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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Episode 27: More cats, bigger fight...and soap

Courtney had thrown on the chainmail loose about her, threw on her rugby cleats and headgear, put her mouthguard in, and grabbed her katana; it looked like a replica model, but it had cost her over a thousand bucks-hand forged with an edge. She paused for a moment as she removed it from the hardwood plaque on the wall. It was crazy really, for Blackout to tell her to bring this stuff to an emergency? But she'd heard that shriek...was it all some sort of gag? There was no way to know, and she had always promised herself that she would never be that person who ignored a cry for help, who let a woman be raped outside her door when she could have done something, like she heard stories about so many times working downtown at the women's shelter. She'd once gone next door in Lister Hall when the girl next door had brought home the wrong guy. It had been a bad night for the wrong guy. He'd been drunk and got violent, and that's when Courtney had knocked at the door. He'd told her to fuck off, and she'd said if he didn't open up she'd call the cops. After he opened the door he probably wished he'd called the cops. Courtney had nearly clubbed him to death with a ringette stick. They'd thrown his body in the dumpster out back and called 911 anonymously. There had been an inquiry by the cops, but no one fessed up about it. No one ever wanted to get involved.

Well Courtney did. And as she stepped out of the elevator, her chain mail buckled and fastened on, she began jogging down the street towards Andrew's coffee shop, samurai sword in hand.

* * * * * *

There was snow falling down from a black sky, white motes in the darkness, and it made him think of all the talk Charles did about chaos and order...the white was the order, but it seemed so insignificant against the darkness it seemed to be running away from. His ears had registered sound, but it took tearing his gaze away from the hypnotic descent of the snowflakes to give the sounds context.

Even once he had looked, none of it made any sense.

Someone was sitting in front of him, slumped over the wheel of a car; there was blood on the steering wheel. He wondered why anyone would choose to drive a convertible in the dead of winter, but then he saw the sundered metal frame that had once held the car's roof and understood.

There was a girl looking in horror at the person slumped over the steering wheel. Both seemed familiar, but he could see the girl's face...she was the new girl he had hired...it seemed an age ago. She was screaming, and shaking the unconscious man's shoulder...or was he dead?

The car itself had somehow backed into his coffee shop; the window it had gone through was completely disintegrated. Andrew looked down impassively at the glass fragments and shards which had fallen thick as the snow in the back seat of the car. He was suddenly aware of his nakedness, and glad he had the blanket between himself and the glass.

Over the girl's shoulder he could see something approaching from the street, seeming to float down from the sky, a great shadow silhouetted against the street lights and the glare of the snow. It looked to be a giant bird, but he could see a face on it...and that face he recognized all too well.

"She's coming," he said, a bare whisper. His throat felt dry and swollen. The girl in the front seat didn't seem to hear him. "She's coming," he repeated louder, this time a croak.

The girl heard him and turned to look, first at him, then when he nodded in the direction of the thing approaching them, turning to the street. But it was already too late. The giant owl-thing had launched itself, talons outstretched.

* * * * * *

Courtney had seen the front end of the car sticking out of the shop, the roof torn off, and Blackout slumped across the wheel as she approached, picking up her pace from a jog to a full run, her cleats digging into the hardpack snow and giving her extra traction. She could see Andrew, the guy from the coffee shop sitting in the back seat, wrapped in a blanket, looking out into the street. She turned her head to see what he was looking at, and nearly fell down.

A huge bird-like apparition was lighting down on the street in front of the ruined shop, and it didn't take a Dungeon Master to tell her this wasn't a wandering monster. This was an enemy, and it was getting ready to attack. She put on a burst of speed, her powerful leg muscles pushing her faster and faster.

She bolted across the crosswalk, sprinting full out as the owl thing jumped into the air for its attack. Courtney's leg stretched out, touched the hood, and she sprung into the air, katana swung back.

This is where all those kendo lessons pay off, was the last coherent thought she had before she connected in a full on shoulder check with the monstrosity.

* * * * *

Andrew saw the girl in chainmail crash into the monster, throwing it to the ground in front of the copy shop. He was about to ask the girl in the car...Lara?...what the hell was going on, when a steel grip closed about his wrist and yanked him clean out of the backseat.

He was pulled face to face with his own face. His arm felt like it had been torn out of the socket; the super-him was holding him off the ground by the wrist, letting him dangle there, the blanket fallen to the ground.

"I told her we should have just killed you," he told himself. This was by far worse than the inner dialogue he was always engaged in. "Time to remedy that mistake," his bigger self said, and drew back his free arm to strike.

Andrew could see that the free arm was holding one of the tables in it.

"This is going to hurt," his steroid-monkey self said. "A great deal."

* * * * *

Ripper had jumped out of his seat when he'd heard the car crash into the coffee shop. He ran out of his apartment at the back of the comic shop and raced to the window to look down into the street. From his vantage point, he could only see the black lines the wheels had left in the snow on the street, and the front end of the car. But that was enough. He knew that hood all too well. It was Blackout's car.

Then his phone rang, and he nearly jumped out of his skin. He looked at his call display. It was--Courtney?

"The world is ending," he said, and thumbed the talk button.

"Are-you-at-your-shop?" Courtney asked, breathing heavy between every word.

"Yes!" Ripper replied. "Blackout's car just got in an accident!"

"Listen, Blackout phoned me and told me to bring my LARP gear to the shop! He said it was an emergency!"

"Our LARP gear?" Ripper stole a glance at the claymore he had on the wall behind the counter, beneath the sign that said, We don't mind if you shop-lift, so long as you don't mind if we get medieval on your ass.

"What does he need our LARP gear for? Courtney, I think he might be seriously hurt!"

"That's just what he told me! I'm almost there, I gotta go," and she hung up.

Ripper stood there in the darkness of the shop, uncertain of how to proceed. His brain registered the need for decisive action; his friend could be close to death in the wreckage of that car. He ran to his computer, and typed quickly to Mikey, then grabbed the claymore from above the counter and ran down the stairs.

* * * * *

Mikey stared at the screen, not sure if Ripper had made a typo.

Call Sunny. Tell her to bring doctor kit. Blackout in car accident at coffee shop. Come if you can. Bring LARP gear.

Why wouldn't he just tell Mikey to phone 911? Why wouldn't he phone 911 himself? And why the hell would he bring his LARP stuff to a car accident? This had to be a joke...and yet, something told him...it wasn't. Ripper joked about a lot of things, but his best friend needing medical attention...wasn't one of them. Maybe Blackout was high...he did DJ at those raves. Maybe he'd been driving under the influence, and they didn't want the cops to find out. That felt pretty gangster, which appealed to Mikey. Anything off the beaten path appealed to Mikey. His parents were dyed in the wool Baptists, and if they knew that he played D&D, if they knew he did freestyle rap and hip hop at nightclubs, that he knew how to break into cars, even though he had no intention of stealing one...if they knew he owned a pilum, a Roman short sword and a real skeleton key...they'd freak.

Rescuing a friend strung out on drugs by keeping the authorities out of the loop. That had to be it. Whatever. Even if it wasn't, it would be one more secret that his parents would shit the ten commandments over. He flipped open his cell phone and dialed Sunny's number.

* * * * * *

Ripper went down into a crouch when he saw the bird-thing land just in front of the shop. He felt his crotch go warm and then suddenly very cold as his pants nearly froze to his leg. How uncool was that? He just pissed himself. Still, he had pissed himself over seeing a half-woman half-owl the size of a cube van land in front of his comic shop and he hadn't been high.

I think that earns the right to pee down one's leg, he thought to himself.

He glanced over at the wreckage of Blackout's car. The barista babe Lara was shaking Blackout...who was slumped over the steering wheel, blood running down the side of his head. He forgot his fear and ran crouched down to the side of the car, throwing himself down against the door as the owl-thing screamed loudly and launched itself at the wreckage. He braced himself for an impact that never came. The monster's trajectory changed suddenly as it was forced sideways, over Ripper's head and then crashing into the pavement.

He saw Courtney roll clear of the monster, her katana flashing in hand, and suddenly remembered his own sword. He stood to go and help her, when he heard a startled yelp and turned just in time to see a gigantic version of Andrew Weazle grabbing an emaciated version of Andrew Weazle from the back of the car wreck.

"This is so fucked up," he said under his breath.

But he'd gamed enough to know that when a really large anything grabs its own twin from the back seat of a car filled with friendlies, it means that the really large something is not a friendly. This hypothesis was given further gravity by the realization that the giant Andrew was about to hit the World Vision poster child Andrew with a table.

He raised the claymore, and ran into the coffee shop screaming.

* * * * *

Andrew heard the screaming and then saw a flash of metal and heard a sound much like an axe chopping wood. His double let go of him, and Andrew crashed to the ground in a pile of flesh and bone. The pain in his shoulder was immense. Turning his head, he could see Mark Ripper standing with a huge sword embedded in his double's left forearm. Ripper was trying to pull the sword loose, but his swing had connected hard enough to sink into the bone, and the blade was stuck. His double took his right hand and swatted Ripper, launching him off the ground and landing on the trunk of Blackout's car. The giant then turned his attention to the sword, which he pried loose with one titanic tug. The blade was slimy with something that looked like raw sewage instead of blood. A smell like a chemical toilet at a weekend-long rock festival hit Andrew's nostrils and he gagged.

The giant turned his attention to Andrew again. And now he had a sword.

Andrew scrambled to his feet and lurched towards the back room. He reached the door just in time, slamming it shut behind him. He flipped the deadbolt and slumped to the floor.

The door shook on its hinges as the giant pounded into it. The deadbolt wouldn't make any difference if the frame couldn't hold. He pulled himself to his feet with an effort and looked around the room for something to protect himself with. The open door to the bathroom beckoned. If nothing else, it was another door between him and the giant.

* * * * *

Courtney went down hard under the weight of the succubus, and they wrestled, a blur of steel and claws. She felt one of the talons rake across her ribcage and she screamed as the pain lanced up her side. She wanted badly to say she'd had worse, but the truth was, she hadn't. The fight between them had been worse than any scrum she'd ever been in. Worse than any pain she'd ever felt. She tried to get up, but the wound was too much. She couldn't raise the katana to strike back.

At least I didn't turn a blind eye or deaf ear, she thought to herself.

The succubus leered at her. "Silly girl," it said in its mockery of the human voice. "Charging into the fray without knowing what you faced. I have lived for thousands of years, and drained as many great heroes of their strength. You have the spirit, but not the skill to defeat me. I admire your spirit, and I look forward to taking it--"

The succubus stopped in mid sentence with a choking sound, and jerked to the side, as though it had been pulled by an unseen hand. It looked surprised, and turned its head to see what had happened.

Which was when Lara smacked the look of surprise clean off its face with the reclaimed half-shovel.

* * * * *

The Nephilim kicked hard at the door to the staff room, and it exploded off its frame, crashing into the empty room beyond. It strode into the staff room, searching for Andrew. The light from under the door to the bathroom beckoned.

"Trapped," it said. It twirled the claymore in its hand, accessing one of Andrew's memories of fantasy films. "It's over little brother," it said. "Time to die."

The door to the bathroom was flung open and Andrew stood, still naked, coated in some sort of viscous goo.

"Here's a little trick I learned at summer camp," Andrew said, and launched himself in a dive across the floor. Coated in hand soap, he slid across the floor with ease, through the Nephilim's legs, and out the staff room entrance.

The Nephilim roared and whirled to pursue, slipping on the trail of soap as he did so, falling to the floor with a crash. Andrew was trying to pull himself up to a standing position, a difficult feat given his slick epidermis. He had righted himself at the same time as the Nephilim, and did a sideways slide away from the giant as it crashed headfirst into the coffee bar.

* * * * *

Ripper bolted upright, and looked around.

"Not a dream. Damn." He surveyed the action, seeing what he had missed while unconscious. The giant was nowhere to be seen, and the skinny Andrew was clutching the side of the coffee bar as though he were having trouble getting his legs to work for him. He turned and saw Courtney and Lara repeatedly striking the owl-thing over and over, although it was painfully obvious that the creature was deader than Napoleon.

Blackout.

He jumped off the trunk and, ignoring the pain in his tailbone and lower back, hobbled to the driver's side of the car. He put a hand on Blackout's shoulder and leaned close.

"Blackout?" he said. He heard a crash and turned to see the giant rising from behind the coffee bar. Andrew was avoiding his super-sized twin by sliding about in a slapstick comedy routine that would have made any Loony Toons character proud. But it was as obvious as the bird was dead that Andrew was slowly being backed into a corner, and his movements were becoming more and more desperate.

"Blackout?" Ripper repeated.

Blackout groaned. "Oh thank God. Can you hear me?"

"Just don't play Chemical Brothers and Moby. It's too mainstream," Blackout mumbled.

"Great," Ripper grimaced. He stood and called to the women. "HEY! Xena and Buffy! I could use a hand here!"

The women stopped their butchering of the gigantic fowl and turned to look at him. Their hair was disheveled, and blood splattered them from head to toe.

"Blackout's okay--I think! But he isn't making much sense...and we need to tend to this other problem here. The giant Andrew one!"

"It's not a giant!" Lara shouted. "It's a golem!"

"Oh!" said Ripper in a bemused tone. "Why didn't you just say so?"

* * * * *

Andrew dodged, but he could feel the last of whatever strength the Tree's mead had granted him leaving him rapidly. It was only a matter of time before the giant had him. And if it got a decent grip on him, it would be over.

He slid once more, and his foot slipped as he did. He fell to the ground, and in that instant the giant was upon him, scooping him up in his arms and crushing him to his chest. Andrew felt the air go out of his lungs, and flailed in vain against the Nephilim's grip.

"Goodbye little brother," the giant said, and hugged Andrew even tighter. "One last hug between family."

"Truth," said a voice, and the Nephilim turned, relaxing its grip on Andrew slightly. "What is truth? That's the age old question, isn't it? Or in your case, the week old forehead tattoo."

Ripper stood, a bottle of spray cleaner in one hand. He raised it like a gun, and clicked the nozzle to 'stream'. He sprayed it hard onto the Nephilim's face, peeling back the makeup from it's forehead.

"Stupid mortal," the Nephilim said, shaking the soapy solution from its eyes. "Soap won't take off the magic word." He threw Andrew to the side and advanced towards Ripper.

"No, but this will," called Lara from high up in the tree, where she kicked the espresso machine loose.

The Nephilim looked up just in time for the metal letters "Saeco" to replace the Hebrew word for 'truth' carved into his forehead.

Outside, the snow continued to fall.

7 comments:

Gotthammer said...

Likely the longest Magik Beans post ever. But I'd promised myself I'd be done with this succubus/Nephilim business by Halloween, and...I did it. And it was a bag of fun. I've been wanting to draw in the gaming group in force for a while, but this is the first time it's made any sense to do so. They're going to be the biggest change in the rewrites of the original episodes, but I'm glad for them.

Sadly, while I'm free of the succubus and nephilim, I'm short an episode to smoothly transition to the short guys. So I'll need one more episode before I can get back on track with that. I'll do my best to have it ready for tomorrow, but I really do need to be writing a thesis here.

As always, thanks to the readers. You guys make it worth the effort.

Matthew "Buzz" Littel said...

Hell yeah! Awesome episode. You have me absolutely riveted to the story. I hope one day you will actually produce this in a complete form (book or otherwise). Keep up the great writing! and good luck with the thesis.

the philosopher one said...

Eagles may soar but Weazles don't get stomped by golem.

Phil said...

SHOVEL ACTION + KATANA = Full of WIN!

Carl said...

Bravissimo Mike. I am an avid reader of yours and though I rarely comment I look forward to your posts every week. This one was amazing. A ridiculously amazing combination of vaudevillian slapstick, joan of arc, braveheart and all that is excellent. Truly satisfying.

Gotthammer said...

It really writes itself at times like these. I was sitting there wondering how to get it all tied together, wrap it all up, etc., and it occurred to me that soap was the key to this scene. A greased Weazle is hard to catch. I originally thought Andrew would wipe the letters off with his soap...but it just didn't work somehow. It felt too contrived. Maybe that's how it will come out in the rewrite. But one way or another, that espresso machine is coming out of the tree! That was an 'aha' moment as well. I'd written Ripper shooting the Nephilim with industrial cleaner, and then had Lara bury the shovel in his forehead. But then it literally hit me that the espresso machine was somehow much funnier.

Åka said...

I think the LARP culture you know must be very different from what I have seen. I don't know of any LARP games where they would allow sharp blades. And it would be kind of stupid to attack a demon with a padded stick, oversized or not ;)