The slave vault was one of the cruelest places in all of the Wastelands. Day and night cries of pain and despair rang through its chambers, day and night slaves died at the hands of their torturers. Blood and bones from the slaves that died here carpeted every inch.
Dark, sinful, and cruel. They’d been brought to hell.
The dungeons were set up in the building’s repurposed sewer system. Dingy hallways extended in all directions like a maze, however the outpost denizens had only occupied the more complete sections. From time to time mutated creatures wandered in to attack and eat slaves they caught.
Cloudhawk was ushered into the dungeons in shackles. One of the guards had taken his exorcist rod. The Bloodsoaked Queen didn’t bear any visible weapons so none were taken.
Several guards forced them forward at gunpoint. When they entered the dim, moist dungeon they could see that five or six hundred slaves were currently locked up here. Gore-caked implements of torture were splayed around, waiting to be used. From somewhere nearby there was a constant series of wails echoing through the dark.
New slaves were brought in and placed in complete darkness. For weeks or months they underwent the domestication process where through demented torture their will was broken. That’s how they made these wild wastelanders compliant.
One of the guards used the butt of his gun to bash one of the slower moving slaves.
The dungeon was rife with slave cages. What remained of Leonine’s crop was split up to prevent any revolt and consigned to cells while they waited for domestication to begin. Cloudhawk and the Bloodsoaked Queen were being escorted into a deeper section of the dungeon, with only a handful of other wastelanders with them.
Cloudhawk looked around, trying to get a grasp on the situation. He counted four guards behind them with guns trained on their backs, and another five or six prison guards nearby. No more than ten captors all together. None of them knew how skilled the guards were, but if they were average fighters they were too much for Cloudhawk. The Queen was a different story.
But like him, the Queen was in shackles. With her movement inhibited he had to assume it would affect her skills. She’d have to kill the four with guns as quickly as possible and that was difficult while injured and restrained. Under these conditions it seemed that even the mighty Queen was helpless.
What should they do?
Cloudhawk wriggled his wrists but was unable to free them from the shackles. As he looked around it was clear the dungeons were well-guarded – after all, slight as it was the slaves could still have a chance at escape. Their chance lay in the relics hidden on the Queen’s person. If she could get free, they might be able to fight back.
Both of them were quietly mulling over the same concern. The demon’s lackeys were close, they knew, and if the Queen managed to get free of the dungeon the chaos would reveal their presence here. Wasn’t that the same as advertising their location? Sweepers under the command of the black-clad freak need only surround them and their daring escape would be undone.
But if they didn’t do anything, would they be forsaken to these dungeons as slaves?
A voice cut through their dark thoughts from behind.
The guards stopped and turned around to see who called. They faced the newcomer with respectful countenance. “Captain,” they hailed, “what are your orders?”
The man who approached was the same one from outside who’d had them shackled. His dark eyes hovered over the Queen’s full figure and round buttocks for a moment, and several of the guards figured they knew his intent. “You, - you there. Come here.”
Cloudhawk knew nothing good was to come of this.
The Queen separated from the group. Through her tattered cloak her voluptuous and tight figure could still be picked out. Her face was still hidden behind the mask but her body alone was enough to awaken the brutish nature of these guards.
“I wanna see this alone… leave her with me.”
“Yes, captain!” One of the guards saw that Cloudhawk wasn’t moving and kicked him hard with the heel of his boot. “What the fuck are you staring at? Move!”
“I didn’t think Leonine would bring back such quality merchandise.” The captain slowly approached the Queen. “Let’s see what you look like.”
A murderous glare slowly crept into the Queen’s gaze.
Cloudhawk knew the moment he saw it that keeping a low profile was no longer an option. With the Queen’s temper what it was, things were about to get violent.
One of the guards moved in to push him again when suddenly Cloudhawk flung himself forward. He slammed into the guard and managed to seize his exorcist rod.
The captain looked up and saw the situation. His face darkened. “Fighting back, you brat? Get him!”
Cloudhawk whipped his staff toward her. She spun around and held out her hands.
The steel staff whistled through the air at high speed and smashed into her shackles. In a shower of sparks and a deafening screech it tore through the cuffs like a cutting tool. The Queen flung the shackles from her wrist and chopped her hand toward the captain.
Greenland Outpost’s guard captain was an able warrior, no less capable than the commanders of the Blackflag Outpost’s elite guard. However the Queen’s attack was fast, sudden, and unexpected. In an instant he knew that this woman was a top-class fighter and it was too late to dodge her blow.
The captain lifted his arm to deflect her attack. Pulling a dagger from his cuff with his left hand, he thrust it at her abdomen. The outpost leader was fast – but the Queen was faster. Her chop became a grab and she caught his arm in a vice-like grip.
He howled, an inhuman sound filled with pain. In an instant his entire arm burned black like spent coal. The Queen whipped her slender leg and connected with the captain’s chest with enough force to snap half a dozen bones. His right shoulder split and his arm was torn out of his socket, and even still he was flung back so hard he smashed into the far wall. This was not a wound he’d survive.
She flung herself around and used the captain’s blackened arm as a bludgeon, smashing it into a guard’s face before anyone could react. While the rest of them fumbled to raise their guns she was on two more in a flash. Her gloved hands pressed against the skin of their faces.
Whoosh! Fire belched from their every orifice. When the Queen let them go they fell to the ground, and everything above their necks had become carbon coke . The charred holes that used to be their eyes, nose and mouth were now hideous craters.
To say the remaining two were terrified of this woman was an understatement. They stumbled backward in retreat while trying to aim their guns. Cloudhawk lunged forward and planted his staff in a guard’s chest, but was half a moment too late pulling it out to attack the second one.
The last guard got the shot off, but their rifles were crude and single-shot. The Bloodsoaked Queen artfully dodged the bullet, and the guard fumbled with the rifle’s bolt to clear the barrel. When the second shot was ready he lifted his head, but his target was gone.
The Queen had slipped behind the guard, wrapped her hands around his neck and wrenched the muscles. His spine snapped like a twig. The body collapsed and, panting, she made her way to Cloudhawk to help with his shackles. Once free her hoarse voice croaked at him. “Go.”
This was one hell of a tough lady! She’d managed to put down a handful of crack guards without much effort, and wounded to boot.
They’d dealt with the guards, but gunfire had alerted everyone around. Soon they’d be surrounded by dozens of prison guards, more than the two of them could handle.
Cloudhawk dropped to the ground and started to search the corpses. He grabbed a handgun from the waist of the captain and one of the guards’ rifles, as well as a store of bullets. The wastelanders who’d been brought back here with them grabbed up the other weapons.
“We’re not gonna escape like this,” Cloudhawk said to the others. “You free the others. If we can get a force together we might be able to fight our way out.”
They were much too frightened by the Queen’s deadly display to respond. The woman was as terrifying as the demon mask she wore!
Too stunned to think much beyond doing what they were told, the men left to get others. They managed to open a few of the cells and free a dozen or so slaves before a group of prison guards appeared.
“Everyone run, scatter! Free as many as you can!”
Cloudhawk knew he and the Queen couldn’t hide, so their best bet was to cause chaos. If they could free the slaves it might give them the cover they needed to get out.
“Queen! Let’s go!”
Cloudhawk fired at a prison guard blocking their path and blew him away, opening a path toward the exit. As they ran they smashed opened locks to the cells to free more of the slaves, and generate more chaos. There were too many for the guards to suppress, and they were quickly overwhelmed.
The two of them reached the exit, but as they were about to burst outside they were met with a thunderous sound. A huge number of figures, armed to the teeth, were charging their way.
The Queen knew them instantly. “Sweeper troops!”
A mob of troops in armor wielding broad headed axes poured in, followed by the arrival of a winged man from above. His descent kicked up a cloud of dust. Through the dim light and grime, the mutant’s keen eyes picked out the two figures preparing to flee.
“It really is them!” Incredulous laughter bubbled up in his throat. “Brothers, we’ve found the two rats!”
How did they get here so fast?!
The Bloodsoaked Queen and Cloudhawk both felt their hearts seize in their chest. They were surrounded, with the three mutant leaders and the outpost’s best fighters closing in. The two of them definitely couldn’t fight their way out, and with so many enemies they could lock down the dungeons by spreading out like a dragnet.
Cloudhawk and the Queen ran down the first path they saw.
The three mutants closed in on where they used to be with a dozen or so crossbow-wielding subordinates in tow. It took them only a couple of minutes to find what direction they’d fled in.
The slithery cold voice of Stranger Black hissed in their ears. “They’re here, they couldn’t have run far!”
The mutants brought teams with them and began to comb through the dungeons. However none of them noticed something different in the air, like a portion was missing.
Cloudhawk and the Queen were pressed together, face to face. He’d thrown his relic cloak over them and channeled his psychic energy through it to hide them temporarily. The mutants couldn’t see anything and so passed right by, completely unaware their prey was inches away.
“The main halls have to be full of enemies by now. We can’t go this way, we have to think of something else.”
Cloudhawk’s invisibility cloud slowly regained substance.
Surprising as Cloudhawk’s latest toy was, the Queen didn’t have time to question him. They had to find a way out!
1. Coal and coke are the main means by which people start fires in China, and is arguably the main reason for their pollution issues. Coke looks like burnt wood, very light, and is the fuel of choice for outdoor barbeques and water boilers.
Happy reading! I've been travelling the past week so the schedule has been a bit off. Should be on again soon!