Tag Archives: adventure

Into the Repository 

Here’s a #BlogBattle entry for both “hazel” (this week) and “menagerie” (last week, which I missed).

From the Adventures of Grant McSwain, Discoverer of the Fabled Repository of Castellano, and Vanquisher of the Treasure-Thieves of Vallarte’s Lost Vessel

Accompanied as always by his hapless assistant, Teagan O’Daire, the Ginger of Galway

“I’m telling you, Teag, this is the big one.” Grant squinted into the darkness and held his torch aloft. The jagged tunnel walls glowed with the dance of the flames. “Tepandorixotl—the Mayan Repository of Knowledge. Castellano’s crowning achievement, and soon to be ours. The find that will put our names in journals and reviews across Europe and the Americas.”

Teagan scoffed and brushed away the red hair matted to her sweaty face. “You mean the haul that will put us in a California mansion, if I remember correctly.”

“That was showmanship to sway Master Roquefort, a mere display of expected bravado and panache.” Grant paused and stared at the ceiling. “With the amount of money from the sales, plus an exhibition of all our collected antiquities, the mansion will be the talk of the West Coast. I’m going to make Hearst himself jealous of his little shack.”

“Should I start referring to you as Mister Gatsby?” Teagan asked with a chuckle.

“Do I know him? Do you think he’d be willing to purchase some of the future collection?”

Teagan shook her head. “He’s—Grant, you need to read more.”

“Reading?” Grant laughed. “That’s what I have you along for.”

He reached a steep slope and peered into the depths. “Speaking of, does Castellano’s log say anything about spelunking? Did he ever explain why he buried this so deep?”

“Nothing clear. He wrote at length of the frustration he felt at deciphering what little he could find about the Repository. The Mayans destroyed the Ixthacans, long before the conquistadors arrived. Castellano had experts on Mayan culture and language, but Vallarte scooped up anyone with a grasp of Ixthacan. And after their falling out–”

“What triggered that, I wonder?” Grant hammered a piton into the rock wall of the tunnel, then fastened a rope through the exposed metal loop. The clang of metal reverberated between the walls.

“The Repository, actually,” Teagan said once the echo died down. “Castellano refused to transport it to Spain, and by then Vallarte had lost his ship. He tried to organize a mutiny, but Castellano escaped with Vallarte’s notes and maps, intent on relocating everything of value contained within. Toward the end of his journal, Castellano said the Repository should remain lost in the annals of history.”

Grant tested the rope and smiled. “Time to prove him wrong.” He wrapped a length around his waist and took halting steps down the incline, torch in one hand, fingers gripping the rope with thick leather gloves. With each footfall, Grant’s knapsack jostled from a heavy weight within—an Ixthacan sun tablet Vallarte’s notes associated with the Repository.

Teagan donned her own thinner gloves, hand-made at exorbitant cost by a tailor who proclaimed women had no need or place for such gear. She pictured the dainty gloves of ivory lace he’d tried peddling her. “Fit for an extravagant gala or the finest ballroom, milady,” he’d said. “Or perhaps a proper wedding?”

She eyed Grant’s broad back, his muscular frame a silhouette in the torchlight beyond him. A proper wedding someday, perhaps. Any day now, just like Grant’s long-sought great haul of treasure that would carry them through the rest of their lives.

With each downward step, the light of Grant’s torch moved farther and farther away, as did Teagan’s expectations for the future. She sighed and followed Grant.

Several minutes later, they reached a bed of soft, moist earth at the bottom of the tunnel. A chill hung in the air, and Teagan rubbed her arms for warmth.

“What exactly are we looking for, Teag?”

“That’s part of the problem. In the excerpts I’ve got, Castellano pronounced curses upon any who opened the Repository. But he never actually described his find. His log mentions some of Vallarte’s lexicons for Ixthacan, and one entry I found describes something like storage or collection.”

“Like a repository? Great. The thing you’re looking for is the thing you’re looking for.”

“No, this was different. One of Vallarte’s translators was a Frenchman. Next to some words, he wrote French equivalents. And for this, he chose ‘menagerie.’”

His torch high and behind his head, Grant checked possible passages. “Like a traveling zoo? What do we do with that? Tepandorixotl was sealed for three centuries.”

“I don’t think that’s what he meant. Ixthacan uses word pictures. A word conveys a thought that can mean more than one thing. Knowledge might mean facts, for example. Or secrets, or trophies, or even rituals. Basically anything where one might learn from the experience.”

She ran a finger across the stone wall. “And at one point Castellano talked about some kind of unnatural clay. Kind of greenish-brown in color. Nothing like anything he’d seen in the region.”

“That’s a lot to go on,” Grant said. “I see reading is working out for you really well.”

Teagan gasped at the jab. “Go ‘cross yerself, ye dirty wastrel,” she blurted, and slapped Grant’s arm.

“You’re so cute when you cuss.” He laughed and continued his search.

“Ye think this is cute? You’re a filthy cuss yerself, ye gobsmacked ball of–”

“This way,” Grant said and dashed around a corner. The torchlight faded and something skittered in the darkness near her feet.

“I—you—Grant McSwain, you arrogant—wait for me!“ She ran and caught up to his long-legged stride. The smooth stone walls of this tunnel seemed almost polished. “How do you know this is the right passage?”

He pointed at the intermittent streaks of hazel clay on the rock floor of the winding tunnel. “Can’t be too unnatural. It’s right here.”

Teagan shook her head. “But this is basic geology. We’re well beneath the appropriate sediment level to find deposits of—“

She bumped into Grant and jumped back to protect her hair from the flames of his torch. A wide chamber opened before the pair, with a massive stone ring reaching twice Grant’s height. The flickering light played across ornate figures engraved on the walls. Monstrous representations of alien creatures covered in eyes and claws reached out their hands, opened wide toothy maws, or hovered on broad wings—all of them fashioned of the same greenish-brown clay.

Several lines of clay stretched in all directions like a spider’s web from the central ring. Underneath dust and strange earth, patterns of gold sparkled in the firelight. At the center of the chamber lay an indented circle, roughly the size of the Ixthacan tablet in Grant’s pack.

“Tepandorixotl,” Grant whispered. He doffed his knapsack and drew out the golden plate. As he knelt to fit the device into its receptacle, Teagan examined the patterns of gold.

“Grant,” she said. “Can you bring the torch over? Check out the gold-work in the stone.”

“Sure, just a moment,” Grant said. “Let me get this fitted and—“

Teagan lunged toward her partner. “No, wait!”

The Ixthacan tablet clattered into place, then the walls hummed on all sides. Symbols illuminated bright red on the stone ring, and in a circle around the chamber’s ceiling. When she looked through the ring, Teagan’s vision distorted like waves of heat on a desert road.

“The tablet closes the circuit,” Teagan said, “and activates the device.”

“But what does it do?”

Pulsing in time with the thrum of power from the artifact, a line of red light appeared over the panels of clay figures on the walls.

Then a hand near Teagan flexed and stretched its fingers. One after another, unrecognizable creatures stepped from the walls, their two-dimensional images swelling and filling out.

Grant and Teagan spun, surrounded. Then his large hand clamped down on her shoulder and yanked her into the shimmering energy of the stone ring.

The world stretched into lines of light in an instant, and a thunderous roar shattered Teagan’s thoughts. Then she fell into mushy earth under a magenta sky. Her fingers sank with a squish into clay—the same greenish-brown covered the ground as far as the eye could see.

Monsters rose from the expanse, sloughing off clumps of excess earth. Wings flapped from the backs of distorted humanoids hovering overhead. Two violet moons hung low on the horizon, one a sharp crescent where the other blocked light from—did this Tepandorixotl even have a sun?

A name came to mind, and Teagan breathed it out in a gasp. “Pandora.”

She fought the madness and fear that filled her as the creatures closed in. One of the flying things swooped toward her, its three-fingered hands grasping like a bird of prey.

Grant’s fist smashed through its face, splattering clumps into the air. The devastated creature spiraled and tumbled, cutting a trough in the clay.

He slipped into a boxing stance, defending Teagan against the oncoming horde. “And this is what you have me along for.”

Teatime with Teagan

Here is this week’s BlogBattle entry, under the genre, “Action/Adventure,” starring Grant and Teagan, with the prompt of “tea.”

From the Adventures of Grant McSwain, Fearless Man of Action and Dauntless Conqueror of Untold Dangers

Accompanied as always by his hapless assistant, Teagan O’Daire, the Ginger of Galway

Teagan sat back under the warm sun and breathed in the salty Pacific air. The clear ocean view from the ristorante balcony, coupled with the gentle breeze, reminded her of days spent on the docks of Galway’s harbor. Her rattan chair creaked as she leaned back and sipped at what the owner claimed was imported Darjeeling, brewed strong to her liking. No cup of Lyons’ best Irish Breakfast, certainly—no hearty, spicy flavour punching through rich milk to tantalize the palette. But it would do.

“You should try ze soup, ya?” the woman across from Teagan said. Blonde hair pulled taut into a no-nonsense bun, blue eyes bright as the clear sky, everything about Ilse von Sturmfaust conveyed pent-up intensity—particularly the nine-mil Mauser C96 under the table pointed at Teagan’s abdomen.

“Silly of you to be caught out in ze open, Miss O’Daire.” She swallowed a spoonful from her bowl and licked her lips. “Mmm. Exquisite. You cannot get shrimps fresher zan ziss,” Ilse said. She smirked, her eyes locked with Teagan’s. “Twice now I claim ze catch of ze day. You simply must take a taste.”

Teagan glared at the sopa maravilla set before her and raised her teacup in a mock toast. “Thank you for your generosity, but I’ll pass.”

Ilse shrugged and took another spoonful. “Ahh vell, impending death can steal one’s appetite. Don’t vorry, it vill be swift vonce your partner returns.”

“Must be nice to travel the world and enjoy the finer things,” Teagan said. “Meanwhile your homeland languishes in economic ruin. Maybe your Kaiser has some misplaced priorities?”

“I haff some other friends viss grandiose vision,” Ilse said, “unt deep pockets. It may not seem so now, but Germany has a very bright future.”

Teagan tried to exude calm as she took stock of her predicament. The nearby market bustled with activity, a steady din that might cover the noise of a gunshot. Plenty of witnesses and even a lawman went about their business within view, yet they all seemed intentionally distracted by anything but the meeting at Teagan’s table.

The mission bells rang, three sonorous peals echoing across San Lorenzo, Honduras. Grant should have found the next scrap of information on Castellano’s treasure by now, Teagan reasoned. Hopefully he wouldn’t be foolish enough to bring it back here. Then again, Grant had done far more thoughtless things in their time together.

In the shade of the kitchen, one of the cooks swirled a spoon through the same pot of soup he’d been stirring for several minutes, his eyes rarely leaving Ilse and Teagan. A man at a nearby table held a collection of Emerson and must have found the most moving work of the lot, since he hadn’t turned the page since Teagan arrived. And despite posing for a couple of admiring señoritas, the gentleman with the flashy badge on his waistcoat watched Teagan out the corner of his eye.

Teagan chuckled into her cup. “You’re a blighted fool thinkin’ he’ll be daft enough to come back here,” she said, “with your paid-off tough watchin’ plain as day.” She cocked her head toward the policeman. Better to not let on that I saw the other two.

“Your associate’s reputation is vell-known. Brave but stupit, ya?” Ilse smiled, an out-of-place look that nearly shattered her stern face. “I am not vorried about his intellect. I just vant the next step on ze path to ze Repository.”

She slurped another taste of soup. “Unt I suppose it vill be nice to be rid of you both.”

The one Teagan called Policeman shooed away the ladies and set his full attention on her, at least until he saw her notice him. Then he made an abrupt turn and watched the market, presumably for any sign of Grant. Inside, Chef made a show of chopping a pair of thick carrots for the soup. While he stared at the page, Poet sipped his wine—the one part of the whole charade that Teagan found believable.

They all seemed patient and calm—confident in the trap they’d laid for Grant. Where is that fool man? Certainly his errand wouldn’t take this long…

Ilse flipped open a gold pocketwatch and furrowed her brow. “I thought your partner vas known for being swift unt skillful. Ze passage of time tells another story, ya?”

“Maybe he’s onto you,” Teagan said. “He could be halfway back to Guatemala by now.”

“Perhaps. But that vould be unfortunate for you,” Ilse said, “as you vould no longer be necessary to me.”

Teagan waved for the waiter, then set her teacup at the table’s edge. “Una más, por favor.” As the waiter departed, Teagan checked the kitchen. Chef had vanished, and in his place Grant stood chopping a carrot, that stupid grin brightening his face. He raised a finger to his mouth, signaling silence, and slipped out of view inside the ristorante.

About time he showed up. Teagan breathed a soft sigh of relief, then noticed Ilse’s reaction. “Just trying to enjoy the vista,” Teagan said, “if today’s likely to be my last.”

“Of course, of course. Ze sun shines brighter, ze sky seems clearer, ven you know you may never see them again.”

Teagan looked across the patio at the market, craning her neck as if something or someone caught her eye.

Ilse took the bait. “Gunter,” she hissed to Poet, “go down to ze street unt look for Mister McSvain.” Poet dropped his book on the table and dashed inside.

Right into Grant’s waiting fist, I’ll wager. Teagan put on an appropriately distressed face, and Ilse seemed to buy it.

The waiter appeared with a fresh cup of tea. With his back to Ilse, he winked at Teagan as he set the cup and saucer on the table. “A lot more where that came from, señorita,” he said, then returned to the kitchen.

Teagan buried her face in the cup to hide the smile spreading across her lips. They’re in place. Keep her distracted.

“Von Sturmfaust,” Teagan said. “I’m not familiar with Sturmfaust. Is that a town somewhere? I’ve only been to Stuttgart.”

Ilse stiffened and pursed her lips, then relaxed. “It doesn’t matter if I tell you, does it? Sturmfaust is not a town, it is our fortress on ze shore of Scharmutzelsee. You don’t think I vould give you my real name, ya?”

Teagan feigned surprise. “Fake names and fortresses? Mother Mary grant me grace, what sort of mess have I gotten myself into?”

Ilse laughed. “Do not vorry your pretty head. It vill all be over soon.”

Then someone shouted, “¡Policia!” Grant burst onto the balcony with the sheriff and four deputies, guns drawn. Ilse’s henchman reached for his pistol, but two of the deputies drilled him and his body thudded on the wooden planks of the floor. Ilse dropped her pistol under the table and thrust her empty hands into the air.

Grant rushed to Teagan and wrapped her in his arms. “What did you find out?”

“Not much. The name of a fortress in Germany where I think these Krauts are starting a political movement.”

“Might still be enough to give Uncle Sam reason to fund our expedition,” Grant said. “Or maybe one of your contacts in British Intelligence will be interested.”

“Here’s hoping.”

The deputies clicked handcuffs shut around Ilse’s wrists, and Teagan turned to regard their captive. The police lifted Ilse to her feet, and the sheriff retrieved her Mauser. Ilse’s face flushed as red as Teagan’s hair, and her stunned wide eyes bored into Grant’s back.

“Ilse, my dear,” Teagan said, taking on a German accent, “you didn’t finish your soup. Pretty stupit, ya?” She laid her hand on Ilse’s shoulder and grinned as the woman quivered with rage. “It’s understandable–the thought of prison can steal one’s appetite. But it’s not every day you get a fresh catch like this.”

The Hearts of Men

Here’s this week’s BlogBattle entry for the word “indigenous.”

Genre: Action / Adventure, 1498 words.

Update: This entry pulled off a win in Rachael Ritchey‘s BlogBattle making it two in a row. Thanks to those who liked it enough to vote for it.



From the Adventures of Grant McSwain, Challenger of the Dastardly, Champion of the Defenseless, and Chaser of Debaucherous Dames

Accompanied as always by his hapless assistant, Teagan O’Daire, the Ginger of Galway


Water gushed from the divot in the rim of the basin, the Stream of Tears now a flood of impending death. The river crashed onto the cracked ground, and steam hissed from searing crevices in the volcanic rock. The noise sounded like God’s own radio, its volume turned high enough for all the world to hear. The blown dam upstream had unleashed a torrent that would fill the Devil’s Bath in minutes.

Grant didn’t have minutes. The fool man stumbled across parched clay speckled with jagged obsidian toward a plume of smoke with glowing red eyes and a feminine figure. Grant mumbled various complementary phrases about Teagan, convinced the ghostly image was his assistant in some state of undress.

For centuries—perhaps millennia—the Mayans sent human sacrifices to this spot, an offering to the gods to sustain and perpetuate the seasonal cycle on which their agriculture so depended. Now it seemed legendary Mournful Bride would claim one more soul before the dry basin flooded.

And the Krauts were getting away, hot on the trail of Castellano’s great discovery—the Mayan repository of knowledge buried somewhere deep in the Guatemalan jungle. Whatever treasure the natives hid within those chambers, Castellano wrote of it with equal parts wonder and fear. It couldn’t fall into the hands of the Kaiser—or whatever more sinister political force was on the rise.

Teagan huffed, her fists balled at her hips. Everything went arseways faster than a bout of Montezuma’s Revenge. She stomped toward Grant and thrust herself between the lummox and whatever he saw in the dangerous form reaching toward him.

For a brief moment, recognition flashed across Grant’s bewildered face. “Teag,” he drawled as if inebriated, “how are there two of you?”

The eyes of the Mournful Bride flashed and glared at Teagan, and the being stretched a wispy hand toward Teagan’s feet. The rock exploded, releasing a burst of steam and rubble.

Teagan staggered back, then charged into Grant, knocking him off balance and away from the spirit.

Behind her, a wall of steam rose where the pockets of searing gas under the ground evaporated the first waves of the flood. The unrelenting waters swarmed and surged, slowed but constant in their advance across the bowl of the basin. Once filled, the basin might become a placid lake, warm and inviting. But the chaotic collision of cold and hot would not reach equilibrium smoothly. Swimming posed no problem for Teagan, but the violent eruptions of scalding gas seemed detrimental to one’s health.

“Grant,” Teagan screamed over the ruckus behind her. “We have got to get out of here!” She pushed against him, to no avail. Lacking any better idea, she slapped Grant across the face as hard as she could.

Her hand burned as if seared on a hot pan, and Grant merely laughed, his gaze fixed on the Mournful Bride. “Oh my,” he said with obvious interest, “you’ve gone native. That skimpy outfit is entirely inappropriate.” He marched on like a dying man toward a desert oasis, that stupid, all-too-adorable grin on his befuddled face.

Was he picturing her dressed in the custom of the indigenous jungle tribes? Teagan recalled what she’d seen on a recent visit to one of the villages and blushed at the idea.

The Mournful Bride’s smoky tendrils reached past Teagan and spread over Grant’s shoulders.

The natives… descendants of the Mayans, perhaps? When Grant inquired about the repository, the villagers became disturbed, hostile, like hornets whose nest had been poked. Dangerous, they claimed, and would say no more. Even the interpreter grew cold and distant, unwilling to continue the line of questioning.

A wild idea sparked in Teagan’s mind. Back pressed against Grant’s chest in a futile attempt to slow his advance, Teagan faced the burning gaze of the Mournful Bride.

“Spirit,” she yelled over the sound of the crashing waters, “you clearly know the hearts of men—their insatiable greed, their lust to obtain all they desire.”

The red eyes turned toward Teagan, the ghostly visage both annoyed and bemused. Behind the Bride, two more spirits of steam formed from the ground, hideous emaciated beings with gaunt features, their hunger for life a palpable tug on Teagan’s soul.

“Listen to me,” Teagan pleaded. “Those men outside the basin, they are wicked and depraved. See what they’ve already done to the land? They will find whatever treasure or power is protected by this jungle, by you and your fellow sentinels… and they will use it to bring harm to many, all across the world.”

More spirits rose from the earth as Teagan made her plea, and they circled the doomed pair. Grant stopped pushing against Teagan, but remained enthralled by whatever the Bride showed him. Hesitation flickered in those awful lights, and the spirits behind the Bride paused to listen.

“You all could feed upon them,” Teagan said. “For centuries you consumed the sacrifices offered to you, preyed upon the faithful who came to this place seeking blessings for their people.”

She addressed all of them now, passion filling her voice in spite of fear. “It’s your turn to act on behalf of others. You have power over the fury of the earth beneath us. Turn this against those men, before they escape and steal whatever awesome and terrible secret Castellano found.”

At the mention of Castellano, the spirits moved as one, snapping into attention like soldiers awaiting review. The Mournful Bride cocked her head and stared into the jungle above the rim of the basin. Her raspy voice whispered in Teagan’s mind, clear despite the cacophony. To protect… to preserve… to prevent the Last Cycle and the Breaking of the Heavens…

Her ghostly arm stretched past Teagan and Grant toward the sheer side of the basin, and all the spirits mirrored the Bride’s motion. Like spears of mist, they hurtled through the air and vanished into the rocky floor of the basin. The ground rumbled and quaked beneath Teagan’s feet, toppling her.

Grant swept her up with one strong arm and clutched her to himself, his vision suddenly cleared. “Hold on, Teag, I’ve got you.”

A chasm opened in the middle of the Devil’s Bath, spraying gas and lava into the air, separating Grant and Teagan from the oncoming flood. The fissure ran across the ground and snaked up the cliff, tearing a deep wound in the earth. Trees snapped and fell into the gaping opening, while others burst into flame, set alight in the blazing heat.

The roiling wave poured into the wide crevice, and gouts of steam howled and whistled like the finest imported incendiaries on Guy Fawkes Day. The earth quivered with aftershocks and tremors, and the air stank of sulfur and ash.

But calm returned to the jungle, and Grant’s arms held Teagan secure.

Grant looked around, surveying the devastation. “Hell hath no fury like a woman, or so they say.”

Teagan scoffed and pulled away. “Like a woman scorned, you oaf.”

“Yeah, sure. But you’re all so sensitive, that happens before a fellow can even see the warning signs.” Grant chuckled, then gulped when he looked her way. “Case in point,” he muttered, then turned away.

The hissing voice of the Bride whispered in Teagan’s mind once more. It is done.

Thank you, Teagan thought back.

You may not be so grateful if your journey succeeds. The Vault of the Heavens holds a formidable source of knowledge, far beyond your comprehension, far too difficult to resist. And as you said, I know the hearts of men—even the one you love.

Despite the humidity and heat, Teagan shuddered as a chill coursed through her. Could Grant fight the worst of human nature? Or would he succumb to the allure of power?

I’ve come to know his heart as well, Teagan replied in thought to the Bride, unsure if the spirit could even hear. And I trust my judgment.

Unsettling laughter echoed in the deep recesses of her mind. The Bride had indeed heard.

Teagan shook her head and ran her fingers through her hair, summoning a weak sense of confidence. She knew this man better than anyone else in her life. Though he often infuriated her, she trusted him. “Grant, how about we get focused back on the goal, yeah? Figure out the path to the Repository, perhaps?”

“Good idea, especially since we don’t know how much water that fissure is going to hold.” The Stream of Tears still poured into the basin at a steady rate. Grant turned and headed toward the south side of the deep bowl, pulling a rope from his pack.

“Maybe we can stop by one of the villages on the way,” Grant said, flashing her that grin. “Have you ever considered how you’d look wearing something a little more… local?”


The Devil's Bath

Here’s another episode of Grant and Teagan’s misadventures for this week’s BlogBattle using the word “bathtub” as a prompt.

Genre: Action/Thriller set in the early 1930s.

Update: This won the weekly BlogBattle hosted by Rachael Ritchey. (You can click the image to see all the entries for that week.) Thank you to those who voted for my story.


From the Adventures of Grant McSwain, Fearless Adventurer and Intrepid Explorer of the Farthest Corners of the Globe 

…accompanied as always by his hapless assistant, Teagan O’Daire, the Ginger of Galway

Grant swatted and chopped at the thick, leafy wall before him until sunlight burst through, illuminating the shaded mysteries beneath the jungle canopy. Teagan bobbed and peered around Grant’s bulky form, but could barely make anything out other than a sharp decline.

Grant posed, hands on hips, his green-stained machete out to his side. “La bañera del Diablo,” he said with pride. “We found it, Teag. The records of Castellano’s expedition were right.”

He cast a glance over his shoulder, his strong chin and smug smirk more appealing than Teagan would like to admit. “The path to the Mayan repository of knowledge is within our grasp. Just think of what wonders await discovery… and how much money Roquefort is going to give us for a first pick of ‘em!”

She peeked between his forearm and his sweat-stained shirt. A wide basin in the jungle opened up beyond Grant’s feet. Surrounded by heavy foliage, no one would guess at its existence—at least not prior to the advent of air travel and its impact on cartography for the unexplored reaches of the earth.

“That looks like a mighty drop to a surface of jagged rocks,” Teagan said. “I thought this was supposed to be a small lake?”

Grant pointed at something Teagan couldn’t see. “There’s the Arroyo de Lágrimas,” he said, uncoiling a length of rope. “The Stream of Tears. Used to be part of a sacrificial ritual… the offerings marched themselves down the river and dove into the lake. Or so goes the story.”

“Where’d all the water go, then?”

“The Guatemalan government built a dam upstream some years back. Hardly a trickle flows this way, short of a torrential downpour in the rainy season.”

He slipped a knot around a tree trunk and tested the weight. “When Castellano found it, the river flowed freely, feeding into the basin and creating hot springs as well as the lake. There’s a reason the locals call this the Land of the Eternal Spring.”

“I remember something about that in Castellano’s notes,” Teagan said. “But it wasn’t good.” She pulled her worn journal from a satchel on her back, flipped through a few pages, then read aloud. “’The steam curled up like the spirits of the damned,’ he wrote. ‘The very ground moaned and wailed in angry protest at our approach.’ Sounds formidable.”

“All part of his plan,” Grant replied. “Vallarte’s local slaves resisted doing his bidding, and his soldiers were a superstitious lot. But he was always nipping at Castellano’s heels, trying to discover the repository. Castellano spread word of a basin flooded with vengeful demons cast out of heaven, and the imprisoned souls of the men they’d ensnared—a perfect place to hide treasure from your relentless rival, wouldn’t you say?”

“I don’t know,” Teagan answered. “Judging by what remains of his private thoughts, he seemed to believe it. Listen. ‘No apparition proved more terrible than La Novia Triste—the Mournful Bride. Her appearance changed based on the desires of her intended prey. Several of my men dashed into the plumes of smoke calling out to their loves back in Madrid. Each time, the locals fell into a grave hush. It was as if the very skies dimmed at her awful presence.’”

Grant scoffed. “More imaginations to dissuade those who might come after his secrets. Paranoia expresses itself in interesting ways. I’m telling you, the guy knew more than he was letting on, and he wasn’t about to give it away.”

He slid down the rope and vanished below the ridge.

Teagan watched the shifting plumes from the black rock at the bottom of the basin. Strands and wisps of steam stretched and beckoned. Curls of vapor formed crude faces of mist, and all their gray eyes seemed fixed on her.

She ran a finger across her medallion and whispered a half-hearted prayer before taking hold of the rope. Grant was already picking his way across the smoky terrain at the bottom of the basin. “Wait for me, you daft ox,” Teagan called and descended.

The sun hid behind a puffy bank of clouds, bringing a cooling shade and sweet relief from the oppressive heat. An unexpected breeze chilled the sweat on Teagan’s back as she lowered herself down the side of the basin.

She alighted on the cracked earth at the edge of the basin and jogged over to Grant. He squatted near the middle of the deep bowl, counting off something with his fingers.

“What’s the matter, Grant?”

He dismissed her with a wave and pointed. A sharp noise built into a whistle like a giant tea kettle. “And… now!” A gout of steam burst from a crack in the earth, obscuring Teagan’s view of the high cliffs. “Every twenty-three seconds, give or take,” Grant said, “that fissure emits a plume of vapor. It explains how the lake maintained its warm temperature back in Castellano’s day.”

“That’s interesting, Grant. But I don’t know how it helps us track down Castellano’s treasure.”

A distant male voice echoed between the walls of the basin. “I do not know either,” the man said. Teagan whipped her head around and spotted armed men at the north end of the basin, their guns trained on the figures far below. One at the front stood at parade rest and glowered at the small pair. “Frankly I am surprised to find ze Devil’s Bath at all. I thought it a myth when the twins proposed this journey. And then you two went and killed them.”

Teagan glared at the blurry figure warped and distorted by the plumes of steam. “More of the Kaiser’s men, I presume?”

“We work for… other interests in Berlin,” the German said. “You cost my master significant resources, an expense he can ill afford in these trying times. Your discoveries here might reduce the great debt you owe my people.”

Grant said nothing, distracted by something in the basin. Teagan stepped forward, empty hands held out with a shrug of her shoulders. “Your choice of victims is quite poor. We have nothing that will help you, no idea where to go from here.”

“A shame,” the man said. “Be that as it may, I’m afraid you’re never going to find out.”

Something boomed in the distance, and Teagan’s gaze followed the direction of the sound. One edge of the basin dipped, the rocky cliff cut by centuries of flowing water. “The Arroyo de Lágrimas,” she gasped. “They just blew the dam.”

Grant didn’t respond. He stared into the distant plumes, a look of wonder on his face. “Teag,” he muttered as he stumbled toward the fissure, “how did you bring such a fetching dress all this way?”

Teagan followed Grant’s gaze and balked. That misty shape—arms outstretched, tendrils of smoke brushing and swirling around Grant’s shoulders and waist—could it be the Mournful Bride?

On her left, rolling thunder built to a cacophony, and a rush of water burst from the divot in the basin’s edge. It poured like a waterfall into the deep bowl, crashing into the rocks and hissing as it flooded the searing fissures. Teagan’s red hair fluttered in the growing wind as the force of the waves sweeping toward her pushed air out of the way.

To her right, ignorant of multiple dangers, Grant lumbered toward the remarkably feminine column of smoke pouring from the broken earth. The shape stretched to inhuman lengths, tentacles of steam curling and wrapping around his arms, his back, his throat. The face grew clearer, its eyes two sparkling lights, its mouth a hungry grin.

“Thank you for your help, Mister McSwain,” the German called, though Grant paid no heed. “And goodbye.” He vanished into the jungle.

The Duplicitous Dare (part 2)

I was just going to use the snippet I wrote last week for this week’s entry. But I have way too much fun picturing these characters and their antics. Also, I get 500 extra words to play with? How could I resist?

So here’s the continuation of the tale of Agent Dare (pronounced dah-rey in Japanese, meaning “who?”).

(1,494 words, Genre: Adventure)

From the Adventures of Grant McSwain, Explorer of the Unknown, Finder of the Undiscovered, and Protector of the Undefended
…accompanied as always by his hapless assistant Teagan O’Daire, the Ginger of Galway

There was no avoiding the unpleasant fact, Teagan realized. Her partner, Grant McSwain, was a colossal fool.

He and the Empire of Japan’s agent Dare dove into Teagan’s hiding spot behind the battered delivery truck riddled with bullet holes. Slugs from Yakuza tommy guns thudded into the vehicle’s steel body, and the rat-a-tat of multiple machine guns resounded in the narrow Little Tokyo alleyway.

The lithe Asian woman held a pair of revolvers like a misplaced cowboy from the cover of a pulp Western. Grant knelt beside her and reloaded his own six-shooter.

The gunfire died down to sporadic thunder, and Dare gave Grant a rather forward look, her lips parted as if for a kiss, her husky breath promising more. “Mister McSwain,” she said in that frustratingly exotic and enticing accent, “do we have a deal?”

Teagan’s face twisted in confusion. What?

“We’ll get you out of here with your wealth so you can start a new life,” Grant said. “You’ll give us back the classified notes about the German submarine base. Yeah, we got a deal.”

The air stank of sulfur and gunpowder, a combination of fireworks set off in celebrations and the ongoing shoot-out between the Tong and Yakuza. Both sides had been double-crossed by this woman known as Dare.

And us caught in the middle, Teagan thought. No thanks to Grant.

The tommy guns hammered the truck again. In between bursts of gunfire, the Tong’s Colt revolvers let out deafening booms. Most aimed at their Japanese rivals, whose turf the Tong invaded by coming after Dare. But some of the rounds thunked into the truck. Neither side would let her go without a fight.

“This lorry is going to be scrap metal if they keep this up,” Teagan said, unconcerned whether Grant or Dare heard. Never one for modesty, Teagan hiked up her skirt to draw a pair of two-shot Deringers from a garter holster. She smirked when Grant’s eyes bulged at the sight of her exposed thigh. Even Dare raised an eyebrow and nodded approval.

Teagan leaned low and aimed around the front of the truck. As one of the Yakuza spotted her, his head blossomed in a spray of crimson. She rotated the barrels—the double-shot pistol’s imitation of reloading—and popped a round into one of the Tong creeping toward their position.

Dare dropped prone beside Teagan and fired under the truck.

Men screamed and heavy bodies thudded to the ground. Dare picked them off with ease. “Two more down,” she declared, and flashed Teagan a smug look.

Grant took out another Tong gunman, then hit the dirt as slugs tore holes in the side of the truck’s cargo bed.

Dare popped off a couple shots over the truck’s hood, then crouched beside Teagan. “Your weapons are poorly chosen,” Dare said. “Foolish Westerners, with your ‘Saturday night specials.’ You already expended half your ammunition.”

Teagan slipped the empty Deringer into her handbag and drew another from the garter on her opposite leg. “Who says I only brought two?”

Grant shook his head, his cheeks flushed. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Teag! What sort of Saturday nights are you having?” Then he feigned irritation. “And why haven’t you invited me?”

“No blasphemy,” Teagan scolded. “And trust me, you couldn’t keep up.”

Dare laughed and dropped another Yakuza. “I am beginning to appreciate you, Miss O’Daire. The accounts I heard are surely the fiction of men put to shame by the weaker sex.”

If the praise was a clever ruse to disarm Teagan’s suspicions, it worked. She found herself grinning, and replied, “You must have quite a collection of similar stories, Agent Dare.”

“I never stick around to find out how they end,” she said with a light-hearted tone. “Presumably with torture and death. Neither the Tong nor the Yakuza are very forgiving.”

“Good thing we’ve earned both their ire,” Teagan said as she took aim.

A Yakuza rose to spray the truck with his tommy gun, but fell with a bloody hole in his forehead. Teagan rotated the Deringer barrels and scanned for another target.

“I’ve got an idea,” Grant said.

“Oh swait Jaysis,” Teagan muttered, her Irish coming out under stress.

“Hey,” Grant objected. “No blasphemy, right?”

“Wasn’t blasphemy, ye dunce. ‘Twas a prayer for protection,” she said. “From stupidity.”

Grant huffed but made no objection. “You two are going to cover me,” he explained, “and I’ll grab a couple of tommy guns off the dead Yakuza.”

“Ye trust this one that well, Grant? Ye’ll put her sights at yer backside?”

Dare stiffened. “We have an agreement. I am honor-bound.”

“You an’ the Tong had an agreement,” Teagan said. “Same with the Yakuza. Sure an’ both of those went arseways, yea? Now ye expect we’ll be trustin’ in your great sense of honor?”

Dare glanced at the two-shot pistol remaining in Teagan’s hand. “I do not see that you have any choice.”

Teagan sniffed with as much derision as she could muster, then drew her last Deringer. “I got four shots, not two.”

Dare rolled her eyes and took aim at the Tong.

Teagan stuck out her tongue when Dare turned away. It wasn’t so much Dare being right that irritated her. And Grant’s willingness to charge heedless into danger didn’t bother Teagan at all. Quite the opposite, in fact—although his last few expressions of bravado had been ill-conceived and poorly timed.

Maybe her source of frustration lay elsewhere. The intensity on his face when his eyes met Dare’s… the eagerness with which he formed an alliance with her… the obvious interest when he regarded this vivacious—and deceitful!—woman.

Grant dashed around the truck, ducking and dodging. Gunfire erupted from both ends of the alley, and Teagan snapped out of her thoughts.

She shot a Yakuza struggling with a jammed weapon, then took out a wounded man aiming at Grant.

Behind her, smoking revolvers in each hand belching fire, Dare fought back the Tong. She fired a couple shots, then spun low to the ground and popped up in a new position, keeping the distant Tong guessing.

Teagan put down another Yakuza, then dipped behind the truck. “I’m empty.”

Dare crouched but kept her eyes and guns trained on the Tong. “My assessment proves accurate,” she said. “You should have brought something more powerful.”

Grant slipped around the front of the truck and tossed Teagan a tommy gun. “This should suffice.”

Teagan hefted the weapon and aimed toward the Tong.

“Now, that fires over a dozen rounds a second, Teag,” Grant said. “You’re gonna want to—“


The spray-and-pray method did little to incapacitate the Tong gunmen. But fear of that rapid fire drumbeat drove them to hiding each time Teagan squeezed off a burst.

Grant moved to get a better angle and strafed the Tong position. “Now’s our chance, Dare,” he shouted. “The Yakuza are down and we’ve got the Tong at bay. Tell me where to find the classified files.”

Dare checked the alley behind the truck. “It’s with the satchel of safe money, stashed in the cabin of Fortune’s Favor on pier six. Shall we withdraw?”

They dashed down the alley, Teagan and Grant taking turns spraying bullets to deter pursuers. Then they heard the sirens of police paddy-wagons approaching.

“Ditch the weapons,” Grant said as he tossed his tommy gun in the back of a parked car. “We need to split up.”

Dare scanned the streets, a look of trepidation forming on her all-too-perfect face.

Grant put a hand on Dare’s shoulder. “Take that alley down two streets then turn right, heading west. You’ll avoid main roads the police will use. Teag and I blend in a little easier. We’ll head up another block and meet you at the pier.”

Dare nodded. Then she took Grant’s face in her hands and kissed him full on the mouth.

Teagan felt her fists clench, and the rage within flared when Dare gave her another triumphant look.

The woman took off in the direction Grant indicated.

“Come on, Teag,” Grant said, “let’s get to the boat.” His long-legged stride covered ground swiftly, and Teagan had to nearly jog to keep up.

“Aren’t you worried she might beat us there?” Teagan asked, breathless.

“Not really,” Grant said. “My directions lead to a dead end next to the police station. I know better than to trust a pretty face.”

Teagan stopped, her heart full of surprise and unexpected joy. And yet that last statement stung.

Grant noticed her and drew near, placing his hand on her cheek. “All the pretty faces except one, that is.”

They recovered the files and money eventually. But for Teagan, the details blurred together with the sensation of floating on air all the way to the pier.

The Duplicitous Dare #blogbattle

Genre: Adventure (999 words)

From the Adventures of Grant McSwain and His Hapless Assistant, Teagan O’Daire—Both the Unsuspecting Victims of the Unnamed Vixen 

Teagan flung the dim sum restaurant door wide and crossed into the crowded street to meet up with Grant. The moon stood high above Los Angeles, its soft radiance overwhelmed by the glow of a hundred paper lanterns on ropes between buildings. A wave of sounds and smells crashed over Teagan—stewed pork, stir-fried vegetables, dozens of voices bartering and bantering in a harsh, tonal language.

Lots of restless bodies on the street, Teagan noted. Many looked homeless, their clothing dingy, their hair greasy and unwashed. Desperate eyes sought paying work, but who had money to spend? Even in Chinatown, the Great Depression took its toll.

“Any luck?”

Grant shook his head, then looked up and down the street. Fake pagodas and decorative Hollywood style façades captured the attention of Westerners, while stylized Chinese characters in gold-leaf calligraphy mystified the uninitiated.

“No one knows anyone named Dare.” Grant said it like the English word for challenge.

Dah-rey,” Teagan corrected. “And in this part of town, you should ask about Shei. Little Tokyo is a couple streets south of here.”

“Maybe that’s where we should be searching, Teag.” Grant rubbed his face in his palm. “No one here tells me anything. Watch.”

He approached a food cart with a sign proclaiming the best soup dumplings in Chinatown. A wiry gray-haired man behind the cart smiled wide. “You want hsiao-lung-pao? Two dollar one dozen.”

“Sorry,” Grant said. “I’m looking for someone named Shay.”



The merchant cocked his head. “Ni zhao shei ah?

“That’s what I said.”

Teagan snickered. “I told you, her alias means ‘who?’ He’s asking who you’re looking for, and to him it sounds like you don’t know.”

She drew a bill from her purse and handed it to the man. “Six please. Hsieh-hsieh,” she said with a grateful nod.

The man placed the steaming swirled buns on a disposable mat of woven straw and offered the makeshift plate to Teagan. His eyes flickered toward Grant and he laughed. “Ta de naozi huailema?”

Rusty Chinese filtered through her mind. Is his brain broken?

“Indeed,” Teagan said with a smile. “Grant, let’s try Little Tokyo.”

They strolled south, eating dumplings and enjoying the foreign atmosphere, each pointing out oddities and unknown attractions that caught their eye.

Then Grant stiffened.

“What is it?”

He kept his eyes forward and whispered, “Don’t turn or make eye contact. But we’ve got tails on our left. About two houses back now. I’m guessing Tong.”

Teagan fought the urge to search for the threat. “You sure?”

“Grew up running ‘shine for a mob boss in the Prohibition days. Seen enough gang toughs to know—they’re not just guarding their turf.”

“Maybe they’ll have information we need?”

Grant chuckled. “Tong ain’t known for their friendly disposition, especially to us foreign devils. We should get into Little Tokyo quickly.” He picked up the pace.

“They won’t enter?”

“And tangle with Yakuza? Nah.”

Teagan hesitated. “Yakuza too?”

“You’re the one that suggested following our leads to Dare.”

She sighed.

“Dah-rey,” Grant corrected.

They entered Little Tokyo and saw drifters seeking work. Teagan examined the faces watching her, and felt palpable hostility. She edged closer to Grant.

He offered her his muscular arm. “We’re not particularly welcome here, are we, Teag?”

“The government’s been saying the same thing to the Japanese,” Teagan said. “Coolidge’s Immigration Act cut off all new arrivals from the Empire. Since then… well, maybe President Roosevelt will change things.”

“We have enough problems of our own to deal with,” Grant said.

They approached an older woman with a rack of shoes on display and Teagan checked her notebook. She spoke in a slow, clipped tone. “Dah-rey doko dess-ka?

The woman laughed and repeated the question. “Dare?

Grant crossed his arms. “This is searching for a twig in a pile of chopsticks, Teag.”

Teagan ignored Grant and considered her question. Maybe if I add an honorific term, it’ll be clear who I’m looking for. “Dare-san doko dess-ka?

The woman’s eyes lit up, and she glanced around before leaning in close. “You seek Dare-san? Yakuza seek Dare-san too.” She pointed a bony finger toward a truck with a covered flatbed in an open lot between two tall apartments.

Teagan and Grant dashed toward the lot, then Teagan paused to look back.

The woman had gathered up her rack and hustled into one of the apartments with uncanny speed for her age.

Grant approached the truck and froze when four Asian men jumped out. Two held tommy guns, and two carried cudgels. One pointed his club at Grant. “What you want, gaijin?”

“I’m looking for a mysterious woman—goes by Shei. Or maybe Dare.” He finally said it with proper Japanese pronunciation.

Face twisted in anger, the man stalked toward Grant. “You Shei’s partner or something? Did she bring you the opium she stole?”

The scrape of footfalls behind her caught Teagan’s attention and she turned to find half a dozen armed men. One stepped forward and pointed his pistol at Grant. “Where is the Yakuza piaotzu named Dare, laowai? I heard you say her name. Where’s the safety money she took from us?”

The Yakuza raised their guns. “Get off our turf, Tong dogs. And don’t come back unless you bring us Shei.”

The lead Tong laughed and aimed at the Yakuza who spoke. “Give up this Dare and our money, and we’ll leave at once.” His men formed a rank beside him.

Teagan pressed against Grant. “Sounds like we all got played. Got a way out?”

Grant raised his hands and scrunched up his face, narrowing his eyes with a wide toothy smile. “Evelybody carm darn,” he said with a poor mockery of an Asian accent. “We awr go home now, no trouber!”

Rivalry forgotten, every gun pointed at him.

Teagan stood horrified and dumbfounded, jaw hanging open.

Grant shrugged. “Yeah, I got nothing.”

The Voice of the Vixen

This is another Grant & Teagan adventure episode for this week’s #blogbattle, with the theme word of “voice.”

From the Adventures of Grant McSwain, Man of Mighty Endeavors, Discoverer of Ancient Treasures, and Explorer of the Farthest Reaches of the Planet 
…accompanied as always by his hapless assistant, Teagan O’Daire, the Ginger of Galway.

Arms crossed, Teagan paced the barren holding room and glared at her reflection in the one-way mirror. No doubt the FBI agent watched her every move and noted every word she said. 

So what if the Navy rescued Grant and Teagan from the waters off the Florida coast? They might have been better off taking their chances with the leviathan.

“You should sit down, Teag.”

Like a docile sheep before the shears, Grant had taken the chair offered, promising full cooperation with the Bureau’s investigation. He leaned back, hands behind his head, fingers buried in his thick, black hair. Had he not spoken, Teagan might have checked whether he was awake.

“How can you be so calm? They might lock you away. That agent had a pretty thick stack of evidence against you.”

Grant laughed. “I’ve played this game before. Trust me. They’re not interested in us. They’re after what we found—what the Germans know, what sort of weapons they’re developing. Nothing I need to keep to myself.”

Teagan strode past the one-way mirror and suddenly leaned close, hoping to see her observers through the reflection. She couldn’t make anything out, but she heard a chair scrape across the floor, moving back from the window.

She stuck out her tongue and whirled back toward the desk.

The door opened and Agent Shay returned, carrying a beverage tray. Long midnight hair framed her thin face, reaching to the bust of her petite navy blue suitcoat. A matching skirt hugged her thighs and revealed her calves in what Teagan deemed a decidedly improper fashion. Shay’s heels clicked on the floorboards with each purposeful step. She ran a slender finger across Grant’s back as she passed him, and her almond eyes didn’t even glance at Teagan.

Shay set the tray on the table with practiced grace, and Teagan sighed as soon as she saw the selection. A thick glass held two fingers of whiskey for Grant. For Teagan, a small metal box and an empty teacup sat beside a steaming kettle.

“For someone dressed so… progressive,” Teagan said, “you presume much about my taste in drinks.”

Shay smiled, and her eyes narrowed. “Miss O’Daire, I brought only the best oolong leaves. I doubt you’ve ever had the pleasure of such luxurious flavor.”

Grant’s eyes seemed glued to Shay. Teagan debated whether to smack him or scold him. Naturally, the United States government would take advantage of Grant and Teagan for whatever useful information they could provide.

But Teagan had been in enough binds and seen enough dangerous situations to recognize a growing sense of danger. Something about this whole arrangement felt like a trap.

“Your accent is intriguing,” Teagan said. “I can’t quite place it. You’re from the Republic of China, yes?”

Shay nodded. She slid the box lid open and scooped three spoonfuls of loose tea leaves into the cup with deliberate and familiar precision.

“I spent a few months between Peking and Tientsin,” Teagan said. “I didn’t get to travel very far, with Chiang Kai-shek’s men fighting against the government.”

“Then you have never been in Kwangtung,” Shay said. “I am from the south. Cantonese is my mother tongue, Mandarin my second. Perhaps my English is not as skillful as I should like to think.”

Once she added the boiling water, she lifted the teacup in both hands. Her wrists barely moved, and the liquid swirled in the cup. She repeated this twice, watching the amber color spread beneath the surface.

Teagan found herself mesmerized by the obvious respect and sense of tradition with which Shay prepared a simple cup of tea. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend. I just–“

Shay extended the cup to Teagan and gave a hint of a bow before straightening. “It is nothing.”

Teagan lifted the tea and savored the unique aroma, then took a long drink. At first, it revitalized her. But then exhaustion settled like a heavy burden on her shoulders.

Shay handed Grant his glass then unrolled a map of the Atlantic. “Mister McSwain,” she said in that exotic and melodious voice, “I am ready to hear your account.”

Grant sat up and took a swig. “You want to hear about the leviathan? That thing is on the loose somewhere off the coast between the Bahamas and Bermuda.” His finger traced a rough triangle over the area.

Shay laughed. “I am not interested in fanciful tales.”

“I’m just saying, bad things are gonna start happening there,” Grant said.

“Mister McSwain, you did spend many days in the sun. Perhaps you were dehydrated and hallucinated this event.”

She folded the map to display South America only. “Tell me all the details about the German sub base—its location and size, what sort of vessels you saw there, what intelligence might remain.”

Teagan reluctantly sat at the table and took another drink of tea, hoping to regain some energy. Fuzzy thoughts floated through her mind, and dissipated like mist every time she tried to grasp one.

Then sudden sleep overtook her and she dropped her head into her arms on the table.

* * *

She awoke when the door opened. Two agents stepped in, both male. “Alright, McSwain, O’Daire, let’s get to the bottom of this. We’re ready for your account.”

Teagan’s head pounded and recollections faded in and out. The exacting method Shay used to make tea resembled a Japanese style ceremony. And Shay’s almost unconscious bow fit Japanese culture.

Grant asked the question on Teagan’s mind. “Didn’t you talk to Shay?”

The agents froze. “Who’s that?”

Teagan’s minimal grasp of Mandarin came to mind. ‘Shei’ isn’t a Chinese surname. It means ‘who?’

Her fists balled, anger clearing her head. “I don’t know, but we’re going to find out.”

Dead in the Water

From the Continuing Adventures of Grant McSwain, Maritime Global Circumnavigator, Menace of German Cretins, and Master of Gargantuan Creatures

Accompanied as always by his hapless assistant Teagan O’Daire, the Ginger of Galway

Wind rustled through Teagan’s hair and saltwater sprayed droplets across her face as she leaned over the rail of the swift-moving vessel. The afternoon sun blazed and the heat and humidity of the Caribbean thickened the air.

The fuel for the vessel’s engine ran out two days earlier, so nothing broke the silence other than the crash of waves against the bow. A sense of tranquility refreshed Teagan’s weary spirit so long as she paid no attention to the choppy motion propelling the ship through the swells.

She looked away from the water’s rough surface. Best to avoid considering the source of that power.

But Teagan had to admit the plan Grant devised worked better than anticipated.

Grant on the other hand remained incapacitated. The large man hung doubled over the handrail on the port side, far enough away from Teagan that the splashing water below her drowned out his much less pleasant sounds.

He straightened, and clutched the railing with white knuckles and a quivering arm while wiping his mouth with a rag. “God, Teag, how do you do it?”

She took a deep breath of the ocean air and grinned wide. “I used to go on fishing trips with my brothers, out to the Aran Islands just beyond the bay. This feels so much like home.”

The vessel suddenly cut left, across the current. Teagan wobbled but steadied herself with ease, her sea legs quickly returning after far too long on land. “Well, almost like home,” she admitted.

Near the stern, Grant clung to the railing like a soon-to-be shipwreck victim. He stared at the churning waters behind the boat, his breath ragged. “We passed Antigua days ago,” he moaned. “It can’t be much longer to the Florida coast, can it?”

“Avoiding the Bahamas makes the trip a little longer,” Teagan said. “And keep in mind that the roundabout navigation was your idea.”

“One I deeply regret,” he replied.

Teagan strode across the wooden deck to the stern of the vessel and put her hand on Grant’s shoulder. “Watch the horizon, not the water. And try to take slow, full breaths to calm your nerves. We’ll get through this.”

The vessel lurched and picked up speed. The thick ropes at the bow creaked and the ship’s hull groaned with added strain. Teagan grimaced. “At least I hope we will.”

They travelled in silence for a time as the sun crawled beneath the horizon. The ship bounced on the ocean swells at a speed the vessel’s shipwrights would never have imagined possible. As the sky turned shades of red and purple, either Grant managed to overcome his seasickness, or his body gave up the fight.

Teagan ran her fingers over the jagged wood of the broken mast, and the twisted hemp strands of the thick ropes, then shook her head with amazement.

On the horizon, Grant spotted a shadowy mass. “Land ho,” he cried, with a proud fist raised into the air.

“Aren’t you still on the Federal Bureau’s Most Wanted list?”

Grant turned and flashed Teagan a smile. Unlike Teagan, who covered up head to toe after the first terrible sunburn, Grant’s skin darkened to a light caramel. Proper color had returned to Grant’s stubbly face, and the sight of land seemed to revitalize him. He posed like an Old World explorer, leaning forward, one foot on the railing at the bow, as if he propelled the ship forward by sheer force of will.

“Bah. The FBI,” Grant scoffed and dismissed Teagan’s concern with a wave of his hand. “‘Removing protected cultural relics’ is a made-up offense. I don’t think such a law even exists.”

“What about the part where you robbed the Smithsonian?”

“Oh, that. There is that. No worries… this is my ticket to get back into Uncle Sam’s good graces.”

“Please tell me you mean the satchel of classified documents and German submarine blueprints you recovered from the ruins of the base.”

“That’s the icing on the cake,” Grant said. He looked down at the massive shadowy figure beneath rushing waters and laughed. The taut ropes stretched below the waves and wrapped around the hulking body of the leviathan.

“A really, really big cake,” Grant said, “with tentacles.”

The vessel groaned and shuddered as the bow crashed through a powerful wave that splashed across the deck. Grant and Teagan gripped the slick rails, but the water pushed them from the bow. The silver plates used in the Ixthacan summoning ritual clattered across the wooden boards, torn from the tiedowns Grant fashioned when they’d embarked.

Teagan watched one of the plates with wide eyes. “Grant,” she said, “aren’t those part of what’s controlling the creature?”

Grant’s face blanched. “Well, Teag,” he said with a gulp, “Let’s be honest. Can you really claim to know how the ritual works in the first place?”

The vessel lurched, dead in the water. The ropes, once taut, hung limp over the bow.

Grant looked over the railing and frowned. “Hey, Teag? Back in Ireland, did you do a lot of swimming?”

“Some,” she said. “But we generally tried to stay in the ship.”

Four black, scaly tentacles burst from the surface of the water and stretched dozens of feet into the air, two on each side of the ship. They lashed the wooden vessel, shattering the railings and the deck with loud snaps. Teagan and Grant stumbled as the vessel’s hull cracked.

“I don’t think that’s an option,” Grant shouted, then dove over the side.

The front half of the vessel rose into the air, lifted by the leviathan’s twisting tentacles. Teagan gasped as more of the creature’s limbs crushed the ship’s stern beneath the waves.

She shut her eyes and leapt into the waves below.

To be continued in The Voice of the Vixen

Indiscriminate Assistance – a #blogbattle entry

It’s not quite the quality I wanted, but I had to fly yesterday and I’m flying again today. So I’ll be content with getting another Grant and Teagan submission in. Hope you enjoy this newest installment.

From the Continuing Adventures of Grant McSwain, Champion of the Daring, and Foiler of Dastardly Deeds 

Accompanied as always by Teagan O’Daire, the Ginger of Galway

Teagan rammed her shoulder into the side of a large wooden crate of electronic parts and pushed it into place against the iron door of the radio room, sending a cloud of dust into the air. A thick beam of wood held the entrance closed. It shook as the German guards battered against the metal from the other side.  

Then the whole cliffside base rumbled like an earthquake.

Teagan watched the ceiling, fearing a collapse. Then she turned to her partner, hands in tight fists on her hips. “Grant, what have you done?”

Grant McSwain sat in front of the large microphone, his hands fumbling across banks of controls for shortwave radio communications and the personnel address system within the base. His unapologetic eyes met Teagan’s and he laughed.

She took a deep breath that did nothing to calm her wild anger. “You said you were going to call for assistance!”

“I did.”

“I thought you meant the local authorities,” Teagan said, “or some government agency.” She checked the weight of another box and decided it would do nothing to barricade the door.

“That was the original plan, sure. I improvised.”

The base shuddered again, as if God punched the surface of the earth with His fist. Muffled shrieks and frantic voices filled the hallway outside the radio room.

Teagan considered throwing the box at Grant. “You summoned the Leviathan.”

Grant shook his head. “No, no, you’re not blaming this on me,” he said, and thrust a thick finger her way. “You’re the one who wrote out the incantation phonetically. You know I can’t understand that Ixthacan gibberish.”

“Then why did you read it over the base address system?”

“First, if Vilhelm wanted it,” Grant said, “I didn’t want him to have it. Second, it seemed like a good distraction when we had nowhere else to run.”

In the nearby cavern that housed the massive German submarine, stone crumbled in a combination of bass like thunder and metal twisting with an ear-piercing shriek.

Teagan winced and gave Grant a withering glare.

Grant met her stare while tuning the radio. “Did you honestly believe there was a creature to summon?”

“Did you have reason to think there might not be?”

Grant tweaked some knobs. The radio hissed to life with soft static. “Any sheriff, any station,” Grant called, “anybody hearing this: is there anyone in a position to provide aid?”

A heavy battering ram thudded against the iron door in a steady pace, the rhythm broken by another tremor that rattled the walls of the mountainside base. Otherwise, the room fell silent save the crackling quiet of the radio.

The voices outside screamed and cut off abruptly when something crashed into the door, shearing the steel framework supporting the radio room. The thick beam holding the door shut snapped with the impact. Teagan’s makeshift barricade tipped to the left and dumped parts across the floor. Then everything lurched forward, and Teagan propped herself up against the wall.

Once the beam broke, gravity swung the battered door open. A scaly tentacle, thick as a full-grown oak, slid through the twisted wreckage of the metal stairs, withdrawing toward the water. In the tangle of steel supports, bloody limbs stretched into the air seeking aid that would never come.

Face white, Grant watched the tentacle slither away. He and Teagan both sat frozen, awaiting a devastating blow to the radio room, afraid any motion might draw the attention and wrath of the leviathan.

The mountainside shook again, but this time the impact seemed far away.

Grant sighed with relief then switched on the base address system. “Achtung! Gehen sie in die U-Boot,” he repeated in rough German.

“What are you doing?”

“It’s panic out there,” Grant said. “No one’s going to know what to do, so they’ll listen to the first order they hear.”

“And meanwhile, what will we be doing?”

Grant gestured toward the elevator to the small, nondescript outpost far above on the surface. “We’re getting out of here.”

He lowered Teagan through the slanted doorway and she hopped to the floor, landing in a crouch on an unstable metal platform. Across a gap of a few feet, another walkway stretched toward the waiting elevator.

Grant dropped through the door of the radio room and hit with a thud that shook the damaged structure. It wobbled but held together. He checked the distance, then made a running jump over the jagged wreckage. “Come on, Teag,” he called.

But there it was. She couldn’t look away.

Tentacles flailed dozens of feet above the water’s surface, crashing into the walkways and structures surrounding the submarine’s berth. A huge pointed head rose from the waves with giant black eyes on either side and a maw lined with rows of sharp teeth. One of the creature’s manifold limbs batted aside a trio of German sailors running for the supposed safety of the submarine, and another tentacle lifted a screaming man high into the air before dropping him into the leviathan’s mouth.

The horror shook Teagan’s heart… but the mystery and majesty of the creature filled her with awe and wonder.

The submarine inched forward, moving toward the underwater tunnel leading to the ocean. Then a pair of tentacles wrapped around the vessel, lifting it out of the churning waters. Metal groaned and squealed. The vessel broke in half with a resounding snap.

“Teag!” Grant cupped his hands over his lips and screamed. “The elevator, before that thing takes it out of commission!”

Teagan leapt across the bloodied steel of the ruined walkway and chased Grant with all due haste.

The automated pulleys of the elevator strained and groaned, but raised the pair from the devastation of the underground base like souls set free from the pit of Hades.

Operation: Leviathan, a #blogbattle short story

The Adventures of Grant McSwain, Explorer of Exotic Locales, Finder of Forgotten Treasures, and Charmer of Classy Dames

Accompanied as always by his hapless assistant, Teagan O’Daire, the Ginger of Galway and occasional fire demon

“Grant,” Teagan called from above, “Are you certain you’re fit for this?”

He hung on the side of a tall cliff, suspended from a rope wrapped around his leg and pinched between his feet. Waves crashed against the rock face far below, spraying white foam. Gulls called and circled in the blue sky.

With each arm-over-arm motion lowering him down the cliff face, Grant felt the sharp pain in his gut—his gunshot wound was recovering but not fully healed.

“Never better.”

A guard stood sentry duty on a metal observation deck twenty feet above the waterline. The man smoked a cigarette and leaned out over the railing, listening to the ocean. Grant counted on the calming noise to cover his approach.

Below the deck, the low tide revealed a small arch in the stone, the top of a much larger mouth to a submerged cavern.

This must be where the Twins stashed their submarine, a vessel mentioned in documents Teagan recovered from the plane wreck. The classified papers were marked “Betrieb: Leviathan” and pointed the pair to this secret Brazilian base.

He realized Teagan was right, and it struck him how frequently that was the case.

Grant hissed through gritted teeth to ignore his pain, and continued his descent toward the guard. He reached the end of the rope ten feet above the deck, then sprang toward the guard. Though the sudden impact shook his wound, his powerful elbow struck the man in the back of the head and knocked him to the ground, unconscious.

Grant changed into the guard’s uniform—just a little snug, he told himself—while Teagan shimmied down the rope.

She dropped to the ledge and laughed when she saw him. “That coat is stretching like pulled taffy. I feel sorry for those buttons.“

Grant folded his arms across his chest and heard a seam pop. “So let’s not get caught. If we do, the guards won’t be looking at me. You’re the prisoner the Twins want.”

“Vilhelm,” Teagan said coldly. “The other one—the one with the wandering hands—is dead.”

Grant picked up the fallen guard’s rifle and slung it over his shoulder. Then he pulled open the heavy steel door, revealing a hall cut into the mountainside. “Shall we?”
Deep in the winding maze of tunnels, they found a massive cavern housing a berth for the largest submarine Grant had ever seen. Dark hallways stretched into the mountainside where two armed men stood guard. The skin of the submarine glistened under banks of lights. Fuel trucks pumped diesel into the sub’s refueling ports.

“There’s your Leviathan,” Grant said.

“My God,” Teagan said, “that’s big. It’s like a couple U-boats smashed together.”

“Maybe you can call it a W-boat,” Grant said with a chuckle.

Teagan glared at him, oddly reminiscent of her time as a fire demon in the camp of the Atuachans.

Grant felt no regrets, and grinned broad at her ire.

A network of scaffolding and walkways hung suspended from the cavern ceiling. Grant and Teagan crept toward the submarine, careful to avoid the light.

But the underground base seemed practically deserted, and they reached the submarine with ease.

Grant opened the main hatch and clambered down a ladder, then helped Teagan down. “Operation: Leviathan,” Grant whispered as they moved through the cramped spaces of the sub. “What’s that even mean?”

“It comes from the Old Testament of the Bible,” Teagan said, “especially Job, chapter forty-one. ‘Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear. He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride.’”

Grant stared at Teagan, and she blushed. He shook his head and asked, “Why would you have that verse memorized?”

“I grew up in a devout Catholic family,” she said. “They viewed reading the Scriptures like eating a meal. In fact, some days we went hungry, but we never skipped our daily reading.”

They reached a pair of chambers with ornate décor, incongruent with the spartan atmosphere of a military submarine.

Teagan paused at the door. “So I always picked the interesting chapters, the ones that talked about powerful creatures and the end of days in strange, fantastic terms. The mystery and thrill of discovery attracted me even then. This looks like the Twins’ rooms. Shall we?”

Grant stepped inside and looked around. Exotic skins covered the bed and floors. Oxidized metal artifacts of ancient cultures lined the shelves. Tapestries with occult symbols hung on the walls.

Teagan gasped. “This is a treasure trove, a private collection with more than most museums. Is that the banner of Vlad Tepes? And what sort of creature has fur like a beast but a shape like a man?”

Grant began rummaging through the desk drawers, and directed Teagan toward stacks of papers and tied-off notebooks.

“What exactly are we looking for, Grant?”

“Operation Leviathan implies they’re going to do something with this sub. Uncle Sam will pay a pretty penny to find out what.”

Teagan held a notebook marked with Ixthacan symbols and flipped through its pages. Then she froze and stared, her face pale. “No, this can’t be right.”

Grant rushed to her side, even though he couldn’t make sense of any of that Ixthacan scratch. “What is it?”

“It’s a legend,” she said. “A tale of a ritual for summoning a destructive force from the ocean depths. I think they mean to—“

“I shoot you,” an angry German voice said, “you don’t die. You crash my plane, unt still you do not die.”

Vilhelm stood in the doorway, his scarred face flaring red, his Luger pointed at Grant.

“But as you Amerikans say, perhaps third time ist ze charm, ya?”