This story is by Ross Lacey and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
His own faeces putrefied the air. The tang of another’s drifted in, the stench worse than the daemon distended battlefield. Surrounded by cataclysmic catastrophes. A thousand dead men’s faeces, the open bowels of daemons. Diabolic destruction.
His stomach growled. Beast-like. Putrid black talons clutched it. Scratched. Made it bleed.
Drip, drop, drip. His eyes rose and fell to the sound of water. Blurred, his vision locked downward. Dank toes. Black.
He fondled beard. Down, down, down. Fondled filthy floor. Scabrous strands left coarse palm, tip administered back in hand. Sodden. Urine riddled. Sucked. Tongue clapped roof to floor. Salvation. Desparation turned to routine.
Savour the taste. Wait for the gag.
It never came. Lips curled upward.
His ears pricked. A heavy door groaned. Footsteps. Light steps, a heavy gait. Silhouettes loomed. Shadows shortened. They came into view. Features betrayed identity. Snaggle-Tooth towered over Cross-Eyes.
How I yearn to cut him down to size.
The shorter said, ‘Ready for ya first shift?’ accent thick.
‘You could say that.’ said the taller. ‘Always so dark down ‘ere?’
‘Yup. Keep the torch round the corna. Use the dark as torture.’ Cross-Eyes grinned. ‘Okay gi’ me the keys, we’ll keep ‘em up there.’ said Cross-Eyes.
Snaggle-Tooth penetrated his pocket, produced the keys. Dirty rusted salvation.
The bearded man muttered, ‘Ra-. Ga-. Wi-. Ba-.’ between chomps, still sucked sodden strands. Swirled saliva.
Snaggle-Tooth, his tooth beaver-like over his lip, asked ‘Who’s that?’
What is my name? Try to remember your name, come on.
Cross-Eyes said ‘Barbarian scum. Execution’s t’morrow. What ya rambling on about ya stinking Njyordsmen?’. He approached, rattled bars with blade. Metal on metal thundered. Metallic melodies meandered about acoustical confines. Imprisoned.
The barbarian jumped, spluttered droplets. His cavern parched. Their eyes locked. Cross-Eyes’ crisscrossed. Skewed.
‘That’s what a thought. Am off, av fun.’ Vertical opposites nodded. Cross-Eyes limped into the light. Door groaned shut. Darkness ensued. The lone light remained. Heat inconvenient.
The barbarian barraged his beard. Masticated. Hoped to salvage remnants lost. The Njyordsmen eyed Snaggle-Tooth, the tall man backed away. His eyelids teetered. Drop, drip, drop.
Darkness devoured his senses.
Is it dawn? How am I supposed to know with no sun? The drops of water, count the drops. When you sleep you lose count. Forget. Damn it.
He looked for torch light. Dim dawn sky hues danced about the wall, the torch close to extinction. Snaggle-Tooth at his post, dozed. The Njyordsmen expelled rancid breath between gritted teeth.
Mumbled rants emerged.
Snaggle-Tooth glanced his way. Neck extended. ‘What?’
‘Practitioner of alteration.’ One attempt. Two attempt. Three attempt. Four. Sentence formed.
Snaggle-Tooth approached. ‘Something wrong?’
The scum slithered close. He lurched forward. Hands enveloped throat, dragged him forward. Snaggle-Tooth stepped back, fell. Coccyx slapped stone. Snaggle-Tooth glided towards his attacker, pulled by supernatural force. Ankle swallowed by snare.
Each struggle tightened it. Dug into flesh. An arm ejected through the bars before he could scream. Raised him by his throat. Snaggle-Tooth reached for his blade. The Njyordsmen felt blade against groin, Snaggle-Tooth’s groin.
‘Looking for this?’ said the scum. Blade levelled at Snaggle-Tooth. ‘Slid right out. Pity. For you. Let’s see how easy it goes in.’
The blade sunk into Snaggle-Tooth’s stomach. Slow. His young eyes widened. The barbarian, gaze like a lover, watched. Passionate. Hilt hit stomach. He pushed harder. Corkscrewed side to side. Snaggle-Tooth, throat released, stumbled back. ‘Easy as that.’
The Njyordsmen dangled rusted redemption between fingertips. ‘Cross-Eyes always was forgetful. Get him talking and look what happens. You have him to thank for your redemption. Your salvation, your absolution.’
Key met lock. Entangled. Danced. Popped. The sound of freedom. Orgasmic.
The scum strolled through blood, watched it pool. Knelt beside Snaggle-Tooth. Watched him pale. Watched him shake. Watched him leak. Watched him perish.
The Nyjordsmen eyed sodden sword. Tongue at the hilt, he slid the length against taste buds. Snaggle-Tooth watched in horror. His eyes fluttered shut. The barbarian eyed the lifeless legs. Remembered his earlier jest to cut and hack bone.
And blunt the blade for some simple, perverse, pleasure?
Logic overrode artist.
The barbarian followed the cloth snare, its origin next door. The occupant, Trapper. An elder gentleman imprisoned for illegal game trade. Perfect for the job. Lips curled skyward. Key thrust lock. The trapped trapper a freed animal. Uncaged. The barbarian penetrated each lock.
Eight men stood uncaged, himself included. The Njyordsmen named them all after their features and quirks. Trapper, and Twitch, and One-Eye, and Cougher, and Hobble, and Beak-Nose, and Foul-Breath. Rocks collected, they gathered in silence. This plan in fruition for months. Snaggle-Tooth the catalyst.
A righteous cause. I knew he had it in him.
One-Eye nodded. Everybody nodded back. The door opened. All but one rushed in. Urdesh goddess of light flashed, stone walls held torch light. Glorious. Faces contorted. Contracted retinas strained. Rallied and riled the charge continued. Predator pursued prey. Three guards gawked, nonplus, weapons out of reach. Rocks sored.
Behind the charge, the Njyordsmen waltzed in. Area assessed, no surprises awaited. A glorious scene unfolded. A guard called Radin went down, Cougher and Hobble on his back. Cougher smashed a rock against Radin’s face. He screamed, coughed up teeth. Magnificent. Radin would have serious dental issues. If he survived.
One-Eye, and Beak-Nose, and Foul-Breath flung another guard, Derra, over the box. Die and cards scattered. Derra’s garments stripped One-Eye sodomised him. Ravenous beasts. The barbarian winced.
This is battle. Elicit revenge.
Trapper and Twitch, dodged a broom. Trapper in his element. Adrenaline of the hunt; primitive, rabid, wild. Cross-Eyes a cornered animal. The Njyordsmen approached. Trapper and Twitch stumbled aside. Blade raised the barbarian pushed through. Snap. Broom handle halved. Cross-Eyes gawked.
Fist contacted chin. Cross-Eyes’ head flung back, he staggered. The Njyordsmen fumbled forward. Fist smashed stomach. Lungs rasped air, Cross-Eyes doubled over. Stomach enveloped. Knee thrashed nose.
Cross-Eyes fell, slumped against stone wall. Bloodied beard in sight, his eyes darted beyond the scum. The scum followed his eye line. Beak-Nose now thrust behind Derra. Vigorous. Violent, violation ensued.
The barbarian said ‘How does it feel?’
‘What?’ Cross-Eyes’ lip convulsed. His eyes still locked on his friend.
The Njyordsmen cupped Cross-Eyes’ chin in his hand, pulled. His motion soft. Trepidation shot through Cross-Eyes like a boy disciplined by drunken father.
‘How does it feel to be alive? Pain, pain is what makes you alive. To feel nothing is nonexistence. Pain and suffering are salvation.’
Trapper and Twitch stripped Cross-Eyes of his Alysiaat uniform. ‘You made me feel alive. Now let me make you feel life’s splendour.’
The Njyordsmen removed his top. Intricate battle worn canvas revealed. Fresh whip lashes latticed amidst artwork, painted by Cross-Eyes’ hand. The artist shoddy.
The scum knelt. Cross-Eyes piss sodden, held back by Trapper and Twitch. Blade branded breast. Blood dribbled. Cut. Dissect. Gash. Lacerate. Blade absent, without purpose, laid at rest. Black bloodied talons dripped.
‘Do you feel alive?’ said the Njyordsmen, eyes wild.
All over Cross-Eyes’ tears mingled with snot. Swirled with drool. Danced with blood. Into wounds. Cross-Eyes’ mouth opened. Words eluded.
‘I said do you feel alive?’ the Njyordsmen’s throat thundered.
The sodomiser stopped. Continued.
Cross-Eyes pleaded penance. Whimpered. Composed himself.
‘Who are you?’ Dread impeccable.
Twitch, spasmodic, spoke. ‘Barbarian scum. A stinking Njyordsmen. Your nightmare. Death.’
One final purpose; blade entered mouth. Cross-Eyes gritted teeth. Wrong move.
Squeak. Teeth ground, skull reverberated, blade vibrated. Tickled throat.
The Njyordsmen, unhanded the blade, stood. It teetered. Cross-Eyes, lips cut, bit down. To open would cause further separation. The Njyordsmen snatched a sword beside a ravenous queue. Receded into darkness whence he came. Eighteen eyes burned his back.
Animals. How could they?
Slap. Snap. Squelch.
He emerged, reassumed his position.
Artist overrode logic.
The Njyordsmen ran thumb against blade. Sucked it. His tip uncut. ‘Terrible craftsmanship.’ He laid blunt blade against its counterpart. Replaced it. Sharp sword scrutinised he thrust it into Twitch’s throat. Blood sprayed.
Twitch twitched. Spasmed sporadic, the ticks natural or the response to a sword through his throat? ‘Speak for yourself.’ A noise emitted, a laugh? He looked at Trapper who averted his gaze.
What’s his problem?
Infection-riddled nail sculptured flesh. Curled Cross-Eyes’ cheek. Blood dribbled. Clung to stubble.
To fall would be a waste.
Red. Sodden. Serpentine his tongue emerged. Meat slivered against skin. Systematic. Lapped essence mingled with Snaggle-Tooth’s. Savoured. Swallowed.
Barbaric breath expelled like lovers entwined in ritualistic ecstasy. Lips lingered. Perverse.
Petulant, he whispered.
The door burst open, white swirls spiralled in. Sword struck stone.
Three guards materialised, a plethora of fresh fallen flakes upon their shoulders. Dedda, and Merik, and Basil, the Njyordsmen had seen them before, on shift. Dedda fell over Radin’s body. All motion ceased, eyes darted to one another.
The prisoners scrambled for weapons. Cougher returned to the room with Snaggle-Tooth’s legs. The barbarian wrenched the blades sideways. Cross-Eyes’ cheek split. Twitch’s head lolled.
A pole-arm swung at the Njyordsmen, its blade flurried, sliced beard and chest. The Njyordsmen backed against the wall, dodged and parried. Short swords no match for the long shaft.
His shoulder burned, punctured. He dropped the blades. Clink. Rattle. He roared. The barbarian grabbed the shaft, pushed against the Basil’s force. Basil stumbled. Fell. The shaft deepened into flesh. The Njyordsmen applied opposite forces on the shaft. Snap.
He swung the hard wood at the Basil’s face. Slap. Thwack. Snap. The Basil’s head twisted more than natural.
Merik cleaved Beak-Nose’s arm. Splat. Kicked him to the ground. Thud. Merik rammed his blade into Cougher’s stomach. Snaggle-Tooth’s leg hung over head, grasped in his hands. Knees smacked stone. Merik spun in place. Arm. Half a head. Arm. Slap. Bonk. Slap. Snaggle-Tooth’s leg followed. Brains spilled.
Impressive. That’s one leg, w here’s the-.
The Njyordsmen stumbled. Rasped. Turned. Dedda, leg in hand flung it in frantic motions. It packed a punch.
The barbarian took repeated hits. Dedda swung at his head, the barbarian grabbed the meat. Ripped it from his grasp. The barbarian torn flesh with teeth. Roared. The Njyordsmen battered flesh with flesh. Beat Dedda until leg and face pulped.
A savage sound erupted. The scum faced the door. A barrage of bodies impregnated the room. It swelled with foul stench. An axe arched, halved a Hobble head to groin.
One-Eye charged. A huge hammer descended squelched head into chest. It exploded. His body collapsed on itself. Hammer hit floor, body mashed beneath.
A foul smell lingered. A bar flitted across the Njyordsmen’s vision, pressed against his throat. The barbarian shook his body, tumbled backward. Hit the wall. His last breath escaped. He swallowed the meat in his mouth, choked. The mass remained. The barbarian pulled forward, pushed back. Rammed the persistent assailant between a rock and a hard place.
The Njyordsmen grimaced. The shaft in his shoulder rubbed inside his wound, slid out. Popped. Squelched. The barbarian, gasped, strength in his lungs, turned. His attacker against the wall, shaft in his chest. The Njyordsmen pulled, pushed, penetrated. His shoulder burned. Shaft descended.
Pain is salvation.
Holed, bloodied the body dropped. The Njyordsmen knelt. His palm wrapped the shaft of the hammer. He took in the carnage around him, he smiled to himself. Trapper wrestled Merik to the ground, crushed his windpipe.
Thank fuck that’s over, now we can get out of here. The dead will forever feast in the halls of Vishragard.
The Njyordsmen made for the door. He felt the rush of cold air kiss his face. He closed his eyes and thought of her.
I will save you.
A force unmatched to any other pound his stomach. His weight and the hammer tumbled down the steps, the hammer fled his grasp.
Spit slapped the barbarian’s face. He opened his eyes. A bear of a man, donned in black leather and furs, towered over him.
Voice familiar, he said ‘Raigar Winterbane.’
Shit. Out of the fire into Arudesh’s inferno.