Chapter 8: Raining Blood
On the ground, the 21 knights waited patiently for their badly battered opponent to fall through the ceiling of clouds. A purple glow grew into a light and pierced the canopy in the sky. Like an apocalyptic meteor of fire, steel, and sentient alien ice, the bacon strip made impact in a flash of luminescent holy wrath, creating a surge of power like a thousand nuclear detonations within a dying star. The royal guardsmen braced for the explosion and held steady through it with ease. For a moment, Sir Bacon Strip, formerly known as Khvarikx, crouched, drawing his wooden sword. His body, still badly scorched, sizzled, sending a cloud of vapor up into the moonlight that now peeked through the open fissure in the clouds. In the next moment, he was standing adjacent to the leading knight with his sword fully extended from his left hand, pointing directly forward and angled slightly above the horizon.
The knight moved his shield aside and turned to face the bacon strip. He drew his towering silver, black, and indigo greatsword from its place on his back. He raised it like a veiled executioner, methodically preparing to finish his task.
The bacon lowered his wooden stick and flicked it lightly. The black knight’s sword split in half along an edge smoother than a polished marble coffee table. The knight stopped, completely annoyed and even more baffled. His blue cape separated along an edge that could only have been drawn by the scissors of a royal tailor and he flinched as he saw the lower half float to the ground. Then, the bottom of his shield severed along a perfect horizontal edge and he realized that his defeat was sealed almost poetically.
Bacon sliced through the second and third black knights as the first fell apart, divided into neatly diced chunks that would impress the greatest chef of all time, Master Chief. The leader of the red knights unleashed another spiral firestorm (tentative titles: infernocane, burnicane, or hurriflame) at the bacon strip. Bacon sliced upwards, splitting the vortex into two smaller spinning wind pyres. He exploded ahead and speared his wooden weapon through the lead red knight’s Rasta shield and straight into the helmet.
“Butter!” Bacon announced triumphantly as the artificial creature struggled to stand, spraying crimson into the foggy mist, and drenching its allies.
The vampire sighed, as if pained by the story he told. The bar fell silent with the exception of the two purple horned toads clashing violently on the pool table. They were from an ancient elite team of small desert lizards who had served a legendary witch ages ago with unfaltering loyalty. She loved them like children and in return for their service, she blessed her nine scaly servants with immortality, protecting them from even time itself. As a result, their bodies turned to a vivid, yet dark--almost black shade of violet. Their mistress had been missing for many centuries, so her minions were left to wander the earth until her return. Two of them found their way to this bar and decided to call it home due to the plentiful supply of deliciously squeaky crickets and cockroaches seasoned with filth and grime.
The pool table was soaked with both rusty-brown, dried blood and glistening, fresh, red splotches from their countless battles against each other. The reptiles were loyal to a fault; they trained relentlessly, determined to be the deadliest foot-long warriors in history. Their wounds healed almost instantaneously, but their quiet, yet piercing screeches, peeps, and cries were evidence that they still felt and processed every single signal sent from the temporarily damaged clusters of neurons in their tiny little nervous systems. Despite the pain, they fought on. They faced off against each other every night because one day, their queen would come back and they wanted to be ready to follow her to depths of Hades itself if she commanded it. They would bring her victory without hesitation or delay. Until then, they would train with ferocity and passion, spilling their blood on the pool balls and the once-green felt beneath them.
The lizards had long ago forgotten her face and the silly hat she always wore, but they remembered her smell like it was still in their nostrils today. It was a smooth blend of sagebrush with a hint of newt blood, strawberries, a few assorted desert flowers, and what might have been cinnamon. Someday, they knew they would smell it again. Someday... they hoped.
“What’s the deal with the lizards?” Ryssa asked.
“I don’t really know. They claimed my pool table one night a few years ago and I’ve always liked reptiles, so I let them have it. They’re not scared of people at all; I think they must have been someone’s pet at one point,” replied the bartender, absentmindedly gazing at the sign he had placed on the table to protect his small guests from careless customers.
POOL IS NOT TO BE PLAYED ON THE POOL TABLE
“It doesn’t matter. Whatever sob story they had is over. They probably just sat in a terrarium for a couple years until their former master got bored and threw them away with the rest of the trash,” the vampire smirked, silently judging the two warriors that the old world had left behind. “There’s nothing more special about them than the cockroaches they eat.”
“Well there’s a certain story that isn’t over quite yet, isn’t there?” The bartender poked a needle through the cork top of a dusty wine bottle and filled the syringe with a velvet crimson concoction. He selected a slightly green, but mostly yellow banana and injected the serum into several spots, turning the banana golden-orange with a slight glow.
“Try this,” he said, handing the mutated fruit to the vampire.
“Much obliged.” Without a second thought, the vampire swallowed it whole. Instantly, his pupils turned bright orange and he started furiously slamming his head on the counter. After exactly nine and-a-half loud thumps, the vampire settled down, licking his lips with delight.
The vampire withdrew an odd fedora from his cloak on put it on. There was nothing really odd about the fedora, other than the fact that it was, in fact, odd. Maybe the fact that it was odd without having any odd features was what made it odd.
Apparently it was too odd (or lacking in oddness) for the vampire’s fancy, so he quickly removed it and threw it out the window. The door swung open and the fedora came through with a flower bedazzled onto the brim. The vampire hissed in terror and produced a small, handheld flamethrower from a hidden thigh holster, quickly incinerating the intruding apparel. The ashes gathered into a burnt, severed hand which extended its middle finger, wiggled it briefly, and then used its crispy digits to crawl out through the open doorway.
Shrugging in either disdain or apathy, the vampire turned back to the bar and rolled a pair of D20 diamond-engraved D&D collectors dice. The numbers were 17 and 5. Seeing this, he cursed loudly in a long-dead language and stormed out through the door, slamming it behind him. Muffled gunshots and explosions followed soon after, accompanied by what could only be described as yodelling in pain.
The door quietly opened again, revealing a war-weary vampire dressed in templar knight regalia. He let his sword clatter to the ground and he began to strip off his armor as he staggered to the bar. He sat down, took a deep breath, and spoke.
“After the bacon strip finished his training, he started his war against the dragon. He recruited a small force of vikings to assist him, which he commanded alongside their chief, Erik the Golden, and (of course) Bacon’s teacher, Arukoru. Like all good stories, there has to be an Uncle Ben or a Yoda figure. Frodo had Gandalf, Harry had Dumbledore, Luke had that green wombat thing, Neo had Morpheus... you get the point.”
Ryssa and the bartender nodded in choreographed unison.
“They slaughtered dragons by the dozen, causing more and more trouble for Khvarikx every day. Unable to leave his protective enclosure, Khvarikx began to create stronger dragons to fight Bacon’s forces, which were growing rapidly as humanity found hope. He created these new dragons by clawing off scales from his body and casting them down as summoning spells. While they proved to be a greater challenge, even ten fighting together could not stand before the might of Bacon guided by Arukoru’s sage teachings. Furious, Khvarikx began to tear off sections of his hide to create even greater dragon warriors. Ferocious and terrifying, they seemed to be the answer to the master swordsman, yet he slaughtered them like sheep. Finally, one day, Khvarikx received word from his spies that Bacon’s forces drew near to the Naphuxgyvn Gates, serving entrance to the nearly exclusive dragon province of the same name. Panicked, the dragon emperor tore off his left wing and cast it down!”
Bacon stood next to his two commanders, studying the Naphuxgyvn Gates. They were double swinging doors at least 40 feet tall and ten feet wide each. The rain came down in torrents, soaking through the cloth and steel worn by the legions of soldiers compromising his army. Deafening like a waterfall, the downpour blocked out any sound coming from behind the steel and glass of the colossal doors. Not a single soul stirred along the top of the wall. It seemed like the only thing guarding the front door to Khvarikx’s personal backyard was the collection of horrendous metal statues depicting grotesque winged beasts. Considering that everything after the gate would be mostly stealth, Bacon suddenly felt very foolish bringing an entire army complete with siege towers, trebuchet, and even a few platypuses. No one likes platypuses. They’re total asshats. Ugly too.
“How do we get in? We forgot to bring a battering ram because we spent so much time finding war platypuses.” Erik the Golden shamefully bowed his head.
Arukoru glared at one of the statues along the road at the base of the gate with extreme distrust while munching on a stick of celery.
Bacon shook his head. “We’ll find a lever or something dumb like that, don’t worry.”
Arukoru was now face-to-face with one of the statues. He inhaled the rest of his celery stick and raised his hand.
Erik chimed in, “I like levers. I pull them and they--”
Arukoru flicked the statue directly on the nose and it sneezed sadly, as if hurt emotionally rather than physically. It quickly regained its composure and tried to pretend that nothing happened.
“Shut up, dumbass!” The statue to its left growled.
“HOW DO YOU OPEN THE GATES?” demanded Arukoru.
Both statues said nothing. The salamander sensei raised his hands, poised to deliver a pair of humiliating flicks to the two statues. Both winced in anticipation, desperately fighting the urge to respond. A few of the other statues started snickering at the predicament their siblings were in.
Arukoru was in an incredibly bad mood, most likely because he had run out of what he called “swamp water” somewhere along the journey. He turned and waddled over to the most disruptive cackler and uttered something between a low croak and a growl. He paused, rubbed his eyes groggily, then spun, whipping his tail around and smashing through the statue’s midsection.
In unison, a thousand statues sprung to life and leaped from their respective perches. Almost certainly from another world, they were mostly greenish metal with glass chunks making up most of their spikes and armor. They could best be described as alien bug bat flying sharks with somewhere between 6 and 11 fins/wings each.
“It is not wise to vandalize a defenseless statue. Screwing with us gargoyles is just bad karma,” one of the creatures taunted.
The creatures began to swoop down and pick off Bacon’s soldiers like hawks hunting mice in the fields. They took their prey into the clouds and tore them to shreds before releasing them back down to earth to rejoin their comrades. It was raining blood, flesh, and internal organs. It was also still raining regular rainwater, but no one really noticed that because they were too busy dodging the dismembered limbs of their friends.
The gargoyles were living weapons with no fear of death.
While his army was devolving into a blind, panicked mosh pit, Bacon remained stoic and calm. He was a main character after all, and main characters basically never die. Arukoru was also pretty pivotal to the story, so there wasn’t any concern for his health. Erik the Golden was probably going to die though. He was pretty much the hot blonde in a horror movie.
Bacon turned and looked at the muscular viking war chief. The man had joined Bacon’s mission because he wanted to create a future for his children that didn’t rest in the hands of merciless serpents. The dragons had already killed his wife and his firstborn daughter just for sport. He was determined to prevent that from ever possibly happening to his remaining two sons. He was also determined to return home to them as soon as possible; he believed that no young boy should have to grow up without the loving guidance of his parents. His sons had already lost one of their guardians and he wasn’t going to let them lose the other. Bacon shook his head. He was almost positive that the viking warrior was going to die. Every good saga has an element of tragedy to pull at the heartstrings of people hearing it years later. The universe was a dick like that. It was a shame. Erik was a well-mannered, genuinely pleasant person.
Out of the corner of his eye, Bacon saw a gargoyle diving straight for Erik. The viking seemed completely oblivious. Bacon hesitated as he drew his DEI. Did he even care? There was no way Erik would survive dragon country all the way to Khvarikx’s lair. Even if he did, Khvarikx could wipe him out with a passing thought. Bacon’s inner turmoil was put to rest as the warrior caught the gargoyle and slammed it into the ground, creating a crash trail like a 747 passenger jet tearing through a cornfield. Not satisfied with the way he completely ended the creature’s absolute existence, he lunged forward, bringing his axe down through the crumpled wreckage of twisted steel and powdered glass, scattering the remains.
Then, as quickly as they had ambushed the army, the gargoyles disappeared in a frenzy. It made absolutely no sense. They had shredded nearly everyone under Bacon’s brown flags with thin pink stripes; their victory was almost certainly secured. They had even killed all of the war platypuses (no complaints here). There was almost no possible reason why they would leave with the battle going so well for them.
“Did we win?” asked Erik.
“I guess...?” guessed Bacon.
“We are so f*beep*ed,” Arukoru casually observed.
Bacon had heard many strange sounds come from the large spotted salamander: hisses, croaks, screams, howls, clicks, oinks, running chainsaw sounds, meows, train whistles, and elaborate birdcalls. However, he had never heard the beep. He quickly recovered from his surprise when his mind processed what Arukoru said. His fears were confirmed when the sound of gigantic levers and gears in motion cut through the deafening waterfall from the heavens. The gates groaned with tension as they struggled to open and started to swing outward.