Hello all! I have a few season tickets to the Pens ECHL affiliate Wheeling Nailers. The Nailers play in Wheeling, West Virginia only about an hour west of Pittsburgh. The Nailers play in their final home-stand next Friday and Saturday nights (April 7th and 8th) against the Iowa Heartlanders and the Fort Wayne Komets. I have many extra unused tickets and buddy passes (well over 20) that will expire if not used so I’d love to use this opportunity to pass them along instead of letting them go to waste. I believe every Penguins fan should catch a game in both Wheeling and Wilkes Barre at least once in their lifetimes (but this giveaway is open to people that have been before as well)! Its a great atmosphere and a wonderful time. Many notable future NHL players/coaches got their start in Wheeling including Paul Bissonnette and Peter Laviolette as have many former Penguins alumni including Casey Desmith, Tom Kuhnhackl, Carter Rowney, Josh Archibald, Mike Condon, Mark Letestu, Tim Wallace, Tomas Vokoun, and many more. Maybe a future Penguin is playing in Wheeling next weekend?
Anyways, if you would be interested in receiving tickets, please leave a comment and also write how many you would like to receive. The tickets will be left under your name at the arena box office to pick up on the day of the game. If more tickets are claimed than I have available I will choose who gets them at random, then DM you to get your name that you want them left under. I’ll leave this post up for a few days and then contact you!
Friday, April 7th vs Iowa at 7:10 PM ($2 beer night)
Saturday, April 8th vs Fort Wayne at 7:10 PM (Fan Appreciation Night - Jersey auction and thousands of dollars worth of gift cards and prizes being given out during the game)
Lets go Pens/Nailers!
Read Part I Read Part II
Sometimes, the past refuses to stay buried.
Two years have passed since my second encounter with the Bloodscrawl Butcher, the twisted manifestation of my own inner darkness. After extensive therapy and hard-won personal growth, I believed I had finally conquered the demons that had haunted me for so long. My life had resumed a semblance of normalcy, and the horrors of the past seemed to be fading into memory.
I'm Tom Baldwin, a former deputy sheriff of Cape Girardeau, MO. Although I left the force after my traumatic experiences, I found solace in the quiet life of a private investigator, helping people solve their problems without the daily exposure to the horrors I had known as a deputy.
But the tranquility I had found was shattered when the unthinkable happened: the Bloodscrawl Butcher resurfaced. This time, however, it was not a creation of my own fractured psyche but a living, breathing person who had taken up the mantle of the infamous killer.
The first victim was discovered on the outskirts of town, mutilated in the same gruesome manner as the original Butcher's handiwork. The chilling message, "You're next," was painted on the wall in blood, a stark reminder of the terror that had once consumed me.
As the body count began to rise, I found myself drawn back into the darkness I thought I had left behind. The new Bloodscrawl Butcher seemed to be taunting me specifically, leaving clues that only I could decipher, forcing me to confront the horrific legacy I had inadvertently created.
With a growing sense of dread, I began to investigate the new wave of murders, the ghosts of my past lingering at the edge of my consciousness. As I delved deeper into the case, I discovered a chilling connection between the victims: they were all people who had played a role in my recovery and healing.
The realization hit me like a punch to the gut. This new Bloodscrawl Butcher wasn't just emulating the original; they were targeting me, seeking to undo the progress I had made and drag me back into the abyss of my own making.
As the pressure mounted, I found myself struggling to maintain my hard-won mental stability. My nights were plagued by nightmares, and my days consumed by the hunt for the person who sought to destroy me.
The break in the case came when I received an anonymous tip, leading me to a rundown motel on the edge of town. With a mixture of fear and determination, I approached the location, unsure of what horrors awaited me within.
As I entered the motel room, I was greeted by a scene straight out of my darkest nightmares. The walls were adorned with newspaper clippings detailing my past encounters with the Bloodscrawl Butcher, along with photographs of the victims, their eyes filled with terror.
At the center of the room, illuminated by the flickering light of a single candle, was the killer's latest victim. Their body was mutilated beyond recognition, a message scrawled in blood above them: "I'm doing this for you."
The weight of the horror that had been unleashed in my name threatened to crush me, but I knew that I couldn't allow the new Bloodscrawl Butcher to continue their reign of terror. I had to face the monster I had inadvertently created and put an end to the nightmare once and for all.
As I delved deeper into the twisted mind of the new Bloodscrawl Butcher, I found myself retracing the steps of my own descent into darkness. The killer was clearly someone who knew me well, who had studied my past and sought to become the embodiment of my worst fears.
The final confrontation came on a stormy night, as I tracked the killer to a desolate stretch of woods outside of Cape Girardeau. The wind howled through the trees, rain pouring down in icy sheets as I made my way deeper into the darkness, my flashlight the only thing guiding my way.
I knew I was getting closer, my instincts honed by years of experience screaming that the killer was near. My heart pounded in my chest, the terror of the situation threatening to overwhelm me, but I couldn't allow myself to falter. I had to face this monster and end their twisted reign of terror.
As I approached a clearing in the woods, I caught sight of a figure standing in the shadows, their eyes fixed on me with a cold, predatory gaze. The new Bloodscrawl Butcher stepped into the light, and I was shocked to see a face I recognized all too well: my former partner on the force, someone I had once trusted with my life.
"Why?" I demanded, my voice barely more than a whisper as the rain continued to pour down around us. "Why are you doing this?"
My former partner let out a chilling laugh, their eyes filled with a twisted satisfaction. "I wanted you to feel the pain you caused," they replied. "I wanted to show you the monster you created."
As we faced off in the storm, I realized that my own past had come back to haunt me in the most horrifying way possible. My former partner had been consumed by the darkness I had left behind, and it was now up to me to put an end to the nightmare.
The battle that ensued was one of both physical and psychological torment, as I fought not only to subdue the new Bloodscrawl Butcher but also to confront the guilt and fear that had plagued me for years.
As we struggled, the rain lashing down around us, I could feel my strength beginning to wane. But just as I feared I would be consumed by the darkness once more, I found a reserve of inner strength I didn't know I had, fueled by the determination to put an end to the terror.
With a final surge of adrenaline, I managed to overpower my former partner, pinning them to the ground as the storm continued to rage around us. As I stared into their eyes, I saw the flicker of the person I had once known, a reminder of the bond we had once shared.
"I'm sorry," I whispered, my heart heavy with regret as I realized that my own past had played a role in the horror that had unfolded. "But this has to end."
With the new Bloodscrawl Butcher finally in custody, the nightmare was over. But the wounds that had been inflicted on my soul would never fully heal. I had faced the darkness within myself and within someone I had once trusted, and it had changed me forever.
As I walked away from the scene, the storm slowly beginning to dissipate, I knew that my life would never be the same. The horrors I had faced had left their mark, but I had also found the strength to confront my own demons and protect those I cared about.
The Bloodscrawl Butcher's reign of terror had come to an end, but the battle for my soul would continue, a constant reminder of the darkness that lurked within us all. And as I moved forward, I vowed to never let that darkness consume me again, determined to find a way to let the light back in.
I asked ChatGPT to help me find the details of a match I was at in the 80s, I gave it the bits I could remember and it did the rest but look who it says played No4!!
As requested. Here are the lineups and scorers for the Southampton and Manchester United match at the Dell on September 28, 1985, which ended in a 2-2 draw: Southampton: 1. Peter Shilton (Goalkeeper) 2. Mark Dennis 3. Mark Wright 4. Ian Branfoot 5. David Armstrong 6. Jimmy Case 7. Steve Williams 8. George Lawrence 9. Joe Jordan 10. Danny Wallace 11. Andy Townsend
Manchester United: 1. Gary Bailey (Goalkeeper) 2. John Gidman 3. Arthur Albiston 4. Kevin Moran 5. Paul McGrath 6. Bryan Robson 7. Remi Moses 8. Frank Stapleton 9. Mark Hughes 10. Jesper Olsen 11. Alan Brazil
Goalscorers: - Mark Hughes (Manchester United) - Frank Stapleton (Manchester United) - Steve Williams (Southampton) - Danny Wallace (Southampton)
Life, for most, was a series of ups and downs. You fail your test but then your mom makes your favorite dish for dinner. You lose the big game for your team, but then you make a major breakthrough in the spell you've been practicing for weeks. You drop your ice cream, but find some cash in your pocket you didn't remember leaving there.
The girl you've been fawning over for weeks tickles your tonsils with her tongue, but then you're cut in half and enslaved by your nation's mortal enemy.
Yeah, my life was different,
there was no doubt about that at all. But the lowest lows made even the slightest highs feel so much higher. Something as simple as eating a hot meal was the height of life when you had been living on crackers, stale bread, and nearly century-old dried meat.
We failed to notice that everyone in the restaurant was staring at us as we wolfed down plate after plate. The juices; the flavors; the tenderness of the meat; the softness of the hot bread smothered in butter. I couldn't stop smiling as I ate.
"You gotta try this," Tovin said breathlessly between bites as he passed me a bowl containing what looked like some kind of wet, shredded, colorful salad. I swallowed the big bite of steak I had been chewing and quickly put a spoonful of the mystery dish in my mouth. It was heaven on earth.
"Holy smokes, what is
this?" I asked.
"I think it's the coleslaw, give it back," he said, pulling the bowl right out of my hand. I turned and looked at the dumbfounded waiter standing next to our table, and smiled. "More coleslaw, please! And ribs, I'm outta ribs! And a refill on... what was this called?"
He stared wide-eyed at my plate and then shook his head as though clearing his mind. "Uhh, I believe you were having the peach lemonade, sir."
"That!" I pointed my fork at him before turning back to the assortment of delicacies splayed out before me. I wasn't sure if it was because I hadn't had a proper meal in weeks, or if it was just that the empire knew how to eat, but it was the best food I had ever tasted in my life.
"So good," Tovin said in such a way that I had to check and make sure he wasn't crying.
After eating all that we wanted and all that we could, the two of us just sat slouched in our chairs with bulging stomachs. I lifted my hand shakily toward the last rib on my plate, but let it fall to my side as I closed my eyes and accepted defeat. The will was there but the room in my stomach wasn't.
"My goodness, sirs," said the waiter. "You hunters sure can eat."
I looked up at him with a satisfied grin, "Hard work always makes a meal so much better. Know what I'm saying?"
"Can't argue with that," said the waiter as he folded his hands. "But... if I may, could I politely ask you to pay your bill? I mean no offense, but you and your friend have a..." he cleared his throat. "Musk
I looked at Tovin and then at myself, and then at all the empty tables around us. We were still covered in the calraven's dried wing gunk. I had to have gone completely nose-blind to it. Now the faces everyone had been making at us made a lot more sense. I looked down to see that it had been flaking off of us and onto the restaurant floor.
"Oh man, I'm so sorry," I apologized.
"No!" said the man, holding his hands out. "It was an honor to serve the hunters keeping our cities safe, don't take me the wrong way. It would be our pleasure to serve you again, but it's about to be 5'o clock and our dinner rush will be starting soon."
I suddenly remembered something I had completely forgotten. I looked up at the man, "Excuse me, do you have a pencil?"
"Certainly," he answered, pulling one from his apron and setting it down on the checkered tablecloth. "Your bill will be 22 octims."
"That's so much," Tovin groaned, not bothering to lift his head or open his eyes. He wasn't wrong, but we had ordered almost everything on the menu. I wasn't completely certain I could walk correctly when it was time to leave. I pulled out the envelope and handed him 25 octims.
"Keep the change," I said, Tovin groaning quietly in tacit disapproval.
"Th-thank you!" said the waiter with a wide grin.
"In return, I'm keeping the pencil," I added, smiling back.
x - - x - - x - - ★ - - x - - x - - x
It didn't take long for us to find an inn. Bronzegirder was full of them, as it was apparently a booming industrial hub rife with people traveling on business. We decided to book one room with two separate bedrooms to save a bit of money. It came out to 9 octims a night, which when you factored in food, meant we only had a little over a week's worth of cash if we spent conservatively. I didn't know how long it was going to take me to find Atlas and Axle, but I couldn't see it happening that soon. We would likely have to hunt again; that or find a steady job that paid the bills.
It was a humble inn compared to some of the others we had seen. I really wanted to stay in one of the nicer ones, but Tovin wasn't having it. He said the less we had to go out and make money, the better, and I couldn't come up with a good enough argument to push back. While Tovin took a shower, I took an eraser to everything Fena had written to me in the notebook. I left a little bit of her message so as to avoid suspicion, and decided I'd write back later tonight before bed.
After his shower, he realized that he only had dirty clothes to change into and we were reminded that we needed to go shopping. I rinsed off and the two of us made our way back down to the lobby and out into town. It had gotten considerably darker since we had checked in, and the chill winds blew against my cold hair, sending shivers down my spine. We pulled our hoods up and hit the market.
The first shop we landed at was a big success. We bought a warm hat for Tovin's head, which was only just now growing back a thin layer of hair. We found some sheepskin flight jackets with wool collars that rode high against the back of our necks. Tovin begrudgingly accepted them as the best option both for warmth and for hiding our slave tattoos, but for me, I also thought they looked really, really cool.
We bought some leather gloves that matched the jackets, along with new undergarments and sleep attire. We bagged some Diesillian snacks and drinks, as well as a refill of cigarettes for Tovin before heading back to the room. We were both exhausted, and I was more excited about a bed than I ever had been. Back in the room, we sat on the floor and tried the different candies and snacks as we discussed our next plan of action.
"Let's stay here for a little while," Tovin advised, sitting under the open window with his cigarette in hand. "This place is huge. The odds of them finding us here quickly are slim."
"I agree," I said as I popped one of the candies in my mouth. "I'm not going to say I like it here, but it sure beats being on the run."
"We're still on the run," he warned. "Don't misunderstand that. We should also probably pick new aliases. DuPonte has the wrong ones, but Gilliam is pretty similar to William."
"Yeah, but we're not on the run
, run. Y'know, being chased through the night, sleeping in abandoned shacks, and stowing away in train cars. I know they're still looking for us, but how are they ever gonna catch us now?"
He folded his arms and dropped his eyes. Smoke billowed from his mouth as he sat in quiet contemplation. "It would be a mistake to underestimate our enemy," he said finally. "We need to start going by new names. I'm Wallace, and you're Geoffrey, got that?"
"I don't want to be Geoffrey, you
be Geoffrey," I said playfully as I passed him a bag of candies. "Here, try these. They're called jelly beans, they're pretty good."
He dug his hand into the bag, fished one out, and popped it into his mouth. "Fine," he said. "You can be Wallace then, and I'll be Geoffrey. You need to help me remember that, you understand?"
"Yeah, I got it," I assured him.
"I said I heard you, Jeez," I said dismissively as I picked up the dark beverage I had been eyeing. It was labeled Root Beer and it generated a golden fizz at the top when disturbed. I couldn't wait to taste it. Tovin reached over and gently lowered my hand. I looked up to find him staring at me intensely.
"Gill," he repeated. "Stop. Just stop it, alright? I know what you're doing. I might be slipping, but I'm not dumb, deaf, and blind just yet. While I appreciate the act, or at least where it's coming from, I know you're just as scared as I am. I'm not a child; and while I may not be able to preserve what remains of my dignity for very much longer, I would ask for your respect until that time comes."
I had somehow underestimated the smartest man I had ever known– again. I didn't know the extent of his condition. Based on our interactions, I figured that he had no memory of the times when he regressed. I assumed that he didn't fully understand how bad his lapses had gotten, but it seemed he did. Worse yet, I knew how he felt about sympathy. The way I was acting had to have felt like the biggest insult to him, and even so, he wasn't reacting with anger.
He just wanted to be heard.
"Earlier today in the woods," he said, lifting his arm and tapping his cigarette against the window sill. "I can't remember the details. I don't know how you did that monster in, how I ended up unconscious, or anything about how we got back to the city. But I do
remember how I felt."
He traced the floorboards with his eyes and placed his arms on his knees as he looked for the words. "... I felt useless; helpless like a terrified child. At one point, I felt like I didn't deserve to be alive." He looked up at me. "It was like I was swimming in a dream; like I was watching my own actions from over my shoulder. I came back to consciousness for a brief moment and contemplated shoving that rifle in my mouth."
"Shut up," he waved at me dismissively, drawing tendrils of smoke in the air with the end of his cigarette. "I don't need your pep talk," he huffed. "I'm past it." He rested his head against the wall behind him. "I just want you to know that this whole thing is getting harder for me. It's like there are two people fighting for control of the wheel, and when I'm not steering, I'm in a sleeplike state. My thoughts play out in front of me like I'm having some kind of fever dream. They smear and melt like watercolor giving me brief glimpses of reality through a window I can't reach or jump through."
I stared at him with concern. We shared a brief moment of eye contact before he closed his eyes and exhaled smoke. "It's not looking good for me, Gill. I just wanted you to know before I went to bed," he said, getting to his feet. "That if I go to sleep tonight for the last time..."
"Hang on," I interrupted. "There's something you should know. I reached out to that friend of mine back home. He's already working on a way to fix you."
His face brightened. "Y-yeah?" he smiled. "Gill, why didn't you say anything?"
I picked up the bottle and used the opener we had purchased with it to pry the lid off. "There was never a good time," I shrugged. "It's been a long, long day."
"Well, what else did he say?" he asked, taking a step forward.
"... Just, y'know," I trailed off. "Hang in there."
He sucked his lips in and looked down at the floor. He knew I was holding back. I was more worried about putting him through information overload than anything else. There was a lot he didn't know; too much, in fact.
"Tovin, just trust me. You'll know everything soon," I assured him. "All of it. As soon as you get your memories back."
"You really think your friend is that incredible?" he asked without looking up.
I smiled knowingly. "I do."
I took a swig of the beverage and spat it back out all of my legs. It almost splashed his legs and he quickly scrambled away. He looked at me with apparent disgust.
"What the fuck is wrong
with you?" he yelled.
"It's like medicine," I grimaced. "I don't think this is even a drink!"
x - - x - - x - - ☾ - - x - - x - - x
That night, as Tovin slept, I wrote down the events of the day. As I jotted it all down, I began having new revelations. Tovin seemed to be at his best after resting. In the morning when we got off the train, he seemed alright. However, as the day drew on, he became less and less like himself. I should have known something was up the moment he wandered off without me. Then he was acting like a literal child up to our confrontation with the calraven. He had even mistakenly called me dad
, perhaps reliving a buried memory of a hunt with his father.
But when his rifle exploded and he lost consciousness, he was back to himself when he woke up. He seemed to hold strong through dinner up until he went to bed. I wondered what it was about sleeping that restored at least a portion of his working mind.
Then there was the stranger, referred to only once as "Deac." There was no mistaking the magic that glowed in his body, but what was that other energy? I couldn't see it, but for the fact that it danced with and often overtook his magic essence. There were two energies tangled up together inside of him, and they seemed to be at odds with one another. And then there was the Diesel Devil sitting at the back of the cave.
The two of them definitely knew one another on a familiar level. They had been sent together to investigate Eluviel, but why, and from where? She definitely didn't seem happy to see them, but could that have been because she felt I was threatened by them? A splinter-sprite, he called her. A piece of her consciousness that she had shed just before she was subdued.
I wondered why she'd chosen me. Was it because I could see her while others couldn't? Or maybe I was just secretly really, really awesome, like a main character in a novel. I sat under the electric light and smiled at the idea of being someone worthy of tales. Someone like Tovin or Atlas with a bright destiny. But was revenge really such a noble pursuit? The yearning to return home and lift some heads off of shoulders didn't seem like any sort of heroic journey. After I penned the events of the day as best as I could, I got to work answering everyone individually. Tovin. Be nice to Gill. He's doing his best with what he's got. Instead of being pissed at him, be pissed at the headmasters in question for what they've done to him. I hope everything I wrote above helps in some way, but I'm still running around out here with a lot of questions. Any luck with the spell for your counterpart? As you;ve read, he's getting worse. I need that miracle cure sooner than later. Thanks for your help.
I could already hear him in my head. "I'm working as fast I can you ingrate," or something like that. I laughed under my breath as I thought about what a dick he was. It was pressure, pride, and maintaining appearances that warped his personality so much. Out here in the Diesel as a nobody with nothing to prove, he was so much more agreeable. His inner-Tovin showed through now and again, but I wondered what would happen if he suddenly got all his memories back. Would he be a more chilled-out version of his ENU counterpart, or would he be even more
high-strung? Gill. I hope you read the annotation I scribbled in the margins about not reading the whole journal entry. I forgot you had asked me not to talk about the Galgalim before I had already written it all down. If you skipped right to this response as I hoped, then don't go back and read any of that. There were major revelations about what she is and why she's here.
I knew he wouldn't be able to resist after reading that. I needed his curiosity to overpower his fear. It was possible, I figured, that I could undo some of the damage Vega had done. I just needed to remind Gill of who he was. I know it's weird putting your trust in me, but if there's anyone you can trust, it's yourself. I'm 99% sure Tovin would back me up on that, haha. And yeah, I remember Fena boasting about the importance of keeping a diary. We love that girl, but we hate to write, am I write?
I hoped he would find my pun funny. He was me, so he would at least smile at it, I was sure. Even now my hand is aching something fierce, I want to go to bed more than anything. You know how long its been since I've slept in a bed? This mattress feels like heaven under me right now, you got no idea. And is Tovin still threatening to kill you? I thought we had gotten a little closer than that. I can't believe Axle was expelled. You're right, that means you're probably next. Keep your head down, man. Thanks for cooperating with me. If you had changed the summoning signature for the tome, I would have died today... and yesterday too, actually. I'm getting actual combat experience out here. It's wild knowing you can die at any moment. My hand is kinda cramping and I still have to write Fena back so I'll end it here. Thanks again for hearing me out and staying open-minded about this whole thing.
I set the pencil down and massaged the muscle between my thumb and forefinger. I had a lot to tell. But I wasn't about to roll over and drift off without writing to Fena. I picked the pencil up and readjusted myself before putting my words down. I'm sorry I asked Gill not to tell you, but something deep down inside of me told me he would do it anyway. I just wanted to touch base with him first before I reached out to the rest of you. And technically, I was the one who showed you the message in the tome, so I didn't actually ever keep a secret from you.
I doodled a little smiley face with his tongue sticking out and then quickly erased it only to find that I couldn't fully get it off the page. There was a big smudge there that made it evident that I'd written and then erased something. I let out a frustrated sigh and drew it again, but somehow worse. That's a solid theory on Tovin there. Same for Atlas. That could end up coming back to bite Vega in the ass. I promise I'll be safe, but do me a favor and help Tovin with whatever it is he needs. He's working on that spell to untether blocked memories from the mind, and the Tovin with me is getting worse by the day it seems. I don't want to see him get caught and sent back to the camp. He won't cooperate with them and they'll definitely kill him. Thanks for everything, hun. I miss you more than you could ever know. Promise me you'll stay safe too. I know Vega is trying to find a way to get to you. If he got to Tovin... look just take every precaution you can. I love you. Goodnight.
I closed the book and set it down on my bedside table. I pulled the chain on the light, snuffing it out, then turned over and sank my head into the pillow. It wasn't that late yet– I could hear the hum of Diesel vehicles and even the chatter of the populace outside. I pulled the blankets over myself and closed my eyes. I let the warmth of the bed cradle me as I counted my many blessings, and thanked Hahnahkordia that I had somewhere warm and dry to lay my head.
The room was dimly lit when I opened my eyes again. It was just bright enough that I could read the clock on the wall. It was about 7am. It felt like I had blinked. I thought about getting up, but the blankets were so warm, and the room was cold– I had left the window open all night by accident. What reason did I have to get out of bed anyways? I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep again and repeated this several times until the clock read noon and I started to get hungry.
I rolled out of bed and quickly closed the window. I hurried into the hot embrace of my morning shower and got dressed before knocking on Tovin's door. "Hey, you up? I was thinking of breakfast."
There was no answer. I carefully opened his door to find his bed empty and neatly made. I entered the room fully to find that his backpack was also missing. I figured he had to have gotten hungry first and left without me. That theory fell on its face when I ventured back to my room and found a note placed on the side table. You can sleep all day if you want. I'm going down to the gun range at the hunters' office. I won't be shown up by you again.
I set the note down and began to worry. I didn't like the idea of him going out by himself. What if he were to suddenly backslide mentally while out in Diesel territory alone? I could see a scenario where he'd forget his alias or that he has an incriminating mark on the back of his neck. I got dressed in a hurry and grabbed my backpack before heading out the door. I hurried down the steps and out into the cold wet streets of Bronzegirder.
I made my way north of the crowded city streets and found Alloy street. The bitter winds blew against me as I made my way up the empty road toward the hunters' office. I was starting to regret not buying a warm hat for myself when I bought one for Tovin. I skipped every second step on my way up to the front door and made my way past the reception desk and into the firing range. I heaved a sigh of relief when I found Tovin shooting at targets downrange.
I walked up next to him as he turned his rifle over and grabbed a handful of ammunition from the box sitting on the counter. "Busy morning, Geoffrey?"
"Did you just
wake up?" he asked as he began feeding bullets into the tube.
"I figured I didn't have anywhere to be," I shrugged. "I assumed you didn't either. I thought the plan was to get our bonus and ditch this place."
"Yeah, well, I kind of like shooting," he admitted. "Also, we're out of money."
I felt my knees turn to jelly underneath me. "What?" I yelled. "How?"
"Turns out these guns are expensive," he said as he pulled the hammer back and lifted the rifle to his shoulder. "You left ours out in the woods. They charged us for them."
I stammered for entirely too long before wiping both hands over my face and collecting myself. "... How much we got left?"
"We owe," he answered, firing his gun. "They charged us for the uniforms, and then a fee to clean the gunk off of them. Also, I bought us a pair of rain ponchos, they're cheaper here." He motioned to a couple of folded-up ponchos hanging over the wooden divider.
I stammered for a little longer. This was becoming more expensive than it was worth. We would have to hunt another monster today
. I was hoping to never have to hoof it out there again, and it was even colder today than it was yesterday.
"Calm down," he said, not taking his eyes off the target. "Get your poncho on. I've got a plan."
"A plan?" I asked.
x - - x - - x - - ★ - - x - - x - - x
"The circus?" I said with a hint of anger in my voice as we stood in front of the many tents and attractions. They had set up east of town on the perimeter of the city. Families wandered the fairgrounds. Vendors had set up games and stands with delicious food we couldn't pay for, and I had just remembered I hadn't eaten breakfast.
"I came this way first when I smelled the food," Tovin said, taking a few steps in front of me and turning around. "Then I explored a little bit. And wouldn't you know it– I found an attraction that was offering a cash prize. It just wasn't open yet."
I sighed and hung my head. "You just wanted to come to the carnival," I grumbled.
"100 octims," he said flatly.
I looked up at him and he smiled faintly. "Thought
that would get your attention." He reached into his pocket and produced a single red ticket. "This will get us one round."
"One round?" I asked, taking the ticket and inspecting it. It read, "Single Admission ~ 1 Minute."
"There's a stage toward the back with a guy in a cape that you can challenge in hand-to-hand combat," he said, beckoning me to follow as he turned and started into the fair. I hurried after him as he explained. "Here's the kicker though. You don't have to beat him. All you've got to do is hit
"Just hit him?" I asked.
"That's what they said. He's supposed to be some kind of master. You strike him just once and we're set for the next several days, and that's after settling our debt."
This plan was a little better than I had given him credit for. Here I had thought he'd gone bananas again, but this could really work.
"You think I can do it?" I asked. "It can't be easy if they're throwing around a hundred octims."
"Here's what I'm thinking," he said, lowering his voice and slowing down to walk next to me. "You use a little bit of that magic– the kind you isolate in your feet to move quickly."
"Are you nuts?" I cast him an incredulous glance. "Did you forget we'd be on stage
in Diesel territory?"
"Just use it once quickly to make your swing a little faster," he reasoned. "It's been drizzling all morning. The stage is wet already. If you're quick about it, it won't stand out."
"I don't know," I shook my head. "It's not the worst plan, but it's so risky."
"Riskier than hunting monsters?" he asked.
That was a fair point. Still, the idea of casting in front of everyone made me uneasy. It wasn't like Jetstream was a super common spell, though. Furthermore, the odds were slim that anyone in the crowd had ever even witnessed magic before. The more I thought about it, the more I started to think we could actually pull this off.
"This is the place," said Tovin as we approached a crowd. There was a wooden sign in front that read, The Slippery Salamander! One hit gets you 100 octims!
The two of us pushed through the crowd until we came to the stage where a mustached man was swinging like crazy at the aptly named Salamander. He bobbed and weaved effortlessly around every attempted strike until a man in a red and white striped outfit hurried out onto the stage and blew a whistle.
"Time's up!" he called out.
The crowd cheered and applauded as the Salamander turned and took a bow. The world fell out from underneath me. I couldn't believe my eyes. Writing Prompt
Submitted by u/My-Last-Hope