Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Part II - Beginning of Chapter 12

Three months later.
Drawn from its scabbard, the sacred blade screamed, golden adamantium glistening in the Atlantic moonlight. The two-headed creature was scarcely noticeable in the darkness and Danelos’ hands, one above the other, gripped the hilt until he felt the etched metal dig into his palms, his heart beating in his head which seemed to pulse into the sword, bringing it to life. As the furry form maneuvered over the grassy field, its guttural growl portended an inevitable confrontation, but Danelos’ instincts were blind to the signal. Such was the nature of the beast to generate confusion right before it struck. In the gauzy darkness, that dangerous time of twilight when human eyes scarcely perceive, a serpentine hiss hovered around them. From deep within the obscurity struck a snake head with fangs that Danelos quickly deflected with his sword. Before he could find his bearings, again the head lurched forward. It didn’t want to attack him directly; if it had, it would have aimed at a more vulnerable place. These lunges were tactical—this creature wanted to know exactly where it could strike with its jaws, two sets, fangs oozing caustic venom that would dissolve steel. For some reason, this monster showed up in Bar Harbor, Maine of all places, but where the portals existed, these monsters tended to appear. Danelos had managed to lure it into an uninhabited area, but he didn’t know how long that would last. If it had the capacity to strategize, it could lure him somewhere more populated, endangering innocent lives. He’d have to vanquish this thing and do it with minimal loss.
A whistling sound approached, and a boulder, no doubt thrown by the serpent-like tail, hurtled toward Danelos. He jumped out of its path, swinging the blade down, slicing the rock in two just as it reached him, both stony halves plummeting to the ground like a marionette with its strings severed.
            “So, this is how you want to play,” muttered Danelos.
            Another smaller rock came careening at him, and it, too, met the same fate. Following that came a chunk of cement, but he dispatched it as well.
            “Bring it,” Danelos announced, flipping the blade around.
            With that, five other rocks, unearthed by the massive paws, flew at him at once, all but one falling to the ground in pieces having been kissed by steel. The last boulder hit him square in the chest, knocking the wind from him and sending him back fifteen feet while the animal moved closer. Regaining his composure, but thrown off a bit by the proximity to his adversary, Danelos leaped to his feet, sheathed his sword, and darted into a park surrounded by trees, careful to look for bystanders. This time, when the boulder came toward him, no sword in hand, he instinctively threw up his left arm to shield his face and the stone shattered into dust.
            “That’ll work, too,” he said to himself. The manacle had created an invisible shield.
            As the dust cleared, all he could see was a massive oak trunk, having been bitten off toward the base, cast toward him. He knew this would not be pretty. Again the sword came free from its sheath, just in time to come crashing down on the trunk, slicing it in half lengthwise. A second oak knocked Danelos to the ground, an unforeseen consequence of sawdust impeding his vision. Teeth clenched, he threw the same tree back. A third collided with it, splintering both. Intuitively, he gave himself enough room to maneuver. As the last tree whistled closer, he jumped into the air, knowing he wouldn’t get a good angle to use the sword, and he hoped the manacle would do what it had done before. The impact pulverized the tree as it struck his invisible shield, something he would have to ask Hephaestos about at some point, but knocked him down.
            The four-legged assailant finally stepped into the moonlight, and Danelos recognized it as Orthros, a sibling to Cerberos. One of Hades’ hounds. Excellent, he thought. Fiery eyes flared in the darkness. At such close range, the confusion Orthros generated took Danelos off guard, and this time when the serpent tail lunged, it headed for the throat. A swift move of his left arm placed his manacle in the way, and the fangs bounced off adamantium with a clang. Recoiling, the snake head bit Danelos’ wrist, immobilizing it long enough to stagger Danelos. Both feral dog heads reached out to snatch a bite, but they snapped shut just shy of his torso. Even though the manacle was unbreakable, he felt the pressure applied by snake jaws as well as a burning sensation from where drops of venom dripped down his arm. If he was going to free himself, it had to be soon before he became so disoriented that he couldn’t concentrate.
This time, when a mouth attacked him, he kicked it back, enabling his sword arm to come down on the snout, breaking the serpentine grip on his wrist. Orthros didn’t like having his muzzle smacked, and a louder growl signaled a change in strategy. Danelos stepped back a bit to survey the scene just in time to see the dog leaping for him. Taking a firm grasp of his sword, he jumped forward stabbing upward into the chest. Momentum kept Orthros’ body moving as the sword ripped through his abdomen. Crashing to the ground, its innards hanging free, the underworld canine attempted to get to its feet, but he couldn’t get enough strength to push his body up. Side-stepping clear of the frothing mouths, Danelos stood behind them as swung down hard, severing them from their necks, silencing Orthros.
“Back to Hades, mutt,” he uttered as he watched the creature melt into gelatinous ooze and get absorbed back into the earth.
He sat on a bench a few feet away from the dead grassy patch where the hellish hound once lay. His sword back in its shoulder sheath, both became invisible. His chest still ached from when the rock hit him, but he would heal. He wondered how the others were faring, no doubt engaged in similar skirmishes. While he regained his breath, Danelos’ mind wandered back to when he had come to be fighting underworld dwellers.

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