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 Ch. 44: Released

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Dye
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PostSubject: Ch. 44: Released   Thu Apr 29, 2010 7:17 pm

“JAKE!” Jake didn’t hear Dye calling to him. He was too busy searching for his prey. Everywhere, the belching of smoke from burning buildings and the crashing of falling masonry told him of the disarray the city was quickly falling into. Jake ignored the town center, his clan mates spreading out as the demon went elsewhere to spread destruction, Dye’s cries of confusion as he tried to discern Jake’s purpose. He didn’t want to know what Dye thought of him, wearing demon tattoos and wielding his twin axes, skin darkening, but not yet black. At least he could think clearly, with only the occasional pointer from the voice inside his head.



He’s right up ahead, moving west. If you keep moving, you’ll end up behind him. Then we can get him. Ok, right. No, go left. Whatever. Jake cleared the voice from his mind as the great, swishing tail of the demon came into view, a row of spikes running down the length of its spine. Without hesitation, Jake sprinted after it, skirting the spiked chain trailing behind it, crouching so low that he almost went down on all fours. The tail zoomed towards Jake as he approached it at a breakneck speed. At the last moment, he leaped up, backflipping over the demon’s spikes and delivering savage blows with his twin axes. For a moment, everything stood in balance. Then everything happened at once. The demon roared, shattering windows and raining glass into the rubble-strewn streets. Jake landed, driving his twin axes into the ground and making a small, black crater with the impact. Pieces of demon tail flew everywhere, spewing a volatile cocktail of blood that hissed and frothed, burning everything that it touched. As Jake looked up, the demon writhed for a moment in pain, then turned that pain into rage and turned around to confront him.



The moment Jake saw the eyes, everything almost ended. The demon bore down on Jake with its eyes, glaring at him through two bright slits that spoke of blood flying and bones crunching and men dying and towns crumbling and women crying and bells ringing and.... Time stood still.



Then the demon blinked.



“I win.” Jake grinned and lunged, borrowing strength from his inner demon to propel him above the head of his opponent. A flurry of black axes. A horn fell to the ground with a thump. The demon took a swipe at Jake; too late. He was already on the demon’s back, digging one axe through the thick hide and trailing it behind him as he slid down. When he landed on the ground again, a few feet away from the demon’s tail stub, A fountain of blood exploded from the demon’s back as a long gash opened up where Jake had wounded it. Jake was forced to run for it as the demon began to rampage blindly, ignoring roads, alleyways, buildings, crossroads, its own chain, as its mind shut down for a moment, letting pure instinct take control.



Great, you made it angry, the voice hissed inside of Jake’s head. What? I hurt it, didn’t I? No, not really. Demons heal pretty quickly. I’d give that gash maybe…mmm…ten minutes. Then he’ll be as good as ever. The tail and the horn probably won’t grow back for a while though. And what was that whole thing about ‘I win’ huh? Well, we were having a staring contest…Never mind. If you want to bring that thing down, go for its head more often, or its legs. Anywhere else and you’re pushing it. Head and legs, got it.



Jake turned around, found that the demon had already torn its way through three blocks of solid stone buildings. He didn’t envy the person who was going to foot the bill for this destruction when everything was over. Lifting up his axes, Jake charged after the demon, taking a shortcut through an untouched alleyway. He skipped over a pile of empty barrels, using the top one as a springboard to launch himself onto the roof of a nearby hotel. From there, he sprinted across loose tiles and worn shingles, staying away from any buildings touched by the demon. He scanned the skyline as he went along, spotting the demon’s horn a couple blocks down. It was working away at a particularly well-built clan recruitment center near the western wall. Jake hopped onto a chimney and propelled himself into the sky, axes raised above him. The demon turned. Not good. As Jake swung with his axes, the demon raised an arm. Each axe bit deep into the arm and stayed there. Jake’s eyes went wide, and the demon grinned, as the arm swung downwards into the ground, smashing Jake underneath it.



A cough. Jake spat up a gob of blood. He felt queasy and breathless, drowning underneath the fleshy mass of the demon’s arm. Then it rose, nearly taking the black axes with it. As Jake leaped to snatch them away, he winced, nearly falling over. He felt his chest, checking for broken bones. You’re lucky, the voice told him. An ordinary human would have been pounded into dust by that blow. But your bones are reinforced with magic, thanks to me. Remind me to thank you later, Jake pouted, spitting out another mouthful of blood. He wiped his face with the back of his sleeve, then looked up. The demon was waiting for him.



The sun was low on the horizon, its red light screening out all color. As Jake tottered, trying to steady his feet, his bleary eyes looked around. Half the city had been destroyed. A quarter of the buildings were on fire. The demon had carved a highway of devastation from one side of the town to the other, its spiked chain taut and straining. On the other end of the chain, Sera must be suffering. Jake grimaced. One blow from this demon and houses fell down. What could match that kind of power? No choice but to find out himself. He raised his black axes and settled into a fighting stance. The demon stamped its feet, sending shockwaves out that nearly topped Jake. Raising its head up, it let loose a roar, sounding faint and tinny to Jake’s battered eardrums. He lurched forward, rolling to one side as the demon brought one fist down, then sliding the other way as the other fist came down. Jake zipped up one of the arms, using his axes to gain a grip on the Demon’s rough skin. He worked his way up and around the arm and danced onto the demon’s shoulder. The demon slowly turned its head to face Jake, but did not react as Jake slammed both of his axes into the demon’s forehead.



They bounced off with a harsh, clanging sound, leaving little more than small, parallel nicks on the surface. The recoil destabilized Jake, sending him tumbling down the demon’s back. He dug in with one of his axes to slow his fall, curling around the demon’s torso and down onto its belly, where one of his feet caught on the belly-button. Without thinking, Jake aimed another savage blow at the demon. This time, his blade sank through the skin easily, burying the axe, handle and all, inside the demon’s stomach. Red blood poured out, scalding Jake’s arm. They both screamed in unison: the demon from the hole in its stomach, Jake from his burnt arm. Then Jake was swept off by a giant demon hand, both his hands going limp in shock, letting his axes fall, clattering, to the ground. The demon raised Jake up to look at him, both hands clamping down on his body. The great, ugly, red face filled Jake’s vision. Then he heard the voice, calling to him in a way it had never done before.



I think it can see me. Don’t let it get me, it’s going to…A loud, ripping sound, like cloth being torn in two. Jake’s mind lightened for the first time in years, instantly going blank. His head felt light and hollow. A part of it had been torn clean away by his opponent’s magic, and he could almost hear the voice spiraling away into the dark abyss of the demon’s gaping mouth. It had eaten its soul. At that moment, Jake knew he was alone.



Everything hurt. His ribs were slowly creaking underneath the weight of the demon’s hands. His arms, pinned to his body, dug into his sides. His lungs were crushed, leaving him breathless. Small cuts received while fighting now began to bleed. The demon grinned at him for a wild moment, savoring its victory, then dropped him. It raised one clawed foot, slowly moving it forward. Everything went dark for Jake as the foot blocked out all light above him. Using his last reserves of strength, he rolled out of the way. A loud thump shivered through his bones as the foot came crashing down. Jake got slowly to his feet. He looked down at his hands, saw that they were clear of tattoos, felt his face, caked with blood. He was just an ordinary human now. Jake resisted the urge to swear, knowing that there was no hope for him to defeat this demon now. He turned to run, and saw the long, spiked chain trailing from the demon’s back, turning the corner, and leading on to wherever Sera was hidden. Jake could almost hear her voice pleading in his head, begging him to help her. With a grim face, Jake turned to look up at the demon, which was shifting around to look at him. He had to do this.



Jake noticed the demon’s feet shuffling about as they tried to find a place to step as the demon completed its turn to face Jake. An idea popped into his head, and he began to run, following the demon’s chain. Heavy footfalls behind him told Jake that the demon noticed. Good. Jake rounded the corner, waited for the demon to catch a glimpse of him, then danced around behind it. The demon shuffled to face Jake, and as it did so, the spiked chain wrapped around its legs. Jake kept shifting around it, forcing it to keep turning. Soon enough, its legs were wrapped up nicely. Then Jake began to run again, away from the demon and it chain. The demon struggled to follow, only to find its legs horribly entangled. It roared and strained, but could do nothing more as it stumbled, then fell. The ground shook so fiercely from this that Jake was sent sprawling. He found himself inches from the demon’s severed horn, the one that he himself had knocked off earlier. He seized it, struggling underneath its weight, and ran back to the demon, which lay on its side, trying to untangle its legs. As Jake approached it, the demon looked up. Eyes widened for one moment. Then Jake gave a small hop, and used the weight of the horn to drive it into the demon’s head.



-----



Priest was fatigued with staying alert, watching for any signs of the girl and the demon possessing her. They had already lost two men from the demon’s rampage, and Jake had disappeared as well. Everyone faced outwards from the center of the town, looking for anything, afraid of sudden death should they venture too far away from the others. It was Dye who called out in shock, bringing everyone’s adrenaline levels up. It was Sera.



She was tottering along, clutching her neck, gagging, as if something were at her throat. Hair in a mess, covered in dust and splinters, blue eyes wide, mouth opening and closing, no sound coming out. Then, she toppled over, lay breathing heavily. Dye rushed over to help her, despite warnings. But he had taken two steps when a sound froze him dead in his tracks. Everyone paused with what they were doing and looked up. Moments later, they were flat on the ground, covering their ears. A faint roar had gone up into the air, slowly growing louder and louder, beating down on the eardrums, blocking out all senses and all thoughts as it commanded the attention of everyone. With the roar, flashes of images ran through everyone’s minds, glimpses of a surreal world, filled with fire and darkness. A vision of hell.



Everything passed, leaving a still quietness over the town of Wa-Kia. The sun was setting, its last rays shining across a land gleaming with metal, thick with blood, heavy with sorrow. But a busy night was ahead of them. Dye picked himself, blinking the dusk out of his eyes. Sera lay next to him, curled up, shivering from the chill of the coming wind of evening. In the distance, Dye heard the chirping of a single bird. It was a beautiful sound, and something that he hadn’t heard since the beginning of the war. What were they having a war over, anyways? He looked down at Sera again, noticed scars around her neck for the first time, as if she had been carrying some heavy burden there that had left its mark. What was war for, anyways?



-----



Jake looked up. The demon’s final roar had nearly burst his ears. Now that everything was quiet, he wasn’t sure that any of it had happened. The demon was gone, along with its chain. But the burns on his skin from the demon blood and the smashed buildings around him only confirmed that all of it did indeed happen. Well, at least Sera was safe now. And so was he. Jake checked one last time, calling out mentally to the familiar voice inside his head. Nothing but his own voice echoing back at him. Jake sighed, began to limp towards the town center. Then he heard it. The beating of the drums of war. Kobi’s army was on the move. Was he ready for this? Jake looked down, saw a pair of sorry-looking salmon thrust into a belt made up of an eel that was more bones than anything else. Yep, he was ready.
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Ch. 44: Released
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