Her leaving was the best part of my day. In the time it took me to blink my eyes, she vanished leaving me a hell of a lot more than just shaken.
“I’m back! I’m back! I’m back! What the hell is going on?! I got a whole army of beasties behind me but Kong won’t stop fondling his axe . . “
“Stop,” I said, “Gungnir, just, stop.” Gaining control of my breathing should have been easy with flesh sorcery, but not even my magic wanted to cooperate. I sent a mental packet of the past couple minutes to it. Ancient and powerful deities were way too common for me to ever relax again.
“Oh crap,” it said, “Yeah, I’d run too.”
I looked up sharply. “What the hell do you mean you’d run too?” I shouted while waving my arms all around me, “From what? From who? To where? You’re attached to me Mr. Piece-of-my-soul that’s in a weapon that I crafted. Where would’ya go?”
“You have a World Tree. Anywhere you want, duh. Wouldn’t take you long, but you can go wherever the hell you want as soon as you figure it out.” Gungnir replied, “Oh, and we definitely want to run from the Hungry Ones. They are no fun at all. At least with the wyrms you could establish a territory and be left alone, or in the Hegemony you buy your way to the top.”
“Explain more!” I fumed, “You’re doing the same shit that goddess was doing. And explain her too! And how the fuck did you get the, wait, you’ve already learned some things from Rath’s brain haven’t you?”
“And the boss gets a cookie!” Gungnir celebrated, pulsing rave lights from its core.
I turned on a heel towards my shelf of food, muttering dark imaginings and wishing dreadful things towards Gungnir. “I heard that!” it chirped behind me.
Opening a can of soup and sipping it slowly, I sat down in a recliner I had saved before the latest Ripple. “Spill.” I commanded, “With details. No beating around the bush, assume I don’t know jack shit.”
Through our mental link, Gungnir began showing me the bits of information it had started gleaning from our reptilian database. “The Hungry Ones are the undead, and everything associated with them. They are in the North and South Pole as well as the upper parts of Canada and Russia, basically anywhere that is ridiculously cold where their bodies won’t rot away. Pretty much zombies and all kinds of nasty things that avoid areas of sun.”
“So, what’s gonna happen when it’s permanent daytime for six months?” I asked.
“Well, they can dig nonstop, and they have some magic users that can construct castles or caves out of ice or snow or stone. But they also have some kind of darkness cloud magic that can block out the sun. That’s their long term plan.”
“And the worms, wyrms, however the hell you say it?” I continued.
“Those are dragons, or dragon-esque things, like drakes and lizards and snakes and dragoons and dragonians of all kinds,” Gungnir answered, “Reptile based creatures from all kinds of lore are pretty much king in the Asian area. That’s just barely safer than the territory of the Hungry Ones. Now remember, the really powerful things on all sides aren’t here yet, we still have two Ripples to go before the mana here is dense enough for things like Lichs or Mountain Eaters or True Elementals to start throwing their weight around. I mean, I wouldn’t be able to be here or function right if it weren’t for the generator you stuck in me.”
“Are you telling me that they’re already here?” I yelped, almost spitting out my soup.
“Maybe, but they’ll be like Rath not too long ago, either in a weaker form to save their energy, or just outside of a gate waiting to come in,” it answered, “besides, you didn’t seem to pick this little tidbit up, a new continent! That means one of your oceans probably spit up another landmass, and why did neither of you discuss Australia? Wonder what happened down there?” Rath went on.
“There’s too many unknowns right now to even contemplate that one,” I said, “What are the Forest Folk, the Hegemony, and the Horde? And what did she mean that North and South America are up to me?”
“The Forest Folk are Aelves. Usually human-like with pointy ears and powerful magic accompanied by an incredible skill with swords.”
“Not bows?” I asked, “Really?”
“Not according to Rath’s brain,” Gungnir said, “Only their children use bows, the adults use magic of some nature alignment to close the distance and powerful swords crafted from magic steel to cut through anything. Apparently these dudes are beyond fast. Man, your legends are really out of wack with reality. Oh, and they hate the Hegemony, which is pretty much a kind of warlike bureaucracy. The only thing they love more than conquering other areas is making them submit to endless regulations and committees.”
“That’s downright evil.” I said.
“I know, which is why I said you could probably buy your way up. They do love gold, which an earth sorcerer can easily find. And money always greases the government wheel. The Horde, now they’re nasty. They are the things imprisoned from the Gate under what used to be the Vatican. The closest translation in English is demon, or hell-infected. There’s a kind of blood magic mixed with black and fire magic that turns things into the Horde. Like a living horde of zombies that retain their intelligence and breath fire while using weapons.”
“That sounds worse than the Hungry Ones,” I interjected.
“Yeah, until you find out that the Hungry Ones are pretty much your weakness. They eat magic like yours for breakfast and never get tired. They’re freaky strong and infectious. You have no inherent fire or holy magic to fight them, but the Horde could be turned away or dominated by your flesh sorcery,” Gungnir answered, “And besides, you could always run, you have the World Tree.”
“What happens if the zombie horde reaches the World Tree sapling?” I asked, “Sarah is in there for a couple thousand years, wouldn’t they love to eat that tree? It’s chock full of magic.”
“Yeah, but that sapling is pretty much set,” Gungnir clarified, “It has the generator you gave it for a magical boost and the elements of purity that you enchanted into it back when it was a seed. Nothing undead or unclean is going to make any headway on that. Once it actually connects to the main trunk of Yggdrasil, it’ll be unkillable. A literal vein of the spine of the Universe where your house used to be also guarded by the Valkyries. But that may take some time.”
I banished the empty aluminum can of soup after staring at it for a minute. “So, I don’t get to leave,” I whispered, “Not yet.” Looking back up at Gungnir, I asked, “Ok, what’s in America then? What do I actually have to contend with first?”
“Animals,” Gungnir said, “Most of the humans are gone, but there are little pockets of them here or there. It’s mainly animals that have just gone wild since the Ripples. The zoos were unattended and the wolves and tigers and all the other cuddly predators from around the world are not the same as they were before. The Evergreens are a piranha and alligator paradise while the plains are home to giant packs of feuding wolves and lions while the mountains are home to humongous tigers and bears. The redwoods in California almost put the World Tree sapling to shame and are populated by eagles bigger than airliners. Even the buffalo and deer are freaking dangerous now. The weirdest ones are the fish from the zoos that mutated and are now amphibious monsters that are just downright ugly.”
“Animals aren’t a problem for me,” I waved off, discounting that particular threat.
“Yeah, not till the Hungry Ones get down here,” Gungnir rebutted, “Most worlds either have a purge when they find out the undead are here or they get consumed. The more powerful you are when you die, the better addition you are to them. You become one of them, but an uglier, smellier, never full kind of them. The undead hungry horde will simply add another horde of beasts to their number. And their ultimate goal is to cover the world with darkness so they can roam freely and eat everything.”
“Might wanna go try and make nice with those paladins huh.”