AP Productions: Winghaven #4

Ten Years Ago…

Farrell Creed and Ella Saraki walked through the dark woods together, the light of their flashlights falling on the foliage surrounding them.  The owner of the property had seen signs of trespassers on his land and after the police had been unsuccessful in finding anyone in the woods, Creed had been hired to remove them.  The owner suspected teenagers or drug addicts. Creed knew better.  The woods in Winghaven were notorious for paranormal activity, even by Winghaven standards, so he knew it was best to talk to Ella.  At the time, her community had a priest by the name of Papa LaRue who volunteered to search the area for spirits or similar threats.  When he did not return, Ella and Creed decided to go together.

“LaRue ain’t careless,” Creed whispered as they ducked under low-hanging branches, “I don’t like thinking about what might be here that could take him out.”

“Just be glad you can’t sense what I sense,” Ella told him, “These woods are dangerous.  You know that but there’s something else tonight.  … A disturbance.”

“I’m starting to wish it was just a couple of meth-heads.”

They approached a clearing and could scarcely make out an unnatural yellow light shimmering between the trees.  Neither of them said anything and instead, turned their flashlights off and made their way to the clearing.  “You approach a king,” a booming voice echoed through the woods, “Tread carefully.”  Creed pulled the gun from his jacket, “Well, that’s a good sign.”  They passed through some bushes, noting that the grass under them was darker in color as was evident by the light shining around them.  Once they entered the clearing, they found a naked man sitting crossed-legged in the grass.  His eyes were closed and his arms were outstretched. Tree roots ran along the surface of the discolored grass, reaching out to the man’s limbs, wrapping themselves around his hands and wrists before burrowing into the flesh of his forearms. The roots weaved in and out of his arms like a careless seamstress sewing fabric. What concerned Ella and Creed the most was that there was no blood despite the torn flesh.

“Who the hell are you?,” Creed asked as he trained his gun on the man.

“I am King Josiah,” the man said, “Priest of Iseda.”

Ella raised her hands in preparation for a mystic assault, “If you’re a follower of Iseda, then you should know I am…”

“I know who you are, Ella Saraki,” King Josiah snapped, “A heretic.  A Reformer priestess. A fool.”

She leaned over to Creed and whispered, “Iconoclasts.”

“Did you kill LaRue?,” Creed asked while making sure to keep him in his sights.

“It wasn’t my intention.  He saw something he shouldn’t have.”

“Saw something he shouldn’t have?,” Ella became angry and drew her attention to the roots jutting from his forearms, “You are digging into the soil, channeling power from what’s beneath. But that isn’t the Earth!  Everyone who follows the way of Iseda, Iconoclast or Reformer, knows there’s something under the ground here in Winghaven and they know to stay away from it.”

“If it’s of the Earth, then it’s part of nature. You know this as much as I do.”

“If you think that thing down there is from this world… or even this realm,… then you’re crazier than I thought.”

A perverse smile spread across Josiah’s face but he kept his eyes closed, “There’s a cleansing coming.  All will be revealed soon and the mysteries of the universe will be made known.”

“I’d rather be surprised,” Creed cocked the hammer back on his gun and turned to Ella, “Ready?”.  She nodded and mystic light emerged from her palms.

From the shadows of the forest beyond the eerie yellow light, Iconoclast men emerged, wielding blades and other melee weapons. “This is your last chance,” Ella called out as her eyes began to glow and her braided hair stood on end, “Your leader perverts all that is sacred to our religion. Even if you follow the tenants of an Iconoclast, you should see it!” The men continued to approach. “They ain’t listening, Mama,” Creed shifted and began shooting as they rushed them. Six men fell almost immediately but there were far more. Ella, meanwhile, raised a mystic shield.  Josiah opened his mouth, releasing an ebony wave of dark matter along with an inhuman shriek that could be heard for almost a mile.  The ink-black dark matter splashed against Mama’s emerald shield as she struggled to contain it.  At the same time, Josiah’s followers got closer and with Creed out of bullets, he was forced to fight close range.  One of them swung a wood axe which Creed ducked under, letting it get stuck in the tree beside him.  He then grabbed the enemy and slammed his face against the axe-handle jutting out. Still more came.  He swung his fist back, knocking another Iconoclast to the ground before grabbing a third man by the face and slamming him to the discolored grass below.  Mystic shields began to crack as Ella struggled under the onslaught of the dark powers from Josiah.

“Need some help!,” she called out.  Thinking quickly, Creed kicked an Iconoclast in the face and grabbed the axe still stuck in the tree beside him.  He pulled it free with one sturdy tug and hurled it at the tree roots sticking out of Josiah’s forearm. The thicket of roots broke apart as the weapon passed by, separating him from some of the power he had been receiving.  Josiah’s eyes finally opened and he looked down in disbelief, briefly stopping his assault.  Mama Saraki cupped her hands, creating a fireball between her palms, then released it.  Josiah and the final root went up in flames, his ashes blown into the night sky in a second.  There was no time for him to scream.  The remaining Iconoclasts stopped to gaze at the burnt spot where their leader once was as the light died down and the sky began to take hold. Normally, light giving way to darkness was an ominous sign but in this situation, it was welcomed.  Creed calmly picked up a knife from one of his fallen enemies and stood next to Ella Saraki who calmly took a battle stance. What was left of King Josiah blew into the wind and the only source of light came from the Moon above as Creed twirled the knife in his hand and asked, “Who’s next?”  The remaining cult members fled into the night.

Present Day…

Stagger Lee’s was a bar on the outskirts of Winghaven.  It was a single story building with a high wooden façade that sported the bar’s signage in big bold letters.  Rows of motorcycles and pickup trucks sat in the gravel parking lot. Creed and Alysa, however, parked behind the bar. Once he had his bike in a particularly dark part of the back lot, Creed picked up a tarp that had been folded and laid against the wall, then used it to cover his motorcycle.  He said nothing and made his way around the building to the front dor with Alysa following; once there, they were greeted by a large man who appeared to have had a broken nose in the past that had been reset.

“Hey, Brett,” Creed walked up to the bouncer with Alysa awkwardly trailing behind him.

“What’s up, Farrell?,” the bouncer shook his hand then looked at Alysa, “You gonna tell me she’s 21?”

“She ain’t drinking.  We just need to hide out for a while.”

“Alright.  Go on in.  Just stay out of sight.”

“That’s the idea.”

Creed came in with Alysa behind him.  It was smoky, somehow, despite the fact no one was smoking in the bar.  A dart board and pool table were set up at opposite ends of the room with the bar itself in the center with two bartenders.  One was a muscular woman wearing mostly leather with tattoos running down her exposed arms.  When she saw Creed, she smiled, “Hey, killer.”  Creed leaned over and kissed her a bit too forcibly for Alysa’s comfort.

“Gross,” Alysa muttered under her breath.

“Cassandra, this is Alysa Saraki,” Creed introduced the two, “Alysa, this is the owner of this dump.”

Cassandra smiled at Alysa in a way that made her feel comfortable for the first time since entering the building, “I’m guessing you need to hide that young lady somewhere?”

“… It’s Mama Saraki’s girl,” Creed’s demeanor suddenly changed.

“Oh,” Cassandra reached out and grabbed her hand, “Oh sweetheart, I’m so sorry.”

“Thanks,” Alysa said quietly, not quite knowing what to make of the situation.

Cassandra turned back to Creed, “Do you know who’s after her?”

“For the most part.  We still need to crash here for a while.  Some goons will come by asking about us tonight, I’m sure. Keep `em preoccupied as long as you can.”

“Okay.  Let’s go to the office,” she left the bar and called out to the other bartender, “I’ll be right back.”

She took them down the hall, passed the restrooms and to her office.  Once inside, she removed a rug in the middle of the room, exposing a hatch.  Creed opened it and began climbing down the short ladder.  Alysa hesitated to follow but Cassandra wrapped a reassuring arm around her, “I know he’s big and mean looking but he’s a teddy bear.”  Creed turned on the light downstairs, “Don’t go putting ideas in people’s heads, Cassie.”  She winked at Alysa and helped her down the ladder.  Once inside, the hatch was closed and the rug replaced.

The small shelter contained a mini-fridge, two chairs, and a small cot in the corner with a blanket and pillow.  “Need to use the toilet, you’ll have to sneak upstairs but make it fast,” Creed opened the mini-fridge and produced a wrapped sandwich and a bottle of water.  He handed them to Alysa who accepted without saying a word, then he reached back into the fridge and grabbed a bottle of beer which he began drinking.

“I thought you said we weren’t here to drink,” Alysa finally spoke up.

“I said you weren’t here to drink.”

She began taking small bites of the sandwich, “Thanks for the sandwich… and helping me out with Agent Johns… or whatever his real name is.”

“It’s just what I do,” Creed sat down in a chair and noticed Alysa remained standing while eating, “Hey, I’m real sorry about your mom,” he began, “She was a fine woman.  Real powerful too.  Saved my ass more than once,” a bittersweet smile spread across his face, “Lots of people get intimidated by me but not her.  She always knew what was up.”

Alysa took a swig of her water, “So this whole thing is about you and mom killing that one guy… King Josiah?”

“Seems that way.  Me and your mom took him out… maybe about ten years ago?  He killed one of your priests.  Papa LaRue.  Remember him?”

“A little.  They had ten years to come at us.  Feels like this is more than revenge.”

“You’re probably right.  They’re going all out with this.  They went far enough to hire hitmen to bomb your Community Center.  Iconoclasts don’t do that normally, do they?”

“Nah.  I guess they’re bending the rules,” Alysa finally sat down and continued to eat in silence.

Above, Cassandra leaned on the bar as she spoke to three men in suits.  “Farrell Creed?,” she repeated the name that was given to her as if trying to remember it and squinted at the photo being shown to her, “Yeah, he’s a regular here.  Why?”

Johns put his phone down momentarily, “We’ve heard he frequents this place. We have reason to believe he’s kidnapped this girl,” he raised his phone again to show a photo of Alysa.

“Never saw that girl in my life, but Farrell comes in here all the time,” Cassandra assured him, “Wait around long enough, you’ll probably see `im. Have a seat by the door.”

“We appreciate your help.”

“Can’t I get you a drink in the meantime?”

Johns didn’t answer and instead, marched to a table near the entrance with his men following.  Cassandra watched them closely for the rest of the night.  Down below, Creed and Alysa sat in awkward silence.

“Wanna hear some music or someth’n?,” he asked finally.  Alysa shrugged before taking a swig from her bottled water.  He pulled his phone from his pocket and began searching through his music app.  Soon, Alysa began to hear a familiar song.

“That’s Sam Hopkins…,” she perked up, “Woke up This Morning,” she smiled faintly, “It’s -”

“… Your mom’s favorite.  I know,” Creed turned up the music and placed his phone down on the cot so they could both listen, “Hopkins was a helluva guitar player.  Thought you might like it.”

Alysa listened quietly until the memories came back. She remembered hearing the song while helping her mother fold laundry. She knew her mother would never play that song for her again. She’ll never fold laundry with her again. Such a mundane activity but somehow, deeply missed.  She closed her eyes and a single tear rolled down her cheek.  Creed sat up uncomfortably as she curled up into her chair and began to softly cry.  “Sorry, I didn’t mean to…,” he began to fumble with his words as he tried his best to comfort her, “I can turn this off if -”

“No, no keep it on,” she said quietly, “Thanks.”

Creed sat on the floor in front of her, “Listen, I’m gonna find everyone responsible for your mom’s death. I’m gonna take out Johns and his men. The Iconoclasts. Everyone.  I’m gonna find them and I’m gonna make them pay.”

“No you won’t,” Alysa wiped a tear away and the sadness from her face disappeared, replaced by grim determination, “… We will.”

3 thoughts on “AP Productions: Winghaven #4

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