Welcome back to the next chapter of my 2012 NaNoWriMo winning novel Master of the Drunken Fist. If you need to catch up, check out the Table of Contents.
Nightfall provided ample cover for the brothers as they sought vengeance on the Sponsers. It was a scary proposition going at night, but the brothers felt it would give them just the bit of an edge they needed to sneak up to the cave and do what needed to be done. All of them carried a weapon of some sort. Mike with the axe, Abe had one too, while Elam was left with the largest hunting knife Mike had ever seen, something like those Rambo knives from the movies.
Abe led them slowly up the hill. Fortunately for the men, there were scrub bushes and trees almost all the way up the hill. Strange sounds emanated from the forest. Growls, and scratching, and knocks spooked Mike, but he had to persevere. The brothers were counting on him, and he felt the urge to oblige. It was a clear night and their path was lit by moonlight. The lack of electric lights was quite noticeable here in this world, wherever it was. He knew they had no such thing. It was as if he not only went to a different place, but also back in time. Regardless, they were on a mission and he was going to see it through, unless the void took him back.
That part of the process troubled Mike. He kinda figured out the means to getting here, but he had no idea what caused him to leave here. Each time he left and found himself back home, there was something different going on. It wasn’t like an event triggered it, at least not that he knew. All he remembered was that one moment he was knee deep in it, and the next…poof! he was back home, usually waking up from passing out. The time he was out was different too. It could be days or only a matter of hours. There was no consistency to it, nothing to track, no pattern to it. If he could figure that part of it out, maybe he could manipulate it so that he stayed longer or left at the moment of his choosing. For all he knew, he could be gone before they reached the cave. It made planning anything here in this reality tough. He didn’t know if he’d be there or not, and mentally preparing himself for something and then it not happening was an exhausting exercise for him. He had to trudge on though, knowing he might be gone any minute added an extra layer of surprise to the venture. At least the people he left while here didn’t seem to think anything different about him being gone, if they even noticed at all. The rules of this place never did quite fit with what he expected.
They crept at a slow pace up the hill. They were wary of startling any animals in case they gave away the fact that there was someone hidden in the forest. Carefully, Abe plotted a deliberate course uphill, watching for small branches littering the ground and trying his hardest to not step on any. Mike felt some excitement about the adventure they were on. Adrenaline started flowing within him, giving him the boost he needed to physically, and mentally, be ready for what was to come. Nerves within him were lighting up. He felt strong. He felt invincible.
Nearing the entrance to the cave, a glow of blood red greeted them from inside. For all the coldness he felt when near the creatures, he was surprised by the warm color of their lair. As they got closer, Abe brought them behind a large boulder just next to the mouth of the cave. He brought his hand up to his mouth, indicating they needed to be quiet. That wasn’t a problem for Mike. He didn’t intend on alerting these evil beings to their presence until it was too late. Then, he would enjoy killing them for what they did. Hearing no sound of them approaching, Abe took them inside.
Despite the red glow from within, it was freezing cold inside the cave. It sparkled from gems hidden within it’s walls, reflecting the red light. It was an eerie sight. Mike knew he had to go on, knew this was his destiny. He had to kill these things. If he didn’t, he had a feeling that they would eventually destroy him.
Slowly, the three of them walked inside and stuck close to each other. Abe took the lead and he kept them on the side of the cave, trying to hide behind rock formations. They continued on until they came upon a large chamber. Mike looked around and high up in the chamber, there were corpses and what was left of corpses hanging by chains. There were men and women, all rotting, with some bodies missing pieces or rotted away altogether. It looked like some of them were torn into by teeth or claws, ripped to shreds, with blood all over them. There were too many for Mike to count. It was a disgusting sight. Apparently, Elam saw it too, because he turned away and wretched whatever it was he had inside of him.
Looking at the ground of the chamber, Mike saw it was dark red, almost a maroon color. It looked to Mike like blood dripped down and dried there. He noticed blood streaks from the bodies above, going down to the floor below. Whatever these things were doing to people, it was an abomination. From the looks of the bodies hung up, it seemed like they were being tortured before dying a slow death. Many of the bodies were old and rotten while a few looked a bit newer. It was then that the smell overwhelmed him.
It was the most powerful stench he’d ever come across. He had never been to a meat processing place, but he had come across roadkill near his home and after baking in the sun for a couple of days, it could be an awful smell. This was that, but worse in ways he couldn’t imagine. It smelled like death, like what he expected death to smell like anyway. Rotten flesh, dried blood, and something else. He couldn’t figure out what the rest was, but it was terrible. Momentarily, he second guessed his resolve to kill these things. He was not ready to be their next victim up on the wall.
Off to their right, a loud howl startled them. Looking, there were the Sponsers. From what Mike could tell, there were only three of them. He thought there were more last time, and then remembered killing the one. They ducked down behind a rock and watched as the black figures closed in in the chamber. Their red eyes, flames, darted all around as they peered at the hanging bodies. Indiscriminately, they tore flesh off of bodies and hungrily ate it. It was clear to Mike that the chamber was a storage for their food, the people they took. Watching one of the creatures peck away at a body with it’s long, black fingers, he saw something that almost made him squeal.
Next to the body the creature was picking from, hanging up on the wall, was one of the brothers. Elijah, the voice inside said. He tapped Elam carefully and pointed up at the body. Abe saw it too. Their eyes filled with tears, followed by rage. Mike sensed it from them. He felt the anger and hate well up inside them. Surprisingly, he felt it grow within him as well. He didn’t know these men very well, but felt a strange close kinship with them. Something inside told him they were his brothers and he must stand up for them. Elam started shaking, the sight of his brother getting to him. Just then, he stood up and shouted at the Sponsers. That was when it happened.
The Sponsers turned toward them and shrieked their loud cry of death. They moved so effortlessly towards them, as though they were ghosts. Elam lunged at one, but it was fruitless. It slashed at him with its clawed fingers and gashed his head before he could bring the blade home. He slashed blindly as the blood flowed down his face, but his blade never found it’s mark. Abe lunged at it to help his brother, and though he caught it off guard, it still moved just enough to have the axe miss. Mike followed, and his axe didn’t miss, striking the thing in it’s head, splitting it’s skull, spraying black blood all over Elam. The other two creatures joined the fight, as though the death screams of their partner was a beacon.
Black robes flashed all around. Screams filled the chamber. Not just those of the Sponsers, but of Elam and Abe as well. Mike fell into a trance, a bloodlust he tried to avoid dwelling within him. He moved swiftly to avoid the claws of the Sponsers. Flaming eyes seemed to be everywhere, taunting him. He used those menacing eyes to plan his strikes. He slashed with the axe, bringing it down on what he thought were arms, spraying more of the black blood all over. It sprayed on to his face, but only forced him to desire it more. He was completely washed in hatred for these things. They needed to pay for what they did to the brothers. And he was ready to collect.
Turning just in time to catch a claw with the axe, he stopped what surely would have been a fatal blow. Twisting the axe free, he pulled it back and swung with all his might, loping the head off in one stroke. He felt very little resistance to the axe as it separated head from body. A fountain of black blood spewed out as the head screamed on its way to the ground. Its body went limp and fell backwards. That left one more of the creatures.
It was attacking Elam, clawing at him while Abe tried to free his brother. It seemed not to notice at all and Abe’s attacks were pointless. He was shouting while it raised its arms slashing down on Elam who was screaming. The Sponser tore Elam to shreds. It slashed at his throat, opening a hole that filled with blood. Elam went silent as the creature continued attacking him, tearing him apart. Abe’s advances didn’t faze the creature in the least. Mike lunged in and started to attack with all his might. It blocked his axe with its arm, and Mike let go of it as it stung his hands. It went flying overhead, crashing down behind him. Abe screamed at the thing, but it seemed to not notice him at all.
Reaching down to his belt, Mike pulled his knife free. He lunged and stabbed at one of the creatures flaming eyes. Surprisingly, the knife landed in something solid and the creature howled wildly, trying to clutch at the knife. Mike twisted it, which seemed to bring more pain to the thing, before pulling it out. The flame was extinguished in the eye. Mike brought the knife down with both hands, stabbing at it, not caring where it landed so long as it was on the creature. He stabbed and stabbed, and stabbed, bringing the knife down in sweeping arcs on the Sponser. By the time the thing stopped screaming, he had buried the knife within it’s skull with a force he didn’t recognize. He stood there, staring at it, with the knife sticking up from it’s black skull. Both eyes were now extinguished. He took the knife out and stabbed it where he guessed it’s heart to be just to be sure it was dead.
Silence overwhelmed him. He ached all over. His arms and chest were covered in black blood, mixed with the blood of Elam and himself as the creature was able to get in a few hits. He didn’t remember being struck, but he was overcome with a bloodlust that blinded him to what was going on outside of his actions.
Elam lay dead on the ground, a mess of blood and torn flesh. Abe was injured, but still alive. At least I saved one, Mike thought to himself as he came down off the adrenaline. Looking at Elam, Abe began to weep softly. He was spent. He couldn’t move. Mike felt sorry for him. He witnessed almost all of his brothers get killed by these Sponsers. But now, they could do no more harm. They were dead. Mike killed them. He was needed here.
It was clear to him that if he weren’t there, they would all be dead and the Sponsers would continue to terrorize the people. He ended it. He alone had the strength to do this. There was a reason he was here, and it was to save the people and stop the Sponsers. Recalling the ineffective strikes of Abe on the creature only validated his thoughts. He had a purpose here. He was something here. There was no way Noelle would take that from him.
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think. Come back tomorrow for the next chapter of Master of the Drunken Fist.