HOUSE OF BLADES

The Form:

Name: Peter Loving

Name Of Main Character You Want And Gender: Jeremy, male

Genre: Kung Fu

Character Description: Jeremy is 6"2 and skinny. He has no sense of humour. 

Special Info: He is travelling around the world's biggest kung fu tournaments trying to find out where his daddy is. 

Here's the story challenge. Never writing kung fu again. I learned I know nothing about the genre or fighting. I just want everyone to love each other.

 

HOUSE OF BLADES

1:

Jeremy stood at the reception desk for over twenty seconds, just watching the receptionist play on his iPhone. He looked around at the faded brick walls of the tiny hotel. He couldn’t imagine many people staying here. Firstly, who would want to stay in such an unloved shithole? Secondly, who would want to stay in Truro in winter? Nothing but places to eat and beaches you could look at, wishing it was sunny so you could enjoy them.

Jeremy grew annoyed at the tinny sounds of the game the receptionist was engrossed in. The receptionist was six feet tall, in casual jeans and a t-shirt with a slogan on it. Jeremy found it embarrassing that someone clearly in their fifties would wear a t-shirt that reads ‘Don’t Need A Permit For These Guns.’ His build suited the role of a bouncer, but Jeremy thought he could take him. He was two inches taller, and while skinny, he was muscly and quick.

Jeremy brushed his long brown hair out of his pale face and coughed to get the receptionist’s attention.

Nothing.

Fed up, Jeremy pressed a fancy yellow note onto the dirty, splintered desk without taking his hand off it, as though the paper was the most precious thing in his life. It had brown corners and a watermark of a chalice full of swords.

“Do you know a man with this hand-writing?”

The receptionist continued his vendetta against hospitality.

Jeremy slid the note further towards him, again keeping his hand on it. He tapped the desk with his finger.

The receptionist glanced away from his iPhone screen to scan the note.

It read ‘I will always love you.’ The letters had an artistic style, as though each one was carefully executed.

“No,” he said in a gruff tone. He returned to his game.

Jeremy put the note in the inside pocket of his black coat.

“Is there anyone else here I can ask?”

“No.”

“Are you sure? I heard someone in the back. Maybe I could ask them?”

The receptionist realised Jeremy would not go away. He took a deep breath.

“Jara! Come and deal with this.”

Jara, in his mid forties, barely taller than the reception desk, applied a roller to remove the hair off his suit as he emerged from the back room. “What do you want?” he said in his bizarre accent. A mix of Cornish and Chinese.

Jeremy took the note from his pocket and held it so Jara could see it. Jeremy studied his first reaction to the note, and saw a flicker in his eyes that suggested he knew something.

“I will always love you,” Jara read aloud. He smiled. “Is that a note from Whitney Houston?” Jara turned to the receptionist and laughed. The receptionist laughed without looking up from his screen.

Jeremy didn’t share in the laugh. In fact, he hated jokes. Especially when the matter at hand was so serious.

Jara put his hand in his inside pocket, grabbed a knife handle, and turned around. Jeremy’s boot smashed Jara’s nose into pulp before he could strike. The knife flew out of his hand. Jara collapsed to the floor in agony, holding the mess or cartilage and bone against his face.

The receptionist put his iPhone on the desk and leapt over it. He attempted a right hook. Jeremy dodged effortlessly but was caught by a left jab to the ribs. The receptionist booted Jeremy in the chest, pushing him against the chipped brick wall.

He punched Jeremy in the stomach, then again. Jeremy side stepped an uppercut. The receptionist knocked him back with an elbow. Jeremy was bent over the reception desk.

The receptionist hammered his fist against Jeremy’s back. Pain shot through his spine. Jeremy kicked back and connected with the receptionist’s left knee, knocking him back. The receptionist jumped on Jeremy’s back, but Jeremy elbowed him in the face until he released him. Jeremy grabbed the iPhone and threw it at the receptionist’s throat. He caught it, but Jeremy’s foot jammed it into the receptionist’s throat. As he coughed and struggled, Jeremy landed six quick jabs in the receptionist's kidneys. As the receptionist arched his back in pain, Jeremy elbowed him in the lower back, put an arm around his neck, and forced his back down onto his knee. The receptionist squealed as his back gave way. Jeremy stomped his face into his iPhone screen. He looked at the crumpled heap on the floor. The receptionist rolled over, bits of glass in his face. Jeremy moved over to Jara.

“Do you know who has this hand writing?”

Jara, shaken, looked again. He smiled at Jeremy. “Fuck you.”

Jeremy stomped on Jara’s knee, shattering it. Jeremy walked over to the receptionist and kicked him in the head. He went totally limp.

“You won’t be so lucky,” Jeremy said. “I’m going to make you suffer until you talk.” Jeremy sat on the floor and stared at Jara. The waiting game...

Jeremy was looking for his father, Fred, for three weeks. Jeremy had been in New York for four years, working as an English teacher while occasionally entering kung fu tournaments to keep his practice up. He’d got back to Norwich to find the house he shared with his father a total mess. The walls had bumps in them, the furniture was shredded, and all that he found was the note, which was odd in itself as he realised he’d never seen his father’s hand writing.

Fred had emailed Jeremy a lot while he was away, but things changed during their exchanges. From long, boring emails about how lovely the weather in Norwich was and how the tomato plant was growing, to short, less than a sentence emails expressing paranoia. Fred would often say he thought he was being followed, or watched, but Jeremy put that down to him being lonely and over thinking things.

Jeremy loved his father dearly. His mother died in child birth, so it was just the two of them. Fred had got Jeremy into martial arts at a young age from watching Bruce Lee films, to teaching him moves in the garden. Fred was a decorator, but had learned marital arts as a child. He was an incredible fighter and Jeremy would ask him to teach classes or enter tournaments, but Fred had no interest in that outside of having fun with his son. Jeremy remembered his favourite move. He'd pull an opponent in by the arm while roundhouse kicking them to the back of the head. It would allow him to knock them off balance and towards him where he could do some fast paced damage.

Jeremy remembered one email in particular. It was just a picture of a symbol – a sword wedged in the side of a house.

The same symbol he was staring at on Jara’s wrist. And the same symbol that led him to Truro when he found someone on a forum who had posted a picture of the very hotel he was in.

Jeremy played with Jara's knife. “I’m going to ask you one last time. Do you know someone with this hand writing?”

Jara spat blood on the floor. “Of… of course I do.”

Finally, Jeremy thought.

“But I’m not telling you anything,” Jara said.

Jeremy got up and stomped on Jara’s wrist, breaking it. He walked to the back room. He had no idea what he was looking for.

Jara laughed at him from the reception area.

Jeremy searched files. He thought the log book would be useful, but this place was a shambles and the book was covered in doodles. He searched the drawers and came across kung fu pads. He searched the computer for emails, hoping inspiration would strike.

A car could be heard screeching out front. Jeremy knew whoever it was would be coming here, as there was nothing else nearby.

“They’re coming for you,” Jara laughed. “Help! Help!”

Jeremy scanned emails and found one about a bet. Jara had received an email from a man named Karl Telson.

Email:

Jara, Just to confirm you want to stick £2000 on The Soul Slayer to piss away the competition on Sunday? It’s a good bet. I’m putting £10,000 on him myself. Let me know if you’ll make it to London and I’ll buy some extra champagne.

Jeremy crept out of the back room undetected and hid around the corner. He peered around to see two men rush in.

“Boss, are you ok?”

“Hurry. He’s in the back room,” Jara said. “Kick the shit out of him.”

They rushed to the back room. Then the blonde one came back in to the reception area. “There’s nobody in there, boss.”

‘What?”

Jeremy kicked the blonde one in the head. He was out cold, slumped over the desk.

His colleague ran out when he heard the commotion and was met with a kick to the back of the knee, and a forearm smash to the back of the neck.

Jeremy asked him once.

“Where can I find The Soul Slayer and Karl Tenson?”

The man looked at Jara, a mess. Jara shook his head, ordering him to stay quiet. The man looked at Jeremy, hate in his eyes, with the man's his life in his hands.

2:

Jeremy waved some cash at the bouncer as he entered the side door to the warehouse in East London. He nodded.

A cramped crowd of drunk idiots had formed around half of a pit. The other half was dedicated to a stage with a few seats on it, reserved for whoever the bosses of this barbaric tournament were. Jeremy assumed one would be Karl Telson.

“How can I register?” Jeremy asked the little ginger man taking bets.

“No chance mate. It’s full.”

He turned to walk away, but Jeremy grabbed his arm. “Please. I have to be in this tournament."

The man pulled his arm away.

"I've already won tournaments in France, Belgium, Argentina, and Nigeria. Give me a chance," Jeremy pleaded.

The man looked at a wiry topless man. He came over.

“Need me to get rid of him?” the wiry man asked.

“Please.”

“I’m sorry. I’m just a bit desperate is all.”

The ginger man considered. “Nah. Fuck you. Get rid of him Laz.”

“Gladly.”

Laz pointed Jeremy towards the door. Giving him one chance to back down in a civilised way.

Jeremy stood still.

“Suppose it’s good to get a warm up,” Laz said to the ginger man.

He put his hand on Jeremy’s shoulder, but Jeremy head-butted him, then gauged him in both eyes.

“My eyes!” Laz stumbled around, feeling for any familiarity.

Jeremy watched him for a moment then gave him a roundhouse kick around the back of the head, knocking him face first onto the dirt.

Jeremy looked at the ginger man. “Looks like there’s a spot that needs filling.”

 

Three suited men took to the stage area. Two of them sat while the bearded old man in the middle stayed standing. The crowd cheered until he requested silence.

“Thank you for coming," he said. "We have some great fighters on show for you tonight. The rules are simple. Two men enter the pit. The winner is declared when one of the men is knocked out or gives up. The overall winner will take home ten grand!”

The crowd cheered.

“Now bet on who you think will win, so you can go home to your wives richer and far more appealing.”

Pockets of laughter burst around the crowd. Jeremy didn’t appreciate the poor joke.

 

Jeremy watched the first fight. The Soul Slayer made quick work of what looked like a lost businessman. Jeremy studied his movements and his use of the Emei Martial arts. The quick, forceful movements of his feet. His ability to shift from defence to offence and his steady powerful strikes showed a mastery Jeremy had not seen. He would dizzy his opponent, then strike one clean blow, giving him the chance to mount an offence that put the bout to bed.

Jeremy made short work of his fights too. His first opponent was drunk and easy to dispatch. He let the man have a frenzied attempt at an offence then punched him square in the head, laying him out. It required no skill or thought. Jeremy’s second opponent used Wudang, Jeremy’s own preferred style. But while his opponent had a basic usage of Wudang, Jeremy had spent years evolving the form with street fighting and wrestling. Balancing the art of defence with potent attacks and close combat. Jeremy dodged until he saw an opening and kicked the man in the forehead. Jeremy’s third opponent was fat and slow, but his blows were brutal. Jeremy took a punch to the ribs and felt two break under the force. He struggled to catch his breath but managed to avoid further damage until he was more mobile. The brute swung for Jeremy’s face, but Jeremy weaved, came up behind him, jumped up and kneed him in the back of the head. He fell to his hands and knees. Jeremy delivered an axe kick to his head to knock him out.

After each fight he would glance at the three white men. They remained motionless.

Jeremy was exhausted from the brawl, but there was no waiting. It was straight into the final. Face to face with The Soul Slayer, he was already at a disadvantage.

The Soul Slayer smiled through his tattooed face. “I’ll allow you to give up to save your other ribs,” he said.

Jeremy stepped towards him.

“Idiot,” The Soul Slayer said, flexing his pecs. He adopted an attacking stance, and leant forward on his left foot. Jeremy anticipated the high kick. He booted The Soul Slayer straight in the balls. No defence in the world could withstand that. An elbow to the back of the neck, and a knee to the side of the head. Game over.

The crowd went wild, and Jeremy noticed the rich white men were furious. It seemed he’d disrupted the natural order of things.

Jeremy looked around the crowd and raised his arms in triumph. A club smashed into the back of Jeremy’s head. 

 

He came to on a leather armchair in the private room of a nightclub. His hands and feet were bound. The three white men stood before him. He studied them all for a sign of the symbol.

Nothing.

“You cost me a lot of money,” the bearded one said.

Jeremy refused to speak.

In a flash, a hand rapped him across the mouth. “We're fucked! Because of this asshole!” The small Chinese man stared him down and walked to the other end of the room to calm down.

The other old white man put a gun on the table, facing Jeremy. “I shoot people I consider cunts.” He scratched his neck. “I consider you a cunt.”

The bearded one untied Jeremy’s hands. “Move and Franco will shoot.”

“Maybe I'll shoot the three of you now. My employers won't be happy about this, Karl.”

Jeremy found his guy.

“Shooting him isn’t going to get the money we owe you.” Karl offered Jeremy some water.

Jeremy palmed the glass into Franco’s face, stunning him, then punched Karl in the ribs. Jeremy lifted his bound feet and slammed them onto the table. It flipped and the gun fell towards Jeremy. He caught it and pulled Karl down towards him and held the gun to his head. “Either of you moves and his brain leaves his head.”

The men looked at each other.

“My inside pocket. Grab the note. Slowly.”

Karl grabbed the note.

“Do you know who has hand writing like this?” He was always reluctant to say it was his father, in case it would end in a swift execution.

Karl’s eyes widened as he looked at the note. He showed the others who hid their shock. 

“Why are you in possession of this note?” Franco asked.

“My father left it for me.”

 “Your father?” Karl said, confused.

“Fred Page. What did you do to him?”

“Who the fuck is Fred Page?”

Jeremy squeezed his forearm tighter around Karl’s throat.

“We know nothing!”

“We’re just gamblers,” the Chinese man said.

“Gamblers who are now in a lot of debt,” Franco added.

“Lies! What about Jara?”

“Jara?” Karl said. “That’s just business. We’re not part of the House of Blades.” Karl coughed, the pressure against his throat. “These fights bring our gangs together for the things we like in common. Bloodshed and betting. The Soul Slayer was going to make us a lot of money for Franco to take back to his employers. But you kind of fucked that.”

Jeremy let Karl go. He rolled over the back of the armchair and kept the gun pointed at the three men. Switching it from one to the other to keep them on their toes. He took a photo of his dad from his pocket. 

Karl recognised him instantly. “That's not Fred Page."

"What?" Jeremy said.

"That's Sandu Jai."

Jeremy was tempted to shoot them all.

And we know exactly where you can find him.”

“Where?”

“It’s not that simple. You fucked us. If you want to find your dad, you have to do us a little favour.”

“Just take the ten grand I won.”

"Not enough. You took out our prize fighter, and we need a replacement."

"How do I know this isn't bullshit?"

"Your father was in the House of Blades and left. They don't let people just go so he would've escaped and changed his identity. Looks like they finally caught up with him."

Jeremy didn't want to believe them but it made sense that they were always moving house and his dad was so secretive about his past.

“On the Blades mountain in China, there is a martial arts contest like no other. Huge bets, huge prestige. If you enter and win, you get us out of trouble, and an audience with your father’s captors.” 

It was Jeremy's best chance. “When do we leave?”

“Tomorrow.” Karl shook his hand. “There’s one catch though. It’s not a battle to knock out or submission. It’s a gauntlet up the mountain… and it’s to the death.”

3:

A crowd gathered at the bottom of Blades Mountain. The House of Blades had claimed a sacred Chinese mountain as their stronghold and nobody dared complain. Karl had explained to Jeremy that the gauntlet took place daily for one week. The House of Blades had champions, and they would be placed on the way up the mountain. Each day, one person, representing another gang, would try to make it to the top. If anyone completed the gauntlet, they would be paid one million dollars. 

Jeremy saw various gangs from different countries. Karl pointed them all out to him. The snake tattoos representing the Hayeh gang from Egypt. The brand of a sun of ash belonged to the Sulking Suns of France. The identical orange outfits of the Dutch represented the Pure Fists. More than twenty gangs had come together for the biggest occasion, and they were united in their thirst for death and violence.

The car stopped at the base of the mountain.

“What gang are you?” Jeremy asked Karl.

“We’re just business men from England.”

Karl, Franco and the Chinese man laughed. Jeremy didn’t.

"You're scum bags," Jeremy said.

Karl took Jeremy to the start of the path. A short man with a horn around his neck approached. he wore the House of Blades tattoo on his bare chest.

“You've got some balls showing up here without The Soul Slayer and the money,” the short man said.

"This man slayed the slayer," Franco said.

The short man looked Jeremy up and down. He was unimpressed. “Up you go.” 

Jeremy looked up the narrow path and walked. The short man blew the horn. The crowd followed up the path.

Jeremy walked for half an hour until the rocky path widened. The horn blew again. A gangly, feral man, slightly shorter than Jeremy, wearing only a pair of dirty shorts climbed down from a ledge. He smiled at Jeremy through his chipped, blackened teeth. His eyes were bloodshot and his bones poked through his sinewy frame. He was quick on his feet, hopping from one to the other. He didn’t appear to favour either.

Jeremy wasn’t sure whether he was meant to wait for a signal or start fighting. The feral man leapt forward with a punch combo that connected with Jeremy’s shoulder then chest. He leapt back. Jeremy had his answer.

The feral man came again, the same combo but a blow to the face. Jeremy's blood dotted the grey rocks. He wiped his cut lip on his cuff. Jeremy attempted an open palmed strike but got a kick to the injured ribs for his troubles.

The feral man changed stance bringing his left side forward and attacking with kicks. High kicks, low kicks, sweeps. Jeremy blocked them all but couldn’t get close. He’d need to turn this into close combat as his reach was inferior to his gangly opponent.

The short man turned to Karl. “I hope you weren't planning on paying your debt by him winning.”

Karl was worried. Jeremy wouldn’t be able to block forever. He could already see his arms and legs tiring from the constant barrage of blows.

The feral man forced Jeremy further back. The environment was of no use to him. Jeremy knew he would get one chance. There was no way anyone could sustain throwing this many kicks without leaving an opening at some point. Jeremy let himself continue to take a pounding. He studied the rhythm. Kick, kick, kick. Kick, kick, kick. Kick, kick… kick. The third kick in the combo was getting slower.

The feral man went for the third kick again. Jeremy deflected the blow to cushion it with his hip, then trapped the feral man’s ankle under his arm. He brought his elbow down, just over the feral man’s knee. His leg collapsed.

Karl shared a look of relief with his colleagues. 

The crowd sensed the end.

Jeremy hit a flurry of punches on the man’s chest and hammered a forearm against his collar bone, cracking it.

One thing that struck Jeremy was the man’s desperation. He looked like he’d lost all sense of himself and that he was bred purely to kill. Jeremy felt sorry for him.

“Finish him before he finishes you,” Karl said.

The crowd chanted ‘KILL’.

Jeremy, knowing he had to do it to find his father, gave the feral man a swift end with a neck breaking kick to the head. Blood sprayed over the rocks.

The crowd cheered.

The horn sounded. “Keep walking,” the short man said.

Jeremy continued up a narrower path towards some trees.

The short man nodded at some House of Blades members to clear up the body. “Select a new level one fighter tomorrow,” he told them.

They picked up the feral man. Jeremy looked back to see them simply throw the body over the side of the mountain.

“Keep your eyes forward,” Karl warned Jeremy.

"Something isn't right. That fighter wasn't normal."

"The less you think about ethics the better."

They came to a path half way down a waterfall, between rock and water. It was a few feet wide with water flowing against Jeremy’s feet. Jeremy hated the idea of fighting on a narrow, wet, path, and the horn confirmed his worst fears. The crowd stayed at one end of the fall.

From the other side of the waterfall a hooded figure slowly walked towards Jeremy.

“This one likes to take his time,” the small man said to Karl. “Yesterday, he disposed of the Hayeh fighter in less than one minute. Didn’t even remove his cloak. Just walked up to him, let him land a couple of hits, then grabbed him around the throat and held him over the edge. He spoke to him about death for forty seconds before throwing him to his watery death.”

Jeremy and the hooded figure never took their eyes off each other. Instead of waiting, Jeremy walked towards him.

“He now holds the record for quickest death,” the short man said.

The hooded figure turned his palms up in a welcoming gesture to unnerve Jeremy. He thrust a palm towards Jeremy, who grabbed his wrist, snapped it, and kicked him through the waterfall to his death.

“Best rewrite the record books,” Karl said.

The horn sounded.

They came to a narrow path between two cliffs. “This is the path of weeping trees,” the short man informed Jeremy.

Trees dangled from the cliffs, as though their roots were fingertips desperately clinging on to safety. The horn sounded again. “Good luck.”

Jeremy wondered what would come down the path. Another feral man, or woman? A brute? A drunk? He didn’t care. He could handle it.

Children.

A brother and sister by the looks of it. No older than eleven. One dragged a chain along the ground while the other held a dagger. Hunger and anger in their eyes.

Jeremy couldn’t fight children. This was a step too far. The girl swung the chain. It grazed his cheek. The boy sliced with the dagger but missed. Jeremy dodged as much as he could while he figured out what to do.

The crowd grew restless as Jeremy refused to mount an attack.

Karl couldn't believe what he was seeing. Children on the brink of starvation fighting for sport. 

"They're not your kids," Franco said. 

The Chinese man laughed. 

Concerned by the lack of action, the short man blew the horn. Everyone looked confused. Above, on the cliffs, House of Blades members emerged with rocks. They threw them down at Jeremy.

The boy sliced at Jeremy repeatedly, eventually catching Jeremy’s arm. Blood seeped through Jeremy’s jumper. A rock narrowly missed his head.

The boy swung again, and Jeremy kicked the dagger out of his hand. Jeremy went to kick it further away, but his leg was swept from under him by the chain.

Iron lashed his legs twice.

The chain came down and narrowly missed his head as he rolled away. Rocks smashed either side of his body, then between his legs, and next to his neck. The boy retrieved his dagger. He was in front of Jeremy, while the girl was behind him. The men with rocks were ready to smash him.

The boy charged at Jeremy as rocks flew down. Jeremy heard the chain, turned around, caught it around his wrist, and pulled the girl in. He sidestepped in time for the boys dagger to pierce his sister’s stomach and a rock to crack the boy’s skull. The girl fell to her knees. No tears, no pain, just a slow death. The boy was limp.

The horn sounded. Jeremy looked at the bodies. The emotional strain weighed his body down and he fell to his knees.

"Come on cunt," Franco said. 

Karl offered Jeremy his hand and helped him up. He was clearly disturbed by what he saw. They walked on. Jeremy was overcome with a sense of hatred for the House of Blades.

The summit was a paradise. Marble fountains, fake grass, and glossy wooden houses. Swords were wedged into the rocks forming a ring of blades around a grand temple. Jeremy looked in the windows to see people tied up being lashed.

Three elders of the House of Blades sat around a wooden table on the grass, eating a feast of meats. One of them looked up, surprised someone had made it to the final battle. An elder nodded towards a wooden door in the ground by the temple.

“The final battle!” the short man announced.

Jeremy stared at the door, awaiting the next horror. Instead, a steel cage was dragged up and out of it by three men. They were unaffected by the aggressive screams coming from the man in the cage.

His clothes had lash marks and the cuts on his arms were there for all to see. He looked like he’d been whipped as punishment. He had a mask on and he had a blood stained bandage over his eyes. His hair had been ripped out in patches.

“This is some dark shit,” Karl said.

"They like to make their fighters desperate. Pushes emotion out of their minds," Franco said.

The short man smiled. “Total silence during this battle!” he told the crowd and blew his horn.

The cage opened, and the blind man stepped out and walked out of the perimeters of the temple. He got a sense of his surroundings then turned and faced Jeremy.

Jeremy tip toed towards the man, trying to get around him.

He was close to being behind him, but the man turned to face him again.

Jeremy did a roundhouse kick but the man ducked and open palmed him straight in the heart. Jeremy stumbled back, deciding to be more cautious.

He waited for the man to make a move but all he did was wait. Jeremy looked at the elders. They ate, not giving a shit. One of them demanded more food from a serving boy.

Jeremy took a step towards the man. A kick to the chin nearly took Jeremy’s head off.  The man followed it up with a kick to Jeremy’s knee, a chop to the throat, then grabbed his arm and roundhouse kicked Jeremy in the back of the head, knocking him onto his knees. The man elbowed Jeremy on the back of the neck. He raised his foot to stomp down but Jeremy rolled away. He was familiar with all these moves yet could do nothing to stop them.

One of the elders stood from the table.

“End it.”

The short man nodded and grabbed two spears from a House of Blades member. He threw one near Jeremy. The man caught his in his right hand and tapped it off the floor.

Jeremy kicked the spear up into his hand and swung for the man’s legs.  The man blocked with the spear point and hit the bottom of the spear against Jeremy’s chin.

The man slashed but Jeremy parried and struck with a kick to the man’s ribs. It had no effect. Jeremy thrust the spear at the man’s mid section. He swatted it out of the way and jumped at Jeremy, slicing his calf. Jeremy fell to the floor.

Karl couldn’t believe it.

The man took his eye bandage off, revealing sockets where his eyes once were. He looked like a demon. He held the spear and pointed it right at Jeremy.

“Sorry father,” Jeremy muttered to the sky. “I tried.”

The man’s shoulders dropped. He threw the spear wide of Jeremy. The elders looked shocked.

He walked behind Jeremy and put him in a choke hold, not applying enough pressure.

“Jeremy?” the man said.

“Dad?” Jeremy replied.

“We have to… escape.”

Jeremy could barely understand him thought the mask.

“Back… down the mountain.”

“Ok.”

“Fight me towards the crowd to clear a path.”

Jeremy pretended to be passing out, then reached for the spear nearby and used the blunt end to hammer at his dad’s head.

He knocked him towards the crowd and swung the spear around, making them separate.

Jeremy's dad grabbed his head. "Where are the elders?"

"Behind you."

Jeremy's dad threw the spear directly into the middle elder's heart.

Jeremy took his father’s hand and they ran.

The House of Blades members gave chase. They avoided them and got over the waterfall but the short man had gained on them.

They got to the bottom of the mountain.

“Stop!” the short man shouted. He pointed a gun at them. “Nobody leaves the House of Blades without our permission,” he said.

The rest of the gangs were catching up. “Looks like you die today.”

Karl smashed the short man over the head with his forearm. He took the gun and threw Jeremy his car keys.

“Go! I’ll hold these pricks back.”

“Come with us.”

“Someone needs to delay them.”

Jeremy looked at him, confused.

“I’m dead either way. Might as well die trying to redeem myself.”

Jeremy and his dad got in the car and left. In the rear view mirror Jeremy saw Karl kick the shit out of some House of Blades assholes and shoot his colleagues before being overwhelmed.

4:

Back in Norwich, Jeremy repaired the front room as his dad sat on the sofa.

“How did you find me?”

“Your note led me to you.”

“Note?”

“I will always love you.”

“I left no note. I started seeing the House of Blades lurking around here and destroyed the house to make it look like I’d already been kidnapped, but they found me. I left no trace. I was trying to save you.”

“But I have the note.”

“Describe it.”

“The letters are all very artistic, like a work of art. And there's a watermark of a chalice full of swords.”

Fred was worried.

“Does the I letter curve off into a spikey point?”

“Yeah.”

“Are the letters all thin?”

“Yes.”

“And do the lines of the letter E on love look like they’re bleeding?”

“Yes,” Jeremy said, confused.

Fred’s tone turned to one of fear. “That note wasn’t for you. It was for me.” Fred stood up.

“It’s from your mother.”

“But…”

“She never died in child birth. We had you while I was still a member of the House of Blades, and she was the wife of the leader. She lied and said you were his son, but he knew deep down you weren’t.”

Jeremy struggled to understand the severity.

Fred felt around the wall. “He was sterile, and there were no miracles. He threatened to throw you off the mountain, so she gave you to me to escape. We moved constantly. Always avoiding them, but eventually they found us. I never had any communication with your mother. For safety reasons.”

Fred stopped at a part of the wall.

“Last I’d heard she was tortured for saving us and turned into one of their fighters.”

He punched a hole in the wall and took out a leather satchel and threw it to Jeremy.

Jeremy opened it to take out several photos of his mother and maps.

“We have to find her, before it’s too late.”

END