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 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

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

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

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

Guests

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“Duncan, we have guests.”

The tone of Octavius’ voice was strange. A mixture of fear and respectful awe. While I had not known the donkey long, I knew him well enough to understand I was hearing a tone he rarely used.

I left my seat in the parlor, sliding the Colts back into their holsters and made my way to the kitchen. There I found Jim Elroy sitting on the floor, Miriam’s pups gathered ‘round him, watching the door.

Octavius stood just outside, his head glancing from me to the barn across the yard. As I stepped closer, I saw them. A pack of dogs stood by the barn. They looked at me and waited. I gave Jim a pat on the head, nodded to Octavius as I passed by him, and was pleased to see the ravens in the trees around the yard.

As I approached the dogs, they sat down and waited for me, their eyes never leaving my face.

When I reached them, one of them stood, his shoulders nearly reaching my own.

I’d never seen dogs their size.

“We bring you greetings,” the dog said, speaking in High German. “Deus Canum bids us to patrol the North Road and to devour whatever fell creatures might try to make their way out of your lands. Is this agreeable to you?”

“It is,” I said, nodding. I glanced around. “You’ve quite the pack.”

The dog chuckled. “No. This is my honor guard, Mr. Blood. My troops are already on the road and in the trees, working with Miriam’s pack. I came as a courtesy. I would expect the same in mine own kingdom, so how can I not do the same in yours?”

“There is no answer,” I replied.

“Exactly.” The dog smiled. “We will be on our way. Your ravens will, I expect, inform you when we turn anything back to you.”

“That they will,” I agreed.

“Good.” The dog shook himself, and his guard stood up, forming a loose circle around their liege. “If all goes well, I shall see you soon, Mr. Blood.”

“And if it doesn’t,” I asked, already knowing the answer.

“Then we’ll meet in the afterlife,” he chuckled. “I have it on good authority that you will be most welcome in our place of rest.”

I watched the dogs leave, and I wondered what it would be like to see them in battle.

I believe it would be magnificent.

#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

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

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