Sunday, July 6, 2008

Chapter 16c: Return to the Bakery

The hand tightened on Shanai’s mouth smelling of honing oil, blending with the smell of fresh baked bread. A hot breath touched her ear adding the odor of old meat and tobacco smoke. A whisper rode the harsh breath, Ash’s voice. “Quiet, girl! They are right outside.”

Shuffling could be heard in the dark, the sound dampened by a wooden door.

She struggled against him, pulling his hand away from her mouth. She hissed her answer. “Let me go! My brother’s out there, I have to help him.”

“Your brother is fine. Do you hear a struggle? Did you hear any screams?”

Her teeth remained clenched together. “No.”

His hand left her face and she felt him step back. “Your brother and my men are alive for now. They must have seen them and backed out of the alley as I pulled us into the back door of this shop. They are probably holed up somewhere right now just like us, waiting for the dead to disperse so that they can either look for us or make a run for the west gate.”

More feet shuffled past. Something slammed into the door, rattling the wood in its frame. Biting her lower lip she stepped back with her bow raised, uselessly pointed into the black in before her. Feet continued to slide against the stone, but nothing else banged against the door.

Something crashed to the floor behind her. Shanai spun around, her arrow pulled taut and blindly pointed to the darkness in front of her.

Ash’s sword hissed as it slid out of its sheath. His other hand pushed into her stomach and groped until it found her wrist. He yanked her forward until her fingers touch leather, his back. He whispered into the dark. “Stay behind me.”

Another crash. The screech of furniture as it slid across the floor, closer and louder that the previous sound.

Shanai slid her bow over her shoulder. The arrow remained in her clenched fist like a daggar. She took a deep breath to try and calm her nerves; the sweet smell of baked bread filled her nostrils.

Feet rasp as they slid across the floor, getting closer with each lurch. Ash shifted to remain facing the sound. Shanai stepped to the side to remain behind him, or as much as she can in the dark void.

The feet shuffled closer. The leather beneath her fingers begins to slide back and forth as Ash’s sword swung wildly before him.

Shanai heard a thunk as steel wedged into flesh. Ash’s frame shifted, his center of gravity moved to his right side like a spring being wound tight before uncoiling with the speed of a viper. Another thunk of metal sinking into flesh, a cleaver chopping a roast. Something fell to the floor and Ash bent over to maintain the assault. Weight shifting to the right foot before the swing, over and over again, her heart pounded to the beat of Ash maintained. Other than an occasional grunt from Ash and the wet chopping noise the one sided battle took place in darkness and silence.

Something grabbed Shanai’s arm. She screamed and stumbled backward, tripping over her own feet and falling to the floor. Without thinking she crawled across the floor on her back, instinct and fear telling her to get away from the nightmare. She could hear feet scuffling across the floor in front of her. Something banged into the door. Ash let out a hiss and then a groan then the sound of steel sinking into flesh and a body hitting the floor. Liquid splashed onto her pants, then just the butchers sound of steel and meat.

Another slam against the door.

She flinched as something grabbed her arm and pulled.

“Shhhhh, “It’s me.” Ash whispered.

He yanked her to her feet and pulled her along the wall, away from the door and it’s haunting knocks.

Within twenty steps Ash led her through a swinging door and into a room filled with the cold blue light of the night. He pulled her down behind a counter, his eyes taking in what he could of the room before lifting his head above the counter. A frown covered his face as he dropped back down beside her and stared at the floor between his feet.

Shanai waited a few minutes before asking, “What now? Are they still out there?”

He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and index finger before saying, “Yeah, they are still out there. It sounds like the ones who were banging on the back door have quit though, and other than the two in I kill…put down in the back room there aren’t any more in her, but we have to move and do it pretty quickly. We now have a deadline.”

She frowned. “Why is that?”

He held his arm out. A thumb-sized chunk of meat showed on his upper forearm, blood welling within it and dripping down the sides. Ash ripped his sleeve the rest of the way off and began binding it around the wound. The sleeve turned red and dripped before he could get it tied.

“That second one was a sneaky bastard with a hell of a bite. Anyway, we don’t have a lot of time to dally around now. I have to get you out of here before I…succumb to whatever this is.”

With her vision blurred by tears she reached over and touched his shoulder. She didn’t know how to reply.

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