16 Jun 2017

The Soul Blade - Chapter 38

"Do you hear sirens?"
"We're evacuating the neighborhood, sir."
"Novotny girls never run."
"Everyone ready?"
"Larson, did you see what your girlfriend just did?"  Cruz hurried her pace to catch up to Matt.  "Did you know she could make a light sabre appear like that?  How the hell did she do that?"

Matt fell back a few steps from behind Brenna.  "She showed me, Damaris, yes.  Can we focus on the skeletons?  Where's Henderson."  Matt turned around.  "Hey, Henderson, a shotgun?  What the hell, man?"

Henderson hefted his weapon.  "Bean bag rounds.  They should break bones."

"Just don't hit any of us."  Matt dashed to catch back up to Brenna.  "Bren, do you know what you're doing?  I mean, if this was a zombie movie, we'd just aim for the head."

Brenna slowed down as she shifted to her second sight.  She kept her attention on the skeletal army marching towards her.  A green tinge infused the bones of the skeletons.  "Whatever's moving them is in them.  There isn't a core."  Brenna flashed a smile at Matt.  "Sorry."

"Summer?" Dawn called.

Summer chewed her lip as she thought.  "Break the spine?  It could cut the the spell."

"And if not?" Matt asked.

Summer shrugged.  "The bottom half can't do much and the upper half has to pull itself along."

Dawn smiled.  "And we can crush their bones."

Matt gave his head a shake.  "Right.  Let's give Henderson his shot before we move in."

"And don't get too close to me," Brenna added.  "I don't want to accidentally cut someone."

"Yeah, Bren, I was going to say," Grace said.  "I haven't seen you go right to the red like this."

Brenna shrugged.  "They're already dead and there's no spirit inside them.  I can't hurt them."

"Okay girls, officers," Dawn said.  "Focus.  Anytime you're ready, Henderson."

Henderson raised his shotgun.  He sighted at skeleton and squeezed the trigger.  The shotgun bucked against him, the boom echoing off houses.  The skeleton's ribs shattered and parts of its spine disappeared.  The remains collapsed in a heap.

Brenna broke into a run, charging at the skeletal horde, holding the Soul Blade crosswise in front of her.  She reached the leading rank of the army and swung.  The red shaft of light cut through the skeleton's brittle bones, severing the spine.  Brenna continued her charge, slicing through outstretched arms and slashing through spines.  On her right, her aunt crushed skeletons with her bat.  Over on her left, her sister smashed down on a skeleton's shoulder.  "Grace, swing low!"

"I know what I'm doing!"  Grace brought her bat down on another skeleton, breaking its collarbone and removing its arm.

"That's not how you play baseball."  Brenna pressed forward, deeper into the skeletal column.

"Um, guys, can we argue later?" Aurora asked.

Grace finished with her skeleton.  "Thanks, Rory."  A shotgun blast punctuated her words.

"Just swing for the fences, Grace."  Brenna cut down two skeletons with one swing.

Matt kept close to Brenna, wielding his nightstick against any thing that got too close to the young woman.  He ducked out of instinct as Henderson fired his shotgun again.  "We need backup."

"McCoy's sending everyone he can," Henderson said.  "He's telling us to get out."

"Not happening.  We need to even the odds here."  Matt chopped down on a skeleton that had slipped past Brenna.  "I'm open to suggestions."

"We could use grenades!" Rae called.

Cruz fended off an attempted by a skeleton to grab her.  "All we have is tear gas."

Brenna ducked under a swipe.  She shoved the Soul Blade forward through the skeleton's pelvis.  "Matt, how did you get through these guys in the first place?"

"We drove."

Grace spun, her bat held out.  "Bren, that's it!  Get your van!"

"No!  Use your car!"

"Your van's bigger."

Brenna kicked at a skeleton.  "I can't find parts for it.  Are you going to pay for a new axle?"

"It was just a thought."

After a roll of her eyes, Brenna kept moving.  She left a trail of bones behind her as she made her way deeper into the horde.  Matt kept close to her, making sure that the skeletons couldn't surround her.  The skeletons, though, turned towards Brenna.  With their attention focused, Brenna's family were able to cut down more of the army.  The Soul Blade flashed red through the ribs of the skeletons.

"Bren, we have to pull back," Matt said.  "There's too many and they're all after you."

"And go where?"  Brenna cut down another skeleton.  "No, Matt.  And stand back!  I don't want to hurt you."

"We'll get in my car and head east.  Bren, they're not fast.  We can outrun them."

"And have them hurt more people as they look for me?  No, Matt."

"It'll give us--"  A blast from the police cruiser's siren cut Matt off.  He turned to see Henderson, Summer, and Rae pushing the car towards the horde.  "Brenna, look out!"

Brenna craned her neck to see the car.  She let Matt pull her out of the car's path.  Henderson tossed an object into the front seat of the cruiser, then pulled Brenna's cousins away.  "Everyone, get out of the way!"

Grace, Dawn, and Aurora fell back towards the sidewalks.  Brenna and Matt darted around the car.  A small explosion erupted in the cruiser.  Smoke billowed out the windows.  The car rolled into the midst of the skeletal horde, crushing any that was in the way.

"Behind the van!" Henderson called.

Matt and Brenna brought up the rear as the group hid behind the young woman's Savana.  "Henderson?"

"I tossed a tear gas grenade on the front seat.  Should set the car on fire and set off everything else there."

Cruz stared at her fellow officer.  "Why would you do that?"

Henderson pointed at Rae.  "She suggested an explosion.  This should do it."

Matt stared at Henderson.  "You're blowing up my car?"

"The garage can fix it."

A loud blast shook the van.  Car alarms blared in the aftermath.  Matt peeked around the side of the van.  The remains of his cruiser sat still aflame.  No skeletons could be seen.  "Yeah, that's going to just buff right out."

Brenna poked head around, pressing close to Matt.  "I think that did it."  She stepped back out on to the street.  "Gracie?"

"I'm good, Bren.  Still blocked, though."

"That was just the first wave, Bren," Matt said.  "There's two more coming this way.  You really should get out of here."

Brenna turned to face Matt.  She noticed the pits in her van caused by pieces of police cruiser and shards of bone, and the flat tires on the side that took the brunt of the explosion.  "That's not going to happen.  We're not going to all fit in Gracie's car, either."

Matt joined Brenna in the street.  "It's dangerous, Brenna."

"Which is why you should go, Matt.  We can deal with the rest of the army until you can get reinforcements."  Brenna smiled.  "And more cars."

"Hey, guys?" Summer called.  "There's no time."  She pointed down the street.  Skeletons marched in a wide column.

Brenna raised the Soul Blade, its red light casting shadows on her face.  "I guess no one's leaving."

The skeletons marched until they reached the end of the block, then stopped.  The center file parted, letting a green van pass through the middle of the newly arrived army.  The van rolled to a stop just past the front rank of the skeletons.  A woman stepped out.  Brenna recognized her right away.  Matt dropped his nightstick to draw his service pistol.

"No!"  Brenna stepped in front of Matt, ruining his aim.  "No one dies."

"Oh, Bladekeeper."  Tricia laughed.  "That's not in my plans."  She strode down the street towards Brenna.

"Brenna, out of the way."  Matt tried to step around the young woman.

"No one dies.  Not here."  Brenna held The Soul Blade out to the side, blocking Matt.  The red shimmered, then faded to a pure white.  "Give up."

"That's my line, Bladekeeper."  Tricia motioned her army forward.  In step, her skeletons marched behind her.  "You're outnumbered. Your power isn`t even in the same ballpark as mine.` She pointed at Brenna`s van, then opened her hand.  Power coursed through her.  Tricia squeezed her hand into a tight fist.  Brenna's van crumpled in on itself.  Grace pulled Dawn away from the wreckage while Rae, Summer, and Aurora spread out.

Brenna walked towards Tricia.  "I can't let you keep going.  Surrender now."

"Girl, you don't have a clue."  Tricia waved her skeleton army forward.  "Get her family.  The Bladekeeper is mine."  She broke into a run, heading straight for Brenna.

Brenna marched out, Soul Blade raised.  Behind her, her family followed, going bats raised after the skeletons.  Tricia met the young woman in the middle of the street.  She reached out to grab Brenna.  The Soul Blade came up to parry the blow.  Black smoke roiled away from Tricia's arm.  The woman screamed with two voices.

"Bren, she's possessed!"  Rae ducked under a skeleton's bony swipe.

"Great!"  Brenna switched to her second sight.  Two auras resided in her opponent, one an angry red, the other dark and malignant with flashes of lightning.  "Just great.  Whatever is inside, leave her now!"

Tricia laughed.  "Oh, no, Bladekeeper.  He's a guest."

Brenna slashed at Tricia.  The woman darted around the Blade far faster than Brenna expected.  Before she could recover, Brenna found herself being held by the throat.  Tricia lifted the young woman off the ground.  Brenna sliced at Tricia's arm.

Despite the pain, Tricia kept a grip on her prey.  She squeezed, cutting off Brenna's air.  "You don't understand, Bladekeeper."  Tricia shook the young woman like a rag doll before holding her out away from her.  "Your legacy ends here.  Your family, then you."

Grace smashed through the skeletons pressing on her.  "Let her go!"  She raised her baseball bat.

"I think I've found my first volunteer."  Tricia gave Brenna a feral smile.  She raised her free arm, pointing it at Grace.

Brenna's eyes widened.  "No."

Gunshots rang, deafening.  Tricia looked down at her shirt.  Blood seeped into the fabric, staining the white blouse.  "But . . .."


Tricia collapsed on the street.  Brenna landed hard on the asphalt and lay still.  The skeletons fell where they stood.  Grace shrieked and clutched her head.  Dawn ran to the younger Halliday sister while Aurora ran to Brenna.  Matt lowered his smoking pistol.

"Shots fired," Cruz said into her radio.  "Ambulance needed--"

"It's not over," Rae said.  "Rory, get back!"

Matt stepped towards her.  "Brenna, are you hurt?"

Brenna got to her knees.  Her eyes opened.  Instead of being hazel, her eyes were a deep amber.  "Brenna can't answer you right now."

Coming Soon:
The conclusion.


  1. That's great. Lots of good stuff here. I'm going to start with the sketchier stuff.
    -Why is Tricia here personally? Like, I get that she's being manipulated by Ashen to give him access to Brenna (which is clever, didn't see that coming) and that she's not subtle, but she talks of "plans" and them being "outnumbered"... they were a lot MORE outnumbered earlier, before they cut down an entire pack of skeletons. Was their initial victory seriously part of her plans? She doesn't even acknowledge it. Or say she got tired of waiting. Or say she would have been here earlier but was delayed by police. And if she's not going to explain her presence out loud in any way, we need back inside her head. Related...
    -Tricia's death is lacklustre. It fits with Matt and the romance plot, it fits with Ashen's discarding of her, but unfortunately it doesn't fit with the fact that she's second only to Brenna in terms of screen time and plot development. Now, she could have another ace here (she is that sort) so maybe she'll also be in Brenna's head, or her skeleton will suddenly pop out and try to escape, or maybe she's only badly wounded and learns a lesson (hah) in the ambulance but if not, she needs a more personal send-off.

    I think another Tricia POV fixes all that, whether it occurs before/as she shows up on the scene, maybe mentally talking with Ashen, or when she gets Brenna into a choke, so we get her death first-hand (need to be careful not to spoil the cliffhanger there). The good news being everything else works GREAT.

    The Novotnys offering strategy. Matt fighting at Brenna's side. The car as their ace-in-the-hole that they can't reuse. Brenna's reactions, particularly regarding Tricia and Matt. The final twist. All very well done, in my mind. *applauds*

    Breaking it down even further:
    -I feel like Henderson's been jonesing for a mission like this for years. (Cruz seems out of her depth. Matt's in the middle.)
    -Summer gets to show she's got strategy!
    -Brenna reiterating the same thing she did last part (about accidental strikes) is repetitive, but her sight and spirit talk feels bang on.
    -Bickering over the van is funny. Even more amusing is the car that gets used (and the van ends up totalled anyway...)
    -"Just buff right out", HAH.
    -"Girl, you don't have a clue" is actually pretty accurate.
    -I thought Brenna would have more of a reaction to her van, given the earlier talk with Grace. (That could even be funny. "Ohh, now I'm angry." "I send an army of skeletons but the van is your tipping point?")
    -The "guest" line is kind of key for explaining plot, and is in character... have we had a possession before? That first blade incident at the beach shack? I don't recall, but there could be a nice parallel made in strategy.
    -Grace effectively gets the "distraction assist", which is nice. I feel like there may be Matt/Brenna friction over him disobeying her, but he is a police officer, and she should understand.
    -That twist, wooo, very nice. When did you decide on that? I don't think Ashen can be taken down with power, so will Brenna have some mental strategy...?

    1. Some of what you touch on would be spoilers for the next chapter, but I can comment on a few things here. There's a lot that's going to be covered in the ending.

      Henderson is one of my "black box" characters - I know how he reacts by not why. He's the guy that lives for the weirdness of the day.

      Summer needed something to stand out from her sisters. Strategy works for her.

      Brenna is cautious with her red blade. She knows it can cut through people too easily.

      I had thought about Brenna getting upset about the van, but it seemed to break the mood, at least at my end. It's a deleted scene.

      Back in Chapter 24, Brenna and Matt talk about their class trip to Gettysburg, where Bren was possessed. I'll make it clear in the next chapter.

      The twist came to mind the moment the Ashen Man appeared. That gave me the end scene to work towards. Brenna will have a few ideas in the next chapter.