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.
Once complete, I will hold the book on in full on my site until 1/1/2021. On that day, it’ll no longer be accessible for free.
I ask people to share links freely while the book is available, but please do not copy or do anything else without expressed permission from me, the copyright holder.
If you would like to skip ahead, you are always welcome to purchase a copy, just click the link HERE (or click up top at the menu bar) to go to the book’s page where there are links to where it is available in both print and ebook. Enjoy and I hope that you and your family are doing well!
The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle
by Jeremy C Kester
(c) Jeremy C Kester – All Rights Reserved
Safiya lay quietly. She was barely conscious. The handle of the gladius had at some point slipped from her fingertips as she cried. All of the signals in her body were screaming for her to let go. At some point while she had cried she had succumbed to her own exhaustion.
Get up, Safiya!
Was that Natalia?
Her eyes opened slightly. The flickering lights danced against her fingertips. She thought for a moment that she was dead. The hallway around her was quiet. She no longer heard the voices echoing. They had moved on.
You need to get up! Don’t lie here wallowing in your filth! You did not survive this long to give up! Natalia’s voice continued in her head.
A hand pushed against the ground. Inside of her, the Scandinavian woman’s blade continued to exact pain. She was dizzy with it. She wanted to let it consume her. So much of her energy was gone now. In the fog of confusion, exhaustion, and pain, she couldn’t understand why. She fought against herself as she struggled to get to a seated position. Blood had left stains surrounding her. It caked on her face and her clothes. Had she been able to see herself, she was sure that she would look like that of a demon.
Pick up the sword.
The words continued to echo within her mind. She felt as though she were out of her body trying to get it to move through a remote control or something. Gradually her hand inched its way finally reaching the pommel. Nothing. No energy flowed from the blade.
Concentrate. It won’t come unless you concentrate.
She listened to the words. She closed her eyes as she tried to release the energy of the sword. Slowly it flowed into her. Though the pain was not dulled, her strength had begun to return. Soon she staggered to her feet using the wall to brace against until she could find her balance.
Good. Now go find that infidel.
Agnes was breathing furiously. Air could not collect fast enough in her lungs. Cadence was trying to drag her up the stairs. Both girls’ legs burned as they tried desperately to outrun their pursuers.
Not a moment after their feet had fallen upon the first steps of the tomb the barrier that had been blocking Cadence and Brandt’s senses was dropped. Thousands of demons, the same that had made Agnes nearly mad with fear, poured out from the tree lines. Neither Brant nor Cadence were prepared for the onslaught. Each stumbling to retain their composure, Brandt threw himself between the charging demons and the girls and yelled “RUN! Get inside!”
Cadence hadn’t turned back. In her mind Brandt was dead. There would be nothing she could do about it. There was no time to mourn that loss either. Focus had to be given to keeping Agnes alive.
Near the top there was an entry to the tomb. Quickly she pulled the young girl inside. She threw Agnes down and turned to see if there was anything to secure the entrance. There was nothing. Again, she turned and grabbed Agnes who had huddled herself against the wall grabbing her head as though she was trying to hide from the horror that was closing in around her.
“We have to go!” Cadence yelled.
“There’s too many!” Agnes screamed. “I don’t want to go to the darkness! Don’t let me go to the darkness!”
“GET UP!” Cadence ordered as she pulled Agnes up from the wall.
Although their legs burned, Cadence pressed on. Her only focus was moving forward as long as the tunnels will allow. Whether there was a chance at survival was of little consequence any longer. Running was her only choice.
“No! They are going to take me, Cadence!” Agnes yelled.
Although she heard the girl, Cadence continued to push forward. More and more Agnes fought her as they went deeper into the tomb. Eventually, Agnes broke free and ran in another direction. As Cadence went to yell for the girl, something blindsided her. Before she knew it, the sensation of falling took over.
Agnes scrambled away from her pursuers. She regretted leaving Cadence behind, but she had to keep going. Her breathing was intensely labored. Her throat felt raw. They were too close to relax though. She needed to get away.
The tunnels were confusing. She felt lost. Only her senses would guide her as to where she could go, but she was losing control over them. Too many things were coming at her. She found it impossible to concentrate. Finally, she cornered herself in a hallway. Not knowing what else or where else to go, she tucked herself into the corner and again raised her hands to her head.
“There she is,” she heard voices call. “She’s nowhere else to go now!”
“Grab her and take her to Armando,” another voice instructed.
As they approached the world began to shift around them.
“Knock her out! She’s going to destroy it all!”
“There’s nothing still from Belie about the wench. And the swordmaster had been thrown down into one of the pits.”
“Verywell. We have what we need. If either are alive, I doubt that they would be a problem now. Make ready the room for our master.”
Brandt opened his eyes.
“Oh good,” Armando said joyfully. “The bloody mess is still alive.” He grabbed Brandt’s hair and pulled his head up. “You’ll be alive long enough to witness the beginning of the end.”
Before him was a large chamber. Hundreds of Sentries stood encircling a symbol that was drawn upon the floor. Columns also surrounded topped with flames.
Two men held Brandt up with his arms. He was stripped of everything except his pants, as though his modesty mattered any longer. He glanced around trying to surmise where his sword and blades were. No one obvious had them. Even the two men that held him were without any weapons. They were taking no chances in allowing him to get his hands on anything.
“Where is she?” he mumbled. His words felt sloppy, as though they simply poured out of his mouth without any coherent tonality to them.
“What was that, dear Brandt?” Armando said coyly.
“Where is she?” He didn’t know himself whether he was referring to Cadence or Agnes. Either would have been enough.
“Just look ahead,” he said as he pointed to the center of the room. It was difficult to see at first, but a small mound of red hair clued him in. Agnes lay on the ground with no sign of life.
Brandt struggled against the grip of the two men. The demons had stolen away most of his strength though. That was what they were there for: weakening Agnes’ remaining defenses.
He tried looking for Cadence. Had she gotten away? Was she still alive? He couldn’t see her.
“You made it so difficult for us,” Armando chastised. “My master tried so many times to take her and you got in the way. Decided that the direct approach is too risky. Unfortunately making such a move on the mortal plane would have been so difficult. We couldn’t get enough demons through to manage anything worthwhile. Then our attempts to make that young Syrian bitch the bait kept backfiring. But then my master realized that we had to simply bring you to the source. Even those impatient trolls couldn’t argue with the logic.”
“What are you trying to do?” Brandt asked, his voice just barely audible.
“Bring on the end of course! Revive the horsemen of legend. Do you understand what this place is? No? Well know that before our time long ago these great demons were created quite by accident of course and began to tear apart the fabric that separated the realms. That is why we were created, dear Brandt. They couldn’t be destroyed though. So our predecessors entombed them at the anchor points. And it took us forever to find where. And now here we are!” His voice sounded elated, joyous.
“Is that what that shrouded creature is? Your master?”
“Indeed, dear Brandt,” Armando teased. “Indeed. And now you will be entertained to see the beginning of the end!”
As Brandt gazed on, the shroud rose from under Agnes enveloping her within itself. Both the entity and Agnes lifted off of the ground. The girl was still unconscious.
All of Brandt’s strength only could utter, “no, don’t do this.” Then a blade was drawn from its sheath.
Cadence groaned as she tried to get up. Aches riddled her bones, but as far as she could tell, she was not seriously injured.
“Cadence?” a voice suddenly came out. She looked up quickly to see a young woman covered in blood, limping and hobbling forward, and a sword protruding from her torso.
Cadence squinted trying to understand what she was looking at. Only a moment passed before she realized who she was seeing. “Safiya?! Is that you?”
“Where is Agnes?” Safiya asked as she continued to move forward. Blood trailed behind her with each advance.
“She was taken. I was thrown down here. My lords you look terrible! Who did this to you?!” She embraced Safiya as she tried to avoid the blade sticking from her friend.
“We need to stop them,” she said as she fought back the tears of relief that she had come across at least one friend. Suddenly the task before her didn’t feel as impossible as it had been appearing it would be. “We need to stop them.”
“How? You need to rest. I need to take this out of you. You could die.”
“I am already dead. I am going to kill Armando. He is leading them. Evil Sentries… infidels.”
“Let me take the sword out of you. I can stop the bleeding for now. It’ll let you rest for now.” Cadence was trying to convince her friend to rest. She feared that Safiya would be dead as she then feared Agnes and Brandt were.
“No. It will make the bleeding worse. Maybe if I live this day I will let you do it. Just help me. We can save them together.”
Cadence lifted Safiya’s arm and placed herself around her to support the woman. “You look terrible,” she said trying to be playful despite the situation. She lifted and the pair began to walk as swiftly as they could manage.
“I always liked to play in the mud,” Safiya grunted in return. A smirk grew on her face.
“So glad you kept your humor,” Cadence said.
The pair moved quietly through the tunnels. Both of them tried to concentrate on anything that might guide them. There was a concentration of life that echoed enough in the fabric that they could grab. It had appeared that although a lot of their senses were muted, enough was getting through.
“Where are we?” Safiya asked. “I followed them here, but I don’t know where that is.”
“Brandt thinks it’s an ancient spiritual tomb. Something really old and really evil is here.”
“And they need Agnes here to help them open it…”
“I think that’s what they wanted, yes.”
Safiya stumbled for a moment. Her eyes closed tightly as she held her breath for a moment.
Cadence struggled to hold her up. “What happened to you?”
“They were killing everyone. They wanted to use me as bait. I wouldn’t let them. Don’t know how many, but I took many to hell before I came here.”
“Remind me not to take you on.”
“Silly. You forget how dangerous you are.”
The entrance that they came upon was in a dark side of the large chamber. Cadence spied the room where she saw easily a hundred Sentries standing at the edges. At the center she saw Agnes. What she saw encircling the girl made her fear become a paste in her mouth. Her heart raced furiously as she saw the shroud growing and rising with the girl.
“Those bastards,” Safiya said. “Come, we must stop this.”
Cadence continued scanning as Safiya began to move forward until her eyes fell upon Brandt. Her eyes widened. Everything moved in slow motion as she watched the sword fall.
“NOOOOOOOOOO!!!” Cadence screamed as Brandt’s head rolled onto the ground before them.
Eyes turned to see the young woman charge forward, Iliad flashing in the flickering of the chamber’s light. Both women emerged into the fray.
“Kill them!” Armando bellowed as he realized the interruption. Seconds passed and nearly a dozen Sentries were fell by Cadence as she simply danced through the fray. Her body moved Iliad with a deadly, adept grace that none of her opponents were able to counter or parry.
Counter to Cadence, Safiya thrust forward like a bull in a charge. She ignored any adversary only slaying those who got into her way. Most of the Sentries tried only to keep from facing her. They had heard of the veracity of her prior matches and seeing her in that state and still moving only invoked a fear few of them ever understood. She was of a singular focus: kill Armando and it ends.
“Don’t let them stop the master until the ritual is complete!” Armando drew his own blade and then turned to his closest two compatriots, the Scandinavian woman and Hannah. He pointed his blade to Safiya. “Kill her. If I do not see her dead carcass on this floor, I will ensure that you both will suffer greatly. She has had more than enough chances and I tire of her.”
With that the pair charged forward to meet Safiya.
Agnes awoke with a jolt. She was in the air. She felt the presence of the evil surrounding her. Fear enveloped her, but she was unable to move. All of her efforts failed.
Underneath her it appeared as though the ground had opened up into a bottomless cavern. Flames spurt up from the endless darkness. Agnes understood what was entombed there. A horse of the purest white began to rise along with the flames. Its rider was absent from the stead’s back, but then she knew that its rider was ever present. Out of the cloud of darkness around her a man in gleaming white appeared. He was flawless in appearance, except for his eyes. They were absent instead showing a pit of darkness when gazed upon.
Trying tirelessly to divert her energy Agnes attempted to reverse whatever was being done. No matter the effort her power was being channeled through by whatever had her.
Overwhelm it, she told herself suddenly. Change the world surrounding you. Without another thought, she closed her eyes.
The sight was unbelievable. Cadence tried to ignore what she was seeing. Surrounding Agnes was a funnel of flames and black smoke. The creature, that shroud, that struck into Cadence’s heart had appeared to vanish and in its place suddenly appeared a man of gleaming light.
A slice neared her face as the distraction deterred her concentration for that moment. It was close enough that it nearly did harm; however, her reflexes proved truer allowing her to simply dodge the attack. A flick of her blade and the next attack was parried before she stabbed the assailant through the throat.
“The ritual is completed! You are too late!” Armando cried joyfully. “The horsemen will ride once again!”
Cadence turned trying to locate Safiya while keeping her attention to Agnes as well. “Safiya! We need to get Agnes!” she yelled.
Then she saw her friend begin to fight the two who had been sent to kill her.
“That’s my sword, bitch,” the Scandinavian woman said as she advanced on Safiya while holding Brandt’s estoc. Underneath of them the ground began to shake.
“I welcome you to take it back,” Safiya sneered. Just then Hannah’s rapier thrust forward. A flick of the gladius parried the attempt, but only just barely.
Behind her, Cadence’s voice rang out followed immediately by the woman’s reinforcement. Another attempt by Hannah was blocked and countered by the glow of Iliad against the fire.
“Ah, a real challenge,” Hannah teased turning her attention to Cadence.
The two engaged. Seconds failed to pass before a slice flew up Hannah’s body and through her eye courtesy of the tip of Iliad. Hannah dropped her rapier then to her knees. Her hands clasped against her face while she screamed in agony. Without a word of acknowledgment, Cadence continued forward.
Safiya and the Scandinavian woman struggled quickly turning their duel into a match of strength. Both the gladius and her axe pushed against the estoc, each weapon raised high in the air. The women could taste each other’s breath as they pushed against one another trying to force a separation.
“You reek, you little wench,” the Scandinavian woman said spitting at Safiya. More of the surroundings shook. Everything seemed as though it would suddenly crumble at any moment.
Seeing an opportunity, Safiya stepped forward tripping the Scandinavian woman. The pair fell and the Viking blade pierced through the stomach of its owner. “I hope that you don’t mind that I used your weapon for one last task,” Safiya said.
She maneuvered her own weapon around and sliced the woman’s throat.
The strange, white spirit took mount of the horse and the pair began to ride on the ground. Agnes concentrated pushing all of the strength she could outward to shape the world. She wanted to destroy it all.
Everything quaked. As she did so, the evil that surrounded her fled from her rejoining the rider and its steed. But its mission had been completed. Now what was left for Agnes was to ensure that it could not continue its existence.
Light emanated from Agnes blinding those that looked upon her. The understanding of what was happening raced through everyone and everything. Rather than attempt to stop the girl, every soul fled.
“Forget them all!” Armando said. “The girl is awake! We must now leave this place!” Like his followers, he turned vanished from the realm.
With Cadence’s help, Safiya was freed from the Scandinavian woman. The blade felt terrible as it was yanked from both bodies. Safiya screamed.
“We’ve got to stop her before she destroys us. They are fleeing and we will end up the only ones who suffer,” Cadence urged.
Safiya watched then as Cadence raced over to the young girl. Satisfied at least to that, she then scanned around for Armando. The bastard had slipped out along with the rider and whatever that darkness was. She was disappointed in herself for losing the opportunity, but she vowed she would have her revenge.
“AGNES!” Cadence screamed. “AGNES, STOP!!” It was difficult to hold herself together as everything around her was dissolving into oblivion.
Strangely, the young girl still heard her opening her eyes and looking at her friend, her new master. “I must destroy it,” she said, her voice ethereal, omnipotent.
“BUT THEY’VE GONE!”
“They’ve not gone beyond my reach.”
“But you will kill us too!”
“It must be done if we are to save our kind.”
“Then let’s do it together!” Safiya yelled trying to hold herself up as she came up next to Cadence.
A realization shot through Agnes like a steel bolt as though she had been unaware of her friend’s presence. The voice of a frightened, little girl came forward. “Safiya?” The room shuddered and Agnes dropped.
Cadence ran forward to the young girl. Her eyes were closed; her breathing was not there.
TO BE CONTINUED…
That’s it for “The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle”! I hope that you enjoyed the story! Thank you for taking the time to read it.
If you would like to skip ahead, you are always welcome to purchase a copy, just click the link HERE (or click up top at the menu bar) to go to the book’s page where there are links to where it is available in both print and ebook.