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Badlands IX: The Mountain God
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)

This contribution is part of a series:-
1. Badlands (5-Jun-2014)
A knight and a demon, on a mission to save a town from an unknown danger.
2. Badlands II: God of Wrath (16-Jul-2014)
Revisiting an old love, the knight finds her missing. Only the demon can help find her - and, if possible, to rescue her from where she is.
3. Badlands III: Boat on the River (3-Dec-2014)
Something strange is happening to the world and the knight and the demon must solve the problem if they are to survive.
4. Badlands IV: The Beginning (3-Jan-2015)
Where it all began - The demon, the knight and the beast meet each other for the first time.
5. Badlands V: The Hatching (8-Feb-2015)
About a mountain slope on a winter night, a lost girl, a meeting with an entity, and how something was created, immortal and dangerous.
6. Badlands VI, VII & VIII (7-Sep-2015)
Three new parts to the series.
7. Badlands IX: The Mountain God (31-Jul-2016)
An erupting volcano, a cult which lives on its slopes, and the knight, the beast and the demon must attempt a rescue mission.

Page 1

All through the day, the mountain above them had quaked and grumbled, and the black clouds of smoke that had gathered overhead had rained ash which had coloured everything, including the beastís heavy shoulders and the knightís armour, grey.

Only the demon had been unaffected. The ash hadnít touched her glowing red-gold limbs and spreading wings, and though the knight and the beast both coughed and wheezed at the ash and the heat in the air, she spoke as easily as ever, as though none of it touched her at all.

Now, as the darkness fell, the sky above the summit glowed a sullen, inflamed red. The rumbling through the earth was continuous, and the air was so filled with searing gases that the man and the beast could scarcely breathe. Slipping off the beastís back, the demon called a halt.

"Iíll go on alone from here," she said. "This is too much for you two. I canít really ask you for more."

The knight fought for breath enough to be able to reply. "We canít let you do that," he said eventually. "Weíve come this far and weíll go all the way."

"You arenít going to be of any help if you get yourselves smothered by ash," she told him. "And the mountainís going to blow, Man. We donít have much time left to rescue those people."

The knight peered up at the glowing bulk of the peak above. "Do you really think theyíre there?" he asked. "Donít you think they should have left by now?"

The demon flapped her wings a few times, clearing the air around them for a moment. "You know what they told us in the villages on the plain. The people living in the town below the crater worship the mountain. They wonít leave because theyíre convinced it wonít ever harm them."

"Even when itís all set to erupt?" the knight said. "And we donít even know where this town is. We havenít found a trace of it. Maybe itís already buried by the ash or a rock slide like the one this afternoon."

The demon nodded. "Thatís possible. But things like the rock slide this afternoon is why I donít want you to risk yourselves coming further. Iíll be able to search more quickly if Iím alone anyway. You two go down a little, where the airís clearer, and wait for me. Iíll be back as soon as I can."

"What happens if you do find them, and they donít want to come?" the knight asked.

"They may, certainly, Man," the demon acknowledged. "I donít think, though, that in that case if weíre three of us there together, theyíd change their minds." She flapped her wings again a couple of times. "If they refuse, Iíll see what I can do."

There was a bright spurt of flame from above, and the slope trembled. "We wonít go all the way down," the knight said. "Do you remember the shelf of rock we passed this morning? Weíll wait under that. Itís good shelter."

The demon nodded. "Be safe, Man." She reached out to them both a moment. "Iíll see you soon."

The knight turned the beastís head away from the track up the slope and back down the way theyíd come.† Once, only, he looked back over his shoulder. She was still standing where she had been, watching them.

He remembered how sheíd touched his arm and the beastís neck just before theyíd parted. It was only his fancy that it had seemed so much like a gesture of farewell, he told himself. Of course it had been.

The night was full of glowing red skies and raining ash, shuddering ground underfoot and rumbles as of thunder. As the demon ran, the slope around her feet cracked and quivered and split open, bleeding molten rock which trickled sluggishly away. She raced up towards the crater now, directly up the slope, running so quickly that her feet barely touched the kiln-hot soil. As she went, she strained her ears, trying to make out the sound of voices, or any other noise that might indicate human beings, from the grumbling of the mountain torn asunder.

It was a forlorn hope, she knew. If the town near the crater really existed Ė and the village people had been totally uncertain about its whereabouts Ė the people should have left by now. If they hadnít, theyíd most likely already be dead from the ash and the gas in the air, even without the lava that would come pouring out when the final eruption came.

[ Continue to page 2 ]

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Genre:General Horror
Type:Short story
Rating:8.33 / 10
Rated By:8 users
Comments: 0 users
Total Hits:12013

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