Laticia and Sonny were in the path of the charging boogeymen. Laticia took down two, but left herself open to the talons of a third. The creature’s swing would have done worse than ripping away one of her eyes had Sonny not shoved her away. His gesture then left himself open to the strike that slit open the stitching on his side. Gasping, Sonny tried to force his hand to close over his dropped sword, but the paw would not cooperate.
A breath later the two bears were circled by their comrades, creating a constantly moving wheel, each covering the bear to their left. Although the boogeymen quickly surrounded them, the beasts could not break the wheel. They were all dimly aware that the bogey was pinching the raised bumps on it’s flesh, drawing out something that, when thrown down, creating a boogeyman. It cackled while continuing to do this, creating more and more opponents.
The bears struck them down as fast as they sprang up from the ground. Within their circle, Laticia struggled to bind up Sonny’s wound.
“We are at an impasse,” Ambrose grunted.
Barnabus and Marley swung their swords in a smooth rhythm, as though they could sense each other’s moves.
“You ready to fly, lady?”
Marley looked sidelong at Barnabus and nodded. He crouched quickly and she leapt onto his shoulders. Barnabus stood, flexing his entire body, and hurled Marley over the heads of the boogeymen. She hit the ground rolling, charging at the bogey that had haunted her thoughts for years. The creature recoiled at her approach, digging at itself to bring out more of the seeds that birthed his offspring. He wasn’t swift enough.
Marley slammed her sword into the bogey’s mid-section, causing it to fold up. The impact sounded like the crinkling of old parchment over a sack of flour. She immediately began to hammer at the bumps on its body.
Barnabus went wild against the boogeymen in case she needed aid. Latricia leapt back into the fray and the bears made quick work of the remaining creatures. He stopped the younger bear from charging the bogey.
“We wait,” he said. “This is her fight and we only step in if needed.”
They watched Marley wheel and leap around the bogey, staying one step ahead of its attacks. Her sword repeatedly hammered into the bogey, but without completely causing it to fall. Regardless, it was slowing down, becoming more lethargic as the duel carried on.
“What’s wrong with it,” Ambrose said.
Barnabus grinned mirthlessly.
“She’s shattering the boogeyman seeds and they are poisoning the bogey.”
They watched with apprehension, even though Marley seemed to be winning. The bogey was certainly slowing down and its flesh seemed to be bubbling. Her sword strikes began to cause great rents in the creature. A dark, sizzling, substance began to spill out. The bogey seemed to be deflating as the ichor continued to drain.
A gurgling escaped the bogey’s mouth, and Marley hesitated before striking it again. Its body began to flop around, as though the escaping fluid was all that gave it solidity. When it finally collapsed, the remains quickly turned to dust. It was less than a minute before all that remained was a small drift of dust and some ichor that had not dissipated. There was a wild look in Marley’s eyes as she watched the bogey disappear.
Ambrose and Montrose helped Sonny up and all began to move towards the victorious bear except Barnabus, who remained still. They paused and looked from him to Marley, all unsure of what to do. It was some time before Barnabus began to move. He approached her slowly, stopping an arm’s length from the bear.
“How are you,” he asked softly.
She still looked flushed and wild when her head came up. Looking at him through the corners of her eyes, she mutely raised The Queen, offering it to Barnabus. He shook his head and she tucked it away in her robes. He mirrored her motion and The Rook disappeared before stepping behind her and wrapping arms around her shoulders. She sighed and held his arms.
“You’re still a careless fool,” she said, continuing with, “but I’ve missed you.”
“I’m working on it,” Barnabus said. He held her until she moved away.
He gave her hand a brief squeeze and began walking away. Montrose worlessly followed him and Marley put a hand on his shoulder as the bears passed each other.
The other bears were gathered around the small cabinet. Marley joined them, staring at it and the network of strings. She remained silent as the other three chattered over what it meant. Eventually she jerked back, her eyes widening as she realized what it meant. Drawing The Queen, Marley severed the strings and smashed the thing before her. Saying nothing, the bear turned and began walking out of the nightmare.
“What in all hells was that about,” Sonny whispered.