“Alright, now explain what happened,” Sandi’s mother said, her arms crossed, a severe look on her face. In the distance, her sisters were fawning over her limp body.
“I told you, we got attacked by muggers and-“
“Stop. You already fed the girls that line, now you need to tell us what really happened,” Ma’ta said.
“That’s right. Sandi would eat a mugger for breakfast. Literally. And she shows no sign of defending herself. The only conclusion I can draw is someone she trusted did this to her, so unless you’ve got a good reason…”
The tentacle monster unfurled his multitudinous arms. Damn, Sandi had fallen pretty far from the tree, her parents were sharp.
“It was some people from something called the Dan Ui Clan. I think they were trying to kidnap me or something.”
Oopal’s tentacles deflated, falling limp to the ground.
“Oh man, I wish you hadn’t told me that,” he said.
“Why, are they important?”
“More like image-obsessed bloodthirsty monsters, and I don’t even know who they are.”
“I don’t know who the Dan Ui clan is, there’s tens of thousands of clans in the multiverse, but each and every clan is bad news. If they even think you made them look foolish when you got away from them they’ll track us down and kill all of us. Tell me they made a complete idiot of you and went their own way.”
Decision time, Garth thought as he mapped out his two ideas. Option one, tell them everything, and possibly have them take Sandi away, but be better prepared for the possible repercussions.
Option two: lie my ass off.
Garth glanced at them askance. Might as well. He used Polymorph to add some fake bruises to his stomach, arms, and chest, revealing them to Oopal and Ma’ta
“It’s probably fine, they kicked the shit out of me.” Garth said. “If you wouldn’t mind taking Sandi to Clarkstown, I’ve got to go back and grab those Banta, if they’re even still there.”
Garth had to go dump the bodies off, then defile them so thoroughly that magic couldn’t make them spill the beans about who’d killed them. Preferably on another planet.
Never can be too careful with tracking spells.
As far as Garth was aware, they probably had stuff that could find out exactly where a person had been…not to mention there were a thousand or so eyewitnesses who could place Terok and the rest here tonight.
“Seems like this has got a good chance of biting you in the ass,” Wilson said.
Garth flew out of sight of Sandi’s parents and woke Cass up in the middle of the night, nearly getting bisected for his troubles. After explaining the situation and asking for a good planet to dump their corpses, Cass blearily suggested Amaranta city on the planet Iluda before flopping back over in bed and immediately falling back asleep.
Garth thanked him, set up the portable gate and dropped the corpses off in a smelly back alley of Amaranta.
From what Garth observed, the city was the perfect level of sleaze and entertainment. Clan members loved to sneak off to the place to indulge in their base desires, and it wasn’t too uncommon for entire groups to go missing. He didn’t need to bother robbing them, hopefully the people living here would pick their belongings clean.
“Oops,” Garth said, having nearly forgotten. He reached into Terok’s vest pocket and pulled out his Mythic Core. “Asshole.”
He wasn’t sure if Terok was just trying to rob him, or if the Dan Ui guild was interested in establishing a trade deal with Earth. Maybe a bit of both. He was pretty sure he was too old to be a new recruit.
Garth wished he’d gotten a little more information out of the guy before he’d ended him, but it was best not to let people fight for their lives any longer than necessary. To save their lives, people were capable of some pretty heroic shit, and could turn the tide in a matter of seconds.
Now, to defile the corpses beyond the reach of magic. Garth pulled out a tiny brown pod containing moss spores, and instructed them to turn the bodies into dirt before becoming ash themselves. Garth tossed the pod out, and the moss happily started its work, quickly spreading over the bodies. In a matter of minutes, all that would be left was dirt, ash, and some valuables.
The valuables wouldn’t stay there long. Not in a place like this.
Garth looked out at the streets of Amaranta from the alley. Brightly colored lights above distracted from the raw sewage in the streets. Women of every race hung from windows, luring in potential customers, while less-than reputable vendors aggressively sold all manner of vice to richly dressed kids between eighteen and twenty-five.
Or at least Garth thought that was their age. There weren’t many humans.
This seems like Tyler’s cup of tea. Garth thought. This might be an excellent hub to distribute Earth’s luxury products from. Namely cocaine.
Not yet, though. Cocaine wasn’t illegal in the Spheres, and as long as the PR was good, he shouldn’t even think about distributing in a shithole like this.
Matter of fact, as long as he could capitalize on making the drug a name brand with a squeaky-clean reputation and the backing of multiple government officials who used it to invigorate their work ethic and give them confidence in the face of adversity, everything was golden.
Garth turned and hopped back through the portal, shutting it after himself before shaking the Polymorph spell out of his skin, allowing it to return to its natural purple. If anyone saw him dumping the bodies, they saw an orc do it, not an outlandishly purple human.
“And this is where we make the cocaine.” Garth said, showing Sandi’s family around his magical sweatshop. They wanted to stick around and make sure she recovered okay and spend some more time with her before they left. It took three days for a Succubi to recover from severe damage to her Lure, and in that time, Garth was able to show them around the entire place.
More like he was required to show them around if he ever wanted to see Sandi again. They weren’t going to let him off the hook for her getting hurt anytime soon.
“Interesting,” Oopal said, watching the modified Coca plants drip down into the pan below them. The entire greenhouse was filled with these modified plants slowly sweating a cocaine-rich liquid from their leaves that dripped down into one shared trough that flowed into a barrel outside where it was allowed to evaporate and condense. These trees were Garth’s original babies, but he was probably going to have to replace them when he created a better strain, which wasn’t too far out.
At the base of their roots was a cactus drawing water for these plants in a symbiotic relationship. If it got too wet, the cactus would stop, too dry, and it would start pumping water again. The hardest work in Garth’s sweatshop was weeding and moving barrels.
“Once the stuff in the barrel is as thick as brine and starts forming crystals, we take that barrel to be refined into powder and change it out with another.” Garth said. “The flavor is awfully bitter, so we have to put it in particularly sweet foods like soda or milk chocolate.”
“Look at that, Ma’ta, Sandi got together with a farmer just like me.”
“I don’t know, my dear, can you make a plant sweat?”
“On the side of the trough here is what looks like a bit of white residue.” Garth said, picking up a bit with his finger.
“This is primarily cocaine.” He put a bit on his tongue and winced. A metallic, bitter taste spread through his mouth before it went numb, unable to taste any more. “It doesn’t taste very good.”
Oopal wiped up a bit himself and tried it, wiggling his newly numb tongue inside his beak-like mouth.
“Lemme show you the other things we’ve got going on.”
Garth showed them to the pot Mothers.
Rather than devote a massive space to the pot plants, Garth had a small greenhouse where he experimented with the progenitors of each different strain. That way he didn’t have to throw out a massive amount of plants every time he improved one.
People who were making batches for the day would cut off a branch from whichever strain Garth or Clark had labeled as the mother, then go replicate it by the thousands.
This place was Clark and Garth’s playground, each trying to outdo the other. Clark used his superior knowledge of pot to engineer strains to be more effective than ever before. Clark’s strains were the ones that they sold.
Garth on the other hand, spent his time here trying to break the boundary of what a plant could be expected to do. He’d created healing pot, pot that made the smoker literally float, a-la Willie Wonka, pot that flickered in and out of existence. Pot that couldn’t be smoked because it threw up force fields around itself when threatened, and about a dozen other things that were theoretically interesting and possible to apply to different situations, but completely unsellable.
The first two might have a market after some fixing. Floating was terrifically comfortable, until you got nauseous from spinning, or got fifteen stories above the ground. The healing one… Garth preferred to save that for him and his own.
Of course, Wilson had insisted on a Panty Dropper strain, and it didn’t disappoint. Garth didn’t want to go into the messy details of the first test with Sandi’s parents, but suffice it to say it had to used responsibly, or else people could wind up accidentally having sex with the wrong person, gender, species, or object.
It was a hell of a lot of fun while it lasted.
Garth showed them around their lumber yard where they grew darkwood and shipped it out to the closest five outposts, along with the view of L.A. from the mountaintops.
Garth’s kipling killing grass was spreading nicely. Every week or two, Samantha would bring some rangers out to L.A. and lure Kipling into the kill-zone. They were already noticing a decrease in the numbers they were able to pull out of the city. Now all he had to do was convince Tyler to go through and clear the place building by building before he tried to stab garth in the back.
Garth lit up a pipe and practiced his wizard-smoking as he looked down at the city from the mountaintop. At this point, Garth was fairly sure dying of lung cancer was off the table, so he had no problems with smoking weed to pass the time.
Matter of fact, a lot of the adults of Clarkstown shared the sentiment.
I should really raise this mountain a thousand feet or two, Garth thought as he made a passable smoke ship float through the air. If he got the mountain high enough, it would create more precipitation, and he might be able to rearrange the rivers to supply water to L.A. directly rather than having to rely on the L.A. aqueduct.
Note to self, hire a meteorologist. Garth thought, stuffing some mellow into his wooden pipe. He didn’t know the first thing about the weather, only that higher mountains made more water, and raising these particular ones would probably destroy the forests on the other side.
His plans for the city’s future were a welcome distraction from the idea that somewhere out there, the other shoe was waiting to drop.
Dragus Isparia sat crosslegged in his crystal meditation chamber. He’d been casting causality mana in tight packets through the starry quartz tuned to the thinking life in all the spheres. Each softly glowing point in the crystals represented the billions of inhabitants of an entire world.
He was busily creating a dragnet of seemingly random chance that would expose the location of Castavelle to him. Three months ago, the tiniest blip of activity had alerted Dragus to the archmage’s presence, a nigh imperceptible shift in the mana of the world. Dragus had to review it in his memories several times before he was sure of what it was.
Someone had purged the timeline and set the world back in time. Who knew how much time had been lost, but it couldn’t have been much and there was only one archmagi who could do such a preposterous thing: Castavelle, the Beggar King.
Dragus immediately put out every feeler he could, checking multiple planes of existance, but none of them had any idea there had been a change. Castavelle had purged not one plane, but all of them.
That meant they had been about to kill him, and in only a few measly hours, too. Dragus checked every operation searching for the legendary fugitive, and found them all as cold and unpromising as they had ever been.
He’d been forced to admit that whatever had happened had been random chance. Somewhere, somehow, the man had gotten incredibly unlucky, but had managed to escape.
He must be wounded. Tired. Disadvantaged. Altering the timeline oculd not have come easily, and so Dragus redoubled his efforts to find and destroy the longtime nuisance, seeding the planets with events that would bring him to Dragus’s attention.
“Elder?” Kuya, a promising young trainee said, standing politely outside the room.
“Yes?” Dragus asked, stretching out cramps from being seated so long.
“Terok has been absent a week now, he is presumed dead.”
“Oh?” Dragus asked, raising a brow. Terok was a promising student, but over the last few thousand years, promising students came and went. It was hardly a surprise to Dragus. It was the marginally excellent like Terok who seemed to burn themselves out most often, leaving the brilliant and the mediocre.
“And there was a fire in the branch guild Gatehouse where he’d been expected to return. His master thought there might be foul play at work, and wishes to ask your permission to investigate.”
“Oh really?” What an interesting coincidence.
“Afford his master no less than three squads of our best and retrace Terok’s steps.”
Kuya turned to leave.
“Oh, and require all of them to wear Beacons. I wish to be kept informed.”
“Yes, elder.” Kuya bowed and left.
Now to see if it was random chance, or if you have finally been delivered to me.