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

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