Welcome to the next chapter of Master of the Drunken Fist. If you’re behind, check out the Table of Contents to catch up.
Mike rifled through his cupboards, looking for any and all alcohol. He needed to get back to the void, things were getting too serious, too confrontational here in the real world and he felt powerless to do anything about it. If he could get back to the void, he could at least be someone again. After some searching, he finally found a little over half a bottle of vodka. He didn’t even bother with mixing it, just opened the bottle and drank away. It burned, but it was a familiar feeling, one that told him all was well.
It didn’t take him long, at least he didn’t think so, before he found himself in the friendly confines of the void. Brilliant, blinding white engulfed him. He tried, in vain, the see his hand again. He wondered why it was always like this, but didn’t think on it long. He started to walk straight ahead, looking for his exit. He noticed it far ahead. It was a blue color, mixed with a little green. As he got closer, he saw some white there too. Is this Russia again? he thought. He didn’t care. As long as it wasn’t back in the real world, with Noelle getting pissed at him, he was fine with it.
Mike stepped through the hole, finding himself on a small ship, gliding down a river with snow covered banks. In a way. he was excited to be in Russia. The last time he was here, he hated it at first and then he killed a man, a real man, for the first time ever. It gave him an odd feeling knowing that he killed a man, but he got over it. It was something he had to do. He was trying to preserve his life and that man was trying to take it. Of course, that man had every reason to. They were raiding his ship and killing the rest of his crew.
Sergei, Alexsander, and Victor were all there on the ship. Victor was at the helm, steering the small sailboat down the river, going east. It seemed like they hadn’t gone too far from their last time together. He wondered if while he was gone, if they’d notice at all, or if there were some other “Mikhael” that took his place while he was gone. It was a legitimate concern. How would they react to him if all of a sudden he was there one moment, and then gone the next, and then there again.
“Mikhael, here, take the helm for a moment. I gotta piss,” Victor said to him. Apparently there were no issues with him being there and gone and back again. Mike tentatively took the wheel, unsure of how to pilot a ship. He’d never done so before and this was definitely not something he was comfortable with. Victor stumbled away, going to the side of the ship and began pissing into the river. He seemed…drunk to Mike. The Russian sailor laughed as he relieved himself. Finishing, he came back to Mike. “You did good boy. Now let me take that back. We got some ways to go. We gotta get to the east. We are going back to the Kamchatkan district. I’m told by his majesty to take control out there. Things have gotten out of hand. You ready for this Mikhael?”
Mike wasn’t sure what to say. He thought for a moment. Was he really ready to stay here in the world beyond the void, helping to rule some far out Russian province? He smiled. Yep, he was. There was a reason he was here. There had been in the other places too. He was meant to be here. There was something only he could do that his comrades couldn’t. He didn’t know what it was, but when the time came, he’d know. “Yeah Victor, I’m ready. Let’s take care of things. I could use some excitement in my life.” Victor just laughed and mumbled something about damn Chinese stirring trouble. His laugh was low and hardy exactly like what Mike thought Russians sounded like.
They sailed on the river for several days. He never once saw another person besides his fellow sailors. Through their conversations, he figured out that they were in Siberia moving east, going to the far northeast part of the country to a far off province that apparently Victor had “discovered” some years back. It seems that Victor started falling out of favor with the crown because he had a penchant for raiding vessels. One too many complaints reached the crown and he was put in prison for a bit before being let out to go and subdue the Kamchatkan region. And that was where they were headed. A small group, almost a suicide mission Mike figured, going to rule over a large region far from the capitol. Just his luck. He leaves the real world only to find himself in a very dangerous situation.
It wasn’t too much longer that they came to port in a small town just outside the province they were to subdue. They unloaded their cargo and kept a sharp eye out for anyone that looked suspicious. They had a lot of gold and silver coins and were not willing to part ways with them easily. They found a small inn that had two available rooms, and settled in for the night.
It was getting colder outside. Miike guessed it was the dead of winter, and in Siberia, that wasn’t the best of times to be there. Inside the inn, there was a large common room with a blazing fire in a fire place at the end of the room. The four Russians gathered there, warming themselves at the fire.
“Sergei, do you think you can find the supplies we need here?” Alexsander asked. He was sipping on a cup of warm tea the inn-keeper had ready for them after getting settled. “Yeah, I think so Alexsander. I saw a few shops on our way here that should have all we need.”
“If we have to, we can sell the ship,” Victor said. “We don’t need it any more. Where we are going, the ship cannot take us. We go on foot from here. It’s cold. It’s hard. It’s the only way up there. That’s why no one went there but me. And what I found was astonishing. They had a large city up there. His majesty didn’t even know it was there until I told him. He sent troops in to take over and claim it for the crown, but after they left, they had a weak man take over the administration of the city. He couldn’t handle it. That’s why there are problems there. That’s why we go there. You boys wanted adventure, well it doesn’t get any better than this,” and he laughed at that last part. He was fearless. Or stupid. Either way, Mike was following him because adventure seemed to ooze from him. His demeanor, his way of carrying himself all told Mike this was a man to stay close to.
Sergei sold the ship. They stayed a few more days at the inn before packing up and setting off towards their destination. They got some mules to help carry their gear. It was frigid outside, but they had blankets on their backs and were bred for such a thing.
Victor took the lead. He seemed to have a keen sense of direction, because all Mike knew was that everything looked the same to him. It was all white. And it was cold. The wind blew fiercely through the trees as they trudged their way north and east. They would set up camp, get a large fire going, and then the next morning, pick it all up and go on again. That was their life for the next week.
One night, just before they reached the outskirts of the city Victor had talked about, Mike heard a noise outside his tent. The temperatures were brutally cold, and he was reluctant to go outside to check it out. However, Victor yelled at him inside their tent. “Go out there and check and that Mikhael, it’s your turn.” Mike grumbled some, but grabbed his knife and bundled up before opening the tent flaps, revealing a sky full of stars. The cold smacked him like he’d never felt before. He shivered and closed the flaps on his coat a little tighter. The fire was almost out. The other tent looked fine and the mules were in place. So far so good.
He heard the sound again, coming from behind him and on the other side of his tent. He turned around and there was a large figure staring at him. It rushed at him, crunching over branches and brush. It got closer and Mike realized it was a bear. A large brown bear. He thought it was a grizzly, but he didn’t know his bears, unless it was a white one. This bear roared as it charged at him. Instinctively, Mike pulled out his knife to defend himself. The bear lunged at him. Mike stepped aside, bringing the knife down on it’s back. It roared in pain before turning on Mike, swiping with it’s large claws. It caught Mike on his side, but with such a heavy coat on, it didn’t dig too deep in him. Mike pulled the knife free to more growls of pain from the bear.
He stepped back to brace for another charge from the bear and wasn’t disappointed. It came at a lunge, trying to maul him with it’s sharp claws while growling, revealing it’s large teeth. Mike stood his ground, and when the bear lunged, it’s front paws landed on Mike’s shoulders while it’s mouth tried snapping at him. He took his knife and struck upwards, going right for it’s heart. He plunged the knife in, making the bear scream in pain. It tried to swipe at him, but he ducked and all it got was air. It tried to bite at him and caught him on the shoulder, bringing instant pain. Mike tried to strike with the knife again, but his weakened arm wouldn’t give him the strength he needed. Filled with adrenaline, Mike jumped back, then raced in at the bear, bringing his knife down hard on it’s skull. The long blade pierced the bear’s skull, entered it’s brain, and killed it instantly. It collapsed dead on the ground with a large thud.
By then, the other three had left their tents, near naked, frightened by the sounds they heard outside. They were all so terrified, they were unable to move to Mike’s defense, figuring he was doomed and they wanted no part of it. He looked around and saw six scared eyes staring back at him, wide and full of fear. They had never seen a man kill a bear like that before in their lives. Mike did what they never could do, and they were aware of it. Victor in particular seemed aware that there was something off about Mike, though he said nothing. It was something in his look at Mike, something in the way he leaned and took in the whole scene that told Mike there was more in his head than looting and carrying out whatever it was the crown wanted him to do.
“Mikhael…are you…are you alright?” Sergei asked. He seemed truly frightened by all that happened. Mike guessed they missed most of the fight, but were able to see the last part of the dance, the one where Mike took a beating and came out on top. He didn’t recall seeing any of them while the bear attacked.
“Yeah, I think so,” Mike replied breathlessly. It was a struggle to fend off that bear, but he did it. He smiled at his efforts, but even that seemed a little tough. He didn’t remember being this tired after the Sponsers or the Aztecs. Leave it to a fucking bear of all things to get to the mighty Mike, he thought.
The other men then ran over to him, noticing the blood from the bear’s strikes on his shoulders. He had shredded more than what Mike thought he did, and when Alexsander tried moving part of Mike’s coat out of the way, he screamed in pain. “Damn it man, that hurts,” he snapped at him. “Sorry Mikhael, I was trying to help,” he replied.
“No, that’s ok. It hurt, that’s all.” And that was a lie. It was throbbing ruthlessly. It worried Mike a bit. He never had pain like this in the void. He was always the one to come out on top, and pain wasn’t part of the deal. He did get hit some, but for whatever reason, it usually didn’t linger long. This was something entirely different, and it concerned him.
They spent the next hour or so patching Mike up. He didn’t enjoy the primitive medicine and methods of getting his wounds taken care of, which was at least one thing he didn’t like about being there. Other than that, the courage he felt while there, the feeling of invincibility, was something he relished. He didn’t ever want to give this up. Noelle was wrong in trying to get him to stop. If only she saw what he was like here, how badly he seemed to be needed, then she wouldn’t be so mad and would come back to him. Until then, he had to keep it up. There was a reason he was here, and he would see it through. It had to be better than being a janitor.
Thanks for reading! I hope you’re enjoying the story. Please feel free to leave a comment below. Come back tomorrow for the next chapter of Master of the Drunken Fist.