The Boatman and The Artifact - Part 2Mature

From inside the warehouse, the breached door seemed like the only light trickling inward. The four where small shadows, silhouetted from the brightness of the world outside as they came through the opening.

Blue scanned with his rifle, waiting impatiently and with nervousness as his eyes adjusted to the darkness. When they did, he noticed that hundreds of small pillars of light sliced through the shadows. “Alright, let’s not be reckless. Grey, that’s especially for you.”

“Shut up.” Grey said, walking through the doorway last. He had an M14 in his shoulder.

Tantrum stopped at the base of a steel staircase that led to a catwalk. “Something’s not right.”

“Holy shit Blue, he’s psychic.”

Blue shook his head. “Shut up Grey.”

Dwim frowned. “Tantrum, talk to me.”

“We’re definitely not alone.”

Blue sighed. “Make sure you let me know if you get anything more specific than that.”

“How about, look up.”

All four of them peered above into the rafters. It took a moment for their eyes to adjust, but soon the slinking forms began to take shape.

Grey cocked his head to the right. “What the hell are those?”

Dwim’s spirit sunk like a stone. “This is bad.”

Blue stood as still as he could, his heart began racing in his chest. “Tell me what you can. I can‘t quite make out what they are.”

The shapes scurried, the sound of steel tearing could be heard as they moved along the ceiling. Slivers of light cast down through the shadows from behind them as they left small gashes in the steel roof.

“Well, Blue.” Dwim said, “Imagine a bat the size of a man with the appetite a lawyer has for your wallet.”

“Well it could be worse.”

“How, Grey, could it be worse?” Blue asked.

“They could have the appetite of an ex-wife.”

Blue nodded. “That might be funny if my life weren’t immediately threatened by large man eating bats.”

“I’ll try and remember it for later.”

“Good idea. I say we keep moving until they decide we’re food.”

Dwim nodded. “Agreed, maybe if we’re miraculously lucky, they won’t try and eat our heads right off our shoulders.”

Tantrum sighed. “Miracles, for the win.”

The four continued through the warehouse. They moved down one side of the dry dock toward the rear of the building.

Blue took a deep breath, looking where he was walking every so often, but mainly focusing on the creatures lurking above. “Alright Dwim, Tantrum, where is this thing.”

Dwim turned to Tantrum. “Try locating it, I’m still trying to rebuild my strength from that wasted knock spell.”

Tantrum nodded and closed his eyes. He took a deep breath and put his hand out.

Grey shook his head.

“It’s not far, maybe fifty feet away.”

“Alright let’s go.” Blue continued forward.

They continued down the dry dock.

“Wait, stop.”

Blue turned back. “What’s the matter.”

Tantrum’s eyes were open and staring into nothing.

Blue could see the light blue flames that engulfed his iris’ as power coursed through his being. It reminded him of Fiend’s eyes but on a much smaller scale. He watched as the flames subsided and went out completely as Tantrum’s gaze focused on him.

“We’re moving away from it now, so that leaves us with two options.”

“Up and down.” Dwim answered.

“Urgh.” Grey shook his head. “I don’t like where this is going.”

“I can do something to find it precisely, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to aggravate our friends.”

Blue looked up. “I’m sure they’re going to try and kill us sooner or later, let’s make it on our terms. Do it.”

Tantrum smiled, and his eyes once again burst into flame. His brow furrowed and he sucked in a lungful of air. He shot both arms out before him and then pulled them into his chest. As he did, air and debris surged toward him. His mouth opened, his teeth were gritted. A series of sparks erupted between his hands and then a swirl of energy formed. He looked up, and uttered through his clenched teeth. “Gotcha.” His arm flew up and the swirl of energy uncoiled, striking to the ceiling above directly at the largest of the creatures.

The creature screeched in pain and lunged from the ceiling, it’s wings spreading open to reveal how massive it truly was.

Blue spoke first with the muzzle of his rifle, and barked orders second. “Grey, do your worst.”

“Already on it.” He said, firing single accurate shots in to the other creatures that now followed suit, dropping from the ceiling only to fall the rest of the way with a bullet hole in their chests or head.

The clatter of gunfire was numbed for a brief moment as time seemed to slow. Blue got nervous at the sensation and turned in the direction that he felt in his gut was the source.

In the center of the group Dwim had risen off of the concrete. Bright flames swirled around him and struck out to several creatures at once as time returned to a normal flow.

It wasn’t the first time Blue witnessed magic, but it never failed to impress him.

Dwim ran to the front as the massive creature crashed through the rusted catwalk to impact with shattering force against the concrete floor. “Tantrum!” He yelled, his hand outstretched with a beam of light erupting from it. “Antipod!”

Tantrum acknowledged only by starting his side of the spell. The air around him crackled and fog burst forth from it. Ice formed on the ground and slithered outward and Tantrum began to rise in the air, his face wrenched in fierce concentration as the tips of his hair began to frost over.

Meanwhile Dwim was once again coursing with flames. Time slowed.

Grey lowered his weapon and threw up. “God damnit, this is why I hate working with these asshats. My stomach can’t deal with the time dilation.”

“Shut up and keep firing Grey.”

“I’m already ahead of you on kills, I can take a break.” Grey said, as another creature crashed to the ground near him.

Blue discarded an empty magazine and looked down for a split second to get a new one when one of the creatures swung down from the catwalk with the talons of its wings and landed a few feet in front of him. “Shit.” The word spilt from his lips unconsciously as his mind raced to solve the problem. The bat crawled forward, it’s elongated head cracked open to reveal rows of jagged teeth. “Grey!” He said, finally getting a magazine in his grip and slamming it into his M4. “Break’s over!” He released the bolt, but even before the round was chambered, the creature was in the air. He thrust his rifle forward in one last attempt at defending himself when a round cracked above his shoulder. Black blood sprayed out from the wound as the creature collapsed onto Blue who fell under its weight.

“Sorry about that.” Grey said, moving to help Blue back to his feet.

“No more breaks, alright?”

“I promise.”

Grey and Blue snapped their gazes toward a flash of light.

Tantrum and Dwim were both floating in the air, swirls of ice and fire coalescing between the two. The creature was still stunned by Tantrums first spell, and was only now recuperating, too late.

First it was the ice that blasted over it with a blizzard wind. Everything behind the blast froze instantly. Whole sections of catwalk collapsed as their supporting pillars were flash frozen and shattered under the weight.

Grey was several feet behind the two, and he watched his breath condense and float out from his mouth and nostrils as fog.

Fire came second, as if a giant aerosol can had been set alight in front of Dwim’s floating form. He became silhouetted by the light it created and his shadowed figure flickered and waved in the distortion of the heat.

Blue felt the hair of his eyebrows curl from the heat and had to shield his face from it as he watched the collapsed catwalk steel melting like chocolate in the sun.

When it subsided, Dwim and Tantrum were once again on the ground.

The creature was a charred husk. It’s muscle structure was clearly visible as the protein had solidified or ripped away to reveal bare white bone.

The warehouse was quiet but for the sizzling of things still heated or the crackling of things still frozen.

Blue shrugged. “So. Where is it?”

“In there.” Tantrum pointed to the creature.

Blue frowned. “Great.”

“Oh come on you pussy.” Grey said, brandishing a long knife. “Where’s it going to be?”

“Probably near the heart, although I can’t say this thing has similar biology to us.”

As Grey got near it he stopped. “Is it safe for me to touch?”

Dwim smirked. “Might be hot.”

“Or cold.” Added Tantrum.

“Great.” Grey muttered sticking the blade into it’s side.

“Alright, while he’s getting that, let’s see if we can learn anything about these… things.”

“I’ve seen them before.” Dwim said, kneeling next to one of the corpses. “They’re usually a lot more vicious. I’m not sure why they didn’t attack us as soon as we came in.”

“I’m glad for it. How do they reproduce.”

“So far as I know they don’t. They come from the void, wherever reality is weak enough. I’m sure they reproduce back in there, but not here. Maybe they can’t in the city, I don’t know.”

“I assume they’re nocturnal.”

“Yes, that’s most likely why they chose this abandoned place, because it’s dark and moist. Could also be why they didn’t attack us immediately.”

Blue looked over the creature, it’s skin was grey and smooth, like a dolphins. The wings were bat like, and veins were clearly visible in the thin flesh.

Dwim continued. “There are usually more than this as well. They must have just recently come through the void for them to be such a small group.”

“Got it!” Grey said.

They turned around to see him holding the artifact in his right hand raised triumphantly in the air, black blood and chunks of charred entrails rolling down through the sludge to his elbow.

“You were right, it was near the heart. In the center of the chest actually, right behind the sternum.”

He looked over the shard. Artifacts were all different in shape, but were all made of what seemed to be onyx. They were shards of a broken object, what exactly the object was is still debated. Some believed that if all the pieces were found and put together it would form the body of Syn, the soul of the city. They believed it to be a life sized statue of the woman who apparently started it all. To Grey though, it was just a broken piece of rock that could maybe help get their guys back. “Well, this is pretty unimpressive.”

Dwim laughed. “You‘d be surprised what a skilled individual can do with one of those.”

Grey shrugged. “Well I guess you won’t be needing it.”

Dwim sighed. “Whatever Grey.”

“Cut the bullshit, let’s get a move on.” Blue said, walking through them toward the exit.

Somehow the trip back to the boatman seemed shorter than it did to the warehouse. They pulled into the parking lot to see that the tugboat was missing from the quay.

“Great.” Grey said, exiting the vehicle. “Now the old geezer’s standing us up.”

“Don’t worry.” said Blue. “He probably knows we got the artifact.”

Dwim nodded. “ Maybe he felt that creature die.

“It’s obvious he can feel artifacts, he knew where it was and we all know he never strays more than a few feet from that boat.” Tantrum added.

“Whatever, I’d rather he be here with our boys.”

As if by command, the fog parted before them to reveal the tugboat moving slowly toward the quay. Eerily, it’s engines were not running, the boat was simply coasting, having been propelled by some unknown force. It seemed to take forever for it to reach the quay, but eventually it came alongside and stopped just as mysteriously as it was powered. As soon as it stopped, the mooring lines fell unaided from the tug and slithered across the water up the pillars to slither around the bollards.

“Creepy.” Grey said.

The boatman came out of the cabin and onto the deck. “Good job boys! Now, let me have it.”

“You got our guys?”

“Come on now, what kind of business man would I be if I didn’t have your precious associates.”

“Let’s see ‘em.” Grey said.

Blue glared at him.

“Ah, your minions speak.”

“He’s right, show us.”

The boatman smiled and backed away, waving his arm as he bowed backward. Appearing behind him, what wasn’t there only moments ago, were four soiled blankets laying on top of four bodies. “There they are. Give me the artifact or they’ll remain as you see them, nice and stiff.”

“Grey, hand it over.”

Grey growled and made his way toward the boatman. “Here’s your rock.” He said, handing him the shard of onyx.

“Ah, yes, thank you.” said the boatman, happily accepting the object.

As soon as it touched the flesh of his palms, the four bodies began to stir.

“Ugh what is that smell?” said one of the bodies beneath the blankets. Longbow flung the cotton cover off of him. “Jesus Christ! Where? Ah man are you serious?”

“Yes.” said the boatman. “Now get off my ship or you’re coming back with me.”

Brisco simply got up and walked off the boat holding his head but not saying a word.

Quakefire helped Static Shift to his feet. “You alright?”

“Yeah, I swear we got away from that rocket.”

“Yeah, the first one.” Quake said, stepping off the boat. “But the second one hit your side, killed you instantly.”

“Damn.”

“I think Longbow was dead right off the bat too.”

Brisco finally spoke. “Yeah, most of him was on me, then I fell out.”

“We can talk about it on the way back boys, let’s get in the jeep.” Blue said as the boatman launched his tug off the quay to drift silently into the haze.

The ride back was a little cramped in the jeep, but no one complained. They all met in the Cellar for a drink once they got back to the Tower.

“… Yeah, then I was the only one left and the thing was flying like a rock.” Quakefire said, taking another drink.

The others at the table laughed.

Grey leaned with his elbows on the table. “Dwim, Tantrum, I’m sorry I was such an ass. I’m not going to say I like magic anytime soon, but I have to admit you guys did a good job.”

Dwim smiled and put up his drink to that.

Tantrum laughed. “You did get us through the door.” he said.

Dwim punched him in the arm.

Suddenly the chatter in the lounge became silent. Blue looked around to find the reason behind it. A glance to the doorway was all he needed. In the doorway stood one of the Five.

The End

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