The world's last wizards protect the 19th century from their lost parents' nemesis.
|The dead things that used to be Huey Breaf and Dave Dudey dragged Heath toward a set of shackles stapled to one of the silver walls. This place was something, even if its owner didn’t keep it up so well. A real castle, up on top of a mountain in Colorado! Who the hell ever heard of such a thing? Heath was amazed, and he would like to take a tour of the place sometime when his life wasn’t in danger of being cut short by a crazy kidnapper and his magician boss-man. Right now, he needed some kind of miracle, because those shackles looked to be pretty damned unbreakable; once he was in ‘em, he wasn’t getting back out very easily. He wasn’t hog-tied anymore; it was easier for ‘em to walk him down here than it would’ve been to carry him down all them steps. Even so, Heath knew it’d be hard to get loose. Huey and Dave were as strong as they ever were. Maybe stronger; they didn’t go in for working much when they were alive. Dead, though, they had grips like wranglers.
Heath hoped one of them might let go of him when they went to shackle him to the wall, but no such luck. Without releasing his grip on Heath’s upper arm, Huey bent down and grabbed one of the chains. As he stood up, he slid his hand along it until the bracelet came right into his fingers. Pretty damn smart for a dead fella.
He opened the cuff and was about to clap it shut around Heath’s wrist when all hell broke loose. That wizard fella who was all lit up with red light when they had come in let out a yowl like a damn cougar and a blast worth about a dozen sticks of dynamite threw Heath face first into the wall. That hurt, true, but what made it worthwhile was that Huey and Dave both got tossed the same as he did. When they all hit the silver, their grips fumbled, and Heath took advantage of the opportunity. He tore loose and spun around. Leroy was getting up off of the floor and making to draw his iron, while the wizard was throwing a knot of red light at… Sally and Trevor!
Trevor threw up some kind of a shield, and the knot bounced away and hit the big gusher in the center of the pool. It kind of wrestled with the lava, and the orange glow dimmed. It seemed like a vibration started to build, like pressure in a steam engine, but Trevor paid it no mind. He was too busy trying to keep the wizard from taking their necklaces with a couple of strands of that red light.
Heath ran like a madman at Leroy, swung his right fist and whalloped him a good one alongside of his head. Leroy went down; his gun went sliding across the floor and fell into the lava pool. Heath bent down and pulled his own gun out of Leroy’s waistband.
When he looked up, Trevor and Sally were both inside of a bubble of blue light, and Trevor was tying knots out of blue streamers with one hand while he was trying to use his blue bubble to cut the red strands the wizard had attached to their necklaces.
The wizard was tying another knot, too. Heath took aim and fired off a couple of shots at the bastard’s head. The bullets stopped dead an inch before they hit him, and fell to the floor. They probably made little pinging noises when they hit the silver, but Heath didn’t hear it; the roar of the wizard-fire and the damned lava fountain were getting too loud for hearing anything else.
He glanced back and saw Huey and Dave up and headed for him. He didn’t know what else to do, so he started running toward Sally and Trevor. Maybe they could get the three of them back out of here the same way they came in.
Little Pete was a-scared of the dark. He sure was glad that Frisky, his painted pony, was here to keep him company. He couldn’t see her – he couldn’t see anything – but he could feel her presence beside him, so that was all right. Frisky told him they had to ride, and so he rode. That nice Mister Trevor gave him a good ride on his knee, and after that, Frisky was right there with him all the time. That was a real good thing, too, ‘cause it got real scary after that. The whole house caught afire, and Mommy carried him out and Benny was all burnin’ up, and the Injuns was all around, and then they rode and rode through the dark, ‘til they got to the Piebald. Then Millie took him upstairs to Aunt Lily’s old room and Frisky said they had to ride. So he rode his pony all the way out here to the castle and down into the dark holes far below the ground.
Don’t worry, Little Pete, said Frisky. It won’t be long now. There’s light already. Look.
Frisky was right. An orange glow was comin’ from someplace; he couldn’t tell where. It grew brighter and brighter, and then it began to show him things. He saw a room with shiny walls and a pretty yellow fountain, with a man standing beside it. The man was all dressed up in robes, with a hood over his head, and he had red light swirling all around him. Then another man came into the room, with two other men following him, who looked like people Pete knew. They were dragging along another man – Daddy! They had his Daddy!
Pete really got scared. What were they doing with Daddy? What was happening?
Shhh, said Frisky. It’s okay, Little Pete. Your Mommy will be here soon, and then we’ll save your Daddy.
Frisky was right, just like always. There was a big bang, and suddenly there was Mommy, and Mister Trevor, too!
The hooded man threw something that looked like a ball of yarn made out of red light at Mister Trevor, but it bounced off of a wall made out of blue light.
The yarn ball bounced off into the fountain, and Frisky let out a yelp as the yellow stuff started wrestling with the red yarn. Hood-man shot snakes of red light that took a-hold of Mommy and Trevor’s necklaces, and Trevor started rolling up a ball of blue yarn, while Hood-man did the same.
Come on, Little Pete, said Frisky, and Little Pete was shocked to hear that she sounded scared. Let’s ride!
Little Pete and Frisky shot out of the darkness into the orange light of the fountain, and made for the zig-zaggy lines Mommy and Trevor were standing on, out over the orangey pool that the fountain gushed out of. From the corner of his eye, he saw Daddy doing the same.
They got there together, and as Frisky’s hoof touched the lines, she yelled, Peter, my love! Arise! Little Pete didn’t think she was talking to him.
Then the yellow fountain blew up.
Mel Sampras ran like hell – well, as best he could with his damned wound - out of the Frisky Piebald, hoping to draw Chief Ten Bears’ attention away from the saloon. It worked. The Chief’s big warhorse came after him like a locomotive from hell. Mel broke into his gimpy run again, and didn’t think himself cowardly for doing it. Just smart. He ran around the corner farthest from the Chief and kept going until he got to a rain barrel outside of Joe’s Blacksmith shop. He dove behind it, and took aim. When the Chief came charging around the corner, he opened fire.
One of Mel’s slugs hit the Chief’s dead warhorse. The huge animal suddenly became a corpse again, but his momentum carried him a lot farther than Mel would have thought possible. The damned thing got purt near all the way to Mel’s barrel before it finally dropped. Mel took another couple of shots as Ten Bears tumbled to the dirt almost on top of him. He actually saw one hit the Chief in the back of the head, and he cheered.
“Got you, you son of a-“ His victory yell was interrupted by the need to dive out of the way of a blast from the Chief’s fire lance. The flame hit his barrel; the barrel burst as the water inside it exploded into steam. The whole street was suddenly fog-bound. Mel watched wide-eyed as the Comanche chief slowly rose from the ground. He looked around for a minute, like he was confused, and then saw Mel lying on the ground a few feet away from him. He started toward him. Mel brought up his Winchester and cocked the lever. He pulled the trigger, and the hammer clicked on an empty chamber.
“Oh, shit,” said Mel. He scrambled to draw his Colt, but the Chief stepped on the pistol, trapping his hand beneath it. Mel yowled with pain.
Chief Ten Bears towered over Mel Sampras. His glowing red eyes looked down at the lame bartender for a long moment, his fire lance pointed right at Mel’s chest. Then the Chief let out a rattling hiss that sent shivers right through Mel. A dozen dead braves came running and trussed Mel up like a Christmas turkey, strapped him to a spear shaft, and carried him off to wherever the Chief was leading them.
Sometime later, the braves dropped him by a campfire. They didn’t untie him, but they did draw the spear out of his bonds so he could lay curled up on his side.
“Oh, Mel, I’m so glad you’re still alive.”
Mel looked up to see Millie sitting near the fire. Little Pete was still in her arms. He was still sleeping, or knocked out, or whatever he was.
“Oh, how do, Millie,” he croaked. “Sorry you didn’t get away.”
“Yeah,” she said. “Me, too. But it wasn’t from lack of you tryin’. I think that was real brave, what you did.”
Mel’s eyes went wide with surprise, but then he closed them. “Didn’t do nobody much good, though, did it?”
“Maybe not,” she said, and she scooted over next to him. As she ran her fingers through Mel’s thinning hair, she said, “but I sure do think you were brave.”
Mel opened his eyes and looked up into Millie’s smiling face. “Well, thank you, Millie,” said Mel Sampras, and a new feeling spread through him, something he hadn’t felt since he got shot in the ass running away: pride. “Thank you kindly.”
A quiet hiss brought Mel’s eyes away from Millie. Off at the edge of the firelight, one of the Injuns was standing there looking at them.
“Wonder what he wants?”
Millie shrugged. “I don’t know, Mel,” she whispered. “That ‘un’s been gawkin’ at me and Little Pete ever since they caught us.”
The brave stepped a bit farther into the light. He looked mighty healthy compared to most of the braves, who had been dead a hell of a long time before they got raised up by the Chief. He took another step toward the fire, and Mel gasped. That wasn’t no dead Injun. He was all dressed up like one, but under the dirt, soot and smears of blood, Mel recognized the face of one of his regulars: Gordy Wenn.
Gordy saw that Mel knew him. He winked and disappeared into the night, right before a bunch of other braves came, cut Mel’s bonds, and then dragged him and Millie off in the other direction.
Chief Ten Bears was free. The voice of the white man was gone from inside his head. The lame one’s bullet had silenced it. He had decided not to kill him right then for that reason. He could always do so later. Right now, he needed to think. The Hooded One had drawn him back from the Happy Hunting Ground, or Ten Bears thought he had; he really had no memory of what passed between the time of his death and his resurrection at the Hooded One’s hands. He had done so in order to use Ten Bears for his own purposes, as had all the white men that Ten Bears had ever met. They were all liars and cheats.
In order for Ten Bears to do his bidding, the Hooded One had restored his mind and spirit along with his body. He had also given him the power to raise the dead braves and command them. Even the dead white men, he could raise, as he had done with the two he had given to his fellow slave, the sniveling Leroy Sykes. Now that he was free, he could use these powers for his own reasons.
He gathered his braves and they left the town burning behind them. He had no interest in it. His enemies were not there. His enemies were in the white man’s places of government: Denver and Washington, D.C.
But those enemies were too far away, at least for now. His closest enemy was in the castle. He would take the battle to him, first. When he had been destroyed, Ten Bears knew, there would be no one who could stop him. They would not have the silver bullets, nor would they know how to make them or empower them.
Ten Bears had learned much of the white men during his time as negotiator. Now that he was no longer blinded by his misguided desire for peace with them, he would use that knowledge against them. He would raise the dead braves from their mass graves, wherever they were slaughtered, and build his army as he crossed the country, laying waste to the white man’s so-called ‘civilization’. Their weapons would not work against him. He would take them and turn them against their makers.
The Comanche would take revenge upon them for their lies. The Comanche would destroy them for having the arrogance to believe that they could own the land itself.
Red, they called the People, referring to their skin. Red they would be. Blood red. The Red man would rise again, and the White man’s blood would fall in red rain to nourish the land.
Myrddin Moridunum cast his Binding at the Ambrosius brat, but the whelp deflected it with a shield. Who would have thought that he would have the energy or the foresight for such a thing after his ordeal in the Labyrinth?
The Binding hit the central Font and, as he would expect one of his spells to do, its power tried to bind it. This was of course an impossibility; the Binding would break, and quite soon. But the pressure build-up might be devastating when the Font finally broke the Binding. Myrddin knew that he should do something to ameliorate the danger, but he needed those Labyrinth medallions, or his plans would come to naught. He cast twin bands of power out and connected with them both, as Ambrosius tried to maneuver his shield from its previous position. He engulfed the bands but he did not have the strength to snap them. With a shout of glee, Myrddin began to weave a Spell of Vortex, into which to channel the blast from the Earthfont. But Ambrosius – oh, now he saw; the whelp was drawing power from the mortal woman. Interesting! Ambrosius was weaving an attack spell, Myrddin thought it was to be Lightning. He had to hurry; his Vortex would channel away that power, as well.
His weave was nearly complete, but, out of time, he reached out blindly to anchor it. He could only hope that it was drawn off somewhere it would not do too much damage to the world he would make his own.
He was casting the Vortex, and Ambrosius his Lightning, when a specter appeared from out of the void: a piebald horse with a young boy astride it. The horse charged forward and trod upon the Labyrinth as the Sheriff ran toward the woman, followed by two revenants, and the Earthfont exploded.
The universe went stark white around Myrddin for a moment. Then, as quickly as it had flared, the light was sucked into his Vortex. The spell winked out, and Myrddin was left standing unharmed in his Earthfont chamber, the two Labyrinth medallions in his palms.
He looked around at the placidly churning Earthfont, and then back to where his slave, Leroy Sykes, sat on the floor, looking stunned. The expression on his face was so comical, Myrddin had to laugh.
Once he had started laughing, the sublime triumph took hold of him, and his mirth rose up into the silver funnel of the chamber’s peaked roof in peals of mad celebration.
At last, he had won. The Ambrosius line was extinct.
Now, he could begin the real work of his life: conquering the world.
End of Part One.