Monsters surrounded him. He couldn't see them, but he could hear them, sharpening their claws in the dark, secret places just beyond the limits of his vision. His nose twitched with the pungent odor of decay. Their stench reminded him of his own land when he had dabbled in things better left alone. He should leave. This wasn’t his country. It wasn’t his fight. But Brodrick knew he would seek them out. He curled his fingers around the hilt of the broadsword and found the familiar weight reassuring. He could deal with monsters.
Though he’d never been here before, Brodrick LoMaren moved silently through the night, seeking the shadows, where, since he didn't know the terrain, he felt more comfortable. He had been raised without fear, not because he lived a quiet, cloistered existence, but because he knew his abilities, his strengths and his heritage. He had been trained to embrace the courage of warriors.
The cold wind carried a bite. Instinctively he straightened the fall of his cape, clearing his broadsword before he continued, cursing under his breath his brother's odd habits and odder rendezvous points.
The fact that his brother was not present to meet him came as no surprise. Bruce LoMaren was not overly concerned with responsibility. Brodrick decided to give him another hour to finish whatever devilment he was up to and finally make a command appearance. If he hadn't located his brother when the time limit expired, Brick would call it a night, start the search again in the morning. After all, it could just as easily be him their father was after. It wasn't likely he'd need to come back. Eventually Bruce would appear, unrepentant and tardy, dragging unbelievable excuses—or with no explanation at all. Bruce would give their father the chance to vent some steam, rage for a few hours, and then he would be off again, creating another incident which might create complications which no one on this planet could possibly understand. Bruce had plucked Brick out of half a dozen such incidents. With the exception of their father, no one else kept score.
Although it was deep into the night, it was fairly obvious nothing slept. Sounds layered the darkness, from the creaking, chirping, buzzing of nocturnal insects to rushing traffic and the muffled roar of engines overhead. Laughter, sharp and shrill erupted to his left, unintelligible words shouted in anger from so many locations he couldn't identify them all, and behind him, in the deeper reaches of the dark, retching. Brick listened, finding in none of them the ripple of his brother's careless swagger. Bruce had never practiced subtlety in anything.
A new noise, one he recognized, exploded, bringing him to battle readiness causing adrenaline to surge through his system. Screams. The monsters had made the first move after all.
The screams sharpened, cutting, bloodcurdling, and informative. A woman alone. Not exactly alone, for she was being attacked. Fixing the location in his brain, he ran, no longer in need of stealth. The screams would hide his approach. For the moment, surprise was on his side.
His hand found comfort in the familiar grasp of the broadsword, and he knew of all the things he’d been called in his life, coward was never one of them. From the gyrating shadows he heard the start of a scream. It ended painfully, unnaturally, with a muffled cry.
The glaring, artificial brightness of the city diffused by vegetation, the lack of a moon made the light practically non-existent, but Brick could see all he needed to. A short but heavily muscled man, pants wadded down around his ankles, knife blade in his hand, prepared to do grievous harm to the woman struggling under him. Brick saw her legs twist in a futile effort to escape. A second man with an ugly leer and saliva running down his chin held her hands while the first fondled her breasts through torn material of her clothing. Brick couldn’t discount the possibility this man was armed as well, and although a knife was no match for his broadsword, Bruce had described other weapons, more frightening and powerful things, against which he wouldn't stand a chance.
She tried to plead, tried to beg, but the drooling man made free use of her lips. In a glance too quick for conscious acknowledgement, Brick noticed bruises on her face, an eye already darkening, a lip split and bloodied.
"Don't fight me," the man with the knife said in an acidic alien accent that held as much promise of violence as the weapon itself. Brick knew the type. It didn't really matter to the monster if he finished his wicked deed with her alive or dead. Either way, Brick was well aware if he did not intervene the woman had little time to live.
Brick scanned the area and saw no other assailants. Two to one. Discounting far superior weapons which might or might not exist, the odds were in his favor. He crossed the last few feet in a flash and lashed out with a booted foot, catching the man at the woman's breast with the full force of his anger. The stranger toppled and stayed still. Then Brick lifted the sword from its sheath, the blade making the song of prelude as it slipped from its housing to arc in the darkness, and while the man with the knife was otherwise intent on his assault Brick rested it, almost casually, against his neck.
"Drop your weapon or you die." He spoke with the quiet assurance the military had drummed into him over countless training sessions and several times as many hours in real warfare. Brick ran the blade almost idly against the rapist's carotid artery, knowing he would get the hint without much difficulty. A thin, shallow slice opened on his neck, bleeding freely.
"Do you understand?" The point of the weapon would be impossible to misinterpret.
The would-be rapist looked up at him with eyes suddenly wild. He tightened his grip on the knife, and rolled quickly to his feet. At any time during the maneuver Brick could have killed him with frightening ease. There would have been no challenge. There still was no challenge. A hand-held knife, even with a nine inch blade, was no match for a three-foot broadsword wielded by a trained warrior.
The woman, freed from her captors, took full advantage of the opportunity presented her and ran as if her life depended on it, screaming bloody murder, which, Brick decided, she had a perfect right to do.
"Drop your weapon. I have no desire to kill you." He held the sword straight, aiming for the heart. His hands were steady, his elbows locked, his knees loose, ready to move should the man present more of a challenge than he anticipated. Brick looked into the rapist's eyes, determining exactly how stupid the man wanted to be about all this.
The rapist debated his options, then taking a hint from the woman, started to run. He didn't even get one clean step before the tip of Brick’s weapon sliced the back of his right leg open, a lateral cut behind his knee. He went down hard, the knife flying.
"Drop it, hit the ground." The new command came from directly behind Brick, and he turned to see two uniformed patrolmen with guns. He'd never seen a gun before, but had no doubt he now faced what Bruce had described often enough.
Following shouted instructions, he was soon on his knees, hands behind his head, then on his stomach, gun muzzle against his neck, his hands roughly chained behind him, while the two men called for back-up and an ambulance.
"Will you look at the size of that sword," the one policeman said to the other. "Looks like Sir Lancelot’s in town."
"Yeah, that's all we need in this town, another frigging weirdo."
Silently Brick growled, and knew his father wasn’t going to be pleased with this latest development.