Note: read “Should’ve Known Sweater” first. If you haven’t been keeping up with the other series, the last segment is going to make absolutely zero sense to you. You’ve been warned.
One week after my harrowing final encounter with Jaws, I load my luggage into my car, outside Faucheuse Hotel.
Man, I’m gonna miss living in a hotel so fancy.
But I can’t live here forever.
I’ve spent the last week putting a plan together, and I’ve come to a decision.
I’m leaving town, but I’m not leaving for good.
Maybe I’ll come back again some day, but I need to spend some time away from this city.
If I feel like I’m going down the wrong path again, I know where I can go for help.
And if I do decide to come back for good, I’ve got reasons to stay.
The amazing weather, for starters.
But first, I need to go back to Detroit.
I need to check out the damage in my house, and see if there’s anything I can salvage. A lotta that stuff has sentimental value, but anything related to hurting fluffies is being thrown out.
I’m not staying there, either. If I stay in Detroit for too long, I’ll definitely fall back into old habits.
I don’t really know where I’m gonna go after Detroit, but I’ll figure it out.
Naturally, I’ve quit my job at Starbucks, and I’ve said goodbye to the friends I made at the Hotel, Flufftopia, the Tower and the Foundation, and the acquaintances I met at the School.
I’m still not friends with Korkea.
But he did kinda save my life, so I owe him one now.
Word has somehow spread that I’m leaving town, and I’ve had to deal with people saying goodbye, snapping one last selfie with me, telling me I’ll always be welcome back, and giving me toys to pass on to any ferals I come across on the road.
I know I don’t have to do that anymore, but I’ve still got a lot of those toys, and I’ve gotta do something with 'em. I’ve got all of the shopping bags full of toys and books on the backseat.
And this morning, I packed all of my stuff, the toys, the books, the clothes I had to buy, all of it. I had to buy a couple of suitcases too.
I cleaned out the complimentary toiletries in the bathroom, so I’m good on tiny bottles of shampoo and shower gel, and disposable shower caps.
I cleaned out the minibar too, because I had spent points to make that not rape my wallet, and damnit, I was gonna make the last day count. So I’m good on snacks too.
I didn’t go overboard with the freebies, though. I’m not one of those weirdos who goes so far as to steal the batteries from the remote.
I was this close to stealing the towels, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Then I took one last tour through the room, made sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, headed downstairs, said goodbye to the staff on the way and thanked them for everything, and made a trip to the gift shop, wanting to use that discount one more time before I checked out and lost it.
I bought a few of those towels, among a few other things.
Ever since I finally got rid of the sweater, I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.
The strangest thing happened the morning after Jaws came back, though.
On my way back to the hotel, I visited the feral herd living behind the place.
And then I realized that I had to pee bad.
But just as the thought to piss on the herd entered my head…
I started feeling an itchy sensation.
I’m not wearing the sweater anymore, but still, I felt itchy.
And I couldn’t shake it until I gave up, and went to piss in a toilet, like one is supposed to do.
Maybe a bit of that sweater was left behind in me. Maybe, when Jaws stabbed me, my blood intermingled with the sweater’s itchy essence.
Maybe I’ve developed a conscience, in no small part due to Korkea’s influence.
Or maybe I was just imagining it. Maybe it’s just become…
I’ll have someone keeping an eye on me while I’m on the road, anyway.
I’m actually feeling optimistic about this.
Once everything’s loaded, I walk over to the open passenger side door.
“You sure you don’t need anything from the back before we go? I’m not stopping until we leave the city limits.”
My adorable partner in not-exactly-crime grins at me from her carrier.
“Ewectwa am gud, fanks Jeff.”
So I close the door.
Yeah, Electra’s tagging along for the ride.
I told her she could do whatever she wants now that I’m free. I offered her a ride to Fluffywood, so she could audition, or to the Foundation, so she could find a new owner.
But she said that she’s going wherever I’m going, because she insists on keeping an eye on me, and if I ditch her, she’ll tell Korkea.
So I said “fuck it,” and welcomed her aboard.
It’ll be nice to have some company on the road, and hey, I’ve grown fond of Electra.
Honestly, she’s more like a kindred spirit than a pet.
She already called dibs on her favorite toys from my stash.
She’s got one of the Korkea plushies in her carrier, and I think she chose that one just because she knew it would bug me.
We’re not friends, I’m not gonna say yes if he invites me to hotbox his office, but now I see that he’s not as bad as I thought.
So it doesn’t really bug me.
And who knows, maybe I’ll make some new friends on the road!
Or new more than friends.
I didn’t really have a lot of time to focus on dating while I was playing the game. And I didn’t have a lot of time to enjoy that rooftop pool after finally ridding myself of the sweater, so my life didn’t really have any hot women in bikinis in it.
Hey, a man has needs, and I’m sorry if this is too much information, but I didn’t feel safe whacking off, knowing that Chaos could be watching at any time.
He offered to let me spend some points on some privacy, the same deal as SFT: one point per minute.
But I’ve never been the kinda guy who would pay to bust a nut. I mean, I live in an age of effectively infinite free porn on the internet.
So yeah, I did that after I took that piss.
I washed my hands afterwards, though. Who doesn’t?
And I’m still carrying hand sanitizer on me. I’ve got small bottles, I can just keep one of 'em in my pocket.
Anyway, if I don’t find romance on the road, I won’t sweat it. I’ve never been the kinda guy who feels entitled to that, either.
I don’t know what the future holds for me.
But I’ll do my best to make sure it’s an outcome I deem acceptable.
Just as I’m about to get in my car, I see a few people arrive to see me off.
Chaos, Korkea, Marley, Victor, Kyle, and Erwin.
Erwin’s wearing his lab coat and Foundation uniform, and Korkea, Victor, and Kyle are all in street clothes.
Did you know that Kyle seriously wears a tie-dye battle suit in combat? Got an alien head on the back too. But right now, he’s wearing a dark green hoodie, jeans, and sandals. The hood’s down, exposing his hair: shorter, wavier and lighter than Korkea’s. His eyes are reddish, so he probably burned one on the way over, and I’m guessing he doesn’t have a shift at Flufftopia today. He wouldn’t go to work high, would he?
Victor’s battle suit is pure black. He’s the only person in the ChaotiX with any taste, I think. But today, he’s wearing a black tank top, camo pants and combat boots. Covered in scars, most likely has tons of grisly tales about how he got them, and almost as jacked as Korkea. It might just be a trick of the light, but I see a faint line of scar tissue going all the way around his neck. I don’t wanna know how he got that one.
Funnily enough, Dwayne is more jacked than Korkea and Victor put together, but Korkea’s still the strongest.
Don’t ask me how that works.
And then, last but not least, there’s Korkea, who is wearing an Undertale T-shirt, shorts with more pockets than I’ve ever seen on one item of clothing, and, I can’t make this up, Crocs. He’s got his sword, shield and bag on him, too. Does he ever leave the house without those things? The man must expect a fight everywhere he goes.
When he catches me staring incredulously at his feet, he winks, and the Crocs suddenly turn into those golden shoes from that one episode of Married… with Children.
“Okay, Korkea, who did you copy that power from?”
“Oh, that’s not one of my powers, that’s MIKA, my Endo-Klyn Suit. Here, watch.”
His street clothes turn into his battle suit, then into a black and blue power armor, and then back to street clothes.
“It’s the latest evolution of our nano suit technology. Pretty cool, huh? I can change clothes with a thought. And I can wear any outfit I can imagine. No more wasting time switching between a nano suit and nano armor anymore, either.”
“So how expensive is an Endo-Klyn… hold on, Klyn? As in–”
“Long story, not the right time or place for it. We’ve only got this one so far, and you couldn’t afford one anyway. So, uh, yeah, we just wanted to see you one more time before you left.”
And Chaos, in the jester form I’ve seen him in the most, is holding a present, wrapped in rainbow-colored wrapping paper.
“And I wanted to give you something, Jeff. I hope you like it.”
He hands the present to me, and I eagerly unwrap it.
“Oh boy, I can’t wait to-- ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?”
It’s the sweater! The damn sweater!
Like a blister, it keeps coming back!
But it looks as pristine and new as the day Chaos forced it upon me. No trace of the damage Jaws did to it.
Is this thing indestructible?!?
“I have to ask: is this sweater actually a Klyntar?”
“I can honestly say that it is not. Sometimes a sweater is just a sweater. But you would have regretted attempting to destroy it while you were playing the game. Call it a souvenir of your time here. Don’t worry, you don’t have to wear it if you don’t want to. And if you do wear it, you’ll find that not only will it not itch anymore, it will actually be very comfortable. You’ve earned that, Jeff.”
I toss the sweater onto the backseat with the toys.
“Well, thanks, but I thought that Jaws would be wearing this thing. Isn’t he playing the game now? I haven’t seen him around.”
“Unfortunately, things didn’t work out with Jaws. Do you remember the choice I offered you, after you discovered Electra’s true colors? Ha. Well, let’s just say that Jaws made the wrong choice, and didn’t look where he was going.”
“So… so he’s dead?”
“As the proverbial doornail, my friend. But you must keep one thing in mind: dead does not mean gone.”
Korkea nods knowingly.
“I can back Chaos up on this, Jeff. A lot of my enemies just didn’t know when to stay buried. We had to kill Hans like a dozen times before it stuck. He hid one of his neural backups in Kirk’s old armor. It was cunning, but not cunning enough. And Jaws wouldn’t be the first person to become a demon and escape from Hell to continue a vendetta. However, I don’t think he’d make the cut, they’ve seen what they get when they give an abuser some sip.”
I take a few seconds to process that.
“…Good riddance. If he does come back as a demon, though…”
“You’ll be the first to know, and dibs on killing him is yours if you want it.”
“I’m no demon slayer, Korkea.”
“Neither was Mark, on his first day at Flufftopia. You’ve seen how much people can change if they want to, dude.”
“Okay, good point.”
Erwin hands me that amulet that lets me pass the Foundation’s wards and a pamphlet, a big smile on his face.
“I think we can trust you with this amulet, Jeff. If you don’t need it, call it another souvenir. And this pamphlet has a map with every Faucheuse Foundation branch in the United States. If Electra is ever in need of medical attention, feel free to namedrop me at the nearest branch, they’ll make sure she’s treated quickly.”
“Thanks, but you’re in an awful good mood.”
“Now that you don’t work at Starbucks anymore, the line isn’t so long. It’s not that I’m happy to see you leave, but… well, if you ever come back, could you possibly get a job at Subway instead? I never eat there.”
“Hey, if I had known how that would play out in advance, I would have done that to begin with.”
Korkea then offers me his business card.
“I don’t do this for a lot of people, but here’s my phone number. If you ever need help from the ChaotiX, all you gotta do is ask. Wherever you may be, I can be there in no time.”
Holy fuck there’s a lot of titles on the back.
He collects those too?
The Brightest One, the Harbinger of Chaos, Champion of the Universe, the Crownless King, the… Bestest Hoomin?
Now I wanna hear the stories behind those titles, but that’ll have to wait.
Kyle has something for me too. A baby blue plastic card, like a credit card, with the Flufftopia logo on it.
“This card will get you a discount at any Flufftopia store, dude. Wayne has one too.”
“I was half expecting you to pull a big bag of weed out of your pocket, Kyle. But again, thanks, this will come in handy.”
“I’ve got something to give you too, Jeff.”
He offers me a necklace.
When I take a closer look at it, I see a bullet on the chain.
And when I take an even closer look, I see my name engraved on the bullet.
“The bullet I was gonna put in you, yeah. This is my way of saying you’re off the hook. For now. I engraved two bullets, because it never hurts to double tap. So don’t fuck this up, Jeff. Or you won’t see the next bullet I give you coming until it’s already in your head. Remember what I said after the press conference?”
“You don’t need to remind me, Victor.”
“Please, call me Vic. Just don’t call me Vicky, there’s only one person alive or undead who’s allowed to call me that.”
“Is it Korkea?”
“No, it’s not Cal. But I think you’d like June. It’s hard to not like her.”
Then, at last, Korkea offers me a handshake.
“If you’re coming to town again, let me know, okay? I can make time to catch up.”
After a few seconds of careful deliberation, I accept.
“Christ, you’ve got a strong grip!”
“Funny thing is, that’s me holding back.”
Marley cracks a grin.
“Yu knu how stwong daddeh can be.”
I grin right back.
“Honestly, if he couldn’t hold back, I’d feel sorry for his wife.”
Korkea starts laughing.
“Oh, I am so telling Jude you said that! It’s been fun, Jeff. Sorry about all of us screwing with you. And, uh, sorry about the Sugarbean’s incident.”
I open the car door, getting in, putting the pamphlet, cards, amulet and necklace in the glovebox compartment.
“What incident? I just happened to have diarrhea after eating some bad curry the night before.”
Jaws’ knife is in there too, with the brass knuckles. I found the knife when I got back to the hotel room after my recovery.
The knife was absolutely clean, and lodged in a wheel of cheese, which turned out to be very tasty cheese.
I made some sandwiches with that cheese, wrapped up for me and Electra to enjoy when we stop for lunch.
I hope she enjoys the potato chip I snuck in one of hers. It’ll be a nice crunchy surprise.
And if Chaos thinks I’ll need that knife, I hope it’s just for cutting more excellent cheeses.
Not like that.
“It’s not your fault that it started right when you walked in. It was just bad timing.”
Korkea smirks again.
“I didn’t smell diarrhea, dude. For the record, a locked bathroom door isn’t an obstacle for me, but I decided to let you have some space. I just figured, you’d build up a tolerance for me with a small dose here and there. Looks like it worked, huh?”
“I guess it did, Cal.”
“Ey, you finally stopped calling me by my surname! More progress! We’ll make a ChaotiX ally out of you yet! See you at the next ChaotiX blunt rotation?”
As I close the door, I roll the window down, smiling and giving him the finger as I do.
“Eat shit, Korkea.”
Cal smiles back, giving me the finger too.
“Right back atcha, Ugly Sweater Guy. By the way: Niv says don’t be a stranger, because he’d like to talk to you too.”
I don’t know who “Niv” is, but that’ll also have to wait.
“Another time, Cal. I’ve had my fill of ChaotiX members for the time being.”
I’m just making that assumption. Seems like the safe bet.
“François wanted to introduce himself, but sadly, he didn’t get a chance either. I told Goldilocks that you’ll probably be back, so don’t disappoint him.”
Wait, Dave mentioned someone called François. Another half-demon in the ChaotiX, and a wizard as well.
And Chaos has already mentioned Goldilocks, who he did a thing with during the World Revolution.
So François and Goldilocks are the same person?
Man, I’ve clearly still got a lot of homework to do.
But I’ve got some more books in the back, including brand new copies of Who’s Who in the ChaotiX and To Hell And Back: The Dave Weissman Story, so hopefully, if or when I return…
I’ll know a lot more about those guys…
And I won’t feel so lost.
“It’s been real, folks. I’ll… I’ll see you around. But right now, I’ve got a long drive to Michigan ahead of me. I just hope my house hasn’t been picked clean by now.”
Chaos chuckles one more time.
“Oh, I’ve been house-sitting for you the entire time you were here. Remember, I can be in as many places at once as I want to be. So whether or not you’re going to stay in Detroit, you’ll find your house untouched by hoodlums, and all of your belongings exactly where you left them. I also fixed the leaky toilet for you, and a few other things around the house. Everything related to your old hobby has been disposed of, so you know. If you decide to sell the place, you’ll probably get a bit more than you paid for it.”
“Thanks, Chaos. So, uh, what are you gonna do, since Jaws is too dead to play with you? You won’t be bored, will you? Because I don’t wanna imagine what you do when you’re bored.”
Chaos waves off my concerns.
“I’m sure I’ll find someone else to play the game with. There’s plenty of people like you, who need to be nudged away from what we call the Asshole Event Horizon. Not the sex move invented by Victor here, no, Vic, please don’t tell him how it goes. Anyway, I’ll run into someone entertaining enough before long. But I don’t know if they’ll be as entertaining as you. You were an excellent player, Jeff Robinson, and I sincerely thank you for the experience. I’ve won a bet with Law because of you, I should confess. He thought that you’d sacrifice Electra to save your own skin, one way or another. But Peace, on the other hand, felt that betting against you was a sucker’s bet. Perhaps I’ll invite you and Electra to one of my parties, and introduce you to the whole gang. It might be a bit awkward if the Death of Fluffies shows up. You have sent a fair amount of work his way.”
He offers me a handshake too, and again, I hesitate before I accept, sticking my hand through the open car window.
“…I’ll consider it, Chaos. And thank you. Without you, I don’t know where I’d be right now, but it wouldn’t be anywhere good. The game was fun, looking back. And I’m gonna miss it a bit, I can’t lie. That doesn’t mean I wanna do it again, though!”
“Shame, it would be interesting to see how the new dynamic mixes things up. Worry not, even if I don’t find someone else to play with, I’ll have plenty of other things to keep me busy.”
“Such as De–”
“Ah-ah-ah. Keep that to yourself for now, Jeff.”
Cal raises an eyebrow.
“Chaos, is that something I should know about?”
“…I’m dreadfully sorry, dearest Cal, but I can’t elaborate at the moment. This is a blatant attempt to change the subject, but I feel the sudden urge to go find a barren planet to renovate into a vacation home. This time, I can rest assured that Vulcanus won’t show up and ruin my hard work when I’m done. Thanks for that, Cal. I’ll see all of you later, but for now, I must say goodbye, wonderful people! Jeff, we’ll meet again one day, you can count on it! If I need your talents again, I know where to find you.”
And just like that, Chaos is gone.
When I look at the dashboard, I notice that my fuel gauge is full.
I was gonna refuel later, but now I don’t have to.
Thanks again, Chaos.
“Alright, it’s time to hit the road. Cal, guys, take care.”
“You better do the same, Jeff. Remember, you aren’t flying solo now.”
I look at Electra, smiling at me in her carrier.
“Am yu weddy tu take dis show awn da woad, pawt-new?”
And I smile back as I start the engine, Cal, Marley, Vic, Kyle and Erwin waving goodbye.
“You sure you don’t wanna back out now, Electra? Last chance.”
“Ewectwa am guin whewe yu am guin, wike it ow nu.”
I shrug, and wave back to the others as I drive away.
“Your call, partner. Next stop: Detroit, Michigan!”
And as we finally start making our way out of the city, I let out a sigh of relief, before I start laughing out of exhilaration.
From here, things can only get better.
Meanwhile, in the first circle of Hell, Bruce “Jaws” Humphries is still waiting to be punished.
His assumption is that the tenth circle is being prepared for his arrival, and that the demons have something big planned for him.
He’s sitting on an uncomfortable red couch in what appears to be an Earthly waiting room, but the dominant color of the decor is red, yellowy smoke and the stench of rotten eggs hang in the air, and somewhere beyond the waiting room, the somewhat muffled wails of the damned can be heard.
There’s a water cooler, but when Jaws tried to grab a drink, it turned out to be full of acid.
The curtains, also red, are all closed, and Jaws has made no attempts to open them.
He knows he won’t like what he sees.
Jaws is the only damned soul in the room, and to his annoyance, this is the one waiting room he’s been to with zero magazines.
He thinks it’s strange, because he’s always seen waiting rooms as where magazines go to die.
But there’s an elite demon sitting behind the receptionist’s counter, talking on a red phone.
“So I told G’r’f’l, there’s NO WAY he could fit THAT many pineapples up Hitler’s ass, but he went and proved me wrong… I’m not bullshitting you, I saw the whole thing, and by the nineteenth one, Hitler was screaming like a little girl, it’s been AGES since he last did that… you shoulda been there, it was fucking HILARIOUS! Yeah, I know, feeding those anthrax-filled tarantulas with big dicks takes up your whole day, but hey, SOMEONE’S gotta do it, P’thr…”
Jaws clears his throat, purely to get the elite demon’s attention.
“Um, I’m not exactly in a hurry here, but is this gonna take much longer?”
The demon puts one clawed hand over the receiver, glaring the glare of interrupted receptionists across the multiverse.
“You’ll be called down when they’re ready for you.”
“But what are they–”
“You’ll be called down. When they are. Ready for you.”
As the demon returns to his phone call, Jaws gives up, and irritatedly rests his head on his elbow.
He’s not looking forward to the coming torture, but he’s been waiting for a month, and that month felt like a year.
Time works differently on the Other Side.
But here’s what Jaws still hasn’t realized:
His torture has already started.
Both Heaven and Hell have borrowed a few ideas from the living world.
The wait isn’t this long Up There.
And they have magazines.
Back on the Prime Material Plane, in a forest in Michigan, in the Octovirate of Darkness’ camper van, Dehak, lich necromancer, scrys on Calvin again, using one of the hairs Dehak stole from his new nemesis during Operation Rising Sun.
While the camper looks the same as ever on the outside, it has grown significantly larger in size on the inside since the Octovirate stole it in Russia and drove it all the way across the Bering Strait, and through Alaska and Canada, and the camper has even grown an entirely new room, complete with a new door.
The main living space of the camper is now big enough that the Octovirate can easily navigate around the Rider’s bike.
And not only did the tiny bathroom become large enough for the Octovirate to stretch their arms properly while using the toilet (that is, if any of them still needed to use a toilet), but the shower also spontaneously sprouted a bathtub one morning.
Which is also going unused. All of the Octovirate are used to much worse smells.
Frankly, a shower wouldn’t really make a difference for Dehak. He’s a walking corpse.
And not a sexy one, like a vampire.
Although, Varney was already old and balding when he transformed himself into the first vampire, so he’s not much of a looker.
If you aren’t aware, any place of residence someone of a magical nature occupies for long enough will become a house of magic, and three of the five Octovirate members residing here are wizards.
It can’t really be said that any of them are living here.
So Dehak has finally emptied out his bag of holding, full of all kinds of arcane paraphernalia, and has converted the new room into a magical workshop. Instead of using the sink in the camper’s kitchenette to scry, he’s using his trusty black cauldron, filled to the brim with water.
Varney, the inventor of vampirism, and the Hungry Rider, the skeletal biker with a cracked skull burning black, watch with Dehak, as does the Many, the gestalt entity comprised of fluffy and woolly souls, who is floating above the cauldron.
Shadow Calvin, the dark doppelganger created by Dehak with vile magic and another of those stolen hairs, is still sitting on that bed in the back.
Dehak and the other three Octovirate members saw Calvin and his friends saying goodbye to Jeff and Electra, and now, a wide grin is on the lich’s rotten face.
“So, what do you make of him, gentlemen?”
Varney nods approvingly.
“So much darkness in his heart, Dehak. And he tries so hard to suppress it. I think he’d make a perfect host for a Seed.”
The Rider is casually leaning on the cauldron now.
“And a perfect addition to the Octovirate. All we have to do is… give him a little somethin’-somethin’.”
Dehak rolls his rotten eyes at the Rider.
“You’re not wrong, but stop leaning on the cauldron. If it spills, you’re mopping it up.”
The Rider reluctantly stops leaning.
“Fine. So what’s the plan? We gonna hunt that Jeff guy down?”
Dehak shakes his head, stroking his stringy beard.
“No. We don’t need to. You heard him, Rider. Mr. Robinson is headed to Mishy-gun. He’s coming to us. All we have to do is wait for him, and get him while his guard is down. He’ll see things our way in no time.”
The Many chimes in with the echoing voices of all the fluffies and woollies whose souls they’ve assimilated.
“An den, if we can git Umbwa an da Dawk Dee-mun back, dat makes ate, wite?”
Dehak grabs the rolled-up tarp with the Circle of the Devourer on it, a portable arcane circle.
“Indeed. Eight is such a powerful number in magic. We must have eight members. And Erebus and Shaun are both lost to us, albeit for different reasons. Depending on Umbra and the Demon’s status, we may have to replace them too. But worthy candidates are showing themselves, one by one. We will be eight once more, no matter what. From there, we can begin building up our organization on Earth. It was unbelievably hard, getting across the border from Kannah-duh. And we had to take the long way here to avoid being noticed. So our destination is still a ways off, but it is fortuitous that the back roads lead us so far to the east. Of course, this vehicle can go where most cannot. There are roads into this land that are unguarded, because those who should be guarding them don’t realise they’re roads at all.”
If you haven’t figured it out by now: Dehak likes to hear himself talk.
“Varney, could you move the cauldron for me?”
He doesn’t like saying please, though.
Varney effortlessly moves the cauldron aside with his vampiric strength.
“Don’t forget the jar, either.”
After Dehak unrolls the tarp on the floor, he grabs an opaque black jar from a shelf.
“Right, we’ll need somewhere safe to store the Seed until we use it.”
On the tarp, there is a black circle, surrounded by eight squiggly lines and eight dots.
All around the inside of the circle, there are rows and rows of triangles.
A simplification of something horrible.
Something of which mortals cannot grasp the true form.
Something lurking in a realm of darkness beyond darkness.
Once the tarp has been unrolled, Dehak sweeps his free hand, using not his magic, but a much darker power.
A black portal opens in the arcane circle, and the horrid voice of the Octovirate’s master speaks from it.
Dehak reaches into the portal, quickly pulling out a slimy, black, wriggling Seed of Darkness.
A spawn of the dread entity the Octovirate serves. That entity has been spawning Seeds of Darkness for eons, and very few are implanted into hosts.
If implanted in a viable host in time, the Seed will draw out and amplify their negative qualities, unleashing their internal darkness, creating a Darksyde, a new, darker persona that subsumes the original. Essentially, it transforms the host into who they are on their worst day.
There is a cure for this, but it’s very rare.
However, if a Seed isn’t implanted in a host in time, then it will develop into something else: a Darkling. Darklings are driven only by a mindless hunger they cannot satisfy, same as their progenitor.
It’s because they are lacking something fundamental.
Dehak used another Seed during the creation of Shadow Calvin. He can summon as many as he needs for his purposes.
By the time he’s summoned and used one, his master has spawned so many more.
“I must confess that I agree with the Demon: these wonderful little Seeds are rather cute.”
Once he’s sealed it securely in the black jar, he closes the portal with a wave of his hand.
“While many are sensitive to magical energies, few can detect the might of the Devourer. And those who can are forbidden to interfere. All we have to do now, gentlemen, is wait for Mr. Robinson to return to his hometown, and we will be six.”
The Rider raises a bony hand.
“Dibs on killing his shitrat.”
Varney raises a pale hand.
“Dibs on drinking her blood.”
And the Many raises a hoof.
“Dibs awn ab-sowb-in hew souw.”
“See? We will all leave Mishy-gun with something we want.”
The Rider facepalms, which is, as always, an impressive feat when one is, ah, skin-deprived.
“It’s MICHIGAN, not Mishy-gun. I’ve gotten sick of you mispronouncing the names of places, Dehak. We get it. You’re not from Earth. Learn the damn names already.”
Dehak holds up his rotten left hand, a silver ring on his ring finger.
“If it wasn’t for my Ring of Allspeak or my dearly departed Lamp of Desire, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I am still learning Eeng-leesh, Rider. And Varney here was born before the language existed in its current form.”
Varney looks at his own hands, devoid of magical jewelry.
“I miss being able to wear silver. I made a bracelet for Enigma, with the same magic as a Ring of Allspeak. Without that, nobody in my home time would be able to understand him. It was a thousand years before his kind was even created.”
The Many nods solemnly.
“Fwuffies nu du su gud wif anee wang-widge dat nu am Eeng-wish.”
Dehak puts the jar away in a closet. There’s a box of identical jars, all currently empty, on the bottom shelf.
“Umbra is quite the omniglot, you know. Of course, he’s the smartest of their kind there is. And he’s such a scintillating conversationalist. He should be here, enjoying this journey with the rest of us.”
“And we need to get the Demon away from his better half, before the ChaotiX finds a way to put them back together. Let’s hope Robinson doesn’t take too long GETTING here.”
The Rider heads to the door leading back to the main interior of the camper.
“When he gets to Detroit, we should be waiting for him there. So clean up your mess, Dehak, because we’re hitting the road again.”
“Very well, Rider. I call machine gun.”
The Rider throws his bony hands up as he stomps out and puts his black helmet on.
“It’s SHOTGUN, Dehak! Not MACHINE GUN! Gah!”
Then Dehak rolls up the tarp.
“I know so little about Earth weaponry. According to Umbra, Earth’s armed forces have weapons called rocket lawnchairs now, so we should watch out for those.”
Varney folds his arms, raising a black eyebrow. Most vampires have black hair, regardless of their hair color in life.
“Rocket lawnchairs? Are you sure you heard correctly, Dehak?”
Dehak laughs as he too walks over to the door.
“Of course I’m sure! Apparently, a rocket lawnchair is some kind of device that fires explosive projectiles. If it’s shaped like a chair, using it must be a challenge. Truly, a weapon fit only for a master warrior to wield.”
Varney and the Many stare blankly at each other, shrug, and follow Dehak out.
“I’m not in the mood for another argument, I don’t know any better.”
“Nee-fuw du we, Vaw-nee.”
But what none of the Octovirate members noticed is the purple and yellow candle on one shelf. It’s just one of many candles in the room. Dehak has a lot of candles, seeing as they’re one of the light sources he’s most accustomed to.
For many wizards, especially older ones, it’s not a proper arcane ritual without big dribbling candles.
The flame on the purple and yellow candle is shaped like a jester’s head, and burning in a suspiciously angry manner.