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  “Ya know what? No, I don’t wanna meet your goddess, probably gonna shanghai me into permanently baby-sitting you ungra . . . “ My rant cut off as my inadequate mental faculties engaged, finally, “Wait, wait, you said you’ve been fighting zombies for days right?” I asked them. All three nodded. I asked, “How many zombies have you taken out, and were they human or something else? And your goddess couldn’t be here without magic, my last visitor confirmed that, so I’m definitely not the enemy here.”

 

  Punk Two opened her mouth to talk and the little one smacked her and loudly whispered, “Don’t talk to him!” Punk Three put his hand on Punk One’s head and gave her a look. Then turning to me he said, “We’ve fought about twenty so far, and they were always animal looking things like the cat from earlier.”

 

  The sound of my own rusty gears turning in my head was not pleasant. “And how many magic users have you fought so far?”

 

  “Two.”

 

  “Ok, ok, and how exactly do you know they were magic users? Gimme some detail,” I said.

 

  “One of them wore a black cloak,” the boy started, “And he had two zombie dogs with him, and when we fought he threw some black ball that melted through a tree. And the other person was a girl who set fire to everything she touched.”

 

  “Right, right, and what exactly did you goddess say about magic itself?”

 

  “That it was keeping the zombies alive,” he answered.

 

  “Ok, so she didn’t say that ALL magic is bad did she?” I asked, “Just that the zombies were kept alive by magic, and so you probably took that to mean that all magic is bad right?”

 

  The little one started up again with her whining while the other girl actually looked like she was thinking about what I said.

 

  “Ah ha! I knew it!” I said, pointing my finger at them, “Your goddess couldn’t be here without magic anyways! She wasn’t telling you that magic is bad, she was telling you the source of the zombies. Would you SHUT UP!” I turned to the small one, her sudden silence filling me with joy. “A necromancer, by the way, is what you’re looking for. Probably the black cloak wearing death throwing fucktard y’all fought.” My mouth was moving slower than my thoughts, so they probably thought I was rambling. But the goddess Astria was some slavic goddess who embodies purity, so necromancy would be anathema to her. This is also why her paladins are children, because children tend to be pure of heart (sometimes) and also due to being pure in the Biblical sense as well. Perfect vessels for her message and power. Now, if I could just knock the stupid out of them, we could get some shit done here. But I am not taking chances.

 

  I told the older boy to sit on the porch swing, then marched the two girls inside and made them sit on the couch. “RATH!” I yelled. A couple thumps and odd banging heralded the arrival of the mini-dragon. “Watch them,” I told him, “And don’t let them go anywhere, do anything, or touch anything. Got it?”

 

  “Sure sure, make the ancient dragon do the dirty work,” he grumbled, “Not like I don’t have shit to do and naps to take.”

 

  I ran around the house gathering various items that may help tilt the upcoming conversation to my advantage. My batteries were charged and my liquor was secure. I did check, Norn actually deposited the canned food barge in the backyard without breaking anything, glad that bird is good for something. I stepped outside and checked my gear, making sure everything was good to go. The generators were on and at full power, and I made sure to have a link to the World Tree as well. Its aura recognized me and wrapped around me like a nice hug. I’ll just imagine that was my beloved sending good thoughts my way. Gungnir all charged up, check. Batteries full with epic power tap at full flow, check. World Tree has my back, check. Bonzai.

 

  “Ok, I’m going to need your name before we get started,” I said to the kid, “I’ve been calling you guys Punks One through Three in my head all day and I’m pretty sure that’s not what your parents named you.”

 

  “John.”

  “And the other two?”

  “ Macy, and the brat is Lonnie.”

   “Ok John,” I said, rubbing my hands together, “When I tell you to, call your goddess, and not before, I’m trying to start off on the right foot here.”

 

  I used earth sorcery to cover my entire front yard in stone, then used earth sorcery again to inlay runes of purity and sealing as well as the concept of scaling will and strength against the tides, then pressed an enchantment of durability into the stone. After connecting it and Gungnir to the house wards for endless power, I pulled as much mana as my body and soul could handle, then nodded at John, “Go ahead.” He tilted his face upward, his eyes closed.

 

  Across the street, a little girl walked out from behind a tree, shadows fleeing from her steps.

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