Firestarter

Kindling 1.9

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Kindling 1.9

August 16th 2014 – Molly

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It wasn’t without effort that I tore my attention away from those beautiful knives, but I managed it. Eventually. Wrath hadn’t moved, he was still standing in the middle of the squirming pile of limbs with a relaxed sort of confidence. He idly kicked at an arm that had crawled to close to his ankle. The only sounds I could hear were the quiet buzzing of grasshoppers, interspersed with the occasional gurgling moan. The misshapen people lurking among the trees were deathly silent, I counted at least half a dozen of them, but none of them so much as whispered or snapped a twig. I didn’t move, afraid to break the silence.

The people within the trees might have once been human, but their bodies were twisted and broken, with limbs attached backwards, and joints that bent in ways no human should be able to move. Their bodies were marred by little deformities, one had an extra eye peaking out from the crease of his elbow, another had a small black tentacle growing out of his shoulder. The little tentacle silently swung back and forth, dancing wildly to a music nobody could hear. Another had the horns and hooves of a goat. Yet another had teeth growing out of his skin, dozens spread randomly across his chest and arms. They were all naked, but most had their modesty was preserved by some aspect of their deformities. Some had dark fur across most of their bodies, others were covered in fantastically colorful patterns of bruises. One was androgynous and hairless, with just a smooth patch of white skin where it’s genitals should be. They were armed with primitive weapons, crude spears and hatchets mostly. Many of their weapons were barely more than stones tied to sticks. I had no idea what they were, I was just glad I wasn’t one of them. Seeing shit like that makes you happy to only have two eyes, thirty-two teeth, and zero tentacles.

Without any visible signal, two of the mutant things charged towards Wrath from opposite sides of the road. The one with the tentacle approached from the left side of the road, the one covered in exo-teeth from the right. As the teeth covered man got closer to the road he began to visibly transform. The little teeth that dotted his chest flattened and expanded, shifting into irregularly placed sheets of armor. The muscles of his chest and arms bulged and knotted as they grew. In the space of a few steps he had transformed into some sort of half-armored brute, and the transformation was still ongoing. He lumbered forward on all fours, unable to support his massive armored chest with just his legs.

Wrath didn’t react initially, and I didn’t do anything to help him. I was still more than a little pissed about the whole kidnapping thing and it took me a moment to realize that being captured by those… things… would probably involved more torture and less payment. Fortunately, Wrath didn’t seem to need my help. As the tooth covered brute approached he turned and threw one of his knives at him. The he charged the other mutant, moving much faster than either of the monsters. When he saw Wrath moving toward him the tentacle man brought his crude spear in front of him and dropped into a slide, trying to use the superior length of his weapon to keep Wrath at bay. Wrath rushed forward, not even bothering to slow down or try to dodge the spear. Then he disappeared in a burst of black fog just before his chest reached the stone spearhead. Suddenly he was back in front of the other mutant, bringing both of his knives to bear against the unprepared monster. Wrath traced along gaps in the plates on his chest, then twisted under an arm to stab at the monster’s sides. He exploited every little hole where the teeth hadn’t yet grown together, stabbing and slashing with inhuman grace. Blood sprayed across the highway as he systemically dismantled the half-transformed brute.

With another puff of smoke, Wrath was on the other side of the street. It took me a moment to realize he was teleporting to his weapons. This time I hadn’t even seen him throw the knife, but I instinctively knew that was how it worked. The tentacled mutant didn’t have a chance to do anything, Wrath was already inside of his spear’s reach. And half a moment’s hesitation was far too much time to give Wrath. In a single smooth motion he lopped off both the monster’s arms. He brought one blade down to open the mutant’s stomach, bringing the other up and through it’s neck. The teeth covered brute collapsed to the ground in the same moment that the tentacled one fell into three pieces. Well, I suppose that explained the pile of limbs. I was suddenly very glad I hadn’t been dumb enough to try to attack Wrath with the hacksaw when he turned to let me change.

The remaining mutants backed the fuck off. Again, there was no signal, but all the ones who still had enough limbs attached to manage locomotion dropped back into the woods at once. I really didn’t blame them, that was a thoroughly terrifying display. And I still wasn’t much closer to figuring out what the hell Wrath was. I had seen him interact with enough metal stuff to probably rule out fae, and I don’t know why a were-something would bother to get that good at fighting with knives. Vampire was looking pretty likely, but he had normal eyes and wasn’t feeding despite being literally surrounded by blood. Maybe some sort of mage-assassin? An arcanoi or chronomancer might be able to move that quickly, and that teleportation could have been shadow-stepping, or maybe a power granted by those knives. There were still too many possibilities in play. But I couldn’t risk making a move without figuring out what the hell Wrath and Adrianne were. If I tried to make a play with fire or running water and they turned out to be wizards or weres, I’d be royally fucked. Not to mention out ten grand.

“Um, the fuck is going on?” I asked. On top of all that, I didn’t have much more of an idea what Wrath had just been fighting. The odds of everything that happened to me in the last week being a coincidence had to be astronomical. Despite that, none of it made sense. I’m not exactly a power-broker in the supernatural community, but I have a rough idea of what goes on, and nothing that has happened since I landed in Atlanta matches the agendas of any major organization I know of.

“Your guess is as good as mine. Well, probably not, my guesses are pretty good. But I don’t know anything you don’t. Do you see anything interesting with the sight?” Wrath replied.

“Yeah, I’m not going to risk insanity for some tidbits of information about dead monsters. You look.”

“You’re not going to figure out if I have the sight that easily dear.”

“I swear, if you call me dear one more time, I’m going to light your ass up. I don’t give two shits how scary you are.”

“I’m well aware of your temper issues and general lack of self-control. Even if your file hadn’t made a point of harping on it, that incident with the Texas State Fair alone makes it clear you don’t think rationally. Anyway, your objection has been duly noted and discarded.”

I half expected him to end that sentence with dear, but if he read my file he probably knew I really wasn’t bluffing. I might not have my lighter, but there was a tank of gasoline within a few yards of me.

I don’t just carry a lighter around for the whole insane arsonist aesthetic, there’s actually a very good reason for it. I do rather like the insane arsonist bit though, it’s always fun to play up against mundanes. I can create fire from nothing, I wouldn’t be much of a pyromancer if I couldn’t, but it’s not easy. When I already have a flame, I can easily expand it by feeding the fire raw magic, but what I’m really doing is more the domain of elementalism than chemistry. All I’m doing is patterning the magic against the existing fire, I’m not actually burning the magical energy or anything like that. This distinction is what makes it possible for elementalism to ignore the first law of thermodynamics. The effect is mana conserving, not energy conserving, such as it is. On the other hand, creating a flame from nothing, that requires me to actually use enough power to heat something to it’s flash point. Even for dry wood or leaves, that can be pushing five or six hundred degrees. On top of that, the resulting burst of heat needs to be large enough to trigger self-sustaining combustion, at least for a few moments before I start generating magical fire.

What? I know a lot about fire. It’s my hobby. Well, it’s one of them, I like explosives and video games too.

Anyway, gasoline has a modestly lower auto-ignition temperature, and it’s tendency to vaporize at standard temperature and pressure means it takes only a tiny spark to get a fire going. A fuel tank is messy, but with a little bit of power it’ll get the job done. I almost started seriously considering what I’d need to do to make good on my threat, before I realized I was still stuck in the middle of nowhere and Wrath was my best chance of getting the ten grand I would need to not have to keep a map of local homeless shelters this year.

“Ugh, you know what, fine! Call me dear if you want, hell, call me fucking honey-bunches-of-oats. I don’t even give a shit anymore. As long as you get me the fuck back to civilization and make good on your promise to pay me you can call me whatever the hell you want!” I shouted.

“That’s uncharacteristically cooperative of you.”

“If I die in the middle of nowhere I swear to god I’ll take you with me.”

Wrath snorted.

“There’s the Molly we all know and love. Anyway, if you want to leave so badly, Adrianne will take you.” He said.

Wait, where was Adrianne?

Warm breath on the back of my legs answered that question. I turned around to see giant shapeshifting panther that had apparently been driving the van before it crashed laying on the asphalt behind me. Adrianne was playing with an arm that hadn’t quiet realized it was dead yet. She let it scramble back towards the pile of corpses around Wrath, then batted it away with a giant paw just before it got out of her reach. It started scrambling again, slower this time, like some sort of macabre version of the itty-bitty spider nursery rhyme.

“Adrianne, take her to the Fairburn safehouse, pay her, then ensure she gets to a Church on the list. I’m going to remain here. After you drop her off, check your emails. If you can’t figure out how to work the computer, hurt someone until they show you how to open a web browser. If they don’t have a computer, remind them that having one is now mandatory and kill a couple of them. Then wash off and find a public library. If you ask politely, one of the attendants will explain how to access the internet.” Wrath said.

Adrianne ignored everything he said and continued to play with the disembodied forearm.

Wrath turned and ran off into the woods, leaving me alone with the giant panther. So, I did what any reasonable person would do. I hopped on her back before she decided to carry me by the scruff of my neck again.

For a moment, I wondered if Wrath was just screwing with me and I’d just jumped on top of an actual panther instead of a sentient shapeshifter. Then Adrianne flipped the arm she was playing with into the air, and chomped down on it. She finished it in two bites, and leapt to her feet. I held on for dear life as she bounded off into the woods in what I could only hope was the direction of Fairburn, Georgia. Adrianne surged through the woods, winding through trees boulders and bulldozing through anything less sturdy. I got the impression that she only avoided bulldozing through the trees and boulders for my sake. She still made phenomenal time, I felt less like I was riding an animal and more like I was on a roller coaster that just happened to head through a forest.

I slid down lower on Adrianne and shoved my head into her fur. Branches scratched at my back and pulled my hair, but I tried to make the best of the trip through the woods. I had to figure out how the hell I was going to explain my terrible life decisions to a priest and then find a way home that didn’t involve burning too much of my earnings. I’d need to replace my clothes and equipment too… Then I had to figure out a way to prevent Wrath from blackmailing me… This was going to be a long night.

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