So yeah, I’m still alive. Reports of my demise have been greatly under exaggerated. Me tripping off the curb and getting hit by an Alp driving a Smart Car? Really guys?
Anyway I’m back, I’m on pills, yay. I tried to get all fancy this time around and add pictures. Lemmie know if you guys like it or not so I can either continue or stop with them. This chapters 20k+ words, longest I’ve written. Wanna throw a big special thank you out to Moongrim for his collaboration in the scenes with Arawn and his not- brothers as well as for letting me use one of his main villains. Also want to say thank you to the lovely and amazing Miss K- for consoling me to write at my own pace and not rush things.
“Whoa, whoa, hold up a minute!” I exclaimed as I held up my hands. Folding my fingers until just both my index fingers were up, I continued,
“First, let me say how freaking awesome it is to see all you guys, Tetris-“
”Tertius.” He corrected with a slight cross expression.
“Right, sorry. Tertius, how are you? Aaaand…,” I looked and pointed to the other two not-brothers. One was wearing blue mechanics coveralls while the other a deep maroon, high neck tunic of sorts.
”Quartus and Quintus? Looking suave as a usual!”
I did a quick head count, we were missing someone…
”Where the hell is my fanboy, Secundus?!”
Arawn and his not brothers all glanced at each other before Arawn himself answered slowly, “Secundus “survived” our demise and was reborn.”
He nodded with a wry smile, “Yes, it seems that our destines are are more interwoven than even I could have imagined as you have already met the being he was reborn into.”
“Who?” I frowned trying to guess. Oh god, please don’t let it have been Devin. Please, don’t let my shitty luck be THAT shitty!
“I believe you know him as Allen Belushi, the male Dragon.”
My eyes bulged at his answer.
“Holy shit,” I breathed and sat back, my mind reeling. My fanboy did me one more solid by saving my ass on that cliff, who would have guessed?
“You seem confused.” Arawn commented while Tertius, Quartus and Quintus each grabbed a chair and sat at the table.
“No… I guess more like stunned? I owe Allen my life for stopping me. I guess it’s just shocking that we met after all that time had passed…”
”As I said before, Donnie, it would seem our destines are greatly intertwined.” He remarked with a smile as he joined his not-brothers in picking at the food. Three more mugs of beer appeared suddenly for them.
Hopefully my boy was picking up the tab for all this, but then again, it was my dream, so probably I was.
“Okay,” I sighed, “shocking revelation number four down, hopefully that’s it for the night?”
”For tonight, yes.”
“So how are we all doing this? Couple karate lessons from Tertius, maybe some other stuff from the rest of you guys and I’m good?”
Tertius choked and nearly spit out the beer he was drinking as I said that. While I patted him on the back, the rest look to Arawn in amusement.
“Not in that fashion, no. You shall spend two years with each of us as we teach you various methods of physical, mental and magical defense and offense. I would prefer more time than that, but we will have to make due. You shall be the last being that has the knowledge of the Annwyfn.”
”Years?! Arawn! I got like a week, maybe two with my kids before I’m off to England. You’re talking about eight years! That’s not gonna fly!”
Everyone smiled at my near freak out making me think I missed out on an inside joke.
”Rest assured Donnie, the time span will be in the dream world, not in the waking one. Have you ever noticed how in some dreams, time lasts a very short while? And others, potentially longer than you have slept?” Quartus asked.
”Kinda… Yeah,” I brought a hand up to my chin and squinted in consideration, “I know that date with Ilias should have taken more time than I was asleep for…”
”Exactly. As you sleep, I will be able to manipulate time in your dreams to allow us to train you. You will experience a full year in only eight hours.”
If anyone else had said that to me, I would have called them bat shit crazy. But knowing the small amount of what I knew of Arawn and his not-brothers and of what they’ve done, they could say just about anything to me and I’d believe them.
“Mmm, that’s some Dragon Ball Z, hyperbolic time chamber shit right there,” I remarked reaching for my almost empty beer.
“So eight nights, huh? Are you guys sure you can pull this off?” I asked, ignoring Quartus ground breaking confession that he was a DBZ fan.
“The manipulation of a dream is easy enough. Telepathy, Telekinesis and Psychic aspects being a speciality of mine, I am sure.” Quintus answered.
“Kinda curious, but who or what is it you guys are training me to take on? You said that I would die, who’s going to kill me?”
“Do you remember the words uttered by Druella, the last time you saw her?” Arawn asked.
”She uttered a lot of words along with a slap to my face but yeah, why?”
“When you publicly announced that you were a member of the royal family and assisted the Maou in the merging of the two worlds, you set into motion a series of events and multitude of possibilities. There will be beings that will want to aggressively thank you, as well as others that will seek to exact revenge. Furthermore there will be those that will wish to take advantage of your stature and knowledge. All possibilities pose a deadly danger to you in one form or another.” He answered.
“So not exactly all sunshine and rainbows, huh?” I remarked dryly to everyone.
“No, which is why it is our intent to properly prepare you for the various situations you may encounter.” said Tertius.
“And the fact that I have Winona, won’t mean a thing?”
”In the old world, your firearm gave you a significant advantage over others. Currently, that advantage is now moot. Even with it, without our training and to use a euphemism, it would be equivalent to you going into battle with a water gun.”
I winced internally. That bad huh?
”Alright, you guys sold me,” I sighed, “so when do we start? Tonight?”
”We shall begin your instruction tomorrow night. For now, I believe we have darkened this reunion enough.” Arawn remarked.
Looking to his not-brothers he smiled and raised his mug,
”To a successful indoctrination of Donnie, and a more pleasant future.”
Tertius, Quartus and Quintus raised their own. Looking down, I saw that without my noticing, I had gotten a refill.
“To good friends, good drinks, good food, evening the the odds… and flipping Fate the bird!” I added.
Knocking our mugs into each other, we celebrated our plans to not only defy the powers that be, but also in keeping my ass alive.
”Donnie, breakfast.” Called a voice with a few knocks on the door, stirring me from my sleep.
My eyes slowly opened, and I swore I could taste beer in my mouth along with the lingering headache of a hangover. Jesus, what a fucking dream. Was it a dream? I looked over to my side. Nothing. No green stone. I guess it was too much to expect something like that, being reunited with old friends, them helping me out. Just wasn’t that lucky.
Pulling myself up, I let out a sigh as I cupped my face in my hands to massage out the drowsiness, and prepare for the day ahead. Standing, I heard the sound of something hitting the floor near my feet. Looking down, what did my eyes see? A round, emerald green stone. Bending down, I snatched it and held it up to the morning light.
It was real and it was fucking beautiful. The dream, the celebration, Quintus barfing cuz he chugged 5 mugs in a row on a dare, all of it. Just as Arawn promised. For the first time, in as long as I can remember, I felt the odds tilting to my favor. My boy… My boys were out there somewhere. Sure they were some Star Wars Force ghost whatevers, but they were out there and we had some mighty big plans to work on.
I felt an evil smile grow on my face. We were gonna fuck some shit up and throw up the biggest middle finger in the universe to Fate, the status quo, the Maou and to anyone else in our way. I no longer feared or stressed on what lay ahead. If my thoughts were right, this was gonna be one for the history books…
Throwing on my clothes, I made my way down to the dining room to find everyone there enjoying breakfast. Deanna and Vicky smiled warmly at me, Didi wished me a good morning and George simply ignored my presence. I sat down next to my grandaughter, whom was already wolfing down her food with a fork in one hand and phone in other.
I found out that it was a Saturday, much to my mild shock. Things were so crazy as of late, that I was just counting dates, not the days. The family had a tradition of eating breakfast together every weekend. It was something normal, wholesome and domestic. Something I really wasn’t used to and not for the first time, did I question if this was a semblance of a life that I could go back to living.
Deanna brought out a plate laden with pancakes stacked high, dripping with syrup, bacon, eggs, sausage and toast. A true lumber jack meal.
“Try them,” she urged quietly, “mother always tried to get the recipe right but she said she never could.”
I cut a piece off from the large, stacked circle and took a bite. It was good, really good, but I could tell they weren’t the same as mine. Close though.
“You both used sugar in the recipe, didn’t you?” I asked as I took another bite.
She nodded as I swallowed and smiled knowingly.
“We didn’t have sugar back then. Wasn’t widely available unless you were in a city that sat on a good trade route. Try using honey.”
Deannas mouth dropped open as I said that. I had to smile even wider at my revelation to her that there were no such things as supermarkets back in the day. The shock quickly changed to a glare as she peered over to a certain purple ponytailed girl sitting next to me.
“Vicky! What did I tell you about phones at the table! This is family time!”
“Maou, mom,” she rolled her eye, “I’m almost done eating anyway. What’s the big deal?”
“It’s an hour out of the whole day where we spend time together and actually talk with each other. That’s the big deal.” She replied sternly.
Ah, Mamono with 21st century problems. I felt another smile grow on my face and a warm feeling flow throughout. The reservations in the pit of my stomach disappeared as I realized that I felt happy with these people. I felt safe. A true rarity in my life. Was it because I was in your house, Victoria? Was it because I was with our children?
Vicky all but slammed the phone’s screen into her eye as she read aloud, “We’re done. I’m breaking up with you and keep your new psycho cousin boyfriend keep the fuck away from me…”
I thought I told that dumb ass that I wasn’t her boyfriend. Oh well, maybe I ended up giving him more brain damage than he already had. I grumpily shoved another piece of pancake laden with syrup into my mouth while pondering if it would have been more merciful to have just killed him.
“New psycho cousin boyfriend…?” She asked confused, but then realization hit as out of the corner of my eye, I could see her head slowly turn. I felt more than saw her gaze burning a hole in me.
My chewing slowed, then stopped all together as every single eye at the table was upon us and the unasked question in the air.
My silence answered her.
“Oh my fucking Maou! You’re such an asshole, Donnie!” She screamed as she pulled herself from the table and ran out of the room crying.
Did I feel guilty about interfering with Vicky’s relationship? If I had to be honest with you, no. Call me an asshole, call me a dick, whatever. But in this instance, I’ll take a page from our friends in The Order and be a little holier than thou on this occasion by saying it was for her own good.
I felt the table move once more as George got up and marched up to me with his fists balled up tightly.
“Was that your doing?” He asked, his voice harsh and full of emotion.
I carefully weighed my options. He was pissed that I made his little girl cry. I could get that. I really could. However getting my ass kicked by an angry incubus wasn’t exactly on my morning schedule but I didn’t want to fight him. Not here, not in Victoria’s home with our kids watching. My only hope was that either Deanna or Didi would intervene before things got too bad. Incubi tended to be much stronger than normal humans and fighting him would only end up with me getting my ass kicked. Taking a breath, I turned in my seat to face him.
“Yes,” I answered evenly, staring up at him, eye to eye. Devin was a scum bag. Trash. He didn’t deserve Vicky and I had no remorse for what I did. I was willing to accept the consequences for my actions.
He started to breathe heavily, as his arms went wide with an expected punch. My eyes shut instinctively, it was an annoying habit of mine that I wished I could stop. However, instead of a bone breaking blow, I was enveloped in his arms as he started to sob.
“Thank you.” He whispered hoarsely.
My eyes popped open to see a mass of red hair and to find myself in an uncomfortably firm squeeze.
“Uh…” I said in shock. Not sure of what I should do, I awkwardly brought up a hand and lightly patted him on the back.
“I hated him,” he mumbled, “there were so many times I wanted to just beat him to hell, but I knew Vicky would never forgive me.”
“He really wasn’t a good man, we tried to talk some sense into her but she wouldn’t listen.” Deanna added while smiling at the interaction between us.
“He was a little prick, De.” Didi muttered into her cup of coffee as she watched the scene. Somehow I got the feeling both my daughters were amused by it.
“If Donnie hadn’t done whatever he did, I was probably going to call in a favor and get him arrested.
“Just uh, doing my part…” I said still patting George’s back. This was getting very awkward, but I suppose it was better than what I had originally thought would happen.
Things seemed to change after that moment between George and myself. I was pretty sure he still didn’t believe my story but at least he didn’t hate my guts. I called it a win.
We finished our meal after deciding it was best to give Vicky some time. I helped clear the table as George went to mow the lawn and Didi to check in on Vicky.
“I was wondering if you had any pictures of Victoria or maybe some family photos?” I asked shyly to Deanna as I put the dishes in the sink. Even though they had a dishwasher, it seemed that she still preferred to hand wash.
“I do,” she smiled brightly as she washed, “actually I was planning on showing you them afterwards.”
We spent the afternoon looking at an old picture album. I learned that a few years after the Maou had opened the gateway to Earth, Victoria immigrated to Earth. She told Deanna and Didi that it was for a better life, that Earth had more opportunity and advancement than their world.
Wonder who gave her that idea?
“From Japan, She was able to get us visas to come to America. I remember her telling us that she wanted to go to Connecticut but then the immigration officer at the dock in San Francisco told her it was a bad idea. There was a lot of fear and mistrust of Mamono at the time, especially on the east coast. She said we would all be in danger if we went. I remember how sad she was. She really wanted to go there. At the time, I didn’t know why.” Deanna gave me a sad smile as another mystery of her family was finally solved that day and with a teary eye, she embraced me.
She couldn’t get anything from the Royal Maki so she decided to take things into her own hands. Why Victoria? An idiot like me didn’t deserve your love. Yet you took our daughters and went looking for me. A hundred years too early to boot. I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry at it all.
“So we ended up settling here. There were a lot of Mamono immigrants at the time, so it was much safer. Mother took odd jobs fixing farm equipment and repairing things. Eventually she started up her own business. It was hard at first, but we made it work. Made enough money to buy the house, live comfortably. She had the reputation of being one of the best mechanics in the area.” Deanna finished proudly.
“H-How…” I stopped and took a second to compose myself, “How did she deal with her fear of being outside? She was an agoraphobe.”
Deanna nodded with a knowing grin.
“She was able to get a calming medicine from a Hakutaku doctor friend of hers. It worked enough so she could travel, but what also helped was her treasured lucky hat,” Deanna smiled as she pointed to it, “Whenever we would go out, she would wear it.”
As I continued to look through the faded pictures, I saw an older Victoria. Wrinkles here and there where I remembered none. Flipping through the pages, she aged with every turn. That purple hair of hers greying ever so slightly. In all the ones that were taken outside, she wore a ragged baseball hat. My hat.
That hat. That god damn hat. I remember buying it on a whim at Walmart the day before the accident that somehow brought me to their world. The Connecticut Tigers, they were minor league baseball, kinda crappy, but I wanted to show a little local team spirit.
Then there was the day she went with me to help salvage what was left of my car, all those years ago. How she barely kept herself from freaking out. How her eye would dart around constantly and how she would jump at any little sound. I told her I could do it alone but being the stubborn woman she was, she still went with me. How I found it under some trash in the back seat and, in the spur of the moment, slapped it on her head. Her horn pierced through its top and in shock of the alien thing on her head, her nervousness faded. She never threw it away.
I added nostalgia to the hodgepodge of feelings that I was suppressing inside. After everything that was done, she was looking for me, she still loved me. She still loved me…
That evening we ate dinner together minus Vicky. George barbecued. Made pretty decent burgers. Deanna and Didi did their best, but my grandaughter still didn’t want to come out of her room. You may ask; was I sorry now?
For putting her through that, yes. But not for my actions, if that makes any sense. The guy was trash and he didn’t deserve her. Take it for whatever it’s worth.
Afterwards, that night, as I laid down in bed, I took out the green stone that Arawn had somehow given me.
“See you soon guys.” I whispered as I clutched onto it and closed my eyes.
The first night.
I found myself in a grey padded room. The floor and walls were all covered with thick pillows, above was illuminated by bright light panels. For a brief, fearful moment, I thought I was back in the asylum but thankfully I saw Tertius in his white karate gi standing some feet away. Looking down, I saw myself dressed in the same manner but where my belt was white, his was black- but we’re not just talking any kind of black, boys and girls. It was like a black hole, giving off no shine, no reflection, nothing. A true void- like the darkness between the stars. This guy didn’t just write the book; he grew the fucking tree and chopped it down to make the paper to write the goddamn book.
“Welcome, Donnie,” he bowed, “we will start our first phase in your training with combat basics…”
And thus it began, a years worth of training and instruction rolled into a single 8 hour night. From the most simple to the most advanced of moves, I learned. Time seemed to meld and flow together. Days, weeks, months, they had no meaning, it was surreal yet not. I didn’t tire, nor grow hungry or thirsty and in that time, I learned punches, throws, kicks, and the like. Proper form and technique, even strategies.
“In almost all instances, Mamono will be the aggressor. They will attack first and usually viscously.”
He threw a punch that I remembered to sidestep, grab and throw. I was particularly proud of myself as he hit the floor.
“Good,” he nodded as he stood up and we continued to circle each other, “this stems from base instincts of their old forms. Before the Maou enacted the great change, the majority of them were hunters, beasts and savage animals. Although they have greatly changed in both physical nature and mentality, they still rely off their animalistic instincts when they fight and mate. This gives you an advantage.”
He kicked at my head which I barely blocked. His toes nicked the side of my temple, though.
“How the hell does them going all Pervy Predator on me give an advantage?” I asked, annoyed at the pain.
“One of the styles of combat I am teaching you is akin to your Earth’s Aikido, a defense based martial art that is dependent on your foe attacking you. I have found it is quite effective against them.”
Another kick, this time I caught it and swung his leg.
“So for it to work, they have to attack?”
”Still waiting on that explanation.”
He threw 2 punches that I deflected and retaliated with a slam of the palm of my hand to his chest. He crashed to the ground with my unexpected attack.
“Haha!” I exclaimed in what would have been a glorious moment of using my own made up skills to take down a billion year old fighter, but then he spun his legs and swept my feet right from underneath.
As I stared up at the whitish glow of the overhead lights, my vision was littered with spinning stars and, amidst the pain in the back of my head, I could hear Tertius say,
”Another lesson; Do not get cocky.”
And on and on and on we went..
“Donnie!” Quintus remonstrated me when I tried blocking one his karate chop attacks at my face. What I ended up with was my arm bruised and hurting.
“Do not block my attacks! Divert them instead!” He stated as I rubbed my arm and winced. “Use the energy of my attacks to your advantage.” He instructed.
All too soon, I discovered what he meant when he had me do the same attack on him. I was to punch directly in his face, but just before I connected, he grabbed ahold of my arm near the wrist with one hand, twirled himself around and grabbed my elbow with the other.
Suddenly I’m off balance and I’m disoriented as he whips us both around in a circle. The next thing I know I’m eating padded foam with my punching arm locked painfully behind me in his grasp, along with one of his knees digging painfully into my side. I’m left annoyed, angry, and totally helpless.
“Think of what I just did Donnie,” he began, “I took ahold of your fist and used your own energy against you. You wished to move forward with your fist, so I allowed it, even enhanced it. But I did so beyond where you wished it to go.”
“It’s a little fucking hard when you have a few billion years experience over me!” I cried back in anger.
“The point of the matter Donnie, is that once you begin to understand the nature of this fighting technique, is that it will stand you in good stead when it comes to not only physically fighting, but also when you are using magic, and the other abilities we will be teaching you.”
“Blocking energy may make for a pretty display for anyone watching. Ultimately, it is wasteful practice. Particularly so, since you will be using your own scant reserves to match. Aikido is about precision; using a minimal amount of your energy to divert a much greater amount of your opponent’s energy. Thus, causing your opponent to deplete their reserves much sooner than you.”
So I progressed through the days, weeks, months, whatever you could call it, under his master tutelage. There were times I would have to fight blind, or even without being able to hear. Sometimes I couldn’t feel various parts of my body. All were real world circumstances that I may run in to according to him.
I’m not sure when but, during my training, I noticed the belt on my waist changed colors from its original white to blue, purple, brown then red, finally black. I also felt myself changing. My movements took on purpose, just as he taught. I was more aware of my own and others energy, how it flowed and was used.
He was right about everything.
Eventually, I reached the point where I could give Tertius a decent run for his money. He and I would spar in a full combat that would last hours, even days. The room in which I had awoken to morphed with every different battle between us. We would fight on alien landscapes and worlds, not from my memory but from the shared experiences of Arawn and his not brothers. From ancient stone ruins filled with primitive lizard people, to massive cities made of transforming metal, inhabited by advanced giant robots; each was more beautiful, more terrifying and exotic than the last. It was an experience that words could not describe, and if I tried, they would only fall short.
Now, you may think my progress would be impossible even in a full year but keep in mind, it was a full year of training. No rest, no eating or drinking, just an uninterrupted year of nothing but learning and practicing to fight.
Plus there was the fact that I was highly motivated. This was my shot to level the playing field against immensely powerful beings that always had me at a disadvantage. Druella, The Maou, insert name of various rapey Mamono here, I was tired of being the underdog. Tired of being at their mercy for every little thing.
After knocking down Tertius for a third time during a particularly long bout on a volcanic world, a chime boomed followed by the disembodied voice of Quintus,
”The morning draws near, gentlemen. Your session has ended.”
”Hell of a fucking time buddy,” I said gratefully while pulling him up and into a hug, “thank you.”
“You are welcome Donnie. It has been many centuries since I have had a student, I am glad it was you. Quartus will be present to instruct you the next night. Once you have mastered magics, I shall show you how to incorporate them in combat.”
“Can’t wait,” I smiled, “You gotta show me how to do that blaster punch, fist of the North Star thing Arawn does.”
Tertius’s confused face was the last thing I saw before fading out.
“Is that Rise Against?”
”Is that from my phone?”
“It’s my phone now.” Vicky cuttingly remarked.
She was still sore at me.
In an effort to get us talking, Deanna sent Vicky and I to do some grocery shopping. It took some convincing along with a slight threat to stop paying her phone bill but eventually her and I were on our way to a store called Trader Joanna’s.
Guess Joe was too busy getting raped.
I seem to be getting real good at being in cars driven by Cyclops’s that were pissed off, I thought to myself as I peered out at the passing cars.
We stopped at a light and to my right was a field with horses grazing by its wooden fence. A chestnut colored stallion raised its head to stare at me, almost as if we knew each other.
Was that you Rudolf, my old friend and faithful companion? Maybe reincarnated from long ago, across the cosmos to this world? I remember last seeing you at the stables in the Royal Maki. I’d swing on by every few days to check on you. It seemed like you were happy enough. The stable girls were spoiling you rotten, and I was sure you were putting on a few extra pounds.
It was the morning before I left that I stopped by to say that I’d be back in a few days. That we’d probably be going back to Wonderland, maybe you could see your old girlfriend at mom- in-law Misrelda’s castle.
Yeah, that plan worked out real well. I’m so sorry, I really wished I could have seen you one last time…
Something wet ran it’s way down my cheek. I realized it was a tear. Quickly wiping it away, it occurred to me that not only had I lost my old life on Earth but also the one on their world as well. Ironic, as much as I fought against it, that crazy Suc-u-bitch Katrina was right. I made friends and connections, I did end up having a life there. The light turned green and we were on our way again.
I glanced over to Vicky. Wasn’t doing such a great job here either. During the year long dream, in the odd moments between training, I had a chance to ponder my own history and actions.
I knew the Maou wasn’t a big fan of mine. I also had the inkling that she didn’t like the idea of me being married to her granddaughter. The only reason she tolerated me was because I had the key to Big Boy. Her sending me back to Earth conveniently killed quite a few birds with a single stone. Got me to clean up her mess, got me out of her hair and away from Romie, all at the same time.
She made a single sided decision that affected the life of Romie and I. Did I do the same with Vicky and Devin? Yeah the guy was a scum bag, but she was also a grown woman capable of making her own decisions, her own mistakes and I took that away.
In doing that, did I become just as bad as the Maou? She was pretty damn famous for forcing her idealism on everyone else. In my own way, I did the same to Vicky. The idea of that not only left a very bad taste in my mouth but made me reconsider my actions.
“I shouldn’t have interfered with your life.” I mumbled aloud, still in thought.
“I did the same thing to you that the Maou did to me all those years back. She didn’t have any right to, and neither did I. It was messed up, unfair, and pretty much just plain fucked up. I didn’t treat you like an adult and I forced something that I shouldn’t have.”
I paused and licked my lips before continuing, “I know it doesn’t mean much right now with everything that’s been done, but… I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve that.”
She didn’t say anything. It felt like I was in the car with Didi all over again until she said,
”You’re right I didn’t. I’m the only daughter in the family. The baby, even though I’m in college for Maou fucking sake. Mom, dad, aunt Didi they all treat me the same, like I don’t know what I’m doing even though I found you, fixed that phone, and did more than they ever could. I thought you were different. I thought you understood me.”
She didn’t say anything more. She didn’t need to because she was right. Guilt continued to well up in me but I had one last thing to say,
“I’m not very good at making life choices, I think that’s pretty obvious. I zig when I should zag, make spur of the moment decisions that are honestly the wrong ones. It’s not an excuse, and I don’t want it to be one but I did what I did because I saw the way he treated you. It pissed me off that he mistreated you and I made a rash choice. I know I’m essentially a stranger but if you have to believe one thing, it’s that I did it because I do care for you. I do love you. And in the end, I want the best for you. I want someone that treats you with respect. That looks at you with love. You’re my only granddaughter after all.” I finished softly.
Her cheeks reddened with a blush and she glanced over to me which nearly got us into a car accident as there was another red light.
We arrived at Trader Joanna’s a few minutes later with both of us sporting minor whiplash and Vicky’s tires now a little balder than they used to be. Getting out and walking to the sliding door, I was stopped by her pulling me into a rough hug.
”You’re a fucking pain in the ass, you know that?” She mumbled into my chest.
”Yeah,” I answered gently.
”And I’m still mad at you!” She growled while tightening her hug. I did my best to ignore the creaking pain of my ribs.
“But… I love you too.”
With a smile, I rested my head against her purple hair. I’m not ashamed to say that her hug made my entire day a hell of a lot better.
“Are those the same clothes you’ve been wearing since like forever?” She asked as we walked through the aisles of the grocery store. List in hand and cart in front, I absently kept an eye out for the needed products.
“Eww. That’s gross.”
“Not really, they don’t get dirty.”
“So what, they’re like magical clothes?” She laughed.
Ketchup, check. Used up the last bit on George’s burgers.
Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil? Rapeseed? What the fuck? That can’t be real. I looked over to the cooking oils on the same aisle. Vegetable oil, canola oil, avocado oil, olive oil, extra virgin cold pressed… Son of a bitch. Fine, whatever.
Disgusted, I threw the bottle in the basket.
“Okay, and who gave you these magical threads?” She mocked making quotes with her fingers as she said the word ‘magical.’
“Ilias.” I replied, invoking a name that brought its fair share of drama and more.
Eggs next, farmers pack, 5 dozen.
“Uh, I’m sorry, I don’t think I heard that right.” She said stopping dead in her tracks midway back through the condiment section.
“You did.” I answered, still walking.
“No, I didn’t,” she exclaimed running after me and grabbing my arm, “because you said the actual name of the-“
She looked around to make sure there was no one eavesdropping, then whispered,
“Of the Maou freaking damn Chief God of the old world!”
“And you heard right.”
“That’s impossible! We learned in school that she was captured long ago!”
“She looked pretty uncaptured to me.” I shrugged while turning into the dairy section.
“Is-Is she still around?” Vicky asked with a touch of fear in her voice.
“No,” I stopped and thought about that night and the sadness in her eyes. I think she was really hoping I would change my mind and go with her. Like me, she lost her world and perhaps she felt a kinship in our mutual disparity. Repressing the feeling of sorrow beginning to bubble in my own self, I looked over to see Vicky staring at me.
“She left Earth. Went to go explore the universe, or something like that,” I said quietly with forced a smile, “so don’t worry.”
Carefully putting the pack into the cart I looked at what was next. Bread- whole wheat, party size bag of potato chips, a gallon of organic Holstaur milk. Organic? As opposed to what? Non-organic Holstaur milk? Whatever. 4 green bell peppers, 2 yellow onions, 4 large Rapefruits. Rapefruit? You know what? I’m not even gonna ask. Pint of chocolate ice cream, a 2 liter of Coke and Sprite…
“Ooookaay,” she replied disbelievingly while staring at me like I was a damn nut job, “and how exactly is it that you know all this and her and why did she give you stuff?”
I sighed, not exactly too keen on reliving that part of my life.
“I was there when she left for good. That and… We… kinda ran into each other… a few times before that.” I said dismissively. Vicky swung around, blocking the carts path, and interlaced her fingers into the grates.
“How about you do better than that.” She glared, annoyed that I was skirting around the topic.
Guess I wasn’t that lucky today.
“Look, she kinda had a thing for me, okay? She gave me the clothes after she broke me out of the asylum Druella put me in and wanted me to come with her. I said no and she left. End of story.” I gave a small push and Vicky moved out of the way.
“Grandma, that Romie cat girl and now the Maou damn Chief God?! What in hell were you doing in the old world?!” She whispered in awe.
“Fucking up and trying to keep alive.” I answered testily. Those two were about the only things I seemed to be good at back then and even now. I can honestly say that I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, just making it all up as I went along. But with Arawn and his not brothers help, I felt like maybe there was a plan, that maybe things wouldn’t end up going south this time around.
“Anything else you wanna confess?” She asked.
I paused. Well in for a penny, in for a pound was the old saying, right?
“I’m being taught alien martial arts and how to use magic in my sleep by a bunch of friends from another dimension that are dead and now ghosts.”
Vicky squinted at me a good 5 minutes before I added,
”I also have a couple rocks from Ilias and them that I’m guessing will give me magical super powers.”
Another minute or so passed.
“…Wh- Why do you make my brain hurt so much?”
I shrugged nonchalantly and she sighed deeply.
”Okay, anything more?” She huffed, frustrated by my indifference to her pain.
“If I remember, you’ll be the first one I tell.”
She threw up her hands at that.
“Countess Chocula?” I asked aloud, peering down to the bottom of the list. It was scribbled hastily and not in the same handwriting as the rest.
“Oh! That ones mine! Be right back!” She exclaimed, all traces of exasperation gone, as she ran off to what I assumed was the cereal aisle.
I sighed at that one. Cooking oil, fruit and now cereal. Guess even breakfast wasn’t safe from Mamono. A sudden burning sensation from my pants pocket forced me to look up to see a strange looking Baphomet sitting on the edge of the refrigerator section of the cheese. She was dressed not in modern day clothing but in a revealing metal bikini that was the common favorite for them back in the day. A wicked looking scythe was next to her, casually leaned up against the gouda.
“Mmm, who would have guessed, after all these years? I thought you were a sidekick of his. Just some worthless human pet that he kept around to be entertained by.”
She grabbed the scythe and hopped down, slowly walking towards me.
“All those times, I pursued him. Wanting to make him mine. His power mine. When he died, I thought I lost that opportunity. And here you are, looking the same after a hundred years have passed. I can smell him on you, smell his magic, his power.”
Pretty sure this chick wasn’t spouting out a super villain monologue just for the hell of it. I cursed my stupidity for leaving Winona in the glove box of Vicky’s Bug but then I realized, even without her, I could still take care of business. Ignoring the pain, I snatched Ilias’s marble out of my pocket and readied myself for an attack. What really sucked was this shit was going down in a god damn grocery store. I didn’t want to involve any bystanders, including my own granddaughter!
”And who the fuck are you, lady?” I asked, stalling to think of some way I could move this outside.
“Aww you don’t remember me?” She mocked as a hand rose to cover her mouth. “You were the only one who saw me that day when I sent those ogres to play with you and Arawn in the Royal Maki. Silly boy, my name is Belphegor.”
Wait, what the…?
My mind flashed back the first time I met Arawn. Our night out on the town. The laughter on the wind and a weird little goat girl smiling at us from an alleyway.
Holy fuck that was her!
”You do remember!” She squealed as she stopped and put her hand on her cheek, blushing slightly.
“Look, you don’t want to do this. Not here, not right now. We can take it outside, just you and me.” I said, desperate to avoid anyone getting hurt from what was sure to be a fight.
“Yes. I do. I can’t wait to make you my own,” she leaned forward and inhaled deeply, seeming to ignore my pleas.
“But you’re not done yet,” Belphegor pouted, looking disappointed. “Almost. But not yet. Too bad, because even with the stench of that bitch in your hand, you smell absolutely delicious right now.”
Enough of this crap.
”Well what are you waiting for then? Come on!” I growled while adjusting my posture into that of a combat ready one. If this bitch wanted to start some shit, I was ready to kick her ass. Maybe I could throw her out an emergency exit or a through a wall or… something. That would at least get us out of the building.
She leaned back, grinning evilly.
“Sorry, I don’t like my food undercooked. See you soon, cutie.”
Spinning around, she used the scythe to slash open a small, black portal. Turning back, she blew me a kiss before entering and disappearing into it. The rip was just sealing itself as my granddaughter appeared from around an aisle.
“Hey got the cereal…” Vicky trailed off as she caught the tail end of my new stalker making her exit.
“Uh, what the fuck was that?”
I relaxed and straightened from my fighters stance.
“Evil, power crazed goat-girl that’s probably gonna try to kidnap me for some diabolical purpose.”
“I guess.” I said, shrugging.
“Shits never easy with you, is it?” She asked as she chucked the brown and white box depicting a scantily clad Vampire into the cart.
Couldn’t agree more.
The second night.
I met Quartus in a familiar looking room aboard a particular Starship that I knew quite well.
“Dr. Crusher on vacay?” I asked, looking around. I wanted to ask him if he knew about Belphegor and what she was talking about, but I figured it could wait until later. We had a year after all.
“Yes, in a sense, due to are alone. I choose this environment because I must determine your innate magical ability before planning a proper regimen,” he replied while pulling various instruments from the cabinets and placing them on a metal tray, “please take a seat on the biobed.”
I hopped on the futuristic medical table and grinned at him,
“Turn my head and cough, Doc?”
“It is not that kind of exam,” he said giving a pained expression while pointing a familiar looking cylinder-like device at me, “now, hold still as I scan you.”
I swore I seen that thing before but from where? A small transparent screen appeared in front of him as strange looking characters filled it.
It was from a tv show I think. Wasn’t Star Trek or Star Wars… Maybe something on BBC… Then it hit me.
“Is that what I think it is?” I mumbled suspiciously, not wanting to shift my body too much. That damn screwdriver could do just about anything.
He paused and looked down at the tool in his hand.
“This? I copied it from an interesting doctor Primus encountered some time ago. He regularly employed such a device and it was shown to be extremely useful, although I have made some improvements upon it.”
Son of a bitch, I had the inkling I knew which “Doctor” he was talking about, but I had to be sure.
“Who is the doctors name?”
“Yes, do you know of him?” he nodded absently while inadvertently answering my question with his own.
Well that just opened up a whole new line of questions that I probably would never get any answers to. I vaguely wondered if there was some way I could hitch a ride in the TARDUS.
“Kinda. Ya see, I-“
“This cannot be correct.” Quartus interrupted with a deep frown. A quick swipe of his hand erased the information on the screen and he begin anew.
“We shall see.”
I watched as he peered intently at the screen as it filled again with alien letters. After a few moments, his face scrunched in disbelief.
“Primus! I must confer with you!” He called aloud.
“Yes, Quartus?” Arawn asked, appearing besides him to his right.
Arawn glanced at the screen as I felt myself growing more and more concerned. I saw a frown forming on his face to match his not- brother‘s.
“Hey guys, what’s goin on? The sorting hat says I’m not getting into House Gryffindor or what?” I joked nervously.
“You double checked the results?” He asked.
“Yes,” Quartus nodded, “they are correct.”
”That does not make any sense…” He mumbled
Shiiiiiiit, I hoped he didn’t find cancer or something like that. With all the fucking demonic energy I’ve been around, plus getting kicked back and forth between planets, dimensions or whatever, and all the other bullshit, I was betting it was the big C. Fuck me. Chemo… Losing my hair. Drugs that cost like a billion dollars a pill. Fuck. I started to sweat profusely while watching as the pair consulted the screen.
Looking up, Arawn raised an eyebrow as he spared a quick glance down to the screen then back to me.
“It would appear that the very phenomenon that renders you immune to magic also prevents you from retaining it. Donnie you posses no mana save for the trace amount that is apparent in all living things, that is.”
Oh, thank god, what a relief! Dodged that bullet… Wait, what?
“It… is surprising for a variety of reasons and it complicates our initial plans, yes.”
“Well that’s the story of my life buddy.” I quipped while cracking a wry grin at him, fully relieved that being thrown into a microwave wasn’t in my future.
“Indeed. How would you suggest we circumnavigate this… problem, Quartus?”
Arawn’s not- brother thought for a moment, then spoke slowly,
“While it is true Donnie does not have enough mana to properly energize the stones on his own, Earth does have an abundance of Leylines… In theory, he could utilize them as a substitute power source. Directly channel the energy to them as a sort of living conduit.”
A living conduit? Now that definitely sounds like it’s OSHA approved.
Arawn nodded at the idea and said, “I concur. While not ideal, it is the only logical resolution until a more permanent solution can be found.”
“And how is a landline going to help me? I’m not checking my Facebook out there.”
“Leylines are invisible conduits of magical power that flow through the earth and air. You would be able to make use of these lines in order to perform the various magics we will be teaching you.”
”And if I’m not near one of these lines?”
”The ability to perform magic is based upon the stored mana of the person. In this case, you have none and objects such as the stones, both focus and give form to it. Which is why Sorcerers, for example, prize them so much. Even Merlin was know to employe a verity of different objects to aid in his magics.”
“Well good for that old man but he was king of the whole bipity bopity boop thing and you’re saying I can’t do magic for shit?”
“There is a certain irony in your words that you may appreciate at a later time, but to answer your question; Without a link to a leyline, to a source of power, you would not be able to fully utilize them.”
”But the marble Ilias gave me worked. It seems to warn me when there’s a dangerous Mamono around. Do you think it was because I was near one of those lines?”
“Perhaps. The stones can store a limited amount of magical power and do possess unique attributes of their own. The one she gave you is unknown and alerting of hostile opponents could be one of its inherent traits. However, if you were to try to use them for any advanced magic, it would deplete their stored power until you reenergize them.”
“Well that sucks.”
”Agreed, but it will have to suffice for the current time.”
“Primus, a thought just occurred to me,” Quartus mumbled, placing the screwdriver down, “due to Donnie’s… uniqueness, he is both immune and does not have a preset disposition towards Chaotic or Lawful magics. He could wield them both safely.”
“We do not have an object that allows for Chaotic magic.” Arawn frowned.
“True. But we do know of a very powerful one. And of where to find it…”
We both looked at him, puzzled until Arawn suddenly exclaimed, “No Quartus, it is far too dangerous! Even with his immunity, we do not know the consequences nor the toll it would take on his body.”
“What the hell are you guys talking about?”
”The shard of the Philosophers stone that you retrieved for Druella.” Quartus answered. Arawn shot his not brother a reprimanding look as he said that. They began to argue as I stared down hard at the floor in personal reflection.
If Arawn was right about people coming after me, Belphegor might just be the beginning. I honestly didn’t want the power they were talking about. I truly believed in the old saying that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Look at the Maou for example. If I was just left alone. If Faith, the Maou, Druella, Goat-chick, and everyone fucking else would have just left me the hell alone, than none of this would have ever been needed. None of it necessary. But I guess things don’t go the way we want them to.
They never do. A damning question formed in my mind. Would I have to become corrupt in order to save those I love from the corrupted?
“Let’s do it.” I said aloud, interrupting them.
”Donnie-“ Arawn began.
”You were right. People are coming after me. Today I was grocery shopping with Vicky and some Bamph named Belphegor tried to start some shit with me. Said she knew you, that she was the one that sent those three ogres after us the night we met.”
I watched both my friends stiffen as I said that.
“Now that you’re gone, I’m pretty sure she’s coming after me. She wanted your power, she said. I guess I’m the consolation prize. She might try to hurt Deanna or Didi or even Vicky to get to me. If what you said was true, than I need every advantage Arawn. Every leg up, every edge, every resource. Everything.”
Arawn and Quartus looked to each other in apprehensive silence. Perhaps they could still communicate telepathically, who knows. I heard Arawn mutter aloud, “Her appearance was not in any of the likely realities we foresaw.”
”It is conceivable that those possibilities have changed with our interference, despite the short amount of time.” Quartus answered back.
“She has become desperate to achieve her goals with the passing of time. More dangerous.” Arawn said seemingly more to himself.
“And substantially more powerful,” Quartus added as a nearby screen suddenly came to life. The entire scene between her and I played out on it. It had to have come from my memory, and I wondered suspiciously if the fact that all this was happening inside my head, gave everyone access to my consciousness.
”Even from just a visual inspection, she has grown stronger compared to our last encounter. The residual thaumaturgy on Donnie does confirm this.”
So they did know her. And by their reaction, she was a major threat. If you are still reading this, you might think that I was afraid. You’re absolutely right, I was scared. Scared for my newly found family, sacred for myself. Scared for a lot of things. But there were other emotions in there as well.
A fuck ton lot of desperation actually.
I tuned out their back and forth as a cold and outright insane realization came to me. I was never a fan of the whole idea of a nuclear deterrent but maybe it did have its merit. Something so powerful and scary that nobody wanted to fuck with you. I had something, was something that people wanted and as a human, Mamono naturally considered me weak, easy to dick around with. As utterly crazy as it sounded, maybe I needed me a nuke. No… Not a nuke like Big Boy… Maybe, I needed to become the nuke. But to do that, I needed more…
“I don’t want a war,” they stopped their conversation to listen to my words, “I just wanted to be left alone to reassemble whatever was left of my life. But I guess we seldom get the things we want. You were right, things have changed. Guys, I’m tired of losing and I’ll tell you all this much. I’m done. I’m not going to lose anymore. I’ll go get that damn shard and I’ll end whatever they start.” I finished passionately.
I watched the face of old buddy and the surprising myriad of emotions cycling through his face. Slowly he nodded while licking his dried lips and said softly,
“If it is to be an onslaught, than it shall be one we will ensure you to victorious in. The nanny goat has appeared and we must not waste a single moment.”
It was all hands on deck after that. Everyone showed up. There was something else I needed to ask. I grabbed Quintus and pulled him aside privately.
“Question. Is it possible that you can you give us more than a year in my dream?” I asked him.
“It is possible, yes, but you would risk damaging your cerebral cortex. I judged a year to be safely within perimeters for you.”
“But it is possible. You could give us more? Like 2 years, maybe?” I pushed.
“What you are proposing would give you brain damage and thus make our efforts futile!” He retorted angrily.
“What are the chances?”
”What do you mean?”
“What are the chances I’d get brain damage from a 2 year run?” I asked.
“This is insanity! I will not consider what you are proposing!”
“Quintus… What. Are. The. Chances?”
The Psy-Mage seethed and fumed at my dogged questioning. I knew he was trying to look out for me. To protect me. But we no longer had the time to spare nor the luxury of being careful. I had a bad feeling about what was to come, I needed to be ready for it and soon.
After much bristling, he paused a moment then spoke “Approximately 50 percent. Perhaps less if I can make adjustments quickly enough.”
50/50 odds. Hell that was better than what I could get at Vegas, if I ever decided to go. I knew it was dangerous, I knew it was stupid, but did I have much of a choice? Did I want to be half prepared when shit started to hit the fan? It was a risk, maybe a foolish one, but I had to chance it. Besides, taking stupid, head strong risks were kinda my thing anyway.
“Let’s make it happen.” I nodded.
”I will not!”
“You gave me 50/50 odds Quintus, now what are my chances when some big baller like your goat friend decides that to show up?”
He crossed his arms defiantly and said, “And I refuse to be an accomplice to your suicidal intent.”
It was my turn to fume. I needed more time!
“Fine! What about 10 months more? 9? 8? 6? God damn it, Quintus! Something! Give me something… Please,” I sighed in frustration then said quietly, “back in the day, it was easy. Didn’t have a family. Just me and Rudolf. Then Romie came along but she had her Super Sayan alter ego, so I didn’t have to worry. But now Quintus, I have 2 daughters and a granddaughter. They don’t have any way to guard themselves from the shit that’s going on around me. I have to be the one to protect them. Please.”
My begging seemed to reach him. He softened for a moment then, as if angry at himself, exclaimed,
“7 months more! Perhaps 8 at the most! Ziom help me, but I will have to get permission from Primus! If something were to happen to you, I will not endure his wrath over this- this- madness!”
“Fair enough, and thank you.” I smiled, relieved that I had more time to get stronger.
“Is there something amiss my friends? We heard raised voices.” Arawn asked as he approached us.
“No, we’re good.”
”I must request permission, Primus.” Quintus stated crossly.
“For?” Arawn raised an eyebrow to his not-brother.
Quintus glanced over to me before answering,
“Donnie wishes to extend the dream sequence. I informed him that in doing so, it greatly increases the risk of damage to his cerebral cortex. He still wishes to proceed.”
“And you just said that adding another 7 to 8 more months wouldn’t be too bad.” I shot back pointedly.
Arawn looked to him then to me.
“Donnie, he is correct. Extending the dream would pose a significant risk to you.”
“I know, I know. But I just can’t help thinking something bad is going to happen soon. That goat lady was just the first. That we don’t have a lot of time left. That my family is in danger,” I flopped my arms out in defeat.
He took in my words, giving them his full attention. I could see his mind working. Weighing the options, weighing the odds. Finally he nodded, almost to himself, and spoke again,
”We shall proceed with the utmost of caution. Quintus shall monitor you and, if indeed it seems that there will be increased damage to you, the dream shall end immediately. Are we in acquiesce? Donnie? Quintus?”
“Yes.” I agreed.
Quintus huffed peevishly, but eventually nodded.
Arawn took the lead and the three of us walked back to the rest of the group. Sickbay faded around us until the five of us stood in guest room I was sleeping in. I looked over to see my sleeping form in bed. Walking over, I bent down to look at myself snoozing away.
”Yeah, this isn’t creepy or anything.” I said aloud while straightening.
“We will stay for only a few moments. In the first segment of your training, you will need to learn how to draw magical energy from a leyline.” Quartus explained.
A faint green glow appeared from the hand that held the stone Arawn gave me.
“I am activating the stone to allow you some small use of magic. This will allow you to see the lines that are otherwise invisible to the naked eye. Now do you see that faint glowing line in the sky, some ways away?” Quartus asked.
“That is a leyline. Although it is some distance, you can still tap into it and siphon its energy. Keep in mind however the distance also effects the amount you can draw upon but for our lessons, it should be enough. Now concentrate on that line.”
It reminded me of an infinitely long fiber optic. Bright and bending, it trailed across the sky. The thing was kinda pretty in an odd way.
“Imagine yourself pulling from it, gathering it’s strands, it’s energy, letting it flow to you.”
His words brought a bit of skepticism to me. How the hell was I supposed to pull from something that looked to be miles away, up in the sky? Still, I figured I’d give it the old college try. Closing my eyes I reached out a hand, thinking about grabbing ahold of the magical live wire. Totally not expecting to be electrocuted or anything.
My pessimistic suspicions proved me incorrect when I “grabbed” it.
Nothing. No pain. No electrocution.
”I think it’s broken.” I muttered with my eyes still shut.
“It is not,” said Quartus, “open your eyes.”
When I did, I saw that a bright green light had flooded the room as it shone from the gem held by my sleeping form.
“The stone is now fully energized, however you will need to continually practice this process in order to hasten the time it takes you to do this. During combat, the seconds you spend, may mean your life.”
The scene around us changed again and we found ourselves in a baseball diamond. It was about mid afternoon as the sun shone down upon us and I looked around trying to figure why I was having the damnest case of deja vu. A faded image of a black panther graced the chipping paint of a wooden fence and I finally figured out why. We were at my old high school!
”I shall temporarily leave him in your tutelage, Primus.” Quartus said to Arawn with a gesture of his hand as he went to join Tertius and Quintus who were already sitting on the bleachers.
We started with the basics. Fireballs, ice spears, water blasts and the like.
I sucked at each and every one. Multiple times I had to “recharge the batteries” but at least I was getting better at doing that.
“Try again.” He said patiently after what had must have been the millionth time of what was suppose to be a smoldering flame in my hand. It ended up going out in a sad wisp of smoke.
“It is conceivable that elemental magics may not be his forte, Primus.” Quartus called as he set down something that suspiciously looked like a Gameboy DS on the metal bench.
“I fear you could be correct.” Arawn called back with a frown.
“Donnie did show an interest in the Blast-Punch, perhaps our own type of combat magics would be more appealing for him to learn.” Added Tertius.
I pointed an index finger over at the karate kid and gave him a thumbs up. Now we were talking. Fuck zippos, ice cubes and super soakers, let’s get down to the good stuff! Arawn looked over to me with an even deeper frown and a raise of his eyebrow.
Things did a solid 180 after that. Good old Tertius was right. I had always liked Arawn’s signature moves, and now I actually had the chance to not only learn them but to use them as well!
”Focus the energy into your hand but do not allow it to escape. Bubble it, build upon it.”
My fist took on a bright glow then a pure white globe began to grow from it.
“It’s getting kinda heavy,” I grunted while concentrating on the orb.
“Excellent, it is ready then.”
A dummy appeared a couple feet away from me. Needing no other encouragement, I punched it. From my fist a force emerged that completely destroyed the upper half of the poor mannequin.
“Very good!” Arawn complimented, “You can adjust the infliction of the Blast-Punch based upon how much energy you feed into it. The heavier your fist, the more damage it will do. With time, it shall come inherently to you.”
“Indeed. Quartus would appear to be correct that your inclinations seem to be more toward our own abilities.” He remarked.
“Always a fan of your work, buddy.” I said with a wide smile, excited that I was able to recreate his signature move so easily.
He turn a slight smile to that and said,
”Form the Blast- Punch again.”
I concentrated and once again I had my own Fist of the Northstar going on.
“Now, flatten the bubble and image it to be a blade. Shape it to whichever comes to mind but let the form be that of a blade. A Force-Blade.”
I closed my eyes as million different ideas came to mind. I mean shit, pretty much every fucking anime and video game character out there had a god damn sword. But then a specific one came to me. Smushing the energy bubble, I imagined the length of it, the curve. No guard, this mother fucker was purely for attack. I opened them to see the result.
“I believe that is… excessive.”
Ichigo’s massive Zanpakutō from when he first became a Soul Reaver rested in my hand.
“Go big or go home, baby.” I answered.
“In the future, perhaps a smaller blade would be more… reasonable.” He said with a frown while staring at the oversized black and silver sword.
“Fine,” I sighed, “I still got plenty other choices in mind.”
He nodded, evidently relieved that I wasn’t gonna use a giant butchers knife to train with, and asked, “If you could now summon your fire arm?”
Letting the sword dissipate, I thought of my lady and was rewarded with her comforting form in my hand.
“Through the use of magic, you could in theory use modify it into that of a much more powerful weapon.”
”No can do, buddy,” I said while shaking my head, “Winona is made up of metal from my old car. Anything that came with me when I landed in La La Land was made immune to magic.”
My explanation seemed to puzzle him as he looked over to his not-brothers then back to me. Arawn took a few moments to think as he stared at Winona , then he asked,
”Its ammunition is not made from your possessions, correct?”
“Then, in a similar method to the Blast- Punch, you could modify the projectiles into that of a more powerful, magical based version.”
“Magical explosive bullets?” I exclaimed .
”Yes, with a variable destructive yield and, as long as you have mana, in unlimited number as well.”
”Fucking Blast-Bullets? Holy shit Arawn, you just made my day!”
He smiled at my coining of a new ability and said
“Then perhaps we shall now progress to this…”
Holding his forearm up to me, a small glowing round shield appeared.
“The Shield-Buckler. An invaluable defensive ability to use during combat. The shield not only defects blasts and debris, but is also useful to absorb energy, sometimes kinetic, but mostly magical and channel it into the person wielding it. Thus allowing someone at low mana strength to fire off a few more shots with the Blast-Punch. I could have even used it as an umbrella, but my dignity refused to allow me to do so, thus I end up being soaked when it precipitates.”
My eyes popped at that one. Who knew that that thing was so damn versatile?”
“Because you are limited by the mana held in the stones, I would advise you to restrain yourself on attacking, and rather have your enemy attack you first, absorbing their energy to fuel your own abilities.”
”Kinda seems like cheating?” I asked.
He raised his eyebrow to me as span of silence stretched between us.
”Okay, you’re right, I don’t give a shit about cheating.”
The old man continued on with his explanation,
“The Shield buckler can also be extended out to cover another person entirely from any external threats, though it takes an extraordinary amount of energy to do so, and runs the risk of leaving one unable to do the spell again for a while. It is akin of exercising too furiously, and being left sore afterwards. You could also envelop a person with the shield to trap them like a bear-hug, but too, it takes more energy to do so for longer than a few seconds.”
I nodded, listening to his every word. He was right, that little shield had a lot going on. Even as a defensive piece, it could turn the tide in a fight. From then on there I practiced my new found skills. Blast- Punch, Force-Blade, Blast-Bullets and the Shield-Buckler.
Eventually I graduated to where I had to fight and defend against Arawn and another not-brother. Then eventually three and finally all four attacking me at once. It was when we were using our Force- Blades that the shared dream went sideways. Tertius had swept my feet out from under me and Arawn’s blade came crashing down. I should have used my Shield-Buckler to block his attack but I panicked and instinctively closed my eyes while crossing my arms over my face. A confusing clang of metal and me being pain free signaled something had stopped the blow.
Peering out, I found a massive blue and grey metal shield had appeared on my forearm, blocking Arawn’s blade. I also felt something in the palm of my hand. Opening it, I saw that there laid the blue/ green Goddesses marble nestled tightly.
”A shield of a Valkyrie?! Quartus!” Called Arawn in shock.
“Scanning now.” He said rushing to me as he waved the sonic screwdriver over it. After a few moments he reported,
“The signature is that of the Goddess Ilias. It is possible the stone is reacting to Donnie’s continued collection of mana from the leyline… Wait! Something else is happening! Primus-“
Suddenly an odd feeling washed over me. I saw the shared dream reality take on a monotone appearance. It was like I was watching everything on an old fashioned black and white tv. Arawn bent and weaved out of proportion, like the reception was going out. I looked over to Tertius, Quintus and Quartus only to see the same. Everyone slowly faded from view until where I stood was now a pitch black room. A bright white spot light shone upon me from somewhere far above.
“Gosh, this place sure is a mess!” Chortled a high pitched voice.
I turned to see another spot light had appeared a few feet away and under it, a certain famous cartoon mouse peering around.
“Mickey?!” I exclaimed with a confused frown.
He put his hands on his hips and exclaimed, “The very same! Boy, your head is a disaster, pal!”
Jesus Fucking Christ! Have I really gone crazy?
“You’ve been dilly dallying around way too much when she’s out there!”
“You need to find Romie! She’s out there looking for you!”
“Where? Do you know where she is?!” I shouted.
Mickey started to static and blur much like with Arawn and his not brothers. Before he could answer, all around me, reality twisted and mutated in a bad acid trip of shapes and colors. There was searing pain and screaming that I couldn’t figure out from where until I realized- it was coming from me. Reality wasn’t melting, I was.
Was there pain? How can one tell when you don’t have nerves, a brain or even a body. There were just colors and liquids.
I found myself back to normal, floating in a sea of stars. Gasping for air, in the dead of space with every nerve ending on fire, I fought to keep myself together, to trick or convince myself into some semblance of control and sanity. I tried to concentrate on what he said. Romie was looking for me. Was she on Earth? But was what he said real? Thoughts raced through my head until I realized where I actually was. The pain subsided and a glow caught my attention. I twisted my head to see what was only possible in tv and movies. A vast heavenly spiral of gas and stars…
The Milky Way Galaxy laid far before me. Massive. Beautiful. Something no human had ever truly seen before from this distance. My adrenaline fueled brain sputtered out at the shear, overwhelming majesty of it all. Was I finally losing it? Everything I’ve been through, did my mind finally snap?
I felt myself be turned until the face the Chief God herself was almost touching my own.
“You! I… thought you were gone?”
A sly smile graced her immaculate face.
“I am. But I will never leave you.”
Blinking, I really didn’t know how to respond to her mysterious statement, so I numbly sputtered,
“I uh… I swear I saw Mickey-“
She put a finger up to my lips, silencing me.
“Never mind the mouse.”
The Earth marble she once gifted me appeared by our side, twinkling and sparkling as if it were a star in its very own right.
“When you capture a Goddesses heart, you’ll never be truly rid of her.”
Bringing her hands up to cup my face, she kissed me deeply. Her lips, red and soft like a rose petal. Her taste, almost sweet just like her smell. Cherries with a hint of almond.
“Am I finally going insane?” I breathed to her as she broke the kiss. Everything was so random, so sudden but strangely enough, it made me feel better. Like there was something familiar that I could latch on to. A rock in the stormy sea of chaos.
“No,” she giggled in a whisper, “I just wanted to see you now that you’re truly beginning to use my gift. Do you like it? I left a piece of myself within along with a few other little surprises to help you.”
She kissed me again, “I missed you.”
I could feel the need, the want in her voice. Then, an echoing call from the distance-
“~~~ehfbejeh. Quintus adjust for fheuheei. Donnie! Can you hear me?”
It was Arawn. The Goddess dipped her head and let loose a small growl as she sighed deeply in annoyance.
“Never enough time,” she grumbled to herself then raised her head back up at me, “Your friends are looking for you.”
“Are you real? Is this really happening?”
There was a glimmer in her eye as she grinned enigmatically at my question. She then pecked me on the lips and said,
“As real as anything can be in a dream, I suppose. Fear not, we will see each other again. Even if I cannot be with you physically, this tiny piece of my heart shall always be by your side.”
Ilias took a hand from my face and flicked me in the forehead with a finger. The small action sent me speeding towards my home galaxy. Faster and faster I traveled. Stars raced by and started to blur until I was in a tunnel made by their light.
I remembered opening my eyes, discovering that I was laying down on the ground, staring up at the sky. It’s soft cerulean color with wisps of white clouds floating on by. I heard the crunch of many fast approaching footsteps on dried, dead grass. All four of my friends faces appeared in my sight.
“Donnie!” Arawn exclaimed as he knelt down to my side, “We feared the worst. Are you well?”
Quartus appeared by my other side, scanning me with his screwdriver.
Was I well? No where in the farthest could I say that I was well, the shit I had seen and experienced made me question hard the last little bit of sanity I had remaining.
“Do you know what happened?” Quintus asked.
I debated on lying to them. Saying I didn’t know. I didn’t want to explain that a piece of Ilias was forever linked to me. Assuming that what I did experience was real. I felt an instant shame of my thoughts, they were good people, just trying to help me. I couldn’t lie to them, they didn’t deserve that. So I explained what I experienced, what I saw, who I saw. Arawn and his not-brothers shared a look between them, but nothing more was said about it.
”Come,” Arawn said as he helped me to my feet, “there is more training to do and we have lost precious amounts of time.”
The grueling sparing was re-continued and as “time” passed, I felt a fever forming. I said nothing to the guys, as my suspicions as to why were pretty obvious. I was dreaming for too long but I needed to push through, I needed to get these abilities down!
“Donnie has reached his limit,” Quintus announced durning mid strike of Quartus’s blade.
Everyone’s weapons disappeared and Arawn walked up to me and took hold of my shoulder.
”If I may have a few more moments with him?” He asked Quintus.
He frowned at the request and replied, “Make haste, Primus. He can not be here for much longer.”
”I shall,” Arawn responded as he lead me away.
“I know the moment grows short and the longer this dream is drawn out, the more dangerous it is for you but I believe it is imperative that I show you this.”
”Yeah, sure.” I nodded, fighting to keep the fever and now a growing migraine at bay.
Arawn waved a hand and everything around us faded away until we stood alone in the star filled void of space. For a guy that’s never actually physically been to space, floating around there was getting to be pretty damn familiar.
But wait… No… I was wrong. We weren’t alone. There was a presence. Every hair on my body rose up in threat and my blood ran cold. Turning, I was met with a being that no nightmare could do justice, no book, no movie, no description. A massive creature that evoked terror and horror at an instinctually primal level.
“W-W-What is it?” I whispered, unable to raise my voice.
“A devourer of life. Born in the beginnings of time itself, a god before there were such things as gods. Ancient, single minded and purposed. Death in its very first form.”
“Evil.” I breathed, unable to take my eyes off the thing. All thoughts and feelings of pain had vanished as I watched it pass by.
“In my many eons, I have learned that the terms good and evil are quite subjective and interchangeable,” he said softly in the tired voice of a man that’s seen and done too much, “but yes, for this creature, I would have to agree.”
It’s pure black surface was littered with tentacles that were ever changing. Shifting from metal to crystalline, and even flesh. We watched as it approached a planet that looked similar to Earth, although it’s continents were shaped much differently.
“Absolon 4.” Arawn said to me.
I watched in horror as the monster slammed itself onto the face of the world, it’s tentacles spreading over the sphere. From so far above, it looked like a festering sore on the planets surface.
“Days before this, my ships sensors picked up an anomalous reading heading towards this system. I thought nothing of it at first, but it was Quartus that discovered the truth behind it. I changed course as soon as could.”
A small, single person fighter craft appeared in a flash to our side and shot past us. It then slowed to a stop as the cockpits hatch opened and it’s pilot rose from its seat. He was dressed in an armored white space suit with a tinted domed helmet.
“But I was too late. It choose the largest, most densely populated continent to feed upon. In a matter of moments, over 7 billion lives were lost.”
I could hear the pain in his voice and in his soul but couldn’t respond. I was frozen in sheer terror and awe of watching a planet be devoured.
The pilot swung his arms around in a gesture and colossal beam of pure white energy launched from his hands. It struck the monstrous death god from behind and even though we were in the vacuum of space, I swore I could hear an inhuman scream of pain.
It’s funny, but at the time my brain wasn’t able to bridge the basic fact that Arawn and the pilot were one in the same person. In all my life, I’ve never been so afraid, so petrified that even the simplest of thoughts were impossible.
The creature pulled itself from the planet in fury. A burned imprint of itself was left on the surface of a world that was once teaming with life.
“I knew I could not kill it, for the old ones cannot die. So I led it away to a collapsed star, lightyears beyond any habitable region.”
I watched as pilot Arawn sped through space, taunting it with his magic and the ships weapons. A shot here and there, just enough to keep it angry, just enough to keep it in pursuit. Ever did it follow him, hell bent not only on revenge but eager to consume the rich source of energy that was just out of reach.
“It took quite a bit maneuvering, and with assistance from Secundus, Quintus and Quartus, I trapped it in the gravitational pull of the singularity. The ships engines nearly burnt out as I barely escaped, but it would never harm another world again. A fitting prison, if ever there was one.”
The tiny fighter flew away and the creature screamed in rage of its entrapment. The noise… God to this day, I can still remember it. The sound of pure hatred. The denial of its food, the denial of its revenge and the denial of its freedom. It pierced me to the very core.
Somehow I managed to find my voice and mumbled dumbly, “Wh-What about the planet?”
“Much of the population was killed. But some survived on the opposite side and on outlying islands. Eventually, after many centuries, the world healed and it’s people recovered. Life finds a way.”
Our orientation changed back to Absolon 4. The scars of the creatures attack faded, replaced by with green growth as time rapidly passed. I too felt my own anxiety and fear pass by watching the miracle of life itself bounce back from death and destruction.
“How were you so brave? How could you face that thing alone? Why did you show me this?” I asked/ demanded, still watching as my mind finally processed what had just happened.
“I did so because innocent people needed my help. Because with great power comes great responsibility. I have shown you this for many reasons, Donnie. In the matrix of stone in which I gave you, I not only included my abilities but also much of my memories and experience as well to aid you. There are beings in the multiverse that make the Maou, her daughters and their power look pitifully infinitesimal. If you do progress beyond what we teach you and if you do ever decide to traverse the stars or the countless dimensions, you will benefit from its knowledge.”
I looked sharply over to Arawn. Did that mean I had the potential to be like him? Immortal and powerful? To explore space and even to take on a god? The very thought sent new shiver of fear through me. I didn’t want that much power. That much responsibility.
“During my travels, I once visited a world of enormous sentient machines…” The scene shifted to that of a place that Tertius and I had trained at. A beautiful, shining city of transforming metal.
“They welcomed me and I toured their cities. In a particular library housed at their capitol, I had the chance to discuss power and responsibility with one of its librarians. He was concerned about a popular gladiator turned politician and his influential, radical views. It seemed that the former fighter advocated not only aggressive expansion into other star systems but the enslavement of other beings as well.”
Despite the returning pain, why did this sound so familiar?
“I did my best to advise the young librarian, but saw a certain righteous spark in his optics when I told him that freedom was the right of all sentient beings. That, as a whole, we have a responsibility to stand up to those that wish to enslave, murder and conquer.”
My friend squinted in thought, “I do wish I could remember his name. I had the feeling that he, like you, had the potential for greatness. Orion was it? Orion… Pall? No, that is not right…”
I looked down in shock. They were real… They just looked different from the tv shows and movies. But they were real…
Looking back up, I saw the seriousness of his expression.
“There may come a day where you too will need to make a decision. To use your powers to fight for freedom against tyranny or to join it. If Quartus is correct about being able to wield all three magics, you could very well end up as one of the most powerful beings on Earth.”
Jesus. Fucking. Christ. I know I wanted the whole nuclear deterrent thing, but I did NOT sign up for something of that magnitude!
He stepped closer and laid a hand on my shoulder, “There is so much more to say. But I fear that we must conclude for now. I… We trust in you and that you will make the right choices.”
“I understand,” I said solemnly.
The last I saw as my vision faded to black was an unimaginable, mischievous smile.
Brain damage. PTSD. Shell Shock. The emotional and physical trauma from having your fucking mind, body and soul go through a blender on the ‘This ain’t just some shit-this is ALL the shit’ setting. Or, simply, as what I’d like to call it: D- all the above.
My luck had ran out. I couldn’t move. Couldn’t speak, yell for help or anything. Could only just stare up at the white ceiling above my bed. My brain was on fire or at least that what it felt like. It was my own damn fault. I pushed for a longer run, when I was warned over and over, now there was the consequences for it all. At first I fought it, tried to fight it. Exhaustion settled then gave way to panic and in my feverish hysteria …between the hours, between the unknown span of time, I- I think I hallucinated.
Victoria came to my bedside. She knelt down beside it, took my hand and smiled. She said she was happy I was in her house. With our children. She said that she never stopped loving me. I wanted to cry, to say something, but my body refused to budge. I’m not sure when it happened, but she disappeared.
Romie came after, some time later. She kissed me and flashed her signature Cheshire grin. Said she missed me. Said she was looking for me. Added in that when she finds me, I’m going to be rapped for a week straight. I tried to laugh at that but couldn’t. Best I could do was a slight huff of air. But, like Victoria, she also faded away.
The Goddess came last. She sat next to me. Played with my hair and sang me a song in an alien language. It was beautiful. Haunting. She kissed my forehead and whispered in my ear to be strong, that everything would be okay. Her smile was the last I saw before I fell into a dreamless sleep.
Was what I saw real? I couldn’t tell you. My grasp on what was and what was not had loosened to the point of anything could have been possible. Were they ghosts? Hallucinations? Or somehow corporal? I wish I had answers for you and for myself, but I didn’t.
I’m not sure how, but when I woke, I could start to use my muscles. A twitch here, a bend there, progress at least. I worked and I worked at regaining my motor skills, determined that I wouldn’t go down like this. Not this way, not from a dream!
It was late afternoon when I was able to stand and walk around. I opened the door to find a note on it;
Know you’re sleeping, didn’t want to bother you. We went out to grab some take out. Be back soon.
The sound of the front door opening told me I was just in time for dinner. KFC was on the menu and I ended up pigging out. God I missed those mashed potatoes and gravy. I learned one of the great things about Deanna was she tended to over buy for food. Usually there are a lot of left overs when she gets food. I made sure that wasn’t a problem this time.
That evening on my way back to my own room, I got pulled into Vicky’s.
“Come on! Let me see them.” She said in hushed but excited tone.
”The magic stone thingies you said you had!”
“There’re not toys, you know.” I responded slightly annoyed at my granddaughter. I was still sporting a slight headache even with another nap and popping a thousand milligrams of ibuprofen earlier. So far no body showed up to start shit, which was a relief. Luck wasn’t exactly my friend but at least it was being merciful to me today.
“I know that! I just wanna see!”
“Stop being such a jerk and let me see them! Besides, you owe me!”
Fuck, she had me there.
“Fine.” I rolled my eyes and reached a hand into each of my pockets.
Opening my palms, I revealed Arawn’s green stone in one and the Goddesses- Earth marble in the other to her.
“Ohhh pretty.” Vicky coo’ed as she inched forward and touched the emerald colored bauble with a fingertip. It glowed slightly with the contact.
Now that was interesting, why did it react to her?
She then poked the bluish orb and yelped as it let out a powerful shock, sending her flying backwards onto the bed.
“Father fucking, daughter of a nun!”
Wow. I had to pause for that one. Mamono really rewrote the book on profanity.
“Language, Vicky!” Called the voice of Deanna from somewhere outside the room.
“Yes mom,” she called back in a groan, “what the hell was that?”
“Are you ok?”
While concerned, I didn’t think she was too bad off if she was dropping F-bombs.
“Yeah, but that fucking thing zapped the shit outta me!”
I watched as she sat up and stuck a smoking fingertip in her mouth.
“Hmmm, guess Ilias made the stone resistant to Mamono?”
“What a total bitch move.” Vicky remarked as she examined her reddened digit.
“Well, she didn’t exactly love you guys.” I commented dryly. My grandaughter shot back with a dirty look.
“Anyways… I have favor to ask…”
“I need a ride to somewhere tomorrow night”
“Oookay, and that somewhere would be…?”
I winced painfully as I answered, “Druella’s mansion.”
“What the fuck for?!” Vicky shot up angrily.
“Calm down and lower your voice!” I hissed, hoping no one heard her, “Remember I told you how my friends were teaching me how to fight and use magic in my dreams?”
She nodded warily.
“Do you also remember when that goat girl showed up at the grocery store?”
“Well I kinda missed her but, yeah.”
“I asked my friends about her. She’s a power mad psycho that wants to become the new Maou. She was after them back in day to get their power. Now she’s after me.”
”Fuuuck. Well I mean, you know Alien-Fu now, don’t you?” Vicky asked as she reached for a bag of chips by her bed, “Can’t you just beat her ass or something?”
“That’s the thing, I’m not sure I can. I’ve gotten pretty strong, but they think she’s grown even stronger over the years. Plus I know there are others out there as well, but there’s something I can get to maybe level the playing field or even put me at an advantage. Remember when I told you why I was originally sent here? To stop a mutated, super powered Kejourou from killing a whole bunch of people?”
“Well she got her powers from a little piece of something called the Philosopher’s Stone. I dug it out of her corpse and returned it to Druella, my friend thinks that I need to add it to my collection. He’s talking about me being able using all three kinds of magic- Demonic, Celestial and the Annwyfn.
“So you’re going to go steal it from her?” Vicky asked in a whisper.
“Something sorta like that,” I tilted my head side to side not exactly wanting to admit that magical item grand theft was on my to do list. I doubted Auntie Dru would just hand it over to me if I asked her, especially with after what happened last time.”
I absently rubbed the side of my face in thought.
“Fuck yeah, I’m in! Anything to get back at that cunt!”
A loud click from the window interrupted our little conversation.
”What was that?” I asked
Vicky peered around me and squinted.
“Bird. And I’m going.”
“No you’re not,” I said sternly, “I just need you to drop me off and pick me up later. I don’t want you involved in this.”
If did get caught and arrested, I didn’t want her with me. I might be doing an absolutely amazing job in messing up my own life, but I wanted to shield her as much as I could from my own mistakes.
“What do mean ‘you don’t want me involved?’ From where I’m standing, I’m tits deep in this, Gran-Donnie.” She retorted sarcastically.
I glared hard at her. This was some kind of divine punishment, wasn’t it? Me being a dick and an asshole all those years on the Mamono home world and what happens? I have a cyclops grandaughter that talks and acts just like me.
Shit, that’s just a special kind of cruelty. Still, I was the older one here, and I wasn’t going to let her throw her life away on this.
“Okay, And what happens if shit goes south? What if the cops come? Do you want that on your record? Breaking and entering? Do you want to go to jail? I’ve been there and, trust me, it’s not exactly a vacation. Food sucks, you have to join a gang to survive, all that.”
I absently wondered how the guys back in the pen were doing. Maybe I should write a letter to Juan just to see how everyone was?
“That won’t happen.” Vicky replied confidently.
“What, you’re psychic now?”
I was resisting the urge to scream at that point. Taking a breath, I calmly asked between clenched teeth,
“So what makes you think everything will go smoothly?”
“Cuz you’ll have me with you,” she answered with a cocky grin.
”Over confident much?”
“Not when the truths the truth… Grandpa.”
I frowned hard at that last statement.
“Fine,” I sighed as the whole world was going to hell in a hand basket, I figured I might as well go with, “we’ll go tomorrow night. So be ready.”
“YESSSSSS!” She exclaimed pumping her fists in the air.
I had a bad feeling about this.
Vicky then turned thoughtful and grabbed and unseen pad of paper from the nearby desk. She began to sketch furiously as I watched.
”Didn’t know you could draw.”
I sucked at it myself and I think that’s a major one that would have held me back in engineering. You gotta be able to sometimes illustrate what the hell you’re doing so that other people know and don’t give you shit.
“I’m not too good at it, but what you said got me thinking. You’re going to need something to keep all those gems, stones or marbles or whatever in, because keeping them in your pockets just isn’t cutting it.” My grandaughter began as I took a seat back on her bed.
I hated to admit it but she was right. 3 stones, each harnessing a different type of energy and allowing me different abilities. Trying to dig them out of my pants every time I needed one or to switch magics would be a major pain in the ass, not mention be incredibly awkward when fighting.
Hey everyone, time out while I switch magical items. Sure, that’ll go over well…
“Okay,” I nodded in agreement, “that makes sense. What do you have in mind?”
She held up the pad with a drawing of a metallic looking glove. On the knuckles, each of the stones were spaced equally apart, giving it an oddly familiar look.
“It’s sexy, it’s bold and it says don’t fuck with me!” She exclaimed. “I call it the Glove of Infinite Power!”
I took a long, hard look at it. For some reason it reminded me of something I saw before, but just couldn’t put my finger on it. Something from a comic book maybe?
“I donno Vicky, kinda seems a little… conspicuous? I’m trying to stay low key when I’m over in England…”
She turned the drawing back to her.
“The whole Michael Jackson thing is kinda out of style too.”
Jesus, not king of pop! That one made me cry inside.
“Never mind,” I sighed, “what else ya got?”
“That was my one awesome idea.” She sighed sadly.
Fuck, now I felt like an asshole. I eyed the pad in her hands. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad? Still felt like it would make me seem kinda… super villain-ish? I then noticed a bracelet she was wearing on her wrist and inspiration struck.
“Hey, what about something like that?” I asked, pointing to it.
“What?” She frowned, looking down. “This?”
She held up up the silver bangle.
“Yeah, would you be able to forge something like that to keep all three on one bracelet?”
“Hmm.. wouldn’t two be better? One for each arm?”
The girl was obviously smarter than me.
“Sure, but I’d like to keep the Philosophers shard away from the other two, bad things could happen. I mean that is if you could make two of them?” I asked with a frown.
“I’d have to use some kind of energy neutral metal… or maybe carbon fiber…” She mumbled in thought while staring hard at it. I had to smile as I used to see the same look in her grandmothers face dozens of times before. Guess the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree. Vicky grabbed her pencil and began to sketch anew.
“Yes!” She exclaimed, staring at her drawing, “give me a few days and I’ll make the sexiest pair of bracelets you’ve ever worn!”
“You do realized that this thing would essentially hold the power of angels, demons, and of the Annwyfn… Basically they would be the most powerful items in the world. Not fashion accessories.” I said dryly.
“I know. And that’s what makes it sooo damn sexy.” She purred with a grin.
“Okay, fine. Whatever. Thank you.” I sighed. Pulling her up, I gave her a hug before heading to bed.
Another thing down. Only a million more to go…
The third night.
I ended up back in my favorite Royal Maki pub. This time there was no Arawn and no not-brothers to meet me. But there was a letter on our table…
In the time we have spent, you have grown exponentially in both skill and character. You are the last that posses the knowledge of the Annwyfn and we are happy that the legacy is left to you. If you do gain possession of the Philosophers Shard, than we shall see each other again. If not, I truly believe you to be outright powerful enough with out it, but I do understand your desire to protect your family. The Maou tore me from mine when she summoned me to their world. She then betrayed me and forever lost my allegiance.
I must admit that when we offered to train you, it was not only for your benefit but, shamefully, for our own primitive desire for revenge as well. I hope that you may forgive us for our transgression but I have a feeling that your own desires for retribution aline well with our own. I console you to seek out Lady Mara, the Demon Queen of Southern California. She runs the Iron Foundation, the organization I created upon being sent to Earth. But what she doesn’t know is that I had originally intended you to do so, and had left contingency plans to allow you access to resources if ever you decided to show up- ‘just in case’.(Funds, weapons, safe houses, etc).
Mara and Druella, despite being sisters, are often not always on the same side of things. Mara eventually learned to grow up and be a mature Succubus. She may aide you just to spite Druella.
A final word, the crystalline matrix housed in the stone shall be your guide for many of your future interests from advanced technology to space travel, may it serve you well. I fear that we may have pushed you too much too far the last night. Take this time to rest and recuperate.
With our deepest regards and love,
Arawn, Tertius, Quintus and Quartus.
The Iron Foundation. Something about a secret war, different sects of monsters and the like fighting each other? I remembered him mentioning it the first time we all met up in my dream but I didn’t know he wanted me to run it! So there’s a Lilim as head of the thing? Funds, weapons and safe houses? What the hell kind of show did Arawn have going on? Don’t tell me he went all Al Capone. Still, it represented resources that I never would have imagined. Resources that may come in handy…
I reread the letter over and over. Why did it seem like he was saying goodbye to me? No, I wasn’t going to let those old fucks off so easily. I was gonna get that shard and we were gonna have one last hurrah together.
Around me, the pub faded away and I fell into a deep sleep. No dreams, no fighting, no training, just the blissfulness of a warm dark room.
I woke up feeling like a million bucks, refreshed and rejuvenated! Haven’t felt like this in as long as I could remember. There was certain amount of optimism in me that was missing for a very long time.
I opened my door and saw a small gift wrapped package on the ground. Opening it, I found a folded piece of paper along with two thin black bracers. One had a singular hole while the other had two.
But didn’t Vicky say it would take her a few days?
I opened the paper to read;
Took me all night but something told me it was important. Happy birthday Grandpa Donnie ❤️.
She really was amazing…
I snapped the bracers on and inserted Arawn’s green stone and Ilias’s blue into the right. The left remained empty. That would be for the Philosophers shard. With a smile, I stepped downstairs to greet my daughters.
While I ate breakfast with Deanna in the dining room, Didi strolled in wearing her business work clothes.
“I need to borrow him today, De.”
“Oh?” My one daughter replied with a smile.
“I’m going to take him out for brunch.”
Deanna and I looked to each other then down to our plates.
“But I’m already eating.” I said.
”You eat like a starving Orc, I’m sure you can eat more where I’m taking you.” Didi snarked.
Well, she wasn’t wrong on that one.
Shrugging, I emptied my dish in a hurry and took it to the sink. Giving Deanna a hug and kiss on the cheek, I followed Didi to her black car. Maybe it was my imagination but something seemed… off?
We arrived at an outside mall called The Pruneyard, and from there to a small place named Lisa’s Tea Treasures. It looked to be old English, Victorian if I had to name it. Well at least it was close to a nearby leyline. I debated on putting Winona in the glove box, but something told me to take my lady with me. Tucking her in my back waist, underneath my shirt, I followed Didi inside.
The waiter showed us to a small table in the main room. It was quiet with only a few other people there sipping tea and eating pastries.
“Didn’t think you went for places like this.” I remarked as we sat down. We were handed small, embroidered thick paper menus as the waiter left us.
“Neither did I.” Didi mumbled as she looked around uncomfortably.
“Excuse me,” she said as she suddenly stood from the table.
“Where you going?”
“…Bathroom.” She lied. Watching her walking away, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Something was going on.
“You certainly know how to cause an uproar as well as get a girl’s attention.”
The voice was soft and slightly childish. It was one I had heard a few dozen times before from the past. Turning, I saw it’s owner. There across the way, daintily sipping from a tea cup, sat the very person I was leaving to England to hunt down; My mother-in-law, the queen of Wonderland and of its hearts, the Lilim Misrelda. Gone was her crystal crown and royal gown, in its place was a simple red headband that was matched with a red and black dress fit for the 13 year old size she was.
She raised her cup in greeting to me. Son of a bitch. Well daughter of one at any rate. But then that would have meant…
“Does Didi work-“
“For me? No. But I did put in a request to the MBI for her to bring you here. I was told this establishment had excellent tea. Sadly, I was misinformed.” She sighed while making a moe. Once a queen, always a queen.
This was unexpected, but great news. I didn’t have to make that 11 hour flight all the way to England!
“I was hoping that you would see what happened between Druella and I on the news. It was the only way I figured I could get a message to you that I was here.”
“I guessed as much, you really did put on a show for everyone. I hear many of my sisters are trying to figure out exactly where you came from. You were supposed to be kept a secret, something I understood Mother ordered. This made little Druella very pouty. I approve.” She said with small, cruel smile.
So Auntie Dru did keep in contact with her. That lying bitch, but was I really surprised?
“Everybody seems to be in the know about everything else, except me.” I stated pointedly
She tilted her head dismissively before taking another sip of tea.
“Welcome to family politics.” She replied after swallowing, “Thats why I left all those years ago and created Wonderland. It was a sanctuary for me. To be free and have fun, to regain my lost childhood. A place that didn’t have intrigue of Mother and my sisters. All they cared about was who could conquer more land, who had more power, who would succeed Mother one day-“
“Where’s Romie?” I interrupted, not caring about her little walk down memory lane or the bullshit of the Maou and her overachieving kids.
Misrelda set the tea cup in it’s saucer gently and put it back down on the table. She stared me straight in the eye and I felt those red irises piercing into my very soul as an odd silence seem to envelop the two of us.
“I was going to ask you the very same. Where is my daughter, Donnie?”
”Wh-What?” I answered, bewildered. I had thought she would know, or have some kind of idea in the very least?
“Where. Is. My. Daughter?” The queen asked again.
“I don’t know! I thought you did!” I shouted causing the other patrons to look our way.
The goddesses marble heated as Misrelda pushed herself back from the table and summoned a thin crimson blade to her hand.
“Liar!” She cried sweeping the sword across the table.
Twisting my wrist, I let the mana quickly flow from the leyline to Arawn’s stone and used it to form my own grey katana Force-Blade. Our weapons clashed against each other over the embroidery. Electricity arced and spiked around us from their contact. The people around us screamed and ran for the door, terrified of our fight.
“I’m telling you the truth, I haven’t seen her! I’m trying to find her, myself!”
“How can this be? You’re just a human! Without magic!” She cried again in shock.
“I’ve been doing a little character progression… Mom.”
“I can see that… Son.”
With those single words, those stupid names that were the farthest things from the truth, the air between us changed. Her hand lowered and the thin, crimson blade disintegrated. With a slight flick of my wrist, I allowed my Force-Blade katana to fade away. We each grabbed a chair and sat back down at her table. We were now alone in the place, save for that of the staff that regarded us with a healthy amount of caution. While the Queen smoothed over the wrinkles on her dress, I remarked,
”Old Maou-ma changed a lot of Earth’s history.”
“What about your husband?” I asked gingerly. With the timeline messed up, there were still so many unanswered questions.
“When I finally came to Earth and saw it’s year, I had my hopes of finding him. To have the king of my heart back in my life again. But it was for not. He was alive but already married to a human woman. They had a son. Timothy, if I remember correctly. He was not my Eric.
Before I could offer my condolences, she continued,
“My Eric died in my arms a very long time ago,” Misrelda finished softly, her eyes glistening with fresh tears of the memory of a man that no longer existed, “and now, with what you tell me, I find my only daughter no longer exists as well.”
“No!” I said passionately while reaching out and grabbing her small hand, “She’s out there! I know she is! Something… something tells me she is! Please… Don’t give up hope. I will find her. Believe me.”
Shocked by my intensity and the physical contact, Misrelda stopped crying and whispered softly,
“I believe you.”
We spent the next hour or so trading notes. How I came about my new abilities and powers and the differences in this new reality verses the old original one. I even tried some of the tea and cookies they had. It’s funny, with Druella I always felt on edge. With Misrelda, I didn’t have that lingering feeling of caution. Maybe I was getting soft, or maybe she was someone I felt I could trust.
A waiter came to us while we were in mid conversation and interrupted with a bow,
“I’m sorry to disturb your majesties, but the MBI agent asked that I relay a message to the Prince.”
The Queen nodded regally to him and he turned to me to continue,
”She says that she has been recalled to her office and that your… granddaughter is on her way to pick you up.”
Yeah, that’s awkward.
“Uh, thanks.” I said with a tight smile.
He bowed again and left us. Well, cats outta the bag now.
“So uh, yeah. I’ve got some… Kids… A grandkid too…”
I raised my eyebrows to that.
“Druella is not the only one with spies, Donnie. All Lilim have their agents, their networks. Even myself.”
“Ah… That’s… Nice.” I floundered while taking a sip of cold tea.
“I don’t hold any ill will against you for it. I was told of the circumstances.”
“Good to know. Crazy times back then, huh?” I half laughed.
“Dude! This place is boring why are you here?”
My granddaughter elegantly made her entrance over to us.
I sighed and gestured to her, “Your majesty, may I present my granddaughter, Vicky. Vicky, meet The Queen of Hearts, my mother-in-law.”
”Oh shit. Uh, I mean, uh… P-Pleased to meet you, your queen- I mean your majesty!” She stuttered while slaughtering a curtsy with no dress on.
Misrelda turned an eye at me and remarked, “Well, there’s certainly no question of her relation to you.”
God damn smart ass Lilims.
“It is time that I must leave as well,” she stood and reached into a red, heart shaped purse. Removing a red phone, she slid it over to me, “If and when you do find something or if you need my help, call me.”
A direct line to the Queen. Couldn’t get much better than that.
Nodding, I stood too and slipped it into my pocket.
As she passed by us, a warm, spur of the moment feeling filled me. I’m not sure why but I knelt down and called to her
“Hey mom, can I get hug?”
Maybe I just missed my own parents. Maybe I was avoiding the fact that at some point, I did need to talk to them. To explain that I wasn’t their Donnie. That I wasn’t their son.
Misrelda paused and turned back. A smile grew on her face as she ran to me and we embraced warmly.
”Please, find her and be careful. There are enemies everywhere, around every corner. I don’t want to lose two of my children.” She whispered into my ear.
“I’m tougher than I look, mom. Don’t worry, I’ll find her. I promise.” I whispered back.
She released her hold on me and quickly walked out while sniffling. Druella might have been my Aunt in Law, but Misrelda was the only Lilim I could ever think of as being an actual family member.
“I totally failed that, didn’t I?” Vicky asked after she left.
“Let’s go home.” I answered, pushing her towards the door.
As we drove, Vicky finally burst out,
“The Queen of Hearts, The Maou, her husband, Druella and,” she lowered her voice to a whisper, “the Chief God of the old world!”
My granddaughter slapped my thigh in excitement and exclaimed,
“Who else?! You met like every famous person out there! Who else?!”
“Vicky,” I sighed in depression of what I had learned and threw my elbow on the side of the door to rest my head on my hand, “I donno. I met a lot of people. I shot a lot of people. Maou’s hubby included.”
And today started off so good too…
“You shot her fucking husband!” She all but shouted.
“Yeah. I kinda left that one out on purpose during dinner. Him and I were having a… philosophical debate one morning during breakfast. I was giving him a history lesson on the how the good ol’ U.S. of A was founded and Tom Brady there told me I was full of shit. So I called him out on some of his own short comings, he got pissed, came after me and I shot him a few times. Didn’t do too much other than piss him off even more.”
“Holy fucking Maou. Did that really happen? It happened, did it? Am I even suppose to know that?”
I shrugged, “Hell if I care. You know more about the real history of things than most of the population out there.”
“Sweet. Ah shit,” my granddaughter said as raindrops started to appear on her windshield.
“What?” I asked
”Guess a Ryu got into a fight with her boyfriend or something,” she grumbled as the rain started to fall harder.
The rest is hard to remember, but I’ll try…
Ilias’s marble heated up again. Then… an explosion? Vicky’s car flew up into the air, I know that much. The feeling in my stomach of free floating. Her screams. The crash. The impact. Being upside down. A burst of pain. Breaking glass. The feeling of the car skidding across the road.
The sound of rain splashing against the asphalt met my ears. A few moments later a stabbing pain in my ribs. I opened my eyes but everything was so fuzzy. Vicky. Where was Vicky? A curved blade pierced through the cars frame. Metal screeched and tore as a large chunk was ripped away.
“There you are!”
Blinking rapidly against the rain falling on my face, I looked up to see Belphegor standing above me holding her scythe.
“I guess I wasn’t as patient as I thought I was. Now where’s the stone that he gave you? Oh there it is, it’s on your wrist, how convenient!”
She reached down to my hand only to be zapped by a blueish forcefield appearing around me.
”That BITCH!” She spat in hatred, “How dare she keep me from what’s mine!”
I could feel myself being soaked. Whether from the rain or my own blood I didn’t know. My whole body was hurting, my head was swimming, there was a slicing pain in my side every time I breathed. I tried to summon a Blast-Punch but I couldn’t focus, couldn’t think straight. My eyes shut in exhaustion.
“Fine. We’ll do it the hard way.”
I could hear more metal tearing, more ripping. Rustling and grunting.
“Hey… HEY!” I heard her shout.
Forcing my eyes back open, I saw a sight that made my heart stop and my blood run cold.
She held Vicky up by her ponytail for me to see. As far as I could tell she was unconscious.
“So how about this. A little birdie told me you were going after the Philosophers Shard from Druella. Bring me that and Arawn’s stone or else your granddaughter dies.”
My eyes began to droop against their will.
“HEY! Are you listening?!”
My lids fluttered open and she banged the business end of her scythe against the shield a few times to make her point.
“The shard and the stone for her life! Hear me? You have five days. Meet me with them at the Church of the Black Sabbeth in a place called Los Gatos. Five days. The stone and the shard or she dies. No tricks.”
Pain got the best of me, I couldn’t breathe, it felt like I was drowning. The last thing I saw was her dragging my granddaughter through a fiery black portal…