Serial Saturday: Road Trip, Part 24

Laurent pulled his hand away from the wound at his side and stared at the blood on it for a moment before looking up. More blood was dripping from his mouth, and that was soaking the front of his shirt, moving to join the new seepage. He didn’t seem to be feeling any of it.

“No one has two Old Weapons,” he said. JT didn’t reply, and his eyes narrowed. “Either you really are special or someone thinks you are.”

JT remained silent, wishing Laurent would stay in focus.

“You can barely stand up,” he said.

“And you’re an asshole,” JT replied. “We all got our problems.”

Laurent reached for his pocket, and JT tensed, willing the horizon to steady. It would take two hands to use the flute–the tomahawk would be out of play. He smiled and withdrew the hand before giving Aya’Ilana a spin. The sight of him using it made JT’s vision go red for a second, but when it had cleared she felt just slightly steadier.

He came forward slowly, making a few practice passes with the weapon. All things considered, JT wished he’d taken the knife. She’d trained with the tomahawk for years as a girl; the knife had been a recent acquisition, and the only training she’d ever had with any knife was as a left-handed backup to Aya’Ilana.

She was holding the knife point-out in her right, not the grip she was used to, and she made a quick thrust as Laurent closed. He had the reach, though, and she had to stumble back quickly to avoid a downward cut. She nearly fell, taking two more staggering steps backward to stay on her feet. If she fell now, it would probably take ten minutes to get up. She didn’t know what she was staggering into either–had no good good picture of the ground she was fighting on. She was just lucky she hadn’t stumbled into some trees. She risked a quick glance back and sidled her way to the left a few unsteady steps as Laurent approached again.

The last drops of rain were washing sweat into her eyes, blood onto her cheeks. She ran a bare arm across her forehead. She half-expected Laurent to say something, being the chatty kind of guy he was, but he was quiet now, coming forward with a nasty glitter in his eye. Was there some pain in his eyes too? She thought maybe there was, and that he was moving just a bit stiffly.

“Tired?” she rasped. “Lost a little blood there.”

Laurent just grinned, exposing blood-flecked teeth, and continued to advance. He slashed twice more with the tomahawk, and JT slid away from both attacks. Laurent wasn’t used to the weapon, and he over-committed a bit both times, but JT nearly fell over herself trying to avoid them. She stabbed and he writhed away with a speed that made her nervous. Was he just playing with her? He was grinning like knew something she didn’t, or thought he did.

For a few seconds they stood, watching one another, not even circling. Sweat ran down JT’s back, and dripped from the tip of her nose. Blood had soaked into the leg of Laurent’s jeans, but it looked like the wound in his side may have stopped bleeding. That shouldn’t have happened, the way he was moving, but maybe she hadn’t tagged him as well as she’d thought.

She blinked, and suddenly he was a lot closer. She narrowly dodged a swing, bouncing off a tree before stumbling away into the clearing. Maybe he was just really fast, but she didn’t think that was it. She was pretty sure her blink had just turned into a long moment with her eyes closed. She was just so tired, and it seemed like she’d used up all her adrenalin. She needed to think, to come up with some kind of plan, but her mind was stuck in sludge.

Laurent lunged, swing the tomahawk in a flat arc, and JT found herself dodging to her right. She tossed the knife in a border shift to her left hand as she went, the kind of move that would have earned her a smack on the head from any of the instructors she’d had as a girl. The knife landed safely in its familiar off-hand reverse grip, though. No thinking now, the knife was where it belonged and she moved automatically. The edge of the blade raked along Laurent’s ribs as she stepped past him, then stabbed back just before she stumbled away.

She turned to see Laurent stumbling himself, back arched and mouth open wide. He turned, but not before she saw dark blood pumping out of his back–it looked like she’d caught his kidney. Now if she could just stay on her feet and keep away from him for a while. She flicked the knife absently back to her right hand as she watched him.

Laurent pressed a hand against his back, then looked at his blood-covered palm for a moment. He looked up at JT and shook his head, at first as if he was somehow disappointed, then again like a man who had something stuck in his ear–a violent twitch.

“That was…that…” he said, then paused. “You…” His mouth opened wide but he said nothing more, then staggered to one side, his mouth stretching even wider. He turned and raised the tomahawk as if he was going to throw it, then suddenly dropped it with a hiss, a wisp of smoke rising from his palm. JT realized that he looked even worse than he had before, his skin taking on a grayer cast. He also looked a bit…taller.

She took a cautious step forward. “You still in control, there, Laurent?” she asked. “You still the one driving this train?”

Laurent made no reply, but his head snapped up to reveal bloody teeth that seemed to be jutting out of his mouth more than they had a moment ago.

“Oh, hell,” JT said as he suddenly lunged with a terrible speed.

Copyright © 2011 SM Williams

~ by smwilliams on September 17, 2011.