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The International Writers Magazine
: THE GREAT BEYOND Serialised novel
Life in the Afterlife: Our Novel in progress
If you haven't read the previous ten chapters start at Chapter One here

The Great Beyond XI
Brodie Parker
I had an idea of where the attack would come from, but I was a little rattled by the guards he sent after me.

The trail led inexorably to a beach with black sand, then abruptly ended. There was a sun overhead which never moved from its zenith, and burned so brightly that I couldn’t see anything but white radiance beyond three or four feet. I searched along the beach and stopped at the waterline. The ocean was perfectly still.

There was no wind or sound or anything to disturb the peace and tranquility of the scene. There was a precise line separating the water from the sand, though the water was so dark that it was hard to distinguish at first. Even with the intensity of the sun, no light seemed to penetrate the stillness of the quiet ocean. I put a toe in cautiously, and the water began to move in ripples outward. Almost imperceptibly a faint off shore wind began to blow, and as I began to move out farther, I nearly fell face first into the water when my foot failed to connect with anything under the darkness. I caught myself, and felt along the shoreline where the sand ended and dropped straight down where it met the ocean. When my hand broke the surface, so did all sight of it. The light simply refused to break the surface of the liquid.

"Wade in deep water," I thought out loud. I stood back a moment and gathered myself, then I stepped carefully into the water again letting my feet sink ankle deep. I took several steps and sank down to my shins after meeting with no resistance or surprises. The only change I could perceive was that the water was moving more vigorously, and that the small breeze had picked up considerably. I stopped and watched and thought for a moment. "Fierce wind’s fury unfurling. The moon says the way." It sounded better when Clemens said it, so I changed my voice to his and said it again. Sadly, it was no less cryptic than the first time I heard it. Though I stood still for a long while the water and the wind continued to stir around me. I walked a few more paces and began to feel the gradual cyclonic pull that the water and the wind were creating. The farther I moved in, the faster the wind became. It began to howl and churn the water into a whirlpool. Soon it began to form a bowl as the water rose to a wall looming behind me and sloping down to a swirling basin in front of me. I lifted my feet completely out of the water and kept moving forward, searching for the center of the storm. The wind and the water were moving as one with blinding speed. The blaring light suddenly began to soften, and I could make out the center of the whirlpool miles away. I moved out steadily toward it, and could soon see that a moon was slowly eclipsing the sun. When I found the center of the wind and the water spiraling furiously around me I looked up at the moon and waited. I felt something pulse in the air as if the atmosphere had a heartbeat. Then the light completely receded and a single brilliant ray focused on a point off in the distance.

"The moon says the way." Without hesitation I flew in a broad arc over the lip of the water and made for the spot marked with a light emanating from the moon. There was an empty wasteland far from the black ocean where I stopped seconds later. The light was just fading out when I found the staircase leading into the flat ground.

With the end of the eclipse, the blinding light of the sun returned. I made a quick descent and came out into a large cavern. There were lamps on the walls that cast shadows into every possible corner of the room. Standing in the center of the room was just the man I had come to see. I drew my sword and moved out into the room. He turned to face me, and looked exactly like Clemens and Urimaru showed me. His smiled slightly out of an ugly mouth and vanished.

I had expected this when I came in. I had an idea of where the attack would come from, but I was a little rattled by the guards he sent after me. There was a pattern of energy around them that when we connected, (the business end of my sword connecting with it’s vitals), it drew something from me. Then it changed into a dragon. Not just any dragon, a dragon that I had nightmares about as a child. It was unmistakably the same one. I could feel it in my bones. After I killed it, I barely had time to reflect on the aftereffects this battle would have on my psyche when I was faced by an Oni. I read a story about Japanese demons as a child and had nightmares for a week. This too was the same Oni from my dreams. I began to sense a pattern, and lunged into a quick assault before I had to face anything of the Lovecraft variety.

It didn’t take me long to pick up his trail. I followed it through dozens of those gnarly creatures spitting acid and shooting death-rays and cornered him in a large room. The guards were all gone. The rooms smelled of dank earth and mold. The same lamps that I had seen throughout the lair lit this room where he stood clam and relaxed.
"I knew you’d find me." He said. "It seems my sins have caught up with me. I ask only that you make it quick."
"That’s it? No swords at dawn, or pistols at high noon? No epic battle to the death? What the hell are you trying to pull?" I moved in a little closer, keeping my eyes on him and my guard up.
He sighed deeply, and slouched a bit. "I’m too tired for all of that. I’m tired of running and I’m tired of fighting. I screwed up big time with you. I can’t leave this place, and if he finds me, I’ll wish you had found me first. Just do what you came here to do."
"No. Start talking." I said. "Who are you hiding from?"
"You know who." He snapped. "They must have told you. They got to you first. We lost you and you work for them now. You know my master’s name, though if you’ve any sense you won’t say it. I failed him, and when he finds me I’d just as soon not be here to greet him. If you’re smart, you’ll kill me and be on your way with all speed. If he finds you here, you won’t make it out. He’d spend every gram of his power to catch you and keep you prisoner."
"Keep going. I want to hear more."
"Or what? You’ll kill me!" He was losing his temper.
"No." I said. "I’ll turn you over to him."
That sobered him a bit. "Look. I went to a lot of trouble to make this happen. I am tired and scared and I just want it to end. I deserve to die. You have every right and just vindication for my execution. I have done terrible things and I have no excuse. You’ve found me and now it is your duty as one of the soldiers in this war to send me to whatever lies beyond this world."
"You left that sloppy trail so that I would find you and kill you? Did you fail on purpose as well?" I lowered my guard just a little. I wanted the truth, and I was fairly certain I could get it if I looked closely enough.
"No. I simply failed. When I was sure, I came here to hide, and here I will die."

A voice from a dark corner said "Indeed." A piercing line of energy ripped the air apart as it stabbed through Sharper. His face twisted in pain for several moments, then he stiffened and his body shattered like glass in midair. The shards sublimed as they fell to the ground and broke into nothing; Sharper was gone. I turned to the corner and pulled up every defense I had. The figure that stepped out of the shadows was covered with a thick robe. All that I could see of him was the red glow of his eyes. I knew who this was and I remembered what Clemens said. I looked toward the exit. He had it blocked, but I was sure I could break through it; though not before he could trap me.
"How did you find me?" I asked as he stepped forward. I lifted the point of my sword as if to keep him back.
"I didn’t find you, I found Sharper. It seemed the logical place to wait for you. Thank you for accommodating me." He stopped and stood facing me quietly.
"I know they talk tough about you, but I’m not scared of you. I am telling you now, call off the assault on my family. I stopped one attempt and if another occurs there will be no mercy for you or any who stand in my way." I moved closer to him.

With unexpected speed he reached forward and grabbed my hand. Before I could react I was lost in a deep void. It was like that place I went with Urimaru; cut off from everything. Then his voice came out of everywhere, "Perhaps you should reconsider. My master is much more deserving of your vengeance than I. True, I oversee the operation but he is the one behind it all. He bids me do whatever he wishes and I am bound by oath to do so. I will lead you to him, give you whatever you need to destroy him. Together we can overcome him and put an end to his evil reign for all time! Join me. We will be unstoppable!" He was gathering a cage and trying to distract me while putting it in place. I saw it coming, but I waited till the last possible moment before I acted. He was strong. I could feel it all around him, but he was underestimating me. I wasn’t falling for it that easily. I summoned a burst of energy that blew apart his cage and stunned him as I broke the connection. He stood before me, his pale face jutting partially from the hood of his robe, frozen momentarily. I used that moment to hit him with everything I had. It somehow connected with minimal resistance and doubled him over. I pressed the issue and pinned him down. There was something lingering in the air from his cage and I used it to form a cage of my own. I wasn’t sure what I was doing, but I didn’t need it to last very long for what I had in mind. It seemed to hold him firmly as he began to recover from the kick. I found a way past whatever energy field he had blocking the exit and moved out with the cage holding on for dear life.

As soon as we flew up out of the underground lair, I pulled us through time and space in an instant to the one place I was sure to get some help with fighting him. I uttered a prayer to every deity that the cage would hold until then. We landed roughly, but I managed to keep my feet under me. When Shugg finally broke free of the minor annoyance I wrapped around him, he found himself standing before a shocked Clemens and at least nine other equally surprised members of the council.

© Brodie Parker Feb 2005

To be continued...

Only in Hackwriters…
Missed Chapters One & Two of our serialised novel - it begins here
Chapter Three here

Chapter Four here
Chapter five here

Chapter Six here
Chapter Seven here
Chapter Eight here
Chapter Nine here
Chapter Ten here
Chapter Eleven here
Chapter Twelve here 05.03.2005

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