Underground Forces

Kerith was just on the way to have pizza in the middle of Glasgow with her friend - she never expected to have to slay a Bloodbreather on the way.
*the City of Bones competition*

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1. Bloodbreather and Emeralds

Grey.

That was all Kerith could see at that moment. Just grey. Grey sky, grey buildings, grey road. Kind of like my life.

Glasgow was a good city in some ways. Good if you wanted to meet people from Glasgow, a.k.a. Glaswegians. Good if you wanted to live in a city. Good if you wanted to have your TV stolen. It wasn’t so great in other ways. Lots of grey, for example.

Kerith sat, her forehead resting against the bus window, the glass patterned with raindrops like lace. It was summer but bitterly cold, and everyone was wrapped up in winter woollies. Kerith herself had shoved her chestnut curls into a massive fluffy red beanie hat and shrugged on her padded maroon coat. It wasn’t a flattering coat, to say the least.

Janice had promised to meet her in the shopping complex to go and get a pizza. Janice Pasley was a good friend, a short, round, black-haired girl with pale skin and a feisty personality. She was a born and bred Glaswegian whereas Kerith had been shipped over from Dublin, Ireland two years ago to live with her Aunt Mae. Most of the kids at school had gotten fed up of teasing her about her accent and had moved to picking on new girl Amanda, a girl fresh from America with blonde curls and deep tan. They mimicked her voice and gave her little pokes but Amanda was made of stronger stuff. On her first day she felled three boys with an impressive display of jujitsu and nobody had been very keen to try their luck since.

Kerith had been moved to Glasgow by her mother, who thought she needed a change of scenery. Kerith, at first, couldn’t agree more. She’d been happy, excited even, to go someplace new. Then on the day she was due to go on the ferry she’d burst into tears and begged her mother to stay. What was wrong, after all, with living with the exact same background for thirteen years? She would be nineteen and going to college in six years, she was sure she could bear the same road, the same house, the same school for six more years. But her mother wasn’t having any.

Glasgow wasn’t so bad, Kerith thought, staring at a woman in a grey mackintosh walking by with her greyish Labrador. It wasn’t very exciting, but it wasn’t bad.

She wrapped her coat tighter around her and shivered. The temperature in the bus seemed to have dropped.

There was a sudden, loud clunking noise. Probably the engine, Kerith dismissed, trying to focus on staring at all the grey. There was another clunk and a metallic bang above them.

Kerith looked up. This was not a double-decker bus, so it wasn’t anyone on another floor.

There was a tapping, scuttling noise, like a very large spider moving quickly across metal, above them. It was moving away from Kerith and towards the driver, who had headphones in and was completely oblivious.

Kerith looked at the sleepy old lady in the seat across the aisle. She wasn’t looking up, her expression wasn’t worried. Kerith looked at the young boy with his newspaper-reading father in front of the old lady. No indication that they had heard anything. Kerith swivelled her gaze around. Nobody appeared to have any idea what had happened at all.

The bus jerked to a stop, and the doors slid open with a quiet hiss.

Kerith opened her mouth but nothing came out.

What looked like a giant spider crossed with a horse came scuttling through the doors of the bus. It had eight thin grey hairy legs and a fat, horizontal grey abdomen, but from there on up it had the shoulders, chest, neck and head of a chestnut horse. Sleek hair and silky dark mane, with a white star between its eyes. Its eyes were a solid glowing red, and it was breathing soft puffs of red steam from its black nostrils. On the shoulders, halfway between the head and the spidery abdomen, was a pair of muscled human arms, bright orange.

Kerith made an odd squeaking sound.

“Are you quite alright, dear?” the old lady across the aisle enquired. She was looking at Kerith concernedly, plastic rain hat slightly lopsided. She hadn’t seen or heard the monstrosity bearing down on her.

“Um............yes, I s’pose,” Kerith said, never taking her eyes off the creature.

The creature seemed to be eyeing her up too. It evidently not expected to have been seen, and was considering this new phenomenon.

It only took a moment for the thing to decide before it lumbered round to face Kerith.

Kerith breathed out very slowly. Well, this sucks. All those years of refusing karate lessons. Why, Kerith, why?!

The creature snorted another cloud of red steam.

What I wouldn’t do for a sledgehammer right now.

And she dived out the window.

Kerith had been noticing small, odd signs on buses since she was a small child – things like Please Wipe Your Feet and Make Yourself At Home. One useful one, as she found out now, was Emergency Break Glass.

She launched herself with her feet, throwing her shoulder through the window. The glass shattered with a high, tinkling sound and Kerith fell out of the bus, coughing, her lip cut and gently dripping blood. All of the greyish people were staring at this odd girl that had just thrown herself out of a bus window.

Kerith rolled over, trying to ignore the deep ache in her shoulder. She propped herself on her elbows, eyeing the window, wondering if the creature would come out after her. She scrambled backwards on hands and knees, trying to distance herself from the stationary bus. Thankfully, the roads were empty of cars, for one of the first times in possible Glaswegian history.

The demon came scuttling like some obscene crab slash spider, baring its large, squared-off teeth at her. Its breath was positively putrid.

Kerith climbed to her feet and backed away, cursing the universe. Why me? Why always me? No, no, this is a dream, isn’t it, or a hallucination. One, two, three – she pinched herself - Well, isn’t this just fantastic. A machine gun would be real useful right now.

And a sword popped out of the ground beside her.

No, really – it had literally shot out of the solid concrete like a rocket. A gleaming silver sword, the pommel embedded with sparkling emeralds the colour of Kerith’s eyes.

Kerith grabbed it and swung it.

She didn’t even think – she seized the handle, which felt warm in her hands, and swished it through the air. It made a gentle whistling noise at the speed. The blade connected with the monster’s neck, and with the spewing of black blood and a haunting wail, the creature dissolved into ash.

Kerith propped herself up on the sword, her thoughts whirling. When my mum moved me to Glasgow, I was pretty sure that what she meant by ‘change of scenery’ was a new school and some different street names. Not killing things that exist in the nightmares of Chuck Norris.

The ash of the creature started to rise into the air, as if carried by an invisible wind. Kerith raised the sword again, trembling, but the monster didn’t reform. Instead, the dusty remains created words hanging in the air.

Congratulations, Kerith Bermel. You have successfully disintegrated the Bloodbreather.  The Underground Forces approve of you and would like to offer you the chance to prove your worthiness by slaying another demon, the Dragonspitter. Accept?

Kerith could only manage two things in her confusion, exhaustion and shock.

Two shakes of the head, and fainting.

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