Welcome back once again to the next chapter of my 2012 NaNoWrimo novel Master of the Drunken Fist. The end is almost here! If you’ve missed any chapter, please check the Table of Contents to catch up.
Mike took off on a dead run. He knew what was going on by now, he was a pro at the void. He ran as fast and as straight as he could go. Before long, he found what he was looking for. There was an orange glow off in the distance. Spotting the color, he went straight for it and went right on through without a care in the world. He knew where he would be.
Stepping through, he was definitely in Russia by the sound of the conversation around him. He was in the common room of the inn, with it’s fire blazing warmly at the end of the room. Victor and the others were sitting at a table near the fire with another man Mike didn’t recognize. “Hope I didn’t miss anything boys,” Mike said as he sat down with them.
“No, no not at all Mikhael. Please, join us. You need to hear this. As you were saying Pieter,” Victor nodded to the man sitting with them.
“Well, yes, um…oh yes, as I was saying. The “mayor” as he calls himself seems innocent enough, but our men tell of him exacting fierce vengeance on anyone he considers an enemy. If you get in his way, he will cut you down. Either himself, or with one of his many followers. He is very, very dangerous. He rules this town with that fear. Not many are willing to openly stand up to him, however if we can get things started, let the townspeople know he will not win, then they will jump to our cause. We just have to take the first step.” He finished speaking and swallowed the last of the brandy in the glass in front of him.
“With fear you say, huh? Pieter, those are the men most easiest to bring down. It will take some, how would you say, physical persuasion, but it can be done easily enough. That’s what I brought my boys for, especially this one,” as he points to Mike. “He can handle himself well enough. And the rest of my men, they too are capable of leading this insurrection. Though I hesitate to call it that since this “mayor” has actually gone against the wishes and mandates of his majesty. But for lack of a better word, we can call it as such.”
“Liberation Victor, we can call it that,” Mike said. It was as though he were completely sold out to this world in Russia. He secretly hoped he never left here to go back to the real world. There was so much more promise for him here.
“Yes Mikhael, liberation is much more appropriate. The people can rally behind that, right Pieter?”
“Well, yes, of course Victor. They don’t really care what we call it, just so long as we rid them of the bastard mayor.”
The two men laughed together as they raised their newly filled glasses high. “To liberation men!” Victor toasted, and the two of them clinked their glasses and drank their brandy down. As cold as it was outside, that drink looked invitingly warm to Mike, but he thought better of it. What would happen if I got drunk here in the void? What would that do to me? he thought. Then he figured that was a question to better try later on, maybe when he was done with the work here in Russia.
The conversation went on for several more hours, though mostly about family and friends and how the latest harvest went. It seemed this city, Vostok, was doing quite well with trade and such. Their main source of trading partners were the folks living out to the west of the city and the Chinese merchants from the south. They were doing quite a bit of business with them, and those trade routes were the major force behind the king wanting the city back in his control again. Otherwise, all those taxes would continue to go into the hands of this “mayor” who used the funds to keep his control tight on the city. He bribed merchants and built a small mercenary force to act as guards to the port and the main gates. Mike had to admit, he sounded like a man that was in control and knew what he was doing. How they were going to bring him down, he wasn’t quite sure.
Pieter assured Victor that his men were ready, so not being one to waste the moment, Victor decided they would act the next day to get things moving in the direction he needed them to go. The conversation turned more mundane as he drinks kept flowing. As the evening wound down, all the men returned to their rooms to rest up for what was going to happen the next day.
Waking early, Mike walked to the common room to find Victor already there, sitting by himself near the fire.
“Mikheal, you are up early.”
“Like always Victor. Are we ready for today?
“Yes, of course. Once we get a good belly full of breakfast, we move out into the city and begin our work. I’m glad you came down here, I needed to talk to you.”
“Sure, what’s on your mind.” Mike had a brief panic attack, as though he was a caught spy and was now about to face the punishment.
“Mikhael, the others don’t seem to notice this, but I do. You seem…different than the rest of us. When we started back in Moscow, I don’t ever recall you being able to understand Chinese, but when we met those sailors a while back, you knew their every word. And then, every once in a while, you seem to disappear. I’m not sure where you go or what you are doing, but I know there is something else there. I know there is another life you lead Mikheal. I can sense it. I also know that there is something wrong there. I’m not exactly sure what that is either, just that it has brought you to your knees. I suspect a woman to be involved, it almost always leads back to that. Whatever it is Mikhael, you take care of it. I’d say right now, but we need you here. You can do things which we cannot. Your physical strength, your knowledge of language, is something none of us have. We need you to be successful in our venture.”
“Victor,” Mike began slowly, “I do have something to confess. I, I am not from here.” He was ready to spill it all, and why not. He figured there was nothing to lose by doing so. “I am from a different place Victor. My name is Mike, not Mikhael. This is some sort of alternate world for me, one in which I am needed and wanted. I’m actually from America, and I think from a different time period. I go into these trances and get teleported to strange lands and adventures. This one, here in Russia, is just one of three different places I’ve visited since I started this teleporting.”
Victor just looked at him, his glass of juice raised halfway to his lips. “Mikhael, that’s not what I meant about you being gone. This…teleportation you speak of is amusing, but I don’t buy a word of it. I meant you had a problem back home in Moscow!” That wasn’t the reaction Mike expected. He felt foolish for saying it. It sounded so delusional once the words left his lips. How could he have expected Victor to handle it? He wasn’t entirely sure, just not in this way. In any case, he stopped talking about it. It was clear Victor didn’t believe him and he didn’t want to lose the trust Victor and the others had in him, so he let the topic die. He so wished he had a drink at that moment to calm his nerves.
In time, the other men filed out of their rooms, sleepy and staggering from the previous night’s drinking. They sat down with him and Victor and they all ate heartily. It was hard to tell, but Mike thought they might have felt this could be their last meal. They were silent and savored every bite of the food. It was an odd turn for Mike, as normally they joked, and laughed, and wolfed down their food. The gravity of the days events must have weighed heavily upon them.
Finishing their meal, Victor got up and they all followed him out of the common room. They went back to their rooms to gather the necessary items for the day, namely their weapons and monkish robes. After getting their supplies, they met Pieter out in front of the inn. It was still early, the sun barely over the horizon and the cool of the morning washed over them.
“You men ready for this?” Pieter asked the four of them. Victor nodded and they followed Pieter down the street. He took them several blocks to the east and north until they came to what Mike thought was an old warehouse. It was large and when they walked in, primarily empty except for racks on the western wall full of blades of all kinds. There were sickles, spears, long knives, and even a few bows with quivers of arrows. It looked like a farmers collection of implements, but that was going to have to work for their liberation as there was nothing else available to them. “These are what we have Victor, it’s not much but it should work. As much as the mayor is ruthless, he’s never faced serious opposition before and I think we will surprise him.” Victor scanned the items carefully. Some had rust, others looked dull, but Pieter was right, they would do.
“Great Pieter! I think this will work well.” Pieter smiled, feeling confident he had done well.
“My plan was to ambush him at his home while he’s sleeping and kill him. We could then parade his head on a pike all through town so the people would know not to be afraid anymore,” Pieter said.
“I like the way you think Pieter, but how easy is it to get to him? Surely he’d have guards keeping watch. Men like him have to always watch for exactly what we intend. It won’t be that easy.”
“Of course not Victor. However, I do have a loyal comrade working as one of his trusted night watchmen, and he can grant us access to the mayor. It took some coin, but he is on our side all the way.”
“Hmm, a bribe you say? That often doesn’t lead one to be loyal.”
“Trust me Victor, he’s loyal. I have been planning this for some time now. This is the time to strike! We must overthrow him.” Mike noticed a hint of annoyance on Victor’s face while Pieter spoke. It was slight, but noticeable.
Just then, Anya came running into the warehouse. “Victor! It’s a trap! Pieter…” and then Pieter slapped her hard, knocking her to the ground. “Shut up you. I should have killed you long ago,” and he raised his hand to strike her again when Mike caught his hand, twisting it and bringing Pieter down with the pain.
“Leave her alone Pieter!” Victor growled as he raced to her side. Pieter broke free from Mike’s grip and started making his way to the door where Anya appeared from.
“She’s right Victor,” he sneered, “This is a trap. The mayor pays quite well, and you, well you are just an idealist. A dog at the foot of the king. You obey, but for what? Because he says so? Good bye Victor. You should never have come here.” And he slipped out through the door. There were shouts coming from all sides of the building, confusing them and not giving up what direction the ambush was coming from.
Anya was able to get up with a little help from Victor. “Are you alright dear?” he asked her. She shook her head yes in reply. She was visibly shaken up, but seemed to be ok. “Yes Victor, I’m fine. We need to get out of here. There are twenty or more men outside. The mayor is with them. They are going to kill us.”
Victor thought for a moment and seemed settled on a plan. “We must get some of those weapons. We are going to have to prepare for a battle with these men. I know they are mercenaries, but I also know we are more to handle than a normal man. I think if we coax them in here, we stand a better chance. We bring them to us, not us leaving to be picked off one by one.”
The others nodded in agreement and grabbed whatever tool/weapon they felt the most comfortable with. Mike was surprised to see Anya grab a bow with a couple quivers of arrows. She noticed the look on his face too. “It’s ok Mikhael, I’m quite used to these. My father had me learn to hunt when I was young. We all had to help.” He seemed pleased by her answer and left her to the bow. The rest of them gathered together, waiting for the enemy to come storming in.
Their wait was short lived. Several of the mayors men came through the same door as Anya, while a couple others came in from a rear door. All of a sudden, the enemy turned shape. They transformed right on front of them from men to the black, hooded, wicked shrieking Sponsers with flaming red eyes. Mike just stood there, dumbfounded by the transformation he witnessed. The others however seemed to not see a thing. “Come on Mikhael, fight on brother!” Victor called out to him. “These men are ready to die at our hands today!”
Mike could hardly move. Shock gripped him. For the first time in the void, he froze and couldn’t move from his spot. He wondered why the rest of them didn’t notice the change. “Victor, he stumbled out, “D-d-d-did you see what happened? The men…they…changed.”
“What? Come on man, get it together. Fight or die!!”
Mike swore all the men coming at him were no longer men, but the menacing Sponsers. They must have come here to seek revenge for what he did to their others when with the brothers. He broke from his stupor. Rage filled him. He hated the Sponsers. It was time for them to die.
In a flash, Mike whirled the sickle he picked from the collection of tools and wielded it like it was an extension of his body, as though he always had this tool of death at his side. He moved quickly and swiftly, darting in and out of the coming blows from the Sponsers. They tried to catch him with their spears and blades, but with his speed and deftness, they struck at air. He spun around, catching one of the Sponsers on the back of it’s legs, knocking it down. As it fell, he sliced with the blade, severing it’s head from it’s body in a spray of black blood. The sight of the dying Sponser only fueled his lust for more.
He spun and sliced and carved through three more of them before he noticed the others with him had stopped. He was in a blind rage-filled fury up until then, working carefully to dispatch the Sponsers one at a time, making sure they felt his blade.
All was quiet in the building. Victor looked at Mike cautiously. “Mikhael, are you…what you did…are you ok?” He asked hesitantly. The killing display put on by Mike was something to behold, and Victor and the others were astonished by it.
Out of breath, Mike replied, “Yes, I’m fine Victor. Those things must die. All of them.” His body heaved with each laborious breath.
“Mikhael, they stopped. Your flurry of blade scared them off. I think they turned away. Or maybe they went for more men. I don’t know and I don’t care. We need to leave now before they decide to return.”
They crept up to the door, careful to watch for more men attacking them. Once there, they found the outside deserted. There wasn’t a sign of any left outside. “You must have scared them off Mikhael. And to be honest, you frightened me as well. I knew you had the instincts, but I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Mike shrugged it off. “It’s nothing Victor. I knew they were weak and I was strong, that’s all. Now, where do we go from here?”
Anya pointed to a building high up on a hill, north of them. “There,” she said. “The mayor would go back there, his stronghold. If you keep up what you did back there, we will have no problem stopping him.”
Mike liked the sound of that. He was the hero, the one stories would be told about for generations. As he thought of how it might go down on history, he suddenly found himself falling fast down to nothingness. He started spinning wildly, faster and faster. Finally, he hit the bottom. And woke up. He wasn’t sure where he was at.
Thanks for reading! If you’d like to comment, please do so below. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts. Come back tomorrow for the final chapter of Master of the Drunken Fist.