“Then There Was”

Only of course, had I actually died then how would I have written the previous post?

What am I some Lovecraft or Dunsany character desperately writing my last words in my journal as the eldritch horror chomps down on my soul? No.

As for Red Jack, when has he ever given anyone the chance for last words? No he stood over me and thrust Caladmae’r, my brother sword, at my heart. It stopped of course, the point skittering along my flesh and would go no further. It would not strike down its brother, of course, but neither could it bite as long as I had Arthur’s Scabbard upon my person. I rolled out from under the point and to my feet. Jack seemed to have trouble with his own limbs as I twisted Caladmae’r in his grip and raised the edge of the blade to his throat.

“You misunderstood,” I explained, “Caladmae’r is a sword that cuts that which the wielder hates from the world. I am that wielder.” Red Jack’s eyes widened and I pressed Caladmae’r just enough for it  to nip a little. He fell to his knees. It was taking all his strength, I knew, to keep the sword from removing his head. “As for you…” I wandered over to the nearest of the fallen sacrifices and pulled off it’s anonymising mask. “…I’m afraid we brought you here under false pretenses.” Beneath the mask lay a dummy made of newsprint, cast-offs and a few balloons that had been filled with cherry syrup. “You see it is a dramaturgical imperative that the person, or entity, that killed the Slender Man also dies. Don’t ask me why as I didn’t make the rules.” I looked at him on his knees before me. I was giving him a chance, one I knew that he had never given any of his victims. “You slew the Slender Man and preserved your place as the God of Killers. You can’t deny the prize although it may never fulfill you.” What chance had Red Jack given Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly, whose remains he left barely recognisable as a human being. All killed, mutilated, in a mad dash for immortality and apotheosis.

Caladmae’r hummed in his hand as I fought to control my anger. “It longs to kill you,” I said of the sword, “Are you willing to die?” Red Jack’s eyes rolled, he was trying to escape back to his Red Chapel I knew. However the teleportation barrier that had so successfully trapped Slender Man along with the Fears that accompanied him also held Red Jack firmly in place. Still as the other masks were removed from the fake sacrifices it became increasingly clear he could not remain. The place had not been prepared as per the ritual. I smiled as I saw the horror and fear cross his eyes.
“Well played mister Calder,” he said.

“Oh dear,” I said, taunting him, “You can’t remain here, yet you can’t leave. What will become of you?”  He laughed, released Caladmae’r, pushed the blade from his throat and stood, laughing all the while. Caladmae’r hung uncertain in the air for a moment and then jumped into my hand.

“You may have brought me here under a false flag mister Calder, but now that I am here, in this glorious field of slaughter you have so kindly provided me,” he gestured to the fallen proxies and rippers that littered the ground around us, “Well I think I’ll stay. After you’ve gone to so much effort it would be rude not to.”

He rose then upon tentacles of blood that had emerged from his back. He grasped the air with his right hand and a gory blade formed there at his command. “As for you,” he looked down at me, “as for you,” he repeated, considering his options. “Well I’d quite like to see what you’re made of.”

There was a loud growl and the monstrous black canine form of the Black Hound barrelled across the crossroads at us. Jack leaped away and I dropped into a crouch and braced the pommel of Caladmae’r upon the ground, just as if I was hunting boar back in Avalon. Black Shuck pounced at me and realised too late that the point of my sword was directed at its slavering maw. The beast yelped and evaporated like a morning mist. “That’s the last time I’ll kneel before you,” I said as I stood.

“Not quite,” Jack said and landed upon me with enough force to knock me upon my arse yet again. “You’ll kneel before the Great Beast again when I send you to Hell!” Jack slashed out with a blow that should have cut me open from clavicle to crotch. I rolled out from under him and to my feet. He looked down at me, puzzled; usually there was more screaming, blood and bits falling out when he did that. I grinned up at him unharmed.

“I carry Arthur’s Scabbard,” I said.

“You have far too many toys.”

“I wouldn’t need them if it wasn’t for parasites like you. You think I enjoy carrying a blade that encourages me to hate and scabbard that makes me more than mortal?” A wave of rainbow energy sliced the air between us and cut away a corner of the town hall..
“Boys, stop arguing and get back to the fighting,” Mina said levelling Calacholg at Red Jack. Her eyes narrowed as she regarded him. “Niles, if you can’t gather enough hatred to finish this piece of refuse I’m sure I can.” She was standing between Jack and the surviving defenders who were heading towards JW’s. Glancing over I saw that Rodney was standing bouncer duty. His limbs crossed as his borrowed face scowled at Jack.

Jack had followed my gaze. “The Bar Steward,” he growled. I looked up at Red Jack and smiled.

“It’s not our place to kill Red Jack,” I said to Mina, “I’ve heard that there’s another with that destiny.” I sheathed my sword and went to recover the staff.
“So you think I’m just going to let you walk away from me?” Jack went to follow and Caladcholg cut another rainbow between us.

“Jack, you just don’t get it. The operation is over and now we’re wrapping up. You’ve been a great agent for the department. I’d shake your hand but quite frankly I’d like to take both of mine home with me. Enjoy your prize while you can and I’m sure I’ll be hearing from you again. Oh and if you go after my family I’ll destroy every red chapel you have across the globe.” I went over to Mina as the last of the defenders entered JW’s.

“Time to go,” she said. I nodded and she covered us as we headed for the bar. Rodney led us in and I turned to take one last look at my town. Jack was scuttling for the perimeter on his new tentacles.

I smiled and raised my phone to my cheek. “Tyger tyger,” I said and closed the door.

As Slender Falls was removed from the world, for it never truly had been a part of it, countless people, runners, warriors and proxies, began to awaken back in their homes, back in their beds. Their experiences and tales had become nothing other than nightmares and works of fiction. The Fears themselves reduced to little more than the bogeymen of children’s tales. “Don’t talk to strangers, because the Slender Man will get you.” I’m not sure if that is a kindness or not. Some would continue to retell those stories time and again, reliving them, perhaps in the hope of understanding them, perhaps because they had no other stories to tell. The rest of us move on, back to our lives. We have new stories, new mysteries and new adventures to tell.

Join us here for further tales of Department Y.

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