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What do you think she considers only needing a little help? Garth thought as his wounded stomach slowly knit itself back together. The pain made it hard to think, impossible to move. He was pretty sure this is where she should have run to get help from home base.

Instead, Sandi leapt down from the building and bit one soldier’s head off, neatly bisecting another with her leg, armor notwithstanding. There were a good hundred or so more, though, and they looked like they were ready to throw down.

I need to get her some illusion armor. Garth thought, watching her Lure standing in the middle of the carnage, hissing at the armored shinta. There was a thought. Sandi’s Lure was her greatest weakness, and Garth didn’t know whether it could ever be expected to wear armor.

He’d have to study her Lure at length to make something that could adapt to being several forms at once.

Garth’s first instinct had been for Wilson to distract the mage with a burst of gunfire. The lizard didn’t have opposable thumbs, but he was pretty sure that he could work something out if he used both hands and his feet. Instead, he was going to have him run interference for Sandi. Couldn’t afford to get her any more hurt while her parents were in town. He and the lizard shared a quick glance and nodded.

Wilson sprinted over to a warrior approaching Sandi’s Lure from the side, and jumped on his back.

Then Wilson did something Garth wasn’t expecting. He thought Wilson would probably try to sink his teeth or claws into the warrior’s unprotected bits, scrabble around, maybe distract him for a bit.

What actually happened was Wilson unfolded, his red-spined back curling bonelessly around the warrior. Wilson’s face, arms, and eyes were revealed to be a façade as they unfurled, his body splitting down the stomach. Long spines covered in sticky acid emerged from where they were tightly packed inside him, curling around his target and causing wisps of smoke to rise along with the man’s tortured screams.

Wow.

Garth tore his eyes away from Wilson and directed them up at the blue-skinned alien forming a green serpent of noxious fumes, compressing them into a crystalline core. There wasn’t a shadow of a doubt that that would get through his Lantern’s area. Sandi couldn’t fly and Wilson was busy watching her back.

Guess I’ll have to take care of this myself, then, he thought.

Garth sent a glance over to the gun on the ground, one of those boxy little submachine guns you see on so many grungy post apocalyptic movies. A scorpion?

Garth surrounded it with mana, lifting it off the ground and aimed it at the mage. A fraction of a second later, it unleashed every bullet in its clip before hurling itself forward like a big league fastball.

The bullets richocheted off an invisible force field that surrounded the mage, while the gun itself, with a bit more mass, managed to make contact with the mage’s leg, causing the shinta in the sky to wince, but he didn’t stop his movements.

The crystalline serpent fully manifested, and as if her were drawing a bow, the shinta aimed it at me.

“Him.” the shinta said, and Garth saw some kind of mana flicker from his mouth to the serpent’s eyes.

Welp, not good. Garth would bet anything that serpent was a heat seeker. Or maybe a Garth-seeker would be more accurate in this situation. Garth was still somewhat in danger of having his guts pour out of the gaping hole in his stomach, but the clansman wasn’t giving Garth much of a choice here.

Now the only question was, what was the seeking fidelity vs the speed? Either one of those things ramped up to 100% would probably see Garth dead, but hopefully there was a little wiggle room where he could shake it off.

Garth watched closely, his mind on the teleport enchantment in his chest. The thing had finished charging a few seconds ago, and he was hoping it would be enough.

He had to wait until after the spell was launched, otherwise he’d just retarget. The only forseeable problem was if the damn thing was as fast as an RPG, or a bullet. Reflexes three times faster than before, and he still couldn’t see a speeding bullet.

The crystalline emerald serpent leapt forward, gliding through the air with the speed of an arrow. A normal arrow.

Well, that’s not too bad, Garth thought as the thing streaked toward him, seemingly swimming through the air.

Garth focused on his teleporter and the world kaleidascoped for a brief instant before he reappeared above the shinta mage.

To Garth’s dismay, the snake-thing came to a screeching halt just before impacting the ground, seemingly smelling the ground where he’d lain. A moment later, it tilted its head up and stared directly at him past it’s owner.

The mage followed its gaze, craning his neck to look up at Garth.

It was a little too late, though.

“Whooo!” Garth whooped as he felt the electrical twinge of energy as the area of their Lanterns overlapped. The two spheres intruded on each other, forcing a wrestling match for control over the mana in the area.

When one mage was substantially better than the other, he could wrest the entire lantern away, otherwise the two areas became entangled. That wasn’t to say the the shinta mage wasn’t better than him; He was. He just wasn’t so much better that he could casually take away Garth’s Lantern.

Roiling electricity sprang up between them for an instant as the mana in the air tried to decide who to flow to, then Garth hit the Shinta’s back, colliding together in a burst of gut-wrenching pain.

Garth gritted his teeth, and barely managed think through the pain long enough to loop an arm around the Shintas neck and hold him tight against Garth’s stomach. Garth was probably bleeding all over the man’s fancy robes, but when the alternative is having your guts fall out, Garth figured he could afford to be a little rude.

“Hey there,” Garth whispered intimately in his best Sam Fisher impersonation, clutching his wildly flickering Lantern against his side as he watched the emerald serpent start picking up speed, heading toward them. “You think your little buddy there can tell the difference between friend and foe?”

The enemy mage’s Lantern was flickering as well, but not as severely as Garth’s. Still, it must have been taking all of his effort to keep them both airloft now that Garth was clinging to his back and choking him like a certain D&D monster that loved to choke things.

Pros and cons of choking a shinta with one arm.

Pro: Their long arms actually make it more difficult for them to reach the monkey literally on their back.

Con: Their relatively thick necks make the choke less of a choke, and more of an aggressive cuddle.

It was all beside the point. All Garth wanted to do was buy time while playing chicken. He hung on and desperately supplied the healing enchantment with mana from the dregs of his flickering lantern. Had Garth ben trying to cast it himself, the flickering, unstable mana would have made it damn near impossible, forcing him to start over again and again and give him a pounding headache, but with the enchantment in his chest taking up the burden of healing with sporadic drips of energy bolstered and evened out by the battery in his chest, it was going okay.

The shinta mage seemed to disagree, struggling to buck him off and cursing.

“Let me go you uncultured swine!” he croaked, squirming in Garth’s grasp, trying to claw at his head.

“Uncultured?” Garth gasped. “I thought offering bribes was pretty much the most cultured thing you could do. He shook his head, ‘tsk-ing. “I have so much to learn.”

“By the way,” Garth said, lifting up his lantern hand and pointing at the crystal snake speeding toward them. “You gonna do something about that?”

“Eat a dick!” The shinta said, trying to surround himself with a cocoon of space mana. Yep, there’s a teleportation spell if I ever saw one. Now who’s uncultured?

Garth reached out with his own meager supply of mana. Garth’s flickering space mana crackled and buzzed as it was torn away from his control almost as fast as he could harness it. He inserted it into the cocoon and managed to awkwardly disrupt a little hole in it right at the back of the shinta’s neck by wildly flinging mana around.

Garth was interested to see if everything except for the base of the man’s spine would teleport. That would be a pretty badass way to win a fight, and it might answer some questions Garth had on the nature of teleportation and counterspelling in general, but he didn’t get to find out, as the shinta withdrew the mana with a frustrated shout. The serpent was closing in, fast. Garth could make out it’s glowing, semi-transparent eyes as it bolted through the air toward them.

The shinta relented and raised his hand, shouting, “Stop!”

The emerald snake froze in place a couple arm lengths away and Garth’s situation changed from advantageous, to slightly less than. The only thing keeping the mage from taking his time and peeling him off had been the time limit of the snake skewering them both.

Seven strands of mana reached around and seized Garth, peeling him away from the red and gold robed shinta’s back. They coiled around Garth’s extremeties, neck and torso, and carried him up and over the mage’s shoulder. Straight toward the snake.

Not good, Garth though, hacking the telekinetic strands away from him hastily. In the fraction of a second it took to cut all seven strands, he was already clearing his shoulder, aimed straight at the missile. With a burst of adrenaline, Garth did everything he could to change his momentum, trying to hook his toe on the back of the mage’s shoulder and kick him.

It wasn’t quite enough, and Garth continued on his way toward the crystal snake patiently waiting for him in the sky.

Garth was still inside the area of the mage’s Lantern, so he wasn’t able to fly so much as telekinetically shove himself in a direction, avoiding the spell by inches. The emerald serpent smelled faintly of industrial chemicals as he flew past it.

Outside the range of the mage’s Lantern, Garth’s own snapped back to full strength, and his enchantment stabilized his fall into more of a swoop, pulling him away from the ground. Garth glanced down at his stomach, and saw that the width of the cut in his stomach had been somewhat reduced over the last few moments, but he was still playing with a disadvantage.

Before he could think about it too hard, five glowing orbs leapt out of the mage’s palm and flashed toward him. Garth wanted to block it with a force shield, but then he would be in the same situation as he was before.

The chances were getting hit by the spheres was nowhere near as bad as getting hit by the snake. Garth was willing to bet his life that the spheres streaking toward him were an attempt to slow him down long enough to sic the snake on him again.

So he did.

Garth tucked his left arm and both legs in front of himself, curling into his best armadillo impression while his right arm directed mana to snag the battered sword off the ground and send it whirling toward the green menace with every ounce of power Garth could muster.

The shinta did his little aiming thing, pointing at Garth.

“Him-“ his words were cut off as a sword bisected the snake.

Two things happened at once.

Garth was hit by all five streaking spheres. Their power was somewhat unraveled by the Lantern, but they still had enough oomph to give his arms, legs and side horrible burns as they impacted against his skin.

As for the shinta across the way, well, he was standing in the splash zone. The crystal snake exploded back into toxic mist, catching the shinta’s arm and face before it congealed into a thick foam, clinging to him no matter how much he struggled.

With a hideous shriek, the mage tried to wipe the foam off his arm, before beginning to convulse. His eyes rolled back in his head, and he fell from the air like a stone, impacting the ground at an awkward, spine-breaking angle, and laying still as the foam ate its way through his body.

“I guess I won,” Garth said, relaxing his turtle maneuver, arms and legs screaming in pain.

A flicker of movement to his left caught his attention, and the last thing Garth saw was a rock that seemed to be miraculously expanding.

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A note from Macronomicon

Holy crap. Never thought I'd get as far as I have. You guys are awesome!

I'd also like to use this platform to tell my house that it's a total piece of shit, and as soon as we have another place to live, I'm burning it to the ground and pissing on the ashes.

In the meantime, Thanks to all my Patrons for their input and support! It helps keep the story going, and they're rewarded with a substantial buffer. We're up to 32 chapters ahead as of this moment!

Seriously, my house can go to hell. I am sick of plumbing spontaneously failing.


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About the author

Macronomicon

  • Alaska

Bio: Born in Alaska, raised in Alaska, where the nearest job is 60 miles away. approaching 30 years old, happily married homebody diving head first into writing professionally . Looking to make friends and fans, meet artists and get feedback.

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