Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 7. Casa De Las Canas

Children of Fury:Hellions
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Chapter 7. Casa de las Canas

Two women, shared the same icy stare. In four years, they had their indentured contracts extended against their will three times.

Now they both had an extra seven years on their service to the plantation.

They were the only women that did not suffer the forced marriage and children in the House of the Canes in the four years they had been in the service to the plantation.

Caoimhe Ni Maile MacRanald, from Campbell’s Town in Scotland was cousin to Fey Mac Boru O’Danu, the women grew up together as children, writing letters to each other when apart. They knew well enough they were no longer free in the first days of their servitude and they brought suffering unlike anything the men experienced before.

Then, the rape teams tried to move on them in the cabin they shared, to tame the women from the wilds of the emerald isle.

And it was failure that would echo for years. Now men feared the two women with blue-ice for eyes and fire for hair. These Scots women, one with an Irish name by marriage, held sway over all men on the plantation.

Garcia Parga, the Master of the Fields. The jefe de las cañas, would tremble at the thought of approaching the women and pass on a command from the owner of the estate.

Roberto de Las Planas owned and drove the daily trip to town in his covered coach, let Garcia to do the day-to-day work. except for the two women that he had bought at the slave-pens in Barbados, he had full confidence that all would be well.

The women, the first one called Fey.

Even after four years, he struggled with the name of the taller, slightly crazier one with the name of a harsh land.

“Keeva” He thought to himself. He tried to give her a Christian name, but the struggle for that in those early days was not worth the battle.

His memory of that time made him laugh and weep at the same time.

Unknown to anyone, his purchase of these two guardians of the house, they were more formidable than anyone would have suspected.

In the first day, he sent his best looking men in as their mates. Roberto even told the men to make sure the women would have children inside of them.

Over that long year, breeder teams went into the cabin where the women lived, fueled by wine and rum. But, then none of the muscular and brave men came out intact. 

His memory ached with the lessons of dealing with priestesses of the Drui

Powerful, muscular and brave, they all wept like children. Many holding vital parts of their anatomy, limped and breathless in agony.

He was positive that the larger redhead was guilty of some crime against the men who wept afterwards.

But to a man, the ones in most agony, identified the smaller woman as the roaring spirit that fought like a wild cat.

One man, who bled freely from his now broken nose, winced when he sat on the steps leading up the the main house, shook his head. Afraid for those who thought they would try to take the women against their will in that cabin of pain.

“Senior Garcia. I do not think there is enough rum on all the island to make me or any of the others to try to take them women against their will.” He said. The man, named Gawrhum by Roberto de las Planas. “These women will protect the house they are in. But I dare not hazard to try to mate them with anyone against their will.”

Garcia shook his head in disagreement.

“All women seek to have strong men.” He told Gawrhum.

“These women have more soul than ten men. They are far more than you think, they are both like demons when they fight.” The men watched another servant walk by holding a hand to his pants, in an attempt to stop the bleeding from his ruined flesh. “They have not chosen him, either. He is the strongest of us and has many children.”

Four men entered the cabin, sounds of shrieks like two demons emanated from the cabin.

One man almost made it out, before the smaller woman who claimed her name as Fey, flew out and grabbed the man by the hair and dragged him down as if she had a sheep to sheer.

He screamed for help as she pulled him back into the cabin by his mustache.

When the master of the house returned to his plantation, Garcia told him of how the smaller woman, as tall as many men, she beat on the servants as they were sent in. And how the taller woman with fists like a man knocked one to the ground and slammed his head in the door a dozen times.

“He will not work for a week, she has broken his face.” Garcia said.

Roberto held his face in his hands.

“What do we do?”

“Leave them be, use other means to keep them.” Garcia raised his eyebrows. “Find another way to enslave them, if you dare.”

Four years ago. News that spread of children that escaped. Released by the English fool Myngs had begun a new time of destruction against the empire.

Château du Soleil, owned by Frenchman Philippe Cornu, burned to the ground by servants under the command of the children pirates after he freed them like God’s Wrath against the population.

Cornu was slow to rebuild, and that allowed other plantations to expand, including this Casa de Las Canas. The only people who seemed to enjoy the news of such destruction were the Irish slaves. The women who he was successful to breed, he could force them to stay beyond the original contract that was imposed on them.

But the two that kept their pagan names?

No one dared cross them. They performed duties and ruled with an iron hand, the household was safe, clean and always ready for visitors.

The one thing that grated on Roberto’s soul, was their arcane observation of their old religion.

Now, he came from the harbor with news of from the crew of one ship. A new threat of the Caribbean was spoken of in fear-filled whispers. A small fleet of four pirate ships, one ship crewed with children.

The eyes of the Celtic woman glittered with the news.

“Senior Roberto.” She told him, the icy blue of her eyes chilled his soul. “You would do well to release all your servants. Should the child pirate come here.”

“Fey.” Caoimhe interrupted. “Nae speak of those bairns. Walk with me.”

Alone in a room, they spoke in their Gaelic language.

“Do not say you are related to any of them. You will be used to bait Keegan into a trap.”

“That is my son, he comes for all of us. I wish him safe, but Roberto should know what comes.”

“Ach! Keep your head down, cousin, stand with the other servants. We will leave together in time.” The larger woman admonished her older, smaller relative.

“Caoimhe, my son returns.” Fey smiled wide. “They all return.”

“They return for us.” Fey smiled wider still.

Sworn Statement

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Sworn Statement

By

Dash McCallen
This is the testimony and sworn statement of Sargon III, Leader of the Clan Ondode, regarding the disaster at Elmer, New Mexico Territories, United States.

As I sit and write this, the images come back to me as if it were yesterday. I will preface this so as to put it in context.

The death of Dracula, Lord of the Vampires, had a chilling effect on the Regents and the High Council, rumors that humans fought back, indeed, several of the best nights of the year, for which all human men and women would hide and congregate in places making it easy to hunt, had now become times of festivities of the world of man– No longer did they fear those of us that prey on them for what they were; Feedstock.

The directive came out in the latter part of the nineteenth century that the Regents had called for a new vote to include the New World clans, not the least of which were the Clans Chupacabra and Manoutou, two of the most powerful of the new world clans, they had petitioned and wanted to be included in the next voting of the High Council. All of the New World clans wanted a vote on who would be the next Lord of Vampires.

It was announced by the Lady Marya, the daughter of the Late Count Dracula, that the Gathering of the Clans would be held in the New World out of respect of the new clans to be included. This was viewed as a positive move to allay fears that the Old World clans were only interested in domination of the New World and to bring peace at the outset of the new Council of Regents. This should avoid the internal strife that Lord Dracula had brought to an end during the times of the Great Defeat, before the Resurgence, what mankind called “The Dark Ages”.

My thrall found that in area of Elmer in the New Mexico Territories of the United States, that a large cave existed that could hold all the clans during the daylight. Thralls would be able to watch over the sleeping Kindred easily. Close by there was a large cattle ranch and several Native American villages, isolated and ready to be used for feeding.

At the commencement of the meetings of the Regents and the New World clans went very well. In the weeks before, the Manoutu and Chupacabra clans showed how easily the day-walkers of this land could be fed on. Clans trained new thralls as the older thralls became more involved in administration of the day-work.

It was at this time that a thrall came back and told of the cattle ranch nearby that was going to have an “All-Hallows-Eve” party there. Many, perhaps five-thousand in all, of the local feedstock were going to be at this gathering, bringing ales and food for everyone, it was reported that the party would last for days. At the first Regents meeting, Lady Marya stepped down as Steward in favor of her brother Luc, Son of Lord Dracula. It was then suggested that the gathering of humans would make a perfect community of thralls to protect the area and bring in new food to those that would stay on at the cave. Wherever those that have wandered and have lost the way in the Old World, it was decided then that this area in the New World would be a sanctuary and home for all of the Kindred.

At that time, no one had suspected the danger to the Council and any of the Kindred. The thralls who would have given warning prior to the disaster were also deceived by the Others.

There was no inclination prior to that night as to the nature of those that were at what the humans called the “Horned-A Ranch” or sometimes referred to as the “No Belly-Acres” to which is still a bit of a mystery to me.

Sighing, the blond-haired male dipped his bone tipped pen into a tiny overturned skull that served as an inkwell. His age was greater than that of Dracula, Lord of the Vampires, but he had no such ambitions or lust of power. Beginning his first life during the human dark ages, he appeared in his early thirty’s. His undead life began when the human populations had declined by a third due to over-predation, laws were passed to save the primary food source for all of the Kindred. as he continued his sworn statement on the events of that terrible night, he felt his throat constrict from the memory of fear.

The first of the week, the hunt went well around the Great Cave. There was feedstock that traveled in groups to the party. Some traveled in small groups, some by pairs. A few larger groups were left alone so as not to alarm the humans at the destination. One location that had used cliff dwellings of the Anasazi, wiped out by the over hunting of the Chupacabra Clan, that a group took shelter for the night where the hunters found them. Several thralls were made, one was embraced as Kindred and the rest were used as needed.

The selection of the High Council came to the final vote. Only the best claims to the seat of Chancellor were left to be heard. Count Dracula had left a legacy that was difficult to fill, some said it would never be filled properly. Others said it was a matter of perception and that a good strong leader would put fear back into the humans and they would no longer have the wish to hunt any on the Night’s Children.

On the night of the Last Day of October, the vote had been made. The announcement of the new Chancellor would be made at the end of the feeding and the decision would be final. Upon the signal of Marya Zaleska, daughter of the Count as her last act as Steward, the host departed the Great Cave and headed out in the night sky to the human gathering. This was the beginning of the end of our civilization as we knew it.

As the Hunting Party arrived at the humans All-Hallows Eve celebration, we mixed with the feedstock, waiting until the Midnight Hour struck to feed. Awk, King of the Clan Ondode, explained to the host of the human party that they were to stay calm as the feeding commenced. The human male who was host of the party, would not bend to the will of my brother. A mental struggle for control ensued with King Awk calling me over to mediate and explain to the human that resistance was pointless

He sighed, rubbed his eyes for a moment, a sound near him drew his attention.

The Regent’s thrall brought a new inkwell made of a small skull of some unidentified creature. He knew it was difficult for Sargon, one day the Kindred would regain the position that was taken from them on that terrible night.

Sargon dipped his pen into the ink and continued writing without looking up.

When I sat at the table, I tried to use my mind to force the male human named ‘Gilbert’ into accepting that he and his party were going to be used and fed upon. This human told us to act as guests and that we would not be allowed to harm anyone. It was then about five minutes to the stroke of Midnight. The time of the feeding for the clans after such a long and arduous meeting.

My brother the King, the great Awk, was among the most physically intimidating of the Old World Wampyr clans. Humans would not look at him directly because of his sheer physical intimidation. He stood over two meters in height and about one-hundred fifty kilograms. Gil, however looked him in the eye and just stated that we were not the most powerful of beings and that the whole of the Gathering were to behave as guests. All of the Old and New World Kindred were welcome if we remained peaceful, but that if anyone of the Hunting Party were to attempt to feed outside of what foot was set out, that is with any guests, they would be dealt with severely.

At this point, Awk was confused. Awk was unable to control the human that he had spoken with and, until that night, I had never met a human that would not be frightened or unmoved by mind control that we possess as all of the Embraced do.

It was at this time that I first felt the unease as to what the humans truly were. Six Wampyre and Chupacabra in the shape of human children sat at the feet of one white-haired human male who was telling them stories as a an adult human would to real children. He leaned on a silver-handled walking stick and had the look of wisdom about him. They selected him as the first of the feeding by those that sat near him.

Wynn, the hostess of the party and Gil’s wife sat at the table. This human I tried to gain control over, only to be rejected so harshly by her mind that it caused me physical pain.

Dipping his pen back into the gall ink, Sargon the III continued writing his testimony after taking a swallow from a golden goblet of thick blood-colored wine, the thought of that agony rebounded in his memory. So long ago, years in fact, but there was no distance enough or time passed enough from that place to where he now sat. His life was down to hunting rodents for sustenance, a few of the Embraced had made forays into hunting of humans again, using thralls to take the punishment in the event that they were found out, but it was a dangerous life due to the vampire hunters, as they called themselves, had been stalking any clan. Many had died at the hands of these humans, many more hid in fear, few felt that they still sat at the top of the food-chain.

Shaking his head at that thought, the once proud Scribe of Regents went back to his discourse of the events. It was the order of the Acting Chancellor of the Council to investigate and try to secure her position at the seat of power, although none of the Regents were truly representing any clan. The power vacuum led to a struggle that haunted all the True Vampire clans.

Sargon just wanted to do as humans did now and again. Get completely drunk and wake up days or weeks later. One thing he had a vague memory of, when Sargon II the Great embraced him after the end of a fight that left a knife in his back, of drunken singing and a lusty women that kept pressing their ample breasts in his face, a faint but good memory.

In that moment, I knew that we had to leave the area. The leader of the Chupacabra, RedNova Du Caudray, who had made herself a seat on the High Council, was in agreement. I tried to get my King to come with us, but he was in a contest of wills with the human host of the party, I had to strike him across the back of the head to get his attention. He was so engrossed on forcing the human to submit he no longer took notice that the human was not even paying attention to the Great Awk. I tried to warn others to leave the party, but the hour struck and the feast of the new Regents had begun, what our history would record as the single greatest disaster that led to the genocide of almost all of the Nights Children.

The first attack my Sire, Rednova Du Caudray and I witnessed. Six of the small Wampyre and Chupacabra that sat at the foot of this human-looking male had leaped up at him with fangs and claws out. Those Kindred appeared to dissipate as smoke does in a wind. Later this was found to be the Angel of Death, one of the Others.

Sargon shuddered, reaching for his goblet that the Thrall from the High Council kept filling with wine. After a gulp, Sargon returned to the paper.

What should have been an easy kill, one of the Lilu clan launched himself at a small female, and he was grabbed by the throat and held at arms-length by the human who then showed her true colors. She proved  she was not human by opening her mouth as an alligator and swallowed that Hunter whole. I learned this was Abaddon, King of the Demons, never has there been record or mention of Angels or Demons among us before this night.

I witnessed another Kindred thrown through a wall by another human that was not human, opening a hole that King Awk, Lady RedNova and myself escaped out of. We attacked no one and told every one of the Clans to flee. Several heeded our words, many were struck down.

We ran and made our way out the back of the farm and between large barrel-stands of wine and beer. We watched attacks against the hostess of the party, Wynn Bron, who spread wings of an Angel and she fought alongside three demons, slaughtering their way through a group of the Hunting Party. Running, we changed form to burrow creatures and escaped to fields nearby. We made our way to a depression in the land and out of site of the demons and angels. Against my advice, Awk became a bat and tried to fly away, only to explode into ashes as a great bolt of light struck him as he took to the air.

Sargon put down the bone-tipped pen,picked up his royal cup and swallowed wine, feeling the effect of the liquor, he turned back to his account of the disaster.

Lady Du Caudray stayed with me as we left the killing behind and returned to the Great Cave hours later, just before dawn. Of the Gathering, entire Clans did not return. Chupacabra Clan was reduced to less than a score of members. No one of the Wendigo clan returned to the cave, of the powerful Clan Dracul, only Marya remains. I am now the leader of the Clan Ondode, few of us survive and out of a total of seven-thousand Kindred that attended, fewer than thirty survived that night. The Clan Chupacabra and the Clan Ondode are to combine, there is no more that can be done.

Sighing, if a vampire could cry, he would have flooded his castle. His mate, the Lady RedNova Du Caudray, Empress of the Clan Chupacabra, put her hand on his shoulder.

“You have finished and the sun also rises. Sign it and send it away, beloved.”

Sargon nodded and put the pen to paper.

This is my sworn testimony of the true events witnessed by me on the Night Of Death on Samhain for all Kindred.

ROYAL SEAL

Royal Seal of the Ondode

Royal Seal of the Ondode

Signed ,

Sargon III, King of the Ondode

Failed Getaway

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Failed Getaway

Exhumed bodies piled up around the yards. Anywhere and everywhere the police dug around Malam Bayyad’s farm was a garden of horrors.

In the end, charged with sixty-two separate counts of murder, it was common thought he had a list longer by a large margin than the dead the police so far discovered.

His trial lasted over a year.

The Verdict?

Guilty.

Sentence?

Death.

Six-months after his conviction and then the prison administration moved him to Death Row. Few people were convicted in recent decades, executions happened quickly. Three appeals, expedited and lasted just two months.

Inmate number DR-1 walked with confidence to the execution chamber. In a glass-walled room with draperies obscured the view to the chamber beyond, the silent guards assigned to his restraint strapped him to a padded, vertical board.

Then they lifted him and the board so that he was in a supine position.

Taking the last bit of dignity I have

He shook his head.

Idiots. They don’t even know what’s coming.

Two days before, his wife paid a visit to him for one last “Conjugal” visit.

His brother passed on to him in a video stored in her phone.

Courage brother! When they think they come for you, we have an answer.”

The left strap is already loose, it won’t be hard get the arm out.

A chill from the sterile swab then the sharp poke when the technician stuck the IV catheter in the antecubetal space of his left arm.

Dark humor. They think I’m about to die, why did they use a sterile technique?

Do you have any last words?” A disembodied voice sounded and the drapes opened and showed the gallery of witnesses.

Yeah. I’m a little thirsty. When the Governor calls, I want my water with light ice.”

The sound clicked off and for a moment, the room was quiet except for the sound of his cardiac monitor that gave off a mosquito-like whine that he could hear.

He could see a different color fluid creep down towards his arm.

They already began the execution and the clock…

The clock! they were late! It’s a fail!

Then the lights went out, only the sun slanted through the high windows in the chamber gave illumination.

Malam opened his eyes, they did not focus for a moment, but there was no noise.

The tape on his arm pinched when he scratched his nose.

Then Malam blinked.

His arm was free! The strap! Unbuckled when guards fled after the power failed.

Cowards! But I have not heard any alarms. It must be some of the drug ran into my arm put me to sleep for a little while. Malam grinned. People think I am dead.

The thought made him laugh when he walked out to freedom.

He already had plans for the judge and his family while he walked to where the body-hauler would park.

The hallways were dark, last rays of sunlight filtered in.

Odd, not even the guards were around, prisoners were gone, too. There must have been a hell of a scare to evacuate the other inmates.

And all gates and doors were unlocked.

As planned, Malam walked free and laughed at the power outage orchestrated by his family.

Even the prisoners bolted, maybe even taken by bus, but no matter.

Screw them all! I’m free, next I will visit Judge Alkar and his family.

Malam looked around and frowned, someone might see him cut across the field towards town, but the power was out and the sun set. Darkness came and darker thoughts about his first grew in his mind. It would be full dark before he got through the open area and to the city park to his cache where he hid his kit.

More laughter as he covered the ground towards town when he tripped and fell into…

A body!

Disemboweled, blood still steamed. The coppery smell of the blood that soaked his prison issue shirt to his skin.

Gawd Dayuam! Dey’s comin’ outta de groun’s Ostus! Der’s anudder one! Git ‘im!”

He kneeled down and searched the body for a weapon of any kind.

The sounds of a head crushed by a baseball bat with a grunt, a wheeze of a death rattle, he realized that whoever it was had not seen him.

He crawled through the grass towards the voices.

His breath wheezed in his ears as he got closer to the voices.

If I could get a jump on them, what irony, I could kill someone while they killed someone.

He could see the top of their heads. They carried bats with nails driven into the fat end.

No’ so easy ta make a soun’ wit yer throat stuck full’a holes, ain’tit a bish!”

The sound of a bat to a skull and bloody fluids made a mist. Malam could smell the blood in the air and it excited him.

Then he jumped and grabbed the closest bat-man, called Ostus.

He surprised himself, he was stronger than he thought when he broke Ostus’ neck and took his bat. Malam brained the other killer.

Malam laughed while he carried the bat with him and walked towards the town. Another man stood up, also wore standard-issue.

Thanks, they killed everyone from the prison.” The convicts eyes glittered with a mixture of anger and fear. “I want to kill the judge who put me in there. Then find each and every one of the jurors. I’ve not seen my family for years, they don’t come to visit.”

Let’s go. What were you in for?”

They say I’m a cannibal. I’m not, they were chewed on by rats.” The pair moved towards the town. “I’m Skit.”

Malam. What kind of name is Skit?”

What kind of name is Malam?” As they walked towards a car on the edge of the field.

Not any car, a cop car. The officers were occupied with someone on the ground when the escapees stepped out from behind the trees.

Malam gasped in horror when the cops turned towards him.

Blood stained their faces and soaked the uniforms in a slick that glistened with coagulated blood.

One officer chewed on what looked like a forearm, the other had a foot.

Frozen in shock he watched the officers dropped the nightmare snacks and began to walk towards Malam and Skit.

He looked at his fellow escapee, the convict stood there, his skin shined with excitement, the big man looked at him with eyes that were all wrong, then reached out with hunger and a snarl.

Malam crushed Skit’s head with the bat and left the cop-things to ponder over the body he left while he ran towards the park.

He kneeled at the base of the tree where he buried his cache dug with his hands.

Those cops… I’ve never seen anyone do that before. That was crazy! Holy crap. Cannibalism? In three of them? I bet Skit was a decoy.

Strange I could outrun them.

That’s bat-shit crazy, cops can run! And they do not quit. And… Where is everyone?

Roads were empty, not a single car to wave down. The town would be quiet at the late hour, but this was a total absence of driven vehicles.

He stood and grimaced at the cold-bloody shirt that stuck against his body and made him shiver.

I need a fresh change of clothes.

People should in the park, the summer’s evening with no power anywhere. I could kill one and take the shirt. He looked around. No, first get out of sight and raid the laundromat. No chance of blood on clothes when I kill someone.

He slipped through the door, among the quiet machines in the dark of the community laundry.

He looked in through the clear windows into the machines, many held suds and water, stopped in mid-wash. A few were dry.

He pulled on the handle and one opened. He found a polo shirt and sweatshirt.

As he dressed, he disposed of the bloody mess of a prison uniform shirt and found a pair of jeans that fit.

A little tight, but they’ll loosen up some.

When he turned, a person sat on the side with their back to him.

He outside and looked at the woman in the light of the moonrise that filtered through the glass.

I think I remember her. Heavy-set girl, tattoos of roses on her neck.

It was a memory, like a faded photograph from long ago. She died pleading that she was pregnant when I tied a plastic bag over her head.

No! Impossible. She is part of my collection.

Malam walked through the shadows, heading to the middle of town. People began to follow him, they walked in an odd stilted way. Some chewed on…

They’re eating fingers! The insane asylum must have had a break out!

Then almost screamed when he heard another scream nearby. A man’s voice plead for help.

He ran away from the sound and looked over his shoulder assured himself that no one followed him.

And into the edge of chaos!

Damned echos!

Bloodied, shredded. The burly man used the broken picket of a fence as a make-shift weapon.

Damned good use of a stick! Malam nodded.

The street fighter turned to throw a winged nightmare onto the steel pickets of an iron gate when he spotted Malam.

Shot! gun! Get the damned shotgun!” He pointed with the stick at the dropped weapon, surrounded by dropped ammunition.

He screamed when he took a step backwards and fell over a curb in mid-combat of a massed attack by the black bat-winged creatures.

Malam scooped up the scattergun and shells and cleared the chamber, stuffed two shells into the receiver and turned the weapon to the mass of bodies where screams of battle filled the black sky.

That all you got! Take this! AAAH! Bite me! Bite this!”

The shotgun bucked in Malam’s hands and scattered bat-wings and black flesh while he racked in another round.

Second shot freed the big man.

The tatters of his shirt were a uniform.

Cop!? Malam shook his head. I saved a cop.

The officer tried to take another step and looked down and screamed again. He screamed with the sound of a man who saw the unthinkable.

The left leg had been denuded of flesh below the knee, two bones stuck out were his leg had been chewed off and poured blood into the gutter.

He looked at Malam with resignation, the cop was about to bleed to death.

Run!” He yelled at Malam. “Too late for me, get out of here.”

Don’t tell me twice! Malam ran with his pockets full of shotgun shells and the big pump-action weapon out in front of him.

His last view of the cop was some creature that looked like a cat out of someone’s nightmare on the officer’s head while the man exsanguinated and chewed while the one-legged man fought like a whirlwind of fists.

Then one fist, he

The last Malam saw as he turned the corner was a pile of wings where the cop had been.

Now where to go?

The police department would be a good place to go, someplace safe!

Yeah, right.

Malam walked around the corner towards the center of town and watched a woman fall under an attack of a pack of skeletonized dogs.

Okay. Police station, good choice. No one will check on me while this shit goes on!

He turned and ran to the one place he swore he would never go back to.

He ran headlong into the glass doors– Locked!

Locked? When the hell does a police station lock doors?

A noise behind him! A horrid, group of people followed his movements on the steps.

In front of the group, he he recognized the lesbian couple, his first hunt!

No. Not possible. They belong to me! He shook his head. Damn, don’t think, run! I have to run! What has happened with the world?

A car, an ancient Ford with the door open sat on the side of the street, he could mess with that and get it started.

Savage panic set in, Malam ran.

He could see more creatures, a cat with eight-legs rose out of the shadows, looked at him…

And screamed his name!

Malam!”

No! Not out of the shadows, out of the ground! It moved a manhole cover and crawled out of the sewers.

He ran like the wind. He stopped in the middle of a park, but not a park, it was the rural cemetery.

How the hell did I get here? He needed to get back to the center of town, steal a cop car if he needed! He counted the shells to the shotgun. Twenty. Twenty shells plus six in the magazine and one in the pipe. Not enough. Son of a bitch.

A hand grabbed him from out of the darkness, felt for a pulse?

He forgot his shotgun, the mind of the murderer had only one thought.

Run!

He pulled his hand free- or did it let go?

It did not matter, he ran! Out of the ground they came towards him. He recognized them. People he cut up, ran over, burned.

He needed to find tools! Break into a shed or a hardware store if need be.

They were coming, sibulent sounds of horros that crawled in the bushes, wheezes of these creatures that stumbled, shuffled, walked towards him.

Fuck! I gotta run!

From behind, naked-screaming cats with eight-arms that ended in black hands and needle-sharp claws, lept and swung from trees and skittered like giant spiders over headstones.

Into darkness Malam ran, chased by familiar faces of dead who walked and shuffled after him, creatures from nightmares he never before had.

His mind broke while he ran with the screams that echoed long and loud in the long-dark night.

****

The execution chamber of the prison, unused for so long, no one could remember how seating was arranged. The sun slanted in and blinded some, overheated the room and it was stuffy and awkward.

The witnesses watched the last breath of Malam Plando.

I hope he is in Hell and suffers a thousand deaths for each one he committed.” The father of a princess who he gave away to another princess at the two women’s wedding.

He turned and walked out. Yor Bas’chet got his wish in ways he never knew.

Doctor Drake checked for a lack of pulse to match the flatline on the screen nodded then paused.

I would swear he pulled against my hand.” The doctor leaned over and looked into the dead prisoner’s eyes. “Look at the fear on his face I’d say he was afraid to die.”

Good for him.” The guard said. “Coroner is here. Let them take him out now.”

Good, have him sent to Doctor Quincy, I want him autopsied. Someone like this needs to be studied, we will slice his brain up and study it.”

You’re the doc, Doc.” The Lieutenant nodded and made a notation on the notepad.

In the core of the world, Malam became aware someone spoke of cutting him apart.

Fuck that! I gotta hide!

Malam Plando continued to run.

< < < < > > > >

The Failed Getaway

Hypnos the cat gives a command
Standard

The Failed Getaway

A short story by Dash McCallen

Bodies had piled up around his farm. Malam Plando’s farm was a garden of horrors anywhere the police dug into the ground.

In the end, charged with sixty-two separate counts of murder, it was common thought he had a list longer than the investigators discovered.

His trial lasted over a year.

The Verdict?

Guilty.

Sentence?

Death.

In the six-months after his conviction and his move to Death Row, his turn came. Few people who the courts convicted in recent decades, executions happened quickly. Three appeals, expedited to last no more than two months.

He, it was his name and he was about to scream it out loud in laughter.

Inmate number 1854X-195S5-1-31E walked with confidence to the execution chamber. In a glass-walled room with blinds obscuring the view to the chamber beyond, the guards assigned to his restraint, wordlessly strapped him to a padded, vertical board.

With some effort they rotated him and the board so that he was in a supine position.

*Taking the last bit of dignity I have*

He shook his head.

*Idiots. They don’t even know what is coming.*

Two days before, his wife paid a visit to him for one last “Conjugal” visit.

His brother passed on to him in a video stored in her phone.

“Courage brother! When they think they come for you, we have an answer.”

He laughed.

*The left strap is already loose, it won’t be hard get the arm out.*

A chill from the sterile swab then the sharp sting when the technician stuck the IV catheter in the antecubetal space of his left arm.

Dark humor. They were thinking he was going to die, why did they use a sterile technique?

“Do you have any last words?” A disembodied voice sounded and the blinds opened, revealing a crowd sitting in the gallery.

“Yeah. I’m a little thirsty. When you get the call, I want my water with light ice.”

The sound clicked off and for a moment, the room was quiet except for the sound of his cardiac monitor. An old style display that gave off a mosquito-like whine that he could hear.

He could see a different color fluid creep down towards his arm.

They already began the execution and the clock…

It ticked past the time, they were late! His rescue was not coming!

Then the lights went out, only the setting sun slanted through the high windows in the chamber.

Malam opened his eyes, they did not focus properly for a moment, but there was no noise.

The tubing in his arm pinched slightly when he scratched his nose.

Then Malam blinked.

His arm was free! Someone had released the strap when the techs and guards fled during the blackout.

*Cowards.*

*But I have not heard any alarms. Some of the drug ran into my arm put me to sleep for a little while.*

Malam grinned.

*People thought I died when the power went out.*

Laughing, the thought of his walking out of the room when no one was looking tickled his soul.

He already had plans for the judges and their families as he stalked the hallway down to where the body-hauler would park.

Darkness in the hallways, only the sunlight from the outside filtered in, it was odd, not even the guards were around, prisoners were gone, too.

*There must have been a hell of a scare to evacuate the other inmates.*

And the gates were open, no doors locked.

As promised, Malam walked free, laughing at the power outage orchestrated by his family and caused the sheep to run frightened.

Even the prisoners bolted, maybe even taken by bus, but no matter.

*Screw them all! I’m free, next stop, where Judge Alkar Chronqui’s family was. I’ll break into the home and put his head.*

Malam looked around and frowned, someone might see him cut across the field towards town, but the power was out and the sun set. Darkness was coming and dark thoughts on his first in town grew in his mind.

Malam smiled, it would be full dark before he got through the open area and to the city park to his cache where he hid his kit of tape, knives, drugs, rope and energy bars.

*The drugs would have expired, I can’t use them on my clients, it might kill them.*

More laughter as he covered the ground towards town when he kicked something in the tall grass and tripped.

A body!

eviscerated, still steaming when he stood up. The coppery smell of blood came from his prison issue shirt.

He was covered in blood.

“Gawd Dayuam! Dey’s comin’ outta de groun’s Ostus! Der’s anudder one! Git ‘im!”

He sqautted down, fishing around the body, looking for a weapon of any kind.

The sound of a baseball bat sounded in his ears. A sound of a grunt, a wheeze of a death rattle, he realized that whoever it was had not seen him.

He crawled through the grass carefully, towards the voices.

His heart was standing still, his breath was wheezing in his ears as he got closer to the voices.

If he could get a jump on them, what a wonderful twist of irony, he could kill someone killing someone.

He could see the top if their heads. They carried bats with nails driven into the fat end.

“No’ so easy ta make a soun’ wit yer throat stuck full’a holes, ain’tit a bish!”

The sounds of thumping and the bloody fluids made a mist. Malam could smell the blood in the air and it excited him.

Malam struck, leaping up and grabbing the first one, called Ostus.

His hands were stronger than he thought when he broke Ostus’ neck, taking the bat, he broke the head of the other wannabe killer.

But the look Ostus and his partner had when he came up, bloodied and muddy, they acted as if they saw the dead rising from the graves.

Malam laughed, carrying the bat with him, he walked off towards the town. He saw another man stand up, also wearing standard-issue.

“Thanks, they were doing everyone from the prison.” The darkness hid the convicts eyes, but they glittered with a mixture of anger and fear. “I want to kill the judge for putting me in there. Then find each and every one of the jurors. I’ve not seen anyone for years, they don’t come to visit.”

“Let’s go. What were you in for?”

“They said I was a cannibal. I was not, they were chewed on by rats.” The pair moved towards the town. “I’m N’oi.”

“Malam. What kind of name is N’oi?”

“What kind of name is Malam?”

“It means Evil. It is what my mother called me.” Malam shrugged and the pair moved off into the dark.

A cop car, the officers were looking at something when the pair stepped out from behind the trees.

Malam gasped at the cops when they turned towards the pair’s approach.

Blood stained their faces and soaked the dark uniforms in a slick that glistened in the dark with coagulated blood.

One officer chewed on an object that looked like a forearm, the other had a foot.

Frozen in their steps,  and the officers saw them and dropped the nightmare snacks and walked towards Malam and N’oi.

Looking at his fellow escapee, the huge convict stood there, drooling, his skin ashen and made no other human sound.

Then N’oi looked at him with eyes that were all wrong, then reached out to Malam with hunger and a snarl.

Malam crushed N’oi’s head with the bat in a single swing and took off in a run. Leaving the cop-things to ponder over the body he left behind, Malam fled to the park.

He sat at the base of a tree he had marked long ago and dug with his hands.

*Those cops… I’ve never seen anyone do that before. That was crazy! Holy crap. Cannibals? Shit! Shit! Shit!*

And he could outrun them with the power of fear.

*That’s another thing that’s bat-shit crazy, cops can run and they do not give up. And… Where the hell is everyone?*

Roads were empty, not a single car to wave down. The town would be quiet at the late hour, but this was a total absense of driven vehicles.

Grimacing at the cold shirt that stuck against his body with clotted blood and made him shiver.

*I need a fresh change of clothes.*

Bodies in the park were milling around, a part of the late summer evening with no power anywhere. He could kill one and take the shirt.

*No, first get the hell out of sight and raid the laundromat. No chance of blood on clothes.*

He slipped through the door, among the quiet machines in the dark of the community laundry.

Looking in through the clear windows into the machines, many held suds and water. A few were dry.

One opened when he pulled on the handle and he found two polo shirts and a hoodie sweatshirt.

As he dressed, he disposed of the bloody mess of a prison uniform shirt and found a pair of jeans that fit.

*A little tight, but they will loosen up some.*

He turned around, a person sat in the corner with their back to him.

He slipped out and looked at her in the light of the rising moon that filtered through the glass. He thought he recognized the heavy-set girl by tattoos of roses on her neck.

It was a memory, like a faded photograph from long ago. She had died pleading that she was pregnant while Malam tied a plastic bag over her head.

*No. Impossible, she is long dead. Part of my collection.*

Malam ran through the shadows of the street, heading to the middle of town. Shuffling people began to follow him. Some chewed on finger-food.

*They’re eating real fingers! The insane asylum must have had a break out!*

He almost screamed when he heard another scream nearby. A man’s voice pleading to anyone for help.

He ran around the corner away from the sound, looking over his shoulder and made sure no one followed him.

And into the middle of it.

*Damned echos!*

Bloodied, shredded. The burly man used the broken picket of a fence as a make-shift weapon.

*Damned good use of a stick!* Malam nodded.

The street fighter turned to throw a walking winged nightmare onto the steel pickets of an iron gate when he spotted Malam.

“Shot! gun! Get the Damned shotgun!” He pointed with the stick at the dropped weapon, surrounded by shells of ammunition.

A scream and he fell over a curb when he backed up from the force of the mob attack by the black bat-winged things.

Malam scooped up the scattergun and cleared the chamber, stuffed two shells into the receiver and turned the weapon to the mass of bodies where screams of battle filled the black sky.

“That all you got! Take this! AAAH! Bite me! Bite this!”

The shotgun bucked in Malam’s hands scattering bat-wings and black flesh while he racked in another round.

Second shot freed the big fighting man.

The tatters of his shirt were a uniform.

*Cop!?* Malam shook his head. *I saved a cop.*

The officer tried to take another step and looked down and screamed again, this time with the sound of a man who knew the unthinkable.

The left leg was denuded of flesh below the knee, two bones stuck out were the creatures chewed off his leg. The look of a man resigned, he was bleeding to death.

“Run!” He yelled at Malam. “Too late for me, get out of here.”

*Don’t tell me twice!* Malam ran with his pockets full of shotgun shells and the big pump-action weapon out in front of him.

His last view was some creature that looked like a cat out of someone’s nightmare on the cops head and chewed while the one-legged man fought like a whirlwind of fists.

Then one fist.

The last Malam saw as he turned the corner was a pile of wings where the cop had been.

*Now where the hell to go?*

The police department would be a good place to go, someplace safe!

*Yeah, right.*

Malam walked around the corner towards the center of town and watched a woman fall under the attack of a pack of skeletonized dogs.

*Okay. Police station, good choice. No one will check on me while this shit goes on!*

He turned and ran to the one place he swore he would never go back to.

He ran headlong into the glass doors— Locked!

*Locked? When the hell does a police station lock doors?*

A noise behind him! A group of creatures followed his movements on the steps.

In front of the group, he he recognized the lesbian couple, his first hunt!

*No. Not possible.* He shook his head. *Damn, stop thinking and run! I have to run! What is happening with the world?*

A car, an ancient Ford with the door open sat on the side of the street, he could mess with that and get it started.

Savage panic set in, Malam ran.

He could see more creatures, a cat with eight-legs coming out of the shadows looked at him and screamed his name!

No, not out of the shadows, out of the ground! It lifted up a manhole cover and crawled out of the sewers.

Panting and sweating like a horse. He stopped in the middle of a park, but not a park, it was the rural cemetery.

*How the hell did I get here?* He needed to get back to the center of town, steal a cop car if he needed! He counted the shells to the shotgun. *Twenty. Twenty shells plus six in the magazine and one in the pipe. Not enough. Son of a bitch.*

A cold hand grabbed him from a bush, feeling for a pulse? He was on no one’s menu!

He forgot his shotgun, the mind of the murderer had only one thought.

*Run!*

He pulled his hand free- or did it let go?

It did not matter, he ran! Out of the ground they came towards him. He recognized them. People he cut up, ran over, burned.

He needed to find tools! Break into a shed or a hardware store if need be.

They were coming, sibilant sounds of horrors that crawled in the bushes, wheezes of these creatures that stumbled, shuffled, walked towards him.

*Fuck! I gotta to run!*

From behind, naked cats with eight-arms that ended in black hands and needle-sharp claws, screamed like the tortured victims of his shop, leapt and swung from trees and crawled like giant spiders over headstones.

Into the darkness Malam Plando ran, chased by familiar faces of walking dead, creatures from nightmares he never had.

His mind broke while he ran with the screams that echoed long and loud in the long-dark night.

****

The execution chamber of the prison, unused for so long, no one could remember how seating was arranged. The sun slanting in blinded some, overheated the room and it was stuffy and awkward.

The witnesses watched the last breath of Malam Plando.

“I hope he is in Hell and suffers a thousand deaths for each one he committed.” The father of a princess who he gave away to another princess at the two women’s wedding.

Turning and walking out. Yor Bas’chet got his wish in ways he never knew.

Doctor Drake checked for a lack of pulse to match the flatline on the screen nodded then paused.

“I would swear he pulled against my hand.” The doctor leaned over and looked into the dead prisoner’s eyes. “He was a coward in the end, look at the fear on his face, the jaw set and lips pulled back as if he was about to scream, eyes wide open. I’d say he was afraid to die.”

“Good for him.” The guard said. “Coroner is here. Let them take him out now.”

“Good, have him sent to Doctor Sherlock Quincy, I want him autopsied. Someone like this needs to be studied, we will slice his brain up and study it.”

“You’re the doc, Doc.” The Lieutenant nodded and made a notation on the notepad.

In the core of the world, Malam became aware someone spoke of cutting him apart.

*Fuck that! I gotta hide.*

Malam Plando continued to run.

Married by Mistake Chapter 22. Treatment Course

MbM
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Chapter 22. Treatment Course

Richard Tribbing, MD, Microsurgeon, specialist in the field that saved both Tom’s life, his professional life and his arm walked in with the team of doctors who all worked to answer their calling as microsurgeons while they made their afternoon rounds.

Looking at Kaylee , he smiled as he and the seven other doctors and fellows entered and filled the room.

Describing the injuries,commenting that the wound was ‟Large shard of glass left the wound clean as if a large scalpel had cut through the soft-tissues leaving the wound with no appreciable tearing or avulsion mid-shaft radius. The weight of the glass was sufficient to cut through the bone without deflection. There were eight-slivers of glass removed during the procedure. Imaging did not reveal any other glass in the arm.”

Kaylee sat and listened, twice she tried to leave as the surgical team made notes, questioned, and spoke in terms that sounded like Greek to her.

Doctor Tribbing chuckled when they spoke later and she referred to the conversations.

‟So how long do you think it will be before he comes home?” Kaylee asked. ‟We live on a flying yacht, there is not much room for putting a hospital bed in the plane, he told me last week he has a deadline to finish writing for.”

‟Well, he won’t be going home until the danger of… ” The Doctor paused and pulled at his chin. “How should I put this? If anything should go sideways against any of our plans to get him home and whole and functioning.”

‟How long?”

‟Depending on how his healing responds, probably two to three weeks, we have not had any problems thus far so maybe on the shorter side of that.”

‟Three weeks.” Kaylee said quietly, thanked Doctor Tribbing and sat next to the sleeping Tom and held his hand again while the Doctor left the room to continue his business.

‟Kaylee ?” It was Randy the nurse at the door. ‟There is someone who wants to see you in the waiting room.”

‟Me? Okay.” This puzzled her as no one of her friends or family knew she was at the hospital with Tom.

Kaylee walked out to the waiting room where sat a middle-aged woman with a quick eye who sat ramrod straight. She was the only one in the room.

‟I am Kaylee .”

‟You? You are Tom’s new wife?” She looked down and bit her lip in a grimace. ‟I am Georgia Hershey, Tom’s agent. I am the one that gets him published and I have been with him for the last decade. I don’t know you.”

She looked as if someone had spit on her.

“How did a young… lady… as yourself marry to Tom? That is so classic. How did you meet?” It was a near accusation tone of voice, followed with a sigh. “No no..never mind. I am here to check on him, there is an installment on the series due on the Weedy Sea Dragon, but you won’t know about that I’m sure. But I will ask anyway. Do you know if he has finished it?”

‟First, I am Tom’s wife. Second, I have heard about you and how you have pushed him to write, I’m not sure of his view of you gnawing on him to get things done.” Kaylee felt something inside of her, an anger that she last felt when she broke a man’s arm. “He has told me that you said it was due at the end of the month, but the contract I’ve read specifies no such deadline. It reads simply ‟As finished.” And third, he has one completed in the last month, I have read it and it is complete but unedited. It will get to you when it he finishes the edit.”

‟And I know that Leonard the Leafy SeaDragon is a series, your attempt to misdirect me is offensive.” Kaylee kept even voice, hiding her mounting rage.

‟I would like to see him.” Ms. Hershey said, matching Kaylee ’s tone.

‟The answer is no. He needs rest, he will contact you when he is ready and not before. He has endured a horrid injury and still might lose his arm. His access is limited while he is on polypharmecutical therapy and external fixation to hold the bones in the normal anatomic positions. ” Kaylee had to clench her fist on her drawing hand until the knuckles cracked. She chose her words with care to show the woman that she was not a simple girl. “You go back to your office, and tell the truth to who ever needs to hear it, Tom has been injured and is now with family in the intensive care department of the finest institution that can be found.” Kaylee felt heat building in her chest. “So you go back to your office or whatever crack you crawled out of and he will send it in.”

‟Well.” Ms. Hershey backed up a step. ‟Tell him to call when it is convenient, but please make it soon.”

The agent walked out amid scattered applause.

An RN smiled at Kaylee as she walked past.

‟That was awesome, she called when you and Tom were asleep, then came in and was treating us like trash. It was good to see her taken down a few notches.” The name badge said ‟Trish” on it. ‟She demanded entry. Then she told us she was Tom’s closest thing to family.” Trish frowned with the memory of the event. “We told her that security would escort her out.”

‟We got married earlier this month. Kind of a surprise for both of us.”

‟What does he write? You said something about a dragon?”

‟That’s a children’s book, he has written stories that have made it to the movies. ‟ Kaylee took a deep breath, she was suddenly cold, not realizing she had started to perspire during the confrontation. ‟His movie, Steamland that is in the theaters now.”

‟Oh? Oh WOW! I have seen that twice! It is a great movie, he wrote that?” Trish’s eyes widened.

‟Yup, he’s the author.”

‟Missus Harte, anything you need. No one will get in without your say-so.” Randy said from the door as he let both women in. Kaylee felt a bit like royalty after that. The young woman with an iron will who took no crap from anyone.

Kaylee smiled, returning to Tom’s side feeling accomplished. She had done something that she felt was worthy of the title of “Mrs. Tom”.

Computers, Linux, Windows and no want to play.

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48 hours.  Hitting at it.  I had Windows 7 and Ubuntu Linux in a quad-boot, worked well. Long and pleasant relationship.  Windows ignored Linux while Ubuntu Linux, Gentoo and Arch Linux happily looked and could walk through the MS Windows garden of confusion, plus one virus that stubbornly refused to be deleted on the windows level.

In the Windows level, it was not possible to delete it, so then it’s incarcerated in a locked and “Quarantined” file.

Linux – all flavors – Couldn’t care less, I never bothered to worry about it, it was just a reminder that I am safe while I keep myself as a client and non-admin in the world of the Penguin.  I could lose all my novels if there were a logic bomb and wiped the drive in my section, but the computer itself would remain intact.

And I have the main works here.  You all don’t get the one line novels.

” A lizard that watches the truck drive off the road.” and that’s all there is! Lol. So, thems not in WP library.

However, I digress. The computer in question, the hard drive began to have issues.  Crashing or freezing at random.  Saving a file could be a gamble if it would or would not be corrupted.

Diagnostics were definitive, hard drive had read-write problems.  So I bought a hybrid drive.

Not bad!

Then W7 showed me a darker side. Don’t wanna play with the penguins!

Say whut?  I made a rescue disk– Actually a rescue USB, optical disks are so 20th century. 😉 old tech… And I reinstalled it again.

For your information.  The controlling program, the Master Boot Record “MBR” for short, has only 64 K of memory allocated.  Each partition on a drive is kept in the file of 16k.

This leaves a total of 4 partitions possible. (4×16=64) and this new drive with a section of solid state and very speedy. The MBR has four entries already!

  1. For the MBR. 2. OS. 3.Rescue 4. Program Files

No room for Linux.

So I try to make logical extensions.

And I break windows. o.0

I try to install Linux from inside windows. o.-

Yeah, no fly there.

I install Linux and try to install windows over that.

Yeaaaah…no. *sigh*

Okay.  Once again, format, install windows and try to adjust the partitions and combine two.

Disaster.  I am so pleased I do not have anything to back up.  Not putting any files on there.

Then, in forums that I have read and read and read..until I am green with nausea and blue from lack of movement.  (Actually, cyanosis from not breathing, I keep holding my breath)

I read in one forum, to use easyBCD, what a near disaster, if I had a system that I wanted to save.

First!  It would not launch, only took my computer to a website that “Pay $29.95 for a one time change in partitions.” plus it ships out information for “Quality control, your MBR, file structure…” Already lost me.  Do I trust some faceless creature with snooping on my computer system while I try to make it work?  Nope. I don’t trust politicians, why should I trust a snooping program?

Yeah, and if I bungled it and needed to come back in twelve-hours, I have to fork over another chunk of change? …Yeah, maybe. So no.

Here is where it gets interesting.

You CAN’T uninstall it.  Multiple times, spent three hours, booting and rebooting.  It was sitting there as an icon on the desktop, I used various tricks I know of, plus a few I looked up.  Then got down and dirty in the command-line and deleted it.

But, a few minutes later, the computer acted slow, funky and chunky…then the icon reappeared.

So, my opinion?  Do not use this program! It may not be the classical “Malware” but it certainly refuses to leave when I tell it to. Even Avast antivirus couldn’t kill it.

So, I nuked the system- again.  Completely reformatted and reinstalled and that got rid of it.

So after two days (!!? And I am supposed to be smart!  I have BUILT my own desktops, did a few custom ones, installed Windows, OS/2, Linux, even tinkered on Mac’s when there was an aftermarket allowed.) I have an epiphany.

I did a total wipe, and installed Ubutnu Linux. I don’t use Gentoo or Arch all that much, Backtrack and Knoppix only live in my desk for when I built a computer and wanted to harden it from outside influences.

Then I built, with some challenges, a virtual machine and used it to launch windows.  So now I have it at a point where I am close to where I want to be.

But it is not a true dual-boot.

And Slow?  Pfft… Optical disks even at a speedy 16x still has no comparison to a small, quiet, USB stick that fits nearly flush against the computer.

Upgrades? Ain’t gonna happen with this setup.

So, now as I am sitting here, feeling like I have accomplished an aneurysm and I have entertained you folks ..not at all.. my voices have been pushed out into the backyard while I tackle this project.

And it needed to be done by Monday.  Princess #1 goes off to college, I asked her about her preferences of operating systems.  Windows or Linux?

“LInux, please.  I might need Windows for small things, but I like Linux.”

You got it. So that is now the primary operating system.

If only WIndows would play nice.

Hm… Maybe I can change the master boot record to something a little more current.GUID partition?

Yeah.  But I want to get to writing.  Kolo the Dragon and Jona are languishing.

There are folks that want me to do some critique of their works. (I like doing that , by the way, I just took off on a path of “Now what?” part of life the last ..egad.. probably 8 weeks.. Maybe 12 or more.

Papa Dash, Mama Dash, Sister Sledge, ME, THEN… Oh what now?

Yeah, Mrs Dash is sitting across from me, her heart beating around 180 beats per minute.  I have dosed her with a calcium channel blocker and she has begun to feel better.  So here I sit at 2:35 in the AM, watching her being sat on by a 90 pound fur covered pile of love and checking her with my new (actually old, I remembered it from long ago when I assessed folks on a run) pulse checker. I even listened to her lungs for good measure.

Dang my ears are getting old. lol.

So here she sits in SVT, her heart wants to jump out of her chest and run down the street laughing like Batman’s Riddler.

And I still haven’t’ gotten something to tell you other than blog this.

No vampires, no wolves, no dragons, bots, fairies, gorgons, wizards/witches or archers.

Just a shaking of the head. I am wanting to sit and be willing to open a mic on the computer and talk to you while I am writing down an idea, but now I am feeling like I am the only batter on the baseball team.

I have to go to the men’s room and the other side keeps pitching!

That kind of pressure.

Well, Mrs D is going to bed.  I am going to take a shower and then lay down next to her, I’ll keep my hand on her back to feel her heartbeat. (Yes, you can if you lay quietly.  😀 )

For now, I will just say, that the dust is settling near Papa, Mama, Sister, and such.  I am embarrassed about being taken down to my knees by a grain of sand, if I knew it was that instead of food poisoning, I might have stuck it out.  Maybe not.

That stuff hurts. lol. With capital letters.

Anyway, off to the showers for me. I don’t want her to be alone for too long, not when she is trying for a heart attack. (She refuses to go to the ER for the most part.)  I can stop most illnesses, but there is a limit on what I carry and can do with a pocket knife and a pen.

Keep me in your dreams, I’ll keep you entertained.

Dash.

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta: A Glossary of Developing Terms.

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As the references to Anid-Sta grow, the world builds, it occurs to me that other writers who are looking around for inspiration might benefit from how and where I get mine.

Also this gives a reference as this is all first draft, something for you all to refer to when I go off on an InfoDump– but hey it is my style and I’ll dump. Especially after my FORTH cup of coffee. (To me, only one, but my cup is four times the size of a normal one)

So that said, here are the terms currently used, or will be used.  All terms are inspired by real world.  😉

Qat-Csu: Pronounced “Cat-choo” inspired by a sneeze by my eldest daughter, followed by “bless you” from grandma. The spelling is inspired by California State University. CSU.  Now, the Qat-Csu is a death-cult religion that is intolerant of other life forms that do not allow for intermingling. Followers were/are/will be required to amputate the little finger of both hands and undergo DNA alteration to eliminate the offending appendage.  Five-fingered/toed life is an offense to the religion of the Qat-Csu. The Csu first came into being in the unpublished novel of “Bowheart” as a religion. Now has evolved and discovered to be led by an AI program in a war computer. (this is subject to change)

Bots:  These have evolved since the time of the humans with a basic program to recycle all machines of war.  The “Core” (or variations of the term- still in evolution) are autonomous, programmed machines that were initially built to deconstruct and build at the molecular level. But as time has gone on, the Core System has determined that larger sizes are needed in some applications. There are now:

Nanobots- The smallest and most numerous, they are spoken of, but do not feature in the story.  Technically, they are simplistic and have only a rudimentary intelligence, becoming more effective as a collective. A million of them, sitting end to end would fit in between millimeter hash marks on a ruler. Able to move individual atoms. The term includes a range of sub-molecular size to just below the Microbot size.

Microbots- A thousand times larger than nanobots, speed of processing, able to recycle ceramic armor and explosives at a rapid rate, unaffected by radiation. Used to separate alloys with a minimum of energy

Millibots- A thousand times larger than microbots, one millimeter in size. more complex, more capable.  Processing power is highter, but the ability to recycle elements of steel and toxic materials is lower.

Minibots-  Between two and ten centimeters tall, the most used. Explorers and trackers. They are generally the leaders of the bot world.  Able to interact between the micro and the macro worlds. The Minibots are the first to combine organic and inorganic.  (read: Cyborg)  but this is in evolution. Not sure if it will feature.

Macrobots- between twenty centimeters and one-fifty centimeters tall. High processing power but low reasoning, they are good for design, safety and building of architectural  structures that are useful, but have achieved the mathematical point of diminishing returns.  They are the workhorses under direction of the Minibots. Can function in the human sized world of buttons and levers, doors and transports.

Megabots- Few, used as tow-trucks to drag, lift, pull armor, unexploded bombs, into places that the nanobots and microbots can get to. Heavy lift machines, but with limited applications.

 

Humans:

Two DNA constructed virus’, designed to kill anyone with the genome for five fingers and five toes. A second, modified virus to kill anyone with the genome to have four fingers and toes.

Human mortality rate exceeded 97% before the last survivors “Took the plunge” and went into a designed three-hundred month stasis bath in liquid helium. 106,000,000,000 population before the virus was released by the warring factions, only 10,000 people survived to go into suspended animation. However, due to a coding glitch, three-hundred months became three-hundred centuries. During which time the Core System developed the bot society for protection of humans and recycling of steel death into a garden.

Of the humans, Fae MacLir is the first to be revived. An assistant IT Engineer, she does not understand why she was awakened first, not her supervisor. As of this writing, 28 June 2015, I dont’ know either.  heh.

On that note.

 

That is the glossary for now.  Check back often, I will update as the world builds!

Dragon Master University Chapter 39. Summer in Spring

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Chapter 39. Summer in Spring

Yawning and stretching in his bed the next morning, Jona sighed. He felt exhausted the night before and went to bed while Kolo, her brother and Professor Vale sat up and talked late into the night.

The first class in the spring quarter began with social studies of dragons and humans, something at first that Jona felt was boring, but while the tall human woman instructed, she spoke of wars and prejudice.

Dragons, older and wiser than the human race, the humans had one thing more.

Conviction.

They had determination to live.

Like siblings, respected and at times hated each other, the human and dragon populations drifted apart in some ways and merged in others.

A complex relationship that developed since before the dawn of history.

And Professor Altair was already talking about homework.

A whisper at Jona’s shoulder.

“We can study together.” It was Summer. “You have that look people get before they scream and run away from something.”

Jona stifled a laugh, he would have denied it, but she was correct, the social history of humans and dragons promised to be a difficult class.

“We will meet in the library, no one will bother us there.” She said softly while the professor droned on about the good natures of man and dragon were often lost in the passage of time.

He nodded, Professor Altair spoke of how legends in dragon lore and human mythology remembered the relationship between a dragon and an intelligent girl that grows up, turning away from the great friendship they had developed.

The dragon, who stood next to the young human during great raids by great robbers from the sea that sailed in great ships.

Only when the dragon Kl’qlpff, who humans called “Puff” told the Pirate King of the raids, who then forced the rogue corsairs to lower their flags and leave forever.

Songs and legends, bards wrote about it all, then faded from even that.

“One day, the story will return,” She said. “It will come by way of bards and storytellers.”

It struck a chord in Jona, like the baby dragon Sprite who adopted him when he drove a cart of smelly peat behind a flatulent ox the previous summer.

Summer walked with him down the path to the library and they talked of how dragons had existed for so long, why they were so long-lived and if there would fully be peace.

She sat at a broad stone table, polished by a thousand years of forelegs and arms rubbing on it. Padded stone seats, wicker chairs, and a myriad of other perches surrounded the giant round disk to accommodate the different clans and species.

Kola sat in with them, his studies of human laws confused him.

Eva lounged, reading an architecture textbook for her classes, but it kept hitting her in the face as she dozed while trying to read it. Looking around to see if anyone noticed, she would go back to reading the same page.

“Summer,” Jona whispered. “What page are we on?”

She giggle quietly.

“You keep looking at Eva. She will give herself a brain injury if she keeps hitting herself with the book.”

Kola laughed, overhearing the whisper and looked at the dozing race dragon.

“Jona, I think you ran her too hard yesterday, she is not used to the exercise after being off the team when she dropped her grades.” Kola nudged him.

“Kola, shush.” The librarian, a human adult male with a heavy leather tunic studded with metal book-shaped rivets in different colors. “You are keeping others from studying. Eva, if you need sleep, go to your room, you are starting to snore and are being a disturbance.”

Eva shook herself awake and apologized, for the fifth time tried to read the same page.

“Jona, we are on page four, paragraph five.” She flipped the pages for him. “This is what the professor will test on in a couple of days. It is easy to memorize if you follow this trick to keep it in mind.”

She taught him a mnemonic to keep the lesson in his head.

“My brother took Professor Altair’s class, she goes in order, always. It is how history happened, it is how she teaches, so this memoria technica trick will help you in the test.” Summer smiled at him.

Memorizing the pattern she taught him, he looked up and saw the librarian standing there with his arms crossed. For a moment, Jona swore the librarian would make good on his threats of ouster from the study area but the man nodded with a small smile, the long beard swung with the movement when the barrel chested keeper of the books turned away and moved across the floor towards other students.

In two hours, Jona watched the big hour-glass turn again in the mechanical teamwork of dragon and human timekeeper in the front of the library. He felt more interested after every discussion that Summer, Kola (despite it not being his subject. Jona suspected Kola had a crush on her and wanted her to notice him.)and he had, the history of dragonkind was more than just words, Jona felt them.

The history resonated with the young Dragon Master, more than his parents imagined might happen.

Jona was learning.

They spent hours in the library, Summer, Jona and Kola, joined by Eva who studied long hours to keep her grades up.

Eva was happiest when flying, her studies were marginal when she flew and failed to study, but it was no more or less than what all the friends and students went through daily.

But as professors universally instructed, they were not there to fail anyone, neither were they there to pass without teaching.

Eva worked hard at both of her skills and kept talking to professors who would help.

The summer break was coming up in short order and finals were intense. Professor Vale, Professor Cush, and especially the Green Man wizard were all driving points home with verbal hammers.

Homework was coming fast and furious, Summer and Jona continued to study with a singular thought. The Csu and Gorgons were far from the minds of dragon and human students alike.

Races were a regular topic, the teams of the intraschool competitors complained they were not ready for the speeds they needed to win not only the school championship but to outspeed any other teams from other schools around the world.

Jona pointed out that other schools were having the same problems. Rumors came from visitors to the other schools.

All students, everywhere lacked free time to just relax and play.

All was study and learn.

By the equinox of spring, they were feeling ready. Lessons were familiar, preparatory tests were easier each passing week.

Jona felt ready for the next chapter of the year.

Looking at his grades on the great central post, Jona smiled.

His grades were good enough, Jona Samhain had new rivets that the school awarded him for his tunic. Two silver, three gold, one emerald-green.

He wondered what the green meant and made note to ask Professor Vale of his house.

It was a year of mind-boggling, life changing lessons.

Jona the future dragon master smiled and walked back to his room.

Dragon Master University Chapter 38. Spring Quarter Begins

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Chapter 38. Spring Quarter Begins

Kolo walked slowly with Jona and talked about why she left.

“My family had to move, the Csu are in the area.”

“The chew?” Jona asked.

“Csu, C-S-U, no one knows where they came from, but they are a human-like kind of creature, but aggressive, hateful. They have drawn upon something that no one wishes to believe.” She shuddered. “Gorgons.”

“You are speaking in riddles.” He looked sideways at his friend.

“Paying attention in next years classes on dragon and human relationships will help. But for now, I’ll explain it is a kind of religion. The Csu follow a book, interpreted by the High-Priestess and their queen.”

“And what are gorgons?” They mounted the curving steps to the emerald level, to the dorms of their level.

“Gorgons are dragons that have fallen under the spell of the Csu, they have an anger that is corrupts their bodies, humans are favorite target, but an attack by a gorgon the humans view as an attack by a dragon. Dragons come in all shapes and sizes, like humans.” She held his hand. “We have hearts and skin, each of us are as different as two humans. Gorgons cannot be spotted from dragons, humans then hunt every single dragon to pay the price of the few malevolent creatures.”

“Do we have those here in school?”

“Oh no!” She shook her head. “Professors and even the Green Wizard have a sense about that, dragons and humans that are too dangerous to live with each other are not brought here. They go to a different school.”

“What kind of school?” Jona asked, still learning about the nuances about the university. “Like a school for dunces?”

“More like how to teach peace. Humans and Dragons do not associate at that school.”

“Where is it?”

“Other side of the world. It would take the fastest flier almost a day to get there.” Her slid around his waist and pulled him close to her as they topped the stairs and walked down the hallway. “I have missed you.”

Jona smiled, color rising to his cheeks.

“Oh, I forgot, you are sensitive to that.” She laughed softly. “Humans don’t touch like dragons.”

“I think you just like to touch me.” He grinned at her.

“Well, you smell good, especially after you have showered. You use that cedar oil soap. There is only one other I like more, but I don’t want you to try it.”

“What scent is that?”

“Fish.” She winked. “Specifically, salmon.”

“Um, yeah. No.” He laughed.

“Well, I’m thirsty. I am going to get some tea and study. I will tell you more about the Csu when I sit down.”

Jona shook his head.

“I just finished flying with Eva, I need to shower, if she gets in before me, she uses all the hot water.”

Kolo laughed and nodded.

“I’ll be on a cushion when you come out. I have studying to do, come sit with me.” She looked at him sideways. “You do still like to sit with me?”

“Oh, of course!”

“Summer enjoyed herself. You should invite her here sometime and come cuddle.” She smiled. “She would like that. Her clan are known cuddlers and raise families with humans.”

“Maybe later, right now? A shower.” Jona shook his head.

“Use that cedar soap.” She laughed and called after the human that tickled her heart.

She sat there with a large cup of steaming tea when Kola came and sat next to her.

“Did you tell the professors what happened at home?”

His sister shook her head.

“I have had enough trouble telling Jona. If the Csu have moved into the swimmer clan’s area, they are moving everywhere, the school would know before I told them.”

“Tell us what?”

It was Professor Vale, he walked on soft, cat-like feet when he wanted to. He walked to the golden tea-pot and turned the handle at the bottom, filling a cup with the fragrant steaming brew.

“Sir, the Csu forced my clan to move. They imposed their kind of law and it is a horrid version of law, worse than anything archaic humans have ever thought up.” Kolo looked down and went quiet.

Kola spoke up.

“Professor, they are using Gorgons.”

The tea-cup stopped in mid-air between the saucer and the Professor’s lips for a count of five before he took a sip.

“Gorgon.” He muttered as he took a sip while looking straight at Kola. “Are you sure?”

“They have the markings, carved into their scales.” Kola said.

“Professor.” Jona walked in wearing a thick, brushed cotton robe, his hair wet. “What is a gorgon?”

“They are a group of dragons that the Csu twisted and corrupted within and without by the magic of Csu.” Professor Vale started slowly. “They submit with free will, or captured and forced to convert, either way, they change.” He shook his head, sipped his tea, took a breath and continued. “The heart of the dragon is resilient and the scales of a dragon reflect what is in the heart. This is why you see dragons here as you do. Even those that are…”

Professor Vale trailed off and sipped his tea.

“Sorry, I lost the word.” He paused. “Bully. That’s it. Their heart reflects the violent fear that is in the core of their heart. They feel that it is the only way for them to achieve salvation and all that stand in their way they destroy. Human, dragon, young, old, statue, memories. And they will destroy all history to make way for only one leader and religion.”

“The Csu.” Jona said.

“Very good, I do not know where you have been doing your social studies, but you have been paying attention.” The Professor said.

“The serious threat that the Csu have for the world, where they raid, they use a scorched earth policy in society and physically. Humans are wiped out, dragons join or die.”

“Dragons do not submit.” Kola said.

“No, that means for a severe battle when swimmers, runners and flyers band together and fight against a creeping evil that is the insanity named Csu.” Vale shook his head. “Csu must be nearly two-thousand winter’s old by now.”

“Who is Csu?” Jona asked, his blue eyes locked on Vales gold.

“Csu was a student here, but dropped out when a judge caught her cheating during a race. The school transferred her to the segregated school for humans to learn peace and acceptance of dragons.” Vale took another swallow of tea. “She nearly killed a human boy. I do not know all the circumstances, but she used an object that she keeps with her. An antler of an animal.”

“She wrote a book about that time, claiming that it was the word of the Dragon Lord, Gamon.” Vale’s voice was soft as he thought. “Gamon has not been spoken of before, no one knows where it came from. But she gathered followers of like-minded dragons. She might be half-dragon herself, no one knows for sure, but her appearance has changed. Perhaps reflecting her heart and soul, buy in any way you wish to look at it, the group she has started has taken on her name. She is Csu, they are the Csu.”

“Corruption of the inside, corrupts the outside?” Jona asked.

“Not entirely accurate, but essentially, yes.” Vale nodded. “Dragons when angered over a long time, their bodies prepare for battles, claws get longer, scales get coarser and thicker. In mixed races with humans, elves and others, the effect is still observable.”

“So she builds a following. How can the world stop this?” Kola asked.

“Dragons, by and large, are peaceful with given exceptions.” Vale was still pondering. “My suggestion to you students, do not seek anything out on this. Stay within the range of the school.”

Jona looked around wide-eyed.

“I don’t think I want to leave the house.”

“Do not stress young human, we have protocols in place.” Vale tried to smile.

“Nothing can happen.”

Valley of Fear Chapter 4. Bones

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Chapter 4. Bones

“Come in,” Clark motioned with his hand to the inside of a large office with topographical maps framed on two of the big walls, and a large desk at one end, piled high with folders. A table by a large window was a miniature monument to an earlier age in the area.

Professor Ng looked it over, and took out a laser pointer.

“Three-guardians, Bald, Whitewater canyon complex.” Ng shined the laser on the diorama, naming off the peaks and valleys. “This model is of this area.”

“Yes, you have looked at a map once or twice, professor.” Clark nodded. “But there has been a change that is not on that model.”

“What is that?”

“As for what it looks like, I don’t know.” Clark answered. “Not yet. That is why I asked for you all to come here. First of all, your lives were in danger.”

“First?” Andre asked. “How did you even know we were out there?”

“Well, young warrior, sit down in that chair right there” Clark pointed. “And let me teach you how it’s done.”

They all sat and the tribal elder walked to the end of the office and tapped a wall that silently opened to reveal a small alcove with a bar on one side and computer controls on another.

“Each of you are over the drinking age, is there anything you would like?” Clark asked and took count of the requests, serving the instructor and the students before sitting down himself with a tumbler glass of a dark amber fluid.

“A little later, I will go on a vision quest, this will help.” Clark nodded. “Anyone who wishes to join me, let me explain the situation at hand.”

Picking up some broken bones, he began to explain.

“Here, this is a leg-bone of an eagle, the claw of a large bear, skull of a raven and the jawbone of a lion, a leg bone of a coyote.” He held up the claw. “This has been DNA tested for age. This claw came from a short-faced bear, the jawbone still also has trace in the teeth, but I didn’t want to subject the spirit to the insult of the white-man technology. But, the shape and size is that of the American Cave Lion.”

“Clark, that is all interesting. But what does that have to do with us?” The Professor asked.

“Well, please notice, something broke all the bones. These all contained the spirits of selected ancestors.” Carl said quietly. “You see, this tribe has been given the Covenant to care for all these lands by Quilxka Nupika, the Supreme Creator. After the Creator trapped Monster of the Mountain under the earth.”

He took a long sniff of his iced drink.

“In the days before our times, the Kootenai river flowed into Columbia lake, a large monster from the sea made trouble in Columbia lake. The Monster led the Bear, Eagle and Fox on a merry chase around the mountains until the Chief of the Animals, a giant pushed over a mountain top and blocked the southern entrance into the lake by the Kootenai river. The gods trapped the monster of the sea under a mountain, hidden away from all of humanity forever. Using only the wood from an immortal tree and holy stones with sacred writing on them.”

Taking another drink, he took a breath.

“Someone broke the seal of the immortal wood. The stones have gone missing, the monster is loose and that power has broken the bones of my ancestors. Bones that my passed down from father to son since before the writing of the history of the world.” Clark said as he looked over the top of the glass, contemplating the fluid that swirled around the ice cubes. “In this glass is rye whiskey, it was found in a cabin in California. The collection of the bottles were sold at auction. It is old, over a hundred-years.”

They looked at him, listening.

“I never drink it, but I like the smell.” He smiled, then frowned. “In any event. Something has happened, that has not been foreseen.”

Doctor Clark gave a heavy sigh and put his glass down.

“The monster has escaped.”

“Doctor.” Professor Ng said slowly. “These are legends, but I know that legends all have seed of truth. What is the monster?”

“It came from the sea, according to legend. But in my point of view? It falls into a few categories.”

He stood up and walked over to the diorama.

“First, it could have been no more than an earthquake or a series of earthquakes that formed the Rockies. Second, it could be something volcanic, possibly related to the first, but with lethal gasses, it could kill without being seen.”

“But Doctor,” Gil asked. “There are no volcanos for hundreds of miles of here.”

“Correct. That brings me to the third part. It could be something more metaphysical. A true demon.” Clark said. “Something with a long life, something that can control or kill animals. The beasts of the forest knew this and left, en mass.”

“Yes, we witnessed at least part of that.” Reedah shook her head. “It was the most amazing thing I ever saw.”

“It won’t be the last time you say that.” Clark said.

“And fifth, there is one more thing.” He paused. “There is a possibility that what was buried so long ago is alien. Or perhaps, alien technology.”

“Where would this be buried?”

“No one knows. My grandfather’s father died at the hands of the French soldiers before he passed on the knowledge to his son. I have the bones, but only a vague knowledge where the cave of the monster is. I only know that at least one of the stones that is set in the immortal wood is what my father called Sky-Stone.”

The students looked at each other.

“Iron meteorite.” Andre said.

“I agree.” Professor Ng said.

“If you have a ferrous metal geometric shape in an insulator.” Gil said to Andre and Reedah.

“Induced power can set up a magnetic field.” Reedah whispered back.

“Magnetic and electric dead zone, if they set the stones with the same stones everywhere inside, they could make a kind of Faraday Cage.” Andre said.

“But fragile. Or in the words of those who believe.” Clark looked from one to the other. “Sacred.”

“So someone broke the cage, and what is immortal wood?” Reedah asked.

“Yes, and the world has no clue what has awakened.” Clark answered grimly.

Valley of Fear Chapter 1. Three Weeks Ago

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Chapter 1. Three Weeks Ago

He sat quietly, an AR-15 leaning out of sight against the rock wall next to him, a branch obscuring its very existence.

Rocky Jorge Picot awaited the delivery of the drug mules from the north, the escort called Rocky’s mobile phone rang two-hours before, the truck made it through the gates at the border, the team met the truck at the rendezvous and set out with workers and product to his position on Misty Mountain.

The tunnel, an ancient construction that did not exist on any map. .

They soon covered up the ancient lithographs carved on the walls with boxes of product in one of the rooms of the deep, multi-forked tunnel.

Frightening to Rocky, tunnels that turned off of the main-line collapsed over the untold number of years, but deep in the mine, the warmest it would get was a constant sixty-two degrees Farenheit, he was of Southern-French descent and the cool of the tunnels chilled him to the bone.

That was his excuse anyway. 

His job was simply to keep everyone away who was not part of the company of smugglers, and he got the job from his stint as a sniper in the French Army. He enjoyed shooting the rifle chambered for a .338 Lapua Magnum over the .300 Winchester Magnum, for no other reason than he was more accurate with the larger caliber. He did not like the 12.7 Millimeter rifle, that caliber rattled his teeth, although he ranked in the top of his class and qualifications each time.

He was just tempted to miss once in a while, just so he would not have to fire the big caliber, come in the middle of the training list instead of placing first or second.

He liked the middle caliber, he was more comfortable with it and would have stayed in the service if not for incidents with drinking and an offhand threat to shoot a superior officer with his rifle.

“You won’t even hear the shot.” He had said.

It was a rapid exit from the government service.

Now he waited, watching, his pay off would be enough to retire on, comfortably, in the Caribbean.

There!

He could see heads moving, backpacks piled high with boxes and two mules, loaded down. Two followers dragging car tires behind them, obliterating the track of the mules and men.

Tillman “Tusk” Franks, the only man known that carried a knife made of a boars tusk, walked up to Rocky and spoke with him, motioning to the following men to put the product in the back of the tunnel.

The foreman of the drug smuggling team directed the men to dig in the back, clearing debris that had fallen over the thousands of years since the ancient people dug out the mountain side in the days of pre-history.

Time and again they went in, bringing out rock and gravel on their backs, distributing the tailings of the dig around in the forest.

During the sixteenth trip into the cave, a door was uncovered.

Not a door, precisely, a plug. A solid cross-section of a cut log. Seven-feet in diameter, set in the middle of the one mine-shaft, no hinges, no door. Just a giant cross-section jammed in the mine-shaft.

Like a cork, but huge and solid. With each man pushing and using levers, it never budged. Only a pattern of stones and paints on the butt end of the log.

Two of the men carved out some of the stones with knives, polished and carved, they appeared to have a scrimshaw like pattern of monsters and warriors cut into the semi-precious stones.

“What the hell.” Rocky said to Tillman. “All that stuff is, is trouble, if we try to sell it. Let them have the hassles, we have better here.”

The two men nodded to each other in a conspiratorial tones. The mules did not know what they had packed in, only that they were well paid.

Tillman left in a different route with the team. Rocky settled down, waiting for his partner, Kaarle Gulliaume, to join him, Rocky grew tired of being on the mountain alone.

He stayed well back with his furnace and cooking stove, knowing that the DEA had aircraft that could detect a fire from dozens of miles away. Thirty paces into the mineshaft, he kept it well out of sight from any federal agency.

In the deepest part of the tunnel, the large wood disk, split.

Rocky found there were more things to fear than the DEA and helicopters that could see in the dark.

He would be the first to scream in fear that night.

Valley of Fear Prologue

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Prologue

The Running

Northern Idaho, fifty-kilometers south of the Canadian border on I-95, he stepped out on the gravel of the shoulder. Hiking out of the forests, he knew he had his ancient Volvo somewhere in the area. Looking around, he was about a half-mile south of where he went in a dozen hours before.

It was a nice day in the northern panhandle to collect the data from the different stations that the school placed around in the hundred-twenty thousand acres of the healing scar left from the Devil’s Broom Fire of 1910. Five of the undergraduates had gone in, Phillip was the first to come out of the hike. A few inches taller than the others, his stride had taken the toll on his companions. Gil Van Zant, Andre Sondergeld, Reedah Wilson (herself a bit of a mountain goat.)and Doctor Ru’khu Ng, the oldest of the group that often show them up by out-walking them all.

Bruce could see the others catching up to him when he saw what made his blood run cold coming over the ridge.

Wolves.

A lot of wolves, at least… he counted quickly on the undulating mass of grey and tails losing count at fifty.

And they were coming up the path at full speed.

“RUN! Oh, good God RUN!” Bruce waved at the team. “Behind you.”

Gil, bringing up the rear looked and turned, echoing Bruce’s warnings and the group began to run. The wolves were a mile off and running fast but making a direct line to the group. Caught out in the open like this, they would not stand a chance if the wolves surrounded them.

But, three hikers carried a side-arm. If need, they could open fire. Bruce carried the heaviest, a foot-long barreled revolver chambered for the mighty Smith & Wesson .500 Magnum cartridge.

It was not a quick-draw gun by any stretch of the imagination and it took him nearly five seconds to draw it out of the holster that resided between his backpack and his lumbar region.

It was a poor weapon against a pack of wolves bent on an easy meal.

Fully loaded, the big wheel-gun only held five rounds, and reloading was not a speed setting effort.

Still, if he could get them to line up, he could take four wolves with a single shot.

The hysterical thought ran through his mind of a four-for-one shot.

But he still carried it with one chamber unloaded and hammer down. It was an old safety habit. Popping out a cartridge from his belt, he slid the bullet cartridge into the empty chamber as Reedah came up next to him, panting from running with the heavy backpack.

“I say drop our packs here. Where is your car?”

“Half-mile up that way.” He pointed. The wolves were less than a quarter-mile off and coming fast. “We turned left one rock too soon. Get that pistol of yours out.”

“Like what am I going to do with it. I have an officer’s model with a seven plus one. Gill has a longslide with nothing else, we have the same count. “ She looked at him and drew her small auto-loader.

Her math was correct, even combined, their first volley did not match the numbers of the pack that ran towards them.

“I,” Gil gasped struggling with his pistol and the holster. “Have never seen wolves chase humans and out in the open too!”

“Gil, we don’t have enough firepower to win this outright, maybe we can divert them. Professor Ng, what do we do?”

“Climb a tree!” The Professor pointed to one with low hanging branches.

“What about our backpacks?” Reedah asked as the professor sprinted past— without his pack and gun in hand. “Oh!”

The group made the tree when the wolves caught up — and ran past them in a full run.

“Look! They are tuck-tailed.” Gil pointed out. “Something has them spooked.”

“I don’t know what would spook a pack of wolves like that.” Andre said. “There is documentation that a pack can take down a full-sized moose or caribou.”

“Keep climbing.” The professor said, looking down the path. “Oh crap, keep climbing!”

“What?” Bruce asked. “What is it?”

“BEAR!” The Professor pointed. “LOTS of them!”

Down the path a dozen bears, golden-manteled in the sunlight and giant, gorgeous, carnivorous creatures ran up the path like a toothy tsunami, not making a sound other than the crashing through the brush as each tried to pass the other.

“UP! UP!” the humans began to shout at each other, the lead bear’s mass approaching a quarter-ton. The largest land predator in the lower forty-eight states, although smaller than their coastal cousins. These were the apex predators of the area.

“I’m stuck!” Andre yelled. “Oh my god, help!” Andre yelled when the galloping group of grizzly bear closed the gap.

And followed the wolves, running past, followed by the mix of deer, a wolverine, and groups of smaller bear.

But no smoke in the distance.

“Professor, what is going on?” Bruce said as he tried to holster his horse-pistol. Succeeding on his third try.

“Bruce, can you stop waving that thing around, you’re making me nervous.” Gil said. “You brought that big ol’ thing, you should have also brought the rest of the armored car.”

“It would take care of anything I thought we might run across, including bear.”

“You could try.” Gil retorted. “Me, I would rather make a lot of noise with it and try to scare a bear off, unless you can shove it down the bears throat and pull the trigger.”

“With your little autoloader, you would need to…” Bruce was drawing a breath to continue the argument when the Professor interrupted.

“Enough. Seriously, enough.” The teacher shook his head while he climbed out of the tree. “We have more than we need to report just for that.”

“What scares a freakin’ GRIZZLY?” Andre asked. “Not counting a whole village of them.”

“I, for one, am going to the car.” Reedah commented while she picked up her pack. “You all can stand around and discuss this, but I shot video with my phone.” She smiled and held up her Android phone. “Five minutes worth.”

The men looked at each other stupidly then picked up their backpacks and set off in Reedah’s wake, still arguing over what they just witnessed.

“We need to get out of this area. The rest of the animals are running, I see dust in the air, there is more coming. I don’t now if it is more bear, moose or what. But I’d say it’s time to get out of this valley.”

Pulling on to the pavement, they did not hear the soft sound of a moaning as they drove away.

Horror smelled the thin-skinned and slow animal that drove off in a mechanical beast and would follow.

Flee

Standard

Flee

Fracking.

That’s what they called it, but whatever the title it might have, it was a disturbance in places long hidden from the light.

Humans dug deeply into the earth, disturbing the ancient bedrock. Minor quakes rattled places that humans had yet to explore.

Perhaps they should not. For there are places in the earth that were buried so deep as to be forgotten.

They should remain forgotten.

But not this day.

All that remained for those still standing, with all their maps and explorations, was

Flee 2nd cover

1. Brisbane

The red haired Yank drew his bow and sighted over the arrow at the horror that approached him from forty-paces away.

Taking a deep breath, he let it out slowly.

Thirty paces and closing, its breath wheezed audibly in decaying lungs. This was a fresh-dead human that could walk faster than the other undead.

Twenty paces.

His focus was a laser point as he aimed, he pushed fear of approaching death down into a small compartment in his soul.

He waited, measuring.

Fifteen paces.

The eyes of this once-human had not yet become milky. Its vision was nearly equal to the living. The Archer took a deep breath and let it out slowly, at one time this was a handsome youth.

Five paces.

Archer shot the arrow into the left eye of the walking nightmare, it stiffened and fell over backwards.

“Why do you shoot them in the eye like that?” Alexander Frobisher asked.

RCMP when he was working, he was a Sergeant and a leader of the Emergency Response Team in his section, now he was not so sure since the fall of society.

“Bone is thinner there, with luck it’ll punch through hole that the optic nerve passes. It’s less stress on my arrows and I hate trying to build new ones. I have tried build wood arrows, but I failed. Wood arrows are a challenge, even starting as dowels.” Archer said. “But, I’m learning. Each time I work one, I’m better. We need to figure out how to build these in case we cannot find any high tech arrows in stores someday.” The Archer pulled out a straight dowel of a wood that Frobisher could not recognize. It was fletched and had a tip made from a silver spoon he had pounded into shape with a discovered hammer, but was no arrow that Archer was willing to shoot. “Ah well, let’s take the food to the group. ” Archer said, as he pulled his arrow out of the head of the nightmare that had been walking at him— it was an odd moment of black-humor that struck his mind as Frobisher watched.

A dead-dead person.

“Stay close to the flat of the buildings, away from the bushes.” The Sergeant said as they headed out. His own weapon at the ready, made of a cricket bat and the front chain-wheel of a bicycle. An effective battle-ax with a spiked edge.

The Archer carried a bow that he had found in a house. A simple recurve bow, he shot with an instinctive skill. Always in the eye of his target with devastating effect, they always went down in a mundane, quiet fall.

You could say that they were longtime friends if you met them on the street. But they had only met three weeks prior when the world fell into ruin.

Funny how such bonds are forged in the crucible of chaos.

Chaos.

It began in the land of Oz.

In Darwin, the first news of it hit the television. A virus the newscasters said.

A jetliner had declared an emergency, crash-landed, breaking into two large sections. The walking cadavers emerged from the debris, quickly overwhelming the emergency crews and security forces.

The Archer figured out the secret with head shots. Gunfire attracted attention and mobbed those that used such weapons. The silent arrows made a path without attention.

The shuffling dead did not know or communicate when an arrow had stilled one of their own.

The pair made their way to the bank that the group had held up in. Hiding behind a blast-resistant wall, the group was a mix of people who followed the Archer after he walked down the boulevard, creating a hail of death that cleared a path through the Edgar Allan Poe nightmares pounding on the walls of their tourist coach.

Andrea St. George the tour guide and her driver Jameson Curtis were the first to join the Yank.

Rachel “Stormy” Knight, an attorney from the United States that worked for the ACLU, Zac Wood from Scotland, a student ambassador, joined the group on another of the Yankee’s forays at a bus depot. Now they stood behind the cage where they could pull the safe door shut if they needed to, while Andrea held a single-shot rifle ready.

The Archer and Sergeant Frobisher tapped on the doors to be let into the bank.

Rachel “Stormy” Knight of the ACLU opened the door, holding a shotgun she had discovered in the bank. The men stepped in while the sharp eye of the lawyer watched the street.

Behind Stormy stood, with a pump shotgun taken from an abandoned police cruiser, Gallisa “Gail” Blachere, Ph.D, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Ed.D had a barely controlled rage in her eye, welcomed the two explorers back

“Mighty hunters bring food!” The Archer laughed and opened his bag of canned goods. “Sorry there are no fresh foods.”

Stale biscuits and beer were common in the second bag that the Canadian carried. Two jars of Vegemite he set on the counter.

“You have taste for a Yank!” Andrea laughed and picked it up. “A bit of heaven on earth you have here.”

“Maybe. I bet Al has done better with the beer and biscuits.” The Archer said. “Eat up, we need to move out as soon as we finish. There is a police station down the road with a gated fence. “

“Why do we need to move?” Zac asked.

“The bank is too soft of a target.” Sergeant Frobisher said. “A police station is more easily protected I’d say, it’s safer.”

Praise the lord and pass a biscuit.” Archer said. 

#

Chapter 2. Eating Well


“We need to move before sunset. Tomorrow we need to head down to the marina.” The archer said. “I’d say if we head south, we will head into the mess at Darwin. Sydney is the best way out of this hole.”

Aw, you don’t like my BrissVegas?” Andrea laughed.

The archer chuckled while accepting a biscuit from Andrea, who was instructing the Yankee on how to eat the Vegemite and bread before he continued.

“The boats down at the marina will allow us to sail with safety.” The archer said softly as he choked on the Aussie treat. “Damned lucky for beer.” He gasped out.

You Yanks have no taste.” Andrea laughed. “I told you to take a bite, not pop the whole muffin in your mouth. It will pull your tongue out by its root and beat you over the head with the bloody end.”

“I do have a taste, I like beer.” He winked. “And it was bite sized after all! This is saltier than ocean water.”

“We will need to fight our way to the marina.” Al interrupted. “It’s a long ways there to run and the how those creatures move about, we need more ammunition.”

“Guns equal attention.” Stormy said. “I watched it happen when they first attacked the police roadblock. Shooting our way there isn’t viable.”

The chance that saved your ass in that bus.” The archer said as he stood. “These… zombies… were going after the cops and their guns, that kept them away, they were inside the terminal going after the officers that were making so much noise. Those that were injured, turned. The others won’t be awarded medals for bravery, but they lived by running, it was FUBAR.”

FUBAR?” Zac asked. “What’s FUBAR?”

Fucked up beyond all repair.” The archer said.

Or reason.” Al injected.

Or recovery.” Gail added.

Nodding and chuckling, the archer continued. “I needed to choose, clear the coach or the cops out. I opted for the civilians, it was a tough call. But… Cops took an oath, you folks did not.”

His lowered his voice to almost a whisper describing the scene, looking at a bit of plastic on his finger.

It was a nightmare. I took down thirty of them beasts before they knew I was there. Before they knew anything, I had recovered enough arrows to cover the difference. That’s when I yelled through the door.”

Well. Let’s dash over to the police station. It’s six blocks away, but in the right direction of the marina.” Al said putting his hand on the archer’s shoulder.

Let’s walk, no tripping.” Andrea said softly, kissing the crimson-haired Yank on the cheek. “Archer, I’m glad you made the choice.”

#

3. Stepping Out

 

The door of the bank opened quietly, there were few creatures in the street, not one of them alerted to the humans.

“Okay, quiet, cover each other’s back. I’m first, Stormy to my right, Andrea and Zac in the middle, cover sides and up. Gail, Al, you have the rear and up. Keep them from dropping in on us from fire-escapes or windows.” Archer said as he placed an arrow on his bow.

“Why is the Mountie not first?” Gail asked.

“I shoot faster with my rig than he can until he gets practice.”

Al loaded up a vertical crossbow, holding it so that anywhere he looked, the arrow aimed naturally.

When they stepped out into the street, a single shabby ex-human shambled towards them from where they were going. The Archer loosed his arrow and it fell to the ground as they walked quietly towards the police station. No other of the animated dead that patrolled the area

The Archer paused as they walked past the body and pulled the arrow out of the head of the horror-come-archery target.

The Archer kept his place on point as they headed to the station, an arrow nocked, his bow ready to draw in a heartbeat if a need arose. and carefully moved forward to the gate of the fortress-like structure. It stood ajar and opened silently on high security hinges.

They dragged the body of a large Rottweiler by its thick harness, Al cried when he saw it wore a badge. The head of a half-eaten corpse of the police dog blocked the spring-loaded gate from fully closing. Toothmarks on the badge where something had chewed, obliterating the badge number. Torn bodies lay about, decaying in the concrete courtyard. The K-9 cop did not die gently, as evidenced of a furious fight by the bodies in the courtyard.

“Never thought a dog could tear limbs off of a body.” Jameson said.

“Canine officer. They teach them well and they require robust intelligence with these dogs.” Al said softly, tracing his index finger over the mutilated badge.

A bullet-proof glass and steel enclosed observation area inside the building controlled the gate.

Sergeant Frobisher, quickly figured out how to operate the lock and secured all the exits with a control panel.

“Excellent.” Al said. “Now we can relax.”

“No, now we need to check all the cells and rooms.” The Archer said. “I’m not sleeping without clearing this place from top to bottom.”

“You need to sleep, no matter what.” Andrea told The Archer. “When was the last down-time for you?”

“It has been a day or so.” The Archer nodded. “We will rest when the building’s secure.”

“Al and Zac stay here. Stormy, Gale and Jameson upstairs. Andrea and I will search below.” Archer said.

The Sergeant nodded.

“Here,” The Sergeant reached over into a locker as the groups were getting ready to leave. “I found these radios. Keep them on this channel I selected. Radio checks every five-minutes, everything is voice activated, so I will hear you the moment there’s a sound louder than a deep breath. As the Archer said, no rest until this entire building is cleared.”

Archer taped an LED torch (as the label on it said) to the side of his bow and he adjusted the beam to fill a room with the glow from the diminutive light. Andrea stood next to him loading a police shotgun liberated from a gun-rack they found. She had used a key she found in a drawer and was quite proud of her discovery that allowed all the other firearms in the station available to the others.

“Right, ready.”  Andrea said as she racked the riot gun and chambered a shell. “Buckshot and slugs. That’s what this girl is made of.”

For good measure, the Aussie filled her pockets and a bandolier with shotshells she had found while digging around the observation port. Al pointed it was not police issue.

But Andrea could not care less.

#

4. Revelation

 

The door was ajar to the training room, only tables and chairs.

Vampire Skull Northern Ondode/Nosferatu

Image of Ondode/Nosferatu type Vampire Skull.

But they were not alone.

Movement…

Weapons turned the same time and Andrea hissed at the Archer.

Stop walking.”

It was a shadow that did not fill with light — then it was gone.

Something hissed at Andrea, avoiding the lights as it moved.

It went under the corner of a table, knocking over chairs.

“Come out!” Andrea sounded braver than the Archer felt.

The shadow charged as Andrea pulled the trigger and drove the serpent-like shadow backwards for a moment, an arrow buried its tip into the head of the shadow causing a shriek of anger, a desk erupted into splinters and sawdust as a dozen pellets tore apart the pressed wood construction whilst Andrea tracked the shrieking creature that moved like a cat on crack cocaine and too much espresso.

Clawed hands gripped the arrow and pulled the shaft out of the right eye socket, the eye reforming as it did.

The Archer’s earpeice buzzed. “REPORT! Who is shooting?”

“Sorry, busy!” Archer answered as Andrea rocked the room again with her scattergun.

Archer blinked to clear his eyes from the dust fell from the ceiling. He shot an arrow at the wrong shadow and it stuck out in a stupid angle that made him shake his head while nocking another shaft to the string, tracking the correct shadow – the one with teeth.

“Call back later!” Andrea yelled into in her mic. “We’re killing shit!”

The shadow was too close this time, charging like a cat as she racked in another shell. An arrow intercepted the creature, penetrating it in the left eye and knocked the attacker off-balance.

The shotgun fired again, destroying its face and the arrow. The black creature did a back-flip, knocking over a video projector that shattered on the floor. The creature landed on all fours and its face unbelieveably rebuilt as it launched at Andrea again as a winged quadruped.

Andrea kicked a table against the wall and pinned the attacker — It was no zombie, but suddenly bi-pedal. Still, its features could not yet be determined beyond fangs and cat-like eyes— struggling against the wall, pinned in an awkward way.

However it was immensely strong and changing shapes, wriggling from behind the heavy desk that Andrea held against it.

Point-blank range, she fired another load into the inhuman face. The shotgun blowing a hole in the wall behind the attacker the size of her fists. But she might as well have spit on it for all she had done with the gunpowder and lead.

Gristle and meat, black blood and bone splattered on the wall, and then just… jumped… back to the struggling body. Then a tickle of wind and a swishing sound at her ear and would later be angry with Archer over how close the arrow was that flew past her head.

The angry shriek and gnashing of teeth stopped as the creature choked, clawing at a wooden arrow stuck in its chest, then collapsed into a pile of bones and ash.

“Wh-wh-w… ” The Archer, already nocked another arrow. “The.. Son of a… Holy… Shiiii…Fuuu… what… HELL!” His eyes as large as a car’s headlight as he searched for the best profanity.

“F’k’n oath!” She said, nodding with the Yankee. Still tracking what was left of the attacker with the pool of light that was the aim-point of the twelve-gauge.

Thundering footsteps down the hall announced that Al and company were coming as backup.

No sneaking up on a bloke with that crowd.” Andrea said to Archer as the Al kicked the door open and entered with a shotgun at the ready, followed by Stormy and Gail each with submachine guns, lasers crisscrossing, looking for a target.

You shouldn’t talk, that thing is LOUD.”

“What the hell was going on down here? Could you keep the room at least in one piece?” the Canadian Cop surveying the room and the holes in the sheetrock.

The Archer picked up a skull off the floor and walked out of the room. The skull had too many fangs in its mouth as he looked it over in the lighted hallway, then he handed it to Al.

“This is what attacked us.” Archer said. “I believe we woke it up.”

“It’s so light.” The flesh crumbled under his fingers leaving polished bone if he rubbed firmly. “It’s so dry.” Sharp teeth glinted in the harsh hallway’s light.

“Not when I first shot it. It crumbled and dried up in seconds when I hit it with my wood-shafted arrow.” Archer reported.

“Aluminum arrows had no effect.” Andrea nodded. “Neither did the buckshot from the riot gun.”

“Wood-shafted arrow? What are you talking about?” Al asked. “What the hell?”

Andrea and The Archer looked at each other and laughed.

“My words precisely.” Archer said. “We are fighting something besides a virus I would say.”

“What does that mean?” Gale asked. “You’re talking in riddles.”

“It means,” Archer said, “that skull you hold, goes into a consecrated cemetery. One blessed by someone of the cloth, toss that in a hole of a cemetery and it won’t rise again.”

“Rise? A-a-again?” It was Zac.

“That,” The Archer pointed to the skull. “is a vampire, a Dracula-like creature, I would wager. It kept changing shape while we fought it.”

“BULL!” Jameson yelled. “The news explicitly said it was a virus!  We are not fighting something so profoundly… so profound…. so… F’k’ng WRONG!  NO! You are not telling me that it’s a lie! An explicit, bald-faced LIE? THIS IS JUST A…

“Jameson! CALM DOWN” Gail slapped the coach driver so hard he fell over.

“Coincidence.”  The downed man moaned out.

There is nothing in real-life as vampires!” Zac said, echoing Jameson’s disbelief. “That is only in movies.”

There are no zombies, either. But we have seen otherwise, haven’t we?”

Is it dead?” Jameson pleaded.

No.” Gail said. “If Archer is right and the legends hold true, it is in a hibernation state, drip some blood into the skull and it will wake up. That is why we need to separate the head from the body and buried at a blessed cemetery.”

Blessed cemetery? Aren’t they all?” Jameson asked. Coming back to grips with himself. “I’m sorry about that.  Vampires terrified me as a child.”

No.” Stormy said. “Some even have consecrated and unconsecrated ground within a single graveyard. We need to choose where to bury that skull carefully.”

“Should we put garlic in it?” Zac asked.

“You brought back some garlic powder and garlic salt with the last shopping spree you and the Canadian did.”

“Stuff it, bag it and bury it.” Sergeant Frobisher said. “But where?”

“There is a church up the way.” Andrea pulled at her ear. “I don’t recall the kind of church. Catholic maybe, but I am not positive.”

“Catholic, Jewish,” Archer shrugged. “Could be a Shaolin temple for all I care, so long as it involves holy ground.”

“Let’s make it done.” Al ordered.

2 Dracul Skulls ("Noble" caste, Possibly "Royal" Ref. Van Helsing, Et al, "Identification of skulls" Copyleft 1901 Royal Underground press.) in 2 views.  Left skull buried in bag of garlic under unknown church, skul

#

 

 

 

5. Debriefing


The group walked into the cafeteria , Zac was carrying the skull, carefully turning it over in his hand as they all sat down..

Archer poured himself a coffee in a styrene cup from a stack he had found in a cabinet, handing one to Andrea and to Al.

So what happened down there?” Al asked.

Archer took a tentative sip of the steaming black water while Andrea spoke.

“We entered the classroom and I would hazard a guess that it was asleep and we surprised it. It wasn’t even aware we were in the building.” Andrea said to Al as she sat with the others in what was once a cafeteria.

“If Andrea had not seen it and fired first, I’m not sure we would have survived. It came straight at her and my aim was not on. I shot the wrong shadow.”

Stormy found some herbal tea in a cabinet, saying it would be better for Archer, she took away his coffee.

You sure I can’t have the coffee?”

Stormy gave Archer an icy look and shook her head. “I’m worried about your caffeine intake.”

“I was lucky, it happened to come over the table where I was pointing the riotgun, I pulled the trigger when it startled me.” Andrea said.

Al chuckled and turned to the Archer.

“How did you decide to shoot it with that arrow you made from a dowel? I know you carry that one you keep fooling around with. What made you think of that?”

“Well, I wasn’t sure, but if I was wrong, we were in for a hell of a fight. But, one way to destroy a vampire is to run it through the heart with a stake.”

“Okay,” Al pulled at his ear. “What you are getting at?”

“Okay, wooden stake in the chest. Can it be thrown? Could it be larger? A spear? Wooden shafted and driven through the chest?”

“Um, yes, it follows.”

“Okay then what is the difference between an arrow and a spear? A javelin and an arrow? Size? So, I used that wooden arrow that I have been working on.”

“You thought that during the fight?”

“Well,” Archer chuckled, “A significant deal more than that, but I’m being succinct about it.”

“Heh, my friend, if you think that fast after you drink your coffee, don’t you ever quit.”

Everyone except Stormy chuckled, who failed to appreciate the humor in Archer living on caffeine.

#

6. A Good Night


“Okay, we are cleared, top to bottom. Windows are secured, we have a room for us to sleep in. Who will take the first watch?” Al asked.

The Archer raised his hand.

“I’ll take the night half.”

“No.” Stormy, Gale and Andrea made a harmony of the word.

“Sorry, you need some sleep.” Gale said.

“Besides, you reek.” Andrea pointed out. “If I wake up and you are standing there, I will shoot your Yankee arse for one of those walking dead.”

“Okay, shower. Then I will do the watch.”

“No,” Stormy Knight argued. “Is it true that you have not slept at all? Then you need to sleep.”

Archer shook his head.

“Okay, just lay down for awhile. Rest.”

“Oh, all right. I’ll relax and recuperate for a bit. Al could you do first watch?”

“Naw, right now I need some shut-eye for a couple hours. I’m beat. I’ll volunteer Jameson. He’s slept quite well the last few nights.”

Jameson cleared his throat.

“Archer never woke anyone for the next watch, he did the whole shift!”

“No matter.” Andrea said. “You have first watch. Archer has a night off.”

The Archer shook his head slightly and winked at Jameson.

“YOU!” Stormy pointed a finger at the Yank. “Gingersnap, off to the showers with you. The men’s side has a shower system. I looked it over when checking out for any nasties that might be lurking there. You wash up and then lay down.”

“Your clothes, too, deposit them outside the door of the showers. There is a laundry . We’ll need to wash all our clothes.”

Heh.” The Archer said without trying to hide the humor. “Lawyers will always take the shirt off your back.”

The look from the attorney of the United States was enough to for the fearless Archer to move quickly at her command.

Archer spoke loudly as he walked down the stairs, “Clean mind, clean body; pick one.”

Anyone else want to cross swords? I will send them to the showers, too.”

Gail raised her hand. “With him?”

Andrea laughed and raised her hand. “Community shower?”

Oh hush. I’m first in that case.” Stormy laughed. “I like the redhead.”

We all do.” Andrea and Gail said in chorus.

#

7. Morning’s Early Light


Stormy nudged Andrea before dawn.

“Mm- mmph.” It was Andrea’s wittiest conversation she could have before morning coffee— her “Cuppa”.

Looking around Andrea nudged Gail.

“Wh’.” Was the best that the petite, muscular blond woman could verbalize as she stirred out of the best nighttime hibernation in a long while. She sat up, rubbing her eyes.

“The Archer is gone. Jameson is asleep.” Stormy said, matter

“Jameson!” Andrea threw a pillow at the coach driver with uncanny accuracy. “When did you come in?”

“Not long after Archer finished his shower. All you shelia’s went to bed, Al was asleep, he was up and said he was my relief and you were okay with it.”

In the control room, Al and the Archer were talking.

“ARCHER!” The women yelled as they came down the hallway.

“Uh-oh. Busted.” The Canadian chuckled. “You violated curfew.”

“Better to apologize than to ask permission.” Archer winked.

“You’re supposed to be sleeping.” Rachel said.

“You said to rest, and I did. I rested for an hour but could not catch any luck on sleep, so I came up here so that I would not disturb anyone.”

Stormy grumbled like distant thunder with lightning flashing her eyes, living up to her nickname.

“Men and children, the only difference are their sizes.” She said to Andrea.

Andrea laughed, looking at the two men that continued to gaze out the window at the outside world.

“What are you blokes looking at?” Andrea asked.

“Well,” Al said and looked out the window. “Birds.”

“Listen.” The Archer opened the heavy, armored-glass door to the outside courtyard.

The sounds of birds singing in the early morning light.

“I have not heard that in over a month. Birds stopped singing when all this happened.” Andrea said as she walked to the door listening to the music of nature’s composition for the first time in a long while. “What’s changed?”

“I’ve been standing watch for the last four hours. ” Archer said, Stormy sighed at this news with fire in her eyes. “There has been not a single shuffler meander by. Not one.”

“Are they gone?”

“I couldn’t know about that, just that I have not seen them from the observation area. The only change is that we destroyed that vampire yesterday. After Al and Jameson ran down the street and took it into a church. We can rest assured it is not in control of anything at the moment.”

“Control?” Jameson yawned as he stumbled in. “Y’all disturbed m’ sleep.”

“I’ll do more than just disturbing your sleep.” Gale was dangerous sounding. “I should kick your arse down the hallway and back for not finishing your shift.”

After my run down to the church there and all.” Jameson said, sounding a little more awake.

Shut it!” Gail said, then turning to the Canadian. “Taking it into a church killed it?”

Zac, Jameson and I took it down the road to the church— Catholic by the by— and when Jameson dropped it into a baptismal tub full of water. It bubbled and then burst into a flame, it was quite impressive.” Al said. “You’d think we dropped it into a vat of acid and gasoline, eh. It was quite exciting for a moment.”

“Yes, I would venture a guess that that did it.” The Archer continued. “I’m not positive, just a theory. Now that it is lighter, there are bodies are visible, lying all around out there. Those bodies— over there and there — we didn’t shoot them. It looks like they collapsed suddenly, what ever it is that energizes them was abruptly cut off.”

“The vampire?” Stormy’s asked. “Are you saying the vampire controlled these zombie creatures?”

“That is what I’m supposing.”

“So you think it was controlling them.” Gale asked.

“I cannot say that for sure. It could just be motivational. A bit like saying ‘rise up and walk’ and then just let them shuffle around, aimlessly. No direction, just setting them loose to put pressure on the humans.” Archer shrugged. “It is a hypothesis based on the scantest of information.”

“So.” Stormy’s logical side took over. “You are saying that it is not a virus?”

“In the way it appears as of now. The jury is still out. If you excuse the term.” The Archer winked. “It could be a sort of, I do not know, a sort of control that is passed on by senescence – death. You become dead, your systems are inert and are open to control. A frog’s leg, for example, can move even though the frog is dead or even if the leg is amputated. That could explain why those shufflers out there are not something to be reasoned with. There is no mind. Just a power control.”

“That kind of power is unknown, nothing I have ever heard of can do that.” Gale said. “And it is spread by contact with the zombies, not vampires. That makes no sense.”

“Yes, and true.” The Archer answered, nodding. “But it is all I have for now. Bigger brains than mine will need to think it over. One more reason to find a military center where they may have a fortress and are holding out against this. This started in Darwin, Sydney is the largest city, it should have a military base somewhere around the water.”

“Yes,” Jameson nodded. “There is a naval base on Garden Island there.

“Perfect. An island is easily protected!” Al said. “That’s our destination.”

The Archer nodded. “Agreed.”

“No, it is not what you are thinking. It’s an island, but has been connected to the mainland by bridges. Like your Manhattan island, for example.”

“Still.” The Archer said slowly. “It is a base, it will be defended, I hope, and a place we can dock a boat to without walking across land with those flesh-eaters hunting fresh meat.”

“Okay, then prepare to leave. Pack light. We leave at sunrise.” Al said.

Archer agreed.

Archer.” Zac said sleepily. “You were in the showers when we came back. I wanted to give this to you, but I was asleep before you were finished. The mum’s would not let me stay up.” Zac pointed at the women as he held up an exotic shape of limbs and string.

Where did you find that?” Archer’s eyes widened.

I found this in a shop, it was in a glass case. The Sergeant said you would like this.” Zac smiled.

Thank you,” Archer smiled as he ran his fingers over the four limbs of the bow. “You have any idea what you have here?”

A bow. It is unusual, I have never seen one like it.” Zac said, his eyes glittering with glee that the face of the redhead lit up with a rare smile. “I never saw one with forked arms before.”

This is a Penobscot style bow, it is custom made by White Wolf in the United States. Look at this here. It is called a Wind Warrior. And here? This is the number of the bow, the boyer’s name and the draw it has. This one goes up to seventy-pounds. I don’t think I have heard of one that went that high before, the name etched into it here “Midnight”. I don’t know if that is the color or the name of the bow.”

Name?” Zac asked.

A few shooters named their bows. I was one, but I’m considered a bit eclectic. My favorite bow was the Gertrude. But this one is my favorite now, she is beautiful.”

She?” Andrea laughed lightly.

Beauty, thy name is woman.” Archer said, looking again at the four-limbed bow as he held it up to the light. “The name of the bow is Midnight. Thank you, Zac, this is a wonderful gift.”

Oh! You could use your nickname with it and call it Midnight Thunder!” Zac was pleased with his thoughts on the subject.

Archer chuckled and looked down. “Maybe. We’ll see.”

“Now if someone can point out the direction to my clothes, I have gotten chafed wearing this prisoner’s jumpsuit. It rides up a bit.” The Yank said, changing the subject.

Quiet snickers could be heard as he disappeared with Stormy down the hallway towards the laundry room, pulling at the prisoner garb uncomfortably.

I keep getting a danged wedgie.”

#

8. Recognition

The Archer came back out after he pulled on his pants and socks. His shoulders were a testament to the skills he had with a bow as he carried a dark-gray polo shirt over his right shoulder.

He sat down by the armored glass and looked out, pulling on heavy black boots.

“Any changes outside?”

“None.” Al said as he surveyed with a pair of binoculars he had found. “It has been quiet, what can be seen, however, there is some movement six intersections distant heading away from the water, but I don’t have a view down towards the marina, it could be a Grateful Dead party down there for all I know.”

The redheaded Yank chuckled grimly and started to pull the polo shirt on over his head.

“Archer?” Stormy asked. “The tattoo you have on your chest? I recall seeing it before. I needed to think about it for a moment, but I remember you.”

“My tattoo?” He touched his chest. The Celtic heart with the black lightning bolt across it had been there so long, he had forgotten about it.

“You are T.H. Harte. The U.S. Olympic Archer that took the team to the finals, they said your form was all wrong, but it kept working for you. I helped sponsor you. My firm bought you equipment and some bows. Three of them if I remember.”

“He is… you are Thunder Harte?” Al blinked, looking from Stormy to the Archer. “He wrote a few books and is the host of the outdoor channel’s show “Against all odds”. Wow!”

Archer looked down and gave a heavy sigh. The sound of a man haunted by ghosts and tortured by a shattered soul.

“Yes, yes, and yes, I was Thunder Harte. But I cannot use that name anymore. I’m no longer that man.”

“You have a family. Your son is supposed to be one of the youngest to ever qualify for the U.S. Olympic Archery team.” Rachel said. “There was a legal challenge about minors in the sport.”

“Yes, I opposed him being pushed to be an archer on the team by the media. Their attitude was beyond the pale and I filed the suit for an invasion of privacy. It was his choice and his choice alone.”

“You keep talking about him in the past tense.” Al pointed out, his three-decades of police skills coming to the fore.

“Yeah,” Archer said softly, as if he did and did not want to talk about it. It was a wound that still made his soul bleed and began to pour out of him as if he could not stop his words. “We were overrun by those shuffling nightmares. So, my wife and son took shelter in a quiet, dark house and I drew off the mob by using fire bombs and a shotgun. There was a minor problem, and then my son came out to help, the courage of a pre-teen. ” Archer sighed. “They caught him and began to drag him off. My wife ran out with a stick to beat them away and they grabbed her too.”

He choked and his knuckles turned white as he squeezed the edge of the desk, the veins stood out in his forearms and neck. A man about to scream in agony.

I was a half-block away, semi-auto shotgun was stovepipe-jammed and I had the bow and four jars of turpentine.” The deep sound of a heart breaking sob came out of the one they called Archer. “It took too long to clear the jam, the shotgun wouldn’t cycle so I could clear a path. Then I finally cleared the jam and needed to eject another shell before I could jump back in the fight. But I was too late.”

He took another deep sigh as he pulled himself together.

“I shot them both.” He said quietly, almost inaudibly. “It was the best I could do. They were both bloodied already and I believed it was a virus at the time.”

“You didn’t know about the vampires.” Rachel said, showing her less stormy side.

“No. I could have saved them.” Archer drew a breath and looked out the window. “I failed them. I killed my family and there is no deeper Hell than what I’m in. I couldn’t even bury them.”

“I’m no longer a Harte.” He said in a strangled voice, anguish showed his face as he covered his eyes as if to blind himself to a vision remembered. “I have no name. Just… Archer. It is well enough of a name.”

You will need to forgive yourself, you will need time to find your way.” Gail said, putting a hand gently on his shoulder. “You need to put this behind you, the world has nearly come to an end.”

Forgive?” Archer shook his head. “No. I should live with this forever. There is no forgiveness for what I did.”

From his quiver, he pulled a plastic baggy that contained locks of hair.

“I cut some hair from their heads after I drove the zombies back. The blond is his and this, ” He reached in the bag and touched a lock of red hair. “Is from my wife.

Compared to my hair, she is more of an orange color, but she was a warrior from the north of Glasgow. By the time I got to her, they had bitten and severely tore her up, but she had given better than she taken. There were bodies with their heads stove in all around her.” Archer stroked both locks of hair as if there was some magic in them. Magic that he could not unlock, but refused to let go.

He rolled the plastic baggy up and put it back into a pocket in his quiver and closed the flap.

“Let’s hunt up something with working radios that won’t draw a crowd.” Gail said softly, taking her hand from Archer’s shoulder and stroking his hair. “Down by the marina, we can put to sea, zombies are not able to sneak up or mob us. I would bet the long dead ones would sink anyway.”

“Let’s pack up.” Archer said. Anything to draw attention away from him.

They were ready in moments and formed up under the watchful eye of Al.

The group headed out in the practiced cover pattern that Sergeant Frobisher had taught them to do.

#

9. Out On The Docks

For the first block where birds sang, streets were eerily empty of the walking horrors as they headed to the marina. The death of the vampire seemed to have a chilling effect on the animated dead. Decaying and partly mummified bodies lay everywhere. The presence of ravens feeding on the dead was oddly reassuring to the group. Where the dead walked, birds were absent and silent. Everyone considered the ravens to be a good sign.

The closer they approached the marina, the air seemed to change. Like a heaviness in the atmosphere they had not noticed before, it suffocated the mood of the armed human centipede. They had started their walk to the marina in the best spirits they had been in days, but the farther they walked, the more melancholy the group became. It was as if the soul of the land they walked on was dying.

Moments later, another group of tattered, half-rotted bodies appeared from around the corner of a cross-street and began to approach the heavily armed group.

I thought we killed the vampire.” Zac said in a frightened whisper.

There must be more than one.” Al answered quietly as he walked backwards, protecting the rear of the group as he scanned back and forth with his vertical limbed crossbow. “There ain’t any of those shufflers following us.”

A range? Like with a cell phone?” Archer asked.

By deduction there is more than one kind of vampire.” Stormy said, keeping her sound suppressed weapon against her shoulder. “Some more powerful than others. Foot-soldiers, like Renfield in the classic horror novel. You might have some vampires that would be the generals, they would… maybe… channel the power to the lower caste. Then the zombies are the shock troops that are unstoppable.”

Stormy?” Archer asked.

Yes, love?”

You are giving me a panic attack, please talk about something else, something nicer, like how lions eat baby zebra.”

You killed one vampire already.” Stormy nudged Archer with her hip.

You weren’t down there with the Yank and me.” Andrea said. “That was a serious piss-fight brewing.”

They began to use the arrows to take down the mob of horror that was approaching as they headed to the marina in a controlled pace. Sound suppressed, special weapons did their jobs brilliantly, but the tinkling of spent brass on the ground rang loudly in the silent area that no bird song could reach their ears or any winged life flew. Even the insects had abdicated flight in the area.

As they approached the marina, Archer pointed out a large ketch with sails rolled up on the booms, well tied up. It would be easy to prepare the boat for departure.

Al jimmied a lock of a barred gate that stood as a silent sentinel across the dock. It opened with a loud shriek of partly rusted hinges and closed with the sound of a steel drum full of marbles.

Looking back over the way they had come, several of the animated dead had heard and were drifting in towards the marina as if they were not sure where the sound came from, wandering aimlessly with ever more gathering in the street between the buildings.

Okay, it’s safe.” Gail said. “They are not coming at us directly. We need to walk carefully on the dock to keep the noise down, or we will bring all of Brissy down on us.”

Walking down the dock to the sail-yacht, a large man with a side-by-side shotgun stepped out into the open deck of a tour-boat.

“Hey!” He yelled.

Archer and Al stopped and drew their bows. Andrea, Zac and Stormy pointed their own weapons at the armed man, Zac’s shotgun now loaded with sharpened dowels.

“Ahoy.” Called Archer. “We are seeking safety only. We are not looting. Just need to listen to a radio and find a way to travel south.”

“You are under quarantine. Don’t c’me closer, you are no going to pass on dat virus to me.” He shouted.

“We are alive and breathing, when was the last time you saw one aim weapons at you and hold a conversation?”

The skipper paused.

Archer took advantage of the pause and spoke again.

“There is no virus. All this? It’s vampires— They are using the zombies as war dogs.”

“Bah! There are no such things as vampires!”

“There are no such things as the dead zombies that walk, either! But there they are!” Archer pointed at the bodies that ambled up and down the street. Still milling about trying to find the source of the sound that the gate had made.

The skipper swore under his breath.

“C’me ab’ard befer any of doze still walkin’ sees ya. Git below.” He lowered his shotgun. “I didn’ wanna to shoot an’way. I’m down to whut gravel, nails and bolt-heads I c’n scrape up off teh ground. I has lots o’ powder, but nothin’ fer shootin’, I has ta make do with scraps. Bloody awful whut it is.”

The group sat down around the inside of the cruiser. It was medium sized, but well appointed.

“I chartered until two months ago. The damned demon-things put an end ta dat overnight. I usually walk ta town ta live, but dis is my home now. Dis is de Maribeth an’ welcome ab’ard. She don’ run, though. The engine is farked fer awhile, I ordered a new fuel pump and have been waited fer it fer six weeks before dis all started. I don’ think I’ll be gettin’ it in now.”

“What if you took parts from the other boats around.” Andrea asked.

“I dun’ thin’ the other owners would appreciate it, besides, tha’s stealin and what good would I be if’n I were in jail? They’d bust me for sure an’ take me boat.” The skipper nodded. “By da way, me name’s Roberts. Abraham John Roberts. I’m cap’n of this vessel, whut’s left of ‘er an’way.”

“There are no police to arrest you. And the owners of the boats around here are gone. You are not stealing. You’re salvaging.” Archer said slowly.

Captain Roberts looked at Al, then Archer, then to the ladies for a moment.

“Whut are we waiting fer.” He chuckled. “Damn, I is getting old, I could ha’ been salvagin’ all dis time!”

“We would like to listen to the radio, too. Everywhere on the land most power is out and no radio is working on land.” Rachel said.

“Aye, we can do dat. Marine radio and I has a world short-wave radio set built in. Digital radio is available, too.” The Captain said. “I ha’ no listened to it much. I worry that de sound would bring them, so’s I just walk in ta town ta de stores, avoidin’ them ta hunt up food.”

The women turned it on low and sat drinking the Captain’s coffee. Andrea offering “a cuppa” every few minutes. Captain Roberts told stories of how the world changed from the south up north to the marina. How the changes came from tourists to the biters that came later.

“We get the parts in the morning. This will be hell of a better watch than being here alone.”

“Then we put into Sydney or some other town with an enclave or sanctuary?” Al asked.

“Aye, we can.” Captain Roberts answered. “But fer ta-night? We DRINK!”

“Here here!” Andrea laughed.

Archer, atypically quiet, just sat at the top of the steps. Dusk was more than two hours away.

“Once it’s gone dark, w’ pull all da tarps over de glass and git below. I keep lights ta minimum. I ha’ LED lights that adjust low.” Captain said. Then coughed. “We needs fuel, too, for such a trip. We will need to take on at least three-thousand liters of fuel or we run a chance o’ rowin’ b’fore we get ta where we wants ta be.”

“Hey, what if we just take a boat?” Al asked. “There is a whole fleet of vessels out there that have no one to claim them.”

The Captain stopped talking for a moment.

“Well, I don’ know de other boats as well, but it’ll sure’n satisfy a few cravin’s. We kin upgrade. I never thought about takin’ another boat. Hum…”

Unpacking the maps from the Maribella, the group now including the Captain walked down the moorings assessing each yacht. Finally settling on the Calliope. A luxurious world-class sixty-meter yacht that showed full on all six tanks. Checking the staterooms confirmed the crew was alone on the yacht.

The Calliope, secured and they moved slowly to the unplug the yacht’s power cables from the end of the marina.

“The radio is broadcasting that the area north of Sydney is under quarantine, they are blocking all roads.” Rachel said as the Captain had started the engines warmed them up.

“Here comes the farewell party.” the Sergeant shouted. Shuffling dead were attracted to the sounds of the vessel powering up.

“Dey’ll hold up at de gate.” The Captain said.

“Yeah… no. They have pulled the gate down already.” The Archer said, the sounds of rending metal attracting more walking horror. “Captain, we need to leave.”

The redheaded Yank looked back out the window at the failed gate. “As in now.”

“As in… We has ta get de fark outta here,” Captain Roberts said.

“Agreed,” The Al said. “Forget leaving on the turn of the tide. Let us just cast off now.”

Bloody hell! If yer’n not cast off now, just cut lines. Theys not organized, theys keep fallin’ off into the water, but I won’ ‘ave any o’ ya out dere as bait.”

Casting off, the sixty-meter yacht pulled away from the dock slowly. The motion was not missed by others on the edge of town. The dead, under control of their masters began to walk down towards the marina stopping only at the edge of water.

“Set a course,” The Captain ordered. “Use dat GPS dere, and indicate Sydney.”

Archer gave a rare smile to Stormy, putting down an arrow from his bow, Midnight.

You were going to make a stand?” Stormy frowned.

Stand? Hell no. I was going to shoot that transformer on the pole over there and drop the power line into the water. I’m sure we would be safe, but anything standing in the wet areas would have an exciting moment or three.” Archer winked.

Wi’ one o’ da li’l sticks?” The Captain asked. “F’k’n’ Bullshit.”

Captain.” Al said. “With all due respect, that man could do it. I have seen him do things a hundred paces away with those “li’l sticks” that should be impossible.”

The Captain shook his head land laughed.

Den I’s glad ta has yer on my side, Yank.”

#

10. Ocean and Freedom

The Calliope gathered speed, passing ten-knots and they turned south. Following the shore with the land on the right, they sailed into the gathering darkness.

Captain Roberts sat back and sighed.

“We are clear. Radar shows us with no traffic near and sonar shows that the water depth is increasing nicely. We are in the channel.” The Captain nodded. “Now… I have something to celebrate our escape.”

Hopping off his seat Captain A. J. Roberts opened up a trunk he had lugged from Maribella without a word on what he had inside.

Bottles and bottles of exotic liquors. The largest of which he pulled up.

“RHUM!” He laughed. “All the way from the Caribbean! I bet you have not seen the likes.”

The Archer laughed.

“Actually,” Archer said softly to Rachel, “I have been drinking that brand for years.

Rachel laughed. “I have a bottle of that in my house now.”

The drinking went on for some minutes, The Archer was working on his second cup over ice to the Captains third. The two were seemingly getting into a race.

Suddenly the radio crackled and the Captain choked on his fourth cup of the dark liquor.

“Emergency channel is working! Huzzah!” He grabbed the microphone and called.

“Emergency caller, this is the Calliope out of Brisbane bound for Sydney. Go ahead with your traffic.”

“This is Royal Australian Navy Destroyer Guardsman. Reverse your direction return the way you came.”

“Negative, Guardsman, we are out of Brisbane, all on board are healthy and are seeking asylum from the chaos of the area.”

“Calliope, this is your last warning, the quarantine has been extended to Brisbane, come about now and return to your point of departure.”

“Guardsman, we have women and children on board, we cannot return. Do you wish to condemn them to deal with the collapse of government there?”

“This is Captain Monroe of the RAS Guardsman. Calliope, please reverse your course, I do not wish to fire upon you. Heave to and prepare to be boarded.”

“We are making our way to Sydney. Board us there.” The Captain Roberts replied to Captain Monroe.

“Heave to, or we will fire.”

“Captain.” The Archer was looking out a window. “We have a problem.”

In the air, a heavily armed helicopter suddenly lit up with navigation lights in the failing twilight of the coming evening. Already airborne, missile pods were visible on the sides of the rotary-winged gunship.

Captain Roberts looked out.

“Oh f’kn’ bloody brass nuts.” The Captain said loudly. “If you folks believe in a hell, you might wish to call ‘em an’ ask if they have exchange programs, it is about to become worse than that here. Guardsman is a Hobart Class ship, that there bird be one o’ its hammers.”

“What are those?” Stormy asked as two, then four pinpoint lights seem to move towards them from a mile out.

“Archer?” Andrea asked, pointing out at what Stormy saw.

Incoming! They’ve opened fire!” The Archer yelled. He reached down to his quiver and pulled out a rolled up plastic bag. Holding two locks of hair close to his heart, he watched the missiles track towards them at unimaginable speed.

“I”m sorry.” He whispered to the last remains of his family as he dropped the baggie over the rail of the yacht. “I’m so sorry I failed.”

OUT! Abandon ship!” Al was like a bull shoving everyone he could reach towards the railing. The only time in his life he used his hand to hand training to shove a group.

“Abort! ABORT! Do not fire! ABORT! ABORTABORT! We are…” The Captain screamed into the microphone.

It was his last conscious thought as the missiles impacted into the bridge of the Calliope. High explosive warheads sent shockwaves through the vessel. Air heated to thousands of degrees shattered doors and bulkheads as the yacht disappeared in a fireball of continuing weapons fire as the helicopters their weapons repeatedly.

Only after the Calliope’s shattered, burning hull slipped beneath the surface of the water the gunships returned to base on shore.

The haze and smoke slowly dissipated as the killing machine moved off, returning to the carrier.

There would be no rescue boats launched as the Guardsman followed orders and turned away back to its patrol.

#

Epilogue


Radio transmission on shore after the military radar had detected the contact:

Captain Michael Monroe made his report to the base. “Contact made. Illegal threat neutralized. No spread of infection or contamination. End of report.”

Rear Admiral Shyldon Gillette, Commander of the Royal Australian Border Protection Command read the electronic report out loud and turned towards a shadow in the corner with red eyes glimmering in the dark.

“The secret remains safe, my Lord, the operation will be able to continue to relocate the human blood sources into the feeding reservations.”

“Excellent. Keep the fear up. Any human that finds clues to the real source of the undead slaves, kill them. The living cannot know what is happening until the whole of the world is under our control.” The lips of Lord Maldark’s ghostly face barely moved to create a voice that sounded like it came from the depths of a muddy tomb. “Tell the lower caste to increase the numbers of the risen and to drive herds of the food towards the reservations, do not give them a chance to contemplate their position in the food-chain. That is key to our success.”

Yes, my Lord.”

The face that appeared to float in the shadow twisted unnaturally into a grin, long fangs glittered like glass in the subdued light, but the admiral was under the ancient one’s control now and was no longer afraid as he was the first night.

That night, over a month ago.

Out on the water near the sunken Calliope, a plastic sandwich bag floated on the water stuffed with two gently cut locks and five hastily pulled blood-red strands of hair sealed inside.

Together the hairs drifted towards the land of Oz in the prevailing current with wreckage from the destroyed yacht.

A bow floated on the wreckage, an unusual penobscot bow made of exotic woods. The bow lay on a raft of floatation devices, hastily lashed together, clear of the water with a quiver of arrows as the land grew closer with each passing moment.

<Finis?>

Dragon Master University Chapter. 29. Gorgons. Myth or Fact?

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Chapter 29. The Gorgon, Myth or Fact?

 

 

Walking up and down between the chairs, the Green Wizard showed signs of the last of the green leaves that sprouted from his beard and hat where turning brown in the dead of winter.

Known for his ability with the plants, his were the last to die back, the first to sprout anew.

He was the Green Man.

“The cycle of life in the forest changes with the place on this world. In two places, not a tree grows, the sun in winter never rises, in summer it never sets. Here, where I hold sway, snow falls last, although around us, snow piles up during the winter and feeds the streams and ponds you see around the mountain. Life goes on and renews.“ He walked slowly, the hat he wore had cocoons in various places, one hibernating furry creäture that no one could identify, curled up on the moss lined brim. “In the spring, six weeks from now, you will be back here to study if your professors believe you’re ready for that level.”

Standing in the middle of the classroom, the Wizard eschewed the traditional straight lines of how most classrooms at the University taught. Teaching instead that, nature abhors straight lines. A tap with his staff on the middle of the floor, the Green Wizard displayed the night sky on the ceiling of the room.

“In an age past, dragons roamed the sky like the birds of today. They are descendants of a great civilization, destroyed by a group of small dragons and humans that worshiped destruction and death. They title of the leaders of this group was the Csu.” The Green Wizard looked around. “Remember this, those who seek a single solution to life, a single rule, death is the result. Life is a chorus, man, dragon, woman, swimmer, flyer. All the others that we have spoken of in the past weeks. The steps each takes is different and follows, will follow, and has followed a slightly different path.”

Smiling, as he paused for effect.

“Whether you have skin or scale, each has a life to live and the creative ability to impress the world.” Turning a slow circle, the stars changing. “The Csu did not believe this. One answer, one voice to the deity they spoke to. Death and destruction was their answer to it all. Trees fell, whole communities wiped from the earth. Then they met the Gorgon in battle.”

A hand raised up. T’sing’s eyes were bright with curiosity,the small dragon from the far side of the world was willow thin and beautiful. Her side of the world, dragons are good luck to have in a family. A dragon that graduated from school such as DragonMaster U, was doubly so. Human graduates in the same family, members considered them as the seed of a dynasty.

One such family, had sent a human son, Qin, with T’sing to attend together. Together they promised to build a country that would last forever.

“Sir, who is Gorgon? My mother told me when I was very young to stay indoors, because Gorgon would eat small dragons and humans alike.”

“Good question, T’sing.” The Green Man said. “The proper term is they are the Gorgon, it is a group of Gorgon, the race of the amphibian creatures are as different as Gorilla and Human, but without the gulf of intelligence. They have their own society, and while they do not fear dragonkind, they do avoid them. It was not until the Csu got involved with the Gorgon, at great cost, that the leadership of the Gorgon converted to the Csu religion. We will discuss the Csu religion another time, but the Gorgon are something to cover now.”

Another tap of his staff on the floor of the room, images ran across the ceiling.

“The Csu with the Gorgon army now under their control, swept out of the warm seas of the lower latitudes, catching dragons and humans alike unaware and unprepared. Humans were given a choice to convert to the way of the Csu book of laws, or die. Dragons received no such consideration, called instead as throwbacks to an age where great lizards walked the earth, cousins to Gorgon who tolerated no competition for skies and sea for food. They slaughtered dragons everywhere they found them.”

A gasp from the classroom.

“I was but in my fiftieth summer then. Professor Vale was, and still is, my son and protoge’.”

“Sir, did you have a name during that time?” Jona asked.

“Aye, I did. Though I scarcely remember it. Cranndair, if I recall.” The mentor stroked his beaded facial hair in thought. “No matter. Regardless, the Csu fell only when there was a rise in a sect within their own ranks. Sensing the division, The Gorgon as a body rebelled against the law of the Csu.”

Waving his staff, the huge Gorgon armies stopped chasing dragons and humans, turning instead on their masters.

“The Csu are the single most effective lesson on domination. People of any kind, Dragon, Human or Gorgon give their loyalty voluntarily. Force of threat, of death to family or self always ends up in failure.” He looked at the class. “Call it what you will, but the force of fealty at the point of sword, tooth or claw is bound for failure.”

“But Sir, if you hold by force, they cannot break it.”

“No empire has ever stood on force alone.” Cranndair the Mentor said. “In my studies, I see a human empire that will rise and last for over a thousand-year period and become the greatest civilization that the humans will ever know. What we learn here, will allow dragons to also be a part of that. If we are not fully successful, Dragonkind hide in the cracks of human society, but Dragons will survive. In those days after the wars and the fall of the Csu, The Gorgon did what they do. They withdrew from all societies and to their caves. Content to hibernate and only come out on rare occasions to forage.”

“It is their way to devastate an area, many humans put it down to demons, Dragonkind however, blame such things as natural disasters and storms.” Rubbing his nose. “Often it is the Gorgon causing storms, floods and volcanic destruction. Some human societies still blame dragons.”

“How does a society endure for a long time?” They asked nearly as a body of students. Everyone of the large group nodding. He rarely took this many, but his son, Vale, talked him into it, saying that the students this year were exceptional.

The old man smiled. Hunger for knowledge had started today.

No longer lecturing to bland minds that could not care less for law and lore, or math and science, these seeds of the future now wanted to know where they came from, so they could see where they were going in their growth.

Much as he hated teaching, he loved when children learned.

It would be another age, an age of ages into the future, that the “Light Bulb” would illuminate in their minds.

(*Author’s Note To Pronounce The Following Word:

Csu: “Chew” is closest that a human can say.)

 

 

Dark Heart, Pure Soul 21. A Life Left Behind

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21. A Life Left Behind

Over the next few months, Kane met with other clan leaders who said that the other island across the channel had more raw materials that could be traded for and they needed a metal worker to replace one that had moved south with a daughter of a king. Kane thought it a good move, they could go across the water and then be lost in the mill of people of the age.

Bronwyn wept as she packed. This time was leaving for good. They had tried it once on the mainland, but the violence was testing both their tempers, highwaymen appeared time and again, attempting to take what they had traded for.

Kane carefully bundled his tools together in fine, waxed linen and placed them on the chariot that he had built to transport when he heard a small, familiar voice behind him.

Uncle Kane, are you leaving?” It was Daigh, still carrying his favorite sculpted toy bird.

Yes. Bronwyn and I are moving closer to where they mine for metals. We can trade much more cheaply there and make our useful wares and pretty things to sell.”

Will you come back?” the eleven-year-old asked. His curly brown hair framing his sapphire-blue eyes.

Only if you be good. You will know I have been here on that one night, when you have waited all year for new toys. I’ll sneak in and leave you and your friends something.” Kane winked.

You ever break a promise.” The bright eyes of the young man who believed in the demon-in-hiding.

Have I yet failed you?” Kane kneeled to look in the boy’s eye on his level.

Daigh softly laughed and shook his head, cheeks blushing as Kane found him out in doubting the hero of the village. Kane was one to keep promises. If Kane said it, gave his word. It would be so. If he did not give his word, he would do his best, but in the words of Kane “No promises.” which meant that there was a chance that he would not be able to do what he had hoped to do.

Kane stood up, checked and tightened down a braided leather rope, immensely strong, Daigh once saw Kane use what he called a pulley to lift a log on to a chariot to move it into the village where he made a huge dugout canoe, for the bonfire that year, with the death of a nearby King, they placed the body into the hollowed out log and then floated out on the sea. An arrow was lit and shot into the oil-soaked pile of branches upon which the King’s body lay. A funeral to which there was no equal that day.

But now, Kane and Bronwyn, the creator of such tasty treats in the kitchens and on holidays would go with Kane and live a life in another part of the world.

One woman who had whispered to Daigh’s mother one evening when they thought that there was something wrong with Kane and Bronwyn.

They are not with children and are not getting old. It is strange I say.” She whispered one night.

They could be tricksters among us.” She was one that was always having babies, so Daigh did not understand how they had tricked her into having another one. But Daigh told Kane who had pulled on his ear with an amused look.

Well, the best trick is to teach you to keep your word. Never make a promise that you cannot keep or do not want to keep. If you give your word, you keep it even if you do not want to.”

Daigh and the other kids, Aed, Muirne, Cuinn all nodded. Always they kept their words to each other and told their parents the truth. Even if it would cost them some trouble, they knew that Kane would know, and then he would be mad at them.

THEN, he would be too busy to make new toys or mend old ones.

But today, he was leaving, many people would leave and some would return, others would move from other villages or change where they lived after gathering cattle at the end of the summer to bring the livestock in for protection of the cold and feed them. Calves were often born during these months and would often need feeding by hand. Older kids milked cows and goats, next year, it would be Daigh’s start to care for some of the beasts.

Okay,” Kane said as he finished the knot and all the items were tight in the covered wagon. “We are good if it rains, we will have a sleeping area if we get stuck and we can get to the trade goods easily.”

Daigh stood there for a long moment as Kane tied the ponies to the draw bar of the wagons. The leather harnesses were something that Kane had put together with Daigh’s help and suggestions.

Kane again knelt, closer to the level with the pre-teen boy.

This is what we have to do, Bronwyn and I. We came here the year after you were born. I have helped you learn things and you have learned well. You have a great mind, be a poet, tell the history of your people. Sing of the great things that will be. Kings will come, brave heroes. Even creatures that have come before people and now live in the forests and underground. I will be around,I will sneak in at harvest time.” Kane winked. “Think of me as a gnome or some other small spirit that will sneak around one night of the year and leave you something nice.”

Then Kane held up his index finger in admonishment.

“BUT! If you do not do your chores or do wrong to someone? I will leave you nothing, or worse, you will find a gift of twigs and rocks.”

With that, Daigh’s eyes got big.

I will not forget! You will see Uncle Kane! I will be the best poet that history will ever know. I will sing songs about you that the world will think you were a great Brehon.”

Thought I already was.” Kane said with a wink.

Bronwyn’s voice echoed slightly in the now-empty shop. She was ready to leave. All things that families were to take were so placed in order. Things remaining she had marked with strips of cloth in different colors that indicated different families.

Hello Daigh. Come to see us off?” Bronwyn’s copper-colored hair hung down around her shoulders like a waterfall. She bent down so she was as tall as the eleven year old. “Kane has favored you. You do make him proud when you grow up?”

Yes ma’am! He will hear about my stories and songs all over the world.” Daigh smiled. “I promise I will never stop telling stories about you and him.”

Daigh, you are a wonderful young man.” Bronwyn kissed him on the cheek.

A gasp, Daigh was without words as, first his ears, then his entire face turned red.

Bronwyn laughed softly and hugged him.

That is our little secret. You make me feel pretty.”

Time to go, Bronwyn, climb up.” Kane said.

Daigh was still blushing as their wagon trundled out the gates and disappeared. Feeling a little sad as he turned to walk away. His heart was hurting and, in a small way, lonely, until he remembered, they would be back in a few months at harvest time!

Daigh skipped back to the center of the village where the other kids were. His embarrassment forgotten as his attention span was that of any child.

End Of Book One? (who wants more?)

Dark Heart, Pure Soul 20. Bone Fire

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20. Bone Fire

Autumn had come to the green island, Daigh danced around on his feet, carving a turnip and put a candle in it to show Kane that he paid attention to the stories that he would tell to the children at night.

His sister, Daigh thought, was in love with one of Kane’s character’s in the story. A man who traveled the world, stealing from the rich and using the treasures to keep the people of a far off land safe, warm and dry. The green man, some called him.

Then Bronwyn, his wife, would often push Kane off his log when he told these stories, laughing at him and saying he was telling it wrong.

But Daigh did not care, each word, each syllable was an adventure. Kane laughed as he would sometimes make a sudden movement and raise his hands, scaring them.

But Daigh did not care, each word, each syllable was an adventure. Kane laughed as he would sometimes make a sudden movement and raise his hands, scaring them.

Lately, as they piled stacks of wood on surrounding hills, Kane would smoke with a long clay pipe, pondering over a sheet of copper that had come to him from the east coast of the lands.

Kane called it “Sunrise” metal, from where it came from.

It come from the coast from where the sun comes up.” He told Daigh. Then go back to his contemplative mood and just stare at the metal while leaning on his work bench. Turning ingot – really just a sheet of metal over in his hands, he watched a boy run past his shop while his mind ran with plans for the red metal.

Laughing, Daigh ran with his carved wooden bird.

On the end of a stick, he could feel it’s carved feathers flutter as he held it up in the wind as his feet made the wind rush through his hair, it was a marvel of a toy. Each wing held by a bronze spring, each feather carefully carved by Bronwyn were held in place by a spring that Kane painstakingly embedded in the wood with a small metal “quill” attaching to the suspended wing.

DAIGH! Look out!” Kane yelled, only to cover his eyes with a calloused hand as the boy ran head-long into Muirne, wife of Finn of the Joining Streams. Curiousity forced him to peek between his fingers.

Kane laughed as Daigh bounced off of the larger woman who also staggered backwards and sat down into a bucket of water.

Kane hid his face in his hands, not really wanting to see the chaos when a voice made him turn around. It was Finis, once again after a long absence he stepped out of an unobserved area of the shop and near where Kane contemplated what to do with this sheet of copper.

What makes you wonder about that round ingot so much, Coppersmite?” Finis used his term for a smith that beats on metals.

OH! You startled me. After two-years and then eight years before that you have been away. What brings you to us now?”

Daigh was walking back after his lecture from the wet-bottomed woman about being careful and running in crowds. Although he was ten, he was tall for his age and ran like the wind, even still, Muirne was larger than he was by half again.

But now, his wooden bird that made him dream of flight was hanging, broken-winged on his stick.

Kane, can you fix this?” He asked as he came in from the outside, not seeing Finis at first. “Oh hullo.”

Daigh tilted his head to one side. “I don’t know you.”

No,” the white-haired traveler said. “you are not to meet me for another…”

Finis.” Kane interrupted. “No.”

The Angel of Death shrugged.

No, you don’t know me, I am just here to greet Kane and talk a while.”

Kane looked over the bird’s wing.

See, here, the bronze brace is bent. It won’t let the wing flap in the wind properly. I can fix it easily.” Kane pulled at the fitting. “I made it to flex some. It is not easy to break, but it will bend. I will heat it up and straighten it.”

Thank you Uncle Kane! I will wait, you make the best toys!”

Finis chuckled as the boy bounced on the hardwood of the floor of the shop.

Turning to Finis, Daigh began talking while Kane worked out the fitting while he frowned at the Angel of Death.

I have never seen anyone with hair like yours, you keep your hair white. What are the beads in your whiskers?

Well, young master.” He pulled at the beads in his mustache, “I have gotten these gems in the many places I have traveled. I have traveled far and they were gifts from those that have walked with me.”

They give you things to walk with you?”

HO! No, no. They sometimes give me things to not walk with them…”

Finis.” Kane stopped working and was walking back. “Daigh, the toy’s done and fixed. Try not to run into people, or worse, trees and buildings? Okay?”

Or off cliffs” Finis added. “No need to rush things.”

Daigh looked curiously at the old man.

Pausing for a moment. The Angel of Death pulled the gems out of his mustache.

Hold on to these for me. Don’t ever spend them or trade them for anything. Perhaps Kane here will build you a small box to put them in. Each time you need a favor from me, I will take one of the gems. So there you have how many?”

Counting the sparkling stones.

I have twenty-four gems.”

Correct. For such a good-looking young man, you get that many favors for as long as you have the stones. These are special gems. Do not give them away. They cannot be stolen, someone who takes them from you, I will know and I will bring them back.”

That would be scary.” Kane said softly behind Finis.

What? Why?” Daigh asked.

Never mind. A kind of joke.” Kane chuckled as he spoke, shaking his head.

Then Kane handed Daigh his toy back.

Daigh ran out with his bird flapping on the stick again. Happy as he could be, yelling “thanks!” over his shoulder to Kane.

Bonfires are in three days, it will be the end of the harvest and then the spirits of the underworld will walk. People will dress up and drink the beer that has fermented for weeks in the copper kettles I built that are down where the two streams meet. Almost more than this community could drink per person in total. I calculated it out on the largest of the residents and then took the smallest of adults of men and women and did the math.

Finis cleared his throat.

I have come to point out a few things.” Finis said. “Bronwyn should also be here.”

You can stay for the evening meal. She and the other women are cooking now.”

Aye. I can smell it. But you should also know, there are those that are noticing that you and she are not aging. One woman is calling it magic. She has already spoke with the high priestess.

Finis stood and watched Bronwyn approach. Hugging her when she entered the smith-shop.

I want to ask, what is wrong with Gretna?”

Sad news,” Finis shook his head. “she has cancer. She knows, a lump that she found in her breast has spread to other areas. In years to come, the illness will be known as consumption. Her weight has already gone down if you have noticed.”

I have, she is thinner I have noticed.” Bronwyn felt like crying.

She will walk with me before the weather gets warmer in the spring. I have come to meet with you and say that you need to consider moving on. Your lack of aging and children will soon be noticed, one already has done so and brought it to Gretna’s attention. This village you live in, this trícha cét is well over six-thousand people, someone is going to notice.”

Gretna has spoke with me about that.” Bronwyn nodded.

Indeed.” Finis nodded. “Take her advice that people are noting this and the advice of mine as well.”

We must leave?” Kane said. Thinking about Daigh and the other children that look forward to his toys every year during the time of the bonfires.

If you were to stay, you would make your leaving more difficult to start fresh. Many love you as kin. Especially the small children that dance around your legs when you have finished your travels. Kane, you would suffer first I would wager. Someone will notice that you are never sick or have aged, even though you has put yourself in harm’s way more than once.” Finis nodded. “Alternately, when you return, leave again to trade. Take all that you like, but then burn the wagon and leave the road and travel on another path. You will have to fake your deaths and create new life, this is part of your challenges you have taken as your tribulation. It is his punishment and your elected life here, Bronwyn. Remember, I am just your advisor, you can do as you like, but I would say your time here with this Clan is over.”

Bronwyn nodded, sad that it seemed like just last week they had stumbled into the lives of Gretna and her family.

Bronwyn was helpless to make that happen. She could only wish to have a full ten years of words to describe the life she has enjoyed…

 

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 19. A Nightmare Of A Possibility

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19. A Nightmare Of A Possibility

Twitching, the world took on a surreal color pallet.

She slept with her arm over his shoulders, cuddled up to his back like two spoons in the flatware box. This world faded away and another one slid forward on soft cat-paws in his mind.

A nightmare invaded Kane’s slumber. A violent dream.

He was angry. He was fighting and he was fury incarnate, down to his core, he was… He was…

He was Orcus the avenging demon of wrongs. The angry imp that struck in an instant.

The black-soul that would invade a lover’s heart and turn the loving soul into a murderer in a moment for minor wrongs, bringing new slaves to the Dark Lord for his bidding.

And found – Not an angelic minion, a nameless adversary. It was… It… was… even in his dream, he stammered.

It was HER!

He defended his Angel.  It played vividly in his mind, he was again there when the Hoard attacked. For his heart focused only on one soul ever. A heart properly motivated would do anything. In defense of his deepest mote of love, that one spark never lost, did he do the unthinkable.

But the hesitation brought the unwanted attention of the Dark One who did not believe in such deep thoughts – Backing up his best, his most infernal, the one who brings the most of the new souls in for the Satan, Emperor of Hell to torment for his pleasure.

The Great Angel of the Pit arrived and struck her a crushing blow, pushing the smaller imp out of harms way, attacking the crimson haired angel delivering a huge slash across her arms and with that single blow of his clawed hand, he knew her name.

Bronwyn they called her. In that instant he knew it was her human name. Somewhere in time there was a candle lit for her. But that mattered not, this soul, that forestalled the killing stroke of the best of his warriors, one who commanded a legion. The Emperor’s best and brightest, the most savage, one of the most feared of all.

A blow stung him to the core as she struck back, a blessed sword of holy crystal! With a mighty roar of a thousand damned hearts, and struck at her with claw and fang, to tear out a new soul. Not one that would be returned to this little Angel’s lord. Her flesh would be ravaged, spirit would be torn and body broken as he pounced on her like a savage raptor of hate, of the dark side and he struck with a blow to shatter souls; it was the law of things in battle. The mighty overwhelm the weak.

But this angel did not read the rule book.

The bright, pure soul of the host, drove Hell’s Master backwards the flash of a moment as she struck him with the might of the host. Michael would not have struck as hard. Silver chain mail over her torso resisted the power of darkness, for this was for this was one of the great warrior archangels. Fitting her like a wet shirt, it guarded against  the savage horde. However, it was not on par with the supreme demon of the darkness.

The battle ensued, he was savage and she as a blinding light against his dark, claw to armor, fist to fang. The whole of the lands shook with the fury of battle. Master against Angel, there was no turning back, Bronwyn was fighting for her immortal soul and there was no mercy, no plea that would be heard. This was a battle to the end of it all, to the death of two immortal beings.

She struck with enough power and heart to knock him to his knees, enough power to break a demon. But not this Dark Lord, almighty in his satanic powers, he was beyond her dreams of power. He took his measure of her strength, weighed her power and compared it to his own. She who had gotten a few hits in, her light was as a small lamp in the pitch darkness of night. Bright as she was, she was found wanting, and he retaliated.

That little blessed knife of hers,  broken and thrown away, hummed feebly in the dirt.

And the Devil struck with the might of Hell – again and again the great dark fist of the Emperor shattered her body, her shield of faith. Her soul would taste like a sweet grape on his tongue after he tore it out of her and consumed it, never to return to the adversary of her Lord of Light. To hell with an angel.

Beaten, weaponless, on her knees, held by one wing he beat her again and again. She screamed one name.

“Orcus! HELP!”

Her screams echoed in the cold, dead heart. Somewhere in the dust of ages, among the dead and heavily scarred flesh that wound around the blackened and charred whole of his soul, a spark that was hidden was found and it heard – the spark flared, burned and ignited something within the emptiness that was the heart of a demon.

A rage that grew, fanned to flames by the winds of memory that rushed back, an awakening of a promise once made to a pure soul. The spark that remembered once promised to protect.

And failed.

But not this time.

Not again.

Never again.

Shall not. Ever again. Fail.

And a single word, born from the very core of fury.

“STOP!”

Corruption was who he was, a body covered in hideous scars of ages of combat, unholy visage of a beak-like face, horns for hair and red-rage that glowed in his eyes. Orcus, a name known only to Bronwynn, had in that one moment, that blistering rage that erupted and attempted control of in a futile effort, the Emperor of Hell saw and knew.

One brief shining moment of longing crossed the angry face of the warrior-demon. Of passion’s fire kindled in a heart that had long gone to cold ash. A history that was once forgotten, rose again in the demon once thought soulless, an ember of passion rose and the testimony of that one quiet hot mote arose to live again in the being that was Orcus. A soul, blasted and scarred with self-hatred and anger.

“You wish this female? Take her soul then. Use the battle-ax, the Claw of Hades and cut it from her.” The terrible eyes of the Emperor turned on the General of his legions. “Strike her sacred body, cut off her wings, cut out her soul and you will stay together for an eternity! You will command together. Whole legions of demons that would respect you both, you will the power second only to mine, you both will be in Hell forever.”

The dark countenance of the Dark Lord was that of savage pleasure, to have her struck down without her fighting back. A total defeat of an angel and the stealing of a soul as pure as this.

“Power and love of your mate for all time. Fear and respect from others, none shall dare not stand up to you.” The Dark Master spoke to the smaller demon.

On the battlefield the three stood, all demons had stopped their corrupt actions and watched the drama, would an angel switch sides for love? Would the great Gardener stand up and save one of his own. A warrior angel, the best and brightest, one that had once turned her back on heaven to live a life with a love. One where her heart once rejoiced so much that it echoed in heaven.

The Dark Lord held her by a copper-colored wing, this angel, one who had given her heart to Orcus so long ago with the blessing of her Enlightened One. The long scarred and hideous arm held her out as if to offer a meal to the demon for his abuse, for the cut to come. To take her into the darkness and drive out doubt in the host.

Once an old affable gardener with wisdom unmatched and told her to go to the Imp and love him good and well.

“Raise him up, love him all the days on that little spot that you claim your own.”

This moment she hung helpless in a giant’s clawed hand. On a finger an ebony ring of an apple surrounded by a snake on the hand, he squeezed and smoke billowed from her wing and Bronwynn screamed in pain. The battle between the light and dark over for the moment.

But there was no fight left in this angel. Her crystal sword broken and the angel’s battered and bruised body hung limply from combat against the one called Satan. She was out of energy. With not enough strength to fight, she hung in his mighty grip and cried. Holy chain-mail hung off her in tatters and shreds. Plates of armor, harder than diamonds, tougher than a heart of a warrior crushed like foil lay on the ground.

Defeated, no weapons left, too weary to lift her arms.  Bronwyn hung there, broken and beaten.

A flick of the wrist and she was flung across the battlefield at the feet of the demon of retribution, vengeance and pain.

“Cut her soul from the angels body and you will have her forever.” The Dark One spoke. “How deep is the love you have? What would you do for that passion that burns in your chest? Do you believe you have a love for this small one?”

“She pleases me.” Orcus looked at her.

The old rage was there, ruby-red eyes of a savage demon. But… something else and it did not go unnoticed.

“DO you love her?” The question was more of a statement by Hell’s Master.

“I…” A hesitation. How does one give up a weakness? Never a good idea to do so to anyone that has power over you… but… “Love her.”

“What sweetness.” Satan laughed. “Would you do anything for her love?”

“Yes.” Orcus was watching her, greed in his wholeness. Cultivated consciously, lust for power. Turning away from love. Lust for a mate. Not love. To use her for pleasure. NOT love.

“I love her.” Damn it all! Orcus thought. Not what he wanted to say.

“Sweet indeed. Love for an angel. Does the small demon wish her with him forever and ever?” The Emperor said softly. “I can give her to you.Just give her the stroke, take her soul and bring her to you. Live forever in each others company in the beauty of your world. Can you do that? Can you love her enough to bring her to you?”

Orcus nodded.

“I can do that. The soul of an angel, power untold. I can do that.” A grin from the lips that split with the evil of his own words.

Savage anger glowed from his eyes, the Claw of Hades, an old friend, a battle-ax whose blade had ten points for piercing of armor in his hands that caressed its polished surface as if it were a sexual device. The tip of the main blade pressed against the bare flesh of her chest, an unprotected gap of her rent and destroyed armor.

Bronwyn looked up into the eyes of the one she loved most in all the worlds, all the universes that existed, anywhere she ever lived, anyplace she had gazed upon — she had given him her heart.

The tip of the ax rested against the curve of her throat, where it joined her torso, she had nothing more to give this demon, the imp that held her heart. Trying to tell him, never did he fail her. For she loved him greater than all the souls that were in heaven.

An evil laugh as the Master knew what would come. “Would you do anything for love?”

“I would do anything for power! I would do anything for love.” Orcus cackled now.

Bronwyn gave him her best, most vulnerable spot, knowing the pain of the cut coming. Not fighting any longer, she arched her neck back, offering her soul, she gave up all that would be her history, her love, her passion.

She would give up her heaven.

Her lord and her soul.

For him.

And waited for the cut that would take her from the light and plunge her forever into the darkness of the pit of the abyss.

She then heard the last time he would speak to her in this world.

“I’ll do anything for love.” His breath was hot on her cheek.

His breath coming in deep ragged gasps of blood lust, she knew. The tip of the cursed battle-ax, a gift from Hades to Orcus in another long ago age, pressed against her throat dimpling the flesh.

“I would do anything for your love. ” He said again, softer. “I will have you as mine forever.”

She could feel the muscles of the battle-scarred body tense, the winding up of the moment, he was ready and the blow was moments away.

“I”ll do anything for love!”

A pause…

Bronwyn closed her eyes, waiting for the first sensation of pain that marked the end of her heavenly life as she gave herself to her love, her heart, and the one that brightened her soul even from the darkest of realms.

She closed herself off to the view of the one with the weapon that had her at his mercy. The him through time and realms that they had traveled. Through dimensions, ages, together they had once loved laughed and had light of the universe in their hearts.

“I’ll do anything for love…” He drew a deep breath through sharpened and savage teeth…

*I love you.* It was her last thought.

“… NO! I WON’T DO THAT!”

Turning in an instant, Orcus hurled the cursed ax, the Claw of Hades at Satan himself, launching into an attack against the Emperor of Hell, this demon of legend, the First Emperor of all things of evil intent, action and temptation.

A simple flick of the Lord of the Demon’s hand and the ax flew away over his shoulder, landing uselessly in the battlefield beyond the reach of the smaller demon.

“TRAITOR!”

“I knew you! Traitor! You shall live forever as a slave to serve us all! Torment by those being tormented, undying life of slime, never-ending pain is all yours forever. I shall enjoy consuming your angel, she is MINE.”

“NEVER! You will starve!” The Demon screamed.

Savage was Orcus’ attack, the crushing blows he delivered was with every mote of his being, all sound, all battles, all conflict stopped as the host of heaven and the hoards of hell halted their battles and watched this ballet of destruction played out.

Watching the fight that suddenly became center stage of a battlefield, Asmodeus turned to Lucifer. “One-hundred on Orcus.”

“You’re on.” Lucifer already had plans to tell the Emperor how the odds were. Who bet on the outcome.

“I’ll take some of that.” The Beelzebub stood near the arch-demons. “I’ll take the Master.”

“Roll your own dice Beeze?” Leviathan laughed, the giant put down his vote for Orcus. Calling him “The once and future Emperor”.

Savage orange fire from the mouth of the Emperor for the chest of Orcus as he folded his wings around for protection and laughed as the flames enveloped his body.

“Time to fall!” A scream from the beak-like face as the demon went claw to talon, fang to fire as Satan did battle with the best and darkest of his demons. Green fire from the clawed hands of the demon that shattered the confidence and wings of the Emperor. The tail of the once-Emperor, whipped through the darkened atmosphere of war, a weapon unto itself, the prehensile appendage wrapped itself around the throat of the Dark One.

“To slime, to torment, to slavery with you! For LOVE I shall strike. For her soul I shall beat you into the ground.” Orcus screamed as his tail tightened against the armor-scale of a neck as he looked into the compound beast-eyes. Sixty-six and six-hundred pupils that he saw his reflection framed by the horned face.

“For my angel’s heart, you will suffer!”

Satan’s quad-lipped mouth opened up and exposed too many teeth as the Emperor of Hell choked on a grip tighter than steel that squeezed ever tighter. The Devil’s mouth tried to bite the scale covered hide of traitorous demon.

Twisting about in the noose of a tail, the Dark Lord landed a blow that registered on earth as an earthquake. Scientists explained that a previously unknown fault shook the humans. The same blow nearly obliterated the demon, but Orcus fought back with the power of love. The demon was unstoppable as Satan was relentless. Again they collided head on, claw to claw, fang to tusk. Each blow measured to inflict the greatest damage, each block meant to waste the energy of the opponent.

Never had there been such a challenge to his power. Victory was not assured, for the fist time in an age – Satan, the Emperor of Hell, felt fear.

Fire and fury, hate versus love. A Dark-Heart against the power of darkness, the energy of both opponents took a toll as they gave their all for victory.

One loved power, the other loved.

Suddenly a misstep, a missed moment in a battle against an implacable enemy and Orcus was flung backwards by a titanic blow, one wing broken, the other wing torn, horns broken, eyes unfocused. The right arm lay useless under his body.

Tired and out of breath, the Emperor of hell moved towards the demon that dared to choose love over immeasurable power, lust and greed. This Satan, wheezing and blinded in half his eyes, all the fingers on the right hand missing and the Emperor of Hell walked on his hands, swinging his leg forward in an ape-like walk, trailing black ichor that served as blood, towards the traitor, a stump where the left leg was missing. He struggled to tear with his remaining hand, to finish the demon, to turn him into the lowest of the slime of hell – Better! To consume the dark soul until it was no more, to digest and spit out that which they called “Love”.

As the Emperor got close to the puny and broken imp, close enough to strike with what was left of his claws and fangs, Orcus held his left hand outstretched towards the Emperor…

Was this beseeching? That thought was entertaining.

A plea for mercy? A laugh at the thought rose in Satan’s mind.

A plea? Hardly.

It was a call, a command to a part of the demon’s own wholeness, a call to an old friend, a gift from the Emperor that followed Orcus to the throne. The call to the Claw of Hades, a call that the ax must answer. Return to its owner no matter the obstacle.

Behind the Dark Lord, the Claw of Hades lay in the filth of the battlefield, forgotten in the rage of battle. Tossed so easily away by the more powerful demon and never given a thought after.

A mistake.

A fatal mistake.

The weapon, as much a part of Orcus as his tail was, answered its call. The ten-pointed ax trembled, slightly at first, then turned blade first and raced through the air to the Master of the Ax in a straight line, regardless of what was in the way.

The Dark Lord became aware of the whistling noise, the disturbance drew the great demon’s attention, but too late.

Too late!

Returning to Master of the Ax, the cursed weapon drove through the through the forehead of the Dark Lord on the way to the hand of Orcus. The look of surprise was entertaining to the old demon as for one brief glorious moment as Orcus nearly laughed, the Great Devil himself, the destroyer, He who defeated Hel who gave her name to the kingdom that He then ruled. He who defeated Hel held his hands up in frozen stark surprise…

And imploded without a sound, like a shadow banished from view when a light shines into the darkness.

The Dark Lord was no more in one last anticlimactic, quiet, mundane moment.

All that was left, an ebony ring of an apple surrounded by a snake that fell to the ground. Frost formed where it bounced until it stopped moving. A  freezing fog formed around the ring, curling over the ground as it rested quietly in the dust.

Panting, barely strong enough to stand, pain was his second world, a second life of passion drove him to stand. Shredded and torn, his right-wing broken, dark blood oozed through dozens of new wounds that covered his body as he knelt next to his angel.

Lifting her up in his arms, she reached up and caressed his face. His broken hand held hers gently. There were too many wounds on his immortal body, he was weak beyond description. The immortal demon was weakening further, the great heart had begun to beat, now faltered. He caressed her face with a blood-stained finger tears leaked from his eyes as dark blood leaked out of him into the dirt.

“I’d do anything for you.” He whispered softly and nodded, “I would do anything for your love, but I would not do that. I could never do that.”

“Come with me.” Bronwyn whispered. “Come back home. You are free.”

A soft cough from a few steps away interrupted.

“Hell needs an Emperor.” The Lucifer said, standing behind Orcus. “It is advancement by assassination in Hell. He must take his place on the throne.”

“NO!” The Angel refused to accept this! Orcus sacrificed it all for her life.

“NO! Stay with me!” Bronwyn argued. pulling on Orcus’ arms, her own hands too weak to grip tightly.”Turn away from all this, come home. I will not have this!”

“He could do anything for love. Fight the old Emperor,” Asmodeus nodded, frowning as he handed the ebony black ring of an apple surrounded by a snake to Orcus. “and win. He has changed the course of a war, changed a thousand hearts. He has altered the universe in uncountable ways. He did that all for love.”

“He did it all.” Lucifer nodded. “He did it all for love. But he cannot go with you.”

“He can’t do that.” Beelzebub whispered as he shook his head and bowed to the new Emperor.

The cool hand of Bronwyn touched him in between the shoulder-blades. “Orcus”, the name echoed in the webs of his dream, his face was wet from tears, Kane had cried out in his sleep.

Kisses on his cheeks as the hands of an angel cupped his face.

“What makes you cry?” She frowned with concern in her eyes.

“I dreamed I had lost you. Our time together was over and I had to use my powers to save you. I also remember my name, from so long ago. Orcus.”

“I remember that name. Punisher of broken promises and oaths. No wonder you do not break promises to children.” She smiled at him. “You are the children’s guardian of promises. You keep the promise of the gift giving when the days grow short and life begins anew. You are the one to shape a child’s view of the world.”

He shook his head, “I still lost you and I will not allow that. Ever.”

She slid her arms around him as she kissed her husbands tears away.

“We can change the future.”

Together they slept the rest of the night, no further dreams intruded.

But Kane had his doubts.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 18. A New Life

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18. A New Life

After finishing his education of the different laws of the different Celt tribes, Kane had made friends with the Parisii tribe, but the growing land that would be one of the largest metropolitan areas in the future, for now it was a small place to trade.

Still, raw materials from the inland areas were good for trade. Kane and Bronwyn had a good name as tinkerers and artisans of the crafts. Anything from a copper pot to bronze and gold torcs for the neck and upper arm.

Kane had figured out how to tie knots in the metals, gold being the easiest to braid into popular shapes. Still, he knew how to work the metals carefully.

Bronwyn had patience to inlay gold wire after both she and Kane had carved a pattern that they had worked out.

Often in intricate patterns, it was the High Priests of the different religions that spoke of how life was that inspired them. However bringing the Celtic knot to life was a trick. Not many of the High Priests agreed on the beauty.

But the concept of the tree of life, this intrigued Kane and discussed in many nights with Bronwyn as they carved, first in clay, then wood and finally in bronze and gold, an inlaying of gold in bronze or copper in bronze was often highly sought after. In trade, the artisans that they were, received different items in trade.

Often they took ingots of raw metals, frequent was a trade for meats and grains.

Coins were always accepted, of course, but when a young man wanted to buy something to woo a beautiful young woman or impress her family, a cow or other farm animal would be taken in trade.

Bronwyn, more romantic than Kane, would not be above making a beautiful ring out of bronze or brass in a moment’s notice, with the promise to work with the boy to create something even more beautiful out of anything he might like and torcs were common.

The occasional master of captured slaves would take a shine to one and buy gold collars with a certain gem he possessed.

Those owners of slaves tended to get charged fully without breaks on value for the trinkets. Bronwyn had a particular distaste for slavery any kind.

Slavery will exist for several thousand more years in many shapes, my angel.” Kane would say softly to Bronwyn in the nights where they lay in each other’s arms. “They will have not achieved complete eradication of it until well into the twenty-fifth century.”

It’s not right, still. No matter the age.” She said dangerously.

Do not make history, we have to avoid being too well-known.” He said softly.

Still, it doesn’t make it right.”

No, it doesn’t, but there exists a great many flaws that humankind must overcome. One thing at a time.”

I can’t wait.”

The day wore on until they arrived at home. Kane again began packing trinkets, but this time were more for children. Dolls, wheeled pull toys that looked like animals.

Stroking his head as he bent over yet another bag, she smiled at his loading.

Who do you pack for?”

Well, we are moving in a fortnight, aren’t we? Back to where we started for a few more years. Plus, I pass out gifts at this time of year, and it is fast approaching. Harvest will begin in a fortnight in most areas. I have a boy who is nine-summers old now and I have a promise to fulfill.”

And you don’t want to break a promise to a child.”

No, never. A grownup gives a promise to a child, as sure as your hair grows, you better keep it. They have the souls are most accepting and will make this world a place far better than it could be.”

And you say not to make history.”

Oh hush. There are other ways to affect for the positive.” Her husband said. “I will wage war my way. Let others try to figure out how to undo a child’s smile when I finish.”

Kane, you have to stop this life in time and we have to move away.” Bronwyn stroked his ear and kissed her mate carefully.

Time. He cursed it and welcomed it. They were closing a decade together on the blue planet and he regretted not one moment with her.

Although, time to time, he watched her look at children with a faraway look that women get. She had all the drives of a young human woman, with no chance to produce something that was part of their union. They were a team, forever and always, but by command, they were not allowed to have children.

Her voice brought him out of his thoughts.

Where do you think we should restart our lives as artists and young couple?” She was looking at herself in a silvered bronze-backed mirror.

Unlike other women everywhere, she strove to make herself look older, but vanity prevented her from striving too hard. Using hardwood ash now and again, she would put in white streak that would look like she had hair of an older woman.

He was finally packed and stood up.

I am thinking of the middle-sea where Egypt is building pyramids for about another three-hundred years.” Kane pulled at his chin. “Perhaps Athens. I hate to leave this area, the best copper is on the island of our first home.”

Let us live there on the other side of the island, towards the east. In time, there will rise an empire that will overwhelm this area of Celtica and rename it. They will invade the islands and the Emperor Hadrian will build a wall. If we stay on the island, they will not invade.”

Sitting down in a chair of finely crafted leather and polished wood, he rubbed his forehead thinking.

Perhaps. Or…maybe… before the empire arises, we move close and disappear in the crowds and be artisans. Or we can move to Athens as I said, and get the trading in there first. Then we can join that fellow that turns water into wine goes about teaching.”
Kane winked and held up his forefinger. “Now there is a person to invite to parties!”

KANE! Is that all you think of?”

No, most times I try to think of you, naked.” He winked at his wife.

KANE!” Bronwyn laughed as she sat in his lap. “You are so bad.”

That night, they slept together, skin to skin after hours of their bodies joining in as many positions as they could think of. Kane dreamed a recurring dream. This night was different, his old name came to the fore of his mind. Worries of having to end this life and start a new one brought on the dreams that a change of place to live in secret once again would be opposed by the one that put him in this world of humans.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 17. Highwaymen

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17. Highwaymen

The wagon rumbled back to the coastal village with Kane and Bronwyn riding in silence.

Weeks of trading and occasional party in their honor had left them fatigued. With hours of travel-time still left in their journey, they were far from talkative. Already on the road for several hours, Bronwyn was sleeping on Kane’s shoulder when he pulled up the horses.

We are not alone.” He whispered to the groggy but waking wife.

An old man stood along the side of the road near a body of a man sprawled on the ground. The older gent was familiar to them, but he was not who they thought he was.

Greetings slime-devil. It has been nine-years since you violated the oath of demons.” The black-eyes looked into Kane’s green.

Well.” Kane said carefully. “Greetings Abraxas. Perhaps you have not been aware of my mate here. This is my wife, the Angel Bronwyn.”

All of the upper ranks are aware of your betrayal and punishment. Up to now, it has been easy, the Masters have plotted against one and another and you were forgotten for a time. And you have saved me from obliteration on three occasions. Once from the Dark Lord himself, you stood up for me and defended the actions that I took.” Looking at the human couple the demon pointed at prostrate form at his feet. “This man here was a lookout for soldiers that are up ahead. They will shoot you full of arrows and take her along with all your goods and wagon.”

We will head another way then. Why warn me, if you would explain once more?” Kane asked.

I owe you three times over, this makes up for one.”

Watch out!” Bronwyn yelled as an arrow hissed out of the wood and hit the old man.

A scream like no other animal sounded out of the old man as the armed warriors emerged from behind the trees of the forest, weapons drawn.

Three more arrows hit the man as he stepped backwards, then transformed into a part-snake and part-human and began to attack the robber-warriors. The sounds were such that the horses spooked. Kane struggled with the panicked animals then spoke words to calm them.

A pull on the silver mouth-bits aimed them at a route past the battling unearthly creature and the robbers. Once the equine minds got the image of safe passage, Kane was nearly out of control as they wasted not one ounce of energy to put distance between the battling humans and the noisy, spitting giant human-snake that caught and ate the highwaymen one at a time. 

Two-minutes of full gallop he pulled back on the reins, making calming noises and stopped the wagon.

Owe you? He Owed you for saving him?” Bronwyn’s voice was air-chilling. “When did you save him? What did you do?”

It was a simple matter of witnessing that he did the right thing. It was your Lord that flooded the world. Abraxas arranged for the ark. He brought along every species of the mosquito.”

“That’s awful.” Bronwyn laughed. 

And yet, you laugh.” Kane said with a smile, wincing slightly as his wife punched him playfully in the shoulder.

 

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 16. A Move To Celtica

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16. A Move To Celtica

Sitting on the beach. A long week of days they had spent in their shop, Kane and Bronwyn had created several pots that they had sold on the mainland called “Gaul”. Kane had become skilled in speaking of the laws of the Celts. Often Tort, criminal law did not exist, but the civil law was complex and often took days to seek an answer to complaints of those wronged. His mind, fatigued from the studies and questions, only enjoying the fire on the beach with his angel laying her head on his shoulder. The cool of the breeze blowing over them caused Kane to pull a sheepskin over them while he tossed more wood on the fire.

“I think we should move, maybe to the south.” Bronwynm said softly. “We have been here long enough that some of the mid-wives are asking when I may have a child, we are not supporting the numbers of children.”

She softly laughed, but Kane did not.

Kissing her nose, he whispered. “Are they jealous that you have kept your girly looks?”

“In fact, they are. Stairiemh has complained that she was more beautiful than I was before she had her second child, now she has a tummy that will not go away.” Bronwyn nodded. “And she is right. She is taller than I am and very beautiful now. But she is not as lithe as a willow as she was when we first came here.”

“They will start noticing our childless status more as time goes on.”

“Yes, and the children are care for by people of the Tuathe. You are the father of no less that ten boys and girls that have adopted you as their favorites.” Bronwyn giggled. “The boys want to go throw that stuffed ball you made. I think it is Dagda’s favorite toy. He is always throwing it up in the air when you are not around. You made it for the kids, but he has taken it for himself. I think you need to make other toys for the kids.”

Kane laughed quietly. “I need to make enough for all the kids with that idea. Every child would need to get one, I’ll be stuffing and sewing for a year!” He covered his face with his hand, I’d have to make a wish list.”

Kissing him softly. “You would be the first Father Christmas.”

“NO! No no no..” He laughed out loud. “We are long years before that era.”

A laughing voice came from behind them. Finis, the Angel of Death, sat with his hands resting on his silver-handled cane.

“Why not set the theme of years to come?” The white goatee-sporting angel chuckled. “Start mankind on giving of their hearts. Giving good wishes to those in the darkest times of the year. This giving is not a religious thing. Let it come from within, give to the children.”

 “Be the seed of what would be come known as a time of giving.” He held out his hand, palm up. “Mankind will twist it in various ways in the years to come. In each society, warrior based would make it more wild. Another society might make it more sexual and still another society may make it a respectful time of those in need and a giving time of presents and food. To take in the homeless or downtrodden. You were once like that.”

“A man alone, in their eyes, and yet?” Finish looked at Kane. “And yet, that they took you in and in time you became a productive member of the society. Maybe you can serve to show the way. Show love to the children, for they are the future of the world.”

Kane sighed. “This society already shows that an entire community raises the children. Everyone takes care of the boys and girls that walk and live.”

“And you can show them a peaceful way to live.”

Bronwyn smiled widely.

Kane frowned. “Why me?”

“Because you are good at it.” Another voice chimed in, it was Micheal, the Archangel.

“The Lord says to make it so. It is a good idea, one that will make your dark master quite angry with you.”

“Yes, he has been angry with me before. Kinda hurt.” Kane said as the memory of the worst pain he ever known came back to him.

The day a demon died.

From that day forward, Kane and Bronwyn traveled in their business trading gems and gold. Often teaching how to sing. Children became more excited with the arrival of the couple that traveled together. Kane created such toys out of wood and leather, for men, often was a small gift, a hatchet, hammer or in some cases if he knew what the need was, a lantern or a pair of shoes. Trading then became much easier with the people who did not know them, knew them by reputation.

Gift giving caught on and became popular, often gifts made by children were given to the couple as gifts for the children of the next village.

Romances blossomed from one clan to the next as love letters delivered  between the distant towns.

Kane laughed on one trip, holding a finely worked calf-hide, sealed with wax.

“And future experts would say that humans did not write for another thousand years.”

Wars halted in times of harvest or in the cold and dark at by the end of the year.

In the eighth year of their living as humans, they had moved to the land of the Celt.

“You will come back?” The bright eyes of an eight-year-old boy Daigh looked up at Kane. “You promise not to stay away?”

Looking at the youth, Kane nodded and smiled.

“I promise. I will come back when the nights are at the longest and the weather is at the coldest. I will come back and we will play games as we have with the ball I have given you.”

“Never break promises to kids.” Daigh said. “I will remember!”

“Nope,” Kane shook his head. “I don’t break my promises to young ones.”

On the coast of mainland, they spread their way of life. Bronze was much easier to obtain and Kane began to teach other young men and women how to sharpen stone tools that they used.

Comments came of course. “The forefather did it this way” and “We do it that way.”

Sometimes, Kane learned some new technique, but most he taught.

Living near the coast, they traded upriver to the communities that desired their arts and crafts as well as Kane’s ax designs in bronze.

Traveling up the river towards a growing village of Lutetia

Kane was quietly contemplating the shape of a hammer in his head. A small hammer with the anvil shaped to fit the needs of a small.

“You know we are going to the future city of passion and love.”

“Oh?” Bronwyn said absent-mindedly as she struggled to sew a carved wood face of a smiling dog on a fuzzy body. Floppy ears for a baby to pull on or a child to cuddle with. “What makes you think that?”

Kane chuckled as she used a rare profanity as the stylus poked a finger through the carefully carved holes in the edges of the wood.

“The village we are going to has a population of only about two-thousand, will one day be Paris.”

“WHAT?” She sat up and laughed. “Really?”

“Yes.” Kane laughed with her. “I helped set back civilization here a few times.”

“Kane. What did you do?” She punched him in the shoulder playfully.

Their chatter filled the late afternoon air as the two lovers moved their wagon of bronze utensils and trinkets for trade in the future city of Paris.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 15. A Brush With Breitheamh (Brehon) Law

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15. A Brush with Breitheamh (Brehon) Law

Tinktinktink..Tinktink. Bronwyn’s small hammer made musical notes on the tiny anvil that her husband and best friend made for her out of the finest bronze. She worked her gold carefully into the decoration that she had carefully chiseled into the back of an unfinished bronze mirror. Kane would polish the mirror after she finished inlaying the gold.

TINKTINKTINK…

She was looking forward to when Kane would return. He was trading for more gold and some gems he had heard were available in raw form at the harbor. He had been gone seven days now and the fine work she had left to do in the little shop would bring them enough trade to keep the tuathe they lived in comfortable enough for a year.

In the last two years after joining the family, they had become accepted with laughter and hugs. Such was their ways of dealing with the humans. At first, Kane kept his distance, but the love of the people and kindness towards wandering strangers impressed the ex-demon.

Kane developed a habit of staying up late with the men and women, telling tall tales of adventure and heroic acts. Little did they know that the stories told were only slightly modified to fit into their world. The concept of flying machines holding entire families and horseless powered chariots were quite beyond the concept of the average person, so stories told of land and sea based adventures where dragons lived and giants grew. Stories that made people laugh, cringe in fear, cry and laugh again as they fell in love with the characters that were in the stories.

Kane for all his disdain for humanity in the beginning, enjoyed the attention he got with his skills of telling of things that were and things to come.

With the skills in artistry and the stories told, they rose in the hierarchy of the tuath and became well-known as skilled artisans and hospitable hosts.

It was late in the afternoon in the outbuilding while Bronwyn tinkered on her designs when two strangers walked out of the oaken forest.

She smelled them before they walked around the wall of the shop. Looking up, she saw they were just standing there, taking in the displayed shiny things that she had made, they were not of the area, indeed looked like men of the northeast. Cruthin or Ulaid perhaps.

We are hungry.” Said the larger of the two men. They had not bathed in some time – they reeked.

“Do you have food? Our hunts have been without success. We have not seen a deer since we left our fine. Give us food and the comfort of your company, when we have our fill, we will go on our way.”

I will feed you and give you water and wine, but the company I hold is mine to choose.”

You WILL!” Shouted the smaller man as he grabbed her by the hair and yanked on the copper-hair.

She grabbed at the hand and pinned it to her head then, twisting around, pinned the man’s arm and smashed his face, with a bang, to the finely carved table, causing dust to fly up off the flat surface and the legs to bounce on the floor. An old move, but so very effective when used against those that were overconfident. Bronwyn did not even wonder about the attack, she just responded with ages old skill.

A back kick to the knee of the other, larger hunter who shrieked in pain and dropped to the floor. Gasped twice for air, then growled with anger while his friend begged for mercy while Bronwyn bent the arm backwards to the breaking point. 

The larger hunter pulled a dagger made from an antler spike,  leaping on to Bronwyn’s back, sticking the sharpened spike into her shoulder.  Bronwyn screamed in agony and let go of the smaller hunter who pulled away and rejoined his and his partner’s attack

Then… Rage.

She felt it. In her heart, it burned like a bonfire. Men who would come and would take that which was not theirs, who felt that her body was theirs to do as they pleased, caught off guard by the burning fury of a soul rescued from ashes.

It was an intense rage like she had not felt in a long time and never on this plane of existence. She wanted these takers, thieves and those who would pillage because they felt that they could.

Then.

The sound of a gong echoed in the small shop as Kane use the head of the large man as a bell clapper against a copper pan he had picked up and swung like a club.

The smaller man was a little more difficult, attacking Kane with his fists, trying to beat the human-demon into the ground. Each punch aimed and thrown to hurt was only batted away with the red-metal pan.

The sound of a bell gonged through the shop again.

The smaller hunter’s knees buckled and he fell forward face-down on the floor of the shop.

Looking at Bronwyn, Kane shrugged holding up the heavy copper skillet.

Frying pans. Who would have thought?”

Brought before the Breitheamh, which was less than a day’s ride from the community of the clan. The men stated they were Cruithni and what they had done. In their tribe, lone women were always available to men who were traveling or hunting. Never had they seen a woman who would fight back or refuse a request of favors.

A Breitheamh, (pronounced Brehon), a skilled judge of the law, agreed upon by the Tuathe Ri. Found that the penalty of the attack was the income of four deer, however how long it took them to hunt, dress and cure the deer meat.

Bronwyn’s wounds healed far faster than the time it took the men to satisfy the words of the Breitheamh, which were also upheld by the Queen of the Tuath.

Messengers ran to the other houses of law of the clans and took messages of findings on the attack by the hunters and their punishment of working off their fines to the community.

No prisons, the theory being that everyone works for the community. In other societies where the rise of the warrior class gave birth to taking life or spending one’s life in jail, the punished worked for the good of the community.

This pleased Kane.

He began to study the laws of the land. This ancient place in history seemed to have a better view of life. All life was precious, all freedoms honored.

He began to speak to the Society of Draoi, the Druids of Hibernia for admission to school of Breitheamh law.

Kane, late of being Hell’s demon of chaos, was becoming a representative for order.

Later that month after he had chosen this path, then thought of the irony of it, he laughed at himself for the first time in many ages. 

If ever there was good humor in a situation, this was it. The Demon of Anarchy and Chaos, studying to act as the champion and warrior of law. 

Kane laughed again.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 14. Heaven on Earth

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14. Heaven on Earth

Cuinn, as he now called himself, looked out the door of his room watching the matriarch of the family teach a small girl-child how to use a loom to make a tight weave of a brightly colored cloth, everything about these people was one of joy and color. Out in the pasture, a young man tended to a horse, sliding his calloused hands over the long legs of the equine. Years of skill and knowledge of what the big animal could do with a single kick now kept the horse calm as he checked the legs for injuries. On the far side, he saw four men who used a fire to point a log that people were going to drive into the ground with the dozen other logs to make an enclosure for the creatures that they kept in abundance.

Once upon a time, he hung on the side of a building and watched as an advanced human race slowly poison themselves with chemicals in the form of drugs to make themselves happy. Here, in the prehistory of that same race, they worked and lived with animals and crops. No one was on the verge of suicide in this group.

He pondered about crime.

Crime? They probably did not even have a word for it.

He had yet to speak to anyone or tell them of his name. Finis had gone, after some length if time, when the eldest male had brought him a tunic of fine wool to wear. The man was rather taken aback with the naked face of the stranger and had asked if he was some sort of girl.

That made the demon laugh inwardly. So he had decided to grow a beard, but it was taking longer than he had expected. It has been several hours and he could not detect any change. As a member of the hoard, he would only have needed a second to change his appearance. This, however, was presenting a challenge, indeed. But he was not going to fail, never would he return as a lowly unnamed slave of anything that crawled out from under a rock.

“You look out on the land as if you have new eyes, fair-faced one.” The sudden voice behind him brought him out of his reverie.

He turned and it was the matriarch of the family, she was tall and slender, her hair behind her head in a single plait that was the color of a sunrise. She was about thirty summers old, by the time of humans able to do space flight, this grandmother, wise and with wisps of gray hair, would be a young woman in the eyes of the society of that far off age.

He opened his mouth to say something, not knowing just what to say and his voice made a croaking sound when he spoke.

“I see beauty in your family and I thank you for your kindness and hospitality. I have been to many places and have lost sight of that which I have seen as beautiful. This family of yours has taught me the meaning of beauty once again.” he smiled softly. “I don’t know the name of your family here.”

His hostess smiled softly and nodded, “The way you found on the road, naked and beaten by someone or something you had made very angry, concerns me. Only this ax that leans against the wall was in your hands. It is unlike anything we have seen.”

She raised one eyebrow as she looked at the ten-pointed ax. “As for our family? We have a few families here. This is what we call a fine (She pronounced it as “finna”), we are a smaller part of a Clan, but when we finish gathering up the sheep and animals that have ranged in the hills here, we will go and meet at the Clan home on the coast, at the edge of the world.”

He nodded understanding, pointing at his ax, “This ax is a weapon and tool that was given to me by someone long ago.” (Or would that be long in the future? Time was not something he could relate to very well, without even including the effort to explain it to this terran.) “I can’t recall his name,” (A lie, but no one needed to know it was Hades, the Emperor of Hell in that time.) “Or for that matter I don’t know my name.”

This was true enough, he had chosen the name “Cuinn”, but wanted to find more knowledge of the people here before he used a name that could be one of a hated history. “All I remember was a man on a horse.”

“That would be my sister’s son, Tosk. He is the leader of the hunt. Nearly always brings back meat for the family and fine. We should find your name, for your spirit cannot be inside you without your name. Who ever struck you and knocked it from you did you a great harm.”

“We would have to drive you out of this area.” She shook her head, sadly. ” Without a spirit, you could harbor a dark demon inside you and brought into our midst.”

He nearly laughed out loud at that. She had no clue about the true nature of the man in front of her. At one point, he would have enjoyed making her weep and turn on any of the host. That was his job and he enjoyed creating bitterness and woe greatly. But now, he looked on her with different eyes.

They knew him not. And yet, and yet they brought in his broken and bruised body and cleaned him up, put him in a bed reserved for guests and clothed him. No other reason he could think of other than it was part of the fabric of this society.

Then, a yell came from below. A rider on a horse was seen riding in on the road was coming towards the enclave. In no hurry, the rider waved at the small group of buildings and the people as the horse and rider made their way up the path. Sleek, tall and black, this horse was unlike the smaller ones that were in the compound. 

The rider looked up at the larger house where he stood in the window and looked out. He felt a thrill of recognition, it was HER. His heart leaped with such joy he bounced on his feet.

“You know this person?” the leader of the clan asked. Gretna was that which all the others had called her. “You act as one of my children when the father returns with a prize of the hunt.”

 “Oh yes, she is known to me. I would go talk with her now.” He smiled and she granted him leave with a smile and nod.

He walked to the black horse with a bounce in his step and a smile on his face.  The new stranger smiled down on him then slipped off the great horse. 

“There you are! I have looked all over for you. I was coming to ask these good folk if you had been seen and that I had lost you.” Her red and gold mane of hair glittered in the mid-morning sunlight. “You are well taken care of I presume?”

“This is Kane, he is my mate.” She said to Gretna. “Ten nights ago he went to get water and never returned,”

“Many foot prints were found near where he should have been and it I feared that the Picts might have taken him.” She looked him in the eye and spoke to the leader of the Fine.

“I thought I had lost you.” She whispered as her fingers caressed his cheek.

He looked her in the eye and mouthed the name, “Kane?” and turned and nodded, “I am Kane! Pleased to meet you and thank you for your kindness.”

Looking back to Bronwyn,

“For a time I have been lost, lost to the world,” Kane said softly. “For I could not speak, lost to these people who saved me for I knew not who I was, taking any name I could, to see if any reminded me of who I was, lost to you because I did not know where you were.”

The newly named human made her smile wider than she had in a very long time.

 “Kane! it is our joy to meet you!” Two men laughed and now greeted him without suspicion. 

They slapped him on the back and welcomed him now as family might greet a long-lost relative.

The crimson haired rider stroked the neck her horse, turning to look at Gretna.

“I am Bronwyn, we are making our way inland, away from the water. Our lives are forever on the edge of the world it seems.”

Bronwyn did not lie. But she covered herself well.

“You are welcome to stay for the night and share our food.” Gretna smiled broadly “If you would trade any stories this will make the night seem short. We have ale, for which we have traded with other clans. Our wool is of the finest on the coast.”

“I would appreciate that and my camp is over in the next valley.” Bronwyn nodded. “I have been lucky to have found him alive and well. I will accept your offer and make the long trip back on the morrow’s first light.”

She walked her horse up the path to the enclosure that was nearly built. Pulling off the bridal she showed it to the men that examined her horse. “I had this made in a land across the water. A whole village used them with the horses. The animals accepted it well and would not buck as badly.”

Gretna smiled broadly and motioned to Bronwyn to come over.

“Let the men play with the new horse, that will keep them busy for most of the day and you know how men are with things that go fast or one as tall. Nor have I seen one as tall as you or your mate Kane.”

The disguised angel nodded and spoke softly to Gretna.

“I wish some time alone with Kane so we can talk and I find out what has happened to him over the last few nights. It is not like him to wander off, and you say he had his ax with him?”

The matriarch answered just as softly, two women that cared deeply for what was theirs and they were in the deepest worry.

“Yes, it is nothing like any of us have ever seen. It gleams like the full moon and has a shape that is impossible for us to figure out how to do with bronze and copper, not counting this moon metal.”

The two women walked up towards the house talking to each other in hushed tones.

Kane felt the fear that all men everywhere feel when two women get together and men are on their tongues in conversation.

Following along behind them, holding to the theory that it was better to keep them close than be surprised about it later when they would come looking for him, later.  Beside the fact that Bronwyn was his liaison here, he knew little about humans and wanted to keep it that way. But now he was in for a battle.

He chuckled darkly, his fortunes had not changed much. But. at least, Bronwyn was nearby and he had an ally. He could not wait to get her alone to find out what she was doing here.

Not one to look down on a fortunate gift, but he just did not know what to think.

That night after the meals had ended and the humans had consumed their fill, only Bronwyn and Kane remained awake.

“What are you doing here? I cannot come back with you, I am here forever, and you are an angel.” He said directly and softly. “You can return any time, yes?”

After she had taken him by the hand and made love to him for the first time in this age, she kissed him a long time before she answered his question.

“I have spoken with my Lord and got permission for you and I to live here and I will help you do what you need to do without being alone.” Brilliant blue eyes sparkled with excitement on the current life. “To keep you from being taken off your path by the imps and demons of your past life. We can do as you wish, but I chose a life with you, life as a human like you. I have no powers, but I will live in immortality like you do. We will span the years together and I can return any time that I wish to the other side. But so long as I am here with you I can’t use any power that I have in my Angel form. When I am here, I am human in form, but I am immortal. I may live as a human, but I am not unprotected from the Dark Side, the Host has many that have supported me. You are not a favorite being, those you have met and brought down in battle do feel some ill will towards you.”

Kane grimaced over the huge angel that had him at her mercy for a moment.

“I think she would have more than a little ill will.” he thought.

Bronwyn continued “They are all wishing us well and good will.” She grinned “Most of them anyway.”

Then Bronwyn frowned slightly, “The cost of this union is that we can never have children, there have been events that have crossed boundaries and plague Angel and Demon alike. But the Lord assures me that this will never be a great issue. But my Lord has denied at every plea, ‘no children’.”

She drew a breath, “This may cause a bit of a tribulation in the future I think, because children are a staple of the energies of the hearth.”

Kane smiled softly, “So long as you are with me, we can make due with anything else. But – No powers at all? What if some of my old brethren got involved. They have no such restrictions.”

“I can use my powers subject to the approval of Gabriel, the Archangel.”

Kane sighed… Gabriel! He and Gabriel had faced each other in battle before and had not found who was the better warrior. This made for some consternation in that Gabriel and Micheal had both been looking and waiting to test him in battle again. This was a terrible worry. He still carried memory of scars and injuries inflicted by those two thunderbolts of the Other Lord. The Dark Lord had healed him when he had returned broken and injured, but never beaten. But never had he been allowed to walk away without scars.

But now he was with his hearts deepest desire. Bronwyn had come to him, giving up all so she could have a life with him and create a life that , to say the least, would be challenging. Here, where the scars could heal, he could cause the very throne of the Emperor to tremble in anger.

This pleased Kane to no end.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 13. Heaven Sent

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13. Heaven Sent

She had been meditating, but peace would not come.

In this place Love and Peace were the orders of the realm. But, alas, such was not forthcoming. She had known that he was cast out and he was living with humans. Even such things are harsh for imps and demons She knew in her heart that she had to try to ask a favor, permission to allow her to help him, somehow.

With a heavy sigh, she stood up and walked away to where help could be obtained.

As she approached the place where the Lord of Everything held court, she met Gabriel the Archangel outside.

“The Lord is expecting you. If anything, you are late.” He brushed a crimson lock out of her face, giving her a critical look and walking circles around the small angel, assessing her,  he gave Bronwyn the rules of speaking in the inner sanctum.

“Speak only when spoken to, keep your answers short and direct. Stand up straight. One word answers are best. Do not exaggerate, you would be found out before you even said the words. Stand straight, smile but do not look directly at the Lord. Use the title at the end of each answer. Yes, Lord. No, Lord. And so forth, stand up straight when you do.” Gabriel plucked at her hair, fluffed her wings, tucked her here and there. Then stopped, tapping his chin with a knuckle. “Spend as little time as possible there, the Lord is very busy. Stand up straight. All answers to questions and requests are final, do not argue or attempt to change the answer with any kind of debate. Be sure to stand up straight. Now, off you go, do not wait around. And stand up straight!”

Bronwyn stepped through the gates and into the light. She was momentarily blinded the bright light on the other side of the portal, but then her eyes adjusted.

She found herself in a garden with the bluest of skies. A woman slightly older than Bronwyn was planting a row of flowers in one area of the garden. No one else was nearby and the woman looked up and smiled but kept at her work that she seemed to enjoy a great deal.

Hesitantly, Bronwyn stepped towards the woman, moving so she could see all that the digging and planting was doing when the woman stood up and brushed the dirt from her hands.

“Well, a lot done, but a lot to do still.” She smiled at the younger angel. “You have come to see me in regards of a matter of the demon who had been cast of hell out by his master and Emperor?”

Bronwyn took a sharp breath.

“You, um, you are the Lord?” She stammered. “I expected someone older, a man with a beard perhaps. I had never thought of a woman.”

“What you wish to see is what I will be,” The Woman-Lord laughed delicately. “But I thought you might have a better time relating to someone closer to your age. Image and perception accounts for a lot when telling of matters such as you have. I can even be a girl of your appearance.”

With that, the Lord changed slightly and appeared as young as Bronwyn, a girl that she could confide in, with bright eyes and wide smile as she sat.

“Tell me! Tell me about him? Is he exciting? Does he make your toes curl when you think of him?” The girl held a flower to her nose and sniffed it with her eyes shut. “Someone that would hold your hand and laugh with a sparkle in his eyes just for you.” She giggled as she put the flower in Bronwyn’s hair. “Have some of this! It is what is called chocolate, one of my greatest creations!”

Bronwyn laughed nervously as she took a bite of the small bit of dark confection, it was heaven on her tongue.

“This is a bit too much, too fast of a change.” She gave a deep sigh. “But, I know he is among humans, he is alone and can not speak the language. He risked everything of his being just for me.”

“He now is in need of help,” Bronwyn frowned. “And we are always sent to help someone who needs or asks. Even if they should never ask, you have said that to offer, to teach a way out is the best way. That sometimes those that can see the clearest are the most blind.”

The Supreme Being now appeared as an elderly woman with wisdom and long found happiness nodded.

“My child, you have the power to do as you wish. It has always been about freedom of choice. You are here on this plane of existence because of the path you have chosen. He is on his path because of the choices he made in his early life. If you believe he needs guidance and help, you may go. Finis has already talked with him and given him a gift that will be most useful. But you must choose. Only you can choose. You can guide him as an angel and then Finis is no longer going to act as a go-between, until… and if… your demon fails his tribulation.” The elder Lord said softly.

She stroked a wilted and dying flower that became tall and strong again at her touch, she turned and took Bronwyn’s hands in hers, the matronly image continued.

”If he fails and falls, Finis will return him to the dark-side as a slave forever; or you can go without your powers, as immortal as his Dark Lord has condemned him to live, but you will not have any other direct contact than Finis. He will be your mentor, guide and go-between of this place and the human existence, other angels have spoken. They have all said that they will not aid or hinder. The only one that offered to make contact with you is Finis, the Angel of Death, I have left it to him to act as a messenger. Other than Finis, you may not call upon the Host for any reason. You can speak in prayer to me only.”

Bronwyn jumped up, dancing on the balls of her feet, her mind made up.

“I choose the life of being a human with him! If that is one of my choices, that is the choice I will be!”

“My dear child, be sure this is what you want. On earth there is a saying ‘be careful of what you wish for, you may get it.'” The Grandmother-Lord said softly.

“Lord, this is what I want. What I wish to do with him, where ever he goes on that plane, I will be at his side.”

“Then it is so,” The slightly older woman appeared again. “You may keep your blessed sword and angel armor, you will have knowledge that you have now and clothing. Several of the Archangels have said they also have gifts to give you that will not cause disruption with humans. No magic, no powers. But you will not grow old, this is one of the trials you will have to endure. For if it seems that you are more than human, all my children on earth will turn on you and he. You can not stay in one area for long. No place will be a permanent home for the both of you. Wars will come, famine, terrible things. He is in a time of prehistory of humankind. The best and most worst of the human soul has yet been realized. You will be part of it, you may influence it to one degree or another. Finis will help guide you through the times and ages. But be warned! Demons and other dark forces will try to create havoc with you and cause him to fail. All he has to do is call upon his powers once. Just once. Just one time and he will be lost to the Emperor of Hell for all time.”

“My child, go now to him.” She said it with a motherly look in her eyes. “You have only one chance to choose. Make the wise choice, for it will be forever. Time will move for you only one direction, one minute after another. Time cannot be as flexible for you as it is for the Host, how we can choose to move forward or backward through time. For us, time is not a line, but there for you, it will be.”

She smiled. Once more a girl the same age as Bronwyn.

“Go on hun! Be happy and take good and well care of him. Give him some loving from me, too!” Her soft voice sounded like bells as she talked and laughed while she bounced on her feet like an excited teen confided in by a friend about her love.

Bronwyn walked down the path with a light heart and a little fear, at the edge of the garden she turned and looked back. There stood a smiling grandfather type that held a growing flower in his hand as he tenderly planted another growing life in the fertile soil of the garden.

Laughing, she turned and left the garden with confidence and a smile that made Gabriel scratch his head.

 

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 12. The First Sunburn

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12. The First Sunburn

Hours passed and the sun slowly slipped behind the trees, shading him, the cool change awoke him gently. He felt rested, but oddly stiff. A large lump had formed on his forehead. No doubt a souvenir of either his fall or near drowning. Another survey of himself showed that he looked like, well, like hell. Lumps and bruises covered him in a familiar coloring in many parts of his body. But more, his skin was a deep crimson hue and was more sensitive to the touch than he recalled from several hours ago when he first crawled on the rock and slept in the warming sun. 

Looking over the edge of the rock, he could see his ax glittering in the water below, but it’s depth was at least over his head.

He had to go get it, calling to it was out of the question, it was an exercise of his demonic powers, he knew. So he had to go get it like a human. Standing there he thought of a plan to retrieve it.

He jumped in, feet first, near where he could see his ax and he went all the way to the bottom. Putting feet on the rocky bottom and grabbing at the shiny blur – success! The now-human kicked off the bottom he launched himself much like when he could fly.

He broke the surface he found he was farther downstream than he thought he would be. He washed against some large boulders that formed a natural pool. He struggled against the current, slipping on the smooth river-rock. He climbed and slipped, climbed again. The fight to get out of the chill water was the most difficult he could remember. 

His hands were cold and slick, but using the hook end of the weapon to hauled himself up and out of the cold water. Chilled again, he looked around and followed a path downstream, slipping once on a rock that cut his foot painfully he fell into the dust of the late afternoon. Dust and dirt sticking to his wet, sunburned skin and limping in pain from the laceration on the instep of his foot, he walked as best he could. He fatigued quickly and began to shiver violently in the waning light of the day, even as he exerted himself. Stepping into a clearing and realized he stood on a wide path – more like a road! This meant someone must use it.

He was thankful as he walked a the slight downhill slope when a cloaked rider and horse pulled up, surprised at the sight of a nude, sunburned, dirt-covered and battered walker, the rider looked about the tree line.

“Who are you and what has happened that you would be looking like you are nearly dead?” The rider asked.

He knew the language well, but found he could not talk to the rider. His new body did not include knowledge on how to talk in a language. He had never spoken in a Terran voice, all he could do was make incomprehensible noises and then point at his throat.

Only then did he feel the great weight of what he would learn later would be total exhaustion. He felt like so much weight in his feet that he could no longer take another step. He slumped to his knees, using his weapon and sole companion as a brace, then his consciousness slipped into the darkness that closed around him and took him in its merciful embrace.

When he next awoke, he was on a sleeping pallet with a brightly dyed blanket over him and a familiar figure sitting on a stool watching him.

He had the look of an old man, but to call him elderly would be a mistake. He resembled a bearded grandfather, or the personification of the spirit of giving that is St. Nicholas. Except this jolly old St. Nick looked like one who spent far too much time in the gym and this was no ordinary angel.

Finis, the Angel Of Death, was watching the banished demon-come-human with an entertained look on his face.

“How do you feel? You have been asleep for nearly 24 hours.” He spoke in the language of the Host that only those of either side could understand.

“I have pain in places I never thought I had.” He took a breath and moaned as he tried to move. “This is a bad place for me, I cannot speak the languages even though I can understand them. The Dark Lord has put me in a dangerous place. I can not use my powers or I go back.”

The new human sighed heavily and leaned back closing his eyes against the nightmare that he found himself in. All because of his weakness for the Angel named Bronwyn.

Finis chuckled quietly before he spoke.

 

“There is one thing that the Supreme one granted to you.” He smiled. “After this, you can speak their language, and I can expand on that. You will be able to talk to all of them in their native tongues, after a fashion. You need familiarity with who you are talking with before you are able to speak to them. It would also be best that you think of something to explain why you were acting like some insane wild man staggering down the road looking like someone had beaten you with every ugly stick in these mountains.”

“What do I call myself? What CAN I call myself that doesn’t raise eyebrows and questions?”

The Angel of Death thought for a moment.

“You were not named by the Emperor, this would be a good thing, you would want to use that and this would be bad. No demon’s name would work on this plane of existence. As for a good name? I see that you had landed in a stream. Call yourself “Hill” or “Rivers” or something anyone would accept in this age.”

“Okay, good for a last name, but what about a first?” He thought of the name of Greenhill as he asked the Angel, shaking his head and not liking the name.

Finis looked away for a moment and sighed, “At this time in human history, there where few that had more than one name, and you are in a Celt, actually pre-Celt time. I would pick something like Conn or Cuinn, these are common names of this era.”

“I think Cuinn will work, recall that name as being one of the earliest recorded names– and you say this is what age?” He nodded.

“I have not told you yet.” Finis shook his head. “There are many things you have yet to learn about that are going to work for and against you.” the angel took a breath, “First: this is the late Neolithic era the island of what will be known as Ireland in the future time-line. You cannot change your time and you are alone. You can not die – you are immortal, but you will be surprised how much pain and misery you can live through. Added to the requirement that you must not use any of your powers, but they will be at your fingertips always. All you need to do is call upon them.  But!” The Angel of Death held up his index finger in admonishment. “Just one time and AFTER you do? You will return and then suffer the ravages of the condemned, forever as a slave of hell, no name, no power other than to scream in agony, to run along next to the victims of those who have fallen prey to the true demons. You cannot use any power, any time if you wish to stay here and away from the pits of Hell. They will all be watching, Angel AND Demon. All want you to fail, you have inflicted too much damage to Angels, have advanced too far in the Hoard. Only myself had any thoughts to deal with you directly as a liaison.”

“The only one that wants to deal with me is the Angel of Death, the one being that NO one wants to talk to, in the first place?” His predicament was getting so much worse by the minute.

Cuinn sighed and nodded, the most vile parts of human history had such things as dismemberment and torture. If he was at the dawn of the bronze age, he had a lot of superstitions to deal with in the coming years.

Pulling at his ear he asked Finis. “So you are to by my companion through all of this? My spy to the non-corporeal side?”

Finis laughed out loud, “HO! Hah… no… I am simply your liaison. You have someone who is even now seeking to assist you. You do not have many who would help you, there are many that have a grudge against you and that ax of yours.”

Looking out the window, Cuinn nodded slowly. It was war between the two sides, but hard feelings for those that suffered the pain of being sent back by his hand still existed. He was still the enemy after all. He could not see the angels that surrounded him and wished him to fail, to become a lowly slave of the deepest depths of Hell and not one of their own.

He wondered just who would be the spy, the friend that would help him or the underhanded soul who might push him to fail.

This would be a short rebellion on his part, he would be the lesson for everyone else who dared cross lines.

No one cheated Satan.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chatper 11. Hell on Earth

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11. Hell on Earth

It was this demon that had betrayed the battle!

TRAITOR!

It was HIS cause for the failure of the plan. Claw of Hades now sheathed, hummed a warning too late!

The bolt of demon-fire struck him between the shoulders, Claw of Hades took most of the unholy blast, saving the demon. The wounded demon fell down on the path at the base of the raised platform, his body smoking from the fire of the Devil.

Pain! A lot of pain, groaning as he struggled to stand, the sentence was coming. This was going bad quickly. For even among immortal demons, there are fates worse than death.

Then it came.

“If this demon so desires to protect humans, he can live as one!” The Emperor shouted as he passed the judgment .

The Dark One announced the punishment rules. 

The demon only had to bow to what he really was,  and return to this place of punished souls. It would take only a one time use, JUST ONCE,  of his demon powers and he would return forever, not as a warrior, but as a slave.

No name, no power to inflict misery on any of the residents of the race of man. For his would be one of the background agonies that those that have turned their back on the other Master would hear. His own misery would be music for the damned to listen to for all eternity.

As the Emperor read off the sentence, the demon moved suddenly.  A sudden thought,  a plan!  He knew of he had to strike against this wrong, to strike down that which deserved it the most.  With a single movement he threw Claw of Hades directly at the Emperor.

And missed.

Straight and true it sailed, until Claw of Hades was intercepted by Emperor’s personal guard, who then handed the humming, living weapon to the Devil, the six-clawed hand wrapped around the weapon with a sensual, almost sexual stroking of it’s cutting edge.

A pause, and he amended the sentence, the demon was to keep the battle-ax and care for it. If the small demon used for any purpose that was beyond the powers of a human, he would return as a slave, to burn and suffer the exquisite agonies of the damned, he would be music to the lost souls of that place of humans.

No growing old and no peaceful death as a good person. That would make it too easy to get out of it and go to the other side.

He would be immortal still. Living as a human, never growing old, trying to hide his true nature from the weak-minded life that called itself “Human”. They would force him to show his true nature and weaknesses. He could learn how insane humans could be with someone different from themselves. Then, the Emperor was confident on this point, when he used his powers, he would fail and return to serve as one of the lowest caste only. His rank would not be restored.

With this, a shimmer of a blue flame appeared at the hand of the High Demon of All and raced towards the lessor demon.

PAIN! OH Sweet PAIN! He closed his eyes and screamed in agony. Claw of Hades struck him across the chest, the force of the blow knocked him to the ground. Agony… The fire burned deeply, only once did he try to stand, then his right-wing broke off with a hissing crack. His hide, his very flesh was melting off! The center of his soul was boiling in pain and anguish. Nothing lasts forever, but this was non-ending pain.

Then…

Suddenly.

It was over and a weightless sensation overtook him just long enough to let him realize that he was falling. He landed hard on the soil, bounced and slipped over the edge of a ravine, vines and brambles scraped his flesh as he fell. As he slid by the roots and as he became more aware, he reached out and grabbed at them as he went by.

Abruptly he was airborne, he felt the rush of air past his skin was an oddly pleasant sensation until he landed on his back in a shallow pool of a stream. The shock of the cold water stimulated his numb body, he could feel. And his tail HURT! He felt agony as if he had his tail torn out by the root, or burned off. Pain was all-encompassing and he screamed.

Then as suddenly as he grabbed at the root of his tail, he realized it was gone. The pain subsided and he realized he was lying nude on his back in a sandy shallow stream. The pain subsided and he pushed himself up on his hands into a sitting position.

Sound from above. Something was coming through the bushes from where he had come.

He looked up and his battle-ax and companion of lo these many conflicts sailed over the bluff falling like a spear down at him. Making squawking sounds, he kicked hard backwards as the main blade embedded itself half of its length in the sand. Half a hand width closer it would have emasculated him in a way that made him double-check that nothing was missing.

He chuckled, in a nervous-hysterical tone at the nearness of the miss–and then stopped.

The sound was alien, he never made that sound in his memory. It was a curious sound, then he became curious of all the changes of his appearance as he looked at his hands and body. Skin, no scales, no fur.

Just pink skin.

He was not sure in his curiosity, not really wanting to look at his disfigurement, but chose to look anyway. Taking several steps to a quiet pool he looked at his reflection in it, he was far different from what he looked like before. His eyes were forward-looking and deep-set, glittering in the reflected light, his mouth was wide enough for that chuckle that he just heard – and then some. The hellfire that he just sustained had done more than take his armored hide, it changed him into a HUMAN!

Not bad-looking either.

He stood there, looking about himself, shivering. The cold water had chilled him and he was still standing knee-deep in the stream, there were two very steep banks on each side and he could see no path out of the stream bed. With a grunt he pulled his old friend and battle-ax out of the sand and he started to hike downstream to look for a way out of his predicament.

Finding that his walk out was difficult, caused by the slippery stones that lined the mountain stream, he stepped down into a pool of water that was deeper than he thought and he fell in, immediately went in over his head, and a sudden panic set in as he struggled to the surface. In the struggle to get out of the water, he dropped his ax as he grabbed for a purchase on the sides of a large smooth rock. The now-human swept along with the flow of water until he found a grip a short distance downstream and pulled himself up to a flat part of a large rock. He lay there in the sun for several moments coughing retching with his lungs complaining of the water that he had swallowed.

A few minutes of trying to catch is breath, the naked, cold man collapsed face first on the outcropping, The texture of rock was warm to his cheek, for which he was thankful. His sense of time was lost in the warmth of the sun on him, catching his breath and warming. Wonderfully, he was no longer shivering and after several moments, warmed by the sun and rock, exhausted from his recent journeys of battle, pain of having been burned out of hell, dropped thirty-feet through berry bushes, trees, and brambles into a box ravine, becoming badly chilled and then nearly drowning, then warmed by the gentle sunlight, he slept a dreamless sleep on his first day of being human.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 10. Poor loser

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10. Poor loser

The Emperor of Hell was violet with fury, blaming others for their failed efforts that allowed the Other Master and Lord to start humanity. That small effort, that simple change in the time-line that the Other Master had undone the Emperor’s entire plan for the fall of man. If not for the damned rock, the humans could not survived on that mud ball! The battle, instead of destroying civilization, instead assisted the rise of man.

All that damage to the Black Battalion was for nothing  and it was going to take some effort to rebuild the numbers of demons. Raising new demons from the lowly slave caste was a challenge and difficulties always occurred. But one bright point in the catastrophe, one of the warriors had stood up to one of the Others and even outclassed in power and size and he was able to send that one of the Others, this giant angel, back to her Master.

This demon would be raised and given back his ancient name to show his value. All other of the imps and demons would learn that success had great rewards as failure had severe punishments. With a sweeping motion of a great six-fingered hand, all tipped in claws, he commanded the mid-caste demon to come and receive his reward for courage.

Down and away, The Demon sat alone with his back to the rage of the Emperor. He felt the command to come to the seat of power as much as saw it. He stood and turned, slowly with each step from an exhausted warrior, as he walked up the path to the Black Throne, he cringed inwardly, sometimes awards were as cruel as punishments.

A promise was never the way you could take it. Fear was not unknown to even those that received the highest of awards and raised and became his personal warriors.  They were dangerous things, the Dark Lord’s favors, because the Emperor was a trickster and a breaker of promises.

Still, to refuse the Emperor of Hell was, to say the least, unhealthy. So the Demon stood with his chest out and with the look of pride he did not feel, it seemed that all had gone well.

Then, a voice sounded. It was one of the other warriors that had seen his actions with Bronwyn, stood up. As the statement hung in the air he decided to challenge the lessor demon, only to have three others speak out in unison. The air suddenly chilled by a crackle of cold rage behind him.

The Emperor in a hideous fury brought forth the judgment.

9. The Big Switch

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9. The Big Switch

On earth, no telescopes spotted the approaching missile, no alarms sounded anywhere. As the first of the chunks of space debris fell into to the atmosphere, heads turned and looked up. Only minimal alarm was felt anywhere until the planet suffered a direct hit at the Yucatán peninsula.

All eyes looked at the growing column of destruction as the shock wave, faster than the speed of sound, overwhelmed the witnesses. There was little time to panic, less time to react as the wind left only dust behind. It pulverized the very ground, turning stone and stick into missiles. Pebbles flying faster than a bullet rode the shock waves as death spread from the epicenter of the impact. The very air became compressed, heating to thousands of degrees as it scoured the planet of life. Death rained down from the upper atmosphere heating the air to oven temperatures. Firestorms blasted along the ground with the super-hurricane winds that blasted flesh and earth as the shock wave spread around the globe.

Among the messengers of the Host. Profound was the sadness and defeat. All the host hovered above the beauty that their lord had created without moving, now a smoking ruin. No commands came to save any souls, all was silent sadness. So much life lost, for no reason. The dark realm had won with the effort of the host, the Dark Lord’s plans blindsided the Host. A betrayal of the war, they had obliterated those they swore to protect.

Then, quietly. One of the highest angels appeared, smiling. She commanded them all to walk the land and see up close.

No one had died.” She announced in a soft voice.

Unbelieving, the bruised and depressed army of angels walked the land in a slow, defeated march. Looking about them at the death and wreckage of the planet. Picking out the view of body parts that laid strewn about were oddly shaped in death. Here a cow type of creature, its skeleton denuded of flesh as it lay in the gray dust and ash.

Some of the warriors noticed an odd club-shape to the end of its tail. An odd deformity, for sure. Then the group looked around, a parrot beaked animal, huge in size, lay on its side with a bony crest covering its neck broken, but still obvious what it was. This was what the humans had identified as a triceratops! This was a prehistoric animal, long before the Lord chose the next step for this planet.

The Lord and Master of this all had allowed the armies of the Dark Realm to believe they had won. Only just changing time in the universe when no one would be aware, when all other battles were raging to whatever end. Meanwhile the world of the man was safe.

A simple change for the supreme being. No one expected to have the universe around them changed, without a sound as the Master of All simply changed where in the time-line that the destruction happened.

 

8. Battle Chess of Masters

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8. Battle Chess of Masters

With a slight motion of his huge clawed hand the Emperor of Hell sent them in a flash to where the battle now in progress. Here an angel that was not well-known, being beaten by two of the lower caste and soon would be returning to the other place if no help would come soon. The demon directed the battle from his position to the other imps and damned under his command. Those of the Dark Realm were being effective in keeping the Others busy. The main goal was not this small mountain of a rock being moved away from its orbit. It was going to hit the moon if the Others interfered, protecting the other blue and white sphere. The main one was the huge asteroid, a continent-sized lump of iron and nickel that had been quietly brought into its place and the diversion was working perfectly.

Sound does not carry in the vacuüm of space, but immortals still heard the pitch of the battle as it intensified, the demon was now in the middle of the fight, hand to hand, club to ax, ax to sword, sword to club. With a mighty leap he landed in between several of the Others, The battle-ax, a gift from Hades to him long ago and given the name Claw of Hades sang its terrible song as he sent six angels back to their Master and Lord. Feeling the ground shudder behind him, he turned and looked up at the largest angel he had ever seen. He never knew that something like that was part of the Others! This angel was huge, easily quadruple his size and she was beautiful and frightening, full of holy anger focused directly on him. As he shrugged inwardly he launched his first attack before the angel did. It was a struggle to get inside the danger zone of the curved crystal blade, he drew back the Claw of Hades, the only reward was an unbelievably hard blow from the back of a huge right hand.

Ugh- now that hurt!” His eyes seemed to rattle in their sockets.

The demon’s body skipped across the surface of the asteroid and crashed into a vertical projection. He saw as his painstaking effort tested his will as he  pulled himself from the crater caused by his impact, the angel was stalking him.

The angel was not finished inflicting pain.

Gaining his feet he launched himself up, trying to out flank this angel he was hit again with a bolt of energy from the sword that the angel was carrying. Dropping his ax, again he bounced across the surface of the asteroid as the battle raged around him.

This is getting old.” The demon thought as the angel shook the rock with every step, approaching him with the sureness of a victor. The demon grimaced, victory or defeat, it is never sure until the end. His hands clutching at nothing, they were empty where the battle-ax once resided, he watched the angel approach him, the glittering in her eye. She had hell’s champion at her mercy and mercy was not what she was going to give.

His ax, the Claw of Hades now on the far side of this angel, the only way for him to get to it now was through her. Doing that so far has proved painful in a most brutal fashion. With all this terrifying and beautiful angel’s attention on him now, raising her huge weapon for the final stroke, the demon raised his hand. Not a plea for mercy, it was a command.

A call to an old friend.

As the angel focused on him, he focused on his battle-ax, until now laying quiet and abandoned in the dust. Now it stirred.

It answered the call and command to return to its master. The main blade pointed forward with the speed of thought, the battle-ax struck the angel in back and passed through the middle of her soul. The impact ended the fight and erupting into light and thunder, sent her back to her Lord and King. The Claw of Hades was only returning to its master, but the weapon cannot be stopped when the command was felt. The ax settled into his hand still sparkling from passing through the body of the giant angel, ringing with the power that lived within its metallic heart.

The ax quieted as its master used it for a crutch at the moment.

Looking around the demon saw another interloper coming towards the rock. It is HER! Of all the horrid luck, he has to fight Bronwyn! Taking the pain of his recent fight and making it his strength, he watched her engage and wipe off the battlefield a dozen demons with her sword. All of those mid-caste that were under his charge. Other demons were fleeing from her.

Cowards.” Was his only thought.

With great effort he kicked off, up and above her, arching over where she stood, he dropped down from behind to collide with her do drive her into the floating mountain. But she was too good, too fast. Launching herself with a flap of her great wings she spun around and deflected his attack. Only with the design of the ax trapping her blade and his prehensile tail keep them close as he pulled her into a deep crater of the rocky surface below.

Bronwyn fought furiously kicking at him as he tried to get her attention. She was in a berserk rage, seeing only demon, not who he was. Finally with a sudden advantage, he trapped her blade and disarmed her by twisting his weapon. Disarmed She stopped fighting for a moment as the tip of his weapon pressed against her throat forcing her to look in his eyes. He was about to strike she knew, but he was not moving. They remained motionless for a moment, then with a move he opened a dark rift next to her and shoved her with her spear tipped sword, closed it rapidly. He did not notice four of the Black Battalion that had come to give him backup. Looking at one another they backed away and rejoined the shrinking circle of battling demons as the Others were gaining the upper hand before this rock could impact the earth.

Bronwyn fell on to a dust strewn patch. Momentarily disoriented, she looked around when a sound behind her caught her attention. She turned her and saw her sword glittered as it fell out of a closing dark vortex and the handle of the holy blade struck her in the side of the head infuriating her once again. Looking about her, she saw the binary stars that governed this quad-planet system. Far away in time and space from where she started. He had removed her from the battle without inflicting any wound, had spun the clock to a random place in time to further her difficulty in returning. But she had to return, but which direction in space? Or time? Looking as far as she could see, with sight far better than the Hubble Space Telescope she could see the planet, there was no fighting.

So, he changed time on me, too?” Smiling to herself, “Nice trick. Different place AND time to get me lost? Little devil, I  will kick your ass.”

She thought he would be quite surprised when she returned. With a slight pop of sound she left this alien world and headed back to the conflict.

On the asteroid, the angels were winning. No missile of earth could move the planetoid sized iron and stone asteroid. The circle of remaining demons that protected the teams that guided the asteroid towards the small blue sphere below was grew steadily smaller. The host of the angels slowly tipped battle for victory. Holes in the line of demons opened up.

Bronwyn’s demon was directing a regrouping, a general of the Dark Legion fell to one of the Seraph, leaving only the one demon to direct and command. The shrinking circle covered the escape of the teams of demons and imps that had done the dirty work while the other demons had battled to protect them. They began to abandon the effort, while angels pushed to the giant rock away from the earth. With the last of the teams gone from the surface, the circle of demons now almost back to back against the advancing angels, disappeared in a flash of flame and thunder.

Angels by the thousands pushed the mass of rock and iron away from the blue planet, it was the focus of all the host to push when one angel called a warning that another asteroid was in the way and they were going to hit it. A great effort of angels who struggled to change the angle and prevent a collision, but too late, the asteroid collided with a titanic explosion of kinetic energy with the other larger rock. Huge pieces splitting off in island-sized chunks.

The piece angled on a collision course to the earth. It became clear that the battle for the smaller asteroid was a diversion. It only looked like the smaller bolide would impact the earth, instead there was another larger rock in the in the path of danger. The death of the earth’s population, wiped out by the very host that was attempting to prevent the catastrophe that happened.

7. Battle Plans

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7. Battle Plans

Bronwyn, the angel, now with her group of armed and muscular angels of all shapes and sizes. Each carried weapons that glittered with the eternal light. some of the angels welcomed her, while others left for other places. Being a guardian angel is no easy task. Rumors of the latest confrontation that was to come had been spoke of.

Two of the Seraph were to call the angels together and break the details of the news.Michael, who had defeated Lucifer during the first rebellion was always at Gabriel’s side, the two were friends and it was Gabriel that brought messages from the Lord. Michael was Gabriel’s assurance that the message was not lost or corrupted.

Gabriel sat and placed his hands on his hips. It took a moment, but then drew his breath and announced that a battle was in the offing. The Dark Realm had begun an event that threatened the very existence of the earth. Those all who were not assigned to other duties were to change the outcome. It would not be easy, the numbers of demons and imps were large and the fighting would be intense according to what the Lord had said, but victory would happen with no doubts. The Lord of the Host said it was so.

In a rage(his usual state of being), the demon entered the arena and other imps and slaves bowed to the dark warrior’s passing. He was one of the higher demons and though he still did not have his name returned to him, he was one of the most feared. Even so, one of the mid-ranking demons stood up as he passed, refusing to bow to the warrior that approached.

A challenge for position.

The challenging demon drew a weapon, a flaming sword, only to have it and its arm drop to the ground. In a blur, the high caste demon struck the middle demon down cruelly and then with a furious blow, the ax of the higher ranked demon split the lower ranked one down to his pelvis. Among these immortals there are fates worse than death. This mid-demon was no longer one of the mischief makers, but now only a lowly slave. A gamble and a loss of status, the low demon had put his all on the line and lost it. It was over in thoughtless accusation – But the Claw of Hades was faster than thought, even though a sheath was a place for it, the battle-ax almost never put away when He walked the Outside. Little did this demon care for any creature here, he hated them all. The smell, worse than humans and the constant efforts of making the Dark Lord notice them. He had been there before, in one time. He had given it up for a treasure. If they only knew what he knew, they would not wish for attention of the Dark One, whose attentions could be a nightmare from that they would never wake.

The stony path wound through the blasted thicket of death and suffering. Those who earned all the pain, it turned now on them. In the clearing of the cavern as he looked about. That could be the only word he ever called this place. The urge to come here was rare. Only caused when the Dark Master had a special task. When the call came, it was irresistible. Each one was always a little different. Twice it had passed to cause the death of all humankind.

Terrans he liked to call them, for this demon hated almost all the life on that little blue planet. To call them “human” was an insult to the word. So they were of that place where the planet Terra was. The dirt that they called Terra Firma would be, hence the name he called them – “Terrans”.

As he stood in the middle of his only sanctuary with the other winged warriors of this realm, he looked about. Many of the hoard were there that were not usually in attendance. The plan was laid out by Pythos, the demon of lies. It was he who explained that the lower caste would do the work while the winged higher caste were to defend against the Others who would attempt to cause them to fail. Most of the events were already in place and only now was the despised High Throne becoming aware of the impending doom of the planet. A rock, the size of a small moon, was now racing towards the intercept point of the planet. Falling to the yellow star it was gaining speed with the help of the hoard of the weaker demons. The higher ranks were to keep the rock on course to its destination.

The destination?

Earth.

6. Dawn’s Early Light

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6. Dawn’s Early Light

Outside the dawn broke to a cloudless day. The demon sat in the canopy of the trees, a shadow in shadows. Pondering what had happened.

What HAD happened?

It was beyond his knowledge or reason. Unbelievably the pain and anger had gone for a few moments. Being immortal he had always known blackness, it comforted him in the mischief that his kind did. Even in battle with the Others, he enjoyed sending them back to their Lord with grievous injuries. His own injuries let him just be stronger for the pain from them. But feeling the seed of calm in him was disturbing and confusing.

A shadow!

Clouds had begun to drift over the valley, the imp flitted above them and looked down from high above. From his hiding spot in the puffy white clouds, he spotted a shepherd trying to get a small lamb out of a muddy pool.

In that moment he struck on an idea, in the early morning light, his wings made hardly a sound as he dropped lightly by a ram, he whispered into its ear and pointed. The Shepard being busy trying to free his charge from its muddy prison was unaware of the glint in the eye of the ram as it charged towards his unprotected backside.

The lamb could only duck as the man sailed over her head and landed on the other side in the deeper mud and water. Yelling oaths and making comments about the rams parentage, the man failed to notice the shadow that flitted through the growth of trees stampeding the free sheep in all directions. The demon cackled at this mischief then flapped his leathery wings and hid in the cloud above and watched the man free himself and the lamb at the same time.

Finally the shepherd crawled up on dry land where he stood and turned. Looking from the edge of the mud puddle, the Shepherd saw his flock had spread through the trees. The mud covered, soaking wet and fuming shepherd was making comments about the parentage of the ram when he put down the lamb he reached for his hat and found it missing. He swore and looked around and found it.

There it lay behind him and still in the mud, too far out to reach.

Jumping up and down cursing incoherently at the top of his voice, the sounds of the Shepherd’s anger was music to the demon’s ears. The man struggled back out into the mud to the hat that was beyond the reach of his crook, swearing and screaming. The demon’s dark spirit was lifted, this was a good moment in this morning of frustration and confusion. His morning mischief complete.

Then he was gone in a clap of thunder that was heard by humans down the vale and presumed  that it was the last grunt of the waning storm.

13. Heaven Sent

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13. Heaven Sent

She had meditated, but peace would not come. In this place Love and Peace were the orders of the realm. But, alas, such was not forthcoming. She had known that Satan cast him out and was living with humans. Even such things are harsh for imps and demons. She knew in her heart that she had to try to ask the favor and be allowed so she could help him, somehow. With a heavy sigh, she stood up and walked away to where help could be obtained.

As she approached the place where the Lord of Everything held court, she met Gabriel the Archangel outside.

“You have been expected. If anything, you are late.” He brushed a crimson lock out of her face, giving her a critical look as he gave Bronwyn the rules of speaking in the inner sanctum.

“Speak only when spoken to, keep your answers short and direct. One word answers are best. Do not exaggerate, you would be found out before you even said the words. Stand straight, smile but do not look directly at the Lord, stand up straight. Use the title at the end of each answer. Yes, Lord. No, Lord. And so forth. Spend as little time as possible there, the Lord is very busy. Stand up straight. All answers to questions and requests are final, do not argue or attempt to change the answer with any kind of debate. Be sure to stand up straight. Now, off you go, do not wait around. And stand up straight!”

Bronwyn stepped through the gates and into the light. She was momentarily blinded, but as her eyes adjusted, she found herself in a garden with the bluest of skies. A woman slightly older than her was planting a row of flowers in one area of the garden. No one else was nearby, and the woman looked up and smiled, but kept at her work that she seemed to enjoy a great deal.

Hesitantly, Bronwyn took a step towards the woman, moving so she could see all that the digging and planting was doing when the woman stood up and brushed the dirt from her hands.

“Well, a lot done, but a lot to do still.” She smiled at the younger angel. “You have come to see me in regards of a matter of a demon thrown out by his master and Emperor?”

Bronwyn took a sharp breath “You are the Lord? I expected someone older, a man with a beard perhaps. I had never thought of a woman.”

The Woman-Lord laughed delicately. “I can be what you wish to see, but I thought you might have a better time relating to someone closer to your age. Image and perception accounts for a lot when telling of matters such as you have. I can even be a girl of your appearance.”

With that, the Lord changed slightly and appeared as young as Bronwyn, a girl that she could confide in, with bright eyes and a large smile as she sat.

“Tell me! Tell me about him? Is he exciting? Does he make your toes curl when you think of him?” The girl picked a flower and sniffed it with her eyes closed. “Someone that would hold your hand and laugh with a sparkle in his eyes just for you.” She giggled as she put the flower in Bronwyn’s hair.

Bronwyn laughed softly. “This is a bit too much, too fast of a change.” She sighed, “But, I know he is among humans, he is alone and cannot speak the language. He risked everything for  me.”

Bronwyn frowned. “He now is in need of help and we are always meant to help someone who needs or asks. Even if they should never ask, you have said that they should be offered a way out. That sometimes the most sighted can be the most blind.”

The Supreme Being now appeared as an elderly woman with wisdom and long found happiness nodded. “My child, you have the power to do as you wish. It has always been about freedom of choice. You are here on this plane of existence because of the path you chose. He is on his path because of the choices he made in his early life. If you think he needs guidance and help, you may go. Finis has already talked with him and given him a gift that will be most useful. But you must choose. Only you can choose. You can guide him as an angel and then Finis is no longer going to be involved, until… and if… he fails his tribulation.” The elder Lord said softly.

Taking Bronwyn’s hands in hers, the matronly image continued. ”Finis will return him to the dark-side as a slave forever; or you can go without your powers, just as immortal as he is, but you will not have any other direct contact than Finis. He will be your mentor, guide and go-between of this place and the human existence, other angels have spoken. They have all said that they will not aid or hinder. The only one that has said he would make contact with you is Micheal, I have left it to him to act as a messenger. Other than Finis, you may not call upon the Host for any reason. You can speak in prayer to me only.”

Bronwyn jumped up. “I choose to be human with him! If that is one of my choices, that is the choice I will be!”

“My dear child, be sure this is what you want. On earth there is a saying ‘be careful of what you wish for, you may get it.’”

“Lord, this is what I want. I wish to live with him, wherever he goes on that plane, I want to stand at his side.”

The slightly older woman appeared again “Then it is so, you may keep your blessed sword and angel armor, you will have knowledge that you have now and clothing. Several of the Archangels have said they also have gifts to give you that will not cause disruption with humans. No magic, no powers. But you will not grow old, this is one of the trials you will have to endure. For if it is thought that you are more than human, they will turn on you and he. You can not stay in one area for very long. No place will be a permanent home for the both of you. Wars will come, famine, terrible things. He is in a time of prehistory of human kind. The best and worst of the human soul has yet to be realized. You will be part of it, you may influence it to one degree or another. Finis will help guide you through the times and ages. But be warned! Demons and other dark forces will try to create havoc with you and cause him to fail. All he has to do is call upon his powers once. Just once. Just one time and he will be lost to the Emperor of Hell for all time.”

With a motherly look in her eyes “My child, go now to him. You have only one chance to choose. Make a wise choice, for it will be forever. Time will move for you only one direction, one minute after another. Time will not be as flexible for you as it is for the Host, how we can pick and move forward or backward through time. For us, time is not a line, but there for you, it will be.”

She smiled. Once more a girl appearing the same age as Bronwyn. “Go on hun! Be happy and take good and well care of him. Give him some love from me, too!” Her soft voice sounded like bells as she talked and laughed while she bounced on her feet like an excited teen confided in by a friend about her love.

Bronwyn walked down the path with a light heart and a little fear, at the edge of the garden she turned and looked back. There stood a smiling grandfatherly type that held a growing flower in his hand as he tenderly planted another growing life in the fertile soil of the garden.

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