High in the mountains, a limbless torso rested against a pine tree in front of a dying fire, beside him was a stack of rocks with a face drawn on it, a sack of flour and an overturned bucket of apples.
“Thank you all so much for coming, it means so much to Leanne.”
Leanne looked up at Garth incredulously before returning to heating up her bowie knife over the fire. Once it was good and hot, she got up and went back, bringing it close to the aqua and silver robed man.
“Wait, wait!” he shouted moments before she pressed the hot knife to his oozing arm-stump, forcing a terrifying howl out of him.
“This is some party huh?” Garth said, glancing around the empty clearing. It would have been a lot better if he still had a city and all the meat and alcohol that entailed, but ce la vie.
“The Fen Sha clan will hunt you down, monster. They don’t take such insults lightly.”
“Thank you, Mr. Torso. I arranged it myself.”
“Stop fucking around.”
Garth heaved a sigh. Leanne was always work, work, work. Especially since that kipling bastard tore her arm off.
“Okay, fine. So Mr. Torso, the question on everyone’s minds is-“ Garth leaned down and snarled into the corio’s face for emphasis. “How the fuck did one person destroy my city!?”
Garth had sent out his kipling enforcers, brutes slaved to his will and totally devoid of emotion, to tear the man limb from limb, only to have him tear through them with invisible blades, leveling his city like so many sandcastles and aiming for Garth’s tower.
Naturally Garth had punched the Eject button, collapsed the tower and left a believable corpse as he ran away like a bitch. A bitch who wanted to live to see another day.
“What, I..” the corio shivered, pale from fear, but mostly blood loss.
“Magic didn’t work on him! it just kinda…Pfft! As soon as it got close.”
“And he was like me! A kipling, or whatever you call it. If he can do it, I can do it.”
“And the bastard acted like a freaking white knight or a samurai or something, like ‘My name’s Irios, and I have come to cleanse the monster’.” Garth made a hand puppet out of one of the corio’s arms, flopping it around in front of him in a rough approximation of the Kipling with a broom up his ass.
The corio’s jaw dropped for just an instant, and his panicked rambling paused. Garth caught it, though.
“you know who it is.”
“It’s not possi-“
“Tell you what.” Garth said, leaning close again, grinning with his brand-new shark-teeth. “You haven’t answered a single question yet, and I’m starting to get hungry. So I’ll give you two seconds to tell me everything you know, or I eat your face.”
“But you haven’t-“
“I’m just fucking with you,” Garth said, sitting down beside Mr. Torso and putting one of his arms on a sharpened stick, roasting it like a weenie. “I’ve been interrupting everything you’ve said. I’ll give you some time to speak.”
The corio sighed with relief. “He’s-“
“I will eat your face, though.” Garth interrupted again, watching the fat sizzle on the blue arm. There wasn’t a whole lot of it. Turns out martial artists were gamey. Who knew? “Sorry, sorry, interrupting again. Go ahead.”
Mr. Torso looked at him hesitantly, long past Garth’s two second time limit.
“Do you know what a fuck nugget is, Mr. Torso?” That got the lead out of his ass.
“Irios is the name of an ancient king of my people’s home world, who inherited the throne and unified the planet when the Inner Spheres assimilated our universe and killed his father.”
“As a kipling?”
“No, he was unchanged, led the survivors to re-establish a foothold on our own world, slowly taking it back for ourselves.
“So this guy just has the same name.”
“If it was a corio, and a Kipling, it has to be from the original time our worlds split along the hemispheres. Eight thousand years old. It may even be the man’s doppleganger, who slew Irios when he tried to reunite the other hemisphere’s Batlusia.”
“Wait, hold up,” Garth said, taking a bite and grimacing. “I never thought I’d say this, but I think I like the taste of fat men in their mid-twenties, early thirties.”
The corio watched him and shivered.
“That and holy shit, does that mean there’s another Earth out there?”
“And another me?” Garth asked.
“If he survived.”
Garth ran a thumb over his chin. “Looks like I’m gonna have to grow a goatee, hah.”
Leanne and Mr. Torso looked at Garth like he was crazy, which was totally unfair. What was crazy was letting some guy cut off your arms and legs and then trying to threaten them.
“So this guy’s some kind of ancient demon lord, huh?”
“It doesn’t make sense, he was defeated thousands of years ago. But if it were really him, the Inner Spheres need to know about it. Please, any Corio Kipling that old would be a serious danger to the Spheres, you have to send me back to the outpost. I have to tell them, please.”
“Right, right…” Garth said, chewing slowly. It was harder to savor food now that his molars were sharp as hell, but they seemed to be getting more blunt recently. “Let’s go back to the part where this Irios guy sucked all the mana out of the air and prevented me from annihilating his ass.”
Garth literally and metaphorically grilled Mr. Torso throughout the night, uncovering the method of forming a Lantern, a bit more ancient history, and the description of the Fen Sha clan, as well as the clan system in general.
Clans were, for all intents and purposes, government licensed organized crime syndicates. The Inner Spheres didn’t have the manpower to efficiently suck all the wealth out of every planet in every reality and siphon it back to them, so they allowed a semi-feudal system to grow up where the clans would squeeze every drop of profit they could out of the planets they held sway over and pay a fraction of that back to the Inner Sphere government. It allowed each individual planet to be semi-autonomous, as long as they paid the tax-man on time.
Small clans had a planet or less under their control. Medium sized ones had up to fifteen planets, and any more than that would be considered a large clan. Mr. Torso’s clan was one of the smaller ones. Him and his group had been sent to gather a bit of cash on the down low while the ban was in place.
For the first fifty years after a planet was assimilated, Clans were forbidden from establishing territory on them, nominally to give the citizens of the planet a chance to stabilize before the political infighting began.
The outposts belonged to the Inner spheres, but their governors would work closely with whichever Clan was in control of the planet’s surface to ship all their wealth back to the hub of all existence, The Core. An interesting little system.
“All right Mr. Torso,” Garth said, finishing a letter. “I’m writing a letter to your Fan Shu clan,”
“Fen Sha,” Leanne corrected. Garth ignored her.
“When they find you outside the outpost tomorrow, along with that note, they’ll be able to sound the alarm on this Irios guy, right? Right.”
“Oh, thank you, thank you.” Mr. Torso began to weep in relief as Garth started inking a relatively large piece of bark.
Once Garth was done with the letter, he set it to the side and gave Mr. Torso a level stare.
“Now there’s just one problem. And that is that you’ve seen my face.”
“I won’t tell anyone, please, please, I won’t. please.” The horned man sucked in a ragged gasp and continued begging.
“Okay, okay, stop begging, I’ve got a solution that I think will work for everyone.”
Garth leaned down and hefted a rock. “I don’t know any mind magic yet, so I can’t really erase your memories, but we could always try the old fashioned way.” Garth was lying his ass off, but he was already having too much fun to let Mr. Torso live.
“What?” Mr. Torso whispered.
“In order to make you forget, I’m going to beat you upside the head until you can’t remember anything, then I’m gonna leave you outside an outpost. With me so far?”
Mr. Torso shook his head.
“Look, one way or another, they’re going to find out about me, so either I kill you now and just deliver the letter, or we try to bash the memories out.”
The Blue-skinned man, in his desperation and blood loss, must not have been thinking right, because he nodded his head in aquiescence, sending a shiver of pleasure through Garth’s spine.
“Now ask me to do it.”
“What?” he asked with a tortured mewl.
“Ask me to beat your head with a rock until you forget about all this.”
He began to hyperventilate and sob, making Garth’s eyes roll back in his head. Oh, this is just the best. I can’t believe I never did this before.
“Beat me until I forget.” He gasped between sobs.
“The whole thing. With a please.” Garth said, the shivers of pleasure arching through his entire body.
“Please…Beat my head with a rock…until I forget about all of this…” Garth’s heart was slamming in his chest now, filling him with wave after wave of ecstasy.
“Can do!” Garth said, bringing the rock down against the man’s skull, just hard enough to cause tremendous pain, but not hard enough to cause brain damage.
“Oh, I’m sorry, shit. Ask me to hit you harder.” Garth said, unable to keep the smile from surfacing on his face.
“Please…” Mr. Torso managed to spit the word with a bit of blood between broken lips.
“Hit me harder.” Mr. Torso started weeping.
Garth trailed up the index finger of his left hand to his breastbone, playing with the long scar there.
“If you insist!” Garth said, applying all of his considerable strength to the blow, bowling Mr. Torso over where he shivered in the dirt, brain scrambled.
“GNN!” Garth grunted in pleasure as he used his sharp fingernail to cut open the center of his chest, creating a path straight through his breastbone.
Like wisps of smoke, black mana rose from the fresh corpse before being drawn through Garth’s chest, into his Heartstone. Once that was done, Garth ate Mr. Torso’s face.
Garth had had a very bad day, and Mr. Torso was fair game.
A half hour later, when Mr. Torso had become Mr. Trail Rations, Garth and Leanne laid down by the fire, getting ready for bed.
“You’re a sick fuck.” Leanne said, staring at the sky.
“At least I’m not a pedophile, going around kissing thirteen year old boys.”
“He was older than me!” Leanne shouted.
“Still counts.” Garth said, folding his arms over his chest, pondering the nature of the universe and the fact that he had a twin brother out there, and by any account, Garth was the evil one.
Garth twiddled his thumbs, contemplating interpersonal compatibility. Some people, if met with another person with an identical personality, would do everything it took to destroy the other. Others got along like two peas in a pod.
Garth had spent a lot of time considering how well he would get along with himself as a thought exercise and had come to the conclusion that two Garths would be better than one, but now that he was the evil twin, he was a little concerned about the viability of a meetup.
They would have to hash out etiquette on a case by case basis, but Garth was sure they could work something out.
“Leanne, I think we’re going to skip town, on a dimensional scale.”
Leanne grunted and turned over.
“I think you should play the cleric, since you’re a girl.” Garth said, thinking about where they would have to go and the equipment they would have to procure in order to slip into an outpost undetected.
She glanced over her shoulder and glared at him.
“Just kidding. You’d make a good paladin.” Get her some dwarf-sized platemail, and she’d wreck face.
Little piece of advice for playing with girls for the first time. Give them a more active/appreciated role than the cleric, or else they don’t enjoy themselves, and you don’t get return boobs.
Speaking of boobs, Garth hadn’t gotten laid in months, and he was curious as to whether his Kipling body was even capable. Over a year if you count before I turned.
The next morning, Garth and Leanne set out to make their fortune and hopefully escape the ancient demon lord who seemed to have a hate-boner for him. The loss of four months of effort stung, but Garth knew he’d lost something he was more emotionally invested in once. He just couldn’t remember exactly what it was.