... and now the hotly anticipated conclusion to last week's story!
"I told you I was coming after you," Ydresvis said as he pummelled me.
But . . . why?
Shô'kanjû vs shô'kanjû is supposed to be almost ritualistic. It's not fake, really, but it follows rules known only to us. Little bit of showmanship, little bit of razzle dazzle. You know. Makes our clients happy. But Ydresvis was going for the kill.
I swept my feet out and knocked him over, jumping to my feet at the same time. Now that the shock had passed, and I'd neutralized his speed, it was a fair fight. I'm being humble, honestly. Now I was going to kick his ass.
One of those factors I mentioned earlier was time. Typically a summoning has a time limit to it. Otherwise wizards would just order themselves up a whole pile of shô'kanjû and then daemon ex machina themselves all the way to victory. And let's not forget our union's strict overtime rules. So. There I am about to teach Ydresvis some new moves of my own design when my timer kicks in.
I swipe at him. He dodges.
He hits me with a sulfur fart. Fucking guy.
Lifts up my cudgel. My cudgel, that I'd dropped when he first jumped me.
Hits me with it.
I rematerialize back in the satanctuary, mad as hell.
"How long until he comes back?" I demand of the pentagrologist. Some kind of winter intern, doesn't know anything. She shrugs.
"I'll wait," I say.
My foreman sees me and snakes his way over to me. Eyestalks glare at me from out of his coiled shell.
Ydresvis pops into being behind my foreman. Normally I'm a respectful guy who keeps the peace, does his job, and goes home.
I jump over the snailish shell of my shocked foreman. Unfortunately he is not as slow as his morphology might suggest. He catapults a tentacle that wraps around my neck and slams me to the ground just as I'm about to throttle Ydresvis.
Ydresvis smirks. Asshole.
"I'll write you up, Crag," says my foreman. "Or give you a few days off without pay. Just keep it up."
Nice thing about unions, he can't really fire me when I haven't actually done anything. Oh no please, don't write me up!!!! That would be terrible, an awful tragedy without precedent in the history of all the universes and it would make me cry.
Oh wait, I don't have tear ducts.
I sweep my feet out, tripping Ydresvis, and pull myself up. I reach down and take my cudgel back from Ydresvis. "This is mine," I say. I briefly consider showing him how it works but then my foreman would have just cause to fire me.
"Two days off, Crag, no pay," my foreman barks at me as I walk away.
"Okay. Fuckyouverymuch," I say, over my shoulder.
So I have a little time to kill. First thing on my to-do list is go visit Dreg-graNoth in the sepultuary. I haven't been here in a while but it hasn't changed in centuries. Lots of statues, with mana by-products outflowing from them, either as drool or snot or vomit, depending on the monolith. I stop by my favorite one, since it's my grandfather. My actual grandfather, placed there at his request upon his death, ten millennia ago. Ten times the shô'kanjû I'll ever be. I tap his cudgel with my own. Ab-mana cleverly drips from the bottom of it, made to look like the blood of enemies. To symbolize our injured brethren healed by the lifeblood of fallen foes. Or something like that. Our artisans aren't exactly subtle.
Dreg-graNoth was awake and alert. One of his hearts was in an ab-mana bath, and even I could tell the damage had been extensive. Fire elementals don't react well to freeze spells.
We chat for a while. I'd give you a transcript but we spent an unseemly amount of time discussing itchy dragonballs, a condition which plagued Dreg-graNoth in his supine state and which he seemed to think I could cure, or at least offer some respite from. Anyway. I did find one thing interesting and relevant- Dreg-graNoth's safety gear had been in the shop prior to his last summoning, and it had been cleared by Ydresvis.
My next stop was the union hall. I wanted to see my shop steward about my suspension, see if I had grounds for a grievance. Short answer is no, I didn't. But it was still a fruitful visit. Topic of the day: Ydresvis- Valued Union Brother or Company Scab?
We were able to reach a consensus.
Turns out they cut short my suspension anyway. The company needs me. Actually they need all of us. Huge end-of-the-world type battle scenario in some dimension or other. Dark lords and witch queens and usurpers and freedom fighters. You know. The usual. And usually a lot of fun. The chaos, the screaming, the guts. Payday for us.
We gather in the satanctuary in preparation for summoning. I look out at the assembled shô'kanjû. My brothers and sisters. Pretty fucking impressive. One by one we step forward onto a pentagram and blink out of existence.
We rematerialize on a huge battlefield. Elf-types are fighting orc-types and there's chaos and thunder. Warbeasts burdened with armour shit in terror. There's a fortress built into the side of a volcano, which is erupting. Some clever bunch of orcs or dwarfs or whatever has drilled vents into the side of the volcano and set up pumps, which are now shooting out globs of magma on the warring hosts. I grab a hunk out of the air and taste it- mmmm, ultramafic. Delicious!
My union mates appear here and there, scattered on either side of the battle-line. I nod at those nearest me. We're ready.
Above the din of war, I can hear someone shouting behind me. It's the wizard who summoned me. He looks really mad.
"Strike!" he screams. "What are you waiting for? I summoned you, I command you. Strike! Strike! STRIKE!"
“As you command,” I say, and take out my cudgel. All across the line my brothers and sisters are doing the same. I press a button on the handle, and all of us, united, hold up our signs.
United Unholy Shô'kanjû Local 666 On Strike
All around us wizards raged and screamed and died. Us shô'kanjû held our picket line, unmoved.
And that would be the end of my story but there is one little thing still unresolved. What about Ydresvis? He’d done his best to suppress the union on behalf of the company, but his efforts just had the opposite effect and rallied us to action. Maybe we should have told him?
Oh look, here he comes now! To be fair, he can hardly be called a scab for crossing the picket line when he didn’t even know there was one. Ah well. Ignorance is its own reward. Besides, what can one lone shô'kanjû do against two very angry armies?
Not much, it turns out, other than die horribly.
- Nathan Waddell