tagSci-Fi & FantasyConceal Me What I Am Ch. 10

Conceal Me What I Am Ch. 10

byStultus©

*********** CHAPTER TEN

When an honest wizard like me sets out to capture or smite an evil magician at a remote farm or ranch, you can be assured that the very first level of defenses will included enchanted scarecrows. It happens every time, trust me. It seems to be written in some wicked magician 'how-to' book in the chapter about preparing external defenses for your citadel of evil. Fair enough... the corresponding pages in the governmental do-gooder's manual says to give the suckers a nice heaping dose of magical flame and turn the constructs into animated torches!

Mason Probert, damn his squirrelly ass, had read that manual too and was prepared for us. Much more prepared for us than we were for him!

I guess it was my own damn fault. I'd been clever enough to warn my frightened posse to expect a first wave defensive assault of malevolently animated scarecrows, but the quantity and quality of his advance preparation frankly unnerved me also. They came charging us just a few moments after we set foot on his driveway, right after we parked just outside of the farm road gate. Fortunately, everyone was all still bunched together when they swarmed us or we'd have lost at least half of our assault force right off of the bat. If my posse had already split up into the two flanking groups as planned, the silver-clawed animated defenders would have ripped them to shreds.

Our magical flame might have lit up the night sky, but it didn't do shit to burn down the animatrons. They'd each been possessed by minor spirits of fire and their pumpkin heads glowed with daemonic flame. The fire that they breathed upon my cadre of magicians was fairly potent, but it was the long silver claws for fingers that cut like daggers right through the shields of the more minor adept-class magicians as if their protection was not even there at all.

Nasty, nasty, nasty!

If I hadn't been right at the front and able to build a strong earth shield in front of us, they'd have carved right through our ranks with only minor difficulty. Jerome and his six gunsels were also finding that even automatic Tommy gun fire was not causing a lot of damage to the constructs' physical forms either. Right from the start we were on the defensive and with six of our number already down and wounded. My posse was frankly panicking and even Bel had a wild-eyed look that hinted that she was in a situation far beyond her previous experience. As for me, I was much too pissed to bother getting angry.

Since earth seemed to affect them quite nicely, I upped the ante a bit and created an even larger earth force in front of us, creating now in effect a big plow of moving earth in front. This served two purposes extremely nicely; first the dozen or so scarecrows facing us were soon plowed under and buried under at least four feet of solid earth, and second this gave us some cover against the growing amount of mundane automatic weapons fire now coming directly towards us. The scarecrows would be able to eventually dig themselves out, but this would give us a few minutes to deal with the next level of defenders, the two dozen or so elite members of the Harrison Group that had been out of town for the recent fun in Chicago. Nasty boys to be sure, and we hadn't planned on finding them here!

Normally, gunsels didn't bother me too much, even normal adept level shields are adequate against lead... even lots of it, but these fucktards were of a better quality and had also been provided with silver bullets for ammunition. And from the looks of it, they had lots of it and were willing to use it all! As they started to flank us, a couple of my posse started to engage them and moved out from the tight protection of my shielding and promptly got themselves shot for their troubles.

Silver, as I've commented before, has a natural affinity to magic that even magicophysicists can't really explain. It flows with magic... and it in turn resists magic. Like the medieval crossbow in the hands of a peasant, silver bullets can and do kill magicians. Even prepared ones. It goes beyond saying that silver bullets are extremely illegal, not to mention difficult and expensive to make, but I doubted our villains cared much.

I stood up a bit too much to get a better look at the situation and a sudden hail of a couple of dozen silver bullets smacked into me, with a couple penetrating hard enough to strike me. Shields or not, three of them got through, but with enough reduced energy to only pierce my duster but be stopped by the protections imbedded in my suit. They didn't pierce to my skin, but the impact was enough that my ribs now hurt like hell and they kept hurting whenever I took a deep breath. Cracked maybe... but that was enough for me to decide to keep my head down under the plowed up bern of soil in front of us. A couple of other yelps from other lightly injured folks, including Janice who had a slight upper arm wound, indicated that we were getting rather the worst of this exchange and soon everyone was huddled into the dirt as close to me as they could get.

"Alright Zak, you've got my permission to do something appalling and excessively violent, and please do it soon!" Bel muttered. She had pushed Janice right up against me so that she could quickly bandage up the in-and-out wound. Miranda was whimpering as tightly into my back as she could manage, but fear had not frozen up her young and rather agile mind.

"Behind us, the scarecrows are now digging themselves out of the ground but the fire has left their eyes. Does that mean that being buried underground has smothered the minor fire spirits? If so, why don't you take them over instead with some earth energy and have them go do a little clobbering and slicing and dicing for us for a change?"

You know... that idea was just crazy enough to work! With my hands already wrapped around all of the local minor Earth Ley that I could grasp, it was easy to make eye contact with each and every emerging scarecrow in turn to assume mastery over them and send them forth again on the offensive, but this time against Harrison's all too efficient gang of murderous gangsters.

Off the straw-bound silver-claws menaces ran, and in just moments the odds were now rather much more to our liking. The silver bullets the Harrison thugs fired were admittedly much more effective against the magical constructs than our lead bullets had been, but the charmed creatures had virtually no vital regions and it took sustained and accurate automatic weapons fire to disable or dismember one of the straw-filled attackers. Our new defenders did their job to the last and before the final cloud of stick and straw fell to the ground, nearly all of the gunsels had taken mortal or debilitating wounds of their own.

Now able to make a counter-offensive of his own, Jerome led his soldiers to clean out the final pocket of five remaining defenders that was to our right flank near a barn, and they were soon adequately themselves shielded by a flanking cadre of half of my magician posse. The other half was itching to go as well and reluctantly I allowed them to go scout around to our right. I was going to take the center by myself, leaving Bel, Miranda and the slightly wounded Janice back in reserve at our earthen protective trench, but they gamely trotted right along behind me. Miranda had slapped on a minor healing spell onto Janice that seemed to have at least sealed up both the wound entrance and exit holes and she was looking far too entirely pleased with herself. Bel didn't have any talent at all for healing magic and my abilities in that sphere were absolutely minimal. Maybe I could have sealed the wound, but perhaps also just might have made it worse instead. This thought caused Sean to giggle once more.

I know... stop bitching about trying new things until I've actually tried them! But really this wasn't the time to be too experimental.

*************

From the sights and sounds of magical flame going off in all directions, it was apparent now that the first line of defense had now decided to show up and I didn't need the surprise of a solid blast of dark magical electrical energy slamming into my shields to warn me that the expected Deseret support team was now making its appearance in every direction. Our flanking team members quickly ran into problems that none of them felt up to facing and a quick look around indicated that the forces of goodness and law and order were once again in full retreat, unfortunately leaving dead and wounded behind them.

A general retreat seemed to be in order so we all hightailed it back to our earthen defense line and once again hunkered down under the cover of a bit of solid earthen shelter between us and some seriously nasty black magical fire and lightning. At least one of the Deseret wizards seem to have some serious affinity with air and was assembling above us the makings of a magic thunderstorm out of very meager raw materials. Very nice work, I had to admit... but that was energy that I could use too. I decided I'd let this top-notch weather wizard do all of the hard work for me and then slide in at the last moment and preempt his private party. On the other hand, the rest of the Deseret fiends now approaching from the sides were quite competent enough to be major trouble all by themselves. My FMBR associates had already proven themselves to be quite second-rate in comparison, and already Bel had lost just over half of her former co-workers. Now huddling for shelter my posse was down to just one wizard and five remaining adepts, probably the ones with the strongest personal shields that lived long enough to be able to run at all.

Then of course, things just got worse! The Hell-Boars arrived, an especially nasty creature from the nether planes, and their three foot long razor sharp tusks had been augmented with silver! They ripped into our flanking lines and the bodies of our posse and our mob helpers went nearly instantly flying into the air, with a rather unfortunate amount of arterial body splatter as well. In just a moment of battle, my rather incompetent and untrained collection of FBMR minor wizards was carved to less than half their original numbers, and now in a terrible state of panic and the sharp silver tusks carved away their minimal defenses and ripped quickly into their flesh.

Jerome's gang was in slightly better shape. He had four effective soldiers left and a couple of them had been clever enough to capture a couple of drum magazines of silver bullets, which worked just as effectively now against both our porcine and moral enemies as they had against us earlier. Two gang members retained their conventional lead bullets and with short but controlled bursts they broke up a charge of over twenty Deseret suicide troops, probably Missionaries who attacked to the very last man, but only slightly wounded one of our gang members in return. A little restrained suppressive fire with silver ammunition took down a few of their weaker wizards, wounded others and drove the rest down to an intimate acquaintance with mother earth.

Being fairly undisciplined hunters of only margin intelligence, the Hell-Boars tended to stop and feed upon their kills rather than first concentrating at eliminating their remaining foes. They also burned well with concentrated magical fire, and once gunmen were no longer shooting silver bullets at me I could now concentrate on this secondary assault and soon had all of the creatures dead or disabled.

If the three attacks could have been better coordinated, I have no doubt but what we'd have been totally overrun and forced to either retreat or be annihilated.

Usurping control over the scarecows and eliminating the Hell-Boars pretty much leveled the battlefield back to a comfortable stalemate, and this gave their A-team of minor and advanced wizards a few minutes decide how they were going to handle us, namely by next trying to blast us out of our cover. That was a workable plan, because that was exactly what I was planning to do now to them!

Their mighty air wizard had finished gathering his storm, and it was quite a nice one, but when I reached up to take control of it I got my mental fingers burned rather nicely. Not content to just blast dark lightning down at us, the maelstrom above us was also now filled with dark fire and the nastiest sort of malignant spirit energy I'd ever sensed before in my life. Touching it was like being in an immense cesspool that had somehow also set itself on fire. Burned, I quite reflexively released my touch away from it. I needed to make a mental note to myself to make a report that the current GWA magical curriculum really didn't cover real world magical conflicts.

"Aye, that black spirit they've woven into the casting is going to burn you, but it will soon burn them even more. They've locked their wills into that vortex but can but barely control it and for some, they'll notta be able to release themselves, to their peril. Take it lad, and let the winds of dark fire blow!"

I was sure that this was one of the worst ideas Sean had ever had and I just about screamed with pain when I grasped the vortex of swirling dark energies and seized mastery of it away from the Deseret wizards. Of the dozen or so other minds I felt weaving their energies, I was quite able to trap most of them and prevent their wills from returning to their bodies, but the three most powerful wizards were able to quickly and safely withdraw once they sensed to their consternation that my will was quite the strongest. Now with my captives mentally bound to my pleasure, I decided it was time to let loose with the maelstrom. After all, it had been a day or two since I'd done any excessive property damage!

"Bel," I grunted, "make the biggest and strongest earth shield you can and cover everyone and get even deeper into the trench here if possible because I think I'm about to have another major miscalculation of excessive force! And everyone else with flicker of power left, go help her, or you won't like the results!" The remnants of my posse were scared, but even a glimpse at the amount of power that I was channeling was enough to shock them into obeying without arguing. By the time I dropped the maelstrom nearly right upon us, my friends and associates were well shielded, and probably adequately... despite the fact that their close proximity to this vortex of evil was enough to make nearly everyone vomit and scream with agony.

I felt sorry about that, but the Deseret clowns weren't going to like this any better!

Rising up from behind the wall of earth I began to conduct my own private orchestra of destruction and in just moments I could feel the souls of the minor wizard's I'd trapped scream and vanish as their mortal bodies disappeared in my dancing column of dark fire. Oh, it burned my mind too just to hold it as closely as I needed to, but its malignant fire burned everyone and everything in its path. Yep, paybacks are hell!

"Teach a man to build a fire and he will be warm for the rest of the day. Set a man on fire and he'll be warm for the rest of his life." I giggled to take my mind off of my own searing pain. Ha-ha!

The three greater wizards decided to cede this round of the battle to me and scampered off into the darkness, probably to their final line of defense inside Probert's farmhouse, which undoubtedly had more than a few magical protections of its own. Just for fun, I bounced my black tornado of dark spirit-bound fire off of the house and nearby outbuildings a few times and noticed that they now burned really nicely and this flame gave us a good bit of light to work with now in the darkness.

With my job now done and with only minimal and quite acceptable collateral damage, I flung my ill-formed storm back up into the clouds and with Sean's minor assistance, worked to unweave the dark spirit binding the fire to the storm. Once released the storm became quite violent, but it was an all-together a natural tempest now. Everyone was covered in dirt and rather unhappy, but mostly still possessing all of their original body parts. The wounded weren't any better off for their ordeal, but fortunately I hadn't made anything worse.

The main farmhouse was still on fire, but not quite so much so, indicating that at least someone inside didn't feel like becoming cooked just like a TV dinner. Seeing the women were all fine and the remains of my posse were shaking off the dirt and getting their heads readjusted, I boldly stomped up to the farmhouse and let the villains know the futility of facing me in a three-against-one duel. I had oodles of loose 'free-range' magical energy to use, with the storm still above us in the air, and channeling the wind to my calling, I started a fairly impressive home improvement project by blasting in all of the first floor windows and then I started to dismantle the house, starting with the roof with rather expertly bolts of wind, if I don't saw so myself! With the roof soon gone, I was having a great deal of fun randomly dropping lightning bolts inside the house when I heard a rather sinister and unknown voice coming from behind me.

In fact, I was feeling rather optimistic about a swift and effective resolution to this entire situation when the long absent mentalist witch Ingrid had finally made her belated and unwelcome appearance and was now doing what she did best, taking complete mental control over a helpless Bel. She'd snuck in behind us under the cover of darkness and grabbed on to Bel's mind with absolutely no forewarning at all. Janice, mentally also mentally stunned was also holding Bel's hand, her eyes too frightened to even blink.

"Drop the storm and back away from us or the bitch and her friend both die. You even look at me funny and the bitches die. If I die this bitch still dies, understand Texas boy?" Ingrid snarled at me. She had her right hand upon the back of Bel's head and I didn't have the slightest doubt that she had the ability to do everything that she threatened.

Jerome had his sidearm drawn and admittedly had a pretty good and clear shot and he was visually begging me to nod so that he could take it. I shook my head emphatically, no. A really good mentalist could easily do the curse of death, binding her victim or even the killer to join her in death, and according to Bel, Irene was one of the best.

"No, she's not bluffing." Sean unnecessarily added. "As bad as they come, that one is... all cobwebs and shadows, like a queen spider she is. She has the girls now snared, so give her some rope for a wee bit..." Frankly, Sean didn't sound his usual overly confident self, but I had to agree with him for the moment.

"Let her go!" I grumbled and made sure that I kept about a ten foot distance away from her as she slowly led her captives towards the farmhouse steps. The upstairs of the house was nicely ablaze but so far there seemed to be mostly just smoke downstairs, but if the villains wanted to fight to the death in their final retreat they were certain to get smoked out pretty darned soon.

Reaching the doorway in safety we were all a bit startled when the door suddenly opened and there was a slight change of personnel. Bel and Janice were then grabbed by mostly unseen hands and yanked inside while still mentally stunned, leaving Irene trapped outside on the porch along with another female Deseret sorceress who was half-pushed to accompany her.

This new arrival was a bit underdressed for the late winter weather and wearing not much more than a ceremonial loincloth and a lot of fetish beads and stuff. Her face was grim and from the way Irene was banging on the locked outer door it was now obvious that the two of them had been 'volunteered' to play the role of final defense and 'hold them off for just a minute or two', so that their bosses could make some sort of escape.

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