09/06/2012 § Ein Kommentar
The following is a work of fiction, created as part of a Flash Fiction Challenge set by american author Chuck Wendig. The title „The Bone Cathedral“ is one of six given settings to interpret as participants see fit, the object of the Challenge is to write a story of 1.000 words or, even better, less.
This story is a failure – a failure of words. I was not able to stop at 1.000 without hurting the story. Still, I managed to polish it to 1.111 words. A failure it may be, but the number makes it a nice failure. I’ll post it.
WARNING: Contains violence, gore, and mild language.
The Bone Cathedral
The moment the towering doors clicked shut behind them, the shrill cacophony of battle was abruptly cut off. Oregan exchanged glances with his companions. Ardur and Reguslav looked almost like twins with their unruly raven hair and their faces set in grim masks of resolve, and Oregan imagined he must wear a similar expression – hardly surprising after the bloody madness outside.
All quiet. Too quiet.
Oregan gripped his bloodied mace harder and stepped forward, flinching as his dirty boot met the marble floor with an audible crunch.
He squared his shoulders and moved out into the light of the nave. Slim, painted windows reached up impossibly high to the furthest reaches above, where elaborate rib-vaults were just discernible in the gloom between the towering columns pupulated with a right army of sandstone saints, gargoyles and angels who stared into emptiness with crumbling eyes.
The Bone Cathedral. It lived up to its name, now more than ever, with dozens, nay, hundreds of dead slumped over the pews. All slain by The unholy Word while gathered to cry out for help to an uncaring pantheon. After three months they were in a state of decomposition that would make recognition impossible. Even recognition of Yolanda.
Oregan paid the dead no heed. Instead, he tried to set his impossibly loud footsteps evenly to project an air of composure he did not feel.
Reguslav was right behind him. The serrated blade of his bastard sword caught multicolored fingers of light and sprayed shards of illumination into corners and crevices of the lavish architecture.
Ardur would have covered them from hiding, but on this floor, with any attempt at stealth a farce, he elected to just stand, arrow nocked, black eyes darting from shadow to protrusion to shadow, expecting the lethal twang of a hidden bow’s string any heartbeat.
„You should,“ the booming voice startled them to the bones, „have sent an advance note.“
The altar, name giver of the place and pieced together exclusively from a vast selection of femur bones – bones of saints and martyrs that fitted with such perfection that no means of fastening were needed – made an apt backdrop for the warlock’s sudden appearance. The strange armor, all black and silver, and complete with oversized ornamentations, lent him the appearance of a demon’s spawn, but he wore no helmet, and his face was that of a man. His black hair was braided and fell over his chest in four fat plaits that reached almost to his silver belt. His face and chin were shaved with obvious care, while his sprawling eyebrows grew wild and untamed to meet over his plump nose. On his back he carried a twin set of double axes, blades up, that looked like miniature dragon wings from afar.
A warrior, but also a warlock, and bearer of The Word.
„You might have missed our knocks. It was a bit rowdy out there,“ Oregan replied, painfully aware of the contrast between the Warlock’s rich bass and his own voice, lost in the immense space of the nave.
„A hero.“ The man bared his uneven teeth. „This is going to be fun.“
He lifted his arms to draw his axes. Ardur let loose. The projectile arched over rows and rows of dead, through treacherous light, but still straight and true, to bury itself right in the Warlock’s unprotected right armpit.
He cried out and fell, and Oregan and Reguslav sprinted forward to finish the job. The jet of fire came out of thin air, and it was pure luck that Oregan had just set his right foot down so he was able to twist in mid-run and dive between the corpses in the church pews. The arms and legs he met crumbled and tore, he crashed to the floor amid some kind of sweetly reeking muck. Reguslav was hit and incinerated on the spot. His blackened sword clanged to the floor, leather handle alight with fire.
Oregan untangled himself from limbs and torsos as quickly and efficiently as he could and groped for his mace, but the weapon was out of reach. A shadow rose up behind him, an axe, and he grabbed at something, anything – it was a shock of long, white hair – and lashed out behind him. A head tore lose and the warlock had to turn away to avoid a hit. As he reeled, another arrow from Ardur graced his scalp, and he cried out. That gave Oregan the opportunity to avoid the axe and surprise his enemy with a clamp embrace.
The wrestling warriors fell in a heap of flailing arms and legs.
„Curse you!“ the warlock boomed, and his dark eyes radiated hate. „You blasted fools!“
The warlock got hold of Oregan’s tunic with his right hand and threw the fighter a good five yards. The arrow in his armpit was still there. Ardur shot again and hit the warlocks shoulder, where the armor deflected it. His next missile hit the warlock’s back as he rose up, right between the shoulder blades, and stuck.
„You… I need only one of you sores!“
He kicked Oregan in the ribs with a steel-shod boot, turned to the archer and spoke The Word. Ardur saw it coming and ducked, but not quite fast enough. He collapsed, dead on the spot.
Oregan spat blood. Do or die time. No weapon. He roared and jumped the warlock the moment he turned around. He met the outstretched hand, let instinct take over – and bit. Hard. His teeth met bone, but then the axe handle met his skull with a crack and he fell to his knees.
„I need you for the spell, moron!“
Oregan’s right eye didn’t work properly.
„No bitching way!“ he exclaimed, and attacked. The warlock hit him with a backhand that propelled him into the bone altar, shattering femurs. „Stop resisting!“
But Oregan didn’t. He grabbed one thigh bone and swung it at his enemy’s foot. Something shattered, and the warlock howled. Oregan raised the bone to attack the other foot, but then the axe connected and sheared off his right hand at the wrist.
The warlock bowed low and growled: „You little…“
And that was when Oregan got the arrow. The fingers of his left curled around the shaft protruding from the warlock’s armpit. He felt how the point was lodged in a rib. He tilted the arrow, freed it’s tip, and drove it home.
The warlock screamed in white hot pain. His strength ebbed away. He slumped and fell. His axe clattered onto the stones. And with a failing heart he spat out The Word one last time, extinguishing Oregan’s soul.