“I’m not sure if this is heaven or hell.” Greg groaned into the open barracks. He was lying face up, every muscle in his body crying out in pain, barely able to lift a finger. During the day. He’d been forced to perform meaningless task after meaningless task that could only be accomplished by a group of people.
Between the reading and writing lessons, the math lessons, and the history lessons, his brain felt just as mushy as his limbs. Tomorrow they would have to do it all over again, and that almost made him want to cry.
The scenery was nice though. Above him, four curvaceous brown Mrs. Banyans massaged his aching muscles, her luscious breasts brushing against him as they massaged his arms and legs. Greg didn’t want another black eye, so he chose not to cop a feel, just enjoying the moment. This strange village of Garthspawn got the blood pumping in more ways than one.
“Little bit of both I imagine.” Juan said, groaning into the massage table as two more rubbed his back.
That was how it went. They were treated like dogs during the day, and kings at night.
“Marry me.” Juan said.
“No, me!” John shouted.
“Forget about those guys, I’ll do you so good you’ll – OW!” Zack’s lewd confession was cut off by a pinch from Mrs. Banyan.
“Now boys,” The words came from the lips of every wooden woman present, creating an eerie resonance. “I’m already married.”
“Where’s Fred, anyway?” John asked, his voice muffled by the massage table.
“He said he was going to do some more studying.” Zack said.
“We get two hours of free time a day and he’s gonna spend it looking at a book?” Greg asked, “That boy is scary in more ways than one.
“He’d studying with Heather.” Zack clarified.
“Studying or going balls deep?” John asked.
“Little bit of both, I imagine?” Jaun said.
“Who knows?” Mrs. Banyan said.
Out in the forest, Fred was peeling open the chest of a Yenner he’d hunted with Heather Garthspawn, while Mrs. Banyan chaperoned the two of them. The only thing on his mind was getting an edge on the competition. If the ancient humans could eat raw heartstones and live, Fred could too. Each one he hunted would make the exercises easier, the lessons stick better, and allow him to pull ahead of the others.
Whatever this creature was that was masquerading as Edward Bergstrom, it represented a both a tremendous opportunity, and a tremendous risk.
No way was Fred going to settle for being middle management in exchange for risking his life. Fred tugged the dull stone away from the creature’s heart, examining it in the torchlight. It was about the size of his thumb, dull green with a pebbled surface.
Fred ate it, grimacing at the acrid taste of blood before the stone dissolved on the way down his throat. Not the sort of thing you get used to, but necessary.
“Let’s see if we can get another before curfew. How long do we have?” he asked, glancing back at Mrs. Banyan while hefting his new spear.
“forty-five minutes.” she said.
“A Yenner a quarter mile that way,” she said, pointing. “Or a group of Dire wolves a half mile that way.” She pointed.
“This…is…awful.” Heather said between gasping breaths.
“You gotta work hard if you wanna be on top,” Fred said with a shrug. All his muscles were crying out in pain, but he had enough left in him to walk and lift a spear and put it between him and a pouncing Yenner. He needed someone to carry the spare spears, though, and Heather seemed to like him.
“When you…asked me…to come out into the woods…” the slender, black haired Garthspawn who taught them basic math panted as she climbed the side of the mountain with spare unbroken spears over her shoulder.
“I thought…you…wanted to fuck…” She panted. “Who knew…carrying your spears wasn’t a euphemism?”
“Wait,” Fred asked, rounding on Heather. “And you followed me anyway?”
Heather gave him a shy, hopeful smile, and his heart immediately kicked into high gear. He’d never had a woman show an interest in him like this. He had to treat this situation with the delicacy a demure woman like her deserved.
“We’re taking the Yenner.” He said, turning toward the single monster. Dire wolves moved in packs and he was in no shape to handle more than one monster at a time.
Heather deflated, her spark of enthusiasm faded away, making her look like an abused animal as she watched him with upturned eyes.
“We can make love later, when we’ve gotten to know each other, with a proper bed, and the time to devote to it.” Fred said, hoping to appease the disappointed girl. Something romantic, with candlelight and soft silk sheets…
“We can do it real quick standing up,” she said with a shrug.
Fred’s heart nearly jumped out of his chest and his mind went blank, all cunning and ambition drowned in a haze of stunned amazement.
“Yeah, lemme show you,” she said, putting her thumbs in her waistband.
“NO!” Fred shouted with a higher pitched shout than he’d intended.
“Lets…um… finish what we came here to do, and then…be together, okay?”
“You’re cute,” Heather said, pulling her pants down.
Greg was groaning while Mrs. Banyan worked his back when he heard snickering above him.
What? Greg glanced over his shoulder to see that every Mrs. Banyan in the room was covering her mouth, trying to suppress a giggle. Finally she didn’t seem to be able to contain it and burst out laughing.
“What is it?” Greg asked for the rest of the men in the room, who were watching the dryad curiously.
“It’s nothing,” she said, her laughter coming down to a chuckle as she shook her head. “Nothing.” She cleared her throat and got back to work.
What was that light? Caitlyn couldn’t stop thinking about the glow that had come through the wall. There had been a golden light flowing from the crack they’d punched in the sturdy wooden wall. She’d even gotten an instant where she’d seen something green beyond the thick wood.
Edward had seemed less angry at them, and more…panicked? The way his arms flailed as he ran, the expression on his face. Something had scared him, badly, and it wasn’t concern for their well-being. He had immediately closed the hole in the wall and stood in front of it until they put down the cannon, like they’d been pointing it at his baby.
From what she’d seen the wall was about four feet thick, and behind those four feet was something really interesting.
Caitlyn rolled onto her side, spotting Alicia sleeping curled up around her sword. What kind of life makes a woman sleep like that? The girl’s delicate brows were furrowed, an angry expression on her face.
Wonder what she’s dreaming about.
Wonder what’s behind that wall.
Caitlyn turned onto her other side, facing the opposite direction, taking a deep breath and trying to relax into the incredibly soft, yet firm pillow.
Somehow everything in Edward’s ‘man-cave’ as he called it, was better than anything she’d experienced before.
And yet, despite the pillow cradling her head, the softest mattress she’d ever felt, and covers that kept her at just the right temperature, she couldn’t sleep.
Her fragmented thoughts kept drifting back to the wall, and what might lay behind it. after an hour of staring at the inside of her own eyelids, Caitlyn sighed and threw the covers off, creeping along the warm wooden floors, until she came to the men’s bedroom.
She carefully opened the door and peeked her head in.
The light from the hallway splashed into the boy’s bedroom, dimly illuminating the sleeping figures of Tad and Edward. Tad had thrown his covers off, sprawled across the bed entirely naked, the slender boy’s manhood only concealed by the faintest shadow.
Kolath, I was not prepared for that, Caitlyn thought, her hair standing up on the back of her neck.
Caitlyn squeezed her eyes shut for a second and then directed her gaze at Edward, who was curled up in his covers, his peaceful sleeping face pointed toward her.
Good, he’s asleep.
Caitlyn carefully closed the door, trying not to make any noise as she latched it before sneaking down the hall.
When she got to the main room, Mrs. Banyan was nowhere to be seen, and the lights were dark. It was only bright enough to navigate the room without tripping, the entire scene cast in shades of grey. Nothing to stop her from satisfying her curiosity.
Not even the goblins, Caitlyn realized with a start. If they had still been in the cage, they would have started shouting, making lewd gestures and flinging shit again. There would have been no way they would have let her sneak past them without making noise. Somehow they were no longer in the cage Edward had put them in.
Caitlyn silently padded to the workshop, her nightgown fluttering around her thighs as she walked. She got to the room and the lights brightened on their own, somehow sensing that someone had entered.
She stopped in front of the back wall, where she and Tad had shot the cannon earlier that day. The wall was discolored where it had regrown, stronger than before.
Caitlyn grabbed a nearby chisel and struck it against the wooden wall.
The wood dented the chisel, rolling the steel up like a soft cheese.
“Damn,” she breathed. How am I supposed to get through here?”
Garth sat in his phylactery room, naked except for the Amulet of Endeavor resting against his chest, sitting crosslegged at the center of a carefully constructed ritual circle, one of the many things he’d learned shortly before he’d been killed the first time.
A properly created ritual circle, using mana conducting materials with channels designed to assist, was like using a lever and fulcrum to move something heavy, in a magical sense.
Against the wall was a throbbing, strange plant that looked something like a pitcher plant with a pipe extending from it, all the way to his Phylactery. The Plant was designed to absorb and regurgitate the raw power of a heartstone in a more digestable form. There was a heavily enchanted Mythic core at its center that powered its ability to recover from the poisonous junk mana, without which the plant would wither and die in a matter of days. The core also powered the inactive receiving portal above its pitcher.
Garth had actually done something similar with a Mythic core powering the portal to China.
Still kinda pissed about that.
In the center of his lap, Garth had the second mythic core, ready to be used as part of the spell. Across from him, was an altar with twelve restrained goblins. Garth wouldn’t have had to restrain them if they had stopped flinging their own shit. Fucking monsters.
“I dub thee: Inky, Pinky, Stinky, Wrinkly, Slinky, Finky, Winky, Dinky, Tinky, Vinky, Linky, and of course….” Garth glanced at the last one in the line. “How could I forget Kinky?”
“Welcome to the creation of the Multiverse’s best hope for goblin population control. You may feel a slight pinch.”
Garth picked up the Mythic Core in both hands, and took a deep, steadying breath.
Pala, Beladia, If you care to help, now’s the time. I’m about to make something really dangerous. Let’s make history.
Garth felt ice settle in his neck and behind his eyes as Pala turned her attention to him. A gentle warmth spread through his stomach and vitals as Beladia settled in to watch.
Garth began channeling mana, the circle around him regulating the mana intake and blocking kinds that he would otherwise have to pick out of his spell-soup by hand. It reduced the strain on his body and mind drastically.
“You know what I want ladies, but I’ll spell it out for you. Give me a creature that can –“
Garth’s lungs froze as Pala forced out a cold breath, pumping him like a bellows and forcing him to speak.
“Dwell among it’s prey in secrecy, always concealing its true intent.”
Garth’s hair stood on end as a swirling shadow erupted from his lips and hung in the air, a swirling mass of intention. I can’t stop the spell.
“Their only purpose is to kill those that they have been based on. They will be smarter, faster, stronger. They will feast on their flesh and-“
Garth’s eyes rolled back in his head as a wave of pleasure rose through his groin all the way to his scalp, forcing a choked voice out of him.
“Reproduce, grow and spread to every corner of existence.”
Beladia’s purple mana squirmed from his mouth and joined Pala’s, creating an ever-shifting purple and black tangle of mana.
“When they have consumed their prey, they will be compelled to push its heartstone through the portal concealed in their belly-button. They will have no interest in harming anything that is not their prey. They will seldom mutate, and regularly check each other for mutations. If they see one of their own that has mutated, they will destroy it with extreme prejudice. As for a backdoor to control them….”
Garth considered for a moment. If he left a backdoor, he could wield them in the future as an army, at least until another wizard found the backdoor, then things would get messy. If he didn’t put a backdoor, the only thing they would ever be good for is stemming the goblin population and feeding his Heartstone Processer.
“My creations are their own creatures, and will have no means to control them.” Ahah, that might bite me in the ass.
It’ll cost me a trump card, but on the other hand, these things will outlast me, becoming their own species. I don’t want them to have shackles that people might exploit for the rest of existence.
Garth had gained a new appreciation for things that would outlast him recently, flung so far into the future.
Then something happened that Garth wasn’t expecting.
Your Create Life skill has reached ten percent, my Apostle! Congratulations, but it may still be a bit too early for you. Garth heard Beladia’s amused voice in his mind an instant before his hands clamped involuntarily down on the Mythic core.
“Gah!” Pain like he hadn’t felt in a long time assailed him, travelling down his raised arms and into his ribcage, reaching all the way to his lungs.
Flesh began to melt away from his arms, drawn up through his hands, melding with the Mythic core and turning into a golden stream of mana, floating up to join the whirling mass in front of him.
Garth couldn’t hold in the scream that felt like it was drawn from his very soul as his flesh withered away, melting the mythic core in his hands.
When there was nothing left of the Mythic Core, Garth slumped over, his body pale purple and withered, gasping for breath.
Garth could only motionlessly watch as the mana spun together in an intricate pattern, the three separate colors of mana folding in on each other over and over, shrinking as they did.
There was a flash of light that forced Garth to shut his eyes, followed by the clattering of many hard, small objects falling on the ground.
Garth opened his eyes, not sure what to expect.
In front of him were five ominous daggers, with wicked sharp straight edges, made of black wood. The chill of Pala’s shadow rolled off of them, but the handles seemed to be blackened roots twined around each other, ending in a pommel shaped like a perfect white egg.
It’s Beladia’s symbol Garth realized: An egg wrapped in tree roots.
Garth tried to push himself to his feet, but his arms and legs looked like a ninety year old man’s, and he nearly fell twice before he managed to stagger to his feet.
Garth’s body wasn’t recovering. It seemed like the damage from casting the spell was more than just a simple wound.
Hopefully this was worth it. Garth thought, carefully picking up one of the five daggers and approaching Icky.
The goblin began to thrash even more in its bonds, but there was no way its strength could match Garth’s spells.
With a grunt, Garth raised the dagger over his head with both trembling hands, and used his weight to bury it in the goblin’s chest, to the hilt.
The goblin’s desperate struggles wound to a stop, and its eyes rolled back into its head as it died.
But it didn’t stop there.
The egg began to glow, and roots peeled away from the handle and forced their way into the goblin’s body, using it for sustenance.
In front of Garth’s eyes, the goblin mummified as the egg grew, first the size of a chicken egg, then an ostrich egg, until finally it was nearly as big as his chest. it became softer, until he could see a goblinoid form curled up inside the egg.
Half a minute later, a goblin burst out of the egg, spilling fluid across Garth’s clean floor.
Life is messy, I guess.
The newly born creature gasped its first lungful of air, shivering.
The other goblins watched in horror as a perfect replica of Icky struggled to its feet, looking about itself curiously.
It looked at Garth, the only thing moving in the room, and cocked its head to the side in confusion, watching every move Garth made.
Garth stepped forward and patted Pinky on the head, drawing his creation’s attention to the goblin.
“I believe this is what you’re looking for. Go ahead and eat up.”
Pinky struggled and shouted, but his words were muffled by the gag. The only thing he succeeded in doing was drawing the Hunter-Killer’s attention to himself.
His creation’s eyes lit up with desire, and he stepped forward tentatively, giving Garth cautious glances, as if he expected Garth to punish him.
“Go ahead,” Garth said soothingly. “He’s all yours.”
Garth was fairly sure the goblin lookalike didn’t understand English, but the tone of his voice conveyed meaning just as surely.
The hunter-killer took a small bite at first, causing the goblin to shriek and thrash more, but when it’s blood hit his creation’s tongue, it shuddered with pleasure before opening its mouth unnaturally wide and clamping down on Pinky’s throat.
After it was halfway through eating Pinky, it pulled out the goblin’s heartstone with a confused look. It knew it was supposed to do something with it, but it had only been alive a few minutes.
It looked at Garth, perhaps hoping for advice.
Garth put his index finger in his bellybutton.
The Goblin-Killer looked down at its own bellybutton and curiously bumped the heartstone into it. it smiled in pleasure and kept at it, until finally it got the confidence to jam it in.
The Goblin-Killer’s eyes rolled back in pleasure again, and it gave Garth a wide grin as the goblin’s Heartstone teleported across the room and plopped into the processing Plant with an audible plink. Perfect.
“GoodBoi!” Garth said, patting the smiling goblinoid with bloody meat chunks hanging from his teeth on the head. “Go ahead and finish up your meal. Daddy need some rest.”
Garth summoned a wooden lawn chair and collapsed into it. He wasn’t showing any signs of recovery some fifteen minutes later. It was possible he’d have to ditch this body.
The goblin-Killer- no, I can’t call him that forever…how about Mark one? Or Mark for short? Is it even a him?”
Mark the Goblin-killer enthusiastically ate Pinky, and then Stinky, and then Wrinkly, shuddering in pleasure every time it jammed a heartstone through its belly-button.
I really hope they don’t start jamming random objects through there, Garth thought, melting into the lawn chair. He could picture them starting to fuck the belly hole with random objects, and that would totally gunk up the system. Well, not much I can do about it now.
As Mark was finishing Wrinkly, he fell to the ground, moaning in pain.
Yeah, I was wondering when he was gonna get a bellyache. That’s a lot of goblin for one goblin.
Then he started heaving.
“Oh come on, don’t throw up on my phylactery-room floor!” Garth complained from his armchair, but he was totally exhausted, and getting up was a daunting task.
Mark got onto his hands and knees and started to dry-heave, looking for all intents to be a sick cat with a hairball.
Wait a minute…. it couldn’t be.
Mark’s jaw swung open, his neck distending as he hacked up a baby Mark, about half his size.
Freakin’ placenta on the floor again…
“Well, that’s an alarming rate of reproduction.” Garth said idly from his armchair. “Guess that goblin penis is just for show.”
Together Mark and Baby Mark ate the next five goblins, before Mark started dry heaving again. Baby Mark had already grown three inches.
Garth tapped his fingers and glanced at the remaining four knives.
I should probably hide those somewhere very, very safe.
Garth had intentionally not mentioned goblins when he created the spell to allow for a bit of flexibility, and so whatever got stabbed by one of those ominous blades would be the subject of a genocide.
That included humans.
Garth put his chin on his fist, gaze locked to the four black blades. All he would have to do is kidnap a handful of elves… maybe teach the hunter-killer advanced behavior before it just randomly went out and tried to kill them…
As much as Garth wanted to commit genocide on the guys who had wronged him….It seemed irresponsible without knowing the whole situation. Plus it seems like an interdimensional government that’s been around tens of thousands of years might be the kind of people who have an answer for hunter-killers.
Do I smell smoke?
A flash of light caught Garth’s attention to his right, and a six foot circle of the wall peeled away from a blazing circle of blue light that scalded his floor and ceiling.
The slab of ironwood swung forward on a crackling hinge of ironwood, rolling up against the wall to reveal Caitlyn creeping into the room, the detached rails of his laser cutter behind her.
She stepped cautiously inside, her eyes wide as her gaze flitted about the room, touching on the Processing Plant, the phylactery, his ritual circle, the carnage-smeared, uncaged flesh-eating goblins in the corner of the room.
She stopped, her skin went pale, jaw hung open in an almost-scream.
Mark and his two babies froze in the middle of devouring Kinky to study this strange new thing with an odd red mane and lumps on its chest.
Garth raised a grey and wrinkled hand from his seat, gathering everyone’s attention.
“She’s harmless boys,” he said in a gentle tone to put everyone at ease, before addressing the girl. “Caitlyn, there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for this.”
The withered lich said from his throne as his minions gorged themselves.