Lifeless by Graveyard Greg
Lifeless by Graveyard Greg
In DEATHLESS, Ivan was running for his life.
In LIFELESS, Ivan is running out of time!
When a friend of Ivan's is kidnapped, the snow leopard is forced to go on a quest to find a legendary artifact. But nothing is as it seems! Can Ivan and his allies find out the truth before it's too late?
Graveyard Greg is the writer of several webcomics and novellas. He currently lurks in the Biggest Little City, and is grateful that it's nothing like the city where Ivan lives.
Teaser - Chapter 2
Ivan hit the mat so hard that his vision blurred regardless of the protective helmet he wore. For a moment he couldn't think, which was when a foot nudged the side of his head.
"Get up, pussycat," Scowl said, cracking his knuckles through the sparring gloves. "I barely touched you."
Ivan focused on Scowl. He made a swing for the cougar's ankle. The smaller feline hopped away as if lighter than air. "Nice try, Ivan, but you're too slow. And what did I say about no cheap shots?"
"You hit like sledgehammer," Ivan said as he slowly got up to his feet.
"Flattery won't get me to hit you any less hard."
Ivan exploded in a burst of motion. He lunged forward. He feinted left. He swung with his right at Scowl.
The mountain lion dodged at the last possible second. He grabbed Ivan's wrist. He tossed him over his shoulder.
Ivan stared up at the ceiling, grateful his vision wasn't blurred this time. "I almost had you," he said as he sat up.
"That was pretty sneaky," Scowl said, offering a hand up to Ivan. "But you're still telegraphing your moves worse than a choreographed fight scene."
"I vill do better."
Scowl took the laces of one sparring glove between his teeth, pulling on it until it unlaced. "I'll give you credit, Ivan," he said, "you're getting faster. A year's more training and you'll be fast like a cheetah and dangerous like a tiger."
Ivan had been training with Scowl for as long as he'd been dating Tank, who happened to be Scowl's ex. Sometimes he wondered why, exactly, he agreed to train with Scowl but after a month's training, he found Scowl to be a capable teacher.
There was still one problem. "But not fast and dangerous like you?" Ivan asked as he removed his helmet and gloves.
"Pussycat, you don't want to be in my line of work. I thought you realized that after being on the run for a night from that Koschei the Deathless."
Ivan shuddered. It was one of the most terrifying nights on his life, and the most tragic, having heard the news of his father's death. "I do, but vhat if your line of work finds me again?"
"Just because you're involved with Tank doesn't mean they have reason to go after you."
"But it could still involve me."
"I can only train you so far," Scowl said, putting away the sparring equipment. "You got limits, pussycat. We all do." He lingered his gaze on Ivan, then grinned toothily. "You'll be a terror if you keep up the training."
Ivan found himself smiling in return. "Spasiba, Scowl."
"You earned it, pussycat. No need to thank me."
Ivan rubbed the back of his head before putting on his ball cap with the brim behind him. "You did not have to train me, but you did. Vhy?"
Scowl arched an eyeridge. "All this time I've been training you, and you never thought to ask?"
"You intimidated me in beginning."
Scowl's toothy grin returned with a vengeance, as it was wider than before. "I still intimidate you, pussycat. Admit it."
The urge to take off his ball cap and wring it between his hands was overwhelming, but he stood his ground; imagining his spine was made of steel and ramrod straight helped. "You do, da. But then I remember I am bigger than you. Maybe stronger."
Scowl narrowed his eyes at him. "You want to arm wrestle and find out?"
"Nyet. I am braver than when we first met, but I am not yet brave enough."
Scowl threw back his head and laughed. "Yeah, well, I'm not as much of a dick as I was when we first met. Amazing what getting over old grudges can do for a guy."
"Is that vhy you train me? Because you no longer hold grudge?"
Scowl's features clouded over, and for a brief moment Ivan thought he'd crossed a line. With Scowl, it was like walking on eggshells, some of which were randomly loaded with explosives. One misstep would be your last.
But then he smiled, and Ivan felt the tension in his chest dissipate. "Yeah. I'd rather have the big lug as a friend than an ex, if you know what I mean."
"I think I do, but only because I vatch much television."
Scowl clucked his tongue. "That stuff will rot your brain, pussycat. Worse, it'll Americanize you."
Ivan tilted his head in confusion. "Is that bad thing?"
"It depends on how American you get."
"I do not understand."
"Some Americans, God love them, are couch potatoes and crumple at the first sign of trouble. I thought you would be just like them when I first met you, but then you surprised me. You faced the bad guys, and you beat them."
"I did not vant new friends being threatened, and Hopper vas in danger of losing soul."
"Still took a lot of grit."
"Vhat is grit?"
"It's something based on an individualís passion for a particular long-term goal coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective. In other words, you got ambition."
"Then vhy not say I have ambition?"
"Because grit sounds more like something I'd say."
Ivan couldn't deny that, so he just nodded his head.
"All right, let's get you back to the carrot-thief before he thinks I broke you."
"You almost did."
The evil gleam in Scowl's eyes made the tension in Ivan's chest return twofold. "Ha! If you thought that, then wait until next time when I really get rough with the training."
"I cannot vait."
"Oh, I bet you can."
Scowl was right, but Ivan wasn't about to say so out loud.
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