Here’s chapter 10 of Lead Heart!
Antros recovered from the shock of near miss and watched the girl leap impossibly up to the railing on the second floor. He noticed from the corner of his eye a pale shadow in the dark corners of the ceiling. He called a warning as he watched the girl knock a sudden group of dirty men down the stairs, “watch out above you!”
Well slag he thought. This was supposed to be a quick stop so his weapons weren’t on him. The last of the thugs from the second floor landed in a pile of his friends at the bottom of the stairs. He watched as she hopped onto the chain holding a chandelier and yanked, rocketing up into the darkness. A confused shout and a volley of grunts and punches followed, though whose he couldn’t quite make out.
Back on the ground floor, diners had taken poorly to the raining of men down the stairway. First one, then a second, then five and six rose from their table to make an escape via the front door. By the time they reached Antros, he had to flatten himself against a wall to avoid the small stampede of mild-mannered townspeople. The first threw the door open and was practically ejected by the press of the crowd behind him. There was yelling and confusion and everyone started backing up, three rough men herding them back into the common room.
“Aye, nobody leaves ’til the boss says they leave.” A beast of a man with more scars than skin crossed his arms with finality, “Sit down, get comfortable, and enjoy your meals.”
Antros flicked his eyes upward, listening to the wacks and thwacks punching out of the darkness, then backward as a movement caught his eye. The dark skinned owner of the inn, affectionately known as Aunt Em, flipped backward over her front counter and came up with a smooth-barrelled shotgun. “I’ll have none of this in my house! I suggest you ‘n your men disappear right quick, y’pasty faced clap slappers.” Several men shrunk back from her commanding aura, though the ones by the door remained unflinching.
“Put it down missy.” The brute never uncrossed his arms as the lackies behind him each drew a pistol. “Tonight isn’t about you.” The guy to his left trained the barrel at Antros for a moment, though he was slapped immediately to the floor. “Idiot, that one’s for the boss.”
“But I don’t see the boss!”
“Said he was comin’-”
The floor splintered as a heap of pale flesh rained onto the three from above. A huge, blubbering mess of a man lay atop them, clutching his swollen face.
Scars hefted the weeping man away from him and vaulted to his feet, scanning the rafters. “Who’s up there!?” He narrowed his eyes, keeping them trained on the ceiling and plucking a gun from one of his fallen men.
A chair went through the front window across the room and a press of desperate dinner-goers dove through in pairs, leaving smears of blood on the jagged glass.
“‘Ay, ‘ay none of that!” The innkeep waved a fist at the dwindling patrons.
While everyone’s attention was on the window, Antros kicked off the wall and grabbed for the gun in front of him. Or, he would have if –
Booted feet stood in the remains of one of the door guards’ head, one hand extended toward himself.
“Ah, ah, big guy. You just stay right there. I’m going to protect your dainty ass and you are going to take me flying.”
“Are you serious right now, kid?”
Antros reached out to warn her. “Watch-”
Bulging arms wrapped around her waist and locked at the hands, hoisting her off the ground. The pair struggled for a several seconds. Antros moved to help Aunt Em, who was in the middle of a slowly tightening circle of bandits. He checked his rear, falling into a defensive stance. He counted three behind and 2 in front, closing in.
A body sailed over him, crashing face-first into one of the guys behind him.
Okay 2 behind, 2 in front.
The other two made to help their comrades up and Antros stole a glance forward. A greasy, disheveled, weasel of a man was using his shirt to staunch the absolute torrent of blood painting the wall next to him. Leliana and the bruiser were locked into a grapple, red-faced and panting. The match concluded as she hammered her head into his face and flung herself around him, bouncing off his legs to buckle them and then dropping him to the ground with a snap.
Who the…WHAT the? She’s a monster.
Antros started as Leliana yelled at him. Wait, no not at him, the guys behind him. He about-faced to witness the three conscious guys bolting for the backdoor. He recoiled as a knife sang between he and Em, end-over-end, burying itself into the back of the one who still had hair. The other two made it out the door safely, screaming like children.
“You disgusting wench. How dare you touch me. My family.”
Antros started again, whipping back to the front of the inn where Leliana and Babyface were locked in a deadly embrace. Muscles trembled and the wood beneath them cracked, throwing shards of wood everywhere.
“First the mutt. Now his bitch.”
The quiet yet high-pitched whining set his teeth on edge. Antros swept the room with his eyes, returning back to the fight in front of him after confirming they were the last 4 standing. Aunt Em kept the gun leveled at the two fighters, but didn’t shoot.
“You should have just left us alone. We only wanted what was ours. What was STOLEN from us! WE ONLY WANTED WHAT WAS OURS!”
Antros felt his hair stand on end as the whining turned to snarling, and the snarling rose into screeching. Babyface was spitting and shrieking nonsensically in Leliana’s face and Antros was getting a bit concerned. Althought wait a second….Leliana was…Smiling? Antros took an involuntary step back.
The pair took turns trying to dislodge the other with kicks and acid, blood spitting and freakishly long teeth snapping in the open air. Leliana’s entire body glistened with a sheen of sweat and blood, cuts and bruises and shards of wood decorating her body. Babyface lunged with his face, but was instead run straight into the wall with that momentum. Inhuman howling put a shiver down Antros’ spine as his would-be murderer released his pain and anger in a wild cry. Babyface dug his own sharpened fingernails into his tear ducts, then whirled and slapped Leliana with an echoing crack.
Antros winced. The handprint immediately started opening up, the acid eating her face.
Leliana rolled beneath the second swing, stopping a moment to toss an unspilt glass of water at the side of her face, then swung on the chandelier again, across the kitchen counter to retrieve her knife.
Babyface, in single-minded focus, sprinted between Em and Antros and leapt over the counter growling all the things he was going to do with her corpse.
Leliana stopped, held up a hand. “Wait, wait. Just hold on a second,” she wore an expression of concern. “What’s that on your face big guy?” She pointed to her own nose.
Babyface stopped short. Confused, still sneering. His hands scratched around his scarred and pitted cheeks.
“Whoa it looks just like my fist,” she shot a jab to his nose, giggling.
He roared and wailed, wildly swinging to maim and hurt, clawed hands scraping the open air. Antros caught himself holding his breath, unblinking, waiting for the conclusion.
Pots and pans flew from the shelves as the two danced to their own deadly song of rage and fear and prideful jeers. A few bits of furniture bounced off Antros in a final flurry of blows and both fighters vanished from sight.
Antros hesitated, then took the gun from Em. He approached cautiously.
“WHEW!” Leliana giggled with exhaustion as Antros sidestepped the grotesque head she tossed at him. “I did it!”
Aunt Em’s wide eyes took in the shattered window, broken furniture, splintered floor and dead bodies littering her inn. She set her slack jaw, marched over to look down at the girl’s foolish smile. Then she narrowed her eyes, and cracked her knuckles.