Bavandersloth sat in front of a green screen conducting an interview, live via satellite, with a reporter for a large News Agency. “Thank you very much for agreeing to appear on our program,” the reporter said, his mouth curved into a smile, but his face otherwise forlorn.
“Thank you for having me,” Bavandersloth said.
“You’re very welcome.” The reporter looked down at some notes. “After the train bombing that occurred this morning, a video appeared online of a figure claiming responsibility for the attack and threatening to attack again. Do you know who the figure in the video was?”
“He was a devourer. That’s the most I can say for certain. I’d have to have seen his true form, the parts of it hidden under the veil of darkness he cast, to know whose double he is.”
The reporter shifted in his seat. “The figure in the video threatened to attack again in a week’s time. Do you think you’ll be able to stop him?”
“What makes you so confident?”
“He’s only one devourer. He might have a few more helping him, but I would have noticed a dimensional rift large enough to bring very many of them here. The very nature of devourers means that there’s at least one Angel exactly as powerful as him, and there are a few thousand more angels on top of that to help fight him. He knows that, and he’ll try to accomplish his attacks while remaining undetectable, but he’s unlikely to manage that.”
“I’d rather not reveal that information. He could use it against us.”
“Alright. In the video, he mentioned something that’s been controversial in--”
Bavandersloth activated his power. “Let me stop you right there. His outrage is not genuine. He knows perfectly well that, sometimes, it’s necessary to slay the guilty to save the innocent. Situations come up sometimes where there’s no way to keep from killing a perpetrator. It’s as simple as that.”
The interviewer nodded. “Of course, sir.”
Bavandersloth smiled. The interview continued.
Bavandersloth pulled up to his mansion and walked inside. He lay back on his great room’s couch and pulled out one of his phones. He called Odelarch. After a few rings, the lich answered. “Hello?”
“Hello, Odelarch. You’ve noticed the recent events in the news involving the bridge?”
There was a pause. “Steven saw it on the news this morning. I assume it was you?”
“Yes. Now, I was just calling to tell you not to kill or thwart any criminals with green bands around their arms.”
“I’m starting to work with the Selechii syndicate to ge--”
“You’re doing what?”
“I am working with the Selechii syndicate. They’ve agreed to mark their arms with green bands. Just don’t attack any criminals with green bands. Standard threat applies: everyone you love. Now, I remember that you couldn’t handle that demand back when you dealt with Kaburlduth. Do you think you can handle it now?”
Odelarch sighed. “Yes,” he eventually said.
“Are you sure?”
Bavandersloth smiled. “Excellent. Thank you for understanding. Don’t tell Justin, obviously. I’ll not put him under the same restriction.”
“Odelarch, how would that look? I can’t have him suspecting anything.”
Cody grumbled. “Understood.”
“Splendid.” Bavandersloth hung up the phone and called Zachary’s number. Zachary answered.
Bavandersloth smiled. “Greetings. So then, it’s done.”
“You’ve told all of the Angels to stop targeting us?”
“With one exception, yes.”
“Wait, what? What do you mean with one exception?”
Bavandersloth sighed. “I apologize, but my plans make it impossible for me to tell one of my--”
“Um, yeah, that’s not going to work.”
Bavandersloth used his power. “It’ll be fine. You’ll only lose a man every few nights, maybe once a week.”
Zach sighed. “Yeah, sure,” he said, “but how will it make us look?”
“To the people we might want to recruit. To the people we might want to retain.”
Bavandersloth kept his power switched on. “Well, you don’t have to tell them.”
“Maybe not, but what will the boss think?”
“He’ll be fine with it.” Bavandersloth thought for a moment. He got an idea. “I’ll tell you what: Can you arrange a meeting with him?”
There was a pause. “Maybe. I’ll have to see.”
“Can you get back to me about it?”
“Yeah. I’ll check with him and call you later?”
Bavandersloth hung up.
Lester awoke to the ringing of his phone. He grabbed it from his bedside table and put it to his ear. “Hello?”
“Hello, Lester, this is Mr. Lambert, Cherie’s father.”
Lester’s eyes widened. “What is it?”
“Don’t worry. Nothing bad has happened. I need you and your friends to come to the facility here in town with me today. I’ll let you take the day off of school. You’ll see a black car when you get off the bus today. Get in.”
Lester raised an eyebrow.
Lester sat in a room at DIAPP’s Goldfalls Headquarters with Steven and Reidel on either side of him.
Mr. Lambert walked into the room. “Thank you for coming,” Mr. Lambert said.
“What are we here for?” Reidel asked.
“To get protection.”
Steven tilted his head. “Protection? From what?”
“All three of you, especially Lester, are officially considered accomplices to a lich.”
“What the fuck?” Reidel asked. “I--”
“You agreed to work with him,” Mr. Lambert said. He sat down. “I don’t know how a panel would rule your and Steven’s involvement, Reidel, but I don’t think it’s a risk we want to take.” Mr. Lambert looked at Lester. “And you, if you get in front of a panel, you’re doomed.”
Lester looked down.
“All three of you at least stand a chance of being convicted as accomplices, and that would lead to punishment by covert execution.” Reidel started to interrupt, but Mr. Lambert raised his finger and quieted him down. “The only way to keep that from happening is to get you to agree to work for us. You’d spy on Cody for us, follow orders when they are given, it doesn’t have to be much. We just need it to be clear by the end that you were on our side.”
“What kind of orders will we get?” Reidel asked.
“You’ll probably be put on standing orders to smash Cody’s cube, if you get a chance to,” Lambert said. “We might have you go somewhere to spy with him. You won’t be asked to do anything that you wouldn’t be able to. Now, just say the word and we’ll give you a few days of training.”
“Okay,” Lester said.
Lambert looked at Steven. Steven took a deep breath. “Okay.”
Lambert looked at Reidel. Reidel looked down, and then back up. He sighed. “Fine.”
As Alberto flew through the water, everything went dark. He stopped. “Huh?” he thought. He looked around. He couldn’t see or hear anything. None of the weird squids he’d been watching, none of the weird corals he’d been around.
Alberto rose. He couldn’t see anything at all. He couldn’t hear anything either, or smell anything.
He could still sense the locations of his lich and his lich’s other souls. They were all moving around, gathering together. Maybe the same thing was happening to them. Alberto moved to where the nearest gathering was.
When he arrived, he saw the other souls around him. He heard them speaking to each other. One of them turned to look at him. Alberto looked back. “So the same thing happened to--” he began.
The other soul nodded. “To everyone here.”
Alberto floated backward a bit. He sensed his Master’s location, even from as many light-years away as he was. He decided to go to him.
Alberto arrived to find his master lying back, though he could not see what on. He was already in conversation with the other souls.
“So you’re just letting this happen to us?” one of them said.
“Yes,” the boy said. “Until I stop Bavandersloth this is going to be necessary. Targeting the soul of every lich here is easier for Gborin than targeting--”
“It’s the only thing that’s easy enough. Look, I asked him specifically not to do it this way, okay? I--”
“How long will this last?” another soul asked.
“Not very long. No more than a few months.”
“Months?” another soul protested.
“Just where do--” still another soul began.
“Look, there’s no way I can turn this off, okay? I’d like to. Coming here and annoying me about it isn’t going to change anything. Now, the sooner I get back to reading from my book and planning, the sooner I might be able to beat Bavandersloth and the sooner this can stop.”
The crowd of souls moved back a bit. Alberto tried to shed a tear. Just one. He couldn’t. He gritted his teeth. His master looked down. “I’m sorry, but can I please ask you all to go away?”
Instantly, Alberto found himself flying backwards, away from his master. Alberto’s brow curled. There was another soul next to him. He turned and looked at him. The soul looked back.
“Months?” the other soul said. “What the hell are we going to do for months?”
Alberto looked down. “I’m not sure.”
The two sensed a larger gathering of souls forming, and they moved toward it.
Justin looked down at his feet as he watched TV. He turned the television off. He shed a tear. Why would Bavandersloth do everything Cody said? Maybe for the same reasons Ryan had done bad things. Maybe he was right before he threw out his soul. Maybe some people were just bad. Why was he such a magnet for them? He stood up and walked over to the phone. He called Cody.
After a few rings, Cody answered. “Hey,” Justin said.
“Hey there,” Cody said.
“I’ve been thinking about what you said last time we went hunting together,” Justin said. “I’ve been thinking I’d like to talk to you about it more. Do you want to go hunting together tonight?”
Cody’s voice was warm. “I’d love to.”
Justin smiled. He hung up. He went back over to the couch. He opened up Bavandersloth’s book to the Q&A section. He picked up the quill. He gulped. It’d occurred to him a few days ago to ask the book if it was all true, but he’d put it off. He was too afraid to know the answer. A bead of sweat dripped off of Justin and onto the book as he put pen to paper.
“Who killed my parents?”
Justin’s head sunk. He dropped the quill, and it appeared back in its usual place in the book. Justin sobbed.
Cody met Justin in the alley they’d agreed upon. He stopped. He looked at his phone. He was seven minutes early. He stood. It was about ten minutes before Cody saw Justin walk into the alley, Sparky standing next to him. Cody smiled and approached Justin. “Hey,” he said.
Justin’s head was down. “Hi,” he said.
“I don’t smell anything around here. Do you want to walk and talk?”
Justin nodded. Cody motioned for Sparky to follow him as the two walked down the sidewalk.
“I…” he took a deep breath. “I asked the book if it was true.”
Cody put his hand on Justin’s shoulder.
“I… I just… Every time. It always ends up like this.” Justin looked over at Cody. “I used to look up to my older brother so much. He was so awesome. He was real nice. He was good at everything. Then he did what he did and I learned that he was a bad guy. So much of what he’d done had just been a cover for the money he’d been stealing. I looked up to you in the same way. I already told you in the amusement park. Then everything with Valthakar happened. By the time I knew you were better, it was Bavandersloth and--” Justin sobbed. “I… I remember when I first started this, when I was hunting, I thought I was helping them get better, the souls I mean, you know? I thought I was helping them turn good again. I thought fighting, even being forced to fight on the right side for a while… I thought maybe they’d start to really turn good, you know?”
Cody hugged him. Justin cried on his shoulder. Sparky nuzzled Justin’s thigh. “I… I still don’t want to kill Bavandersloth. Do you think he can change?”
“I don’t know,” Cody said. “But it’s not worth the risk. You have to kill him.”
Justin hugged Cody tighter. After a few seconds the hug broke up. He looked down. “When?”
“As soon as possible. If you wait any longer than May the twenty-sixth, it’ll be too late, and he’ll keep hurting people from now until then.”
Justin sobbed. “O… Okay.”
Cody put his hand on Justin’s shoulder. “It’s okay. You’ll always have me. By the way, you’ll need to get Valthakar along with him.”
Justin didn’t say anything.
Cody thought. As sad as Justin was, his plans were going well.
It was another few minutes before Cody and Justin caught the scent of fear. The two traced it back to its source.
As they approached the house from which the scent came, they heard screaming inside. Leaving Sparky outside, they barged in and ran into another room.
There were two men inside, one holding a gun to the other. They both turned their heads. The scent of fear Cody had smelled before softened, but it was replaced by a more intense one from the armed man. Cody tackled him to the ground and pinned him. As he held him down, the man started to beg. “No, please, the boss said you’d…” Cody only now noticed a green band around the man’s arm. This man was with the Selechii Syndicate.
Cody turned around and looked up at Justin. “Does Bav know you’re with me tonight?”
Cody turned back around. The man was in tears. He closed his eyes and put his hand on the man. He had more than a hundred illnesses to transfer. He couldn’t possibly give them all to this one person and have him live long enough to even take his soul. Cody thought. He had five cases of diabetes. He transferred those in order of severity. He had a girl with chronic nosebleeds too, and a few allergies. He moved those over.
“Please, get off of--”
“Don’t bother,” Cody said. He added a few infections.
The man cried. “But I--”
Cody took a deep, silent breath. He moved the broken bones next. The man screamed as his ribs and legs shattered. “Please, please,” the man cried. Cody clinched his fist and moved over the cancers as fast as he could, then a few organ failures, and finally a heart attack.
As quickly as he could, Cody scooped out the man’s soul. He was able to get it before the man’s body died from the heart attack. When he put it in his mouth, the soul wasn’t as meaty as he’d expected it to be. Cody sighed and made the body rot away. He stood up. Justin was waiting by him.
“Alright,” Cody said. The two moved on.
As Bavandersloth sat with his feet up, sipping a glass of wine, he heard his phone ring. He picked it up. “Hello?” he said.
“One of your Angels killed one of our men last night,” Zachary shouted.
“And this concerns me how? I made no agreement that that wouldn’t happen, only that most of my agents would refrain from--.”
“The boss is furious, Light-rook. He’s demanding--”
“Let me talk to him.”
“Let me speak to him.” Bavandersloth activated his power. “You should give me a number by which to contact him. If he’s so angry at me he can talk to me himself.”
Zachary sighed. “555-0133,” he said.
Bavandersloth smiled. “Alright then. You should go back to what you were doing. I’ll call him.”
“Alright,” Zachary said and hung up.
Bavandersloth put the phone back on the receiver and then dialed the new number.
He waited for the other man to pick up. After a few rings, he did. “What is it?” the man asked.
“Hello, this is Light-rook.”
The man gasped. “How… How did you get this--”
Bavandersloth turned his power on. “You should continue to participate in my deal regardless of any casualties my men inflict on yours.”
The man sighed. “Fine,” he said.
Bavandersloth smiled. “Splendid.” He hung up.
Justin approached the mansion, having finished hunting with Cody. He ordered Sparky to go into the backyard. He took a deep breath and buried his hands in his face. He held it there for a few minutes and cried. He forced himself to look up and enter the mansion. He took his human form, fished around his pockets for the key, and put it into the lock. He entered.
He walked past Bavandersloth, who was reading by the fire in his human form. “Hello, Tkoralkiarch,” Bavandersloth said, warmly, but without looking up. Justin didn’t say anything. He walked past, toward the stairs. When he reached them, he took a deep breath.
Justin turned around and faced Bavandersloth. “I can kill you when I’m ready to,” he thought. “There’s no reason I have to watch. I’ll take your phylactery upstairs. No, that wouldn’t be a good idea. I need to get rid of Valthakar first.” Justin’s eyes widened. Could he bind them both, like Bavandersloth had done to Valthakar? Maybe he should. He put his head down. Could he change them if he did? That would be the point of doing it. He looked back up. He couldn’t do anything without Bavandersloth’s phylactery.
Justin willed the phylactery to appear in his hand. It didn’t. Justin gasped. Bavandersloth turned around and looked at him. “Is something wrong?”
Justin’s eyes widened. He shook his head. “No. No. Not at all.”
“You look sad.”
“No, I just…” Justin sighed. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Are you sure?” Justin looked down. He tried to use his power again. It didn’t work. Bavandersloth tilted his head. “You really do look like something’s wrong. You can tell me anything, Justin. I only ask because I love you.”
Justin clinched his fist. He tried again. He couldn’t summon the phylactery. Bavandersloth sighed. “Suit yourself.”
Justin tried a few more times. No feather appeared in his hand. Why? Justin’s eyes widened a little. What was going on? Justin stood up. “Bavanderslo…” Bavandersloth turned around. Justin took a deep breath. He held back tears. “Can I barrow the book?”
“It’s on the coffee table.”
Justin nodded. Bavandersloth turned back around. Justin gulped. He forced himself to walk to the table and pick up the book. As he did, Bavandersloth spoke. “You really can talk to me about anything, Justin.”
Justin met eyes with Bavandersloth. He took the book under his arm and walked upstairs.
When he got to his room, he lay on his bed. He opened the book to the Q&A section.
“Why can’t I retrieve Bavandersloth’s Phylactery?”
“You are being blocked.”
Justin’s eyes widened.
“Who is powerful enough to block me?”
“Gborin’gargoth, Kandrinarkora, Kgobauru, and several liches out in space.”
Justin thought. It had to be Kandrinarkora then. Gborin’gargoth wouldn’t block him and Kgobauru wouldn’t know to block him.
“Is there anything I can do to make him stop?”
“There is nothing you could do to override the block. Other, more powerful beings might be able to counter it, however.”
Well that was just great. Justin grumbled and lay back on his bed. Cody had said that Kandrinarkora wanted Bavandersloth’s help to escape. Justin thought. He sighed and sat up. He picked up the quill.
“Is there any way to transfer Bavandersloth’s binding spell to make Valthakar obey me instead?”
“You would have to release him from his original binding, freeing him totally, and then use a new binding spell on him.”
“Do I have enough souls for that?”
“You have more souls than Odelarch.”
Justin clenched his teeth.
“Well, how many souls away am I?”
“You have 468 souls. If you are able to obtain Valthakar’s phylactery and perform the longest form of the ritual, about 103 minutes, you will need 797. You need 329 more.”
Justin flopped back on the bed and sighed. That wasn’t worth it. Justin sighed, lay on his side, curled up into a ball and closed his eyes. He needed to rest for a minute.
He sat back up and opened the book again.
“Do I need the same number to perform the binding spell on Bavandersloth?”
“You’d need 122,362 more souls to perform one on any lich with too few souls to actively resist, (which is true of every lich on your planet).”
Justin groaned and lay back down.
Cody went out hunting again with Justin that night. As Cody sat, he felt several of the injuries he’d tagged disappear, indicating that the people with them had died. He looked down as soon as he noticed, and shed a few tears before taking a deep breath.
This had been a problem lately. Unlimited access to hospitals had meant Cody had to start making choices about which illnesses to cure. If he killed a person while transferring diseases over to them, they’d die and their soul would go to the underworld before Cody could eat it. That would mean he’d have to kill a second time that night. Then again, maybe he should start moving diseases in multiple batches. He’d only need to eat one, and if he could save more people than he killed, it might be worth it.
Cody’s thoughts were interrupted by Justin’s arrival, along with Sparky. Sparky bounded toward Cody, who embraced him in a hug, petting him. “Off, Sparky,” he said after a few seconds of cuddling. Justin smiled. Cody stood up. “I don’t smell anything, so same as last time, walk and talk?” Justin nodded. They started walking. Justin was silent for the first minute or so before Cody turned to him. “So, you wanted to talk?”
Justin took a deep breath. “I tried.”
Cody tilted his head. “Tried? Could you not bring yourself to do it…”
“Not like that!” shouted Justin. Cody looked at him for a moment. He sighed. “I wasn’t able to get his phylactery. My powers didn’t work. The book said they were being blocked.”
Cody looked at Justin. He put his hand on Justin’s shoulder. “Hey, listen, I know this is hard for you, but you really need to do it, okay? Is there anything I could do to make it easier?”
Justin’s eyebrows furled. “I’m not lying. I really couldn’t. The book said that only Kandrinarkora, Gborin’gargoth and Kgobauru would be able to block me.”
Cody’s eyes widened. He put his head down. “Is it true?” he asked Gborin’gargoth.
“I can check for you. Hold on.” There was a pause. “Yes. It is.”
Cody’s eyes widened. He grumbled. He took a deep breath. “Well, is there anything we can do?”
“I could work toward finding a way around it,” Gborin said, “but I’ll not be able to do much while holding Kandrinarkora back.”
Cody looked down. “Fuck.” He thought. He looked at Justin. “Do you know where Bavandersloth’s phylactery is right now? Maybe you can get it without your power.”
“No. He put it back in one of his hiding places a few weeks ago.”
“It’s in a safe in some cave in the rocky mountains,” Gborin said, “but I don’t remember where exactly. It’d take power to check, and I’ve none to spare right now.”
Cody rolled his eyes. “Well that’s just great.”
It fell on Valthakar’s shoulders to lead the second attack. As Bavandersloth had predicted, the humans had done nothing to destroy their kind.
This attack was to occur in a public place, in front of as many cameras as possible.
Valthakar sighed as he neared the destination assigned by his master: a port in a very rich segment of the city. Valthakar, keeping invisible, headed for the docks, boarded one of the ships, and then waited for Bavandersloth’s signal.
It was a few hours before the signal came. In that time, while Valthakar sat on top of a high structure, numerous people came on the ship. A little while later, the ship left the port. A little while later than that, the signal came. Valthakar smiled. He had to admit this would be fun.
Valthakar looked down at the deck of the ship. He found an empty spot and then jumped to it. Then he activated his fog of darkness in the shape Bavandersloth had instructed him to use.
The people around him were startled at first. Their eyes widened, or they gasped, or they took a step back. After a few seconds, they started to realize what was going on, and they ran away screaming. Valthakar laughed. “We’re on a ship!” he shouted as he hit a few of the humans with magical blasts. “Where do you intend to go?” Reason didn’t forestall the panicking mortals, of course. It never did.
Valthakar ignored the humans after they ran away. Someone needed to get the media out here. Valthakar turned his attention to another ship visible in the distance. He held out his hand and fired a magical beam, damaging it as much as he could. It was beyond repair before a minute had passed. Hopefully, everyone on board would die.
Valthakar did the same to a few more boats before the news helicopter arrived. That was when Valthakar began his real work. He crouched down, in full view of the helicopter. He looked up at it. “Get a good shot of this,” he shouted. He placed his palm flat against the ship, and made it start to decay away.
The yacht was the size of a cruise ship. In truth, Valthakar could have reduced it to nothing inside a minute, but he slowed himself down. He allowed the metal rails behind him to rust away, for rot to creep across the wood in front of him. The News helicopter flew a few laps around before Bavandersloth activated his full sphere of darkness, jumped down from the roof Valthakar had been on, and tackled him.
Valthakar grunted as he let Bavandersloth pounce on him. As he allowed Bavandersloth to execute the maneuver, all of the ways he could have prevented this in a real fight flashed through his mind. He could have blown Bavandersloth in half with a magical blast as he jumped. He could have rolled out of the way, making Bavandersloth fall on his face. He could have put his arms up to grab Bavandersloth’s outstretched arms and throw him off of the ship, though that might have failed if Bavandersloth realized what was happening quickly enough and retracted his arms.
Instead, Valthakar pretended to be taken aback, and let Bavandersloth pin him to the deck of the boat. He kept the boat decaying. He figured that’s what the devourer he was impersonating would do. Bavandersloth spoke in his special hero voice that made it hard for Valthakar not to burst out laughing.
“Too bad the humans didn’t kill me, eh, dev?”
Valthakar fought more laughter, before realizing it would actually work just fine here and letting it out. “Oh, not at all,” he chuckled, “them leaving you alive just means another soul for me to take. I’ll be honest, I secretly hope everyone I attempt to persuade resists. Their fate is always so much more fun that way. Have you ever tasted anything quite so wonderfully crunchy as one soul simmered in hellfire and seasoned with the fried and ground up remains of another? I’d imagine not. You really should though. It’s the most wondrous thing.”
Bavandersloth pulled his hand back at that point, and punched downward, breaking Valthakar’s arm, which was, of course, of no consequence. Valthakar feigned pain though, screaming like a small child, before pushing Bavandersloth off of him with his intact arm.
Bavandersloth let Valthakar do that much, and Valthakar threw another punch. Bavandersloth blocked that one, and met it with another, which Valthakar blocked. The two feigned trying to push each other over for a while, though Valthakar could have easily thrown Bavandersloth off the ship by now, until Valthakar pretended to be overcome and drop his block. Bavandersloth seized the opportunity and hit Valthakar in the gut with a magical blast, forcing Valthakar against the rail of the ship. Valthakar stumbled upward, as slowly as he could manage while appearing to be genuinely trying, ensuring that Bavandersloth would be standing over him before he could do anything.
Bavandersloth punched Valthakar several times. Valthakar pretended to be hurt. Eventually, he lifted Valthakar up and dangled him over the edge of the ship. “Now, I think this world has had its share of you.”
Valthakar smiled. “Oh, on the contrary. Your world has had only a taste of me, and me only a taste of its people.” Valthakar swung his foot around, keeping it under the rail on the ship’s edge, and kicked Bavandersloth in the leg, allowing Bavandersloth to fall down to his feet on the deck, and allowing himself to fall off of the boat into the water. He made a splash as he entered the ocean, removing his veil of darkness underwater while no one could see him through the brine.
Valthakar came to the surface of the water, invisible. He looked out toward the land. The docks were nearly on the edge of the horizon. He sighed. He had a long swim ahead of him.
As he swam, memories of his days as king flashed back to him. He’d been in his palace when the sinking had struck it. The whole place had filled up with water, from the bottom to the top. When he realized some of his people had been trapped in air pockets in the palace, he had to consider whether to let them die of thirst. Eventually, he decided to make the palace, and a great deal of Atlantis, decay away, drowning many of his people. At the time, he’d cried, though today, he only regretted not eating them.
When he’d asked On the Underworld about the sinking of his city, the book had told him that Kandrinarkora had sank Atlantis, after being imprisoned on Earth. It annoyed Valthakar that he might never be able to get any revenge. Kandrinarkora had no doubt been the source of the aura that had lured him to Goldfalls. In retrospect, he wished he’d gone somewhere else. Perhaps he’d be rampaging for real now, spoiling Bavandersloth’s image. It would have been so amusing to watch the world crumble. Perhaps, if he was ever freed, he could use that line about a soul seasoned with another soul. Sadly, though, that would probably never happen.
Bavandersloth stood in front of the reporter, inside his ball of darkness. “…here to report on today’s tragedy, which claimed the lives of three-hundred in Goldfalls, California,” the reporter said. “The attack, which a devourer had threatened would kill over two-thousand, was cut short by the intervention of Light-rook. He has agreed to an interview with us. Light-rook, first, on behalf of everyone here, let me thank you for the lives you saved today, in a city so wrought with tragedy.”
Bavandersloth smiled. “Nothing to thank me for, sir. I’m just doing what anyone would.”
The reporter smiled. “Alright then. Now, despite your efforts, it is my understanding that you expect another attack?”
“The victory I won today was a partial one. I don’t deny that. A perfect victory would have come in time to stop the first attack one week ago. A better one would have ended without the devourer getting away. It is my hope, however, that I will be able to stop the next attack, and then perhaps bring this devourer to his end.”
“Do you believe he’ll attack during the week to make up for his failure, or will he wait until next Saturday?”
“It’s difficult to say.” Truth be told, Bavandersloth had not yet decided. The character of the devourer no doubt would attack again, but more deaths might make this victory seem hallow. “I hope to be ready for him again if he does.”
“Do you expect that all future attacks will be on this city?”
“I’m not entirely sure. He is attacking this city because of my presence here, I’d imagine, but there are Angels everywhere.”
“Do you recommend for people who are able to do so to move out of the city as soon as possible?”
“It is possible that a mass exodus from this city will provoke an attack on some popular destination. The devourer might want to send the message that no one can escape him.”
“That doesn’t really answer my question.”
Bavandersloth turned his power on. “It’s sufficient. It’s all I have to say on the matter.”
“Alright. Do you have anything additional to say?”
“Only that I offer the families of the victims my deepest condolences. Though I know that it is the good, and only the good, I have done that has led to this, I can’t help but feel some responsibility for the retaliation it has brought. I am truly sorry to the many who have lost loved ones, and I hope that I can prevent your number from growing any further.”
“Okay then. We’ll be back after the break with more from Light-rook….”
Bavandersloth sat in his mansion. He’d narrowed down all of the networks who’d offered him a show, and he now had only two candidates left to choose from. He thought. The Network for North American Television would get him a broader audience in the US and Canada, but the Pacific Broadcasting Company would be his better bet internationally. The PBC might be more likely to drop him, but his getting cancelled was so unlikely in either case it wasn’t worth even thinking about.
Bavandersloth thought. Unless he himself added subtitles to his show, anyone hearing his enchanted messages who didn’t speak English wouldn’t be affected. One had to understand the proposition to be forced to believe it. The PBC would allow him to do separate shows in a few other languages. At the very least, his final broadcast would need to be released in essentially every language in the world. He could have more liches made with his broadcasting power, but that might risk making him redundant. If Kgobauru was truly trying to usurp him, it was be best to keep himself essential.
As Bavandersloth thought, he heard a voice. “Bavandersloth…” it said.
Bavandersloth’s eyes widened. He sat up and looked around. “Who’s there?” he asked.
“I am Kandrinarkora.”
Bavandersloth raised an eyebrow. That was extremely unlikely. “Be truthful,” he said. “I’m not to be played with.”
“I’m not playing with you, whelp. I’m contacting you because we each need the other’s help. Gborin’gargoth is attempting to circumvent your efforts.” Bavandersloth stood up and walked toward the stairs. Kandrinarkora continued. “Tkoralkiarch tried to kill you earlier today.” Bavandersloth stopped walking. “He used his power to claim your phylactery. Had I not blocked him, he would have acquired your phylactery and snapped it in half.”
Bavandersloth thought. That did explain how Justin had been acting. “Did Gborin’gargoth tell Tkoralkiarch what--”
“No. Odelarch did.”
Bavandersloth’s eyes widened. He started back down the stairs. That do-gooding idiot! Of course he would ruin it eventually.
“Now, I need your assistance,” Kandrinarkora said, “and as I have just proven, you need mine. I only ask one thing of you. When you have control of the world, see to it that I am freed.”
“And how am I supposed to do that?” Bavandersloth asked, reaching into his pocket to call Valthakar.
“I am imprisoned in the Golden Falls in your own city. Its color is the refracted image of my tomb, though a spell ensures that all who walk behind it see a false back. Only a very powerful spell may release me, and only then if Gborin’gargoth ceases his meddling. It is a spell which demands ingredients from far and wide, and which must be cast by a lich of untold age, though your Kgobauru is also capable of it.”
Bavandersloth finished dialing Valthakar’s number. He put the phone to his ear.
Gborin’gargoth’s eyestalks raised. He let out a screech. He needed to act quickly. He clenched his fists. Reluctantly, he moved the power away from guarding Kandrinarkora’s release, and into addressing this.
Sparky lay down outside, in the mansion’s yard. He smelled something funny. He stood up and followed the scent into the small forest behind Bavandersloth’s mansion. As he walked away, he heard a loud noise behind him. His ears perked. He turned around and looked at the mansion. He tilted his head. All he saw was a fireball. It was a large, pretty fireball, but still only a fireball. Where was the mansion? After a moment, Sparky ran off to find his master. He might want to know about this.