The Fires, Chapter Nine


By Tommyhawk1@AOL.COM
Artwork (c) 2004 by Eduardo
Illustration of Fires #9

We were still working over the contents of the wagon that afternoon from our new campsite, this one well within the forest and in reach of plenty of wood for the night's fire, when a voice shouted a greeting our way. "Halloo!" came the jovial yell.

Gareth cursed vehemently under his breath and turned around. "Zach, you son of a bitch! What the hell are you doing back here?" His sword slid out of its sheath with a hiss of steel that sent shivers up my spine.

"Hey, is that any way to greet your pal?" Zach said. He seemed utterly unashamed of his actions of the day before.

"You're no friend of mine." Gareth said.

"You stole from us!" I added in.

Zach smiled benevolently at me. "You mean the cache I was so busy setting aside for the three of us yesterday?"

"Cache?"

"Sure, we had plenty to tide us over, I figured we should put aside some of it while we had it, for when we didn't. So I took it to a place I know and spent yesterday covering it up. Had a bit of trouble, took me most of the day, just barely made it to a fire. Had to spend the night cuddling up to a hairy, pot-bellied guy in his fifties, but hell, you do what you have to in this world to stay alive, don't you?"

"That's your answer for everything, isn't it?" Gareth said. "Do whatever it takes to stay alive. Including robbing us. And did you tell Markham where we were?"

"I never saw him!"

"His men robbed us yesterday afternoon!" Gareth said. "Robbed us and left us tied up to die! Somebody let them know where we were!"

"They left us without a fire!" I put in.

"So how did you two stay alive, then?" Zach asked cunningly. "No fire, the Things would get you. You had to have some sort of light."

"Yeah, it was so weird!" I said, then Gareth's hand came over and clapped on my mouth. He didn't leave it there long, but I knew when he took it away I wasn't supposed to talk.

"What was so weird?" Zach asked.

"I think you ought to be moving on." Gareth said. "Go back to New Haven. Go back to Markham. Go to hell. We don't want you here any longer."

Zach's smile slipped. "Hey, Gareth, you know I sometimes act without thinking, you know I tend to...."

"The hell you say." Gareth interrupted. "I do know you, Zach. You don't act without thinking. You think, all right. You think about number one, that's who you think about! And yesterday, that was all you were thinking about. You have your cache of supplies from us, it was more than a fair share, so take it and keep it and get the fuck out of here." And Gareth took a step forward, his sword went from pointing to Zach to a diagonal angle, raised back slightly, ready to strike.

"You don't know what you're doing here, Gareth." Zach said as he backed away. "You're making a big mistake, one of the biggest you've ever made."

"Get out of here!" Gareth shouted and he took another step forward.

Zach turned and left, not running, but he was going away.

Gareth lowered his sword and he was panting, and I knew it wasn't the weight of the sword. He was stronger than that.

"Gareth?" I asked as I went over to him. "Gareth, what do we do now?"

"We keep an extra good lookout." Gareth said. "When I mentioned Markham, he flinched, I think. I think he is in league with Markham. That's bad. Really bad."

"Yeah." I agreed. "Well, if they come by, maybe I'll be able to blast them like I did those Things."

Gareth managed a smile. "Let's hope we don't have to find out."

I spent the next hour trying so hard to make myself do it again, to fire out those blasts of light that had torn at the Things, driven them away. It'd drive away Markham, too, if I could just figure out how.

But we had to gather wood and build the fire. Gareth and I was busily chopping wood until near dusk, but we had enough for a small fire.

And when the Things came to roam outside our fire, I tried again, but it just didn't work, and I shivered as the Things grumbled and growled at me in the darkness!

It was soon after dawn the next day when Markham and his men came for us. This time, Zach was standing right by Markham's side.

Gareth didn't need to see the others closing in all around us to know to lower his sword. "So that's how it is, is it?"

"Sorry, Gareth." Zach said. He sounded sincere.

"So you take all our stuff this time." Gareth said, resigned.

"Oh, you can keep the entire wagon." Markham said. "It's all yours."

"Then why...." Gareth's eyes flicked over to me and then his sword was up again. "No. Not Charley. You can't have Charley."

"Me?" I said.

"Now, Gareth." Zach said. "Don't be stupid here. You can't win against this many, you know that."

"I can damned well try."

"I don't want to go back to Markham!" I wailed.

"I don't want you, either." Markham said. "I have your friend Joey, remember? He's back at my fire now, taking care of things. Much more practical fellow than you ever were. But you do have talents I'm interested in."

"Huh?" I said.

"That place my men took you wasn't as private as you may have thought." Markham said. "In fact, it can be seen quite a long ways off. Tell me, how did you manage that levitation-light thing?"

"I don't know!" I said vehemently.

"He doesn't know, Markham." Gareth put in. "He's been trying to do it ever since. Whatever happened, he doesn't know how he did it, he just did it."

"So we'll set things up the same way." Markham judged. "This time with a better view on things."

"I'm not going to help you one damned bit." Gareth growled.

"Oh, really?" Markham said. "Not even to save your own life? I put you and Charley together that same way...."

And Gareth roared and charged Markham, his sword held high. Zach moved in to block his sword-blow, and the others closed in.

As I saw those men, six at least, I'm afraid I closed my eyes and screamed. It was all I could think of to do! I couldn't watch this, not Gareth!

I sat down where I was and I kept my eyes closed and I screamed, over and over and over, while I heard metal striking metal, grunts...and yells of male pain.

"Hey, kid." Markham said after a time, right close to me, his hand on my shoulder. "Relax. We're going to let him live."

"Huh? Gareth!" I shouted out.

Gareth was on the ground, face down, not moving. I ran over to him.

"We got him on the head." Markham said. "Had to hit him more than once, but he's still alive, don't worry your cute little head about that."

I was shaking Gareth, but he wasn't moving. I started crying, saying over and over, "Gareth? Gareth, wake up! Please wake up!"

Finally, Gareth said "Uuh?"

Rough hands pulled me away. "We'd better tie him up for the night." Markham said briskly. "Otherwise he might try something stupid all over again."

"So what about the kid?" one man asked.

"Zach, you get to take Charley over to Nashville for the night." Markham informed him.

Zach's mouth dropped open in dismay. "Me?"

"We'll be nearby." Markham said soothingly. "If Charley can't get his light on when the fire burns out like he did last night, we'll come running with torches. You'll just have to fight off the Things for a few minutes."

"But," Zach started and Markham only had to gesture. Zach found a half dozen knives pulled against him. "All right." he said. "But you'd better be damned close if I'm going to stay in a town after dark." I shuddered at that, the Things always attacked people who stayed inside towns, even if they had a fire going. The Things would throw things at the fire from out of the dark, and the fire would be knocked to pieces and go out, and then they'd attack. I'd never seen anything like this before, the Professor and I had stayed well clear of the towns after dark, but he'd told me about why we had to do it. Joey and I had been in town, but only inside a very special hiding hole, and that hadn't lasted when he and I had made some noise.

Zach was protesting to Markham, not that I blamed him.

"Have I ever let you down?" Markham said.

Zach didn't seem to take any heart in that, but the men didn't give him a chance to change his mind. They took us to "Nashville," which turned out to be simply one of the small abandoned town, and set up a small fire for us in one of the alleys just inside the town. Zach was grumbling as he poked his sword at the fire. "I can't fucking believe it." he grumbled. I cowered on the other side of the fire. It was too small. There was some wood to be had, but the Things wouldn't care about the fire this time, no! They'd attack us anyhow. The fear rose up in me again, and I tried, I really, really tried, to make the light come again! But how can you make yourself do something when you don't know how you even did it to begin with?

I was snuffling, as I watched the fire. There was some extra wood beside it to burn later, but again, we'd been left with just enough fire to last until full darkness fell. Long enough to let the Things gather around us.

"Come on, Charley." Zach said to me roughly. "Do whatever you did before. I can't fight all those Things!"

"But Markham said he'd come with torches...." I sniveled.

Zach humphed. "Kid, if torches worked against the Things, we wouldn't be living hunkered around fires at night. A torch can't give out enough light, it isn't meant to. You have to have a big fire."

"Maybe if we burn the fire smaller, and stay really close to it." I ventured.

"Kid, we're inside a town." Zach said. "The Things are coming after us. Hell, we might as well not bother with the fire at all." He started to kick it out.

"No!" I screamed at him. "Don't do it, no!"

"Why the hell not?" Zach snarled. The good-natured man of my brief acquaintance was gone, he was more like a caged wild animal, snarling at everyone and everything, pacing back and forth.

I blocked his foot as he aimed it at the fire again, grabbed hold of his leg and held on tight. God, if the fire went out, we might not get a new one lit in time! "Don't do it!" I screamed. "Please, don't do it!"

Zach struggled against me and I ended up wrapped around his leg, my arms and legs trying to hold him down. I did handicap him, enough that he stopped trying to kick out the fire and started trying to get me off of him. His hands pulled at my shoulders but I held on tight.

"Come on, you dumb brat, let me go!" Zach shouted at me.

"No! I won't!" I shouted back. "Not until you stop trying to put out the fire!"

He stopped struggling after a time. "Hell, kid, you've done me in." Zach said forlornly. "Done in by a little kid. I can't fight those Things off, not more'n two or three minutes, shit! Then they'll be all over both of us." Zach looked at me. "Kid, you got to turn that light on again, you just got to. It's the only way you and I are going to live tonight."

"I can't." I sniveled. "I don't know how."

"Try, Charley, you got to fucking try!"

I tried, and it began to get dark. Zach kept urging me on, making suggestions, clear my mind, think of light, imagine the sun, everything he could think of, and I tried them, I tried them all, and nothing worked!

Zach put the last of our wood on the fire. "Well, kid, we're done for." he said. "That's all the wood. You ready to turn on that light now?"

"I can't." I whined. "I just can't! I've tried and I can't! I don't know how!"

"You keep fucking saying that!" Zach grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me, hard. "Why the fuck do you keep saying that? You did it before, you fucking better do it again!"

"I don't know how, I don't know how!" I cried out.

"You did it for Gareth!" Zach snarled at me. "What'd he ever do for you that I didn't?" That didn't make much sense to me, but he was afraid, the same as me, afraid and angry at me. And that got me angry!

"Gareth loves me!" I shouted back at him. "Maybe that's what he has that you don't!"

"Loves you, you little shit! Hell, he was fucking your butt, any man would say anything at a time like that, don't you know that! If that's all you want, hell, I'll fuck your butt, just turn on that fucking light!

"I can't!"

Zach seized me then, and my clothes were pulled off from me. I got away from him once, and we did a run around the fire, then he jumped over it and grabbed me again. It wasn't like I could go anywhere, I couldn't leave the fire, not with the shadows getting bigger and bigger. And some of them growing eyes! They were just lightning bugs, but it wouldn't be long before those lights were the Things, they'd come into the town and they'd find us and they'd kill us!

Knowing that, I shivered in fear and I stopped struggling. Zach got my clothes off of me easily. His chest was heaving, he was winded some by our struggle and he said, "If that's all it takes, I'll fuck your butt. You promised it to me that night, remember? Then you two went off without me."

"Gareth didn't want you to hurt me." I whimpered.

"Hurt you, you dumb turd, hell, you were grunting like a pig on the end of his pole. I'll give you a ride the same as him. Time you learned that all men's dicks are alike, they all feel just alike going inside you!"

His chest bare, his pants opened, he moved in on me, and I saw the fire was half-burned. God, we only had a quarter-hour left!

Zach's rough hands forced me onto the ground, the paving stones were round, cold and uncomfortable. "Spread those damned legs." he snarled at me. "I'm going to die, I'm going to die with my dick in that butt of yours."

"No time, no time!" I moaned out.

"Get those fucking legs apart!" Zach snarled then and I felt his hands slam against my inner thigh, sprawling my legs open, and I got up onto my arms and maybe I was going to get up, but his hands slammed onto my back above my shoulders, knocking me down to my elbows.

"Hold still, you bastard, or I'll make it even rougher on you." Zach warned.

I groaned as I felt him press his large cockhead against my sphincter, he shoved and I flinched, clenched my butthole closed tight.

"You little prick, you'd better open that up." Zach cautioned me. "If I got to, I'll ram it right inside you. Don't fight me, and it'll be just like Gareth is fucking you, you like that, don't you?"

"Uh-huh." I admitted as I thought of Gareth fucking me, and as if the thought brought the deed, my sphincter relaxed and opened, and Zach shoved it into me.

"Ow-ow-owowowow!" I yelped. It hurt, so much it hurt! Gareth had always been gentle, Zach had just crammed his pud into me and it hurt! "Ow-ow-ow, take it out, take it out!" I moaned.

"Shut up!" Zach responded. "I'm getting me some of this ass if it's the last thing I do...and it will be!"

Moaning, I looked at the fire. It was weakening, the wood was all ablaze now, nothing left for the fire to eat!

I shuddered and Zach began to fuck me as I shivered in my fear and my pain. His huge rod was breaking me apart, I felt like I'd split in two and I groaned and he fucked me still. He didn't care what happened to me, he was about to die and I was about to die, what did a little pain for me before matter to him?

I put my head down on my arms and I groaned as the thick pole pumped in and out of me. Zach was grunting now, not in pleasure but in anger and concentration. I was betraying him, not doing what I'd done that one time, not bursting out in light, he was taking a revenge on me for my refusal to do what I couldn't figure out how to do! It was my fault he was going to die, he thought, this was his last act of retribution for that.

"Uh-uh-uh, you little cunt!" Zach grunted. "You bastard, come on, light up like you did before! Come on, light up and I'll stop! Come on, shit, those Things are coming, can't you hear them?" And Zach shuddered as he humped my butt, but fear was a part of that shudder.

His cock was so hard, he was groaning in his need, the need to get off one last time, to come one final time, a defiant act before dying, a chance to be the one in control rather than the one falling under teeth and claws and snarling beasts from out of the darkness!

"Oh, uh, ah, damn it, kid, I'm going to come." Zach said. "I'm going to come, and you'd better well turn on that light when I do, you hear me. Light, damn it, light, uh, uh, gah, gah!"

"I can't!" I moaned, and Zach growled in fury, sounding just like those Things and he growled again, and then again, in a higher note! "Ah, uhh, uuggghh, damn you, gah, uh, gah, uh, gah, uh, GH-HUNNKKHHHGGG!" And with a growl like a wild beast, Zach reached his orgasm and he shot his wads into my ass, and I moaned as his spunk burned my innards, he was splitting me open, splitting me open!

Zach wasn't the least gentle, instead he rammed me harder and faster as he pummeled my bowels with his jizz, and then he was done, panting, completely out of breath, he said, "And now, kid, you and me are going to die." And he was right, the fire was nearly out!

"Get more wood!" I cried out in fear, heedless of my nude state, heedless of my ravaged ass, this was a man and he could get more wood, more wood, we had to save the fire, now, save the fire! This was a town, there was wood all over the place!

Zach snatched up a piece of burning wood in his bare hand and gave a yowl of pain as he chunked it toward a nearby house. The house was made of wood, maybe it would catch fire. I understood, and Zach, still howling with his burned hand, tried to reach for another piece of wood.

It was a good idea, but it didn't work, we'd waited too long. When Zach grabbed hold, even though he ignore the flames and grabbed live coals, the wood shattered into bits and there was nothing left for him to throw. Only glowing coals, and those were turning rapidly from orange to gray to black, going out, going out! Oh, God, this time the Things would get me!

And again, I felt the thing happening. I felt myself rising up into the air and Zach turned, saw me, yelped, "All right, kid, come on, light up, light up!"

But I didn't, I just rose up higher and higher, and I looked down as the Things rushed Zach and he swung at one of them and then they were all over him and I heard him scream, a scream that lasted only a second and then died down into wet sounds, more like a gurgle made when you swallow water wrong and you choke on it. The last of the fire was out, and I was up above it.

Then, only then, with Zach dead under the claws of the Things, did the light glow out of me. Not only did it glow out of me, it reached out a long finger and over to... "Gareth?" I whispered to myself.

For Gareth was there, somehow, above the air and the light reached out to wrap around him. The light caught hold of him and then pulled us together, I floated toward him or maybe he floated toward me some, I don't know, I just know that suddenly, he was up next to me, staring at me again in awe. "Charley?" he breathed as I reached him. "Charley, is that you?"

"Uh-huh. Oh, Gareth!" I caught hold of him and I clung tight, so tight! "The Things, they got Zach. I couldn't turn the light on in time, I couldn't!"

"It's all right." Gareth patted my back and soothed me, being there, just being there and big and warm and strong, he comforted me.

"Where are you taking us?" he asked me after a time.

"Huh?" I looked around. We were still moving, floating over the treetops, and below us, Things trotted along, yelping up at us, I saw them moving across a field, black shapes on the green-black grass, and I shivered. No two were alike, not at all! One was like a wolf, one was like a frog, one was like a snake. All shadow-colored and moving after us, only their motion against the grass let me see them, and then they were back among the trees and I could only sense them again, feel them moving under us, keeping pace with us.

We ended up on the edge of a cliff, the tops of the tallest trees below the cliff were about twenty or thirty feet below us. Like the other place we'd been, this area was mostly bare, only a light layer of grass, and that was where we set down. A shape was nearby, large and irregular, but it wasn't a rock, it was a pile of something.

"God damn!" Gareth breathed, and it was like a prayer.

"What?" I asked him, his face lit up from the light that surrounded me.

"We got all the fixings here for a fire!" he said, and he scrambled to put the wood into a pyramid. There was paper, and matches, and Gareth got a fire going. Ten minutes later, we had a regular fire, and there was enough wood in that pile (which was what I saw) to burn the entire night through, a big fire.

And when the fire was going well, my light died out once more. This time, the Things kept their distance well, I didn't feel them nearby the entire night. I slept beside Gareth, and something told me that I could sleep all Iwanted, we were safe even if the fire did go out.

The next day, the pile of supplies didn't really surprise me much. Nor did it surprise Gareth.

"No doubt about it, Charley." he said. "You have something special going on here. For whatever reason, those Things are out to take care of you. Maybe they're even the ones making the light for you."

"Huh?"

"Nah, I guess not." Gareth mused. "If that was so, you wouldn't have had to blast them to pieces that time. Still, something very strange is going on here...and yep, here it is.

"What?" I asked.

He held up a now-familiar gold plaque. "Guess that this one says." he asked me.

"Gareth, I can't guess." I said. "What?"

He turned it over and showed me the letters.

BRNG TH BOI 2 TH KASTL



I looked at those words and shivered. "Bring the boy to the Castle." I said. "What does it mean?"

"Right beside it was another copy of that map." Gareth said. "I think that whoever or whatever is in charge around here wants you to go to that castle. And since Markham is out after us, I think maybe we should. What do you think?"

I squared my shoulders. "If you're with me, Gareth." I said bravely. "I'll go anywhere at all."

He smiled and held out his arms and I jumped to get into them, he picked me up and held me tight. "Me, too, kid." He said fondly. "Long as you're with me, I feel downright invincible."

"Me, too." I agreed.

And maybe we were!

THE END
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