Get that out of your mouth!

[WP] Humans are the Japanese of the galaxy. Efficient, and into some weird stuff.

+++

“What are you EATING?!” Ganki said in raw horror.

His three human crew mates froze in unison before looking down at their plates.

“Gelatin…?” Human-Ron said slowly, as if he wasn't sure what the problem was. He prodded it with his spoon.

It jiggled, bright green and transparent.

Ganki squashed down his nausea ruthlessly. “It looks like reactor gel,” he informed them uncomfortably. Really, the humans ate some shocking things- Human-Shang-Mi thought insectoid life was an ideal protein source and was slowly talking her crew mates around- but this was simply disgusting.

Human-Jace looked down into his bowl speculatively, and then laughed. “It totally does,” he said gleefully, much to Ganki’s shock. He jiggled his bowl and snickered. “I should take some down to Brad and see if we can convince Fr’ess that’s what it is!”

Human-Shang-mi giggled, a hand over her mouth as she spooned something white and creamy over her portion, and then ate it with no indication of distaste. “You should try it,” she told Ganki casually. “You might like it.”

“No, I respectfully refuse,” Ganki assured her hurriedly. His digestion was very efficient, but he didn't trust the humans after the incident with something called ‘ice cream’. His stomachs twisted together uncomfortably at the very thought. “I came to see if you had thoughts regarding the particle replicator malfunction?”

That caught their attention and they put their nauseating food aside to scribble busily on the table. (The cleaning crews simply covered the humans’ favored table in washable paint after the first few times they did this. No one could deny that the strange ‘brainstorms’ produced some remarkable conclusions.)

“So, Shang was thinking that if we rewired it-“ Human-Ron said, somehow eating his gelatin with one hand while drawing a remarkably accurate diagram of the particle replicator with the other, “we could put a chunk of the food processor’s programming in there. Add a menu screen and that should fix the problem plus making it a whole lot more functional.”

“But then we were thinking-“ Human-Kelli sat down at the table. Her head-fur was wet and she had a bowl of the disgusting green gelatin. “-if we incorporated some elements of a 3D printer, we could probably add a bunch of new features. Might even make it possible to ‘print’ food if we can pick up the basic components next time we hit a planet.”

“We built a miniature one in my quarters,” Human-Jace grinned. He waved at his gelatin. “The scale model works great. We figure it should size up nicely.”

They built a miniature one. Of course they did. Ganki should have known better than to expect anything else. However- “that sounds like a very interesting project,” he parroted words that every engineer had learned by rout after they started to work with humans. “But before we modify it, the captain would like the original replicator restored.”

Human-Shang-mi waved her hands, foreclaws an alarming shade of blue. “Oh we fixed it before lunch,” she said excitedly. “It was just a couple frayed wires and a circuit bumped out of place. I did the solder-points and Jace reset the circuit. Are you sure you don't want to try the Jell-o? It’s good.”

Ganki shook his head and forced a smile for his strange crew mates. “I respectfully decline,” he repeated. “I will report your progress to the captain- and please refrain from building unauthorized projects in your quarters from now on.”

They gave him a chorus of not-very-sincere accents, and went back to their meal, now eagerly discussing something that sounded remarkably like a new (frighteningly creative) form of explosive.

Casual Friday

[WP] "But wizards wear robes, not hoodies and jeans!"

+++

Aoife looked down at her hoodie- proudly emblazoned with the words ‘My wand is in my other pants’ and the worn jeans below.

“But these are comfortable,” she shrugged. “And way less conspicuous. Do you know how many people bug me when I go out in ritual-garb?”

She finished wiping down her newest crystals with a damp cloth and woke each of them with a touch of magic, making them glow appealingly in the dimness of her coffee shop/magic store.

The woman across from her was her opposite. Everything about her- from her black witch hat to the ornate velvet robes- shouted Magic-User! from the rooftops. Her twisted expression told Aiofe exactly what she thought of the blasé comment.

“It is unprofessional,” she complained, voice artificially loud and clearly designed to catch the attention of the manager of the store. “It shames the Users of Magic to have to buy from someone like you.”

Aiofe sighed and set the crystals aside. “Ma’am, is there something I can help you find?”

Mama would kill her if she chased a customer out without at least trying to sell her something.

“We have some really great tuning crystals, and the bulk herbs are guaranteed to be fresh and potent.” She offered with a long-perfected Customer Smile. The woman didn't smile back.

“I bought some lavender here last week and it was so old it had no scent,” she continued to complain loudly. Her hat wobbled. “It completely ruined my spells!”

“If you bring it back we would be happy to exchange the unused portion,” Aiofe told her frankly. “Or if you would prefer, we have a truth crystal set up to verify failure of product.”

“You don't believe me?” The witch was scandilized. “Go get your manager, young lady! This rudeness has gone far enough!”

“I’m the manager, ma’am,” Aiofe said pointedly. She leaned forward on the counter to look the woman in the eye. “And even if I wasn't, we don't allow bullying our employees here. If there is a legitimate problem with a purchase, I am happy to take care of you. If you are trying to get something for free- which I’m sure you are-you can either prove your claims, or leave.”

“I have never been so offended!” The witch snarled. She made a gesture, magic glowing around her hands and Aiofe straightened abruptly. “For that I curse you-“

Before she could finish, Aiofe snapped her fingers, free hand resting on a long, richly-colored point of rose quartz. Her own magic came quickly and formed a shield around the woman, boxing her in with her own spell.

“How dare you curse someone because they won't give you something for free?” She twisted her magic again and imprinted the woman’s magical signature into a piece of tumbled, clear quartz. “I’m sending your information to the Magical Consortium. Get out of my shop and don't come back.”

Struck silent and released from the shield, the woman scrambled for the door with barely backward glance. Aiofe watched her go and couldn't resist one more tiny bit of magic to slam the door behind her.

“Wizards don't wear hoodies,” she grumbled. “Hah!”

Best Served Cold

[WP]After your grandmother passes, you inherit her cookbook. Centuries of recipes are in this book. As you open it, you discover most to be spells disguised as food. Some are remedies for illnesses, others are for love, but most are for revenge.

+++

I am a witch.

Every female member of my family- plenty of the men too- have been magic-users of one kind or another, but witchcraft is my particular talent. Little stuff. Gardening, charms for good luck, that kind of thing.

Hedgewitchery.

I probably won't ever cast a fireball. I definitely won't ever summon a demon, and not just because it’s a phenomenally bad idea. I don't have the power for it.

So I was surprised when Grandmother’s cookbook came to me. I mean, sure everyone knows that the Book chooses who it goes to next, but my sister is a Mage serving the king, and my brother is an amazing Spellsmith.

And then there’s me.

I didn't know at the time what was really in there. Only that Grandmother would crack it open whenever someone was sick, or needed cheering up. My favorite cookies were in there too, and the recipe for frosting that always went on perfectly no matter how inexperienced the baker.

You can imagine my surprise when I found out the truth. The Book is centuries old, and almost every recipe in it is a spell. Some are like the frosting- little tricks for baking, or for cookies that make you feel better after a bad day.

It was the darker magic that surprised me- or really the Dark Magic, because it deserves emphasis.

Spells for love- which no honest witch will touch- spells to bring darkness, or fury.

Spells for vengeance.

No one likes to talk about it, but a witch with a vendetta is something to be feared. When our earth magic twists and the good we try to do turns into something else, people die.

Our Book holds centuries of broken-hearted spells. Tear stained pages lined with thing you need to bring ruin. Some have blood, like the witch who wrote it used the last of her life to make sure her spell was recorded, in case any of her descendants became so desperate as to turn Dark.

I know, now why Grandmother never let anyone look through the Book. Why she kept it spelled away where none of us could find it. Can you imagine a teen with that kind of power? Because the thing about those spells- if you have the will to cast them, it doesn't take much. A few drops of blood and a handful of herbs that anyone can find.

Really, it’s so easy that sometimes I want to try it, just because of that. But see, that’s how the Book gets you. It sneaks little ideas- maybe I could just try one- into your mind.

Cast one, and it has you forever. Dark Magic leaves a stain on you than nothing will wash away. After that, it’s all too easy to do it again, and again.

The Book wants to be used, and spell books take on the personality of their spells. When I hold ours in my hands, it feels old, but vindictive. Like Grandmother, I think. Like the old woman who loves you- like you know she would never hurt you, but if someone brought harm to the family- that would be different.

I didn't think of her that way until recently. Not until the last time I saw her. When Grandmother gave me a plate of my favorite cookies and kissed my forehead.

She told me to hold onto the Light. To never let it go no matter what. She made me promise, there in the kitchen, with herbs drying in the window and the smell of lavender sugar cookies in the air, with runes carved over the hearth and crystals glowing softly in the morning sun.

I didn't know what she meant until we found her the next day and the Book appeared in my hands.

See, Grandmother died suddenly, right after Grandfather, and the last spell in the Book is in her writing.

Old Villains get that way by being very deadly

[WP] Years after their retirement, a bunch of the old superheroes and supervillains decide to host a reunion and reminisce about the "good old days."

+++

“So who’s here so far?” Kella asked. She had decided to forgo her costume for the event, and was glad she did. Twenty years were rarely kind to an aging body and she had no interest in showing every new bump and bulge encased in skin-tight kevlar.

“So far I’ve spotted Incendiary- he’s over there chatting with Geronima- and I’m pretty sure Doctor Rimehart is by the punch bowl,” Good Witch told her, gesturing to the two villains. No surprise everyone was using their code names too. For the sake of secrecy, Kella- better known as Tradewind to most of the world- wore her delicately-jeweled mask, as did many others.

Kella leaned over to get a look at Rimehart who-as he ever had- noticed the attention and raised his glass to her. He was one of the oldest people in the room, and was flanked by two immense bodyguards. She wasn't surprised. He was a suspicious old bastard.

Of course, when you come to a party made mostly of people who wanted you dead, suspicion was probably a good idea. Frankly, she was surprised he came at all. Pure curiosity made her walk in his direction. They were occasional enemies, but he had never been after her in particular.

“Doctor Rimehart,” she said politely with a genial smile that only shook a little. He had a standing kill-on-sight order, and was one of the very few villains that no one tried to bring in alive anymore.

“Tradewind,” he said in reply, nodding back, a slight smile on his wrinkled face. He was eighty-five or close to it, but he moved like a much younger man. His ever present cane tapped along at his site, the dark metal hiding a wide array of terrible weapons.

He could kill everyone in the room if he felt like it. That was never in question.

“What do you make of this little gathering?” Kella asked, getting her own glass of punch before looking out over the gathering. More people were arriving, and she raised a hand to her old nemesis- Shrieking Violet- who quirked a smile in return. “Last time everyone got together was what- 2024?”

“When the Devourers landed,” Rimehart remembered quietly. “I am afraid I must sit. Would you care to join me at my table?”

It was a terrible idea. She wouldn't put it past him to poison her if he got the chance. When she hesitated, he chuckled. “Do not worry, my dear. I did not come to this little gathering with violence on the mind. I am here on Peacekeeper’s invitation.”

Peacekeeper was the strongest Power in the world. Her Power prevented the doing of harm. No one knew how, but her effect was complete and inescapable. Rimehart might be cunning enough to find a way around her power, but Kella didn't think he cared enough to bother. Peacekeeper was one of the very few Powers Rimehart had never targeted.

“Is she here?” Kella asked instead, mulling over the implications of that.

“I believe she is discussing the state of Korea with Water Dragon and Lotus,” Rimehart gestured to the two heroes who worked in that part of the world. “There are to be governmental visits soon. They are inviting her to the proceedings. She is accepting, if you were curious. And how have you been these past years? I rarely see you on the playing field anymore.”

“I retired after Meteor,” Kella told him quietly. Now that she knew Peacekeeper was in the room, it was easier to relax. “He murdered my husband and broke my neck. After that- well the good fight didn't seem so good.”

“I watched the fight,” Rimehart admitted. His fingers tightened on his cane. “It may be a small comfort- but I hate all Powered humans, not just Heroes. If you had not ended him, I might have taken an interest in putting him down. A rabid beast does no one any good.” It was true enough that he had killed as many Villains and he had Heroes. Whoever was the most powerful seemed to jump to the top of his to-do list, and Meteor could have destroyed the world- something Rimehart would never allow.

“Thanks,” she said in reply, and nodded when a server appeared with a plate of small finger food for the table. “It is, actually, in a weird way. Even if you’re the one who hunts us like rabbits. I remember when you killed Colossus.”

Old grief and anger burned there. He had killed a LOT of her friends over the years, and would have killed more if he got the chance. Just because she had never crossed him directly didn't mean she was unaware of his habits. Colossus was her boyfriend at the time and his death shook her world.

By his slight smile, Rimehart remembered too, far more fondly than she did. It was one of his earlier battles, when Kella was just starting on the Heroic path.

“That I do not regret,” he confirmed slyly. He knew perfectly well what Colossus had been to her, and wasn't sorry. “I will continue my work until I die or succeed, you must know that by now.”

“I do,” she said bitterly. “Believe me, I know what would happen if I picked a fight with you. You’ve murdered plenty of Flyers before me.”

“Yes,” he didn't bother to deny it. “If I chose, I could kill everyone here. Including Peacekeeper, if you must know, although I appreciate her work too much to damage her for the time being.”

“What- how?” Derailed, Kella focused on him again. He chose a small cracker decorated with something spicy-smelling and ate it neatly before answering. “No one can do harm near her.”

“Ah you’ve hit on the very thing, my dear,” he smiled like she had done a particularly clever trick. “Her range is about a mile, give or take. Very useful- VERY powerful considering her effect- but certainly not too far for a talented sniper.”

“You wouldn't-” Kella sat up straight, alarmed. He raised a hand to stop her, and his guards looked at her carefully, as if deciding if she would become a problem.

“I wouldn't,” he agreed. “I approve of world peace, and that is what her aim is. She ends wars and allows the Unpowered to control their own fates, to an extent. But I will kill her eventually, and she knows this.”

The calm admission was more than she could take. “You’re an evil old bastard,” Kella hissed as she stood. There were people here she actually wanted to see, and this conniving villain was not one of them.

His laughter followed her, sounding like a razor blade against a nerve.

Critter Jar

[WP] The ghosts haunting your house wake you up, because something is scaring the crap out of them and they need your help.

 

+++

“Wake up, come on. Dammit, who can do physical effects? I can't shake him!”

Derek blearily opened his eyes and yelped as the lamp from his bedside table tipped onto him. Above it, was the transparent face of a woman, hands twisting anxiously. He stared up at her, mind slowly taking in the other semitransparent forms that crowded around the bed.

“There is something downstairs,” the woman said when Derek made no sign of running, sleep-fogged brain trying to comprehend the ghosts surrounding him. It wasn't that he didn't know they were there- the house had always had some weird stuff about it and he saw them from time to time. Since none of them were more than a little startling, he didn't worry about it much.

Her words finally processed, and Derek sat up, resettling the lamp as he did.

“”okay…?” He said, rubbing at his eyes. “What kind of something?”

“We don't know,” the ghostly woman said nervously. “We think it ate Grayson.”

“He didn't come back when he went to see,” two identical girls said in perfect unison. They held hands and looked close to tears. “He said he would be right back.”

Something that ate ghosts. Great.

Derek climbed out of bed and dug for a shirt to go over his pajama pants. “Okay, I’m up,” he grumbled. “Don't know what you expect me to do about it. I barely even see you guys mostly.”

“We think it is the box you got yesterday,” a huge, malformed ghost said around a mouthful of intimidating teeth. He was probably the source of the clicking footsteps Derek heard sometimes. “In the office.”

“That was a box of samples,” Derek told them, pulling his hair out of his face and into a tail. “From Columbia. You people know I’m an anthropologist, right? That’s my work.”

“We know,” the first ghost said. “Usually your items are just interesting. This one is something else.”

“Right, okay,” Derek got the point and didn't think they would let him sleep until he figured out what was going on.

He stumbled down the stairs, a crowd of nervous ghosts trailing after him like smoke. The old stairs creaked under him and he looked up for direction, following where the ghosts pointed.

His office was a little creepy in the dark. Lately he was studying the South American conquest and the artifacts the conquistadors plundered. It wasn't out of the question that something weird was in his latest shipment.

The box was on his desk, and as soon as he got close, it began hopping across the desk, sounding like something was trying to chew its way out.

“What the hell!?” Derek helped and ducked back out the door, beckoning for one of the ghosts. The lady mustered her courage and drifted down to him. “What is that?!”

“I don't know,” she shivered. “But it looks hungry!”

“Can it hurt me?”

“…I don't know.”

Well that was helpful. Derek picked up a ceremonial staff before advancing slowly into his office. There was a thump as the box scooted itself off the desk and into the floor. He poked it cautiously and heard a rattling growl that made him edge back.

Another jab and the box opened enough for a jar to roll out. The neck of it had bashing teeth, and it rolled about, before eight legs emerged and it began scuttling about the office, chittering softly to itself.

Derek watched if run around for a long minute. “That thing eats ghosts?” He checked of the ghost behind him. She nodded mutely, features drawn with fear.

Well, okay. It didn't look too bad. It’s shell still looked like pottery, anyway. Derek grabbed the blanket off the back of his chair and dropped it over the little pottery creature. With a quick twist, it was wrapped helplessly in the fabric. A couple hard blows with his staff brought the muffled sound of broken ceramic.

He hit it twice more for good measure, and looked at his ghosts, who crowded the door.

“Problem solved?” He asked, ready to hit it a couple more times if he needed to.

A tall, stern-looking ghost materialized in front of him.

“It would seem so,” he said with a thick Scottish accent. “Well done.”

“Sure,” Derek sighed, looking at the blanket in his hand. “so how do I get rid of this stuff?”

“It has no more power, with the curse jar broken,” the new ghost told him genially. “Throw them on the rubbish heap.”

“Trash it is,” Derek agreed tiredly. “And then I can go back to bed? No more evil magic down here?”

“Well,” the gentleman started with a wary look out into the living room. “There is the matter of the cursed box that flickers with light in the evenings.”

In Derek’s defense, it was three in the morning and he was exhausted. It took him a few minutes to figure out what the ghost was talking about.

“I am not smashing my TV!”

Power is in the eye of the beholder

[WP] You are the most feared Super Villain with an utterly useless superpower.

+++

Where most of my kind- the Talented, the Powered- have impressive abilities that allow them flight, or super strength, mine is useless.

I can change the color of my eyes. Not to anything unusual. I can't do purple, for instance. Or inhuman green. No, I can go from human-blue to human-brown.

Slowly. With concentration.

That did not stop me.

My rage at the unfairness of the universe- to make these gods with their unstoppable power and to give me less than nothing- drove me to be their doom.

I am a Supervillain. The most feared on this earth, because, quite simply, I do not stop. I do not give up. My hatred never wavers. I will end them. Every last Hero who thinks that their powers somehow make them special, and who don't even consider that their shining example casts a great dark shadow upon the less fortunate.

The heroes, of course, consider themselves Good. A terrible mistake, because their Goodness will not allow them to kill me. They should. The ending of one life should certainly be worth the saving of dozens more. But no, if they kill me, it proves that they have sunk to my level. That they are stained.

Amusing, at least. I don't expect most of them even know I have a Power. Mine is so weak, so useless that even I sometimes forget I have one until the rage boils up again and my unceasing hunt continues.

The lesser Villains- the ones who rely on their Powers to level the Heroic playing field- walk in fear of me. They wonder at the bare human who dares to challenge Gods. They tremble when they see my trophy wall- a glory of masks and weapons claimed from my challengers.

My contemporaries do not seek to undermine me anymore. Not after the examples I made of the ones before them. Their bodies still rot on the walls of my stronghold.

These small battles can be amusing. I currently sit in a holding cell, awaiting justice. Laughable, really. The lock is a joke, and they were even so kind as to leave me the cane I walk with- a remnant from an earlier battle, when a Hero threw me through a wall.

I skinned him alive, but that did not heal the damage to my pelvis. I will always have a limp, and walking without a cane is difficult.

If I modified my cane to do all sorts of interesting things, well, did they expect any less of me? I made my fortune with clever devices to even the odds. Simply foolish.

“What now, Doctor Rimehart?”

One of the most recent Hero’s little friend's mocks me from outside the cage. He is brilliant- quite extraordinary in fact- but devoted to his Hero. I have considered how to coax him into my employ, but suspect it will take an intimate betrayal to force him to do so.

Such things take time. Certainly not my first corrupted underling. I pay them well, treat them well, and protect their families. If their children show promise, I am quite willing to finance their schooling. Many are loyal beyond death.

As it turns out, the Untalented appreciate being appreciated.

What a shock.

“I think I may escape in a moment,” I tell him, stretching lazily. I am past my prime, and a night on a cell cot is not so easily shaken off anymore, although I am courting a Powered healer into my service who may be able to reverse some of the damage. “Although you could delay me with a good cup of coffee. Understandably, I did not sleep well.”

“You can’t escape from this cell! We designed it especially for Powered prisoners!” The young man squawks. I can almost see the exclamation mark over his head. The statement is so blatantly foolish that I cannot help but sigh as I limp to the bars. Perhaps he is not worthy of my service after all.

Casually I flip my cane to rest against the lock and twist, sending a superheated rod through the protective metal plate and into the delicate electronics. The sharp scent of burning plastic fills the air and the scientist scrambles out the door, shouting for his Hero.

The door- on hinges of all things- swings open when I push on it lightly.

The Hero appears as I limp out. This one is physically enhanced as I recall. Strong and difficult to damage. He stares at me, nonplussed that I have noticed him and show no distress.

“If you are planning to attack, now is the time,” I remind him gently. This is not the brightest of my current foes, nor the one with the most of my attention. However, when opportunity knocks, it is only polite to answer.

He charges me- very fast, I admit- and raises his fist, telegraphing his intentions.

I simply step out of the way and bring my cane down on the back of his head. It is tungsten carbide and quite heavy. The blow stuns him long enough to press the butt to his head and press another hidden button.

A blade shoots out, driven by a powerful piston. I designed this for dealing with Powers like his. Even his reinforced bone poses no difficulty.

He dies silently and without pain. I have no taste for making enemies suffer unless it is to provide an example. This fool was simply careless enough to underestimate me, as so many have before him.

I tuck his mask into my pocket and take a picture of him with the small camera hidden my pen for identification later.

The door explodes in as my minions- alerted by my capture by a simple panic button on my ring- pour in. By now, they are unsurprised to find the Hero dead at my feet, and focus rather on making their reports.

“Noncombatants rounded up, Powered Heroes eliminated,” my Commander tells me, politely offering his arm to lean on. He knows that waking is sometimes difficult, but never mentions it. His daughter is in a wheelchair, paralyzed by a Hero attack that damaged her school. I appreciate the thoughtfulness, and had his home furnished with every amenity for a disabled child when I learned of her condition. “Your helicopter is outside, ready to return you to the stronghold.”

“Thank you,” I tell him sincerely. “Have the men gather up anything of interest here and copy their files before they destroy the server.”

A struggle catches my eye and I pause to see the scientist who thought to mock me earlier.

“I’ll kill you!” He screams, tears staining his cheeks. “I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you!”

I sigh, and nod to my Commander. A snap of his fingers and the scientist dies from two neat bullets to the back of the head. A shame. He really was brilliant, but that sort of rage can be problematic if left to fester.

“This way, Sir,” the Commander says kindly, guiding me through the hallways to the waiting helicopter. “We’re all ready for you. Oh, and the Missus wanted to invite you for dinner tonight. You know she worries when every you spend a night with these freaks.”

I chuckle as I climb into the helicopter and accept a headset. “Please tell her I would be delighted,” I tell him. “I believe I still have some of that lovely cabernet, if she thinks that would suit.”

My Commander only smiles as we lift off, and I allow myself a moment to feel satisfaction.

A successful day indeed.

Exploration does not always go so well

[TT] Dragons always seem so old, all knowing. But there was a time, long long ago, when they were just starting to explore the world and it's frontiers, as we are now.

+++

Cratherian appeared with a sharp crack of air to announce his arrival, and shook himself vigorously under a stream of water, shedding powder- unidentifiable but vivid pink and stinking of flowers- in every direction.

Torund-shah watched, nairs wrinkled in disgust as her fellow dragon twisted to wash away the noxious powder out of his wing-cracks and from under his scales.

He still smelled decidedly flowery when he came to lay beside her, wings spread to dry in the hot sun.

“What did you find?” She asked, hissing in amusement.

“Snacks,” Cratherian said darkly, baring his teeth- bright wings caught between several of them- and snorting his distaste. “Aggressive snacks with powder that makes to stink.”

“Well you did try to eat them, dear,” Snowscales said from their other side, her nearly-transparent white scales glittering. “Most things don't care for that.”

“Those black things last week didn't seem to mind,” Torund-Shah contributed, reaching over to lick away a bright pink patch Cratharian had missed. It was delightfully sweet, even if it did smell like the worst parts of spring. “Mind you, they also came out the other end relatively intact.”

“I heard Dava found a world packed with gold,” Snowscales offered. She shook her head, icy mane chiming. “He invited me to see it.”

“Because he wants to mate you,” Cratharian snickered, nuzzling Torund-Shah in thanks. “I believe he means to offer a nest.”

“I have my own,” Snowscales offered peaceably. She was hard to rattle. “besides, I heard from a nymph that there’s an opening to another world somewhere near that huge waterfall, and that monkeys are building a castle there.”

“No!” Torund-Shah sat up to look at the white dragon. “Monkeys don't build,” she added sceptically. “They hunt for bugs with sticks.”

“Supposedly these ones build,” Snowscales insisted. “Since it’s far north, I think to go see what it’s all about. If it’s true, they ought to be very amusing.”

“Just don't get speared. Some of the monkeys are dangerous,” Cratharian warned, purring under Torund-Shah’s continued ministrations. “Two worlds back, I found some with metal plating. Fun to crack open, but with very pointy metal bits to stick in the teeth.”

“I will be careful,” Snowscales promised lazily. “It could be quite interesting. The monkeys can be very inventive. Oh look, Bloodthorn is back.”

The dragon in question glowed brilliant red and fire followed his wings. He dove into the deep lake at full speed and sent a wave of chilly water in every direction. When he resurfaced, it was to a litany of hisses and snarls. He looked sheepish.

“The portal by the north mountain leads to a volcano,”

Luck’s Chosen

[WP] The Grim Reaper has a list where names pop up when their life is at risk due to a decision or action they made. The same name keeps popping up on the list and the Reaper decides to look into it.

+++

The name popped up again and the Grim Reaper stared at it, and then marked off another tick under the human’s name before pausing to count up the tallies. Nine. All dated today.

A quick shuffle through It’s papers revealed a trend- as many as thirty in a single day- rarely less than five- tallies all under the same name.

“What the HELL is he up to?” It growled, bones clicking together. This was beginning to get bothersome!

A twist of reality and It appeared in the Mortal Realms, and immediately stifled surprise.

Gunfire crackled around It, the source, many humans in the same uniform all firing at a single man who dangled by one hand off a cliff, while pulling the pin of a grenade with his teeth to throw up and over the men.

This mortal had to be one of Luck’s favored, because the small explosive landed neatly in a truck, laden with fuel tanks.

The resulting explosion sent the men with guns hurtling over the cliff, many already dead. The Reaper absently gathered up their souls when they fell past It, and continued to watch as the mortal hauled himself up over the cliff edge, only to curse- It was rather impressed by the mortal’s imaginative language- and took cover behind a pile of crates.

More humans with guns arrived.

“Really!?” the moral yelled, sheer disbelief in his voice. Actions bellying his outraged voice, his hands stayed steady as he yanked a gun out of a nearby crate and aimed it carefully over his scant cover. “Look, I just want to get out of here!” He hollered to his enemies, who responded with a hail of gunfire. 

The mortal cursed. The Reaper felt another near-death Choice ding across It’s senses. The mortal tilted his gun up again and began picking the men off with devastatingly accurate ratta-tats of his own firearm.

Another ding as a grenade landed beside the mortal, who-for some unknown reason- snatched it out of the soft sand and lobbed it back the way it came instead of sensibly scrambling away.

The Reaper watched in sheer astonishment as the grenade exploded as fortuitously as the first, neatly in the lap of the man with the rocket launcher. What in the Hells was this mortal up to? The Reaper couldn't seem to find a motive. Although, It had to admit, this did seem to be more a matter of poor judgement on behalf of the men who were hunting the intrepid mortal. They seemed to be dying in droves.

The mortal had outpaced it, and the Reaper hurried to catch up as the sound of a disbelieving “Oh COME ON,” that echoed through the sandy cave ahead. More explosions- two more dings for deadly life choices- and a great deal of cursing heralded a string of bodies.

The mortal was dangling from a rope that looped around ancient stonework.

A fourth ding in thirty minutes- this one felt remarkably determined- and the mortal got himself swinging, before launching himself at a early-featureless cliff, nothing but a long climbing spike in hand.

Sticking the landing meant something rather different to this mortal, but stick he did, dragging himself up the cliff face by finger-holds and clever use of his spike.

The Reaper stared, as the man managed to reach the top of the cliff, taking a moment to catch his breath when there wasn't an immediate hail of gunfire, before running off again.

It wasn't ten minutes before a fifth ding echoed across It’s senses, and it began to count- reaching six before a shattering explosion, the sound of breaking wood, screams, and more cursing filled the air.

“Humans,” It sighed, and twisted Itself back into It’s office. Luck-blessed indeed. It made a note next to the mortal’s name and stuck the whole thing up on It’s wall, easily seen. Two more tallies appeared, almost on top of each other, and It simply shook it’s head, deciding that It didn't want to know after all.

Burn my body and bury me deep

[WP] “After I die, you must bury me deep. Deeper than any of the monsters we’ve hunted. The world can't afford it if I escape.”

+++

Even retired, Ragnar built weapons for younger Hunters. That was how the greater demon found him.

Alone, and old, Ragnar had still nearly managed to kill the beast before Yvan heard the commotion and come to investigate. Now the man was dying, body littered with deep claw marks, blood soaking into the sawdust below him. Black crept over his skin, a sure sign that the demonic wounds were fouling in the worst way.

Demons loved to Raise Hunters. To make them mindless ghouls that hunted the living as they had hunted monsters in life. It was the worst kind of vengeance. Some Hunters took precautions. Others killed themselves to prevent it. All agreed that becoming a ghoul was worse than death.

Ragnar, of course, was ready. It was only a matter of time before someone came for him, and he knew it.

“Bags of salt in the workroom,” Ragnar gasped out, one hand determinedly holding a bandage to his chest. “Beside it, silver and Rowan shavings. Mix ‘em and cover my body in them.”

Silver for the curses. Rowan to keep him bound. Salt to block foul magic from finding some way to break the bindings. Things all Hunters had in stock, but Ragnar packed shotgun shells with them to hunt ghouls and sold them to other Hunters.

“I will,” Yvan promised through tears. Evan dying, his old mentor was protecting the world. Ragnar gripped his hand tighter. “Make sure you do it,” he drove the point home. “I glow with curses- not just from this one. When I die, those come home to roost.”

Yvan hadn't know that, but it was unsurprising. Many curse-marks waited until the will of a hunter slipped before they could activate. Ragnar’s never had, and his body was covered in arcane sigils, all simply waiting for the old hunter to fail.

“I will, I swear,” Yvan promised again. “The demon burns already.”

As soon as he put the final shot in the beast, he doused it in salt and holy oil to burn until there was nothing left. When Ragnar was buried, he would sweep up the remains and jar them to keep it from reconstituting.

“Good boy,” Ragnar coughed, bringing up bubbles of dark blood. “After I die, you must bury me deep. Deeper than any of the monsters we’ve hunted. The world can't afford it if I escape.”

Claws

“I am so sorrrry’” Prrt-ts growled, panic in her rattling voice as she frantically pulled emergency suppiles out of a nearby compartment. Her claws clacked heavily on the metal floor. Rob watched her go, hand pressed over the slashes that marred his side. “I will sing to yourrrr Captain and give my life-”

Her massive hands shook as she pulled out a frankly alarming amount of medical goods out of the compartment.

“It was an accident,” Rob told her genially. Frankly, he was surprised it hadn't happened sooner. Humans were pretty squishy compared to the big, bead-skinned lizards that made up Prrt-ts’ race. “Is there a regen device in there? These aren't really deep enough to need stitches but they kinda hurt.”

Prrt-ts froze, staring at him. Her expression was hard to read but her tail lashed, a sure sign of confusion. “…stitches?” She questioned carefully. “Used to… sew?”

“Yeah,” Rob nodded. When she didn't move any closer, he reached for the med box, prompting a flurry of activity from his friend.

“Do not move morrre than you have to!” She scolded him fiercely. “I have called the medic- therrre is still a chance to save you!”

“What?” Rob said blankly. He looked down at the gashes in his side, unpleasant, but he’d gotten worse trying to wrangle a specimen into a cage. “No- no Prrt-ts, unless you have venom in your claws, I’ll heal up fine.”

She stared at him like he had sprouted a second head. “…heal?” She queried, tale lashing more than ever. “I do not know this worrrd. What does it mean?”

Since she didn't seem ready to stop him, Rob grabbed a packet of gauze and pressed it over the sluggishly-bleeding cuts. “You know, when you get injured? If it’s not fatal, it’ll mend itself over time.”

She was still staring, and a thunder of footsteps announced the human medic, case in hand, pounding in through the door.

“Prrt said you were dying,” the man said before he got a good look at Rob, sprawled against the wall but very much alive. “What happened?”

“I clawed him,” Prrt-ts said sadly. “He seems to have lost his mind to the blood loss.”

“I’m okay, Doc,” Rob could speak for himself and thought his friend was overreacting. “She barely grazed me. It’s mostly stopped bleeding.”

“Than death is nearrr,” the lizard intoned sadly. “When the blood stops coming, it will not be long.”

Doc looked up at her in blank astonishment, and then cursed roundly. “I keep forgetting your bodies don't repair themselves when you get hurt,” he said, a smile starting to grow. “Prrt-ts , you know those plastics you have that mend themselves when they get damaged?”

His hands worked briskly, checking to make sure Rob wasn't underestimating his injuries, (ONE time and the doctors never believed you again) decided he was alright, and set to cleaning them, making Nate hiss.

“Yes…?” Prrt-ts said cautiously, watching them.

“Human bodies do the same, provided it wasn't lethal to begin with, and barring illness.” Doc explained. Deciding it was clean enough, he smeared ointment over the cuts and pressed a bandage over it all. “You’ll be fine, kid. Try to avoid the pointy bits next time.”

“It was my fault, I startled her,” Rob shrugged, prompting a clicking noise of protest from Prrt-ts. He raised a hand to stop her. “Listen to Doc. Give me a few days and I’ll show you. We heal up quick.”

“Just keep them clean and stop by in a week to let me take a look,” Doc said cheerfully. He stuffed everything back into his kit and stood, dusting off his hands. Prrt-ts looked like she had been hit in the head, and he patted her scaled shoulder. “Remind me to bring this up at the next command meeting,” he instructed them both. “Your people should probably know what ACTUALLY constitutes a lethal injury for one of us.”

“I am starrrting to think the answerrr is NOTHING,” the big alien said, tail finally stilling. Rob stood and rolled his shoulders and she watched him carefully. “You eat everrrrything, want to make a pet of anything that doesn't immediately trrry to eat you- and some things that do- and now you tell me that you can shake off terrrrrible injurrry. I am starrrrting to underrrrstand why most everrryone fearrrrrs you Soft-Skins!”