Garth paced back and forth, dressed in a sharp black suit, his shoes clacking on the wooden floor as he slapped a riding crop across his palm.
Behind him was a chalkboard with ‘Detention’ written on it in big fluffy letters. In front of him was a classroom full of perfectly arranged desks, empty save for two.
Beladia and Pala, wearing schoolgirl outfits.
The dreamscape was rather fluid once you got the hang of it.
Pala didn’t really fill out the outfit, being a creature of sexless shadow, but Beladia was almost spilling out of it. Her eyes darted around the room guiltily.
“Today we’re going to talk about how certain parties went through so much trouble to keep me entertained and sane and learning for eight hundred years. How they taught me the most advanced magic, and of course…whenever I wanted to slay a dragon or go on an adventure, or participate in a magic circle, there were always plenty of volunteers. Practice, is what that was.”
Pala was stonefaced and cloaked in shadow, but Beladia looked extremely guilty, wiggling in her seat, short skirt unable to protect her from the cold plastic of the chair.
“You even let me go to Ercath’s realm of war for twenty years as an exchange student. Something I was told is rare.”
Garth tapped the riding crop to his lips.
“I wondered to myself, why the special treatment? What sinister plot were you two hatching? As the years went by, nothing bad happened, and I couldn’t see any clouds forming in the afterlife that might warn me about what was going to happen, so I dropped it.”
“I know what you were planning now, so we don’t need to discuss why you did it. You were protecting your investment, trying to buy time until your apostle could be alive again, still sending power and belief back to you through the Siphon in his soul.”
Garth held up the riding crop and pointed it between the two of them.
“What we need to find out now, is which one of you two hatched the idea?”
Pala and Beladia stared back at him silently, until Beladia’s squirming seemed to erupt from her chest.
“It was me! You don’t have to take it out on Pala!” She shouted piteously. She still looked guilty though.
“So it was your idea.” Garth said, pointing at Pala. Pala was averse to telling the truth non-cryptically, and Beladia was too generous for her own good. It was obviously Pala’s idea, and Beladia was covering for her.
“Maybe. But if it was, what of it?”
“A little heads up would have been welcome.”
Pala shook their head. “You never would have made it if you believed it to be training and not a game. You would have chosen the freedom of reincarnation sooner or later. Your mortal concept of time is so small.”
“I would have appreciated the choice.” Garth said, his grip tightening on the leather switch before relaxing again. “But I understand you were just looking out for your sister who has so few powerful Apostles. Just a whole lot of believers and not a lot of energy to spread around between them, right? Admit it, you did it for her.”
“I protected my investment.”
“Sure your shadow isn’t blushing?”
Garth straightened and took a deep breath, letting it out at a measured pace. “Well, bygones are bygones, can’t do anything about it now…But!”
Garth slapped the riding crop in his hand one final time, with authority. “Fifteen swats across the butt with the riding crop. I want you two bent over the desks, pronto.”
Pala blinked once, then vanished, fleeing Garth’s dream.
“Do I have to?” Beladia asked, her eyes welling up with tears, breasts nearly pooling on the desk beneath her.
Still got one on the hook! Garth felt like doing a little dance, but he masked it from Beladia’s thought-reading.
“Don’t you feel bad for lying to your apostle?” Garth asked.
The gullible deity nodded, sniffing and tearing up.
“I can see the guilt is tearing you up. If you receive your punishment, you’ll feel better, because you’ll have paid for your mistake. You won’t have to feel bad about it anymore.”
“O-okay…” Beladia said, hesitantly sliding out from behind the desk and walking around it. She turned around and put her hands on the desk before looking over her shoulder.
“Is it gonna hurt?”
“It’s gonna sting a little, but you’re tough.” Garth’s eyes wandered down to where the miniskirt revealed the very bottom curve of her brown buttcheeks.
“Alright,” She said, bending over. “Fifteen right?”
Garth didn’t speak, instead slowly watching the curtain of her miniskirt rise as she bent her waist, revealing her supple brown ass in all its glory, a thin band of black fabric covering her womanhood.
“Thirty, since you’re covering for Pala.”
Beladia let out a wordless whine as Garth drew back with the riding crop, savoring the moment.
The entire classroom began to shake violently, like it had been hit with a major earthquake.
“Aw, damn,” Garth said as the dream began falling apart. He placed a swift strike on Beladia’s rear end, reveling in her yelp.
“I’ll get the rest next-
Time,” Garth said, his eyes flashing open. Leaning above him was Ellanore with a harried look on her face, shaking his shoulder. The manacles binding them all together rattled as she shook him.
“You interrupted me at the best part.” Garth said accusingly.
“I don’t care.”
She blinked, licking her lips and apparently at a loss for words. “Are you going to help us?”
“Do you need help?” Garth asked. “There aren’t even any magic suppressors on these chains, just pop them open, put the guards to sleep and…go.”
The cultists stared at him.
“I mean you tried to use a trapping circle on me. Albeit without any mana, which made me wonder…Do none of you know how to use magic?”
“We found the circle in an ancient book. We hoped…it might work by itself?”
Garth grunted. “Well that was poor planning.” He turned over in the wagon, mulling over why these people were so backwards. Turning over landed his line of sight on one of his ultra-great granddaughters, silently weeping as tears slid down her cheeks, cradled in the arms of one of the male cultists.
Ah, goddamnit. Now he was emotionally invested. Break the axle, sneak them out at night, I guess.
“Only the chosen few with the most pure bloodline can harness the power of magic.” Ellanore said behind him. “Maybe a handful of people on Earth.”
“Horse-shit.” Garth said offhand. He glanced over his shoulder at her.
“Is it a crime to practice magic outside of the ruling class?” he asked.
“Punishable by death, yes.”
“Why would you need to make it a crime if it was impossible for common folk to do?” Garth asked. “Why make it punishable by death if the ability to use magic is inheritable? Wouldn’t they marry those people into branch families?”
“Umm is right. Think critically, children.” Garth said.
“What does that mean?”
Garth sat up, and really looked at Ellanore. Poor homespun clothing, slightly emaciated, credulous stare.
“Do you know how to read?” Garth asked.
She shook her head.
“Does anyone here know how to read?” Garth demanded, turning to scan the rest of the wagon, seeing a bunch of healthy young men and women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-seven shake their heads.
“It’s illegal for a peasant to read.” Ellanore explained. “Hard labor.”
Well, fuck, Garth thought, leaning back down and banging his head against the wall of the wagon in frustration.
“Cut that out!” a voice shouted from outside the wagon, rapping on the side.
Garth took a deep breath and mulled over his thoughts. Humans had the smack down laid on them. Made sense. Garth was this close to putting up satellites so that people could watch the post-apocalyptic thunderdome in their living room.
As well as being able to harness instant communication for his war machine, spy tech, beaming mana from place to place where needed, and weapons of mass destruction.
Humans, modern ones, had been aware of the potential of technology and had sought to recreate previous comforts and weapons, and maybe invent some new ones.
These ones… they were trapped in the sixteenth century.
No reading. Yep, that would do it.
Invention and the arts are supported by a leisure class. People who don’t have to fight for every scrap they get. Give them time to stare at their bellybuttons for a while, and eventually they find a passion and pursue it.
Many major artists and inventors were independently wealthy, affording them the time and money to create something that might not work.
Get rid of that social class, prevent reading and writing, and then only the absolute prodigies will ever rise out of the muck.
And all you gotta do is kill those people.
The more insights Garth got into the state of the world, the more he wanted to tear it apart with his bare hands, and the less he wanted Ellanore and her friends involved. I mean, they can’t even read.
“Okay,” Garth said, propping his manacled hands up on his knees. “This is what’s going to happen.”
The wagon’s axle broke with a wrenching squeal, and all the prisoners shouted as the wagon tilted to the side, wobbling like it was drunk. A moment later, the extra torque snapped off the second wheel, tilting the entire wagon at a harsh angle. All the prisoners screamed as they slid across the floor and bunched up on top of Garth.
Maybe I should have snapped the other side, Garth thought as someone kneed him in the ribs.
“Oh, nooo, the wagon is busted.” Garth said, deadpan. “Guess we’ll have to stay the night to fix it.”
Less than a minute later, the leader of the posse flipped the wagon flap open, exposing them to the evening sun.
“Get out,” Mutton-chops said, growling with frustration as they clumsily piled out. A moment later a dozen men were lifting the side of the wagon and working the busted axle out with a heavy mallet and a short length of wood.
Garth wound up sitting under guard with the rest of the cultists, eavesdropping on the captain’s conversation while he twiddled his thumbs.
“-The hell is taking so long?” Mutton chops demanded.
“The alignment’s gone a bit cock-eyed in the crash. It’ll take a bit of finagling to get it straight again.” His minion said. The man was balding with a deceptive amount of muscle, and experience in carpentry.
“Two hours, give or take.”
“Damn. Alright, keep at it.” Mutton chops waited for the carpenter to leave before muttering to himself. “I wanted to sleep in a bed tonight.”
Didn’t we all.
The captain motioned for two more of his soldiers, instructing them to set up camp, dig the latrines, and set up defenses against monsters.
Defenses against monsters amounted to a handful of spears in the ground, and a lot of string attached to bells. Probably not much that would want to attack a platoon of a hundred men, but who knew? Garth hadn’t been around for awhile, so if they felt they needed to take caution, then he’d leave them to it.
Then came the inevitable point in time where the soldiers wanted to pass around the Garthspawn as the evening’s ‘entertainment’.
“No, no!” one of the purple girls shouted, trying to tug her arm out of the larger man’s grip, as he unlocked her from the chain gang and began tugging her toward the center of the camp.
Mutton Chops was looking on with a grin as the girl was dragged to the center of the camp and thrown to the ground.
Garth held his palm up and blew poisonous gas spores across the camp in a tightly controlled gust. The dollop of poisoned air caught the camp leader across the face, and his smile faltered.
He glanced around at the laughing and jeering men, then down at his trousers with a confused expression. Finally he glance back up at the man tearing away the girl’s clothes.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing, Jeb?” Mutton-chops asked, his voice pitched dangerously low.
Garth leaned back, resting against one of the other captives and throwing his hands behind his head. Here come the fireworks. Wish I could make myself some popcorn without drawing attention.
The gas was a cocktail designed to make a man impotent, insecure, paranoid, and violent.
What do you do when you have a limp dick?
Over-compensate. Assert dominance.
“It’s the evening’s entertainment…sir?”
“The fuck it is, Jeb. That’s the property of the state. My property.”
Mutton chop’s eyes were bloodshot and bugging out.
“Think you can spoil my catch?”
“But you said-“
“I know what you say about me when you think no one’s around. You think I’m a pussy!?”
“I never said-“
Mutton chops walked up and caught his subordinate with a right cross to the face, laying the man out on the ground, where he groaned and held his broken nose.
Mutton chops stood panting over the soldier, his fingers twitching on the handle of his sword while blood streamed between the man’s fingers. The captain seemed to come back to himself for a moment, looking around at the quietly glaring soldiers with widened eyes.
He stepped in it, now he had to roll with it.
He picked the girl up by the hair and tossed her back with the others.
“Nobody touches them. If it’s whores you want, go to Red street. Anyone who looks to them for companionship will spend the night with a length of steel in their guts.”
They didn’t move, watching their captain with simmering anger. For a moment, Garth thought they were going to mutiny, then Mutton chops drew his sword, filling the air with the ring of steel.
“Come on then, test me now and save yourself the court martial and hanging.”
The soldiers sullenly went back to their duties, leaving Garth’s progeny alone.
“Wow, you’re such a gentleman,” Garth said, fingers linked behind his head. “I guess chivalry isn’t – Huurk!” Garth’s words were cut off as Mutton-chops stabbed him in the stomach.
That really massed with your diaphragm, getting stabbed. Garth’s nerves had been turned down to only report about 40% maximum pain, so rather than mind-numbing pain searing a hole in his guts, it was more like getting a sharp punch to the gut by an amateur.
Painful enough to demand attention, but not too painful to ignore.
“Don’t mistake me, boy. The Garthspawn have value. You’re worth less to me than the horseshit on my shoes.” He pulled the sword free and wiped it on his pant-leg. “That’ll give you something to think about on the ride to the gallows.”
“I get it,” Garth said, stemming the bleeding with his hand, but primarily concealing the closing wound. “You gotta show the boys you’re still hard…metaphorically speaking, by stabbing somebody. Guess it’ll make them think twice knowing you can hurt someone who can’t fight back, huh? Or maybe not.”
Mutton chops inhaled swiftly and drew his blade back, aiming to cut down with all his weight.
“Stop!” Ellanore shouted, throwing herself over Garth, forcing the man to stay his hand inches away from her neck.
The Captain watched them for a moment, his lips curling back in a snarl.
“Enjoy your last night on Earth, boy.” He kicked Garth past Ellanore and stalked away.
Now how to make the wound seem like it’s still there? Garth was working on a method to fake injury when Ellanore wrenched his hand away from his stomach with surprising force.
“Let me see! We have to know if it hit…the…” She paused, wiping away the blood to reveal smooth skin.
Garth lifted his fingers to his lips and winked. “Continue to panic, if you would be so kind.”
“We have to know if it hit your liver!” she said, shifting above him to break the line of sight from the rest of the camp. “Hold still. Put pressure on it! Don’t try to talk, stay with me!”
“What now?” she whispered.
“I already told you, they go to sleep, and you walk out.”
“I don’t…They have watches.”
“Not a problem.” Garth said.
When the fires burned low, every single sentry felt a strange stupor sink into their bones, their eyes drifting closed of their own accord. Their reason stripped away by drugs, each and every one of them found a nice place to curl up, yawned, and fell asleep. A minute later, the soft clicking of manacles opening echoed through the camps, unheard by human ears.
“How are you doing this?” one of the men whispered as they looked around at the sleeping sentries and the unlocked manacles.
“Aren’t you coming?” Ellanore asked, glancing back at Garth, who was reattaching his manacles.
“I gotta catch up on my sleep. Got a hot date.”
“They’ll kill you when they get to town.”
“Pfff.” Garth waved it off. “I’m the Dark Father of Sin, You think something like group of a hundred men concerns me? They’re not gonna kill me right away since I’m the only witness, and they’ll understand why you had to leave me behind, what with my gaping stomach wound. Why do you think I let him stab me?”
“Ummm…I thought you were crazy.
“me as well.”
“Yeah, I did too.”
Garth scowled as murmurs of agreement echoed through the camp.
“Get outta here. You’ll get your revolution, but it’ll be on my terms, when I’m good and ready. In the meantime, you tell Ms. Banyan what I told you, got it?”
“Alright…Garth.” Ellanore said. The two dozen cultists stalked through between the unconscious sentries and disappeared into the night, cautiously sneaking past the bell traps.
“Thought they’d never leave.” Garth rolled over and stifled a yawn, fluffing his backpack of gold underneath his head and laying back down.
Garth’s pleasant dreams of disciplining Beladia were interrupted by screams of alarm. Garth squeezed his eyes shut, trying to will himself back to the dreamscape. They had probably found out about the escapees, but they already had hours to hoof it back to the Green Hell of L.A.no way were they getting caught again.
Unless they’re stupid.
Maybe the odds weren’t so great.
All the thunder and fury didn’t have anything to do with Garth, though. He was just here for the ride into town. Maybe if he made a spore that induced apathy, they’d give up and go home, taking him with them. Seemed like it might work.
Garth tried to sleep harder.
The screams raised in pitch.
That’s weird, I think I smell…blood?
Garth’s eyes snapped open and saw Mutton-chop staring wide-eyed back at him, an inch away from his nose. His face was pale and bobbing up and down in Garth’s field of view as the insect-creature tore off pieces of flesh from the dead captain’s ribs.
For an instant, Garth wanted to turn over and go back to sleep, but then another creature jumped toward him, huge gnashing mandibles opening to reveal fingerlike protrusions lining its gullet.