Note: read “Sweater Late Than Never” first.
Hey, it’s Jeff again. Ugly Sweater Guy… you know…
It’s only been, like, a day since you last saw me.
I know what you’re wondering, and I’ll just get to the point.
No, I didn’t meet anyone at the bar. It was actually kinda empty.
Probably because it was a weeknight.
So I just had a couple of drinks, walked back to the motel, and got some shuteye.
I had a… really weird dream last night.
I dreamt that I was back in Detroit, walking up to the front door of my house… but when I opened the door…
There was nothing but blackness on the other side.
Like the door Chaos offered to let me leave the game through.
Someone pushed me, I don’t know who, and I fell into the darkness, like it went on forever.
I was drowning in the darkness, and I could hear a very deep, raspy voice laughing maliciously, and then the voice said “Jeff Robinson, welcome to the–”
Then it felt like something ice cold stabbed me in my soul, and I woke up, at about 5 AM, in a cold sweat.
Welcome to the what?
If I had stayed asleep just a few seconds longer… I’d…
I didn’t have time to question it, because apparently I screamed when I woke up, and that woke Electra up too, much to her consternation.
The walls are kinda thin in this motel.
And some of the other motels we’ve been staying in.
At one motel in Minnesota, we didn’t get a lot of sleep, because the couple in the next room were going at it pretty hard all night long, and, I swear to God that I’m not making this up, the man was shouting… urgh…
Don’t ask me to say it twice, but…
He was shouting “PLAP PLAP PLAP PLAP! GET PREGNANT, GET PREGNANT!” the whole time.
I wish I was making this up.
Honestly, I never thought I’d ever hear someone actually, unironically say that while having sex in real life.
But it’s not the weirdest thing I’ve experienced in recent months.
We spent that night watching Discovery with the volume turned all the way up, pretending we didn’t know what was happening in the next room.
And as we left the motel the next morning, we ran into the couple, finding ourselves unable to make eye contact with them.
I was secretly hoping that it was just Chaos all along, jumping on the bed like a little kid and shouting all night to screw-- mess with us. It didn’t sound like him, but I know he doesn’t have to use that cheerful, flamboyant voice, and he can be in multiple places simultaneously, so there could have been two, uh, Chaoses jumping on the bed.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t him. When I mentioned this incident to him later, after he was done laughing, he confirmed that he was nowhere near that motel at the time.
It can’t always be him.
Why couldn’t it be him that time?
I drove away from that motel as fast as I could without going over the speed limit, thankful that they didn’t start a conversation with us.
What would we even say?
I mean, they had to know that we could hear them, right? People in the next town over could hear them.
I’ve really gotta get one of those sound-blocking doohickeys.
Come to think of it, that couple could use one too.
But that’s all in the past now. We left Minnesota behind a while ago.
So let’s move on, and never discuss it again.
You think Cal’s ever been through something that embarrassing?
Eh, probably not. He’s luckier than me.
A couple of hours after I woke up from my horrifying nightmare, me and Electra had packed our bags, and we left yet another motel behind, continuing our journey through Indiana.
I’ve got a fluffy-safe booster seat for her now, from Flufftopia. They have a whole range of car seats and booster seats for fluffies.
Around noon, we crossed the state border into Michigan, finally reaching my home state.
And of course, we kept going, hoping to enter Detroit by nightfall.
It’ll be good to sleep in my old familiar bed again, but I won’t be sleeping in it for very long.
Like I said, we’re only staying until we’ve taken care of business.
I’ve been thinking about trading my car in for a motorhome of some kind.
We wouldn’t need to stay at motels anymore.
We’d be staying at camper parks instead.
I’ve been thinking about that dream, and what it could possibly mean.
It might just mean that I had one drink too many last night.
And I’ve been thinking about my conversations with Chaos, and about the advice he gave me.
I still don’t understand what goes on in that head, or who he wants me to avoid. All I know is, they’re very bad.
Could it be connected to the dream? Was Chaos trying to warn me through my dream?
Or was my subconscious trying to warn me? Is there something I’m not consciously aware of?
Or something I’ve forgotten?
Y’know what, I’ve still got that vial of Liquid Insomnia that Cal gave me. If I really can’t figure it out, I’ll take another careful little nip later and see if the caffeine can’t figure it out for me.
I think that stuff could wake the dead.
Right now, we’re somewhere between Ann Arbor and Detroit itself, getting further away from the former, and closer to the latter.
I’m glad Chaos told us to forget about going via Flint. I wasn’t looking forward to that detour.
Maybe whoever he was trying to warn us about was waiting for us there.
Shit, maybe they were planning to wait for us at Ann Arbor, and that’s why he told us to take a detour in the first place.
As I keep driving, I keep my eyes on the road, and the cloudy skies.
“Electra, is it just me, or is it getting cloudier the closer we get to Detroit?”
“Nu, Ewectwa haf note-ist dat tuu, Jeff.”
I use one hand to roll up the window, pushing the little button on the door handle.
“It’s getting colder too. It might actually start snowing, which is weird, because I don’t think it’s the right season for this kinda weather. Must be climate change or something. It can’t be wizards screwing with the weather, you don’t really get wizards in Detroit. I’m gonna need to wear the sweater when we get there, I think.”
“Ewectwa am gunna nee sum wawm cwothies tuu.”
“We’ll pick some up on the way to my place, if we make it there before the shops close. There’s a Flufftopia in Detroit, and I’m pretty sure they sell those too. I used to be banned from there, before the game. And I know a lot of people who are still banned from there. Makes me wonder how that branch stays in business. It’s about as profitable as a steakhouse in India.”
“Wai wud dat nu make muh-nees?”
Electra already knows what “profitable” means.
Well, she should know, because if things had gone differently, she would be profitable.
Frankly, I kinda hate myself for even thinking of making a breeding pillow out of her.
I mean, if she decides she wants to have foals, then that’s another thing, but I’m not gonna pressure her into it.
No matter how much money those foals would be worth.
I could probably find a good stud on Fluffbook. I made an account in the week I was preparing to leave Korkeaopolis, and I’ve been posting selfies of the two of us from the road, keeping all of my… let’s just say “fans” updated.
I’ve gotten a lot of followers from Korkeaopolis, and friend requests from several ChaotiX members.
Guess which member sent the first one.
It’s owned by FauCorp, so it’s as hugboxy as you can get. I think they’ve got a section for fluffy husbandry.
Who knows, we could take a look at Flufftopia or the Foundation, see if there’s any stallions there who Electra gets along with.
I don’t mind being her wingman, and I’ve been considering adopting a second fluffy once I’ve got a new place, sufficiently far away from Detroit.
But she asked a question, so I should probably answer that first.
“Because a lot of people in India are Hindu, and Hindus don’t eat beef.”
“Oh. Wai dey nu num beef, foh?”
“Because they believe that cows are sacred. Wait, does that mean cow’s milk is Hindu holy water? Could a Hindu kill a vampire with a bottle of whole milk?”
“How am Ewectwa sup-post tu knu dat? Yu am awsk-in da wong dam fwuffy, Jeff.”
I think I might be a bit of a bad influence.
“I’ll ask Cal about it later. If he doesn’t know, he probably knows someone who can tell us. I bet that Hunter Association knows the answer. They hunt vampires for a living, and there’s gotta be at least one Hindu vampire hunter, right?”
“Am dewe anee Hin-doos in da Kay-oh-tiks?”
“I haven’t seen any in Who’s Who yet.”
Meanwhile, in Detroit, the Octovirate’s camper drives southeast, past Roseland Park Cemetery, still keeping a low profile.
Dehak peeks out through a gap between the curtains, looking at the cemetery with an expression of wistful longing and regret.
“Such a waste of perfectly good resources, gentlemen. When we rule this world, I’m doing away with cemeteries, and especially cremation. I’ll simply have the bodies delivered directly to me. It’ll save me tons of digging.”
The Rider, still pretending to be an ordinary biker, keeps his gloved hands on the wheel and his eye sockets on the road.
“Like back when we were ruling Drakonia. Had to do SOMETHING with all those dissidents we were disappearing.”
Varney is sitting at the table, playing Solitaire with Dehak’s cards.
“My new clan was eating good when we were in charge there. It was just like old times.”
The Rider taught him the rules, and they had to alter the rules a bit to account for the extra four suits.
And the Many is still in the overhead cabin, pretending that they aren’t a gestalt fluffy with mysterious powers.
“We nu haf guttun anee nyu souws in a whiwe.”
Shadow Calvin is still hiding in the bathroom. It isn’t smart enough to get bored.
Dehak shoots the Many a warning look.
“You can’t go gorging yourself silly on shite-rodent souls again yet, Many. You’re not flying solo this time. Keep in mind, the boy, his friends, and the Deaths were tracking you by all the shite-rodent corpses you left in your wake. And I’ve seen what draining their souls does to them, which makes it very obvious who the culprit is. As much as I hate, ah…”
“Staying out of the spotlight.”
“As much as I hate doing that, it is, unfortunately, a necessity, as all of you are well aware, so I don’t see why I have to remind you again. I enjoy killing as much as anyone else in this vehicle, but right now, the last thing we need is a trail of corpses leading our enemies straight to us.”
The Many shrugs.
“Yu nu haf tu wee-mine us, Dehak. We am jus sayin, we nee to absowb mowe fwuffy souws tu git stwong-uw. An we haf awweady spawt-ed yu a num-buw of souws…”
“Many, I promise you that you will get the opportunity to replenish your lost souls in due time. You’ll have all the souls you need to defeat the boy’s shite-rodent. And we are close. Robinson is almost home, and if we’re lucky, we’ll beat him there. You know the plan, and the backup plans. As long as we can recruit him (or, failing that, kill him) before he leaves Detroit, alerts the boy, or alerts anyone else, it’s a success.”
The Rider interrupts.
“And acquiring Robinson’s address really wasn’t that difficult. Shouldn’t take much longer to get there, if we don’t hit too many red lights.”
“Oh, those traffick lights are going too. I don’t see the point of making wonderful vehicles like this, if they’re just going to keep piling on ridiculous rules that limit them. I still don’t understand why they’d make something so fast, and then tell people not to go fast with it! It makes absolutely zero sense!”
“We’re not the only people on the road, Dehak.”
“No, but we are the most important people on the road. We’re the most important people on any road. If the peasants can’t get out of our way in time, that’s their problem.”
Varney chuckles in amusement.
“I can’t say you’re wrong…”
We keep driving, entering Canton.
“Here we are, the outskirts of De… troit…”
Then I notice that it almost immediately started snowing.
“Aw, crap. Guess we really gotta get you some warm–”
And I notice that Electra is now wearing a purple and yellow scarf, a matching woolly hat with a bobble on it, matching fluffy-sized Wellington boots, and a rainbow-colored, fluffy-sized sweater, much nicer than my own.
It takes Electra a couple of seconds to notice what she’s wearing.
“Wait, wut? Oh. Ewectwa fink dat Ewectwa knu hu we haf tu fank fow dis.”
I glance at the purple and yellow fuzzy dice on my rear view mirror.
“Yeah, I think I know too. Couldn’t make it as ugly as mine, could you, Chaos?”
“Yu nu fink dat da cowd sky wawas am cuz of Kay-ohs tuu, du yu? Cuz um, Jeff did say dat it nu am da see-zun fow dat…”
“Well, I wasn’t thinking that before, but…”
Okay, if Chaos is making it snow, why is he making it snow?
Is this his idea of a joke, is he trying to send me a message, or is he just in the mood to build a snowman?
With Chaos, it’s impossible to tell.
Far up, up, up in the sky, Chaos skips over the clouds, as if they are solid ground, and not essentially just an elevated fog.
He’s currently in the form of a grey anthropomorphic rabbit, wearing a scarf like Electra’s, and is waving his hands in the air like he just doesn’t care.
“Make it rain! Uh, I mean make it snow!”
And as he waves his hands, he scatters snowflakes like glitter at a rave, watching them gently float down to the surface far below.
If you were to look very closely, you’d see images of Jeff and Electra in those snowflakes.
Chaos has an eye for little details.
The Death of Humans appears, riding his white horse, trotting on thin air.
He reins his steed in, looking pointedly at his chaotic colleague.
CHAOS, WHAT ARE YOU UP TO THIS TIME?
Chaos stops skipping, but keeps scattering snowflakes like a farmer sowing seeds as he replies in his usual cheerful, flamboyant voice.
“I’m making it snow, obviously.”
The Death of Humans points two bony fingers at the burning pinpricks of blue light in his eye sockets.
I CAN SEE THAT, CHAOS. BUT WHY ARE YOU MAKING IT SNOW? THAT’S JACK FROST’S JOB, AND IT’S TOO EARLY FOR THAT IN DETROIT.
Yes, he exists too.
Chaos shrugs, still scattering snowflakes.
twinkle twinkle twinkle
“I just want to make sure that people down there bundle up. It wasn’t going to be the warmest night anyway.”
CHAOS… WHAT ARE YOU REALLY UP TO?
“C’mon, bonehead. I’m not gonna spoil the surprise. You know there’s always a method to my madness, so trust me when I say I’ve got a good reason to do this.”
THAT’S WHAT YOU SAID WHEN YOU FLOODED FATE’S DOMAIN WITH LEMON PUDDING.
“And I did have a good reason! It was hi-frickin’-larious.”
…IT ACTUALLY WAS.
We keep driving into Detroit proper, through the unexpected snowstorm, heading to my house.
We take a quick detour here and there, avoiding places where I know my old “buddies” hang out, or live, or work.
By now, I’ve donned the cap I acquired, and I went the extra mile, because I bought a fake mustache too.
I can’t put the sunglasses on. Something tells me that driving at night, through the howling snow, while wearing shades is a recipe for car crash casserole.
Might as well down a few beers, turn the headlights off and drive this baby off a bridge.
Maybe I should have gotten a whole disguise kit.
With my average, forgettable face, the right fake mole or scar could render me invisible.
Like the sweater. When I’m wearing it, I’m Ugly Sweater Guy, and people can recognize me from a mile away, especially if Electra’s with me.
They see the sweater, not me.
Without the sweater, I’m just another unremarkable face in the crowd.
Speaking of scars, I feel like Victor could teach me a thing or two about disguises. He seems like the kind of guy who would be a master of disguise.
If only to cover up that scarred face.
I probably ran into him without knowing it a lot, back when I was involuntarily living in Korkeaopolis.
I’m just assuming that at least 50% of the hobos I saw while I was prowling the alleyways, looking for fluffies to help, were actually Victor.
The ChaotiX would want to keep an eye on me, and back then, I had an unfortunate habit of fleeing for my life whenever I ran into anyone with an X in an octagon on their chest.
I could just about tolerate Kyle if he was in street clothes, or a Flufftopia uniform, but like I’ve said before, a ChaotiX battle suit is to a fluffy abuser what a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood is to a black man.
Or what a Schutzstaffel uniform is to a Jewish man.
Point is, Victor was most likely following me around Korkeaopolis without my knowledge, and I should have asked him for some disguise tips, because something else has occurred to me.
If I wear the sweater too, I might get recognised anyway.
I shoulda brought a coat.
But hey, I can think of someone who wouldn’t mind this weather at all…
Meanwhile, in Hell’s tenth circle, Jaws finds himself getting acquainted with some of the other inmates.
The Not-Safe-At-All Rooms are currently being cleaned, so the occupants, all wearing pink fluffy costumes, are being temporarily housed in a vast space that looks like a fluffy daycare, scaled up to human size, and with lots more red.
Elite demons guard the damned souls, and some of the guards are wielding pitchforks, forcing the damned to play with human-sized fluffy toys lest they get stabbed in the ass.
One guard is making some of the inmates play huggy tag, just because seeing someone try to run in one of those costumes is never not funny.
No good reason to let a perfectly good opportunity to punish the damned go to waste.
Occasionally, one of the damned fluffy abusers in this circle will be broken by their ironic torture, and begin to suffer from the delusion that they are a fluffy. They’ll start talking like one, begging the demons to not give them any owwies, attempting to appease them by dancing, and they’ll treat the costume like an actual fluffy would treat their fluff, becoming most distressed when it is forcibly taken from them.
The elites think that’s even funnier, and they often bet on how long it takes certain souls to break, and reach complete mental fluffification.
Jaws sits cross-legged on the floor, staring into space, and the expression on his shark-like face is that of a man who has seen some shit.
In his case, he’s literally seen some shit.
His odds of breaking some time in the next million years are high.
Two of the other inmates notice him, as they unwillingly play with blocks.
Seeing as their hands are encased in big plush hooves, they’re finding a bit difficult to hold those blocks.
The blocks are intentionally designed to be slippery and difficult to hold. They’re ever so subtly rounded, making building anything with them an exercise in futility.
Like the whole thing with Sisyphus and the boulder, but more humiliating.
“What’s with him, Ivan?”
“He just went through the snake for the first time. I saw him being taken there, Vanessa.”
“Oof. That’s rough. I’ve already been through the snake three times.”
“It’s not really something to brag about. Even though I’ve done it seven times.”
“Yes, but… it’s just that… he doesn’t know that it’s worse the second time.”
Jaws starts whimpering to himself, and one of the elites glares at Vanessa and Ivan.
“Did we say that you can talk, Valentine? Shut the fuck up, or we’ll make it FOUR times! And EIGHT times for YOU, Bortsov!”
Another elite nods.
“Just sit tight and play nice with your pieholes shut, and we’ll get all of you back to your assigned punishment regimens soon enough.”
Vanessa and Ivan give each other resigned looks, but don’t say another word, and go back to playing with the blocks.
A third elite looks wearily at the first two.
“Man, what did WE do to end up with a job like THIS?”
The first elite grins.
“Do you want the WHOLE list, or just the highlights?”
“Haha, very fuckin’ funny. No, seriously, I’m hoping to get transferred to one of the FUN circles, so I don’t have to waste my time babysitting THESE retards anymore. I wanna get the COMPETENT sinners, who can do much better than killing a bunch of retarded pig-horses. Give me a serial rapist, or a mass murderer, or a conman who swindled the elderly out of millions. Now THAT’S the kind of sinner who deserves the BEST treatment we can give them.”
A fourth elite shrugs.
“Eh, it could be worse. We COULD be demoted to punishing bad smarties. That’s even MORE humiliating than punishing these geniuses.”
The third elite dismissively stabs Jaws with his pitchfork, eliciting no reaction.
He’s still got that thousand-yard stare plastered on his face, because he can’t stop thinking about his journey through the demon snake’s innards.
“These guys are pretty much smarties in human form, anyway.”
At last, the moment of truth arrives, and we arrive at my house, looking more or less exactly how I left it, except, well, it wasn’t covered in snow last time.
It’s still snowing, yeah. Never seen this much snow in Detroit in my life.
And there’s a snowman in my front garden. Judging by the purple and yellow scarf it’s wearing, and the cap and bells it’s wearing instead of, say, a top hat, I can guess who made it.
My final clue is the fact that the snowman has two carrots. The first one is on its face, between a pair of coal eyes and a coal-y smile, as you’d expect, but the second one is, ah, much lower down on its snowy body, above a pair of… snowballs.
Maybe Chaos really was just in the mood to build a snowman.
And he really wouldn’t need a magical top hat to bring a snowman to life.
Although, if he has to bring a snowman to life, I hope it’s not that one.
I’ve seen that Jack Frost movie. And I don’t mean the one with Michael Keaton.
Let’s just… get inside the house.
It’s rather late by now, and I’m probably gonna fall asleep the second my head hits the pillow.
I park my car in the driveway, take my seatbelt off, and pull the sweater on, grabbing it from the back.
After it’s on, I look around at the area outside the car. Other than the snow, and the snowman, there’s nothing out of the ordinary.
The strangest thing we saw in the neighborhood was a camper van with a Russian licence plate, parked around the corner from here with the curtains closed.
I’m not really sure how common camper vans are in Russia.
“Snow’s kinda thick. You want me to get the carrier, or do you think you can handle it?”
As I unfasten Electra from her seat, she thinks about it.
“Dewe nu weawwy wuz a wotta cowd sky wawas back in da sitty. But Ewectwa haf bootsies awn nao, Jeff.”
Yeah, she’s got a point there. According to Cal, it doesn’t snow a lot in Korkeaopolis.
Last Christmas, Cal and Marley apparently made it snow using their Omega powers. There’s a fluffy in the ChaotiX with weather control, and I think he’s one of Cal’s fluffies. Is his name Mellow? No, wait, it’s Mallow.
So they can control the goddamn weather too.
I swear, if it’s them making it snow…
Well, I’m gonna be upset.
Meanwhile, around the corner from Jeff’s house, most of the Octovirate waits for something important in their camper.
The Rider is currently absent, and you’ll see where he is later.
In the camper’s magical workshop, Dehak and Varney scry with Dehak’s black cauldron, full of water, the Many hovering above them.
Shadow Calvin is still hiding in the bathroom, because that’s the last order Dehak gave it.
Without him giving it orders, Shadow Calvin will just stare blankly at the wall. It’s more of a thing than a person. An unliving weapon, created to be the instrument of Dehak’s vengeance against its unknowing donor.
Scrying is just about the only magical thing that mages of Dehak and Varney’s power can do without alerting every mage on Earth. Varney has held the title of Earth’s Archmage, and Dehak has held the title of Magicca’s Archmage.
Magicca is a world of magic. Of course it has its own Archmage.
The current Archmages of both worlds have already met, and are on good terms.
On Magicca, the ambient background magic is much higher than it is here on Earth, rendering thaumometers, magic-detecting devices, about as useful there as smoke detectors in Hell. And there are far more people who know how to cast magic on Magicca, even if it’s just household spells. In the pseudo-medieval Kingdom of Drakonia, magic is a part of everyone’s lives one way or another. Dehak’s own fearsome magical might was easier to mask in such a magic-rich environment.
Like farting in a pigsty.
But Earth’s ambient background magic is lower than Magicca’s, and here, Dehak is a much more powerful mage by comparison, because he hasn’t got as much competition. Many people on Earth don’t know any spells at all. Dehak couldn’t even clean fluffy shit off his boots with magic, not without causing a noticeable spike. Everyone of a magical nature on Earth would feel it, and he’d be found out in no time.
Like farting in a crowded elevator.
In the rippling water of the cauldron, these vile miscreants can see Jeff carefully helping Electra out of his car.
Dehak watches Jeff and Electra trudging through the snow, up to the front door.
“So much blasted snow. And it came out of nowhere, Varney! It’s like we’re back in Russia!”
“It’s not like the cold is really a problem for any of us, Dehak. Remember that mountain we wound up on after passing through the Dragon’s Anus? Snrk. Now that was cold.”
No, he’s not referring to a literal anus. The Dragon’s Anus is the name of one of the passageways that connects Earth and Magicca. It’s how dragonkind got to Earth, and how the Octovirate got here too.
Those passageways open and close on their own every few decades, and they are currently closed. But they can be forced open by beings of sufficient power, such as Omega Classes, and noble dragons.
And with the Octovirate’s only draconic member being a wee bit dead, that was more motivation for Dehak to create Shadow Calvin.
Dehak makes a dismissive gesture with a rotten hand, conceding the point.
“I suppose you’re right, Varney. We can hardly freeze to death, none of us are alive. Changing the subject… do you think this will work?”
“We made the best plan we could with the resources at our disposal. It’s all up to the Rider now.”
“Yes, he’s the only one of us who can pass as normal on Earth.”
The Many shrugs.
“On-wee if he keep him hew-met an gwuvs awn, an if he say nuffin.”
“Well, yes. We still need someone who can serve as our face. And Robinson won’t do once he’s joined us.”
The psychotic lich grins maliciously.
“But luckily, I’ve thought of a way to slay two dragons with one sword.”
I stand in front of the front door with Electra, hesitating for a moment.
It’s not like I forgot my keys or something, it’s just…
I’m thinking about that dream again.
I look down at Electra, still clad in her new winter gear, and she smiles reassuringly up at me.
“Gu awn, Jeff. Ewectwa wan git owtta da cowdies, an see wut yu housie am wike.”
“Alright. Here goes nothing, I guess.”
I pull my keys out of my pocket, unlock the door, and slowly push it open, carefully looking inside.
Yup, that’s my hallway, alright. It looks the same as I remember it.
Pretty sure it’s safe.
So we go inside, I close the door behind us, and we head into the living room, turning the lights on.
I take my cap and fake mustache off, putting them on the coffee table.
I take a moment to just stop and look around, not quite believing we’re actually here.
Then I take a breath, and sigh in satisfaction.
“Home. Sweet. Home.”
I… I finally made it.
I’m finally home.
Chaos has been house-sitting for me while I was gone, and it looks like he’s been tidying up, too.
As he promised, anything related to my old, ah, hobby has probably been thrown out.
Where is he? I thought he’d be here to greet us.
I dunno what the food situation is. All the food I had when I left must have gone bad by now.
I don’t smell any rotting food. Chaos might have thrown that out too. If he has, we won’t be going to bed hungry tonight, because I know there’s a few all-night takeout places nearby, and I can do groceries in the morning.
As I make my way into the kitchen, Electra follows me.
“Su, dis am it, huh?”
I open the fridge, finding it fully stocked, and it looks like everything is fresh. There’s a big jar of tomato sauce, and a pack of meatballs, made of 100% Grade A beef.
There’s even a sixpack of my favorite beer.
I check the cupboards too, finding more fresh foods, and it looks like someone knows my usual shopping list.
There’s a pack of spaghetti, and judging by the fact that the wrapper has Italian on it, it came straight from Italy.
Under the sink, there’s a full bag of ÜberFluff kibble and a couple of bowls, and I don’t remember ever buying that brand of kibble for the fluffies I brought home to abuse.
Back then, I got the cheap stuff made of fluffies.
“Huh. Guess I don’t gotta go get takeout, or do groceries in the morning. Thanks again, Chaos. But yeah, this is it, Electra. Whaddya think?”
She looks around.
“It am biggew den Ewectwa ess-peck-ted.”
“Well, you’ve only got all those motel rooms to compare it to.”
“It nu am as big as da Faw-shush Hoh-tew, foh.”
“Yeah, but I’m not Pierre Faucheuse.”
“Ewectwa nu am sayin it am bad, Jeff. Ewectwa cud git yoost tu dis pwace.”
“Don’t get too comfortable, girl. Remember, we aren’t staying for long. Tomorrow, I’m packing up my stuff, looking for someone to buy the place, and looking for a new ride. Maybe I’ll trade the car in for a camper, like that one parked around the corner.”
“Dat wud be a stepsie up fwom da caw.”
“Yeah, it would. Oh, I should call Cal again in the morning. Let him know we made it home safely, and maybe ask him for help with everything I just mentioned.”
“Mebbeh Jeff shud caww mistah Caw nao.”
“I’m too tired and hungry for that, Electra. I think what we both need right now is a decent meal and a good night’s sleep. Anything else can wait until morning.”
Electra opens her mouth to argue, but a yawn comes out instead.
“…Otay, Ewectwa see yu point. Su whewe am Ewectwa gunna sweep whiwe we am hewe? Yu nu haf a safewoom, du yu?”
Well, back when I was still abusing fluffies, there was a room I’d keep my “guests” in during their very brief stay, but I wouldn’t have called it safe.
It’s probably stripped bare, so, if we were staying here, I could convert it into a saferoom.
I think Flufftopia offers that service.
“Eh, you can sleep in my room for now. I don’t have a fluffy bed, but odds are I’ll walk into the bedroom and find one just sitting there. It’ll most likely be rainbow-colored, too.”
I open drawers, extracting pots, pans, and utensils.
“Y’know, after all that time on the road, eating at restaurants, it’ll be nice to enjoy a home-cooked meal for once. I’m not a bad cook, and I think I can whip up some spaghetti for you.”
“Ewectwa kinna wike dat peet-zuh we had in Shee-kaw-goh.”
“Yeah, I’m missing it too. We’ll go through Chicago again later. Alright, what am I gonna make for myself–”
I freeze, my ears pricking up.
Okay, who’s ringing the doorbell at this hour?!? We literally just got home! I haven’t even had time to take the sweater off, or take Electra’s winter clothes off!
I groan, putting the cooking stuff on the counter.
“Stay here, Electra. I’ll be right back.”
Fortunately, I put Jaws’ knife and those knuckledusters in my pockets before getting out of the car.
I creep through the house, back to the front door, looking through the peephole, seeing someone on the doorstep.
It looks like… a biker. Probably male. Black helmet, black leather jacket, black leather gloves, black pants, something in his pocket.
Oh shit, is that who Chaos was trying to warn me about?
Is Chaos trying a new look?
Or is that just a biker who wants to ask for directions?
Let’s find out.
Instead of opening the door, I speak to him through the mail slot, kneeling down, keeping a hand on the knife in my pocket.
“Who are you, and what do you want?”
Not the most original question to ask, I know.
But he doesn’t reply, and when I check the peephole, he’s still standing there silently.
“Buddy, not answering the question isn’t going to make me want to open this door any faster. Who are you?”
Still no answer.
“Y’know what, I don’t care if you’re planning to stand in the snow like a jackass all night. Get off my property or I’m calling the cops.”
As I hear Electra enter the hallway, I turn to her.
“Jeff, hu am at da doow–”
“Electra, it might be a good idea for you to go back to the kitchen.”
Then I hear something slide in through the mail slot, and see a note on the floor.
Maybe I’m just too damn tired for this shit, but it looks like it’s a piece of parchment, instead of paper.
I read it, my hands trembling, my heart pounding.
OPEN THE DOOR, JEFF ROBINSON.
OR I WILL OPEN IT FOR YOU.
THE OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME AWAITS YOU.
THIS IS THE CHANCE TO BE WHO YOU REALLY ARE.
And there’s a drawing, of a circle with lots of triangles on the inside, and eight squiggly lines and eight dots on the outside.
Okay, what the fuck is going on right now?
I look through the peephole again, seeing the biker hold up three fingers.
Then he lowers a finger.
Fine! Message received!
I open the door, glaring at the asshole.
“Just tell me what the hell you want already, because if you’re not selling girl scout cookies, I don’t give a–”
And then he whips a black jar out of his pocket and throws it at me.
As it shatters on my chest, I spread my arms, trying to shield Electra from any errant shards of black glass.
“Hey! What the fuck do you think you’re doing?!?”
The biker laughs in an inhuman voice.
Then he takes his helmet off, revealing nothing but a blackened skull, with a big crack in it.
As he holds the helmet under one arm, his skull ignites with black flames, steaming up as the snow falls upon it.
“Recruiting you, Jeff Robinson. THAT’S what I think I’m doing.”
“Recruiting me?!? Recruiting me into… i-into…”
Then I look down at my sweater-clad chest, seeing…
Oh God, what is that?!? It’s all black and gross and slimy… like a leech on steroids…
And what is it…
Whatever it is, it appears to be trying to burrow into my chest, but…
But it can’t seem to penetrate the sweater.
Sometimes a sweater is just a sweater…
And sometimes it isn’t.
I’ve learned to pay close attention to what Chaos says.
And what he doesn’t say.
Me, Electra, and the demon biker from Hell watch this happen, and he seems just as confused as us right now.
“That was NOT supposed to happen.”
I swat the black slimy thing off my chest, and as it lands on the hallway floor, it slithers towards Electra.
“Eep! Git it away fwom Ewectwa!”
But I stomp on it.
“No you don’t! No leech latches onto my fluffy!”
And I stomp on it two more times for good measure.
“Take that, slimeball!”
I’ve had a lot of practice. You can guess how.
It lets out a horrible shrieking sound, and shrivels away into nothing, leaving only a black mark on the floor.
A black mark that looks like that weird symbol in the note.
Electra looks up at me, obviously shocked, and probably scared too.
Right now, I’m somewhere between horrified and terrified myself.
“WUT DA FUK WUZ DAT?!?”
Yup, I’m a bad influence.
I turn back to the biker, glaring at him even harder.
“You feel like explaining a thing or two?”
He’s looking up at the snow, and then he looks at my sweater.
“Oh, of course. Now it all makes sense. This snowstorm was no coincidence.”
…Did Chaos make it snow just to ensure that I’d be wearing the sweater right now?
If I survive this, I’ve got so many questions for him.
The biker points his free hand at me, and his hand burns with black fire. His gloves must be fireproof.
“But I can still salvage this. The Seed of Darkness can be replaced. So you will come with me, Jeff Robinson, or else you and your shitrat will be SILENCED.”
“Dude! What do you even want with me?!?”
“Come with me, and I will explain everything. My associates and I can grant you unearthly power, Robinson. All you have to do is absorb another of those Seeds. You have EXACTLY the qualities a Seed can feed upon, and I think you’d be a most valuable member of the–”
Suddenly, a snowball strikes his hand, extinguishing the black fire.
Then another snowball hits him in the skull.
It quickly boils away, and he looks around.
“Where the fuck did THOSE come from?!?”
He turns around, searching my front garden, and I step outside, watching him.
I saw where those snowballs came from.
Honestly, I had a hunch the moment we pulled up.
Let’s see how long it takes him to figure it out.
The biker turns towards the snowman, seeing the cap and bells.
“Is that YOU, Chaos?”
That was fast.
The snowman springs to life, speaking up in a cheerful, flamboyant voice, something in his words betraying his rage.
“Well, it ain’t fuckin’ Frosty! Sorry, boyo, but Jeff and Electra are under my protection. Go back and tell Dehak to stay away from them if he knows what’s good for him. Go on, git. Before I get really angry.”
The biker turns back to me, obviously furious, and he puts his helmet back on.
“This ISN’T over, Robinson. Chaos can’t protect you forever. You’ll see me and my friends again, and next time, you WILL join the Octovirate.”
Then he runs away, disappearing into the snowy night.
I look at the snowman, feeling very confused.
“What the hell is the Octovirate? Chaos, please tell me that you can explain, because I don’t know what the fuck I’ve just witnessed.”
The snowman Chaos chuckles nervously.
“I can explain some of it, Jeff–”
The, erm, lower carrot falls off his snowy body, the, uh, snowballs falling off too a second later.
“Oh no! Shrinkage! C’mon, let’s get out of the cold, and continue this conversation inside…”
The Rider runs into the Octovirate’s camper, quickly taking the wheel.
“Plan failed, Seed’s gone, Robinson’s still alive, so’s his shitrat.”
As the Rider drives away, Dehak facepalms, and when he speaks, his deep, raspy voice, deeper and raspier than Umbra’s, sounds very annoyed.
“We saw via the cauldron. Looks like Chaos has foiled us again.”
“You think Robinson would have gotten away ALONE? You KNOW he’s gonna tell Korkea about us, Dehak.”
Dehak opens the window, the one next to the dining table.
“Yes, but we can still move on to the next phase of the plan. It might be touch and go, but we’re out of time. So Rider, get us out of Detroit immediately, you know where to go. And Varney?”
Varney downs another can of NuBlood, tossing it into the trash.
“We’ll see you at the rendezvous point. You know what to do too. Don’t screw this up, or we’re all screwed.”
The Many waves goodbye from their perch in the overhead cabin.
“Hab a safe twip, Vaw-nee.”
Varney nods, salutes the others, turns into a bat, and flies out the window.
Back in my living room, I sit on the couch with Electra and Chaos, the latter now in his usual jester form.
My sweater’s piled up with Electra’s winter clothes on an armchair, my weapons are on the coffee table, and we’ve cleaned up the broken glass by the front door.
“Alright, Chaos. Tell me everything you can. Who was that biker guy, and what did he want with me?”
“In life, he was a wizard by the name of Fred McComas, but he calls himself the Hungry Rider now.”
“That’s a dumb name.”
Chaos chuckles, not as nervously as last time.
“The person who came up with it is just as dumb, Jeff. The-- let’s just call him the Rider-- he’s a friend of the very bad person I told you about last night.”
“That Dehak person you mentioned just now?”
“Yes, that’s who I warned you to stay away from. Their group is called the Octovirate of Darkness, but at the moment, the name is not very accurate. They only have five members right now. Dehak is the leader, and he’s got a fixation with the number eight. It’s a powerful number in magic, you see.”
I look at the note, also on the coffee table, and I take in the strange symbol on the note, identical to the mark that slimy thing left on the hallway floor.
Eight squiggly lines… eight dots…
“Chaos, what does that symbol represent?”
“That’s one question I can’t answer honestly, Jeff. It’s something my people aren’t really allowed to discuss with most mortals. But I can say with absolute honesty that it doesn’t represent anything good.”
I feel a bit faint right now.
Let’s just press on, and try not to think about that symbol.
“So… those guys wanted to recruit me. Why me?”
Electra raises an eyebrow.
“An wut happund tu da udda mem-buws?”
Chaos strokes Electra.
“Jeff, do you mind if I answer Electra’s question first?”
“Go ahead, I’ve got plenty more to ask.”
“Thanks. One of the Octovirate’s members is dead (again), but he’s already been replaced. Three others are currently in the custody of my dear friends in the ChaotiX, and one of those three has most likely turned his back on Dehak for good. If they could recruit you, Jeff, they would need only to liberate their two imprisoned fellows to complete the set again.”
“But why did they want me?”
Chaos holds up a hand, creating a little image of me, in a little ugly sweater, waving at me.
“Jeff, don’t you see? You’ve changed a lot, you’ve changed for the better, and I’m very proud of you for that, but the darkness within you still exists, and always will exist. Darkness isn’t inherently evil, but it definitely is evil when wielded by them.”
“So that black slimy thing…”
“It’s called a Seed of Darkness, and it’s essentially a parasite that feeds on the soul.”
He wiggles his fingers, the little me’s sweater vanishes, and a little Seed of Darkness falls onto the little me’s head, making him react like a bird just crapped on him.
Which has happened to me before.
“If it hadn’t been for the convenient snowstorm making you wear your sweater, that Seed you stomped would have infested your soul, and it would unleash all of your negative qualities.”
As the little Seed slithers into the little me’s chest, he falls down, clutching his head and writhing in pain.
“Your true self would be subsumed as the Seed feeds on your internal darkness and grows stronger… a new, darker persona would emerge, and…”
When Chaos wiggles his fingers again, the little me is standing up straight, and now wearing a black top hat and a comically long, thin, curly mustache, which the little me twiddles while grinning diabolically, like he’s thinking about tying a little woman to little train tracks, or sabotaging the competition in a race of the wacky variety.
“Well… to put it in simple terms… it would turn you into who you are on your worst day.”
As he waves his hand and dismisses the image, I retch in horror at what I just heard.
“Where do those things even come from?!?”
“…That’s another question I can’t honestly answer, Jeff. All I can say is, it has something to do with that symbol, but you’ve already seen that for yourself.”
He jerks a thumb in the direction of the hallway. The door’s open, and we can see the mark on the floor from here.
“Sorry, buddy, but I really can’t go any further into it than that. Like I said, there are certain sensitive subjects that mortals are better off not knowing too much about. Dehak and his friends are what you get when mortals do know too much about those subjects.”
“Okay, fine. So when you told us to go through Flint–”
“They were planning to ambush you in Ann Arbor.”
“How did they know where I was? How did they even learn about me in the first place?”
Chaos waves at his reflection in the TV, currently turned off, and after a couple of seconds, his reflection waves back.
“They’ve been scrying on my dearest Cal for a while now, and they happened to watch him saying goodbye to you when you left Faucheuse Hotel. Dehak immediately took interest in you. I’ve been keeping an eye on him for a while too, and I’ve been doing everything I can to inconvenience him. Y’know, you really should have picked up a scrying jammer, Jeff. But with Dehak’s dark and twisted powers, it might not have helped.”
I stare at the TV, looking at my reflection, and the haggard expression on my face.
“This Dehak guy… you aren’t kidding when you say he’s bad, are you?”
Chaos shakes his head, the bells jingling.
“Not even in the slightest. His name means sower of evil in Drakonian. Nuff said!”
I can’t help but roll my eyes at that.
“What is it with these guys and dumb edgy names? And what kinda language is Drakonian? Wait, that CAPTCHA you offered me that one time was in Drakonian, you said!”
Chaos nods again, clearly happy to see how much of our talks I’ve remembered.
How much do you remember? How much of this is making sense to you?
If you’re feeling just as lost as I am, I can’t help you.
“You’ve never been to Drakonia, have you? That’s where Dehak came from. It’s a kingdom on Magicca, a world of magic and monsters, knights and mages–”
“Dungeons and dragons?”
Suddenly, Chaos is wearing a T-shirt with a print of a twenty-sided die over his jester outfit, a cheap purple Nylon wizard hat with yellow stars over his cap and bells, and a long grey fake beard over his harlequin mask.
And just as suddenly, the fingertips of his gloved hands are orange, like they’ve been stained by Cheeto dust.
“Yup, Drakonia has those too.”
“Do they have trains? Because we met a guy and his wife at the Inn Between Worlds once…”
“An dey wowwd onwy gut twains wee-sent-wee.”
Chaos chuckles again.
“No, Drakonia doesn’t have trains yet. Anyway, over there, Lord Dehak the Almighty-- as he insists on calling himself-- has a reputation for being the most bloodthirsty, ruthless mage there ever was. And that was before certain recent events.”
“…What recent events.”
“He conquered Drakonia in a single night. I saw it for myself. But it’s okay, he’s not in charge anymore. That’s… kinda why he came to Earth.”
“And now the ruthless, kingdom-conquering wizard is trying to recruit me.”
I think I just peed a little.
I stroke Electra to calm myself, because I’m five seconds away from soiling myself in terror.
Good grief, and I thought that Cal was a terrifying son of a bitch.
“Chaos, what am I supposed to do here? How am I gonna outrun an evil mage and his… his posse of darkness? I think I’m outgunned, here… this is way over my head…”
Chaos pats me on the shoulder.
“Don’t worry, Jeff. If you’re lucky–”
“Big if there.”
“–they’ll meet someone worse than you, and they’ll try to recruit him instead.”
“Too bad Jaws is dead, I think they’d be best pals with him. Wait, what about the rest of the group? That biker guy looked like he was from Earth.”
“The rest of the Octovirate is from Earth, yes. Again, I can’t honestly explain in full how they got to Magicca, but the short answer is that Dehak summoned them there after conquering Drakonia.”
“So how did they get here?”
“Do you mean how they got back to Earth, or how they got to Detroit? Because I can only answer one of those questions honestly.”
“It’s the second one, isn’t it?”
“You’re on a roll tonight, Jeff.”
I sigh, throwing up my hands in resignation.
“You know what, it doesn’t really matter how they got to Earth. As far as I know, they got run over by a horsecart and pulled an isekai. In reverse, I guess.”
I mean, when an isekai protagonist meets Truck-kun, it usually sends him to the fantasy world, not away from it.
“Jeff, wut am a issuh-kai?”
“I’ll explain later, Electra. So how did those guys get to Detroit? Flying broomsticks?”
Chaos shakes his head, the bells jingling once more.
“No, no. Do you remember that camper van you passed on the way here?”
“With the Russian plates? Wait, they’re using a camper as their secret villain base? Damn, I shoulda written the number down. If it’s still there, I’ll eat my sweater.”
“That camper’s a lot bigger on the inside. It’s something that happens when you’re a wizard. Any residence occupied by someone magical becomes a house of magic sooner or later, and as it turns out, motorhomes count too.”
“Jeez, why didn’t I ever learn magic?”
Chaos chuckles yet again, stroking his fake beard.
“Because you live in Detroit, and this ain’t really wizard country. Not the best environment for fostering magical studies…”
“Yeah, that’s what I’ve heard.”
I take a few moments to process everything I’ve seen and heard tonight, Chaos obliging me, now stroking Electra.
Holy fuckmothering shit, things got out of hand.
You know, I’d rather go another round with Jaws right about now.
Compared to this, dealing with Jaws was downright straightforward.
I think we might need to get back in my car and drive the hell out of here, before we run into those guys again.
But that might be exactly what they’re expecting me to do.
“Chaos… tell me something. Do you think we’re safe from those guys for now?”
“It depends, Jeff. Pretty much anyone with a shred of darkness in their heart is a viable host for a Seed, and again, we’re in Detroit. So I don’t want to give you false hope, but there’s a chance they might give up on recruiting you. You’re not their biggest target.”
“Cal is, isn’t he?”
Chaos nods solemnly.
“Dehak hates him, which only makes me like Dehak less. He hates Cal more than even you hated Cal, in fact. Who do you think liberated Drakonia? Cal actually did that twice, y’know. The first time was just the tutorial.”
So that’s how Cal was knighted.
He mentioned Drakonia too, back when I went to the School to not talk about Jaws. Said he was knighted by… was it Lorik? Yeah, that’s it.
And Marley mentioned Dehak too. Said that he wants to kill someone called Harvey, who knows too much.
I’ve never met Harvey, and I don’t even know who he is, but I feel an inexplicable sense of kinship with him.
Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that Chaos has also mentioned Dehak in the past.
Back on the day I adopted Electra…
When Chaos was… angry at me…
“I’ve definitely gotta call Cal about this.”
Electra grins at me.
“An yu wuz gunna du dat in da mow-nin.”
“Yeah, yeah, gloat about it later. You think he’ll mind being woken up, Chaos?”
“For this? Certainly not. In fact, you should probably call him now.”
I grab my phone.
“Yeah, I don’t think those guys are gonna stay in Detroit for very long…”
The Rider keeps driving the camper away from Jeff’s house, heading south.
“Snow’s letting up.”
They’re not planning to backtrack. Getting over the Mackinac Bridge once was already an ordeal.
Dehak sits at the dining table, peering out into the night through the gap, the window still open, just in case Varney is early.
“That unexpected snowstorm has served its purpose, Rider. To think, it was all just so Robinson would be wearing that hideous woollen garment at the right moment. I’m genuinely a bit impressed at Chaos’ foresight and sheer audacity, but unfortunately, it’s being overshadowed by a copious amount of UNYIELDING RAGE!!!”
He takes a moment to compose himself, taking a deep breath purely for the sake of relaxation.
Then he exhales through his nostrils, not sounding or looking much calmer.
“But Varney is out there, carrying out the next phase. When he’s done, he won’t have much trouble meeting us at the rendezvous point.”
The Many looks down from their perch.
“Su it nu am a toh-taw woss, Dehak. We can stiww git away.”
“Yes, and we can turn this around. By now, Robinson is most likely contacting the boy, and telling him all about his run-in with the Rider. But by the time the boy makes his way to Detroit, raring for his third round with Lord Dehak the Almighty… we won’t even be here anymore. It’s already worked once, and–”
At that moment, two bats fly in through the open window, landing on the dining table.
Dehak looks at the bats.
“That was quick.”
One of the bats, with a little bat beard and a bald spot on his head, grins up at Dehak.
“This idiot didn’t think twice about inviting me in. He turned in no time, like he wasn’t even trying to fight it. I think he secretly wanted this to happen.”
The bearded bat flies off the table, and Varney returns to human form, addressing his new thrall.
“You must be thirsty, child.”
The second bat flies off the table too, turning into a man wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “I REALLY, REALLY HATE MASSACHUSETTS”, above a print of the state of Massachusetts being stabbed with a knife.
It was custom made.
And like Varney, the newcomer has blood red eyes, hair black as night, sharp, pointy canine teeth, and deathly pale skin.
“Yes, Master. So thirsty…”
“There’s NuBlood in the storeroom in the back. Help yourself, and try not to knock the Rider’s bike over. Oh, and make sure you leave enough for me. Flying makes Varney a thirsty boy.”
As the newly turned vampire obeys his master, the Many watches them go.
“Su, uh, hu am dat?”
“He used to work for an alchemist who called himself Eli Khzar, Many. Remember what Dehak told us at Manistique Lake? Before my new thrall quit, he helped himself to…”
The bearded vampire reaches into a pocket of his robe, and extracts an unusual object.
It looks like a large metal key, an old-fashioned one.
With an infinity symbol on it.
“…this. Stole it from Eli’s secret room, apparently. After Victor and his friends visited the secret room, and before they set fire to the building. He told me a lot on the way here, he was there for that entire fiasco.”
Dehak beams at the sight of the key.
“At long last… the Key to Infinity. With this, we can access the Infinite Corridor, the road to everywhere. Well done, Varney. Where was your new friend keeping it?”
Varney hands the Key to Infinity over to Dehak.
“It was in the junk drawer, believe it or not. He had completely forgotten that he even had it until I ordered him to spill the beans. So are you going to keep it on a chain?”
Dehak laughs most raucously.
“Are you mad, man? Don’t you remember what happened to my precious Lamp of Desire? No, this time, I’ll just keep the all-important artifact in my pocket, instead of letting it dangle around my neck where everyone can see it.”
The Many giggles.
“Gud tu see yu weawn-in, Dehak. Su nao wut? Wut am we gunna du nex?”
Dehak strokes his stringy beard, mulling it over.
“Well, we didn’t recruit Robinson, but we did get the Key to Infinity, and someone who can serve as our face. Two out of three is pretty good, I’d say. Our new friend will need a change of clothes, and probably a pair of those shaded glasses too.”
“An how ess-ack-wee am we gunna git doze?”
Varney takes that question.
“He’s still got his wallet on him, and it was fortuitous that he just happened to make a big withdrawal from one of those automated teller machines, earlier this evening. He had gone to one of those stripped clubs, but was kicked out before he spent a lot of money. Apparently, touching the women there is strictly forbidden.”
Dehak scoffs, looking nauseated. They’ve passed a lot of strip clubs during their journey through Canada and the United States, and the Rider, knowing the most about modern day Earth, explained what a strip club is with extreme reluctance.
“I don’t know what to make of those gaudy places. I haven’t longed for the pleasures of the flesh in centuries. Really, when you can wield the powers I wield, sex sort of loses all of its appeal. The surge of raw, unfettered magical might at your fingertips feels far better than any pleasure a woman can make you feel. Unless you use that might to kill her.”
The Many grins cheekily.
“An we am a fwuffy-- weww, we am a wotta fwuffies-- an dey nu gut anee mawes in dem stwip cwubs. Da point am, we gut woh-kaw muh-nees nao, wite?”
Varney nods again.
“And not a small amount. A new suit and a pair of shaded glasses can’t be that expensive, can it?”
The Rider interrupts.
“First of all, they’re called SUNGLASSES, or just SHADES, we’ve been over this. Second, I’m kinda driving aimlessly right now, since we don’t need to go to the rendezvous point anymore. Time to set a course, Dehak.”
Dehak nods happily as he walks over to the front.
“Indeed. Our enemies will learn of all that’s happened in Detroit tonight.”
“Dey mite awweady knu. Dey cud be awn dey way hewe wite nao.”
“Which is why I think it’ll be best…”
Dehak holds the key up to his rotten mouth, whispering a few words to it.
It starts glowing, with an aura of spiraling black and white, like a monochrome candy cane.
“…if we set a course for Drakonia. They won’t think to look for us there. Even if they know about Varney’s new thrall, they won’t know that he had the Key, or that we have the Key. They’ll think we’re still stuck on Earth.”
“Nu fiks wut nu am bwoke-un, eh?”
“Indeed, Many. Let’s see how long the ruse lasts this time. Goodbye, Earth. We’ll be back before long.”
Dehak sits in the passenger seat, looking at the road ahead.
“And you and your shite-rodent will see us again, Robinson.”
There’s no cars in front of them right now.
Dehak points the glowing Key forward.
A portal opens with a hideous cracking sound, a few feet ahead of the camper.
A portal of spiralling black and white, like the aura of the Key.
Deep within the portal, the Octovirate can see something glowing in all the colors of the rainbow, like a swirling nebula. Every few seconds, they see a glimpse of octarine.
The portal is big enough for the camper to just drive into.
Which it does, the portal closing behind it.