1931: A Show

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I stood and watched the show.

I had come upon a small balcony overlooking an operating theater.

New machinery, glistening and thrumming with the pure sounds of oiled parts, occupied a great deal of the room. Doctors and nurses hastened about the room, moving back and forth between a pair of patients. Around the periphery of the room stood a few men who were, without question, members of Miskatonic’s faculty.

They watched in fascinated silence.

I looked down at the two women in the beds. Neither of them was pregnant from what I could see, and if the concerns of the medical staff were to be believed, then the young women would die before the day was out.

The insemination, it appeared, had gone terribly wrong.

One woman, facing away from me, convulsed on her stretcher as the nurses and doctors tried to strap her down. She threw an arm with such violence that it tore from the socket and sailed across the room to strike the floor with a wet thud. As arterial blood sprayed up and out, showering down upon the staff, the young woman’s stomach beneath the sheet churned and convulsed.

A heartbeat later and her innards exploded out, showering down upon those around her and painting the walls with her blood.

The other patient fared better than her co-sufferer.

As a doctor leaned forward to check on the woman, she threw herself forward with enough strength to lift the gurney off the floor for a split second, and then her teeth sank into his neck. The doctor tried to wrench himself free but only succeeded in leaving a chunk of flesh in her mouth.

The doctor stumbled back, fell into the arms of a pair of nurses and was dragged out of the way as another doctor leapt forward to help secure the now shrieking woman to the gurney. Her body jumped and twisted violently, and when I heard her shoulder break, I drew the Colts.

The first slug took her in the temple and ended her misery.

I took my time with everyone else.

The thunderous roar of the Colts filled the operating theater, drowning out the screams of pain and horror issuing forth from those within the room.

I killed every last one of the bastards, and I was angry there weren’t more.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Too Late

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The room was empty.

I could smell a faint hint of perfume mingled with the potent odor of fear.

The room, which held a cell in its center, was devoid of sound and hope. From where I stood, I could see the harsh bunk upon which the prisoner had lain. Sweat stains and splotches of blood marred the surface of the bunk and the floor of the cage as well.

Hopelessness and desperation stood before me in the form of iron and steel.

I did not know if Genevieve was kept here, but if she wasn’t, then I’m certain other young women were.

Was it prior to insemination? Were they bound and held until it was time for whatever unholy rite the professors of Miskatonic partook of?

I did not know, and I doubted I would know.

Not because the information would be unavailable to me but rather because I would kill anyone I came in contact with.

I had no doubts about that. What I had seen condemned the staff of this Miskatonic – and possibly those in my own world – to as brutal a death as I could manage. There were a great many ways to put men and women to death, each more painful than its predecessor.

Whether I would have that option, I did not know.

I only wanted to save the women I could and kill those who needed killing.

As I stood looking at the cage, the building shook beneath me, and raucous laughter vibrated through the walls.

The demigods continued wreaking havoc below me.

They might bring the walls down, but I would make it one way or another.

My only concern was finding Genevieve and saving her. Either from this place or from a miserable death.

I double-checked the loads on the Colts and then drew the pruning knife from the small of my back. Snapping open the blade, I checked its edge. It was, without a doubt, in sore need of sharpening, but there was enough of an edge to slit a throat, although it wouldn’t be pretty nor nearly as easy as it might ordinarily be.

But I wasn’t worried about easy or pretty.

So long as the knife cut the throat, I’d be pleased.

The Colts never failed, and I looked forward to hearing the thunder of the guns.

I adjusted the Colts in their holsters and made my way to the door.

This task was nearly done.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Upward

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I climbed the stairs.

Behind me, the sounds of a massacre faded. The demigods, unnamed and unknown, worked their way through those rooms I had not opened. I could feel the fear in the air, a sensation both unpleasant and fraught with danger.

I enjoyed it immensely.

At the top of the stairs, I found a large tin sign bolding, proclaiming the floor to be ‘Observation and Exploration.’

The stale, bitter scent of antiseptics eased out around a thin door and told me what I could expect beyond its slim boundary.

The doorknob was cold in my hand, but it opened easily enough, and I entered a large room dominated by dissection tables and various other pieces of scientific equipment for which I had no names nor any idea as to what they were for.

Only one person occupied the room, standing beside a small table upon which lay a collection of half-human bodies. He, like so many others in this place, paid me no mind as he went about his business. I watched as he peeled back skin and pierced muscle down to the bone.

At one point, he leaned forward, sniffed one miniature body, and then sliced off a bit of muscle near the rectum. He held it up, turned it from left to right, and then shrugged before he popped it off into his mouth.

The man hummed as he chewed, and I repressed a sudden desire to vomit.

I stepped toward him, and the man did not notice until I stood on the other side of the table from him, partially blocking some light.

He looked up with a frown and asked, “And who might you be, sir?”

My fists answered his question.

The first blow shattered his nose and caused him to drop the scalpel he had been using on the abominations in the tray in front of him. The second and third blows collapsed his orbital bones and dropped him to the floor. My boots shattered his knees, and I cracked his sternum as I crashed knees-first onto his chest.

The air rushed from his mouth, blood bubbled in his nostrils, and I grabbed him by his hair.

Without so much as a word to him, I slammed his head into the tiled floor until it had shattered and his brains were splattered around him.

I wish I could have hurt him more.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Prep work

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Sonofabitch!

He was quicker than I would have thought, and I paid for it.

I’d entered the room with more confidence than I should have felt. There’d been the steady thwack of a blade into meat and cutting board, but it hadn’t meant the butcher wasn’t paying attention, which was what I’d assumed.

I’d no sooner cleared the doorway than he spun around and charged. My pruning knife was no match for the cleaver he wielded.

And he could handle the tool, too.

He knocked my knife aside, I threw my left arm up to stop the back blow from taking off the lower half of my face, and I sacrificed a fair chunk of my forearm instead.

The blade was as sharp as it should have been, and so it was with little surprise – but a lot of anger – that I watched the lower part of my sleeve and a fair amount of flesh sail across the room.

As my unattached portion of arm slapped wetly upon the wooden wall, he was coming back toward me. I cursed at the lightheadedness sweeping over me and the blood soaking my left side. I managed to avoid another blow and step over my pruning knife.

The bastard handled the cleaver better than most men handled knives, and it took all I had in me to avoid disembowelment.

I snatched up a bit of offal from a table and threw it at him.

His reflexes were as good as I thought, and he ducked easily, a derisive grin on his face as he straightened once more.

The grin faded at the sight of the Colt I’d drawn with my good hand.

He raised the cleaver up to throw it, and I shot him through the hand, blowing his fingers off and shattering the handle of the tool. Fingers and cleaver landed on the floor together, and I watched with growing amusement as he struggled to draw a skinning knife from his belt. As the steel cleared the leather, I shot him in the hip, dropping him like a felled ox.

He bellowed in pain, then shrieked as I stepped down on his wounded hand. The butcher tried again to draw his knife, and I shot him in the groin, ending all resistance.

“I hate you,” he snarled.

“Figured that out,” I told him and drove my knee into his groin.

When his squeal of pain finished, I smiled and whispered, “I hate you, too.”

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Surgery

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Not what I wanted to see.

I found a nurse standing outside of a surgical room. She was in the process of adjusting her garb when I cut her throat from behind and left her bleeding to death on the linoleum floor.

I pushed open the swinging doors of the surgical chamber and found myself face to face with horror. A young woman lay on an operating table, arms strapped down and legs in stirrups, the feet bolted into place. She struggled against the bonds and the thing clawing its way out of her stomach. I suspect she would have screamed had a great flap of skin not been sewn across her mouth. At some point, someone had removed her eyes as well. This last, however, may have been done as a mercy. The discoloration on her skin and the marks upon it appeared to have been caused by whatever abomination grew within her.

A trio of nurses and a pair of doctors worked around the victim, their voices strained and their focus solely upon the salvation of the child and not the mother.

As I prepared to step forward and kill them all, the young woman’s belly exploded.

A rib shot out, pierced one doctor’s eye and burst from the back of his head as he collapsed to the floor. The woman on the table shuddered and expelled the thing within her half through her stomach and half in what would have been a natural birth.

The thing in her tore her open, and a great, clawed hand snapped out, gripped the closest nurse by the throat and shredded it.

The other two nurses came at the thing with syringes, plunging the needles into its gray-green skin. The other doctor stepped over his dead colleague and tried to wrench the thing from the mother’s corpse. As he did so, a long, black tongue lashed out, snatching first the doctor’s left eye and then his right.

The thing then grabbed the nurses and pulled them into the corpse.

The room shuddered as their legs disappeared into her belly, and then the body collapsed upon itself.

I found myself alone with a screaming doctor and a pair of corpses.

I took a length of surgical tubing and looped it around the doctor’s neck.

He died quicker than the others but not nearly as quickly as he would have liked.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Artists

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There was no denying their skill.

I found fault only with their choice of medium.

A beautiful piece of music slowly filled the hallway from the kitchen. The notes grew louder with each step, and when I reached a door marked ‘Remembrances,’ I could have fired off a scattergun, and no one would have heard me.

Like all the doors I’d tried so far, this one was unlocked.

When I opened the door, I saw a pair of men working diligently around an immobilized figure. It took me but a moment to see the woman between them was dead, her lower portions covered with thick clay.

The two men worked with smooth, careful motions. They had, from what I could tell by the gathered masks along the far wall, been working together for quite some time.

The only pity was what they were part of.

That, and they seemed to be enjoying their work a trifle too much.

And I wanted to know where Genevieve was.

I drew a Colt, cocked the pistol and brought it up. The movement caught one of the men’s attention, and as he looked up, his eyes widened in surprise.

I pulled the trigger and killed the man next to him, spraying bones and blood, brains and flesh across his face. As he wiped the remains of his companion from his mustache, I nodded toward the phonograph off to the left.

The man took several dazed steps over to the machine, lifted the needle and stared at me in slowly dawning horror.

“The women,” I said.

“No,” he whispered. “They’re mine when they’re dead. You can’t have them.”

“There are a few I can still save,” I told him, my voice growing tight. “I want them.”

He shook his head, body trembling. “I need them. They must be saved for posterity. They are the mothers of the future. Even those who are slain in birth.”

I could see it in his eyes. He didn’t care if he died.

Only if he couldn’t work with the dead.

I took two steps forward and punched him as hard as I could in the face. He collapsed to the floor, unconscious. I holstered the Colt, found some twine, and tied tourniquets around his wrists.

My knife wasn’t as sharp as when I’d come looking for Genevieve.

But there was enough of a blade to take his hands.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: In the kitchen.

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The kitchen was a marvel of efficiency.

The cooks laughed and joked good-naturedly with one another as they moved from stove to stove and pot to pot. Some slipped in and out of a walk-in refrigerator, removing selections of meat while others prepared vegetables.

None of them noticed me standing in the corner, just to the left of the door.

They were busy preparing a meal which, I must admit, smelled delicious.

At first, I feared they might be cooking some of the slain women, but there was no hint of human in the meal. I’ve seen enough men roasted to know what the smell of a cooking man is.

Still, there was something quite wrong with the meat.

Something unnatural.

I learned the source of it a moment later when a door at the far end of the room opened, and a disgruntled surgeon entered. In his hands, he held a bloody object wrapped in a sheet.

“Another?” a tall cook asked.

The surgeon nodded and replied in a voice filled with frustration. “We were only a week or two away from this one being viable. So close!”

“Show me,” the tall cook ordered, stepping close to the surgeon.

The surgeon threw back the sheet, revealing a twisted body reminiscent of a devil fish crossed with a small ape.

“Not nearly as ugly as the last few,” the tall cook observed.

“No,” the surgeon agreed. “In fact, this one actually took several breaths before blood seeped from its ears and mouth.”

“How bad for the breeder?” the tall cook inquired.

“This one decided the rectum was the place to exit,” the surgeon chuckled. “Wasn’t pretty, but it sure wasn’t the worse I’ve seen.”

“George,” the tall cook called and motioned toward the small body. A cook wandered over, wiped his hands off on his apron and took the corpse.

“I think we could probably sauté the tentacles,” George mused. “Maybe even pull some of the ribs.”

“Excellent,” the tall cook smiled, and he dismissed George as several blenders were turned on. The combined noise was loud, obnoxious, and perfect.

I drew my Colts, and the tall cook noticed me. His eyes widened, and he died as the first slug tore through his open mouth.

It wasn’t a fight in the kitchen.

It was a massacre.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: How Many

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How many had they killed?

I had rested in the room of the madman. I’d even found a bit of food tucked away and some tepid tea. Neither had been particularly appetizing, but it’d done the trick. I’ve eaten worse, and I suspect I’ll do so again.

When I left the madman’s room, I passed through one nearly as large as a football field and found a flight of stairs that led down. The stairs were wider, and the stairwell itself was well-lit.

At the landing, I paused and listened, knife in hand. There was a bit of talk, and a quick glance around the corner showed a trio of soldiers walking away from me, chuckling and passing a small, brown paper bag back and forth. A door to the right clicked shut. On the center of the door was a single word.

Delicacies.

That sure as hell didn’t sound like barracks.

Once the soldiers turned a corner, I crossed the hall and let myself in.

I found myself in a brightly lit room with shelves lining the walls. Some of the shelves were occupied by large jars, others by much smaller containers. A counter, much like one might find in a candy shop, stood across the room and was manned by a gentleman with a white uniform. He wore a neatly trimmed mustache, and sweat broke out upon his forehead when he caught sight of me.

There was a lock on the door, so I made good use of it.

He remained still and silent as I walked to him.

I went to speak, but my eyes caught the lettering on some of the larger containers.

H. Daily, 10/1/1889.

L. Bartleby, 9/3/1856.

My gaze went to the smaller jars.

Carried three months, uterine explosion.

Carried six months and two days, collapse of both lungs.

“Take one down,” I whispered.

The man nodded, took hold of a container marked A. Boone, 2/27/1901, and removed the lid.

“Dump it.”

He winced and did as I commanded.

White hard candy with black swirls tumbled and clattered across the counter.

“You should try one,” he said, voice shaking. “They’re quite good.”

I stared at him, the hatred rising.

“Every girl tastes different,” he continued. “No two are alike. I make sure of that.”

I broke every bone in my hands, beating him to death.

It was worth it.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: In the Chamber

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I wonder how many he’s killed.

He never heard me enter the room, which was fine with me. I was tired and in no mood for any sort of conversation. Still, the apparatus and the equipment caught my eye, and I wondered whose skulls he’d decorated his laboratory with.

I didn’t know what any of the material might have been used for or if he was particularly attached to those skulls. Perhaps they were patients he had been fond of. Perhaps he had simply enjoyed watching them die.

As I stood in silence, the machinery of the room rattling and thrumming around me, I watched the man putter around the lab. Every so often, as the noise of the machines sank for a moment, I would catch a bit of a classical piece. I knew it, somehow, but couldn’t quite place it.

That, too, I found to be irksome.

I glanced about the room as the man went about his business, and off in one corner, I saw several notebooks. Whether they contained any information which might be useful, I didn’t know. But I planned on finding out.

Just as soon as I was done with the scientist.

I took a quiet step forward and paused as he lifted up a skull. He sang to it, kissed its brow and stated, “You were nearly there, my dear. Another month and you would have given birth to a live one.”

He returned the skull to its place and lifted another. “And you, sweet Gillian, you died in childbirth, as did your unnatural offspring. Its lungs collapsed even as yours exploded.”

The man placed Gillian’s skull down and clasped his hands behind his back. He lowered his chin to his chest.

“My dear ladies,” he whispered. “It is a sad sacrifice you make but a necessary one. I wish you could have understood this fact while still alive, but I hope, through the clarifying lens of death, that you know it now. I will continue. I will use your sacrifice to guide me to our salvation.”

The man was mad, not cruel.

A lunatic, not a sadist.

I stepped up behind him, clapped one hand over his nose and mouth, and pulled back as I cut his throat.

His blood spilled out and splattered on the floor, and I laid him on it. I waited with him while he died.

He was mad and deserved that kindness.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: The Nurse

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Goddamn, but that was a fight.

I’ve had little rest in the past few days, but that’s not a reason for the difficulty of this past fight. Not at all. She would have been a challenge if I’d had a solid night’s sleep and plug of whiskey.

When I left the doctor’s room, I found a set of stairs leading up to the second floor. These were just as narrow as the hallway to his laboratory had been, and again, I didn’t mind. I’d been in tighter places in Europe and with more to fear.

Reaching the second floor, I slid a pocket door back and found myself in an operating theater occupied by a single nurse. She looked at me as I opened my mouth to speak, and she snatched up a scalpel from a tray.

Without any hesitation, she threw herself at me.

And not wildly, mind you but with skill and determination.

In a heartbeat, I was in a knife fight with a woman who knew how to wield a blade.

She didn’t waste any words, didn’t threaten or berate me. The nurse knew who I was and the danger I represented.

Damn, but she was a fine fighter.

I couldn’t draw my Colts, and she knew it. The fact that I wanted secrecy was a given to this woman, and she slashed and jabbed at me with a skill and dexterity bordering on the supernatural. She cut my coat to ribbons and kept me off balance as I drew my pruning knife and did what I could to stop her scalpel from finding something more substantial than cloth.

Within minutes I was sweating, and she pressed her advantage.

Had she not stumbled over a bit of raised flooring, the fight would have gone on a helluva lot longer.

Still, stumble, she did.

Her blow went wide, and as she corrected herself, the opening I’d been looking for presented itself.

I brought the pruning knife in an upward strike, and the curved blade punched into her underarm, causing her to drop the scalpel.

She clawed at my face and nearly gouged out an eye as I jerked my knife down and through her ribs, shattering them as I went.

The nurse fell to her knees, guts spilled out on the floor and hatred in her eyes.

I tapped her throat with the side of my blade, an offer of a quick death.

“Go to Hell, Blood,” she snarled.

I nodded. “Give it time.”

#paranormal #mystery

1931: First Floor

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I went hunting.

There was no time to waste. I’d seen what awaited the women among the scholars of the university, and it did not please me.

The anger filling me demanded I race from room to room to butcher each and every member of that organization. But the rational part of me won out. Rage and butchery would do nothing but forewarn my adversaries and allow them to possibly move her as well as any victims who might yet survive.

Before leaving the room, I locked the door and covered the remains of the patient whose head had imploded. Then, stepping over the nurse’s corpse, I exited the room through another door off in the corner.

It opened to a narrow passage lit by bare bulbs and stank of old blood and fear.

The passage opened into a laboratory where a man bent over a microscope, focused on the slide before him.

As I stepped into the room, knife in hand, he looked up. A quizzical expression flitted across his face as he asked, “And who might you be, sir?”

I shook my head. “Where are the girls?”

He raised an eyebrow, glanced at my knife and snorted with derision before he returned his attention to the microscope. “I’ve no time for some country bumpkin. Be on your way, sir, and make sure my coffee is sent up to me post haste. I’ve waited long enough for it.”

I don’t know if he was brave, cocky, or just stupid. Either way, his response to me didn’t bode well for his future.

I moved towards him, and he stood up, anger plain on his face.

“I will not have my work disturbed,” he snapped, and I punched him in the mouth.

The blow caught him flatfooted, and he went down on his ass. An ‘oomph’ of surprise escaped his lips and then a whimper as I took hold of him by an ear and twisted.

“Where are the girls?”

He swallowed and looked to the ceiling. “Fifth floor. Barracks are on the fourth.”

“How many are still alive?”

“Twenty-two.”

“How many have a chance to live?”

He looked away, and I scooped his eye out with the tip of my knife.

As he shrieked, I held the eye in front of him.

“Tell me, or you’ll eat this and your other eye too.”

“Three,” he moaned.

“They’ll all live longer than you.”

He choked to death on his eye.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Inside

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They died quiet.

Moving from the gunners, through the gates and into the open yard around the building, I stopped and hid as a patrol passed by. The two soldiers grumbled as they went, complaining about the maggoty bread they’d been given with a meager supper of chicken soup.

One was stating that the breeders were fed better than the soldiers were when he died with my knife buried in his throat.

His comrade had never fought before, a fact evidenced by his immobilization at the sight of his companion’s death.

The man started muttering and clearing his throat as I snapped the blade out of his comrade and buried it in his own. Hot blood splashed my face, stained my clothes and reminded me of my youth.

When I reached the doors, I found them unlocked, and they opened on blessedly silent hinges.

There were neither guards nor staff at the door, and I didn’t mind that one bit, either. Less killing meant more time searching, although I’ll admit I was just as keen to kill as I was to take a breath.

All these sonsofbitches deserved to die.

That was a fact.

Standing in a large hallway, I turned left and kept to the edge, unsure as to what I might find in the place. The first pair of rooms were empty of people, though the remnants of the same could be seen.

What appeared to be afterbirth lay on the floor near a pool of drying blood. Bits of skin and flesh, along with tufts of hair, could be seen. Medical equipment, splattered with gore and filth, stood in no particular order around the edges of the room.

The third room, however, well, that helped a great deal.

In the room, a nurse stood over a patient whose tired face was partially hidden beneath a sheet as she gazed down into a bowl. As I watched, a long and dark tentacle reached up, hook her through her nose, and the creature screamed.

Without waiting, I sprang into the room and cut the nurse down. The patient remained where she was, eyes pleading as I turned on my heel and slashed the tentacle. The bowl dropped from the patient’s hands as the young woman’s head imploded.

In a heartbeat, I was left with a steaming pile of human flesh and a near-blinding hatred for Miskatonic.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Word Spreads

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Someone talked.

I had to dump Calvin’s official vehicle not long after I’d taken it. I found a safe spot to hole up for the rest of the day and cleaned my Colts.

Once night had settled, I slipped free of my hiding place and made my way toward the edge of town. According to the young man I’d scalped back at Miskatonic, the breeders (as he had called them) were being held in a building off Northfield Road. In my Cross, there wasn’t a damned thing there, which is how I liked it. Northfield Road was a tad too close to the Hollow for my comfort.

I skirted along the edges of roads and cut through yards, climbed fences and greeted dogs with a kind word. When I got to Northfield Road, I saw the scalped man hadn’t been lying.

The building was tall and new. Lights blazed down from the fifth-story roof, and guards patrolled in pairs around the property. A trio of tall iron fences, each topped with concertina wire, surrounded the place. After a quick scout around the building, I saw there were only two entrances.

Each was guarded by a trio of guards on a Vickers machine gun.

The men seemed particularly attentive to their duties, and I could only assume it was due to me.

From what I counted, there were six men on two machine guns. Eight men patrolling the grounds in groups of two. If they were running three shifts, that meant there were 24 more men inside, plus an officer or two as well as a sergeant or corporal of the guard.

Too many for the Colts alone.

I watched until the shift changed, and men came out dressed for the chill in the air. I heard them complain bitterly to the men they were relieving, and good-natured ribbing was the general response.

For another hour, I waited. The men yawned, complained some more, and then fell about the subject of attractive women.

I drew my pruning knife and crept down to the front gate after one of the wandering patrols had passed.

The men on the gun, men who only knew the machine-like thrum of modern war, died in silence. My first wars were fought in shadows and darkness, hand to hand and with brutal finesse.

These men were the first in this place, but they wouldn’t be the last.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Around Town

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They were kept across town.

This was a Cross where I was known and, as all evidence showed, not particularly well-liked. I didn’t know if the sentiment was restricted to the staff and residents of Miskatonic or if it was shared by the town at large.

I was keen to know the answer as it would make retrieving Genevieve either harder or easier.

I left the campus by a side gate, cut across a field that wasn’t in my own Cross, and came out on a new street. I turned left and kept up a steady pace, conscious of the few people I saw and their reactions to me.

None of them looked pleased.

I wasn’t surprised when a police auto pulled up beside me as I stepped out onto Blood Road.

Calvin Black exited the vehicle and looked at me with a smile lacking any sort of pleasure.

“Duncan Blood,” Calvin greeted, opening his jacket to reveal his badge and the pistol slung under his shoulder. “I know I’ve told you to stay out of town before.”

For a moment, I wondered how this version of myself reacted. Then I recalled the length of time it had taken me to regrow my hand in this place.

The townsfolk must have hurt him and hurt him badly.

I kept my hands away from the Colts. “You’ve said no such thing to me.”

He frowned, squinted, and then chuckled. “Well, I can see that I haven’t. You’re not my Duncan. He’s bright enough to keep to the damn farm. You look like you’re dumber than a box of hammers.”

“Could be,” I replied.

He slipped his hands into his pockets, spat on the ground and said, “I can have twenty men here in less than five minutes and a man with a flamethrower in ten. What do you say to that?”

“I think that a man with a shoulder holster shouldn’t run his mouth.”

I drew a Colt as he fumbled to get his hands out of his pockets, and I shot him in his right arm.

Calvin was game, though, and he tried to get his weapon with his left arm.

Until I shot him in that arm, too.

He stared at me with disbelief right until I walked up, put the barrel of the Colt against the center of his forehead and smiled.

“Your men and flamethrower don’t mean a thing,” I told him, and I pulled the trigger.

I drove over his body as I went in search of Genevieve.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Negotiations

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They got the drop on me.

The unmistakable clack of a round being chambered into a shotgun brought me up short. My hands were at my sides, easing the hammers back on the Colts as a young man stepped out from a hedge and settled into a wicker chair. A trio of other men stepped out as well, holding shotguns in their hands.

They flanked the seated man on either side, and he grinned at me.

“You’re not supposed to be around this area,” the man stated.

“In fact,” the speaker continued, “you’re not supposed to be here at all. Especially not with those hand cannons you’re holding.”

I didn’t bring the Colts up. The men were fixated on my every move, and I didn’t blame them. Whether they knew me or not, the way I held the Colts showed I meant business.

The way they held their shotguns meant they did not.

The men carried the weapons as though they were uncomfortable with them. I suspect they were more afraid of shooting one another than they were of shooting me.

“I’m going to have to ask you to put your pistols down,” the speaker stated, “and leave the campus.”

I smiled. “Where did they bring the breeders?”

Surprise flickered across his face. “Drop your pistols.”

I opened fire instead.

My Colts cut the shotgun bearers down, and the speaker became tangled in the wicker chair, tumbling to the ground in his attempt to escape.

He screamed in both pain and fear as I placed the hot muzzle of a Colt against the back of his neck.

“Where did they bring them?”

“They’ll kill me if I talk!”

I clipped the side of his head with the butt of a revolver and remarked, “What do you think I’m going to do if you don’t?”

“Just kill me now,” he stuttered, trying on an air of bravado. “I won’t tell you anything.”

I holstered the Colts, took hold of him by the hair, and retrieved my knife. His eyes widened as he watched me, and when I snapped the curved blade open, he gasped.

“What will you do?”

I smiled. “I’ll prune your lies from the tree of truth and your scalp from your head.”

“What?”

He let out a shriek as the blade bit into his skin. He jumped and twisted in my hands as I scalped him.

Soon, he told me what I wanted to know.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Gunfight

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It was a helluva fight.

The guards died when they opened the doors.

The heavy slugs of the Colts slammed the two men back, tearing into their chests and sending them spinning out of the way. I stepped over twitching legs, and met another pair of guards as they raced into the room, long, metal batons in their hands.

Long or not, my Colts have a better reach.

They died just as quickly and just as badly as their compatriots.

More men and a few women came racing downstairs and out of rooms toward me.

I killed the first man on the stairs, and others stumbled over him, crashing onto the floor. I shot women in one doorway and men in another, bottlenecking the entrances.

Kicking the front door closed, I reloaded the Colts and was ready when the others scrambled over their fallen comrades.

And they died too.

For nearly five minutes, I stood my ground, and the Colts thundered in the confines of the hall. When it was over, the wounded and the dying cried out for mercy.

I had none for them.

I reloaded the Colts once more and finished off the wounded with my pruning knife. It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t out of mercy.

I didn’t want anyone coming after me.

I cleaned the blade off on the shirt of an orderly before putting the weapon away. With the Colts in my hands, I went looking for the head of the building, and I found him soon enough.

He was in a small office, busy writing down some notes. He didn’t bother to look up when I entered the room.

“They’re gone,” he told me.

“That a fact?”

He nodded and wrote something else down before closing the notebook and looking up at me. There was a hint of fear in his eyes but little else. “I’m going to die.”

I nodded.

“Which one are you looking for, Blood?” he asked.

“Genevieve.”

He frowned, tapped his fingers on the desk for a moment, and then nodded. “Yes. She was one of the new ones. They’re across town in a separate facility now. She might be one of the few to carry the creature full-term.”

I cocked the hammers back on the Colts.

He tapped his inkwell. “Poison, Blood. I took it a moment before you walked in.”

“Pity,” I said and shot him through the mouth.

I could only hope to find her in time.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Surprised

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Surprisingly, Caleb Withers managed to speak a name.

“Philip’s Hall.”

It took me a bit of time to get the blood and filth off my hands once I was done with him, but I managed to clean up nicely. My anger with Caleb and his school remained unsated. I would need gallons of blood to cool my temper, and even then, it might not do a whole helluva lot.

Still, Philip’s Hall sounded promising. I doubt the school kept its test products here on campus. Even if this particular version of Cross was fine with the experiments – which I doubted – no one would want to accidentally expose the tests to the general public.

As for Philip’s Hall, the Miskatonic in my version of Cross was lacking such a building, and so without a map or any indication as to where the building might be, I went out in search of it.

Fortunately, I didn’t see any others. That didn’t mean they weren’t watching from some safe location, but at least I wasn’t waiting for an attack.

I preferred being on the move.

As I followed the cobblestone paths of the campus, I caught a few students and faculty eying me. I knew some of them recognized me.

I didn’t worry too much about it. Instead, I made sure the Colts were loose in their holsters and ready to go.

After about half an hour of wandering, I found Philip’s Hall and knew it wouldn’t be easy to get into. I could see a pair of guards through the sidelights of the door, and as I made my way around the building, I could see others were watching from the higher floors.

These men were leaving nothing to chance.

Of course, they couldn’t have reckoned on me, the idiocy of their own, and my willingness to destroy them.

Yes, they had a version of me, but in my travels, I’ve discovered that few have lived up to my reputation of violence.

And I’m fine with that.

Finally, I returned to the front of the building and looked at it for a few moments.

With a sigh, I made my decision.

Walking up the front path, I climbed the steps, took out one of the Colts and struck the door hard in its center with the butt of a Colt. Drawing the other revolver, I waited.

As the door opened, I cocked the hammers back and greeted the guards.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Worth the Wait

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I found her beau.

My hand had finally grown in about midnight, and I gave it another hour, just to be sure. I didn’t need it to go through any growing pains as I tried to pull a trigger.

With a Colt in each hand, I climbed a circular stairwell toward the top of the building. About a third of the way up, I heard a pair of voices. Young men were chatting in good humor.

That changed when I rounded the stairs and stepped onto a small landing.

The men had just finished locking a round door, and one was in the act of putting the key away.

“Hello,” I greeted, and the men panicked.

The one holding the key died with a slug from one of my Colts in his brain. The second man, his face splattered with the blood and the brains of his friend as the dead man slid boneless to the floor of the hall.

“And who are you?” I asked.

“Caleb,” he whispered. “Caleb Withers.”

Anger surged within me, but I kept it locked down.

“Caleb?” I asked, my voice tight. “You’d be Genevieve’s beau, then?”

The cords on his neck stood out, and he started to shake his head.

“Think about your answer, boy,” I spat. “If you’ve a Blood in this place, then you know what I can do. What I’d be happy to do.”

He whispered, “Yes, I’m her beau. I’m a beau to each and every one. Forty-five, to be exact.”

I heard a hint of pride in his comment, and I pointed a Colt at his groin. “I’d watch your mouth.”

His entire body shook, and he soiled himself.

“How many of them are still alive?” I asked.

He licked his lips and answered, “Um, let’s see. Two, maybe three. I can’t remember. Most die in different ways. I don’t do much after I fetch them for the school.”

“So you’re bait?”

He nodded. “No one is as good as me.”

“You’re using the wrong tense.”

Caleb frowned. “What do you mean?”

I fired both Colts, and the slugs tore through his groin and his abdomen. Excrement tumbled out of the wound as easily as fresh linen from a basket.

He tried to stuff his guts back, but they wouldn’t go.

As he stood there, confused as to what had happened, I stepped forward and helped.

I drew my pruning knife and grabbed a handful of intestines.

With his screams filling the stairwell, I began to cut.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Unwanted

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Well, that’s damned unfortunate.

I’ve had to hunker down in a room for a bit. Seems that my injuries take a mite longer to heal in this version of Cross or wherever the hell this particular Miskatonic is.

I’ve gone nearly twelve hours, and the hand still isn’t fully grown.

While I’ve never been overly cautious when it comes to minor injuries, I was going to need to change my attitude. What I consider minor, such as the loss of a hand or an eye, was certainly looking like it would be a major inconvenience in anything I wanted to achieve. The last thing I wanted was to fail Genevieve because I’d rushed in and had both my legs lopped off at the knees.

As it was, I barricaded myself in the room as best I could and with as little noise as possible. And as my hand took its sweet time growing back, I perused the shelves.

I learned more than I wanted to about why they’d snatched Genevieve.

I also discovered she wasn’t the first. Nor the second.

She was one of many.

In 1911, the home branch of Miskatonic sent out an expedition to Prince Edward Island in Canada. Rumor had it that a bit of an iceberg had lodged itself into a cove, and a strange creature had been discovered in the ice. The shape was vaguely humanoid and was a mix of both male and female genders. When the expedition retrieved the body – leaving behind several dead fishermen and their families – they were able to retrieve both seed and eggs from the creature.

Through a convoluted mixture of arcane magic and ethically questionable science, they were able to impregnate a young woman they’d taken captive. She carried something in her belly for three months before it exploded, and they both died.

The professors were thrilled, of course, and for almost two decades, they’d been trying to get a breeder to carry one of the creatures to term.

None had.

Creature and breeder always died, and the longer the creature was carried, the worse the death was.

I read accounts of skin peeling off in great strips and teeth shattering in mouths, tongues curling black and bowels exploding from rectums.

Pain and misery.

That’s what awaited Genevieve.

I needed my goddamned hand to grow.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Unexpected

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He took my damned hand off.

I’d no sooner opened the next door when an axe lopped off my left hand at the wrist.

I threw myself forward, shoulder down, and struck the man in the midsection.

He was no fool, though.

The man let go of the axe and brought both his fists smashing down into my back as I drove a punch up into his sternum. We both grunted from the pain and staggered away. I didn’t draw a Colt. There was a lot of blood pouring from the site of the rough amputation.

I stripped off my coat, wrapped it around the bloody stump, and tightened it down as best I could.

“Been a long time, Blood,” the man stated.

“Don’t know who you are,” I replied.

“Jamison,” he said.

“You’re a son of a bitch.”

He chuckled and showed me his hands. Both were crafted of steel, and when he moved them, they made an odd, ticking sound as though there was some sort of mechanics in them.

“I just need your other hand,” he informed me. “Payback for what you did, oh, thirty-one years ago.”

“I suspect you deserved it.”

“Without a doubt. Still, you owe me.”

I spat on the floor. “I suppose I do. Come at me then.”

“You’ll use your Colts. Or, rather, one of them.”

I shook my head. “You want a fight with knives, I’ll give it to you. Hands, well, you’ve got me there.”

“I like knives,” the man said, and he clenched his mechanical hands into fists.

Blades came up from his wrists, each weapon easily ten inches in length. He rolled his shoulders, grinned, and took a step toward me.

I didn’t bother reaching for my Bowie knife. The draw would take too long and let him get in too close. Instead, I drew my tree pruner, snapping the blade open as Jamison sprang at me.

His attack was skilled and deft, the blades drawing blood.

But I’d been working with knives for longer than he’d been alive, and he came to a staggering stop behind me.

I heard the first splatter of blood on the floor, then the mad splash of the same as his throat opened up. He wavered for a moment, then collapsed first to his knees and then to the floor.

Sitting down beside him, as I waited for my hand to regrow, I set about cutting off his hands.

I wanted to see how they worked.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Conversation

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He didn’t want to talk to me.

Before I left the woman’s office, I finished the tea and a few biscuits I found in a tin on her desk.

With her tongue wrapped in a bit of linen, I left the room and found myself in a hallway similar – though subtly different – the Miskatonic I was familiar with. A dozen doors stood on either side of the wide hall, and all were closed. Lamps, with dimly lit electric light bulbs, hung between each door. A runner, new from its appearance, ran the length of the hallway, inviting all who entered to travel its length.

Brass nameplates were affixed to each door, and below the nameplates stood knockers of various sorts. One was a Chinese dragon, another the head of a bull. A noxious odor hung in the air, and I was reminded more of disinterred corpses than I was of higher education. In the stillness of the hall, I waited and listened.

My patience was rewarded when I heard a muffled cough come from a closed-door halfway down the hall. I walked along the runner to the door, saw the name “Garfield, H.” in bold, gothic script, and the knocker beneath it was a closed fist.

I knocked twice with the fist, and a moment later, a sharp “Come!” greeted me.

I opened the door and found a man bent over a table, measuring the distance on a map. Without looking up, he snapped, “I’ve been waiting a damned long time, Jon, and I’d like to know why.”

I closed the door and threw the tongue onto the map. The linen opened, the tongue tumbled out, and blood smeared across the map.

H. Garfield straightened up and looked at me in horror, his face pale.

“I don’t like it when people won’t talk,” I told him.

His eyes went from me to the Colts to the tongue and back to me.

“I don’t know anything about her,” he whispered.

I raised an eyebrow. “Well, you seem to know why I’m here.”

His body convulsed, and he took a tottering step back. “No, no, I don’t.”

“Professor Garfield,” I said, drawing a revolver. “I don’t believe you.”

The man’s eyes rolled up into his head, and he pitched forward, striking the floor hard enough to shatter his nose.

Keeping the Colt aimed at him, I reached down and rolled him over.

The bastard had died.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: More Schooling

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She was unpleasantly surprised.

Once the good professor lay dead in a pool of his own blood on the floor, I stepped over his corpse and entered the washroom. The toilet stood on the right, the sink on the left, and directly across from the door, another door waited.

It was similar to the one through which I’d just entered. The hardware around the knob was different, and the hinges were a tad more ornate, but the similarity was there.

A single step carried me across the tiled floor, and the knob turned with ease in my hand.

And why shouldn’t it? No one on the other side was expecting me, ‘though they should have.

When I opened the door, I found myself in a tall, grand room with a matron sitting in a room lined with books. Before her, on a slight table, stood an elegant coffee service, and for a moment, she wore an expression of pleasant surprise.

But only for a moment.

While I didn’t know the woman from Adam, she sure as hell knew me.

Her hand reached for a small revolver tucked off to one side, and her simple act told me all I needed to know about this version of Cross.

The click of my hammer stopped her hand.

“Now,” I said, voice low. “Seems like introductions are in order. I’m Duncan Blood.”

She snarled, “I know what you are.”

“What’s your name?”

“Names are power,” she replied. “I’ll give you none.”

Keeping the pistol leveled on her, I went to the coffee service, poured myself a cup, and took a sip of the hot brew.

It was damn fine.

“I take it sound doesn’t travel well,” I remarked, and her eyes widened a tad.

“If it did,” I continued. “You’d know your little playmate was dead. Died bad, too.”

The color drained from her face. “I don’t know what you’re doing here, Blood, but you need to leave.”

I shook my head, drank a little more coffee and asked, “Where is she?”

The woman’s lips tightened as she pressed them together.

I finished the coffee, moved the small table and leaned in close. “Where?”

Her hand moved for the pistol, and I shattered her jaw with the butt of the Colt.

The blow didn’t loosen her tongue, so I pried her mouth open, pushed past the shattered teeth and cut out her tongue.

She wasn’t using it anyway.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Looking

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I went looking for Professor Withers.

I didn’t find him, but I found someone else. Someone I’d put a bullet in three years earlier. And it was well-deserved.

I didn’t question how Professor Anthony Timmons could be alive.

I was curious about what he knew.

When I knocked on the door of the Arabian architecture staff, a young co-ed answered the door. She wasn’t anyone I knew, but she sure as hell appeared to know me. Her face paled, she stuttered, gasped, and then her eyes rolled back in her head as she fainted. I caught her, set her down in the hallway, and went into the office.

“Marie?” Timmons called as he exited a small washroom. Whatever other question might have been on his lips died when he saw me.

“You’re dead,” I told him, closing the door and drawing a Colt. “I put you down and took your crown, Professor.”

I cocked the hammer, brought it up and aimed the revolver at him.

“Tell me,” I continued. “Did you come from the Hollow?”

He swallowed and gave a nod, his eyes darting to the washroom.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Blood?” he asked, his voice shaking.

“Tell me where Genevieve Hunt is, and I’ll be on my way.”

His face tightened, and he forced a smile. “Who?”

I stepped forward and smashed my knee into his groin, sending him to the floor, where he knelt, gasping and vomiting his breakfast. Placing the barrel behind the man’s ear, I waited for him to settle down.

“It’s clear you know me,” I said, voice low. “And I knew you. I know all sorts of ways to hurt you, Anthony, and I’ll use them all. Once I start, I won’t stop. Tell me where the girl is.”

“Withers took her into the Hollow,” the man whimpered. “We have our own Miskatonic. Some of our professors, including myself and Withers, are on a sort of exchange program.”

I frowned. “How in the hell do you keep the Hollow fixed in one place for so long?”

Again his eyes flickered to the washroom, and I knew.

“Through there?”

He nodded. “It’s steady. We found it only last year. It’s stayed in one place ever since.”

“Why is she there?”

“We needed a breeder,” the man whispered.

I kicked the man onto his back, put the Colt in his belly and pulled the trigger.

He died slow.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Genevieve

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The bastards at Miskatonic took her.

She was from an old Cross family, and she was seeing a young man from Miskatonic University’s Cross Branch. Caleb Withers taught in the Department of Artefacts, specializing in Arabian architecture. The man was polite, charming, and self-deprecating.

This morning, the first of November, the Colonel sent a man to me, asking if I would be so kind as to join the Colonel for breakfast.

The last time Colonel Johnathan Hunt had breakfast together, we were taking cover in a shell hole on the Somme in 1916.

Rarely did we speak of it.

I agreed to go with the man, strapped on my Colts and took my pipe and tobacco. There was no telling how long breakfast might go on.

When we arrived at the Hunt home, I was ushered into the man’s library, where he sat stiffly in the chair behind his desk. His hands gripped the top of his cane tight enough to make his knuckles white. Muscles jumped along the side of his jaw, and I could see the effort he was exerting to maintain some semblance of calm.

Only when the door to the library closed did Colonel Hunt let go of this cane and slump into his chair. The cane fell and clattered on the floor. Jonathan’s eyes, sunken deep into their sockets, had a desperation I’d never seen before.

“She’s gone,” he told me.

There was no need to ask who. He was a widower, and he lived alone with his daughter.

“Where?” I asked.

Jonathan shook his head. “I don’t know. Not for certain. She went out with her young man last night, around half past seven. They were to attend an opening at the university and return close to midnight. I took my tonic and went to bed. I only discovered her absence this morning, and so I sent Henry ‘round to bring you here.”

“Miskatonic,” I mused. “You rang them up?”

He nodded. “They told me her young man, Caleb Withers, had never been employed there.”

“That a fact?”

“Yes.”

I rubbed at my chin. “I saw him lecture myself when he first came.”

“As did I. They took her, Duncan. They took my little girl.”

“I know it.”

“You’ll bring her home?” he asked as I got to my feet.

“Aye,” I told him. “And some scalps too.”

Dead or alive, I’d bring her home to her father.

#paranormal #mystery

October 31, 1976

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We met them in the Hollow.

And we fought hard.

We did not wait for my mother’s gathered troops to march out in formation, to take up their positions and sweep across my town.

No, we defended Blood lands and my town, and we went at the Killed Soldiers in the tried and true fashion of New Englanders.

We fired from behind walls and trees, and we employed all the craft of a hunter. The dogs broke off into groups of two and three, and we could hear their voices above the din of battle.

The canines lured the Killed Soldiers into traps, crying out as though wounded. The Killed Soldiers were in no mood for prisoners, and neither were we.

No quarter was asked for no quarter would be given.

It was an unspoken truth we all understood.

I led the way, if not by example, then by brutality.

I scalped the wounded and opened their bellies, their shrieks of pain unnerving even to men who had already died once.

My enemy needed to fear me more than they feared my mother, and soon enough, they did.

They began to fall back, and as they did so, the Coffins picked them off from secure firing positions, and the dogs dashed out to drag men into the tree line, where throats were torn out and stomachs emptied.

The survivors began to run, and we cut them down.

We herded them into a small glade, at the far end of which a door appeared and was thrown open. A strange version of my mother stepped out.

She stood at least seven feet tall, if not close to eight, and her arms and legs were all wrong, as though she’d once been a spider. Her white dress was yellowed and stained, her glassy eyes catching the sun. Black ichor dripped from a mouth too wide, and a horrendous scream attempted to drive back the Killed Soldiers.

I took my Spencer, chambered a round, and sighted along its barrel. As my mother barked her orders, I put a bullet through her open mouth and watched as she fell with disturbing elegance to the ground.

The soldiers fled through the door, and the field was ours.

We left the bodies to rot and went home to draw up the papers for Aretas’ islands.

Was seeing one of my mothers dead worth a pair of islands?

It sure as hell was.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 30, 1976

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They arrived.

Sitting in the Child’s house with the afternoon sun fighting against the darkening storm clouds for dominance in the sky, I remember the day in stark tones of gray and white.

With the arrival of our cousins, the Coffins, it was time to prepare for the fight.

We gathered on Blood Island, our kin at the front of the house while Aretas took a seat beside me. Molly and her pack were scattered around the island, as were the ravens. Both groups of animals kept watch while we prepared for our fight.

The men had come up from Pennsylvania, and all had brought their rifles with them. They listened politely as Aretas explained the situation, and when he finished, the men asked for some time to discuss it among themselves.

I was not surprised that they did not leap at the opportunity to go to war.

Aretas, however, was disappointed and angry.

“What’s wrong with them?” he asked, lighting his pipe. “Why are they even discussing it?”

I smiled as I lit my own pipe. “Easy enough to understand. These aren’t old Coffins, cousin. They are bereft of magic. Their wounds are permanent. Their lives short. It takes far less than fire to put them down, and when they do go down, that’s where they’ll stay. No, this is a great deal for them, and they’ll want assurances that not only will they be cared for should they be injured, but that their families will not suffer should some die or no longer be able to work their land.”

Aretas mused over this for a moment, taking in long draws from his pipe and then letting them out slowly. Finally, he nodded. “That makes sense.”

“We’ll be fortunate to get half of them,” I remarked.

“Care to place a wager on it?” Aretas asked, grinning around the pipe.

I raised an eyebrow. “What’s the prize?”

“Another island.”

I smiled. “A smaller one than Mad Island.”

“Smaller is fine. Just make sure it’s close,” Aretas stated.

Before I could reply, the Coffins appeared.

“What say you?” Aretas asked.

“What assurances can you give us, should we fall or be crippled?”

I answered, “No man or his family will suffer.”

The speaker nodded. “Then we’ll all go, Coffins beside Bloods.”

I looked like I was out another island.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 29, 1976

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We spoke for two days.

After Aretas and I had stirred the proverbial pot for a bit, we split up and went in search of reinforcements. While I haven’t seen him since the 27th, I’m hoping he was as successful as I was.

I’d sent out a few ravens in various directions, each with a single message for any dog they saw.

“Duncan would like a word.”

Some of the dogs heard.

I should clarify that.

Some German shepherds received the word.

They arrived by the twos and threes, and by this afternoon, I had nearly a platoon of dogs.

All could speak. It was a marvel and a nightmare all at once.

One or two dogs gifted with speech are impressive and awe-inspiring.

Thirty or so make you want to drink until you can’t hear a goddamn word anyone says. To say they’ve nothing to talk about would be an understatement.

I lucked out with the female who took charge. Her name was Molly, and she was trouble, the kind I could appreciate. Any dog that didn’t listen got a bite on the ass and a growl that put its belly down on the ground. More than a few rolled over and showed their necks, and I have to admit, I was impressed.

She got the dogs lined up in some semblance of order, then turned to face me.

“What’ll you have of us, Blood?” she asked, her voice as deep and powerful as her will.

“There are dead men in the Hollow,” I explained. “They’ve been brought back by my mother, and most are more than willing to try and kill me.”

Molly snorted. “You’re worried about death?”

I chuckled and shook my head. “Not from these. I just need help keeping them contained, possibly rolling up their flanks and driving them back, deeper into the Hollow.”

“That can be done,” she stated. “My pack may be a bit hard of hearing at times, but they listen when it’s time. They do their work, no matter how dirty it might be.”

“That’s damned fine to hear,” I admitted. After a moment, I asked, “How is it all of you can speak?”

Molly scratched the back of her left ear lazily for a moment before she replied.

“Well, Mother had an agreeable disposition,” Molly stated.

I looked out over the gathered dogs, all of whom were siblings, and let out a chuckle.

“I suppose she was.”

#paranormal #Halloween

October 27, 1976

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“Gatling guns.”

Aretas handed the glasses back to me, and I peered through them once more. I could see the Gatling guns on their carriages, and I was none too pleased either.

Aretas and I settled down with our backs to the wall, heads just under the lip of the same.

“Seems you’ve upset your mother,” Aretas observed.

I grunted a noncommittal response.

“Then again,” he continued. “I’m fairly certain you did that just by being born.”

“Sounds about right,” I replied.

“What are you thinking about?”

“That I wish the dogs were here,” I replied. “You?”

“That our kith and kin had responded.

“Coffins are naught but cousins,” I reminded him. “And distant ones at that, now.”

“Hm. I thought a few would be interested in a gunfight,” the man sighed.

“Well, dogs should be here in a day. P’raps two at the most,” I stated.

We sat in silence for a moment, and I waited for him to ask.

He didn’t disappoint.

“Duncan,” Aretas began.

“You can have an island,” I told him.

The man’s mouth moved in stunned silence for a moment. Then he cleared his throat and asked, “An island?”

I nodded. “I’ve got a few more than I used to. Some of the bigger ones seem to have drifted to a spot and affixed themselves to it. The merfolk and the naiads keep a close watch on them, but I’d feel better about a family member out on one of them. One of the bigger ones, too, so we could mount a proper defense, should we need it. There’s one island with a lighthouse, too. Some days, it’s even on the sea.”

He peered at me. “Has it gotten that bad?”

“Worse’n that, at times. The one with the lighthouse, Mad Island, ruined as it is, is possibly the best of them for a Blood. Got to watch out for James, though.”

“James?”

“Aye,” I grinned. “He’s from somewhere best left unthought of, and he’s a taste for hearts. Human ones.”

“I’ll worry about James after we take care of your mother’s soldiers,” Aretas said.

“Aye,” I agreed. “It’s a good thing I brought my Spencer.”

Picking up the rifle, I rolled onto my belly and judged the distance to the closest Gatling gun. Men were easier to replace than machines.

I took aim at the gun, found the rhythm of my breath, and squeezed the trigger.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 26, 1976

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He wasn’t in the best of moods.

I can’t say as I blame him. I did lock him in a mausoleum for nigh on four decades.

Without anything to eat or drink.

Seems like we can live without it, which is – according to Aretas – damned unpleasant. I’ll take his word on that.

Once we were back at the farmhouse and he’d had a proper bath and a shave, not to mention a fair bit to eat (and he drank three bottles of good French cognac, the sonofabitch), we set down to parlay.

While Aretas wasn’t overly fond of Cross, he didn’t want anything happening to Blood property. He was still harboring a desire to own it, although he had an aversion to the back section of the land where his mausoleum stood.

“How many do you think there’ll be?” he asked, taking one of my spare pipes and loading it with a heavy hand.

Holding back a sigh, I answered, “I suspect close to a regiment.”

Aretas raised an eyebrow. “How do you plan on handling them?”

I lit my own pipe, took a long, contemplative pull, and as I exhaled, I stated, “I’m thinking of calling in some dogs.”

“Dogs?” he asked with a frown.

I nodded. “They’re the most reliable.”

“Mayhaps for keeping the troops in the Hollow,” Aretas remarked. “We’ll want to kill as many as possible, though. Sharpshooters if we can find them. Any kin like that around?”

“You’re ‘bout the only kin I have left, Aretas,” I informed him. “I suspect we could reach out to some of the Coffins that moved on toward Norwichtown. There’s a chance some in Concord might be able to make it down, too.”

“Send word to ‘em,” Aretas said. “And sooner rather than later.”

I paused and looked at him. “What do you plan on doing, cousin?”

He closed his eyes and leaned his head against the back of the chair. “I’m going to sleep in a goddamn bed.”

With my pipe clenched between my teeth, I went out and saddled a horse.

Aretas deserved a bed. He’d earned his food.

But damn it, he was an irritating bastard.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 24, 1976

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The one-armed man had spoken the truth.

Only a few days passed before I was made aware of a shifting in the Hollow. Upon occasion, the place would ground itself, either by happenstance or by force. By the groaning of the earth and the buckling of North Road.

The ravens were more than happy to share the news, too.

There’d been a hard frost the night prior, and I was checking on the orchards when the ravens arrived with information about the Hollow. I was thankful for the distraction as some of the trees were putting up quite the fuss over a lack of meat. When the ravens spoke of the men gathering in the Hollow, silence fell over the apple trees as they listened eagerly.

“Truth be told, Duncan,” one of the ravens said, “it looks to be quite a force building up. You may want help.”

I nodded. There was always the possibility. Although, I was fairly irritated with my mother for all the trouble she’d caused as of late.

Before calling in reinforcements of any sort, however, I’d make a reconnaissance of my own.

I took my glasses and my Colts, as well as my Spencer, along for good measure. Rather than risking injury to one of my horses, I left the farm on foot and made my way along the right-hand side of the road. I kept just inside the tree line, careful to keep out of sight. I didn’t need any sharp-eyed picket taking a shot or two at me.

The sound and smell of the encampment caught my attention, and I crept forward until I was situated behind the stonewall, close to a patch of bramble that gave me a fair amount of cover. With the wall for protection, I peered up and over the stones, bringing the glasses with me. I focused them in, and in the distance, I saw the beginning of a force.

From what I could see, the headquarters element had arrived, and their tents established. I could hear the sound of marching feet and knew that more men were on their way. While I didn’t know how many men would eventually make camp, I had a fair idea judging by the headquarters troops.

I might face as much as a battalion.

It was time to call upon my own dead.

I only hoped they wouldn’t side with the strangers.

Family was always a challenge.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 23, 1976

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I was lucky.

I found him sitting in my parlor, sword across his lap and a glass of brandy in his hand. His cap was set at a jaunty angle, and his empty right sleeve was pinned to his jacket.

His demeanor and the smile on his face told me two things.

First, he was fast. Second, he’d take off a hand if I went for a Colt.

His smile broadened as I sat down in my chair across from him.

“This,” the stranger said, holding up the brandy, “is as fine as they come. Mister Blood and I can tell you, I’ve naught had something this smooth before.”

I inclined my head slightly and expressed my thanks.

He set the glass down and kept his hand away from the sword’s hilt, which I appreciated.

“I suspect,” he stated. “That you’ve seen a fair share of dead men wandering out of the Hollow of late.”

“Aye. You’d be right about that.”

“I am not one of them,” the soldier stated.

I raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, I’m dead. Several times over, if you’ll believe it, which I think you will. I’ve no liking for being dead, however, and so I come back.”

“Well, on with this little story,” he said. “I noticed some heavy traffic toward this particular Cross, and I thought it rather odd. Then, of course, I heard your mother’s voice and all oddness left. Your dislike for one another is well known.”

I shrugged, and the man chuckled.

“I’ll have you know,” he added, “I’ve no great love for your mother either. I’ve put a few of her down, and the last one cost me my arm. Worth it, though. As it is, I can no longer play quite the way I like, so I’ve had to shift the game a bit.”

“How so?” I asked.

“By letting people know what’s coming. Some listen, more don’t.” He shook his head. “You, I suspect, will listen.”

“I take it in turn.”

He chuckled. “Come All Hallow’s Eve, Mister Blood, your mother will send in a sizeable force to try and burn your farm to the ground.”

“I’m not fond of fire.”

“Nor should you be. I, however,” he said, finishing his drink, “am rather fond of this brandy. Think I might get another?”

With a chuckle, I nodded and got us both a drink.

“Is there more?” I asked.

“Isn’t there always?” He replied.

And there is.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 22, 1976

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Tonight is a hard night.

From my seat in the Child’s house, I can see the hills have returned to the Hollow, and I hate them.

They appear every so often, and in 1903, when my mother was sending the Killed Soldiers into Cross, the hills had appeared.

I saddled my horse Perseus, and I rode out to the hills armed with my Colts. The saddlebags had more ammunition than they did food. I never knew if my days in the hills would be long or short, but I knew they would always be bloody.

I traveled along North Road, past the stonewall, and entered through a wooden gate that’d not been there the day prior. Perseus stepped onto a well-worn and rutted path, and we followed it at the steady, ground-devouring gait he had. By midday, we found what I had feared would be there.

A pair of cavalry officers sat astride red-eyed horses, and it was clear that they were from a time and place I knew nothing of.

That they were soldiers and skilled was plain to see when they turned their mounts to face me. Around their necks, they wore braided human tongues.

They called out to me in a strange language, and when I didn’t respond, the lead man reached into his pocket, retrieved a fresh tongue, and ate it.

“Are you Duncan Blood?” the man asked, his voice clear and his accent British.

“Aye,” I answered.

“We’re here to hunt you,” the man stated with a bored shrug. “Your mother warned us you were clever and that we might well die before claiming you as a prize.”

I waited for the man to continue, and he did.

“We have hunted your kinfolk before, Duncan,” the man informed me. “We know what needs to be done to drive the life from you.”

I drew my pistols, and the men reached for their swords.

They dug their heels into their horses, whose teeth were black fangs, and they charged.

The Colts roared in my hands, the slugs striking the horses’ foreheads and killing them instantly. The men tried to clear the saddles but, caught in the act of drawing their weapons, they were trapped and pinned beneath them.

I shot each man in the throat and waited as they bled out.

They might have killed my kinfolk before, but they’d never killed me.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 21, 1976

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The smell was foul.

The island was small, no bigger than an acre or so, but it was big enough for men to die on.

I’m still not sure how many were there, although I’m fairly sure as to how it all played out.

When I pulled the canoe up to the shore, I heard a dog snarling and snapping, and in a few minutes, I knew why.

The dog was tearing at a corpse, digging out the bones and working toward the marrow as they were wont to do. There were a few more corpses lying around, but they’d been picked over by the birds and the dog himself. When the dog saw me, I raised my hands to show they were empty.

“It’s your meal,” I told him. “I’ll not try and rob you of it.”

I doubt he understood my words, but there was no mistaking my tone. He knew I didn’t want his food, so he sank down into the filth of the corpse and set about his meal.

As I passed by the dog and his dinner, I looked at the ground to see what had happened.

Near as I could tell, there’d been a hell of a fight.

I saw the tracks of a dozen men, and then they split up. It appeared they’d taken sides over some issue, and there were three men to one and the remainder on the other. I could see the dried blood and the bits of bone scattered about the dirt, the fire that had burned itself out. Some men had dragged themselves off to the scrub brush that covered the island, and when I went to look, I found bits of bones and stretches of flesh. Here and there, a face peered up at me, their eyes dull and glazed. They were lucky the birds hadn’t found them yet.

When I walked back the way I came, the dog was gone. A trail, left by a dragged bone, led off into the brush.

For a short time, I considered trying to bring the dog home and setting fire to the island. Neither would work, though. Most animals, once they got a taste of human flesh, preferred it above all others. More importantly, the island wasn’t quite right.

It stood too close to the Hollow’s shore, a sure sign that the island might vanish at any moment.

I turned my back to the island and made my way to the canoe.

It was early still, and there were more places to check for my mother’s soldiers.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 20, 1976

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Most chose to die.

From the Hollow, the sound of drums filled the air with a martial tune, and so I went to it.

A train station had sprung up over the night, and in the early morning light, the building stood crisp and clean. Tracks ran from west to east, disappearing into tunnels fashioned from the skulls of whales and other creatures I could not readily identify.

Still, it was not the tunnels or the building that my attention fixed upon.

No, I focused solely on the platoon of men who stood in a ‘U’ formation, their bayonets bright and glinting in the sun. An officer spoke proudly to the men, his eyes on them and not on North Road, which is where they should have been.

I climbed over the stonewall, drew the Colts and thumbed back the hammers. Soon enough, I’d discover if the men were merely passing through or if they were Killed Soldiers, ready to hunt me down.

The first man who laid eyes on me answered that question and gave me a bit of extra information as well.

His eyes widened and his hand, despite standing at the position of attention, reached for his cartridge box.

The rifles weren’t loaded.

I came to a stop a short distance away, and all the men turned their full and undivided attention to me.

“Gentlemen,” I greeted them, hands steady. “You’re here for me if I’m not mistaken?”

The officer cleared his throat. “We are, Blood.”

I nodded. “I offer you this advice freely. Leave now.”

Most of the men chuckled off my advice.

A few did not.

“What do you think you can do against us?” the officer asked, sweeping his hand toward his men.

“Kill every last one of you,” I answered. “Your rifles aren’t loaded, and it’ll be a hell of a time trying to bring those bayonets into play. Anyone doesn’t want to die, go on inside and catch the next train. I suspect my mother might catch hold of you soon enough, but it’ll beat bleeding out today.”

A few men, despite the angry words of their comrades, set down their rifles and entered the station.

“Kill him, boys,” the officer snarled, and the men lowered their weapons.

A few tried to load their rifles, and they were the first to die.

But they weren’t the last.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 19, 1976

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I could smell them.

The scent of roasting venison came across the lake and caught my attention.

It was a good smell, and it reminded me of my childhood and of my father.

For a moment, as my heart skipped a beat, the child in me hoped my father had returned. That perhaps he was out upon one of the islands, waiting for me to find him.

It was a foolish hope, of course, but it was one I nurtured nonetheless as I slipped into a canoe and paddled across the lake, following my nose.

On the island of Anne’s Folly, I caught sight of a slim trail of smoke rising up from a nearby hillside. Pulling the canoe up onto the shore, I moved at a quick pace toward the source of the smell and the smoke.

Drawing nearer, I drew one of the Colts.

Half a dozen yards away, I spotted a pair of deer hides stretched on racks, the hides scraped and ready to be treated. Cut wood was stacked nearby, and a small garden stood behind a fence of woven reeds.

In front of me, a small structure stood, half buried in the earth. A neatly made stovepipe protruded from the roof, and a path of stones led around the front.

 As I followed the stones, I heard several men engaged in conversation. Their voices were light and relaxed, with no notes of fear or dread.

Rounding the small building, I found myself on the other side of an opening. Cooking utensils hung from the edge, and four men looked at me in surprise.

“Smells good,” I ventured.

One of the men spoke in German. “It is Felipe’s recipe.”

“Many thanks,” Felipe said in French.

“Did my mother send you?” I asked.

“She did,” the first answered. “But we discovered she has no sway on this island.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“Yes,” confirmed Felipe. “Once we learned this, we set about making this camp. We have already died once, Monsieur Blood. We have no desire to die by violence again.”

“We want peace,” the German speaker added. “Nothing more than peace.”

I holstered the Colt and asked, “Is there enough venison for another plate?”

The Killed Soldiers laughed, and Felipe fixed me a bowl of venison and fresh bread.

In the calm, sweet air of Autumn, we talked of books and music, art and women.

Anything but war.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 18, 1976

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It was confusing.

The rumbling of the machine vibrated through the air and brought me to the Hollow. As I took a seat on the stonewall, I watched what looked to be a tank coming across an open field.

It didn’t look like any of the tanks I’d seen in France during the Great War, but it reminded me enough of them for the conjecture to seem plausible.

And like the tanks in France, this one didn’t maneuver particularly well.

Not well at all.

I watched for a few minutes as the machine pushed through long grass and then stalled out as the nose plummeted into an unseen ditch. The operator managed to work it out, but no sooner had he done so than the tank threw a tread on the left side.

The tank ground to a halt, then the cannon, much to my surprise, turned toward me. I’d not seen one do that before.

It took me less than a moment, though, to get the hell off the wall and away before the crack of the cannon rent the air. The round smashed into the wall I’d been on and sent stones and shards flying through the air.

More than a few lodged themselves in me.

It was an unpleasant sensation, and it ruined a new coat.

With my Colts in my hands, I stalked toward the machine.

I approached at an angle, keeping away from its forward gun and moving steadily to keep the main gun off balance. I’d gotten to within a hundred feet when the top of the machine opened, and a man tried to get on the machine gun.

A single shot from my Colt put him down and disabused any others from trying to operate it.

In moments, however, a pair of his colleagues exited the vehicle, pistols drawn and blazing away.

It did them no good. They were poor shots with their weapons.

I was not.

My mother was getting inventive with the dead.

I found I didn’t like it.

#paranormal #Halloween

(My apologies for the shortness of this entry. My grandson was born today.)

October 17, 1976

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I caught them in the open.

I’d heard a bit of a ruckus while working in the western orchard, and word of intruders soon came to me through the trees.

After a short conversation with one of the elder apple trees, they agreed to help me funnel the intruders into a kill box. The dryads, who weren’t feeling especially helpful, finally decided to assist me as well, and they were able to coax saplings and brush to line the edges of the kill box.

As the trees and the dryads worked together, I scouted out the source of the sound to see how many Killed Soldiers – if any – had come up out of the lake.

Half a dozen of them had.

I recognized the uniforms.

Hell. I recognized the men.

In the War of the Rebellion, I’d fought alongside all six of them and buried them all too.

It was bad enough that my mother was raising the dead and sending them back. It was worse that she was choosing those I’d bled for.

“John William!” I called out.

The men stopped and dropped down, Spencers up and ready.

“What say you, Duncan?” John William asked from the center of the small column.

“That you’d best find another way to get at me,” I warned. “I’m set to kill all six of you. I doubt dying a second time is going to be any better than the first.”

I worked my way back a bit, making sure they could hear me and follow easily if they chose to.

They did.

“We’ve our orders, Duncan,” John William replied. “Your mother wants to put an end to your bad behavior. We were going to set fire to the Coffins’ house, but your refusal to obey your mother has caused her to change her mind.”

“I’d be surprised if it didn’t.”

John William and the troops followed me at a steady pace, weapons always ready. I’d eased the Colts out of their holsters and thumbed the hammers back.

When we reached the kill box, I called out again.

“As a friend, John William, I’m telling you to leave.”

John merely cocked his rifle and waited.

With a sigh, I nodded to the trees.

In moments, the men were trapped, their rifles wrenched from their hands by the living trees.

I stepped out into the kill box, brought out the Colts, and butchered the men.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 14, 1976

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He was waiting for me.

I’d gone to visit a friend of mine who lived close to the marina. When I entered her house by the back door, as I was wont to do, I found him sitting at the dining table. Marissa, the young woman I’d come to see, lay dead on the floor.

She hadn’t died well.

The man grinned at me and nudged the body.

“I was told Duncan Blood comes in by the back,” the man stated in a long, languid accent.

“That’s a fact,” I nodded, my hands resting on the Colts.

“She only told me after I’d removed those foul lumps on her chest.” The man chuckled. “She should have thanked me. They were tremendously heavy. I cannot imagine she enjoyed having them attached to her. She reminded me of a cow out to pasture, udders swinging left and right with no apparent purpose in this world.”

“That a fact?” I asked.

He gestured with a large bowie knife. “It is indeed.”

I watched him for a moment, getting a feel for the way he moved his knife.

“She had some other unnecessary baggage beneath that pretty petticoat, too,” he began, and I drew the Colts.

The revolvers flew out of their holsters, the guns thundering as he tried to move.

I wasn’t trying to kill him, though, and he learned that the hard way.

A bullet shattered the back of one hand, knocking the blade to the floor. The second round caught him in his manhood and freed him of that title.

The last few shots slammed into his knees.

The man’s agonized screams filled the air, but it was no use.

When the police came and learned it was me, they would turn their heads and feign ignorance. They knew better than to interfere.

The man in front of me babbled incoherently, and I didn’t care.

Instead, I walked up to him, holstered my Colts and drew my own knife.

“Now,” I whispered, leaning in close. “Let’s see what you don’t need anymore.”

He screamed, and I nodded.

“Lips it is,” I remarked and began to cut them away.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 13, 1976

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At times, the Hollow makes little sense.

Gods’ Hollow is well-named, and it was given its title by the Abenaki, who, as far as I know, learned of it from whoever was on the land before them.

From Gods’ Hollow come all manner of creatures. Good and bad, mundane and exciting, gods and mortals. The Hollow gives and – more often than not – the Hollow takes away.

The Abenaki steered clear of the place, and my father did his best to do the same, although, in the end, he vanished within its depths.

By the time I was born, my father had already managed to identify most of the Hollow’s borders, though they tended to fluctuate given the place’s temperament on any given day. Still, one of my favorite tasks was to sit with my father and watch as he built the stonewall on North Road. Later, when I was a little older, I would help him with the laying of the stones.

We have always known that the Hollow opens onto other worlds and into other whens. There are times when people from our past have emerged, and on rare occasion, from our future. Those from the future tend to die off fairly quickly.

The Hollow is an unforgiving place.

This morning, as I sought sign of any of the Killed Soldiers, I decided to walk along North Road, and I was sad I did.

By the time I reached the midpoint, I could smell the rotting carcasses.

When I went and stood at the stonewall, I looked out over a field covered in gray fog. As the sun rose a little higher, it burned off the mist and soon revealed the source of the smell.

Dozens of bodies were stretched out in long, curious arcs toward a split-rail fence that hadn’t been there before. From what I could see, the dead men had once been soldiers, and I suspect my mother had geared them for war in a desire to send them after me.

The Hollow had not allowed it.

The death wounds of the men had opened, and the men lay where they had fallen.

In the distance, ever so faintly, I could hear my mother’s furious screams.

It brought a smile to my face, and I tipped my hat to the Hollow.

Some days are better than others.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 11, 1976

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Not all the Killed Soldiers were well.

He didn’t remember his own name. He didn’t remember where he was from.

Unlike the others I had met up to that point, he didn’t know a damned thing about himself.

Despite my mother’s resurrection of him, the man had not healed completely. Either that or his death had been so significant to him his body was reverting to his death wound.

I found him sitting in the backyard of a farmstead in Pepperell. He was surrounded by blood and bits of flesh, and he looked more confused than crazed.

Off to one side lay a bayonet, the steel bloody and chipped. A rifle, its stock broken and the barrel bent, was only a few feet off.

Beyond him, I could see a pair of bodies. Older folks, if the gray hair on their shattered heads spoke true.

A great bandage was wrapped around his head and down over his right eye. He stared at me with his left, the gaze a raw mixture of fear and misery.

I drew a Colt and sat down a few feet from him.

“Mornin’,” I greeted.

He nodded, scratched at his chin and asked in German, “Where am I?”

“New England.”

He frowned, grimaced, and closed his good eye. “Where is it?”

“United States of America.”

He shook his head and whimpered. “No such place exists. A witch found me as I lay dying. She sent me here. Sent me to harvest for her.”

“Did you?”

He held up two fingers.

“I will harvest no more,” he added as he scratched his chin again.

“What do you want?”

He glanced up at the sky, then back to me.

“When I thought of death,” he told me. “I always thought I would want one more day. Perhaps a dance with Genevieve. Perhaps a night with her sister. Now, though, there is nothing I want more than death. I have slain for no reason, and I have slain for good reason. This was something different. Something over which I had control. I do not wish to do it again.”

He closed his eyes and pulled open his shirt to reveal a thin chest.

“When I was a boy,” the man began. “My mother sang of the fey and the dark woods. Places where a boy could hide from the horrors of the world.”

I shot him twice through the chest, and he slumped back.

He’d seen enough of horror, but I’ve yet to have my fill.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 10, 1976

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Randall Brown was missing.

Marcus, Randall’s father, said the boy had gone out earlier to see a girl he was sweet on. When Randall hadn’t returned home in time for afternoon chores, Marcus grew worried. He and his younger sons went out looking for Randall but to no avail. Worse, the young man had never made it to the girl’s home.

Marcus tracked his boy as best he could, but he lost the trail close to the Hollow. When he did, he sent his younger sons for me.

I arrived on the back of Claude, who was kind enough to allow me to ride, and with Thain keeping pace. Neither of the animals spoke to the Browns, which was a wise decision.

Some families can accept the curiosities that accompany me, others cannot.

I sent Marcus and his remaining sons home, and with Claude at the roadside, Thain and I went into the Hollow. It didn’t take long to pick Randall’s trail back up, but when I saw it, my heart sank.

There was no hope for the boy.

On either side of the boy’s wandering steps were a set of bootprints. A single glance at the depth of the prints and the way they were formed told me Randall was being hunted. Hunted by men who knew what they were doing.

While Randall’s trail was wild and carefree, I could see the deliberation and caution with which each foot was placed by the men trailing him.

Thain moved a little ahead of me, his nose dipping down to the tall grass now and again as we tracked the boy and the men. Soon, the dog sank low, his hackles up.

I got down beside him, and together, we crawled forward. In a short time, the grass parted before us, and I saw how the Hollow dipped down. Ahead of us, a pair of men sat across from one another. Their hands were bloody, as were their mouths, and they ate strips of raw meat.

I didn’t need to guess whose flesh it was.

I slid one of the Colts out, eased the trigger back, and took aim at the nearest man.

They never heard the shots, though I wish I’d had time to make them suffer.

Thain raced ahead of me and found Randall’s body. The boy’d been bushwhacked and then made a meal of.

I bundled him up best I could and carried him out of the Hollow.

Marcus needed to bury his son.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 9, 1976

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The thunder of artillery shook the trees.

Birds took to the air, animals sought shelter in their dens, and the trees complained mightily as I passed among them.

Whoever was on the gun seemed to be having a hell of a time.

Shot after shot shredded the peace of the day and set the earth to tremble.

I wasn’t pleased.

I’d been under fire before. Plenty of times. Artillery is always troublesome. I’d seen the cannons of the British tear through ranks of the Continental Army, witnessed damage done by Secesh teams in the War of the Rebellion, and suffered through days of shelling while fighting the Germans in France and Belgium.

There were no pleasant memories. Not when the cannons roared, and I was on the receiving end.

I exited the tree line and found the artillery team had hitched up their horses and were on the run.

That would never do.

I unslung my Spencer, took a knee, and fired at the lead rider.

The shot took him in the back, knocked him out of the saddle, and sent him tumbling to the ground. The other horses on the team rode over him, as did the caisson itself. Both gunners were thrown from their seats on either side of the gun, and as the men astride their horses tried to regain some control, I fired again.

The second shot cut down two of the men on the caisson, the Spencer’s round piercing the throat of one and striking the other in the same.

With their deaths, the team came to a faltering stop, and the men dismounted.

They struggled to draw rifles from the caisson, the two thrown men racing for their brethren.

I slew three more before the men had their weapons ready and another as he tried to fire at me.

The remaining men fired a few rounds, but it was far too little and far too late.

I had a good position, plenty of ammunition, and time.

All three died within seconds of each other.

In the silence that followed, the horses stood in their traces, well-trained and inured to the sounds of combat.

It took me but a little while to spike the cannon, dump out shot and shell, and set fire to the caisson itself.

With the horses in tow, I returned to the tree line and the bitter complaints of the trees.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 8, 1976

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“Some men are fools.”

The dog’s name was Thain, and I couldn’t have agreed with him more. Claude, his horse traveling companion, was an animal of few words. Upon Thain’s statement, Claude snorted his agreement with his friend’s assessment.

We were in the barn, and I was smoking a pipe and drinking coffee while Claude ate and Thain worked on a bone.

“There were quite a few men gathered,” the dog continued. “A handful of animals, but only one other spoke. A raven of sour disposition.”

“One-eyed bastard,” the horse said around a mouthful of food.

“One-eyed?” I asked.

Thain nodded. “Thought for sure he was an albino, but he was just the oldest damned raven I’d ever come across, and I’ve been around Duncan Blood. Let me tell you.”

“What was this one-eyed raven doing?” I asked.

“Chuckling for the most part,” Thain answered. “I thought perhaps he wasn’t doing much more than mimicking a sound he’d heard. Then after a moment, he started complaining about how the men were going about with too much weaponry.”

The bone cracked, and Thain chuckled. Licking at the old marrow, the dog added, “Last we saw, he’d attached himself to a unit of artillery and left with them yesterday morning.”

The heavy flap of wings silenced us all, and Grimnir landed at the far end of the barn. The giant raven waddled into the room, his single eye piercing the darkness.

“They’re in the north field, Blood,” the raven stated.

I nodded and as I stood, the bird faced Claude. “I’m no bastard. I know exactly who my father is.”

Without another word, Grimnir took to wing and flew from the barn.

For a short time, the three of us remained where we were in silence. Finally, Claude cleared his throat.

“He may not be a bastard,” the horse admitted, “but he’s a crotchety sonofabitch.”

I could only nod.

The horse wasn’t wrong.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 7, 1976

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I’d heard of something strange happening at the far end of the Coffin family’s lands, just over the Cross River and close to the mills. In an old lot, overgrown and long forgotten, a pair of bodies had been found.

They were drifters, as best as the police could tell, and they’d been murdered. That astute observation came from a new detective who’d once worked as a patrolman in Concord, Massachusetts.

The bodies were found with arms and legs akimbo, their heads mounted on poles a good forty feet from their necks.

The heads had been removed by clean cuts, and when I examined the ground between the bodies, I found a clear set of hoofprints and a pair of paw prints. There’d been a mounted rider and a dog. By the heads, I discovered the imprint of riding boots in the dirt, and I knew I was looking for a calvary man in the company of a dog.

I took my leave of the police and the new detective, expounding on his theories, and followed the trail.

It led me a good half mile away, and in a small glade, I found them.

The horse, hitched to a young sapling, had his nose buried in a tuft of grass and was eating contently. The calvary man, looking every bit the dandy, stood a short distance away with drawn sword in hand. Beside him, the dog sat with a bored and disappointed expression on his face.

“I’ve come for your head, Blood,” the man declared.

I spat on the ground, looked at him and asked, “That a fact?”

“It is,” he nodded. “Will you face me on the field of honor?”

The dog looked up at him and shook his head.

“Is that where you get on your horse, charge at me and try to take my head off?” I asked.

“It is,” the man stated with pride.

“Nope.”

I drew both Colts and shot the man in the chest. The sword fell from his hands as he collapsed and then tumbled onto his back.

Moving forward, I stood by the dead man opposite the dog.

“We told him he was a fool,” the dog stated.

“He didn’t listen to anything,” the horse added around a mouthful of grass.

“Hm.” I reloaded the Colts. “Need a place to stay?”

“We’d be obliged,” the dog answered.

I unhitched the horse and led them both home.

It’s hard to suffer fools, and they’d suffered enough.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 6, 1976

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He was a fair shot.

Close to evening, I’d been out riding along North Road, checking the wall and looking for trouble.

The wall was fine, and trouble found me.

I’d reached the end of the wall when something struck me in the back, knocking me out of the saddle and dropping me hard to the road. The crack of a rifle followed a heartbeat later, and the horse beat like hell for home.

I could feel the hole in my back, the shards of bone in the muscle, and I could hear the wind whistling through my lung. As control of my limbs returned, I drew one of my Colts, cocked the hammer, and forced myself to roll closer to the wall.

A quick glance at the road showed a fair amount of blood soaking into the packed earth and some dirty-looking bits of bone I knew to be my own.

My wound stitched itself back together with agonizing sloth, and I wondered what the hell I’d been shot with to make the injury so difficult to heal.

The sound of boots in tall grass drove the question from my mind, and I readied myself.

Someone climbed the wall directly above me, rifle in hand, his body perfectly silhouetted by the sun. As he looked down, I raised the Colt up and pulled the trigger.

The round smashed up into the shooter’s groin, exited his shoulder and sent him tumbling over me. He landed hard, the rifle spinning away and firing off the shot he’d chambered.

The stranger lay next to me, body shaking and quivering while he struggled to breathe.

With a grunt, I pushed up and kept my pistol aimed at the man’s belly.

His eyes darted to his rifle, which lay several feet away, and then returned to me.

With blue-tinged lips and a rapidly paling face, the dying man whispered, “Thought I had you.”

“You did,” I replied.

“I’m dead.”

I nodded. “Second time?”

He laughed and then winced. “Yes. Twice. Thought I might last a little longer the second time around. Guess I was wrong.”

“Guess so,” I agreed.

“No hard feelings?” he asked.

“None at all.”

“Good.” The man closed his eyes and died.

I checked his rifle after I healed and discovered no rounds remained.

With the weapon on my shoulder, I made my way home. The horse needed tending, and I had to change my damned clothes.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 5, 1976

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Hers is a hard memory.

I was close to the Hartwell Funeral Parlor when I saw her.

She wore the uniform of an officer in the Hussars, and her beauty caught my breath in my throat. Her eyes fixed upon mine, and she offered a slight bow of her head. There was no curtsey, nothing so genteel.

I knew her for who and what she was, a soldier and one who had already suffered death.

I should know; I’d been there when she’d died, throat torn out by a piece of shrapnel in a battle no one in this world knew.

For a moment, I feared she was not my Yulia, that perhaps she was from another world connected to the Hollow. And then, I feared that she was, that my mother had sent her back as a torment to me.

“Duncan,” Yulia greeted, her voice sweet. “I had hoped this was the right Cross.”

“It might be,” I replied, stopping a short distance away.

“I did not think to see you again,” she continued, her voice tightening. “Not after I died.”

My throat tightened, and I took another step closer. “Is it you?”

She smiled, and there was no doubt.

Our embrace was short, her scent in my nose and her skin against mine for the briefest of moments, long enough, though, to remind me of long nights outside of Kyiv.

“I cannot stay,” she whispered in my ear before she nipped at the lobe as she had once done.

“Why?” I asked, my voice hoarse.

“This is wrong,” she answered, resting her forehead against my chest. “I have a place to be, and though I long for it to be with you, it is not. Death is here.”

She looked up and gestured to the Hartwell Funeral Parlor.

“Death waits,” Yulia continued. “Not for me, but for another. Death will not begrudge me transportation.”

I lifted her up in my arms and kissed her. “I would have you here with me if I could.”

“I know,” she sighed. “There are other worlds than these, Duncan Blood, and I will fight for your company when it is your time. But only when it is your time. Now is mine.”

I nodded and lowered her down. “May I walk with you?”

She smiled and took my arm. In silence, we walked to the front door, two soldiers approaching Death.

We had done it before, and when she was gone, I would do it again.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 4, 1976

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He wasn’t afraid to die.

I found him in a wooded lot about a mile outside of Westford, Massachusetts. I’d heard rumor that some men had been shot at and a couple of others wounded. The police had gone in to look for the assailant, but they’d been driven out by what they stated was ‘wild firing.’

I didn’t believe them.

I saw the wounded. Their injuries were precise. Enough to injure and cause pain, but nothing permanent.

As for the police, the way they spoke of the firing, and the objects around them which had been hit, I knew they had encountered something far more dangerous than a random and deranged killer.

They had found a sniper.

A sniper who didn’t want to kill.

I made my way into the section of forest the police were warning people away from, and I soon found the trail. It was obvious, and had I not known about the purposefully missed shots; I wouldn’t have followed it.

As it was, I made my way along the path, my hands well away from the Colts.

The rattle of a branch and the sharp crack of a rifle told me when I’d gone far enough. While the branch tumbled to the forest floor, I stood still and waited.

A voice called out to me.

“Speak your name.”

“Duncan Blood.”

“If you are, take the Colts out and show them to me.”

I did as the unseen shooter asked.

His laugh rang out through the woods. “Put those hand-cannons away, Blood.”

I did so.

A few moments later, a short man with a large beard stepped out from a well-camouflaged hide.

“I was hoping you would come,” the man informed me.

“Why’s that?” I asked.

“I will need a second,” he replied, the humor leaving his voice. “I would like it today. Your mother has sent me to kill, and I have no desire to do so. My killing days are done. The only death I will offer to her is my own.”

“Fair enough,” I said, and the man turned and knelt down, facing away from me.  

“My thanks, Duncan.”

I didn’t reply. I didn’t ask him if he was ready.

I drew both Colts, lined the barrels up with the back of his skull, and pulled the triggers.

The dead man slumped forward, and in the stillness of the day, I buried him.

Unlike the others, he deserved it.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 3, 1976

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He thought he was fast.

I tracked one of the Killed soldiers from the Hollow to Pepperell. He’d left a string of dead animals behind him. Random birds and a pair of stray dogs.

He’d taken nothing from the beasts.

He killed for pleasure.

When I found him, he’d broken into a house that was blessedly empty.

He was waiting for me, his rifle set aside and his sword in hand.

“I could have killed you from here,” he informed me, a small smirk playing across his face.

“That a fact?” I asked, hands resting on the butts of my Colts.

He nodded. “I would have, in fact, had I not seen the pistols on your hips. I want them.”

I smiled.

“But,” the Killed soldier continued, “I will take only weapons I have won in battle. It is how I gained this sword. How I acquired my rifle and my pistol as well.”

He patted the pistol on his own belt.

“You think to kill me and take my guns?” I asked.

“I will.”

“They won’t let you,” I replied.

“They?” he asked with a raised eyebrow. “Surely you mean yourself.”

“I don’t tend to misspeak,” I told him dryly, “and I sure as hell didn’t now. The Colts won’t let you. They’ve grown accustomed to my hands, and we’re rather fond of each other.”

The Killed soldier chuckled. “Shall we duel then?”

“Duel? No. Draw and shoot? Yes.”

“What say you then?” the Killed soldier asked, flipping the top of his holster back and dropping his hand onto the butt of his own revolver.

“I say shoot and be damned,” I answered and drew my Colts.

He was fast.

But not fast enough.

He got the pistol up, but the Colts had already cleared leather, and both barrels were pointed at his chest. I saw his eyes widen with understanding, and I pulled the triggers.

The rounds punched through his chest and sent his shot wild.

As he spun around from the force of the slugs, I put in another pair, each bullet striking him where the neck meets the back of the head.

The lead tore through his collar and his skin, shattered bones and ripped flesh. For a moment, his head tottered, and then it tumbled to the floor. His body followed it a moment later.

I took his weapons for my own and left.

I’d be damned if he was buried with his weapons.

He didn’t deserve them.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 2, 1976

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There’s a cool breeze off Blood Lake today. The wind’s coming down from the north, and it’s a sign of what’s to come.

It’ll be a cold winter, and I’ll start laying in some extra wood tomorrow. There are many things that make life comfortable, but one of the finest is a good fire. I’ll set some wood aside in here as well, for I suspect I’ll be spending a fair amount of time in the Child’s House.

I received a new packet of tobacco from a family in Virginia that supplies me with a goodly amount, and as I pack the pipe, I remember the first time I smoked it.

I was at the edge of my drive, speaking with Colin Ashbury, lately of Chelmsford, when his head exploded. The sound of the shot came through a second later as I reached my hands up to wipe skin and bone and brains off my face. Colin, sans head, lay on the ground. Further up the road, I spotted the tell-tale sign of muzzle smoke rising up, and I decided to leave bathing for later.

Drawing my Colts, I went after whatever bushwhacking sonofabitch was in the Hollow.

Whoever he was, he had nerves of steel.

A second shot was fired, spinning me around as the bullet pierced my chest, punched its way through my lung, and exited close to another rib.

Despite the pain, I kept running.

He knew he hit me, and the fact that I didn’t drop set him off.

I heard the rattle of the man’s rifle as it fell from the top of an elm tree and struck just about every branch on the way down.

He did the same a moment later when I fired off a quick couple of shots at the upper branches where I thought he might be.

The man let out a howl of dismay as he struck the ground and rolled, trying to get to his feet. The .44’s slugs had ripped through his legs, though, and he knew what was coming.

He swore and cursed in German as he attempted to crawl away.

I followed along behind him, shooting him in the knees and then the lower back. He stretched out, desperate for assistance, and I shot him in the hand, blowing it apart.

I’d been fond of Colin. He was a good, solid neighbor.

His death had been quick.

The man on the ground in front of me? His would be anything but.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 1, 1976

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I have returned to Child’s Island.

It has been a long time, and I rarely come to this place Child had called his own. The windows are clean and still look out at all corners of Blood Lake.

I find it to be a place of solitude and reflection for me.

I have returned here to sit and smoke, to drink and to remember. I have slain the last of the Killed Soldiers, a task which has taken me nearly 80 years.

In 1903, some version of my mother resurrected dead soldiers from across timelines and various worlds. She sent them through the Hollow, of course, and they wreaked havoc as they left Cross. I slew the first few when they arrived, but there were 31 of them altogether. A playful bit of spite on my mother’s part.

She had sent 31. Thirteen had we held the number to a mirror.

I don’t know why my mother, regardless of the version, finds pleasure in such games.

I certainly don’t enjoy them. Which, upon reflection, is probably why she does it.

Damn her eyes.

Tonight, I raise of glass of hard cider to the Killed Soldiers. It was no fault of theirs that they were resurrected, nor could they do anything but follow my mother’s commands. They fought well, and they died just the same. Only twice. First at war, second by my hand.

The first soldier came out of the Hollow on a cool autumn night, and he used his saber on three members of the Andersen family. Leonard Andersen managed to escape, although he left his right hand on the road. When he reached me, I took care of the injury, then went out to hunt down the killer.

I found the soldier sitting on the wall, naked sword across his knees.

When he saw the pistols on my hips, he nodded.

“I was dead,” he stated, getting to his feet. “Dead and at peace. Your mother has said this is not to be, Duncan Blood. There is no rest for the soldier. Neither living nor dead.”

He saluted with the sword and charged at me.

I drew both Colts and put four shots in his chest. The impacts of the .44 slugs knocked him off his feet, and as he lay gasping on the road, I put another bullet in his head.

I looked to the Hollow and wondered if my mother would send more.

She would.

#paranormal #Halloween

Companionship

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I knew the house for what it was.

I’d wandered for the better part of a week and knew, without any doubt, that I was lost.

Oh, I was still on the island. Still on Blood Lake.

But I was in the Hollow and damned displeased about it.

A steady, persistent fog had remained for those days I wandered, and when the fog finally burnt off one morning, I saw the house.

I wondered when I was.

Was I here earlier than before? Was it later? Would I step into the small barn and see myself engaged in conversation?

I didn’t have any answers.

Still, I remembered what had been said, and I drew my knife.

I walked toward the house, and as I approached it, the door opened. My breath caught in my throat, and my steps stuttered for a heartbeat before I continued.

The woman who now stood upon the porch was beautiful. Her sumptuous form was clad in a black mourning gown, and on her head, she wore a small cap, the veil of which did nothing to hide the stunning lines of her cheeks.

She moved with a delicate grace down the steps and crossed the yard toward me. Her eyes, a powerful silver, gleamed with madness and hunger. When she smiled, vicious, triangular teeth flashed and snapped against one another.

She was hungry, and she could not see me the way she would.

And the only way she could was with my knife.

I came to a stop and braced myself, wondering which leg it would be, and waited.

The woman snarled, launched herself with the grace of a mountain lion, and slammed into me. Her fingers raked up my thigh, and her teeth sought purchase on my neck.

A quick blow to the back of her head sent her tumbling to the ground, where she caught hold of my pants leg.

A moment later, she sank her teeth into my thigh and began to eat.

With a snarl, I reversed my grip on the blade and brought the pommel down on the back of her head. It was enough to stun but not stop her.

As she chewed, I took hold of her hair and prepared to cut out her eyes.

It was, she had told me, how I had saved her. And by saving her, we would have a daughter.

I would have a daughter.

I would if only briefly, have some sort of peace.

With the tip of the knife, I set to work on her eyes.

#supernatural #paranormal

Obstacle

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Who doesn’t keep their weapon at hand?

Idiots, that’s who.

Edgar reached me today, the raven carrying news of the withdrawal of not only the troops my mother had sent in but of the Kinderzähne as well.

Such information was both welcome and worrisome. The withdrawal of my mother’s forces and allies meant that soon, the Hollow would contract.

I had no desire to be on the island when it returned from whence it came. I’d had that often enough, and I had no desire to do it again.

At least not involuntarily.

There was one last task to finish before I could go home.

I needed the men who had mortally wounded my kinsman and set his home afire.

With Edgar as a scout, I pressed on. In less than half a day, Edgar found them and shared the news with me.

I approached their camp with my Colts drawn, the hammers cocked, and rage flowing through me. I saw five of them sitting outside a tent, their rifles stacked against trees a short distance away. As they chatted and laughed, they snapped their fingers and caused sparks to fly from them.

These were the men.

“Hello!” I greeted and killed the first man who looked at me.

As the others scrambled to their feet, I put slugs through their thighs and knees.

They crashed down as they tried to throw their fire at me. But each flaming orb was off target, missing me as they ricocheted and left trees afire.

I didn’t bother reloading the Colts.

Instead, I took the war club off my belt and stepped in among them.

I shattered arms and hands, elbows and shoulders.

But I left their heads alone.

It wasn’t yet time for them to die.

Edgar settled in to watch, and when the last man was immobilized, I went to work.

Taking out my Bowie knife, I cut the clothes from the men, ignoring their screams of agony elicited by each jerk of the clothing.

“You tried to murder my kin,” I told them as they lay naked and bleeding. “Now, you’re going to suffer.”

I grabbed the body of the man I’d killed, cut away his clothes and showed them how easily I would remove their skin.

They were screaming long before I’d finished with the corpse, and they screamed just as long as I took their skin.

Inch by inch in the fading light.

#supernatural #paranormal

Peace

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The smell of lilacs hung in the damp air.

I pushed through a heavy fog and came upon a farmhouse.

All about the home and its barn were great lilac bushes. They towered above the buildings, their out-of-season blossoms hanging low to the ground.

As I approached the home, a sense of calm settled over me. My body rebelled against it, and my hand went instinctively to the handle of my war club. The place was too quiet. Too peaceful.

I doubted all of it.

The sound of singing, soft and sweet, reached my ears.

The song pulled me to the barn, where I stopped and peered into the dim interior. There, seated on a stool in the nearest stall, was a young woman. She was clad in white and held a young child to her chest, allowing the babe to suckle. When the woman looked up, she smiled. Her teeth were sharp and white, her eyes stitched shut, but neither of those could shatter the beauty of her face.

“Duncan,” she said, and my name was music as it slipped past her lips. “It is a long time since we met.”

“I don’t remember you,” I confessed.

“Of course, you don’t,” she smiled. “And that is neither here nor there. I remember you, and I remember what you have done.”

I tightened my grip upon the club. I’d killed mothers and suckling babes before, and while I did not relish the idea, I would not shrink from my chores.

Her smile broadened into a grin. “No, you’ve done nothing wrong to me, Duncan. Quite the opposite. Had you not cut out my eyes and sewn the lids closed, I would not be here today with our daughter.”

The last word caused my breath to catch in my throat.

The woman nodded. “My past is your future, Duncan. And when we first meet, it is violence and pain. I will eat the better part of your leg as you cut out my eyes, and it is only then that I will truly see the world. You will nurse me to health, and we will fall in love. For a short time. It will be strange for both of us, and it will not last, as it should not. But we will give the world our child, and she is more than the world deserves.”

With that, the woman peeled back the fabric around the babe and showed me, my daughter.

I doubt I will ever see such beauty again.

#supernatural #paranormal

Lost

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I’m not sure where I am.

I know I’m in the Hollow. Of that, I’ve no doubt. But how close I might be to my lake, I don’t know.

I’ve been lost in the Hollow before, and it’s never pleasant. More than once, I’ve slipped into a Cross that was not my own, and those times have been more difficult than any others.

A heavy fog lay upon this island, and I’ve spent most of the day moving carefully. I can hear things in the wind. Whispers from half-glimpsed trees. I’ve an urge to go and see what they might know, but there’s an odd scent in the air, and I don’t trust it. Until I know it’s not the trees or any other creature on this island; I’ll keep my own counsel.

Despite the strangeness of this place, I am comfortable. My knife is against the small of my back, and the war club thumps off my leg, bringing forth memories of my youth. I can well remember going to war with the Abenaki, of traveling through deep forests and along river banks on our way to French Canada. I can remember bringing war to raiders and exacting vengeance upon the same. The killing head on my war club is dented and scarred, but the polish on it shines whenever there is light.

Blood and war have made it beautiful.

My Colts, as always, rest upon my hips. The revolvers sit low, tied down to my thighs and loosened in their holsters.

I catch the scent of smoke, and soon, the fog dissipates, and I find myself on a road. A short distance away, I see the dark smoke that speaks plainly of a house fire.

Soon, I reach the building, and amid the roar of the fire, I hear a voice.

It is a man’s voice, and he is begging.

Moving closer, I can see him as he claws his way out of the burning structure. One arm is gone, as are his legs. He is little more than a charred corpse as he uses his remaining fingers to grasp the grass and pull himself forward.

For a moment, I can only look and wonder.

Then I see the name on the post box.

Blood, Duncan.

Though his eyes are gone, he turns his head toward me as I draw the Colts. He gives a single, pained nod, and the pistols roar in my hands.

Whoever set the fire needs to die. And they need to die hard. #supernatural #paranormal

Damn.

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They fought like hell.

There was no time to get the Colts out.

The troops swarmed out of the ruins, armed with torches and cutlasses. Whoever they were, they knew how to deal with my family and me.

Cut off a limb and cauterize the wound. Takes a helluva long time to recover from that.

I had no doubt those heavy cutlasses would be aimed at joints and that the torches burning brightly in the cloud-dimmed land would serve to immobilize me for the killing blow.

I had my war club in hand when they came sprinting toward me. They were young men, each in the prime of his life. Their eyes blazed as brightly as their torches, and there was a fierce eagerness to destroy me in their every movement.

The first to reach me had his cutlass raised overhead, his face a mask of fanatical loyalty and devotion. On his lips was my mother’s name, and it died in his mouth as I shattered the side of his skull, sending shards of it into his brain.

He dropped and his comrades, surprised, stumbled over his body.

It was the only opening I needed.

I didn’t bother with the Colts or with the Bowie knife.

I’d killed plenty of men before with the war club, and I’d gone raiding with it when I was just a boy. At the knee of my father, I had learned to kill, and I was going to show these men that I’d learned my lessons well.

Every blow I landed struck a joint.

Knees were crushed, shoulders knocked out of sockets, hips destroyed.

Men were left paralyzed and howling around me.

I stepped on bodies and piled the same around me. Men struggled to reach me, and I shattered rib cages and jaws, collapsed orbital sockets and ruptured groins.

I was here to deal death, and they thought they were there to do the same.

It didn’t take them long to realize they needed to survive.

But by then, it was too late.

I left the wounded screaming on the ground, and I chased down those trying to escape.

When I finished, I dragged the living to the ruins, and with their cutlasses, I crucified them to the wall.

I scalped the living and the dead alike, and when I finished, I set them all afire.

I’ve no mercy for any who wish to burn me.

#supernatural #paranormal

A Challenge

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He challenged me.

The house had, by all appearances, been on the island for some time. I suspect the soldier standing at the doorway had been waiting for just as long.

When he saw me, his nostrils flared, his eyes brightened, and his fingers tapped against the sides of his legs.

His English, though heavily accented with German, was easy enough to understand.

“I am your death, Duncan Blood.”

I stopped, spat on the ground and peered at him for a moment. Then, in German, I asked, “That a fact?”

“It is,” he answered in kind.

“I don’t rightly feel as though I want to die now,” I stated. “Fact of the matter is, I’ve a bit of work to do yet. Check in a few hundred years from now, and perhaps I’ll be willing to oblige you.”

The man chuckled and shook his head. “Your mother said you were the worst of them. I can see why. You’ve no respect for your elders.”

“That’s not true,” I answered. “I’ve plenty of respect for my elders. You’re just not one of them.”

He smiled and took his right hand from behind his back.

The soldier held a long knife, his hand completely encased in a ball of bright steel. Spikes of varying sizes protruded from the ball, and I wondered what he thought it was going to do against the likes of me.

So, I asked him.

“I’ll crush your bones, young man,” the soldier replied. “Then I will gut you and use your innards as garland for the house.”

I drew my own knife, and as we advanced upon one another, his movements became smoother and graceful. He was a man born to the blade.

I wasn’t.

But I can sure as hell use one.

The man lunged forward, and I planted my feet. I took the thrust of his knife into my left shoulder, felt the blade grind against bone and sever the joint as the spikes punched into my skin. The soldier twisted and grinned, but I’d already switched the knife from one hand to the other, and pain destroyed his grin.

He glanced down and saw the Bowie knife buried to the hilt in his groin.

He slid off the blade, dead before he hit the ground.

I used his own knife to take his scalp and stretched the skin on my rucksack.

Soon, I hoped, I’d add more hair to the collection.

#supernatural #paranormal

Brutality

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Rarely have I been so savage.

I have left the dogs at home. The ravens too.

Too many islands have sprung up at the edge of the lake, which itself has grown. The merfolk and the naiads fear to go into this new place, and I do not blame them.

As I paddled across the water, I saw creatures lurking in the depths. A few rose up to see me, to peer at me with eyes of deep purple and mouths like nightmares. They neither knew me nor feared me, which I took as a good sign. Had either been the case, I doubt my travels would have gone so smoothly.

As it was, I landed on a large island and took stock of what I had. My ruck was packed for close to a week’s worth of hiking. I had a fair amount of ammunition for the Colts, my Bowie knife, and my warclub.

The island was larger than I’d been on in some time. Perhaps the largest to ever appear from the Hollow, and I had no doubt as to who was behind it.

Deus Canum might have been preventing my mother from leaving Gods’ Hollow, but he wasn’t stopping her from helping the Hollow to spread.

Not that it needed much assistance.

I’d walked for about half an hour when I heard the steady thrum of a body of troops marching in unison. A few moments later, I caught sight of the soldiers.

Like the other troopers I’d recently faced, these men wore uniforms I was unfamiliar with and carried rifles both new and strange. Their swords, though, I was all too familiar with edged weapons.

When the troops caught sight of me, they were called to a halt in French. They spread out and, at the order, charged across the small field at me.

None of them shot at me.

I can’t say the same.

I emptied the Colts, the revolvers thundering and tearing the air as the slugs tore through the charging troops.

When the men reached me, I was ready. Bowie knife in one hand and warclub in the other.

It was blood and violence, pain and terror.

They beat me with the rifle stocks, and I gutted them with the knife. Some stabbed with bayonets and knives, and I crushed their skulls. They grabbed hold of my arms, and I bit out their throats.

They died by the dozens, and when I killed the last of them, I went looking for more.

#supernatural #paranormal

Unknown

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The island was new.

It is not unusual for islands to appear at the northern edges of Blood Lake. Or on the western edges, either, for that matter.

Normally, they were small bits of land. Perhaps an acre or two in size.

This one, which appeared in the early hours of the day, was huge.

All of Blood Lake had expanded with the island, and from where I sat in the boat, the lake stretched farther than I had ever seen it.

The ravens had returned with a report of the island. They didn’t see anyone, nor did they happen to notice any birds or wildlife. The island, Edgard told me, smelled wrong.

I left the dogs at home, howling on the shore as I paddled away. If the island were as bad as the ravens had hinted at, it was best that I go alone. I could survive. The dogs might not.

I’d buried enough dogs in the past few days. I had no desire to bury anymore.

When I reached the island and dragged the canoe up onto the shore, I was struck by the silence of the place.

I was, I realized a heartbeat later, the only living creature upon it.

Of that, I had no doubt.

But just because there wasn’t anything living didn’t mean there wasn’t any danger.

I drew both Colts, double-checked the loads, and then stepped out along a well-worn path.

As I went, I passed discarded equipment. Bits of harness, canteens, tools to clean rifles. A few rounds of a make I’d not seen before, and kit much the same. I came across a few pieces of paper, but it was printed in a language so strange it hurt my eyes to read them.

I soon came upon spots of desolation. Burned grass and shattered trees, iron shrapnel and broken rifles. Charred flesh and blackened bones soon greeted me as well.

Soon, the desolation became wider, oases of unblemished grass becoming rarer.

Finally, I came upon a town.

Little was left of it, and those few buildings that still stood were mocking obscenities of what they had once been.

I didn’t need to see my mother’s name scrawled across a door to know I was looking at her handiwork.

I stood in silence for a short time and then turned and retraced my steps to the shore.

There was nothing I could do.

#supernatural #paranormal

King Phillip’s Island

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He was the fastest I’d ever seen.

We were back on King Phillip’s Island, and the fighting was hard.

The new troops had learned the lesson their compatriots had not. Dying in battle was better than dying at my mother’s hands.

Once more, we stood on the field, but neither the troops nor the Kinderzähne ran. They stood their ground and gave as good as they got.

I lost count of the number of dogs killed and wounded, of the ravens shot from the sky, and the bullets that slammed into me.

My clothes were nothing more than blood-soaked tatters, and I’d run out of ammunition for the Colts. I had my warclub in hand and the broken stock of a rifle in the other.

I was in the midst of the troops, pinned between a pair of them with bayonets keeping me in place. A pile of bodies was growing around me, and the men with the bayonets were afraid to let go.

They were right to be afraid. They’d get nothing close to a gentle death from me.

The sensation of steel scissoring through your innards is as curious as it is painful, and I was looking forward to making both men intimately aware of it.

As a Kinderzähne bounded over the nearest corpse, I smashed its head in with the warclub, and as brains and blood splashed over me, I saw the dog.

It was almost a blur as it leapt a trooper trying to bring his rifle to bear on it.

But the dog was too damned fast.

When it landed, the dog twisted and lashed out, its muzzle clamping down on the man’s knee and tearing it out.

In moments, dozens of other dogs of the same breed spread out over the field, driving the soldiers and surviving Kinderzähne into a small copse of trees.

My tormentors tried to run, dropping their rifles and stumbling over the corpses of their comrades.

It was of no use.

I tore the bayonets out and hunted them down.

I was denied vengeance as dogs and ravens assaulted the men.

Still leaking blood, I led the way to the copse. As the men and Kinderzähne hid, I took out my matches, found one that wasn’t damp with my blood, and set fire to the nearest tree.

As the flames spread, we waited to see how long it would take them to run.

I’m pleased to say it wasn’t long at all.

Punishment

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My mother does not accept failure.

We landed on King Phillip’s Island in the far northern portion of Blood Lake.

The naiads and merfolk had agreed to a truce, and so they had helped guide the flat-bottomed bateau from the old boathouse to the island. Brutus and his comrades had been in one, some of Miriam’s in a second. I’d gone forward in my own canoe, ammunition and my warclub, my sole companions.

The naiads and the merfolk, like the dogs and the ravens, wished to drive the Kinderzähne and any of my mother’s troops from our lands. The ravens had discovered a camp of both on King Phillip’s Island, and they had reported back to me.

I had spoken with the queen of the merfolk and the council of elders from the naiads. Our plan was simple. I would land with the dogs on the southern shore of the island. From there, we would drive the troops and the Kinderzähne back until they were on the edge of the island. There, the enemy would have a choice to fight or seek refuge in the water and attempt to escape to the Hollow.

They would not make it.

Merfolk and naiads would be waiting.

The enemy would be drowned, and their flesh would feed the merfolk.

When we landed, I took the center, and Brutus anchored the right wing. One of Miriam’s hounds anchored the left. With the dogs strung out between us, we moved forward through the long grass.

Soon, we came into contact with the enemy, but only the Kinderzähne stood their ground.

The troops ran.

The howls of the dogs served as a chorus to the death chant of my Colts as we butchered the Kinderzähne.

As we fought, the ground shook, and the screams of dying men drowned out the sounds of battle.

At first, I thought the men had reached the water, but as we crested a short rise, I saw the troopers laid out in the grass. Their deaths had been quick, though I doubt painless.

My mother’s voice ripped through the air.

“Cowards.”

As much as I hate her, I have to admit I felt much the same way.

I’ve no use for cowards.

No Blood does.

In the cool breeze that sprang up, the dogs and I dragged the corpses to the water’s edge.

The merfolk still needed to eat.

#supernatural #paranormal

An Envoy

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He was damned dapper.

After the demi-god’s destruction, we had a few quiet days. Not so quiet as to allow the dogs of Deus Canum to leave, but quiet enough so that we didn’t have to worry about an attack on the farm.

As our fourth day of relative peace began, sounds of fighting rolled across the lake and made their way to me. I’d no sooner finished my second cup of coffee and was considering where to hunt next when a knock sounded at the back door. When I opened it, I found Edgar there, preening beneath his right wing and glancing over at me. 

“Bit of a curiosity, Duncan,” the raven stated.

The sentence took me aback. “A curiosity?”

The bird nodded. “We checked on the gunfire, turns out it’s, well, it’s difficult to explain.”

Now, I’ve never seen him at a lack for words. Nor did I ever expect to. 

“I’ll confess,” I told him, “you’ve piqued my curiosity, Edgar. What’s going on?”

“You’ve a guest,” the bird answered. “He’ll be here shortly.”

The barking of dogs distracted me, and as I turned to look, I saw a pair of hounds come bounding in from a lake trail. Their tales whipped back and forth, and their tongues lolled out of their mouths. I was about to ask what in the hell was going on when the answer stepped out after them.

He was a big dog. Not as tall or as thick as Brutus, but he was close in height. He wore a three-piece suit with a top hat and a beautiful jaeger pipe clutched between his teeth. When he reached me, the dog offered a low bow.

“Mr. Blood,” the dog greeted. “I am Lord Erasmus, and I am afraid our ship ran aground passing through the lake. As I am sure. You heard there is a bit of gunplay right now.”

“I heard it.”

The dog smiled, and the pipe danced in his mouth. “We seem to have run into a small platoon of soldiers, ostensibly under the command of your mother, and they opened fire. We should make short work of them. I was sent along to apologize and to ask might we have the dead?”

“By all means. Enjoy it.”

Lord Erasmus bowed again. “Many thanks, Mr. Blood.”

As the dog took his leave, I was left with one question.

How in the hell did that pipe stay in his mouth?

#supernatural #paranormal

The Demi-God

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He came from the Hollow.

How my mother managed to summon a demi-god and get him to do her bidding is a question best left unanswered. I’ve seen the spells she casts, and I know the blood magic she works. None of it is good, nor has it ever been.

This demi-god strode out of the Hollow, bellowing my name in a voice that shattered stones and shook the earth. By the time he reached my drive, I had a headache and a fair head of steam built up. My Colts were in hand, and the animals had scattered. The demi-god’s voice was too powerful, and so they’d taken Jimmy Elroy and the pups away with them.

On either side of the drive, the trees leaned toward one another, weaving their branches together and sending the demi-god’s voice back to him. Apparently, he disliked the sensation as much as I did, and by the time he reached me, he was muttering to himself behind a wooden face.

“Your mother would have words with you, stepson,” the demi-god stated.

I raised an eyebrow and cocked the hammers back. “I’m not your son, step or otherwise, and I don’t much care what my mother wants.”

The demi-god took a step forward. “You’ll do as your told, child.”

My thumbs settled on the hammers of the Colts and eased them back. “You best run along to your wife ere she tugs on those apron strings and brings you back.”

The snarl in his voice caused leaves to curl above us.

“You, child, shall learn respect and to call me father.”

As the last word left his lips, the Colts thundered.

Round after round slammed into the demi-god, blowing chunks of wood-like flesh from him. Dull brown ichor seeped from his wounds, and he stumbled back, surprised at the attack and the power behind the .44s.”

“No,” he gasped and tried to shield himself from the slugs. He only succeeded in offering up his arms for sacrifice, and I took them gladly. One was blown off at the elbow and the other at the shoulder. As he looked down at his severed limbs and tried to comprehend what he had experienced, I reloaded the Colts and walked forward.

The demi-god looked up as I put the barrels of both Colts against his forehead.

“I have a father,” I told him and pulled the triggers.

#supernatural #paranormal

Assassination

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She tried.

To say I was tired after the battle of North Road would be an understatement. I wanted nothing more than to take a shot of brandy, strip off my blood-soaked clothes and get a decent night’s rest.

I got the shot of brandy without any sort of interruption.

The night went downhill from there.

I finished the brandy, made certain Jimmy Elway was safe with the dogs and Octavius and made my way up the stairs. Some of the ghosts were fairly active, prowling the halls and banging doors they’d no right to be banging. Several of my relatives – uninvited guests who I’ve not given the opportunity to leave – were catcalling and making a nuisance of themselves.

I figured any sort of sleep was likely to be thin and less than restful.

When I reached my bedroom, all the noise stopped.

The second and third floors were listening, and I found out soon enough why.

I opened the bedroom door, stepped across the threshold, and discovered I wasn’t alone.

I don’t know who she was, but she was most assuredly one of the prettiest women I’d seen. She wore an ivory dress and a mantle that matched, and she smelled of sweet decadence. Her eyes, when she looked upon me, were a deep violet, the color of which I’d never seen before, and I doubt I’ll see again.

When she smiled, she showed teeth fashioned from steel and a forked tongue that danced across them.

Her words were soft and subtle, tempting and terrifying, all in one breath.

“Duncan Blood,” she murmured.

“Aye.”

“You’re more a boy than a man,” she observed.

“Seems that way at times,” I admitted.

Her nostrils flared, and she flashed a devastating smile. “Oh, but you’re old. Older than me. I can smell it.”

I nodded.

“Do you know why I’m here?” she asked, shedding her mantle and shaking out her hair.

“Death.”

She winked. “For one of us.”

She undid the tie at her waist and drew a long knife from the folds of her gown.

I drew my pruning knife from the small of my back and snapped open the curved blade.

There were no pleasantries. No hatred. Merely flashing blades and spraying blood. She was quick, though not quick enough.

She fought well, and she died hard.

I wish I’d gotten her name.

#supernatural #paranormal

North Road

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It was a damned hard fight.

I don’t know where my mother found the men, but they sure as hell knew their business.

I recognized neither the weapons nor the uniforms of the men laid out along the road, but I knew them for what they were.

Soldiers, just as the messenger had said.

And, not surprisingly, the Deus Canum had spoken true.

These were fighters brought in by my mother.

Part of me wanted to see if they would parley, and perhaps we could come to some sort of truce. One look at the men, however, told me that was an impossible goal.

They were soldiers tasked with my destruction. Nothing save death would turn them away from it.

I’d left my rifle at home. Instead, I was wearing the Colts slung low and loose in their holsters. Hanging from the belt were two weapons I’d not used in a long time. An old hatchet, the blade of which had tasted French blood in upstate New Hampshire first, and a warclub gifted to me by an Abenaki woman who was sweet on me. She’d given me the weapon with the polished and ball-shaped killing head despite my having killed her husband in battle.

Had I looked older than twelve, she might have tried to give me a little more.

When we stepped out of the woods, my mother’s soldiers saw us and began to fire.

The dogs dashed out, racing hellbent for leather. Some of them fell, cut down by the accurate fire of the men, but many more made it to the first line. As they did, troops from behind the hedge poured out, their voices raised to battle, and the fight began in earnest.

I don’t know how many times I fired and reloaded the Colts, but soon enough, they were back in their holsters. In my hands, I held the hatchet and the warclub, and I waded into the fight.

Bullets and blades bit deep into my flesh, but the fight continued.

Soon, my shirt was soaked with blood – mine and the soldiers – and the men began to run from me. The dogs hounded them back into the Hollow, where they would face my mother’s wrath for their failure.

The wounded lay upon the road, begging for mercy, and I gave them the mercy they deserved.

By night’s end, my hatchet was dull, and my arms were sore.

#supernatural #paranormal

Bad Luck

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The night went poorly.

On an island close to shore, we’d managed to find half a dozen more of the Kinderzähne, but they’d prepped a trap that the dogs didn’t discover until it was sprung.

Three dogs plummeted down a tiger trap, and not a one of them survived. The fall was longer than expected, and the Kinderzähne had sharpened the spikes at the bottom. The death may have been quick, but it sure as hell wasn’t painless.

I made certain the Kinderzähne didn’t die easy either.

By the time we finished up on the island and made our way back to the farm, night had fallen. Some dogs joined Miriam and Octavius in the barn where the two of them were holed up, thick as thieves as they made plans, and others came in and lay down wherever they could find room. Those allied to the Deus Canum remained outside, happy to sleep in a dogpile and get some rest.

I went to the front parlor, poured myself some bourbon and set about cleaning the Colts. It was a calming, peaceful routine. By the time I’d finished with the revolvers, it was well past midnight, and I decided to stretch out in the parlor rather than make my way up the stairs. I doubted my bed would be free of dogs, and I didn’t want to argue about who was going to sleep where.

As I lay down on the floor, I closed my eyes and thought about the other islands we’d search for in the morning. I’d just finished a yawn when the door snapped open, and a dog bolted into the room. It landed on a low settee and lay on its side for a moment, tongue lolling out as it panted.

I sat up and looked at the dog as it slowly focused on me.

“Duncan?” the dog asked.

“Aye,” I answered, hiding my dismay.

“I have a message from Deus Canum,” the dog stated, its voice shaking with awe at the memory.

“Speak.”

The dog nodded. “The wall on the North Road is breached, and your mother makes the most of it.”

“Do you know what’s being sent through?”

“Soldiers,” the dog answered. “Killers.”

I grunted and got to my feet. “I suppose they’ll want to meet the same.”

Without another word, I slipped the Colts into their belt.

There was killing to be done.

#supernatural #paranormal

Foolish

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It wasn’t a good place to hide.

Why they thought so, well, I can’t answer that. None of us could.

The ravens had spotted the nest first, and when they brought Octavius and myself to it, well, I understood why we’d such a helluva time finding the damned Kinderzähne.

They slept in trees.

They were wise enough to stay away from the speaking trees and from those that were marked by the dryads. Had we not had the ravens with us, though, it would have been a long time ere we found them.

Once the ravens spotted the first nest, well, the rest was easy.

The birds spread out over my lands and Blood Lake. As they did so, Octavius went back, found some of the dogs and had them spread the news.

Soon, dozens of dogs could be heard howling and barking, yipping and yapping as they made their way to me. In a matter of minutes, I was surrounded by them, even the speaking dogs thrilled with the sight before them.

A single Kinderzähne sat in the nest on the tree’s top, and it knew that death had come for it.

As the dogs raced around the tree, greeting the creature in their own way, Brutus came up beside me.

“Yon Kinderzähne knows it is time to die,” the great dog observed.

“Aye,” I nodded, “that’s a fact.”

We stood in silence for a moment.

“They don’t fight when they’re cornered like this,” Brutus stated.

I glanced at him. “No?”

He shook his head. “You’ll appreciate this, Blood if you’re anything like your kin.”

I watched the Kinderzähne stand up, stretch, and then draw a long, thin knife from behind its back.

“Ah, this is a strong one,” Brutus murmured approvingly.

The Kinderzähne took off its shirt, tossed it down to the dogs who tore into it, and then placed the tip of the knife against the center of its breast. Even from where I stood, I could see the dark blood well up around the blade’s tip.

The creature let out a high, sharp laugh, plunged the blade into its chest and pushed down.

For a moment, the Kinderzähne stood still, then it dropped the knife, took hold of either side of its opened torso, and pulled.

The creature’s innards spilled out into the tree limbs, and the Kinderzähne tumbled after it.

Brutus was right.

I appreciated it.

#supernatural #paranormal

Monstrous

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The dog was one of the largest I’d seen.

He was, I would learn later, one of their champions. A hound blessed by Deus Canum himself.

And the Kinderzähne were terrified of him.

I’d gone out hunting the little bastards, word was they’d gotten into what was left of the Elroys’ hen house, and when they finished, well, there wasn’t a bird to be found. Better than more people, I suppose, although there are some people I wouldn’t have minded exchanging the hens for.

As it was, the dogs and I put up a cordon around the house, and the ravens settled in to keep an eye on them. I was about ready to go in, Colts loaded and in hand, when the champion arrived.

The other dogs parted for him, and several whimpered in appreciative awe. The hound towered above the others, and when he stopped in front of me, we saw eye to eye.

“My name is Brutus,” the dog stated and inclined his head ever so slightly.

“Duncan.”

“Aye, I knew who you were when the wind shifted,” the dog stated. “I’ve met a few of your kith and kin in the Hollow, Duncan Blood. It is always a pleasure.”

I raised an eyebrow and waited for Brutus to continue.

“I have heard there are some of the Kinderzähne in the property,” he said, nodding toward Elroy farm.

“A fair few,” I agreed.

The dog grinned, some of his great incisors broken and chipped. “Excellent.”

“Need a hand?” I asked.

Brutus shook his head. “While I have often enjoyed fighting alongside Bloods and Coffins, I do not require assistance today. I have fought the Kinderzähne, and while they are entertaining, they are not difficult.”

Without another word, the dog trotted off toward the farm. Behind us, the other dogs closed ranks, and I holstered the Colts. I found a high point on the stonewall that wrapped around the Elroys’ land and made myself comfortable.

From where I sat, I could see everything.

Brutus took his time.

The Kinderzähne howled at his approach and did their best to run. Some sought safety in the house, others in the barn. A few raced toward the far edge of the property, and they were the first to die.

Brutus lived up to his name, and I enjoyed every moment of it.

#supernatural #paranormal

Pushing Back

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They didn’t know what to do.

The dogs were everywhere.

No matter where the Kinderzähne appeared or how they tried to leave my lands, they were turned back by the dogs. The canines and the ravens worked together; the weeping willows pulled up their roots and strode along the streams and marshy areas around the lake, searching. They drove the Kinderzähne toward the dogs, and the dogs herded those they didn’t kill toward me.

And I waited.

I sat on a wall I’d built with my father in 1692, smoking my pipe, rifle in my arms and Colts on my hips. I’d left a canoe on the bank, and the dogs would push the Kinderzähne toward me. The creatures would race for the canoe, only to discover I’d driven a length of iron through the bow, pinning it to the bank.

The canoe was bait and nothing more.

Naiads lurked in the shallow water, and they drowned those Kinderzähne who tried to swim away. Those who didn’t were kept in place by the dogs, and I took my time with my shots.

Each was clean, a single round through the head.

Today, I killed thirty-three of the little bastards, and from what I can tell, there’s a hell of a lot more of them out there. How they’re getting in, I don’t know, but I suspect my mother and the Hollow have something to do with it.

Tomorrow, we’ll start checking the islands along the Hollow side of Blood Lake. From there, we’ll work toward the Hollow itself.

Today though, the naiads are still bringing bodies back to shore. The dogs and I will drag them in to the old apple trees and feed them.

I’ll not see good meat go to waste.

Not when my trees are hungry.

#supernatural #paranormal

Wisdom

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They were too damned quick.

I’d lost three people in as many days to the Kinderzähne.

The ravens had a difficult time spotting them from the sky, and Miriam’s dogs had a hell of a time keeping the damned things’ trails. The Kinderzähne were quick and could leap from tree to tree.

Some of the Kinderzähne had been killed by trees. A pair by some dryads.

Too many still roamed free.

As did my mother. Or whatever iteration of her was prowling the edge of the Hollow and snatching up those creatures unaware of her presence.

All in all, 1900 was turning into a miserable year.

I found the old dog sitting patiently in my room, which didn’t surprise me. I left the door open, and dogs old and young were wont to wander in. Only Miriam and a handful of others spoke.

As did this one, it turned out.

I sat down in my rocker, poured myself a short sniff of brandy, and was about to enjoy it when the dog spoke.

“You haven’t fought the Kinderzähne before.”

“No,” I agreed, taking a drink. “I certainly haven’t.”

“The trick,” the dog continued, scratching lazily at one of his ears, “is not to chase them.”

I finished the brandy and waited.

“They like the chase,” the dog told me. “They like the thrill of it. They know a few will die. But that’s what makes it exciting. You’ve got to trap them.”

“How?” I asked.

“Ignore them.”

I raised an eyebrow.

The dog chuckled. “Oh, don’t let them wander. Not by any means. Set the ravens loose and the younger dogs too. But you stay here. Plant yourself in the orchard or beneath a willow, and wait. Smoke your pipe. Read a book. They’ll come to you.”

“And what of my mother?” I asked.

The dog snarled. “She’ll not leave the Hollow when I’m here.”

“And why is that?”

The old dog bared his teeth and stood up. In perfect Latin, he replied, “Deus Canum.”

With that, he left the room, his steps silent upon the floor. For the first time, I felt the weight that had been in the room. The power that faded with the dog’s steps.

Deus Canum.

God of Dogs.

P.S. Several weeks ago, you may have noticed that I didn’t post for some time. My oldest son died unexpectedly. These past three weeks have been tremendously hard, and they have left my wife and me with a huge financial burden. While he was 28, our son had not made any plans for burial, etc. Friends of ours started a GoFundMe to help pay for some of the costs, but the original amount posted is only half of the total cost.

If you have read these stories and enjoyed them, I hope you might be able to donate even a couple of dollars to help with the funeral and burial costs. If you can’t help, even just sharing the link would be extremely helpful.

Thank you again.

https://gofund.me/5f2dad9e

Innocence

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Lea Blackwell walked out of her home and never returned.

The Blackwells were an old family. Truth Blackwell had come along with my father to settle Cross in 1628, and he had been one of the few my father never killed. The man’s family had done well, and I was as familiar with his descendants as I was with him. By 1900, there were only a handful of Blackwells in the area, and Lea was one of them.

She had served as the schoolmarm for years, never marrying nor doing much more than teach and read, which was a fine life as far as I could see. With her passing, the last of Truth’s direct line would be gone, and it would be another mark in the history of Cross.

Lea provided a room for the schoolmarm, and it was from this woman, Juliette Evans, that I learned that lea had not come back from her short walk.

I’d neither seen nor heard anything from my mother or the Kinderzähne for close to a week. I knew it didn’t mean they were gone, and it was to them my thoughts first went when Ms. Evans brought the news.

I hurried out to North Road, where Lea liked to walk, and found her tracks. They were clear and unmarred, and they led off into my land. There was a small game trail she had followed, and I could see where she had paused now and again, the soil pressed down beneath a heel, a bit of crushed debris. Here and there, a thread had caught on bark.

I soon tracked her down to the edge of Blood Lake, close to where an old pier stretched out.

In one of my boats, a group of Kinderzähne sat. They smiled at me, blood staining their teeth and flecked across their clothes.

Of Lea Blackwell, there was no sign.

One of the Kinderzähne stood in the boat, offered a bow and then cupped his hands around his mouth.

“She was as sweet and delicate as your mother promised, Mr. Blood,” the child called.

The Colts cleared leather, and the air filled with their thunder.

But it was no use.

The Kinderzähne had gone overboard and slipped away, unharmed.

With my Colts in hand, I went out to the boat they’d been in and saw Lea’s remains. There was naught but hair and bones.

I reloaded the Colts and wondered how much more I could hate my mother.

#supernatural #paranormal

Fire

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We were too late.

I saw the smoke rising, and there was no question as to whether it was a chimney or a house fire. The dark, churning clouds screamed house fire, and so I ran to it.

Some of the dogs raced ahead and beside me while Octavius thundered toward the smoke.

The structure belonged to the O’Rourke family, recent transplants from Boston Towne, and dead from what I could see.

I came to a stop by Octavius as the dogs fanned out and some of the ravens settled into the trees, their sharp eyes searching for survivors and for those who might have set the house ablaze.

“This smells wrong,” Octavius muttered.

I glanced at him, and when I did, one of the dogs trotted up on unsteady feet. In its mouth, the dog carried a letter, and when he presented it to me and I accepted it. The dog took another shambling step and then collapsed, seizing for a split second before he died.

My fingertips stung as whatever was on the letter burned my flesh with a deep and hateful poison.

I opened the letter as Octavius peered over my shoulder.

“Read it aloud, Duncan,” the donkey said. “There are none of us here who can read.”

I nodded, cleared my throat, and began.

“My Dear Son,” the letter greeted, “it is my hope that you are suffering as you read this. You know full well that I have butchered the family within these walls and that I will, at some point, be feeding them to my dear Kinderzähne. I trust you feel the poison, although it will not do more than discomfort you. I believe that the death of the dog will harm you more. Yes, I know that you are running with dogs, as you always did as a child. Filthy creatures.

“Rest assured, this family died badly. I took their intestines with me as I left, and they didn’t die until I lit the flames a short time later. Tonight, I might make some sausages. As I recall, they were your favorite.

“Mother.”

Miriam came and sat beside me. “There are bodies inside and a blood trail out the back.”

“Don’t go inside. I’ll bury them.”

“We’ll keep you company, Duncan,” Miriam replied.

I took out my pipe, packed it, and lit the tobacco.

I sat down beside Miriam, and Octavius did the same.

All we could do was wait.

#supernatural #paranormal

Hunting

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The pack came out.

The dogs spread across my lands and worked with the ravens.

Octavius kept an eye on everything from the house, helping to coordinate the efforts of both dogs and ravens. He kept the peace between bird and beast and made sure to offer up a sane and calm voice for Jim Elroy. The boy still spent most of his time in the front parlor, but he did it out of bed and in the company of Miriam’s pups.

I roamed my land, listening to the complaints of the trees and the occasional ghost who made its presence known. Edgard stayed with me, occasionally taking to wing and soaring above me to let others know where we were.

I was listening, with shrinking patience, to the ghost of a man named Remember Grace as he bemoaned the fact he could no longer work his land. Remember had been dead for two hundred years. My father and I had shot him and put him in the ground, still breathing, knowing that if we didn’t, he’d go and eat another neighbor or two. Whatever madness had struck him while alive had left the man when dead. It was a pity. He’d at least been interesting when we were hunting him down.

Sane, he was as dull as a Sunday preacher.

I was pleased when Edgard landed on my shoulder and whispered news of the Kinderzähne.

Two of Miriam’s pack had cornered one of the creatures in a house on the island of Less. It was a good-sized bit of land at the top of the lake, close to the Hollow when the wind was right. Or wrong, depending on how you looked at it.

I took my leave of Remember and made my way to the shore. I found a canoe, climbed in, and paddled for the island. When I reached it, several more dogs were coming out of the lake, stepping onto the shore and shaking themselves dry.

Without a word, we followed the trail that led to the island’s single house and found it cordoned off by the dogs.

In the darkness beyond, I heard rustling and drew the Colts.

I needn’t have bothered.

The Kinderzähne rushed out and was seized by the dogs before I could pull the triggers. The creature’s screams were cut short as the other dogs raced in and joined the feast.

For a long time, the sound of tearing meat filled the air.

#supernatural #paranormal

An Accord

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The speaking dog is a rarity now.

I’ve brought a few out of the Hollow over the decades, but the ability to speak doesn’t last more than a generation or so. When I do meet them on my lands, they tend to be transplants, much like Octavius, or double-edged blessings like Edgar and some of his raven kin.

Octavius was sleeping in the front parlor, Jim Elroy was still abed in the study, and the raven dozed on the back of a chair when a soft barking caught my attention. When I followed the sound outside, I saw a small mixed-breed pup, no older than three or four months, dart away along the trail leading to Blood Lake.

With my Colts, I took off after the dog.

I made good time down the trail and soon caught sight of the dog as it was joined by a littermate. Within moments, they met with a third, and then a fourth and fifth. They trotted along the trail, tails wagging as they playfully nipped at one another. In a short time, we were at the shore, and the pups raced off into the brush on either side of the trail, leaving me with their mother, who was looking out over the lake.

She turned and glanced over her shoulder at me, nodded, and then stepped down from the stone she’d been on.

“Duncan Blood,” she said, sitting down.

“Aye. We’ve not met.”

“No. I’m Miriam.”

“A pleasure.”

She eyed me for a moment. “Something’s come to Cross.”

I nodded. “I was set to look for you today; see if you mightn’t help.”

“Do you know what these are?”

I shook my head.

“No, I suppose not. You are not from my when, nor are you even from my world. My Duncan Blood is well familiar with these creatures.” She paused, scratched an ear, and then resumed the conversation. “They are Kinderzähne, and they’ve eaten my mate and two of our pups. Will you help me kill them?”

“Aye.”

“May I keep my pups with you?”

“Aye,” I smiled. “I’ve a boy at the house who’s in need of good company, and I think your pups will be just that.”

“They need the same,” Miriam stated. “Once they’re safe, I’ll call the pack.”

“You’ve a pack?” I asked, surprised.

“If I could open the Hollow, Duncan Blood, I’d have an army.”

And that would be something to see.

#supernatural #paranormal

Trespassing

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I don’t much care for trespassers.

I do my best to stay off other people’s property, and I appreciate it when they do the same. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it usually helps them keep hold of life and limb.

Some learn it the hard way.

The two men duck hunting on the shores of Blood Lake sure as hell did.

There’d been no sign of the children who weren’t children, though the trees and the dryads were still talking about them. And if the trees were, well, it meant that the creatures were still about.

I was carrying heavy. My Colts were slung low on my hips, loose in their holsters, and the Gewehr in my arms. I’d even bothered to pack my ruck and sling it. I had rations and rounds to last for a few days if I caught the trail.

All I caught were two fools.

Like most I find wandering the shores of my lake or squatting out on the islands, these two weren’t from Cross. The wind carried their voices to me, and I heard the sharp tone of the New Yorker in their words.

A sudden cry broke the air, and a flight of ducks took to wing. One of the hunters stood, brought his shotgun up, and then he died.

One of the children who weren’t children exploded up out of the water, teeth barred and hands grasping. It latched onto the standing man’s neck, blood coursing down from its mouth as its serrated teeth shredded the man’s flesh.

The other duck hunter remained frozen in fear, unable to move.

I had the Gewehr shouldered, and as I fired, the duck hunter stood.

The bullet meant for the creature struck the man in the skull and exited his left eye, crashing into the skull of his dying compatriot.

As I chambered another round, the creature dove into the lake and vanished beneath the water.

I stood alone on the shore with corpses and nothing more.

I went to the bodies and stripped them both down, leaving their belongings for goblins to salvage. As for the men, I found some rope in their bags and fashioned a sling to drag their bodies down to the nearest path.

Later, as evening came, they would feed the trees.

As for myself, I knew that if I wanted to find the creatures, I’d need the dogs.

If the dogs even wanted to be found.

#supernatural #paranormal

Beets

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Octavius was nearly as old as me.

According to the donkey, we’d met in New France in January of 1753, where he was attached to a small militia unit of Canadians. Animals who spoke were not a rarity, nor were they afforded any sort of courtesy.

The Duncan Octavius met did not agree with such a philosophy, and he left a dozen men bleeding out in the January snow.

We’d traveled a bit, up and down the length and breadth of New England, but he managed to stumble into the Hollow one day, and that was all it took. He’d met a few other versions of myself, and he’d run into my mother more times than he cared to remember.

I understood completely.

We jawed long into the night, and when I finally fell asleep in my chair and he on his side stretched out in front of the fireplace.

The rapping of a raven on the door woke me.

Opening it, I found Edgar. “Duncan.”

“Did you find something, Edgar?”

“Elroy’s farm. Young Jim is in the beet field by himself this morning,” Edgar stated.

My shoulders sagged, and I nodded. “No sign of the rest of the family?”

“Not even smoke from the chimney.”

“Alright,” I said. “I’ll put on the Colts and head over. My thanks, Edgar.”

The raven nodded once and turned away.

“Bad news?” Octavius asked, the floorboards creaking as he got to his feet.

“More than likely,” I answered. “Jim Elroy, the youngest of the Elroy family, is in the beet field by himself. I’ve never seen any Elroy in the field alone.”

“Want company?”

“I’d appreciate it.”

We left the house together, the donkey walking on my right.

It took us a little over half an hour to reach the Elroy farm. Edgar was perched in a nearby elm, his sharp eyes watching. Jim Elroy had a machete in hand and worked at topping a beet with a dull and dazed expression.

“Jim,” I called as we approached.

The boy hesitated, lowered his machete, saw my face, and began to wail.

I bade Edgar stay with the boy, and I went into the house with guns drawn.

There was no need.

The other six members of the Elroy clan were dead, half-eaten. A pair of children who were not children lay on the floor near them, the tops of their heads across the room.

Jim had topped them as neatly as he topped a beat.

#supernatural #paranormal

From the Hollow

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He spoke well.

I wasn’t sure how many of the little bastards were out there, running loose around my lands on my islands. The ravens were out looking, and even a handful of goblins were keeping a weather eye open.

But there’d been no word. No sign for three days.

And then, of course, there was.

I came across a man I didn’t know, a man I never would know.

He’d been stripped naked, nailed to the side of a barn close to the Hollow, and his legs stripped of meat. The remnants of a fire stood off to one side, and the unmistakable odor of cooked human flesh hung in the air, curling around the barn as though it had nowhere to go and no desire to leave.

Unfortunately, the man was still alive.

How he had managed to last through such abuse, I do not know. But I do know he wouldn’t survive it. The legs had been tied off, but his eyes had death in them. His face was gray, his lips blue. He looked at me and tried to speak.

I could see what he wanted.

I put my hand over his eyes, drew a Colt, and shot him in the temple. His body sagged forward, head lolling on his chest.

A cough caught my attention, and I turned to see a small boy, one of the creatures, atop a donkey. The boy held a stick and grinned at me.

“Will you come with me, Mr. Blood?” the child asked. “Or will I take you?”

As the child/thing spoke, the donkey turned to look at me, its eyes narrowing.

“Blood?” the donkey asked.

The child/thing’s eyes widened at the donkey’s voice, and I nodded.

“Good,” the animal sighed and bucked the creature off his back.

The creature hit the ground running, darting into a clump of bushes and vanishing as I sent off two quick rounds after him. They smashed into his lower back and cut the creature in two.

I turned my attention to the donkey.

“My name is Octavius,” the animal informed me. “And you are Duncan Blood. Is this Cross or Bloodtowne?”

“Cross.”

“It would be,” the donkey muttered. He cleared his throat. “Well, would you put an old friend up for the night?”

“Are we old friends?”

“Older than you know,” the animal replied. “Fix me a coffee with some applejack, and I’ll tell you the tale.”

I nodded, reloaded the Colts, and led the way home.

#supernatural #paranormal

Bait

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They sprang the trap too soon.

The cries of calves caught my ear, as it was supposed to.

I’d been traveling along one of the backroads on the eastern side of my lands, Colts on my hips and a new rifle over my shoulder. Fraulein Litz in Germany had sent an 1888 Gewehr and ammunition to me.

The rifle was beautiful and sleek and a distinct reminder of her dangerous beauty.

The rifle had a good feel to it, and when it was tucked into my shoulder, it was damned near impossible to miss.

Given the fact that the little bastards had scattered on the island before I could bring the Colts to bear on them, I thought something with a little more range might do the trick.

Rather than drawing my Colts at the sound of the crying calves, I chambered a round into the ’88 instead. With the rifle at the ready, I followed the road until I came to a section of fencing and a young girl holding a pair of calves.

The girl smiled her sharp and wicked teeth and then tore into the throat of the nearest calf. Blood sprayed out around her, and from either side of the road, a pair of children raced.

But they’d set themselves up too far from me.

The monsters on the left leapt towards me in a sickening, froglike manner, and I shot the first through the temple. The impact sent him spinning into his comrade, and they tumbled to the earth. As the still living creature sought to disentangle himself, I chambered a fresh cartridge as I swung the rifle ‘round to the other two, dropped to one knee and fired off another shot.

The beast pitched forward, and his comrade hesitated, her pigtails bouncing.

She blinked, the brass casing caught the sun as I ejected it, and before she took another breath, she was stretched out on the ground beside the other, bleeding out on the road.

The second monster on the left got to his knees and died there, slumping over as the .88’s round tore through his throat.

The girl with the calves had finished with her butchery.

“I’m still hungry, Mr. Blood,” she said, and I shot her in the belly.

I went to ask her a few questions, but she tore her own tongue out at the root.

I lit my pipe and sat beside her, smoking as she died.

#supernatural #paranormal

School

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They were rowdy and quicker’n hell.

I tracked them for two days and finally found them on an island in Blood Lake. I could hear them from the lake itself, and when I landed and climbed the small hill to the island’s top, I found them there.

A house I’d not seen before stood a fair distance away, and a group of 13 children sat or stood around tables. A woman was there with them.

None of it was right.

The children didn’t move properly; their gestures and looks too fast. When they spoke, it was in whispers and in a language I did not know.

As I approached them, I kept my hands near the Colts.

The children put the books down and got to their feet. They smiled, teeth too small and too sharp. Their fingers twitched, and their lips trembled.

The teacher stepped forward, her grin twice the size of theirs and her teeth just as small and just as sharp.

“Have you come to join us, Mr. Blood?” the woman asked. Her words rolled off her tongue as though she was speaking with a forked tongue, and perhaps she was.

“Not if I can help it,” I replied, resting my hands on the Colts.

The children giggled.

“That’s not polite, Mr. Blood,” the woman scolded. “Your mother did warn us of your manners, however.”

My spine stiffened, and my grip tightened on the revolvers. “That a fact?”

The children nodded their heads vigorously, and the woman laughed.

“It is indeed,” she confirmed. “Your mother said you would be most difficult to kill but not to antagonize.”

“Which are you here to do?” I asked.

“Both,” the woman said, the smile never leaving her face. “If we can manage. Kill if we can only have one.”

She snapped her fingers, and the children sprang in every direction.

The Colts cleared leather, and the children were gone, vanished into the grass as the teacher charged at me, her hat blowing off. Her mouth had opened, and rows of teeth could be seen.

The Colts thundered and took her square in the chest, knocking her back. She caught herself and continued forward, spewing blood.

I put six more rounds into her before she went down.

She was gasping when I reached her, but my boots put a stop to that.

A friend of my mother is no friend of mine.

#supernatural #trees #paranormal

Brutality

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The tree was angry.

I’d finished putting in a new section of fence along North Road when word came to me that there was an older tree who was displeased.

I thought it might be something foolish. Children climbing the branches, dogs marking the trunk.

I was wrong.

When I arrived at the tree, I found it to be more than a little out of sorts.

Someone had murdered four people, taken their heads, and buried them in the tree’s roots. The surest way to plant ghosts.

The ghosts themselves stood on either side of the tree, a pair of couples watching me with lackluster eyes and a listlessness only the newly dead had.

I would get no information from them.

“Have you put irons on your legs?” the tree demanded.

I paused, hands on the butts of my Colts. “Came as quick as I could. Know who did this?”

The tree snorted in derision. “By name? Of course not. Only the Bloods and the Coffins are worth knowing. They were not your kin.”

“Who were they?”

“Children but not children,” the tree answered.

I peered at him, waiting for the inevitable, drawn-out continuation.

It came nearly a full minute later.

“I tasted the earth when they came near and paid them little mind,” the tree stated. “They were forest folk, of that I am certain. They reminded me of someone, ‘though I cannot recall who.”

“Someone you were friendly with?” I ventured.

“I am friendly with you, Blood, and no one else,” the tree hissed. “They are not worthy of my time or of my patience. They are nothing more than a side of beef on a late August evening.”

I glanced at the ghosts who were still wandering about. “They won’t leave, you know.”

“I know,” the tree spat. “Not until they’re damned good and ready.”

“Did the children but not children leave you the bodies?”

“No,” the tree grumbled. “And I’m hungry.”

I nodded.

“Right. I’ll see what I can find. Keep a raven nearby and send it along when you’ve more news for me.”

The tree muttered its agreement, and I left its small glen.

Children but not children.

Ghosts left behind to torment a tree.

Something had a long memory, and it’d been nursing a grievance for a while.

Time to find who it is.

#supernatural #trees #paranormal #books

Day 36

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“I hate you.”

It was a phrase I was well familiar with.

I stood in a large library, the stink of the wyrm heavy in the air.

The Colts were reloaded and in my hands. I’d not waste any time drawing them as I knew the wyrm would be waiting.

I was not wrong.

The wyrm’s voice echoed from the shadows of the shelves, difficult to pinpoint as they raised the fine hairs on the nape of my neck.

“You’re in good company,” I replied, squaring my shoulders and waiting. “There’re a great many who feel the same.”

A book tumbled off to the left, but I paid it no mind. This was the wyrm’s home, after all, and who knows what he was capable of.

“Oh, I know,” the wyrm snapped. “Your mother is one of your finest detractors.”

“No real surprise there,” I remarked.

The wyrm snarled, and the soft hissing of his body as it undulated across the floor filled the library.

“Do you know why I hate you?” the wyrm asked.

“No.”

“Do you want to?”

“If it’ll set your mind at ease before I kill you, then speak.”

The wyrm chuckled. “Such bravado, Blood.”

I did not offer a reply.

“I hate you because I am blind,” the wyrm snapped. “Had you simply died, my eyes would not have been taken from me.”

“I don’t see as that’s my fault. Of course, at least I can see that it’s not my fault.”

The wyrm howled and struck a bookcase, knocking its contents onto the floor.

“Tell me, wyrm,” I said, bringing the Colts up and bracing myself. “Would you like me to stay a while and read to you?”

The wyrm exploded through a shelf, books and torn pages raining down upon the ravaged head of the beast. I could see the flames boiling in its mouth, and the Colts thundered.

One round passed through his open mouth and exited through the left eye while the second destroyed its jaw. Blood sprayed outward as the wyrm slammed into a wall. It struck the floor, rolled, and gathered its coils beneath it, but the revolvers filled the air with the sounds of death.

Slug after slug tore into the great beast, the .44s carving out huge chunks of flesh. Our blood and our hatred as dangerous as the lead itself.

I put 48 rounds into the bastard, and I only wish my mother had gotten her share too.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 35

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Wulf found the wyrm’s lair.

The tower stood atop a hill, its curved wall facing the sun, shutters wide and shooters in the windows.

Wulf took a round through his shoulder, but he returned to the hospital and spoke of what had occurred.

I took only my Colts with me and struck out along the trail to the place where the wyrm waited.

As soon as I was in view, the windows were thrown wide, and things that were not quite men took up positions in the windows. They had rifles and scatter guns, and a trio crowded into each window while a dozen more exited the entrance and spread out. The creatures on the ground formed a firing line, and the steady click of rounds being chambered was a decadent symphony to my soul.

I drew the Colts, and a man stepped out into the doorway.

He wore a long cloak and a golden chain of office around his neck. From his sleeve, he removed a scroll, unrolled it, and looked at me. “Be you Duncan Blood of Cross, Massachusetts?”

“Aye,” I answered.

“Committer of matricide, homicide, and infanticide?”

“Aye.”

The man nodded and cleared his throat.

“Be it known to all gathered here that this man, Duncan Blood of Cross, son of Ezekiel, has confirmed his sins to this court. It does please us greatly to pronounce the sentence of death upon him, and we shall rejoice with the destruction of this murderer.” The man finished the scroll, rolled it once more, and put it away. He gazed upon me with an expression that was half disdain and half ridicule. “Have you anything to say, Blood?”

My Colts spoke for me.

The blood-blessed rounds tore through his chest and throat, leaving wounds that burned blue as he staggered back.

The men around him and in the windows hesitated, unsure of what to do and sickly fascinated by the blazing injuries.

The hesitation cost them.

My Colts roared in the stillness as I cut down the creatures in the windows, sending their bodies tumbling out the frames and onto their companions below. Panic swept over those on the ground.

My revolvers went dry, but I reloaded as the creatures fired off badly aimed shots.

When the Colts were heavy again, I went back to killing.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 34

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We spent the night casting bullets.

Wulf and Mikkelsen helped me weigh the powder, and as we neared the time to cast the bullets, the firing caps set off to one side and waiting with the patience of their kind, there was a knock at the door.

Wulf drew his knife and opened the door.

Marius stood in the doorway, his face pale and unhealthy. When he spoke, his voice raw and hardly above a whisper, he said, “There’s someone to see you.”

“At the front?” I asked.

Marius shook his head. Through clenched teeth, he stated, “He appeared in the room and asked to be brought to you.”

The words caused my companions to look at me.

“Let them in,” I said and drew my own knife.

A strange approximation of a man entered the room as Marius stepped aside and fled.

The scent of cinnamon and nutmeg filled the air, and the door closed of its own accord. Wulf kept his blade out and backed away, the weapon trembling in his hand.

The creature before us had black holes for eyes and a face that would not move. When he stepped forward, the body shook beneath the fur robes as though the joints didn’t hold quite together.

He reached out with both arms, the hands hidden in the sleeves. In a hoarse, brutal voice, the creature whispered, “Bring knives forward for the bloodletting. Place cast bullets in the copper pail.”

“Why?” I asked.

He turned his face to me once more. “You hunt the wyrm.”

Wulf stepped closer, the cast bullets placed in the copper pail. He held his knife as the stranger set the bowl on a nearby table. The creature beckoned to Mikkelsen, and the man obeyed.

In a moment, all four of us were gathered around the bowl.

“Hands over the bowl, cut your palms,” the stranger ordered, and as a heaviness filled the air, we did so.

Our blood splattered down upon the bullets, and as it did, the stranger spoke in a soft whisper that shook the walls and rattled the foundations.

The stranger looked at me.

“Blood and hate make these strong. Bring rum to hell, Duncan. I’m tired of drinking alone.”

The creature slipped out the door, closing it behind him, the last few words ringing in my ears and telling me who he’d once been.

Pedersen.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 33

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They were an abomination.

I came upon an abandoned village, one that reeked of death and desperation, madness and hatred.

It stank of the wyrm.

There weren’t more than a dozen houses and a single general store.

Only the store was occupied.

One-half of it had once been fully stocked with canned goods, clothes, and all the odds and ends one needs to survive as a farmer in Denmark. The other consisted of an eatery, in which I found four soldiers.

They sat at a table, the remnants of a great feast before them. Empty barrels of beer and bottles of schnapps littered the tables and floor around them, and they watched me with a bored curiosity.

Their swords leaned against the table, but the men seemed to pay little mind to the weapons.

I didn’t like the looks of the men, nor did I much care for the squalor around them.

Something was wrong.

“Where is he?” I asked.

Their answer was less than I’d hoped for and more than I wanted.

They stood up, pushing their chairs back, the swords tumbling and clattering to the floor.

And then the men joined.

They became an amalgamation of a man.

Too tall for the room, the four-headed beast leaned over, arms tearing at clothes and casting them away. Four mouths spoke at once, but I understood none of what they said, only the gleeful spite behind the words.

Hands joined and formed massive crooks, each tipped with bloody nails and broken bones.

I didn’t bother with the Colts.

I wasn’t in the mood.

I took the hammer from my belt and went in swinging.

Whatever the creature was, it had believed itself to be invincible. And perhaps against some other, it might be.

But I am not some other.

I am a Blood, and for those such as this abomination, I am death.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Once more, I would like to thank everyone for their kind words and messages. They have meant a great deal to me and will continue to as my family, and I move on from this tragedy.

I miss my son terribly, and I know I will do so every day. I am told the pain will lessen, and I believe this.

All I can do is move forward and keep him with me.

Thank you again.

Nick

Day 31

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The scarecrows were once men.

I approached with all the caution that stock-still men deserved.

I don’t know when they died, but it hadn’t been recent. Their skin was stretched taut, and their eyes sunken in. They wavered ever so slightly in the hard breeze coming in off the nearby inlet.

A good look at the land around them showed something wasn’t right.

The wind blew a little more, and the edge of a door was revealed.

As I crouched down to get a better look, a score of doors was thrown open. Snow exploded into the air, and the scarecrows tumbled down as Skratti scrambled up onto the field.

These were not nearly as coordinated as their brethren. They wore their own, rough-made clothes, crude weapons formed from cast-off iron and steel.

They did not know my name.

They didn’t see me as a threat.

They learned.

I moved slow and steady, drawing the Colts and firing from the hip as I got into a solid fighting stance. The heavy .44s tore through the Skratti, some slugs taking out two or more as the creatures bunched together.

The thunder of the Colts rolled across the field, and the slugs drove the Skratti back. Some slipped into their bolt holes, slamming doors down behind them. Others tried to get away and were cut down, the .44s blowing out their chests as the rounds exited.

As I reloaded, a handful of Skratti charged at me, and they regretted the decision instantly.

When the last died, gasping in the bloody, churned snow, I reloaded the Colts again. Stepping over the bodies, I went on my way.

There was still a wyrm to kill, and I meant to kill him.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 30

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It snowed and silenced the world.

This morning, I left my rescuers in the care of the Wulf and several others who had arrived from the hospital. I’d cleaned my Colts and loaded them, wiped the hammer down, and found some clothes that were not charred tatters.

With orders for them to return to the fortified hospital, I went out hunting on my own.

The world was silent.

No birds sang; no animals called out.

Only the sound of my boots punching through the thin crust of the snow filled the air.

I didn’t mind.

I’d hunted in the Hollow when the weather had been colder, and the dead littered the ground. I’d slept in beaver dams as a boy when the Mohicans were on the hunt and among the dead at places like the Wilderness and Chancellorsville. I’d known the bitter cold of Valley Forge and the bite of the same when we crossed into Trenton and gave the Hessians a rude Christmas gift.

As I walked, I came upon a great set of fieldworks, one that had been empty for some time. Perhaps even from the beginning of the attacks.

I paused at a deep trench and looked at a pair of huts, one of which had a door hanging from one hinge.

I listened and heard not a thing.

Still, I drew both Colts and cocked the hammers back, unconcerned about the noise.

I doubted anyone – either friend or foe – was here.

I searched the entire fieldworks and found them abandoned. All the supplies had been hauled away. Nothing, save a pair of spiked field pieces, had been left behind, and that pleased me. Aside from the one broken door, the encampment was in fair condition. A clear sign that someone had retired in good order. They had not been driven from it.

I did not find any graves or any sign of a medical tent having been set up.

Whatever unit had been stationed here had retreated.

Perhaps I would find them in another position, warm and strong against the cold.

Or I might find them butchered in a mass grave.

It was war, and I’d find out one way or another.

I always did.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 29

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Evidently, I’d been wounded.

The men had thought me dead, and I suppose I had been closer to death than before.

I remember going out alone and finding wyrm sign. The trail had led down through thickets and over stones, into the depths of a narrow gorge, and out into a small glen.

After that, I have no memories.

The men who found me, the ones who dragged my body into the safety of a house they’d turned into a small fortress, told me the rest of the tale.

They had heard the sounds of gunfire and hastened to it. When they drew close, they saw the wyrm and me facing off. The Colts roared, matching the wyrm’s own ferocious cries. The slugs hit him and drove him back, but his skill with his breath was something to behold.

The wyrm protected himself with the fire, and as I reloaded one of the Colts, he attacked.

His tail lashed out and snapped both my knees, and even as I emptied the Colts into his belly, he bathed me in flames.

The men, not knowing who I was, and fearing the wyrm might turn upon them next, assumed I was dead and remained in hiding.

I was not dead, and the wyrm had more to fear from me or anyone else.

The men told me of a great, one-eyed raven, its feathers white with age.

The raven dove one the wyrm and struck it a blow across the head, tearing out one eye and ripping open the mouth.

Howling, the wyrm gave up its assault on me and fled for the safety of the forest.

The raven called out sharply to the men, its cry commanding and fierce.

They knew it wanted them to come for me, and so they did.

When I heard their story, I thanked them and asked them to send a runner for my men, which they did.

I am nearly healed, and when I’m done, the wyrm will die.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 25

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They died hard.

They were dressed like men, but they didn’t die like them.

I’d left the hospital, armed with my Colts and hammer.

They bushwhacked me about a mile from the hospital, the first two rounds catching me in my chest and knocking me back. Whatever they were using was powerful as hell and blew a lung – and its ribs – straight to hell.

I was still wheezing when they approached me, apparently sure they’d put me down.

They’d hurt me, that’s for certain.

But they hadn’t put me down.

The shooters realized I was still alive, and as they went to chamber rounds into their rifles, I drew both Colts.

The roar of the revolvers filled my ears, and the weight of them in my hands helped me climb to my feet.

The shooters had fallen back a few steps, one casting aside his rifle, the breech having been shattered by a .44 slug.

Grinding my teeth as my ribs regrew and knitted themselves together, the other shooter brought his rifle up and took a bullet in the throat for his trouble.

Dark gray blood exploded across his unarmed comrade, and the two of them charged at me, weapons forgotten. They were too angry.

I understood that completely.

I emptied the Colts into the shooters, and while the slugs slowed them down some, it didn’t stop them.

That was fine with me.

My lung had healed; the Colts went into their holsters; and the hammer into my hands.

The first blow knocked dislocated one fellow’s jaw, and the second collapsed the left side of his comrade’s face, the eye shooting out and striking me in the chest.

There was no time to laugh at the absurdity of the wandering orb.

They meant to kill me, and I meant to do the same to them.

Their hands struck like iron, breaking bones and deadening muscles with every blow.

But no sooner had the blows been delivered than feeling returned and bones healed.

They weren’t so lucky.

I destroyed knees and hips, shoulders and sternums.

Still, they fought on.

Finally, I knocked one to the ground and caved in the back of his skull.

That did the trick.

In a moment, his comrade was dead with him.

My clothes were soaked with my blood and theirs, and I needed fresh clothes.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 24

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It was a place of refuge.

The hospital had survived longer than any other building, and it had been defended by the wounded and the dying.

I’d been in the lead, scouting the road and keeping an eye out for the wyrm’s tracks. He’d slipped away during the fight with the creature at the barn, but I had no doubt we’d come across him sooner rather than later.

As it was, one of the guards atop the hospital roof put a bullet between my legs when I rounded the corner of the road and brought me to a stop.

Wulf, directly behind me, laid his rifle on my shoulder. “Give the word, and he dies.”

“Wait.”

One of the men at the hospital called out, “Human?”

“Of a sort,” I answered.

Some of the men behind me chuckled, as did a few along the roofline. A raven landed beside the shooter, who nodded and asked, “What’s your name?”

“Duncan.”

“Family?”

“Blood.”

The raven let out a harsh laugh, and there was a collective sigh of relief from the guards. They set down their weapons and straightened up. It was then I saw the bandages and the slings. The man who had shot at me was missing his left foot.

“How many do you have?” he asked.

“Not enough,” I replied.

He nodded, and the main door opened.

Wulf took his rifle off my shoulder and went back to inform the rest of the column of the situation.

When I reached the door, a man in a wheelchair rolled out to greet me. He was old, perhaps in his 70s, but his grip was firm.

“I am Dr. Cassel. Welcome to our haven.”

“My thanks.” The wounded gathered in the courtyard.

“How is it out there?” Dr. Cassel inquired.

“About as bad as you might think,” I answered.

He nodded. “What brings a Blood to Denmark now?”

“Grimnir.”

“Ah,” he murmured. “I had hoped he would send someone for us. I am thankful it is you.”

“So am I,” I admitted. “Have you room enough to spare?”

“I could fit a battalion within this place,” he sighed. “But the few you see are all there are. You are welcome to join us.”

I nodded. “We’ll all be happy for the safety of walls.”

“We will be happy for the company. Are you thirsty?”

“Do you have coffee?” I asked.

“What man doesn’t?” the doctor asked.

“Fair enough,” I chuckled and followed him into the courtyard.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 23

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She wasn’t my mother, but she sure as hell fought like her.

We were on the trail of the wyrm, and we were careful.

I’d broken the men into teams. Three men to each. Two equipped with rifles, one with pistols. The rifles to keep the wyrm at bay, the third man to run like hell. I expected casualties, but I wanted to keep them as low as I could.

I’d not throw away anyone’s life.

The smoke from a burning building rose into the air and warned me that something wasn’t right.

Leading the way with Wulf beside me, we reached a small barn, the top of which was smoldering, and in the second-floor window stood a woman. She gazed down at me with a face barren of expression.

“Did she do it?” Wulf asked.

“Aye,” I nodded. And before another word could escape my lips, she shattered the glass and screamed.

The sound struck us like a blow, knocking Wulf over and driving me to my knees. I felt blood trickle from my ears and dribble from my nose.

With a grunt, I grabbed hold of Wulf by the collar of his jacket and dragged him back. Marius and Mikkelsen took him from me, and I spat blood as I climbed to my feet.

The woman stepped out of the window and dropped like a stone, landing standing up.

She stretched out her hands, and I drew my Colts.

The woman hummed, and lightning danced along her fingers. Her pitch rose, and the colors of the lighting changed from dull blue to bright white. She stretched out her arms, opened her mouth, and I pulled the triggers.

The slugs slammed into her chest, pushing her back as the lightning shot from her hands, setting the trees around us ablaze. Lightening crackled in her wounds and raced around her mouth.

I shot her again, the bullets smashing into her throat and tearing it open.

The lighting within her devoured her flesh and melted her eyes. The stench of burning hair assailed us.

She stepped forward, and I shot her in the head.

She staggered another step, sank to both knees, and tried to crawl.

Holstering the Colts, I took my hammer and brought it down upon the base of her neck, the lightning burning my hands.

It hurt like hell, but it was worth it.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 22

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One man survived long enough to tell us what happened.

Wulf and I stood in a small tent, going over a rough map of the area he and his men had just escaped from. Mikkelsen was there, Marius, too. The wounded had been taken to the house Wulf had so successfully defended, and there they would receive treatment better than what we had provided.

I had picked up the trail of the wyrm once more, but it had vanished into a marsh area that I had no desire to go into alone. Nor any desire to bring men with me. A place such as that is ripe for an ambush.

I was proven right.

A trio of young men had sought to impress me by going out and finding where the wyrm’s lair might be.

I wish they had not.

Cries of horror and fear broke up our meeting and hastened our footsteps.

When we reached the front of the camp, we found the sentries gathered around a man who was little more than charred skin. A glance along the path showed bits and pieces of burnt flesh, a sure sign that he had struggled to us on his own.

One of the sentries reached for him, took hold, and then howled in terror as the burnt man’s flesh came away in his grasp.

I pushed the men aside and knelt near the dying man.

With a groan of agony, he turned his head to face me. His words, brittle and weak, pushed past his blackened teeth.

“We found the wyrm.”

“Old or young?” I asked.

“Looks like a boy.” His body tightened, pulling him into a fetal position as he shrieked. Panting, he continued. “Killed as boy. Tortured as wyrm.”

His eyes focused on my Colts, and I nodded, drawing one and cocking the hammer back.

“He wants you,” the man hissed.

“Aye. Ready?”

“Yes.”

I brought the Colt up and put a single bullet through the dying man’s brain.

“They wyrm wants you?” Wulf asked.

“Aye,” I nodded, reloading the revolver. “And he’ll get me.”

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 21

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They were hard men.

The sound of gunfire caught the attention of the scouts, and they felt it significant enough to take me away from my tracking. I’d caught sign of the wyrm, and it was fresh.

But the men mattered more than the wyrm did.

Leaving the trail behind, I followed the scouts back to a small fortification. It was a hasty structure, one that had previously served as a homestead of some sort. Stones, broken artillery caissons and various other detritus of war had been heaped around the walls to help fend off the attackers.

Skratti, similar to the enemy we’d faced before, surrounded the house, but there was something different.

A goblin, no larger than a child of ten or eleven, sat atop an overturned apple barrel. He was dressed in fine clothes, the threads of which glistened in the sun. He ate an apple, and he directed the fighting.

He was smart too.

He wasn’t throwing his troops at the building, but he was keeping up a steady fire on the pair of windows and door he could see. As some of the Skratti kept shooting, others began to spread out in a slow pincer move that would wrap the house in a circle.

I had no doubt the goblin would set fire to the building then and kill all who tried to get out.

It’s what I would have done.

As he took another bite from the apple, we opened fire.

The shots ripped through his ranks, and mine took him clear in the back of the head. The slug passed through his neck, exited his mouth, and the apple exploded in his hand.

The goblin fell off the barrel, and the men in the house charged out, finishing off the surviving Skratti with bayonets and pure hate.

We joined up and stood over the bodies of our enemies, and one man with a great dark beard offered his hand.

“Wulf,” he greeted.

“Duncan,” I replied, and we shook. “How long?”

“Two days here,” Wulf answered. “Three before at the depot not four miles back. We left most of our company there.”

“Hungry?”

He flashed me a grin as feral as his name and stated, “We could eat.”

“Good.” To my men, I said, “Get some food. I’ll start the coffee.”

Wulf took a flask from his pocket. “For the coffee.”

He and I would get along just fine.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 20

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She left another gift.

This time, it wasn’t a corpse, ‘though I wish it had been.

The ground shook, and a great cloud of dust and debris soared into the air not a quarter mile from our encampment.

All eyes turned to me and waited.

I finished my coffee, tossed the grounds into the fire, and got to my feet.

“Company?” Marius asked.

I shook my head. “We’re thin enough as it is. We can’t spread out, not with my mother around.”

Mikkelsen frowned. “I still find it difficult to understand how this young woman can be your mother.”

“She’s a version of her,” I explained again. “Perhaps not as foul, but just as strong and just as determined to put me in the ground.”

“Why?” Marius asked.

I shrugged. “She tried nigh on two centuries ago. I killed her. She’s been trying to repay me ever since. Get sharpshooters in the corners, bring the wounded in closer. If she’s around, she’ll go after the weak and try to draw you out.”

With my hammer in hand, I left the safety of the camp and walked toward where a dark dust cloud hung in the air.

When I reached it, I was glad to be alone.

A young giant sat in front of the remains of a windmill, picking his toes with a bit of wood. When he caught sight of me, he left his feet alone and tossed the wood off to one side.

“Blood?”

“Aye?”

“You have a hammer?”

My chest vibrated as the giant’s voice shook the air.

“Aye.”

“She said you had only your Colts.”

I smiled. “She didn’t know.”

He frowned. “I don’t like hammers.”

“Most of your kind don’t.”

He nodded. “They hurt. Will yours?”

“Without a doubt.”

The giant picked up a rock the size of my head and threw it lazily at me. I moved to one side as it rushed past, striking the ground behind me.

“Can you use it?” he asked, motioning toward the hammer.

“I can.”

“Well?”

“Would you care to find out?”

The young giant laughed and shook his head. “No. Not this day, Blood.”

He got to his feet and looked down at me. “Maybe when I’m bigger.”

“You feel the need, you come and find me. We’ll see how well we do.”

The giant let out another laugh and nodded. He went his way, and I went my own.

I had no doubt we’d meet again.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 19

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I told them to stop.

Sometimes, soldiers don’t listen.

Hell, most of the time, we don’t listen at all. And that was certainly the case.

We’d had some rough patches over the day. A few barricades thrown up across the road by Skratti and another by a pair of orcs who forgot that we weren’t to be trifled with.

But as we came up to a small brook, some of the scouts sent back word that there was a woman and a hound ahead of us.

I told them to stop where they were and to leave her be.

The men were infatuated by the sight of her, from what I learned.

She was young, dark-skinned and clad in wear they’d not seen before. Her dog was huge, and it listened to her as though she was its god.

Perhaps she was, though I’ve my doubts.

Of the two men who came to report to me, one of them left, making his way to his comrades to tell them not to approach the woman. His companion tried to leave. I didn’t like the look in his eyes, though, and so he was ordered to remain behind.

The young bastard turned to follow, and had Marius not taken hold of him; the young soldier would have died. For as Marius caught the man’s arm, shots were fired and screams followed.

A few men went racing forward, but more shots drove them back and down to cover.

With Marius holding the scout, I went ‘round the right flank on my own, searching for a way to get to the woman and the hound. The screaming intensified, another shot was fired, and then a deep growl rolled across the land.

When I reached the brook, the woman and her hound were gone.

She’d left the scouts behind.

All four were dead, and they’d died badly.

Each had been gut shot, and their hands torn off and piled to one side. Their pants had been pulled down to their ankles, and the woman had castrated each of them. Those, too, were piled up.

As I stood, my eyes caught a bit of blood off to one side. I moved closer and saw there was a message written on the side of a stone.

He’s told you I’m here. Now I’ve told you as well.

Mother.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 18

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I woke alone and confused.

For a moment, I could not see, and at first, I feared I was blind. How that might have occurred, I had no idea.

But when sleep cleared from my thoughts, I saw I was not blind but in a world of darkness. Sitting up, I reached for my Colts and found they were not there.

I was, I realized, naked.

The air was warm, and the place I was in was silent.

Crossing my legs beneath me, I waited.

I’m not certain how long it took for the place around me to brighten, but when it did, I found myself looking at a small patch of woods. There was nothing else. I sat on nothing, from what I could tell, and the branches and plants grew up from the same.

The heavy thud of large wings reached my ears, and soon, a raven landed in front of me.

It preened beneath a wing, and I waited.

Finally, the bird turned to look at me, both eyes bright, the feathers glowing with a dark beauty.

“I bring word from the All-Father,” the raven informed me.

“I could not be dressed for the message?”

The bird chuckled. “We are dreaming, Blood. The two of us together. You are not naked, and I am not a raven.”

“What are you?” I asked.

“Not a bird. Of that, I can assure you.”

I nodded. “What message?”

“The hounds approach from the south,” the raven stated. “The wyrm goes to rest in his lair. Your mother’s mark is upon it.”

The last sent an angry chill racing up my spine. “Is she here?”

The raven shook his head. “No. But she has been.”

“Hm.”

“There is more to tell,” the raven continued.

“My apologies.”

He ruffled his feathers, then said, “There is illness creeping toward you. While it will not touch you, Blood, it shall move like a scythe through your men.”

“My men?” I asked.

The bird chuckled. “Because you do not wish to see it does not make it so.”

“Aye, you’re right.” The soldiers were mine. From Mikkelsen down to the youngest private soldier. They would fight and die for me. And I would do the same.

The bird stretched out its wings but paused. “There are reapers coming. Listen for them.”

Without another word, the raven flew off, and I sank from my dream and back to sleep.

Soon enough, I knew, the fighting would begin anew.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 17

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A strange sight.

We came upon a large graveyard, one where the stones were upended and the earth churned. A large, iron door had been torn from its hinges, and a crypt was bereft of its occupants.

Mikkelsen set up a perimeter around the graveyard, for there was no other way forward but through it. With Marius at my side and my hammer in my hand, we moved forward. Marius held a cut-down saber, both edges sharpened and the point on it now barbed. In his free hand, he carried a small cudgel.

We needed to conserve ammunition and to kill as quickly and as quietly as we could.

The path led us deeper into the graveyard, and soon we discovered signs of a battle that was days, if not a week old.

The stink was horrific, and the maggots feasted upon the dead Skratti littering the ground.

Some were clad in Danish uniforms, others in the clothes of their kind. Few had succumbed to gunshot wounds, and all had been slain from behind.

I saw bones and old bayonets driven into Skratti backs. Heads were crushed in with chunks of stone. And the sign on the ground was too strange to read.

As we neared the center of the graveyard, we found Skratti with swords and spears embedded in them. Some lay dead with axes and maces near them.

Finally, as we climbed a short hill, there were Skratti, who had been killed by gunfire. Around them, though, were more bones and bits of metal.

Marius squatted down, picked up a piece of green-tinted metal, and shook his head before passing it over to me.

I accepted it, turned it over and saw it was a belt buckle made of brass. Emblazoned upon it was the black eagle of Prussia.

“Blood.”

I looked up and saw Marius walking toward a large cross set in fresh earth. Young trees had been planted around it, and newly cut greens lay upon the ground. Shining in the sunlight were bits of more metal.

In the center of the cross was a plaque written in beautiful German.

Here 100 Brave Danes Rest.

Marius and I left, pausing at the open crypt. I went up, closed the door, and read what was written in Danish upon it.

300 Prussians, Brave and True, Once Enemies but No Longer.

The dead had repaid a kindness.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 16

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Shrieking shattered the day.

I’d been sitting with Mikkelsen and enjoying a cup of brandy laced coffee when shrieking rent the air.

We went racing through the narrow lane that served as the divider in our small camp and came upon the sentries posted at the rough barrier we’d erected the night before.

“Klaus and Hermann went out a short time ago,” one of the sentries explained, his face pale and his knuckles white as he held his rifle close.

Mikkelsen looked at me, and I nodded.

“Get more men on the line,” he told the sentry who had spoken. To me, he asked, “Shall we follow you?”

I shook my head. “If it’s too much, I’ll come back for you. No need to spoil breakfast if it isn’t necessary.”

I climbed over the barrier and drew my Colts as I followed the lane.

The path was far from straight, and it was lined on either side by tall hedges. I’d no sooner gone a quarter mile when I caught the smell of cooking meat and hot coffee.

Pushing my way through a hedge, I made my way toward the smell and came upon a group of soldiers. They sat at a table and were served by an older man and his wife. There was little talking as the men ate and drank. Off to one side was a pile of gear and clothing. A few feet away were Hermann and Klaus. The men hung from a raised crossbar, naked and their hands bound to the bar.

Their legs were gone at the thighs. While tourniquets had been applied to the severed limbs, I could see that Klaus was dead. The shock had been too much for him.

There were nine men at the table. The host and his wife.

And Hermann.

I killed Hermann first, the round taking him clean through the left eye and ending his suffering.

I waited as the soldiers stood, expressions of rage on their faces. They drew pistols and bayonets while the host and hostess tried to step off to one side.

I put a bullet in each of them, the husband squealing and the wife screaming as they went down, clutching their bellies.

The soldiers rushed me and soon wished they hadn’t.

It took them only a moment to fear my Colts.

They all took a long time dying.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 15

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They failed miserably.

Marius and I had walked ahead, scouting through a small town whose inhabitants had either abandoned their dwellings or ended up as someone’s meal.

We were nearing the center of town when we heard a discordant hammering. While there seemed to be an effort to create some sort of rhythm, the hammer-wielder was failing.

Marius drew his rifle, and I, my Colts, and we passed down a narrow alleyway to find a large, open courtyard. A group of men stood outside a smithy, and they smiled at us with eyes that spoke more of hunger than they did well-wishes.

There was a single horse with them, and the beast’s eyes rolled with fear while one of the men gripped its harness tightly.

Another man pushed a saddle blanket a little farther down its haunches, hiding a bit of blood and what looked, for a heartbeat, like a bite mark.

“We have not seen anyone in a few days,” one of the men remarked as his companions stepped slowly out to either side of him.

“Is that so?” Marius asked, and as the words left his mouth, the wind shifted, carrying with it the rank stench of werewolves.

Marius wrinkled his nose at the odor, and I opened fire on the sons of bitches.

Rough cries and deep howls tore from their throats as they lept toward us. While they were still as men, they were no less dangerous.

They were hungry, and they would keep us alive until it was time for them to eat, of that I had no doubt.

Nor did I doubt that it would be a particularly unpleasant experience, and thus one I was eager to avoid.

They tried to flank us, but Marius and I knew our work.

The men were werewolves, but they were not soldiers. Not fighters.

We were.

The werewolves staggered back under the heavy punches of the .44s, and as my guns ran dry, I took up my hammer.

Marius, on the other hand, put his bayonet to good use.

There is, at times, a distinct pleasure in the cracking of bones and the shattering of teeth.

As we slew the werewolves outside the smithy, I enjoyed that pleasure.

I enjoyed it quite a bit.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 14

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I was wary.

For two weeks, I’d been tromping around a world that was and was not my own. I’d killed and fought trolls, Skratti, orcs, and I knew that worse would make their way toward us, or us toward them.

I’d seen the markings of the wyrm and the tracks left by hellhounds.

And after yesterday’s incident by the shore, I trusted no one.

I’d left the main body of troops behind. They were burying the remains of the fallen from the day before and burning the corpses of the Skratti. I told Marius and Mikkelsen that I’d patrol alone, let the men rest and recoup what little strength they could.

I’d spotted sign of the wyrm again and come across those of the hellhounds, too. I had no desire to encounter either group alone, but scouting needed to be done, and I was the hunter called by Grimnir.

It was my job, whether I wanted the damned thing or not.

When I caught sight of the soldier with a small carbine standing by the cannon, I stopped. I’d encountered two other solitary men in the past two weeks, and neither of those instances had turned out well.

I set my hammer down in the road, settled onto my haunches and took out my pipe. The man watched me with a dull, listless expression. He hardly blinked as I packed the bowl and lit the tobacco.

With the stem of the pipe in my teeth, I slipped the Colts out of their holsters and eased the hammers back. The metal cool and comforting against my thumbs.

“Hello,” I called.

The man nodded.

“What unit are you with?” I asked.

He frowned. “I don’t remember.”

It was then that I saw the gash in the side of his head. Dried blood had matted his hair and hidden the wound at first.

“I’m with a group of soldiers,” I told him. “We’re making our way along the shore, looking for the root of all this.”

The wounded man smiled. “It doesn’t matter. They’ll find you soon enough. They found us.”

“Where’s the rest of your men?” I asked.

He shrugged. “My name is Johann Ewald. I had a fiancé, and I was to be a carpenter.”

Johann lifted his carbine up, put the barrel in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

He collapsed, struck the cannon and lay still.

I put the Colts away.

Johann I could bury.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 13

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It was a trap.

Including Pedersen, we’d lost eleven men the day before, and three more were wounded. Their rations and ammunition were shared out, the weapons kept in reserve.

We decided to rest for a day. Not so much to mourn our dead, which we did, but to clean our equipment and gain some much-needed rest.

Patrols were sent out, and after noon one of them found the boat.

An old sergeant informed Mikkelsen, Marius and myself of the boat and the man sitting forlornly in it. The boat lay on the beach, the man looking out over the water.

None of it sounded right.

“He’s just sitting there?” Marius asked.

“Aye.”

“Take me to him,” I said, knocking the tobacco out of my pipe.

With my Colts on my hips and the hammer resting against my shoulder, I followed the sergeant out of our encampment. He glanced at me several times but said nothing.

I didn’t mind.

When we reached the road following the line of the beach, I saw the long boat ahead. As the sergeant had told us, a solitary man sat in it. The other four men of the scouting party were advancing on the boat, rifles at the ready and bayonets glinting in the sunlight.

“Come back here!” the sergeant ordered, but the men ignored him, weapons lowered.

Swearing, the sergeant raced after his men, but when he was within a few steps of them, he slowed down and straightened up. He drew his saber and fell into lockstep.

I stayed where I was.

Something wasn’t right.

The men reached the boat, and I saw the man in it turn to face them.

A heartbeat later, he exploded. Miniature Skratti landed on the heads of the soldiers and tore into their faces. Clawed hands were thrust into eye sockets and mouths, and not a single man fought back as they sank to the beach.

It took only a moment for the creatures to see me and to come racing across the road.

I struck the first one with the hammer and knocked its head off into one of its companions. It caused them to pause, and then I was among them. My boots broke bones, and my hammer shattered them.

When I finished, I gathered up the weapons and ammunition and left the bodies where they lay.

Graves could be dug in the morning.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 12

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It was a hell of a fight.

We’d missed the hellhounds and the wyrm, though we could see the devastation left behind by the dragon’s breath.

What we found instead were Skratti.

Too damned many of them.

Those wounded strong enough to shoot were left to guard those who could not, and Marius, Mikkelsen, and myself led three smaller units into the town. I took the center road with Pedersen and six others while Mikkelsen and Marius came in on either flank.

The Skratti hit us first, firing from a secured and fortified position in a house still smoking from the wyrm’s fire.

They were learning how to fight.

The accuracy of their fire had improved too, and I took a bullet to the left lung, which set me back a step or two.

As my body forced the lead back out of my flesh, Pedersen’s brains were splattered across my face as he leaned down to check on me.

I confess I became angry.

He’d been a good man, a fair card player, and a hell of a drinker.

I pushed Pedersen’s corpse off my legs, stood, and brought both Colts up to bear as I strode toward the Skratti position.

The heavy .44 caliber slugs tore out chunks of wall and slammed into the faces of the Skratti as they tried to bring their rifles to bear. I felt a few more bullets strike my legs, but my hate drove me on.

I clambered over a shattered wall, entered the house, and killed the wounded.

None were left alive when I finished.

When I exited the back of the house, I found one last Skratti trying to drag himself out of the garden. His legs were bloodied and useless, his eyes wide with fear and growing panic.

He was unable to look away as I emptied the casings from my Colts, put them in my pockets to reload later, and took my time reloading the pistols.

“Mercy,” the goblin whispered.

My Colts answered, a pair of rounds slamming into his chest.

Marius came into the garden as the Skratti breathed his last. In silence, the officer handed me something small. It was brightly polished on one side, the Blood family crest carved into it.

I held in my hand a matchbox, deftly crafted from a bit of Orc armor.

Blinking, I cleared my eyes and wiped Pedersen’s brains from my face. #Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 11

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They were happy, if not sober.

We came upon them after a day of hard marching and skirmishing. We’d fought off a handful of probing attacks from the Skratti and cut down a few bodies left strung up in the trees for us.

The Skratti, it seemed, had a peculiar delight in hanging women and children from their feet and blooding them like game.

It did not please us.

When we arrived at the small building, I expected some sort of firefight, but I can write with pleasure that this was not the case.

We found a group of ten men gathered in and around a small structure. The building, we soon learned, was the doorway to a fine cellar of beer and brandy, neither of which the men were allowing to go to waste.

Their commanding officer was passed out drunk, and his men were little better.

The common grave behind their building explained why.

From what I could tell, they were the sole survivors out of some two hundred men.

The common grave was not particularly large.

When they saw us, we were greeted and welcomed in, and when the strangers learned we would be establishing camp and setting up watch, they drank themselves into a stupor.

I didn’t blame them.

Pedersen and I walked the grounds of the area, reading the sign for what it was, a great story telling us what happened.

We could see troll prints and Skratti tracks. Obscenely large paw prints spoke of hellhounds, and the sight of a large drag mark sent a shudder along my spine.

Only a dragon left a mark like that, and the thought of fighting one of the great lizards was unpleasant enough to leave me with gooseflesh.

We did what every decent army does: we set up camp, put out our guards, and fortified our positions.

The new men awoke to the smells of food cooking and coffee brewing. We had them eat their fill before telling us anything of their story, and when they finished with their food, we listened.

Six days prior, they’d been attacked by Skratti in traditional garb.

The next day, the goblins were clad in the clothes of the dead.

Each day, the casualties worsened.

“Where to now?” one asked.

I finished my coffee, tossed the grounds out and sighed.

“We go looking for a dragon.”

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 10

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He wasn’t what he seemed.

We’d bivouacked in what had once been a library and kept a fifty percent watch through the night. The Skratti tried to slip in a few times when I was on watch; the roar of the Colts in the dead town had sent some of the goblins running after others were laid out in the road.

Pedersen, I learned, was a smith before the war, and he’s turned his hand to a bit of armor from the orc who challenged me. The man won’t tell me what he’s crafting, but it’s a damned pleasure to hear his tools working at the metal.

This morning, Marius and I left the safety of the camp to scout out the route to the armory and the supplies.

All seemed fine until we came to the armory and found a young soldier standing watch beside a pair of cannons. Marius was about to call out to the man when I stopped him, and we were both thankful I did.

The young man turned around and showed he had no face.

A piece of skin with ragged edges was stretched taut over the front of the skull and pinned in place behind the ears.

Whatever the soldier was, a man he wasn’t.

I stayed behind our cover, drew both Colts and stood up.

The soldier looked at me and unsheathed his saber.

I put two rounds into the soldier’s chest, and while the heavy .44 slugs sent him a step back, they didn’t stop him.

That took me aback for a moment.

I’ve put down godlings and gods with my Colts, and I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to meet a creature so little affected by lead and hate.

But there wasn’t much of a choice.

The men needed the ammunition and the food.

I slid the Colts home, took hold of my hammer, and walked down to meet the creature while Marius waited.

The creature’s sword was fast.

I was bleeding from a dozen cuts before I got in my first blow, which the creature tried to deflect with the sword.

The hammer snapped the blade off at the guard.

As the saber spun away, I smashed the hammer into the creature, lifting it off the ground and crushing its ribcage. It fell back, landed hard on the road, and lay still.

Stepping forward, I smashed its head with the hammer until the ground and I were splattered in blood and bone.

Best to be sure.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 9

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We seized the town.

The fighting was hard as hell.

The Skratti had occupied strong positions, and they were waiting for us. The road through town was the only way to the armory and the food stored nearby.

And we needed both.

Apparently, the Skratti knew it, too.

They took the high ground, putting down heavy fire that drove us to seek cover behind battered buildings and dead men.

While they kept us down, they brought in the orcs.

They were clad in armored plate and armed with cudgels, and they came out of the rubble swinging.

That was fine.

I came out swinging too.

Marius directed the snipers, pushing the Skratti back from the windows and rooftops. Mikkelsen and Pedersen had the younger men fix bayonets, and they followed me into the street.

The first orc came at me, laughing, skin grey and teeth green, tongue a disturbingly bright red. He called out to me in a language harsh and cruel and lifted his cudgel in both greeting and challenge.

I raised my hammer, and we stepped in close.

The orc could fight.

His comrades formed a half-circle around him, and my Danes a half-circle around me. A few rounds came in from the Skratti, but the shooters were quickly silenced.

When the orc spoke again, it was in a dialect of Norse I’d learned at my father’s knee.

“We could smell thee, Blood.”

“And how do I smell?”

“Like dinner.”

“Fair enough.”

Without any word or cry, we strode in and fought.

The bastard was good.

His first blow caught me in the left shoulder and knocked it out of the socket, sending me stuttering to the right and forcing me down to one knee. As he came in close, I shifted my weight away from his next blow and shattered his left knee, dropping him to the ground.

His orcs surged forward, but he waved them off with one hand while swinging at me.

I stepped up and away, slamming my hammer into my shoulder and putting it back in place.

The orc got to one foot, dragging his injured leg.

“If I die, they shalt murder all,” he hissed.

“If you die, we’ll kill them all.”

“A threat or a promise, Blood?” he asked.

“I don’t make threats.”

The hammer crushed his helmet and drove the iron into his skull.

I kept my promise.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 8

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We slept undisturbed.

And I found that to be most frightening.

At dawn, we broke camp. We counted 49 uninjured, 76 injured but mobile, and 13 stretcher cases. We’d had 18 die in the night.

We made a funeral pyre and laid the bodies of the dead upon it. The spare weapons and ammunition we loaded onto a wagon, and the artillerymen, with help, dragged their guns along.

I ranged ahead of the column with a pair of men in their late forties. They’d been hunters prior to the troll attack on the coast, and they knew the lay of the land. Once we left the relative safety of the city, we pressed on, sending out flankers to either side and passing through abandoned positions.

We found remnants of the dead but little else.

Whatever was eating the soldiers wasn’t leaving much behind.

Soon, we stopped and held a conference. We’d not seen any sign of trolls or other creatures, but there was plenty of sign of shod boots.

We agreed to move on in silence, rifles at the ready. The hammer hung on a long sling around my shoulder to my waist, where the head thumped rhythmically against my thigh. The dull thud of metal on flesh reminded me of the war drums of Abenaki and Iroquois, Huron and Mohawks, and it made me smile.

Those were men who knew how to fight.

My reminiscing stopped when we caught sight of men a short distance away. They watched without greeting as we came to a stop.

Something was wrong.

Then the wind shifted, and we smelled it.

Skratti.

Skratti clad in stolen uniforms.

The question as to whether they could use the rifles they’d taken was answered a heartbeat later went they sent a volley toward us.

We were fortunate that they were bad shots.

We were fortunate that we were not.

The hunters and I settled in behind cover, loosened our arms and took our time. We called out our targets and killed those Skratti who seemed most proficient with their rifles.

It didn’t take long for the others to run.

Several more died with bullets in their backs.

When the last of them slipped away, I sent the hunters back to bring the column up and to make keep an eye out for an ambush.

As I waited, I thought hard about goblins dressed as men.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 7

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The rattle of gunfire raised the alarm.

I was up and out of my bedroll in a heartbeat, Colts in hand, as the soldiers around me reacted with equal alacrity.

“Where did it come from?” Marius demanded.

A sentry pointed to the southeast. “Toward the edge of town.”

A frown creased Marius’ brow. “We cleared that area yesterday looking for wounded and bells.”

“Someone’s there,” I remarked.

“Or they were,” Pedersen sighed, lifting up his rifle.

“How many men do you want?” Mikkelsen asked as he walked over, flanked by two sergeants.

“Just Pedersen,” I answered. “Any more than the two of us, and we’ll attract too much attention.”

“Pedersen?” Mikkelsen asked. “Limp and all?”

I smiled. “Have you seen the way the man gets in and out of a house about to come down around his ears?”

“Aye, Blood,” Pedersen chided. “That’s for brandy and naught else.”

A rough chuckle went through the men within earshot.

“True,” Mikkelsen admitted. “Take no chances, though. Either of you.”

Pedersen and I nodded, and I picked up my hammer before we left the protective circle of our small encampment.

“Think we’ll find trolls?” Pedersen asked.

“Holed up in a cellar?”

“Aye.”

“No,” I stated. “But this hammer, heavy as it is, has worked. I see no need to get rid of it. Not when I can save ammunition.”

Pedersen grunted his agreement, and we moved on in silence. Neither of us made any noise as we passed through the debris-laden streets. As we reached the edge of town, I saw a fortified structure and glanced at Pedersen.

“It’s empty. Or it was yesterday when they checked,” he said.

We advanced upon the building, Pedersen chambering a round slowly as we neared the entrance.

Within, we saw a grotesque display of corpses. Seven men and a single creature the likes of which I’d not seen in some time.

“What in the hell is that?” Pedersen muttered.

I entered the building, crouched down beside it and turned the head from one side to the other.

“Skratti,” I answered. Goblins.

Pedersen spat and cursed behind me.

In a moment, he was helping me strip the dead of weapons and ammunition.

Where there was one Skratti, there were generally a hundred more.

Evening would be difficult.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 6

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My arms were tired.

I sat in an old campaign chair by the last of the braziers, the flames burning low and soft. The hammer, its head chipped and the handle stained with ichor, stood by me. Mikkelsen passed over a battered tin cup, and I took it with both hands.

It took a moment for my limbs to calm down enough, so I didn’t shake the brandy from the cup, and when I brought it to my lips, the liquor was one of the sweetest I’d tasted.

“A bit of honey added,” the man explained when he saw my appreciative expression.

“My thanks.”

“Our thanks,” Mikkelsen replied. He gestured toward the men sleeping around us in the growing light of the dawn. They were exhausted and with good reason. They had worked the cannons and their rifles well into the night.

Pedersen joined us, sinking down and grinning up at me as he held his hands out to the flames. There was a bit of a chill to the air, and with it was the soothing scent of the ocean.

“Twenty-three,” Pedersen stated.

“Hm?” I asked as I handed the cup back to Mikkelsen, who added more to it for me.

“Twenty-three trolls,” Pedersen said again. “That’s how many you killed last night.”

“How many we all killed,” I argued, accepting the cup back from Mikkelsen. I took a sip.

“I think there’d be some argument about that,” Marius observed as he joined us. He wore a tired smile. “You were the hunter, Duncan Blood. You went out beyond the walls and put the trolls down.”

I grunted my rough agreement. “It doesn’t mean the others shirked their duty.”

“No one is saying they did,” Mikkelsen said. “We know, though, that we’d not have lasted through the night without you. It was your plan that brought us to the morning. No one thought of the bells. No one would have kept the other trolls back while someone else went out to finish off the wounded.”

“There’s a reason All-Father sent a Blood,” Pedersen observed, spitting casually onto the ground. “And that’s because the Bloods are hunters through and through.”

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 5

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They’d gathered a great deal of bells.

Before night fell, the bells were strung along great lengths of rope, and the wounded could set the bells to ringing.

Outside the walls, we set up a trio of cannons with enough shot and shell to give the trolls a warm welcome. Short, narrow trenches were dug from the guns back to the walls, and I hoped the gunners would be able to make it back to safety.

I sat with Pedersen, Marius, and Mikkelsen. Great fires burned in braziers set along the walls. The men who could hold rifles were in their positions, as were the gunners. At my feet, resting between my boots was a large, heavy hammer.

“Most will come from the barrows east of town,” Mikkelsen said. “We had some from the bay. Do you think they’ll attack again?”

I nodded. “Someone knows you’re alive. They’ll want to finish the job.”

For the first time, the soldiers gathered around us were quiet.

All looked to me.

“There are other monsters,” Marius muttered.

“I know,” I sighed.

A bell rang out.

Then another, and in a heartbeat, all rang in a discordant chorus.

The trolls answered them.

Great bellows shook the earth and rattled stones and debris down from some of the nearby buildings.

From the east, the trolls slogged forward, eight of them. A glance to the bay showed another ten climbing out of the water, smashing through wharves and howling at the sound of our bells.

“Seems a tad more than you said,” I remarked.

“So it seems,” Mikkelsen replied.

“How fast can your men fire those cannons?” I asked.

Mikkelsen’s response was a wolfish grin. “My boys can load on the recoil, Blood. Watch.”

The gunners held their fire, as did the men on the walls. But when the trolls from the sea came close enough, those gunners let loose, and Mikkelsen hadn’t been lying.

I’d never seen gunners move at the speed of his men.

Every shot was true, and the trolls went down, legs destroyed. Within minutes, not a sea-borne troll was left standing. As the gunners retreated, the men on the walls opened fire, isolating the closest troll crawling toward us.

Hefting the hammer, I left the safety of the walls and went to greet the troll in my own way.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 4

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Pedersen hadn’t been lying.

The best walls were rubble.

We looked them over and finished off our brandy.

“You’re a Blood,” he stated.

“Aye.”

“Is it true?”

I chuckled. “Depends on what your mother’s been saying.”

He snorted a laugh. “Oh, I deserved that one. Right. Can you take a blow that would be death for another?”

“That’s true enough.”

“Does it hurt?”

“Like hell.”

Pedersen nodded. “Well then. The walls.”

“They’re worse than I thought.”

“This is better than most,” he retorted. “What do you want done?”

“We’ll put the bells in behind us. And we’ll have them ring out all night.”

“And when the trolls come?”

“We’ll kill them.”

“How?” For the first time, I heard real fear in his voice.

“Knees first. We’ll set up the cannons to aim at knees and ankles. Slow them a bit.”

“They’ll come after the cannons,” Pedersen mused. “Even with broken knees and shattered ankles.”

“I know. But we’ll keep ringing the bells. That’ll keep them from thinking too clearly. They’ll focus on the cannons, and we’ll pull back the gunners. I’d rather lose the guns than the men.”

Pederson grunted his approval. “What then?”

“When the men are safe and the bells still ringing, I’ll have you all pour down fire whenever you can. We’ll isolate the trolls, one by one.”

“Where will you be?” he asked.

“I’ll be out with the trolls.”

“You’ll be what?”

“With the trolls.”

“Won’t a troll kill a Blood?”

“Of If they catch me. That’s why you’ll all be firing. You’ll keep the other wounded trolls back, and I’ll kill them one at a time.”

“With what?”

I patted my Colts. “The revolvers to start. A few shots to the head will settle them down, but I’ll need something to finish them off.”

“What’s that?” he asked, his voice filled with bemused wonderment.

“A hammer,” I answered. “A nice, big hammer.”

Pedersen laughed. “Well, come then. There’s a smithy up the road a bit. I’m sure we can find something even Thor would be pleased to wield.”

“Let’s hope,” I said. “And mayhaps we’ll come across some more brandy.”

“It so happens,” Pedersen stated, “that I might know where some more brandy is tucked away as well.”

Grinning, we set off.

If I was going to die tonight, at least I’d be in good company.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 3

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They were drunk, and I didn’t blame them.

The short trip from the wreckage to the house being used as headquarters had been educational. I’d seen such devastation in the war of the rebellion after Sherman had marched through the South.

Similar, but not the same.

This was worse.

Sherman and his men hadn’t eaten horses or people.

Carcasses were strewn about the roads, houses shattered, and more than a few heads had been mounted on poles.

Death had been brutal, and fear had been the order of business.

From the equipment I saw scattered around, I gathered that at least a battalion had been destroyed trying to defend the place.

At the rough headquarters, I found the remnants of the battalion’s officer corps.

They sat around a table, drinking and smoking and eating food that should have been tossed to dogs days before. But given their situation, it didn’t appear they had much choice. They hid their fear and desperation behind loud talk and brazen laughter.

I stood off to one side and lit my pipe as Marius went to the commanding officer and reported my presence. The laughter stopped, and the officers took notice of me.

Marius leaned close to a man smoking a long Jäger pipe and said, “His name is Duncan, and the one-eyed god sent him.”

The officer stood up, wavering on his feet.

“What is your last name, sir?” the officer inquired.

“Duncan Blood,” I answered.

The officer stood his ground, but his companions stepped back.

“Blood?” the officer asked.

“Aye.”

He tried to draw on his pipe, choked on the smoke and coughed for a moment. When he regained control, he said, “I am Oberst Mikkelson, the ranking officer at this time.”

I nodded and waited to see what else the man had to say.

Mikkelson took a breath. “We offered up sacrifice last night. More to the point, Generalmajor Hendriks offered himself to the one-eyed god for a hunter. And he sent a Blood.”

“Aye. He sent a Blood. How many trolls?”

“Ten, we think,” Mikkelson answered. “Three of them came from the ocean, the others from the barrows on the outskirts of town.”

“How many did you kill?” I asked.

“Four.”

“Damn.” I drew on my pipe and asked, “Have you brought the troops back in?”

He nodded. “Those few we have in the area, they are gathering supplies, so we might make an effort to return to Fort Jäger and possibly defend ourselves long enough to form some plan of escape.”

I gazed up at the sky, judged the time and nodded. “I’d start calling your men back now, Oberst. Gather up whatever bells you can find, too.”

The men stared at me.

“Blood,” Mikkelson said, “why enrage them further?”

“The damage here,” I gestured around us, “this was not done by mindless trolls, Oberst. This was planned. They may return tonight with more of their kin, and if they do, it won’t be pretty. Not for any of us. Bells will make them forget their plans. Bells will make them little more than maddened beasts. I’d sure as hell rather fight trolls who are mad than those who are figuring the best way in.”

Mikkleson turned to Marius. “Find three horses and send out riders. I want everyone on their way back in the hour.”

To another man, Mikkelson commanded, “Take a squad, search every building and look at every church. Find the bells. Petersen,” Mikkelsen called, and a man holding a pair of bottles stepped forward.

“Sir?” Petersen inquired.

“Find the best walls and focus our work there.” Mikkelson looked at me. “I take it a smaller area with the bells would be best?”

I smiled. “Aye, that it would be. The trolls may throw a few boulders or two at us, but we’ll gun the bastards down.”

“That we will,” Mikkelsen agreed. “Petersen, show the Blood what we have for walls. I’m sure he’ll know best. The rest of you, with me. We will gather the wounded and prepare to move them to our refuge, wherever that might happen to be.”

I watched the Oberst leave with the men, and I turned to Petersen. He looked at me, and I saw the wisdom of old soldiers in his eyes.

The man chuckled, stepped forward and handed me a bottle. “I’ve not heard of a Blood who doesn’t drink.”

“And you won’t.” I opened the bottle and took a drink. “So, where are the best walls?”

“They’re rubble,” he shrugged. “But I’ll show you.”

“Fair enough. Lead on, Pedersen.”

“Straight to hell, if I must,” he sighed, and with a rolling, limping stride, he led the way.

Day 2

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It didn’t take long to find them.

They were searching through wreckage when I came upon them. They were soldiers, well-armed and ready for war.

I came with the smell of the ocean and burnt timber in the air. I kept my hands from the butts of the Colts, conscious of the attention the heavy revolvers drew from the gathered men.

One of them asked in good Danish, “Who are you?”

“The one-eyed god sent me.”

The man took a step back, glancing at his comrades, and a second man addressed me.

“Are you a hunter?” he asked, voice quavering.

“Aye.”

“Of what?”

“Monsters.”

“We did not think to hope,” the second man told me. “We offered up a sacrifice and heard nothing.”

“That’s the way it usually is if they answer at all.”

“Yes. My name is Marius,” the second man said. “What is yours?”

“Duncan.”

“And you’ve killed monsters before?” he asked.

“A few,” I answered. “What happened here?”

“Tell us,” one man grumbled. He stood off to one side; his head was bandaged and his left arm in a sling.

“You want proof?” I asked.

He nodded.

I turned my attention to the nearest building. I saw gouge marks down the wall and a bit of foul ichor as well. Leaning in, I took a sniff and repressed a gag.

“Damned foul,” I grunted. “Troll.”

I looked around. “There are no barrows around. Where the hell did it come from?”

The injured man grunted. “You know your business. We’ve no idea where it came from. Like most of the others, it arrived one night. This one laid waste to the buildings and ate the families inside.”

He gestured to a small grave. “That’s what’s left of thirty-six people.”

“Do any of you know why it started?” I asked.

The men shook their heads.

“Did you drive this one off?”

“No,” Marius told me. “We saw him well enough last night, but he took off running. We’ve not seen him since.”

“This is happening in more than one place?”

“All across the country,” Marius said. “For a month now. Whole towns have disappeared.”

I looked at the wreckage. “Are you the only ones searching for them?”

“No,” Marius replied. “The whole army is.”

“I suppose you’d best bring me to your commander then.”

We left the ruins and the dead behind.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Day 1

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I woke up in Denmark.

I’d gone to sleep in my bed. I remember having a glass of brandy and cleaning my Colts. Once the .44s were away and the night was done, I’d gone to bed. It had been 11:43 at night, October third, 1900.

When I opened my eyes, I was most certainly not in my bed.

I was upright, dressed, and the Colts were on my hips. My rucksack was at my feet and the sun shining on my face; when I finally managed to look around, I saw the ravens in the tree.

There was a score of them, if not more.

And the tree was the biggest ash I’d ever seen. The branches spread out for at least thirty feet and stretched twice that high into the pale morning sun.

A tall man, clad in gray robes and leaning on a long, dark staff, stood beneath the boughs and gazed upon me with his one eye. His gray beard was well-combed, and a broad hood sat upon his head.

“Welcome to Denmark.”

“I don’t remember asking to come here,” I replied.

A small smile appeared on his face. “Nor would you. You did not ask for assistance.”

“Who did?”

“Soon. For now, listen, and I will tell you how this is.”

I waited.

“We are not in your when, Blood. Nor even in your world. Here, beneath the branches of Yggdrasil, all worlds reach out to me. Men called and offered up sacrifice. They have asked for a hunter to save them, and I chose you.”

I shifted my stance and noticed the thick fog which formed a wall around the tree. In the distance, I heard the rumble of gunfire.

“Your mettle has been tested in Gods’ Hollow,” he continued. “I considered who best to send. Not a godling, but a hero.”

“What am I hunting?”

“Monsters,” the one-eyed god stated. “You are familiar with them all.”

“I was home.”

He remained silent.

“I had plans for today.”

“Do you plan on dying?”

I let out a laugh. “No.”

“Then don’t.”

“When do I go home?”

A broad, dangerous smile spread across his face. Merriment and violence danced in his eye. “When it is time. No sooner, and no later.”

The fog fell away. It took with it the god, the tree, and the ravens.

I was left upon a battlefield, standing among desolation and ruins.

I shouldered my ruck and went hunting for monsters.

#Denmark #supernatural #monsters #paranormal

Becky

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The Hollow brought him back to silence.

‘I walked into a glade that was familiar, which was strange for Gods’ Hollow.

‘While this place was familiar, it was not identical to anything in my memory.

‘I advanced with caution, the bear hunter’s rifle in my hands and every sense attuned to the possibilities of danger around me.

‘As I moved deeper into the glade, I saw a small cottage off in one corner. From the fieldstone chimney, smoke rose up in delicate tendrils. The door to the cottage was open, the windows too. Laughter drifted out into the glade. The laughter of a child and a woman. Soon, I reached the cottage. Stopping a fair distance away, I hailed the residents and waited as they went silent.

‘A young, pretty woman appeared in the doorway. She had a bird-gun in her slim hands, and she held it with the knowledge of one who is comfortable with violence.

‘She nodded to me, and I lowered my rifle. I smiled as she kept hers at the ready. A small girl joined the woman, and in the child’s eyes, I recognized the old woman I had killed a little more than a week earlier.

‘Through the vagaries of the Hollow, I had slipped into the past.

‘The girl whispered something, and her mother nodded. In a strong voice, the woman said, “My child has dreamed of you. Your name is Blood.”

‘I admitted that it was.

‘The woman lowered the bird-gun. “She tells me you’ve a skull and a journal and that in her dream, you stay here for a spell. Is this true?”

‘I told her the skull and the journal were true, but as for the time I spent with them, that was unknown to me. The woman smiled. “Becky says it’s true, and so it is. Come then, Blood. Dinner’s on the stove, and there’s a fresh pot of coffee brewing as well.”

‘I found the offer too inviting to resist, and with the rifle in the crook of my arm, I went into the cottage to see if the coffee was good.

‘I am pleased to write that it was.’

Beneath the Hollow

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The stairs led down and into death.

‘I found a door in the side of a hill, and after a moment’s hesitation, I opened it. I had seen, or so I thought, the worst and the strangest that Gods’ Hollow had to offer.

‘I was wrong, of course.

‘The stairs were well-worn in the center, dips having been worn into the stone from decades of use. When I reached the bottom of the steps, I discovered why.

‘Flameless torches hung in steel braziers, illuminating the broad hallway that stretched before me. Along either side, I saw the walls were textured, and upon closer examination, I discovered they were not textured. Instead, the skulls and bones of the dead had been embedded into the stone.

‘The sight of them rooted me to the floor as a fear grew in me that should I look down, I would find myself treading on the dead as well.

‘Still, when I forced my gaze downwards, I saw that there was nothing more than stone beneath my feet.

‘I drew a deep breath and considered my situation, half-expecting to hear the dead speak to me. This was the Hollow, after all.

‘They did not. Or, if they did, I was unable to hear them, and for that, I was grateful.

‘With growing confidence, I walked forward, eyes shifting from left to right, searching for a sign, though I knew not what it might be.

‘At the end of the hall, I discovered a small room, and within it, the bodies of three monks. One sat in an alcove, the other two stood at the wall. Each bore a nameplate. Stepping onto the dirt floor of the room, I read the names on the plates. The one closest to me bore the name Mal Blud, and a shiver raced through me.

‘Mal had been a relative, a cousin from my boyhood. As I gazed upon the remains, I heard the voice of the old woman in my ears. The reminder that I would find it on the ninth day.

‘It was the ninth day since I had seen her, and without a doubt, I knew what needed to be done.

‘Stepping forward, I relieved Mal of the burden of his skull and carried it with me out of the room. With the skull tucked under one arm, I retraced my steps, and soon I stood once more in the sunlight of the Hollow.

Scratching

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The subtle, grating sound ate at his nerves.

‘I’m not certain when I became aware of it, but when I did, I could not block the sound from my mind.

‘It rooted itself deep within my thoughts, and I, who have ignored the screams of the wounded and the dying on fields of death across the old world and the new, became fixated upon the noise.

‘Soon, I found myself searching for the source of the sound, and to my regret, I found it.

‘I followed a wide, well-worn path, deep ruts from untold numbers of wagons leading me on. As I went, the sound increased in volume, and a new element joined in. It was a soft moan, reminiscent of the wind through trees and across open water.

‘It was a discomforting sound, and not for the first time in Gods’ Hollow did I feel the urge to stop and turn myself around.

‘Curiosity drove me forward.

‘The path rose up a slight incline, and then, as I reached the peak, I found a scene that chilled the blood.

‘I saw coffins for as far as I could see. Coffins draped in flags, the colors of which were those of the new Republic.

‘The coffins were laid over open graves, and from within the depths of the boxes came the scratching and the moaning.

‘As I stood and stared, the rifle clutched uselessly in my hands, I could smell the dead. Rot hung heavy in the air, and I could picture, if not truly see, the sickening miasma lingering above the coffins.

‘The dead within them were not as strong as those who clambered up out of their graves in the cemetery, but I did not doubt that they might soon break free.

‘I debated my next course of action, and as I did, the wind shifted, carrying my scent down into the massive burial ground.

‘When it did, the moans became howls.

‘The coffins rocked back and forth, and on more than a few of them, the flags fell and fluttered into the graves.

‘The dead could smell me, and from the howling, I knew they were hungry.

‘Without turning my back to the trapped monsters, I fled and sought sanctuary from the madness of the Hollow.’

Hunting Bear

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They met in the forest and dealt in death.

‘I have hunted and killed most creatures on this earth, and I freely admit that I take a great deal of pleasure when it comes to killing people. Distinctly I remember the deaths of my parents, and whenever my hand hesitates, my heart does not.

‘Today, I met a fellow traveler in this place.

‘It did not end well.

‘He was dressed strangely, with a hunting rifle in his right hand and a dead black bear slung over his right shoulder.

‘The man smiled at me, and it was the smile that a predator bestows upon its prey.

‘I stopped a fair distance from him, and when he continued toward me, I held up a hand and shook my head.

‘He came to a standstill, and his smile broadened. I could see his hand tighten around his rifle and his body relax. He would drop the carcass as soon as he thought he could, and he’d try to put a bullet in me.

‘Of that, I had no doubt.

‘He called out to me, asking, “How are you, Friend?”

‘I told him I was fine, but I was no friend of his.

‘This didn’t cause him any discomfort. Instead, he chuckled and took a half-step forward, stopping only when I drew my pistol.

‘His eyes narrowed, and his smile became colder, cunning. It was the smile of the predator gauging the speed of his prey. With that false smile upon his face, he asked, “Would you shoot me?”

‘I nodded.

‘He raised an eyebrow. “A perfect stranger?”

‘As the last word slipped from his mouth, the man dropped his left shoulder and dumped the bear, bringing up his rifle.

‘But he was dead before he could pull the trigger.

‘He collapsed beside the bear, and for a moment, I stood there, waiting to see if the man would rise to his feet. When he didn’t, I moved closer, took his weapon and ammunition, and after a moment of consideration, used his own knife to cut off his head.

‘I set the severed head on the bear’s chest, placed its paws upon the bastard’s face, and hoped he could see it from Hell.’

Oracle

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His melodic voice filled the grove.

‘I was tired from walking.

‘The day was longer than it should have been. Perhaps as long as thirty or thirty-five hours. Far too much time for a single day. Still, I did not see much point in seeking a place to rest until the day had decided to put itself to bed.

‘When dusk finally made its appearance, I found a pleasant grove in which to settle down. There was a small stream that passed through it and sign that animals came to drink from it often.

‘I went to the stream and found the water to be sweet and potent. It brought a smile to my face as I settled back on my haunches. There were few places in Gods’ Hollow where I have sensed any sort of peace, and of them all, this grove was the finest.

‘I went about the process of making a fire, for while the day was warm, I knew the night would be cooler. It was as I touched flint to steel that I heard the voice. “Ezekiel Blood, I wondered if you would make your way here.”

‘I have grown used to my name being called out in the strangeness of the Hollow, and so it was without any great surprise as I looked around for the speaker.

‘The one who spoke, however, did cause me to sit in silence for a moment.

‘A creature I have never seen before spoke again. “Tell me, Blood, what do you feel here?”

‘I told him I felt peace. The creature nodded. “If you had not, I would kill you where you stand.”

‘It was not spoken as a threat or even as a promise. The creature spoke it as a fact, and I did not see a need to disagree with him. I had the sense that he could do it.

‘I waited to see if he would speak again, and he did. “What do you plan to do here, Blood?”

‘I told him I wished to eat and to sleep. When dawn came, I would leave the place as I found it.

‘He scratched his chin and asked, “What will you do if attacked?”

‘Nothing, I replied. I did not believe he would allow it.

‘A deep, resounding laugh filled the glade. “You are right. I would not. Eat, Blood, and sleep. You are safe here.”

‘It was a strange thing to hear, but it was appreciated.’