Chapter 7:

A Break

The Blood Of Palken

  Those who survived this day would say that the city fell in an under an hour. That the ruthless warriors of Palken spread like wildfire, consuming everything in their path.Bookmark here

  Ember had been searching for potential nesting grounds and was so far unimpressed with the city’s offerings. Bookmark here

  Teer, having finally eaten his fill, was now dutifully following his master.Bookmark here

  Eventually they came upon a large park with an outdoor amphitheater. Bookmark here

  “Teer, gather our brethren and any humans you find hiding about the city.”Bookmark here

  “Yes, my lady.”Bookmark here

  Ember was alone at last. “You may show yourself now.”Bookmark here

  There was a fit of coughing and a raspy wheeze. “If you insist.”Bookmark here

  The air shimmered and flashed like a prism as another Palken slowly came into view. He was only three feet tall and looked ancient. His left hand made a sign in the air then a twisted cane appeared in his right.Bookmark here

  “How does it feel to be back on Earth, Engo?”Bookmark here

  Engo gave a broken toothed smile and spun his cane. “Dear Ember, but of course I feel nothing but joy.”Bookmark here

  “I’m glad sorcerer, you should. After three hundred years of waiting, you’re finally going to get your wish.”Bookmark here

  “So it’s true then, you’ll really do it?”Bookmark here

  “Yes Engo, I’m going to permanently open one of your gates.”Bookmark here

  “Our worlds will finally be one...” He began to cackle.Bookmark here

  “Cease that at once.”Bookmark here

  “Yes, my lady.” Bookmark here

  He visibly shrank but inwardly he cringed in shame. It hadn’t always been like this for Engo, until three centuries ago he commanded power and respect. Engo’s ability was feared by all and recognized even by the Lord Dragon himself. He was adopted as a brother then taken into the clan. It was Engo who created the gates, his magic that made it possible to cross dimensions.Bookmark here

  Back then his gates were commonly used throughout the realm by Palken replenishing their livestock and generally wreaking havoc on human society. Until the day that the Lord Dragon went soft for his first human woman.Bookmark here

 After that the gates were outlawed and Engo’s connection to the mountain was severed, his inner fire doused. He’s spent the intervening years seething with hatred, driven only by the thought of regaining his power. He has become this tiny, shriveled thing but if one of his gates were to remain open then it would do much more than Ember counted on. It would be his life’s ambition realized yes, but it would also set into motion a contingency to reignite his inner fire.Bookmark here

  For now he would wait and continue to play the role of sycophant. For now, he would be weak.Bookmark here

 “Engo,” Ember’s voice was like a pebble underfoot, annoying.Bookmark here

                                                                                     ~~~Bookmark here

  “Ow... what the hell?” Light filled Chief’s eyes but everything was blurry and his head was pounding.Bookmark here

  “Hey! Wills he’s awake.” Nora’s face slowly became clear, he also noticed they were in the bed of his truck.Bookmark here

  They’d escaped the parking garage.Bookmark here

  “How’s the head Chief? You took it pretty hard man.” Wills was grinning.Bookmark here

  “Ow,” was all he felt like saying.Bookmark here

  Wills knocked on the rear window, Whitaker slid it open.Bookmark here

  “He’s up!”Bookmark here

  Whitaker was relieved. “Alright, tell him to hold on, we’ll be at my place in a few minutes.”Bookmark here

  Chief sat himself up and rubbed his head. “Wow, shit, what happened?”Bookmark here

  Wills was still grinning. “You should’ve seen it Chief, Whit was fantastic!”Bookmark here

  “Oh yeah, Whit was?”Bookmark here

  “That’s right,” Nora chimed in “that big thing went for you but he jumped in between and shoved his gun in its mouth and just kept shooting.”Bookmark here

  “Yeah?” Chief was impressed.Bookmark here

  “It was gross.”Bookmark here

  “Eh, it wasn’t that bad Nora. At least that time it didn’t get on you.”Bookmark here

  “Still though...” She crinkled her face.Bookmark here

  “Whit, pull us over for a sec will ya?”Bookmark here

  “Sure Chief.”Bookmark here

  They were driving through a devastated and desolate city, Whitaker didn’t see the need to pull over, he simply brought the truck to a stop.Bookmark here

  “What’s up?” Wills asked as Chief jumped to the pavement.Bookmark here

  “We’re vulnerable out here, hop out Whit, I gotta pop the seat.”Bookmark here

  “Oh yeah,”Bookmark here

  Chief opened the seat to reveal a small armory. “Wills, give the .44 to Nora.”Bookmark here

  She took the gun with trepidation. “I can’t shoot this thing.”Bookmark here

  “Use two hands, and only if something is close enough that you think you’ll hit it. And this thing kicks like a son of a bitch so only use it as a last resort okay?”Bookmark here

  Nora couldn’t believe it. “Thanks Chief.”Bookmark here

  “Just keep your head up. Here, you take this.”Bookmark here

  Wills chuckled. “You really did have a third.”Bookmark here

  “Told you, load up on ammo too. Whit, you good?”Bookmark here

  “You bet Chief.”Bookmark here

  “Alright, back on the road. Stay sharp everyone.”Bookmark here

  Chief, Wills, and Nora sat in the truck bed with their guns at the ready, the silence bothered everyone more than they cared to admit. It was only a few minutes before Nora began to crack.Bookmark here

  She started to speak but Chief cut her off. “Hold on, does that look like people over there? Whit, stop again.”Bookmark here

  “Oh god,” Nora was on edge.Bookmark here

  Wills noticed her body language and put a  hand on her shoulder. “Don’t worry, if they’re a threat you know we’ll take care of them.”Bookmark here

  Nora managed a smile then turned her attention to the couple that walked towards them.Bookmark here

  It was a man and a woman, she carried a sledgehammer and he, an axe. Both weapons were covered in blood and their wielders looked entirely drained of energy.Bookmark here

  “Hey!” The woman called.Bookmark here

  “Hey!” Wills called back.Bookmark here

  Chief kept a watchful eye as they approached.Bookmark here

                                                                                ~~~Bookmark here

  Erica and Paul had the unfortunate luck of running into the very same pair of Palken that they had been trying so very hard to avoid. It was a long and messy, very difficult battle.Bookmark here

  Paul had fought like a champ but Erica feared that his wounds were getting the better of him and that he would collapse at any moment. Bookmark here

  “Do you hear an engine?” He asked hopefully.Bookmark here

  Not a moment later a pickup truck rolled through the intersection right in front of them.Bookmark here

  Paul whooped when it stopped.Bookmark here

  “Hey!” Erica called.Bookmark here

  “Hey!” One of the people in the truck called back.Bookmark here

  As they got closer she could see that like them, this group had clearly had a tough time of it. They were being eyed with distrust.Bookmark here

  Erica figured she should break the tension, she began waving. “Hi, my name is Erica, and this is Paul. We won’t attack you or anything.”Bookmark here

  “Unless you attack us!” Paul added unnecessarily, they would be desiccated in seconds if the party in the truck so desired.Bookmark here

  Chief looked each of the new arrivals in the eye for an uncomfortable amount of time then arbitrarily decided they were harmless. “Alright, get on in.”Bookmark here

  “That was it?” Nora asked.Bookmark here

  Wills nodded. “Yup,”Bookmark here

  “Alright I guess... I’m Nora.”Bookmark here

  Erica and Paul joined them in the truck and Whitaker once again started driving. Introductions were made and the security squad went back to vigilantly scanning the area.Bookmark here

  Paul was relieved that they wound up with a group that had both large guns and transportation, be just hoped they turned out to be decent enough people.Bookmark here

  Erica was pleased to have a seat, after the morning they’d had she was confident that she could deal with pretty much any situation but just wanted a break. She fully expected everything to get worse from here on out and that she would probably have to fight the whole world. If that included the people she now sat beside then so be it, it will be dealt with at the appropriate time. Until then...Bookmark here

  “Thanks for picking us up.”Bookmark here

  “No problem, we gotta take care of our own now, right?” Wills gave Nora a comforting squeeze.Bookmark here

  “Where are you going?”Bookmark here

  “Well, for now we’re going to Whit’s place because it’s close. Beyond that, we have no idea.”Bookmark here

  Erica nodded in understanding. “Yeah, we were pretty much doing the same thing.”Bookmark here

  “You guys can come with us if you’d like, if not, we can take you that far.”Bookmark here

  She turned to Paul. “What do you want to do?”Bookmark here

  He frowned for a moment then shrugged. “Safety in numbers I guess. At least until we can think of something better, or if they’re dicks.”Bookmark here

  Erica and Chief chuckled.Bookmark here

                                                                                   ~~~Bookmark here

  Alex stared at Rox as they walked, he was trying to figure out if he was grateful for the escort or simply suspicious of him. He had called him brother, that isn’t an easy pill to swallow.Bookmark here

  Terra was angrier than she’d ever been before. She walked with the determined step of a soldier who was ready to get back into the shit.Bookmark here

  Sensei Tainaka leaned heavily on his staff, he was quietly considering the morning’s events and the fact that they were suddenly responsible for two children. He frowned deeply at the thought.Bookmark here

  Timothy sat on Rox’s shoulder with a mildly satisfied look on his face. His leg pained him greatly but he couldn’t help but think how cool it was that he got to ride on a real live monster.Bookmark here

  Nick didn’t much care about any of these things. He was quickly learning that life was going to continue to be difficult and scary and that he needed to grow up a little. “Alex, are we almost at your mom’s yet?”Bookmark here

  “Yeah little man we are, we’ll be there soon.”Bookmark here

  Nick looked at the mass destruction that surrounded him. “How do you know she’s alive?”Bookmark here

  The group collectively held their breath, he said exactly what everyone had been thinking, including Alex. Bookmark here

  “Obviously I can’t know for sure, I just have to hope right? She lives in a basement apartment so maybe it’s still standing...”Bookmark here

  “Listen kid, we’re figuring it out as we go okay?” This was perhaps the main reason that Terra never became an instructor, she didn’t have any patience for children. “Look on the bright side though, at least you brought a big rock thing with you.”Bookmark here

  “I’m Palken.”Bookmark here

  “Yeah, I know bud.”Bookmark here

  They turned onto the road that Alex’s mother lived on, the Palken had clearly been through but the structures were mostly intact.Bookmark here

  Alex got a spring in his step. “It’s still standing!”Bookmark here

                                                                                  ~~~Bookmark here

  Inside the apartment building, in one of two basement units, sat Alex’s mother, nervously waiting and chewing her fingernails off.Bookmark here

Joe Gold

The Blood Of Palken

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