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Posted: Tue Nov 01, 2011 11:07 pm
The breath being pulled into her lungs sends daggers shooting through her body. Sweat drips over every inch of skin. Behind her, to either side, craggy rock faces adorned in lichen and dirt leer over her, caging her. In front, the neck to this narrow ravine is blocked by a thrashing, foaming, nine foot tall beast. Red eyes peer over a beak as long as your arm and as wide as your hips, tawny feathers coat a head as big as your average cart wheel and impropabably perches on top of the golden furred body of the biggest lion you never wanted to meet in a dark alley, or even enclosed ravine. Not picking any specific examples or anything.
Ruby’s sword and bow lay broken on the other side of the beast. That leaves her with a knife, she clutches it in one bloodied hand. She has seconds before the beast inveigles its way into the too small space. It won’t be able to stretch its wings, but that is small comfort. In this small space the beast doesn’t need manoeuvrability, it needs reach, which it has in abundance. Diamond hard, already bloodstained beak, and those paws the size of dinner plates attached to legs that she doesn’t even want to contemplate. All that crazed fury in such a small ravine – she didn’t stand a chance.
Once you looked past the giant rabid ball of terror that was the soon to be oncoming monster of prey, and looked simply at the creature, it was simple really.
It’s chest was heaving just as much as hers. It was thin – it had been in the area for a few weeks at least, still lost and confused. It hadn’t worked out how to feed itself in its strange new surroundings yet. Every bone is clearly delineated. The rib cage leaps out from its chest with every breath it draws. The unprotected gap beneath the sternum is visible while it thrashes madly against its surrounds, throwing vegetation, and even chunks of rock, around it.
She still has a dagger.
Big breaths, ignore what the body is saying. You still need oxygen she tell it, even if you don’t want it anymore. The bird/lion has almost made its way through the gap, its desperation coating the imprisoning rock faces with blood. She braces herself against the stony wall behind her.
She has one shot.
She heaves herself off the wall just as slavering beast finally frees itself enough to make its leap. Its tough, and so maddened by confusion and pain that it wouldn’t register only a mortal wound soon enough. She needs to use its insane energy against it. She aims herself straight at the breastbone, whipping underneath the razor-sharp beak just as it skewers where her body rested a split second ago, slipping in between raised front paws, one slicing into her arm like butter.
The beast body slams back down to earth as her knife penetrates its chest, the movement burying her arm in its body up to the elbow. She knows she’s pierced its heart. She can still feel its final panicked beatings against her hand. She brings herself in as close to its best as possible as the beast gives mighty convulsions, hot blood spurting across her front, the world collapsing around her as it thrashes everything it has in a last desperate attempt to move, to live. Tiny rock missiles fire at her from every corner, and she curls up into the foetal position, lips silently moving in a prayer to whichever deity may be listening while it bucked and heaved, the movements trying to fling her away from its chest.
Year long minutes pass and yet the pounding of Ruby’s heart is going a million miles a minutes. Its thrashings are starting to die down but in the word die lies the problem. For now, elbow deep in its chest is the safest place to be, even though that involved being flung through the air. Being crushed between a couple of tonnes of griffon and the ground wasn’t something she had tried before but she imagined it was even less pleasant than what was already happening. And that was pretty unpleasant. Already the thrashings were losing momentum though. Once they stopped… the only place for it to go was down. She still had a few seconds though, right?
The heart wrapped around her hand finally gave one last, feeble flutter. The beast froze for an eternal second.
Hand wrenches out of chest, foetal position becomes spring position is there anywhere safe to land? No time just leap – and she does and she is flying away from its body, she’s made it, she’s got safely out of the timber zone and – straight into the rock face. All the air exits her body in one great whoosh, and she slides limbs akimbo down to the debris-littered ravine floor.
Ruby knows from an intellectual standpoint that when you are winded, your air eventually comes back. That feeling like you will never breathe does eventually go away if you calmly attempt even breathes and attempt to reinflate your lungs. The panicked and unseemly gasps for breath she was taking were completely unnecessary and probably would be seen by –
“Great job Ruby! Although you could try dignity once in while, desperation just doesn’t suit you.”
A painful tilt of the neck (she must have put it out again, cursed thing) revealed the smug grin and well tailored, yet carefully disordered, figure of Charlie, safely situated twenty feet above her on the lip of the ravine.
“Maybe you should try getting your pristine outfit and yellow liver down here and giving me a hand sometimes if you think its so easy,” is exactly what she would have said if she had any breath to say it. Instead she had to settle for a murderous glare and an aggressive note to her breathing.
“Oh don’t be like that Ruby-gem, my lady warrior, my money maker it is only jest. Red suits you, you know, blood splattered could be the new in thing any day now.”
She turned her head away from him in disgust and almost winded herself again backing away from the open, beady eye that confronted her. She tensed, ready to pounce, but the corpse didn’t react, as corpses usually aren’t want to move. It was a sorry sight as far as magnificent bird/lion hybrids go. It had managed to leave a fair amount of its feathers and skin on the ravine walls. That in itself was a horrible sight, how it had mangled itself in its crazed state but the eyes, the open staring dead eyes had managed to lose the crazed anger but retain the lost, confused look.
All of them looked this way in the end. It was the worst part of the job.
Word Count: 1148
Sorry about the interchanging tenses I keep changing my mind on what I want. I feel it may be easier in the past tense but present tense is so much fun...
Re: Bloody Legend
Posted: Wed Nov 02, 2011 12:57 am
Action filled start! I didn't actually notice the tense change to be honest. I should really pay more attention.
Re: Bloody Legend
Posted: Wed Nov 02, 2011 1:19 am
Re: Bloody Legend
Posted: Wed Nov 02, 2011 4:08 am
Action! And good action at that. And yeah, I didn't notice the tense change either until you pointed it out. But that could easily just me being my usual very unobservant self.
Re: Bloody Legend
Posted: Fri Nov 04, 2011 3:33 am
That, and being covered from head to foot in the lifeblood of another creature. It just wasn’t sanitary. Hopefully the local inn had a decent bath tub.
Ruby pulled herself to her feet, averting her eyes. Unfortunately this mean resting those eyes on Charlie again, who was looking at the Griffon’s corpse as if it were a pile of guineas. This was still from his safe perch twenty feet up. Charlie wasn’t a man to get his expensive, kid-gloved hands dirty. In the literal sense that is. He didn’t have all that much problem with getting his hands metaphorically dirty (as long as that too did not interfere with the expensive kid-skin gloves. Usually he liked the kind that ended up with him buying a new pair of gloves).
“You could’ve kept him in better condition,” he reproached, rubbing his be-gloved palms together. “A Griffon this size, well the pelt alone could have been feeding us for the next year. After the beating you just gave this thing we’d be lucky to sell the body to science.”
She stared at him in disbelief. She thought of the hours she’d spent tracking the beast, then being beat up by the beast, having her favourite weapons destroyed by the beast, having the stupid outfit that Charlie made her wear be ripped up by it and finally being backed into a corner and facing near certain death; all because of that griffon. Granted, she wasn’t too sad about the too tight leather pants, the bosom-bearing linen shirt or the leather corset that held it all together, but she was rather attached to the skin under it.
“Yeah, that’s right Charlie. Let us get angry at me for ruining the beast’s pelt. First of all, it ruined its own pelt. Did you not see it force its way into the tiny ravine? Where, I might I add, I ended up through running for my life. And what about my pelt? Huh? Have you even stopped to think that some of this blood is not actually griffon blood, and I’m hurt?!”
Long score lines from those incomprehensively huge claws ran parallels across one of her arms, another set across her back, another across her stomach. Amazingly enough Charlie’s outfit of choice didn’t do much protection-wise. It continued to astound him no end when she brought it up with him, in the view of obtaining more practical clothes.
Charlie had the sense to look chastened. A token “Well are you alright then?” drifted down to her. She sighed. “Probably not, Charlie, probably not.”
“I guess you’d better come up here and let me have a look then,” he charmed, tying a loop in at the end of a length of rope and throwing it down to her. “I know you’re a strong independent woman,” he flattered, finding a sturdy stump to tie his end of the rope. “But you still need some looking after,” he condescended.
Ruby rolled her eyes and stepped in the loop, grasping the rope tightly. She yelped. Looks like she’d forgotten to categorise the abrasions from having her weapons wrenched out of her grasp. She gritted her teeth and strengthened her grip. “Haul away Charlie.”
Using the stump to brace himself Charlie reeled her in, while she used her spare foot to keep herself off the ravine wall. Somehow being slammed against a wall didn’t seem like fun at the time. It only took about a minute before Charlie could reach out and drag her over (thankfully he had the foresight to grab the non-clawed arm or she would have been forced to kill him). He got her standing, pulled her arm over his shoulder, and braced her around the waist with his other arm. Together, they walked.
The adrenalin was fading from Ruby’s body. All the things she had managed to ignore were catching up with her and everything hurt. She was bone weary and hungry and sore and it was all very trying. The forest floor’s layer of decaying vegetation dragged at her feet and the dense trees and bushes underfoot were making a pain of themselves by existing in the path they had to take.
“Its not much further to go. I set you up a rest stop just over there.” She hated when he read her like that. Then again, a rest stop was sounding pretty good. Especially the rest, and definitely the stop. Stopping sounded good. She could vaguely make out glimpses of Charlie’s red tent through the tree trunks. Seeing it only made her more tired. She was putting more weight on Charlie’s shoulder than she would ever admit later.
When they did manage to weave their way to the makeshift campsite, she saw that he’d already set up a pallet with a big bag of bandages beside it. That was one good thing you could say about Charlie, he was prepared. Charlie moved to help her down onto the pallet, but she disengaged from his embrace, determined to do it herself. It was only about a foot away after all. She found however, that once his support was removed, so apparently were the bones of her legs, and she collapsed in a heap, half off the pallet.
“See what happens when you refuse to let good ol’ Charlie help? The bad things.” Charlie grabbed her by the legs and swung the rest of her on the pallet. “See now, this could have been much more dignified if you didn’t have to be so independent all the time.”
A delicate snore floated into the air between them, and Ruby slept beatifically unaware of her chastisement. Charlie looked annoyed for a second, but a smile quickly followed. Ruby looked surprisingly peaceful for someone drenched in blood. Hmm.
Charlie stopped for a second at that thought, and terror dawned on his smarmy handsome features. Slowly he turned his head to inspect his shirt, which to his increasing horror was completely ruined on the left side from Ruby’s filth-covered body. Disgusting. He’d only bought the outfit a few weeks ago. He waggled a finger over at Ruby’s prone form. “This will come out of your cut y’know, no sense of personal hygiene!” Ruby just let out another snore.
Charlie sighed. At least now it didn’t matter if anything else happened to it. He picked up a cloth from his pile and fossicked around in a nearby pack for a water skin. Wetting the cloth he began the long process of cleaning Ruby up, dabbing at her skin, stopping whenever she stirred. The girl needed some rest.
Ruby had been a lucky find for him. When the creatures had first started showing up a few years ago, and the King was reported to have gone mad, everyone saw an apocalypse. Everyone that is, but Charlie. Charlie had foresight, and had seen a business opportunity. When supply goes down, demand goes up and it forces prices up. Simple market place logic. When England became unsafe, safety became a much wanted commodity. Gigantic terrifying mythical creatures needed getting rid of, and Charlie was the man to do it.
Well, Charlie was the one to facilitate it anyway. Money in his pocket sounded good, but blood on his shirt and his life in danger didn’t sound anywhere near as attractive. No, Charlie was suited for a life of management, of guidance, of delicate tutelage. All he need was to find some promising talent, someone that he could mould into the perfect champion, and he would be off to a flying start.
Champions aren’t as easy to come across as he thought. Many men of large muscle are just that – men of large muscle. There is no corresponding large courage and in some he would go as far as to say an absence of brain. There were a few promising fellows, muscular, handsome, not particularly bright that he roped into the endeavour but they all were lost to him in rather sticky ends. He’d quite lost hope after the last one, William the Blacksmith, had been gored by a unicorn. Still, fate smiles upon the deserving, and one day he had been visiting one of his favourite ladies in London town (for the usual fee) and upon his exit from that fine establishment happened across a scuffle.
Two greasy, burly men dressed in a tasteful combination of leather, metal, weapon and black were attempting to escort a young lady into the premises that Charlie had just exited. The young lady however had no intention of being escorted, and despite having her hands tied behind her back by someone much more intelligent and foresighted than the two with her then, was giving the pair a little taste of hell. A shapely ankle was exposed as an elegant high kick found one of their faces, and an excellent rump was outlined in the follow through, which got the partner’s gut. Normally, Charlie wasn’t one to pay attention to such a scuffle. The establishment’s business was, well, the establishment’s business. But shining black hair, deep blue eyes, fair skin and ample bosom – those were things apt to take his attention by the unmentionables and drag it into their magnetic pull.
Cogs were turning in his mind, and connections were being made. As he watched a bound woman (and a bouncing one, with all that activity) make mincemeat of two heavily armed thugs, a plan began to formulate. He saves a young maiden from a life of shame and degradation at the hands of uncouth men, she is grateful to her handsome saviour, she agrees to help him with his business venture… and well, Charlie had never said no to mixing business with pleasure. If you live to work like he did, you had to get your pleasure somewhere, didn’t you?
He’d taken out his sword and let his voice ring through the narrow cobbled street, in its most manly fashion. “Unhand that woman, foul cretins, or feel the wrath of my sword!”
Both foul cretins cast bewildered looks in his direction. They had been trying quite unsuccessfully for the last five minutes to get their hands on to that woman, and the only thing the exercise had been successful in bringing them was a large dollop of pain. Women weren’t meant to hit that hard. All it took was for Charlie to wave around his sword a few times in that fancy way that implied he actually knew what he was doing with the thing and they decided that this particular piece of prey was just too much trouble.
“You can ‘ave ‘er, ain’t worth it if’n you ask me,” said foul cretin number one, nursing a swollen jaw and backing away to the establishment at his back. His even fouler companion (how Charlie did despise such ugly human beings marring the landscape that his eyes had to see. Ugliness would be a crime if he could have his way) followed suit, muttering under his breath something about uppity wenches. The young lady watched them go, chest heaving most fetchingly from the exercise. Charlie sent a few more threatening sword twirls their way until he had seen them safely through the door. Better safe than sorry after all.
When he turned around, he saw the woman already making her way up the street, the ungrateful wench. He made after her at a quick walk (a run being most undignified. One should never be seen to be chasing after a lady) hailing her with a gallant “Hey lady! Where are you off to?!”
She turned her head without slowing her pace. “Nowhere that concerns you.”
“Hey now, is that all the thanks that I get for saving your pretty little neck from an unvirtuous life?”
That checked her stride. She swung on one heel, her battered dress swirling around her ankles in a most provocative manner. “So that’s your deal is it? Saving my virtue from the muck of a brothel so that I’ll be so greatful as to throw away that virtue on you, my gallant hero? All you did was wave around a sword that you didn’t look like you knew how to use. I had the situation under control. I would’ve been fine without your help.”
He was within a foot of her incendiary stare by this point. For a second he wilted under the sheer heat of that glare, but he was Charlie. He affected a wounded look. “My dear Madame, I assure you that I had nothing but philanthropic intentions! Your virtue is something that I vow never to besmirch, it being of such a blindly pure quality. I am only here to help. See,” and he moved behind her in a swift sashay and exercised one of his well-practiced talents of undoing knots. “Only here to help. Doesn’t it feel good to be free?” He dangled her former restraints in front of her eyes.
The glare didn’t soften. She grabbed the rope from his hands. “Thankyou so much sir for releasing me from my bonds. I am undyingly grateful to you for your tremendous assistance, however if it’s all the same to you, with your philanthropic attentions and all, I will take my leave of you. I have places to be.”
She attempted to sidestep him but was intercepted by a darting arm. He pulled her around so she had no choice but to look him in the face. He wanted to wrap this up quickly. They weren’t far enough away from the brothel for his liking, and the narrow cobbled streets carried noise. They’d already gained the attention of the ten or so people on the street, and none of them looked particularly friendly. Then again, nobody really did in this part of town unless you were paying them to.
“I’m going to make a guess that since you were in the position that I just saw you in, you don’t really have anywhere to go. A woman who speaks as well as you and carries herself the way you do dos not end up being forced into a brothel, no matter how pleasantly high class, unless they have nowhere else to go. I’m right aren’t I?”
She looked away from him. “No. Not right. Couldn’t be further from the truth, I have plenty of places I can go.”
“Well, there’s…ahh…” He waited while her mouth moved silently, groping for words that she felt should be springing to her lips but weren’t. Realisation dawned. “I don’t have anywhere to do I?” It was a genuine question, and for the first time she seemed vulnerable. Vulnerability was something that Charlie was well used to dealing with in women. His understanding face was superb.
“Chin up, don’t look so down. Charlie is here to help. Now, Miss uh…?” He made the pause as inviting as he could.
“My name is… Ruby. Ruby… Smith.” Charlie raised an eyebrow, but didn’t ask any questions. From what he had seen the girl had more than a few reasons to not want to be known. The family name was an easily tainted thing. His own mother, bless her cantankerous soul, had cursed him many a time (and indeed could still be cursing) for not changing his name so that his dear father’s name could rest in peace.
My internet has been down the last few days, the only reason I can put this up is because I'm stealing someone else's. DAMN YOU ALLEGRO!!!
Also I agree. Stabby stab stab indeed
Re: Bloody Legend
Posted: Fri Nov 04, 2011 5:39 am
I'm really liking this. It's a lot of fun so far. Also this line made me laugh:
He’d quite lost hope after the last one, William the Blacksmith, had been gored by a unicorn.
Re: Bloody Legend
Posted: Fri Nov 04, 2011 5:44 am
Muy likey characters! Charlie is my hero already.
We're on a bridge, Charlie!
Re: Bloody Legend
Posted: Fri Nov 04, 2011 6:25 am
I don't know how to actually delete posts so I am going to put this beautiful message in instead
Re: Bloody Legend
Posted: Fri Nov 04, 2011 6:32 am
Did carbonstealer really write that, carbonstealer? My goodness.
Re: Bloody Legend
Posted: Fri Nov 04, 2011 7:32 am
I went to edit something and I must have pressed quote instead. Oh dear
Re: Bloody Legend
Posted: Sat Nov 05, 2011 3:41 am
“Well Miss Smith, I have a proposition for you. I have a job for someone with your particular talents. What is in it for you is lots of healthy exercise, fresh air, money in your purse and keeping out of the whorehouse. And if you are mistrusting this seemingly completely one sided deal, you are right to do so. All the benefits are on my side for getting such a capable worker at my side.”
Ruby gave him the first of many penetrating looks she was to give him throughout their acquaintance. There wasn’t a glimmer of trust in those eyes, but he knew he had her. She didn’t have a choice. She had done with her assessment.
“So what does this job involve exactly?”
“Oh you know, the usual. Taking the lives of mythical creatures to make villages feel like they live in a safer, more certain world. For a small fee of course.”
Ruby smiled at him. “You want me to start taking on those creatures? Things that have been reported to snap a grown man in two? Just the other day I hear some men talking about a man being skewered by a unicorn, and those are meant to be the friendly ones.”
Charlie had a wonderful poker face. “You know how rumours can get exaggerated. It’s not as bad as all that. Plus, those talked of just one grown man a piece. I just saw you take on two of those yourself, I have faith that you will be more than up to the task.”
The hand that still held her arm gave a comforting squeeze. Ruby looked at said hand, and sighed. “Well they told my father that I would never have use for constant intensive martial arts training. Looks like I’m on board.” Another sigh. “Not that I have much choice.”
Charlie laughed, and attempted to turn the hand-on-arm to arm-around-shoulders. He recovered quickly from her eel-like slither out his attempt and turned it into an expansive gesture. “Choice is something that in the end you don’t really want. If you have choice you can blame yourself for having made the wrong decision. In this case, you can say that you did what you had to do and everybody can respect that.”
“You make it sound like regret is inevitable.”
“Regret is one of the few things that is, but if your lucky it won’t be this that gets regretted.” He had gave her a look up and down. He had deeply appreciated what was under the clothes, but the clothes themselves? They had to go. “First things first my lady, let’s get you a new set of clothes.”
That had been about a year ago now. The business so far had been very successful, and amazingly given Ruby’s general carelessness with clothes the outfit she had on now was only the sixth that she had ruined completely in that time. She didn’t usually get herself cornered as badly as she had been today. The only time she’d gotten a worse beating was when she had faced down the chimera a few months back. She’d managed to kill the thing, but not before it had half killed her. Maybe she had issues with hybrids, didn’t know which way they were going.
Being the man that he was, in his line of business and with his standard of looks, Charlie was prepared for injuries. He knew that while the ladies did love a tidy scar that looked like it had been gotten committing some brave act (that was different every time one asked), but were rather turned off by men with huge knotted scars that disfigured their face. Women only liked a certain amount of bravery. As such, in his bag of medicines he had a few tinctures collected from various men of learning of the type that was not looked on well by the King. The King being a devout member of the church denied the existence of any practitioners while burning any that he could find. Some were good at avoiding anything inflammable and Ruby had them to thank that while she should have been a knotted mess of scar tissue, she instead had a fascinating web of pale lines against pale skin. It was most obvious when she was under direct light and the shiny scar tissue created silvery designs across her flesh.
The tinctures were vital to business, since half of it relied on the men of the village wanting to see a woman’s legs clearly defined in a pair of tight pants. No one wants to ogle a woman that looks like a patchwork quilt.
Charlie sighed as he went about his work. This was the worst part of the job. He could pretend the next day that she hadn’t been seriously hurt. When the villagers saw them as they strode triumphantly in to collect their fee, they would wonder at how she had taken on the beast and had come out relatively unscathed. But now, he saw just how deep and painful each of them really were, and knew that he would send her into this kind of danger time and time again for the money. Nobody really wants to know that about themselves.
When Ruby woke up, it was to a brand new day. The birds were singing, the trees were swaying and the sky was the sort of light grey that almost counted as cheerful in Kent. She turned her head to look around and was forcibly reminded of yesterday as her neck shrieked in protest. She chose the delicate approach to getting up and surveyed the damage – sore muscles, double check, some scabbed over score lines, check (and those were itchy too, and she wanted to itch so badly but she just knew that would end in trouble), perfectly clean skin and intact clothes, check?
“Charlie, have you been getting me naked again? We’ve talked about this.”
Charlie voice came out muffled from his tent. “Good morning to you too Ruby.” His face, bleary with sleep soon followed. “As ever you are charming morning person. You really must learn to respect my beauty sleep, I was up all night tenderly tending to you many wounds. Show some compassion.”
“And I spent all day in battle with a creature intent of making me a splatter against a ravine wall. Still, none of this answers my question.”
“As I’ve said before, you can remain entirely clothed at all times in my presence or you can not die of sepsis when you pass out after one of our bounties and can’t tend to your own injuries.” He looked her up and down. “Anyway,” he added. “I kept your underclothes on so your feminine mysteries remain, as ever, mysterious.”
Ruby snorted. “As if there’s anything mysterious to you about what women have under their underclothes.”
“No two women are the same my dear, each one is their own unique package to be opened and examined with pleasure.”
Ruby rolled her eyes. “Sure. Whatever you say. Just try and refrain from opening my package and examining it’s delightful contents, please.
“I promise to only unwrap as much as is necessary for your preservation. Unless I am invited of course.”
“You can keep waiting on that one, it won’t be coming any time soon. What have we got in the way of victuals? I could eat a horse.”
“Fresh out of horse, but we do have some bread and cheese.”
Once they’d eaten and Charlie had gone through his lengthy morning toilette, they headed off on the four trek to their wages. During the night Charlie had managed (wearing his least favourite clothes) to remove one of the griffin’s great paws (the head having proved too ambitious) and he carried it in their usual trophy oil-skin. It produced the usual oos and ahhs of a mazement when it was unrolled onto the dirt track that made the main street of the village.
The main street was composed mostly of a pub, a few stores clustered around said pub, and a few more houses dotted around this unpromising centre. The pub’s gently swaying wooden sign was emblazoned with the words “The Drunkene Ferrette”, which were accompanied by a humorous drawing of the same. It was into this classy establishment that the grateful villagers (all 30 of them) swept them, reward in hand.
Inside was lit with oil lamps that were not quite sufficient to banish the gloom of a hulking stone building with small slits for windows. Four long gnarled oaken tables graced its gnarled oaken floors, with a set of matching gnarled oaken benches to match. The long polished bar that lurked in the back of the establishment contrastingly had very straight timbered stools. Behind the bar lurked a portly bartender, red in the face and long in the moustache. However, the fire was large and friendly and the crowd even more so.
Ruby found a cup of spiced wine pressed into her hand by an eager young man who was all height and the sort of lean muscle that speaks of constant use.
“Did you really kill it yourself then?” He asked, eyes sparkling.
“Was it scary?” Came from an incredulous round face.
“Is it true what they say that they have teeth as big as you arm?”
“In fact, it had a bea-“
“Did it maul you to death?”
“Did you cut off its head?”
“Did you eat its heart?” This one, Ruby was surprised to hear in the high treble of a particularly blood thirsty young boy who clung adorably to his wholesome father.
“I, uh –“ Ruth was at a loss as how to answer that one, but Charlie never was.
“The answers to your questions are no, yes, yes, no and no, and in answer to your next one yes it was a fantastic battle. It all started yesterday afternoon, after Ruby had tracked it to its lair. She has almost a sixth sense when it comes to creatures you see, she just knows where they’ll be. This one she found lurking in the deepest, darkest corner of yonder woods. 20 feet high and I tell no lie, with a beak as big as one of these tables and big beady red eyes like saucers with murder in their very core. You or me, well we have just widdled ourselves at the sight, but not Ruby here, oh no she walks up to it bold as brass, not a weapon in sight and calls the thing over. “Hey bird-brain!” She calls to it…”
By this point in the story Charlie had his audience’s rapt attention as he leant into the crowd, gesticulating wildly (and in his usual economy of movement managing to grope most of the nearby ladies in the process) and Ruby found her opportunity to slip up to bar and away from the jostling crowd.
The bartender hunched over the bar with his moustache drooping forward. His cloth made slow circles over a single spotless patch on a stained bench. He was the very picture of welcome. Ruby slunk into one of the seats anyway, nursing her spiced wine. She was so very tired, and all of her itched. She would kill (again) for a good bath, and an opportunity to wash her hair. Charlie could work wonders with a cloth and a water skin but hair needed a thorough washing. It still held the iron tang of blood in it.
“Barkeep! What can you offer a hungry soul to eat?” Ruby rubbed some authority into the request, simply because she felt she had none over this strange, intimidating man.
He looked up from his one clean patch and ice pale eyes scrutinised her from under bushy brows (practically through them in fact, they were low lying). “There’s stew,” he grunted. “And bread.”
“I’ll have some of that then sir, if you please.” She internally cursed herself for calling him sir. She couldn’t help it. It was the moustache.
The bartender ruminated deeply over this sentence before giving a curt gesture to the serving girl as she passed. “Stew. Bread.” The girl nodded, and went out back. The bartender hadn’t taken his eyes off Ruby. Ruby stared at the array of liquor barrels behind the bar, at her drink, at the ground, at the bar, back to Charlie still wildy gesticulating but somehow incorporating a spoon and a girl of about 16 into the performance, at her drink, to the bar and back to the bartender. Who was still staring at her.
She cleared her throat. He grunted. She sighed. He made a humph sound. She coughed. He blinked. She broke.
“Is there something on my face?”
“Is that a yes or a no?”
“It’s a no miss. Not something on your face.”
“Good to know.”
“You look familiar, miss. Mind if I ask yer name?”
“Not at all. My name’s Ruby. Ruby Smith.”
“Is that so.”
She was beginning to get annoyed with man. What right did he have to be all gravelly and intimidating. “It is so.”
Word Count: 5,891
Re: Bloody Legend
Posted: Thu Nov 10, 2011 12:28 am
“It is so.”
“Well isn’t that interesting.” The well was drawn out between them, drooping unsettlingly in the middle. His eyes, through some fearful mastery of the knowing stare, followed along the line of the drooping well, seeming to stare down before the bringing it back up to her level.
She cleared her throat and went to take a sip from her now-empty cup, the emptiness of which she discovered only after tipping and jiggling the cup over her mouth for a few seconds. The cup made its way back to the table in a way that seemed to suggest its method of locomotion very much wished that it had never left it. She cleared her throat again. “Isn’t it just.”
Still staring, the bartender slid her cup towards himself. All without breaking eye contact he grabbed a bottle, removed the stopper, filled the cup and returned it to her.
“It is just.” Ruby slid her hand across the bench searching for the cup’s base, unwilling to break eye contact with this man, while making it look like she was merely exploring the many intricacies of the wood. With most of her attention on this strange, threatening man it was a difficult task. Her fingers brushed the base and she made to confidently take hold –
She jumped and knocked over her cup as a greasy stew with hunks of meat and potato was sloshed onto the bar in front of her, closely followed by a rough-hewn boulder of bread. Her wine was sent dripping over the counter onto the floor, splashing her dirty boots with yet another stain. She held her hands up and away from the puddle in disgust. “Clumsy dolt,” she muttered to herself.
The barman made his way out from behind the bar to mop up the spill. He leaned in right over he placed cloth on offending liquid, his face so close to hers that she could feel his breath upon her cheek. Unbeknownst to her, her own breath stopped.
“The way I see it,” he began in a voice so low that she could only just hear it. “Is that you look mightily like the daughter of an old friend of mine. An old friend who fell afoul of the wrong side of the King. Her name being, if I recall correctly, Elizabeth. Elizabeth Co-“
“Howinterestingthatthereshouldbeanothergirlwithmylikenesshahahahaohwhatfunitistohaveadopplegangerasthegermanssayhahahahaha,” she interjected, looking around to see if anyone had been listening. She managed to pry her fingernails out of her palm when she saw that everyone’s eyes were still on Charlie, who by now had managed to get himself on top of the long tables and was employing a poker to beat the air into submission. The front row consisted entirely of drooling young ladies, with the sole exception of one drooling young man. No one had any attention spare for the person who had done the slaying.
She grabbed the barman by the arm and jerked him down that that his ear was at her mouth. “What do you want from me?!”
The barman didn’t tense or flinch. “Nothing t’all. It’s just that if Miss Elizabeth did happen to happen by my public house, I would have a package to give her. But since this is a case of mistaken identity…” he shrugged off the implications and her arm and went back to cleaning up the spill.
This presented an interesting dilemma for Ruby. On one hand, she didn’t know who this man was, how he knew her father, how the hell he knew who she was, or what his agenda was. Except for his stated agenda that was but no one ever reveals their true agenda. On the other hand, here was the possibility of a communication from her father. She hadn’t heard from him since he was dragged away from their home under the cover of darkness, and she was in turn politely knocked unconscious by some similarly armed comrades.
By now he was bent over mopping the floor. She had to make a decision and she had to make it quickly. She could choose caution or she could choose just diving right in.
She dropped a glove on the floor beside him. Kneeling down to his level she decided that diving was the right choice. She was a good swimmer. “So, Barkeep. This mysterious Elizabeth, this doppleganger of mine, how exactly did you know her father?”
He harrumphed. “He was a good man. He helped out when some folks was in need, and it happens that sometimes the folks that was in need was me. You owe a man a certain kind of favour and you don’t forget.”
“And how do you know how this Elizabeth looks like? I don’t… I mean when did you meet her?”
“I haven’t since she was a but a little chit, but your,” he paused significantly “I mean her, of course, father left me this,” he rummaged inside is shirt and brought out a much-creased sketch. Ruby could see in her mind’s eye where that sketch had used to sit, on her father’s beside table with his glasses just in front. One of his clients had offered to do it of her a few years ago when he couldn’t pay her father’s bill. Her father had all sorts of oddments as payment around his house, being a fool for such tales of woe. It had disappeared in the week before they came for him. When she’d asked about it, her father had started talking about the hallucigenic properties of certain tropical frogs, the colourful sort that would have stood out like a sore thumb on the grey back drop of England.
She looked around again and saw that Charlie was now employing a grease ridden plate as a shield, lying prostrate on the table and stabbing fiercely towards the ceiling. The crowd was punctuating his best hits with cheers (one of the maidens around him fainted, overcome with admiration). For once she was grateful to Charlie and his flamboyant ways. He couldn’t have provided a better cover if he tried.
“So what if I was this Elizabeth. How soon could I see this package?”
The bartender rose from the ground and grunted. “Rosmerta!” The serving girl looked around, pouting. She’d been in the process of lavishing another pint on Charlie, with a particularly lascivious smile and waggle. “Get over here, I need to to cover the bar.” She flounced over and made her way behind the bar, reluctance etched into every movement. “If you was this Elizabeth, and you came with me now, we could have the package in your very hands.” He lifted up the flap into the bar and held it up. “So are you coming or not?”
What could she do but follow?
They headed through a stout wooden door through to the back room. Sacks of flour mingled with barrels of alcohol, and meat hung on rough ropes from the ceiling. In the corner lurked a desk piled high with ledgers. It house underneath its overhang an intimidatingly ugly safe. It said with its roughly welded metal and brutal uneven shape that it didn’t need beauty because it darn well had function. To this piece of purely functional handiwork headed the mysterious moustache-clad bartender. Kneeling down in front of it he drew a key from deep in his apron, as bulky and ugly as the safe itself, and went to put it in. Ruby sweated with anticipation as the key approached the lock. What could he have left behind? Would it have some clue to where he had gone?
She didn’t realise she was holding her breath until she released it all in one go when the bartender stop and turned around. “Do you have any idea what is in there?”
She wanted to yell and scream at him of course not, what was he doing making her wait the bleeding nitwit (although many of the words were much more profane than that. You get the general idea). Instead she said with reasonable calm “No a single clue.”
To her surprise the bartender grinned. His moustache bisected his face. “You’re in for a surprise then, no mistake.” To her relief he got that key in the lock, and opened the door. He pulled out a bundle the size of an emu egg and Ruby gasped. The bar tender’s eyes danced with amusement. “Is that what I think it is?” She managed.
Meanwhile, Charlie was having the time of his life. He was coming up to his favourite part of any performance: the kill. He’d managed to get a chair added to represent the griffon, in addition to his poker sword and plate shield. From his high vantage point he had a delicious view down delectable decollage, all attached to gratifyingly adoring eyes. As he delivered his manly finishing blow to the stool, knocking it off the table and scattering some of the less attractive members of the audience away from the table. He straightened triumphantly, standing the poker up against the table. “And that, is how my friend Ruby here slew the Griffon.” He made a magnanimous gesture towards the corner he’d seen Ruby slink off too. She gave a a feeble attempt at a wave. All those looks and she just had no idea how to use them, he thought. She’d be a show stopper with a bit of showmanship. He shrugged it off. If she was a show stopper, she would steal his limelight and that just wouldn’t do. He turned back to his audience and gave his most winning smile to the inner circle of admiring young women and…young man. He gave a saucy wink to a particularly busty brunette. After all, he had a reason to smile. He wouldn’t be sleeping alone tonight.
In her corner of the bar, Ruby clutched the package to her stomach. A faint heat radiated from it, quite pleasantly warming her belly. The note that had accompanied it was safely tucked in her bodice where Charlie’s prying eyes wouldn’t be looking for anything but cleavage. It had said not to open it u
Word count: horribly behind
Re: Bloody Legend
Posted: Thu Nov 10, 2011 4:50 am
until her 20th birthday, which was as lovely and cryptic as all of her father’s instructions. That was still another month away. Luckily patience was a virtue that she possessed in abundance or she wouldn’t have survived being her father’s daughter.
Charlie swished into place beside her, a girl giggling almost hysterically attached to his right arm. The big doe eyes that seemed to be constantly widened in amazement, the vacancy behind them – and the large mammaries below them – just his type. He gave Ruby a smile before turning the formerly intimidating barman. “Barkeep! Would you happen to have any rooms spare for two foot weary travellers?”
He grunted his assent, and gestured to the barmaid. “Show them to their room.”
“Rooms, please,” interjected Ruby. “Rooms.”
The barmaid took them up the stairs, casting venomous looks at the captivated wench on Charlie’s arm as she went. While the outer walls of the upper level were still stone, all the inner walls and floors were made of the same wood that was on the floor downstairs. This was a point of regret to Ruby when the barmaid showed her and Charlie to adjacent rooms. The girl looked like a screamer. This was all made up for when she entered the room and saw a large porcelain tub just waiting to be be filled with steaming hot water. She could still feel griffon blood in her hair and she was ready to be rid of the feeling.
The room was a bit gloomy as the windows were narrow and few, but the bed was made and looked the clean, the lack of nauseating smells in the room indicated that the chamber pot had actually been emptied and there was even a rug beside bed. Luxury. A sturdy wooden chest lay at the end of the bed and beside it stood a sturdy wooden table, complete with ewer and basin. It would do nicely.
“Rosmerta,” she called, turning back from her survey of the room. “Could you please fetch some water for the bath? I’m dying for a soak.”
“Certainly miss, I’ll be right on it.”
Half an hour later Ruby was in her own little slice of heaven. Warm water covered her from neck to toe, and Rosmerta was helping her give her hair the most thorough clean it had ever had. It would have been perfect to be there – so clean and warm, and Rosmerta’s capable fingers massaging her scalp – had it not been for the loud creaking and accompanying giggle emanating from the next room. Life, she supposed, was not perfect.
Close enough could be good enough.
That night she dreamed of the skies above London red with flame, and a mighty dragon with a wings that defied scale, that disappeared into the edge of vision.
A few days later and they had their next assignment. It started the usual way. Ruby and Charlie were eating lunch in the inn, and Charlie was, as always, trying to convince her of something that she wasn’t willing to be convinced of.
“No Charlie, absolutely not,” she said in between mouthfuls. “I told you last time, the pants are enough of a concession as it is. If my mother, god rest her soul, saw my legs so well defined she’d have a fit.”
Charlie gave a theatrical sigh. “The ladies of court wear gossamer thin skirts that you can see right through, and all they use for modesty is skin toned pantaloons. This is hardly any worse that that.”
“It just isn’t decent Charlie, the whole reason that I went with you was so that I didn’t have to be a common harlot, I’m hardly going to start willingly dressing like one.”
“All I’m saying,” he wheedled “is that in a slightly above-the-knee cut skirt, your freedom of movement, and your customer base would increase exponentially!” He emphasised the last word with a slap on the table, causing some of his stew to slop messily out. Ruby backed away in disgust as a warp in the table brought it winding towards her, but it wasn’t enough to stop her eating. After this morning’s training session she was hungry as mythical appearance after three weeks in the real world.
“By your terms,” annoyance began to creep into her voice. “Slightly above-the-knee will turn out to be slightly below the behind! I like to keep my unmentionables as unseeable as possible, and I’d thankyou kindly to let me keep it that way.”
Charlie started back, affecting a look of pure offence. “You wound me with your mistrust?”
Ruby stopped eating for a second. “That’s a question?”
Charlie ignored that, and looked around her. “Good morrow good sir, what can I do to help?” All trace of sleaze disappeared and suddenly he was a noble, honourable, trustworthy man. It was amazing how efficiently he could make the switch.
Ruby cast a look over her shoulder and saw a familiar sight. A man of average height and average build covered in an above average amount of dirt and weighed down by an exemplary amount of anguish stood behind her. His shoulder length brown hair spiked in every direction, and his curiously square face seemed blurred around the edges, like the muscles were just too tired to keep itself going. He swayed on his feet as he began to speak. “My name is, um, Ashford, and, I, I –“
Ruby shifted along the bench took him by the arm. “Please, sit Ashford. You look exhausted.” Ashford tried looking grateful, but only ending up more morose. Still, he took the offer and settled himself down into the seat. “I’m Ruby, and this is my partner Charlie.”
“Pleased to meet you folks.” If it was a pleasure, it wasn’t reflected in his demeanour. “Are you the monster hunters?” Charlie and Ruby nodded assent. Ashford almost cried. “I’m so glad that found you. It’s been bad, it has, I ain’t seen nothing like it afore. It came right into our village and it’s been the cause all kinds of mischief since. Killed the O’Grady’s, and old man Humbert, and even Adam, me own son-“ a sob cut him off and Ashford dissolved into tears that created muddy rivers down his craggy face. Ruby remembered the first time they’d heard a story like this. She’d gone away while Charlie haggled the details and had a little cry herself. The man had been a widow for three years, and had four daughters. All of them had been trampled under the flailing paws of a manticore.
Re: Bloody Legend
Posted: Wed Nov 16, 2011 2:14 pm
When she’d come back into the room, the man had been sitting broken at the table, and Charlie had come to greet her all excitement. “We’ve made our score, the man was so desperate he was willing to agree to any price. We’ll be living the high life soon, eh?” He’d given her a conspiratorial wink.
She’d grabbed him by the arm and had him flat on his back with one foot on his throat and the other threatening his groin using a trick her father used to call “de-manner”. By the time she’d thought about what she was doing Charlie was almost crying in pain. The sad lost man had look over confusedly and Ruby had given him a grin and put a little more pressure on the foot digging into Charlie’s grin. “Charlie wanted me to give you a little demonstration as a vote of confidence you see. What do you think?”
The man grimaced and Ruby was offended before she realised that was his attempt at a smile. He clapped and tried enthusiasm. It almost made her cry all over again. “I can see that our money is going to a good place.”
“Yessh ahhh verrrry good placcccce indeed,” Charlie had wheezed. “End of demonstration now, please?”
Ruby had given him a hand up, and leaned in real close, Her nose was almost touching his. She lowered her voice so that only Charlie could hear. “If you try and take advantage of these people again, I will do that to you again, except this time my foot will come down so hard on your groin that you will be passing blood for the next year. If you ever want to have little Charlie’s scampering around you will play fair. Have I made myself clear?” She enunciated each of the last words clearly, yanking the sounds at the end of each word back like a wayward child.
“As clear as the Thames never will be,” he’d winced, bringing his knees in together. “Would never dream of doing such a thing in fact I was just thinking about giving the man an introductory discount isn’t that a great idea you know I think I’ll just go talk to the chap now where is he over there ha well isn’t that convenient I’ll just go over there shall I.” He’d backed away with a slight limp.
Many people commented on how reasonably priced the hunt was.
Charlie was discussing the pecuniary matters with Ashford within seconds. He’d had the base rate laid out and the specials package (Ruby still didn’t know what was special about the specials package. Nobody ever went for it so she’d never really had the opportunity to figure it out) and before you know it they’d sorted it out and it was Ruby’s turn.
“Can you describe the creature for me? I need to know what I-“ Charlie cleared his throat “what we-“ Charlie nodded his approval. Ruby repressed a sigh “are up against.”
Ashford withdrew into himself. “It – it is ‘uge. Big as me ‘ouse, maybe even a little bigger. And the eyes – there’s ‘ell lurking in there. Big red fiery things that are mad through an’ through make no mistake.” He paused to collect himself. So far the thing could be any of the creatures that she’d encountered so far. She knew that waiting would bring answers though. Patience.
“Did it have fur? Feathers?”
“It had scales. Black ones as big as your ‘ead. Layered all mail-like. Belly like a snake but, all red and smooth, all red on the unnerside right up to the tip of ‘is tail. It had four legs and terrible talons long and curved like a scythe and the wings were when ‘e opened ‘em up now I were a sailing man once,” he stopped, reflecting. “I saw an albatross fly over’ead while I was on watch, and they say that an albatross’ wings blot out the sun. that albatross wing tip to wing tip could have have fit five times across one of those wings.” Ashford spread his arms as far as they could in a futile effort to express the sheer magnitude that he wanted to convey.
Ruby used the table to steady herself. Wings. Scales. Talons. Tail. “Do you mean to say that this thing is a… dragon?”
Ashford nodded his head vigorously, which for him was a bit below normal speed. “I cer-taint-ly do no mistake. I would like not to believe it meself but after it burned down the village there was no mistaking it no siree.”
“A fire breathing dragon?”
Another nod. Ruby’s knuckles whitened as she clutched the table. A real live fire-breathing dragon.
“Looks like this’ll be a fun one then.”
The town blacksmith where they had stayed had been decent enough hand she’d managed to replace what the griffon had destroyed. The break in her sword had been clean enough and had been fixed nicely. Walking through the devastated village she was glad to have its weight at her side.
All the vegetation was charred, and no building had come out unscathed. Some were lucky and had mostly superficial damage but others had become charred skeletons, roofs stripped down to charred ribs. All amongst this wreckage three-pronged foot prints rampaged, their tips marked by deep holes reaching half a foot into the ground. Flakes of dried blood haunted the edges.
The only thing that the place was missing was a tumbleweed tumbling across the screen.
It wasn’t far from London, and should have been generally a fairly bustling little town. The local inn had three stories (or had had three full stories before half of the middle had been singed). There were three public houses, each within stumbling distance of each other (a very important trait in a public house, useful for when you got kicked out) and a few shops clustered in between looking quite forlorn.
Everything was empty except for the public houses, where a few surly faces could be spied through slitted windows. They were middle aged hardened men. Nobody else would have been bloody-minded enough to stay. The sort of animal that could have caused the destruction that Ruby could see was not the sort of animal that you wanted to hand around waiting for. Something about the scene was off to her eye. Something that didn’t quite meet with her idea of the creature.
“Hey Charlie,” she called to him where he stood a few yards distant, idling turning over a charred and scored fence post while examining the foot prints. To others he would have appeared deep in thought about the creature that had made it. Ruby’s guess would have been closer to he was thinking about how it could be turned in a story that would be undoing the ladies’ stays.
“Mmmhmm,” he sent back at her, looking up, his hair perfectly tousled and his eyes sparkling a perfect forget-me-not blue in the weak sunshine. It was one of his favourite poses Ruby knew.
“Do you notice anything about these buildings?”
Charlie looked at the charred remains of the town, and the deep gash marks in the country lanes and the missing stones from the walls that bordered them. He returned his focus to Ruby.
“Is this a trick question? Or were you knocked too hard on the head last time?”
“Not a trick question and I definitely was not hit on the head,” she sighed. “I meant for you to have a look at the damage. Doesn’t it seem odd to you?”
Charlie considered it for a second, resting his hand on his chin and adopting his most deliberative face. “Nope. Looks like some pretty standard damage to me.”
“Well look at it. Nothing is much is damaged, apart from fire, from about the height of a first story building.”
“And…?” Charlie waggled his hand out in front of him, urging her on to explain and to bring him back onto her page.
“And,” she sighed again. Charlie sometimes was not the brightest feather in the flock. “We are meant to have a creature the size of a house that can fly. If you could fly, the second thing you would do after flying as many skirts as you possibly could would be testing out all those second story windows that were always just out of reach, full of their tantalising packages of young girls.”
Charlie’s mouth formed an unmanly o, which he quickly replaced with a manly expression of realisation. “so what you are saying is…” It was Ruby’s turned to gesture for him to continue. “that this dragon can’t fly.”
“Or at least couldn’t when this happened. It is going to make things a whole of a lot easier. I’d much rather meet a flightless dragon in a dark alley than one with wings.” Charlie dropped the fence post. “Although I suppose in an alley the wings wouldn’t account for much, I mean a creature that size would have ot have an amazing wingspan, and it’d need all of it for the lift. It just wouldn’t be able to take off in such a small space.” Rub imagined the wings bursting through the walls beside it and the dragon flying up with the buildings either side attached. It would make an impressive sight. Out on the corners of perception she felt Charlie mouthing her name, but it didn’t bother her all that much. He was always wanting this and that from her, mostly That. She’d gotten to the point of families living in these houses carried aloft by the dragon when she felt the air around her disappear into a vaccum.
She froze and put every sense in her body on alert. Her father had told her that the hairs on the back of your neck worked like antennae. They raised when you were scared for just that extra edge on the senses. Right now her body was scared even if her mind hadn’t got there yet. She waited a second. The air came rushing back all around her, this time warm. Unusual in her grey country.
Automatic functions kicked in. Her hand flicked to her sword and her body rolled into a ball, transporting her several feet away facing the opposite direction. Facing something that made her body’s terror inveigle its way into her mind. As usual it was the eyes which grabbed her first. That crazed, confused, terrified looked that had somewhere along the way become homicidal rage. The eyes were as big as a saucer, with a tiny pupil surrounded by a poison green iris that floated on top of a sea of burst blood vessels. The ridge above the eye had inch long spines protruding, miniature replicas of the curved sabres that menaced from a long, pointed muzzle. Its nostrils were round and placed to the exact centre of the muzzle. It was jet black except for its blood red belly, the colour starting at the base of its throat and spreading over its abdomen, to narrow and follow its way to the end of the tail. While the black scales look solid, almost like overlocking plates of armour, the red scales looked more like the skin of a snake. Fascinating, Ruby thought. The exposed back armoured, but the in a more flexible skin to stop movement being restricted. I’ll have to tell father.
The dragon reared back on its hind legs, throwing its head back. It released a jet of flame from its nostrils into the sky. Ruby swore in a most unladylike fashion. Its wings unfurled stretching an unthinkable amount in each direction, and she could see that usually they would be covered by a thin membrane, much like a bat’s wings. However, it was clearly evident why this dragon hadn’t been flying. Holes dotted the membrane, some only big enough for a finch to fly through, some a few yards across. Some holes exposed the bare bones that created the framework for the wings, so delicate yet Ruby thought they must be incredibly strong.
The plan of attack was clear. As always, go for the vulnerable underbelly. The vulnerable underbelly that wasn’t really all that vulnerable because it was protected by vicious six inch claws and tonnes of armoured flesh. The head snaked down to her level. Its eyes were sitting slightly below its shoulders and directly at the level of her eyes. That’s right. It was also protecting by fire. She stared directly into those mad eyes. It took a deep breath. She had a split second to make a directional decision. And a split of that to wonder where Charlie was in all of this. Usually he had more time to scuttle out of the danger zone. The dragon’s eyes widened and its nostrils flared.
Forward it was. Not one to miss an opportunity, as she rolled she swung her blade up, aiming for the throat. Ruby felt the tip of the blade drag on skin and smiled to herself. Maybe this wouldn’t be as hard as all that after all. She found her feet, or rather her knees because the space under a dragon was not all that spacious, facing the rear end of the dragon. She felt the heat and roar of flames on her back and thanked whichever entity was listening. The next glance was at her sword beside her, looking for blood on the tip. It wasn’t there. An oily sheen on the blade suggested in had gone in two inches. It had gone in two inches and it hadn’t drawn blood. She added it to her mental database. Dragon’s had hellishly thick skins.
No time for that though. She had to move. She shuffled around, her back scraping rough scales. The dragon would weigh at least a couple of tonnes. As tempting as it was to stab it now, even assuming she got anatomically lucky and hit the right place anything under a body like that would be crushed. That would be including her. Up ahead, she could see where her blade had sliced the things neck. As its head moved billowing smoke and sniffing the air (Ruby hoped this was a futile exercise given the smoke. All the creature would have to do is figure out where she was an sit on her, and that did not sound like a dignified way to go) the skin parted and she could see the deep slice she had made. Nothing vital though. That wasn’t a good sign.
The roof of the dragon’s belly lurched forward, knocking her flat on her stomach and her blade out of her grasp. The dragon’s ten feet of tail scraped over her back. The scales shredded the back of shirt, and the tip scored a line down her spine. She lifted her head to follow its progress and she saw something that she thought she would never see in her life.
Charlie was being brave. He’d clambered on top of one of the gutted buildings and was waving around what appeared to be a pair of lady’s drawers. She sure hoped that he had a plan, because he’d sure ruined hers. Whatever that had been going to be. She scrambled for her sword and to her feet and assessed the situation. It all seemed pretty okay for her, not so okay for Charlie. A few brave or uncaring souls had wandered out the front of the public houses, pints still in hand (and in some cases, beard).
Re: Bloody Legend
Posted: Wed Nov 16, 2011 3:35 pm
Ruby cursed. He was roast meat. She cast around the area for something to help. She needed to get at that belly while not being under it. She needed an extender. Rocks met her eyes, along with scattered fenceposts, bits of rubble, the shops, the public houses, more rubble… the public houses! Of course! The one closest to her had a swinging sign displaying a fox with an evil grin eating the words “the fox’s den”. It was swinging off a long, sturdy wooden pole, decorated at the end with a pointed iron knob.
A glance in Charlie’s direction and the dragon was about halfway there. Despite its initial burst of speed it didn’t seem to be able to move quickly on foot. Ruby on the other hand, could. She leapt over to the public house, vaulting a low stone wall and thundering up the short cobbled path. The sign was only attached by two hooks slotted into two brass rings: easily removed. One of the patrons managed to muster enough attention to care about the removed sign but his protestations were feeble at best. “Catch!”
She threw the sign at him and his grumbles disappeared before they had really even started into a scurry to stop a large plank of wood from hitting his face. The pole stuck out from the wall several feet above Ruby’s head. Another glance at Charlie, now doing what looked like a chicken imitation while the dragon gained on him. It had covered about three quarters of the distance. She cursed, and bent her knees. It was a clean jump. She grabbed the pole at its base and yanked her weight downwards. The snapped quickly and cleanly, much to her surprise. She was hurtling towards the ground and she landed badly, falling in a heap. She tried to stand, starting with her right foot and discovered her right ankle wasn’t very happy with that action. However her body was not a democracy. She gritted her teeth and got to her feet.
She didn’t have much time. Five minutes, tops. Never enough time. She tucked the pole under her arm and began to unbuckle her belt. Men who hadn’t paid attentions seconds earlier when she was defacing the building as one turned to stare and gape. She would have rolled her eyes, but she need them for seeing things. She slipped her belt out, gaining a gasp and a “That’s the way luv” from the crowd. The belt she secured between her teeth, and grabbing her sword she laid its handle on the pointy end of the pole. Keeping these together with one hand she grabbed the belt with the other and wrapped it tightly around the hilt and pole, finally buckling it all together.
She hefted her makeshift spear, some 6 feet in length. It would have to do. She began to run, ignoring the screaming of her ankle. I’ll deal with you later, she promised it, but for now I need to go. Charlie was beginning to falter in his drawer-waving as the dragon drew closer. It had stopped with a few yards of the house, and it sucked air into its body, swelling its abdomen. She quickened her pace, her muscles screaming in protest. The old sensation of knives puncturing the inside of her lungs returns as she desperately sucked air into her lungs. There was now only four homesteads between her and the dragon, now three, now two, now one… the dragon had stopped sucking in air. There was only a matter of seconds before it let it out spit roast style.
She needed a plan of attack and she needed it now. All she could think of was the local street cat that had bitten her when she had stood on its tail. Long tail. She was just within reach. She drew on her last ounces of cardiovascular fitness and took a run at its tail. Locking her sights on it Ruby leapt, and the dragon began to exhale.
Ruby landed square on the dragon’s tail and its head jerked up and away from the house, its wings spreading out in outrage, but not before the flames had jetted into its exposed interior. The tail thrashed and Ruby was thrown onto her back. The head jerked right around, making a magnificent u-turn to its body. She’d been right in thinking that it wouldn’t enjoy having its tail stood on. The ground shook as the mighty beast’s body followed its neck’s orientation. Its eyes snapped a vicious fire and its nostrils smoked the remnants of one.
The eyes zipped into within two feet of her and she was left to wonder how she had ever found those eyes scary when the dragon’s mouth opened wide displaying a dry grey tongue and rows upon rows of curved, sharp, blood stained teeth. The now familiar sense of being in a vacuum started again and Ruby could suddenly see a future in which she was so much roast meat. She gripped her spear. This was her one chance.
The head dragged back and opened just a fraction wider in an effort to bring in more air and Ruby saw her opportunity in the form a form of a fleshy patch just past the creatures palate. She scurried to her knees, thrusting her makeshift spear right into the centre of its gaping maw, aiming for its vulnerable spot. The beast’s head lunged at her as it realised what was happening and the spear came out the other side. Immediately its body collapsed, the neck thudding against the ground. Its head however continued chomping, teeth gnashing at the wood between it. Ruby hastily withdrew from reach of tooth. She wondered what it was about her and the creatures she killed retaining their autonomic functions after they should have reasonably stopped working.
Then she remembered. “CHARLIE!” She shouted at the building. The roof was aflame. He was still in there. She scaled the dragon’s towering back, leaping from the top and landing on an ankle that she had forgotten she shouldn’t. She pressed on, throwing open the loose door.
Inside all was smokey. She could only see a few feet in front of her. Ladder, she thought. There has to be a ladder somewhere. Tears streamed from her eyes, and she was overtaken by a coughing fit. She couldn’t stop. She had to find him. Her shirt became a makeshift mask protecting her breath from the smoke. She made her way to the back wall, hoping that they would have it near the fireplace where her’s had always been. It was hard to make out in the smoke but she was sure she saw a ladder a few feet away from the fireplace. Within seconds she was shimmying up it.
At least up in the roof the smoke had room to float away, but there was always the downside of it being on fire. Flames licked at wooden boards and her boots. “CHARLIE!” She screamed. “CHARLIE!” There was no answer, but a dark mass moved in the corner of her vision. Of course there was a wall of flame between her and it. The jumping hare didn’t catch on fire, she thought to herself. At least she hoped that was what it was
She ran and jumped through. Apparently humans were more prone to burn than hares. She could feel her skin blistering from the heat. But she was there, he was there. She grabbed him by the collar and dragged him over to the edge of the roof. It was either the hasty and painful exit or the slow and painful exit. She chose hasty.
Grabbing him bodily around the torso she gave an almighty heave and threw them off the roof. As she was falling she contemplated how she would feel about that decision once she hit the ground, but then she hit the ground and she didn’t have to contemplate it anymore. She deeply regretted the decision.
She looked over to Charlie who had rolled a few feet over. She caught her breath. His face lay on the ground facing her. The skyward cheek was a mess. The skin was gone, and a smell of cooked meat reach her nostrils. She could see parts of him that should never be seen. His handsome visage had become monstrous. Her eyes strained to look away but they just couldn’t. “Charlie…” what a time for him to finally discover bravery. He was not going ot happy about this when he woke.
Her eyes were not destined to struggle long. Everything went black as bag was yanked over her head and a man rasped “GOT HER BOSS!”.
Silken, cultured tones followed. “Knock her out.” Ruby squealed, and struggle but the man had her. There was a sharp pain to her temple then, nothing.
The first thing she registered was a pounding headache. It was one of those real blighters that felt like her brain was trying to push its way out through her skull. Then the pain in the rest of her body hit her. Every inch of skin felt raw, and her right ankle felt like five different daggers were assaulting it from the inside. Her eyes crackled open, unable to focus. She got the blurred impression of rich red hanging, lights and reflective wooden floors. She squeezed her eyes shut again, and shook her head to clear it. Her head immediately screamed out in protest. She open her eyes anyway.
This time they gave her a few detailed. She was in a medium sized room, stone walls with red hangings embroidered in gold. They depicted a rearing lion clawing at the air. A large desk made out of expensive looking wood and even more expensive looking gold leaf trim loomed before her, laid out with writing instruments and a considerable pile of books. The chair behind the desk had a high red upholstered back, set in a gold leaf frame. She herself was tied an upholstered chair it seemed, in the same colours but on a much less grand scale. Rope tied her arms to her torso and her torso to the chair. To her right Charlie was tied up the same, still unconscious, the undamaged side of his face towards her.
The obvious questions rose in the mind. Where am I? How did we get here? Why are we here? Did they bring our stuff? What about my package? Her heartbeat raised to a thousand miles a minute. She needed that package. She looked for any potential exits, and sharp implements to get her out of the situation. But thinking hurt so much. That guy must have got a good blow to the head.
Word Count: 13, 053 Deficit: a lot less than it was yesterday guys ookaaaayyy