Virrus didn’t seem too concerned with Locke’s pleas for subtlety, as he lifted and pressed down. The pop sounding louder to Virrus than it did to Locke, as his shoulder was reset into his socket. It could be the grunting or the stomping of his foot, that drowned out his own cries. As soon as Locke quieted, Virrus pulled a small glass capsule from an inner pocket of his black jacket, then he pressing it into the palm of Locke’s hand. Locke quickly twisted it free and without question, swallowed the contents.
His toes curled, teeth clenched as his insides turned to fire, the muscles in his face slowly going numb. “What manner of potion was that? I—I think I’m dying.”
“Aye, it’s whiskey boy, ah fine year, keep it down or I’ll take it personal.” Virrus reached into the satchel he carried, sliding a glove out of the bag and then onto his hand.
“Why are you giving me whiskey?” Locke wondered aloud. Virrus took a stone from his bag and ran it against the inside of the glove. The stone sparked, the glove changing from the brown material it was naturally to a bright orange.
Virrus sighed, “Ya nah wanna be sober for this part son.” Locke followed Virrus’s eyes to the slash down his arm, the blood still slipping through the gaps in his flesh, the intense heat flowing from Virrus’s hand. Locke tensed up, clamping his eyes tight as the smell of his flesh drifted up into his nostrils. His teeth pressed into each other, his throat rattling a suppressed scream. The walls flickered, disappearing in the black that crept along the edges of his vision. Locke’s flesh still simmered, part of the old man wanted to help poor Locke into the bed to rest. But Virrus knew, he couldn’t quite let his sympathy win, they had to leave the city. The wilds were now just as safe and the only option for the two. “Come on lad, no time f’r resting.” Once the glove faded, its magic waning away, he cupped his hand underneath the pit of Locke’s arm and hoisted him up.
Locke was suffering, his hand trembling, his focus dwindling away. “Do ya know any spells that would take ya back to yer senses?” Locke shook his head. “Then lemme apologize in advance,” Virrus slapped the back of Locke’s shoulder, sending him upright and onto his toes. It was obvious that Locke held back his urge to scream in pain, but he still glared at old Virrus. “Ya need the adrenaline, were not for making it out alive if yer half way in an out.”
Locke grit his teeth and hesitantly nodded, though he was in pain, he knew that Virrus was the only thing that could keep him alive. They walked down the stairs, careful and alert, checking for any signs of trouble. When they were certain they were alone the old man spoke up, “And there’s me bar. Made of sturdy wood,” Virrus touched the edge of a counter top, it was scarred by the claws of a werewolf, it broke free with the lightest touch. “Aye, a curse indeed,” Virrus looked to the state of his livelihood, to the ruin that his home had become, “No escape from it.”
Locke was fully alert. Aware that any moment, if his guard slipped, something could come for his throat. “NO!” Locke froze, turning to Virrus who had just screamed. “Me bottle of 80 year old scotch, the damn animals! The damned mindless beasts!”
Locke shouted in a hushed voice, “Virrus!” He looked away from his wall of smashed liquor bottles, his eyes were wild and hair tousled, every strand nearly standing on end. “Are you mad? You’ll bring them all here, they’ll tear us apart!”
“The hells they would.” Virrus stated coldly. Locke’s confidence began to unravel, maybe this old man wasn’t as sane as Locke had assumed. Only the finest warriors working in tandem could hope to survive, let alone kill a wolf. Locke had used a spell of highest power with a direct call to the god Malahaal and the only thing that he had done was hurt the werewolf and toss him out of a window. Virrus ran a hand through his hair, smoothing it flat and returning himself to a more collected state. “I need a moment.” Locke nodded, watching him turn to his liquor bottles and rummage through the debris. Locke looked at the counter top, the candle was still sitting on top, unscathed with its black glistening wax. Quietly he pulled it free and shoved it into his pocket, turning away to keep watch. The old man pulled a few bottles that were dusty but still intact from the wall of broken glass. He pulled free a torn rope that had been hanging from the ceiling, and tied the three bottles around their neck. Then he wrapped it in a strap of leather he found on the floor and tenderly opened his bag, laying the bottles like sleeping children into his satchel.
“We should go Virrus,” Locke whispered.
“Aye, cannot a man mourn his losses nowadays.” Locke wasn’t sure if Virrus was asking a question or just stating some sort of truth. There wasn’t much time for any response, the sounds of howling and packs of wolves running through the streets. “Tread light boy, not a sound. Them dogs’ll have good ears, so watch yer step.”
Locke led the way, slow and steady, avoiding any footfall on glass or broken wood. He turned to ask Virrus something but the old man laid a finger over his own lips, signaling for Locke to hold his tongue. When they exited the tavern, the both of them became aware of how bad the situation truly was. The gutters bled, or they appeared to. Running streams of crimson flowing down the cobblestone roads, filling the gaps with their shine, bodies strewn about the alleys and roads with missing limbs, some weeping softly as the last of their life flowed from their sputtering hearts.
“What…” the words were lost on poor Locke, his eyes turning to Virrus for answers, “…what is happening? I thought a wolf was just an animal—how is this possible?” Virrus swallowed, and turned away, moving into the nearby alleyway. Locke was feeling sick but he was also smart enough to know that this wasn’t the time to fall apart, this is where he fights to live or joins those in the streets.
Virrus led the way. If Locke wasn’t staring at the old man he wouldn’t even know he was there. His steps falling and rising without a trace, quietly sliding from one hidden spot to the next. Occasionally, there were cries for help piercing the silence, which ended in gurgling screams for mercy. It was a twist in Locke’s chest, to ignore people in pain. Where were the Silver Swords, the kings’ guard? If any force could hope to fight back these monsters it would be the kings’ guard. They should be on the streets, pushing them back.
Virrus held up a hand, Locke moved in closer. “Do ye see that lad?” Locke leaned to the side and saw an open door. “I knew a man who snuck outta town here an there, he kept ah tunnel to the sewers in the basement. If we can get to his house o’er there, we only need to follow the sewer out, we can make it, live through this hell.” Locke took a deep breath, trying to calm his heart, then nodded. “Now listen boy, these are no normal wolves. Ah know the difference and ah feel em here,” at those words Locke was filling with questions, but Virrus took one look at him, and interrupted his thoughts, “no sweating the small stuff. Ya follow tight to me heels, they’re everywhere an they’re lookin to take as many as they can. Ya wit me?” Locke rocked slightly on his heels, not scared of Virrus but terrified of the questions that were building inside himself, the doubt of who Virrus was and how he knew so much. Virrus whipped a hand out and caught Locke by the wrist, “I can guarantee ya boy, that there is no other way. Ya follow me to where they won’t go, or ya stay here to die with the city.”
Locke held himself in place, looking Virrus in the eyes, reading the truth in his expression. Locke tapped the old man and leaned forward to ready himself for the run. Virrus let go and turned, finding a moment in the silence. With a signal of two fingers, Virrus burst into action, Locke trying his hardest to keep up and stay as silent as possible. When they reached the door Locke heard his name, a shill cry, coming from the middle of the street. When he turned he called to her.
“Zell!” she was running across the street, her dress a mangled mass of rags covered in mud and blood. “Zell hurry, come over here!” Zell fell over herself, the heel from her shoe snapping, tossing her into the middle of the street. Locke leaned in to run and was caught by Virrus’s strong hold.
“They’re here, we can’t save her,” Virrus whispered.
“Let go, are you mad!” but as Zell kicked her shoes off and lifted herself to her feet, a large fur covered form fell from the rooftops and landed behind her. Zell felt the presence, trapped under a shadow and hot breath, that clung to her flesh with each offensive exhale. Her arm extended, instinctively, wanting someone to save her, Locke returned the gesture although she was too far away and the both of them knew it was pointless. The wolf opened its jaws, snapping them shut over her shoulder. “Zell!” Locke called, but knew she wouldn’t respond, every ounce of energy funneled into her screams of pain. Virrus pulled, trying to get them inside, but Locke fought against it. The werewolf just sat there in the middle of the street, jaws tightening little by little, “let me help her! I can help her!”
“She’s beyond help now son.” Another wolf fell from a nearby building, Zell had lost her strength and hung lifelessly from the werewolf’s mouth. Locke knew it, he knew it with all his heart. If he ran out onto that street, he wouldn’t save her. In fact, Locke knew he’d die with little to no fight, with his nearly useless right arm and almost equally useless magic. He stopped resisting against Virrus’s hold and allowed the old man to pull him into the building and close the door. Knowing he had willing left Zell to die.
Virrus pulled his staff from his back and whispered a word before tapping it to the door. Locke fell to his knees, memories of the many talks, the multitude of moments he had shared with Zell filling up his thoughts. He couldn’t believe he walked away, it was all he could think of. Even as him and Virrus saw a furry form slowly lurch its way around the corner, leading from the living room. The shaggy form twisted lurching up and down, “Locke?” it murmured as it closed in. Virrus pulled something from his belt and reached back to throw it. Then the creature stood straight, shrugging off the body it carried.
Drill was soaked from head to toe in blood. His lean muscular form was covered in multiple lacerations. In his hand was a corkscrew, it was coated and dripping with blood. He was breathing deeply, trying to steady himself. “Drill! You’re alive, what about Hammer?” Drill shook his head, planting his back against the wall to stabilize himself. Then he pointed to a body laying in the middle of the living room, a sledge hammer still locked in his grip, his mouth twisted in a smirk. “He died smiling?” Drill slid down against the wall into a sitting position, a smear of blood trailing with him. Drill took a deep breath and exhaled, answering Locke’s question with a smile and a nod.
Virrus kicked the head of the wolf and watched it lifelessly fall back, “By Malahaal, ya killed a werewolf just between the two ah ya?” Drill nodded, Virrus shook his head in disbelief, “wit ah hammer an ah wine corkscrew?” again he nodded. Virrus pulled his glove out and struck a stone to it, the glow lifted the room from the darkness. He then tossed the stone aside and reached for a flask hanging from his belt. Drill grabbed his wrist and shook his head, Virrus warned him, “it’s gonna hurt like all hells.” Drill shook his head, Virrus didn’t hesitate, dropping the glowing glove down his back and sealing the first wound. When he noticed Drill staring quietly off into the distance he went to work sealing up the other cuts.
Locke couldn’t repress a smile, with all this death in the city, and his friend was alive. Then the smile slowly dissipated, dissolving in his reality, it was all starting to catch up with him now—now that he was standing still. He walked to Hammer and knelt over him, from around his neck hung the charm that was engraved with a magical ward. Locke extended his arm but paused, was it right to take it. He looked back to Virrus who was engrossed with sealing every wound, then to Drill who was staring directly at him, unflinching as Virrus cauterized his wounds. Drill smirked, seeing the hesitation that held Locke in place, then nodded. Locke turned back and pulled the necklace free, tying it inside of his jacket for safe keeping. Then he stood up and explored the home.
As soon as Virrus was done, he helped Drill to his feet, his body now caked in dry blood and burns. Locke returned waving them over, he had found the passage to the sewers. It was exactly what Virrus had described, silent, abandoned, and filthy. The three of them walked silently through the chest high waters, the stench of refuse and rotting objects nearly forcing them to turn back. Their silence was not only from the events of the day, but they all feared that opening their mouths would cause them to fill the already repulsive river with their vomit. It was no wonder the wolves avoided the sewers, if they could smell blood through the forest, then they would choke themselves to death with this nearly edible smell that filled their mouth’s and lung’s with something nearly tangible.
It was about a half days trek through that sludge. Around halfway through Locke had vomited in his mouth and swallowed it, the worst part was by doing so he triggered the others to vomit, they as well held it in, till he vomited a second time about a mile out from the exit. They emerged drenched in the waste of the city, along with the blood that had washed in, from the bodies that would soon rot in the streets. They walked silently till they found a stream and stripped, washing their clothes and bathing. Locke spoke first, “What do we do now?”
Virrus silently threw his clothes over a low hanging branch and ignored the question. They were all beaten, afraid, and now lost in the wilds far from another city. Maybe all they did was delay the inevitable. But from the most unlikely source came the most inspirational response. Drill wrung out his trousers and pulled them on, looking at the two of them after he was done getting dressed, “We survive.” It was only two words, not quite the speech you’d expect, but it was the most straightforward response. There was only one thing they could do, and that was to keep moving, keep pressing forward. After all, this was just the beginning of their story.
The End of -Magical Locke: Invasion-
The Beginning of -Magical Locke: Rise of Wolsgret-