Taking Fate by the Horns

Act 2 – Part 6

 

A strong hand grabbed Sha tightly around his throat, hoisting the young lad off his feet and slamming him hard onto his back in the dust. Blasting air from his lungs, his head spun, dizzy and disorientated from the swift action. Blinking dust from his eyes just in time to see a fist aimed at his face, no time to react, unable to even turn his head for the vice like grip on his throat, stealing his breath. The fist slammed into his nose with a bright flash and  sickening crack. He tasted blood, pain shot through his head, he gasped for breath, struggling, panicking, anticipating a second blow. Sha turned his face aside shortly before a following punch landed heavily on his jaw. He bit his tongue, lip split.

He had to gather his senses, to swallow back his fear and the blinding pain. He knew he needed to remember his training, to recall the correct maneuver before he ran out of air in his lungs and got his head dashed in against the hard earth. The pace of the raining punches were slow, deliberate and forceful, Hi attacker really pulling his fist right back to put as much strength behind each blow that he could. This gave a short period between each punch, yet Sha was struggling now to remain conscious.

Blood filled his eyes, his mouth, his ears rang, muffling sound. His lungs burned… Yet somehow the boy raised his knees towards his chest and kicked upwards with the last fragment of his fading energy to force his attacker backwards kicking the bastard in his ribs, forcing him backwards… Stumbling… the grip on Sha’s neck was released and he gulped in air desperately and rolled out of the way, attempting to stand, fighting nausea, knowing that he had just mere moments before the vicious attack resumed.

His sight was blurred red and Sha saw the beast he opposed… A man… clad in Northern Clan garb, but his head, his head was that of a beast… The beast snorted, steam billowing from flattened wide nose. His boot dragged up the dirt, the beast lowered his head, a circle of vicious sharp horns crowned his forehead. Two longer, sharper, like curved scimitars aimed at Sha’s torso and it charged…

Sha fought the urge to flee, reached for his sword, the scabbard empty upon his hip, the beast narrowed the gap between them howling unnaturally. Sha freed the scabbard from his belt and swung the empty sheath at the creatures eyes by the narrow edge, putting as much strength as he could behind the blow, using the beasts own momentum to add power to the blow.

Cracking violently across the bridge of it’s nose, blinding the creature temporarily. It bellowed in rage, human hands reaching for it’s bull like head… Sha swung the scabbard again and again, aiming at the back of the knees, at its ribs. He wiped blood from his eyes, hammering blows to try and prevent the creature from rising again against him. His scabbard bent and broke apart… Yet the beast was on his knees!

Sha clambered clumsy onto the creatures shoulders, keeping his body behind the giant bull head, he reached round and took hold of the two largest horns to twist the head aside. Though he wasn’t sure of himself, his strength was fast fading and the Minotaur was regaining energy. He was huddled behind the giant head, gripping the horns, riding the thrashing wild monster with little thought of action. He wasn’t strong enough to twist the head, it took all his effort to cling on and he was starting to slip.

As he slipped Sha pulled the two horns apart and there was a slight give… The Minotaur howled… It hurt him… Sha wrenched harder, pulling the two main horns apart with all the strength he could muster. There was a splintering crack, but it wasn’t enough. The bull man bucked and struggled to reach the young lad tugging at its head, however it’s own actions aided Sha the horns gave a little more, as it shook it’s head the sharp bone cut into Sha’s hands, blood causing his grip to slick. He tumbled, fell backwards from the Minotaur’s shoulders.

Landing with a crumpled twist of limbs, his body afire with pain, energy fast leaving his body, darkness threatened to overwhelm his senses. Yet Sha had kept a firm grip on both horns and as he slipped and fell both horns were torn free from the bulls head.

The Minotaur crumpled to his knees gripping its head as blood gushed freely over its fur muzzle it gripped the bleeding stumps and tore its face in half with a fierce tearing of flesh and a desperate cry. Pulling the Bulls head free from his shoulders Kane gasped for breath, letting the torn flesh fall from his hands, running his hands over his face, through blood clotted hair. His human head free from the restraints of the bulls skull.

He turned to face his son, the lad trembled in fear and understanding.

“You killed him!” Sha uttered, spitting blood, backing away from his own Father… “You Killed him… You killed the Guardian!”

Kane lowered his head, ashamed … Yet Sha had already drifted into an exhausted unconsciousness…

 

Anne Harrison 13.06.17

 

Intermission #3

The day the Order was Issued…

 

Kane awoke with a start, roughly shaking the images of the nightmare from his mind… The loud hammering at his door was desperately urgent, it was still dark outside and the cat resting at the foot of his bed glared at having her rest disturbed, hopped down and slipped through the open french doors vanishing into the night as Kane pulled on garments in a rush… A thousand thoughts flooded his mind, panic, annoyance and curiosity… He flung open the door to be greeted by a nervous looking maid accompanied by two guards in Regal uniform.

“You are summoned to the Royal Palace.” The taller guard spoke firmly. “At Once.”

“Dad?” A young six year old lad rubbed sleep from his eyes, standing at his doorway down the hall… “What’s happening?”

Kane simply tilted his head to one side and the Guards parted to allow him to attend to the boy. “I need to work.” He knelt by the lad. “You need to guard your sister while I’m away…” Kane glanced at the awaiting soldiers “…You know what to do.” He added. The boy nodded, slipping back into his room silently pondering over the secret command.

***

At Fenroux Palace in the centre of the Capital City, known as the Northern Heart. The streets were filled with celebration and wonder. It was mid-morning by The time Kane arrived from the Clan Territories and the city was buzzing with a party spirit. Queen Roux had given birth to a healthy bright baby boy, a Royal Prince and Heir.

That news alone gave Kane the understanding of his summons, he wasn’t a fool and he knew this day would come. For near seven years he had held, in secret upon his estate three ‘guests’ three legal Royal Heirs who, in all intent and purpose were already dead publicly. They had only survived these last few years in seclusion upon the whim of Queen Roux, who had personally halted the death sentence upon her only son and two grandchildren. Now, with a new Prince born to the legal King… Jago, who should have been ruler, and his twins Kol and Indigo were insignificant. The traditional order of the throne had been manipulated to suit Fendor’s ambition.

Kane was kept waiting, while Nobles and Knights arrived in mass to congratulate the Royal couple and hope for a glimpse of the tiny Prince. Finally it was Lord Darkfire who greeted Kane in a silent side room. The giant barbarian leader eyed Kane distastefully, clad in traditional clan garb, a tan tunic and dark blue kilt, Kane had adopted the ways of the land he ruled instead of dressing like an outsider. To Lord Darkfire the kilt was offensive and he openly mocked the older, yet smaller man. Kane ignored the remarks.

“Are you going to get to the point?” He shrugged off any insult.

“The Order has been Issued…” Lord Darkfire confirmed Kane’s speculations.

“Very well.” Kane stood to leave.

“Where are you going?”

“Home, I have arrangements to make.”

“I shall be accompanying you!”

“Really?”

“Do you think the King trusts a lackey in a dress?”

Kane stepped right up to the Barbarian, standing chest to physically belly, as Lord Darkfire towered over him. “Do you want to try your luck?” Kane spoke softly, hand resting comfortably upon the hilt of his sword.

There was an uncomfortable silence until the larger man simply took a step backwards.

“You know it would have been easier to have simply sent the order with the Royal Guards instead of dragging me all the way here to the palace.” Kane sighed, bored with the waste of time.

Lord Darkfire grinned then half chuckled as he spoke “We needed you away from your home, to make some security arrangements. To ensure you go through with the order without any resistance.”

Kane kept his expression calm, his mind calculating the amount of time it would take to return home and a thousand more racing thoughts, yet he could not afford to dwell on the threat… “Do you doubt my loyalty to The King, one of my oldest, closest friends?” He spoke without hesitation. “I am perfectly aware of my duty when it was issued to me six years ago. My only concern is why it took so long to act?”

“For the Queen to conceive?” The Barbarian let slip what Kane had guessed.

“Ahhh… What do we know about the cycles of a ladies body?!” Kane grinned slapping the barbarian on the arm then… “Shall we go get this nasty business dealt with? I see no purpose in hesitation, it will be dusk by the time we return. We can get this done this day and break open some spiced wine to celebrate the babes birth.”

He marched past Lord Darkfire, causing the larger man to trot along to keep up. He was spluttering details of his orders as they headed to the courtyard and awaiting transportation. Kane was hardly listening, his mind was tumbling over the empty threat that hung in the air and he pondered over what could possibly await him at home…

 

Anne Harrison 24.05.17

Intermission #2

Out in the Wilds

 

“Something has been killing my sheep!” Brynn pursed her lips in a defiant pout as she expressed her concerns to Hera. They were reclined around the fire-pit in the clearing outside Hera’s den, secluded in the wilds of the Deep-Wood Forest. They shared a sweet mead as Brynn continued to recount her drama.

“So I decided to lay in wait, I’m not a bad shot with my cross bow and any beastie, I thought I could ward away. Now wolves I can deal with, naughty wild cats can sometimes take down a sheep, alas tis five of my flock I’ve lost… All slaughtered, all torn apart, viciously gutted. I was thinkin’ me foe to be a bear, but no grizzlies venture this far north. Perplexed I was, sat on guard, cold and sleepy. When I’s hear this frightful cry, like a shrill howl, but laced with more pain than ever a beast could hold in its soul. Even the wolves yelped and fled at the sound. Why, I could hardly hold by bow straight for trembling with utter fear!” Brynn paused to sip her mead.

“Well, Hera, well… when the creature came into sight I was stricken with dread… Twelve foot high I would say and near as wide, black as the depths of the well pit and covered in matted hair… I tried to get a shot off, I screamed, my flock scattered, the beast howled… What can I say Hera… I’ve never been so frightened, t’weren’t natural I’m telling ye!”

Hera refilled the shepherdess’s glass, half amused by Brynn’s dramatic rendition of events… Brynn sipped the mead grateful.

“An idea jumped to mind and I dashed towards the old well, screaming as I ran, the thing blundering after me, I swear I could feel it’s foul breath down me neck… At the last moment I sprang and cleared the mouth of the well in pure desperation… The thing at my heels, tripped, stumbling over the low crumbling bricks and fell with a mighty crash down the old pit, splashing into the stagnant water!” She drained her glass with triumph!

“Is this creature still down the well?” Hera asked bemused…

“Why yes, yes it is, it growled and howled and sobbed. Yet I threw over the old lid and weighted it down with bricks from the old wall. Then I came straight here, I needed to calm my nerves!”

“Shall we go and see what kind of beast you have caught?” The Witch took a burning fagot from the camp fire and, with a very nervous Brynn at her heels, lead the way through the forest to the deserted well, where soft mourning sounds echoed within.

The ladies carefully pulled back the weighted lid to peer within holding the brand aloft to shine into darkness.

Within a man glanced upwards towards the fire light, a large man granted, but no shaggy beast, naked and covered in slime and grime. He trembled, hugging himself…

“I know that face!” Hera gasped, He glanced towards the sound of her voice. A rough beard half obscured his features, but the Lord of the Barbarians was distinctively recognizable.

“Grave? You’re supposed to be dead?”

 

 

Anne Harrison 18.05.17

 

Part 68

The Mutilated Prince

 

Kol was conscious as he was restrained, back flat against a hard table, his arms bound to the table legs. His own injured legs he could barely move, if he raised his head, he could see the wicked bolts that had torn through both thighs, yet could not count their number, his slacks were stained crimson, hot blood still flowed, though the stream had started to slow. He near fainted from shock several times as he was roughly manhandled.

Two barbarian guards held him down by the shoulders causing fear to shot through his core, panic threatening to blur the edge of his consciousness as Fendor came into view, brandishing a wickedly sharp curved knife that caught the light.

“That looks painful.” he remarked, gripping Kol’s right thigh, The Prince winced. “Very nasty.” Fendor purred, gripping hold of one arrow shaft and wrenching it free violently.

Kol jolted, screaming, yet the hefty barbarians easily held him down.

Fendor ripped a second arrow free, blood pouring. Kol swooned until Fendor slapped him hard. “Stay with me, you’re not going to want to miss this part…” His smile was pure evil as he leered at the injured Prince.

Kol felt the cold steel of the knife slowly dip into the white hot injury left torn and exposed, following the track of the arrow shaft, Fendor admired how easily the new knife severed flesh, tearing into the leg to bone. Twisting the blade to cut wider, slipping through muscle, circling the entire thigh. Blood soaked the table, the floor. Kol had ceased screaming having gone into shock, trembling, jolting nerves afire as Fendor slowly severed his leg.

Yet Fendor found the bone difficult to break with the knife and reverted to a smaller hatchet. Kol lost consciousness, mercifully, as his leg was finally torn away from his body. Shock and loss of blood threatened to end his life, yet Fendor needed him alive, the stump cauterized and cleaned, yet he cruelly left the arrows in bedded in his remaining leg …

 

 

Anne Harrison 12.04.17

Part 67

A Cage without Bars

 

The room was not locked, the door left mockingly ajar, clear laughter heard from beyond. Yet Indigo could not move an inch towards freedom. Wards and glyphs, runes and sigils, painted in goats blood adorned the walls preventing her from approaching the door. Like a magnet that repelled it’s polar partner, Indigo was forced back from the door by the power of the bloodstained symbols. Attempting to leave caused her to feel nauseous, dizzy and faint. Whoever had painted the walls had a very strong understanding of her craft, particularly the more negative side of magic, the forbidden rites, manipulation, control, the alteration of will power.

Sickness and disease stained the darkened blood, traits that only strengthened the negative energy that restrained Indigo stronger than any rope or chains ever could. She resigned herself to such a gloomy fate, seated herself directly in the centre of the room where the effects were less obnoxious. Yet she felt a heavy weight push down upon her, increasing her discomfort, glancing up Indigo noticed an exceptionally nasty symbol which drew her magical energy from her very soul.

Eventually she was forced by the surrounding negativity to curl in a curled fetus position, which made the harrowing darkness just about bearable… Kept on the edge of consciousness, demonic shadows clawing at her pure mind, carving out her bright energy for their own foul desires.

Such was her cage without bars…

 

Anne Harrison 11.04.17

Part 66

Divided

 

“You are brooding.” Fendor ceased his relentless scheming when he realised his companion was not listening, just starring absently out the window, silently regarding the bloodstains that remained on the sandy arena floor.

“I’m just tired.” Kane replied, lifting his glass to his lips yet again without taking a drink.

“Don’t tell me you’ve actually falling for her, you know she will have to die.”

“Then why shouldn’t I be able to enjoy her?” He pushed the glass away. “At least until I have to kill her.”

Fendor laughed then… “And they say I’m cold hearted!”

“Well?”

“Fine, go, enjoy the woman!” Fendor chuckled, claiming the discarded drink.

“I’m taking the baby with me.” Kane stood, regarding the crib set up in the room. The babe was sound asleep after a wet nurse had settled him down following a feed.

“No. He stays where he is… Don’t!”

Yet Kane had already scooped his child up carefully, awkwardly, his inexperience evident. Completely ignoring Fendor.

“Why? Kane are you fucking stupid…”

“This way she will trust me.” He replied, “and she will continue to trust me until I crush her throat.” His coldness stopped Fendor short, instead he stepped aside, allowing Kane to take his son to Alleia…

 

***

 

Alleia was asleep, curled tightly in the far corner of the room. Her hair had stuck to her face where tears had dried upon her cheeks. Kane knelt by her side and softly brushed her hair free, he considered killing her at that moment while she slept, regarding the size of his hand and how delicate she appeared, so slender and petite. Hardly any strength would be required to snap her neck.

The baby gurgled, causing her to stir… “Kane?” She blinked… “How did you find him? Find me? What are you doing here?” She sat up reaching out for her son.

“Don’t ask me anything.”

“Why Kane?”

“Because I don’t want to lie to you.” He gathered her in his arms and simply kissed her so softly…

“You’re frightening me.” Alleia leaned into his embrace.

“You should be frightened of me.”

“And that only makes me want you more.” She whispered…

 

 

Anne Harrison 07.04.17

 

Part 65

The Rift

A stunned silence fell over the arena, only the shrill cries of Alleia’s baby shattered the still. The General nodded a command, a prearranged deception, executed flawlessly. His troops rounded up the survivors, they were bound securely and then divided to individual holding cells. Novana and Indigo both numb with shock,  Kol was barely conscious.

Kane kicked off as soon as the guards tried to restrain Alleia, Fendor anticipated his desire to protect the family he had mere moments ago been reunited with and The General circled to slam the hilt of his sword into Kane’s temple as Kane has stood to square off against the soldiers. Kane dropped like a rock.

Alleia was hysterical,  her son dragged from her arms, he was wailing, Alleia screaming in panic. Though the whole episode was over shortly, with each hostage removed, restrained and contained in different parts of the vast palace.

***

Finally only Fendor stood alone, surrounded by three bodies and an unconscious Kane…

He spat in the dust and nudged Kane with his boot. “Are you awake?”

Kane stirred, scratching his head and coughing. “You didn’t have to fucking hit me so hard.”

“It needed to be convincing.” Fendor extended a hand to help his Captain to his feet. “You look dreadful.”

“I need a drink.”

“Ooh you’re funny.”

Kane just raised an eyebrow…

“Whisky Captain?” Fendor suggested

“Aye General.”

The two men turned and left the arena, discarding the carnage behind them.
There was still much to discuss …

Anne Harrison 06.04.17

Part 64

When Nothing Would Ever be the Same Again… 

 

The timing had to be perfect… Had to be exact…

Pepe was dead, but he had outlived his usefulness. Within the arena Kane embraced his family with relief. Grave had retrieved his sword, Kaxa approached her lover. Novana watched with Indigo off to the side and Kol arrived following Alleia into the arena smiling. These were significant players in an intense game of warfare that lingered over the realm.

Closer… Kol stepped towards his sister… Patience… They all needed to be in range…

Indigo spiked first, her witch-like instincts alert and cautious… Too late…

***

A heavy barrage of arrows fell into the arena, their target was Grave, the huge man had three bolts buried deep in his back before he realised they were under attack. Kaxa screamed and ran towards him, getting caught in the crossfire herself. Four more arrows hit the giant before he fell. Kaxa was already dead.

Novana screamed and dashed forwards yet Indigo pulled her away quickly before she endangered herself and her unborn. Kol had his legs taken out from under him, skilled marksmen targeted his legs alone, bringing him down heavily into the sand.

Kane covered Alleia and the babe, arrows loosened over their heads, the baby wailing in sudden distress from the screaming and chaos…

In a matter of moments, Grave and Kaxa laid dead near Pepe’s body. Kol thrashed wildly in agony and everyone else was instantly surrounded by guards. Loyal guards in Royal uniform.

General Fendor stepped out of the shadows and approached the carnage, straightening his own uniform and slicking his hair back casually.

“Well then… This changes everything now, doesn’t it?” He smirked.

 

Anne Harrison 06.04.17

 

Part 63

Mercy

 

Pepe had not handled a sword for many a long year, preferring to fight with pen or words, his inexperience a distinct disadvantage yet he was not prepared to give up without a fight and take the cowards way out. His hope lay in the fact that Kane was still injured and he had this insane plan of action, which involved relentlessly hacking and chopping at his opponent in the lingering hope he could score a winning hit.

It was uncomfortable to watch, but Pepe persisted, raining down countless blows, without giving Kane the chance to raise his sword to attack, he even scored a clumsy strike, the crosspiece of his sword catching Kane above his eye, splitting an old injury, drawing first blood.

Kane simply kept on the defensive, allowing several wide open killing shots to slip by, almost toying with Pepe, were it not for the hammering assault, had he two blades the fight would have been over within the first opening moves. However he waited Pepe out, there was only so long he could continue with this course of action before his arms tired, his shoulders screaming with effort and he could no longer raise the blade to attack.

Panting, wiping sweat from his chin Pepe realised at that moment Kane was just waiting him out. Kane paused only to clear blood from his eye then spun low raising one leg high to kick Pepe in the side of the head, sending him reeling backwards, landing heavily the air blasted from his lungs, sword flying from his grasp.

Before he could recover, Kane had the point of his blade to Pepe’s throat…

“Mercy!” Pepe cried out in desperation.

“I will show you mercy.” Kane spoke calmly, not even out of breath. “I will show you more mercy than you ever showed me.”

He leaned on the blade, the sharp point easily penetrating the soft flesh. Pepe bucked, gurgled, blood flowing quickly, freely, pooling around his head, the thick blade near severing his head. Pepe spluttered and ceased his desperate thrashing as the sword was buried right through his neck…

***

“That possibly was more mercy than he deserved.” Grave retrieved his sword from the corpse, but Kane said nothing. He wondered how many lives he had taken on the battlefield. He recalled killing The Guardian, the man had been beaten to the point of death and his colleagues would have continued had he not shown mercy and broke his neck.

“That wasn’t mercy, that was a relief.” Kane sighed…

“Is he dead?” A soft voice inquired, soft footsteps approached the scene, soft hands circled around Kane. He held his breath, not daring to turn, yet he could not resist beyond an instant and turned to take Alleia into his arms, holding her, holding their babe securely in his arms…

 

 

Anne Harrison  06.04.17

Part 61

The Calm Before the Storm

 

Six people gathered around the table, before them coffee was brought and served. Only Pepe refused a hot drink, demanding alcohol, even though it was just past dawn. His demand was refused, so he rejected refreshments.

Circumstances were tense before Indigo arrived with Kane, now a heavy silence fell across the table as their lands stood on the pinnacle of conflict and this gathering might prove to be the trigger point or resolution.

“You realise my Father can not accept your claim to his throne.” Indigo broke the silence, her words were not unexpected. Jago had every right to inherit the crown from his Grandfather and the lands it governed.

“I see he didn’t have the balls to attend himself and sent a little girl instead.” Pepe sneered. His bitter words caused stunned expressions across the table, Pepe was supposed to be a Royalist, a devout loyal subject to King and Country.

“You knew of Fendor’s plan? To assassinate my Great-Grandfather?” Indigo narrowed her eyes. Her words were actually speculation, her family still unsure of the traitor, yet her investigation had lead her to this conclusion and the fact that Fendor had support within the court.

Pepe just smirked.

“Fendor approached us seeking allies.” Grave spoke up, spilling the truth. “We saw countless refugees make the difficult journey through the wastelands, neglecting the Capital City and heading South seeking sanctuary. The corruption within the Royal household near destroyed the people and the land. Fendor was a revolutionary, initially, he saw how great the North could be once more, but this he could not do alone.”

“Where is Fendor? Why does he not speak for himself and defend his traitorous actions?” Indigo enquired.

“He fell victim to the bottle, guilt and stress plagued his mind. His only escape was drink. He’s currently under guard while he sobers up.”

“This is ridiculous!” Pepe fumed interrupting the exchange. “Lets keep things simple shall we? The King was a corrupt bastard who had prolonged his life and his reign through magical properties. Fendor sought an end to his destruction and his life. Fendor should be ruler, not this brute! The barbarians were just brought in as muscle, not to take over!” He huffed… “I want my land back, I want my wife and the babe and I want Fendor to assume command.”

Kane tensed by Indigo’s side and she placed a hand on his arm to still his temper at the dandy’s words.

“You are in a position to demand NOTHING!” Grave was fast loosing his patience, slamming his fist on the table. “You’re a vile little coward of a man, who made underhanded bargains to secure your own comfort.” His tone raised in fury.

“How dare you… you… you..” Pepe stood, but was interrupted by Kane…

“…I dare…” He slid papers across the table as evidence, signed and sealed by Pepe with the Montoto wax seal, which placed command of The Northern Clan Territories under the leadership of Master Davenport.

Pepe shrugged…

“Davenport is dead, by Clan law what he commanded reverts to his killer as his property.”

“You?! You killed Davenport? You.. You.. should be dead… Not Davenport!” Pepe licked sweat from his top lip. “This is utter nonsense.”

“The Princess Alleia has requested a divorce.” Indigo spoke up. “Which would prevent you from any claim to her or her son.” She glanced at Kane.

“I challenge you, by combat, for the rights to your land and your wife… The babe…” Kane smiled, “He’s already mine.”

Grave laughed, a deep belly rolling howling laughter as Pepe near fainted at the words… “You can’t challenge me, you have not right!” His voice broke, a pitiful plea.

“He has every right.” Novana replied having glanced through the papers. “You see your new pretty estate falls within his boarders, so he can challenge you for all you own, including your wife… So you can either scoot away as a coward or fight with honor. Which will it be?”

 

Anne Harrison 05.04.17