The kids were stretching in the living room, yawning as Mrs. Banyan made breakfast for them in the kitchen: Eggs and bacon. One good application of Beladia’s fertility aura and there was more than enough livestock to go around L.A. It was pretty funny watching a chicken literally shoot eggs out of its cloaca at high speeds.
Thank you, Ma’am.
Tad was the first one up. He was eating a second helping of breakfast and reclining on the sofa, circles under his eyes and food stains on his shirt. He looked like he didn’t even change clothes. He was watching cartoons on the TV.
Caitlyn stumbled out of the girl’s bathroom, yawning and stretching before smacking her soft crimson lips and scratching her butt. She had a mussed up mat of red hair that hadn’t been combed yet, wandering toward the savory smells of the kitchen with her eyes half-closed, her long nightgown suspended from her perky nipples.
Alicia was watching him from the sofa, silently shaking her head.
What am I supposed to do, not see things?
Alicia was already dressed in her Sunday best, a teal shirt with another pair of black pants that were inches away from waving the white flag. Her porcelain skin sported a blush that hadn’t been there the night before.
Did Caitlyn loan her rouge? Garth shrugged internally. Not my problem. Be great if they were getting along, though.
Garth went to the kitchen and passed Caitlyn, who was mechanically eating breakfast while standing in the center of the tiled floor, chewing slowly with her eyes closed.
“Get her a coffee….light,” Garth told the trio of Mrs. Banyans who were taking care of serving breakfast. One of the idle ones nodded and pulled a bag of coffee beans down from the cabinet. If the girl had never had caffeine before Garth didn’t want to explode her heart.
Garth took his plate of breakfast and ambled back to the living room.
“Good morning, and welcome to the second day of the sleepover,” Garth said between bites of egg. “We’ll head back to the city around seven tomorrow, and have you in your beds by midnight, so make sure your bags are packed by then.”
Alicia pointedly ignored him.
Caitlyn groaned from the kitchen.
I get no respect.
Garth stretched his legs and stood.
“Before we get started this morning, I’m gonna go grab some supplies from outside, anyone wanna come with?”
“I want to try some things out with the lasercutter.” Caitlyn said, standing in the doorway to the kitchen, nursing her coffee. “Mind if I use it while you’re gone? I have some weapon concepts to test.”
“Sure, that’s fi-“
“I’ll go!” Alicia stood eagerly.
Garth blinked at her sudden energy. Cabin fever? Garth nodded to Tad while collecting everyone’s plates. “How about you?”
“Nah, I have some things I wanna try too. There wasn’t much variation in yesterday’s batches.”
“Alright,” Garth said, dropping the plates with another Mrs. Banyan. Or was she Mrs. Grass now? “Al and I are gonna be gone for maybe eight hours, don’t get up to anything crazy while I’m gone.”
Garth spotted Alicia sneaking a glance towards Caitlyn, who was deep in thought, her eyes gleaming as she pondered either the wonder of the laser press or the wonder of coffee.
Ahh. She wants to play keep-away with the ancient wizard. Man, Dentons aren’t very good at sharing. Or maybe just women. Well, men get jealous too, soo…people? Teens. Teens aren’t very good at sharing.
Garth nodded inwardly.
“I’m going to try adding small amounts of chemicals to the baking process today, see if the spiders venom reacts to the flesh of their prey at baking temperatures. Caitlyn, would you be any help with that?”
“Hmm? No, I’m more of a builder than a chemist. Ravenleafs get touchy about other people playing with chemicals and we need them for too many things to risk an embargo.”
“Alright, sounds like you guys have things well in hand. Al, you wanna hit the bathroom before we go?”
She shook her head and hefted her rapier. “I’m good to go.”
“Excellent,” Garth said, picking up the black hood from the counter.
“Actually I think I will.”
“Is this really necessary?” Alicia said in his ear, the sack muffling her words. Her arms were tied together around his neck and her legs were arapped around his hips, her bottom resting on a makeshift saddle as he glided through the forest at a speed that put cars to shame. They made it to the other side of the mountain in only a handful of minutes as the brush and trees bent around him and his passenger to propel them further and faster.
“Of course it’s necessary.” Garth said, enjoying having a girl pressed against his back probably a bit more than he should have.
It did actually serve a purpose, though. Since she had no way of telling how fast they were going, Alicia would assume that at most they were a mile or two outside of his lair, rather than fifty.
Once Garth got where he wanted to be, he let her off his shoulders, untied her and took off the hood.
“Here we are, a forest where we can find my supplies.” Garth said, motioning to the surrounding greenery.
Alicia peered up at the sun and the surrounding mountains.
“Your secret base is outside Clarkstown?”
“Maybe,” Garth said, stretching his shoulders. “Now, we need to hunt for my supplies.”
“I forgot to ask,” Alicia said. “What are your supplies?”
She shook her head and gave him a double take. “Live goblins? What do you need them for? There’s no good reason to catch them rather than kill them. There’s literally nothing that can be done with them. They’re dangerous, stupid, disobedient, their tools are terrible, they taste awful, they reproduce at ridiculous rates. They found out humans can make half-breeds with anything a long time ago, and now they’ve got a penchant for kidnapping women to make hobgoblins, who are even worse, if you can believe it.”
“I’m going to train an animal to hunt them, so I need some live ones.” Garth said.
“Oh.” Alicia pondered it for a moment. “You actually managed to find the one good reason to catch them alive. I’m impressed.”
“Thank you.” Garth nodded.
Finding goblins took longer than he thought.
They began to stomp through the woods, making sure to make plenty of noise, but it just didn’t seem like the goblins were biting this time of year. They were the ultimate invasive species, it wasn’t like there weren’t any in the forest, though.
“The moment you actually try to find one,” Garth muttered to himself after a few minutes had gone by. “Heeeere Gobby gobby gobby!”
Garth clicked his tongue, scanning the surrounding forest.
“Maybe you just don’t look edible.” Alicia said, glancing over as she walked beside him. “Kinda stringy.”
“Pssh, I’m with you on that one. If I were a goblin I would eat you, hands down. Nice big hunks of....”
Alicia raised a brow.
Garth cleared his throat. “Slightly more tender meat.” He glanced around the forest. You really think we’re scaring them off?”
“Not really. Two lightly armored humans wandering through the woods? They’d fall over themselves to attack us. Most likely we’re just unlucky and haven’t wandered into any of their territories.”
“Hmm…” Garth stopped and held his palm against the nearest tree, sharing his senses with the forest. It seemed like there weren’t any goblins, at least none within the three hundred foot radius that he could feel.
Hmmm… Can’t really afford to be doing this all day.
Garth held up his hand and made a little bloodhound daffodil to sniff out the nearest gobs. The little green plant with a bright yellow flower sniffed the air a bit, then turned southward.
“On we go,” Garth said, following his homemade goblin compass.
“So what was your wife like, before you went to ‘prison’?” Alicia asked as she followed beside him.
“Picture the sluttiest looking woman you could possibly imagine.” Garth said, following the direction the flower pointed.
“So my sister?” Alicia laughed.
“Benedette doesn’t even hold a candle. She wasn’t very bright either, and a little naïve too.”
“She had a heart of gold though, and she only ate people in self-defense.”
“I fail to see how you can eat people in self-defense.” Alicia said, frowning.
“She pulled it off,” Garth said. The memories Alicia was bringing up were bittersweet, and perfectly clear, from the moment he met Sandi, to the moment he lost sight of her, interrupted by a beam of searing light.
“So what made her so attractive? What kind of girl do you like?” Alicia asked, sidling closer, her hips nearly colliding with his own.
“Her? The brightest smile in the world and an ass straight out of my wildest dreams.”
Alicia grinned, her smile radiant in the dark of the forest.
Garth decided to mess with her a bit. “Huge boobs, too.” Alicia’s smile became a bit strained. “Like, out to here.” Garth motioned. Alicia’s expression became dangerous and Garth decided to move on.
“But my type? What really gets me going? Dangerous women. Smart women, too.”
“But you said she wasn’t that bright.” Alicia said, frowning.
“I like dumb women too,” Garth shrugged. “Harmless ones as well, actually. Tall ones, skinny ones, chubby ones, dainty ones, ones that climb on rocks. My tastes could best be described as… broad.” Garth thought all the way back to his many childhood crushes.
“But what’s your type?” Alicia asked, giving him a frustrated look. “You just told me ‘I like women in general’.”
“Yeah, I guess, but if I had to distill it down to a handful of traits…” Garth rubbed his chin before holding up a finger.
“One, they do right by me. That disqualifies your Aunt.”
He held up another finger.
“Two, they find me attractive.” Nothing looks quite as good on a woman as her wanting to jump your bones.
“And third, they have good teeth.” Garth bared his teeth and pointed at them. “A girl could be the nicest, prettiest, most devoted girl in the world, but if she had meth-mouth, I don’t think I would be able to touch her with a ten-foot pole.”
“Let me tell you,” Garth chuckled as he walked, “My wife had some good teeth.” Garth’s chuckle built to a full-blown giggle as he walked. They were like, a foot long and razor sharp.
“What was her name?” Alicia asked, her voice soft and compassionate.
“Nice try,” Garth “But like I told you brats last night, that’s classified.”
Alicia tsked in irritation, crossing her arms.
Garth glanced over at her and patted her shoulder.
“So how about you? What’s the ideal man in this brave new world?”
Alicia’s eyes flashed. “They’re powerful.” She said immediately. “Power is law, in the end.”
“Wow, Al. That’s intense.”
“Oh, well…” Alicia blushed the tiniest bit. “Can you not call me Al? It’s a terrible name.”
“Aww, you don’t like it? Why not?”
“My family calls me Al. Hearing someone call me that makes me put them in a little box in my head labeled ‘may stab you in the back at some point.’”
“It’s just a name.” Garth said with a shrug. “It seems like a problem you could solve by killing the right people, but don’t take my advice. Most problems look killable to me.”
Garth sighed, staring into the distance.“I’m gonna change how you feel about that name for you. Besides, nobody gets three syllables. Even the guy who taught ME magic only got one.”
“You don’t mean Garth?!” Alicia gaped at him.
“Hah, you wish.” Garth said. “I never met the guy.”
Still true, I’ve never met myself before. Except for that one time.
“This was some dude named Cassius. We called him Cass, a wrinkled old geezer that would rather run than stay for a fight he might not win.”
“He was very powerful though. Made the world six feet longer in one direction once.”
“What?” she asked. “What does that even mean?”
“Yeah, I still don’t know how he did it,” Garth said with a chuckle. “But he had his specialty, I have mine. Watch.”
Garth took a moment to organize his thoughts, concentrating on his perception of weather mana, tugging it out of the environment.
A small flurry of wind appeared above his hand.
He concentrated on a spore twirling right above his hand.
Heal your wielder, defend them from harm, concentrate and channel weather mana like a pro. You come from a long line of distinguished wands, but unlike your parents, you went goth and bucked the trend, wanting to become a dual purpose fighting wand like none other! People better be careful not to get blown away by your awesome might!
The spore sprouted, forming into tight wooden whorls. Ash fell away to reveal a hilt – a crown of living leaves forming the scales of the grip, flowing mana circuits wound among the branches on the pommel. Roots almost as hard as adamantium wound into a caged wristguard.
Garth seared the channeled weather mana through the length of the wood, pushing out the nature mana and priming it to channel only one kind of mana.
Garth wound up with a dark grey, wooden wand resting in his palm, It looked like other magical aides he’d seen before, but it had a guard meant for catching blades, and a sharp wedge point at the end if she really needed to stab someone.
A fighting wand.
It wasn’t particularly helpful for people who had a hyper-magical class like Garth, but it was invaluable to someone who didn’t.
“I don’t really like the word…but I suppose people could misconstrue me as being…” Garth held the weapon out to her. “Powerful?”
Avarice practically dripped from Alicia’s gaze when she saw the small eddies of mana pooling around the wand. Hearing his words, though, she blushed again.
“Uh, well, I suppose that you could… maybe… say that, umm…”
A rock shot out of the brush and ricocheted off Garth’s reinforced skull.
“Oh, would you look at that.” Alicia stammered, snatching the parrying wand from him. “Goblins. Let’s go fight them.”
“We’re back!” Garth shouted as he entered his lair.
Unfortunately there was no one to greet them.
Garth let Alicia down off his shoulders and took the sack off her head. The dozen tied up goblins continued to wiggle in their bonds. It had been pretty helacious figuring out how to bring them with him. He’d wound up having to cast Forestwalk on each of them to prevent them from being roadhauled to pieces on the way over, and had to tie them up with leather straps made from their own filthy clothes.
The entire experience left Garth sorely in need of a bar of soap and maybe a couple episodes of Crocodile hunter to get his mind off of how gross the goblin nest had been.
When they got close to the nest, the goblin’s effort to kill them, and their stench, had redoubled.
The entire nest was run by a couple disgusting smelling hobgoblins, whose odor was most accurately described as ‘anaerobic bacteria colony’
I need a shower and to watch Steve Irwin manhandling wild animals, Garth thought, directing the dungeon to form a cage around the goblins. They could stand to have one too.
Bars of solid ironwood formed around the goblins and a drain opened up beneath them. A second later, spigots began blasting them with water, following Garth’s wishes.
“How did you do that? I didn’t see any mana move.”
“I built the place.” Garth said with a shrug before turning back to the living room. “Guys? We’re back!” They’re probably in the workroom.
Garth’s call was followed shortly by a tremendous Boom that shook the floor, nearly knocking him over.
“What the hell was that!?” Garth and Alicia shouted simultaneously, shortly before another explosion rocked the house. The sound seemed to be coming from the direction of the workshop.
Garth broke into a sprint, aiming for the workshop.
Caitlyn and Tad were standing near the entrance. Tad had what looked like a missile launcher over his shoulder, aimed at the opposite wall separating Garth’s phylactery from the rest of the house. There was a hand-painted target on the wall, already embedded with dozens of small steel ball bearings, and at least seven slugs almost the size of tennis cannisters.
“No! Bad!” Garth shouted, waving his arms and running toward them, trying to get their attention, but they were wearing earplugs and not facing him.
Tad pulled the trigger, and the entire dungeon shook again.
The steel slug hit the wall right on top of the previous one, and together they tore through the ironwood wall, sending a crack about half the width of Garth’s arm through the wall.
The golden light of the Phylactery room leaked through the crack in the bunker wall.
“Hey!” Garth shouted, jumping in front of the two of them. With a mental command, he sealed the fissure in the wall moments before Alicia came in, trotting behind him.
“What did I say about doing something crazy?” Garth demanded, his arms spread wide between their property-destruction machine and his most vital lifeline. No more shooting at my fucking phylactery, capisce!?
“…Don’t do it?” Caitlyn said, her head lowered.
“And would you define shooting a cannon inside someone else’s house as crazy?”
“I was just excited to try it, and we can’t leave, so I…” Caitlyn wilted at Garth’s furious glare.
“I’m sorry. I don’t have an excuse,” she said in a pitiful voice
“She made me.” Tad said, pointing at Caitlyn, entirely unrepentant.
Garth took long, slow, deep breath and then one more. “I’ll think of a creative punishment for both of you, but for now…”
Garth leaned forward and whispered to Caitlyn, “How did you negate the recoil?”