Happy Halloween, to whomever discovers this blog! Did you take a wrong turn on the internet, traveler? Were you looking for some innocent fun? Ha! How unfortunate for you; this sloppy first draft that you have discovered is a nightmare chapter of no repose!
COWER! As two hideous monsters battle each other to the death!
TREMBLE! As awkward exposition doesn’t really explain anything!
PEE YOUR PANTS! When I don’t end the chapter on the one cool line uttered!
THEN CLAW OUT YOUR OWN EYEBALLS as everything drags on with pointless dialog!
Oh, is that not enough to scare you? Well listen to this:
I had a cyst surgically removed last week! FROM MY BUTTOCKS! BWA, HA, HA, HA, HA! Pics after the break.
Nah, I was just kidding. It did happen; I just don’t have pictures. I had to turn my phone off during the procedure.
12 – The Little Con Man
“You little freak!” Slaberdashia said. She stared down at Vornis through the jagged hole in her visor, keeping her stained arm held away from her body. “What’s wrong with you? I told you to submit!”
Vornis staggered to the road’s shoulder.
“Hey! Tecker! Your gun! Hit that gas canister she used! On her chest! Shoot it!”
Tecker open his mouth and nodded, stepping away from the van to get a clear shot. He rose the sights level and jerked the hair from his eyes. Slaberdashia crossed her huge arms across her chest, ducking her head.
“I can’t get a bead on it,” Tecker shouted.
“Doesn’t matter; nice work,” Vornis said with a wink. His hand was still at the vein spike at his side, and the many red globs in Slaberdashia’s long arm hairs were twisting and growing: traveling up strands of hair and looping around her large wrists. She saw what was happening and pulled; her fists were locked. Her great muscles flexed and large clumps of hair were torn from her skin. Vein and several of the bones fell down to the street, yet the bulk of it was writhing and sticking together in a solidifying mass on her forearms.
“You beast! You tricked me!” she cried. “Clance! Clance, I need you!” She lifted her arms to hit the button on her helmet yet they did not bend; her elbows were locked.
“Enpo!” she demanded. “Tear them to pieces! Maim! Kill!”
The Enpo in the forest and at the roadside looked between Vornis and Slaberdashia. Some dipped their heads and others pranced in place.
“He can’t save you!” Slaberdashia spat. “I’ll beat every one of you after this!” She lifted her conjoined arms and brought them down upon Vornis. He released the vein spike and dashed out of the way. His foot twisted sideways and he fell as the thump of fists sounded behind him, sending vein splinters across the pavement. Noise from the van’s engine followed; it had started up with Tyle at the wheel. The tires squealed and the headlights blared through the hazy air. With a high whine the van jerked forward. Slaberdashia whirled and caught the van by the grill. She braced her legs and her boots left dark streaks as she was pushed back. She brought the van to a halt and the engine whined on. Tyle stepped off the gas. Vornis reached for his vein spike again.
The vein near Slaberdashia’s wrists liquified and leapt out toward the van’s grill. It snaked at the gaps in the metal and stuck, entwining into the mesh. Slaberdashia planted a foot on the front of the van, tugging. With loud pops the steel was wrenched free bit by bit. She flinched as Cots popped up near her leg. He hopped up and snatched the gas canister from her armor.
“Been reaching for high bottles for years,” he bragged. He flipped the device, aiming the nozzle upward. Slaberdashia dropped her foot and struck him with her knee. Cots backpedaled and fell. The canister rolled from his grip.
Tyle saw it go; he put the vehicle in park and hit the button to open the cab’s sunroof.
“Vornis! Hey! Toss it here!” he shouted. Vornis pushed himself up to see Tyle’s head and crutch emerging from the top of the cab.
“Stay there; I’ll bring it to you!” he said. He lunged at the canister and cradled it in his arms. He staggered, wincing as he bent his knee to leap. With a shout he bounded to the sunroof where Tyle was now perched.
“I’ll grab her! Then you shoot her with it!” Vornis said. He thrust the red canister into Tyle’s arms and whirled to face Slaberdashia. He charged across the hood of the cab with a limp and Slaberdashia roared as he neared. She brought her wide jaws upon him again, clamping down on his shoulder as he twisted his head out of the way. Her large body jerked back and her arms tore free from the grill. Tyle was left standing on the van as she backed away with Vornis in her mouth. Through her visor she spied the canister in Tyle’s hand. It was missing its nozzle and lever: a reddish, glossy glob.
“Fooled you again,” Vornis muttered. He reached for something tucked beneath his heavy scales and brought it out: the canister was there. He jammed it up into Slaberdashia’s visor and the lever was squeezed tight as he wedged it between the glass and her skin. A jet of blue gas shot past her eye; it filled her visor and billowed out the bottom, past her nose and her mouth. She gagged and Vornis fell from her jaws. He thumped to the pavement.
A muffled scream sounded from her as she staggered about; she kept her mouth closed as the blue vapors swirled in a torrent past her face. Her frantic steps thundered on the road as Vornis made an effort to crawl to the van. Slaberdashia lifted her bound arms and slammed her helmet against them; she rocked a swayed, thrashing her head. With a sideways stumble her ankle stubbed into Vornis’ body. He coughed from the deluge of gas that was falling to the road and he felt Slaberdashia’s boot hold him fast to the ground.
He twisted to see her, the whites of his eyes reddening. She was lifting her arms, the limbs wrapped in vein, hair, and bone. Above her head they went, and her fists were clenched.
Vornis felt the weight lessen as she tottered. Her massive arms carried her backward. A trail of vapor arced to the road as her massive body crashed. A tremor shook the ground and she lay still, the blue fog roiling out from her helmet and hugging the flat pavement as it spread. Vornis scrambled ahead of the gas; Tyle was lifting Cots to the hood of the cab with his crutch. Tecker helped lift him from behind before hoisting himself up as well. Vornis reached the van with heavy steps. Behind him Slaberdashia remained motionless. The nozzle hissed off, leaving a plume of smoke gushing out from the crack near her eye.
“We did it!” Tyle said. He tossed the false vein canister away.
“The ol’ switcheroo,” Vornis agreed. He grasped the ruined mesh grill, planted his clawed feet on the bumper, and plopped down on the hood.
“Haven’t done anything like this before,” Cots admitted. Tecker laughed. A tapping of paws sounded near the sunroof; an Enpo had leapt to the top of the cab. Tyle let out a shout and Tecker went for his holster. The Enpo had a brown patch of hair flaring around its right eye.
“There’s no need for that,” it told them with a rasp in its voice. It hacked out a cough and cleared its throat. “Sorry, I haven’t been able to speak for a while.”
“That dog is talking!?” Tyle remarked. He held his crutch tight, rocking on it as he sat on the hood.
“She did to you what she tried to do to me,” Vornis said. The Enpo nodded with its pointed muzzle.
“My name is Chinpo Tobogganous of the Enpo race,” he said. A murmur came from the woods as the Enpo there began speaking amongst themselves. “We were forced to come here; we were enslaved by her.”
He spoke the last word with a snarl, glaring over at Slaberdashia’s body. An Enpo with shorter hair was trotting over to it.
“How do you like choking on your own medicine?” she asked. She kept her head held high above the low-rolling mist. “You gonna do something to stop me now? Huh?” She pushed on Slaberdashia’s thick leg with her paws and bounced to and fro.
A gasp came from the shattered helmet and the female Enpo’s short hair stood up. Slaberdashia’s mouth hung open and a ragged breath hissed out. The eye beneath the visor remained closed.
“Still not dead?” the female Enpo said. “Who wants to help me tear her throat out?”
“Malise, no!” Chinpo barked. “Leave her unconscious!”
“Chin! Did you forget what she did to us?” Malise shot back. “The rest are still held by her! She dies!”
“And are you still robbed of your wit?” Chinpo asked. “We still need to return home, and as long as she’s alive they’ll keep the way back to Arsiling open. Without her we’ll be stranded on this world.”
“And what if she wakes?” Malise proposed.
“I’ll just knock her down again,” Vornis said. “Hi, I’m Vornis.”
“You’re unusual,” Chinpo said. “How did you resist her spell? When it hits us we’re consumed by instinct; reason and intellect are suppressed.”
Vornis eased himself down to lay flat on the hood. He let out a relieved hum as he settled. Tyle made a face as the beast’s scales squeaked against the polish.
“She didn’t do anything to me that hadn’t already been done,” Vornis explained. He gazed up at the hazy sun in the sky. “I was made and programmed to fight. When I was in danger instinct took over. I used to be a con man––did you know that? I know how the mind works; I know how the brain can be fooled. Only I haven’t been the one playing the tricks. No, sir. It’s been inside me, this little con man. Telling me how to act and to think. I nearly killed you, Tyle, because of this little con man. Telling me to act like an animal.”
“It’s kind of like how my reflexive cybernetic limbs were,” Tyle said. “It’s why I didn’t want them back. But you can’t just take parts of your brain out.”
Vornis laughed. “I’d like to say that I just used ‘mind over matter’ or some other trick. But I didn’t beat it on my own. What’s it called? Conditioning? You touch a hot stove enough times you’re not going to do it again. I think that’s what happened with my instincts: every time I went into that trance something horrible happened. Parlay, Zenny, Donzel–all of them died. That’s why I didn’t fall under her spell: my brain didn’t want me to get burned.”
They were silent as the forest chattered with the voices of the Enpo.
“Well,” the one named Chinpo said at last. “I’ve heard from the others. They know what happened here.”
“How did you hear from them?” Tecker asked. “Telepathy?”
Chinpo fixed him with the swirled brown eye. “Hm? No, we have communication devices implanted inside us.”
“I suppose that makes more sense,” Tecker admitted. “That sounds awful, though. I’m so sorry you had to go through that.”
“Don’t you have Enpo on this world?” Chinpo wondered. Vornis, Tyle, and Tecker shook their heads. “Cybernetic implantation is common where we’re from; Enpo bodies are malleable; we accept inorganic substances easily.”
Malise trotted to the van, putting her paws on the hood.
“She used us as her personal luggage!” Malise said. She spread her jaws wide and hacked out a large pistol onto the hood. “Anyone need some weapons? Let’s stop talking and get back to that pyramid.”
Vornis sat up to stare at her. “Pyramid? The floating one? Why?”
“We came through near there,” Malise said.
“We were forced to fight against people from your world,” Chinpo said with a shudder of his head.
Vornis beat the hood. “Just great. You didn’t kill any, did you?”
“We injured many,” Chinpo said. “We were not told to kill.”
“Okay. Good. Let’s get going then, Tyle,” Vornis said.
“You’re kidding,” Tyle gasped. “Didn’t that monster say there were more of them out there!?”
“Her brother is here on your world,” Chinpo told them. “He is smaller–about your size–but he is encased in armor. I couldn’t smell him or see what he looked like.”
“Oh that’s good,” Tyle said. Malise snorted in his direction.
“He may be smaller but I could tell even Slabby was afraid of him,” she laughed. “If you humans want to go home that’s fine. I doubt your bus could keep up with us anyway.”
“What,” Tyle said. He grasped his crutch and stood. “Oh, no, we’re going! I’m showing King that nothing will beat Jesian reliability! Not monsters or dents or dog slobber, even.”
“It will make such a fine commercial,” Vornis groaned. He stood as well, and the hood buckled.
“Let me down,” Cots said. “I need to open the bar soon.”
Chinpo leapt from the roof, offering his back to Cots for descent.
“I will tell the others:” he began, “We will converge on the pyramid. We will help any that have been hurt on the way. We will dethrone the siblings of Arsiling.”
Jelk gave a quick peek through the casino window before ducking his head back below the sill.
“There’s a guy in there,” he said, breathless. “Watching some show on a monitor.”
Darrow patted him on the shoulder. “Nice work. Man, this is so dangerous.”
“Oh, yeah, definitely,” Jelk affirmed.
“Vornis will not believe what we’re doing,” Darrow whispered. “He is going to flip out.”
Tenny and Dark were crouched against the wall. Above, neon lights flashed blue, pink, and green, illuminating everything beneath them with those colors in sequence.
“Why couldn’t we sense that guy in there?” Tenny asked. “He should have magic in him.”
“I guess he doesn’t!” Jelk said. “Or he would have sensed us!”
“Every world is at a different level of technology,” Dark said. “This may be one of the worlds with little knowledge of magic.”
“We should be able to take these guys, easy!” Jelk said. Darrow held up his finger to him.
“I want to try talking first,” he said. “I think these are my kind of people; I’ll just go around to that guy we saw at the door and ask if they’ve seen Mean or not.”
“You just want to watch shows with them,” Jelk groused.
“It’s worth a shot,” Dark said. “Don’t go inside though, Darrow–just talk near the door so we can help you if something goes wrong.”
Inside Bouncer Steve sat on a stool, playing a video game set in a cabinet. Darrow came to the revolving glass door leading outside. He rapped on the door with his knuckle; Steve spun around.
He slapped his chest, shook his head, and eased off the seat. Darrow smiled back at him as he pressed a code into a lock and pushed through the revolving door.
“You scared me!” Steve said.
“Sorry,” Darrow replied. Steve waved it off.
“We just don’t get many at the door,” he said. “I’m Bouncer Steve.”
“I’m Darrow,” Darrow said. Steve sniffed and nodded.
“Well we’ve got some rules before you come in,” he began.
“Oh I don’t want to come in,” Darrow said. “I’m just looking for a friend. Have you seen a short girl around here? Oh, she can fly, too.”
Steve’s droopy eyes widened as he flinched. “Haven’t seen anyone like that. There was a guy that could swim in mid-air, though. Are you with him? He was asking about a girl like that too.”
Darrow looked past the revolving door, studying the inside of the building. “Is he in there?”
“He got out through the window,” Steve lamented. “I can’t imagine why he’d want to leave, though. We’ve got everything–games, food, movies. I worked my whole life for Clance just so I could retire here.”
“Whoa, really?” Darrow asked. “So I really could stay here if I wanted?”
Steve gave his belt buckle a tug. “You’d have to follow the rules. Do you know magic?”
“Oh, yeah, I’ve been practicing,” Darrow said.
“Well you have to use it all up,” Steve instructed. “You can’t let it build up in your mind or else.”
“Or else what?” Darrow asked.
“The power goes out,” Steve said. “Then we can’t play our games.”
Darrow gasped. “Oh man, I’ll have to think about this,” he said. “Let me go walk around for a while. I’ll get back to you on the whole ‘staying here’ thing.”
Steve cracked his large knuckles. “Alright. Just don’t go on any of the rides without Clance’s permission.”
Darrow waved as he walked down the length of the casino. He rounded the corner where Dark, Tenny, and Jelk waited.
“Who was it?” Dark asked.
“Bouncer Steve,” Darrow told them. “Nice guy. He didn’t see Mean, but I think Mackaba was here. He escaped, though.”
Dark sighed through his teeth. “This is getting us nowhere.”
“Maybe we should keep one person at each building,” Tenny suggested. “It would increase our chances of finding her, and we could all meet back up later.”
“Split up!?” Jelk said. “Now that really is getting dangerous!”
“It might be our best bet,” Dark admitted. He checked the horizon behind him. “And I don’t know how much time we have.”
“I volunteer to stay here,” Darrow said, flattening out his shirt. “They said you have to keep your mind free of magic if you go in and I need to practice.”
Jelk tugged at the tuft of hair on his chin. “So they’re forced to do it? I guess it’s to keep them from fighting back?”
“Who knows,” Darrow said. “It doesn’t seem like a bad place anyway; I mean, the guy was able to walk outside when he talked to me.”
“If you’re sure about it, Darrow,” Dark said. “Just be careful.”
“Yeah, man,” Jelk chipped in. “And take it from me–I’ve played every kind of villain there is–sometimes the worst ones are the best at hiding their evil intentions.”
“Like Pinada,” Darrow stated.
“Uh, yeah,” Jelk said with a slow nod. “Forgot you were there for that. Carry on, my good man! Carry on.”
Super-quick First Draft Notes:
Vornis vs. Slaberdashia –
I changed the end of this fight about a month before writing it down. Here’s how it was going to happen: Vornis would have trouble at first. There would be a brief skirmish where he gets slapped around. THEN he would get hit by Slaberdashia’s ability, causing him to go into “instinct mode.” After a moment of brief silence Vornis would leap forward in a RAGE and kill her in one mighty stroke. It would be like “Oh, you wanted to awaken the beast? Here you go!”
Now that could have been amazing, but I’ve seen it done before. Spoilers for One Piece! Episode 290/Chapter 407 “Monster.”
The scene is Chopper vs. Kumatori. Chopper is half reindeer and half human, but he is no match for Kumatori, the super-powered kabuki assassin. His only hope of winning is to use three “rumble balls,” a drug which brings out the monster within him. He is uncontrollable in this state, but he gains incredible power. Just look:
Amazing, right? Poor Kumatori can only soil his government-regulation suit in fright as he gets pounded into the ground. It’s a cool finish to the fight, and I didn’t want to steal it.
So I came up with a new idea: Vornis used to be a con man, right? What if he went up against a foe that his brute strength couldn’t match? What if he had to rely on those old-school tricks to come out on top? Not only would it make the fight more interesting but it would provide insights into his character! Zounds, it’s a Halloween miracle!
Two difficulties with this:
1 – I had to think of a way for Vornis to resist Slaberdashia’s ability. As you can see I was able to come up with two B.S. excuses in the first draft. Which works better? That Vornis has been attempting to resist a “little con man” in his brain for the past year? Or the whole “conditioning” thing? I’m leaning toward the conditioning method. Sounds more plausible. And with all that he’s lost it would be nice if his miserable fortune worked in his favor to make him stronger.
2 – I’m not a con man! How in the world am I supposed to know how to trick people? I am super honest! Sure, I write fictional books that are all lies. And I lied about scaring you with pictures from my cyst removal. But other than that–!
Don’t worry, though; my brother Corey has been taping Fool Us on TV. The show stars two magicians named Penn and Teller. They have other magicians perform illusions on a stage while they attempt to figure out the trick to the act. While watching the show I’ve learned that most of these cons boil down to simple misdirections. Either a simple lie will be told or two objects that look similar will be swapped with each other.
So that’s what I had Vornis do. He uses basic trickery to win the battle. Well, he ALSO uses his control over vein. Yeah, just like Parlay. I probably won’t go any further than that, though; I want Parlay to be unique. I won’t have Vornis regenerating himself or healing/crippling people with a touch. I promise.
The Enpo can talk –
What a shock, huh? Slaberdashia’s ability wouldn’t make sense unless the beings she was using it on were sentient in the first place. But you’re supposed to be all like “Oh, they’re just trained wolves.” I guess I do try to trick the reader often, ha,ha.
One of the Enpo introduces himself as Chinpo Tobaugganus, which is the name of my friend Matt’s dog. He’s been getting old and sickly so I thought I would surprise Matt by honoring his memory in the story like this. The little scamp has lived longer than I expected though. So, uh, good job, Toby!
I also like what Chinpo says at the end of the section: where he calls Slaberdashia and the rest “the siblings of Arsiling.” I was wondering if the antagonists should have some group name and I think this sounds about right. The phrase even has dual “si” and “ing” sounds; very nice! Good job to you too, fictional Chinpo!
Darrow infiltrates Clance’s casino –
These clowns really aren’t getting anywhere fast are they? How are Dark and the rest even going to meet back up? Backtrack to every building again? Yeesh, like I need to spend even MORE time on these goofs.
And they have no way to communicate with each other once they’re separated! I guess I’ll have to make something up; they’ll have to steal walkie-talkies from Clance or something stupid like that. “Oh! Look what I just noticed in the backpack! We must have picked them up before our memories were erased!”
Ah, Clance, you may be a jerk but you are a beautiful plot device! 😉