Garth took a deep breath of the morning air, feeling the warm sun on his back as the train of students marched toward the west.
“So here’s my situation in a nutshell,” Garth said to the gaggle of Dentons surrounding him: Alicia, Benedette and Susie. According to Alicia, they were agents of her aunt, sent to turn him.
Of course, by that metric, Alicia was too.
Garth was pretty sure he’d be able to turn her first, though.
Unless that was what she wanted him to think.
Spy stuff is hard, Garth thought.
“A few years back, a bastard put me in prison. While I was gone, my wife died and some A-hole stole my kids. My evil twin ruined my reputation while I was in the slammer and my brother capitalized on it to make his career.
Now I’m out, and my kids are slaves, my brother’s untouchable, the bastard is gone and I don’t even know who the A-hole was. And my evil twin hasn’t been seen or heard from in ages.”
“But you’re sixteen.” Benedette said, the tall brunette giving him a sideways glance with raised eyebrows. She was taller than Garth actually.
And there goes the temptation to change my height again.
She shared a glance with her sister who shrugged.
“I’m trying to get a handle on my emotions here and looking for advice,” Garth said, wagging a finger at her, “Not tell a coherent story. Names, dates, places, facts, and events have been changed to protect the innocent. If I were you, I wouldn’t tug on that thread.”
“Okay,” Benedette said, rolling her eyes when she thought he couldn’t see her. Which was fair because his face was pointed the wrong way. The invisible eye over his shoulder caught it, though.
Can’t even get respect from teenagers anymore. Oh wait. nobody ever has. Except maybe rock stars. Youtube stars. Movie stars. Drug dealers. Pretty much anybody considered less than wholesome or having a star in their name.
He glanced back at her and she gave him a cheery, attentive smile.
“Anyway,” Garth continued. “The point is, my entire life from before I went to prison is gone. Just…poof. My kids hate me, everybody hates me because of my brother and my evil twin, and I’ve got no property, and no reason to keep my behavior stable. You know that’s why they send married astronauts up into space, right? Because they’ve got a wife and kids, and a house, and a mortgage. They’re invested, they’re less likely to crack. I’m invested in nothing. Step it up, Kyle.”
Garth tugged on the chain connected to the teenager’s indestructible padlock nose-ring, forcing him to stumble forward. He had offered to use his superhuman strength to carry everyone’s luggage.
What a nice kid.
“What’s an astronaut?” Susie asked.
“It’s a job from before the fall of man,” Garth said offhand. “They were very highly trained engineers who would work on satellites in space.”
“Space? Like, area?”
“Outer space.” Garth said pointing up. “Outside of Earth’s breathable atmosphere.”
“Not relevant.” Alicia interrupted. “You’re looking for ways to become invested now that you’re out of prison.”
“How long were you in ‘prison’?” Benedette asked, the air quotes practically hanging in the air.
“Long enough.” Garth replied.
“You could get a hobby, join a new circle of friends, or get married.” Susie offered. “I know some girls who would be happy to court you.” She twirled her hair shyly.
“I’m sure you do.” Garth shook his head. “The circle of friend’s thing sounds tempting, except for the fact that everyone hates me.”
“I don’t hate you.” Benedette said, leaning against him, her breast squishing up against his shoulder.
Garth slid a hand around her waist and copped a feel before pinching her butt, causing her to yelp and jump away. She was trying to seduce him for evil, her butt was fair game.
“You do, you just don’t know it yet.” Garth said.
“What about your kids? They’re still around, right? You could focus on them.” Kyle offered from the back of the group. Finally someone with decent input.
Garth took a deep breath and stared at the sky for a moment before stealing a sideways glance at one of the Garthspawn bodyguards walking beside her charge. The purple woman was wearing a simple leather breastplate loaded with knives over easy-to-move-in pants and shirt.
There were dozens of them on this trip. It seemed like the noble families used their ‘stable’ of Garthspawn for all sorts of things. Mommies and muscle. That aligned well with the damage the Bergstrom’s bodyguard had done to him.
“That’s the long-term plan, Kyle-a-roo, but like I said, they were raised to hate and fear me, and any relationship I start with them without telling them who I am is bound for tragedy.”
“You seem to be unwilling to move on past the ‘everybody hates me’ bit.” Alicia said.
Garth thought about it for a moment and scratched his head. “Yeah, that about sums it up.”
Susie looked at Alicia and shrugged, Benedette rubbed the sore spot on her butt and stuck her tongue out while his head was turned.
“So what are we supposed to do about it?” Alicia asked.
“Just talking helps.” Garth said as they approached the forest. “For now, maybe I can make something that doesn’t hate me. Get invested in that. If I make some kind of voodoo doll that I pour all my love into, I wouldn’t misbehave for fear of it being destroyed.”
“Why not get a dog?” Kyle said between pants.
“Easier, but I don’t want to have to feed it.”
“Or go steady with someone. You don’t have to marry them.” Benedette said. “Sex evens the temper very well, I hear.”
“True,” Garth said. “Except as my memories of my time in prison have been fading, it’s made my separation from my wife seem more and more recent. The pain of her loss is actually growing over time, if you can believe it. That and I’m not interested in my new squeeze turning on me when she finds out who I am. That would probably send me off the deep end.”
Maybe I could have a hooker even me out every now and then, Garth thought. I think Sandi would be cool with that. Probably?
Garth decided to put a pin in that until they made it back home, having come up with two possible ideas to get him more even-keeled.
- Make a plant pet.
- Get laid.
I can’t believe I’m a god among men, and taking care of my own emotional health has become the top priority, Garth thought, shaking his head with a wry grin.
“Anyway, enough about me, how does your aunt like her new nipple rings?” Garth asked, and the group of Dentons froze in place.
“What, she didn’t tell you?” Garth asked over his shoulder. “She sends a bunch of kids to spy on me, and you think I’m not going to respond to that? If I did it to Kyle, I could do it to any of you.”
“I hear they’re really good for sex, though.” Garth said, facing forward again. “She’ll probably thank me later.” It was a simple matter of filling the entire manor with soporific spores, unlocking the front door via telekinesis, then wandering around till he found Maggie’s room.
There’d been a poison needle trap on the door handle, but Garth had been able to shrug it off.
Maybe a little gold chain between the two of them. Mmn. Good stuff.
“You’re crazy.” Susie said.
“I’m not crazy. I’m trying to convey that I could kill them in their sleep without mutilating them, or actually killing them. I’m trying to exercise restraint. Does no one get that?”
“Traditionally that’s done with a sword through the pillow,” Alicia said.
“Boring. I like my way better. Plus they will always wonder to themselves, ‘why the hell didn’t I wake up while the bastard was playing with my nipples?’.”
“She’s not going to take that lying down,” Benedette said.
“Took it lying down last night,” Garth shot back.
“You know what I mean,” she responded.
“Attention students!” came a call from the front of the train of students hiking down the road. “The Clarkstown forest-“
”- is just ahead. Keep your eyes peeled for Yenner. They look like clusters of young trees leaning toward each other in the ambush position. Once we go into the forest, your noble selves becoming some bugs lunch is a real possibility. Keep your eyes open and stay with a group of no less than five other students at all times!”
“Not only are we here to build forestry skills and help control the Yenner population, we’re also here to show you what it was like to live as a human forced to eat raw, poisonous Heartstones back in the beginning. Each Yenner you kill, you will also be responsible for collecting its heartstone and turning it in to your instructor!”
There was a general groan of disgust at the prospect of dissecting hundreds of bugs.
“We’re going to march two miles into the forest where we’ve set up a camp in advance. From there, you’ll go out in teams along with your instructors to clear the woods. Of course, exterminating targets of opportunity like goblins are also encouraged.”
I wonder if Brian came out okay. Garth recalled getting a thank you note from him over the ethernet, together with a picture of several pairs of feminine hands guiding his cock into a fat butt. He was certainly living the high life for a while.
Maybe now minotaurs are one of those Kill-on-sight monsters, Garth thought with a sigh. Sure hope he did okay, hid in the mountains somewhere and spawned thousands of half-breed cow-women. That sounds like a place I’d like to visit.
“Edward!” Alicia shouted in his ear as he was daydreaming about riding cowgirl.
“The line’s moving again.”
“So it is,” Garth said, moving forward again, ignoring the kids staring at him.
“And hey,” he said, glancing back at them. “We’ve got a party of five students already! Factor in your invisible babysitters, and we could totally strike out on our own, like daring explorers!”
The Dentons shared meaningful glances and began to march after him.
In a matter of hours they made it to the camp, where the academy instructors had gone ahead and made a clearing where the students could set up some ramshackle tents to spend the night in.
Garth set his backpack filled with mild contact-based paralytics down at the spot they’d chosen to set up camp, a fairly isolated spot on the edge of the camp. It was the least safe spot to be in in case of Yenenr Attack, but also the best spot to be in if they wanted to get involved in some shenanigans
Garth stretched his back and headed over to where the Headmaster – mistress? – was taking roll and forming Ye olde adventuring parties.
“Are you sure you want to be in a party with those four?” The Headmaster asked from her makeshift desk where she was registering the student’s groups. “The Denton’s and the Bergstrom’s don’t exactly…get along.”
“It’s fine,” Garth said, waving his hand dismissively.
“I’m frankly surprised you bothered to show up. There’s any number of noble houses interested in taking the Bergstrom’s seat on the City council, and you’re their weakest link.”
Garth chuckled at being labeled the weakest link.
“I’ll be careful, I promise.”
“You do that. If you get hurt I’ll-“ She bit the words off, trying to maintain the façade of neutrality.
“I’ll be fine. I’m practically indestructible.”
“Typical teenage boy,” Gloria said shaking her head with a sigh.
“So what’s going to happen to all the Heartstones?” Garth asked, casually leaning on the desk.
“They’re going to be collected and turned in to the state for their bounty.”
“Don’t you think it’s unethical to profit off your students like that? You should gather them all up and destroy them once everything is said and done.”
“I…Suppose it is, a bit, but that’s a lot of money…”
“Might cost you more when their parents find out you profited off their kids.” Garth said.
“Yes..” She said. The Headmaster’s waist made micro-twitches as her body flooded with pleasure for agreeing with him. “Yes, you’re right. We shouldn’t risk damaging our prestige.”
“I’d be happy to dispose of them for you.”
“Do you know the proper way?”
“Of course,” Garth said with a smile, “you can trust me.”
“Okay…yes, I’ll be counting on you to dispose of them properly.” She said, her cheeks flushing as she struggled to keep control of herself.
“Good work, Headmaster.”
“NNNNo problem.” She gasped as the trigger words activated the conditioning spell.
Gloria signed off on the party arrangement once she caught her breath, wishing him luck before welcoming the next group’s representative.
Garth headed back to the camp and came across an interesting sight.
The tents were only partially assembled, Garth’s backpack was opened, and tilted to the side, some of its precious contents spilling out onto the ground. Thankfully the Mythic cores at the bottom were still buried deep, nestled inside their case.
Kyle and Benedette were leaned up against a tree, completely still, while Susie panicked over them. Alicia was standing off to the side, fingering the rapier on her waist, obviously considering killing off the competition right here and now.
“Easy tiger.” Garth whispered, clapping her on the shoulder. “Their bodyguards are still here.” Garth took his hand away and headed for the tree where the two teenagers were laying with their eyes closed, apparently unconscious.
Garth knew they could hear everything.
“They were looking for the key to Kyle’s nose ring. Are they dead?” Susie asked, on the verge of tears. Garth felt the air move around him as the kid’s Garthspawn bodyguards got ready to ice him.
“Nah, they’re still breathing. They’re just unable to move so good right now. They’ll be fine in a half an hour or so.”
Garth reached out with both hands and peeled open one eye of each of the offenders so they could see him.
“Let this be a lesson. Your aunt sent you here for a reason. And that reason is, I can do shit your puny mind can’t even comprehend. Do not. Fuck with me.”
Garth reached into his vest and pulled out his key, opening the mind-bogglingly expensive adamantium lock on the kid’s nose and let the chain fall to the ground.
Garth glanced around, spotting no one from the main camp. He went over to his backpack, neutralized the poison and pulled out the graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate that he’d made the night before.
“Now who wants S’mores?”