“Let’s see, Tad Williams. Alias…‘Bigdick Tad?’” Inquisitor Emilio arched a brow, glancing up at the teen in front of him who was seemingly unphased by being interrogated by an inquisitor. Rather than a typical reaction where their fear and anxiety was low and spiked in response to probing questions, the boy radiated a constant fear that felt barely restrained, ebbing and flowed with no discernable rhyme or reason.
And yet, he looked fine on the outside.
“Wasn’t my idea,” Tad said, leaning against the chair.
“And what?” Tad asked.
“Do you have a bick dick?”
Tad shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess I don’t spend enough time staring at other guy’s junk to get an average. I’m just a normal guy who puts his pants on one leg at a time.”
The inquisitor blinked, but decided not to follow up on that one.
“During both school outings, there was a rather high casualty rate, especially in your family’s playground…Wiretaps, was it?”
“Yep, those things’ll eatcha.” Tad said, and Emilio felt a huge spike of terror associated with the statement. None of it showed on the boy’s face.
Ah, maybe that’s it. Makes sense in hindsight.
“And were you aware that they were more active that day than usual?”
“Ask any Williams and they’ll tell you that. Something stank.”
“Did you see any suspicious activity from any of your peers? Any outsiders who weren’t supposed to be there?”
“I spent the first half of that trip face deep in spiders, and the second half on a stretcher. On the trip out…I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.”
“Do you know anything about a thrask who might have been operating in the area?”
“Don’t even know what that is.”
“Let’s start small then, tell me about the students that went on the trip with you.”
Tad launched into a tale bemoaning his fate stuck with three of the most ill-equipped students on the trip.
Emilio stopped him when he mentioned the Denton mooning over Edward Bergstrom.
Describe this Edward Bergstrom to me,” He said, scribbling in his notepad.
“Five foot eight, dirty blonde, protruding brow, thin jaw.”
“Most helpful.” Excellent, a name to go with the face, Emilio thought, suppressing a grin.
“Going after Ed? I’d watch my back if I were you guys, though,” Tad said. “Pretty sure that guys a nine-hundred year-old Royal.”
Emilio paused, setting down his pen as tingles worked their way up his spine.
Could it be her? it wouldn’t be the first time she’s changed her form. Although a young man…well, we wouldn’t have guessed it, so it makes sense in that regard.
“Elaborate.” He said, his tone icy cold.
“Well, Ed’s a nice guy, don’t get me wrong, and I owe him a solid, but not a get-your-balls-chopped-off solid.”
Emilio listened to the boy’s tale with increasing alarm, until he shot out of his seat, almost involuntarily.
“Stay right there,” he said, pointing at Tad as he turned to the door.
It couldn’t be her, but she’s the only unaccounted for immortal we know of just wandering around.
Emilio powerwalked down the halls of the precinct, aiming for High Inquisitor Nathanial’s office. He had to speak to him right now.
It couldn’t be her, it couldn’t be any of the others, so we have an Ancient running around that we don’t even know about!? Nathanial needs to hear this right now!
A hand on a long arm shot out of the bathroom to his right and clapped over Emilio’s mouth before yanking him forcibly into the tiled room, pinning his arms behind his back with Royal force.
“I didn’t think Tad would spill quite so many beans,” A voice rumbled in Emilio’s ear. “To be fair, he doesn’t owe me his life.”
Emilio tried to summon mana to his hand and blast the upstart, but nothing happened. At the same time, a shining ball of light caught his attention out of the corner of his eye.
Heart hammering, Emilio tried to break out of the hold, to no avail. Even when he lifted his legs to bang against the tile, mana condensed into shackles around his leg that held them in place.
He tried to scream. He tried to bite.
“I’ve never been very good at mind reading, so bear with me here.”
A sharp pain at the back of Emilio’s head made him kick reflexively.
“Lucky for you there aren’t any pain nerves in the brain…” were the last words he heard before everything went fuzzy, then white, then nothing.
Garth whistled the town theme to his favorite version of Oregon Trail as he plucked the brain-cauliflower from the back of the Inquisitor’s skull, leaving only a tiny mark at the back of the man’s head.
Like my teacher once said, magic kinda blends together at the higher levels.
Still whistling, Garth stored the cauliflower in his Band, dragged the corpse over to the urinal, pulled down it’s pants and slumped it up against the urinal. He wanted to make it look like the kid was attacked in the middle of taking a casual piss, not going to tattle on him. Might buy Paul a couple extra minutes of confusion.
Garth was considering giving him a grievous wound to serve as a red herring, distracting from the little pucker at the back of his skull, but decided against it. Dude was already dead, and if these guys were any good at what they did, they probably wouldn’t miss the wound.
Garth was positioning the body just so, when he heard the pounding of feet down the hall.
They probably felt the lantern, Garth thought, teleporting out.
Finn frowned as he flipped through the documents. There was something off about these numbers. They felt too arbitrary, and some obituaries were missing. Every ounce of Finn’s training led him to believe that these documents had been altered.
I wish he hadn’t killed the chief of police, Finn thought. Then I would at least be able to narrow down who did it and why, but the man’ s so sure that Paul’s the key to unravelling this weirdness.
And the ridiculous crusade to locate a tall, handsome young man. Finn had no idea what made these people tick.
Finn was organizing the documents, comparing them year to year to try and get a read on what might have been changed, when the door to Richard’s interrogation room slammed open, and he charged down the hall at full speed, speeding through the main hall room so quickly he caused some of Finn’s papers to flip into the air.
A fraction of a second later the High inquisitor’s door blew off its hinges, revealing the bloodstained carpet as the man blurred through the office building, scattering hours of Finn’s work.
Finn cursed, trying to snatch his paper out of the air, when he noticed an odd name on the registry of titled landholders.
Carnifax W. Pondhawk
Who would name their child after the legendary dragonfly that roams the extreme west of the empire? Finn paused a moment and glanced up. Wait, we are in the extreme west.
Richard got to the bathroom first, skidding to a halt and grimacing at their compatriot’s pale corpse before Nathanial bulled past him, stretching his hand outward to catch some fleeting thing.
“The portal’s still fresh,” the High Inquisitor said, snagging Richard’s armor and pulling him forward as a desert landscape spread in front of them.
They landed on their feet a quarter mile outside of the city in a little dip in the landscape hidden from the walls.
A tall young man was taking off bloodstained clothes as they touched down in the dirt. He froze.
“for the Queen!” Garth shouted, shaking his fist in his best approximation of youthful zealotry.
Couldn’t hurt to pin the blame on the Prima Regula. Linda would forgive him. Probably.
The two Inquisitors spared him no words. The young one named Richard drew his blade while the old one who was missing half his nose clenched his fist tight, forming a Lantern around himself.
I recognize that style, Garth thought as he shot backward, barely avoiding the edge of the man’s controlled area. These two obviously belonged to the Dan Ui.
Now Garth was sure that the Dan Ui clan was running the empire. They were most likely running every other major country on the planet under some other name, but all the taxed valuables flowed to the same clan.
Garth lifted his hand and brought up a Lantern, just a tiny bit smaller than the other man’s. They took that in for a fraction of a second before lunging forward.
Well, I did want to see how tough they were, Garth thought as they approached. This was a convenient opportunity to establish a base line to compare to later. Jim was likely to be much harder to fend off.
Garth flew up into the air, avoiding the blade by pulling his feet up as he sailed upward. Most people found it difficult to cast and fly at the same time.
A steel chain wove itself into being from mana and flew from the High Inquisitor’s palm, penetrating Garth’s Lantern and wrapping around his legs, its physical form ignoring the mana-rending properties.
Damnit. Garth complained bitterly as he tried to disentangle his legs using neutral Telekinesis. He didn’t want to give away his affiliation with plants and nature just yet, seeing as there weren’t many people on earth like Garth.
It was a lot like fighting with both hands tied behind his back.
Before he could get the thing off, a wrenching pull dragged him out of the sky and slammed him into the ground, burying him several inches into the hard desert floor, forcing the air out of his lungs in an undignified groan.
When Garth opened his eyes again, an Inquisitor was already above him, bringing down his sword. Garth whipped to the side, avoiding being skewered by inches. Unfortunately, that brought him within range of the High Inquisitor. lightning crawled across the ground between them as the High inquisitor caught Garth with a solid kick to the chest, sending him careening through the sky toward Richard.
I feel like a soccer ball getting set up for a header. Garth thought as he twisted in midair to orient himself.
The kick hadn’t hurt. Thank Beladia, Garth’s enhanced body seemed to be easily capable of keeping pace with these Inquisitors.
Garth caught the approaching adamantium blade with his fingers, causing a harsh squeal to emanate from the metal as he dragged the blade out of the way and headbutted the surprised inquisitor.
Seeing that their play wasn’t turning out well, the High Inquisitor dragged Garth away from his partner while simultaneously creating iron restraints out of nothing.
They weren’t iron, obviously, because iron was like tissue paper, but they looked like it. Maybe they represented the concept of iron.
Garth didn’t have any longer to contemplate it as he slid backwards through the dirt, iron shackles flying toward him.
Garth lined the edge of his hand with raw mana and drew it across the approaching shackles and down onto the chains around his feet. He felt a slight tingle as the flesh of his feet was roasted along with the chains, setting him free.
A blunt impact across his back sent him sailing forward toward the High Inquisitor, arms flailing. Nathanial’s blade sprang into his hand and he sweapt it down toward Garth’s neck.
Garth blocked a strike with his forearm, and tried to assume control of the High inquisitor’s Lantern, causing the wild lightning storm around the two of them to redouble.
Sensing this, Nathanial peeled away from Garth weaving more iron restraints. When Garth tried to follow, He was delayed for a fraction of a second as Richard seized his arm.
Garth snarled, turned and grabbed the bloody-nosed man’s arm and twisted. The unlucky Inquisitor’s hand was levered so violently that his fingers audibly cut through the air, followed by the pop of bone breaking.
In the moment of distraction, an intricate web of chains wrapped around Garth, cinching tight and preventing him from moving.
A moment later Garth had a sword in his primary heart and spleen, and his Lantern was slowly being overtaken.
“Die, you bastard!” Richard snarled in his face, while Nathaniel watched him with narrowed eyes. Not a big fan of being the meat in a dude sandwich.
“Huh,” Garth said, glancing over his shoulder at the High Inquisitor. “Guess they weren’t fucking around. I’ll see you guys later.”
Garth pulled his rip-cord, biting the node in his mouth in half.
A small plant buried out in the middle of nowhere pinged his automatic teleport, drawing him to it, then it withered and turned to ash.
Garth saw bright sky before the process repeated itself, sending him careening partway across the world in the blink of an eye. The sky was dark.
Again and again, Garth was teleported to little seeds he’d distributed around western America, bouncing like a ping-pong ball before he landed outside Alaska, set his scryable clothes and status band on fire before he teleported manually back to his lair.
Alicia stared as he walked past her completely nude, fist clenched around a pink, brainy looking cauliflower plant.
“Busy day?” she asked, craning her neck to keep him in sight as Garth was about to go into his Phylac-tree room.
“Something like that.” He called over his shoulder.
So the inquisitors were a little better than him when he was pulling his punches. They worked well together too. That didn’t bode well for the difficulty uptick that would surely be present when Jim came a-knocking.
As it stood, he wanted the Inquisitors stirring up trouble for a little while, so he didn’t murder all of them outright. There was a certain art to building alarm. Just snuffing them all out would be alarming, sure, but not nearly as much as Garth needed.
He needed mega-tornado alarms and air raid sirens that stretched all the way back to the Inner Spheres.
“Alright,” Garth said, summoning a pot of soil with a speaker on the bottom. He placed the Inquisitor’s shiny pink cauliflower in the pot, gave it a little water mixed with Garth-Aid™, and use Plant Growth to encourage it to sink its roots deep.
“Hello, hello, can you hear me?”
“What’s going on?” the speaker on the bottom of the pot said. “I…I can’t see, I can’t move. What’s happening? I can’t feel anything! Am I losing my mind?”
“Nah, nah, I just wanted to pick your brain for a while,” Garth said, leaning back in his rocking chair. “What’s your name?”
“Emilio. I…I don’t want to be here.”
“I get that a lot.” Garth said, resting his chin on his fist. “So Emilio, Let me give you the skinny. You’re a plant grown from the brain of Emilio the Inquisitor. You’re Emilio the Plant, and with good behavior, I‘ll give you a way to see and move around.”
Strange retching noises came through the speaker.
“Emilio, calm down.” Garth said.
Emilio devolved into panicked gibbering.
Hmm…. This is gonna take some work.
I have no Mouth & I Must Scream, huh? Well, mad science doesn’t do itself.
Garth put his captive creation under and started tinkering with him.
“He’s gone! Are you going to follow him?”
Nathanial shook his head.
“Could be a trap, or a wild goose chase meant to keep us busy. We’re going back to regroup and get your arms straightened out.”
“This is nothing.”
When they got back, Finn was standing next to a pile of vomit, shakily staring at the mutilated corpse that appeared to have been literally caught with his pants down, taking a piss.
Richard watched the High Inquisitor study the body for a moment before patting down the crotch of the man’s pants
“He wasn’t taking a piss. He died with his pants on.” He glanced over his shoulder.
“What was Emilio working on?”
“The Williams boy.” Richard responded. When he made it to the interrogation room, the only thing that remained was Emilio’s notebook, with the name Edward Bergstrom written at the very end.