Garth was kicking himself as he flew down the side of the mountain, Wilson desperately holding on to his shoulder against the wind. He’d brought the best people with him, without thinking about leaving Paul, Samantha, or Clark to watch the town. Cass clenched his teeth and reached into his pocket, hand closing on the Mythic Core.
The rush of magic flooding his awareness accompanied a redoubling of speed and blast of wind. Garth had barely enough presence of mind to throw a Force Shield in front of him, calming the wind enough to see.
The ground underneath him was sliding away at a speed that was reminiscent of a small aircraft, he must be going somewhere between one hundred and one forty. At the rate he was going, he’d get there maybe three minutes before the horsemen would reach the village.
Now the question was, how did he delay them long enough to find out what they were here for, and buy time for the rest of the company get ready to welcome them?
Wall Of Stone should do it. When Garth reached the riders, he was hovering a hundred feet or so above them. They hadn’t even bothered to look up.
Garth tightened his grip on the Mythic core, pointed his finger and drew a line across the arid land, sinking mana deep into the earth, where it created an extra twenty feet of bedrock jutting up out of the ground a couple hundred feet in front of the horsemen. The resulting wall was about fifteen feet high, five buried in the ground, and four hundred feet long.
They could take a detour around it easily, but the sudden appearance of a stone wall in the middle of their path was enough to give them pause. He considered boxing them in, but he honestly didn’t think he could do it without having an aneurism.
Garth felt stretched thin as he flew down in front of the wall, where the riders were slowing their horses to a canter. It wasn’t like other times when he’d pushed himself to use more magic and his temples had ached, or maybe given him a bit of nausea. Right now he felt like an overfilled water balloon. One poke away from bursting.
His gaze settled on one man giving orders to the riders, waving his arms and shouting for the rest of them to slow down. Oh, Beladia, I’m not in the mood for this.
At the head of the aborted charge was Harold, the grey haired, one-eyed, ex marine who’d tried to kill Garth more than once. Twice, was it?
Well, if he gave Garth a hard time, he’d teleport him a quarter mile into the sky.
“Hi Harold.” Garth said when the riders had come to a stop, looking at him.
“Garth. Surprised to see you’re still kicking around.”
“I’m surprised you can remember my name.”
Harold broke into a grin. “I never forget a purple face. I should’a thought of you when I heard the rumor about a town making bank selling drugs to aliens.”
Now, how to disable all of them without killing them? Garth could kill all of them with the poisonous combat dodder, but he didn’t feel like being responsible for the deaths of hundreds of humans just yet.
“What are you here for, Harry?”
“We’ve been going around, recruiting for the H.L.A.” he said with severity, as if that was supposed to mean something to Garth. “I heard about this place, and decided to extend the offer to join us.”
Translation, we were going to steal all your shit and force you to work for us. Sometimes you had to apply some creative thinking to the bullshit that dribbled out of these people’s mouths.
The H.L.A.?” Garth asked.
“The Human Liberation Army.” Harold said, sitting straighter in his saddle.
Garth couldn’t contain his mirth, breaking out into gales of laughter, chortling so hard he doubled over and spilled Wilson into the dirt. Wilson kicked his tiny lizard legs as he howled with laughter in the dusty soil. The riders didn’t look at all pleased with Garth’s humor, fingering fancy enchanted crossbow-guns and sleek mithril swords. They were carrying an inordinate amount of hardware and that just made Garth laugh harder.
“HA, ha, Oh my Goddess,” Garth said, wiping tears from his eyes. “Tell me you didn’t trade Mythic Cores to the aliens for all that fancy gear, thinking you’ll use it to secure control over Earth and then overthrow them.”
From the way Harold was scowling and reaching for his gun, it seemed like he had done that exact thing.
“I mean, that’s like trading twelve tons of weapons grade plutonium for a couple ak-47’s. Hehehehe.” He broke into a giggle as he turned Harold’s safety to the on position with Telekinesis. “To be fair, I did trade a couple earlier, so I can’t make too much fun of you.”
Gotta think of a way to get those back, if Earth had a net influx of cores, we’d be sitting pretty. Ooh, if you put a mythic core in a windmill, and spun it around a weaker core, it could create pulses of energy, like an electric motor! No Aether crystal required. I might be able to make a self-sustaining perpetual motion machine…
“Alright, I’ve heard enough.” Harold said, casually drawing his gun and leveling it at Garth. Nothing happened.
Garth reached out and weaved mana into a simple construct around Harold’s gun that would switch the safety to the on position whenever it was off, before using Recursive Casting to apply it to every gun present.
“What the?” Harold said, glaring at his gun and switching the safety off before leveling it at Garth again. Again, nothing happened.
“No go ahead, take your time.” Garth said, walking forward as he started casting a spell to shrink their swords to the size of sardines. The mythic core made it easy. “I hear this kind of thing happens a lot to older guys.”
Harold looked at his safety again, spotted that it was in the on position again, and gave Garth a fierce glare.
“Shoot him!” Harold shouted, and there was a chorus of guns and magic crossbows sliding against leather. Garth put up a Force Shield in case he missed one, but it seemed his worries were unfounded.
Harold’s eye was bulging out of his socket as he shouted for them to draw their swords, only to find his own had become the size of a toothpick. They groped around clumsily for handles that were more appropriately sized for keychains.
“You know,” Garth said, cocking his head to the side. “I’m a pretty forgiving guy, I think. If you had wised up a little, and didn’t try to kill me again, we probably could have done business. But how the hell am I supposed to let you go after you’ve tried to kill me three times?”
“You little shit, I’ll-“ Garth stapled his lips shut with some well-placed telekinesis.
“Your Endurance is what, somewhere between forty and sixty now?” Garth asked, summoning Woody to play with the rest of Harold’s crew. Woody was a good ten feet tall now, able to crush spines with a well-placed blow. The treant began to lumber towards the confused, unarmed riders. Their horses reeled back at the sight of the giant treant bearing down on them, and Garth took the opportunity to pull Harold out of his saddle, across the dirt toward him.
Garth pulled out an acorn and levitated Harold’s gun from where it had dropped, dismissing the construct. As the gray haired man was climbing to his feet, his own gun shot him in the gut, causing him to grunt and stagger backwards.
The bullet must not have gone very far past his armor, because there wasn’t very much blood.
Just breaking the surface was good enough for Garth.
The acorn leapt out of his hands and shoved itself into the wound. Harold grunted and tore at his abdomen, but the seed was already inside him. Realizing he couldn’t get it out right away, he leapt at Garth with a fair amount of speed.
“Harold,” Garth said as he flew above Harold’s grasp, shouting over the sound of men fighting and the panicked screams of horses. “You’re an asshole, and everything that’s happening now is a direct result of that!”
“Contemplate this on the Tree of Woe.” Garth triggered the oak to start growing inside Harold.
“You know that’s a bad guy’s line, right?” Wilson asked.
“AAAGH!” Harold began writhing in pain as lumps began to move under his skin, bloody roots burst out of his legs, anchoring him to the ground.
Garth took control of the oak, instructing it to avoid Harold’s major organs even as the tree stood Harold up, growing around the flesh of his arms and legs, lifting him into the air. In seconds, he was dangling from the front of the tree by tightly stretched skin and bones firmly clamped in place.
In a few seconds, Harold was crucified, intrinsically bound to the tree he was pinned to, moaning weakly. Damn, he’s still alive. Guy’s tough.
“Garth?” Wilson said, catching Garth’s attention. He looked at the lizard on his shoulder, who coughed, a tiny bit of blood flying out of his mouth. “I don’t feel so good.”
Garth felt a bit of something rolling down his upper lip. He touched it and pulled away fingertips smeared with red from his bleeding nose. Shit. His eyes rolled back in his head, his last sight was the earth rushing up to meet him.
Garth woke up alive-er than he expected, blinking as his eyes focused in the lamplight. He was inside his and Sandi’s treehouse, lying in bed.
As soon as Garth became fully conscious, the pain flooded in from everywhere. He had scrapes and a twisted shoulder from where he’d fallen, but drowning all of the physical pain was the mountainous headache that felt like two giants taking turns slamming his head with an iron mallet. They had excellent rhythm.
On the desk beside him, Wilson was covering his head and whimpering.
Garth spotted Sandi sleeping naked beside him. Normally that would have been enough to liven his mood, but the headache was like nothing he’d ever experienced, and he just closed his eyes and tried to wait it out. Every movement of his head or eyes that he made only seemed to make the pain worse.
It calmed down drastically, until the pain was only a mere mortal splitting migraine. Once he was up to looking around, Garth homed in on his drawer full of seeds on the counter. He could grab something for the pain and it would help him get out of bed.
Garth tried to scoop up some mana to open the drawers when he was overwhelmed by a wave of nausea, flipping onto his side and heaving his lunch onto the floor.
“Garth!” Sandi said, sitting up behind him. “Are you okay?”
She turned her head toward the door and shouted, “He’s awake!”
A few minutes of dry heaving onto the floor and people parading in and out of his room, and Garth finally was able to control his stomach again. The fuck was that, He thought, his head screaming with pain.
“I guess you could call it mana poisoning.” Cass said, sitting beside Garth.
“You used a lot more than you’re used to and it made you sick. It’s pretty unusual unless you go around using Mythic Cores to ham-fistedly boost your mana channeling abilities. You know, using cores to boost a mage’s strength is the leading cause of Magical Erectile Dysfunction?”
“Not funny. What happened?”
“What happened is you overworked yourself creating a big show and nearly blew out your ability to channel mana. It’s like your liver, or your asshole, you can abuse it a few times, but keep shit like this up and it’ll become loose and saggy, therefore you are forbidden from using cores in the same manner.”
“No problem.” Garth said, staring at the vomit-covered wood underneath him. He really had no problem never feeling like this again.
“You should feel better in a week or two.” Cass said, standing. “You probably already figured this out, but don’t try to channel mana in the meantime.”
“And you could have defused that situation much easier with mind-magic.”
“Don’t want it.” Garth said, wiping his mouth with the towel Sandi gave him and carefully sitting up in the bed with her help. When is she finally gonna need me to help her out?
“Why’s that?” Cass asked with a raised eyebrow.
“I’m too morally flexible to trust myself with it. It’s something I’ve noticed about myself.” Garth said.
Cass was about to ask another question when Paul came through the door.
“I heard you were awake.”
“Yeah, how’s it going? Since everyone’s here, is it safe to assume we won?”
“They gave up as soon as we made the scene, and Clark and his boys grew some cages to hold them. Their leader…he’s still where you left him. What do you want to do with ‘em?”
“Make them each write a three-hundred word essay starting with:
My name is ____, and I regret attacking Garth-topia because___”
Paul raised a brow “It’s Clarkstown, since he founded it. Also an essay sounds like a stupid idea.”
“I told him to found it! I should-” Garth tried to shout, but the headache redoubled. He put his fingers over his temples. “Once they’re done, carve the essays into their backs, then send them out to outpost 3502 naked. Take all their shit. Keep anybody with a decent apology.”
Paul’s eyes widened, and a moment later he nodded. “Yeah, that’s better. What about their leader?”
Garth’s guts writhed as he contemplated direct murder. He took a deep breath and decided to bite the bullet. “Put him out of his misery. He’s not the kind of person that can be changed. I know for a fact he’d come back here at the front of an even bigger army if we let him go.”
“Alright,” Paul squared his jaw and left the room to go kill someone in cold blood. On Garth’s orders. Garth felt like shit, but it slowly washed away. Harold was a killer and the world was a better place without him.
“I see what you mean.” Cass said. “You’re still gonna have to learn, at least enough to defend yourself.”
“We’ll see.” Garth said, already coming up with ideas to lower the burden of power consumption if he ever had to fend off an army again. If he had enchantments that took care of flying, telekinesis, teleportation and the other commonly used spells, he’d have a lot more spare mana to fight.
He needed to upgrade his equipment.
“See you tomorrow, get some sleep if you can.” Cass said, touching Garth’s head with a healing spell before stepping out of their room.
“Think you could help me get to sleep?” Garth asked, leering over at Sandi. He must be feeling better already, because up until this point, the beautiful girl in bed beside him hadn’t had much impact on him.
“Maybe. If you promise to meet my parents when they get here.”
“Well, I guess there’s probably no getting out of it, so you’ve got a deal.” Garth said with a chuckle, rolling over onto her soft body.
“And help me clean the bedroom.”
Garth sighed and rested his cheek atop her warm breast for a moment, looking up into her hypnotic green eyes. It wasn’t like boning someone who’d just been tossing his cookies in a room that smelled like puke was a woman’s idea of a good time anyway. He should get a shower too.
“Alright, let’s make this happen,” Garth said, flinging away the covers and standing, wincing as the headache threatened to return, “but you’re joining me in the shower.”