PRW Runner-Up Tour: Rise by Brian Heil
Green fields stretching outward as far as the eye could see. Sun streaming down comfortably warm. One could almost think this is paradise.
Her voice calls, echoing along the sea of grass, drawing me forward. Suddenly I am in a wood, wildlife singing all around. One foot in front of the other, a path materializes before each step. Smiling contentedly I start to hum an old lullaby my mother used to hum. The cool shade of the forest gave way abruptly to a small, intimate clearing bathed in golden sunshine, a small pond reflecting the blue sky above.
The voice calls, more urgent. Stepping to the waters edge I look down, expecting to see my own reflection. Instead, the most beautiful woman I’ve ever laid eyes upon stares back, smiling slightly. Her eyes seem to drink me in, as if I were the only person in the world.
She stretches out her hand which amazingly rising from the water. She is no mere image, but real. Tangible. Nodding to me, she silently urges me to take her hand, to help her rise. Without thought I stretch out my hand, feeling an overwhelming sense of longing, of desire. I knew that I belonged to her.
I stretched further, extending myself fully over the water, still absent a reflection. Our fingers inched closer, almost touching. I felt the faintest brush, a soft warmth across my fingers.
I jerked awake with a start, banging my head with alarming force.
“What? What’s going on?”
“We’re here.” A dry voice says beside me. Looking over I see John behind the driver’s seat of his beat up old jeep. With a crash, everything comes rushing back to me. “You fell asleep! Made me drive the three hours out here after our shift. No, couldn’t be bothered to offer and drive part of the way.” He shoved a wrapped burger at me. “Eat up and wake up. It’s almost game time.”
Indeed it was. The afternoon sun gleamed weakly over the rain slicked pavement as I absently began to eat the lukewarm burger. Mulling the dream over, I couldn’t shake the image of the beautiful woman. How much I felt like I needed her. Who is she? As cheesy as it sounded, I had this feeling that I had met my soulmate. Well, dreamed being the more accurate term.
“So Arthur, remember. Vampires are extremely fast.” Startled out of the confusing thoughts, I began to calm my mind, focusing on the rhythm of my heartbeat. Allowing its soothing pulse to wash over me, I turned my entire focus onto John and our task.
“They’re also stupid-strong. So DO NOT let one get close enough to get their hands on you. Much less their teeth.” John shuddered.
“I know what I’m doing, John. This isn’t my first rodeo.”
“I know it’s not, but you seem distracted lately. Are you having dreams again?” He turned to face me fully and I could tell by the slight glow to his green eyes making them gleam like emeralds – that he was focusing his power on my response.
“I should have never told you about that.” I replied, breaking eye contact. “It’s fine. I’m fine. Really.”
“Alright, well… Get your head in the game. It’s show time.”
Glancing quickly up, I caught the last glimmer of sunlight over the roofs of the surrounding warehouses. With a startling abruptness it disappeared completely, and John shot out of the car, swinging quickly to the trunk. I followed, watching his efficient movements as he slid out of his designer suit and into combat fatigues.
I smiled at the turn of events that put us each down our separate but intersecting paths. Seven years ago in high school, finding out that the things from stories – the things that go bump in the night – were in fact real was quite a shock. An even bigger shock was to learn how talented we both were in combating them. A few adventures and misadventures followed until college. I went to university on a lacrosse scholarship, John went abroad on academic. We stayed in touch, meeting up on holidays to hone our new craft.
“Whoa, get new cards?” I asked, holding up a thin metal business card. “Business must be booming, what is this? Steel?”
“Silver. It’s an easy test of who or what I’m dealing with.”
“Smart.” I looked down, reading the card with more than a little pride, thinking of the scrawny nerd from high school who was all book and no brawn.
I set the card down in the trunk, placing my personal belongings beside it. Watch, keys, wallet and badge. Before setting it down I slid my fingers slowly over the textured metal of my Washington D.C. Police Department badge. Still wondering if I made the right choice in joining the PD over going into business with John, I threw it down and started to get out my own equipment.
A tactical vest with ceramic plates went over my t-shirt. I slapped my pistol holster against my thigh, testing the distance quickly before cinching it into place. Sliding extra magazines into pouches on the vest, I made sure that I was grabbing the correct silver tipped ammunition.
As unfashionable as it may be, I attached a fanny pack around my waist filled with essentials,situating it comfortably for easy access.
Finally, I belted a sword and scabbard around my hips. Placing it comfortably on my left side, I looked up to see John nodding his approval.
“I’m glad you brought it.”
“Well, you keep nagging me to. Plus all the practice hours we’ve put in, I figured I ought to put it to use.”
“You’ve a gift with the sword, Arthur.” He said, fingering the ring he wore on his index finger. “Mine lie in… Other areas.”
“Yeah, yeah. Voodoo hocus pocus. I know.”
A wolfish grin crept onto John’s strong face. Not so nerdy or scrawny these days, I noted.
“It’s full dark. You ready Pendragon?”
“I was born ready, Merlin.”
“Dude, are we there yet?” I whispered, cringing as it echoed beyond appropriate proportion down the tunnel. John turned to stare emerald daggers at me, his face illuminated by the witchlight hovering gently over his shoulder. Glancing down at his palm, he grunted in disgust, wiping his hands together canceling out his spell.
“This is strange.” He said, speaking aloud. I looked at him incredulously. “Oh grow up. Whispers carry more than talking. Besides, our quarry is evasive. I can’t get a lock on them.”
“I thought you scouted this coven. You said you got a good fix on the elder, and that the rest were barely even blooded.”
“True.” John said, frustration tingeing his words. “It’s almost like something is interfering with my spell. I dunno, it could just be -“
A loud crash echoed to us from down the tunnel, drowning out John’s words. Without realizing, I had drawn my sword, feeling the blessed steel tingle slightly in my hands. Why didn’t I draw my pistol first?
John began casting a spell I hadn’t heard before, mumbling quickly in Latin and clutching his focusing rod. I glanced back the way we came, making sure nothing was sneaking up behind us. By the time I turned back around, John was already twenty feel down the passage, beckoning me forward.
I jogged to catch up, slowing at John’s admonishing look. We crept further along the tunnel for what seemed ages. Finally we came to an iron door with an old style wheel locking mechanism like you expect to see on submarines. As I stepped forward to grasp the wheel, John whispered a quick incantation. Grunting with effort, I managed to get the lock spinning, soundlessly. John and I had practiced this trick before, he silenced the door with a spell as I got it open. I pushed the door silently open, spinning to check our six, pistol drawn as he swept by with his shotgun up and ready.
He tapped my shoulder twice, signaling my entrance into the room. I spun, pistol held low and stepped through the door.
Onto a catwalk overlooking an abandoned power station. John was crouched in the corner, already casting a location spell on the vampires. Crouching in the shadows next to him, I looked down in horror at the scene below.
“Dude, you said we were going up against vampires, right?”
“What are zombies doing here then?”
John opened his eyes and looked down, obviously for the first time. “Oh…”
At least twenty zombies milled about on the floor below us. There appeared to be another tunnel leading away on the other side of the eerily silent undead.
I slugged John in the arm.
“Not cool bro.”
“I had no idea. Vampires hate zombies. I don’t underst-“
A booming voice echoed up from the tunnel below us. John went rigid, the color draining from his face. “There’s a necromancer down there.” He whispered. For the first time since he first discovered he was a wizard, John Merlin sounded frightened.
“A necromancer? Like raises the undead, voodoo style?” I asked.
“Sort of. Necromancers harness life forces. Drain the life from one, put it into another. Summon the life force back from the other side. Even summoning the life forces of demons.”
“Yeah. It’s bad, Arthur. I harness the energy inherent in the universe that is all around us. I can do great things with it, but it tires me out physically and mentally; like running a marathon. There’s only so long I can go without collapsing out of sheer exhaustion. A necromancer uses the life forces of others without tiring themselves. Essentially, as long as they have a source, their power keeps going on.”
“Bad juju.” I said. “Definitely bad juju.”
“Yep. Look, I think I can take out these zombies with a fireball, but it’s going to tire me. If I collapse, you have to keep going. Kill the necromancer.”
“Plug your ears and open your mouth.”
I pulled two grenades from my fanny pack – not so sissy now, is it David – thumbed the safety clips off and slid my finger through the rings. “I said to cover your ears and open your mouth.”
I pulled the pins and opened my hands enough to let the spoons pop off, starting the countdown. “Get ready to move.” Grinning like a schoolboy, I tossed the grenades over the side into the massed zombies below. Crouching, I opened my mouth and plugged my ears just as a colossal BOOM echoed exponentially around the walls of the subterranean complex, an intense pressure almost knocking me off my feet.
Jumping up, I hauled John to his feet and sprinted down the stairs. Hurtling uncontrollably I realized a bit late that the bottom section of stairs were missing, ripped apart by the blast. I leapt forward, easily clearing the warped debris and landed, losing my balance briefly as I slid in zombie muck and… pieces.
An impact to my side sent me stumbling further as John landed beside me, falling into a heap of grunts and curses. Two zombies ambled forward out of the smoke, making their way to John. Regaining my balance I slid forward, sword erupting from its sheath as I launched myself into a fighting form John and I had researched: Headsman’s Axe.
The sword slid neatly through the neck of the first zombie, just as it was descending on John. With a soft sizzle, the head went careening away into the smoke as the body lurched to the ground. Completing the spin, my sword took the head of the second zombie before it could even register my presence. A flash of light passed inches from my ear, and as I turned a third zombie erupted into a mass of charred bits as John’s lightning spell did its work.
“Likewise.” He turned to the tunnel, muttering again in Latin, slowly growing louder. He thrust out his hand with a final shout and a ripple of air shot from his fingertips, growing larger until it filled the tunnel, disappearing into the darkness. John’s shoulders slumped slightly as he reached to steady himself against the wall.
“Whatever magical traps should be dis-“
A groaning shriek of metal tearing and a bright flash came from the tunnel, dust billowing out of its mouth covering us in a thin layer.
“-posed of. I’m really getting tired of being interrupted.”
“Maybe you should time your speaking a bit better? Or your explosions, your pick.”
“Shut up.” He pushed himself from the wall squaring his shoulders and began walking down the tunnel. “Coming Pendragon?”
As I caught up we hurried our pace, trying for a mixture of stealth and haste. As we moved further down the tunnel, a faint red glow appeared in the distance, the chanting starting again.
“He hasn’t stopped?” I asked. “Isn’t he worried about who made the ruckus?”
“Oh yes, he’s worried. His summoning has picked up speed.” He stopped, head cocked to the side. “We have to move. NOW!” John shouted, breaking into a sudden run. I sprinted after, quickly overtaking him and leading the charge.
We found ourselves suddenly in a large room bathed in a muted red light. Looking to the corner, I saw a cloaked figure, arms outstretched. Holding a dagger. With a shout, the necromancer thrust the dagger down toward the heart of a man prone on a raised dais.
Without thinking my hand shot to the drop holster at strapped to my thigh. Bringing the pistol up I fired on pure instinct. Much to my surprise – possibly more so than the necromancer’s – the dagger was sent flying out of his grasp.
With a snarl, he turned to face me, face still hidden in the shadows of the hood.
“Nice shot.” John muttered, stepping up next to me. Stand down, necromancer. Surrender and we will take you for trial before the council.”
“The council?” The necromancer said in a low, menacing and extremely female voice. “I sincerely doubt you are with the council. Freelancers maybe? Never mind. Turn around wizard. Take your battle-born and leave me to my work.”
“Battle-born?” I mouthed to John. He shot me a silencing look.
“Necromancer.” He boomed, stepping forward. “This is your last-“
“Chance?” She mocked, a smile crossing her suddenly illuminated mouth. “I think not.” She stepped around the dais, putting it between her and us. “Poor little wizard. You’ve spent so much of your energy getting here. We’re you after the vampires?” She gestured to a pile of charred sand in the opposite corner. “There they are. Last chance. Take your prize and leave, wizard. You’ve bitten off more than you can chew.”
That’s it, just a smile. I knew that smile all too well. It meant that he knew something no one else in the room knew. It meant he was about to do something devious. Without a second thought, I threw myself behind some nearby debris as John brought his hand up, twisting the ring on his finger as he did. With a word, a blinding flash, a clap of thunder and darkness.
My ears were ringing. Someone grabbed at my arm, trying to pull me up. I jerked away, fumbling for my sword.
“Arthur! It’s me. It John.”
“John? What the hell just happened?” I asked, coughing on the dust hanging thickly in the air.
“I activated my insurance policy.” He said, pulling me to my feet and nodding toward the collapsed wall where the necromancer had stood.
“She got away.” He answered my unspoken question. “Threw up some crazy protection spell that deflected the energy. But I found something interesting.” John pulled me to the remains of the dais, and the body. “He was already dead. See these marks here?” He asked, pointing at the runes scrawled across his chest. She was trying to reanimate him with his conscious still intact. It’s supposed to be really, really difficult.”
“Um, ok? So what does this tell us, John? I’m afraid I’m not quite tracking,”
“It tells us she was looking for information. This type of spell has a limited duration. She would have only gotten a few minutes out of him before he, well, died. Again.”
“This still doesn’t help us. We don’t know what she wanted to ask.”
“Ah, but we do!” He said, holding out a scrap of paper. “Read it.”
I have Christian. The process will be complete by Thursday, and I will then be in possession of the location of Excalibur.
“Excalibur?” I asked. When I said the name, a shiver went up my spine. “Why do I recognize that name?”
“No idea, dude. But it gives us a place to start. Excalibur and a female necromancer named M. C’mon. We’ve gotta go before the police or someone shows up. Between the two of us, we almost blew up a city block.”Zoloft is a strong antidepressant, does not cause medical addiction zoloft tablets buy. Buy Zoloft online from Canada Drugs, an online Canadian Pharmacy that offers … to take a dose then you can make up for it by taking a pill when you remember. Compare Zoloft prices and other prescription drug prices from verified online pharmacies zoloft buy online. Zoloft (Sertraline) Generic Name: Sertraline (SER tra leen) Brand Names: Zoloft where to buy Zoloft online? Canadianpharmacynoprescription Medications…