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    Israfil
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The Transporters - 1. Chapter 1

“It’s not too late, you know.”

Tia ignored the prisoner, instead turning to her companion, “How much further, Ann?”

Andrew glanced up from his phone, scowling at the nickname, the expression on his boyish face thrown into sharp relief by the light of the small screen. “A little less than a block - we should be able to just make the train.”

“That train will take you nowhere good. Release me now and I will accept your oaths of fealty. Continue as you are and you will not live to see sunrise,” the prisoner stated, his voice calm and reasonable.

“Thing is, that would be a little more intimidating if you hadn’t been saying something similar every day for the past week,” Tia punctuated her retort with a sharp tug on the Jack Russell terrier’s leash. The prisoner curled his lip to briefly bare his teeth at her, but did not resist. The little dog resumed his haughty demeanor in an effort to convey that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the two of them were beneath him.

“They said don’t engage, Tia” Andrew reminded her.

“Not even to tell him to shut up?”

“Ignore him and he’ll eventually give up.”

“Do that and you lose your only hope of getting out of this alive,” the prisoner interjected.

“Shut up!”

“Didn’t you say ‘don’t engage’?” Tia inquired innocently.

“Feel free to shut up too.”

 

Parker shouldered the apartment door open, his arms laden with the last of the groceries. Setting the bags down with a deliberately loud thump next to the rest in the entrance hall, he turned to lock the door. “Thanks for your help unloading the groceries,” he called down the hall.

“Anytime,” came the reply from the living room, confirming Evan had not moved from the couch since he had left an hour ago. His roommate ambled in as Parker began to put away the food in the kitchen.

“Has Jenson come back yet?”

Evan shook his head. “Called to say he was working late and not to hold up dinner for him.”

“Wasn’t planning on it.”

“That’s what I told him.” Evan frowned when he glanced out the window. The days were getting shorter and the sun had long since set. “Though he’s usually home before dark - did he take the Stick this morning?”

Parker froze, his arm halfway to the spice cupboard. He put down the bottle and strode over to the door. “Damn,” he growled. In the umbrella stand, leaning against the wall, was a tall, gnarled wooden staff. Runic symbols carved into the wood spiraled down its length and a carved owl perched at its head.

“This...might not be so bad,” Evan ventured, having followed him from the kitchen. “He’s been practicing without it right? Since this summer. He can handle a few strays by now…” The two of them considered their roommate’s idea of “practicing” for a moment before Parker broke the silence.

“He’s going to get eaten alive.”

“I’ll ring his cell.”

 

I really should have practiced more, Jenson reflected as he maneuvered himself to have a solid wall against his back while trying to keep the entire pack in sight. The gnolls closed ranks, their hyena faces bearing fierce, toothy grins. More slipped into the alleyway, shedding their human camouflage. The sickening crunch and snap of bones breaking and reforming as skulls lengthened into snouts and mouths sprouted new teeth filled the alley, adding to the macabre white noise of the growls and snarls.

“Hey, guys…. How’s it hanging?” he asked jovially. A short gnoll stepped forward, his fur tawny with dark stripes.

“Jenson,” his voice muffled somewhat, as if he was speaking with his mouth full. Which was technically true, his lips parting as he spoke to reveal his massive canines. “Haven’t seen you around in a while. We’ve missed you.” A bout of the hyena’s classic laughing call echoed through the crowd. His expression darkened. “In fact, I think the last time we hung out was when you met my brother,” he snarled. Jenson grimaced at the memory.

“If it helps any -”

“It doesn’t,” the gnoll cut him off flatly.

“I am really sorry about that,” he continued. “To be fair, he was trying to mug me but I didn’t mean for that to happen to his head-”

“Shut up,” the creature barked. “Our friends and family will feast tonight in his honor. Join the party,” he added with a smile and licked his chops.

Jenson weighed his chances. Fighting his way out was unlikely at best, considering he hadn’t thought to take the Stick this morning. He, and to a lesser degree Parker and Evan, needed the oaken staff to focus and channel their magic. On his own, his power was unpredictable, likely to backfire and, as an unfortunate gnoll had found out, explosive. Simply running was impossible, but if he could make it to a crowded area he would be relatively safe. The need for secrecy was one of the few things upon which the supernatural community agreed came above all else. With too many witnesses, the pack would retreat.

Unfortunately, the gnolls had cut him off from both directions and even if he could get past them, he wouldn’t be able to reach Deadwood’s one main street before they ran him down. Last time I try to take a new shortcut, he thought ruefully. But if he couldn’t reach any witnesses, maybe he could bring some here…

Explosive, eh?

 

All three of them started at the boom, Andrew accidentally stomping on the prisoner’s tail as he jumped to his feet. “What the hell was that?” Tia exclaimed, scanning their surroundings.

“Sounded like an explosion,” he replied, ignoring their charge’s stream of muttered threats and curses.

Tia’s gaze immediately shifted skyward. Seeing nothing in the night sky, she shook her head. “I don’t think it’s anything to do with the mission.”

“You sure?” She nodded. “Alright then,” Andrew made to sit down again before the leash was thrust into his hand. “Tia, what are you doing?”

“What does it look like?” she replied over her shoulder, already striding down the street toward where the noise had come from.

Andrew cursed under his breath before scooping the prisoner under his arm and hurrying after her, the fresh howls of indignation filling the night air.

 

Jenson staggered out of the dust cloud and onto the street coughing. Supporting himself on a parking meter, he glanced back at his handiwork. The alley wall had collapsed where he had been standing only moments before. Almost crushed myself - really didn’t think that all the way through, he thought. Hopefully, the blast had taken out some of the gnolls and deterred the rest. Someone was bound to have called 911 after hearing that. He was about to start trudging home when a growl sounded behind him. Five gnolls clambered over the debris, their fur singed and caked with dust. Among them, radiating a pale blue aura, was the striped leader, despite having been closest to Jenson when the spell went off. Noting his surprise, the gnoll smirked as the icy blue shield faded. “I was a spell-breaker during the last guild war.” Spell-breakers were elite soldiers artificially endowed with a powerful arcane resistance, allowing them to shrug off most offensive magic. Jenson steeled himself, if this is how he went out, he had two options: stand his ground and face his death or make a futile dash and die running. There was no choice here - he always knew which one he would choose.

He spun around and sprinted down the road.

The eerie hyena cackles filled his ears, heralding the jaws that would close around his neck any second and snap it. The laughter behind him abruptly ended with a pained yelp. Jenson risked a glance over his shoulder before skidding to a halt. One of the gnolls lay on the ground, its neck twisted at an unnatural angle. The other four had stopped and were scenting the air, their ears flattened in agitation. The leader barked an order and the pack began to retreat. One of them snarled in protest, turned to Jenson and lunged.

Before he could react, the gnoll was plucked out of the air in a blur of motion. A tall young woman in a green jacket stood behind it with a hand around its throat. She grabbed hold of its snout and twisted. There was a sickening snap, and Jenson felt his stomach lurch. The creature dropped to the pavement, its neck broken like its fellow.

The whole thing had taken about three seconds.

The woman turned towards the remaining gnolls. “That was your second warning. Unless you think your protections will work against having your head pulled off, breaker, you don’t want to be around for the third.”

The leader’s ears twitched and his eyes narrowed. “What’s one of your kind doing out here?”

“Taking care of a vermin infestation,” she jerked her head at the two dead gnolls.

“Very well,” the striped gnoll and his companions backed away while keeping her in their line of sight, “but be advised, it’s dangerous for anyone to be out on the streets alone around here at night.” He gave a small mock bow, “Welcome to Deadwood, m’lady,” and the three of them darted off into the shadows.

Jenson sank to his knees breathing heavily, his adrenaline having finally run its course. “Holy crap, you saved my life,” he stated breathlessly. The woman glanced at him sideways.

“I’m assuming that means ‘thank you’?” she asked with a smirk.

“What? I mean, of course, sorry, thanks. Though they’ll be back soon-” He was interrupted by the arrival of another boy, a small dog tucked under his arm, appearing with another whoosh of inhuman speed just as the girl had.

“Alright, I’m here. Tia, just think before you…” he trailed off when he spotted the bodies, now returning to their human forms in death. “...Act,” he finished. “Tia, what the hell?”

The girl fully turned around and Jenson finally got a good look at her face. His heart began to thud in his chest as it had when the gnolls first cornered him. She had shoulder length brown hair framing a pretty face, her hazel eyes, bright and intelligent, briefly met his. Streaks of green scales extended from beneath her eyes, traveling down her cheeks like emerald tears.

Goddammit, he realized. I’ve just been rescued by a dragon.

 

As the police cars sped by the house towards the center of town, Parker and Evan exchanged glances. “That cannot be a coincidence,” declared Parker.

“Guess that means we have to head down too,” Evan responded with a sigh and reached for his jacket, just as his cell phone chirped. “Hold up, he just texted - says he’s on his way and there’ll be two more for dinner tonight.” Parker rolled his eyes.

“I hope they like burnt chicken.”

“I think they’re the types that like burnt everything.”

“What?”

Israfil
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Chapter Comments

I'm psyched to learn what happens in this story. There's so much going on and imagine it is going to be a very complex plot once we find out more about the characters.

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Ok! I'm loving the dialogue! It's sharp and energetic and funny, too! The little banter between the friends is endearing, and even the prisoner (he's a Jack Terrier? How?)  was interesting. I'm wondering if his threat in the beginning is going to be anything to worry about later. You introduced 5 important characters + the prisoner in less than 2000 words and I liked them all! I really enjoyed this beginning, it cut right to he action and the descriptions of the grolls was excellent! I looked grolls up on google and yikes! Jenson was crazy for trying to handle that on his own! He was so outnumbered!

 

The switching between locations and characters reminded me of a movie. I could see this all playing out in my head. The dialogue kept me present and in the scene and you had some good and relevant setting details and character actions that drew me further into the plot. More description is never a bad thing imo though. For example, I'm still wondering what the boys look like. Ann was beautifully described. The imagery of her scales was interesting and i could vividly see her face... Maybe in the next chapter you will flesh out the boys some more. I will read more when I have a minute, you are talented!^_^ Happy to be working with you!

 

I'd better get back to writing too, lol

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