Here’s this month’s BlogBattle post, based on the term, “Blaze,” and once again centered around the misadventures of Grant and Teagan, my 1930s “Indiana Jones-meets-Supernatural” duo of explorers.
I took a stab at a sketch of them on a lengthy return flight from a recent mission. I’m not satisfied with this–it’s unfinished and not what I envisioned–but it was a fun effort nonetheless.
Last “episode,” after dealing with a werewolf, Grant fell unconscious from blood loss. Teagan succumbed to lycanthropy and used that unnatural strength to fight back against a double-agent who betrayed her. This time, we join Grant and Teagan two days later, after Grant has sought a cure for Teagan’s condition.
From The Adventures of Grant McSwain, Hunter of Horrors, Destroyer of the Defiled, and Terror of the Treacherous.
Accompanied as always by his hapless assistant, Teagan O’Daire, the Ginger of Galway.
Firelight danced around the ruined Army camp nestled in the mountains, and wisps of fragrant smoke twisted through the chilly air as Grant hunkered over Teagan’s quivering form. He turned away from the sweat-soaked bristling hair matted on her arms and torso. Grant almost laid a hand on the furry patch of her forehead–between the pointed canine ears that now sprouted from her misshapen body–then reconsidered the danger. He averted his eyes from her bloodied claws and that makeshift muzzle he’d tied around that maw full of jagged teeth. Teeth that could tear his throat open in an instant, or turn him into a monster like–
It’s still Teagan, he reassured himself. She drank Dah-rey’s vial of silver. She’s going to pull through… once the fever breaks.
His feeble hopes withered at the sound of her ragged breathing, and he turned toward the aged man kneeling beside the fire. “How long will it take for those herbs to purge her body of…”
Striding Bison crushed more of the dried brown leaves with a mortar and pestle, then sprinkled them into the flames. Another aromatic plume rose on the breeze, far more smoke than a pinch of herbs should produce. Curling tendrils stretched toward Teagan’s afflicted body like the fingers of a mournful spirit. “A while,” he said with a shrug, cryptic as ever, his shaky hands moving with reverence and care. The shaman had helped them when past adventures had gone awry, but those had all been of the mundane snake-bite, gunshot-wound, dehydration in the desert variety.
Howls tore through the night, and Grant peered into the murky blackness on all sides. A wasted gesture–the firelight destroyed his night vision. Even so, instead of the call of another werewolf pack, he recognized the war-whoops of hunting parties from local tribes.
“The Chickasaw know what hunts under the full moon,” Striding Bison intoned. “They hate those the wolf spirits possess. Their braves will come with cleansing fire… not the kind for burning herbs, but bodies.”
Grant put his palm on Teagan’s head and grimaced at the heat radiating through her coat of fur.
“They will kill us too,” the shaman added. “They will consider us tainted by her presence. None of the tribes take lycanthropy lightly.”
If the thought bothered Striding Bison at all, he showed no sign. He poured steaming water from a kettle into a stone bowl, dipped a cloth, and laid it across Teagan’s head.
Helpless, Grant left Teagan to shiver under her blankets. He surveyed the wreckage, noting the makeshift defenses the soldiers had erected. The werewolves left no survivors but also had no interest in equipment or supplies. A broken crate of rifles caught Grant’s eye, their dark metal glinting in the firelight. He pulled one from the container and found another box filled with circular drum magazines. “Do what you can, where you are, with what you’ve got,” Grant mumbled, quoting the President he idolized. Teddy wouldn’t back down from the fight.
Striding Bison smirked and ground more leaves into powder. “The Chickasaw won’t be impressed by Army guns. They’ll have gangster rifles too–and they can shoot from horseback.”
“I know,” Grant said, his shoulders sagging. “But I have to do something.”
The war-cries echoed louder, closer. Even though the mountains blocked some lines of sight, the light of the fire would be seen for miles from the right viewpoint.
“You are one man, McSwain. They are many. They are trained for war, whereas you…”
Fury flared within Grant’s chest, an explosion of rage at the futility of his situation. All his strength cried for action, something to throw, someone to punch, some means to resist the obvious fate looming over him. His fingers tightened on the grips of the Tommy guns in his hands and he glanced at his companion. A realization washed through him like a lit trail of blasting powder. If I have to die to protect Teagan from butchery, so be it. And if I’m going to die anyway…
Grant dashed to Teagan’s side and set the Tommy guns in the dirt, then drew out his knife. “Bison, you have more of that coyotesbane?”
“I’m loosening the bonds on her feet and doubling the ropes around her wrists. In a moment, I want you to lead her to safety while I distract the Chickasaw. She’ll be able to move, but she won’t be able to hurt you. Think you can manage?”
Striding Bison’s eyes narrowed as he scrutinized Grant’s actions. He said nothing, but his eyes moved to the knife.
“I just need to buy you both enough time for her to fight off the disease,” Grant said. He drew the knife along his forearm with a wince, and a line of crimson formed. “The Chickasaw don’t know who was afflicted.”
Grant untied the muzzle and held his arm above her elongated face. Though unconscious, Teagan shifted and jerked, emitting sharp sniffs and a low, hungry growl. In a flash, her teeth latched onto his arm, gnawing and lapping at the wound. He screamed but held still, muscles straining in anguish. When he could bear it no more, he tore his arm free then wrestled the muzzle back over Teagan’s maw.
Pain shot up his arm, throbbing and thrumming with his heartbeat. The moon grew brighter and his senses opened to the world around him with such clarity that he felt as if he’d been deaf and blind all his life. His thoughts wavered between lucid concern for Teagan and a sudden thrilling bond with all of nature.
Striding Bison looked on in horror, then came alongside Teagan and helped her to her feet, her bony arm stretched too far over his hunched shoulders.
Even as he watched the thick black hair sprout from every inch of exposed skin, Grant racked the slides on the submachine guns and turned toward the approaching war-cries. “Come face me,” he howled, his voice deep and guttural. “But be warned! This wolf has fangs!”