Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Assault on the Castle (Part 4): Confrontation

Come to think of it, they never did get any training...

Wait.... before you go on with the story.. have you read the other parts?  Check here to read the other parts first (lest you have no idea what is going on! ... As opposed to having really not much clue what is going on!)

Assault on the Castle

It was late (or possibly early).  The other two had retired to their respective rooms a couple of hours ago, but Kendrick had stayed awake in his room.  He was woken from his musings by a crashing sound from down the corridor.  Grabbing his bag and a dagger, he sidled over to the door and carefully opened it.  Slipping his CornerSearcher out, he took a quick look down the corridor through the barely-open doorway.

Shuyke's room was next to Kendrick's and Joe's was opposite.  Further down the corridor was a small kitchen, a well-equipped loo and bathroom and a couple of other empty bedrooms - presumably other guest rooms.  Also down the far end of the corridor was a very large, very ugly creature.  It didn't look like it was coming to do room service.

The creature raised its head and gave a mighty roar, spewing mucus from its festering mouth in the process.  Behind it, coming from the great hall, appeared three other, smaller creatures.

Kendrick ducked back into the room and hammered on Shuyke's wall "SHUUYKE!".  There was another crashing noise as the creatures broke into one of the other guest rooms.  They were making their way up the corridor.  Kendrick fumbled in his bag and withdrew a small round object, then he popped the door open again and threw it down the corridor towards the beasts.  It bounced down the corridor and came to rest in front of one of the pack.  The creature looked down in surprise just as the thing exploded, blowing its legs off and knocking the other two minions down.  The leader looked up and then started to charge down the corridor towards Kendrick.

Kendrick drew a second dagger and started running to meet the beast head-on.  Shuyke's opened her door just as he reached it. Kendrick threw one of the daggers to her as he passed; she caught it in one hand.

Kendrick jumped to the left as he and the beast met, kicking the wall and flying upwards.  As he sailed over the creature's head, he brought the dagger down, jabbing it into the thing's neck and tearing a chunk out of its shoulder.  The creature roared in anger and confusion, flapping its arms behind its head as Kendrick rolled on the ground and them came back from behind to stab the beast in the side.  But then a massive arm swung around and caught Kendrick on the shoulder, throwing him into the corridor wall.  The dagger was still sticking out of its side; wrenched out of Kendrick's hand as he was thrown back.

Kendrick grunted in pain as he fell to the ground, but managed to roll to the side just as a hairy foot came down, breaking one of the flagstones on the floor.

The beast reached forward, a giant fist grabbing Kendrick's vest.  Its foul breath causing Kendrick's head to swim with nausea as his body was lifted off the ground, powerless.

Then, just as the creature was preparing to smash Kendrick into the ground, it roared in pain and dropped him.  Shuyke's dagger flickered, almost invisible, as she stabbed the beast repeatedly in the back and sides.  As the beast tried to turn around to face its new enemy, Shuyke grabbed Kendrick's dagger, still sticking out of its back.  She rolled and sprang back to her feet.  Dark red blood was spewing out in all directions, flooding the corridor and soaking Kendrick; still lying on the floor.

Shuyke took a running jump and launched herself towards the beast, daggers outstretched.  There was a satisfying crunch as she connected.  Both daggers slipped softly into the creature's chest and it faltered.  Shuyke twisted the daggers, her face screwing up with the effort.  The beast fell to its knees.  Finally, Shuyke wrenched the daggers from the stricken creature.

Spraying blood and mucus all around, the gigantic brute fell forward, dead.

Shuyke had no time to recover from her battle, as one of the smaller creatures, having recovered from the grenade explosion, screamed and lunged towards her, claws outstretched.  She quickly moved out of the way of the initial attack and then stabbed back.  But her wiry assailant evaded her attack and caught her on the arm with its fist.  The dagger in her hand went flying up the corridor.

Shuyke dodged back and then flicked in with a low kick, connecting with the creature's leg and bringing it to the ground.  She spun round and drove the dagger into the side of the beast's head, killing it instantly.

The third creature dove towards Shuyke.  She tried to withdraw the dagger from the dead beast's skull, but it was firmly jammed.  She fell to the ground, knocked down by the assault.  The beast raised its claws to strike her, but then slumped backwards, a dagger piercing its heart.  Shuyke looked up to see Joe standing down the corridor.  He shrugged.

Kendrick pulled himself to his feet, wincing in pain.

"What were those things?"  Asked Joe.  He was wearing a stripy dressing gown, his hair was sticking up and he was wearing a vaguely surprised expression on his face, as though he'd just got out of bed and still wasn't convinced this wasn't a dream.

"Skard." Said Kendrick. "I've never seen one on Merrimoor before, though.  Let alone three of them."

"Tough bastards."  Shuyke was flicking bits of mucus off her chest.  "Thanks for waking me, Kendrick."

"Well, as you can see, I'm not much good in a fight." Kendrick replied, with a weak smile.  "I woke you though?  You were ready pretty fast!"

"Yeah, well..." She said, evasively.  In reality, Shuyke had been lying awake at the time, thinking about her chat with Joe.  It wasn't like her to open up like that, especially not to someone she hardly knew.  Then again, a lot of unusual stuff had happened in the last day.

"Hey... err..." Said Joe, scratching his stubble, "Maybe we should check the rest of this place - there may be more of them out there..."  He didn't sound too keen on the idea.

"Good idea, Joe" Said Shuke, with a smile.  Joe wasn't that bad-looking.   He could do with a wash and some decent clothes.  He's only, what, ten years older than me?  What's ten years when you're stuck underground in a dream?

The three of them, Joe still in his dressing gown, Kendrick still limping and Shuyke leading the way with the daggers, stalked into the great hall.  It was empty.  Eerily quiet.

"Something's missing..." Said Joe.

"It's the stream."  Kendrick was right.  There was no water running.  The lights that usually lit the place, powered by some unknown force, were dim.

"Maybe they just dim the lights and turn off the water overnight..?"  Asked Shuyke, unsure.

"Perhaps, but I doubt they open massive great holes in the wall overnight, too..." Said Joe, pointing to a hole in the wall.  "Pretty sure that wasn't there yesterday, or earlier, or whatever."

The hole was dark and seemed to go on a long way.  Each of the three were waiting for one of the others to suggest entering it when a familiar voice boomed out at them. "Don't worry, folks.  Edmond Dexley at
your service." With a flourish, he popped out of the hole and bowed.  "Any danger that was, is not.  Any danger that could be, will not be.  Haha!"  He twiddled a small metal cane and grinned, then spotted
Shuyke's clothes, sodden in monster-blood, and Kendrick, leaning uncomfortably against the wall; still in pain.  His smile faded a bit "Some of them... may have got past..."

"You could say that." Growled Shuyke.

"We had an... interesting encounter with some Skard, Mr. Dexley."  Said Kendrick.

"Glad to see you're still alive and kicking, eh?  No harm done then..." Dexley grinned again.  Kendrick glowered at him.

"I'm sure there were some that got past, Dexley, old chap.  We'd better wake the others and start a search party."  Merov's voice came from the hole.  He stepped out into the great hall and took in the
scene. "Ah.  No need for that search party then?"

"No, I think we've got that covered." Said Joe - the only one of the three not covered in blood and mucus.

"Nicely done, you three! And with no training, either! Quite impressive!"

"I wouldn't say no training" Said Shuyke.

"I think Merov was referring to your dreamwalking training." Said Kendrick.  "I'm afraid I wasn't able to offer any advice - things went a bit too fast."

"Kendrick is right.  You did well with your Earthly skills to take on a pack of Skard, but with your dreamwalker training, you would become far more powerful.  Such a minor force would be no match to you.  This is why we need you in this battle; why you were chosen."

"So what is this dreamwalking business, exactly?"  Asked Joe.

"It's not something I can easily explain without showing you, and it's not something I can easily teach - you have to learn it for yourself, but I can show you where to start."

"Far more powerful?  I'm listening...!" Said Shukye.

(... to be continued...)


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