The neverending humming crept its way into Creston’s ears despite the gobs of candle wax shoved in them. The humming was persistent and rattled against the drums, perniciously gnawing its way through the membrane, hoping to find a way to his brain. He had been at the compound for a year at this point, but still couldn’t wrap his mind around its presence. It took all of the candle wax he could find to stuff in his ears at night to accomplish any amount of sleep. Sometimes he was successful, but tonight, he was not.
As much as he hated it, he knew the humming was necessary to ward off prying spirits and hurtful spells from anyone who wished to do harm to the residents there. A line of vigilant monks sat along the perimeter of the compound every hour of every day creating a barrier with the harmonics of their hums. Every hour, one monk would be swapped out for another so as to not break the chain. Creston just wished that they’d all take a break and go knit or something. Why did it have to be humming?
Creston opened his eyes and stared bitterly at the dirty ceiling of his cell. He longed for silence. If not silence, then another noise that would take his mind off the humming. He got his wish a second later.
A loud bang on the door jolted him from his bed. He stared at the wooden door as it shook with tremendous force. That’s not right, he thought. That door shouldn’t be there. The cell has bars, and not the fun kind.
Creston crept closer to the door with the intention of inspecting it, but another bang forced him back. As he marveled at the impossibility of it, the door shook harder and louder with each bang. Any minute it would succumb to the force behind it.
Another sound entered the mix, a deep, guttural growl that matched the frequency of the impacts. Creston continued to back away as he realized that this wasn’t happening here, not really. He was having yet another dream about the compound, but an outside force was intruding upon it, trickling in bits of reality. Wake up!
Creston opened his eyes for real, just in time to see the inn door fly off its hinges and through the width of the room. It splintered against the wall near Peg’s bed, startling its occupant.
“Fuck!” Creston shouted as he leaped out of his bed. He was going to ask what the hell happened, but the answer walked in just as he was about to open his mouth.
A shirtless, muscle bound man wearing really tight pants stomped into the room and growled menacingly. He stood at the foot of Creston’s bed and flexed, trying to look menacing, but this failed in part to the absurdity of his confused expression as he gazed at the two startled men, one naked as the day he was born, and the other in briefs. This was not how he envisioned starting this assassination.
“You guys are still in bed? It’s like noon,” Brunt said condescendingly.
“No, it’s not,” Peg replied. “It’s barely seven.”
Brunt stepped outside to look at the sun and confirmed this to be true. “I stand corrected.” He stepped back inside and cracked his knuckles.
“Who the fuck are you and what do you want?” Creston asked, irritated that his sleep had been disturbed. “I think it’s obvious you got the wrong room.”
“Nope. This is the right room. I’m looking for the Graveyard Fighters. This is where I found one of them.” Brunt gave Creston a thumbs up, obviously proud of himself. “My tracking skills are unmatched in the Seven Lands.”
“Your mother must be so happy for you,” Peg added.
Brunt nodded emphatically. “She’s my number one fan.” His joyful expression suddenly turned serious as it was time to get down to business.
“My name is Brunt, one half of the Annihilators, assassins for hire, here to kill you. Prepare to die.” He quickly looked at Peg and then at Creston to determine which one would be the easiest to kill, and which one posed the greater threat. Judging by the plumpness of the naked one, he’d be the easiest to kill. He could crush him in a second and then move on to the heartier of the two.
He made his move toward Peg, but was immediately interrupted by Creston, who leaped onto his back. Brunt hated being piggybacked more than anything. This sent him into a violent flailing fit, hands groping hopelessly at his rider. His back was so broad that Creston was able to stay in the middle with no fear of being touched.
“Owie!” Brunt cried as Creston gripped tightly to his back copious strands of back hair. With each spin, Creston tugged just a little harder. He bucked forward, causing Creston to fly off his back and into Peg, but not without ripping two fistfuls of hair for his troubles.
Creston landed upside down with his back pressed against Peg’s chest. He was dizzy from his wild ride. When the room stopped spinning, he stood up and apologized to Peg for having his ass in his face. Peg didn’t see a problem.
Brunt’s eyes were laser focused on Creston. He had hurt him; he deserved to die, now more than ever. “You tore out my hair! I want it back!”
Creston glanced at his fistfuls of white hair and gagged. He promptly tossed them on the floor and rubbed his hands off on his chest. “Gross! What are you, a bear?”
Brunt blushed for a moment. His mama called him “her little Bruntie Bear”. This always brought a smile to his face.
Creston knew a full blown fight was about to happen. Brunt was a moving mountain. There was no way to fight him in hand to hand combat. He definitely needed his sword, which was hidden beneath his bed. He regretted not grabbing it before he leaped on Brunt’s back. It would have been much more useful than the clumps of back hair he acquired instead.
He must have been staring at the bed for a while because when he looked at Brunt, the giant smirked, having picked up on Creston’s next move. Great, he thought. It’s not like I don’t love a challenge, but really?
Creston flexed his fingers as he prepared to make a move. Brunt silently dared him to try. “Stay behind me,” he instructed Peg.
“With pleasure.” Peg pressed his back against the wall and waited for his chance to hide.
Knowing that he might telegraph his moves unintentionally, Creston did his best to focus solely on Brunt’s barrel chest. He faked like he was going to lunge forward, but at the last second, he dove to the left, hoping to reach his bed.
Unfortunately, Brunt’s arms had incredible reach. He simply extended his right one and clotheslined Creston to the floor. “Access denied.”
Before he could get up, Brunt pulled his opponent off the floor and threw him back across the room. He gave a satisfied grunt as he watched Creston crumble to the floor.
The poor man shakily stood up and made another attempt only to have the experience repeated again. Creston moaned as he fell to the floor.
“Maybe you should try something else,” Peg suggested quietly.
Creston glared at him as he recomposed himself. “You think?” Peg nodded. “Well, I’m open to suggestions!”
“Just keep doing what you’re doing.”
Creston did a double take and shouted, “What? But you just said…”
“I got an idea.”
Brunt folded his arms and stared at them in confusion. “You know I’m standing right here. I can hear you plotting.”
“It’s not my fault you’re prone to eavesdropping. It’s very rude of you.” Peg wagged his finger at the burly man and frowned.
Brunt genuinely looked ashamed. “I’m sorry.” His cheeks reddened as he proceeded to plug his ears.
Creston took this opportunity to make another dive for the bed.
Brunt realized that he’d been had and went to stop him, but received a whack in his gut instead. He looked down to see Peg had jabbed him with his walking stick. “How dare you?” Peg shrugged.
Brunt raised his right hand to smack him, but was halted when he received a fiery blade through the shoulder. He gasped, not only out of shock, but by the audacity. How dare they besmirch his gorgeous body? This deserved a death worthy of the most heinous.
“How do you like them apples?” Creston asked.
“I don’t wike it!” Brunt replied. He growled and closed his eyes to concentrate. At first no one noticed anything, but suddenly the temperature of the room dropped drastically. It was chillier than the coldest winter the Seven Lands had ever encountered. Frost crackled as it stretched across the window and the furniture.
Is it seriously this cold? Creston thought. He took a glance at his naked companion and saw that his nipples were so hard they could have cut glass. Okay, I guess it is. He would have taken a bit more time to acknowledge how attractive he found Peg’s body if it hadn’t been for Brunt grabbing hold of his blade and pushing it back through his wound. “The fuck?”
Brunt’s body grew so cold that the flames on Creston’s blade sizzled out of existence. Once it was free, the sword was impotent and would not reignite no matter how many times Creston uttered the activating spell.
“Bitch!” Creston shouted, staring incredulously at his sword. How could this guy do this? He didn’t have time to ponder this because he was punched within an inch of his life, causing him to be thrown into the wall by his bed. He wished that would stop happening.
Brunt was ready to attack Creston again but a hard bop onto the top of his head from Peg’s staff caused him to shut down. Due to a defect, the top of his skull never sealed as it should have, thus creating a soft spot. When struck, it acted as a reset button, shutting down every bodily function momentarily. It was an unlucky weak spot that he hoped no one would exploit. Today, he was bested by a naked fat man who had no idea this existed. His last thought before he lost consciousness was, I miss my mommy. All 300 plus pounds of him fell to the floor with a thunderous thud. Upon his unconsciousness, the room warmed up to its previous temperature.
Creston recovered from his smack and stood up, dazed and confused. “What the fuck happened?” he asked, staring at Brunt’s body.
Peg shrugged. He didn’t expect that to work as well as it did. He was just as surprised as Creston. “I have no idea, but I’m glad it worked.”
Creston grinned. “Maybe you don’t need Fox or I to teach you how to be a badass after all.” He gave Peg a genuine wink, truly impressed. “You got game, man.” He winked at him. “You’re not as useless as you think you are.””
Peg blushed and smiled at this admission. “Thanks.” He didn’t want to let on how much that statement meant to him, so he suggested checking Brunt’s pockets for any useful information.
Creston didn’t waste any time in doing so. He searched Brunt’s pockets and found a folded piece of parchment. He unfolded it and found a note written in the loveliest handwriting he’d ever seen. It was obviously written by a woman who valued the art of legibility. It read: “Once you have killed the remaining members of the Graveyard Fighters, meet me at the summit of the Crevice Rock. The boy and I will be there to confront Ribbyn Mordane.”
Creston read this and uttered, “Foxie.” He suddenly realized Fox’s absence. If this mountain of a man was only one half of a team, there was a good chance Fox was also a target, and Brunt’s partner might have captured him.
“Can’t we just have one day where one of us doesn’t get kidnapped?” he asked, exasperated.
“Must be Tuesday,” Peg replied.
Creston nodded in agreement. “You can bet your bottom dollar that Fox is going to be there. We better get there with the quickness.”
Peg kicked Brunt’s body and marveled at its unresponsiveness. “What about this guy? Should we kill him?”
Creston knew he was going to regret this decision, but shook his head. “No. We only kill things that are already dead. We’ll just leave this guy here to take his nap.” He flipped over the parchment and saw a map of the meeting place Brunt was supposed to reunite with his partner.
“Get dressed,” Creston commanded. There was no time to lose. They needed to get the rendezvous point before something happened to Fox. He couldn’t live with himself if it did. He had abandoned him before; he’d be damned if he did it again, not before he said what he needed to say.
Once Peg was dressed, the two of them left the room in extreme disrepair. Creston didn’t even bother to check out of the inn. If the management had a problem with the condition of the room, they could take it up with the Annihilators if they dared, which they probably didn’t. Creston was willing to leave a good review. That bed was the most comfortable he’d ever slept on in the past seven years. 10/10, would stay again.