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The Darkslayer: Brutal Beginnings

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Brutal Beginnings

The Darkslayer: Short Story

By Craig Halloran

 

Copyright © 2017 by Craig Halloran

www.craighalloran.com

Distributed by Shakespir

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recorded, photocopied, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

TWO-TEN BOOK PRESS

P.O. Box 4215, Charleston, WV 25364

ISBN eBook: 978-1-946218-29-2

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Map 1

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Next Book In The Series/About The Author

[]CHAPTER 1

Venir woke with his head throbbing. The roasted scent of coffee lingered in the air. His nostrils widened. The cot he lay in groaned as he sat up. Rubbing the back of his head, he yawned. He stretched out his arms, arching his back. His thick muscles rippled underneath his sun-bronzed skin. He swept his tawny locks from his eyes. Parched, he said, “Who’s making coffee?”

There was no reply. It was just him inside the small apartment located a few floors above the streets. A lone octagonal window with stained glass plates that swiveled open looked out on the street below. Another cot sat across from him with folded blankets and a little satin pillow lying on its tip. A small table and four mismatched chairs stood near the cupboards, which held some clayware mugs and plates, dry foods, and a coffee sack and rations. A small coal-burning stove made from black iron was nestled between the table and the window. A metal coffeepot percolated on the stove’s hot plate.

Rising to a standing position, Venir stooped down a little. Even though his head didn’t meet the ceiling, he always felt like it was about to, so he hunched over most of the time. The apartment wasn’t much, but it was enough—cozy and private. The floors were solid and didn’t groan beneath his weight. He noticed a flimsy pink linen garment lying on the floor. He scooped it up. Holding it to his nose, he smelled an arousing perfume. He smiled.

What was her name? He held the garment before his eyes by the shoulder straps. What did she look like? The apartment door opened, and Venir got his answer. Oh no.

“Good morning, Venir,” Margo said. The woman was wrapped up in a wool blanket, and her hands were loaded with a tray of steaming food. She had a helmet of flowing chestnut-brown hair resting on her shoulders. “I went down to the kitchen and fixed you breakfast. Please, darling, come sit down and eat. I imagine you have quite an appetite after last night. I know I do.” She winked at him as she strutted across the room and set the tray on the table. She pulled out a chair. “Come, sit.”

Slat! Venir took his seat. Averting his eyes, he focused on the plate. There was a pile of scrambled eggs, three buttered biscuits, and several thick slices of cooked ham and bacon. He grabbed a fork and dug in.

Margo poured him a mug of coffee and set it in front of him. “I was thinking we could spend some time together today. Father could use a strong back like yours at his iron mill. He pays very well, and with me by your side, you’ll have shorter hours and more time for me.” She kissed him on the forehead. “Doesn’t that sound splendid?”

Bish no. Venir took a long swig of his hot coffee. The strong brew burned its way down his throat. He emptied the mug. “Another.”

“You really do have an appetite,” she said, taking away the mug and refilling it. “I shouldn’t be surprised. Not after last night.”

Venir shook his head. Margo had been hounding him since the first day she’d laid eyes on him in the market of the City of Bone. She was a pushy, spoiled, fish-eyed woman with an overbite who didn’t take no for an answer. Her pie face was fair at best, but what she lacked in beauty, she made up for with a very fetching figure. He could only imagine that it was her body that snared his dulled senses in the wee hours of the night. It was either that or… Melegal.

Margo plopped into his lap. She draped her arms over his brawny shoulders and kissed his neck. Giggling, she said as she kicked her feet, “Oh Venir, you make me so happy. I knew the day would come when you would be mine. I just told myself that I had to work at it. I knew that you would come around.” She pinched his chin. “I pleased you very much last night, didn’t I?”

Venir’s recollection of last night trickled to the surface. In truth, their passions rocked the small room, but that was last night. Now was now, and the buxom woman filling his lap wasn’t nearly as enticing as she was hours earlier. “Er… Margo, when did you want to meet with your father?”

Her eyes lit up. “This afternoon would be perfect.” She hugged his neck. “You make me so happy!” She gave him a big kiss on the lips and hopped off his lap. “Meet me at the merchant square for lunch.”

Venir nodded. Margo grabbed her belongings and practically skipped out the door. When the door closed, Venir slugged down more coffee and hurried to dress. “It’s time to get my arse out of this rotten city.”

[]CHAPTER 2

Venir made his way down the creaking steps toward the tavern floor. A bar made from polished black walnut that was notched up all over ran the length of the tavern. Behind the bar, a man with coal-black hair and a pock-marked face tapped a small keg that rested on the counter. Behind him, tankards and mugs fashioned from baked pottery lined the shelves. The barkeep gave Venir a nod.

Most of the chairs were on the round tabletops. A boy with dark hair covering his eyes sloshed a mop over the floor. The tavern reeked of sour alcohol, smoke, and other putrid aromas that were commonplace in a discreet dwelling like the Drunken Octopus. Near the back wall beside the cold stone fireplace sat a slight man with a comely young woman hanging on his arm. Small stacks of silver coins were piled up on the table. The man flipped cards from a deck, one after the other, with slender fingers that moved with uncanny speed.

“Melegal,” Venir said, grim faced. “I’ll have my take.”

“Taking a trip, are you, Venir?” Melegal said with a thin smile, straight white teeth showing between his thin lips. He was a very slender man with black hair, peppered lightly with gray above the ears. A plum-colored vest covered his scrawny chest. A yellow shirt poked out from beneath it with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows. He poured purple wine from a clay jug into a pewter goblet. Only a splash came out. “Pah.” He shook the bottle as he looked up at Venir. “I thought you had a plan to meet with the iron mason’s daughter. She seemed very excited when she left, so much so that she thanked me.”

The woman sitting beside Melegal hiccupped. Clad in a layer of lime-colored silks, she pushed off Melegal. Her eyes smoldered, and she licked her full lips. Swaying in her chair, she closed one eye and said, “Your woman is very homely.” She giggled then lay back down on Melegal’s shoulder.

“She’s not my woman, but thanks to you, Melegal, I have a feeling she thinks she is.” He glared at both of them. It wasn’t the first time that Melegal managed to set him up with a woman not nearly as fetching as the one hanging on his broomstick arm. It was all a jest with Melegal. A game they played that Venir tended to lose more than he cared to admit. He dropped his big paw of a hand over two stacks of coins. His fingers swallowed them up. One by one, he emptied the silver into his coin purse. “Besides, she wasn’t so bad. It’s not as if she had hooves for feet.”

“I can’t say for sure. I didn’t get a good look at her feet.” Melegal fanned himself with a floppy gray woolen cap. “If I were to guess, I’d say I think a stable is missing a prized heifer.”

Venir folded his arms over his chest. “I seem to recall not so long ago that you found yourself tangled up with a lycan. What was her name? Part woman, part boar, wasn’t she?”

Melegal shrank in his clothing. He glanced at the woman resting her cheek on his shoulder. Her eyes were closed, and she snored quietly. “I thought we agreed not to bring that up again. I sleep little enough as it is.” He pushed over another stack of coins. “That’s yours too. The take was better than the last. Besides, you might want to buy your new woman something. A mask, perhaps.”

Venir pushed the coins back. “I’ll be in the Outlands. When she comes back, tell her I was deployed to the southern outposts. Then, use those coins to find her a new suitor.”

“It’s going to take more silver than that. A trough full, perhaps.”

“Just do it,” Venir said, shifting the rucksack between his expansive shoulders.

Melegal dropped his cap over the coins. “You’re too kind, Venir.”

“Unlike you, the ladies actually adore me. I treat them kindly.”

Melegal feigned surprise. “And I don’t? Why, this one on my shoulder will be showered with rare gifts of spices and honey. She’ll bathe in a tub of milk and drink wine from the finest chalices.”

“No, she won’t. You don’t even know her name.”

Melegal eased the woman’s face off his shoulder and gently placed her on the table. He gathered his coins and placed his cap on his head. “You’re right.” He shrugged. “Come now, I’ll see you out.”

[]CHAPTER 3

Venir and Melegal strolled the cobblestone streets of the City of Bone. The merchants wheeled carts and wagons down the roads. Storefronts with wooden walkways, shaded by the second-story tier, opened their doors for the early traffic of merchants. The rush would come later, when the citizens of Bone woke from their slumber and tackled the streets. Most of the people worked hard to make ends meet, laboring under the suns in a network of activity comprised solely in support of the royals who thrived inside their castles.

Melegal plucked a plum from a passing cart. He peeled the skin away with a razor-thin thumb knife, cut off a sliver, and bit into it. He wiped the juice from the corner of his mouth. “I really don’t understand how you can stand to go out there so often. People come back dead from the beating those suns give them. I prefer the shade myself.”

“There’s shade aplenty once you find it.” Venir’s nostrils flared. The rank smell of excrement crept into his nostrils as they passed an alleyway. “The air doesn’t have a chronic stench either.” A wagon clamored over the stone road. Men shouted back and forth at one another as it passed. “Quieter too.”

“And more dangerous,” Melegal said.

“Some say it’s just as bad here as it is out there.” Venir cast his eyes at the grand castles that were lined up along the interior of the City of Bone’s massive outer wall. The castle spires shined in the sunlight, showing hammered bronze, pewter, silver, and many even plated in gold-flicked paint. Colorful banners with unique symbols waved briskly in the stiff winds at the top of each castle. The castles were the homes of the royals, each capable of housing hundreds of the self-righteous rulers, their servants, and kin. There were dozens of castles that were spread out along the encompassing border wall that protected the city. Venir and Melegal were just two of the hundreds of thousands of people that lived within. “I like my chances against the underlings more most days than with the royals.”

“The royals aren’t a bother unless you bother them.” Melegal fanned himself with his cap. “You are the one that kicks a bee’s nest out there. Only a fool chases after the underlings. I don’t understand your obsession with them.”

Venir shrugged. “The outposts pay well for their skins. That should be reason enough for a rogue like you.”

Melegal’s expression soured as they made their way toward the South Gate. The iron portcullis stood over twenty feet high, a gaping mouth of metal with jagged teeth. People entered one group at a time. Their faces were hard and dirty. The city watch that manned the great wall and its gates patted the newcomers down with rough hands. The city watch, dressed in leather armor and brown caps with a short black bill, had hard, cruel looks about them. No pleasant greetings came from their crooked lips, just stern warnings.

“You would make an excellent member of the city watch. They could always use a lout like you. Aren’t you taking Chongo?” Melegal said.

“He’s out there,” Venir replied. “I’ll see you when I see you, Melegal.”

The rogue nodded. “I hope not. But if you do, try to come back with something valuable for a change.”

Venir strolled out of the gate into the crowded sea of people waiting to enter the city. He made it two hundred yards before he turned and looked back. Monstrous stones bigger than any group of men could lift made up the great wall that stretched east and west for over a mile. It was said that giants made the wall long ago, but none had been seen since. Venir wasn’t sure what to believe. With clean air to breathe and the hot suns on his back, Venir ventured south, over the sun-cracked trails, out into the world called Bish.

[]CHAPTER 4

The journey, though somewhat hazardous given the rugged terrain, gave Venir peace of mind. His leather boots were made for the harsh climate. His feet still burned from the leagues of long travel. He sucked on a cactus root that stifled his thirst. He was raised in the woodlands that were scattered about the barren Outlands. It was a place of clear streams and babbling brooks. Wild game and critters weren’t hard to come by. He’d often slept with his eyes cast upwards at the moons before falling fast asleep. Those times had vanished when the invaders came. They were a black scourge on Bish called underlings.

For years, Venir had dedicated his life to hunting down the fiends that struck out in the dark of night. They typically lived in the caves in the far west, away from the troubles and turmoil of men and the other races. But now, slowly, like a plague, the underlings’ appearances grew more frequent. Venir’s jaw clenched.

Where there’s one, there are two. Where there are two, there are four.

He thought about them day and night. It kept him going. They fed his purpose.

As he traveled out of the Outland to where the brown ground turned to a green wilderness, he found a stream and refilled his water skin. He scooped a handful of water to his mouth and wiped his face. The lofty green branches shielded him from the sun, but the air sweltered. Sweat coated his face. The mosquitos buzzed by his ears. He slapped his neck. The mosquito covered his hand. He wiped it off on the ground. He’d do the same to the underlings.

Venir pulled his hunting knife from the sheath tucked in his belt. The fine blade was over twelve inches long, and it had a keen edge. The handle was made from the bone and horn of a beast. His grandfather passed it down to him when he was twelve. He was in his late twenties now. He sat for a spell, leaned against the rough bark of a tree, and ran the blade’s edge over a round stone. Dark underling blood stained the blade. It didn’t rinse off.

After a lot of pressure from the merchants and farmers who were losing people as well as livestock to the underlings, the royals caved. They put a reasonable bounty on the underlings. Collect enough bounties and a poor soldier could be rich. The problem was, there weren’t many takers. People, whether it be man or orc, were terrified of the underlings. Only a few hunted them. Men like Venir. Venir would hunt as long as he could stand it. He opened his rucksack and pulled out a large leather sack consisting of different patches of leather all stitched together. It looked like something carried by the poorest or weariest of travelers. The leather was soft and supple between his fingertips. He gazed at the closed neck and said, “Soon.”

Venir kept moving, farther south, where the forest turned more into a jungle. He pushed by and ducked under vines as thick as a man’s arm. The leaves were a deep green, almost black. The critters dashed through the treetops, hopping from branch to branch, hooting and chittering. Finally, he entered a small village, tucked far away from the rank civilizations that Bish had to offer. Venir made his way from one small village to another, probing for any news or information about the underlings.

He came across an old friend, Addly, a long-faced man with bags under his eyes. He wore trousers made of animal skins and was bare chested. A distraught woman clung to Addly’s side. Dressed in a long beige smock that covered her to the toes, she had tears running down her face. Venir towered over them both. Men guarded the village of huts made from wood and clay with hatchets and machetes. “Come, Venir. Come.”

Venir followed.

Over a mile away, Addly took Venir to another village, where a thick yellow smoke stung their eyes. Bodies had been stacked up in the center, flames still licking over their bodies. “They were all dead,” Addly said with a sob. “Some were buried, but most of them were butchered. There was so much blood. I couldn’t bear it. All of them dead, except some children I did not see. They were our friends. Our family.” He shook his head as if he wanted to shake out the awful memories. “I had them burned, Venir. There were too many to bury, and my village was too frightened to stay in this death hole for long. I burned them. Such an awful burial.” He blinked out the tears. “Did I do wrong?”

“No, the underlings did,” Venir said, surveying the bloody scene. It was a massacre, but he’d seen worse. It had probably been worse before Addly had cleaned it up the best he could. But there were still bloodstains on the leaves and body parts being eaten by varmints and covered in insects that had been missed. He took out his rucksack and opened it. Kneeling down, he withdrew the leather bag inside. It was rolled up and appeared empty. “Go home, Addly.”

The man nodded. “Yes, Venir.” He backed away into the forest. “Feed them my vengeance.”

“I will.” Venir opened up the neck of the sack and reached inside. “And my wrath as well.”

[]CHAPTER 5

Venir unrolled his leather sack on the ground. His fingertips tingled. His breath quickened. The mystic sack had powers that he could not comprehend. Yet it was his. He opened up the neck of the sack and reached inside. His hand felt like it was swallowed up in the icy air of the limp sack. Searching fingers touched cold metal. He grasped a shield and slid it out of the widening sack’s neck. Setting it aside, his cold fingers reached back in the sack, and he withdrew a battle helmet. Setting it on the ground, once again, he reached inside and pulled out a double-bladed war axe unlike anything else he’d ever seen. “Brool,” he said, running his fingers over the dark, scarred-up metal. He stuck it tip first in the ground.

The axe, shield, and helmet were of the same metal. The helmet, fashioned from a dark iron, with menacing eyelets and a sharp spike on top, seemed to call Venir by name. The axe was very similar in fashion but had a different purpose. The spike on top was long and menacing. The blades had cutouts in the metal shaped the same as the eyelets of the helm. The shield had the same cutouts as well.

Folding up the mystic sack, Venir stuffed it back inside the rucksack. He strapped it over his shoulders and did the same with the shield. He dropped the helmet over his head, buckled the leather chinstrap, and his senses came alive. The hum of the mosquitos increased in volume. His heart thumped behind his ears. There was a hunger that wasn’t there a moment earlier. The helmet throbbed in his skull. Venir picked up the axe. The black wood of the handle warmed his palms. Like a horse, he snorted. “Let’s go hunting.”

With the ease of a panther, the armored giant slipped through the dense brush and foliage. He absorbed every detail of the landscape. He saw unnatural bends in the leaves and branches. Soft impressions of small feet had been pressed in the dirt. The underlings were good at covering their tracks, better than most. They were light on their feet and as quick as deer, but they were the hunters that ruled by fear. Today, the tables were turned, and they were being hunted.

Venir stopped in front of a briar patch. The bush had been pushed through. Many branches were broken. Blood dripped from the thorns. He rubbed it between his fingertips. The blood was red, not the black oil that came from underlings. There was a small strip of dark-blue linen hanging in the briars. Venir tied it around his finger.

Someone tried to escape. Good for them.

Whoever it was had made Venir’s job easier. He followed the jagged path that zigzagged through the jungle. More broken branches and footprints were everywhere. The brood of killers, it appeared, didn’t fear pursuit from any. They were reckless with their tracks. They left fresh blood on the trail. Celebrating perhaps. There were ruts in the dirt where it appeared feet might have been dragged over the terrain.

There are many. They have prisoners.

The underling band of hunters numbered ten at least, possibly twenty. Venir moved on, fingers clutching the axe with white knuckles. Legs churning, he raced after the fiends. He stopped a mile away, where the ground ended and murky swamp water came up over his toes. The jungle became a dark swamp with a foul, stagnant stream running through it. Venir cursed under his breath and waded in.

Five steps into the foul water, and he was up to his waist in muck. Foaming green waters rippled past his ribs. He pushed on, trusting the helmet on his head. Its pulsating power gave him direction. He followed. Down the stream he went, another half of a mile, where he climbed out onto the bank. Water sloshed out of his boots with every step. Finally, in the steamy heat, his iron limbs began to dry as he merged once again with the jungle. Something hanging in the branches caught his eye.

What’s this?

A severed head of a man hung from the branches by the hair. The head’s skin was peeling off. A black woodpecker sat on the skull, bent over and pecking at the eyehole. A chill ran through Venir. He saw head after head hanging from the branches like rotten fruit. Black fiends!

He advanced. The ground snapped beneath him. He plummeted into a pit. Sharp needles at the bottom pierced his feet and legs. “Gah!”

[]CHAPTER 6

A heavy rain started. In seconds, water sloshed into the pit. Finger-thin bamboo needles, about a foot long, poked through Venir’s boots and feet. Sucking through his teeth, Venir reached down and pulled out a needle that went clean through his calf. He lifted up his foot. Needles had lanced clear through his boot, as well as the meat of his left foot. The right side was fine.

“Not my day,” he said quietly. Without hesitation, he ripped out two of the needles at once. He fought to contain his agonized moan. “I hate underlings. Hate them, hate them, hate them.”

His helm throbbed. The scuffle of light feet crunching down foliage caught his ear. The underlings were coming. Venir pressed his backside against the dirt wall. It was at least ten feet to the top of the pit. The short fall wasn’t meant to kill. The needles were. Lucky for Venir, he landed on his feet, and the soles of his boots were made of a thick leather that shattered most of the needles underneath.

Chitter. Chitter. Chitter.

Venir’s blood began to boil. His chest expanded with deep breaths. The wicked, mocking, chittering, speech-like sound of the underlings had come. Venir remained frozen, looking upward. His eyes were burning with rage. He kept his axe to his chest, fighting the compulsion to climb out.

Hold it, Venir. Hold it!

The underlings popped their heads over the rim of the pit. They were gray-skinned men with fiendish expressions. Their hair was coal black. They had eyes that shined like gemstones. Two of the underlings’ eyes were dark rubies and the others a deep sapphire blue. Their black lips pulled back, revealing sharp teeth. Slighter than men in build, their frames were wiry with cords of muscles. They wore dark leather armor and carried javelins in hand. Short swords of the finest steel were strapped to their hips. Cunning filled their eyes as they searched the pit. He checked his rage.

Don’t move, Venir! Not yet!

The helmet seemed to boil with anger on his head, feeding Venir’s own rage for his enemy. He watched the underlings chitter back and forth to one another, gesturing angrily and eyeballing the pit. Venir wasn’t completely accustomed to it yet, but he knew that the underlings couldn’t see him. At least, they didn’t see him until he acted. It was a power of the armament he wore that he’d only begun to understand.

The blue-eyed underling jabbed its javelin into the hole. The tip came within inches of Venir’s face. It turned and shouted something in Underling back at the others. All three of them leaned over the hole. Their heated stares were right on Venir, heads tilted. Finally, one with hair tied back in a ponytail and a human-finger-bone bracelet on its neck took a stab in the hole.

The javelin hit Venir in the shoulder. He swallowed a painful grunted.

Wide-eyed, the underling leaned forward to take another poke.

“Bish on this!” Venir snatched the javelin with one hand and gave a hard yank. The underling pitched forward into the pit. The needles skewered it from head to toe. At the same time, Venir jabbed the spiked tip of his war axe into the blue-eyed underling’s gut. He pulled the weapon free, disemboweling the fiend. The third underling was gone. “Bone!”

Venir leapt out of the hole, grabbing the rim with his free hand and climbing out. He rolled to his feet, snapped the needle off in his foot, and caught a glimpse of the underling’s backside that was running away. Forgetting about his foot, Venir pursued. The wind whistled through his ears as he raced through the forest. He ducked under branches, hopped over fallen logs, but kept the quick underling in his sights. He closed.

You’re mine, fiend!

The underling looked over its shoulder. It gave an angry hiss. Jumping a creek bed, it scrambled up a hill with its hands clawing at the dirt. At the top, it turned and faced Venir. It drew its sword, turned its head to the trees, and let out a shriek.

“Blast you, big-mouthed fiend!” Venir ran up the hill. The underling dropped into a sword fighter’s stance as the gap between them closed. Venir brought his axe down with a two-handed chop. His great blade collided with the underling’s parrying steel. The underling blade busted. Brool split the fiend’s face open. Venir yanked the axe out. The underling’s last shriek was returned with more howls. They were coming. Venir could feel it. Helm told him. It was all of them. Reckless, they raced through the woods.

Venir took in a lungful of air, set his feet, and let out a guttural howl of his own. The birds erupted from the trees. For a long moment, the forest went silent. There was a rustle ahead in the branches. Venir charged.

[]CHAPTER 7

Venir bore down on the closest underling. Its hands were wrapped around the handles of two swords with jagged edges. Inferior in size to Venir, it met the man head on. Venir unleashed a swing.

Slice!

The underling’s head leapt from its shoulders. Blood spit from its neck as it collapsed on the ground.

Not breaking his stride, Venir waded into the oncoming angry knot of wicked little men. The burning hatred in their eyes ran deep. They shrieked and shouted hate-filled chitters. The underlings burst out of the brush from all directions. One jumped on Venir’s back. Two others fastened themselves to his legs. They jabbed, stabbed, spit, and hissed.

Venir chopped down hard. The axe sank into an underling’s shoulder, severing its arm. He twisted the axe around in a backhanded direction. The blow busted open an underling’s chest. “Get off me!” Venir roared. He kneed and slung elbows, shaking the fiends that clung to him like leeches. Black smoke smoldered from his eyelets. The underling on his back dug its fingernails into Venir’s eyelets. “Enough!”

He stabbed Brool back over his shoulder. The tip crunched through bone and flesh. The dying underling peeled off his back.

From a short distance, underling spit darts shot from bamboo pipes. Another underling, with glaring green eyes, had a hand crossbow pointed Venir’s way. Some darts skipped off Venir’s armor. Other darts buried themselves in the flesh of his bare arms. They burned like the fiery sting of a scorpion’s venom.

A clatch-zip sound caught Venir’s ear through the clamor of battle. A crossbow bolt careened at his face. He bent his neck down. Ting! The bolt skipped off the metal crown of his helmet.

“You’re going to need a bigger crossbow, fiend!” Venir reached out with his free hand. He caught an underling by the scruff of the neck and headbutted it. Its skull cracked. His axe went to work. It pulverized bones and gored flesh. The underlings fought back with their own calculating ferocity. Teeth gnashing, they tried to bring the metal invader down. They dove from all directions. They stabbed, cut, and chopped with swords and hatchets. Venir put his hips into a full swing, cutting through two underlings at once. “Yes!”

An underling threw a javelin at his chest. Venir batted it aside. He reached down and grabbed the last underling on his leg by the neck. The cartilage in its windpipe cracked.

Blood dripped from his wounds. The underlings would cut a man a thousand times before they killed. His lungs burned. The bones in his body throbbed. He pressed on. The forest floor was slick with underling red-black blood. Venir marched on. “Where’s your nest? I’m going to burn it down and burn you with it!”

Ten underlings were down. More were coming. Venir limped into the clearing. His helmet pulsed. Suddenly, his feet were lifted out from beneath of him. He floated up in the air. Against the tree line, with its back to the branches, an underling mage in dark robes hovered in the air. Its pointed fingertips glowed with green fire. With a swirl of its wrists, it turned Venir upside down, over and over. From the ground, the underling throng spit darts at him. Javelins were hurled.

Venir twisted left and right. It didn’t do him any good. He let out a roar. Then, he was tilted upright. Burning needle-like darts covered his skin. He faced a second underling mage who floated in the trees. Its black robes billowed. The fiend’s fingers shimmered like lightning. A white blast erupted from its hands. The searing force streaked into Venir’s bottom. His head snapped back. “Guh!” His back arched.

The painful tendrils of energy were like the fire from a hot poker. It kept coming, one blast after the other. The rain on Venir’s armor sizzled. His burnt hairs smoked. There was awful screaming. He didn’t know if it was his or not. His axe started to slip through his fingers.

[]CHAPTER 8

Venir hung suspended twenty feet high in the air, his chin dipped against his chest, breathing raggedly. The lightning stopped. His body smoldered. An unseen force slowly turned him in midair. He felt the underling mage’s eyes boring into him. Below him, the underlings gloated with biting chitters. Somehow, Venir clasped the axe pommel with the tips of his bloody fingers.

The underling magi floated his direction. The one with fingertips like green fire lifted Venir’s chin with a thought. It was less than twelve feet away. They locked eyes. Venir fought to hold the underling’s burning gaze. His eye fluttered in his skull.

“I’m going to kill you,” Venir said with raspy speech. He spat on the ground. “All of you.”

The underling mage spoke. There was a hiss in its broken human speech. “Human, you are a fool. We shall flay you one strip of skin at a time.”

Without warning, Venir pulled his axe up into his full grip. He swung it like the blades of a windmill and released. Point first, the axe jettisoned out of his hand, impaling the underling mage. Floating fast to the ground, the underling gulped blood with Brool stuck full in its chest.

Venir plummeted on its last dying breath. He landed in the midst of the shock-faced underlings, crushing two of them under his muscular frame. In a blink, Venir’s wounded body came to life. Helm fed him a new spring of energy. He’d played possum as long as he could stand it. Now was the time to finish it. He drew his hunting knife.

“Eat steel, underling!” He stabbed the nearest underling through the throat. His helmet pulsed. The last underling mage’s hands renewed with white fire. Venir snagged a javelin from a charging underling. He put his knife in its belly. At the same time, he launched the javelin. The weapon smote the floating underling in the belly.

It dipped toward the ground, clutching the spike inside its gut. With lightning dancing on its fingertips, it pointed toward Venir. Crossing the distance between them in three giant strides, Venir launched himself upward. His fingers clutched the bottom hem of the underling’s robes. He dragged the fiend out of the air. Using his fists, knife still in one hand, he pummeled it to death in a series of bone-jarring blows. The helm pulsed.

The last remaining underlings, six in all, surrounded Venir. Sharp steel gleamed in their hands. The glint in their gem-speckled eyes was intent on murder.

Venir slipped his shield from his back, fastening it to his arm. Knife in hand, he said, “Come and die, fiends, die!”

The underlings converged.

Venir caught two strikes on his shield. He punched a hole in an underling’s neck then gutted another. Two underlings cut at his legs. He skipped away from one while braining another with the edge of his shield.

The three quick fiends stabbed at him one right after the other. They danced back and forth, lunging and dodging. None of them came in too close.

“Ah, Bish on this!” Venir flung his shield into one underling, busting open its face on the rim. With a hard flick of his wrist, he threw his knife into the second underling’s heart. With a churk sound, it died. The last underling darted inside Venir’s guard. Its sword ripped through the links of his chainmail, slicing away skin. Venir punched it so hard in the face that sharp teeth shot out of its mouth. It dropped its blade. Venir picked it up by the neck, hoisted it high, and squeezed. “Don’t you understand I hate you fiends?”

The underling neck gave with a snap.

Venir went for his shield. The underling he hit with it crawled over the grass. Venir picked up one of their small swords and pinned the underling to the ground. His helmet stopped throbbing. The rainy jungle drenched the bodies of dead underlings. Their greasy black blood washed away. Venir retrieved his knife and axe from the fallen underlings’ bodies. Limping, he headed deeper into the jungle, searching for survivors, assuming there would be none.

[]CHAPTER 9

It was still raining. Venir came upon a huge web that spanned between two trees. Near the bottom, stuck in the webbing, were three small people. A tarantula-like sand spider, the size of a large dog, fed on one of the bodies.

“Slat.” Venir crept up on the monster, scanning the trees and ground. He came within several feet before the spider turned. Eight ruby eyes fixed on Venir. It dropped to the ground and scurried right at him. Venir thrust the axe down, cleaving the spider in twain. He chopped into it until hairy spider legs stopped moving. A pus-like goo oozed out of it. Venir’s nose crinkled. “I hate the smell of those things.”

With the spring of energy now gone out of his aching limbs, he trudged forward. Kneeling down, he inspected a dead body covered in a cocoon of webbing. It was the dried husk of a young girl. He let out a ragged sigh. The next body was the same. A boy this time. The child’s blond locks hung over his sunken eyes.

Venir spit blood from his mouth. A new anger swelled within him. The sand spiders were the underlings’ pets. They’d taken the children as food for the arachnids. Venir searched the branches. Where there was one sand spider, there would be more. There wasn’t much he could do for the children now. He needed to stitch up his wounds and move on. At least the underlings were dead. He’d take what he needed to the outposts and get paid the bounty. He started to rise.

“Mmmph…” someone grumbled.

Venir looked down into a pair of big brown eyes that were looking right at him. There was a boy still breathing inside a cocoon of webbing. “You live!” Venir exclaimed. His loud voice shook the webbing. Movement started in the branches. Sand spiders were coming. There wasn’t any telling how many of them, and he didn’t care to stick around to find out. He’d send for the bodies of the innocent later.

“Hold on, boy.”

Venir ripped the boy, cocoon and all, from the bottom strands of the web. He slung the boy over his shoulder and took off running. Legs and back burning, he came to a stop an hour later. The rain stopped. He made a fire and used the flame to free the boy from the webbing.

“How are you?” Venir said, somewhat astonished.

“Hungry,” the boy said. He was pale and pasty skinned, and his eyes were weak and sunken into his sockets. His stomach rumbled. He covered it. The heavyset boy’s eyes were fixed on Venir. His voice was shaky when he talked. “You’re him, aren’t you?”

“Him who?” Venir said.

The boy coughed up bile. Face souring, he said, “The one they call the Darkslayer. I knew you would come.”

Venir fished his scraped-up fingers through his belt pouch and pulled out some dried meat. He handed it to the boy. “You couldn’t have known that.”

The boy practically swallowed down the jerky whole. “Do you have more?”

He handed over all he had. “You don’t look like one from Addly’s tribe. You have the look of a farmhand about you.”

“I was visiting. Against my will. I do it the same time every year. It’s lousy.” The boy eyed the high, leafy branches. “No one should live out here. Let the underlings have it.”

“No.” Venir shook his head. He lifted the boy’s chin with his fingers. There were four ugly black spots on his neck. “That’s a bite. You should be dead.”

Chewing, the boy said, “That sand spider bit me. I felt it. My blood blistered when it happened. I can’t believe I was captured for spider food. I’d rather be killed like the rest.”

“You should be dead,” Venir said, checking the boy over with his eyes. “But I suppose I should be dead too.”

“You were limping pretty bad when you carried me. Maybe it’s because you have a bamboo shoot in your foot.” The boy reached over and pulled the strip of bamboo out of Venir’s boot.

Venir winced.

“Is that better?” the boy said.

“Better enough.” Venir tousled the boy’s curly brown locks. “What’s your name?”

Shivering, the boy said, “Georgio.”

***

 

[]NEXT BOOK IN THE SERIES/ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I hope you enjoyed this short-story introduction to The Darkslayer, but let me tell you, it’s a big world and a vast series full of lively and interesting characters, good and bad. I tried to give you a good feel for what the series is all about, but this short is only a taste of the world of Bish. It is a #1 International Bestselling Fantasy Series! Series 1 is six books, and longer than The Lord of the Rings. Over 650,000 words. Series 2 is over 400,000 words long, and both series are complete. Read the reviews! My rollicking adventures won’t let you down! Please leave a review for this short if you can.

Here is more information:

The Darkslayer: Wrath of the Royals, Book #1. Always glad to help out people with hardships.

If you like boxed sets and want to devour it all at once, go here:

The Darkslayer Omnibus: Books 1-6

Contact me anytime. I pride myself on being easy to reach.

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Craig Halloran resides with his family outside his hometown of Charleston, West Virginia. When he isn’t entertaining mankind, he is seeking adventure, working out, or watching sports. To learn more about him, go to www.thedarkslayer.com.

 

Check out all of my great stories … over 60 in all!

 

The Darkslayer Series 1

Wrath of the Royals (Book 1) Free eBook

Blades in the Night (Book 2)

Underling Revenge (Book 3)

Danger and the Druid (Book 4)

Outrage in the Outlands (Book 5)

Chaos at the Castle (Book 6)

 

The Darkslayer: Bish and Bone, Series 2

Bish and Bone (Book 1) Free eBook

Black Blood (Book 2)

Red Death (Book 3)

Lethal Liaisons (Book 4)

Torment and Terror (Book 5)

Brigands and Badlands (Book 6)

War in the Wasteland (Book 7)

Slaughter in the Streets (Book 8)

Hunt of the Beast (Book 9)

The Battle for Bone (Book 10)

 

CLASH OF HEROES: Nath Dragon meets The Darkslayer

The Chronicles of Dragon Series

The Hero, the Sword and the Dragons (Book 1) Free eBook

Dragon Bones and Tombstones (Book 2)

Terror at the Temple (Book 3)

Clutch of the Cleric (Book 4)

Hunt for the Hero (Book 5)

Siege at the Settlements (Book 6)

Strife in the Sky (Book 7)

Fight and the Fury (Book 8)

War in the Winds (Book 9)

Finale (Book 10)

 

The Chronicles of Dragon: Series 2, Tail of the Dragon

Tail of the Dragon

Claws of the Dragon

Eye of the Dragon

Scales of the Dragon

Trial of the Dragon

Teeth of the Dragon

 

The Supernatural Bounty Hunter Files

Smoke Rising (2015) Free ebook

I Smell Smoke (2015)

Where There’s Smoke (2015)

Smoke on the Water (2015)

Smoke and Mirrors (2015)

Up in Smoke

Smoke ‘Em

Holy Smoke

Smoke Out

 

The Gamma Earth Cycle

Escape from the Dominion

Flight from the Dominion

Prison of the Dominion

 

Zombie Impact Series

Zombie Day Care: Book 1 Free eBook

Zombie Rehab: Book 2

Zombie Warfare: Book 3

 

You can learn more about the Darkslayer and my other books, deals, and specials at:

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www.craighalloran.com

 


The Darkslayer: Brutal Beginnings

A menace in the sweltering jungles has been swallowing up the peaceful people and they need a hero that will make the evil ones pay… The massive City of Bone, ruled by the maligned Royals, is where the fate of the world rests on a pair of unlikely heroes named Venir and Melegal. To the dismay of the city born rogue, Melegal, Venir, wielding a mystic war axe, sets out on a one-man crusade against the insidious race of fiends, called the underlings. Venturing deep into the wasteland’s jungles Venir discovers that the underlings have destroyed a village, slain their people and kidnapped their woman and children. Donning the mantel of power, the ultimate hunter of the Outlands sets out on one of the bloodiest rescues missions of all time. The Darkslayer: Brutal Beginnings is a sword and sorcery/fantasy short story that serves as a quick introduction to a much larger fantasy setting in the world called Bish. Set in a harsh climate with two blistering suns, created by a bored immortal, The Darkslayer brings to light everything a fan of science fiction fantasy could hope for, including the full buffet of monsters and races such as giants, dragons, dwarves, orcs, ogres, underlings and worst of all god-like beings that are unpredictable. Give this action packed short story a try, that is only a taste of two full lengths series that are over16 books and one million words long.

  • ISBN: 9781946218292
  • Author: Craig Halloran
  • Published: 2017-09-27 20:20:12
  • Words: 7496
The Darkslayer: Brutal Beginnings The Darkslayer: Brutal Beginnings