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Old 02-14-2005, 07:40 PM   #1 (permalink)
Little known...
 
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Location: Brisbane, Australia
El Cazador

Well, if you love fantasy, come to the TFP, cause there's already at least two good writers churning out stuff for you. Anyhow, to kind of offset my more misanthropic parables of human weakness and such I decided why not start my own series I guess. Now, it's a little unconventional, bonus points to anyone who can find all the movie homages in it. Anyhow you'll have questions by the end so I'll meet you down below!

Enjoy. (I hope)



Prologue: The Stranger in Search of Alfredo Garcia


The stranger approached the tiny hamlet of Precipice on foot, tendrils of red dust tangled about his spurs as he strode like an omen through the open gates. The ramparts were untended, and the single, straight street dividing the town was empty, except for a decrepit, gaunt dog which panted as it eyed the drifter lazily.

The stranger was tall and lithe, and he moved with lethal, measured precision through the current of misty, red dust towards the large tavern in the centre of town. His head was crowned with a battered, wide brimmed hat which shaded his deep, black eyes, and from which a mane of sleek, straight black hair flared around his thin muscular neck. His eyes were set deeply into his skull, rimmed with deep lines, a sharp nose jutting out from between then, and in the short, abrasive black whiskers around his jaw a thin, grim set of lips clamped around the drooping ashen corpse of a cigarette. His wiry frame was clad in a long leather greatcoat, which reached his ankles and danced about his feet as he walked with casual, deathly patience along the thoroughfare, his flowing gait pierced through with tense vigilance. His strong legs were enclosed in loose black denim, and his black boots were stained with dust. He climbed the steps leading to the tavern with a melodic jingle of spurs and strode through the open doorway with ochre apparitions flowing from his dusty clothing. Inside, a solitary barman regarded him with a sardonic glance, his smile warped into a grotesque leer through the glass bottle he was holding.

‘You speak English?’ The stranger spoke softly, with hardened tones and the spectre of a threat in his voice.

‘Si Senor,’ the barman replied with a droll sigh. ‘Whiskey?’ he held up the bottle, sloshing the amber liquor inside about with a knowing grin. The drifter stalked across the abandoned tavern, sliding between the clutter of tables and chairs strewn chaotically in his path, and without a word plucked the bottle from the barman’s hand with a swift, singular motion. He brought it to his lips, and with relish took a generous swig of the fiery liquid, he exhaled heavily as the kiss ended, he spoke into the bottle casually, holding it with a sinewy hand inches from his mouth.

‘I’m here for Alfredo Garcia. Know where I can find him?’ The barman swallowed a gasp and gawped at the stranger with incredulous fear.

‘Mister, you’ve come to the wrong town, Alfredo Garcia ain’t in Precipice, you should go look somewhere else,’ he babbled desperately. The other man took another swig from the whiskey bottle, and placed it on the bar with careful softness, he caressed his rough bearded jaw as he turned to the bartender.

‘Listen,’ the stranger silently reached inside his greatcoat, and drew from it a long, narrow, curved scabbard, and placed it next to the whiskey bottle with infinite care, ‘I’m here for Garcia, now where can I find him?’ The bartender blinked with astonishment at the sword, then back at the stranger’s still, cold pupils, he swallowed nervously and backed into the corner.

‘He’s in the whorehouse at the south end of town, the last place on the right,’ he blurted with panic, his voice ragged with fear.

‘Well now,’ the stranger remarked with amusement, basking in the barman’s visible terror, ‘that wasn’t so difficult was it.’ He snatched the sword from the bar, imbibed a final mouthful of harsh desert whiskey and played his deathly jingle out to the street.

But the stranger needn’t have bothered with his enquiries, his arrival had been noticed, and as he emerged into the sunlight it was clear that Alfredo Garcia had found him. At the opposite end of town, the long shadows of three dark figures cut across the garish sunlight, they stood motionless as the stranger approached nonchalantly. He drew to a halt seven paces from the obvious leader of the trio. He was a mountain of a man, his thick, brutish frame was draped in a woolen poncho, and at his side an obscenely thick blade hung threateningly from his belt. He remained inert, but was hunched in anticipation, his monolithic frame primed for movement. The drifter, with infinite care and vigilance, removed his greatcoat to reveal the long slender sword at his left side, tucked into his belt, his lean figure coiled as he reached across his body with his right hand, taking a firm grasp on the hilt. The mountain snorted in derision, raising a meaty arm and pointing with a thick, square finger at the thin man.

‘You gonna fight with that?!’ He roared with laughter, accompanied by his crusty companions. The stranger remained still, a wry smile snaking across his face. The giant moved closer with bold strides, halting only two paces from the drifter with a sadistic grin shining out of his hulking skull. His hand twitched upon the pommel of his sword, and his eyes lay in a trance upon the perfectly motionless wrist of the stranger. He inhaled violently and reached to draw his blade. The stranger flitted like a shadow, moving with astonishing, lethal speed. There was a flash as his katana arced through the sunlight, humming the single note melody of death, and his lithe frame spun in a delicate, fatal dance, the blur halted as quickly as it had moved, facing the tavern, the naked, deadly steel raised above his head, tipped with slick black blood. Alfredo Garcia’s breath was abruptly cut short by a scarlet eruption of gore from his throat; his shocked yelp drowned in his lungs and bubbled from the gaping wound with a muted gurgle. As he clutched at the fountain of blood with futile, dying hands, his eyes burned with malice at the stranger, who crouched, poised, the elegant weapon raised above his head with both hands. Garcia’s curses gargled in his own blood as he fell to the earth, an impotent sack of meat, bleeding furiously and writhing in the cruel, hot dust with animal rage and terror.

Garcia’s companions backed away from the gaunt angel of death with terror, they leapt onto two horses tethered outside the brothel and departed in an undignified whorl of dusty cowardice. By now their leader was motionless, lying in the street, his limbs splayed in inglorious, violent death. His eyes remained open in rage, glazed over with a milky film, the pool of blood already half congealed in the dust. His killer sheathed his weapon silently and turned his head jauntily to the side, his neck emitted a loud, bony crackle. He knelt beside the colossal body and reached inside the collar of Garcia’s blood-soaked poncho and drew from it the thin leather necklace around the bullish neck. Dangling from the end was a gigantic golden medallion in the shape of a W, it was curved in mock oriental style, and as the drifter held it up to the harsh sunlight, the graven words ‘Wu Tang Clan’ glinted across the surface. The killer surveyed the peculiar relic with curiosity for a second and slipped it into his pocket, he then plucked the garish golden rings from Garcia’s fingers and a handful of golden pieces from his pocket. He sighed quietly over the carcass as he rose, then turned on his heel and ambled over to his greatcoat, which he picked up and violently dusted with a cruel slap before throwing it over his shoulders, enveloping his lean figure and the scabbard in his belt.

As he drifted back along the road in a cloud of dust, the desert wind toyed with the corner of Garcia’s poncho and whispered a one-note eulogy over his dead body. The barman stood in awe as the phantom approached, fear and wonder swirling in his sweaty, tanned features.

‘El Cazador,’ he whispered into the void of the wind.



Ok question time is now open. Wtf?

Last edited by Kostya; 02-16-2005 at 05:59 AM..
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Old 02-15-2005, 09:45 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Location: Brisbane, Australia
Ok, I'm... not really getting a phenomenal response here...

Is this worth continuing? Did anyone even read this?

Is my style just too dependent on gigantic genre movie nerdom?

Help me out here people, even negative criticism is better than silence...
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Old 02-16-2005, 04:49 AM   #3 (permalink)
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To be honest....while I do enjoy the story, your extensive use of poetic language seems forced in this, as if you feel the need to add meat to the story by adding adjectives to everything possible. This type of writting is more condusive to poetry, than fiction.

I very much enjoyed the premise, but was a bit put off by the writting style.

Just my opinion....and likely not worth much.
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Old 02-16-2005, 05:58 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Location: Brisbane, Australia
I am a bit prone to wordiness, I'll be the first to admit.

So, cut back on the descriptives you reckon, just let the story flow without qualifyinf everything?

Sound advice.

but you like the premise. Well, like, cool. It's kind of hard to explain, but the wierd stuff makes sense, in context.

I'll give this a bit of an edit, and maybe continue it a little.
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Old 02-16-2005, 06:44 AM   #5 (permalink)
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love it, i can appreciate the writing style, as it's very close to my own... there's nothing wrong with being descriptive, in my opinion, the more detailed the story, the greater the insight into the author's imagination the reader has... great read Kostya
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Old 02-16-2005, 07:01 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Hey. I'm all for reading...people need to do a lot more of it, in my opinion...You do write some very good work, however, many people are not as "well-read" as the general population once was and something as detailed and descriptive may be for heavier readers (some may be those who have collected and read every page of Stephen King; they have for years).

Your style of writing reminds me of a great author. Of course I'm referring to Stephen King. A lot of people enjoy his movies rather than his books...just something to think about, improve upon, and grow with.

Whatever your decisions may be, don't give up on your writing. It's very good.
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Old 02-16-2005, 06:04 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Location: Brisbane, Australia
Yeah, guilty...

Born and bred on hardcore world literature here. Tolstoy and friends weren't exactly tight with the descriptions. However, I think maybe Tecoyah has a point, if the story continues in this vein it would take an awfully long time to construct. Maybe a compromise between the two is best.
I'm working on an edit right at the minute, but in the meantimes, just for fun, I'd like to hear your theories as to reasoning behind the crazy shit that seems to make no sense?
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Old 02-26-2005, 03:54 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Location: Brisbane, Australia
Version 2.0

Before you read this, I must say that I've done an extensive reimagining of the scenario and it's more alternate history than sci-fi post apoch now. Anyhow, for continuity's sake I'll put the modified Alfredo Garcia bit in again, though little has changed and also Part II.

The Stranger in Search of Alfredo Garcia


The stranger approached the tiny hamlet of Precipice on foot, tendrils of red dust tangled about his spurs as he strode like an omen through the open gates. The ramparts were untended, and the single, straight street dividing the town was empty, except for a gaunt dog eyed the drifter lazily.
The stranger was tall and lithe, and he moved with lethal, measured precision through the current of misty, red dust towards the large tavern in the centre of town. His head was crowned with a battered, wide brimmed hat which shaded his black eyes, and from which a mane of sleek, straight black hair flared around his neck. His eyes were set deeply into his skull, a sharp nose jutting out from between then, and amongst the short, abrasive black whiskers around his jaw a thin, grim set of lips clamped around the drooping toothpick. His wiry frame was clad in a long leather greatcoat, which reached his ankles and danced about his feet as he walked with along the thoroughfare, his flowing gait pierced through with tense vigilance. His strong legs were enclosed in loose black leather, and his black boots were stained with dust. He climbed the steps leading to the tavern with a melodic jingle of spurs and strode through the open doorway with ochre apparitions flowing from his dusty clothing. Inside, a solitary barman regarded him with a sardonic glance.
‘You speak English?’ The stranger spoke softly, the spectre of threat in his voice.
‘Si Senor,’ the barman replied with a droll sigh. ‘Whiskey?’ he held up a bottle bottle, sloshing the liquor inside about with a knowing grin. The drifter stalked across the abandoned tavern, sliding between the clutter of tables and chairs strewn chaotically in his path, and without a word plucked the bottle from the barman’s hand. He brought it to his lips, and with relish took a generous swig of the fiery liquid, he exhaled heavily as the kiss ended and then he spoke into the bottle casually, still holding it inches from his mouth.
‘I’m here for Alfredo Garcia. Know where I can find him?’ The barman swallowed a gasp and gawped at the stranger with incredulous fear.
‘Mister, you’ve come to the wrong town, Alfredo Garcia isn’t in Precipice, you should go look somewhere else,’ he babbled desperately. The other man took another swig from the whiskey bottle, and placed it on the bar, he caressed his rough bearded jaw as he turned to eye the bartender.
‘Listen,’ the stranger silently reached inside his greatcoat, and drew from it a long, narrow, curved scabbard, and placed it next to the whiskey bottle with infinite care, ‘I’m here for Garcia, now where can I find him?’ The bartender blinked with astonishment at the sword, then back at the stranger’s still, cold pupils, he swallowed nervously and backed into the corner.
‘He’s in the whorehouse at the south end of town, the last place on the right,’ he blurted with panic, his voice ragged with fear.
‘Well now,’ the stranger remarked with amusement, basking in the barman’s visible terror, ‘that wasn’t so difficult was it.’ He snatched the sword from the bar, imbibed a final mouthful of harsh desert whiskey and played his deathly jingle out to the street.
But the stranger needn’t have bothered with his enquiries, his arrival had been noticed, and as he emerged into the sunlight it was clear that Alfredo Garcia had found him. At the opposite end of the town, three dark figures were waiting, motionless. The stranger approached them nonchalantly. He drew to a halt seven paces from the obvious leader of the trio. He was a mountain of a man, his thick, brutish frame was draped in a woolen poncho, and at his side hung an obscenely thick blade. He remained inert, but was hunched in anticipation, his monolithic frame primed for movement. The drifter, with infinite care and vigilance, removed his greatcoat to reveal the long slender sword at his left side, tucked into his belt, his lean figure coiled as he reached across his body with his right hand, taking a firm grasp on the hilt. The mountain snorted in derision, raising a meaty arm and pointing with a thick, square finger at the thin man.
‘You gonna fight with that?!’ He roared with laughter, accompanied by his crusty companions. The stranger remained still, a wry smile snaking across his face. The giant moved closer with bold strides, halting only two paces from the drifter with a sadistic grin shining out of his skull. His hand twitched upon the pommel of his sword, and his eyes lay in a trance upon the perfectly motionless wrist of the stranger. He inhaled violently and reached to draw his blade. The stranger flitted like a shadow, moving with astonishing, lethal speed. There was a flash as his katana arced through the sunlight, and his lithe frame spun in a delicate, fatal dance. He halted facing the tavern, the naked, deadly steel raised above his head, tipped with slick black blood. Alfredo Garcia’s breath was abruptly cut short by a scarlet eruption of gore from his throat; his shocked yelp drowned in his lungs and bubbled from the gaping wound with a muted gurgle. As he clutched at the fountain of blood with futile, dying hands, his eyes burned with malice at the stranger, who crouched, poised, the elegant weapon raised above his head with both hands. Garcia’s curses gargled in his own blood as he fell to the earth, an impotent sack of meat, bleeding furiously and writhing in the hot dust with rage and terror.
Garcia’s companions backed away from the gaunt angel of death in fright, they leapt onto two horses tethered outside the brothel and departed in an undignified whorl of dusty cowardice. By now their leader was motionless, lying in the street, his limbs splayed in inglorious, violent death. His eyes remained open in rage, glazed over with the milky film of death, the pool of blood already coagulating in the dust. His killer produced a small woolen cloth and wiped the blood from the tip of his blade, he then sheathed the weapon silently and turned his head jauntily to the side, his neck emitted a loud, bony crackle. He knelt beside the body and reached inside the collar of Garcia’s blood-soaked poncho and drew from it the thin leather necklace around the bullish neck. Dangling from the end was a golden medallion, and as the drifter held it up to the harsh sunlight, the graven Aztec design glinted across the surface. The killer surveyed the peculiar relic with curiosity for a second and slipped it into his pocket, he then plucked the garish golden rings from Garcia’s fingers and a handful of golden pieces from his pocket. He sighed quietly over the carcass as he rose, then turned on his heel and ambled over to his greatcoat, which he picked up and violently dusted with a cruel slap before throwing it over his shoulders, enveloping his lean figure and the scabbard in his belt.
As he drifted back along the road in a cloud of dust, the desert wind toyed with the corner of Garcia’s poncho and played the whisper of a one-note eulogy over his dead body. The barman stood in awe as the phantom approached, fear and wonder swirling in his sweaty, tanned feature.
‘El Cazador,’ he whispered into the void of the wind.


Making Deals with McLain


The stranger kept walking, up the stairs and right past the bartender, who followed him obsequiously into the tavern, where he seated himself with the whiskey bottle. The bottle was almost empty, and the stranger drained the last of the liquor in a single swig, smacking his lips in appreciation as he swallowed.
The sounds of confusion drifted into the tavern from the street outside, growing slowly louder, until finally confusion burst through the doorway, a gangly mustachioed man and three plain looking women.
‘Who the hell are you Mister!’ The mustache demanded.
‘Who are hell are you?’ The stranger didn’t turn to face the man, and his voice brought silence to the tavern.
‘Why, why I’m Robert McLain, I own this place, and place down the end of town, right beside where Alfredo Garcia’s lying dead, and Mary tells me you killed him with a single blow!’
‘What’s it to you who I killed?’ The stranger interceded as one of the women wound up to speak, cutting her off with brutal efficiency.
‘Well, I, damn, I guess we should thank you, Garcia’s been nothing but bad for this town since he got here.’
‘So, what you’re upset about is that I did this town a service?’
‘Well, not upset, I…’
‘Well,’ the stranger smiled triumphantly as he swiveled around to view the group, ‘if I’ve done this town a service, my reckoning is you ought to pay me for it.’
‘Well…’ McLain began to make an excuse, but the stranger slapped it out of the air before it emerged.
‘My reckoning is about one horse.’
‘Mister, I, uh…’
‘Why are the gates open McLain?’ The stranger’s question took him by surprise, and his bluster deflated as he realised the payment had already been arranged.
‘The gate? Why would we close it?’
The stranger laughed quietly. He turned to the bartender inquisitively.
‘Say err…’
‘Aurelio.’
‘Say Aurelio, could you get me some water, I’m mighty thirsty seeing…’ he turned back to McLain grinning, ‘seeing as a pack of Daemons ate my goddamn horse at the last water hole.’ Aurelio didn’t get the water, Aurelio didn’t move an inch, he blinked once, silently, leaned forward and asked his question slowly as fresh sweat beaded on his forehead.
‘What’d you say Mister?’
McLain blanched, and the women retreated with a cacophony of squeals, fading down the street in panic. The stranger scratched his cheek as he rose,
‘You heard Aurelio, now fetch me some water, Mr. McLain,’ he nodded to him, ‘if you would be so kind as to get me that horse right away, I think it’s about time I left, they looked like mighty hungry beasts, and they’ll be along in a little while.’
‘Daemons?’ McLain squeaked, ‘This far out in the desert?’
‘Only about ten,’ the stranger replied, as he reached out to take a dirty wooden cup of water from Aurelio’s trembling hand, ‘big ones though, and skinny too, worst kind of Daemon.’
‘Cadáveres caminantes!’ Aurelio whispered in terror.
‘They’re not dead, they’re livin just like you and I,’ the stranger remarked, having downed the water greedily, ‘and they die just like you and I… if you kill them right.’
McLain sat down, fanning himself heavily with a pale hand, ‘Listen Mister, you must stay and help us, we can’t fight those things.’ The stranger scowled, and eyed McLain with disdain.
‘You mean to tell me there’s nobody in this town capable of fighting ten Greyskins?’
‘Well, there’s me, and Aurelio, but we are not soldiers, and there’s old Jim, but he’s no good no more, and well, Mister, Garcia chased about everyone out of town since he got here on Tuesday and killed Frank Wells stone dead! Only me and Aurelio and a couple of others are still here.’
The stranger laughed. ‘Garcia’s here for three days and about the only people still in town are the bartender, the whores and the pimp, makes sense I suppose.’ His mirth died down, and he eyed McLain dangerously. ‘Well, I’ll need a bow,’ he stated with a sigh, leaning back on his chair and casually putting feet onto the table.
‘Hell Mister! I got a bow! Real nice one too, it’s Apache! Only I don’t know how to use it well, a client gave it to me for payment.’
The stranger fumbled about in one of the many pockets dotted on his greatcoat, until he finally produced a mangled cigar, he held it up to Aurelio, his eyebrows raised. Aurelio took it and scurried behind out the door. ‘Well McLain, since you don’t know how to use it, and since I’ve got a need for it, you won’t mind givin that too me as well.’ There was a cruel mirth in his voice, but his eyes told McLain that it was not a joke. Aurelio returned with the cigar lit and thrust it into the stranger’s waiting hand, he placed it in his mouth and took a long, satisfying draw, his eyes wandered with the milky trails of smoke as McLain slumped in agreement to his demand without a word. He blew his smoke into McLain’s face as he rose, tilting his ear at another commotion going on outside.
As McLain joined him, he was chuckling softly to himself, the smoldering cigar drooping languidly from his lips as he surveyed the comic masquerade unfolding at the end of the street. Several of the girls from McLain’s brothel were struggling with a thick wooden crossbeam, trying to lift it into the brackets to bar the gate. McLain however, was not amused, and he stormed down the steps, ranting maniacally as he strode along the street, his gangly arms and legs jerking about with each syllable as if he was controlled by a clumsy puppeteer. The stranger followed a little way behind him, laughing harder as McLain twitched down the street like a rabid dog.
As the stranger drew level with McLain, the crossbeam slid into place with a heavy, wooden thump, and McLain jeered in mock congratulations.
‘Finally! About time you did something around here!’ One of the women her blonde hair tousled from the struggle flashed McLain two defiant blazing blue eyes from under her fringe..
‘Thanks for the help McLain, you lazy dog!’ She spat at his feet as she passed with acerbic contempt. McLain’s blustery anger fossilized into dark rage in a moment, and with a throaty growl he took a nimble step towards her, swinging the back of his hand with ferocity into her cheek. He was a thin man, but his frame belied the wiry strength in his arm, which toppled the woman over backward into the dust. She lay still for a moment, then she rolled over and hauled herself onto her knees, a viscous string of saliva and blood hanging from her mouth. McLain leaned forward, cocking his fist for another, more brutal blow to the prostrate woman, but the stranger’s hand clamped around his wrist.
‘That is not necessary McLain,’ he remarked coldly. The touch of the stranger seemed to drain all the fight out of McLain, and he metamorphosed back into the submissive man from the tavern.
‘Well, Mister, I run my business my way,’ he began to protest, and the stranger began to cut him short, but they were both cut off by the girl in the dust.
‘I’m not your property McLain!’ she ground out, her voice stinging with the tears she was desperately holding back.
‘Like hell! I paid Garcia good money so shut you mouth!’ McLain ejaculated violently, bludgeoning her protest with his words.
‘McLain!’ the stranger wrenched his wrist, pulling him away from the woman, and forcing him to face him. ‘Am I to understand it McLain, that you purchased this lady here from Garcia?’
‘Well, yeah Mister,’ McLain exclaimed, a little confused.
‘Well, my reckoning is… I’ll have to take her with me too, anything that belonged to Garcia belongs to me now.’ McLain made a choking sound as his neck and cheeks turned crimson.
‘Listen Mister, she’s not Garcia’s no more, I bought her from Garcia for ten gold pieces.’ His teeth ground together as he spoke, the stranger didn’t seem to notice his anger or hear his protest.
‘That’s right, she's not Garcia’s no more, she’s comin with me, she can ride Garcia’s horse,’ he nodded at the stallion still tethered outside the brothel. McLain’s squinted with discomfort as his lips moved silently, calculating his loss mentally. The drifter moistened the tips of his fingers with his tongue and deftly extinguished the stub of his cigar. ‘You know,’ he stated as he absent mindedly scratched under the collar of his greatcoat, ‘I could always just take the girl, right now, and leave you here McLain.’ He said it without menace, he simply pointed it out as a categorical fact, and the colour faded in McLain’s face as he realised again the unsavoury reality of his situation. ‘Now, lend me a hand opening this gate,’ he said over his shoulder, already moving past McLain towards the crossbeam.
‘But we,’ McLain managed.
‘Aurelio,’ the stranger called, paying McLain no heed, Aurelio appeared at the entrance to the tavern.
‘Si Senor?’
‘Go take everything off value off Garcia’s body, and when you’ve done that McLain will help you drag his sorry carcass through the gate.’ The stranger had spoke as he walked, McLain submissively trotting behind him, he had already reached one end of the crossbar by the time Aurelio scurried off towards what was once Alfredo Garcia. McLain took the other end, and the two sinewy men lifted the bar from its brackets and dropped it unceremoniously into the dust. The stranger leaned against one of the heavy wooden gates, it creaked open reluctantly under his weight.
‘McLain, go get my bow, and then help Aurelio out with the body.’
‘Just what are you planning on Mister?’ McLain inquired hesitantly. The stranger brushed a fly away from his face with a lazy wave.
‘There’s not much in the world that’ll stop a hungry pack of Greys Mr. McLain, but one thing that’ll stop them cold is fresh food,’ he announced.
The stranger returned to the tavern where McLain delivered his superbly crafted bow to him, he then fetched himself another cup of water, which he downed lazily as he watched McLain and Aurelio heave the colossal corpse up the street and out the gate. ‘Put it out about twenty feet out from the gate,’ he called as he approached, the bow in one hand and a quiver of arrows slung over his shoulder. He had removed his greatcoat, and the loose, coarse black fabric of his shirt flapped about his torso in the wind.
‘Aurelio?’
‘Si?’
‘You got pikes around this town?’
‘Yes.’
‘Go get em.’
Aurelio galloped away in search of the pikes. The stranger climbed up to the small platform that jutted out from the wall on the right of the gateway, McLain was already standing there looking out to the western horizon.
‘You and Aurelio will handle the pikes, understand McLain? Nothing complicated about it McLain, if they try to get up the walls stick em with the pointy end.’ The stranger smiled, McLain grimaced and grunted acquiescently. Finally, Aurelio returned, his stout legs pumping as he trotted towards them, on his shoulder he carried four long poles with tapered iron blades set into the ends. The stranger reached climbed partially down the ladder and passed the pike up to McLain. He climbed back up, and rejoined McLain, who was reluctantly clutching his pike with a single, white knuckled hand. Aurelio yelped as he pointed with his pike to what McLain had missed and the stranger had already seen long before when he first climbed to the rampart. Directly under the mid afternoon sun, a red smudge rose off the horizon into the clear sky. They were coming...

Few things, I hate the current name for the creatures, Daemons, but can't think of any suitable replacements, any ideas?

I tried to cut down a little on superfluous description, restricting it mainly to actions which pertained to the story and character appearance and so on, so hopefully this will be a little more straightforward.
Anyhow, comments?
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Old 02-26-2005, 07:13 AM   #9 (permalink)
Darth Mojo
 
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Location: Right behind you...
wow. I hearby forbid you from giving up on this story!

I'll think of some ideas for the Daemons. Right now, I can only come up with Rippers
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Old 02-27-2005, 01:00 AM   #10 (permalink)
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i'm assuming that "greys" refers to "daemons", no? and i can also only assume that you're talking about some kind of zombie sort of being? daemons seems just a tad too literal, greys works alot better, can't think of an alternative right off hand tho, if anything comes to mind i'll let ya know - but inbetween now and then, i'm sure you'll procure a replacment

i'm intrigued as to what you've got in mind next for this story kostya, as always, unbeleivable writing, keep it up!
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Old 02-28-2005, 07:04 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Location: Brisbane, Australia
*Title to be decided.*

The leader of the pack was a gigantic brute, it would have stood head and shoulders taller than a man, and even malnourished, its limbs and torso were heavy and thick. Its simian features twitched as it called to the small group with guttural cries, the black pupils, barely discernable in its shiny obsidian eyes darted left and right for the source of the scent it was following. Its large nostrils flared as it tasted the air, its nose was grotesquely snubbed, almost porcine. In anticipation, its thin grey lips have receded, baring two interlocking rows of sharp, curved, pearly teeth, behind which a thick, dark purplish tongue lolled expectantly. As it tilted its head back to catch the scent of Alfredo Garcia’s dead body floating towards it on the wind, its massive jaw jutted outward. Its body was gaunt, ribs and joints peeked through the curtains of sickly grey skin, and its movements were languid though determined. As it trotted, inexorably towards its target, everything about the Daemon, its sharp, flesh-tearing fangs, its powerful bone crushing jaws and its ravenous eyes, bespoke its predatory nature.
Behind the leader, a small, but equally starved group of Daemons followed, though these creatures were smaller than the Alpha, being only the size of an average adult man, their predatory physiognomy was identical and they called excitedly to each other as they caught the new scent of prey, baring their fangs. Each Daemon already had a dark ring of saliva building up around their hungry maws, and the faces of some were smeared with dried blood.
The stranger observed their approach from atop the ramparts as he nonchalantly notched an arrow into his bow. Aurelio flinched visibly as the sound of each Daemon call reached the town, though he gripped the pike firmly with his fat fingers. McLain swallowed hard and fondled his pike for reassurance, as the Daemons broke into a ragged gallop as they caught sight of Garcia’s corpse, now clad only in its drawers lying outside the gate. The stranger drew the bow carefully, and took aim at the leader, who had broken free from the pack and was bounding across the desert ten paces ahead of them, howling lustily. As it moved within fifty paces of the gates, the stranger exhaled slowly in concentration.
‘Shoot it man, for heavens sake!’ McLain’s strangled plea seemed to have no effect upon the drifter, who closed one eye and tightened his grip. McLain was choking in panic, he gurgled incoherently and almost toppled backward from the rampart. The Alpha was only ten feet from the corpse, when the stranger loosed his arrow.
It sailed through the air in a perfect arc, dropping as it sped towards its galloping target, lodging itself in the gigantic Daemon’s eye socket with a meaty report. The force of the arrow’s impact twisted the Daemon’s head violently to the side, and its skull snapped backward as the colossal body pitched forward sickeningly into the dust.
‘Stone heads McLain,’ the stranger muttered as he notched another arrow, which was indeed tipped with chipped flint, ‘Apache use stone heads, I don’t.’
The smaller Daemons hardly noticed their fallen leader, skirting around its twitching corpse, they were drawn by their insatiable hunger to the meal ten feet away. The stranger took aim again as they enveloped the corpse in an orgiastic feeding frenzy, his second arrow fell too quickly and struck the Daemon, a smaller juvenile on the edge of the group below the throat the throat. Gouts of warm, blackish blood welled from the wound, but the Daemon was unfazed, it managed a distress call as it clamped a hand around the wound. Instantly the group responded, feeding ceased, and they suddenly took notice of the defenders atop the wall. They surged towards them, leaving Garcia’s mangled remains behind, led by the wounded juvenile who continued to bark for assistance. The stranger loosed one last arrow as they tore towards him, this time his aim was true and one of the larger Daemons was felled, the shaft protruding from above the bridge of its snout like nose.
The stranger laid the bow aside as the Daemons reached the base of the walls, their calls were urgent and deafening, almost immediately a tall adult leapt towards McLain and took hold of an imperfection in the wooden palisade. McLain thrust his weapon downwards towards it mechanically, whimpering with fear, but still following the simple instructions. The wide blade slid between the Daemon’s shoulder joint, and with an outraged cry it fell back, its arm hanging unresponsively at its side.
Aurelio meanwhile, was in danger. His first strike was batted aside with a powerful forearm by one of the adult Daemons, while to his left, a juvenile had managed to find a handhold and was preparing to haul itself to the top of the wall. The whites of Aurelio’s eyes were visible as he reeled the pike upward hand over hand, and turned his attention to the ascending assailant. He committed heavily to the blow, putting his weight into the thrust, and succeeded in skewering the adolescent through the head, the blade entering just under its ear as it cleared the top of the wall. But as the fiend dropped from the wall, it dragged the pole with it, wrenching it from Aurelio’s hand. The second Daemon stepped over the corpse in search of the handhold. Aurelio fumbled frantically for something to throw.
McLain’s fear was overcome by the success of his first blow, and he struck out again as the Daemon he had just wounded mounted a second assault on the wall flanked by two other large adults. The weight of his pike was enough to smash through the bridge of the Daemon’s nose, and it died noiselessly. The Daemon on the right had its hand amputated by the drifter’s bizarre weapon as soon as it found a chink in the wall. The attacker on the left hand side was frustrated by the sheer wooden wall, and it scurried towards Aurelio’s side of the gate where the second Daemon was clinging, its nose bloodied from where Aurelio’s boot had stunned it. More Daemons stepped over the corpses and prepared to climb to McLain’s position, they were being overwhelmed.
McLain leaned out over the top of the wall, and balancing precariously, tried to stab one of the advancing Daemons before it could get to the wall.
‘McLain, damn you! Don’t!’ The stranger was too late, the last of the adult Daemons latched onto the shaft of the pike, which sunk into its abdomen and wrenched the pike backward. McLain, still holding the pike, still smiling with premature triumph tumbled forward, over the wall and into the hungry knot of predators below.
Without a sound, the stranger cleared the fortifications, following the bloodcurdling scream of McLain over the wall.
The large, hungry Daemon had clamped its powerful fingers onto the top of the wall, and Aurelio backed away in horror as the sinewy muscles began to work, hauling the starving predator towards him. Suddenly his head cocked sideways, as the second grey set of fingers latched on, and he reached into his belt, fumbling for something. As the Daemon’s head rose above the wall, a triumphant, ravenous grin across its demonic maw, blood still seeping from its nose, Aurelio’s chubby arm swung down with a metallic flash on its right hand. The heavy knife he had pilfered from Alfredo Garcia sliced neatly through the Daemon’s fingers, and caught off guard, the creature fell suddenly, smashing its jaw upon the top of the wall, before collecting the pack member following its path up the wall as it plummeted to earth. The fingers, pattered softly on the wooden rampart as they dropped about Aurelio’s feet.
Aurelio’s opponent landed awkwardly, conjuring a cloud of dust as it collided with the unforgiving desert, and the stranger capitalized on the momentary distraction to cleave in two the head of one of the three Daemons that were advancing upon him. McLain’s screams had ended abruptly when the brute, which had levered him off the wall tore, his throat out with its jaws, the pike still impaled in its abdomen. This same creature, now with a split head, dropped noiselessly, but its companions, the one handed adult and a stout adolescent moved closer, splitting apart to try to flank the stranger. The drifter held his sword in directly in front of him with both hands, poised in position to strike. The one handed Daemon came at him from the left with a low undulating growl, simultaneously, the smaller Daemon advanced in a pincer attack. The Daemons were fast, but the stranger seemed to know their plan before it was executed. With acrobatic precision, his blade cut through the neck of the one handed Daemon, as the thin man slid past the falling corpse and the young Greyskin clawed at empty air. An instant later, the sword angled upward and with a rapid, staccato slash, the drifter severed the head of the young demon. It popped off neatly, like a newly plucked melon and bounced with a meaty slap against the hard dusty plain before the body had even sunk to the ground. Gouts of thick, black blood coursed from the bodies, congealing quickly into a crusty tar. As the last remnants of the pack, the stranger reached for the rag in his pocket to clear his blade before the blood clotted on his blade, but it was nowhere to be found.
The two Daemons from Aurelio’s side of the gate had recovered and they began to circle towards the dangerous threat, joined by a wounded young one, the stump of the arrow was still protruding rudely from the cleft of its collarbone, the wounded surrounded by a glossy obsidian coating of clotted blood. They were more cautious now, moving slowly, deliberately, watching the stranger’s movements intently.
They had him surrounded on three sides, and as they began to close, the stranger drew his blade through a fold in his shirt, the greasy, half dried blood catching in the coarse fabric, and then reassumed his inert position, blade in front, facing the largest of his assailants. They closed slowly, trying to get behind his peripheral vision to attack, but his eyes watched the lengthening shadows in the dust below his feet, which told him all he needed to know.
Everything slowed to a stop. The Daemons paused, just beyond the range of the drifter’s bizarre instrument, none wanting to make the initial, probably suicidal attack, and the stranger’s body remained motionless, coiled in waiting.
Over the deadly calm, all of a sudden, the air was filled with a venomous hiss. Before the Daemons had registered the sound, the drifter was in motion, and his katana sliced through the upraised hand and then the skull of the Daemon behind him on the left, while the arrow from the ramparts struck the adult which had been standing directly in front of him through the left knee. His sword did not halt for an instant, having slaked its blood thirst in the first victim, its glinting steel searched with precision as he pirouetted, finding the throat of the fingerless Daemon to his right. The largest tried to advance upon him, but the severed tendon behind its knee sent it crashing into the dust, where it was executed with violent grace by the stranger’s humming blade, the head removed with a single blow.
Upon the ramparts, her blonde, tousled hair unfurled into the wind, Sarah Black waved awkwardly…


Bonus offer: Name my flesh eating humanoid predator!

Basically, now that you've got a better idea of what these things are and look like, feel free to suggest names. If your name is selected, it will become the name of this chapter, and I will send you a preview of the next section as soon as its written.
Any questions regarding biological/theological dimensions of these thingamabobs, PM me, I'm kind of building a theoretical database on them, in my mental, crazy head...
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Old 02-28-2005, 09:45 AM   #12 (permalink)
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I see this thread just as I have to leave for work - don't worry, I'll come back and read it.
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Old 03-01-2005, 05:37 AM   #13 (permalink)
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The next part is written and waiting to be claimed...

This new bit kind of opens up another line of narrative, and enriches the context a lot, so um yeah, think up a radical name someone...
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Old 03-01-2005, 06:19 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Possible names - and feel free to laugh, I'm just spewing ideas:

Segaroths - totally just made that up
Caniedolons - eidolon is a form of phantom or feared powerful being, Canni for cannibal/human eater
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Calling from deep in the heart, from where the eyes can't see and the ears can't hear, from where the mountain trails end and only love can go... ~~~ Three Rivers Hare Krishna
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Old 03-01-2005, 03:34 PM   #15 (permalink)
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That's the spirit!

Keep the suggestions coming people!
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Old 03-02-2005, 06:49 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Ok, here's some ideas I've had in the meantime:

Mago or Magi - A shortening of Magog or Gog, the nations which rise against the Lord according to the book of Revelations. I'm not religious, but when people metamorphose into grey skinned flesh eating beasts and such people would be inclined to say its the Apocalypse. The history of this story is that some time in the seventeenth century the world is gripped by this scourge, so I suppose people like the pilgrims and the devout Catholic Spaniards would presume it was the Apocalypse.

Molochs - Again Biblical, demon name, just stuck.

Ghouls? Too obvious, but maybe something derived from it?

Bael - Derived from Babael the Keeper of Graves?

Er, I'm out.
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Old 03-02-2005, 09:14 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Of those, I like Moloths- Saying or reading the word, it just seems to ooze out evil/bad vibes.


Oh, by the way - the next chapter is awesome! Especially the Soldado part
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Calling from deep in the heart, from where the eyes can't see and the ears can't hear, from where the mountain trails end and only love can go... ~~~ Three Rivers Hare Krishna
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Old 03-02-2005, 10:03 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Location: Republic of Panama
I think you need to do some character development. small spanish speaking towns, bar tenders who answer "si senor" and offer whiskey, baddies called alfredo garcia - its all been done to the death.
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Old 03-02-2005, 04:33 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Most true nowthen, pretty much that whole opening was me indulging in a big Western homage. I guess if I spoke Spanish I would say 'Si senor' to anyone who asked, but point taken.
Alfredo Garcia's only been the bad guy in one film, Peckinpah's freaked out neo-western Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia and he died really early on, just like in my story. hehehe.
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Old 03-03-2005, 04:11 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Well, soldiering on with Daemon for now.

Montana de Oro



Drake could feel the sweat trickling down his spine as he reached for the another rock, it had been a long hot day, the kind of day when he even wished he was down the mine instead of working on the surface. He was working alongside three others around his age, Pepe, Fanon and Sawyer.

Pepe brought the large boulders in need of crushing to Drake from the ever-present pile at the mine entrance. He was short, but strongly built, and he heaved pumpkin sized rocks without slowing from dawn until dusk. The others called him El Toro, not so much because of his build, which was indeed that of a bull, but because of Pepe’s surly disposition and short temper. Pepe had dumped chunks of ore at Drake’s feet mercilessly for the entire day, offering no assistance when the others fell behind. Drake did not much care for Pepe, especially since his relentless routine was impossible to match, and as a consequence, Rollo the slave master had chastised him for being too slow.

Fanon was the raker for the day. His job was to rake the crushed fragments of ore from the chamber into a cart, using a long handled wooden toothed rake, tossing back those pieces larger than a thumb. When the cart was full enough, he rushed it over to the hand crushers, who ground the shattered rocks into dust for smelting. Fanon was amicable enough, but he spoke only French, and Drake could never understand a word he said. This did not deter Fanon, and the boy spoke often, singing and offering esoteric comments to nobody in particular as the day wore on.

Sawyer has the easiest job, all he had to do was wait until the crushing block had been raised, and he then heaved on a weighted rope to disengage the gear which attached it to the ever-rotating mill, which released the huge granite block and it plummeted into the chamber with a terrible crash, shattering the ore. Sawyer was the oldest, and largest of the boys, he ought to have been sent down into the mine to work two summers previously, but he was also a turncoat and Rollo had allowed him to remain on the surface in return for his treachery. It was a known fact that Sawyer was an informant for the slave drivers, but he was an excellent fighter and a violent bully and harming him would incur the wrath of Rollo and even Don Francisco, so nobody challenged him though all despised him. Because he had helped the authorities so many times, he was rewarded with the easiest and simplest jobs, despite the fact that he was one of the strongest men at the Montana de Oro.

Drake hurled one last lump of ore into the chamber, and as it clattered about inside, Sawyer gave his hoarse warning.

‘Stay clear!’

He yanked heavily on the rope, and the great monolithic cube of granite came down with a deafening crash. Drake and Fanon shielded their eyes from the flying debris momentarily, before both returning feverishly to their work. Their meal was not far away, the sun was beginning to set, and even Rollo and his cronies moved sluggishly, keen to retire for the evening. From the other side of the furnace, Drake detected the warm scent of Soldado Soup bubbling away in the great cast iron cauldrons, just waiting to be consumed. His stomach complained as he heaved another rock into the chamber, Pepe hadn’t slowed despite the advancing shadows, and he was returning with another load, Drake could hear the whining squeak of his barrow wheel as it approached.

He sniffed the air again, savouring the meal it spoke of. Soldado Soup for the forth night in a row, Drake smiled inwardly, this much meat was hard to come by. Usually, the men of Montana de Oro were served a thin, salty stew of beans and potatoes, which was more water than vegetables, and two thick slices of tasteless black bread. Over the last seven years, Drake had come to despise and love that soup and bread in equal measure, each evening he lusted for it in hunger and each night in the dark he cursed it for never being quite enough. Tonight was different, a large pack of Daemons had attacked the mine a few days ago, tonight would be Soldado Soup. Whenever Daemons attacked, the slave master had the carcasses gathered from outside the wall and butchered for their tough grey meat and strong sinew. Many years ago, when the Daemons had first scourged the land, the Spaniards had called them La Soldados Del Diablo – The Soldiers of the Devil, the English speaking men from the mine called the meaty broth that Jimenez the Cook made from their meat Soldado Soup. Drake had at first hated the greasy grey meat of the Daemons even more than the watery fare they usually received, but it was more filling, gave more energy and once one grew accustomed to the strange tang of the meat, a rare and much coveted treat.

Around him, as he worked, Drake could hear the rest of the camp beginning to wind down, the clunk of the hand crusher’s blocks had slowed, the echoing tramp of the miners ascending from underground to receive their meal grew a little louder, and as Pepe dumped his load at Drakes feet, he uttered his first word for the day.

‘Acabado.’

Finished.

As Pepe loped away, the unwelcome sight of Rollo came into view from behind the furnace, already Drake could see he was coming to needle him for laziness. Quickly he doubled his work rate, heaving stones as fast as his tall, thin body would allow, and meanwhile, Fanon swore in French as the ore Drake tossed in impeded his raking.

‘Scum!’ it was Rollo’s pet name for Drake, ‘Hurry up and finish that pile Scum, or you can forget your dinner!’ Rollo menaced him with a fist as he approached. Drake feverishly hauled the rocks, there were only three left to move, but there came the sound he had dreaded.

‘Stay clear!’

Sawyer chuckled audibly as he yelled, before yanking the rope. The block came down again, almost smashing Fanon’s rake which he got clear just in time. Sawyer released the rope, and above them the steel cog clicked back into place and the granite block rose painstakingly into the air again. As it did so, Drake quivered with rage, inside the chamber, most of the ore was too large to be raked, Sawyer had pulled the rope prematurely. Seething, he reached for another rock, expecting the fiery sting of Rollo’s cane on his back at any second.

Instead, there was an odd grinding sound, and the granite block suddenly jerked to a stop, halfway to the top of its ascent. Even the mill stopped turning, and from the open topped stone cylinder, there came a frightening roar.

The mill that powered the crushing block at Montana De Oro, was the work of the great French engineer Claude Hulot of Noveau Marseilles. Drake, and every other man at the mine knew this because Claude Hulot was the only slave to leave Montana De Oro with his life. Don Franciso had paid him for his services by setting him free when the mill was completed and functional, six years earlier. Nobody knew how or why a man such as Claude Hulot, who had built the citadel of Noveau Marseille during the Cherokee War, had come to be Francisco’s slave, but because he had walked out the gates of Montana De Oro alive, and because his device had released them from the hardest job of all, he was a hero of mythic proportions amongst the men.

Hulot’s design was brilliant. The mill was powered by two hulking Daemons, Hugo and Buey. The mill was actually part of the walls which stretched around the entire mine in a huge rectangular quadrangle, extending out from the sheer cliffs at the base of Montana De Oro. The mill doubled as a prison for Hugo and Buey, a fifteen feet high cylinder of equal width, made entirely of stone. Inside, each Daemon was attached by a short chain to thick arms which radiated out from a wooden shaft at the centre made of a pine trunk. Extending perpendicular to these arms, to make a big X at the base of the mill, were two others, on the end of which were large hooks laden with raw meat. Every day, Hugo and Buey strained with all their might in pursuit of the impossible meal, turning the mill, which, through a series of diabolically clever cogs and gears, raised the crushing stone and also powered the bellows in the furnace next door. Each evening, one of the guards would unhook the meat with a long pole, and it would be devoured by the Daemons, and each morning they used the hooked poles to attach two more hunks of meat to the arms, setting Hugo and Buey on their futile journey for another days work. The joints in the mill’s gears and mechanisms were greased with animal fat, usually skimmed off the top of Soldado Soup and cooled. The days everyone on the surface dreaded were the days after someone had tried to escape or attacked a guard, because on those days Hugo and Buey worked twice as fast, and everyone, even Pepe struggled to keep up, because the severed limbs hanging off the hooks in the mill were the Daemon’s favorite meal. Life was the cheapest commodity in the Montana De Oro.

Drake could see already the problem, the gear had skipped out of place and was jammed, Sawyer would have to pull the rope again and Drake prayed that the mill was broken and they would simply send him to eat. Rollo, his bald head turning purple, like a bloated beetroot perched upon his shoulders, was trying to poke the granite block with Fanon’s broom. Sawyer had obsequiously trotted over to help him, shouldering Fanon, who was complaining in French out of the way. Drake sat on the black earth, next to Sawyer’s rope, waiting for the dullards to realize the problem and ask him to tug it. He daydreamed as Rollo and Sawyer climbed up on top of the chamber to look in from above, thinking perhaps that a stone had jammed against the inside wall.

‘You can not escape from la Boca del Infierno with a plan Drake,’ that was what Jaco had said after his father had perished years before, ‘the masters have eyes in the mountain watching you.’ Drake missed his father, Francisco’s men had ambushed them in the mountains, his mother and sisters were sold at the next river town, led away in chains. Francisco kept only the men, and he had brought them to Montana De Oro when Drake was only eleven years old. His father was a sickly man, a passive soul and the shame of seeing his wife and daughters sold like livestock had broken him. He had died in the darkness of the mountain from exhaustion after only a year, and his body, like so many others had been tossed into Hulot’s ingenious mill to feed the goliath Daemons inside.

Jaco had saved him. He had come across Drake curled in the snow, his cloak and blanket stolen by other slaves after the death of his sole protector, half frozen and mad with grief. Jaco had sheltered him, fed him and over the years he had taught him to live in the Montana De Oro. Jaco had been a soldier of fortune for the English Lords in the east for many years, but he had been taken prisoner and sold into slavery. He called the mine ‘la Boca del Infierno’, the mouth of hell. Jaco had tried, as best he could to pass on to Drake his warrior skills, but because they were watched so closely it was difficult. The mine had strengthened him, his body was hard and knotted with muscle, his hands were rough and his anger had matured into steely determination.

‘I can’t see anything stuck in ere!’ Sawyer offered as he peeked into the top of the chamber. Rollo climbed back down, shooting a venomous glance at Drake as he did so, and began to inspect inside the chamber. He leaned in, his chubby legs planted firmly in the ground, and twisted his grossly short neck to try and inspect the underside of the block. Sawyer was descending lazily, smirking at Drake with mocking sadness in his eyes, obviously eager to see Rollo’s foul temper brought to bear on Drake’s well whipped back. Above them, the guard on the mill rampart drifted towards the ladder, lured by the smell of Soldado Soup, and around them, the hand crushers and smelting crew followed, taking the guard’s movements as a sign that work was finished. Fanon joined them, chattering away happily with the French speaking hand crushers, a spring in his step as he disappeared, Fanon was particularly fond of Soldado Soup.

Drake’s eyes snapped up. The wall was empty, only the corner towers were manned, each of them forty paces away on either side of the mill. Usually two men were placed in between the mill and the towers with crossbows, and a man patrolled on a circular route around the wall of the mill itself, but Don Francisco had taken many of the mine’s guards earlier that day to transport a shipment of gold from the mine to his fort. Even then the guard on the mill was more than enough to put an end to thoughts of an escape, but he was halfway down the ladder, licking his chops in anticipation of a hot meal. For the first time since he had quietly begun to observe the security at Montana De Oro, Drake was looking at eighty yards of untended wall.

‘One day Drake, fortune will call you, and you must answer,’ Jaco had said this to him before going to sleep every night, for six hellish years in the Montana De Oro.

‘I don’t understand it Saw, it should be working,’ spat Rollo as he lay on his back, inside the camber, looking up at the stone. Sawyer was smarter than Rollo, he didn’t put any part of his body inside the chamber, too many boys had lost hands and arms in it over the years, sometimes because Sawyer himself had pulled the release early with sadistic delight.

Drake fondled the fist sized rock in his hand as he rose with surprising speed, and all the anger that had boiled inside him for seven long year burst into hope as he reached out with his free hand and pulled with ferocity on the rope…

Last edited by Kostya; 03-03-2005 at 04:18 AM..
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Old 03-21-2005, 10:08 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Yeah I was gone for a bit, but now I'm back. I kind of got drawn into this other story which is probably on here too somewhere now.


Leaving Precipice

A spark of triumph flared in Sarah’s heart as she rode away from Precipice. Despite the horrors of the afternoon, she even managed to smile to herself as Garcia’s steed lumbered underneath her. So much had happened in the few hours since Mary had burst into her room babbling that Alfredo Garcia was dead. It seemed impossible, but McLain and Garcia were dead, and she was leaving behind the horrible memories of the cellar. Sarah Black had only been in Precipice for two days, and in that time she had developed a deep and violent hatred for the place and almost everything in it. Her jaw ached painfully where McLain had struck her, and deep in her stomach she could feel nausea quietly hibernating, awakening each time the vision of McLain’s mangled corpse flashed in her mind. She was hungry, terrified, traumatized and hadn’t slept for almost six days, but she was leaving Precipice. Sarah smiled again.

‘By look of you, I reckon you’re from the East.’ The stranger puffed sedately on his cigar beside her as he took one last look back at the town on the horizon, noting to himself with approval that Aurelio had followed his instructions for disposing of the corpses, a column of dirty black smoke had risen into the sky.

‘Angeltown,’ Sarah spoke without meaning to, startled by the sudden question.

‘Angeltown eh,’ the stranger squinted, ‘where’s your family?’

Sarah shrugged, turning her head away from him as she rode to hide the tears which welled up in her eyes with infuriating pain. The stranger’s eyes softened a little, it seemed to be a story he’d heard before, and he remained silent. They rode on in silence for some time, the stranger smoking his cigar and Sarah desperately gathering her sorrow back inside with all her might. By the time she had regained control of herself, Sarah noticed that the small green smudge on the horizon that they had been riding towards had become a grove of trees.

‘There it is,’ he nodded towards it, ‘I need to salvage whatever they didn’t ruin.’ He spoke in the way which had cowed McLain, not making suggestions but prophesying the fulfillment of his will, and Sarah simply nodded mutely.

The sun had just touched the horizon as they tethered their horses to one of the gnarled, sickly trees which lined the small pond of brackish water. The smell made Sarah retch. Strewn around the waterhole were the stranger’s possessions, much of it was undamaged, but a tangled pile of bones and a shredded saddle were all that remained of the mount. The stranger gave an elegiac sigh, kneeling over the remains of his steed.

‘Poor girl,’ he muttered, a little anger peeking through his sorrow. Sarah hovered awkwardly near her horse, unsure of what to say. The stranger arose, and began to gather the items strewn about the waterhole, Sarah hesitated but finally relented and began to search the opposite bank for items of use. She worked her way around the pool carefully, gathering up a flint and some tinder, a pouch filled with tobacco leaves, a flagon with a small tear and a huge, waterlogged bearskin which she fished out of the water with a stick. Sarah was about to head back to the horses, puzzled by why anyone would have a bearskin in the desert when she noticed something in one of the trees. She piled the stranger’s belongings at the foot of the tree and took hold of the lowest branch. Whatever she was trying to get to was lodged high in the foliage, obscured by the broad leaves of the bough. As she edged out onto the branch she was thankful that the rough bark was easy to grip, but it also tore at the skin of her calves and knees as she crawled painstakingly towards the mystery object. Finally, ducking under a small leafy branch, Sarah recognized the object. Hanging precariously from the branch by one of its steel arms was a large crossbow. She reached out, clamping onto the branch with her knees, and plucked it from peril, simultaneously she overbalanced, and as she grabbed the branch to steady herself, she almost lost hold of it altogether, but managed to tuck it under her arm safely for the descent. The stranger was waiting at the bottom when she reached the earth again, inspecting the torn flagon with dismay, but his rigid features lit up when he caught sight of the crossbow Sarah had retrieved from the clutches of the tree.

‘Extraordinary,’ he exclaimed with delight as she handed it to him, panting with exhaustion, ‘I was sure they would eat this,’ he twanged the twisted animal sinew stretched between the steel arms. He began to cart as much as he could carry from Sarah’s pile back to the large one he had already made in front of the horses. Sarah trailed behind, carrying the few small items that he had left behind.

‘We’ll sleep here tonight,’ the drifter said matter-of-factly as he unceremoniously dumped the sodden bearskin and assorted items onto the pile. He massaged his chin with a pensive hand as he eyed the bearskin. ‘We’ll need a fire to dry this out,’ he instructed, ‘see what you can find to burn.’ As Sarah trotted away to gather firewood, she was already devising a plan of escape…

Escape


The sound was unlike anything Drake had heard. Instead of the solid thump which had kept time to enslavement for seven years, there was an awful meaty squelch as Rollo’s corpulent torso squished like an overripe apple under the weight of the gigantic stone. For an instant, Drake’s innards twisted in nausea, a tide of gore welled up against the edges of the chamber where Rollo had been an instant before, but then the inertia of opportunity bore his body onwards with inexorable force. Drake flowed like liquid over the short distance to the chamber, leaping nimbly up onto the now ascending crushing block as it rose again in its inevitable rhythm. Sawyer stood flabbergasted by the chamber, until that is, the rock that Drake hurled caught him with a clack and knocked him out cold. Drake’s eyes darted about him like a cornered deer as he rode the block upward. As it reached to top, he hauled himself onto the framework supporting it and with acrobatic skill he darted across the shaft attaching it to the mill. Finally, there was a startled shout from the corner tower, and as he ran, crouched low, Drake heard a crossbow bolt shatter on the stones nearby.

The mill guard took a wild shot from the ladder he had been climbing down, but it missed miserably, sailing into the emptiness beyond. Drake’s heart was pounding with fear as he reached the other side of the mill, and without hesitation he leapt outwards into the free air. His insides lurched violently as gravity took hold and he began to plummet, and fear boiled up in his blood as he dropped into nothingness. He allowed his legs to relax, and letting them reach out for the earth which was rushing up to meet him below. As he hit the ground he tried to absorb the impact into a crouch, and then rolled aside as Jaco had instructed him so many times. His vision turned black for a moment, and he felt the air in his lungs being pummeled out by the collision. As his sight cleared, Drake realized he was upside down, and he struggled to relocate his limbs in the mess around him.

Panic rose up. Drake began to cry with fear, waiting for the cruel impact of a crossbow bolt to end his life. His breath was little more than choking wheezes and sobs as he finally found his footing. Then, suddenly, he was in motion again, his legs moving under him in perfect synchrony, the air brushing his face as the tree line in front of him jolted closer with each step. The tears on his face turned icy in the wind as he ran, reaching out with his mind for the trees, for safety from the arrows. His lungs had been set ablaze, and now as he moved ever closer to the forest, his chest exploded with pain and each choking breath scalded his throat.
As Drake plunged into the thick undergrowth of the mountain forest, he could hear a great cheer rising over the walls of Montana De Oro as hundreds of slaves urged him onward. He veered left and began to tear downhill, narrowly dodging between the thick pines which crowded the slope. Another sound floated to him down the mountain as the cheer died away, one which sliced into him like an icy blade, the throaty howl of the hounds. Drake’s legs pumped harder, despite the terrible pain now pulsing with each heartbeat in his veins. The terrain around him became a blurry haze of green as the incline of the slope became more pronounced, and without warning, Drake stopped running and began falling. The ground simply disappeared, and around him the claustrophobic foliage opened into a great chasm of space, and he plunged, legs still pumping into the void without even the breath to scream…
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