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“You look like you’ve been smacked in the face with a big mackerel, Uncle,” I offered cordially.
Ireland’s favored redheaded son, Sean Highsun, The Sun of Ireland, looked up at me up there on my distinctly non-orthodox horned flaming skeletal monstrosity of a Mount, trying to keep the odd look off his face and failing.
“Did ye put him up to that?” he had to ask me, knowing I knew The Mick after I had come riding here in his pimpmobile.
“Came right out of left field,” I denied firmly. “Deduced it when he started Singing. By the look on your face, he got to you.”
He stepped into the air next to me and glided alongside as I rode down towards the water slowly, in no hurry.
“He had some very good words. That man has a grim history to him, Dark,” he shook his head. “I don’t know if he will be a Good King, but he will definitely be a King.”
“He knows the art of the deal. There had to be something he offered you to talk you out of a run for the Crown. Out with it, Uncle,” I prodded him.
He sighed as he ran a hand through his flaming locks, eyes far away. “He made a promise I don’t think I could, and he made me promise something I would promise anyways, only he was freeing me to actually do it.”
“Sounds intriguing,” I noted. “Go on.”
“He said that when the Shroud goes down, things are going t’ be bad. Technology is going t’ completely go away, as ye know. Times will be hard, and then things of magic are going t’ be coming in, on the land, the sea, the sky, and the stars.” His eyes jerked up despite himself. “It’s going t’ be dark, grim times, and it’s going t’ need a dark, grim King to lead the people through it all.
“He promised that throughout the entirety of his Reign, he would never leave Ireland’s shores. He would ride the miles of its roads and fields, so that wherever and whenever the things that are coming arrived at Ireland’s shores, he would be there to face them.
“He would make the people strong, so that nobody from outside Her shores would subjugate the Irish again, and that they would grow strong enough that we could take our place as a nation and contribute to the peace and defense of the world.
“And he made me promise that I would be their Champion, their burning fire in the darkness. That I would go out there into the world to face the threats greater than Ireland, that I would chase those that dared test Her shores into the darkness, and burn them down. By being King, he would give me the freedom t’ do that, shining the light while he grasped the darkness.”
“What? Such wonderful logic? No arm-wrestling, drinking contests, punch-out matches?” I inquired in disbelief. “Are you sure the two of you are Irish?”
He made a noise despite himself. “That man is a beast. He’d studied me records, me books, me speeches. He knew what t’ say and how t’ say it. He laid out things t’ me...” His voice trailed off, and his eyes sharpened. “He’s Blooded. He’s seen some grim things, and that’s saying something in this world.”
“That is going to be the world when the Shroud goes down, and without enough strength, it’s going to be bad,” I agreed. “He’s not a nice person, but a nice person is not what you’re going to want on that Throne, Uncle.”
“Yes,” he agreed. He glanced at me, and coughed. “He also gave me a look at his assets.”
The corner of my mouth turned up. “He doesn’t need to bleed the country, true enough.”
“He’s worth more than your mother and I put together, and I thought we were the wealthiest people in Ireland. Well, we were...” he trailed off, shaking his head again.
“Did you agree on a timeline?”
“I’ll back him as quickly as he can take the Crown. If anyone wants to challenge him, they’ll first have to pass by me,” he swore solemnly.
The Old Steed halted at the edge of the estuary. “Well, he made a loud splash coming in with that Song, and converting a shoggoth. Did he tell you how he was planning to get the approval of the Divine?”
“He said it were tied up with putting old ghosts to rest.”
I looked east, towards Limerick. “Is that so? How ensconced are the Fir Ocras in Limerick?”
“They control the underworld here, sure enough, but their base of power is down south in Cork. It’s a branch family they’ve running things hereabouts, and the De Duluus chop their noses off if they wander north at all.”
“Well, then, I’m going to leave him to his path.” The Old Steed turned west. “I’ve got some surveys to start on.”
“Oh?” Sean Highsun asked curiously.
“Locating every aquatic community in the oceans so we can nuke the shit out of them.”
He blinked, then his eyes went wide. “Oh, a finer gift ye could not give the Island, Dark!” he said earnestly.
“Well, I’m going to take down the Shroud, too, Uncle,” I winked at him, laughing at him as Old Steed stepped out onto the gentle waves, and the Waterjump plunged us into the infinite depths of inches of the briny tide, and we were gone, off to survey the oceans.
Sama had proven she and the Voids could take down a Domed City. Good enough. They didn’t need me to take down the rest, and if they did, I could be there in literally seconds. I had more Lived-Lines to draw out there... but I could also survey along those shores to get closer if there was need.
Share the Karma, strengthen the world.
There was no celebration as The Mick pulled into Limerick. There were a lot of gawking eyes, as the shoggoth that had molded itself into a carrack-like form, floating along on The Mick’s own Disk, was trailing along behind Bone Marrow. Multiple eyes, some on stalks, some not, were looking in all directions with great interest, and the spiral form of a glowing Chain was visible deep inside it, threads of misty whiteness lighting up a webwork of crimson inside it.
Organs were not constantly forming and reforming anymore, pseudopods and tendrils and limbs were not extruding and being absorbed in multiple patterns. The rippling grey of Burble’s body was smooth and unbroken, almost serene. Only the many eyes were still looking about, studying everything with great interest.
There were definitely suspicious parties watching as he came into town, and there was crimson deep in his eyes as he wove through the streets.
On the one hand, there had been many changes in buildings and streets since he had left, modern conveniences and technology moving in... technology that would soon have to be slowly removed.
There were already massive efforts to get some form of Weird Science steamtech into place and production. He knew, because he was a big investor in the stuff, and given Traveler was supplying PMD power source designs, he knew being an industry baron wasn’t far away.
Wealth independent of the country, that could help the country. Ireland didn’t have a lot of iron ore for assets, but that was what junkyards were good for, in the short term. A lot of recycling was going to be getting underway, it just needed that initial investment to get moving.
His moves into waste management were flying under the radar, of course...
On the other hand, the streets still followed the same winding routes, impractical but there for generations. Behind the newer buildings, he could see some facades he still recognized after all this time, bringing up more waves of past memories he’d buried a long time ago.
He wasn’t worried about the local power players. They had no real idea what they were messing with, and if they thought a bunch of guns could stop him, they were truly deluding themselves.
He wound through the town, shaking his head at the old St. Mary’s Cathedral - now an Amanan Healing Hall called The Lady’s Cathedral - where he had once gone to church. The monument in the People’s Park still stood, and it looked almost as fair and green as he remembered it, despite the Haze. The monument to Daniel O’Connell on the street renamed for him and his tireless work for Irish unity was still there, perhaps not so lofty as the one in Dublin, but still remembered for the things good and bad the statesman had done.
King John’s Castle still rose on the King’s Island upon the River Shannon, enduring now as it had for centuries, defying Vikings then and things raiding up the river now, eight hundred years later. Perhaps it would be a true military base once again shortly, as opposed to a tourist attraction for an ancient past of doubtless misremembered glory...
He had seen it there countless times when he was younger, never thinking at the time it would appear so grand and sad as it did today...
Old Cannock’s grand store was gone, but the building remained, looking like some manner of apartment complex now. St. John’s was renamed now and turned into an Aruan temple, its high spire reaching for the Hazed sun, lit up now by magic and easy to see from anywhere in the city, day or night.
The Shannon Airport had been opened long after he left, west of the city along the estuary, although there was a devoted tunnel direct to Limerick from there he’d driven to arrive here, and seen a couple jets arriving and taking off from their long flights.
His destination was an older part of the city, north of King’s Island, on the slopes of Corbally Hill, where the Fynncahl Manor had once risen.
Plenty of the locals gaped as he drove by, and he ignored them. Normal folks he had known were likely dead and gone with the years, and any Blooded he saw were very unlikely to be his kin.
The area of the hill was overgrown with a green sward, left wild and abandoned. That still didn’t disguise the old road leading up to the place, partially overgrown with trees and grass growing through the cracked stones and pavement with the neglect of decades.
He waved his hand, and a scything wave of crimson slashed down the road ahead of him, cutting everything in his path down to just above the stone. There was a ripple, and the greenery fell in place, roots withering as they did so from the corrosive effect of the acidic magic. They’d not be rising again.
Quiet as a ghost, Bone Marrow rolled forwards, and his head turned as the broken walls and fences, posts hidden behind climbing ivy and trees allowed to grow, revealed themselves here and there behind the green.
The air was still and quiet, rather unnaturally so. So many trees should have had active birds about, especially given the thaw was upon them, but it was all coolly quiet, weighed down with age and dark thoughts.
The gates were chained together and locked with some old padlock he flicked open from his seat. The rusty chains rattled as they fell away, the gates forced back with screeches worthy of a banshee or three, and the silent Caddister rolled slowly forwards.
Another wave of crimson sliced down the brush, and cleared off decades of fallen branches, nuts, twigs, debris, and the like at the same time, crimson fumes rising along the path ahead of them as such things were eaten away. His dark eyes moved this way and that, watching the towering trees rising now above where once a lawn of verdant green had been, something it had been his family’s duty and honor to maintain, a pristine place to run and play for man and beast alike.
He saw the dark rubble ahead, and Bone Marrow glided to a halt as old, dark memories billowed up, bringing with them fires and death.
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Bio: Editor of online webnovels, mostly at Webnovel and Wuxiaworld. Also edit Ebooks. Long time video gamer, former MMO player, lifelong [email protected] fan and RPG guy, fan of both science fiction and fantasy. Don't ask me to choose between Trek and Wars, I love all the Stars.