Grayson stood beside Alice, staring at the spot he had come through the forest earlier. They pinpointed the direction of the stench and realized it was already close and coming fast.
Grayson had surveyed the area, using his soldier skills to try to get as much of an advantage as possible. He placed everyone behind the fire, and he made sure they were close to the house so there was more of an obstacle for the enemy to go around, giving them more time to react.
Since Phoebe did not have any fighting skills, he sent her to watch over the horse behind the house.
Alice rung her hands together while shifting her weight from one foot to the other.
Grayson grabbed her arm in irritation. “What aren’t you telling me?”
Alice cleared her throat. “My energy is not completely restored, and…” She hesitated.
Grayson squeezed her arm, “And?”
“The smell is coming from a creature known as a Ghoul. They are dead, disgusting creatures that spew deadly poison and are relentless when they are given a target.”
Grayson released her arm. “I don’t know what the fuck a Ghoul is but what happened to your energy?”
“I used a lot of it fighting you. I am old and my energy levels are not what they used to be; it takes longer for me to recover.” Alice stuck her chin out as if challenging him to mock her.
Grayson eyed her before turning back to the forest. “Just stay close to me and only use your energy when absolutely necessary.”
Alice nodded, taking a step behind him.
Silence filled the air as the birds and insects quieted suddenly. There was a stillness that cause the hairs on the back of Grayson’s neck to raise.
With just that small sound, the Ghoul broke through the tree line. It stopped and snarled loudly, letting drool fly out its mouth. The grass sizzled at the contact, reminding Grayson that the Ghoul was indeed poisonous.
Grayson pointed his sword at the Ghoul and looked at Alice. “That’s a fucking Ghoul?”
Grayson studied the creature, deciding it truly was disgusting. Its grey/green skin barely clung to its bones. Its face resembled a decayed skull. There was no nose or lips, but vine like tentacles sprouted out of its mouth and cascaded down its shoulders. Its shoulders were uneven, showing that one arm was unnaturally longer than the other. It took a limped step forward.
Grayson bent his knees, readying his defense stance.
But before Grayson could predict its movements, the Ghoul sprinted towards them, practically dragging its long arm.
“Oh shit!” Grayson yelled, not expecting the Ghoul to be moving that fast.
‘The fire,’ he thought, ‘it will most likely be burned up by the fire before it even gets to us.’ Grayson smirked at this.
The confident smirk did not last long though. The Ghoul stopped in front of the fire and released a gurgled chuckle. It sucked in a breath and spewed out green, chunk vomit covering the fire, instantly causing black steam to rise. The smell started to become overbearing.
The Ghoul raised its black beady eyes to Grayson, as if challenging him.
“Oh, for fucks sake,” Grayson moaned while trying to keep his alcohol and bread down.
The Ghoul stepped into the mess, its foot making a squelching sound when it landed in the vomit.
Grayson gripped his sword and launched forward.
The Ghoul side stepped Grayson, narrowly missing the sword. When the sword was passed it, The Ghoul grabbed Grayson’s sword arm and pulled him close enough where his back was to the Ghoul’s chest. The Ghoul used its unusually long arm to wrap around Grayson’s neck like a piece of rope.
Being so close to the Ghoul made Grayson’s stomach lurch forward. It leaned its face forward, its cheek nearly touching his, causing his eyes to water more and his mouth to froth slightly.
Grayson struggled, trying to free his sword arm from the Ghoul’s body and arm, until he felt several of the vine like tentacles slither across his other cheek.
They were about the hook the corner of his mouth when Grayson planted his feet and swung the Ghoul over his shoulder, making it land on its back.
Grayson wasted no time putting his foot on its chest and shoving his sword through its heart.
The Ghoul fell silent for a moment, only to tilt his head back and opened his mouth in a horrible, ear-piercing shriek. The vine like tentacle flared out around its head while it continued the shriek, making its head look like a decaying peacock.
Grayson flinched at the sound but was quick with his reaction. He pulled his sword out and sliced the Ghoul’s head off. Unfortunately, the shriek continued.
The vine like tentacles on the head moved wildly until it found its bearings and began to act like legs. The head slowly crawled back towards the body.
Grayson noticed this, brought his foot up high and stomped down on its head, a squish sound replaced the shriek. Black/green goo covered the ground and the bottom of Grayson’s boot.
The Ghoul was finally silent.
Grayson panted slightly while looking back at Alice. She stood facing him as if watching; her stance not yet relaxed. He lifted an eyebrow in confusion.
Her head jerked in response to something behind him. “Watch out!” She shouted.
Grayson turned around in time to see a green vapor surround him. He tried to hold his breath but was not fast enough, the green vapor entered his nostrils and mouth. The putrid stench invaded his lungs making him cough uncontrollably. He fell to his knees, using his sword to help hold him up. He looked over at Alice through watery eyes, only to be greeted with three more Ghouls circling Alice, Phoebe, Grace and Avice.
Grayson tried standing up but only succeeded in stumbling and falling over. He gasped for air while reaching a handout to crawl towards the women.
‘Stop,’ A voice said in his head.
‘No, I can’t. They are my only way to Eleanor.’ Grayson thought as he continued to crawl.
‘Stop being foolish and let the witch and her familiar handle the situation.’ The voice spoke angrily. ‘If you didn’t block me out for so long then we would not have been as affected by the poison. But, because you did, we need to heal or else we will die. And I am not in favor of dying just yet.’
Grayson rolled on his back in defeat, his body convulsing while foamy spit fell from his mouth.
‘Demon?’ he asked.
There was no response. There really was no need to respond, Grayson knew it was him.
Turning his head slightly, he watched as Alice took care of the rest of the Ghouls.
Avice changed her cat form into a grizzly bear, standing on her back paws with Phoebe and the horse behind her. The horse was stomping her hooves and neighing nervously, but Phoebe held her reigns and continued to coo at her soothingly.
Alice swirled her arm in the air and brought it down. Two of the three Ghouls were pulled together and thrown in front her. She quickly chanted and they burst into green flames. Avice roared loudly and swiped at the third Ghoul with her giant paw, causing it the fall behind Alice. She chanted again and it burst into green flames too.
“Make the poisonous fumes go away Avice!” Alice yelled loudly while she sank to her knees.
Grayson’s vision cleared and his hearing sharpened, the poison was slowly leaving his body. He watched as sickening cracks and pops filled the air from Avice changing from a giant bear to a giant bird. Her wingspan covered the small house and more.
She jumped into the air and flew up before turning back around to face the burning the Ghouls. They shrieked together, but this shriek was different from the very first Ghoul. It sounded more like pained shrieks instead of a call for back up shrieks.
“Pheobe! Get behind Avice!” she yelled, moving slowly behind Avice.
Grayson realized he still could not fully move, so he grabbed his sword and stuck it into the ground.
The poison from the Ghouls started to fill the air. Avice flapped her wings gently a few times before finally pulling her wings far behind her and bringing them together, creating a giant gust of wind to push the poison, and the burnt up Ghouls, far into the forest.
Grayson gripped the pommel of his sword as the wind hit him, nearly sending him into the forest with the Ghouls.
After a few more large gusts of wind from Avice’s wings, she lowered herself to the ground and transformed back into her cat form.
Avice sat on her haunches and meowed innocently.
Grayson glared at her, unsure of how to feel around a shape-shifting familiar.
Pulling his focus from the cat, Grayson looked over at Alice and Phoebe. Phoebe was sitting on the ground with Alice’s head on her lap. Alice’s breaths were shallow, and her complexion was pale. She was completely drained.
Grayson stood up; his vision shifted slightly.
‘Not completely healed, but close.’ He thought as he stepped closer.
Avice climbed on top of Alice’s chest and laid down. Her purrs where the only sound while everyone caught their breath and processed what had happened.
Finally, Alice spoke. “I think the creature who might have Eleanor sent those.”
Grayson glanced at her while cleaning his sword. “And why is that?”
“His kind is the only kind that can send those types of monsters. Plus, he knows about Avice and I, so he is most likely trying to get rid of us.”
Grayson lifted an eyebrow. “Why is he trying to get rid of you two?”
Alice sighed. “If he truly is who I think he is, our kinds have been bitter rivals for an exceptionally long time. We find each other and we do everything we can to destroy each other.”
Grayson put down his sword and considered this. “And what kind of creature is this man?”
Avice jumped off Alice as she sat up to face Grayson. “He is most likely a Lamia. Otherwise, known as a Vampire.”