THE DAUGHTER OF DORAN

8

THE DUNGEON LORD

 

SPRING

Thessiaday, 27th of Greengrow, 3830 AR

Duchy of Calyne

(02/21/2017)

            “Goods gods, what are you doing here?” Danica almost screamed, the fire in her palms getting more intense with her fear. It was even getting explosive, sparking every half a second or less.
            “What is this?” asked Anne. “What is going on?” She looked at Danica and there was horror in her eyes. “When did you become a magician?”
            “It’s a long story,” Danica told her.
            “Don’t bother,” said the Goblin. He took off the necklace, his face returning back to the bald, green that it was, and placed the amulet into his jacket pocket. “They know. They can’t remember but only for a while. When the hour of three at night hits their minds will open and they will all go mad.”
            So Veyd was right about that too but such knowledge gave her no comfort.
            Anne was staring at her with wide eyes and there was sweat coming down her face. She was, in fact, remembering faster than the others, perhaps because she was the strongest of them.
            The others were in their chairs looking confused and scared.
            Wyienne the Insane stepped forward grinning in a way that showed all of her stolen teeth. The sight of that grinning face made Danica want to shriek and her magic flickered in her hands madly as the fear sunk into her.
            There was clear madness in that stolen face, especially the eyes, crazy in a kind of grinning, laughing, psychopathic way. The woman should never have seen the outside of a rubber room but the Gray Queen was mad too.
            She was still in the body of the female security guard that she had used to kill over a dozen men while freeing the goblin. She came creeping forward with it, still average looking, not yet “improved” herself as she looked like to style it.
            “You stay away from us,” said Anne who very clearly understood insanity when she saw it.
            Danica hesitated only because she was scared to get Wyienne’s attention. Any damage she did, she could heal by sucking health out of another human being, and, as far as Danica knew, she could no more easily die than the Goblin.
            Her body had been destroyed more than once and she was still there, still walking the Walrus, grinning that madwoman’s grin.
            “Wyienne,” said Danica softly and let her spells go. “Let’s talk.”
            “Take care of her,” said Goblin as he started around the table. “Take—” he stopped and looked at her. “What are you doing?”          
            She grabbed Joselyn Corro’s shoulders suddenly and grinned up him. “Anne Fladd is a mulatto prodigy.”
            “Excuse me,” said Anne.
            “I think the queen could benefit from her.” Joselyn’s eyes went wide and something began to happen. “I think she’ll thank me.”
            “Oh gods, I don’t want to see this!” Danica whimpered. “You brought her, you idiot!” she cried at the Goblin. “Danene Lanor Roster is one of the most beautiful women of the age! What do you think Wyienne is going to do to her when she finally finds her?”
            Something crossed his green face and he understood.
            The Goblin, whatever his relationship with the Gray Queen was, had clearly never quite understood how crazy, and unpredictable, her monster really was.
            “What’s happening to me?” whimpered Joselyn. She looked down and her body was moving on its own in a bizarre way, like muscles flexing, up and down, cartoonish in its oddity.
            “You’re just a scheming courtesan, using your looks—” she held out her hand before Danica could cast and she was suddenly frozen in the air with elementalism and countermagicked besides “—and you don’t deserve any of them.”
            The sound that followed defied description. If asked, Danica would have said it was like some twisting meat like towel, because that was the closest thing she could get to it.
            Every woman at the table jerked out of their chairs and as far from the two of them as they could get, the men just standing up and staring in dumbstruck horror. There was something about it, something sexual, that locked on men and slowed them but women just saw the horror.
            All women except Wyienne who just grinned with all those creepy stolen white teeth and wide, huge eyes.
            Roselyn Corro’s breasts were literally shrinking, or maybe deflating, being sucked out of her body like some kind of liquid and moving to the security guard’s body somehow. The smaller breasts Wyienne stolen pressing against the front of her blouse and straining the buttons there. It made no sense, couldn’t make sense, but it happened because it was unnatural magical, the magic of creation, and it only did it the way it because Wyienne desired it that way.
            The magic of creation could literally do anything. If one wanted to look a certain way, change gender, get younger, fly like a bird or make a rock into a cheese sandwich, it could happen without involving another human being but Wyienne was mentally demented to the point where she desired, or maybe needed, the power of stealing someone’s beauty as if it was somehow a tangible thing and that was exactly what happened.
            Danica felt like the sound of the buttons popping off the security guard’s uniform would haunt her almost as long as Roselyn Carro’s expression. She had wide eyed looked of horror as her body withered in her clothes and, going with her body, was the beauty of her face, the flawlessness of her skin, the curls in her hair and something of its quality, an imperfect transfer due to race unnatural magic compensated for, turning Wyienne’s body into that of an overly sexualized super model.
            “What do you think?” asked Wyienne as she was leaning over to show the Goblin the top Roselyn’s breasts encased in a different woman’s skin, Roselyn’s heavy curls hanging around over her blue eyes. “See,” she said happily. “All better.”
            The Goblin looked at the very plain, very skinny, body of Roselyn Carro, and then looked up. He was, despite being a monster himself, unable to find the words.
            Wyienne just smiled with that wide eyed, toothy grin of hers like what she did made all the welcoming sense in the world.

*          *          *

            Veyd heard them coming.
            They came from the darkness, somewhere between those paintings and the Family, taking form of darkness, water, and mud which was the only things available for them to use.
            “Well, well, well, well, well,” said Veyd with a smile. “If it isn’t my oldest friends.”
            Their voices came from the darkness. “Weeeeeeeerememberyooooooou…” Veyd wasn’t going banish them there with her powers, they would very weak in a thin place like that but she didn’t want to end up exhausted before the end for those things, and she anyway she had shotgun and they shockingly fragile.
            She looked around and saw that there were quite a few more of them than she extended. In fact, dozens of them were there, the most she had ever seen. Actually, Alan had only seen maybe three at one time, maybe ten altogether which, at the time, he had believed they repeats of the same that had just reformed and gotten destroyed twice.
            Suddenly there were over thirty.
            Something had changed: the curse was more instable, more capable of supporting them but also probably closer than ever from breaking.
            They were not yet near her so she blinked once, her eyes glowing momentarily, and there, with Talia’s vision, she saw the light in the old tower house.
            She wasn’t surprised she would need the man imprisoned there. She had not been able to free him before but she had not had Talia’s light then and she could free him.
            The lock had been covered in unbreakable mucky slime that she had tried acid and a blow torch on two occasions before she realized nothing natural would break it.
            Veyd looked up, raised her shotgun at the nearest creature in front of her, and pulled the trigger.
            The head exploded in one shot and Veyd stumbled backward feeling like she had almost broken her shoulder. The creatures, sensing weakness, started closer, and she jerked forward into the opening and through them at full speed.
            That gun had been made for a grown man or woman and while she was athletic, strong, and a gymnast in much of her ability, but she was still only athletic and strong for a thirteen girl.
            “Cocksucking donkey balls!” she cried as she rushed off into the rain.
            The tower where she had seen the light, a black, rain soaked place of death, awaited her, an army of slimy monsters following after.

*          *          *

            “You are fucking insane!” cried the Goblin at last.
            Wyienne’s face fell. “I am not crazy—”
            “You are very crazy and if you touch Danene I will fucking make your pain last an eternity!”
            Wyienne grinned suddenly again with all her teeth and wide eyes following. “I would never touch such an angel.”
            Danica still could not move. Crazy or not, unnatural magic or not, the woman was still a powerful magician with a great grip on elemantalism magic.
            “I think, yes, I think Anne, is important,” she said suddenly.
            “What?” asked the Goblin. He looked at Anne who was the only woman still at the table, staring dumbstruck, and trying to remember as she stared at them with hard concentration. “What about Anne?”
            “She survived fifty years as a half-breed Greenwood Fradd, the younger sister of a duke’s land in the country, and grew very strong. She could be useful if she could be brought to our side.”
            “We don’t have time for this!” cried the Goblin. He looked at Danica who looked back up and then back at her. “You’re crazy! You need to kill Danica—” he grunted in shock “—good gods.”
            Roselyn Corro whimpered as her body began to rapidly age. She went into her thirties, her forties and fifties right before Danica’s eyes. Her hair started to turn gray and that look of horror, that dumbstruck look of confusion, misery, and pain actually increased to lunatic levels.
            If Roselyn ever turned back she would probably be mad.
            Anne made a sound and Danica and the Goblin looked to see she was younger than Roselyn was. She was in her forties at that point, her hair black again, and getting younger. Her body tightening and getting stronger with the athletic youth she was rumored to have had.
            “No,” said Anne. “I won’t be a part of this! I won’t!” She resisted and their ages were locked suddenly.
            Wyienne giggled and bounced up and down. “You’re so strong,” she told her. “You are a perfect candidate for the Gray Queen’s court. A young girl ready to be Her Majesty’s Lady-in-Waiting.”
            “Don’t fight me!” said Wyienne happily. “You’re going to get a new life with your new queen.
            “I didn’t ask for that! You are a monster and you have no right—”
            “Fine!” hissed Wyienne and she took a deep breath, increased her concentration, and Anne’s eyes bulged. “You will be part of our court whether you like it or not!”
            Anne went younger faster, young as twenties, but she didn’t stop. They both shot past the age the other had been sending Joselyn into the form of crone and Anne younger than Danica and Veyd, all traces of womanhood vanishing as she slipped out of her larger closes into early youth ending at thirteen or so.
            “You two can be besties,” said Wyienne.
            “Good gods, you’re serious!” cried the Goblin. “You’re fucking serious!”
            “Yeah, she’s bat shit insane, Donnell, and you were a fucking fool to bring her hear.”
            The Goblin said nothing and did not deny it.
            Anne’s eyes blinked several times and stepped back from the table suddenly terrified. “Where am I? Where is my brother? Where is Mama or Papa?”
            Wyienne’s face fell with disappointed. “Pesky Dragon,” said Wyienne with her hands on her hips, referring to Quarran the ouroborous, the dragon god of balance.
            Roselyn, too old and weak to hold herself up without help, fell forward and hit the table with a thud.
            Anne was quite literally a child again, resisting the unnatural magic in her spirit that had altered her body, and her spirit had followed the natural law accordingly. The old saying was, “You can only be young once but you can be young for a thousand times.” It meant the price of renewed youth under natural law was all the knowledge obtained beyond and that was exactly happened to Anne.
            At whatever time it was on the Thessiaday, 27th of Greengrow, thirteen old Anne Fladd had suddenly woke up right there as if she had been teleported there.
            Anne was breathing quickly. “What is wrong with Mama’s house?” She looked down at the loose clothes then looked at everyone. “What is this?” She untied the matron knot of hair at the back of her head letting the curls fly around her head. “Who are you people?” Her eyes caught on the Goblin. “What are you?”
            “Too strong,” Wyienne said with a sigh and then turned her gaze slowly toward Danica. “Miss Pare,” she said. “You have long been the enemy of my queen.”
            Danica pushed against her hold, physical and magical, every muscle pulling as she did.
            “You’re supposed to be an old, I think,” she said.
            The Goblin had enough and started out. “So long, Pare,” he said as he went back toward the servant’s quarters where his jacket must be waiting. “Die well, if you can.”
            Wyienne grinned in that long, creepy toothy smile and reached for her. “It’ll be alright soon,” she told Danica. “I know how you love balance.” She walked up to her and reached for her face. “It’ll be okay. I’ll take good care of your youth—”
            Danica screamed in pure rage, the stolen hand inches from her face, and a burst of power sent Wyienne flying backward through the air.
            Danica, was in the air, held by air, then lowered to the ground easily. She had just crossed into her first mastery of magic, of elementalism, and become in a stroke one of the most dangerous combat magicians in all of Corvo.
            She was an elementalist giving her master control of the school of elementalism to cast any magic in it without any use of her personal energy.
            All the room went flying apart, things flying everywhere, and Wyienne, almost in slow motion, hit the back wall and hard enough to crack the wood paneling over the stone.
            Everyone in the room fled.
            Wyienne flew back up with elementalism herself. “You can’t kill me,” she stated. “You can’t kill truth and justice and right.”
            Danica sneered at her, formed a two handed sword of ice.
            “I was just trying to help but you could not tolerate kindness.”
            Danica flew at her with a scream, her sword as solid as any real one, and Wyienne screamed and vanished into the air. Danica hit the wall with an explosion of ice that shattered most of the most of the wood paneling and turned her head.
            Danica screamed, turned, and rushed out after the Goblin. “You’re fucking dead, Goblin!”
            “Wait!” cried Anne from a hallway. She took off her too big shoes and rushed after her. “Wait,” she cried again and Danica rushed out of the room with Anne following after. “Damn it, wait for me, girl!” Anne called to her as she rushed after her.

*          *          *

            Veyd stumbled through the door, figures bouncing and slumping behind her at the same time, hands holding onto the pistol, the shotgun over her back.
            “Didn’t predict this, did you, Veyd?” called Woman’s voice from the darkness.
            No, I did not predict being reincarnated as a girl with not enough body strength, she replied in her mind.
            Woman laughed in the darkness.
            It was good to use her mind. Woman could hear her thoughts like they were words but she could not find her that way. They gave no sense of direction, not even a near or far as far as Veyd could tell, or at least that was what appeared in Alan’s experiences.
            Veyd looked around the the old tower house and started forward.
            Where are you, Woman? Are you near?
            I’m close, she said in Veyd’s mind and then giggled.
            It wasn’t like her to play those games. They were ganging up on her and that was bad. They knew she could destroy the pillar and they did not like it.
            Where are you? asked Girl in a cute, kiddy way.
            Veyd ignored her and used her ears and began to move carefully. As she did, she reached down, pulled something off of her pistol, and slipped it around her ear. It projected a monitor over both eyes and the room was suddenly aglow in light. She had one on it just in case and felt stupid for not using it earlier.
            She had one on the shotgun too. Also just in case.
            “Alan,” whispered Boy in the distance.
            Oh this is just what I fucking need! She had never seen more two of them in one place and that time had been a lot of fun because Man and Boy didn’t usually get along.
            One time pays for all, kid, said Man.
            Whatever that means, Veyd wondered and then pulled the hammer bac of her pistol and started into the darkness.
            Outside, lightning struck unnaturally: unnaturally because lightning, and then the thunder that followed, had never occurred on any of the twenty seven earlier visits.
            “See that,” said Man from somewhere in the distance. “Last time.”
            “Shut your mouth!” hissed Woman.
            Veyd cracked her neck left, cracked her neck right then started forward. She stepped into the hall out of the entryway and saw Woman start to move to the stairs on the right. She shot her three times in the legs as she went, not slowing her, and causing her to cry out.
            “You bitch!” cried Woman. “You evil little bitch!” Veyd had caught a glimpse of her long, shapely legs as they disappeared up the stairs beyond the open door out of sight, and Veyd felt almost dizzy at the realization of how much smaller she was.
            She moved to the spiraling staircase and heard Woman’s footsteps go up. She had ducked under the traps there, the ones that glowed red under her visor, but those were easy. They were probably there as a distraction from whatever real traps Boy was making.
            Boy was laughing in her mind as Veyd moved back, went back to the giant hall, and went to the dumbwaiter that was there.
            She slipped inside, pressed the button from the outside, and went down.
            Boy stopped laughing. Cute trick, he said.
            The Family wasn’t the brightest in existence. They didn’t understand fear-based intellect. Hiding and sneaking and other things were, to them, like part of a hunt. The only thing they truly feared was the Watchmen and they didn’t seem to fear him in the literal sense.
            The door opened, Veyd rolled out in the kitchen, and raised her gun up in the air.
            No one was in there, no obvious trap either.
            It felt like Man had something planned. There were always long hallways or paths of nothing out of the ordinary before he revealed himself.
            I dislike how well you know us, said Woman.
            It’s just because we’re such great friends, Veyd replied.
            Veyd lowered her gun for a moment, started to move, then saw three full wine bottles. “Huh,” she said. Those could be useful.

*          *          *

            Danica had tried three other directions but found them all disastrous. She didn’t know what she was seeing but it looked like the house was folding in on itself in a spinning, spiraling way that defied gravity and logic like a crazy movie effect and there were voices beyond the dining hall in those rooms, countless voices, all whispering and laughing and giggling.
            She found her way to the library, stopped for a moment at the sight of all the books flapping, and felt Anne thud into her.
            “What’s going on?” she whispered. “Where the hell am I?”
            Danica looked at her and she looked at her like such a normal girl it was disturbing: just a pretty girl with parents of different ethnicities in a dress many sizes too big and for a woman much, much, older.
            “She knocked off sixty years or more,” Danica whispered.
            “Where is the Green Man?” she asked.
            “I don’t know,” said Danica honestly. She lost him pretty quickly, running down a spinning, spiraling hallway she didn’t dare follow after. She had thought it might be an illusion but she thought it was more likely that it just didn’t affect because he was part of the pillar system.
            In the end the library was the only place that even looked remotely normal and, frankly, it didn’t look that normal.
            Danica was tempted to just blow through the entire building with her mastered elemantism but she had no idea if that would take her outside or blow open a vortex into the in-between places.
            She made an ice blade, rushed forward, and Anne followed afterward crying out, “What do I do, what do I do, what do I do?”
            “Stay alive!” Danica kicked up open the door and her eyes bulged at the sight of the red eyed figures standing in the darkness, countless in numbers, with an incredible amount of lightning spiraling across the sky like some kind of spider web. “Oh fuck me,” she gasped.
            Anne looked over her shoulder and screamed.
            Danica let go of her spear where it fell to the ground and shattered and then held out her hands. Fire engulfed them and she stepped out into the courtyard. The water instinctively moved around her, warmth instinctively covering her, powers of the elemantalist moving with minimal concentration and they, whatever they actually were, backed up a bit.
            The fire grew more intense, her eyes starting to glow the same orange-red, and she let out a scream and jerked forward.
            Her right hand shot forward, hit three with a fireball that hit from the outside and the in, causing an explosion like they were fragile wood hit by a baseball bat: a shower of black and fiery orange.
            She turned hit another group, four that time, and then another, and another, and another and after that she lost count.

*          *          *

            The giant hooks were new. So where the chainsaws.
            It looked Man had made his lair in the dungeon, and partly unsurprising choice, and had put giant hooks on the walls high above. Usually that sort of thing was Boy’s lair.
            The torture area, a huge area with various instruments, were not far from where Veyd entered. She could see them below her as she entered looking down the stairs, the hooks not far from there, and several yellow cement cutting chainsaws side by side not far from there on a table looking like appropriate tools for use in the room.
            She went down the stairs and turned left down the hall where she knew the man would be waiting.
            She grabbed the spare key from the secret place, a hidden compartment from the wall, which she had learned from a guard she beat up who had said on that seventh or eighth time, “You’ll never get to it! We’ve got you surrounded!” went to the cell, looked at the man inside, and her jaw dropped.
            “John Bastian,” she whispered.
            He was incredibly attractive. She had known that before, Alan Veyd wasn’t a homosexual but he wasn’t one of those guys who pretended all men were ugly either but Jessica’s body reacted rather differently to it.
            John Bastian stood up, a very attractive black man wearing a dress shirt tucked into black pants and tall black boots. It was open at the center showing hard muscle and his face, sculpted and gorgeous, caught her attention instantly.
            Well, I guess I’m not a lesbian, thought Veyd.
            What? asked Woman.
            The Family probably had no sexuality. In all the research that Alan Veyd had done on them, before prison, during prison, and after, he had never heard of one case of seduction or rape, even to a minor extent. The closest it ever came to that was Girl crying and pretending to be helpless.
            Veyd looked down at the lock and saw the same grotesque black substance covering it as always. She held out her hand over it, sent out a wave of Talia’s light, and it was gone. Actually, all of it was gone. She saw the light spread through the whole room killing all of black substance in a single instant which including covering the other cells.
            Hands appeared in front of the other doors, women’s hands. “Let us out!” cried a woman.
            “Let them out first,” said Bastian.
            “Fuck your honor,” Veyd replied and she unlocked his door. She handed him her shotgun, took off the visor, and put to her head where hers was. He put it on and it lit up. “Gods you’re beautiful,” she said. “I guess that’s why Donnell hates you so much.”
            “Give me the key.”
            “Fuck no,” she replied. “Watch the door. Man is right out there somewhere.”
            “What man?” he asked.
            “Man, a member of the Family. He’s not human and he cannot die. Trust me, I know. Just take out his knees so he can’t walk or his face so he can’t see.” Veyd found one of the cells beyond and saw a pretty girl in there with dark curly hair with eyes wide and full of fear.
            “What was thing in front of the cell?”
            “I think it’s—corruption. I honestly don’t know.” Veyd unlocked the door, unlocked the second door with another girl, and then the third. They were all pretty which was odd.
            “Where is she?” asked the third.
            “Where is who?”
            “The white witch.”
            “Wyienne?” asked Veyd. It did not surprise her that Wyienne was involved with whatever had happened there. She probably collected those girls for something she had planned with their attributes before it ended up falling into one of the pillars.
            “That’s the one,” said the third girl, her hair dyed purple to match her dress. She looked over and the first girl threw her arms around Bastian and tried to kiss him. He backed away quickly keeping his right side to the hallway with his gun partly pointed.
            “I’m taken,” he told her and pulled her back.
            Veyd slipped the key into her pocket. “Damn gentlemen.”
            “What do we do now?” asked the purple girl. The second said nothing, eyes wide, hands wrapped around herself.
            “We find Danene,” said Veyd. “Do any of you know where Danene is?”
            “Who is Danene?” asked the girl.
            “She is an extremely beautiful aristocrat,” said Bastian as he peered out of the hall exit and looked down at the torture room. Something caught his eye because he paused a second before he added, “She should be in a white dress and she has platinum hair.”
            “That’s right, she does,” said Veyd. Alan had thought that it was the coolest thing ever: a gorgeous black girl with platinum white hair.
            “They took her down into the tunnels,” said the girl.
            “Of course they did,” said Veyd. “The tunnels that no doubt connect to the old well.”
            “The old well is not a well anymore. It’s part of an escape path.” He didn’t look at her but he sensed her expression somehow. “What is it??
            “The escape road, shit!” The guards knew of it but they didn’t know where it was. “And it’s in the well. That’s just lovely.” She grimaced. “I should have known!”
            “What’s the problem with the well?” Bastian asked.
            “Well let’s just say a less than friendly adversary is waiting for us down here.” She whispered what it really was to him where the others couldn’t hear and she saw by his hardened expression he understood.
            “I know where to go,” said Bastian as Veyd started toward him. “Who are you?”
            “Jessica,” she said.
            “I feel like we’ve met before.”
            Veyd laughed with a “ha” and said, “Look, I can’t explain what is happening here, but we need to get to Danene and you are part of it. We’re in an unnatural magical repeating hole and you need to—”
            Man appeared from above them the instant Veyd was there, grabbed them both, and yanked them forward. The gun went off, deafening in the space, and Veyd landed painfully below the stairs in the torture room. She rolled over, cried out, and pointed up at Man as he faced them.
            “Hello Alan,” he said, his side covered in blood from Bastian’s shotgun blast.
            Veyd unloaded her pistol into his chest and head. He looked, as he had before, like a man with blue eyes and black hair, just like Woman, Boy and Girl but it wasn’t his real form. People always saw him differently and Veyd didn’t want to know what he really looked like.
            His clothes were real at least and was presently wearing a pair of jeans, heavy black work boots, and a short sleeved white short tucked in.
            “You ought to know better than that, Alan,” said Man when the gun clicked empty and then he was shot in heart with the shotgun. He stumbled back, eyes irritated as he looked as Bastian who was standing, and then part of his face exploded with the next shot. He would have been dead twice over from that alone had he been just a man.
            But he wasn’t.
            He jerked forward, landed hard, and kicked Veyd in the stomach hard enough to send her rolling. The pistol went flying and her eyes went wide. A shotgun blast hit him in the head, blowing a large chunk of it apart, but didn’t slow him down.
            “Like your nice new body, Alan,” said Man and then he turned to Bastian. “Time for the boys to play, little girl.”

*          *          *

            John Bastian had no idea how the man was even alive.
            He reminded him of his father somehow, a tall, black man with black eyes and a sculpted face. They looked so much alike they could have brothers and he was thoroughly disturbed by that fact.
            When he smiled, he smiled like his father when he got the belt out. “I’m going to give you a whipping son,” he said in an eerily similar way to his father.
            “Don’t let him in your head!” whimpered Jessica from the ground.
            Bastian let him come closer. Closer he would do more damage with the shotgun.
            “You want to conquer, don’t you?” Man told him. He shook his head in slow growing rage, his hands held out. “You want to take my everything, don’t you? Want to destroy all that I love and hold dear!”
            His hands closed into tight fists and every knuckle he had cracked.
            Bastian had the strangest feeling he had seen that thing before, not once, but many times. He did not know how but he knew him and wanted to kill him more than anything else in the world in direct contradiction to his sense of integrity and honor.
            Bastian backed away to get him to walk farther from the girl.
            Man’s eyes bulged and the top of his white teeth in an ugly sneer. “I’ve killed you countless times over the years all for the crime of existing, for the crime of trying, and because you would imagine, in some land of great and wondrous delusion, that you could come and take what is mine away!”
            Bastian let him get close and then blew half of his head off. When he stumbled, he took out his knee, but he didn’t fall over. He instead leapt forward, knocked the gun aside, and swung a fist.
            Bastian ducked and the wood instrument behind him shattered into thousands of pieces. The other arm shot out and knocked the shotgun out of his hands hard enough to send it flying.
            A light from the girl’s hand shot out but it turned, unnaturally, and hit the wall. “Nice try, Alan, but this is our realm! This is our home!”
            His focus was on Bastian who, for reasons he did not fully understand, sensed he was an important part of all of this. The girl, Jessica, knew something and Alan, he recalled an Alan from somewhere, was bent on breaking whatever curse or spell they were in, but it was Bastian who was the key.
            “Figuring it out, are you, Johnny?” Man shook his head, mouth half-grinning, wounds vanishing. “I’m going to seriously fucking kill you!” He grabbed a chainsaw, swung it before turning it on, and Bastian ducked the swing and grabbed the other. “Oh this is going to be fun.”
            They both flipped on their engines at the same time and then rushed at each other.
            Bastian watched him move, parried with his own casually in a burst of sparks, and watched him stop in irritation. His face distorted in rage, which was good, and came at him.
            Bastian was a professional swordsman, master level, and that thing’s rage and unbalance might just be all that he needed.
            If, that is, he could somehow kill him.

*          *          *

            Veyd forced herself to her feet, her stomach in an incredible amount of pain, and looked at Man and Bastian.
            Bastian was reading him, parrying his attacks, easily and making Man really mad which was really good.
            Veyd looked up and her eyes went wide. “Look out!”
            Woman grabbed one of the girls by her hair and then shoved her forward over the edge. “Use your fucking head!” she hissed at Man.
            Man started to move toward her and Bastian couldn’t play him anymore. He had to move at him and Man screamed in joy and fought back, the girl rushing off to a corner away from them and the stairs back.
            Veyd dropped her clip, stuck in a new one, and pulled back the chamber. Woman put her hands on her hips, dressed in a lavish black dress with one shoulder, and asked, “Just what are you going to do with that, Al—” Veyd shot her in the ankle and she screamed and fell.
            When she hit the ground, Veyd placed the gun on the table, popped the wine bottle with his corkscrew and stuck in one of rags.
            Woman looked up, blue eyes staring up at her from between long locks of dark hair parted in the middle. “Don’t you dare—” her eyes went wide as Veyd put rag up to a torch that was there “—nooooo!”
            Veyd threw the cocktail down onto Woman and she shrieked as flames engulfed her. It wouldn’t have stopped Man but then Man was their fighter. She was their thinker and she did not like pain nearly as much as he did.
            She shrieked as she forced herself up and ran down a hall completely a blaze.
            Veyd turned to Man.

*          *          *

            Huge sparks shot out as Bastian was forced to block a blow too directly.
            He shoved him backward, his body weight still that of a man despite his strength, and Man swung at him. He sliced across the brick wall at the back and Bastian ducked and sliced him across the side.
            Man screamed, swung wild, and Bastian sliced him upward across the chest.
            Man screamed again and stumbled.
            “You’re connected!” Bastian cried at him.    
            “Shut up!” he yelled and swung at him again but badly. Bastian parried and then took an opening and sawed off Man’s hand at the wrist. Man looked down at his missing right hand, surprised, then looked up to see the chainsaw come down on his neck. He let out a cry just before it went across, blood splattering on Bastian and everywhere else.
            Its head went off of his neck within moments and then rolled across the room and stopped at a wall. The body fell forward onto its knees blood spewing out of its neck then fell forward onto its chest.
            Something was wrong. It wasn’t right. Bastian wasn’t trained well enough in medicine but something was deeply wrong.
            “We need to get moving,” said Jessica. She looked at the body, one hand holding her stomach, the other her pistol. “He’ll be getting up soon.”
            “You’re kidding?” asked Bastian even though he believed her. He did not know why but he did.
            “I’m not joking.”
            “Lead on.”
            “There could be anything down that tunnel,” said Bastian. “We need to get these girls to safety.”
            “There is no safety until Danene is found,” Jessica told her and she grabbed a torch, and handed it to one of the girls. “They can’t exist in our realm. They can only exist in the weak places the Watchman has no control.”
            Jessica grabbed the pistol and laughed. “It’s time to go into that tunnel, kill the monster that’s there, and save your true love.” She pulled back the hammer of her pistol and moved up beside him. “And we better do it quickly.”

*          *          *

            “Is that all you got?” Danica cried.
            She stumbled, covered in muck and sweat, and standing amid a courtyard that looked, oddly enough, very much like a normal raining courtyard.
            “Hey, where are you all? I’m not finished yet! I thought you were big shot out worldly monsters!”
            “Wow,” said Anne, covered in muck from head to toe. “You’re a badass!”
            “I almost killed you, you dumbass!” Danica told her.
            “Yeah, well, I didn’t exactly expect you to tear apart my family courtyard with high level elementalism magic!”
            “Yeah, fair enough.”
            “What happens now?”
            Danica saw a flash of light from the well.
            “I think I know,” said Danica. She looked at the well and thought there were very few things in all of Talayne that could make her go into that well but she knew, and felt she should’ve known, that was where whatever it was she was in would end. “Gods I hate spiders.”
            “Spiders?” asked Anne suddenly worried.
            “Spiders,” said Danica and then she saw beyond her, a figure in a too tight guard’s uniform standing in the doorway they had just stepped out.
            Danica suddenly understood her role in this.
            Veyd was no magician and not even really a good fighter. Alan Veyd had been a rogue, a sneaky, invasive, raccoon of man ready to steal or sneak to serve the greatest of good with a great mind for planning and understanding yet not particularly built for frontline combat with magic or weaponry.
            Danica was and if she wasn’t there Wyienne would have killed Veyd for sure.
            She held out her hands and fire appeared in them. “Come, sister in magic, and let us battle like the savages we are.”
            Wyienne held out her hands and very cold air, ice magic, appeared around her hands.
            “Find cover, Anne,” said Danica and Anne did, turning away and running.
            Then they, two masters of elemantalism, began their battle and even before they started forward, before they started casting, the ground began to shake with the power of their magic as if in anticipation.

 


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