The Small Goddess & The Reluctant Thief

Note: Another entry into a contest. The prompt was to write a tavern-based fight scene in 1,000 words or less. It’s tough for me to stay within a word limit and still keep things understandable, so this was a challenge!

“So, Kel, do you think this is the stupidest thing you’ve ever done, or will you try to top this in the future?”
He looked down at the stout woman and her half-shaved head from the corner of his eye as they stood outside of time. The splintered remains of benches floated in midair, moving as if they were trapped in molasses. Flatware was en-route to the floor, and a cask crept past the two in a slow arc toward its intended target: a wizard who looked like he hated everything about what was going to happen next.
In the center of the room a pillar of dark energy crept outward, silently demolishing the floorboards as it dissolved patrons in its painfully slow, but steady consumption of the tavern.
The man in black crossed his arms, glaring at the expanding hole in the ceiling.
“How was I supposed to know he was a Host?” he asked, his thick eyebrows furrowing in irritation.
“You’re right; how dare I expect common sense from a mortal?” she sighed, pulling a large axe from its spot on her back and gripping it in both fists. “Ready your weapons—I’m dropping us into real time.”
He slid daggers out of the sheaths on his hips, and nodded.
The room roared to life with the cacophony of battle, and it took all his restraint to not cover his ears. The cask exploded beside him, spraying his cloak with brightly scented wine.
“Anian Red. What a waste,” he muttered as he ducked angry, indignant customers and other malcontent brawlers that had not yet realized a portal to one of the the seven hells had opened before them. He had one goal now—the swirling, violent mass at the center of the room, and what was about to exit it.
“You bastards, I was only fifty-nine payments from owning this!” someone bellowed from the bar. An older man was standing on it, a rifle nestled against one meaty shoulder. He could see the owner was scared, but his outrage over losing his tavern was stronger than his fear. He fired a shot into the abyss with a thundering crack and the sharp tang of gunpowder. A white trail flared from the round as it barreled towards its target.
Blessed Bullets. Of course a place out here would be loaded with them. If he was smart he would have had his daggers enchanted. Well, if he was smart, he wouldn’t have confronted the Host… not here. Maybe she was right—perhaps he didn’t have any common sense.
She was in front, her axe severing semi-corporeal tentacles as they shot from the opening. A group of mercenaries were fighting one another, and she dodged them gracefully as they passed before her. The stench of ale and blood permeated the air.
A chair smashed into the back of his skull; he turned and slammed the pommel of a dagger into the offender’s shoulder, then punched him in the nose, a thin splash of blood hitting his cheek as the man reeled. He wiped it away and blocked another brawler from landing a blow, retaliating with an elbow to the face. Kel swore that he saw him spit out a few teeth as he bent forward in agony.
He ducked several other fighters and a few spells as he made his way to the column. It seemed that Iriya had kept the bulk of the monster from emerging, but at the cost of most of her stamina. She was flagging, and he could tell she couldn’t hold it back much longer.
Kel clambered onto a table that hadn’t been upended and leapt off of it, soaring over the fray, daggers brandished. He landed in front of the diminutive woman, his blades a blur as he took over.
“How long?”
“I need two minutes.”
She swung the axe in a circle over her head. Shimmering light left a trail behind the blade, forming a ring that became a column of her own. She held the weapon aloft, chanting in an ancient language.
Kel bent to the task. Of all the towns, in all the world, of course they would stumble into the one tavern where a Host was preparing to harvest souls.
He cursed his luck—the same terrible luck that had him bound by blood to serve the pink-haired goddess and ensure she returned to her full power.
The same luck that had saved his life that night long ago by having them cross paths.
The other gods are laughing at me,’ he thought while he blocked an appendage with crossed blades as another snaked around his waist. ‘They laugh at the witless thief, and have cursed me to live like this for their amusement.
It lifted him up, and slammed him into the table he had catapulted from earlier, breaking it in half. He wheezed as it came for him again.
This was it. His ribs had to be broken. Lungs collapsed. It was all over.
A vivid light filled the room, and the demon screamed, winding upon itself and condensing down into a small pink gemstone in a brilliant flash. Iriya reached out and caught it, looking at it with mild interest.
“Is it… one of the ones you’re looking for?” he asked her, grunting as he stood.
“No. But the more Hosts and their demons we take out, the better the chances of us recovering an actual Soulstone.”
He knocked bits of plaster from his dark hair, taking stock of the damage they had caused this time.
Half of the roof had been blown away. Shattered crockery, fallen beams, and broken pieces of furniture were strewn around the site along with the forms of people—some dead, others simply unconscious from the force of the spell. Just ten minutes ago they all had been sitting down to get drunk with friends.
They shared a glance, and without a single word they bolted towards the door, quickly vanishing into the warm summer night.

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