If I try hard, maybe before the end of the year! Haha, but I wanna aim for June 1st at the latest. We'll see how that goes, but I can do over 1K a day if I set my mind to it so I should be able to do it easily if I don't get distracted by shiney internets.
Don't worry, I'm sure those shiny internets will find a way to distract you. They're very good at that.
|›› CHAPTER TWO ›› DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE|
“I have to hand it to you, Clint. When you think of insane ideas you go as big as the best of them,” Bobbi said, skeptically eyeing the enormous rock ahead of them.
“Comes with being an ex-criminal,” Clint replied, angling his head to look under a small thorny bush. Not far outside the courtyard, they had found an access way that opened up to a steep incline that led to the base of the rock. They were hoping to find clues that the tattooed woman had passed through the area and the direction she came from. So far, they had searched for half an hour and hadn’t found so much as a hair.
“I just hope you have a prisoner sniffing arrowhead in your pocket, there’s over a 150 caves in the rock.”
Clint frowned. “That’s…a lot of caves.”
Bobbi knelt by the roadside and scanned the coarse stretch of land that sharply rose up to the base of the rock. If there had once been foot prints stamped into the earth they were gone now, eroded by weather or animals. A few scraps of trash littered the area; an old McDonalds wrapper caught in the arms of a bush, a crushed empty pack of cigarettes a few feet from the pavement, and an empty plastic bottle half covered in dirt. She took a closer look at each, but there was nothing interesting, just random trash from people too careless to clean up after themselves. Bobbi clicked her tongue as she shifted her weight off her knees and took a second look at the area.
“Well, look what ol’ Hawkeye found.”
She raised her eyes to where he stood several yards away, halfway up the slope. “What is it?”
Clint turned his head toward her. “An arrow.”
Trash quickly forgotten, Bobbi hurried up to him, mindful of the difficult terrain, and looked at the ground for the arrow. She didn’t see anything. There was nothing but dirt and overgrown shrubs. “What exactly am I looking at?”
“Look at the shrub,” he said pointing to one, “the limbs are broken.”
“Congratulations, you found a broken stick. How does that help us?”
“It isn’t just one of them, it’s a whole line of shrubs. All broken in the same direction, all recently. Someone had to do it,” Clint pointed past the shrubs toward the rock, “and it looks like they came from that direction.”
“Were you moonlighting as a bounty hunter while you were committing crimes from your volcano hideout?”
“Hey, I was obsessed with the Wild West as a kid. Ya pick a few things up reading about Indians and trackers.”
Clint led the way up the hill, following the line of broken shrubs. There wasn’t many, three by Bobbi’s count, though enough to get them up to the base of the rock before disappearing in favor of a barren patch of land, dried out and sickly from a stretch of hot weather. The scorched dirt crumbled under her weight, sinking her boot several inches into the earth. Bobbi lifted her foot out of the hole.
“What now, Kemosabe,” she asked, shielding her eyes with her hand.
Clint didn’t answer immediately, his head turning from left to right and finally up at the rising wall of limestone. “She had to come from somewhere.”
Bobbi slowly walked the area, the occasional dislodged rock tumbling down the hill behind her. After a few minutes, she paused, looking around for their next clue. It wasn’t where she expected. Maybe a foot and a half away from a thin crack in the limestone wall was a hole not unlike the one her own foot had just created. Bobbi charged ahead for a closer look as she called back, “I think I found something.”
As she got closer she saw that the hole, while slightly misshapen compared to hers, was definitely made by a human foot. She was certain of it. Her eyes went to the thin crack in the wall, just wide enough for a person to fit through. It was pitch black beyond the threshold, impossible to see what lay inside without a light. Bobbi gave Clint a sideways glance as he clambered up beside her and looked from the crack to the hole.
“So, about that prisoner sniffing arrowhead…”
“Left em in my other belt, afraid it’s gotta be the old fashioned way.”
Clint twisted his body to pull open the drawstring of the tent pole bag and walked his fingers over the arrow fletchings until finding the one he wanted. With a quick yank, he freed it from the bag then did an impressive twirl with his fingers to point the arrowhead upward. It looked fairly normal, as far as Clint’s trick arrowheads went, with its small cylinder shape and dull gray color. Bobbi thought the top looked coarser than usual, but Clint slashed it across the face of the wall before she got a better look. A brilliant red flame erupted from the tip.
Bobbi watched the flare arrow sizzle. “Old fashioned, huh?”
Clint responded with one of his charming smiles and a tip of his head before stepping past her into the cave, the blazing flare arrow held in front of him to light the way. She followed behind him. Soft red light filled the narrow passage, conforming to every jagged nook and crevice in the walls and ceiling. It was much colder inside the dark cavern than outside in the hot sun and Bobbi resisted shivering as a cold spike danced up her spine. She rubbed her hands together as they walked deeper in the cave.
Their pace was slow and cautious, the low ceiling and suffocating silence felt like an invisible hand hovering above, slowly squeezing the further they moved away from the entrance. Away from the warm light of day. “Watch your step, we don’t know how stable this place is,” Bobbi said to break the dead quiet. “I don’t want to get my hands bloody digging your body out of a pile of rocks.”
“I’ll try to bleed in the other direction for you.”
“Always the gentlemen.”
“I gotta live up to the Avenger’s code.”
While morbid, the banter eased the tension, the invisible hand slightly loosened its grip.
“There’s a fork up ahead,” Clint pointed out. “I think we’re gettin’ somewhere.”
Moments later, they found themselves standing between two pathways, one veering to the left and the other the right. Clint pointed the flare arrow down both paths, but the light only extended a few feet down each tunnel. Not nearly far enough to see where they led. Bobbi squinted at the darkness, which did nothing to help her sight.
“What’s your favorite direction,” asked Clint, turning to point the flare arrow at her face. Bobbi winced, holding up a hand to shield her eyes from too-bright light, and snatched the arrow from his hand.
For several minutes, they walked onward, deeper into the heart of the rock. Moisture hung heavy in the air and the ground grew rough and slick. This wasn’t a path that saw many travelers. Even with a slow pace and Taekwondo enhanced balance, her feet slid off the limestone, slippery with condensation. Knee high boots with a wide, rigid sole was the only thing that kept her ankle from rolling, but couldn’t eliminate the risk of falling. Occasionally, Bobbi reached out with her free hand to use the wall for support.
At once, Bobbi stopped in her tracks. The red flare light followed the rocky floor as it plunged at a steep descent before fading to blackness. She couldn’t see what lay at the bottom or how far it went. It was traversable, dangerous, but traversable.
“Wait a minute before following me,” she instructed.
Keeping her stance wide and right hand fixed to the wall, Bobbi cautiously took her first steps down the slope. It felt as precarious as it looked. The slick rock made worse by the unforgiving angle. Just standing stationary was a challenge. She planted her foot for another step when it slipped forward. Dropping the flare arrow, Bobbi reached out for the wall, but felt it scratch her palm as she fell backwards, hitting the ground hard. Gravity pulled her skidding down the slope. Rocks tore into her hands and back. Acting on instinct, Bobbi braced her feet against the walls. Her body screeched to a halt, momentum slamming into her knees and groin, sparking pain.
Below, the flare arrow rolled to the bottom of the slope. The limestone ceiling converged on the floor like dripping wax. Dead end.
“Bobbi,” Clint called out. She turned her head to see him leaning down from the top of the slope gripping an outstretched arrow. “Can you reach it?”
Bobbi hesitantly pried her left hand from the wall, waited a second to ensure she wouldn’t fall, and reached up. Fingers closed around carbon shaft behind the fletchings. “I got it.”
She felt herself getting pulled up and her feet found the floor, backpedaling along the way. As she neared the top, Clint reached out to grab her free hand by the wrist and brought her up to safety with a strong tug. The rocky ground felt a hell of a lot better under her feet than the slope. Bobbi breathed out and rubbed her groin muscle, still stinging from the momentum jolt.
“No offense, but I’m really glad that happened to you insteada me,” said Clint, watching her.
“Believe it or not, me too,” she replied and straightened up. She still felt sore, but it would pass. “How many more flare arrows do you have left?”
“Three arrowheads. Only one is attached, the other two are in my belt pouch in the backpack.”
Bobbi nodded, grateful that he carried spares. “So, we try the right this time.”
Clint ignited a second flare arrow against the wall and they retraced their steps back to the intersection, choosing the unexplored path. The ground was far more even there, which made it easier on sore legs. They had only explored the new path for little more than four minutes when it thinned sharply to a crack barely wide for a man to squeeze through. About a foot by Bobbi’s eyes.
“That’s gonna be a tight squeeze,” Clint said, unshouldering the bulky backpack.
“Good thing you did your sit-ups this morning.”
“I know how you like the show.”
“Especially because there’s no cover charge.”
“I do appreciate the tips though,” he teased and positioned his body at the entrance of the crack, the red glow of the flare fading as his right hand led the way. “It’s not too far to go.”
“How far is not far?”
Bobbi watched as half of Clint’s body shuffled through the crack. “A couple yards. Gimme a minute to get through it before you try with the bag.”
Darkness crept in around her. The glow of the flare was increasingly obscured by walls of rock as Clint moved deeper through the cracked limestone. She cast a quick glance behind her at the black curtain inching closer. Bobbi didn’t harbor any particular phobias, though there were a number of things she preferred to avoid. Like being blind in the middle of a cave. Her mind went to the last flare arrowhead still inside the backpack. She wouldn’t let herself use it. It was their last resort should something happen to the second flare.
“I’m through,” Clint’s voice came from the other side of the crack, interrupting her thoughts. “Be careful when ya hit the end, I think I’m a few inches thinner.”
“Give me some light and keep it above my head so I don’t get blinded.”
Clint did as she instructed, putting his 6’3” height to good use holding the flare arrow as high and far as he could reach. Bobbi, with backpack firmly in her right hand, maneuvered through the mouth of the crack, limestone scraping over her back and front. Clint wasn’t exaggerating, it was tight. Hard rock dug into body. There wasn’t enough space for her chest to expand for a deep breath of air, forcing Bobbi into taking short, shallow breathes. She was grateful for the compression of a sports bra to flatten her chest, if only slightly, to give a few extra millimeters of space between her and the wall.
“I think I can grab the bag if you reach out,” Clint said, switching the flare to his right hand.
Bobbi extended her arm to reach his, but his fingers just grazed the canvas of the backpack. She shuffled a little closer and watched his hand grope the bag until he got a hold of one of the straps. “You have it? I’d like to avoid the adventure of trying to pick it off the ground.”
“Yeah, I got it,” he affirmed and she let go. His arm dipped slightly with the full weight of the backpack, but, thankfully, didn’t drop it.
Once the pack was safely out of the crack, Bobbi followed after it, grimacing as what little room she had closed in on her. But then, she was through and back into open space, free to breathe and stretch. It was only a few seconds before she spotted the next obstacle, and the first sign of humans; a 2x8 wooden beam laid over a wide chasm that separated them from the next area.
“Did you do that?”
“Didn’t touch anything.” Clint slung the backpack over his shoulder and flashed an excited grin as he stepped onto the beam. “Let’s see what’s over there.”
Bobbi looked beyond Clint to the other side of the beam where a flat open area awaited them when they stepped off wood onto rock. Half a dozen yards in the distance she could just see the flare light glint off a coarse wall and the edge of a ledge above. “We should get ready,” Bobbi proposed as she stepped off the beam. “Someone could be around here, that plank didn’t just grow from the ground.”
“Remind me, who was the one that said we’d never find anything in all these hundreds of caves?”
“Shut up, Clint.”
Clint laughed and dropped the backpack to the ground before wandering toward the far wall. “It’s no beer fest, but ya gotta admit, there’s worse ways to spend a vacation,” he said as he craned his neck to try to look over the ledge, but it was several feet above him.
“I wouldn’t exactly call this a vacation, but it is fun. Like being in an Indiana Jones movie.” Bobbi crouched down and unzipped the bag. “Bring the light over here so I can see what I’m looking at.”
“Yeah, inna minute.”
She looked up to see Clint jump up to grab the ledge, flare arrow tucked between his fingers. “What are you doing?”
“I wanna see wh-“
There was a flash of a boot followed by a sickening smack. Clint’s head jerked backwards and his body fell, back slamming against the cold limestone. The flare arrow bounced and rolled several feet away. Bobbi sprang to her feet as a slim figure darted toward her from the shadows. One soulless round eye, shimmering in the red light, stared her down as a baton swung at her head. Bobbi threw up her arm to protect herself, pain cut across her forearm, but the baton stopped short of her head. She raised her knee and shot her leg forward like piston, boot driving into his soft stomach. The man stumbled back, clutching his stomach, leaving himself vulnerable to the fist Bobbi threw at his chin. Knuckles connected with bone sending him staggering backwards to get away from her.
With her enemy momentarily stunned, Bobbi risked a glance to check on Clint. He was wiping blood from his mouth as he got back to see feet, staring down a tall, thickly built man. The same single blank eye as the other attacker sat above his nose. Thermal goggles.
“Nice glasses, but there’s already a Cyclops,” Clint quipped and stepped forward, driving his fist into the large man’s ribs.
The large man didn’t flinch. His long arms reached out, grappling Clint by the back of the neck and pulling him into a knee strike to the chest, knocking a grunt from his lungs. Clint was just as quick to respond, grabbing the man’s waist and tackling him into the wall. A loud thud echoed around them. The heavy impact broke both their holds on each other. Clint reared back for a punch when a sharp pain broke across Bobbi’s lower back.
“B****,” a Spanish accented voice snarled from behind. The baton struck again at the same spot, searing pain into her muscles. She grit her teeth, body tensing, as she held back a yelp. “No scream for your boy toy? He won’t like your pretty little face when I’m done.”
Spinning on the ball of her foot, Bobbi torqued her upper body and followed through with a spinning backfist. Her back ached with the motion, but the satisfying impact of her fist across her attacker’s face briefly stunned him. The momentum carried her into a fighting stance. No longer vulnerable, she threw a quick jab.
“I’ll remind myself to care when you can hit hard enough to leave a bruise,” Bobbi fired back.
Metal struck her right arm, inches above the elbow, in retaliation. The backhanded slash flowed swiftly into an overhead slash to her left collarbone. She winched at the shot of pain surge through her arms.
A wolfish sneer turned up the corners of his mouth. “Then you won’t mind when I shatter your bones.”
“Gladly, poppet,” he replied with malevolent glee.
Bobbi snapped off a quick kick, striking his ribs, as his empty fist shot forward clipping her cheek. They both stepped back and surveyed each other, searching for an opening. Light glinted off the baton as it twirled in his hand. She landed another kick on his thigh. He didn’t respond immediately. After a beat, the metal flashed as he jerked his arm up to attack. Too slow. His empty fist struck her face. The baton followed after, slamming down on her collarbone. Pain exploded from her collarbone and spread to the rest of her shoulder.
“Ah, f--,” Bobbi cursed through gritted teeth. She quickly turned to a side stance, pointing her right shoulder toward her attacker, as to protect the left from further abuse.
Her attacker’s laughter died in his throat as Bobbi spun on her front foot, turning her back to him, and lashed out with a spinning hook kick, the heel of her foot hammering the side of his head. The force knocked him over, falling against the forgotten backpack. Bobbi lunged as it skidded toward the chasm.
“Dammit,” she muttered, watching the pack disappear over the edge. “Clint, we have a problem.”
Clint absorbed a hard punch to his ribs. “Little busy here,” he grunted.
Bobbi cringed as another fist connected to Clint’s blood covered chin. He stumbled back, closer to the wall behind him. The large man charged after him, launching a fight ending punch aimed for Clint’s face. A howl of pain echoed through the cavern. The attacker clutched his injured hand as Clint stood up from his crouch, having dodged the blow. Unconcerned by the close call, Clint casually spat blood at the ground then rocked the other man with a stiff uppercut. He swayed on his feet until Clint finished him off with a follow-up haymaker that sent him sprawling on the ground.
Clint looked over to her, wiping blood from his lip. “What were you sayin’?”
Bobbi opened her mouth to speak when the large man dove toward the flare and thoughts of the backpack evaporated. It was out of his hand in an instant and flying toward the same chasm that consumed their backpack. A crimson wave rolled across the craggy walls then disappeared down the chasm with the flare, leaving Bobbi surrounded by darkness. Now blind, she strained her ears for the rustling of clothes and footsteps. She heard movement in front of her where Clint had stood. There was a grunt soon followed by a body hitting the ground. For a moment, she heard nothing, but her own steady breathing.
Quietly, footsteps moved toward her from the front. Bobbi readied herself for the attack, not about to surrender quietly, even when blind. She jabbed at the blackness, but felt only air. She did it again, hoping to at least keep the person at bay. Intense pain assaulted the back of her knee. Her leg gave out and her body slammed against the ground. The attacker pounced, like a predator on wounded prey, flailing at her body with the baton.
“Aint talking so tough now,” growled the familiar voice.
Sacrificing her arms, Bobbi tried to protect herself from the blows that rained down. Every inch of her body felt like it was angrily throbbing with pain. Then, abruptly, she heard someone grab the baton in mid-strike.
“No,” a new voice said with authority. “Garotte wants them alive.”
|›› CHAPTER THREE ›› WATER'S END|
Nice chapter, Hawk! I'll make some more in-depth comments later, but it was definitely worth the wait.
I agree with RS. Great chapter and definitely worth the wait! (although that just makes the wait for the next part more difficult! )
Thanks for the comments, guys! I hope the next chapter doesn't take as long too, haha.
Huh, apparently we can't say the B word anymore without the forum censoring it with astericks. I didn't know we were cursing that much, haha.
@Hawkeye - Personally, I' m a fan of taking as long as needed to make sure it's right -- I'm sure everyone's happy to wait until you've got it to a place you like. RE: Censoring, I haven't made any filter changes, but my understanding is that all the ATVI forums share the same filtering, so that's mostly likely from another section. You guys really aren't foul-mouthed, especially by forum standards.
So, as I said before, it was another awesome chapter, Hawk. I especially liked all the bickering between Clint and Bobbi. You did a great job with all of that, unsurprisingly, like the part about the sit-ups. And some of the descriptions were awesome, too. Even the description of the McDonalds wrappers and trash at the beginning was way more interesting than a paragraph like that has any right to be, because of the way you wrote it. I thought it was a good example of how I could improve my descriptions in my own writing, actually.
The fight scene was cool, too. Rather than just being a straighforward fight, there was the twist of the darkness in the cave to deal with. Not to mention that Clint couldn't just pull out his bow and shoot both the dudes with arrows, either.
The only thing I would say I didn't like is that there were a couple points where you say that someone said something "with malevolent glee" or "with authority" or things like that. Not that it's "wrong" to do that or anything, obviously, but I always prefer it when a writer shows what gives the person's voice authority or what shows his malevolent glee. Describing the sound of their voice or associating an action or facial expression with it usually works better, in my opinion. You did those things a lot of times, but it just stuck out to me when you didn't.
Anyways, definitely another awesome chapter, Hawk. Looking forward to the next one!
@Newslad - I'm pretty foul-mouthed, just not on the forum, haha. Thanks for the comments!
@Rogue - Thanks for review!
I hope ya meant bantering since they weren't really fighting, haha. I'm glad you enjoyed the descriptions and the trash so much.
I put a lot of work and research into the fight scene so it's awesome ya liked it! I really like playing with Bobbi as a Taekwondo expert and then having Clint over there slugging it out like he's inna bar brawl. Two very different approaches and that's without either of them using their weapons. There's still gonna be some archery fun later on though!
Normally, I'd agree, but the two examples you brought up are vocal descriptions, which you can't really "show" since you can't see sound and facial expressions aren't always relative or descriptive enough (and in the second example Bobbi can't see his face). There's still actions and other descriptions to support it, with Bobbi's attacker smiling and laughing and the big guy stopping him from beating Bobbi to death is pretty authoritive in itself. The dialogue matches too, with Bobbi's opponent trash talking and mockingly calling her Poppet (its not a word ya hear much in the states, but it's an endearing term like baby) and the big guy telling him to stop. If anything I might argue I didn't need to add the "with authority" since I think that's implied, though I would still keep malevolent glee since that isn't as clear. But you're welcome to disagree, that's just how I see it.
Thanks again for the review!
I generally use bickering and bantering pretty interchangeably, since they have pretty similar meanings. Besides, there was a bit of an argumentative vibe to it at some points (not in a way that shows they were angry or anything, but just their way of talking to each other), anyways.
Yeah, I thought their different way of fighting in that scene were real cool and fit both of them perfectly. I wonder if you'll get to archery stuff before I get to archery stuff in my writing, since I could use some tips on the archery parts...
Just because you can't see sound doesn't mean that you can't describe how something sounds, though. Someone can have a deep voice, or a raspy voice, for example (not really examples that go with this chapter, but I'm tired, so whatever...). The main thing is that I thought they both seemed kinda unnecessary, since just the dialogue pretty much got the point across without needing to be told anything extra. Like you said, it was pretty clear the dude at the end was in charge of them. And with the way the guy was taunting Bobbi, I didn't really need you to tell me about the malevolent glee, since that was already apparent, based off what he said. Maybe I'm just super smart, so I didn't need the description! haha