Only the Strong Survive

Rick’s net was heavy today and he grunted with the effort of retrieving it from the murky water. He smiled to see the crawfish filling his net to the very top. For once, he felt a sense of pride at having done something for his family.  We’ll have a good meal tonight. 

A chill wind blew across the water and Rick shivered as icy drops splashed onto his face. The net fell to the ground at his feet. He couldn’t wait to show Alley, she’d always loved crawfish.  Of course, that was before she’d contracted the virus. These days she didn’t feel like eating much. Perhaps I can tempt her with a Low Country Boil?

Rick picked up his haul and slung it over his shoulder and came face to face with the business end of a revolver.

His immediate thought was to call for help. “Don’t try anything,” a gravelly voice warned him.

Age spotted hands clutched the gun pointed at Rick’s face. The man was at least 10 years his senior. He had one good eye, the other was a scarred milky ruin. It was hard to stare directly at the man. “Give me the bag,” he gestured with the gun.

“What?”

“You heard me, asshole. Hand over those crawfish.”

“Please sir, my wife has the virus and my son is nearly starving. “

The old man shook his head. There was no sympathy to be had in him, that much was clear. “Not interested in your sob story.”

Rick’s alarm gave way to anger at the strangers’ comment. Frustration had been building in him at his inability to feed his family and help his wife. He couldn’t take it anymore. He didn’t know if the man would shoot but the bag he held represented days of effort and he wasn’t giving it up for anything.

“You’ll have to kill me.” He clenched his jaw preparing for the impact he was sure would happen next. He’d never been shot before.

The stranger shot his revolver into the open sky and birds scattered as the sound reverberated off trees.

The sound would have startled the old Rick, the Rick of two year ago. Prior to the famine he’d only heard gunfire on television, now it was an everyday occurrence.

“That was a warning.”  “You won’t get another,” the stranger promised.

Rick threw the entire net of writhing crustaceans at his would be robber. It caught the man off guard and he instinctively reached out to catch it accidentally releasing his firearm. Rick grabbed the stranger’s gun in an instant and pointed at the man’s head.

“Fuck you!” he screamed at Rick and turned his back to run with his prize in hand.

Rick fired off a shot without thinking and the man’s knee cap exploded. He screamed and fell to the ground still trying to hold onto the crawfish sack.

Rick stood over this attacker feeling several things at once, but none of them was guilt. The decision was made as soon as this person had decided to threaten his family. He fired off two more shots into the stranger’s skull and the screaming stopped. At least his death had been quick, instead of the slow gnawing ache in his stomach that had been slowly killing him. It had driven him to desperate lengths and Rick had to admit to himself that had the situation been reversed he might have done the same. Life was not easy on the marsh, but at least it was possible.

A handful of crawfish had come free of the bag and scattered on the dirt. Rick dusted them off and added them back to his sack. He left the bag unattended for a few moments as he drug what was left of the starving man to the edge of the swamp. A pair of eyes broke the waters surface observing Rick’s progress. Gators weren’t bothered by gunfire either.  With one booted heel Rick kicked the corpse into the water and didn’t look back.

He took off in the direction of home and his waiting family. A splash behind him let Rick know that he wasn’t the only one who would be eating well that night.

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Post 4 – Kid Soup

My side piece, a fun SciFi escape!

The Trouble with Mars

Jessie and Michael have burst out of the Institute through a broken window, escaping from… well, they don’t know what they escaped from. But their troubles aren’t over – they are trapped in the Institute’s Tack Webb, which surrounds the building. You can read the previous post here

“They’ll be down here soon.” She looked above us at people in uniform standing in the broken window. MILLITS – what were they doing here? Were they the cause of all that screaming? Of the metal door buckling in on itself?

Kilgore must have run into them, but I didn’t see him now. Captured most likely. Too valuable to kill.

Jessie used a voice I had only heard come out of her in moments of high emotion. I couldn’t begin to explain it scientifically, but it had an implacable quality to it, one I couldn’t hear so much as I could…

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The Final Count

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“How many this week?”

Secretary Slatin licked her lips. She didn’t want to be the one to deliver the disastrous news to the president.

“The final count for the day is not in yet, Mr. President.” Her last word was punctuated with a wet cough. She pulled a napkin form her purse and held it to her mouth. No one in the room made a sound as she struggled to control herself.

President Allison had nothing but hard decisions lately. “Natalie, how long have you had that cough?”

She opened her mouth to answer and was overtaken by another fit. She bowed her head and her slender body shook with the violence of the cough as it tried in vain to rid itself of the infection inside her. When she removed her hand from her face there was a spot of blood on the sleeve of her cream colored suit jacket.

“Secretary Natalie Slatin, as President of what remains of these United States, I hereby relieve you of duty. Please go home and get some rest.” He looked at her, “God be with you,” he said then gestured to his security detail.

Without a word two secret service agents took hold of former Secretary Slatin and lifted her gently from her chair.

“Please, you cant!” She protested but even that sounded lethargic. Her sweat covered brow and the dull look in her normally bright green eyes gave away the truth of her condition.

The President seemed visibly shaken by the loss of Secretary Slatin.

No one else in the room said a word, this was President Alliston’s fourth dismissal in a weeks time. The Gender flu didn’t care if its victims were presidential cabinet staff, housewives or even little girls. The disease was always fatal. It was creating chaos in the general population as it burned it’s way through entire families.

All eyes avoided meeting President Allisont’s gaze. Secretary of State Natalie Slatin was a close personal friend of his since college. She had been the last female staff member left. “Such a shame, I really thought she wouldn’t catch it.”

He allowed himself one sigh of regret, one moment of weakness before pounding his fist on his desk. “Can someone get the damn CDC on the line?”

 

Druid & Thief Conquer the World (7)

On the last installment Pik and Selinde were reunited with their perpetually nude, hammer wielding dwarf friend, Redorra. Redorra had tried to smash them with her war hammer and Selinde threatened to banish her to the non-existent rhealm of fairie!

 

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Pikachu knew Selinde had no such power, and he was almost sure there was no such thing as a fairie dimension. He would have laughed but half wolves don’t have the vocal cords for it.

“Oops. I almost forgot. Pik, you can probably change back into your regular shape now.”

Redorra laughed at Pikachu when he simply stared at Selinde.“What’s wrong pointy ears? Don’t want us to see you in your skin?” Redorra howled at her insult. She was too drunk to realize she had landed in her own vomit and remained sitting in it’s puddle.

“What smells so bad around here?”

“That would be you,” Pikachu growled.  He transformed back into his regular half-elven shape. He looked around and noticed that it was suddenly dark outside the tavern windows.

“Selinde, wasn’t it mid morning when we got here?”

“You’re right. Something has darkened the sky. Either that or we’ve somehow stepped into a time warp.”

“Time warp?”

“That would explain why the others don’t seem to be moving at all. If we were caught in a time spell we might be moving at accelerated rate.”

“So it’s not that they aren’t moving, just that they’re moving too slow for us to see? How interesting.” He began to walk around the room examining each motionless person. “I wonder what it looks like to them.”

“Nice bottom,” Selinde commented.

“Thanks, I mean WHAT?!”

“That’s what it looks like to me, nice.”

“Are you feeling okay, Selinde?”

“It’s possible that this temporal imbalance is affecting me somehow.” She put two fingertips to her temples. “I do feel a bit dizzy.”

Ever the gentleman Pikachu walked over to pull a chair out for her to sit down. “Thank you, Pikachu, but I think I can manage.”

“You guys bore me,” Redorra announced. She walked to a table with a view of the night sky. “Say, is that a full moon?” The change in her voice was the first sign of trouble.

Red grew to three times her normal size, sprouting a course brown fur coat. Her mouth extended into a muzzle with a thick black tongue and rows of sharp bear teeth.

Pik drew out his groan. “Seriously, Red? You forgot how to control yourself?”

An ear splitting roar was the only reply he got. Red turned full were bear and stood on her powerful hind legs with her giant head nearly touching the ceiling and claws poised for slashing.

She launched her huge form at Pik, claws reaching for the flesh of his lovely half-elven face. Large vines erupted from the ground, splintering floorboards as they rapidly snaked up Red’s limbs, entangling her and pulling her toward the floor.

“Do something, Pik! I can’t hold her forever.” Selinde cried, already sweating from the effort of holding the spell.

Pikachu transformed back into his wolf hybrid form just as Red ripped through Selinde’s vines.

The two slammed into each other. Pik could only put up so much resistance to Red’s immense strength. Her gnashing teeth were coming way too close to his throat. Pik thought he could reach his knife, but he wasn’t in the mood to kill another former ally.

Just as he was sure he was at death’s door, an invisible force knocked Red off him.

“Don’t be killing yourselves, now,” said a cold, female voice. “You three each have something I need. And I need it while you’re alive.”

Druid & Thief Conquer the World is the fictional version of what life would totally be like if Mary Beecroft and Julie Bruce were magical beings living in the middle ages.

Mail Order

Her name was Leah, but that wasn’t the name she’d been born with. The documents she’d been given had the American name attached to her picture. They’d made promises about what her life would be in America. Freedom from a dictatorship that starved it’s people, was an attractive offer and one she couldn’t refuse. The group of foreign men came to her village, spoke her language and offered to escort her away from her misery. It had been a beautify story, but not entirely true.

After her boat reached American shores, Leah’s existence  had shrank. She was told they arrived in some place called Savannah, but she couldn’t see anything of the city from her room with it’s boarded windows. She was kept downstairs in a cramped unfurnished bedroom with a single lamp and small floor cot. There was a bedside table but no other furniture provided. She’d been given books and among them was a Korean to English translator. She’d filled her lonely hours with study hoping to one day have a conversation with her new mate and convince him to let her out of this room.

Leah was currently lying on her cot in the single sweat soaked dress she owned counting the minutes until her next meal. It was the only time she saw him. When the handle turned in the door Leah sat up straight and mentally prepared herself for the task ahead.

Her mate came down the stairs with a covered tray for her mid day meal. He was a white man, tall and tanned by the sun. Judging by the streaks in his dark brown hair Leah guessed he was at least 10 years older than her.  He sat the tray down on the bedside table and made a short bow, not meeting her eyes. He said nothing, as always, and turned to leave.

Leah reached out and grasped his hand. She knew it was a bold move. “Stay,” she said in English.  “Sit with me.”

His smile completely changed the shape of his face, it made him appear younger.  I have made him happy, good.  This is a start.

He took a seat on the cot next to her. His large hand engulfed her own until it almost disappeared. “Ethan,” he said pointing to his own chest. “Nice to meet you.”

 

Druid & Thief Conquer the World (6)

Tavern

Artist conjuring by the fantastic Thaddeus Trueb!

Before partaking of this post, you might want to dine on posts 1-5 of Druid & Thief Conquer the World!

 

 

The next morning, they walked to the town of Moldy Bottoms. They found a busy market there. Selinde stopped to buy some ancient spells. Pikachu kept walking in search of something to steal. Wasn’t going to be easy in his wolf hybrid form, as people usually ran away screaming. On this day, however, he came across a group of people just standing around as if entranced.

“Don’t mind if i do,” said Pik, helping himself to the contents of their pockets.

Then it struck him that they actually were all entranced. All of them.

He turned around, feeling very uncomfortable.

Selinde was running toward him. “Just like in the spellshop,” she said. “What’s wrong with this town?” She waved a hand in front of the nearest villagers face. The man stared off into the distance and never blinked. She did a quick detect magic on the villager but the result didn’t make any sense. “Lets focus on one problem at a time. I think I saw an inn around the corner.

Pikachu and Selinde entered “The Maiden’s Head” and helped themselves to drinks from the bar while the patrons remained motionless in their seats and stared off into space. “Maybe they had too many of those spotted mushrooms?” he suggested.

“I have a feeling there’s something much more sinister going on. Here, let me see that arm.” Selinde began to mix up a poltice from the ingredients she’d purchased while Pikachu surveyed the room for the person with the richest looking clothes.

“Bugger all! There’s no damn lords or ladies in this midden heap.”

Selinde laughed. “What did you expect, the town is called Moldy Bottoms!”

“I swing my hammmeeeerrrr and smash yer head down! Yo ho, my hammer is miiighty. I pound your face right into the ground, Yo ho my hammer is strong!”

“Who the hell is that?” Pikachu looked to the direction of the sound.

“From the sound of that voice and those terrible lyrics it’s safe to say it isn’t the town Bard.”

“But it means there’s at least one person in town not frozen.”

An ale mug fell out of the sky and smashed on the table in front of them. The pair looked up to see a dwarf draped across the light fixture. It was naked, drunk and seconds from dropping it’s large hammer directly on top of their heads.

Selinde threw up her hand and froze the bleary eyed dwarf with a hold person spell.

The dwarf struggled against it, muttering the foulest of racial slurs.

Pik leaned back in his chair and propped his muddy boots on the table. “Reddora, what the bloody hell have you done to these people? Not that I’m complaining. Makes them all sorts of ways more compliant….”

“Wasn’t me, you ugly elf fiend! If you don’t let me go i’ll i’ll-” the dwarfs face screwed up, turning green. Pik took his feet off the table just in time to miss a spew of chunky vomit.

“Sick!” Selinde squealed in surprise and lost her concentration sending the suspended dwarf plummeting toward the ground.

Redorra, was wearing her helmet, but as usual, nothing else. “You scum-suckers!” She hopped to her feet, hammer in hand, took a mighty swing and instantly lost her footing falling backwards on her hairy ass. “Oof.”

“If you try the hammer again, I’ll open a portal to the fairie dimension and shove you right inside their mound!

“Wh-what’s that?” Redorra asked.

“It’s a world like ours except only fairies exist there. So there would be only fairies and YOU!”

“Nooooooooo!” Redorra protested and slammed her meaty fists onto the floor while simulatenously kicking her legs like a child. “I’ll be good.”

Druid & Thief Conquer the World is a foray into the imaginations of Mary Beecroft and Julie Bruce.

Druid & Thief Conquer the World? (5)

Please read previous sections of Druid & Thief 1-4 or this nonsensical adventure shall REALLY confuse thee!

 

“Ah bollocks,” said Pikachu, before transforming into a wolf hybrid and crossing the room to join his companion in the fight.

Selinde howled in delight opened her jaws wide and chomped down on the pretentious face of the priestess.

“Ahhh!” she screamed right before a fang punctured her windpipe.

“Guess your Goddess wasn’t paying attention today,” Pikachu growled in his half wolf voice. He chuckled as he swatted the nearest zombie fishman with his powerful arm and tore it’s body in half. However, since it was a zombie, it continued to advance on him dragging the ruined left side along behind it.

Selinde finished snacking on the remains of Galatea’s head, they hadn’t eaten anything but trippy mushrooms after all, and transforming to her wild shape did take energy. She transformed back into herself so she could use spells to help Pikachu clean house.

Even naked, with her mouth completely caked in Galatea’s blood, Pikachu couldn’t help but be aroused by Selinde. His trousers started to tighten even as a fishman zombie  grabbed his arm and took a bite while he was momentarily distracted.

“Awoooo!” Pikachu growled in pain and tore the fish zombie’s head from it’s shoulders and flung it to the other side of the room where it rolled near the holy headless body.

“Pik can you do the wind thing in that shape?”

“I think so,” he growled.

“I have an idea. I’m going to set them all on fire and then I need you to use your wind power to blow them away!”

Selinde summoned a fireball and directed it at what was left of Galatea’s henchmen. They all burst into flames and made terrible half scream half gurgling sounds.

Pikachu summoned the wind and blew the burning zombie fish out of the house and into the air where they rose until they could no longer be seen. His form started to shift as he began to return to his natural form but Selinde stopped him.

“Stay in your wolf shape. That thing bit you and your wolf form can probably handle it better than your natural state.” Selinde spoke a healing word and the needle like tears in Pikachu’s arm closed,” That fixed the wound but we still have to deal with the infection.”

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