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Z Lequidre and the Amazing Grendel Conspiracy

by Allain Atienza

Chapter 50

A shrieking roar came from the thing. It was difficult to make out what the monster was in the dim brazier light, but Zorikh was sure he saw grotesque tusks and a misshapen boar’s snout. Black bristles seemed to cover every part of it. It stood on two stunted legs and had long, crooked arms that ended in grasping claws. It hovered at the archway, turning its maw left and right, scanning the hall with tiny red eyes as if the presence of so many bodies had taken it by surprise.

Beowulf was the first to recover. “Form up!” he bellowed, “My band to the left!”

Instantly the warriors mobilized, each one springing into position. Wyglaf pulled Zorikh onto his left at the end of the line. Zorikh looked about for his shield.

The warriors let fly their spears, each one striking true onto some part of the beast. Yet no iron pierced its bristle-covered skin- all the spears clattered to the hard stone floor. The swine-thing howled in rage, lowered its head and launched itself into Beowulf’s band. The shield wall broke as it hurtled through them, throwing the mailed warriors about with tusks and teeth. Beowulf’s shield caught the monster solidly in the snout, staggering it back a pace, enough to allow the thanes to regroup.

With a cry, Zorikh’s band surged forward. They took the creature in the flank, hacking and thrusting uselessly, then were forced to give ground before its flailing claws. Wyglaf raised a hoarse cry and ducked under one trunk-like arm. The red haired warrior dropped his shield and with both hands on his sword hilt, drove the point under the breastbone. Yet his sword was turned and in the next instant, he was caught in the monster’s talons.

The swine thing threw its weight forward, pinning the struggling Wyglaf to the stone floor as he held his arms before him, hoping to fend away the tusks that tore at him.

“No!” Zorikh screamed. Before he knew what he was doing, Zorikh lunged forward and caught the thing’s snout with the point of his fine Trygil sword. Black blood sprayed as the great bristled head drew away in pain and the claws let Wyglaf go.

Zorikh stooped to drag his friend to safety, then the floor left his feet as he was lifted high and brought crashing down onto his back. All the breath was forced out of his lungs. He tried rise but in the next second was in the air again. Something had a viselike grip on his left arm. There was a violent jerk and a sickening pop in his shoulder and he heard himself screaming.

There was screaming and shouting all around him, deep men’s voices and a woman’s as well. Then something solid hit him hard, his helmeted head bounced and he found himself rolling and rolling, his helmet ringing like a bell until all was still.

He sat up quickly, vaguely aware that his left side ached and his left arm hung at his side. He wondered why it was so hard to breath. Where was he? There was a chair in front of him (it was a pretty fancy chair) and there were columns and cool looking hangings on the wall. Obviously he was at a funeral parlor, or someone’s prom. His heartbeat thudded in his head, and now he could definitely tell that his left shoulder was all screwed up. A dark haired woman appeared before him, and asked repeatedly if he was all right. He was nodding but she kept asking. A din that sounded like a rugby match with a bear echoed out behind him through the pounding in his ears, and he turned feebly to see.

Nothing could have prepared him for what he saw.

There was a big black monster, like a hunched badger on two legs with a snarling boar’s head. There was a giant in a bloody and torn shirt wrestling the monster, holding it from behind and trying to keep its sharp tusks away from him. Around these two, there were about a dozen men from a re-enactment group with really great gear and live-steel swords and spears, hacking and thrusting at the monster, and showing little regard for the live-steel rules of safety.

Suddenly the giant toppled over backwards, scattering the men behind him. The monster spun to face the fallen foe and tore at him with huge black claws.

Zorikh opened his mouth and screamed.


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