Monday, January 11, 2010


by David Agranoff

Chapter Four

Demon Slayer Chamber

The gates to the village were tied open. The city walls had no one posted to guard them. The shops and street vendors carried on. Kui nursed a sore shoulder, and thought with considerable bitterness that Xu was wrong. He did not warn the people of this large village about the destruction, just three days walk to the south. Shun smiled and danced as they walked past street musicians who performed an opera from the three kingdoms.

Xu looked up at the sky, the hour of the rooster was almost over; the sun had dipped, and they had only an hour or two of light. Xu grabbed the imperial scroll from Shun's pack and waved it at Kui.

“I'll get horses, see if you can get us some food.”

Xu walked away and Kui breathed a sigh of relief. The last two days of training had been hard. He rubbed his shoulder. Kui walked deep into the marketplace. He smelled all kinds of foods cooking, but didn't know where to start. He stared at a small piglet, slaughtered and cooking. It made him feel homesick. He never had to see anything so barbaric at the temple.

He went over the last training Xu had given him, and it still didn't make sense to him. Xu had asked him to bring his sword...


“Give me your best sword stance.”

Kui spun quickly and lifted his sword over his head. He looked ready to attack. Xu waited. It took almost three minutes, but Kui weakened in the stance. His leg shook and his arm grew tired.

“Your sword, a bow...these weapons mean little to demons. To tree spirits, to fox demons, to tiger shifters...your sword will only delay them.”

Kui shook in his stance. Just seconds from falling apart.

“You don't even believe.” Kui muttered under his breath.

Xu kicked him square in the chest. Shun cringed from his seat by their campfire. Shun watched from two eyeballs sitting on his palm. Kui jumped back up.

Xu kicked the sword out of his hand and grabbed him by his yellow robe. “Listen, you little snot. I have seen things in this life that would turn your hair white.”

Kui looked around for his sword, and Xu slapped him with his free hand. “Pay attention.”

Xu dropped him and shook out the arms of his robe. “You believe a dark dragon attacked you yesterday. Then, you need more than your sword.”

Xu whistled and Shun reached into his bag and threw a scroll. Xu grabbed it out of the air and in a single motion, unrolled it on the ground. He placed four slips of yellow paper beside it. Kui got up and stood over the scroll. It had blood-red calligraphy as a header:

The Scroll of Spirit Disposal

Kui leaned down to grab it. Xu kicked his shoulder; this time pain shot through Kui's body. As the young monk hit the ground, a second wave of pain came from the hit. When the young monk opened his eyes, he saw the face of Xu grinning at him. “This is more than a weapon; it is also a key, it is the door. It is above all things, power.”

“I understand.”

Shun laughed, off to the side.

“I hope that is true.”

Xu rolled up the scroll and put it in Kui's hand. It felt warm, like its slats of bamboo were generating heat. Kui squeezed it and felt its power.

“Do you feel its strength?”

Kui nodded.

“Good, but you're still not ready to wield it.”


...As Kui stood in the marketplace, he wondered about Xu's words. “--you're still not ready to wield it.” The scroll remained in Kui's pack. Kui walked until he made it to a noodle stand. It wasn't the smells or the large display of vegetables that stopped him. Behind the cart of vegetables, a woman smiled at Kui. She was slender, just an inch or so shorter than him. Her long black hair hung in curls over her shoulders, one of which was bare. The dress hung over the curve of her shoulder. She noticed Kui's look against her skin, and lifted the dress up.

Kui cleared his throat. The woman's father was enormous, a sweat-drenched fat man standing by the fire and large wok set up behind the cart.

“Monk?” She said in voice so sweet Kui almost tasted fruit.

Kui nodded.

“We serve the best vegetable dishes north of the capital.”

“Can you pack enough for three travelers?”

She smiled. “You're not staying the night?”

Kui shook his head.

“The Opera troupe is performing the story of Sun Wukong. Very funny.”

“Sounds wonderful,” Kui pointed at the vegetables he wanted. “But my Master insists that we keep traveling.”

“Towards the capital? I've always dreamed of seeing the emperor's city.”

“I wish I could take you.” After Kui said that, his face grew red. She laughed and smiled. No harm done. The father stepped closer and watched their interaction. Kui wanted more than anything for the father's concern to be warranted. It wasn't.

“We are not going to the capital...we are headed north.”

The father stepped closer, under the guise of selecting vegetables. He had a bucket of chopped veggies at his cooking station. “Only thing north is the wall and Venara. What could a monk need in Venara?”

“We are on a mission for the emperor...I am...”

Kui gasped as a hand locked on his arm and squeezed. The father and daughter laughed at his reaction. After the beating he received in the last training, Kui was ready to turn and punch Xu. Kui turned around and gasped a second time. A man six and half feet tall held his arm. Kui could not see the stranger's face under the large hat he wore.


Hearing his name made his heart race. Kui pushed off and tried to run, but with little effort, the man held him in place. The tall man looked at the noodle vendors. “He will be back for his food in less than an hour.”

The tall man spoke Mandarin with an accent. It was either Korean or Japanese, he couldn't tell. The man pulled on Kui, who watched the noodle lady with a look of desperation. The tall man pushed Kui into an alley. In the waning light, he still could not see the man's face under the wide hat tied in place under his chin. His sword was Japanese--that much he could tell.

Kui pulled his sword free. It shook with a twang. The tall man didn't grab his own. “You won't kill me, Kui.”

Kui squeezed the grip on his sword. He was afraid of this man. The last thing he wanted to do was to test his skills on a samurai. Or worse, a Ninja. “Who are you? How do you know me?”

“My name is irrelevant. If you must know, you can call me Hosakai. I have been watching you since you left the guard's station.”

“You're a Japanese spy.”

“In a former life, perhaps. I don't work for any government.”

Kui lowered his sword a bit, then thought better of it. He squeezed the grip again.

“Your master, for lack of a better word, doubts your mission. He think the emperor is a paranoid fool. He is in for the gold, plain and simple.”


“I want to help you. Aid your mission to expose the evil.”

“Ok, lets talk to Master Xu.”

Hosakai laughed.

“If I am to help you...I must remain secret.”

Kui stepped back and ran down the alley. Hosakai jumped into the air--taking huge steps through the air past him--and landed in front of him just as Kui swung his sword down. Hosakai pulled his sword up straight with one hand. Kui put all his strength into the blow, but Hosakai held the sword in place easily with one arm.

They were closer than before, but when Kui looked at the man's face, all he saw was a black mist. Kui kicked at Hosakai, but was blocked by his shin. Hosakai pushed on the sword, and knocked Kui back. Kui hit the ground and couldn't see for a split second. That is all it took. The Japanese blade was under his beads and its hot steel burned at his skin. Kui feared taking too deep of a breath.


Xu walked the two horses he was able to get. Shun would have to ride with Kui. Shun sat at a table with a group of acrobats still in their opera make-up. Shun had a scroll out and was taking down their story. They pointed at the sky. Shun sat up. He'd somehow sensed that Xu was there. The blind man jumped and ran to Xu.

“You're just in time!” Shun yelled and held his eye up to the sky. Everyone in the village began to run. The cooks and vendors took off toward the main hall. The shoppers and acrobats ran to their homes and wagons. Xu laughed as one after another, a hundred doors and windows slammed shut.

Xu sniffed himself. “Was it something I said?”


Kui heard the commotion but could not move. Hosakai held his blade steady, and didn't move.

“What is happening?” Kui begged.

“You're safe. As long as you listen to me, you'll stay safe.”

“Why should I help you?”

“We'll help each other. Tell me, do you ever wonder about your family?”

“My family?”

Kui had, but he was so young when he came to the temple, he had no memory of his family. The temple had taught them that attachments like that would only cause them suffering. He had seen no point in wondering about his family. He was committed to the temple.

“I have not found them yet...but I have leads on your family in Korea.”

Kui dropped his sword at his side. “I'm Korean.”

Hosakai pulled his blade back slowly. “You have an older brother and a sister. They miss you.” Hosakai swung his sword around, and placed it in its sheath. He held up his finger and "Shhhed" Kui. “Time for the show.”


Xu realized that the village was dark: no lanterns, no flames, except for the ones left under the vendors' woks. Shun held an eyeball to the sky.

“Shun, you have an explanation for this?”


From a distance, a shriek echoed through the night. Inside the homes and buildings around the village, a few people screamed out in terror. Shun tied the horses to a post, and pulled Xu to a vegetable stand they could hide behind. Xu began to feel nervous, and felt a tightening in his stomach. Could this be what happened to the the other village? He pulled his sword free.

“Just watch.”

The half-moon lit the sky just over the horizon. They could not discern its shape, but its light reflected against the clouds. Suddenly a train of large shadows sped across the sky like a thousand demonic arrows. They passed with a deranged howl. The earth and buildings shook as the black spirits passed.

Xu stood up straight. He watched them headed to the north--toward Venara. He swallowed and considered what they might find.


Kui's jaw dropped as he saw the black spirits fill the sky above the alley. Several screamed, some howled, and the choir of horror shook the ground. Hosakai pointed his blade to the sky.

“Creatures of the night. Warriors of evil. You cannot defeat them without my help.”

The buildings continued to shake. Kui glanced about, worried one might fall on him. “How can you help us?”

“I'll find you, keep you informed. When the time is right and the emperor is safe, I'll return you to your family.”

Hosakai put out his arms and rose into the air so fast Kui lost him.


Just like that the storm of spirits passed.


It took twenty minutes of silence before the villagers carefully stepped back into the night. At sundown, every night for the last week, the demons had flown over. Kui stepped out of the alley and found Shun and Xu waiting on two horses.

“Where have you been?” Shun asked.

“Hiding with the villagers.” Kui said. In that moment he had decided he had a secret to keep. “Where were those things going?”

“Where do you think?” Xu said and gave his horse a pat before hitting the trail.

Click Here For Chapter Five

No comments:

Post a Comment

Archive of Stories
and Authors

Sanford Meschkow's

Sanford Meschkow is a retired former
NYer who married a Philly suburban
Main Line girl. Sanford has been pub-
lished in a 1970s issue of AMAZING.
We welcome him here on the FREE-
ZINE of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking's

Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking's

Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking currently
resides in the high desert of Phoenix,
Arizona where he enjoys campy horror
movies within the comfort of an Insane
Asylum. Search for his science fiction
stories at The Intestinal Fortitude in
the Flesheater's World section.
The Memory Sector is his first
appearance in the Freezine of
Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Owen R. Powell's

Little is known of the mysterious
Owen R. Powell (oftentimes referred
to as Orp online). That is because he
usually keeps moving. The story
Noetic Vacations marks his first
appearance in the Freezine.

Edward Morris's

Edward Morris is a 2011 nominee for
the Pushcart Prize in literature, has
also been nominated for the 2009
Rhysling Award and the 2005 British
Science Fiction Association Award.
His short stories have been published
over a hundred and twenty times in
four languages, most recently at
PerhihelionSF, the Red Penny Papers'
SUPERPOW! anthology, and The
Magazine of Bizarro Fiction. He lives
and works in Portland as a writer,
editor, spoken word MC and bouncer,
and is also a regular guest author at
the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival.

Gene Stewart
(writing as Art Wester)

Gene Stewart's

Gene Stewart is a writer and artist.
He currently lives in the Midwest
American Wilderness where he is
researching tales of mystical realism,
writing ficta mystica, and exploring
the dark by casting a little light into
the shadows. Follow this link to his
website where there are many samples
of his writing and much else; come

Adam Bolivar's

Adam Bolivar's

Adam Bolivar's

Adam Bolivar is an expatriate Bostonian
who has lived in New Orleans and Berkeley,
and currently resides in Portland, Oregon
with his beloved wife and fluffy gray cat
Dahlia. Adam wears round, antique glasses
and has a fondness for hats. His greatest
inspirations include H.P. Lovecraft,
Jack tales and coffee.

David Agranoff's

David Agranoff's

David Agranoff is the author of the
short story collection Screams From
A Dying World, just published by
Afterbirth Books. David is a hardcore
vegan and tireless environmentalist.
His contributions to the punk horror
scene and the planet in general have
already established him as a bright
new writer and activist to watch out
for. The Freezine of Fantasy and
Science Fiction welcomes him and
his defiant vision open-heartedly.

David is a busy man, usually at work
on several different novels or projects
at once. He is sure to leave his mark on
a world teetering over the edge of
ecological imbalance. David's latest
books include the Wuxia -Pan
(martial arts fantasy) horror
novel called Hunting The Moon Tribe,
already out from Afterbirth Books.;
The Vegan Revolution...with Zombies,
[Deadite Press, 2010]; and
[Deadite Press, 2014]

Daniel José Older's

Daniel José Older's

Daniel José Older's spiritually driven,
urban storytelling takes root at the
crossroads of myth and history.
With sardonic, uplifting and often
hilarious prose, Older draws from
his work as an overnight 911 paramedic,
a teaching artist & an antiracist/antisexist
organizer to weave fast-moving, emotionally
engaging plots that speak whispers and
shouts about power and privilege in
modern day New York City. His work
has appeared in the Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction, The ShadowCast
Audio Anthology, The Tide Pool, and
the collection Sunshine/Noir, and is
featured in Sheree Renee Thomas'
Black Pot Mojo Reading Series in Harlem.
When he's not writing, teaching or
riding around in an ambulance,
Daniel can be found performing with
his Brooklyn-based soul quartet
Ghost Star. His blog about the
ridiculous and disturbing world
of EMS can be found here.

Paul Stuart's

Paul Stuart is the author of numerous
biographical blurbs written in the third
person. His previously published fiction
appears in The Vault of Punk Horror and
His non-fiction financial pieces can be found
in a shiny, west-coast magazine that features
pictures of expensive homes, as well as images
of women in casual poses and their accessories.
Consider writing him at,
if you'd like some thing from his garage. In fall
2010, look for Grade 12 Trigonometry and
Pre-Calculus -With Zombies.

Rain Grave's

Rain Graves is an award winning
author of horror, science fiction and
poetry. She is best known for the 2002
Poetry Collection, The Gossamer Eye
(along with Mark McLaughlin and
David Niall Wilson). Her most
recent book, Barfodder: Poetry
Written in Dark Bars and Questionable
Cafes, has been hailed by Publisher's
Weekly as "Bukowski meets Lovecraft..."
in January of 2009. She lives and
writes in San Francisco, performing
spoken word at events around the
country. 877-DRK-POEM -

Icy Sedgwick's

Icy Sedgwick is part writer and part
trainee supervillain. She lives in the UK
but dreams of the Old West. Her current
works include a ghost story about a Cavalier
and a Western tale of retribution. Find her
ebooks, free weekly fiction and other
shenanigans at Icy’s Cabinet of Curiosities.

Blag Dahlia's
armed to the teeth

BLAG DAHLIA is a Rock Legend.
Singer, Songwriter, producer &
founder of the notorious DWARVES.
He has written two novels, ‘NINA’ and

G. Alden Davis's

G. Alden Davis wrote his first short story
in high school, and received a creative
writing scholarship for the effort. Soon
afterward he discovered that words were
not enough, and left for art school. He was
awarded the Emeritus Fellowship along
with his BFA from Memphis College of Art
in '94, and entered the videogame industry
as a team leader and 3D artist. He has over
25 published games to his credit. Mr. Davis
is a Burningman participant of 14 years,
and he swings a mean sword in the SCA.

Shae Sveniker's

Shae is a poet/artist/student and former
resident of the Salt Pit, UT, currently living
in Simi Valley, CA. His short stories are on
Blogger and his poetry is hosted on Livejournal.

Nigel Strange's

Nigel Strange lives with his wife and
daughter, cats, and tiny dog-like thing
in their home in California where he
occasionally experiments recreationally
with lucidity. PLASTIC CHILDREN
is his first publication.

J.R. Torina's

J.R. Torina was DJ for Sonic Slaughter-
house ('90-'97), runs Sutekh Productions
(an industrial-ambient music label) and
Slaughterhouse Records (metal record
label), and was proprietor of The Abyss
(a metal-gothic-industrial c.d. shop in
SLC, now closed). He is the dark force
behind Scapegoat (an ambient-tribal-
noise-experimental unit). THE HOUSE
IN THE PORT is his first publication.

K.B. Updike, Jr's

K.B. Updike, Jr. is a young virgin
Virginia writer. KB's life work,
published 100% for free:
(We are not certain if K.B. Updike, Jr.
has lost his Virginian virginity yet.)