As smart as I am, I sometimes forget that I had planned this course of action out already and it was not time for this yet. Gungnir’s nightly task has been to organize the several millenia’s worth of information from the dragon’s brain, which was still ongoing, and that means that me diving in the barely alive brain of an ancient dragon is probably not the best idea. Well, the walk back to the cavern wasn’t completely useless though. I had used earth magic along the way to send out pulses of mana to see if I could find those test materials from forever ago. I really wonder what happened to them, but I honestly had no way of knowing. Something could have eaten them, moved them, or simply disintegrated from the Ripple.
Thinking back, I was way too comfortable seeing all the trappings of modern life swallowed up by the forest. Every house from the former neighborhood was some kind of tree or bush now, and every car and truck was either mostly disintegrated, eaten, or partially subsumed by a plant. The asphalt roads were now dirt or grass covered and the power lines covered in some kind of ivy. Norn has been mentally sending me updates from his patrols as his intelligence started increasing, and it looks like the sleepy town of Fredericksburg is now a gigantic forest cut through by the oddly bigger Rappahannock river. The department stores are rapidly decomposing and even the University of Mary Washington is nothing like it used to be. the dorms are now rock formations and some of the teaching facilities are sinkholes. Thinking about this made me feel at peace.
Whoa, hold up. Is my magic affecting my thinking? I froze in my tracks, my hands cradling the latest ruby I had conjured. I mean, my abilities are centered around nature or that which is a natural state or found in nature, which might be affecting me in some way. Oh hell, is this the road to hippy-dom? No, no, no, no. I need bacon and whiskey and I need it right now. Banishing the ruby, which would have been priceless before the Ripple, I sprinted towards my stores of food. Canned goods lined my stone shelves, none of it was bacon. In all of my panic, my dumbass had forgotten to get the four basic food groups: beans, bacon, whiskey, and lard. What kind of an American am I? A piss-poor one right now. A sense of loss came over me. I had served in the US Army Reserve and was the son of a Marine, and now, there was no America. No real borders existed, and humanity wasn’t the only race out there. There was no one to save my bacon if I screwed up. This was all on me. And it didn’t even have to be, I could hole up in my boltholes and play with my magic till the entire world rotted around me. I didn’t have to do squat. Yeah, a war was coming. Who cares.
“My, my, my, how you’ve grown young sorcerer.” A liquid voice from off to the side startled the freaking crap outta me. Instantly, I engaged Svalinn from gauntlet to weaponized bladed shield mode and brought all of my sorcery to the forefront of my mind as I turned to the unwelcome distraction from my well-earned wallowing. I had been working in the cavern for a couple hours all alone, and the last time this shit happened, it was something well above my paygrade. “When my brother whispered in my ear about you, I had no idea you’d be so, creative.”
A vision of loveliness was draped on the petrified body of Spot, using the stone neck of my dog as a lazyboy. Her golden hair did not obscure the idealization of feminine perfection that was her face even as her leisurely sprawl showed off curves that would drive anyone wild. Even my flesh sorcery muted animal urges were bleating in the back of my mind. I found that I actually couldn’t make my eyes focus on her face as it kept seamlessly shifting between the features of my fiance and some celebrity, always seeking to show the perfection that mortals can never attain. Her attire was not a robe, but light body armor that skillfully showed skin and no weapons were in sight.
Returning Svalinn to gauntlets took but a moment. “Forgive me,” I said, opening my hands towards her but still holding my magic at the ready, “You startled me. And your brother is . . ?” I kind of already knew based on past encounters, but he wasn’t too forthcoming with information making it hard to distinguish between fiction and reality.
“Hmph, well can’t you guess who I am?” She said with a raised eyebrow, “Your legends clearly provide some context.”
“The male visitor I had was either Mercury or Hermes,” I replied as I took a slow step back, “Which makes you either Aphrodite or Venus, but I’m not really sure how that works. The myths or legends either make you out to be separate deities, or facets of the same one, like different personalities.”
“Be grateful it is I instead of the Muses,” she said, pointedly ignoring my questioning statement, “They wanted to meet you and would definitely have never let you go. It’s always, hero this, and we need the story, and oh how tragic, with them.” She clearly pantomimed a whine she had heard many times before. “I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about. My brother found you intriguing, but the goddess of victory simply cannot establish good odds without meeting a candidate first.”
“Odds? Candidate?” I said, taking another step back. [Gungnir!] I screamed mentally through our link, [GET YOUR ASS HERE]. If I could just get off another few steps, I’d have the main cavern generator at my back. No sudden moves set off the goddess. “I believe you may have the wrong idea,” I delayed, pushing for every second. I did not like where this is going.
“Oh come now,” she said, sliding down off of Spot and landing way too gracefully, “The Forest Folk have established themselves in what you call the Amazon Rainforest and the Hegemony has claimed the new continent.” She walked closer to me like a cat stalking a mouse. “The wyrms are ravaging the delicious continent of Asia and the Hungry Ones have laid claim to the empty white wastes in the North and South.”
My back bumped into the generator and I connected to the flow, its mana filling me with more power as Svalinn began to hum softly. “What about the rest, Europe, South and North America and Africa?”
Her chuckle was disturbing. “Europe burns as the Horde vents their wrath from their imprisonment and Africa is controlled by the Shifters. And what you call the Americas, well, that’s up to you.” Her finger poking my chest only served to emphasize those words.
“Honestly,” I whispered, “I don’t know what any of that means. I can guess, but am definitely not sure.”
“Your race has forgotten more than you’ll ever know,” she said, her velvety tones making me feel suddenly a lot less secure than just a moment ago. “The Elder races certainly had the right idea.”
“Which was?” I dared to ask.