The Monster from the Maelstrom

There is a man who endlessly stalks the Badlands. A region of the world where chaos is rife and warlords constantly vie for power. This man seeks dangerous criminals and tyrants the likes of which most men wouldn't dare to face. He does this for a reason no man has ever been able to ascertain and he will continue to do so as long as he lives. But there is one thing you must know about this man. The quarry he hunts are not what they seem and neither is he.

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1. The Tavern

"So honey would you like for you and I to finally become better acquainted?" asked Yulg as he slipped his arm round the waitress's waist, his speech slurring heavily from the excessive amount of alcohol that was coursing through his body. The woman's skin crawled as she wriggled free of his grasp and quickly turned to service another table. Yulg groaned and looked downtrodden as she walked away. His two other fellow mercenaries who were drinking with him chuckled loudly at his misfortune.

"You'll never get her." laughed Heinka, his colossal frame shuddering in delight.

"She's outta your league anyway." chimed Fengal.

The three men all worked security at a local estate owned by some rich warlord named Zainif. They had all been posted along the same stretch of wall when they’d signed up and had instantly struck up a connection. Shortly after that they had made a routine out of coming to this very same tavern after work each night, getting drunk and then sleeping it off before returning to work the next morning. It wasn’t the most exciting job Yulg had ever had but the pay was good and it was better than nothing. The tavern they were in went by the name of The Drunken Townsman (a classy place for sure). It was a dark, run down old joint that had more creaky floor boards than a haunted house but the place was cheap and had character and Yulg liked it that way. The tavern was also a stone’s throw away from the red-light district which wasn’t a bad thing either. Yulg was about to raise his hand to order another drink when he realised something. The tavern seemed…empty. Granted it was late at night so he didn’t expect it to be packed but there were usually still more patrons. In fact the only other patron he could see was the man who was being served by the waitress at the table across the room. She placed a drink on his table and he handed her more than enough coins for just the drink before she hurriedly scuttled out the back door. Yulg shifted his gaze over to the man at the table. He was a man of about average height and build without any remarkable features and a fairly plain face. The man was clad in a plain brown coat that could’ve been bought at any store in town, some black trousers and boots and a white shirt. If Yulg could’ve summed up the man in one word it would’ve been nondescript. When he realised Yulg was staring at him the man raised his glass and smiled politely. By that time Heinka and Fengal, although partially inebriated, had also caught wind of the fact that something was amiss. All three men were still in their uniforms and were clad in leather armour and chainmail. Fengal was the first to draw his sword pointed it directly at the stranger.  

“Can we help you?” he snarled, his anger overriding the alcohol in his system.

The man drained his drink before answering.

“Why yes. I was hoping you could tell me something about the estate you work at. The one belonging to a mister Zainif if I’m not mistaken.” smiled the man, his voice unnervingly calm.

Yulg and Heinka then also drew their swords.

“What do you want to know?” asked Yulg suspiciously.

“Well, I was wondering if someone, such as myself, were to mount an assault on the estate, where would be the best place to strike?”

The three mercenaries burst into laughter at that sentence.

“Is this a joke?” bellowed Heinka.

“Oh I assure you it isn’t.” smiled the man. “Tomorrow I intend to storm the compound and kill Zainif.”

“And why should we help you?” spat Fengal who was clearly growing tired of talking.

“Because I’ll kill you otherwise.” replied the man.

That was obviously the last straw for Fengal as after that he wordlessly charged the man who remained seated until he was almost upon him. At that moment the man sprung to his feet and, with tremendous strength, flung the table at Fengal. The mercenary ducked low and rolled aside in the nick of time, the table missing him by mere inches, but the man had already predicted Fengal’s move before he could react there was a sickening crunch as the man’s knee connected with his nose. Fengal toppled over backwards his eyes flickering and unfocused. Yulg and Heinka rushed forwards to aide their fallen comrade. Heinka was the first to close in on the assailant and attempted to kill him with one savage downwards strike. The man side stepped the blow with ease and was about to counter when Yulg thrust at him from behind. The man leapt away from Heinka and clear of Yulg’s reach. Before either mercenary could press the attack the man picked up a chair from beside him and swung it at Yulg as he rushed towards him; he had been so fast that Yulg had barely been able to bring his sword up to defend himself when the chair struck. The man’s physique was quite contradictory to his great strength. The blow almost knocked Yulg over and sent him staggering. This gave the man the opening he needed. He abruptly changed direction and leapt towards Heinka. The big mercenary lashed out with his sword in a big sweeping sideways arc but the man ducked beneath it. With the man now inside his defence Heinka was wide open and with swiftness and precision the man brought his foot down on the mercenary’s knee. Hard. There was a loud pop as the leg gave way and Heinka dropped to the ground face first. The man then brought his foot down on Heinka’s head and the big mercenary suddenly went limp. Yulg watched on in horror as the man strode towards him. This guy had just taken out Heinka and Fengal with ease. Yulg was outmatched and he knew it. He quickly turned to the door and bolted for it. He got about seven steps before something struck him on the back of the head and he blacked out.

When Yulg awoke he had been tied and bound and was slumped against one of the tavern’s walls and had a sharp, throbbing pain at the back of his skull which caused him to wince.

“I did warn you three.” said a familiar voice.

Yulg craned his head round to see his man from before. He was standing over the unconscious forms of Heinka and Fengal who were also tied up.

“Now.” he said as he dropped to a crouch. “We can make this easy or we can make this messy. It’s your choice.”

The man retrieved a fair sized hatchet from behind his back and placed it at Heinka’s throat.

“Wait!” pleaded Yulg. “I’ll tell you. Just don’t kill us.”

The man smiled at that pulled the hatchet away from Heinka’s throat.

“Go on.” he said.

“There are old catacombs beneath this town that lead to somewhere under the estate.”

“Somewhere?” echoed the man.

“I’m not entirely sure where, I just guarded the walls.”

The man considered Yulg’s answer for a minute. Afraid that the man wasn’t pleased with his answer Yulg began to sweat profusely. Suddenly the man walked over to Yulg and crouched down infront of him.

“That will do, I suppose.” he smiled. “Now, good sir, while I don’t particularly care much for the lives of you or your companions-” he indicated over towards the still forms of Heinka and Fengal. “-I do hope your next occupation is less…hectic. But until then I can’t have you warning your boss now can I? So I’m going to punch you in the face. Sweat dreams and may you dream of waitresses who actually like you.”

Before Yulg could utter a word a fist caught him square on the side of the head and he blacked out for a second time. 

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