Now, being a biker of sorts myself, I had no real problem with bikers on principle, but I had a bad feeling about this group. They were roughly fourteen strong and sported red leathers that matched the color of their spiked mohawks. And that wasn’t the only thing they had that was spiked. All sorts of fanged chucks of steal tore through their leathers and even flesh. A snarl started deep within my throat and I didn’t need Hannah to tell me, for when she whispered, “Ripperkah,” I already knew.
“Oh crap,” Ethan hissed. “We’re going to run right?” he sighed. “Oh yeah, you’re of Yig, Damn it.”
“Yeah, I think I’ve run enough for one day. Besides I have a thing about the Ripperkah” I began to swing my sledge in lazy circles. “So if you have any fancy tricks, I suggest you bust out with them now.”
He grinned. “You mean like this?” Then with a chuckle and a few mumbled words, he gestured at the approaching pack. An instant later, one of the bikes in the center of the group’s gas tank exploded. A rain of fire and shouts of panic followed with it.
Several bikers wiped out, taking those that followed down as well. However, half the Kah made it through and continued their charge.
Hannah stepped before us, her hair flowing in fluid motions like she was underwater. “My turn”, she said with a determined grin.
I remember letting out a gasp as a ray of bright golden light flowed from her. I could sense its pour nature and strength. I knew then that Hannah was a warrior of humanity and Weal.
The Ripperkah howled and screamed as the righteous light of Heaven tore into them. More of them lost control of their bikes, spinning and cart wheeling over the rough pavement.
Damn, leave some for me,” I yelled, as I charged into them. I took to the air before one of the last ones to remain on his bike reached me. He got a boot to the face which sent him flying from the motorcycle and the motorcycle toppling. This crashed two of the last three bikes remaining upright.
My hammer took off the jaw of the third.
I barely focused as I tore through the closer group of their fallen. I became a whirlwind of destruction. My sledge broke spike, teeth, and bone. I went mad in my fiery, until the green haze of Yig enshrouded me. Claws and fangs erupted from their flesh and they tried their best to rend me, but between my rage and protection of Yig, they were unable to slow me.
Wet smacks and the crunches of shattered bone sounded in every direction, and even my allies stayed clear of my wrath.
I found out later that my allies had focused on the first group that had fallen, alternating between hitting them with blasts of both fire and Hannah’s holy light. The few that had survived this hurried back unto their bikes and rode away, dripping flesh as they went.
Together, the three of us finished mopping up the few that were left.
“These were fresh cuts,” Hannah scuffed.
“Why are you mad about that?” Ethan asked. “That many Rippers, with full Rapidity going, could have cut us to spreads.”
Pulling away the tattered remains of my jacket, I said, “now that we might be able to breath for a moment, I think it’s question and answer time.”
Throwing out a hip, Hannah glared at him. “Alright, Jack, you start. Why is every damn race of Xemmoni trying to kill you?”
“Now where were we?” I said, while burning some of my precious Ki to heal myself. It helped me feel a lot better, but it didn’t help remove any of the blood that soaked my clothes to such an extent that it was falling in large scarlet drops from my sleeves and the bottom of my jeans.
“I think we were talking about why you’re a Xemmoni magnet,” Ethan said with a lopsided grin.
“No, I think we’re talking about how we’re going to head back to Colorado and waste that damned Darcarre nest and that thrice damned Caradon lapdog of theirs, The Creeper.”
Hannah was looking through the mangled Ripperkah bodies and letting the men talk while she gathered a few stray weapons.
“What are you talking about, dude,” Ethan said with eyes gone wide. “You barely escaped from them the last time. I thought you’d be happy to have gotten out of there with your lives.”
I walked over to this younger guy. “I’m happy you got us out of there when you did, even if I still don’t know who you are and why you’re helping us. But I do know one thing. You can’t leave a Xemmoni nest. If you discover one, you have to take it out. It you don’t, it just festers and grows.”
“Then these killers aren’t only wasting everyone they can get their hands on, but when someone tries to take them out later, the job gets five times worse. I’ve learned this the hard way and I was on the way to take the first group I fought and then ran away from when I was less in the know about all this evil crap. I like to finish what I start. I didn’t know better then, but I do now. But despite all that, I won’t be heading back to my old home until I know I’m not leaving any unfinished business behind me.”
Ethan threw up his hands. “Damn Yiggos. They’re the same every flipin’ time. How about you Hannah? Can you believe this guy?”
“I’ll take the company of a follower of Yig over one of Loki, every time.”
“Oh you will huh, let me guess, you’re with, wait don’t tell me, Apollo.”
I had been listening intensely here. By that point I had figured Hannah had to be a Stalwart, but of what branch I had no clue. “Is he right?”
She brushed her long golden hair over her shoulder. “What do you think?”
“Since I have never met a follower of either Loki or Apollo, I guess it’s hard to say. But I think both of you have some explaining to do. Besides that, we still don’t even know why my bike appeared when we needed it in that battle against the Glooms. I need some answers, but I also need to eat.
We’ll finish this discussion over dinner. Next stop Moab”
Yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but we made it to Moab without so much as a flat tire. I had no problem becoming a snake and wrapping myself around Hannah’s nimble form, but I didn’t enjoy Ethan driving my ride, or how Hannah was forced to put her arms around him. I liked even less how much this Loki guy appeared to enjoy the latter. I had hoped we could have used some of the Ripperkah’s bikes, but all of their tires had been burned to slag.
Once in Moab, I gained some small respect for this guy when he pulled into the local brewery, even if he did charge my bike over four lanes of traffic to do so. The place was called the Dead Horse and was filled with paintings of mangled horses with Xs instead of eyes. Right away the place seemed like the sort of spot that a Xemmoni would run, that is, until I tried the beer. No Xemmoni could brew pale ale this good.
“I wonder if maybe a Tezcatlipoca guy runs this place,” Ethan mused over an amber ale while rarely taking his eyes off Hannah’s two inches of exposed cleavage.
Finally feeling almost half relaxed, I leaned back a little and asked, “Why would you say that?”
“Well, it doesn’t seem like a Xemmoni place and those Tez guys are into death and darkness and all that?”
After taking another long pull off my ale, I asked, “why does everything have to be something to do with either Stalwarts or Xemmoni?”
“Everything interesting does,” he said, while finally shifting his eyes away from Hannah, even if it was only to take in the young waitress’s slim form.
“Are all you Loki types such letches?” She asked.
“Only the breathing ones,” he said with a smile.
“Oh brother,” I couldn’t help but groan, but then our food arrived and for a few minutes, while I at my chicken wings, I almost felt like a normal guy. Although when I was a normal guy, I had never dated anyone as pretty as Hannah.
But like most good things, our meal was eventually over and after ordering another pitcher, I knew we needed to get down to business.
“So I need to head back to Colorado. I can’t leave anything unfinished. It just isn’t right.”
“Or die trying, right.” Ethan said, while stirring his drink with a finger.
“I usually try to avoid that part.”
“Some people care about others and don’t want to see innocents get hurt,” Hannah said, crossing her arms and staring down Ethan.
“Does that mean you won’t be going with us?” I asked. “You fought pretty well back there. We could use you.”
A hint of a smile could be seen. “Well, I did leave my car there.”
I laughed, but Hannah looked like she was hoping the guy was going to say no. “What about tonight?” she asked. “No reason to be hunting Xemmoni in the dark least of all those Darcarre.”
“Well, I have plenty of bread, let’s just stay here.”
“You do?” Ethan said. “Say can I borrow some? I need-”
“Can it. I’ll pick up dinner and spring for a hotel room for you tonight, but that’s about as much as you can dare hope for.”
Looking at Hannah, he said, “My own room… but what about safety in numbers and all that? Wait
are we each getting our own room?”
“Nope just you,” Hannah answered for me.
“Oh geez. Well can I at least get a little chump change. I am sorta your employee and I think I deserve something.”
“Oh thanks for reminding me. I have wanted to ask you about why it was that you suddenly showed up like you did?” I knew I might need to ask Hannah the same question sometime, but I figured I’d start with the person I cared far less about first.
“On man, me and my big mouth.”
“Okay, okay. I ah…well, I was sent here to help, I guess.”
“By who and why?”
“Let’s just say that there are um, ‘beings’ that want to make sure nothing keeps you from returned to Idaho and taking care of what you didn’t finish there.”
“Are you supposed to help me when I get there?”
“Oh thank Loki no. I um, let’s just say I made a little mistake and making sure you get back to Idaho is my way of paying off that debt.”
“You little turd, so you had to go back to Colorado no matter what?”
His cheeks flashed as red as his jacket for a moment. “Yeah, okay, yeah I guess.”
Hannah was talking slower and sounded more uncertain that her usual self assured demeanor. “Jack, I might as well come clean too. I didn’t just meet you randomly.”
“I had figured as much by now.”
“Don’t tell me you’re in trouble too.” Ethan said smiling.
“Hardly,” she said, giving him a glare. “But I was sent to help make sure you make it to Idaho, Jack.”
“Again, I ask, by who and why?”
“These are hard times. The Xemmoni, with Vile’s help, are growing more numerous and powerful than ever before. Stalwarts are becoming rarer and the few of us that are left are being stretched quite thin.”
She paused, looked at Ethan briefly, but then her blue eyes burned into his. “The agents of Weal have been watching you, Jack. They think you might be our last hope.”
See how Jack began!