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"Hell is empty and all the devils are here." - Shakespeare
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I was, as usual, wrong. I started my search in the Forest of Unlikely Spider Bites (seriously who and why?) and I ended up wandering around the forest and finding nothing. What could I do?
Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. The forest was improperly named too, or at least I had already been bitten by something several times. Which might not sound like a lot but I'd like to believe I live a fairly spider bite free lifestyle.
I sighed. I had no idea where to even start looking.
My arms brushed my belt as I walked, touching the cards.
Maybe they were worth a shot. It's not like they could make him less informed. Plus with Attar they had cleared thing up immediately.
I drew four times, like I had with Attar in the memoratorium.
He drew four times as he had with Attar and examined each of them. One had six swords and a man on a boat. Another had a single sword piercing a crown. The next held a single stick in the clouds, the last had three woman dancing around three cups. He had no idea what that meant. But…
He pulled out his phone and started to google.
"Swords...Regretful but necessary transition… victory… friendship and comradery?"
I didn't know what that meant. It had been so clear with Attar.
"Okay, yeah. I'm in a necessary transition." He held out one finger. "I want victory? I'm achieving my goals? Skip…" but the last one. "Friendship? A new beginning?"
These were vague. Unhelpful even. Did I have any friends I could call for help. Anyone on Earth was out except maybe Janna and that was a can of worms for the desperate. Did I know anyone from Mewni? The royal family was a pretty good thing to have in my pocket but they were also my boss.
And I'd been told by my boss to stay away from my friend. But I was still sort of on ambiguously good terms with then.
Poney Head? Okay that was out. Who else did I know?
"Buff Frog." I said aloud. I pulled my scissors out and left the unfortunately named forest. The portal opened up to a mud hut with a drawbridge. I walked up and knocked on it three crisp times.
The whole place smelled out swamp. Heavy methane and plant rot. It was probably a good place to raise a… what was the name for a group of frogs?
"'Ello?" He heard from inside. "Who is dat?"
"Buff Frog?" He called as the door opened.
"Karate Boy?" Buff Frog looked surprised. "You have badge?" I looked down at the glowing purple crystal.
"I do, yeah. The Queen offered me a job after… you know…" I rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly.
"Toffee. And you turn into warrior." Buff Frog pointed at him.
"Yeah that." Marco pushed on. "I could use a favor Buff Frog."
"Of course Karate Boy! Come in?" Buff Frog swing the door open and I stepped inside. "You took care of my tadpoles and you asked for nothing in return."
The whole house was flooded and filled with mud and mold. It was probably a frog thing.
I took a seat in one of the chairs.
"I'm looking for a Septarian," I began. "The name is Amethero. He raised a cult army. They started worshipping Toffee or something to that effect."
I read the file earlier but I'd never had a formal education in Mewnish. Just what I picked up in Hekapoo's dimension.
"I 'ave 'eard of him. Septarian is bad news. Except perhaps not for Karate Boy."
Except not for me. Maybe. Who knows what I could do. I certainly didn't.
"Yeah. I don't suppose you know where he is? I'm not native to Mewni, you know? I could use some information."
Buff Frog considered that. "I am familiar with, how do you say, espionage?"
"I don't really need you to spy on anyone," I told him. I tried to imagine Buff Frog being a spy. It was hard but it could be useful in the future. "I just need you to point me in the right direction."
"Boo Fly said lizards were pulling together in old monster temple, yeah? Rebuilding place after big fight."
"A fight with Toffee?" I asked.
"Maybe, don't know." Buff Frog shrugged.
"Thanks Buff Frog," I said standing up from Buff Frog's slug ridden seat. "You're a lifesaver."
"Buff Frog already owes Karate Boy." Buff Frog waved him off.
I opened my map, imagining a location as close to the marked monster temple. He would have to hike the rest of the way to it. He sliced open a portal.
I had to plan. This was more familiar. Against Hekapoo I had known who is target was and had made plans to catch her.
This was no different.
What was different was that the badge he wore was apparently recognizable. What sort of reputation did agents for the commission like me have?
I worked for a group of ageless, - well, mostly ageless - powerful, arcane beings who resides in a hidden and magically protected dimension frequented only by mystics.
People like me hunted warlocks and witches and immortal lizard demigods. Would people be glad to see him if he came to help? Or terrified?
I shook the thoughts away.
It took some time to reach the castle but eventually I was able to make it out in the distance. It was crumbling and had a gash down it's center. The roof had caved in and several pillars had been toppled.
I could see monsters walking around but I couldn't see Amethero. My eyes seemed better than they used to. Was Amethero hiding? Out doing something? Or was I just missing him?
It didn't matter. I sat in the dirt. If I was a cop, then this was a stakeout.
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So stakeouts were pretty boring and it forced me to be alone with his thoughts, which was something I had been trying to avoid.
When was the next time I would see his parents? Or Star? Could I ever get my soul back? What was I now? Was I even human? Was I even alive? I technically didn't have a soul. Could you be alive and soulless? What even were my powers? What even was a soul?
I sacrificed my soul, for a situation which could have probably solved itself what with Star turning into a butterfly. What had I gotten out of selling my soul? Just a bunch of questions. Star didn't come back to Earth and even if she had, well, I wasn't there, was I?
Now he was trapped in a suicidal job or he would have to be frozen like Han Solo and would spend eternity trapped.
This… sort of sucked?
I had my life, at least, and I had enjoyed adventuring and sword fighting against Hekapoo, in fact, I enjoyed it so much I almost stayed there. When he could show the Queen that I had my powers under control I could quit and find out about my soul. Unless I died before then. The contract stated that my soul would go to Attar in that event.
Which I imagined would suck.
I looked at the back of my hand where some black had bubbled to the surface like a deep bruise and then sunk back towards his bones. How did I explain that? Where did the plates and flesh go when I wasn't using them? I didn't, and that seemed to sort of lean towards the 'its magic, don't worry about it' explanation. But I hadn't set off the magical detector with it, so where did that leave me?
Well it left me above a castle on top of a cliff waiting for a purple immortal nearly alone for all the world. Would my power activate when I needed it against the Amethero? I thought about fighting, imagined myself swinging the sword and my heart sped up as adrenaline flooded into my system. Black rose the surface of his skin quickly and the black tattoos which ran down my arms to my hands turned purple and began to glow slightly.
I breathed and calmed back down. The problem was that I just didn't know enough about magic. I needed to find a book about it, or perhaps see what was in the Bureaucracy of Magic but this test had revealed something interesting. My power was instinctual, at least to a degree. It made me stronger and faster. It made it so I could see further and heal faster. I might even be thinking faster than I otherwise would but that was unclear. It was also unclear whether the condition would progress when I transformed. Jackie had said he was taller so there seemed to be something which had changed the rest of the time, but did I have other powers the rest of the time?
I needed to test that. I grabbed my sword and held the edge to the outside of my left forearm so even if I cut too deeply on accident I wouldn't cause nerve damage or cut an artery. Black spots spread across my visible skin as my heart rate increased, anticipating the pain.
I breathed to calm myself down and pushed the blade forward and down. I left I deep cut on my forearm. I watched blood run from the cut but I wiped it away in order to see what was happening.
I felt almost nothing from it, there was an awareness, sure, but compared to what happened to me on the Mewnian shore, this was nothing. I eyed the cut closer. Dark spinnerets were connecting the meat back together and pulling the flesh back into place. My body almost seemed liquid.
It wasn't the instantaneous healing I had against Toffee but it was still damn fast to watch. My healing was there and the black flesh seemed to be always with me, lurking beneath my skin. The tattoos hadn't gone away either. Was that related somehow?
I looked out and still didn't seem Amethero. I turned back and eyed my tarot cards. They seemed to be magical. They helped him learn something twice now. Of course I had been the one to do all the work but they had pointed me in the right direction. I could just be projecting, like a horoscope but it was like Attar had said, they helped. That was a certain kind of magic. Even if it didn't tear down buildings or melt lizards.
"How do I beat Amethero?" I asked myself.
I could try that idea I had with fire. I took one last look at the temple and stepped through to Earth. With six hundred and fifty dollars in my pocket I bought a jerry can and filled it with gas at a station. Then I stepped back through to Mewni and the castle.
I would cut Amethero into pieces and set them on fire. There was no way he could grow back from ash. I sold my soul and I was sure even I couldn't heal from that.
My preparations ready, I watched the monsters well into the night, swatting bugs and watching monsters move in and out. A dog like bull and a giraffe man seemed familiar, others wouldn't but I had a pretty good idea of what I was up against.
I could feel the black tugging against my insides as my adernaline kicked in. I walked up to the castle.
"Are you lost little boy?" A monster was wearing tattered armor and carrying a battle axe. The creature was pig like and built like a barrel. It had two long horns sticking out of its head like an ox's.
It stood next to a purple colored monster which had long limbs and four eyes stacked on a disproportionately small and circular face. This one carried a halberd and squinted its beady eyes at me while giving a smirk.
Guards. Guards implied organization.
I heard as much as felt a vibration in my chest. My tattoos glowed and grey plates were rising. I tempered it. "I'm here on Magic High Commission business," I informed them in my most commanding and official sounding voice. "Where's Amethero?"
"Where's Amethero, he says." Pig laughed. Purple gave a low chuckle. "Looking to die? Amethero is unstoppable."
Rip his head off.
I ignored the thought.
"Commission? You?" Purple leaned closer. I felt plates close around him and black crawl up his face as I grew taller still.
Pig tapped Purple on the shoulder and pointed down at my chest where the badge shone.
"Neat crystal." Purple squealed slightly. "Where'd you ste-"
I grabbed him by his long throat and pulled his head down to meet mine. I meant to be gentle but firm but the body just snapped and I broke Purple's neck. Pig reared back in fear swung his axe in panic it cut through my chest in a diagonal slash through black flesh that closed, not as quickly as if I was at full, but alarmingly fast. I fell from the blow but stood up and drew my sword. I slashed as I closed the gap between them. I turned getting up, swinging my sword, and charging into a supernaturally smooth motion and the sharp blade across the wood of the battle axe and shattered it. It left a gash across Pigs chest.
Pig fell with a short cry. I felt plate click into place around his legs.
"Ahhh." Pig gave a cry.
"Shut up." I growled.
"I-I-I don't want to die Mr. Bureaucrat, sir." Pig whined out. "I-I was trying to warn hi-im."
"Where's Amethero?" I snarled. I leveled my sword. "Where is he?"
I could hear voices from inside likely responding to Pig's howls of pain. The grey armor was folding into place on Marco's arms and black crawled up his neck. Purple lines raced across my body.
"H-h-h-he's inside." Pig choked out. "T-th-the throne room."
That was probably as good as I was going to get. I punched pig in the face and charged up the steps into the throne room. Marco charged up the steps. Throne room. Where would the throne room be in a collapsed temple.
I crossed a dozen steps in three superhuman strides dashing like I was on the wind. My tattoos glowed as I did. It was as though lightning struck my spine. I crossed a dozen steps in three superhuman strides.
A group of monsters stepped out to face me. They weren't all armed.
"You. Stop." A green Septarian said pointing. I went through him, cutting through his chest diagonally and stepping forward. The giraffe monster tried to grab me but I stepped clear out of the way. One of them brought a sword down on my and it slashed into my shoulder. A tentacle wrapped around my waist and held me still for only so long before he brought his left hand down and tore. Blood splattered over me.
I turned around rather than charge further into the temple. I struck out and punched the part dog and part bull. The blow rocked him on his feet. The Bulldog slouched over. He doubled over and I delivered an uppercut to his head that actually lifted him up.
I kicked out towards it's leg, as I had been taught by my sensei and delivered a blow with my shin to the side of it's knee. It broke, snapping under my strength. A spear struck my armor from above. There, three monsters stood, one nursing a ripped tentacle.
"Tell me where Amethero is?" My voice was so strange. "Or I cut his head off."
They leveled a crossbow at me and fired. The dart pierced my abdomen. I reached down and ripped it out. Then I took my sword in both hands and swung. The blow was caught on a buckler. The green Septarian was back on his feet. He seemed to have komodo features. A narrow head and a flicking tongue. He had two horns and no hair, like Amethero.
The Septarian hit me with it's spear, driving it into my stomach and pushing me towards the edge of a cliff. I brought my arms down unto it and it snapped. The Septarian snarled and lashed out with it's buckler. The side of the shield rung my head like a bell.
I fell to one knee and another crossbow bolt launched at me but was caught on my armor. I rolled out of the way of an arrow and sung back to my feet.
"Have it your way." I snarled. I swung my sword through the Septarian's stomach and grabbed him tackling him back towards the temple entrance. I mounted him and punched him over and over and over. Blood came away and when he stopped moving I finally stood up. An arrow pierced my arm between the plates but I ignored it. I grabbed my sword beside us and stabbed downward into the Septarian's chest and down into the stone.
I looked up and the three monsters dropped their weapons. Eyes wide in terror.
A winged bat dive bombed me and I hit it out of the air. Something slammed me off my feet when I attempted to ascend the steps but something slammed me off my feet. I dug my hand into the stairs to keep from rolling off. I stood crouched and ready. A part gorilla part baboon roared in my face. It swung a meaty fist and hit my in the chest knocking back towards the septarian who was moving around but couldn't get the sword free.
The blow was so powerful that I felt it through the plate on my chest. It crushed and left me gagging. I healed quickly and pulled the arrow free from my body.
Something cat like was waiting for me and slashed with six inch long claws, flanking me one the side. I caught it's hands with my one and crushed it's bones. I head butted it so hard I heard it's nose break. I reached around over it's neck and leaned back as far as I could until I felt something snap and I dropped it.
The Gorilla was on top of me now and it's fist seemed slow, especially to someone like me who had trained. I slipped the punch and hit him once in the face and three quick times to the gut. It swung back in a large hook that I ducked under and hit him with one of my own as I stepped under and past it. I jumped, spinning and kicking my leg out, pushing off the wall and delivering a massive punch to its face when it turned towards me. It reeled and stumbled before falling off the edge, it's arms cartwheeling until it finally tipped over.
"What's going on here!" A gravelly voice bellowed. I looked up.
I said nothing and rolled back towards my sword. I pulled it free of the green lizards chest and sliced across it's face as I did to keep it down. I jumped up the stairs, finally making it up the steps. Amethero caught the sword on a hook like weapon and tried to push me back.
I matched his strength and for a moment we were evenly matched, pushing and sizing one another up. Amethero leaned forward with massive jaws which nearly closed around my head but I swept backwards disengaging and twisting out of the way when Amethero swung his sword.
Amethero noticed the gem on my chest. "The Commission sent you after me? You think I will go quietly you are sorely mistaken, for the Monster Kingdom, for Prince Toffee."
"Toffee is already dead."
"You lie," He swung his sword and I parried it, I twisted my sword up and over his and dug it into his chest. Amethero didn't so much as grunt as he recovered and swung his sword at me enraged. It was a predictable attack and I pushed it accordingly. I stepped back again, my reach greater than his, and held my sword out. The force of both our blows met with my sword hitting his hand above the wrist. Amethero stumbled back now weaponless and fell to a knee, his arm was already growing back.
It wasn't as fast as my regeneration, nor Toffees and I lunged forwards slicing up into him. I aborted the attack when something leapt towards me. I caught the open mouth of a giant rat which had a disproportionate face and mouth large enough to swallow me whole.
I broke it's teeth and lower jaw. It scrambled back squealing and I cut through it. I moved back towards Amethero and cut him down again. I sliced over and over until something with a zygodactyl claw grabbed me and tried to pull me off. I grabbed the bird like thing and crushed it's hollow bones.
I stabbed straight through it.
Amethero was getting up. The green Septarian tried to sneak up on me but I slashed him down. He was weaponless apart from his claws and couldn't stand up to me. I slashed again and again until it wasn't getting up.
I looked back towards Amethero. He was gone, running away. A flash of something silver and a portal opened. He stepped through it and the portal closed.
I snarled in rage. After all that, he escaped. I turned back to the green Septarian. His eyes were wide in fear. I raised my sword, seeing red.
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