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Circle Thrice

Modified on 2011/10/18 09:42 by Kerrick Categorized as Books, Deathlands


   When Chuck Berry asked long-distance information whether he was through to Memphis, Tennessee, it was a question that arrowed straight into the heartland of the American myth. While Memphis lives, then rock and roll will never truly die.

   - From Trying to Tell a Stranger
   by Larry "the Fox" Burrell
   Banbury Press, Oxford, 1996



   The prologue and first chapter recap what happened at the end of Keepers of the Sun - the companions head down the elevator shaft to the gateway, leaving behind a couple grenades to block the way. When the earthquake hits, it scrambles the system, causing a major malfunction.
   The companions eventually materialize at the new gate, but they have horrific jump nightmares. When everyone's ready, the leave the mat-trans chamber. There's evidence of fighting in the redoubt - bullet holes, destroyed computers, etc. - and some graffiti on the walls. The redoubt itself is laid out in a huge spiral; all the side doors are locked. After a couple miles of walking, they come to the end of the passage - a huge, sealed door. Jak goes forward and finds the code scrawled on the wall, very faintly.
   Beyond the door, they find the rest of the redoubt, which showed signs of hasty clearing. They find a map showing the location of the sleeping quarters, and Doc wanders off that way, talking to himself, not noticing that several of the lights along the corridor are broken. Ryan notices and tries to warn Doc - the old man snaps a tripwire, which drops a pendulum axe at him. He barely dodges, getting only a nick.
   They make it the rest of the way to the living quarters without incident and get cleaned up. The next morning, they check the rest of the redoubt, but it's been cleaned - no food, no supplies. All that's left is a section labelled "ART". As it turns out, that's what the section is: Artworks - a collection of paintings from the Tennessee Museum of Modern American Art, stored for safekeeping.
   After admiring all the paintings, the companions head for the exit to see where they are. The come out on a hillside, with lots of greenery and water visible; JB says they're somewhere in northern Tennessee. They head south across a causeway to the mainland, and Ryan spots an old fire tower. He heads for the tower to scout the area while the others remain below.
   He climbs up and has a look-see; there's little to see besides lakes, trees, and water, except for a thin column of smoke. As he's walking back down the trail from the tower, he runs into the creatures that made it - mutie centipedes. He is surrounded by dozens, but they seem unwilling to attack until he shoots a couple, whereupon they swarm and force him back to the tower. Krysty senses that something is wrong, so she and the others come looking for Ryan. They quickly see what's going on, and JB fires his Uzi to clear a path. Ryan jumps down and runs over the dead and wounded centipedes, using his panga to kill any others that threaten him. He gets out of the area without harm, and they retreat down the hill.
   They head over the ridge and find a cleaner area, with fresh running water, flowers, and wildlife. The smoke comes from a small community of dirt-poor inbreds. All the companions see are women and childen (and not many of those) and a communal stewpot. They spend some time watching and waiting, and they're rewarded when a band of hunters returns with a deer.
   The companions enter the village from two sides, weapons drawn - they tell the leader they merely want some food and they'll be on their way. Ryan asks about the river on the far side of the ville, and the leader says it's the Tennessee River. Things go well enough until they finish eating and Ryan says they want to "borrow" one of the villagers' rafts. They get onto the raft and untie the ropes, then someone throws a stone that hits Jak; he opens fire, and the rest of the companions follow suit. Most of the villagers are killed; Ryan catches a musket ball in the leg, and Jak is hit in the belt buckle (which causes massive bruising, but no real injury).
   They spend a few days riding down the river, enabling Ryan and Jak to recover. On the third day, they stop for the night near an old orchard. Krysty and Ryan head off to explore, while Mildred and JB go hunting and Jak and Doc gather wood and food.
   Ryan and Krysty find the remains of a large garden, with lots of flowers, a dried-up fountain, and other stonework. Further exploration reveals a well-kept church. The windows along one side are nuke-damaged, but the ones on the other depict scenes of torture. Ryan finds a book on the lectern, open to a passage about redemption through pain. Krysty finds the bell pull and, unable to resist the temptation, yanks the rope, ringing the bell.
   Ryan spots a cat-o'-nine-tails on the altar and gets a bad feeling. He turns to go and is greeted by Father Sandor, the church's caretaker, who is holding a shotgun. Sandor forces them below into the crypt, where he tortures and kills his victims. A corpse bumps into him, momentarily distracting him, and Ryan and Krysty seize the opportunity to attack him. Ryan beats him down and shoves a branding iron down his throat, killing him. After the emerge from the crypt, they set fire to the church to cleanse it.
   The others have killed a wild pig, so they feast on pork and continue on down the river. The next day, they see a rope bridge ahead with a bunch of men with grappling hooks - the men snag passing boats and kill the passengers for their goods. Unfortunately for them, the raft is too big and the river too swift at that point to snag - they hook it, but it ends up pulling down the entire bridge. The companions kill most of the men, except for one who's caught in the remains of the bridge along with Jak (who was pulled overboard). Jak manages to kill the man with a knife, and his friends pull him back aboard and cut free the tangled remains of the bridge.
   Savannah was nuked out of sight; all that's left is blasted glass and black sand. As they sail on past it, Jak is bitten by a mutie eel. Mildred leans over the side to get a closer look, and several of them leap out of the water to attack her braids.
   Shortly after, the river forks. They pass a couple old men in a boat, who tell them that Shiloh is not far away and that they can get a guided tour of the battlefield. They reach Pittsburg Landing and tie up to the dock; a woman named Ma Jode meets them there and offers food and rooms for the night.
   The next day, they meet up with their guide and take a tour of the battlefield. They head off downriver after that, but Ryan has other plans - he noticed that several of the locals were eyeing their guns. He tells the others to pull off to the west bank about a mile downstream. As it turns out, a bunch of locals have gathered on the other side of the river not far away to ambush them. Angered, the locals fire off with their muskets, but the range is too far. Mildred, egged on by JB, takes a shot at one of the men and hits him.
   They head out overland in a roughly western direction and make camp. After dinner, Ryan gets up to take a leak and encounters a man and woman in a camp. They're the last survivors of their ville, which was infected with rabies. He manages to kill both of them before he's bitten himself, though it's a close thing.
   The next day, they find the remains of I-64, heading toward Memphis, and they hook with a trading convoy. They reach the ville of Country Row that evening. They take a tour of the country museum, though Mildred points out that nearly everything is either fake or not even close to the actual items they're supposed to represent.
   Afterward, they head for a small bar called Harmony. Things are going well until a pair of redneck brothers start trouble. Despite Ryan trying to avoid a fight, the brothers start one. Both of them end up dead, along with the bartender and a patron. The companions flee the bar and take the brothers' truck, which they use to leave the ville.
   They drive as far as they can before a massive chem storm forces them to stop. They're safe, buttoned up in the truck, but Ryan awakens some time later to find they're under attack by muddies. The diminutive muties are shifting the truck, so the companions pile out to kill lot of them before they can turn it over completely.
   During the attack, Ryan notices that one of them wears a silver amulet that looks familiar, but he loses it in the chaos. The wipe out most of the muddies and the rest flee, so they get back in the truck and start driving again. In a flash of lightning, Ryan sees the amulet again. He gets out and recovers it, and everyone immediately recognizes it - it belongs to Straub.
   They decide to go take a look to see if Straub's still alive, so they leave the truck and head into the forest. They follow a trail to the camp, which is in chaos. JB spots a row of stakes with a lone figure resembling Straub tied to it, so they go in with guns blazing to rescue him. They get him back to the truck, and he tells them that he's in thrall to Countess Katya Beausoleil, who will reward them well for his return. He also shows off what's she's done to him: various tattoos and piercings, as well as being emasculated. He pretends that his memory is damaged - he can only remember bits and pieces of things.
   Despite all this, the companions take him back to Countess Katya's manor, where she shows them the hospitality of her barony. Over lunch, she tells them that she is looking to have a son, but no man has been able to provide one for her yet. She latches onto Ryan as a potential father, though he's not interested. She asks the others if there's anything they'd like to see while they're there, and Mildred immediately mentions Graceland. She says they can do that, and gives them the run of the manor for the rest of the day.
   Their first stop, of course, is to the armory, where they stock up on ammo and grens. After that, they take a walk in the gardens, but Doc has stomach pains, so they head back to the house.
   After breakfast the next morning, Katya takes the group out to Graceland. The place is run-down, filthy, and neglected. Mildred becomes increasingly dismayed as they go on; after they leave, she claims to have forgotten something and goes back inside. When she comes out, Doc has a sudden, sharp pain in his side. Mildred examines him and says they need to get back to the manor immediately, so they send him on ahead. Before the rest of the group leaves, Mildred reveals that she'd planted several incendiary grenades in the basement. They go off when the companions are about a mile down the road, setting Graceland afire.
   Once they're back at the manor, Mildred quickly determines that Doc has appendicitis. She has to operate immediately, or he could die. Ryan negotiates the use of the kitchen table with Katya, and Mildred removes the inflamed appendix easily.
   That afternoon, they're "invited" to watch the execution of one of the sec men, who was caught stealing from the armory. Ryan convinces Katya to let straub put him into a trance so he doesn't feel as much pain, then the man is stoned. He's still alive, but unconscious, when she calls a halt and has him rolled into a shallow grave and buried.
   The next day is wet and rainy, so the companions decide to split up and explore the mansion and grounds. Doc is still feverish, so he remains in bed. Straub invites Ryan to have a drink with him before he goes, whereupon he hypnotizes Ryan and shows him a vision wherein all of his friends are dead - killed because he refused to willingly acquiesce to Katya's request. After the vision, he takes Ryan to Katya, who decides to bed him in the attic over the mill overlooking the river. Straub heads back to the house to finish off the companions, starting with Doc, but Doc blows his guts out through his spine. The noise draws Mildred and JB, who quickly discover what's going on and start to round up the others.
   Meanwhile, Katya is trying to seduce Ryan; Ryan's under the hold of Straub's hypnosis, but he's also beset by grief at his friends' "deaths". Angry at him ignoring her commands, she kicks him square in the thigh where he was shot a few days ago, and the pain snaps him out of his trance. Katya, seeing him descend into a killing rage, flees toward the river overlook with Ryan in hot pursuit. He catches her as they reach the overlook and punches her in the face, then pulls her up and is about to punch her again when Krysty and the others show up. He's momentarily confused, and Katya pushes him toward the fence. They crash through the rusted metal, falling into the water below.

  
Copyright
DEATHLANDS, OUTLANDERS, EARTH BLOOD, and JAMES AXLER are all the property of Gold Eagle / Worldwide Library, and are used here strictly under Fair Use guidelines.
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