A Merry Fight
Gobon fled into the endless wood, and Albey the Mad Poet followed.
The forest dubbed The Hillside Commons was the apotheosis of all forests – was, that is, until the fire began to spread. Iuqon had said in his dying letter to Albey the Mad Poet that Albey’s quill – and by extension Albey himself, as surely the astral magick had soaked into Albey’s soul by then – was enchanted, that whatever was written in the sacred quill’s bottomless black ink would come true, no matter how impossible such may seem. After climbing out of the laboratory hidden beneath The Lodge, Albey scrawled a pair of bars which said The Lodge would burn, but the land around it would not. He did not know as much when he wrote it, but the ‘man knocking at his door – the very reason he climbed out of the lab and wrote those pair bars – had set The Lodge to burn, and Albey narrowly escaped just before the cindery roof caved in and crushed him alive. He saw the ‘man in white flee, and in turn the Mad Poet followed. The fire spread across the clearing behind him.
Now the fire raced Albey through the tortuous trail which would eventually lead to Jericho Tower, were Albey not to turn off it. But he did, as too did Gobon, down a narrow side trail carved by wild game, a trail surrounded by trees twisted and knotty, lumpen and ugly, their bark gnarled like calloused, arthritic hands, and the trail only grew narrower with every step Albey took. As the fire chased ever closer behind him Albey could hear the wretched trees screaming as they burned alive, but these trees were not Ents. The Ents had all rotted and fell to the fires of Iuqon’s staff; nay, these were a different strain, a different species altogether, a carnivorous kind of trees, ones with animate branches and roots which writhe and contort, which crack like bullwhips as they reach into the trail and snap up whatever meal they can make. Many grabbed for Albey as he followed Gobon into the wood, and many ensnared him too, but they all let go. The fire of The Lodge dissolved their wills, the very fire which Gobon set would be his own undoing, for the Mad Poet would catch the In’Flu-Enz’a, and when he did they would grapple – but it would not be a merry fight. They would engage in fisticuffs like Albey and Ram’rl at the tavern where they met Iuqon the Mage, the one with the waitress of the prideful bosom, but it would not end in a stalemate. Gobon was weak while Albey was strong, and Gobon fled while Albey followed; Gobon may have had his magicks, he may have known all sorts of tricks, but Albey had a special one hidden up the sleeve of his tunic: Albey could make a ‘man’s heart stop as if it never beat in the first place. All he must do was twist their neck ‘til it snapped, and in the case of the homely Gobon, those bones would break like brittle twigs.
At the end of the game trail neither were able to run, as the trees grew so close together they had to maneuver through them sideways; Albey watched Gobon vanish into a dim green glow between two trees at the end, and he followed him straight through.
What waited for him on the other side could only be described as a lair, one which fit Gobon rather well. It resembled a tree hollow in which a squirrel might sleep: surrounded by wood on all sides, the only way out being the way they came in, but as Albey turned around to check his back, he saw the entrance was gone. The trees closed up against the racing blaze to protect their vile master; Albey and Gobon were locked in the hollow, bathed in an ethereal green glow.
The glow came from glass bottles scattered about the lair; some sticking out of the mat of roots, some growing from the trunks of the trees like branches, some hanging from the tangled ceiling of leafless boughs, all of them glowing that sick, murky green. In the center of the lair was a firepit with a great black cauldron hung from a spit; the cauldron was empty, just like Gobon’s soulless eyes. They stood on either side of it, staring each other down, as the air grew thick with haze.
“It seems we are at an impasse, Gobon,” threatened Albey before taking a step forward. Gobon took a step back in return. They didn’t take their eyes off one another. “The fire followed me here just as I followed you; you tried to do me in, you starved putrid thing, but the only one you’ve killed is yourself!”
“Never!” Gobon shouted in defiance, slamming his foot into the roots. He then drew breath and coughed it back out; the smoke was growing thick indeed. “I broke first The Triad and now I shall break you, Poet! You are no match for my illusory magicks!”
Gobon raised his palm and launched a ball of green fire directly at the Poet’s head. Albey ducked and rolled beneath the blaze, letting it crash into the wall of trees behind him. It turned a reddish orange when it struck against the bark, then spread quickly across the floor and ceiling. They were both going to die in the hollow, that much was plainly obvious, but still Albey had to take his mark.
Though the cauldron was heavy and Albey did not possess the might of Ram’rl, he lifted the grand pot off the spit and hurled it across the hollow at Gobon. The fiend caught it with his legs, which both broke like snapped toothpicks, and he crumbled to the floor in pain. Albey was on the daemon in an instant, both hands wrapped around his spindly throat as the fire closed in around them.
“Damn you Gobon,” Albey spat furiously in his face, then bent the fiend’s neck without mercy. He screamed, and Albey screamed back, “Damn you to rot in the swamp from which your whore of a mother brought you forth!”
Albey then grabbed Gobon the In’Flu-Enz’a with both hands by the head and twisted with rage. Gobon’s eyes met the roots beneath him; his body did not follow.
The Mad Poet fell back then, fell back into the burning mass of roots, and let the fires consume him.
“You shall In’Fluence no more,” the Mad Poet said in his hot dying breath as singed hair fell from his burnt, peeling scalp. “The In’Flu-Enz’a is cured; Gobon shall curse this land never again.”
Then, there was pain.
Pain and heat.
This has been the fourth subchapter of the fourth chapter of The Face of Fear, a novel about bigfoot written by the writer in Untitled Bigfoot Project. Here is everything you need to know about it:
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
The Hillside Commons has a Facebook page. Here’s that.
If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~