be able to order it from one of my side bars. 😀 I hope you guys like it.

cover

Into the Realm: The Chronicles of Carter Blake, Book I (C5, S1)

Previous subchapter here

 

 

Chapter 5

Subchapter 1

I didn’t mention the attack to anyone. I don’t know why. I must have gotten some of the creature’s stench on me because Angriz delicately told me about my odor.
“Carter, you stink. Ask Keeper Dearbhaile to throw the soap at you, I mean to you, and head west of camp. There you will find a hot spring. Wash. Please.”
“Hey, Angriz,” I said.
“Yes, Carter?”
“Stop being polite and tell me how you really feel.”
“Fine. I don’t think I have ever smelled something so-”
“Alright!” I shouted with exasperation. “I get your point! I smell! I’m going!”
He wasn’t done yet. “Thank you, my friend. You have no idea how much that means to me!”
“You are an asshole,” I said.
I glanced over my shoulder in time to see him try to hide a laugh. I asked Keeper Dearbhaile for the soap, and as soon as I had it, I promptly pegged it at Angriz’ head. Just when it was going to collide most satisfyingly with the back of his head, it stopped and slowly tumbled in mid-air. It then flew back into my waiting hand.
“Please do nae play-” she began.
The soap flew back through the air on a perfect trajectory and slapped into the back of Angriz’ head.
“With the soap, Carter,” Keeper Dearbhaile continued drily.
“What the-?” Angriz said, rubbing the back of his head as he turned.
I didn’t wait. I turned and ran for where he’d said the spring was. I saw the spring had formed a wide and deep pool. Just as I reached the water’s edge, something walloped me in the back of my head. The world rotated crazily, and I landed in the hot spring. I surfaced, spluttering. I heard Angriz’ booming laugh even though he was back in camp. Figuring he was responsible for my sudden dunking, I cussed him under my breath. Eventually, I called him everything but a half-dragon.
I pulled off my sodden clothing and began tossing it to shore. My pants got caught in a tree. It looked like the tree was trying to put my pants on while they were upside down. I began to laugh at the absurdity of that thought. Then I thought of how I must have looked muttering under my breath like a crazy man, and laughed even harder. Soon, I started laughing about hitting Angriz with the cake of soap and clutched my ribs, I was laughing so hard. I stopped laughing abruptly when I heard a twig snap nearby. I submerged my body until all that was showing above the water was from my upper lip to the top of my skull.
I hunted around with my eyes until I saw Keeper Dearbhaile coming towards the water. I froze in shock as she began calmly removing her robes.
“I’m still in here, Keeper Dearbhaile!” I shouted.
“I know,” she replied.
“What are you doing?” I said with some trepidation.
Okay, I admit, I only pretend to be smooth around the ladies. I always heard, “Fake it ‘til you make it,” and figured it applied to everything. It doesn’t work with women. Unless they somehow know I’m still fourteen.
“I be gettin’ ready tae bathe,” she said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“Not while I’m in here!” I said, nearly panicked; what if the worst should happen?
“And why not? ‘Tis just a bath. Elven bathe together all the time. ‘Tis only natural. How else are ye goin’ tae get yer back clean?”
I was unable to continue the argument because just then, the full moon came out from behind a cloud, revealing her nude form. My mouth dried up and my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. I was entranced by my second sight of a live, nude female. Her soft brown hair was pulled back and twisted into a braid. Her pointed ears were revealed fully for the first time. They weren’t as surprising as I thought they’d be. Then again, I was distracted.
She had firm, up thrust breasts, a line outlining her abdominal muscles, a defined “V” shape where her abs descended to her pubis, which had no hair. There was a very evident inward curve to the outline of her body at her waist and a sharp flare outward at her hips. She had muscular, yet feminine legs and delicate feet. She performed a swan dive into the water, revealing the graceful curve of her back, and entrancing half-moon indents above a round, plump bottom.
Keeper Dearbhaile abruptly surfaced next to me and squirted the cake of soap into my distended mouth. I spluttered and gagged while she laughed merrily. I hurriedly scooped water into my mouth and gargled before spitting it back out. I growled as I lunged to duck her under the water, but she escaped me as easily as an eel. She popped up behind me and called my name. I turned and received a face full of water as she used the flat of her hand to shove it at me.
I roared, laughing as I vowed to get her. Keeper Dearbhaile laughed, then swam quickly out of reach. I waited until she surfaced. While she still had her back to me, I sunk under the water and arrowed right at her. I intended to surface quietly behind her and ambush her.
Keeper Dearbhaile must have cast a spell of telepathy because when I surfaced, she was facing me and she slapped both hands at the water’s surface, splashing me once more. She dove beneath the water again and came up some distance away behind me. I turned and looked at her.
“Come and get me, Carter,” she sang.
“No, I think I’d rather you come for me,” I said.
“Are ye certain?” she said.
Without thinking, I said, “I am.”
Keeper Dearbhaile held her arms out beside her, her hands appeared to be grasping something unseen. The water boiled and rose five feet from the surface. She curved her arms up to her shoulders, and rotated her hands in my direction; the water followed her every movement. I saw what she intended too late. Her arms shot out towards me and the water rocketed at my face.
“No!” I shouted, right as about twenty gallons of water hit me as if from a fire hose.
It was over in less than a second. I blew water from my mouth like a horse.
“That’s it!” I called. “I surrender!”
Suddenly, Angriz’ voice boomed over us like a peal of thunder.
“LOOK OUT BELOW!!!” he bellowed.
A split second later another deluge hit me as he cannon balled into the pool. He turned to Keeper Dearbhaile as soon as he surfaced and using his big hands, sent one, two and three waves at her. She had a chance to let out a squeak, then they all hit.
“All right!” I crowed. “Two on one!”
I swam up beside Angriz and prepared to help bombard Keeper Dearbhaile. Angriz cut his big right hand down and across his body, hitting me with a four-foot wave.
“No way!” he said with a laugh. “Everyone for themselves!”

Into the Realm: The Chronicles of Carter Blake, Book I (C4, S8)

Previous subchapter is here.

 

 

Subchapter 8

Near sunset, we stopped and began to set up camp. Angriz had been silent all day. Once we had a fire going and tents set up, he gruffly said he would return and headed off into the growing darkness.

“Any idea as tae what be goin’ on with Sir Angriz?” Keeper Dearbhaile asked.

“Indeed,” I said. “Now, I’m not a telepath, but I’d be willing to wager my services for three years, no task refused versus you answering five personal questions that he is angry we aren’t going after Lady Orwen and by what happened in Rivorei.”

“What kind o’ personal questions?”

“Any I may devise.”

“That wager doesn’t seem fair tae ye.”

“Don’t worry about me. Do you accept?”

“Nae.”

I smiled. “Are you afraid I am correct?”

“Nae. I just think if yer goin’ ta risk servitude, Laird Blake, I should as well.”

I laughed. “Are you certain? Remember, I have traveled with Angriz for a while.”

“Aye. I be certain. The loser gives one year of absolute service tae th’ other fer one year. That, I’ll agree tae.”

“Done,” I said. “While we wait for his return, how about we begin preparing dinner?”

“Good idea. How does rabbit stew soun’?”

“Excellent, milady,” I said. “Would you do something for me Keeper Dearbhaile?”

“Certainly, milord.”

“Call me Carter.”

“Really? Thank ye so much!” she gushed.

“I don’t get it. Why are you so happy that I invited you to use my first name?” I said.

“Oh, ’tis a gran’ honor, mi-, um, Carter. For me people, th’ use o’ birth names without titles be only for ones considered equals.”

I grinned, then volunteered to get the rabbits. Before I could head out, Angriz strode into the firelight. He carried a four point buck under one arm. He let it drop to the ground near the fire.

“Dinner,” he announced.

He then began to clean the deer for dinner. As he worked, I decided to talk with him. I decided to be cautious as he wielded a wicked looking knife.

“Angriz,” I ventured.

“Yes, Carter,” he said.

“I’m sorry my choice upset you.”

He heaved a sigh. “There is no need for that,” he said. “You made the more difficult choice. To be honest, it is the best one. Lady Orwen would have been quite displeased when she learned that we had chosen her rather than ending the war more swiftly. I admit I was angry with you for your choice. However, I realize that was unfair because I had vowed to go wherever you lead and I refused to help you choose. Most importantly, it is not your fault we are in this position. I hope you can forgive me.”

“There is nothing to forgive, Angriz. I know that you care deeply for your friends. I would despair if you did not.”

He nodded in acknowledgment of my words and finished preparing the buck for our meal. “There’s also the mystery of what happened in Rivorei.”

“What do you mean?”

“Rivorei was a town that belonged to Lady Orwen. It makes no sense for it to have been destroyed. Especially as she has been abducted.”

“Maybe that’s why?” I said. “Maybe it was a punishment for being involved.”

Angriz shook his head. “The children wouldn’t have been killed if that were the case.”

“In the history of my world, sometimes the children were killed so that no one would have to worry about them getting revenge when they grew into adults.”

He shook his head. “It’s not the way of the Orwens. Nor of their people.”

I let that go. He seemed remarkably innocent for a warrior. I shoved my hands in my pockets, not sure how to continue. I felt the odd piece of stone I had found earlier. I pulled it out and showed it to the big guy.

“Have you ever seen anything like this before?”

He looked at the medium-sized piece of flat rock with the odd shapes etched into it.

“I’ve never seen anything like this stone before, but the markings resemble Dwarven runes. Maybe Keeper Dearbhaile will be able to translate them.”

Keeper Dearbhaile produced a large kettle of water and placed it on the fire as we talked. She added various vegetables and spices to the water as it heated. I took up an ax and walked over to a grove of maple trees. Spotting a couple of young ones, I felled them and began chopping the green wood for another fire. From the corner of my eye, I saw a strange green light playing around the outside of the pot. ‘Is she using magic to cook the food faster?’ I thought. ‘I hope it doesn’t change anything within me. Better not say anything to her. I don’t want to hurt her feelings.’ When I had a sufficient quantity, I stacked it in a pyramid shape. I ringed the stack of wood with medium-sized rocks from the forest floor.

“That’s goin’ tae produce a lot o’ smoke,” Keeper Dearbhaile observed.

“Exactly,” I responded.

She had claimed both hind legs of the deer for her stew by the time I finished with the wood, so I began carving the remainder of the meat into chunks and strips. Angriz drew another knife from a hip sheathe and joined me at my labor. Just as Keeper Dearbhaile announced dinner was ready, Angriz breathed a thin stream of fire over the maple wood. The intense heat of his breath dried the wood just enough for it to ignite.

While the deer meat smoked, we sat down to our meal.

“The stew is delicious, Keeper Dearbhaile,” I complimented. ‘What kind of rabbit is this again?”

“Ach, shut yer mouth, ye great galoot,” she said to my teasing. “Thank ye for killin’ tha deer, Sir Angriz.”

I passed her the stone I’d shown Angriz. “Can you translate this? Angriz thinks it’s Dwarven.”

She tossed the rest of her biscuit into her mouth, brushed off her hands and took the stone from me. Her eyes widened and she leaned closer to the fire, tilting the stone to the flames.

“Where did ye find this, Carter?”

“Back in Rivorei. After I stepped in that muck.”

“This is part of a larger one, but this section seems to be orders from Drago the Clanless to his troops!”

“What do they say?” Angriz asked before I could.

“I can nae make out all of them, but they seem tae be sayin’ that  the next target be Hawgrave City.”

“Hmm,” mused Angriz. “That’s three days to the east. We don’t have time to help them.”

“But we have tae do somethin’!”

“Dearbhaile, is there a way you can use your magic to send them a message?” I asked.

She gave me a comical look of surprise. “Aye!” She slapped herself in the forehead. “Why did I nae think o’ that?”

She pulled a small bird charm from her necklace and whispered to it for a few minutes. She cast it in the air, and to my delighted surprise, it flew east. After dinner, I gathered the dishes and took them to a nearby stream to wash them.

Just as I finished, the Slitter that had adopted me leaped up onto my shoulder. It had a tendency to come and go as it pleased. I turned my head to look at it, and it poked my cheek with a sharp claw. As I recoiled from the pain, a knife flipped by my face, missing me by about a centimeter. I nearly vomited at the sight of my attacker as it stalked out of the bushes.

It was a gaunt, somewhat humanoid creature with two long, pale, writhing tentacles beneath its arms which hung nearly to its knees. It had a flat face, broad bat-like nose, pointed ears, wide mouth and six-inch fangs. Wicked talons capped its skeletal fingers. Its hairless, waxy gray skin was covered in weeping sores that oozed a pale greenish fluid.

Something had me rise up on the balls of my feet and go loose limbed. As if my movement were a signal it was waiting for, the gruesome creature launched itself at me. Suddenly, the world slowed to a crawl. In slow motion, I saw the creature flex its leg muscles and spring for my throat. The world then returned to normal and I saw the creature was still running towards me. My brain froze in bewilderment, and my body tried to follow, but it continued traveling backward and I tripped over a root as the thing sprung exactly as I had already seen. Tripping saved my life. The creature flew over my head as I slammed into the ground. I rolled to my right and rose. The monstrosity scrambled to its feet and charged again, swinging its arms in arcs, leading with its scythe-like claws.

Again, the world slowed. I saw myself backing up rapidly, wheeling my arms out of reach of those vicious claws. I saw myself back into a tree, stopping myself with my right foot sweeping back into the tree. I then kicked off the trunk with the same foot. My foot then rocketed forward and caught the creature underneath its jaw. Once more, the world snapped back to normal. This time, I was waiting for it and began the exact movements I had just seen myself do.

It seemed confused by the circling of my arms, but it pressed forward nonetheless. At the perfect moment of my retreat, my right leg swung back, hitting the tree and halting my movement. I immediately swung it forward again, bending my knee and snapping it straight as it whipped through the air. My foot flashed forward and exploded under its jaw. The creature’s mouth crashed closed, breaking many of its teeth. It wobbled, dazed. I came forward, caught it by the back of its head and with a twist of my body, rammed it face first into the tree I had kicked off of. Bone crunched and a blue fluid squirted as its skull was crushed.

I let the creature slump to the forest floor and bent at the waist, panting from my exertions. Unfortunately, I chose to catch my breath right above the body as a foul stench began to rise from it. I vomited my dinner on the creature’s carcass. I staggered away, wiping my mouth. I sat down, hard, on an up thrust root (probably the one I tripped over) and rested. Several minutes passed as my heartbeat and breathing slowly returned to normal. My eyes kept trying to return to the dead thing, but I resolutely continued to avert them again. Finally, I got up and walked over to the forgotten dinner dishes. I paused to rinse my mouth of the flavor of bile, gathered the dishes and returned to camp.

Into the Realm: The Chronicles of Carter Blake, Book I (C4, S7)

Previous subchapter here.

 

 

Subchapter 7

 

The midday sun beat down on our head when we arrived at the remnants of the town of Rivorei. The fires, having consumed all they could, had all but burned out. The acrid stench of smoke, burned wood and charred flesh hung in the air like a wet blanket. The horses refused to get any closer, so we dismounted, tied their reins around some trees, and entered on foot. The city walls, once proud evidence of the town’s prosperity, were melted like wax candles. We walked through the sagging, gaping hole in the wall. I was amazed by the scale of the destruction and the absolute silence. I was cognizant of Keeper Dearbhaile sliding her hand into mine, but at the edge of my awareness. The cobblestones underfoot were still warm from the fires that just raged through the city . A charred wooden wall had the blackened remains of a person hanging from a spear through the gut.

We found ourselves walking through what had been an alleyway, the buildings on either side slumped from the fire. I stepped in something squishy and wet. Looking down, I realized I had my foot in a stream of a thick pinkish brown liquid with a greasy film. ‘What the hell?’ I went to one knee and dragged my finger through the slurry. I caught the stench of sewage and blood. I recoiled so hard I fell on my butt.

I noticed something odd sticking out a little from the mess. I fished the thing out and dried in on my pants. It was a flat, grey stone with some odd etchings on one side. Keeper Dearbhaile helped me to my feet, her eyes brilliant with unshed tears. She moved further into the ruined city and I stuck the stone in my pocket without thinking about why I did so. I turned to ask Angriz what he thought had happened here, but he was gone. I turned and headed out of the alley.

I found him in the center of what might have been the market square. The scattered piles of burned wood and bodies made identifying things difficult. Men, women and children lay about, hacked into pieces. Some had arrows, or spears, in their backs as if they had been killed as they tried to flee. He was looking at a huge emerald flag hanging above a pyramid of slain townspeople. In the center was an emblem of a colossal silver dragon clutching a dozen spears in one fist and the throat of a vampire in its other.

“Shit, Angriz. Isn’t that the flag of the Orwens?” I said.

Eyes still fixed on the flag, he nodded his head.