Thursday, August 13, 2015

Bishop at the Gates - Chapter 1

Chap 1

    Kalia shifted her stance to allow the blood to rush back into her leg. They both ached terribly, but she did her best to ignore it. Instead, she focused on the slaughtered deer that lay in the clearing before her.
    It was about a hundred yards ahead. It was a small alcove in the forest directly in front of a large limestone cave thrust up out of the ground. She’d sat in the freezing rain all day and night watching the cave. She had planted the deer there, hoping to draw something out.
    While she had not yet seen it, she was convinced that her prey lurked inside.
    At first, she doubted the villagers’ stories. They had been convinced that some kind of “troll” had set up shop in the nearby forest and was now terrorizing their little hamlet every night. Not only had people disappeared from their beds, but it would seem that some had been lured into the forest by some unknown magic.
    She took the job, but knew better than to think it was a simple troll.
    No… she told herself. This was something else.
    Kalia knew that trolls were slow, lumbering idiots. They tended to wander the countryside with the relative stealth of a runaway boulder. When they did happen across a town, they left a wake of damage behind them.
    Instead, whatever did this had left almost zero trace. Whatever had been kidnapping the villagers seemed to do so by attracting its victims rather than taking them forcibly.
    It was really blind luck that she had stumbled across the cave.
    The smell was what hit her first. A pungent, rotting smell that stunk of death and hung in the air. It stuck to the back of her throat. Made her gag. It permeated everything and clung to her clothes and her skin.
    Further investigation revealed that the area surrounding the limestone ridge was completely dead. No birds. No insects. No creatures of any kind. Walking into the clearing was like walking into a void. Nothing but silence.
    A hundred yards away she still couldn’t escape the stink. All she could do was grip her bow and focus on the deer ahead.
    Something moved.
    Barely a flicker of motion. A shadow across the cave wall.
    She drew her bow and waited.
    Seconds passed like hours as she strained her senses. Looked for any sign. Listened for anything.
    It was impossible to hear over the damned rain. It came down with the force of a typhoon and drowned out anything useful.
    Kalia threw herself forward hard as she could and spun in the air.
    She drew. Fired. And Missed.
    In the dark of the night, against the pouring rain and shuddering leaves, the split second she had to aim overshot the monster by an inch and whizzed harmlessly past the beast’s head.
    Well, at least I was right about it not being a troll.
    It was a Wendigo.
    The monstrous beast was huge. At least 9 foot tall with freakishly long arms and claws and a twisted rack of antlers atop its head. Deep gray skin was pulled taut against muscle and bone. Jagged, blood covered fangs were bared from behind lips that had long been chewed off. Its sunken in eyes were barely visible in their black pits.
    It followed after her, plowing through leaf and branch with a deafening crash.
    It hit the ground moments after her. Kalia rolled just a second before the Wendigo grabbed for her again. Catching cloth and arm alike, it tore away half her cloak and splattered crimson blood across the ground and trees as she retreated.
    The pain was like a fire in her veins, but her focus was stronger.
    The bow was ready in an instant. This time, the arrow found its mark. The first silver arrowed lodged itself deep into the monster’s through with a sickening gurgle. It was followed by four others, each in a vital mark.
    The Wendigo staggered, but only for a moment.
    It wasn’t enough.
    It reached her a moment later. Closing its claws around her throat and lifted her from the ground, she dropped her bow in favor of a slender, silver dagger that she drove into the beast’s eye socket before he could get a fatal grip on her.
    The Wendigo let loose a gurgling yowl as it choked on its own blood. Its grip slackened.
    Planting her feet firmly on its chest, Kalia kicked backwards, knocked her out of its grip. Now free, she turned to the offensive once more.
    She slammed all of her weight into the monster. It did little more than knock it off balance slightly, but it was enough. Staggered, she stabbed it again and again in the chest. The beast fell back with each blow. With each hit, it stumbled more.
    Finally, it fell.
    It wouldn’t be long before the beast regained itself. She went to work unclipping a small bottle from her belt and breaking it over the monster’s body. The blackfire and its alchemical flames made short work of the creature.
    After the temporary inferno calmed, Kalia gathered up the beast’s antlers and retreated to the entrance of the nearby cave to inspect her own wounds. She dared not go any further lest she find the remains of any poor sod dumb enough to have followed a Wendigo into the woods.
    She was liberally covered in black, viscous blood. Her own blood was flowing freely down her left arm from several large gashes. The sleeve had been completely ripped away. She touched it gingerly and felt another flash of searing pain.
    After cleaning and wrapping the wound, she allowed herself a heavy drink the narcotic elixer from the bottle she kept with her. The medicine eased the pain along with her senses and she soon found herself in a restless sleep on the hard stone ground.

    Kalia woke several hours later. Her head throbbed and she could still feel the after effects of the drug, however her arm no longer hurt as much. She gathered up her belongings and ventured out into the freezing rains.
    The dark was a comfort to her. With the monster slain and nothing more dangerous to stalk her path, the trip was a pleasant one despite the circumstances.
    The town of Summerlea was a small one. It was little more than a dozen or two homes along with some main essentials like a market and a blacksmith. A small inn stood at the far end of town along the road. Kalia walked to the largest home on the road and knocked.
    A few moments later, a man opened the door. He was big, fat, and balding, with little more than stubble atop his sweat covered head. Kalia grimaced just from looking at him.
    “You’re back.” He said, surprise in his tone.
    “Yea…” she glared daggers as she held the antlers out to him. “I’m back. And I brought you a present.”
    “The fuck are those? We hired you to kill a troll. Not go deer hunting.”
    She chuckled dryly.
    “Yea. About that. I would have killed a troll if I found one, Saul. But as it turns out, I ran into a fucking Wendigo.”
    His fat face twisted into a look of confusion.
    “A what?”
    “A WENDIGO, SAUL!” She pointed the tip of the antlers threateningly at him. He cowered back in surprise.
    “Tell me.” She continued. “Has anyone disappeared in those woods recently? Perhaps a small group of people?”
    “I-I d-don’t…I-I…Y-yes. I mean. That’s why we hired you.”
    “No you idiot! Before that. Probably a year or two ago.”
    “Uh…Y-yea. There was the Fergeson boy. Him and a friend went out hunting and disappeared. But I don’t know what that’s got to do with anything.”
    “A Wendigo is a monster created from cannibalism. A ravenous beast of gluttony born most often from starvation. It’s incredibly fast, smart, and strong and a LOT more threatening THAN ANY DAMN TROLL.”
    “You owe me,” she continued. A LOT more than we originally agreed on.”
    “B-b-but we’re a little town. We don’t have that much to give.” He straightened himself, seeming to try to regain his composure. “Besides, isn’t it your job?”
    “No.” She snapped, flinging the antlers to the ground. “MY job is ACTUALLY in Oakmoore because the Royal Guard PERSONALLY summoned me. THIS job is just a piddly shit side note that I should have ignored and let the damn Wendigo eat every last one of you.”
    She advanced on him. Nose to nose.
    “You’re going to pay me everything you can and courier the rest to Oakmoore so I can get it when I’m done with whatever job the King has for me. Otherwise, Gods help me…” she placed her hand over her hip pouch threateningly.
    Saul yelped as if struck. He had no idea what was in the pouch, but he doubted it was good if a Hunter was threatening him with it.
    After being paid by a broken and shaky Saul, Kalia made her way back to the Unbroken Road.
    Once there, she had to stop and laugh.
    “Oh my god, that was too fucking funny.” She said between fits of laughter. “God, I love these fucking bumpkins. They’re so easy to scare.”
    It wasn’t far to the next real civilization. Grayridge was decently populated and only a few hours walk from Summerlea. She reached it as the sun was rising over the mountain’s edge, piercing black clouds. The rain had just stopped.

(As I will be soon releasing several more chapters via Patreon for paid members, I've decided to release Chapter 1 of Bishop at the Gates for Public enjoyment. Hope you like it and, if you want more right away, you can enjoy it immediately for as little as a dollar!)

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