The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle – Chapter 26

Note: I will be posting a chapter from The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle each day until the book has been fully posted. I am doing this as a way to entertain those who have been coping with the new life of social distancing, social isolation, and quarantine in the world right now in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle

by Jeremy C Kester
(c) Jeremy C Kester – All Rights Reserved

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Chapter 26

“Hannah,” Brandt said with a warmth that would only have pleased an ice queen. Brandt didn’t like working with her. Though he may have been thankful for the help, when she the one that the conduits chose to send he saw it as an ill choice. “You are looking well. You’re a little late. I could’ve used your help a little sooner.”

Her face was bloody and filthy. Hair was strewn in every direction. Her clothes were mangled and stained with shades that could only be guessed to be blood. She looked nothing like the efficient killer that he had known her to be.

Before the pair of them, the slain creature began to dissolve enough that Brandt could move, although he hesitated it.

“You killed my Ammit,” Hannah said angrily. “How in this realm did you kill my Ammit?”

Brandt’s eye twitched as he tilted his head to the side. “Well you were a little late. Not sure if you would’ve been able to take this thing in your condition though. You have a death wish or something?”

“No, but apparently you do,” she drew her rapier and assumed an attack posture.

He didn’t respond but to pick up his sword and stand. His posture was anything but an attack posture. “What is wrong with you Hannah? I was sent here to close a rift. I thought you were sent here to help me.” As he said the words, an uneasy feeling was overtaking his body. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong. He fought to keep his composure. If he gave even a hint that he suspected something, she might attack.

“This is my realm. That was my demon. You are not welcomed here. I am only angry that I didn’t get here soon enough to find you pinned so that I could run you through without effort, not that it will take me much.”

Hannah was fast, he thought. Her rapier was not an ideal weapon for him to fight against with his estoc. She would have to be careful to avoid his swings though. Cadence would certainly be a better foil for direct battle, but he knew Hannah’s fighting style and he knew that she would be more aggressive than was wise for this situation. She would wish to end him quickly if she were to be successful here.

Her injuries would also hinder her. She appeared far worse for wear than he knew that he was. Undoubtedly there were more injuries than just the superficial ones.

For instance, Brandt could tell that her weight was shifted too far back for what was acceptable. She wasn’t balanced in her posture despite it being an attack pose. Trying to look down at her leg without being obvious he noticed that there was an injury there that wasn’t from a sword slice or stab. He guessed that she had a fracture on her leg that she was nursing. Her foot was turned abnormally to the one side.

Pressure to make her go to that leg would bring a quick end to the fight.

“I am not following you, Hannah,” he said. He wasn’t paying much attention to what she was saying as he tried to determine how much of threat she was. Her behavior certainly wasn’t friendly.

“This is my realm, Brandt,” she hissed. “Leave now and you will be allowed to live.” It was an empty offer, he judged. He knew that in her condition that she wouldn’t be able to take him. She would be forced to fight him and lose. If she postured enough and made a fair offer, maybe another less experienced Sentry would have taken the offer and not asked any questions.

“What the hell do you mean this is your realm, Hannah? I didn’t know we were staking claim to our missions.”

“No,” she said as though she were bothered by his misunderstanding. It was as though she actually took offense to what he said. “I made this realm.”

She is delirious, he thought to himself. “Whatever you say, Hannah. You want this mission for yours-“

“THIS IS MY REALM!!” Hannah’s face would likely have been red from her blast of anger if it hadn’t been already covered with her own blood. “THAT WAS MY DEMON! THIS IS NOT ABOUT A MISSION. NOW LEAVE!”

“Not until I get my answers,” he said suddenly matching Hannah’s stance.

There was a shift in her eyes that alerted Brandt in time to parry an attack from the side. Sparks lit as a gladius slid down along his estoc.

“Artyom! What the hell are you both doing?!” he yelled to the newcomer. The attacker was another Sentry. He was nearly as old as Brandt, but little else was remarkable about the Russian. He fought with a pair of Roman-age Gladius.

Artyom looked almost as ragged as Hannah, but appeared to be a little more stable meaning that his injuries likely weren’t as severe. Perhaps as always he tried to stay back and left the brunt of the efforts to his partner. “I hate that we have to do this, Brandt. You would serve us well.” The tone almost sounded apologetic.

Hesitation wasn’t a choice. Swords immediately blocked Brandt’s attack. He focused on Hannah. His intention was to take her out quickly. He twisted around parrying one strike from Artyom and then blocking a thrust on the opposite side.

Fortune was on his side. The pair of attackers were not coordinated at all. Neither pushed forward when opportunity would have favored them. Of course Brandt was relieved.

But, they were striking with just enough effort to force him to defend. His plan of attack was being choked out.

It gave him enough time to examine the situation.

First, himself. He was slowed only from the soreness of his muscles being trapped for so much time. The cuts he sustained from the dive and then from being thrown against the wall were actually minor in that they didn’t impede him much less bleed with any velocity. He was tired though. Enough adrenaline could overcome that.

Next, Hannah obviously favored the one leg. Every step that she had to make where she would put pressure on the injured leg was nearly a skip or a jump so that she could shift back to the uninjured limb. One clean hit would knock her out of the fight. There was also a reduction in her speed. She was very cautious about her attacks in a way that was unusual for her. It was as though she was not used to using her right hand. Aha! She’s left handed! The realization came to him quick. Her arm must have been badly hurt in order for her to decide it best to use her weaker arm. She was an easier target now.

Finally, Artyom was grimacing as he swung his gladius. Brandt picked out the points in the man’s swings that were the obvious indications as to where he was hurt. The man had shoulder injuries for sure. Something was wrong in his arm too. The way he swung showed him compensating for something wrong. Then there was a patch of blood staining his left torso. He was guarding that area, another sign.

Why either of these two decided it better to reveal themselves to someone as skilled as Brandt in their condition was nearly suicide for them. Was that their intention though?

They obviously were picking a fight that they couldn’t, or at least they shouldn’t, win.

Maybe the Ammit wasn’t supposed to fail. He was now as far as he knew the only Sentry to ever kill one single-handed.

The attacks stalled before Brandt could capitalize on the openings that were starting to form. Their lack of coordination was maddening, especially to themselves. Though they said nothing, it was easy to see that they were frustrated with each other.

Brandt started backing away cautiously. He wanted to make them come after him. At this point he wondered if it was possible to just leave. Screw the rift. Screw the pair of Sentries. Both had lost their way. He would be able to take care of them in other ways. Exposing them would also push the conduits to allow action.

But were the conduits on their side?

Too much was cycling through Brandt’s mind as Hannah limped forward with her sword pointed at his throat. His attention was trying to catch anything he could use against them.

“You’re going to hold me back,” Artyom snapped at Hannah. It was an excuse as he wasn’t following suit to attack. He stood back watching Brandt and Hannah standoff.

“Then stop hiding in the back, coward!” she replied with a vile drip to the words. Artyom frowned angrily, but he did not advance.

It was an opportunity. Hannah turned once more to spit some words at her partner when Brandt leapt at her and brought his foot down onto her shin with the sound of crunching bone breaking accompanying it. Hannah let out a blood curdling scream as she buckled over.

Artyom stared, his eyes wide with shock as Brandt moved swiftly past Hannah, his sword held low and close to ensure that he was guarded. Brandt chose to slam into the Russian throwing the man off of the ground and into wall behind him.

There was no time to waste. He needed to use the opportunity to escape. He turned and tried to sprint down the corridor. Behind him, he heard the girl scream angrily at him. He knew that she wasn’t going to be after him. And Artyom was slow. Were he to be better at navigating the catacombs, he would have to thoroughly surprise Brandt and take him off guard to wound him in any way now.

He closed his eyes pausing for a moment. He needed to find a spot to transfer out of the realm. Sentries could do it almost anywhere, but there were areas where it was weaker and less taxing. He was tired and wouldn’t be able to create a temporary rift himself.

He needed the one that was already in place.

The energies of the world made themselves available for him to see. He knew which way to go. He chose the direction that would get him there quickest. The bones began littering the area again. They made his travel very difficult.

Every few minutes of travel he paused, checked his bearings, and then adjusted where he moved. He had to make sure that he wasn’t being led astray despite the lag that it would cause in his escape.

Most everything in this realm looked the same. Apart from the paths with bone against the paths without bones, there were few marks to show one area being different from another. Brandt had no way of truly knowing that he wasn’t going in circles apart from those times that he stopped to sense the energies surrounding him. And running with his eyes closed would have not served him even with the ability to sense things. He would have flatly run into a wall and knocked himself out.

The lighting had grown dark again as well. Brandt found it more trouble to see with his eyes open than with his eyes closed. About the only thing that it prevented was running into walls.

He moved as swiftly as he was allowed up to a corner that had a little more light than where he was just moving through. As soon as he turned he swung his head back dodging a swing from a gladius.

Artyom then immediately stabbed at Brandt using Hannah’s rapier, the sword obviously of no more use to the woman. She would find it difficult to walk for at least a short time.

Brandt just made it out of the way by rolling over to the side. His estoc was still drawn when he recovered from the roll and assumed a defensive pose. “Out of my way, Artyom. You cannot win this fight.”

His threat was valid. Artyom knew it. But there was something in the man’s eyes that told Brandt that there wasn’t any point in trying to debate. It was going to be a fight, and Brandt was going to have to either maim Artyom to a point that he was unable to attack, or he would have to kill him.

Neither option was favorable. Artyom, no matter his behavior, was still a Sentry. There was a measure of honor that Brandt felt as though he should uphold. He didn’t want to fight, even being forced to do so in self-defense. It was why he chose solely to capitalize on preexisting injuries to further expel their ability to fight back. Make current injuries worse; do not create new ones if possible.

The Russian lunged forward with another jab. It was feigned. He swung the gladius trying to force Brandt into an opening. Brandt expected it, effortlessly batting the sword away. “Why are you doing this?”

The Russian didn’t answer. He stood, his eyes angrily affixed on Brandt. He swung again. They were quick bursts of attacks. They felt half-hearted. It was more of a bother, a hindrance, than it was anything else. Artyom wasn’t challenging Brandt in any way other than goading the fight on.

“You don’t need to do this. I don’t want to kill you.”

“I am dead anyway,” Artyom finally hissed when attacking again. Brandt parried the attack and seized a very brief opening to trip the man. Artyom fell to the ground recovering slowly, a result of the multitude of injuries he had.

“What are you talking about?”

“You are going to have to kill me, or I am going to kill you.”

Nothing in the words made sense to Brandt. He needed to know what was going on that someone he knew, albeit not with a high degree of respect, would outwardly attack him in such a way. “I don’t want to kill you, Artyom. This is insane.”

“Then you will die,” he said as he charged.

Without thought, Brandt batted the gladius to the side while spinning around, narrowly missing the point of Hannah’s rapier. It was a slow, sloppy attack, and he did not have to put much effort into the defense. Worry was wrought on Brandt’s face as he decided it best to end it. He didn’t want to, but he pulled his sword in low and then swung the tip up starting from Artyom’s leg and through his torso exiting at the shoulder. Blood and entrails spilled out, but Artyom continued to stand, swords at the ready.

His posture had slacked as he stood there. Brandt watched as the energy, his life force, drained from his eyes and Artyom fell to the ground.

When all signs of life were gone, Brandt knelt down and placed his hand on the man’s head. “I am sorry, brother.”

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