Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Chapter 1c: Drummen's Rotter

Drummen never lost sight of the rotter. The crowds parted as the leper passed through the street, making him easy to spot. Within seconds the other lepers had disappeared around corners and behind buildings, but he kept his eyes on the leader. That rotter was his.

The man moved faster than Drummen had given him credit for, weaving in and out of the crowded road, but he wasn’t fast enough to get away. Drummen closed the distance between them running just behind the leper. He gave the rotter a push. The man didn’t raise his arms to break his fall and crashed face first into the rough cobblestone street, skidding several feet before stopping.

Drummen towered over the rotter as air billowed in and out of his lungs and sweat dripped from his nose. Blood pulsed in his ears with the force of a drum and the acids in his stomach pushed against the back of his throat with more force than ever. He had reached the end of his already limited patience. “Get up.”

On his hands and knees the leper turned to Drummen letting out a hissing gasp of foul air.

The bandages on the rotter's face were skewed and for the first time Drummen could see the horror lying behind the mask. Two mucus filled holes dominated the face where a nose had once rested. Part of the bandages had fallen away from the man’s mouth displaying crooked, rotting teeth and gums peppered with rot and decay. The lips were a thick jagged line, chewed off at the base of the blackened teeth, giving the rotter a ghoulish grimace.

People screamed and back away from the disturbing site.

Drummen stepped back in horror as the leper stood and extended a gauze wrapped hand. He stepped toward Drummen, arms stretched out before him as if expecting a hug. Drummen stood, frozen in place with loathing and disgust. His eyes rolled down to watch the leper grasp his leather chest plate with bony fingers. The rotter’s saliva-dripping mouth rose to Drummen's neck.

The paralysis left as quickly as it started. Rage replaced Drummen’s fear. He pushed the rotter away and drew his sword. The leper stumbled back, but didn't flinch, and resumed his advance toward Drummen.

He didn’t think about what he did as his sword pierced the lepers stomach, meeting little resistance when the blade passed through the disease infested body. The leper continued walking, impaling himself further along the gore coated steel. A thick black ichor oozed from the wound and flowed down the blade, filling the air with the stench of hell itself. Enraged and reviled Drummen used all his might to jerk the sword sideways. The force of the swing spun the rotter as the blade ripped through organs and muscle slicing through the leper's side. More black ichor, slimy gray intestines, and other foul pieces gushed from wound.

The few gawkers that remained rushed from the scene. Drummen didn't notice them.

The mortal wound didn't bother the leper, with an awful limp he continued to lumber toward Drummen.

His heart pounded, threatening to burst through his chest as he swung the sword again, severing the leper’s hand at mid forearm. Little of the black substance dripped from the ragged stump, but tiny maggots fell to the cobblestone road, squirming on the hard surface.

Drummen could feel his sanity slipping away from him. His mind couldn't make sense of what he saw. A voice within him screamed Get the hell out of here. Instead he took a step back.

The leper took two steps forward.

With a roar of fury and desperation Drummen swung the sword again. This time the steel connected with the rotter's neck. The head tumbled away, landing with hollow thump a short distance from the body. The corpse swayed for a few seconds before collapsing to the ground.

Drummen stared at the lifeless mound. His dazed gaze moved from the body to his ichor covered sword. He slung it away. Bending over with his hands on his knees he began retching. Only bile and a thick stream of water dribbled down to mix with the dirty road.

No more gawkers stood about to see Drummen empty his stomach, only the sound of their presence several streets over gave any indication that he wasn't alone. Out of the corner of his eye he saw movement. Not wanting to look, but not being able to turn aside, he shifted his eyes to see. The rotter's decapitated head wobbled back and forth. Drummen gasped. The head continued to warble until it rolled itself onto its cheek, facing Drummen. The jaw continued to work up and down, chewing and biting what it could no longer reach. The sound of teeth clacking together echoed like horses hooves in Drummen’s mind.

"Oh…..Oh Gods no!" Drummen cried.

The living decapitated head and clacking teeth were more than his mind could stand. With a maniacal roar he ran to the severed head and stomped on it with the heel of his boot, cursing and screaming. The first stomp was answered in a satisfying crack. He stomped again and the crack became louder, accompanied by a wet, splattering noise. He continued to stomp, and stomp, and stomp until some of the night watch arrived to pull him off. It took them almost a half dozen tries.

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Monday, August 6, 2007

Chapter 1b: Lepers at the Gate

Renier was the largest city on the Gulf Coast, a gateway of trade and commerce. The city itself didn't manufacture a product, raise livestock, or farm the land, instead Renier stood as a trading hub for other communities that had products and services to sell; a gateway to a larger world.

The ever-growing city meant streets full of shoppers, vendors, hawkers and gawkers. People continuously bustled back and forth, running errands, delivering products and shopping.

Most people enjoyed the growth and commerce, but it only made Drummen’s job harder.

As Drummen and Stiles navigated through the cities fading light the crowds of people parted before them. Most made it, but many didn't. Drummen shoved the ones that didn't to the side. Everyone knew of the burly man’s temper so no one protested the occasional push.

"Just a little farther Sir. They came through the port gate." Stiles huffed as he squeezed between two citizens. Unlike his captain he didn't have the heart to push people around without a good reason. "They must have a boat moored out there somewhere."

Drummen didn't answer as he bulled his way through the crowded street.

They only traveled a few blocks when Stiles pointed at five figures in gray robes shuffling against the flow of the crowd, toward the Open Market. "There they are sir!"

As Drummen neared the cloaked figures he bellowed. "You. You there in the robes. I order you to stop!" The five gray shapes continued on.

Drummen turned to intercept them.

He sped up with Stiles in close pursuit, slinging people aside as they stepped in front of him. When he caught up to the little group he stood in their path, lifted his broad hand and yelled, "Stop!"

The five lepers stopped and stared at him with pale milky eyes. Filth stained bandages left their faces blank other than a small hump in the center of their faces. A wet, sickening yellow stain around the nose-shaped hump tarnished the soiled bandages.

"Didn't you rotters hear me?" Drummen roared.

Five pairs of milky eyes continued to stare straight ahead without fear or concern. Being shorter than him they didn't even stare at his face, but at the top of his chest plate.

Their lack of fear enraged him and he callously raged, "Have your blasted ears rotted off too? Maybe your tongue?" They didn't respond, not caring that Drummen had begun to scream and his face had turned a deep shade of red.

People stared and whispered as they passed, but continued to go about their business.

Drummen opened his mouth to start a cursing that would make most sailors cringe when the lead rotter said, "I'm sorry, my lord. We are just passing through." The bandages hardly moved as the leper spoke in a flat, passionless voice that sounded as blank as his eyes. His gaze never left the base of Drummen's neck, and the raspy voice sent a chill down his spine. Stiles stepped back, behind Drummen.

The chill made Drummen raise his voice, partly to make himself feel in control again, and partly to let Stiles and the crowd know that he wasn't afraid of these abominations. "You're sorry? No, you just think you're sorry." He pointed back at the port gate where the rotters had come from. "Your going to march your rotting, stinking carcass back through that gate, get on whatever ungodly transport that brought you here, and paddle your stinkin' asses back to whatever gods-awful hell you came from!"

The lepers stared straight ahead. He didn’t see the fear in their eyes that such a ranting should have made.

He became furious and began to take a step forward but stopped when he noticed the stench. He had heard stories about lepers, how they lived while their flesh festered and rotted away a little more every day. The odor confirmed the stories. The scent wasn't strong, but it carried a foul and decaying odor; the smell of death.

The emotionless voice of the leader whispered again, "My Lord, we merely wish to pass through your…"

The monotone voice stopped. His eyes still locked on Drummen’s neck with an eerie detachment. The bandage squirmed between the rotter's parted lips as its tongue worked through the gauze; making a wet circle appear around the rotters mouth, reminding Drummen of an eel he had once netted.

He had seen enough. He reached for the speaker but stopped himself.

Weren't lepers contagious?

Pulling his hand back he roared, "I said to turn around and get the hell out of here! You won't get another warning!"

With empty stares the rotters ignored the command. Again that little chill of fear shivered down his back. Fear was an alien emotion for Drummen, it’s presence enraged him and drove him to action.

He grabbed the speaker by his shoulder, fingers sinking deep into fabric. Soft, boneless meat rolled beneath the material as a wet stain formed below his hand and an unholy stench filled the air. "What the…"

"…..pass through your city." finished the rotter. Drummen’s vise-like grip went unnoticed and he spoke as though nothing had taken place since he started his sentence almost a minute ago.

Drummen yanked his hand away, holding it in the air so the slime on his palm and fingers wouldn't touch his clothing or armor. His eyes widened with fear, a fear of the unknown, and a fear of something he no longer understood.

The lepers burst into action, five lepers bolted in five different directions; their gray robes bobbing through the crowded streets.

Drummen watched them go, too overwhelmed by the encounter to grasp what had happened. He held his ichor-stained hand to his face and looked at it. A shiny yellow film covered his palm and fingers. The smell of wet puss filled his nostrils and made the stale whiskey rise in his already upset stomach.

Stiles voice shook as he asked, "Sir, should we go after them?"

Drummen stared at the foul stain on his palm, collecting his thoughts and getting himself under control. He wiped his hand on his britches several times and replied in a shaky voice. "Yea Stiles. Blow the whistle and get us some assistance. We can't chase five rotters down by ourselves." He ran after the lead leper, the shrill sound of Stiles whistle shrieking in the background.

Before he got too far away Stiles yelled, "Sir, why did they run? Why did they run away like that?"

Without slowing or turning Drummen mumbled back, "I don't know, but I'm damned sure going to find out."

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