Suddenly a dwarf, caped in a dark gown runs from the opponents cage and up the steps to where the House Madame sits on her throne of bones. Silence falls upon the crowd as the dwarf whispers something into the House Madame's ear.
The House Madame stands and raises a hand into the air. Dragon Queen kneels.
"It would appear that not only one, but two contenders have refused to battle against the mighty Dragon Queen!"
A loud uproar travels through the crowd. Boos and hisses spread through the stalls, disappointment among them knowing that there are no more contenders.
"Silence!" The House Madame Shouts. "We shall have one, more, duel!"
The crowd rise, clapping, stomping their feet and cheering loudly.
"We shall bring two back from the dead for one last duel. The two contenders with the highest wins shall have one more chance. If they succeed they shall become immortal."
Dragon Queen stands, a look of bewilderment on her face.
The House Madame points her outstretched finger and a flash of light fills the arean. Two figures rise from the light and stand tall in front of Dragon Queen.
"Dwight the Fright and Jayradikill. You both have had the most wins before you were defeated. Now is your chance to prove to me how much of a warrior you really are. The three of you will do battle to the death. The last one standing will be the winner. Good luck to you all. . ."
Jayradikill, Dwight the Fright and Dragon Queen. This is the final round. You have all be assigned a creature. For this last round you must write a story about this battle using the three creatures I have assined you to. You must write as if you are the winner. Any narrative, any tense. 1500 words. You have one week. Stories must be emailed to me by August 12th. Readers choose the winner.
The winner shall receive a copy of The Duel Anthology, a House of Horror t-shirt, a choice of three other House of Horror Anthologies, also a Winner of The Duel certificate that will be emailed to you.
Both runners up will receive one free copy of The Duel Anthology and one PDF of any of House of Horror's Anthologies.
Dwight - Werewolf
Jayradikill - Zombie
Dragon Queen - Vampire
I step back, shedding my cloak. The silver on my dagger and belt, sparkles in the torch light. “Well Gentlemen? Are you man enough to take on an unarmed woman?”
“You’re not unarmed. I can smell what you are.” Dwight growls.
“And either you haven’t bathed since you were defeated or you’re as much a pure Human as I.” Leaping into the air, I somersault over the top of him, faster than most of the crowd can follow. “Of course, I haven’t been Human for a long, long time now.”
Dwight spins and as he takes a swipe at me, I dance backward. “Stand still, Bloodsucker!”
The crowd cheers as I lead him in a circle around Jayradikill who hasn’t moved or said anything since the start of the duel. Curious, I move in close to the silent man. “Jayradikill?” He raises his head and the stench from his breath almost knocks me out; I back away. He groans and reaches toward me.
Dwight skids to a stop in front of me, focused on attacking me and not noticing that Jayradikill has started to shuffle softly forward. “I’ve got you now, bitch.”
Either it’s a trick of the light, or he’s starting to change… I glance around, trying to plan my next move. …Huh? We’re not in the arena
The cheering crowd and slimy dungeon walls have vanished. Around us lie gravestones of varying antiquity, long grass sheathing most of them. The cemetery is surrounded by a forest, conifers scenting the evening air and moss draped oaks cast eerie shadows as the last of the
sunset vanishes behind the trees.
Taking advantage of my distraction, Dwight lunges at me.
Thank Caine I jumped out of reflex. I thought hovering in mid air, about six foot above the two males.
“Get down here you-ooooo!” Dwight howls in frustration.
“If I were you, wolfman, I would get away from Jayradikill or he’ll start carving you up for lunch.” I call back, wafting myself a little
Dwight jumps, trying to grab hold of my feet; as he comes back down Jayradikill grabs hold of Dwight’s shirt. “Huh? What the…” he pullsaway and his shirt rips like paper in Jayradikill’s grip.
Stumbling, Dwight scrambles over a gravestone. In the twilight, Jayradikill looks up at me and flails his arms. “Geeeeerrrraaagh.”
“Sweet Denmother! He’s a Zombie.” Dwight heads toward a large mausoleum, climbing up onto the roof. He perches there, glaring down at the drooling Undead attempting to climb up. “Must have been out too long to be brought back to being Human properly.”
Resting on another tomb, I listen to the rasping gurgling of Jayradikill’s breathing and look up. High thin clouds scud across the sky and a faint white glow on the eastern horizon suggests the moon is
about to rise.
Running swiftly through the spells I can use, I realise I am too low on blood to do much yet. While Dwight is busy trying to crush
Jayradikill with pieces of the tomb he is sat on, I slip into the
forest, moving softly over the twig littered ground.
“There has to be a large animal around here somewhere I can feed from.” Using what is left of my last feed and stopping my breathing, I cast out an Ethereal net. Dwight shows up immediately, some three hundred metres behind me. I’m not feeding from him. I shudder and cast it again. The shape of a deer, about fifty metres to my left shows up; I begin my Hunt.
* * *
“Wheeeeree sheee gooaarrn?” Jayradikill looks around.
Dwight hefts the stone he has, aware that the moon has risen and he is minutes away from changing. “You can still talk? I didn’t think Zombies had enough brains for that.”
“Brrrraaaiiinnns!” Jayradikill moans and starts trying to climb again.
“Looks like I was wrong.” Dwight shrugs and drops the stone onto the zombie, sending half the creature’s face splattering across the grass.
“Aaarrrrggggh!” Jayradikill shuffles backward out of range.
Dwight glances up at the sky. The clouds have gathered high up and the wind has dropped. The stench of the rotting human below him fills his nose and he coughs. “Phwargh! I have got to get rid of you, Undead.”
“ooogh iiigh eiiigh geehh ooo fffiirrss.” The zombie has shambled around behind him and is slowly scrambling up the ruined back wall of
Dwight jumps off the tomb and runs through the tall grass toward the Chapel at the edge of the cemetery; the Zombie follows him. Half way across the full moon emerges from the clouds. “No! Not… now.” he gasps, dropping to the ground, writhing with pain, unable to move much
“Goooghh ooo nnooow.” Jayradikill speeds up, obviously hoping to get the werewolf while he is vulnerable.
“That’s not particularly sporting.” I call down from my perch on the Chapel roof.
“Waaggh ooo dooinnngg abbboo ittttgh” Jayradikill spits several teeth out in a spray of blood as Dwight manages to kick him across his ruined face.
“Well, I could let you kill him, then dismember you.” I raise one hand and whisper a bloodspell. A shaft of light appears and solidifies into a transparent sword. “But then you would come after me, so …” Taking the sword I launch myself over the prone, writhing form of the part changed werewolf and slice one arm from the zombie’s body.
Jayradikill stumbles backward and I turn on one heel behind him, removing the other arm. Blood and mucus spray across the grass, dripping down nearby gravestones and matting Dwight’s fur as he
scrambles away, panting, from Jayradikill.
Ignoring the weakened werewolf for a few seconds longer, I somersault over the armless zombie, spin in front of him and slice a leg off.
Jayradikill balances on one leg. “ooo ‘ooootttennngh ammmppiiirrrghh!”
“Speak for yourself!” I continue the motion through his other leg. His torso thumps onto the earth as I stand up, flicking gore away. “Any last words?”
“Bbbiiigggtttccchh!” Jayradikill swears at me and I can see his body parts starting to inch their way back towards the torso.
“Oh, no you don’t!” with one last swipe, I cut the thing’s head from the body and mutter another bloodspell. Blue flames flare up around each part and I have to step back from the heat. “That should deal with him.” I mutter and raising my sword, I look around for Dwight.
A rank, animalistic scent tickles my nose and I sneeze, just moments before the werewolf lands on my back, knocking the sword out of my hand.
“Gotcha, Bloodsucker!” Dwight snarls into my ear. “Thanks for the help, but you just signed your own death warrant.”
I step forward. “Just because you’re on my back, doesn’t mean… you’re… going to…stay… there!”
Grabbing his paws with both hands, I bow low, sending the massive rug-like animal flying over my head and into the side of the chapel. A crack appears in the mortar holding the stones together and there’s a creak; a few slates fall from the roof, smashing on the gravestones around Dwight.
I feel at my belt as the walking wolfpelt scrambles up; my fingers find what I am looking for. “You won’t get the better of me, Animal.” Spinning, my silver dagger flies from my fingers, thudding hilt deep into Dwight’s chest.
He laughs and pulls it out, a stream of blood following it. “Nice try, but you’ve been reading too much Human Fiction. Silver doesn’t touch us.”
I shrug. “It was worth a try; I’m always well prepared.” He charges and I jump, watching him pass underneath me harmlessly.
“Stop doing that!” he growls, spinning.
“But then I wouldn’t get to do this…” Swooping down, I ram a glass bladed throwing knife under his jaw.
Dwight coughs and a stream of silvery liquid dribbles down his jaw. Dropping to one knee, he fumbles at the hilt. “What...” he starts before he falls onto his back, the silvery liquid seeping from the
corners of his eyes. He gasps.
“Quicksilver or Mercury, as it is known to Humans, is poisonous when ingested.” I say, landing beside him. “It is the only metal known to be poisonous to Werewolves, especially this particular type. Any last words?”
“Bitch!” Dwight gurgles as the spelled Quicksilver uses his blood and other bodily fluids to multiply.
There is a roar of a crowd as the arena shimmers back into being. By one wall there is a pile of ash. In front of me, Dwight coughs and bubbles.
“And the Winner is…” the Madame watches as Dwight’s mouth fills with Quicksilver and breathes his last. “The Dragon Queen!”
Retrieving my cloak, I sweep it around my shoulders and bow deeply to the House Madam. “I couldn’t have done it without help from Dwight and Jayradikill!”
A flash. In a gladiatorial ring inside a decrepit stadium within a long since abandoned city there was a godly (or perhaps ungodly) conflagration of light and smoke; one might be inclined to call the place a ‘Ghost Town,’ but here, ghosts are the least of anybody’s worries. The flash hung in the air like a dole of doves and squirmed like a dumpster full of maggots. The light was blinding, yes, but it also carried a certain prominence that motivated all within its graces to bow their heads…all except for the House Madame.
Dragon Queen, the closest to the great light’s ghastly epicenter, moved nothing but her heavy, mascara-scarred eyelids; she did not even so much as bring a cautionary hand to her brow. Her ravaged and bruised legs dripped with torrid blood that was her own while her chin collected thick crimson dregs that were not. To say, by this point, that she had been through hell would be a gross understatement. By that token, she had already looked right into the tired face of the devil, saw the nine dark circles under his eyes, and scoffed. Out of numerous battles and innumerable gallons of blood spilled, Dragon Queen was called winner. At her feet: pools of vomit and puddles of urine, stacks of ribs and piles of broken teeth – little macabre forget-me-nots from warriors past. The Madame’s masked crew were still fervently carting off the bodies, body parts, and peculiar charred remnants that looked a lot like body parts. The air was beginning to clear when Dragon Queen saw them. She pressed her tongue scornfully against her pointed teeth. The prestigious and pestilent House Madame fingered the jagged femur that was her armrest; the show was about to begin.
As the audience too regained sight, a deathly hush fell over them. Dragon Queen’s ears perked to a peculiar and disheartening sound – that of gelatinous meat sliding over sandpaper. Out of the mostly dissipated smoke staggered a carrion-encrusted entity. The rotted hominid edged closer and closer, pulling its useless left leg behind it like a gravedigger’s shovel. Dragon Queen did not tear her eyes away from the disgusting being as she spoke, “Zombie…” The word came softly but spitefully, seeping from her lips like blood from a reopened wound.
She then heard a coarse, pummeling growl and flinched, but only slightly. Then the filthy beast appeared, leaping into Dragon Queen’s view from the remainder sprawl of smoke. It growled again through its large, gritted teeth. Suddenly, it took to its burly hind legs. Its hair stood like needles, its eyes burned like napalm. Yet, Dragon Queen did not even take a single step back. She only muttered vehemently under her breath, “Werewolf…” Her long gnarled fingers tensed just about into claws. The three grotesque combatants stood in a perfect triangle, mere feet from one another. High up in the stands, the voluptuous and venomous Madame sneered amusedly.
Dwight, the frightening man-wolf, made the first move. He took to the air from a pulse of his great hind legs. Glinting claws outstretched, he pounced upon Dragon Queen’s position with surreal speed. She smartly sidestepped, only feeling the effects of the nail on Dwight’s outstretched pinky finger, which still pried open a sizable gash on her cheek. Jayradikil, the postmortem warrior, slumped closer to the action. Dragon Queen and Dwight, vampire and werewolf, met in a heated grapple. Though wearing the wounds of war, the vampiress held her own against the wolf, keeping his treacherous maw at bay with her left hand while slashing at his leather-like belly-flesh with her right. Meanwhile, the automaton with the milky film over its eyes inched ever closer.
Through the struggle, Dwight struck the vampiress at her exposed shoulder. A rough bloody chunk left her flesh with a juicy slap and arched into the raucous crowd. Nicholas Coffin chortled as his son retrieved the blood-riddled souvenir from the area around his feet.
“Can I, dad?” Little Chris Coffin held the warm modicum of skin and muscle out before his watery eyes.
“Oh, of course, son. What kind of father would I be if I said no?”
Dragon Queen yelped hard but did not relent. She reared back her hand and swiped a baleful slash just above the beast’s blackish belly button. His liquid insides crept curiously to the surface and, once the coast was clear, filed through the impromptu orifice. Dwight sounded his displeasure to the heavens above. The enraged vampiress delved her hand deeper into the meaty cavity and riffled through the beast’s vital organs. Dwight screamed the blood-drenched scream of a man lacerated before whimpering like man’s best friend on death’s dog-bed.
Dragon Queen finally excised a greenish tubular prize – presumably a segment of his large or small intestine – and whipped it into the uproarious audience. The slimy organ flew through a group of emerald ghosts seated in the third row, smacking the bleachers behind them with a squishy thud. The middle phantom looked to the others, there was a tinge of shock across his features, yet no more than you would expect from an entity bound not by mortality: “Oh dear.” He spoke sardonically through an upturning grin.
Finally sidling up, Jayradikil made for the werewolf’s quivering bicep, its diseased teeth seeking flesh, seeking sustenance. Yet, instead, it caught the behemoth’s straining backhand upside its head as it flung out in struggle and pain, cocking the zombie’s head grotesquely down to its shoulder. A bemused breath left his emaciated lips, a feeling his former human self would have certainly categorized as disappointment. Putting a firm palm to his scalp, the zombie righted its head. Its neck crackled and projected a slivery bone-chip into the crowd which hit and pierced Dr. A, a surgeon in the seventh row. The good doctor glanced to his forearm with dejection and lethargy, where the bone-chip had stuck, then focused back on the action.
As the zombie positioned its skull back to its liking, it noticed the virulent vampiress had already felled the beast. She was straddling its gaping midsection and clawing away without aim, without pattern, and without reserve. She howled and squalled at uncomfortably high pitches, proving herself even louder than her unfortunate prey. The House Madam looked on, upright in her seat, sensing every rip and every tear deep inside her gut and along her thighs.
Mick, an empathetic werewolf in the audience, cried out as Dwight wheezed out the last few breaths he would ever take. The tension left every muscle like fleeing insects. The vengeful vampiress then felt two cold – deathly cold – hands grasp at the back of her throat. She rose and quickly vaulted back, up and over the human-like creature. The zombie stood, filled with as much confusion as his primeval brain would allow. Dragon Queen then forced her hand into its back, easily navigating through the leprous tissue. Latching onto its spine, she yanked it out like the pit from a rotten peach. The zombie’s desecrated torso fell back, causing it to double up on itself like a decomposing Jack hanging outside of its equally decomposing Box.
With a sinister grin stretched over her lips, Dragon Queen hurled the bone trophy into the crowd. It fell at the feet of two bloodthirsty adolescents.
“See, I told you that zombie was spineless.” Alex enjoyed his joke a little more than his female companion, Shelley. Yet, soon after, she too joined in the laughter.
Believing herself the victor, Dragon Queen raised her arms and let loose a long, gravelly shriek. She immediately caught the viperous eyes of the House Madame, who returned her a look of discontentment; the show was not over yet.
With the top half of its body slumped over its pelvis and legs, the zombie slapped its cold, bloated fingers around Dragon Queen’s ankle. It then buried its black and hollowed teeth into the vampiress’ calf with predatory grace, staring blankly off at nothing in particular. Dragon Queen yelped, more frustrated than anything else. She forced the ravenous body from her leg and gazed down at the freshly gushing blood. Disgusted, she wiped it and the black saliva from her calf and headed off, off toward a nearby pit of razorwire and broken glass; she could feel the change welling up from each extremity. She was downright nauseated, loathing the idea of becoming one of those things.
Dragon Queen cast herself into the hazardous hole. The airborne blood misted a married couple seated in the front row. Rick looked amiably to his wife, Debra. He would have seen the child-like smile across her face if it wasn’t for the large steel muzzle around her nose, mouth, and jaw. Rick offered her a convivial, side-armed embrace.
A strange silence took the crowd – that is, until the House Madame rose from her seat and curtsied before her disfigured champion. Rocking fidgetingly from left to right, the zombie stood as winner with his head held high – well, (thanks to Dragon Queen’s dexterous fingers and surgical precision) with his head held as high as his own cold, withered ankles.
Truth In the Midst of the Battle - Dwight Patterson
Dwight shook his head free of cobwebs, blinked and took in the cage he lay in. The wooden crate stank of feces and rot. He pushed onto his knees. Bones shifted beneath his weight; a skull toppled from a small pile. A hole sat in its center, the bone splintered.
"Where am I?"
He reached for the door, steel bars welded into a steel frame and bolted to the wooden cage. In the light of the moon, he saw the fur on his hands and arms, the extended claws of his fingers, yellowed and cracked and caked with dirt and what looked like blood.
"No," he said and patted his chest. Hazy memories of a war, of his brethren falling to an unseen enemy, of a bullet laced in silver, screaming through the night… "I should be dead."
One finger found the hole, poked around until it touched the warped slug.
"Our final combatant has awoken," a booming voice yelled, followed by the cheers of hundreds, of thousands of humans.
Dwght shook his head again. The humans, he fought for them. A deal was made… His thoughts searched the wreckage of his mind, but recollection avoided him. He stood and lumbered to the door, placed both hands on the steel bars. A jolt of electricity shot through him. His hands locked up, his grip tightened; fur singed and organs cooked as lightning ran through him.
"Away," the guard yelled and jabbed him with a rubber-tipped lance. Dwight fell away from the door, staggered and fell back. He landed in the pile of bones. A howl escaped him as one of the broken bones ripped through his thigh.
The crowd cheered at his wail.
Dwight started to rip the bone free, but stopped when the door began to open. He stood, clawed hands clenched into fists.
"Come," the guard called. "Come face your end."
The barrel of a shotgun appeared in the door, followed by the quick whispers of the guard. "Silver bullets will end your existence. If you resist or attack, I will kill you."
Teeth gritted, Dwight stepped through the door and into the arena. He scanned the screaming onlookers. They threw stones and sticks, not only him, but two others who stood outside the entrances to their own cages. A dead man swayed from side to side, his arms dangling, his head cocked to one side, mouth slackened. A vampire—a woman with long brown hair, her fangs bore for the crowd to see—held defiance in her stance, one that said if she were to live through this, she would kill every human within her reach.
"You are the last of your kind," a woman's voice called. The rabid mob grew quiet.
The last of my kind? His brain latched onto the memory, no longer searching, but knowing the truth. The gun was held, not by the enemy, but the ally, a human who had signed a treaty with the wolves; a treaty of unity after the eradication of the undead who threatened to annihilate the human race…
Anger rose as heat coursed through his body. The final words of the woman's speech trailed into his mind. "A fight to the death."
The multitude cheered.
Dwight stood still as the vampire raced toward him, not wanting to fight, to kill again.
"You don't have much time," the guard said from inside the cage. "The sun will be coming up soon."
Off in the distance, the brilliance of the moon faded and morning beckoned. "Bastards."
The vampire lunged, her hands extended, mouth open. "You die tonight, wolf."
They toppled backward. Dwight let out another howl, this one filled with the anger and hurt the onlookers lusted for, as the vampire sunk her teeth into his forearm. They rolled over, she falling away and Dwight rising to his feet.
"Wait," he yelled to the vampire, hoping to join forces against their new enemy. He read her eyes. Insanity had set in. There would be no reasoning her. Like him, she was the last of her breed and faced extinction. Any hope of getting her to help him vanished as she attacked again. He dodged, his thigh screaming as the bone jutting from it shifted, tore through muscle.
He tucked a shoulder, rolled and came up onto his feet. The vampire fell forward, falling to the ground with an exasperated shriek. The zombie approached him, a moan in his long dead throat. He scraped Dwight's shoulder with a ragged fingernail. Dwight spun away from snapping teeth, trying to keep an eye on the vampire and ward off the zombie at the same time.
Stop dancing around. His mind screamed as images of the past surfaced again. His world had been dimming, eyes struggling to stay open as… as humans advanced on the wolves' ranks. The undead lay wasted along the crumbling streets of the dying city. The vampires were on the run, fleeing at night while their numbers were still plenty, but dying during the day when the wolves and humans pinned them in buildings or caves or in the sunlight. The bullets rang out, the anguished cries of the dying wolves, their bodies reverting back to the flesh and blood of man, only to be stamped out by the humans. Their guard had been down. How many of his people fell that day?
The zombie shambled forward, his groan pulling Dwight from his memories.
"Not again. Never again," Dwight said and swiped at the rotting corpse. His claws tore through decaying flesh, snapped his spine in half and sent the zombie to the ground in a heap of fetid brown blood and organs. The zombie crawled after him, its hands sinking into the ground for leverage.
Dwight gripped the bone poking from his thigh. He gave a growl and yanked it free. Hot pain seared his leg. He raised the bone high, brought it down on the zombie's head. Its skull cracked, split and the creature went limp.
"I'm sorry," Dwight said.
He turned to see the vampire coming at him, her face a mask of hate. The moon was fading in the horizon, the sun waking. His body tingled and his fur thinned. In seconds, his thick arms and legs would be normal and average in strength at best.
The vampire pounced, her nails sinking into both shoulders. Her eyes widened, the sneer became a grimace. They landed hard on the ground, Dwight on top of her, the bone in his hands shoved upward between two ribs. Tears leaked from her eyes and her mouth moved without speaking any real words. For the second time that night, he voiced his apologies.
The sun rose higher and the vampire's skin began to sizzle. Dwight held her down, keeping the bone wedged in her chest. He stroked her hair like a lover. "I'll make them pay for this," he said. "I promise you. I'll make them pay."
A faint smile formed on her cracking lips. Her hair became brittle and broke away beneath his fingers. Hate grew within him. As her body deteriorated, he yanked the bone away. Her ashes flitted in the early morning breeze. The people cheered.
Victory was his. Freedom was—
"Back into the cage with you," the guard snapped, nudged Dwight with his shotgun.
"I won," Dwight argued. "I get to go free."
"Sure yah do. Now, get in the cage."
Dwight put his hands above his head and limped back to the blackness that awaited him. Before the door closed, he turned back to the guard, taking in his dark uniform, his helm covered head, the gloves on his hands… its lone weakness.
"Your kind are the real monsters," Dwight said.
"What's that you say?" the guard spat and poked Dwight hard with the barrel.
"You're liars. You break your promises."
The guard leaned in the door. "Well, I promise you this, wolf, you won't see another night after the last one."
"Are you certain?"
Dwight grabbed the gun and drove the bone under the guard's helm and between his breast plate to the only exposed part of his body—the front of his throat. The guard lurched forward and fell into the cage with Dwight
The crowd let out a stunned gasps and screamed when the shotgun went off. Dwight had little time to pull the guard's clothes from his body. He hoped the other soldiers wouldn't notice the hole in the ground where the shell had been discharged. He slid the guard's clothes on, set the helm on his head. For good measure, he fired the shotgun again, taking off the dead human's head.
Dwight stepped from the cage, gun in hand, as the others ran for him. "It's okay," he called, put a hand out to them. "The wolf is dead."
"Did he hurt you?" one of the guards asked.
"He tried." Beneath the helm, Dwight smiled. Tonight he would get revenge…