Despair Under a Curtain of Blood
Lock stood against the wall next to the front gate holding his Damascus with both hands while Tara stood next to him with a single gun drawn; the first one she had acquired. Through the front gate walked an imperial soldier wearing a patch on his sleeve that indicated he was a lieutenant.
“People of Harmon,” yelled the lieutenant, “The Empire demands your cooperation and total submission.”
The lieutenant looked around for the townspeople, but only saw Lock to his left, then froze.
“Attack!” yelled the lieutenant in desperation as Lock’s sword pierced through his sternum and peeked out his back.
Lock violently pulled the blade back out and dropped the man to the floor. Suddenly, five men rushed in through the front gate and were met with their doom. Ruthie had her spikes out and landed her left fist into a soldier’s stomach, followed by a right to his nose; the three sharp spikes breaking through the skull as he fell. Lock swung his sword at two men in front of him, eviscerating one man, then brought the blade down removing the other man’s arm at the shoulder; blood shot out of the nub that once housed an appendage. Lock kicked the one-armed man in the rear of the knee dropping him to the floor, then stabbed down into the man’s heart.
Two additional men approached from behind Lock hoping for a Returner fatality, but Eve answered by leaping behind one of them and reaching her head around him and slit his throat with her serrated knife; the front of the soldier’s neck oozed blood onto the floor as he fell. The other soldier turned his attention from Lock to Eve and aimed his pistol less than a foot away from her head. Tara pointed her palm at the gun and it flew out of his hand and into the air, he was bewildered as he looked at Tara. Tara smirked at the now unarmed soldier and pointed her .45 and fired at him; the bullet shot through the man’s forehead and the blood exited where the bullet entered, Lock getting imperial blood on his cheek.
“Now!” yelled Lock queuing his soldiers to reveal themselves as a dozen soldiers ran through the entrance while the remaining soldiers stood behind with machine guns drawn waiting for a clear shot at the Returners.
The soldiers leaped from behind the bushes and began attacking the twelve imperials that posed a threat to them. One of the Returner’s soldiers fell at the hands of an imperial rifle into his chest. Lock released one hand from his Damascus and threw a dagger at an imperials eye while Tara managed to shoot three more. Ruthie kicked one imperial in the testicles, then round housed another before turning her attention back on the kneeled imperial writhing in pain, she grabbed two handfuls of his hair and began bashing him in the face with her right knee till he was either dead or brain-dead; she couldn’t tell. Ruthie looked back to the man she had kicked in the face and he was trying to get up but didn’t quite know where he was, she came down hard with a boot and crushed his head. The soldier’s numbers were diminishing and Lock knew they’d be firing any moment, so he turned toward the threat outside their front door to see them aiming as their general positioned for them to open fire.
“Cover!” screamed Lock as he looked to Ruthie who was back flipping out of harm’s way along with Eve, he grabbed Tara around the waist and fell towards the wall for cover as three of the boys were hit more than twenty times by the imperials bullets.
Lock heard the barrage of bullets flying less than a yard away as Tara lay on top of him.
“You okay?” asked Tara.
Lock put his palms over her ears as not to damage her hearing.
“Let it rain!” yelled Reuben Antleon from atop the building.
The archers sprung to their feet atop the roof and pulled their strings releasing thirteen arrows down on the imperials; all of which had hit a vital area. The imperials panicked and were now concentrating on the archers above them and began firing. Jillian was on her third arrow when she felt a splatter of blood hit her left cheek and she knew right away that Eleven was gone, but she refused to look. If Jillian took her eyes off of her prey, she would surely die and that could not happen; she was the best and quickest with a bow. “Get up,” said Lock after removing his hands from Tara’s ears. Tara and Lock stood to their feet, but were quickly brought back down to the hard ground by the explosion to the north.
At the rear entrance, the first explosion had turned twenty imperials into tomato bisque, heads flying towards Clyde, Ray, and Sam who were at the front of their team waiting for the right moment to send them toward their enemies. The imperials weren’t of ignorant rabble, several of the armed soldiers fired at the ground setting off three more explosions from beneath the soil sacrificing only a few of their own.
The imperial soldiers ran through the rising smoke and leaped towards the Returners as Ray pointed his right arm at them and released five of his miniature arrows dropping three imperials to the floor. Four of the boys didn’t wait for their queue and ran towards their threat.
“That was only four!” yelled Clyde at the boys as they disappeared into the smoke.
Clyde could no longer see anything…BOOM! Ray shook his head, knowing that the stupid young boys were in pieces now. The three Returners stood with their team waiting for the smoke to clear till they saw almost thirty more imperials running towards them.
“Now!” yelled Clyde pointing at the Empire.
Bullets flew from both sides catching Clyde in the leg and Sam in the shoulder, but they carried on. Ray fired the three arrows that remained, then drew his sword and thrusts his blade into an imperials stomach as he twisted it to widen the hole in his body as he heard loud gunfire from the west.
“Fire!” yelled Alex as the Pan’dier gunners let loose another symphony of gunshots at the approaching Empire.
Lars signaled at Alex and she halted her shooters from firing then looked next to him at Pearl.
“Duck!” he yelled without thinking.
They both kneeled as a young boy from the Returners side used a knife to cut rope that was tied to a pillar of the building adjacent to the west entrance. Down swung a large log that lay horizontally, that had numerous knives and sharpened stick protruding out of it, and hit eight imperials in their torsos; three flying back several feet, five becoming stuck to the log and swinging with it now, and all of them deceased.
Many more imperials managed to slip through the moving hazard and made it inside the town, one trying to make it to the center of town. Pearl turned and saw the young imperial trying to escape, so she pulled out her corded knife and whipped it into his back and jerked it hard causing the man’s back and side flesh to split open and his inside began pouring out atop a waterfall of blood as the imperial screamed in pain.
Pearl walked over to his flailing body and pressed her boot against the back of his head and thrust the sharp head of her weapon into the back of his neck.
“Shut up!” she yelled as she pulled out the blade.
“Pearl,” yelled Julius.
Pearl turned to look at Julius who was reloading his shotgun as he stood over two dead men without heads.
“They’re going around! Guard the walls!” said Julius closing the chamber of his large gun and walking along the walls looking up for climbers.
Pearl joined Julius in his errand,].
“How many out there?” asked Pearl.
”Enough,” said Julius being unsupportive.
Somehow, an imperial was able to sneak past Lars, but unlucky for him, Alex saw him.
“You guys handle yourselves,” said Alex to the fifteen gunners and then leaped off the roof while unsheathing her dragon blade in midair and slicing down splitting the imperials head in half.
Lars turned to see that Alex had saved his life who was now staring at the roof in the southeast part of town where the Velxeer archers were positioned; there were only eight of them left including Reuben.
“You can thank me later,” winked Alex as she ran towards the main gate where Lock, Eve, Ruthie, and Tara were.
Lock was putting the finishing touches on a man that he had already completely removed from his knees and was taking a knife to his throat. When he turned around he saw five gunned imperials looking at him, who must have climbed the wall to the west and snuck in. Each of the five soldier’s heads fell of their shoulders like dominoes and blood geysered from between their shoulder blades. Lock looked around till he saw Retriever catching his tri-bladed chakra.
“You’re late,” said Lock.
Retriever squinted at Lock as if to say ‘you’re welcome, jerk’. Alex was approaching the tree in the center of the courtyard where Tara was seeking cover as she reloaded her pistols.
“Tara!” yelled Alex pointing ahead of her at an approaching imperial holding a short sword.
Tara dropped the gun from her right hand and pushed her palm towards the air and the imperial flew back fifty feet into the wall banging his head so hard the back of it split open and left a blood stain as he was knocked unconscious. Tara nodded at Alex as she continued reloading the magazines. Alex continued walking to the main entrance as she stepped over the headless corpses and went over to Lock.
“How you looking here?” asked Alex coldly.
Lock looked up at Reuben till Reuben saw him looking, then Reuben held up two fingers on his right hand and three on his left.
“Twenty-six, give or take,” said Lock looking at Alex.
Alex nodded, noticing an imperial pointed his rifle at Jillian.
“Block me,” she said sternly.
Lock stood directly in front of her as she waved her palm towards the air between Jillian and the imperial soldier as the bullet fired from the soldier’s gun. The bullet veered off course and missed Jillian by mere inches.
“Let’s go,” said Alex unsheathing her sword and running towards the front gate.
She leaped over an imperial’s head and stabbed her sword into the top of his head and he fell to the floor as she grabbed the handle of her sword when his knees hit the ground and pulled out her blade.
Pearl and Julius heard noises from the opposing side of the wall.
“Sounds like climbing,” said Pearl.
Julius nodded and pointed his gun towards the section of the wall that emanated the sounds and fired creating a large gaping hole and blood around the rim of the hole. Pearl jumped up and grabbed onto the bloody hole and pulled herself up to get a view and saw no one attempting to climb the wall. All she saw was three bloody carcasses lying on the ground and soldiers from the Returner’s side canvassing the area outside.
“We’re good,” said Pearl jumping down to where Julius was.
“Let’s head back,” said Julius walking alongside Pearl.
“I was wondering,” said Julius nervously, “Maybe after we’re all done here-“
“I like women,” said Pearl abruptly.
Suddenly, they took a step back at the sound of loud thunderous gunfire coming from the western entrance where Lars was. They ran quickly back to their post where Lars was standing behind a humongous six-nozzle gun the size of a small horse with hundreds of bullet casings shooting out the side of the weapon.
The front entrance was now Empireless with minimal casualties from the Returners and Velxeer.
“Okay!” said Lock commandingly, “Ruthie take half the soldiers to the rear entrance. Tara, take Eve and the other half and head for the side entrance with Velxeer. Me and Alex will be there in a minute.”
They all did as they were told and Lock looked to Alex, who was standing at the gate staring into the distance.
“Alex? Are you okay?” asked Lock standing next to her looking at her face.
“Go,” said Alex robotically.
“What?” asked a confused Lock as he looked into the field.
Lock saw a bizarre looking man atop an animal he had yet to see; a large lion-like animal with four tusks protruding from its cheeks that all curved inward around his mouth like pincers.
“Mold 17,” said Alex, “A genetically mutated human with remarkable strength and power.”
Mold 17 is eight feet tall wearing knight’s armor complete with iron helmet and a long trident spear almost as tall as he was.
“What’s he riding?”
“An Oblar. Go Lock, I have to use the power.”
“I’ll keep people away, survive,” said Lock touching the small of her back before going towards the rear of the town.
Alex walked out into the field so she had room to work and waited for Mold 17 to make the first move. Mold 17 snapped the reigns of the Oblar and began trotting towards her. She drew her sword and gripped it with both hands as she channeled her energy into her dragon blade; a yellow hue began emanating from it. Mold 17 was less than one hundred yards away. She swung the sword and a blast of light shot through the air and hit Mold 17 in the upper regions of his chest and he flew off the Oblar; his iron helmet rolled away after he hit the ground.
The Oblar didn’t realize that its master had vacated its back and kept trotting towards Alex who had stuck her sword into the ground. She dropped to a single knee and placed palms down against the cool stone path leading into the town. The beast was a stone throws away. Alex flipped her hands around so her palms were pointed up and then lifted them violently into the sky as her body leapt a few feet off the ground.
From beneath the ground a stone pillar erupted ten feet into the sky as the Oblar ran into it, instantly taking its own life from the impact its head had against the unmovable stone. She peeked around the pillar and smirked at her handiwork.
Lock was almost to the rear entrance when he noticed the Doc’s safe house; the soldiers designated to guard the door were not fulfilling their duty, one lay dead on the floor and the other one missing. Lock could see violent movement inside. Lock drew his sword and ran to the large window on the side of the shop and jumped into the air and cannon balled through the window, cutting his knees and the top of his forearms.
He saw three men in front of him as he decapitated one, stabbed another in the heart, and grabbed the third by the back of his head and jammed his face into the jagged glass along the window sill; the flesh around his eyes being ripped apart and blood pooled along the window. Lock turned from his victim to look for the Doc and was now looking at a tall muscled imperial. Lock swung his sword but the large man blocked by hitting Lock in the inner elbow causing him to drop the sword.
The man wrapped both hands around Lock’s neck and began to squeeze, but punched him as hard as he could in the stomach; the grip loosened. The man growled and grabbed Lock’s waistband and flung him over his head into the wall. Lock’s back hit a framed glass picture, then fell on his side to the hard wood floor; he felts his elbow twist the wrong way. Lock slowly tried to get to his feet, but was meant with a boot in the face. He couldn’t see straight, just blurred images of blood and his dead soldiers with the Doc and nurses in the corner.
The man gripped Lock’s vest and pulled him up. Slowly Lock’s vision returned and he saw the ugly mug of the large imperial.
“You die, scum!” growled the man into Lock’s face.
Lock spit a huge gob of blood into the imperial’s eyes, blinding him. Lock dropped his injured elbow down on the man’s arm to release the grip and felt a shooting pain in his arm. He groaned, then stomped his foot down hard on the front of the imperial’s left ankle; he heard it snap in half. Lock quickly pulled out a combat knife and jammed it into the large man’s stomach so hard and deep Lock could feel part of his own hand enter the man’s body. He moved his hand up and down inside the man’s belly as he felt the imperial’s blood drip down his left arm.
When Lock was satisfied, he pushed the man’s body away from him and it landed atop the man that had been decapitated. Lock was exhausted and collapsed on the floor and leaned against the walls.
Bridget, Helena, and the Doc ran over to Lock to check him.
“How’s your back?” said the Doc looking into his eyes for injury that might have been sustained from the choking.
“A little sore. Is my arm broken? It hurts like hell!” said Lock while Bridget rubbed his leg.
The Doc squeezed several parts of his arm looking for a break.
“Can you bend it?” asked the doctor.
Lock bent his arm and cringed as he did so.
“Yeah, it just stings.”
Helena began wiping the blood from his nose while Bridget treated his cuts from his entrance through the window.
“Okay, straighten your arm,” said the Doc examining further, “Does it hurt when you move it or all the time?”
“Just when I move it or flex the muscle,” said Lock.
“Good, it’s not a damaged nerve, at least. You’ll be okay in a couple days. Put this on your gums,” said the Doc handing Lock a tiny jar with some kind of paste inside.
“What is it?”
Bridget finished the last gauze application on his knee and then looked up.
“It’s ointment to stop the bleeding in your mouth.”
Lock wiped it over his top and bottom gums and started rising to his feet.
“Come on Doc,” said Lock walking over to his Damascus, “Time to check on the injured.”
Alex gingerly walked over to Mood 17 with sword in hand, who was already to his feet waiting for Alex. She was ten feet removed as he signaled at her with his hand as if to say ‘Let’s party’. Alex ran towards him and neglected to notice that he still had his trident’s spear; he swung it from his left hip and grazed her across the belly cutting threw her shirt and drawing blood.
She swung her sword towards his left kidney, but his large hand grabbed her right forearm before she could connect and threw her towards a large boulder. She flew through the air and landed on the jagged rock, cutting her side and landed on the grassy floor. He walked violently toward her and prepared to throw his spear at her. She used what strength she had left to raise her palm and the trident’s spear disintegrated in his hand as he growled at the frustration.
Mold 17 pointed his right hand at her. Alex felt the gashes on her stomach and side burn like someone was holding a fiery torch against them. Alex held her wounds and screamed in unbearable pain.
The pain was so intense; tears dripped through her now closed eyes, until it just stopped. She looked over at Mold 17 who had a cord wrapped around his neck with a spearhead dangling over his right shoulder. Past Mold 17 was Pearl pulling her cord tight, trying to either strangle him or hold him back.
Mold 17 looked at Pearl and curled the middle of the cord around his wrist and jerked it hard towards his own body. Pearl was dragged through the air headed for Mold 17. When she got close enough, Mold 17 extended his right arm straight to clothesline her in midair. The impact felt like someone had hit Pearl in the forehead with a large piece of timber.
Pearl lay sprawled on the floor dizzy and confused from the attack. Mold 17 looked down at Pearl whose eyes appeared as if they were swirling. Alex saw her opportunity and leaped onto the man-beast’s back and he struggled and jerked around like an unbroken horse. Alex managed to grab Pearl’s spearhead and stick it in the center of his throat before he grabbed her head and flipped her in front of him. As she flipped through the air she repositioned herself and landed on her feet and turned to him maliciously; she had regained her composure thanks to Pearl. Alex’s hands glowed blue as spider webs of electricity swirled around them. She thrust her ten fingers towards Mold 17 and lightning shot out of her fingers as Pearl looked on in amazement at the blurry vision she saw. Mold 17 shook violently from the power of the spell that electrified his organs, but was able to lift a hand. The hand glowed crimson red, until more crimson erupted from his chest and blood flowed, splattering on Alex’s face. From within the humanoid’s chest peeked a razor sharp blade, then Mold 17’s eyes went dark and he fell forward. Sticking halfway out his back was Retriever’s tri-blade chakra.
Alex looked at Retriever, who was walking towards them to ‘retrieve’ his weapon. Alex and Pearl got up and Alex waved to Retriever in appreciation. Pearl began unwrapping her cord from around the man’s throat.
“Are you gonna tell?” asked Alex picking up her dragon blade and placing it inside its scabbard.
Pearl thought for a moment before answering the very important question that could change their lives forever.
“No. But you can’t keep it a secret forever. It can only help Alex.”
“You’re wrong about that.”
Retriever pulled his tri-blade violently out of Mold 17’s back.
“You’re not gonna say anything, are you?” asked Pearl to Retriever.
Retriever attached his weapon to his belt, then gave her a wide-eyed look as if to sarcastically say ‘Very funny’.
Lock walked with Doc and his two nurses towards the rear entrance expecting the worse; which is what he got. Lock saw nothing but death. Every single soldier was dead, Clyde holding his stomach in pain mumbling incoherently, Sam’s body bleeding from its headless neck, and Ray faced down with a puddle of blood under his chest.
The Doc ran over to Clyde seeing as how he had the greatest chance of living among the soldiers with intestines falling out their chests and appendages yards away from their bodies. The two nurses began work on Clyde; applying pressured to his stomach wounds.
“I…was…supp…osed…ta…protect her,” mumbled Clyde to himself.
Lock looked over at Clyde in confusion.
“Her? There weren’t any girls back he-“Lock stopped speaking at his realization, I sent Ruthie back here!
Lock ran over to Clyde and pushed the nurses aside and grabbed Clyde by the sides of his head.
“Ruthie! Where is she?”
“I…was…supp…osed…ta…protect her…They…took…her,” mumbled Clyde again who was obviously disillusioned due to the massive blood loss that seemed like a mote around him.
Lock banged Clyde’s head against the wall he was leaned up against and began yelling hysterically.
“Where the fuck is she!!!”
The Doc grabbed Lock and tried to get him off of Clyde.
“Stop!” pleaded the doctor, “You’ll kill him!”
“Dammit!” yelled Lock crawling away, his emotions too intense to allow his to stand, “Ruthie! Oh Ruthie!”
Tears oozed through Lock’s eyeballs as he slammed his head into both of his hands. After several minutes he realized something to his left, Ray was breathing.
“Doc,” said Lock abandoning his emotions for a second and pointed to Ray’s body, “Ray’s breathing.”
Doc ran over to Ray and flipped him over gently and saw that the only part of his body capable of movement was his mouth and lungs. Doc peeled back his shirt where it was cut and noticed the coloration of the wound.
“A rabid blade,” said the Doc to himself.
Eve, Tara, and Julius arrived at the rear entrance and saw the carnage. Eve immediately ran to Ray and began stroking his forehead.
“Ray, talk to me. Please?”
“He’s been stabbed with a rabid blade. It paralyzes your entire body making your allies think your dead, so they won’t bother to help and you eventually bleed out.”
Eve began to sob at the doctor’s words.
“He wouldn’t want to live paralyzed.”
“Don’t worry,” said Doc pulling a syringe from his bag, “He’ll get better over time. A few weeks and he’ll be fully recovered. Helena, bring the gauze.”
The Doc rolled up his left pant leg, poured some beige liquid, and then stuck the syringe into Ray’s right leg and pressed the plunger down. Lock sat on his knees with his head down scared to death as he punched the hard ground repeatedly in anger.
“Lock?” said Alex who was bloody herself, “What happened?”
Alex knew something was wrong.
“Bridget!” said the Doc pointing to Alex.
Alex waved off the young nurse,
Pearl kneeled next to Lock along with Alex.
“What happened?” asked Pearl sincerely.
“They got Ruthie!” said Lock grabbing Alex with one arm and Pearl with other and began just holding them for emotional support.
Tara just stood in shock over Ruthie, she hadn’t moved a muscle since she heard.
“Shit! The bleeding won’t stop,” said Doc sounding flustered.
Tara snapped out of her trance and rushed over to Ray and placed her left palm on top of his wound. The Doc wasn’t sure what she was doing, but when she removed her hand the wound was sealed and the bleeding had ceased; Doc was in awe. Tara looked over at Lock, who was being consoled by Pearl and Alex, and wondered how Smith would want to handle this.