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Fanfic Friday – “Champion of God”

5 Oct

Night had fallen, and Brother Franco had a sickening feeling he would not see morning.

The dreary Wygol was a poor excuse for a village, with half-tumbled wooden shacks supported by crumbling brick and filthy, rat-thick streets. A heavy layer of snow draped the sorry place like a suffocating pillow, and firelights were few and frail. As the warrior strode through the frozen mud, all the shutters were closed, and there was no sound of life or laughter – only the whistling wind and the faraway howling of wolves. What a bitter, miserable, God-forsaken place this is, he thought, and his gaze shifted to the looming castle beyond, a massive gothic nightmare of skeletal spires and forbidding stone walls. Poking through the thick snowclouds and pale moonlight, it cast an ominous shadow over the gloomy Wygol, and Brother Franco pulled his hood tighter around his neck. It was not the castle which truly frightened him.

It was the vampires.

He knew the castle was a spawning ground for the unholy monsters, and he knew that they had plagued Wygol for years, corrupting it from a bright and prosperous place into the wretched hole it had become. He knew that God was not welcome here, nor members of the Brotherhood such as himself. And he knew that once the sun had set, the creatures would emerge and begin to hunt. He needed to find shelter, and he needed to do it now.

Brother Franco pounded on door after door in futility. None, it seemed, would risk opening their doors at night, even for a man of God in dire need. He could hardly blame them – but darkness was closing all around, and the cold bit at his skin through his cloth and mail. Presently he came to the outer limits of Wygol, finding a woebegone and mercifully empty stable with rotted timbers and foul-smelling straw, frozen and forgotten. He tucked himself into the tightest, darkest corner he could find, and huddled down with his cloak wrapped about him, preserving as much heat as he could.

It was hours of fitful shivering before his body finally succumbed to sleep, but he was woken after what seemed like only moments by a dreadful hissing sound. Gasping in the cold, Brother Franco unslid his sword from its sheath and grasped his rosary in his other hand. His mission was to bring the light of God to the dark places of the world, but he would need to stay alive in order to carry it out – and this was a dark place indeed. There, again, that low hiss, like an enormous snake, seeming to issue forth from the woodwork all around him. Brother Franco whimpered a frantic prayer, and waited.

At first there was nothing, no sound or sight except the curling zephyrs of snow which blew in from the doorway on a shaft of moonlight. Then, as he stared into the shadows, Brother Franco made out two tiny points of light. They glittered there, and with a jolt he realized they were a pair of eyes leering at him from the dark. He raised his sword, still cowering on the ground, and his broken voice yelped, “Who’s there? S-show yourself!”

He heard the hiss again and the eyes transformed into a grinning gargoyle face, with a flattened nose, spiked ears, and huge glistening fangs. The vampire opened its jaws wide and screeched at him, stepping out of the shadows and unfolding its leathery wings. It lunged, its eyes gleaming yellow and ravenous, and Brother Franco screamed.

Then there was a crack like silver lightning, and the foul creature stopped dead in its tracks, reaching for its throat and gagging. Brother Franco saw steel chain links encircling its neck, and in an instant it was ripped from its clawed feet to slam onto the ground. Then a huge figure leapt into view, snowflakes sparkling around it like minuscule diamonds, and plunged a pointed stake into the vampire’s chest. There was a plume of bright blood and a horrifying shriek from the vampire, which thrashed and twitched until it seemed like an eternity had passed, and finally it ceased moving entirely.

The next thing Brother Franco knew, there was a heavy steel gauntlet thrust out toward him. He had the presence of mind to grasp it, and he was pulled to his feet to come face to face with his saviour. He saw a powerful man with thick strands of hair falling over his face, dressed in the same garb as himself. He was stunned, and blurted out, “You… you’re of the Brotherhood?”

He saw the faintest flicker of a smile tug at the edges of the man’s mouth, which receded into a blank, armoured expression. In a deep and quiet voice, he said, “Yes. I am Gabriel Belmont. What is your name, Brother?”

“Franco,” said Brother Franco, realizing his sword was still drawn and sheathing it with a hot flush of embarrassment.

“Well then, Brother Franco,” said Belmont, turning away. “I must go. Be on your guard. This is a place of evil.”

Brother Franco was well aware. As Belmont walked out the door, he said,  “Wait!” and saw the huge man stop at the threshold.

“Thank… thank you,” said Brother Franco, “for saving my life.”

Now Belmont did smile, though it vanished as quickly as it came. “Just doing God’s work, Brother.”

Then he was gone, leaving Brother Franco alone in the cold once again.

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Fanfic Friday – “The Tree House”

21 Sep

Morgan wiped his brow and tucked his gloves into his pocket. His breath bloomed out in the air. It must be close to New Year’s, he thought, as he placed his hammer and measuring tape back into his toolbox. He lifted it out of the snow and admired his handiwork.

The tree fort was small, but safe and high up in the hefty poplar. It had tall walls of sheet metal and wood, cut in the shape of battlements and parapets, imitating a grand medieval castle. Morgan frowned, knowing it looked more like a shantytown shack with delusions of grandeur, but he wasn’t worried – the whole point was to use your imagination. It was well-stocked with supplies, food, and weapons, and even had a rope swing leading across the drainage ditch and into the field beyond in case a quick escape was necessary. The two-by-four slats that formed the rungs up the trunk could have been more secure, but Morgan had done it that way deliberately: they were designed to fall away when pulled by anything exerting more force than a ten-year-old. Christ knew the buggers could pull pretty damn hard when they got a hold of something.

Morgan heard the whistle that signaled dinner, and turned back toward the house.

Duane was waiting for him, carrying a huge pot of pasta to the table in his skinny arms. Morgan tromped in, shuffling off his winter gear, and smiled at his son. “Mm-mm! Smells great, Duane. Gotta say, boy – you gettin’ damn good at this.”

When they had finished, Morgan said, “It’s ready, by the way. You wanna go take a look?”

The look on Duane’s face made Morgan strangely sad. The boy was filled with such joy, and it hurt to see it. Joy, happiness, comfort – these were rare commodities these days. Their future was an undeniably bleak one, but as the boy pulled on his boots, Morgan could see he still had hope. He couldn’t understand it, but there it was, and his heart ached so badly with love and grief that he had to struggle to keep from breaking down.

Morgan watched from the doorway as his son trundled through the white drifts out their backyard, toward the tree. He could hear an echoing whoop of delight, and smiled as Duane began his awkward climb. When the boy was almost at the top, Morgan got dressed, grabbed his baseball bat, and walked out to meet him.

“Dad, it’s awesome!” Duane’s head poked out, grinning widely. “It’s so warm in here! There’s blankets and comic books and a fireman axe!” His head disappeared, and Morgan wiped a tear from his cheek. He knew the boy needed a place to escape to, and he was so proud to be able to give it to him. It will keep him safe, he thought, as he watched his son re-emerge and smile down at him.

“Dad, you gotta come up and — DAD!

Duane’s face twisted horribly as he shrieked, and Morgan didn’t even have time to turn around. The walker, whose approach had been muffled by the snow, sank its rotten teeth into the flesh of Morgan’s neck and ripped away a crimson tangle of muscle and blood. Morgan bellowed, gasping, and clapped a hand to the gushing wound. With his other he hefted the bat, and brought it down on the walker’s crusted, frozen forehead. When it fell, he didn’t stop. He could hear Duane shouting and moving down the trunk, but he didn’t stop, not until there was no more head at all, and he was slapping the bat down into a pool of slurried tissue and bone. He felt flushed, and plopped down on his knee into the spattered snow.

Then his son was there, cradling him, and he began to shake. His vision swam. He didn’t feel any pain. Isn’t that odd, he thought detachedly, and supposed he must be in shock. With the sound of his son’s cries in his ear, Morgan closed his eyes, and slipped away.

**

Duane couldn’t remember how many days had passed since his dad got bit, but he knew it was almost a week. He’d cleaned him up and bandaged his wound, just like he’d been taught. He sat there next to him while he slept, never leaving his side except to eat, praying every night that he’d wake and this would all go away, lying next to his father to keep him warm at night. When his dad’s eyes opened, Duane couldn’t help but burst into tears, and Morgan’s sickly smile was enough to make him feel like Superman.

“Hey, son,” he said. “I’m kinda thirsty. Mind grabbing me a drink?”

Duane flew to his father’s chest and hugged him tight. “Sure, dad,” he said.

Fanfic Friday – “Homecoming”

14 Sep

As planets go, Zebes is mostly unremarkable. A mid-large terrestrial body with a semitransparent carbon dioxide atmosphere, it orbits the humdrum star called FS-176 at a period of 834.34 sols. Its sulfuric acid cloud layer is highly reflective, spiking the surface temperature to near-uninhabitable levels. Life, however – aggressive, irrepressible life – flourishes everywhere, in the underground caverns and the quicksand deltas and the canyons of broken crust. The planet itself could be skipped over at a moment’s glance – but the fauna is something different altogether.

Zebes is home to monsters.

These are the grim musings the bounty hunter vocalizes into her comm as she watches the bronzen orb drift through space. Autopilot carries her toward it, and she feels a shudder as its gravity embraces her and pulls her close, like a lover. She completes her log, and sweeps her fingers over a bank of glowing switches. Waste is jettisoned, the viewscreen blast shield slides shut, and her console whirrs as it moves away from her lap. Her chair rotates and lowers, but she does not step off.

She curls like a child, wrapped in a flight coat with her knees to her chest. She shakes. It might be the cold in the cockpit, but it’s more likely that she is boiling over with pain. Old pain, dulled by time but festering still, like an evergreen venom in her veins. Zebes is a place of death, she knows this, and yet she is drawn unerringly to it like a moth to a flame. She knows her wings will blossom with fire and coil away, but she flies straight at its inviting glow all the same. How can your private hell be the only home you know?

The cockpit lurches as the gunship rumbles through the upper atmosphere, and Samus Aran is spilled from her captain’s seat. Her limbs extend and she lands like a cat on the steel floor panels. The flame draws close, little moth. She steps into the elevator capsule and her finger hesitates an inch from the pulsing button. She shakes her wavy blonde curls away from her face, drawing them up into a high ponytail. She breathes, centring herself, and punches the switch.

Under a minute later, the gunship touches down. The capsule extends with a fffsssss of air and kisses the planet’s surface. Samus’ breath bounces back in her face against her visor, and when the doors slide open her vision is frosted with condensation. Her suit meeps, informing her politely of her skyrocketing heart rate. When the fog clears, she looks out at the gloomy bleak world she calls her home.

The clouds are heavy with acid, huge and roiling and darkly orange. Lightning flashes far away in the distance. The air is a miasma of steam and acrid moisture, sizzling precipitation hissing away against the heat of the mossy ground, and Samus breathes slow and clear inside her helmet. Circle the flame. Feel its heat. She takes a step out, ignores her suit’s environmental warnings, and breaks directly into a loping run.

**

4.68 standard time units later and Samus has traversed the bowels of a dripping cavern, guided less by her navcom than a vague sense of purpose. She is not sure what brought her back here – the Federation “reconnaissance assignment” was a flimsy excuse at best – and she has even less of an idea what she will find. She only knows her blood is pulling her forward, and she obeys. Closer now, little moth.

At the neck of a swollen passage lit by unearthly bioluminescence, Samus’ visor spots an energy signature. She touches her temple and her vision flashes blue, x-raying through the mineral wall and highlighting the rudimentary electrical piping in vivid orange. She follows it at a tireless pace, vaulting over obstacles both living and inanimate. It terminates in a sealed portal carved from stone, and Samus stops in her tracks at the sight of it.

She knows the curved rune shapes as well as the contours of her own body; she has made ones just like them many times herself. They showed her how, when she was a girl. She ran often then, along cavern tunnels much like this one. The harshness of Zebes was all she knew. It was a place where one could not remain separate from one’s surroundings – you either joined the ecosystem’s unflagging sprint, or fell underneath it. Samus never fell. The hunter in her was awakened here, and now it sniffs at the door with hungry curiosity.

Her palm touches the ancient stone, finding a carved birdlike shape. It falls away immediately, obligingly, without a sound. Samus’ suit temperature regulator compensates for the flushing in her chest, and she steps through into darkness.

She touches her temple again and the world glows green. She sees a square-cut room, and a crumbling statue seated in the centre. As she approaches it she sees that it is curled, fetal, and she shivers in recognition. Her blaster comes up, activating with an eager hum. She steps tentatively forward. Careful, little moth. The flame is hot.

Samus’ visor flares white and she is blinded, crying out in surprise. Heat sensors scream. Nightvision switches off automatically and in the split second it takes for her eyes to adjust, the monster uncoils itself from the ceiling and drops to the floor, sleek and ghastly, screeching its reptilian fury.

The bounty hunter is ready, raising her arm and squeezing the trigger, feeling the dampeners absorb the recoil as she launches round after round of superheated plasma at her enemy. Her rapid-fire barrage pauses only long enough for her to flick a switch, and fire off several high-yield missiles into the smoke. Their detonation shakes dust from the chamber, and Samus hears the rubble tink off her helmet. Then there is silence.

Flame burns, doesn’t it.

The monster launches itself out of the smoke, spreading grotesque batlike wings in a primal aggression display. Its jaw stretches wide and a glob of heat coughs out, igniting into a fanning fire which pours from the monster’s throat as its head whips back and forth. Its tail, spiked with an evil glistening talon, lashes through the smoke in agitation. The monster is angry.

Samus Aran is not afraid. After all, little moth: you have the home field advantage.