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Chapter 72 - Days Past

 Chapter 72 - Days Past

Blasts rang out through the deadwood forest as the desperate chase continued for half an hour. The Butcher found that Cloudhawk was quick, maybe even quicker than him. Luckily the forest's dangers forced Cloudhawk to watch his speed, otherwise the Butcher might have lost him.

It'd been a long time since he faced a wastelander like this. At last, a challenging opponent - something interesting.

His eyes burned with ferocity and a thirst for murder, but in his mind dim memories of days past fought their way to the surface. They were things he much rather would forget, but as was so often the case the things we seek to forget are the hardest to let go of.

Twenty years ago.

Twenty long years ago...

It didn't matter where he went or what he did, the memory followed him. It crawled through the dark recesses of his mind like a cockroach that refused to die, appearing when he least expected. A needle in the shadows, stabbing him when his guard was down. It always set upon him in the same way as a nightmare, bringing with it an unbearable pain that made his blood race.

Twenty years ago the Butcher was a child of nine. He lived in a small city out in the Borderlands, born to a simple family of peddlers. They weren't affluent by any means, but they made enough to enjoy a comfortable living and provide him with an education.

When the night fell that changed his life, it came with a few dozen wasteland raiders who'd managed to sneak their way into the town. They attacked the merchant company his family was a part of. The Butcher could never forget the sound his father made while they hacked him to pieces. He could never forget the miserable death that came to his mother and sister, but only after they were repeatedly raped. He could never forget his brother, stuffing him in a box and hiding it with his body as the wastelanders stabbed him over and over. His own brother's hot, thick blood poured into the box and stained his clothes red.

His family was gone. His life was over.

Day after day the nightmares came, stripping away everything that made him human. He lived, but everything that he was became twisted. The Butcher became the most ardent believer of the faith, but faith alone wasn't enough. If he was going to keep on living he needed something else to dull the ache in his soul. He found the only thing that brought him relief was the cries of heathens, and the screams of wastelanders. The only medicine was their blood.

Once he joined the demonhunters he doggedly applied for any mission that came up. An excuse to torture any wastelander he could get his hands on. It was the last mission that earned him his new name. That was when his former comrades-in-arms started looking at him like a monster. But he didn't care, it was worth it. His only purpose in this life was to exterminate scum. What did it matter what they called him?

The Butcher hated the ones that passed judgment on him! He did nothing wrong, and the great gods above would stand by him if they knew.

It was their fault - the unambitious, the weak, the scared - it was their fault there were still these filthy wretches scrambling through the dirt. There was nothing more important than cleansing the world of these obscene beasts. A few sacrifices for ultimate peace was a small price to pay!

He had almost resigned himself to dying bitter and unsatisfied down in that dungeon when Frost de Winter let him free. He'd heard of the governor's disciple before, of course, but he was surprised by what he found. Despite the demonhunter's n oble exterior the Butcher sensed the same deep-seated hatred for the unclean that he harbored.

The Butcher wasn't interested in Frost's motives. He was just willing to do the work.

Besides his target was a wastelander, someone who instead of sneaking into Skycloud and facing punishment, was living happily in the commander's own home!

How could this happen? It was an affront to the gods!

Had the city fallen so far from grace? For his dedication he lost his name and reputation, but someone like Cloudhawk - who had evil pumping through his very veins - was taken in with open arms! How?

The thought filled him with another surge of anger. He pushed himself to run faster, an ability which allowed himself to greatly increase his speed at the expense of precious energy. It was something he taught himself from his time out in the field, and one he usually only used in life or death situations. He didn't care about that now.

Cloudhawk led the Butcher through the forest for half an hour, constantly ducking down one path and weaving through another. His circuitous route was intentional, he was relying on his quick recovery rate to wear the big man down. But it didn't look like the guy was going to be that easy to shake. He had enough spare energy for a burst of speed at least.

Fuck, he really is a psycho. Like a rabid dog that'll never let go.

He fought like someone with an ax to grind. This sort of motivation came from bone-deep hatred, like Cloudhawk had personally raped and killed his whole family!

This was no good, he didn't have time to deal with this psycho. This was a test, after all, and this fuckwit wasn't make things any easier. He wasn't going to be part of the fifty percent that got kicked out.

Cloudhawk figured his best bet was to use the advantage of surprise. The Butcher was strong, but where he didn't have any relics Cloudhawk still had the phase stone. With its power he completely negated his enemy's overwhelming strength. Temporarily invincibility followed by a decisive counterattack could solve his problem.

While Cloudhawk planned his next move, Oddball shot his master a warning. There was a mass of natives ahead mobilizing for an ambush. They were waiting for Cloudhawk and the others to run right into their trap.

"Excellent! That'll help me save some effort."

Cloudhawk went right for them. He channeled his psychic energy through the stone and it released a field of power that detached him from reality. He didn't have his invisibility cloak, but that didn't stop him from hiding. His body slipped from view, into a particularly thick tree.

Less than three seconds later...

The Butcher charged through the mist and any branches that blocked his path. Cloudhawk had slipped away, and he had no idea he was hiding in a tree not far from where he stood. He pushed on, only to lose all trace of Cloudhawk ten seconds later.

He was beginning to suspect something was amiss when he tread on a silk-thin thread. A net made from tough vines fell from overhead and suddenly he was caught. Pygmy sweepers in their bone-like war paint surrounded him.

"Wasteland mutants!"

The Butcher roared at them like a wild animal. The vine net was strong enough to confound a dire bear, but not enough to hold him. He heaved his great muscles and the vines parted, but before he could free himself the sweepers started throwing spears and firing weapons. Sprays of blood spat out from new wounds on his body.

Poison seeped quickly into his bloodstream. He could feel his muscles stiffening, like he was turning to stone.

The sweeper poison was powerful, a normal person would likely die on the spot. Even the Butcher was losing control of his body. All of his focus had been on Cloudhawk, so he hadn't been paying attention to his surrounds. At any other time he wouldn't have fallen for such a primitive trap.


His screams shook the earth and his eyes were bloody seas of red. Any semblance of reason scattered as madness overtook him. Although he was covered in blood he still surged rushed like a tempest, obliterating a sweeper's head with a single punch. He grabbed a second one and ripped him in two with his bare hands.

Bang! Bang!

The natives' guns fired another volley, tearing open more wounds, but their prey was abnormally tenacious. He wasn't going down unless they got him in a key pot. The Butcher was a raging bull, charging this way and that. Everywhere he passed he was followed by a shower of blood and gore. None of the sweepers' corpses were left intact.

The price he paid for his dogged determination was more than twenty wounds. Poison barbs jutted from his neck to his legs, turning his skin a hideous purplish-black.

"You dirty, rotten wastelander!!"

He took deep, rasping breaths and frothed at the mouth. As he came back to his senses he realized he'd played right into Cloudhawk's hands. He couldn't fight the wastelander now, not like this. That bastard had to be waiting somewhere nearby, biding his time until he couldn't fight back.

That worthless coward!

He burned with rage, but inside he was filled with sorrow. There were still so many of these evil beasts that needed to be cleansed! Was this as far as he would go? But fine, dying in battle was a worthy death. It was better than being executed by those corrupt fucks back in Skycloud!

"I know you're here! Come out!"

Cloudhawk was nearby, hiding behind a tree. He'd watch the scene play out, and by now his wounds were healed. The Butcher didn't stand a chance. But as Cloudhawk was getting ready to finish it...

A tall, thin figure emerged. He had blonde hair and a handsome face, with an almost bashful expression. He had all the gracious bearing of a noble prince. Only, he was surrounded with the stench of death. Gore caked his body from head to toe, and the murderous intent that gushed from him put the Butcher to shame. Clearly he'd just come from some gruesome exchange.

But it was strange.

As terrible as that fight had to have been the blonde man was completely unscathed. Why, then, was he covered in so much blood? It was like he'd swam through a sea of corpses to get here. Almost like he'd covered himself in blood on purpose.

When the Butcher saw him step from the trees his eyes filled with hope. "Help me..."