NaNoWriMo 2019 Chapter 12
Disclaimer: This is a NaNoWriMo attempt where quantity trumps quality. This will also be a long piece, so if you’re looking for a quick read, I recommend checking out a different category like Short Stories.
~Chapter 12 A Trip To Remember~
The guild hall they plan to visit is a twenty minute drive away. She spends the journey looking out the window of the car to watch the world pass by. Although she can’t remember the details, the streets feel familiar, and she can easily imagine herself walking down these streets in the past.
They drive past the busy streets to the outskirts where a three story building stands apart from the rest. The main door is unlocked, so they let themselves in.
The inside of the building is a chaotic mess. Many of the furniture are damaged or overturned, there are holes and deep slashes in the walls, and doors hang at an angle or lay shattered on the floor.
“What happened here? she asks as she steps carefully through the rubble. There is dust everywhere, and she can see clear streaks where people have walked before them. They are not the only ones to have visited the guild hall.
“That’s what we are here to find out,” Julia says. “Keep close to at least one of us at all times. We don’t want you to disappear as well.”
Corvus has already stepped into another room, so she decides to stick with Julia. As Julia does her investigating, Anastasia looks around, taking note of the differences between this guild hall and Shatterstrike’s.
Unlike Shatterstrike’s guild hall, where almost everything is packed neatly out of sight, this guild hall is filled to the brim with things, making it feel smaller, even though from the outside it looks around the same size as Shatterstrike’s guild hall. There are toys thrown about and board games and pieces scattered across the floor. The signs of young children in the guild?
“Is there a minimum age to join a guild?” she asks.
“There is no minimum age to join a guild, but we have an understanding that children under the age of twelve are not to be allowed at all on the hunting grounds, and should be heavily supervised until they at least turn fifteen. The hunting grounds are not safe for anyone who can’t take care of themselves.
“But sometimes, parents join a guild, and they often bring their children along with them. So the children can take care of the guild hall and each other while the adults are out hunting,” Julia says as she runs her fingers over a discarded stuffed rabbit on the floor.
Anastasia looks around the room. In her mind’s eye, she puts the furniture back into place. A cozy hall, filled with too many things from too many people. Everything has to be kept away after use, or there won’t be space for anyone to even move.
While adults talk about their day at the dining table, with tea and coffee or something stronger, the young adults try to play a game at the coffee table and protect their pieces from the curious younger children. Some sit along, immersed in their own activity but still sharing the same space with everyone else.
It’s a warm image, but reality is an empty building with not a soul left behind.
There is less carnage on the second and third floors. Most of the doors are closed, and each are uniquely marked with stickers, drawings, or even just a simple name. Some have notes and conversations left on the door.
Do not disturb. Or I will haunt you.
Games night sign ups
If anyone finds Gingy please return to Pam.
She smiles. This guild looks close. It’s a shame that they are missing.
Beside her, Julia releases a sigh. Anastasia turns to look at her curiously. Julia gives her a rueful smile.
“I can’t find anything up here. Let’s go downstairs and join Corvus. Maybe he found something.”
They head back downstairs, to where most of the damage is. Corvus is not at the bottom of the stairs, so they take a walk around to find him.
Outside one of the rooms that branch off from the main entrance hall, there is a deep gouge in the wall, deep enough that she can see the room inside through it.
She steps through the doorway over the shattered remains of a door.
More cracks and holes cover the walls and the floor. Everything inside is completely destroyed. Of all the rooms in the guild hall, this is the one that has sustained the most damage. Why?
A shadow looms over her.
She jumps and leaps backwards. Her hand pulls out her emph as she twists around.
It’s only Corvus.
She stares at him as she breathes heavily. Blood pounds in her ears to her frantic heartbeat. She consciously takes a deep breath, then releases it long and slow.
“For a big man, you always seem to come out of nowhere,” she says with a wry huff and sheaths her emph.
“Thank you,” Corvus simply says.
Julia walks in. “There you are.”
Belatedly, Anastasia realises that she had accidentally strayed away from Julia.
“Sorry. I got distracted,” she says.
“That’s alright. Did you find anything here?” Julia asks.
“No, I didn’t. Did you?” she asks.
“Nothing,” Corvus says. “It looks like they have been gone for a long time. I don’t know if anyone has been covering for this guild ever since they disappeared. We better check their hunting ground before we head back.”
Corvus turns to her.
“We are going to go to a hunting ground. It will be dangerous, so stay close, and do what we tell you to do. No questions asked. Understand?” Corvus says.
She nods. “Yes.”
Corvus raises his hand. “My fists know no defeat.”
Green light encases his arms with a pair of sturdy knuckles.
“Let’s go,” Corvus says.
She looks at Julia. The older woman easily reads the question on her mind.
“My emphatic weapon is always active,” Julia says and pats the pouch by her hip.
Together, they head behind the building. She keeps one hand on her emph, just in case.
The land behind the guild hall begins clear of both people and monsters. As they continue deeper into the hunting ground, more and more traces of activity appear. Footprints here, broken branches there, and from far away, a chilling cry.
They follow the tracks to monsters travelling alone and in groups. Corvus takes them all down, while Julia harvests the fallen bodies as they go.
“We might as well earn some money for our work,” Julia says.
It is her first time (that she can remember) on the hunting ground, and even though she doesn’t need to do anything with Corvus and Julia around, it is still very intimidating. She still keeps her hand on her emph, but she is not confident at all that she can make any difference if she ends up in a situation where she has to use it.
So, of course, she ends up in a situation where she has to use it.
While Corvus fights a group of monsters, another monster approaches them from behind. It meets her eye to eye. Its front paws flex against the ground and it rolls its body from its head down its shoulders and flank to its slim tail.
Heart pounding, she pulls her emph out and braces for battle.
The monster launches at her, claws outstretched. She dashes forward under its claws and thrusts her emph into the monster’s side. Her left hand pushes against the hilt and she throws her weight into the thrust.
The monster rolls and pulls itself off the blade. She barely dodges the follow up sweep its left claw as it rolls back on its feet.
Her body automatically shifts to present her left side to the monster. But she’s not holding a shield. She’s holding a knife. She quickly corrects herself, but the hasty correction leaves her off balance. When the monster lunges at her again, she lets herself drop and rolls out of the way.
Right foot first, she reminds herself when she gets back on her feet.
“Aim for the weak points,” Julia says. “Eyes, nose, ears, between the fingers.”
It is sound advice, but she already has her hands full trying not to get killed. Attacking at all is already a challenge when she has to keep fighting against her muscle memory to shield, let alone aim for a specific weak spot to hit. But she still tries, hoping that one good hit in the right spot will be all it takes to take it down.
Maybe she’s doing a good job at being a nuisance, because the monster steps back and begins to walk around her instead, keeping its distance, but eyes never straying away from them. She shifts continuously to put herself between the monster and Corvus and Julia. Her small emph feels woefully inadequate. She should be defending with a shield, not a tiny knife that’s smaller than her own arm.
Right? she thinks at her emph.
The emph does not respond.
Perhaps it is silly to expect an emph to talk back, but from what she has heard, they are meant to be a bonded pair. Surely that has to count for something?
Something changes in the monster. It stops its cautious stalk and shifts back into aggression. It closes the distance between them in one giant leap, claws first and teeth bared right behind.
The monster is too low for her to duck under like before, so she aims and digs her emph into the soft flesh in between the claws. The monster’s weight knocks her down on her back and drives her emph deeper into its flesh. The monster howls in pain and bites at her. She twists the knife free and slices its blade across the monster’s nuzzle. It distracts the monster long enough for her to twist free. At the last moment, before she pulls away from the monster completely, she stabs her emph into the monster’s flank and wrestles it back towards her before it can claw at Corvus’ open back.
She grits her teeth.
How she feels about her emph isn’t important. Whatever form it has now, that’s what she has. In some way or another, she needs to make it work, before the monster gets past her and hurts the one competent fighter among them.
She grabs the monster’s coarse fur with her left hand and latches onto the monster’s back. Her knees dig into the monster’s flank. With her emph, she stabs the monster, again and again. The monster bucks and turns, but she clings on with every available limb. Only her right hand moves as it continues to stab the monster.
But her grip, while strong at first, weakens with the monster’s frantic struggle, until her numb hand slips off the monster’s coarse fur. The rest of her follows soon after, and she tumbles to the ground.
The monster roars at her, but ultimately decides to go for Julia instead. The monster runs.
And so does she.
She tackles the monster from the side, throwing them both into a roll. She slashes wildly at any part of the monster she can reach. Grip, technique, drills, none of them matter. All the matters is to deal as much damage as possible to the monster.
One stab sinks deeper than her other attempts. The monster stiffens above her, then with a pained wheeze, it collapses on her. She pulls frantically at her emph so that she can use it to defend herself, but the emph remains stuck.
But that turns out to be fine, because the monster is dead.
Throwing her weight against the dead body, she manages to roll the dead monster off her onto its side. She plants a feet against its body, and now with better leverage, she is able to pull her emph free.
Her emph glows, and a tingling buzz runs down her arm. Before her eyes, the small knife changes into a round buckler as wide as her forearm is long. The purple crest moves to the face of the shield, but although the crest is larger, it remains obscured beyond recognition by the cracks that cover the surface.
She looks at the shield in exasperation.
So now you change.
The shield cheerfully says nothing.
~End Chapter 12~
Continue to Chapter 13 here.
Chapter word count: 2050
Total word count: 19476