Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Assassin's Retirement: Scion of Beowulf Chapter 6, Part 1 #blogstory

Welcome back to the blog story, A Gentleman's Holiday, which has been renamed, as you can see, to Assassin's Retirement. The story begins where it left off a couple of weeks ago.


Copyright Lexi Ander

Chapter Six – Harbinger of a nightmare

What in the hell was going on? One moment Zane was highly aroused, wondering how in the world he came to be the center of attention of so many stunning men. The next, he spotted the laser dot from a sniper's scope on Midnight's chest. He didn't think, he only reacted and saved Midnight from being shot. When he'd straddled Midnight, a strange possessiveness rolled through him. Hastily, he'd pushed the strange feeling aside and followed Prince out the door.

As Prince strode boldly out onto the illuminated patio, Zane kept the snort of disbelief to himself. He'd already warned the man that he was making himself a target for whoever was shooting at them. To add to the stupidity, Prince carried a real fucking sword. Goddamn idiot.

He put that absurdity aside and concentrated on the task ahead of him. His heart beat slow and steady, something that was achingly familiar. After months of uncertainty and bouts of fear he wasn't equipped to handle, he finally felt as if he was in his element. What did that say about him when having a weapon in hand while hunting down a quarry was when he felt most comfortable?

There were no tracks in the snow on the patio except those left by Prince. Instead of following the sword-wielding idiot, Zane went left to the corner of the house before stepping past the tree line into the dark underbelly of the surrounding forest. Consciously, he kept track of what general direction Prince would be in. Zane didn't want Prince get caught in the crossfire if he had to use his gun.

The chilly wind carried the scent of something rank. Zane's gag reflex tested him a time or two when he forgot to breathe through his mouth. He listened intently with every step, careful where he placed his feet until his eyes adjusted to the dim lighting. He'd always been amazed by the urban belief that the night outside of lamplight was pitch dark. Sure, the night was dark, but people could see. They just needed to learn to interpret what they were seeing. Of course he couldn't see as far as he did in daylight, but he was far from blind as he crept through the trees. The needle laden boughs were heavy with snow, only allowing a small portion of snow to touch the ground below. Despite the protection, there was a thin white blanket on the ground, enough to reflect the moon and starlight.

A strange vibration came from Zane's left. It sounded somewhat like a noise made by big cats, such as a mountain lion, not a purr exactly, but a guttural throaty crackling that made Zane think of the Jurassic movies he'd watched over the summer. Still his heart beat slow and steady as he stepped into a darker shadow and waited. The stench grew stronger, yet Zane was unafraid. Fear wasn't an emotion he experienced while working as an assassin. The first time he knew fear was after he retired.

The stink was a harbinger of something horrendous coming his way. As a giver of death, Zane knew well the different scents it bought. The metallic odor of spilled blood. The different stages of rot a body went through, each distinct enough that by smell alone, Zane could often guess how long the person had been dead. The stench carried on the wind spoke of death, blood, and something else… wet fur?

Not for the first time since retiring, he thought about his father. What would tale would he spin about Zane stupidly stalking through a winter-laden forest in the dead of night? Would his father conjure up ancient heroes and supernatural opponents? Pressed into the shadows surrounded by putrid stink was the most inappropriate place for him to suddenly be rocked by sorrow and yet there he stood, the ache of losing his father squeezed his heart. This emotion wasn't as easily banished as the others, but Zane tried.

Ahead, something shifted from one shadow to the next, the snow muffling their steps somewhat. They switched from walking on four legs to suddenly standing upright before they stepped behind a large tree. Zane had seen nothing like it before. On its hind legs the animal—creature?—was about three and a half feet tall. The feral noise came again, and this time Zane was positive it did not come from a mountain lion.

Two more… creatures followed the first. He was having a hard time wrapping his mind around what he was seeing. He could make out hair on its forelegs. They seemed to have a twisted or deformed back that caused them to hunch, making their hide look lumpy when they walked through beams of moonlight. There also seemed to be spikes of some kind along their spine but he couldn't be sure unless he looked closer and he was certain he wouldn't be getting any nearer to the creature.

Quickly, he shut off his mind that kept attempting to place the creature, to make sense of what he saw. He could not afford to be distracted. Prince was prancing around the forest with a sword like, well… a fairytale prince.  Zane had the sneaking suspicion the night was full of surprises that couldn't be easily defined, and he needed to focus. Not only Prince, but there were men in the house who needed his protection. He paused. Dear God, he hoped they stayed put.

The beat of his heart didn't change as he stepped from the shadow, following the three creatures as silently as he could. Would they lead him to the shooter? As strange as it sounded, he thought yes. The whole situation was just too odd for both incidents to not be connected, or so he believed. Later, he would probably question that certainty, but for the moment, Zane kept the three creatures within sight.

They traveled in the direction Prince had gone. The crisp night wind ruffled Zane's hair and chilled the exposed skin of his hands. He'd neglected to grab a coat before leaving the house, believing he wouldn't be too long chasing after the rifleman. The shooter had to be close because the house was surrounded by towering firs and there was no way a sniper could get a good view from a distance at any elevation.

"Ho! You fiend!" Prince's voice came from ahead, his accent heavy. Did Prince just use the word fiend? Zane was brought out of his incredulity when the creatures he followed sped up. He gave up his attempt at stealth and ran after them. Prince didn't know what else could be found in the forest. Where the creatures some kind of hounds used by the gunman?

Chapter One - Retirement
Chapter Two - Normal is not supposed to be this hard
Chapter Three - Caught
Chapter Four - Crimson Comet
Chapter Five - Mountain Magic
Chapter Six, Part 1 - Harbinger of a Nightmare
Chapter Six, Part 2 - 

Thank you for stopping by and reading!!

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