Chapter 2: A Soulless Husk
Second chapter of my book the Brookrow Bastard. Thanks to all of you who've read the previous works I've posted, and a thank you to any newcomers as well. This chapter has some disturbing and violent imagery--think "horror-ish". This is a first draft, by the way, and introduces a lot of changes from the original manuscript.
II: A Soulless Husk
The night was coming fast. The storm had already arrived. Hiding underneath the overhang that stood above our stall, my mother packed away her wares. I stood nearby, watching the denizens of the Merchant’s Plaza filtered out. After a particularly unprofitable week, we had opted to stay later than usual, praying to the gods for a late-rush of costumer.
I turned my attention away from the crowds, and rushed over to aid my mother.
“Are we done for the night?”
She nodded briefly, but remained focused on closing up shop. I knew my mother was upset from the expression she bore. They way that her brows furrowed slightly, and how her often bright, open eyes narrow to slits.
“We’ll do better tomorrow, mother,” I told her, enthusiastically.
She looked over at me, a slight smile cracking her brooding visage. “Gods-willing, Killian, gods-willing.”
We returned to silence as we worked, but the ghost of a smile lingered on my mother’s lips. I did not yet know the stresses that came with adulthood, but I knew that it made me happy to see my mother smile.
Footsteps marked their arrival before my eyes registered them. Two men, haggard and tattered, took uneven steps towards our stall. My mother had not taken notice of them, but I had, and I knew from looking into their sunken, dark eyes that these men were up to no good.
From the way they shuffled towards us, to the absent look in their eyes, and the fresh wounds that mingled with the scars that decorated their exposed skin; I knew that they were dream resin addicts. They looked to be a few months from losing themselves completely, as all knew that the seductively addictive drug whittled away at the mind. All those who are dependent on the drug are no longer men. They are violent, ferocious, and have only one desire: to get their fix. were the epitome of all the dangers the city had to offer.
I was justified in my fear. I had heard the stories, of course, but I had never seen the Husks in person. The one on the left had no hair upon his head, but bore a rough goatee across his chin, halved diagonally by a wicked, white scar.
“Mother,” I whisper softly, too afraid that these monstrosities would attack if I shouted.
My mother hummed in response, and I grabbed her arm, pulling her around.
“Whatever is the—” Her breath taken by the sight of the grizzled, mindless men, my mother stood frozen with fear. She took a few stuttering breaths, and called out, “I-I apologize, sirs…”
They did not falter in their approach. No, these denizens of the underbelly of Irianna held fast a one-way course, and no amount of talk was going to persuade them otherwise.
I saw the fear in my mother’s eyes as they slowly stepped closer and closer to us. My mother pulled me behind her. She retrieved a knife that she kept at her stall for such an occasion, and aimed it menacingly at the men.
“You shan’t come any closer!”
If they were frightened, they hid it well. The threat only gained my mother their attention. I knew that she in danger, and that I would have to be the one to do something about it. My heart pounded, and I struggled to garner the nerve to raise my voice. I wanted to run away, but I did not—could not run away. With no regard for my own safety, I attacked the first man. I slammed my fists against his back, though I doubt much damage was done. It was enough to deter him from harming my mother, but now I was the prey of the husk.
The man knocked me over with the back of his hand, and my mother attempted to swing the knife at him. The man grappled with her before she could strike, quickly overpowering her and throwing her to the ground. The knife clattered away, far out of our reach, and the husks were closer.
I scanned my surroundings desperately, and found a chunk of loose cobblestone jutting out of the ground. I pried it out, and got to my feet. Hoisting it back, I shouted at the first man. “Leave her alone!”
The projectile took the man across his cheek as he turned my way. His other picked up pace, taking after my mother, as the first, undeterred by my strike, quickly closed the distance between us.
The second grabbed hold of my mother, taking his calloused, hardened hands to pin her against our stall. As she struggled I saw the pain in her face as the life was leeched from her. She closed her eyes tightly, a single tear creeping down her reddening cheek. I made a move to go after her, but the husk was already on me. I tried to fight his grip, but I was much too weak.
Using this chance, my mother brought her knee to the man’s groin, and shoved him back. The man tumbled over, buying her enough time to charge past him, and pull my attack from me. The husk had been pulled off balance, stumbling away.
My mother grasped my hand, and turned to run away, but the husk was tenacious. He clobbered at my mother’s face, knocking her away from me. Grabbing hold of my arm, threatening to break it with his vice like grip, he attempted to tear me out of her grasp. The husk let out a ferocious growl, shoved my mother away with one hand, ripping me away with the other. I remember soaring through the air, and the feeling of weightlessness fleeting as I struck with a hard thud a few feet away.
I was dazed and disoriented after the impact. My body defied my rampant thoughts, screaming at me to stand on my feet. I lay petrified as the husk made his way after me. I forgot how to breathe, how to stand, and how to run away. The husk bore a cold look in his eyes, a look that I would not soon forget, no matter how hard I might try.
I turned my gaze towards my mother, watching her attempt to pick herself from off of the ground. She was weak, and beaten. There was no fight left in her. My heart burned with rage, overpowering the fear in an instant. It was then that I saw not far from me, glistening in the light cast by the streetlamp, lay the knife my mother had dropped.
Something broke within me, and freed me from the powerful shackles of fear. Something in the back of my head screamed to me, Killian, move!
The husk was almost on me, I had to make my move now, or my life was sure to have sure and sudden end. I extended my arm, reaching as far as I could. My wriggling fingers caught the handle of the blade, and I clasped them around it tightly. He was on me now, howling wildly, his arms clawing at me. There was no mercy, no reason, no humanity—he was a soulless husk with a face carved as if by a butcher’s knife.
My mind raced, and my fear and my fury were tangled in an incessant struggle. I gave a yelp, and thrust the knife upwards at the man. My hand came to a sudden stop as I buried the blade to the hilt in the man’s sternum. The husks bloodshot eyes widened, and he let loose one final cry before toppling down onto me.
My face went pale, and I felt sick to my stomach. I could not stop my heavy breathing, my limbs would not stop shaking, and my thoughts went rampant with no end. My ears rang terribly, and I did my best to keep from retching, as I pushed against the lifeless corpse that lay atop me.
I could not remove him from off myself, but I was able to lift him high enough to slide my body from underneath. I pushed myself away from the cadaver, crawling away on my hands and knees. I was not sure if I should cry or scream or laugh. I found no emotion could convey how I felt, so my expression remained stoic.
A scream broke through the ringing that ravaged my ears. I turned my head to gaze upon the remaining husk assaulting my mother. I watched in a moment of surreal eternity as they husk raised his leg to bring down upon my mother’s head.
The husk did not get his chance. His mouth opened agape as steel found its way through the front of his neck. The man toppled forward, clawing in a fruitless effort to stop the flow of blood that gushed out of the newly formed hole in his throat. He fell to the ground, body convulsing, and arms twitching and flailing. Slowly, the thrashing ceased. Slowly, the gurgled cries came no more. Slowly, he lost his grip on life. Soon enough, all was quiet.
In an instant, it was over. I gasped my first unlabored breath, as I pushed myself up and off of the cold street below. My hands were trembling fiercely, and I had to force my eyes away from the death I had caused. As I placed my right foot down, a jolt of pain shot up my leg. I had not felt the pain before, but now that the danger was gone I was free to take notice.
I had to limp my way along, but I was determined to get to my mother’s side. I watched as our savior made his way to my mother’s side, stopping only to wipe the blood from the blade onto the tattered shirt of the dead husk. The man replaced the knife back into its sheath and removed the bowler hat from his head respectfully. The yellow light of the nearby streetlamp revealed him to be none other than the man Corwin.
“Awfully dangerous to be out and about at night, Miss Meri,” he said softly, offering his hand to her. Corwin helped her to her feet, and asked her, “Are you hurt?”
“I am sure I shall be quite alright,” she replied, checking herself over carefully. “I shudder to think of what would have transpired had you not happened by when you did.”
“I gave you my word that I would return. From the hour, I thought that perhaps I would miss you, but it seems that fate has weaved our paths.”
My leg stung as I slogged my way over to where they stood, and when my mother took notice of my apparent agony, she took to me like with the speed of the wind. She called my name in a fretful tone, sweeping me into her arms. Her embrace caused me to ache further, but I paid it no mind. I squeezed her tightly, burying my face against her chest.
“Praise-the-gods you are safe, Killian,” she cried, petting my hair softly.
I pulled myself out of her arms with care, wincing as I put too much weight on my ankle. I staggered back a step or two, but retained my footing. Corwin noticed immediately, and was promptly at my side. Down on one knee, he inspected the
“Nothin on him is broken, as far as I can tell. Never been much for doctoring, but my best guess is the boy’s come out this scrap with sprained ankle and a few scrapes and bruises. For better or worse, it would seem either the boy has a heaven-sent guardian, or his luck has no bounds.”
“I am just glad you are safe,” my mother said with a sigh of relief, and a light smile made manifest on her lips.
Corwin turned his head about, looking at the dead and the mess they had caused. We followed his example, and to add insult to our injury, we found our stall had taken some damage in the chaos. The two husks remained where they had been slain, cold and lifeless now. As my eyes fell upon the one I killed, I felt the sickness arise within me once more. I averted my gaze, but to no avail.
Vomit coated a small fraction of the cobblestones street, and more threatened to come as I bent myself over. I gave way to the heaves, unable to stop the inevitable. My mother stroked my hair, cooing sweet words to calm me. Here words came from far away to me, and I could not focus on the sound.
While my stomach had been long since emptied, my body refused to relent. Eventually, I could breathe again, deep and quaking. I felt weak, falling to my knees. While I could feel my ankle pulsating, I did not feel the pain. The ringing returned to my ears, as all other sounds began to fade.
The world around me faded away, and I fell into darkness. I could only see the face of the man whose life I had taken. Was it justified? Was it a sin? I did not know. I was not sure of anything until I felt the arms cradle my neck and legs as I was raised from off the ground. I did not remember falling over, but I remembered how cold the cobblestones had felt against my cheek.