Sunday, August 26, 2012

16754--Once Upon a Time...

File:Hong Kong Night Skyline.jpgKNIGHT IN THE CITY

(to continue...)

     Tuesday night in The City meant something different to almost everyone who chose to make a life in Magick. The City was alive with a special energy that she almost felt she could feed upon. Just walking down the sidewalks could bring a euphoria that was only surpassed by performing. She made the momentary mistake of letting her mind wander to thoughts of music and magic, not noticing the pack of drooling ghoul spawn until they had her surrounded. It was really the horrid stench of death and urine that got her attention first. As she tried not to gag, Robin began to turn cautiously. Her instincts told her she wanted to keep eyes on their leader, but she had to see through the ragged clothes, discolored flesh and unkempt hair to pick that individual out from the group.

     Stupid, walking off down a dark street like you’re back home.
The young girl was new to town, but she knew better than to expect help from strangers even if any had been around. The City could be unforgiving to those who failed to learn and respect its hazards. It had its seductive beauties, but those usually hid dangerous thorns or, in this case, stained teeth and sharp fingernails. Robin noticed the tattered jackets each of the shambling figures wore, marking them as a street gang, The Night Dragons.

     That’s what I need right now, she thought, a knight to deal with the dragons. She knew full well, though, that she had never even heard of The City being so accommodating. Being rampant with magic was one thing, but that just made it more interesting than being back in Texas. No one ever promised the place handed out wishes.

“So, are you just out to keep a girl on her toes,” she prodded, “or is one of you actually after the first bite?”

“Yummmymmm,” the one to her left snarled as it reached out with a filthy hand.

Robin knew there were a lot of things she did not know about ghouls, but she knew had drawn out the leader.

“Back off!” Robin commanded, holding out a shiny metal object that flared at the ghoul with a blinding cascade of light.

     Cruel, hungry leering changed to cowering fear as the gang members shielded their eyes and withdrew from the brilliance. Seeing the positive result, Robin’s resolve strengthened and the magical glow intensified. In accordance with the laws of affinity, the dark creatures recoiled even further in search of the safety of shadows. Then, the light began to flicker and fade, revealing the arcane object she held to be a large harmonica.

“Uh-oh,” she said, shaking the instrument as the ghoul swarm began to growl with renewed boldness. “Come on, baby, mama needs that mojo.”

     Robin began to tense as the lead ghoul began to move cautiously toward her again. Another flash of light, even brighter than the last, manifested from thin air. The crash of thunder filled every ear and a sudden swirl of air carried the heady scent of…horse. As Robin’s vision cleared, astonishment washed over her face at the sight before her. She looked up at a white stallion that stood on the sidewalk with an armored man astride it. He looked back with stern gray eyes. For just a moment, she thought she saw confusion in those eyes, but it was quickly replaced with strength and resolve enough to make her own worry fade. Then, she saw the shining yard of steel he held in his right hand, matched by a crystalline sword in his left. Each of the blades glowed with an eldritch light, the metal one crimson and the other violet.

“Nay, beast!” the knight commanded, his strong right arm swinging the crimson blade at the ghoul swarm’s leader. “You’ll threaten no one further!”

     Blood sprayed from the ghoul’s opened neck as he fell. The others screeched and ran off into the night as Robin’s knight turned his steed.

“You are safe now, maiden,” he assured her as he looked all around them. “The vile creatures are fled. Tell me, what grand city is this? Have you seen any sign of a wizard?”

“What?” she asked. “You want a wizard?”

“No, but I have denied one a prize,” he told her. “That means he will likely be in search of me.”

“So you want to find him first?”


“Well, this is The City. If you’re in search of a wizard, this is the place to find one. With you being all tall, dark and hero,” she said, trying not to let herself gush overmuch at the handsome horse rider, “he must be a pretty bad guy.”

“I knew him but a day. The gnawing at my gut tells me, though, that he is likely as foul a one as ever I have known.”

“Well, since The City’s delivering wishes tonight,” she said, “maybe I can help you, too. Y’know, return the favor?”

“You wished for my presence in this strange land?” he asked. “Are you a sorceress?”

“Me? No,” she assured him. “I sing and play some music. In fact, you showed up at a great time. After three months of busting my ass to make a go in this town, I’ve got my first big show with my band tonight.”

“I…congratulate you?”

“Thanks,” she said, chuckling at his uncertainty. “Look, you seem confused and a little lost.”

“I am very lost. This land is wholly unknown to me,” he said, sheathing the crimson sword, “with stranger sights than I am used to seeing when this sober.”

“Well, from what little I do know about living here,” she said, “in my moment of need, I may well have wished you here. Lord knows I needed the help. Whatever the case, I pay my debts and helping a fellow human in need is the least I can do.”

“I am Slade, fair maiden,” he told her, reaching out a hand and pulling her up to sit behind him. “Your sense of honor is appreciated.”

“Thanks, stud. Robin,” she said. “Robin Elektra.”

“Well met. Where do we go?” he asked.

“Ride straight on,” she directed, ignoring the nervous quiver in her belly as she slid her arms about his thick waist. “My bandmates know a lot more about magic than I do. They can probably answer some questions before we go onstage.”

“Good,” he said, starting the horse along the sidewalk. “One of you can explain to me these strange carts with flashing eyes.”

“Those are cars,” Robin said.

“They use magic to move without horses?” he asked. “Magic to light their fire?”

“No. Well, actually, some of them might,” she said as she remembered where she was. “Magic use is very common here.”

“Of course it is,” he sneered. “My luck holds true.”

“It sounds like you have no love for magic.”

“You could not speak words more true,” he said.

“Yet you have a magic sword,” she observed. “Two, in fact.”

“By duty, not by choice,” he said. “In truth, they began as one. Struggling to protect it from the dark wizard’s magic, I believe, has sundered it in twain. In like fashion, I have been delivered into your midst.”

“Turn down that alley,” she directed. “Fascinating tale. If I lived anywhere else, I’d say you were crazy. Instead, though, we’ll see if we can get you sorted out.”

“Where magic is involved,” he said, “I remain skeptical as to the outcome of anything but a stout drink.”
"Well, my noble knight," Robin smiled, "I may yet be able to brighten your evening."