NaNo WriMo Day 1
Chapter 1 of Bittersweet Serenity
I slunk through the shadow offered by a pair of warehouses in Myrna’s industrial district. Cold bit into my skin through leather and the heavy shirt underneath. The battered leather covering my lower half didn’t offer much more protection. My breath formed clouds in my face.
At the street, I tucked my back against the building and peeked across the snow-crusted road.
The target didn’t look any different than the structures standing around it.
Steel sides. High windows. And a pair of overhead doors leading onto the street. One on each side.
I drew my blaster from under my arm. Having the deadly weight in my hand chased back some of the tension in my shoulders. I felt safer with the weapon tucked into my gloved hand.
Impatient, Nulis, the beast said, laughing.
I ignored it.
Somewhere among those rooftops, Klasen was doing the same thing.
“I have four targets in my sights.” Grynlik’s voice came through the communicator in my ear.
“Same here,” Delp said.
I raised my blaster. “Ready when you are.”
“As am I,” Klasen said.
They went quiet.
Silence stretched on for several moments.
Then came the screeching.
The metal door peeled open, spilling two gaunt figures into the icy air. Gray flesh stretched taunt over their skeletons. Sunken eyes rolled about in their heads. Split and bloody lips curled off a set of nasty fangs. The stench of rotting meat wafted around them, mixing with the jagged ice crystals in their aura.
My blaster spoke into the screaming.
They scattered, leaving the blaster round to hiss into the warehouse’s hide.
Nice shot, Nulis.
I threw myself into the street, blaster following the blurring forms of the Wendigo. My finger crushed the trigger twice. Blood hit the snow, but it didn’t steam. The Wendigo I hit shrieked and lunged for me.
No chance to dodge.
Calling on the beast’s strength, I thrust my fist into its gaping maw.
Withered flesh ripped under my knuckles and bone crunched with the strain. Claws whipped past my face. The air currents slapped me with my dark hair.
I pressed the blaster into its ribs.
It flashed away. Finding the end of the street by the time my blaster roared.
I gave chase, but it was well on the other side of the fence when I reached the corner. It’s buddy was already gone.
Although Myrna was the wealthiest city on Vyr-Leona, three sides of it rubbed elbows with unbroken nature. Icy forests full of the native wildlife that had been shuffled about with the expansion of the city. And the Wendigo had decided to flee into those trees.
“Don’t tell me you let it get away, dwarf,” Delp said.
My partner stood a head taller than me. All of it muscle and naturally tan skin. He tapped his signature knife on the thigh of his jeans, leaving a spot of blood on the fabric. To stave off the cold, he wore a thick, red shirt, heavy uniform jacket, and his usual boots. His scalp and the tips of his ears were pink in the cold. Price he paid to shave his blonde hair to stubble. The flush to his cheeks made the scar on his right cheek stand out in relief. The electric current of his aura hissed in anticipation.
My eye twitched. Still not that short.
“And how many did you bring down, wood nymph?” I said.
“At least I stabbed one,” Delp said. The smirk made it to his silver eyes.
“Three of our targets made it into the forest,” Klasen said, as he joined us on the street.
Next to Delp and I, Klasen looked more like an Investigator than an Executioner. Slacks, white dress shirt, shined dress boots, and a heavy uniform jacket. In all the time I’d worked with him, I’d never seen him sully the pristine fabric. His blaster was still naked in his gloved hand. His silver eyes were colder than the air, but the column of fire in his caged aura flickered and spat.
Something was up.
“What happened to the other one?” I said.
“It is dead,” Klasen said.
“I confirmed it,” Grynlik said. She presented her signature blades, covered in dead blood, as proof.
Black fur poked out from the lining of her purple hoodie. Beneath was a black shirt decorated with a grinning skull and a wreath of knives. Her jeans had a smattering of dark blood on them. And her boots looked as battered as mine. Her pale skin made the cold flush appear bright red. She had her black micro braids pulled back in a loose tail. The fire and scales of her aura rolled with agitation.
The flaming ribbons of my own answered her.
“Time for a hike,” I said.
A short distance on the other side of the fence, the tracks diverged. Since Wendigo were usually solo hunters, I wasn’t surprised they’d split at the first sign of opposition. I’d bet the only reason they were nesting in such close quarters was the abundance of food offered by the urban population.
The wounded Wendigo left us a dark trail to follow over the snow.
As we neared the place it had gone to ground, I signaled for the others to spread out.
The stench of rotting meat grew with each step through the snow.
When I spotted the target, I ducked behind a tree.
It hunched against a boulder protruding out of the snow cover. Dark blood pooled at its feet. Its jaw appeared to be in working order again, although the flesh hadn’t mended.
“I’ll hit it first,” Delp said over the communicator.
“Don’t get eaten, wood nymph,” I said.
“Take your own advice, dwarf.”
Branched clattered against each other as Delp charged out of his hiding place. Even my demonic vision couldn’t keep up with the speed of his movements. His blurred form tossed a wave of snow on either side of his path.
The Wendigo’s head darted up and locked on his progress.
It screamed and met his charge.
Claws and knife flashed in the bitter air.
Dark blood spattered the snow. A slash appeared in the Wendigo’s side.
“Take the first shot you can,” I told Klasen. With the two of them blurring around each other, Klasen was the only one with eye capable of seeing a clear shot.
Delp and the Wendigo danced around each other. Dark blood made swirling patterns in the snow.
My jaw ached. Shoot it, Klasen.
Blade and claws slid off each other with a shing.
A blaster roared.
The Wendigo’s head exploded.
“Nasty,” Delp groused as he wiped a hunk of rotten flesh off his scalp.
“Do not stand so close to it when I am shooting next time,” Klasen said.
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Get down,” Grynlik yelled.
Only then did I see another Wendigo rise up behind Delp.
He managed a single step before the creature’s jaws clamped down on his shoulder.
Two blasters spoke.
One of the rounds skimmed over the Wendigo’s scalp and the other ripped through its cheek, taking a hunk of the upper jaw with it. The Wendigo’s mouth went slack, and Delp stumbled away from it, gushing bright blood into the snow.
Klasen fired again.
The injured Wendigo darted free of the round.
Behind you, Nulis, the beast muttered.
And the third Wendigo’s clawed hand smashed into my face. Hot blood and pain streaked across my cheek, chin, and brow. I hit the snow, blaster whipping up to answer the blow. My round skimmed its side as it leapt over me.
The Wendigo screamed at her.
Get off your ass, Nulis.
I spat blood as I dragged myself to my feet.
Grynlik darted and spun around the Wendigo. Her blades followed the choreography precisely enough to snip claws off the creature’s flying hands.
Nice. The beast rumbled his approval.
“Down,” I said, and Grynlik ducked out of my firing line. I sent three rounds into the Wendigo’s torso.
It answered by leaping over Grynlik with its remaining claws aimed at my face. I twisted, and the blow caught my shoulder, shredding leather. Two claws screeched over my steel arm, but their partner took a chunk of flesh with it. The hand gripping my blaster went limp.
I hit the snow on my ass.
Grynlik leapt through the snow like some kind of avenging spirit. The seconds dragged by as her body stretched, arms going back in preparation for her strike. I saw the Wendigo twist around in the corner of my vision.
Time reasserted itself.
Grynlik’s blades sang over each other.
She and the Wendigo hit the snow. It’s head rolled into a tree.
She spat on the body.
I want her on my team, the beast said.
She already is, asshole.
Don’t play stupid, Nulis.
Before I could reply, the roar of a blaster had me turning to face where Delp had fallen.
Klasen stood over the fallen form of the last Wendigo. His blaster pointed at its destroyed head.
Dead flesh speckled his pristine shirt.