Chapter 33 - Jason



Who knew running from Orcs, eating all my food, a hot shower and a pillow fight was enough to put a kid down for the count? I didn’t. I don’t know anything about raising kids. After Kaiden was asleep I made my way up the roof. I come up here to think at night sometimes. Mostly about what to do next.

I can get a view of the whole city. I’m not sure if I hate the city or not. Things haven’t gone great for me since I’ve been here. I’ve been working regular jobs with no success and my skills are being wasted. The one time I get some work in my wheelhouse, I get my ass handed to me by an Orc out of history. I somehow get a kid in the process and Mother Dalia thinks I’m the perfect person to raise this kid. There’s been nothing good here. I’ve decided, I hate the city. Unfortunately, I’m trapped her for the moment. Being trapped with a kid isn’t an option.

Cell phones are wonderful, we only had land lines in various locations throughout the temple. I’ll admit, I do enjoy some joys of the city, mostly technology that’s easy to access. I still hate the city. Despite cell phones being the easiest way to contact people, I can’t get Dalia on the phone. She gave me a list of places in the letter, but that doesn’t really help me.

“You know, if you really want your bed, I could sleep on the couch,” somehow Kaiden found me on the roof.

“How did you find me up here?”

“You left the window to the fire escape open.”

He takes a seat next to me on the ledge and looks out at the city. He looks at it the complete opposite way as I do. He’s almost mesmerized by it. He seems mesmerized by everything. Dalia said we’re a lot alike, but I don’t see it all. He’s got nothing but optimism for the world. Me, well sometimes I wonder if there’s a point to any of this.

“Where are your parents,” I ask him. Maybe I can drop him off with them.

“Where are yours,” he responds without missing a beat. Okay, maybe we are a little alike. I’d respond the same way.

“Dead. Now you.”

“Oh. Sorry about that. I ran away about three years ago.”

“So, when you were eleven you just ran away?”

“I was thirteen and yeah and yes, I ran away.”

“Did the vampire pick you up right after that?”

“Nah, this old couple took me in. Mr. and Mrs. Harris were really good to me. He taught me how to use magic and she taught me how to cook and some basic first aid. They were really good people. Better than my actual parents.”

“You got any idea where to find them?”

“Probably a cemetery. When the vampire took me, they tried to stop him. I blacked out, but it wasn’t going well before that. I know your apartment is small, but I won’t take up much space and I’ll stay out of your way.”

“It’s not about the apartment. I hate it too.”

“Just say you don’t me around. I’m used to it. I left my parents. I left the temple. I’ll leave you too. I don’t stay where I’m not wanted. I’ll get my stuff and leave in the morning.”

Okay, Dalia was right. We might be a lot alike. He’s got my smart mouth for sure. The feelings of alienation and isolation, I know them all too well. He doesn’t even know how to word it, but that’s what it is. He’s a puzzle piece, that hasn’t fit any of the puzzles he’s tried yet. I thought about running away a lot as a kid, he actually did it, twice. I’ll give her credit, Mother Dalia has always been good at reading people.

“I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know what I’m going to do with you. I don’t know what I’m doing with myself most days. I’m not going to kick you to the curb. But, I’m just letting you know, life with me will probably suck.”

“Hmm…I’m cool with that. None of us really know what we’re doing.”

“True. You go get some sleep. Dalia gave me a list of stuff to do tomorrow. There’s supposed to be a green potion in your bag. Drink it.”

“A step ahead of you. My letter said to drink it.”

“What else did your letter say?”

“Said you would try to get rid of me, but not to let you. You needed me as much as I need you and that you’re not as mean as you try to seem.”

“Sounds like Dalia.”

“Yeah, she’s great.”

“Yeah she really is.”

“Hey, could you tell me a story before I go to sleep?”

“A story, are you serious,” I can’t help but laugh.

“I like stories. If you can’t tell stories just say it. I think you had some books. I’m sure one of those has a good story.”

“I can tell stories.”

“Then tell me a story.”

Chapter 32 - Jason



I didn’t know what to do, so I kept the kid with me. I couldn’t just leave a kid on the street. The bus ride back to my apartment he told me how he managed to escape the temple. He managed to sneak out without being caught. Someone helped him when he struggled with the wall. He had a rock that led him to the city, when I showed up it shattered. My guess is an aspirant stone. It leads the person to whatever they’re wishing for. Once they’ve obtained it, the stone shatters.

He’s obviously tired from the walk up the stairs, still no elevator. Yet, he doesn’t complain, he just follows me with that stupid little smile. I unlock the door to my apartment and he follows right in. If I was anyone else, he might be in danger.

“I’m going to take a shower, there’s leftovers in the fridge if you’re hungry.”

“Thank you, I haven’t had real food in a few months,” he heads right to the fridge.

I smell like dumpster juice so I need a shower. It also gives me some time away from the kid to think about how I need to approach this. I can get him back to the temple, but he’d just run away again. He clearly hates it there. I could try to find his real parents, that would leave me in charge of taking care of him for a while. I’m not really sure how to raise a kid. I barely take care of myself sometimes. I could just abandon him, but I don’t really have that in me to just leave a kid on the streets. Damn, how did this happen? I barely even remember the kid. If he hadn’t come up to me at my trial I wouldn’t have recognized him. I knew I saved someone that night, but I don’t even remember what the person looked like. Maybe I can convince him to go back to the temple on his own accord.

When I return from the bathroom, he’s sitting on the couch surrounded by no less than four different Styrofoam containers. Working on his fifth, there goes all of my leftovers and I don’t really have more money. The Orc job is pretty much trash now. So I’ll have to find more work somehow since I’m bankrolling two now instead of just me.

“Hey, you gotta go back to the temple,” I say turning off the TV.

“Why can’t I just stay with you?”

“Because I’m not a great guardian or parent. I’m not even great at taking care of myself. Look around you, this apartment sucks. It’s falling apart, and the fridge has nothing but leftovers. The Eremites could keep you fed, warm, and healthy. I don’t have the funds for that.”

“I can pull my own weight, that isn’t a problem.”

“It’s not about pulling your own weight. It’s about this not being a great environment for a kid.”

“I’m sixteen, almost an adult,” he says finishing off food.

“But you didn’t age when you were enthralled. So you’re what thirteen or fourteen? That’s how I have to treat you.”

“Only if you want to. I told you, I’m just small. Give me time.”

“I think you’re suffering from something called transference.”

“I can’t be suffering from that because I don’t even know what that is,” he throws his arms in the air confused.

“That’s when you have some kind of trauma from your childhood so you transfer your emotions somewhere else. So maybe you had an issue with your dad, and you’re transferring the love you had for your dad to me.”

“That’s so stupid,” he holds his belly and laughs. I haven’t had anyone laugh at me this hard since I was a kid. “I just want to be a vampire hunter and you seem like the best,” he calms his laughter.

“There’s better hunters at the temple. I don’t even specialize in hunting vampires. You’ll get better training at the temple.”

“I’m sure you can teach me more. I know I’m small but puberty starts at a different time for everyone. You don’t have to think of yourself as a parent or guardian either. You can just think of yourself as my big brother. We’re basically brothers anyway.”

“How are we basically brothers? You just made that to stay.”

“Nope. Mrs. Dalia took care of me while I was there. She said she basically raised you. So we’re basically her kids.”

“That’s so stupid.”

“Mr. Elsar said you were mean.”

“Really?”

“Yep, can I take a shower?”

“Sure, I’ve got some clothes in the dresser. They won’t fit you, but they won’t smell like garbage either.”

“Thanks,” he makes his way to the bathroom. “Wait, I have something for you. The backpack they threw over the wall had a letter for you inside,” he starts to rummage through the bag.

“Why would they give you a letter for me?”

“I don’t know. Just read it,” he hands me the letter and heads off.

I recognize the handwriting right away. The letter is from Mother Dalia. She must have been the one who Kaiden break out of the temple. Why would she do that? I know why she would do it. That damn crystal ball. I open the letter, Dalia’s handwriting no doubt, but her hand writing is rushed and wording doesn’t leave much for debate:

Dear Jason,

I miss you every day and even Elsar asks about you. Let’s get to business. I’ve never asked you for anything other than being the best you that you can be. Now, I’m asking for a big favor. The boy is Kaiden, I’ve already found his parents. They won’t be the help he needs. The temple isn’t the place for him, no more than it was for you. The two of you have a lot in common even if you don’t notice it at first. You were a very sad and lonely child, still a sad lonely adult. Kaiden is no different. You spent your time destroying property and seeking attention. He constantly smiles and tries to see the best in everything but he is the same as you. The two of you could help each other avoid the darkness and have a true friend. That’s why I think it’s best that he stays with you. In my old age, I can’t give him the attention he needs. I’ve included a page with things you’ll need to take care of him.

There’s an information broker that was excommunicated. Just mention I sent you. He’ll get you set up with a job and an apartment. There’s also a bar, where you can get work. They’ll be mostly small jobs that aren’t official but it’s money. Another excommunicated runs the bar. There’s a place where you can get some clothes for the boy and probably yourself as well. Knowing you, you probably haven’t bought new clothes. Well, people in the city change clothes a lot more often, and I don’t mean having multiples of the same robes. There’s the address of a school that’ll take care of him. Their curriculum isn’t much different than our own.

He should have a potion in his pack. This was a gift from Elsar, it will get the boy to the correct age. It won’t do anything about his scars but they could fade as his body ages. Jason, don’t let me down. You can’t contact me and they’re watching me. I’ll make sure to reach out and check on you from time to time but it won’t be often. Just promise me you’ll protect the boy the best you can. He’ll be an adult soon so you won’t have to raise him for long. I love you, don’t let me down again.

Love, Mother Dalia

I guess I’m raising this kid now. I did let her down at every turn, I guess I can do this. She clearly saw something in her crystal ball, even if she didn’t say it. What kind of help does the kid need? Fuck. I tuck the letter in my nightstand and lay on the bed and stare at the ceiling. This is my life now.

“What did the letter say,” Kaiden jumps in bed next to me.

“It said, get off my bed.”

“Why? It’s big enough for both of us if we squeeze in.”

“Nah,” I push him off the bed onto the floor.

“You’re so mean,” he says from the floor.

“Take a pillow and sleep on the couch,” I toss a pillow at his face.

“I haven’t had a real bed in months. C’mon.”

“Nope. At least let me have my bed.”

“I know how we can settle this,” he says with a devious smile on his face.

“How’s th,” I don’t get to finish my sentence before he brings a pillow down hard on my face.

“Pillow Fight,” he yells out.

This is my life now.

Chapter 31 - Jason



I tackle the boss as he steps out the back yard. I pound the back of his head with my pistol but ignoring his bargain pleas. I’ve never met an Orc who bargains. I just need him to know I’m not to be screwed with.

Shit, I didn’t see expect him to throw dirt in my eyes. I guess for all the mob acting and Orc tradition he doesn’t mind playing dirty. I try to wipe the dirt out of my eyes and see but it isn’t going well. I can make out a shadow and I give chase the best I can, hoping I’m chasing the right guy.

He slams the door of the car. I go to fire as he starts the car but both guns are empty. I switch out the magazines and start to fire as the tires squeal. The bullets shatter the front windshield but they don’t pierce the crumpled glass as he backs out. My vision starts to return and it looks like I missed every shot. Shit, I won’t have another chance like that to catch him. I was unprepared, my back is killing me and I got caught off guard. If I had known he would have eight- or nine-feet tall Orcs who could fling me around I would have taken more time to prepare.

It looks like every Orc in the building has come to the back door now. This isn’t a fight I can win. I also can’t outrun an Orc on foot after the beatings I’ve taken today. I need some kind of distraction. There’s the sunlight grenade, but it won’t work out here in the daylight. I could fire off some more shots, but I’m sure police are probably on their way now. I could just take off running and hope they get stopped before they can catch me. They look ready for a fight for sure.

My miracle comes in the form of giant ball of blue swirling energy. I’d never seen anything like it before. It came flying from behind me and slammed into the Orcs knocking them over like bowling pins. Part of the building tumbled down on them. I hear someone scream out in pain behind me and turn to see a teenager with a matted afro rolling on the ground, holding his arm and screaming in pain. It doesn’t take a genius to guess the blast came from this kid.

The Orcs start to crawl from the rubble, and I need to run. I take off and snatch the kid up by his backpack dragging him along with me until he can run on his own. I duck into an alley as he keeps running. I can’t leave him alone. I’m sure the Orcs have seen him. I catch up and shove him into the next alley I see. I hold him to the wall and peak around the corner. We’re still being followed. He’s dirty and sweating. Probably homeless. I could make it out of here alone, but I can’t leave this kid. They’ll kill him. We need to hide before they get down here. I open up a dumpster, it’s almost empty, but still smells terrible. I cover the kids mouth and jump into the dumpster. Slamming the lid down behind us.

“It stinks in here, and it’s dark,” the kid starts to complain.

“Be quiet, they still might find us,” I click on a flashlight.

“It really is you,” he shows a big smile showing all his teeth.

“What?”

“You’re Jason. You saved me. I went to the temple. I’m Kaiden remember?”

“What are you doing here?”

“Looking for you.”

“Why?”

“Because I didn’t want to stay at the temple.”

“How did you find me?”

“I didn’t. I was working here in exchange for food and shelter. You found me.”

“Shhh,” I hear the Orcs walking through alley outside.

He’s happy to just sit in silence as long as it takes now that he’s found me. Like a lost puppy he moves to my side of the dumpster and leans on me. I need to get him back to the temple. For now, I need to be sure the Orcs are gone. If anything, I can use the moment to heal some of my wounds. I close my eyes to focus the energy towards healing my major wounds. Typically when I use my enhancement magic it hits everything at once but my back can use some extra attention after hitting so many walls, or the same four walls over and over again.

“What are you doing?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re glowing,” he stares at me in confusion.

“I’m not glowing,” I click off the flashlight and still can’t see any glow.

“Yes you are. It’s yellow, you’ve got a whole aura. It’s coming from your back,” he’s serious about this.

“Wait, can you see magic?”

“Can’t everyone?”

“Some kinds of magic are visible but others aren’t. Enhancement magic isn’t visible because it’s enhancing parts of the body. But, you can see I’m trying to heal my back.”

“That’s so cool. Does that mean I have some kind of special ability?”

“Not really, just means you have an affinity for magic. If you had stayed at the temple, I’m sure you would have learned that.”

“I hated that temple.”

“Why? I’m sure they took good care of you. All the food you can eat, warm beds, roof over your head, and all kinds of things to learn. Magic, fighting, literature, anything.”

“Because all the people there are weird. You can’t have emotions. You can’t learn to fight or use magic until you’re sixteen. They keep telling me I’m not sixteen because of the stupid vampire thing. I got beat up all the time. I didn’t have any friends. Please don’t send me back there. I’ll do anything to stay.”

“Relax, we’ll deal with it when we get out of here.”

He’s got a tight grip on my arm now. I couldn’t shake him off if I wanted to. I don’t have any way to contact the temple. If I could contact them, would they even come? If I send him back he’s just going to run away again. I’m stumped with this. I know a dozen ways to kill vampires. I don’t know anything about raising kids. He’s almost an adult, he should be able to take care of himself. Maybe I just run really fast. He doesn’t have the cardio to keep up with me. Then again, he came to the city to find me, he might find me again. Shit, am I responsible for a kid now?

Chapter 30 - Jason



My face feels like it’s burning as a rough hand runs across my face and smacks me awake. Did they knock me out? How long did they beat me? Another rough slap. I don’t open my eyes yet. I’m trying to remember what happened. I was outside fighting, beat a few Orcs. Reinforcements came from inside, someone in a car pulled up. They dragged me inside. There it is, they started beating me. Wanted to know who I worked for. I didn’t answer. I guess they really did knock me out. They’re going to pay for that. It’s personal now. A third hard slap.

“If you slap me like that again, I’m going to cut you open make you jump rope with your own intestines,” I open my eyes and stare at the Orc in front of me.

He must be the boss. Suit and tie, really sticking to the mafia vibe. The nasty kinked dreadlocks they’ve taken to wearing cover his head. He’s one of the few Orcs I’ve seen who still has the large underbite and massive teeth. Long lost their evolutionary purpose, most Orcs aren’t born with them anymore. Lots of them still get them implanted, their way of distinguishing themselves from the Goblins even more. His look like he opted for gold and jewel incrusted implants. I can’t wait until I get the chance to knock them right out of his head.

“You must not know who you’re talking to,” he wrings his hands.

“I don’t give a fuck who I’m talking to, just don’t slap me again,” I notice all of my gear spread out neatly on a table behind him. Is this some kind of interrogation?

“I’m a nice guy, so I won’t slap you again if you tell me who you’re working for.”

“I’m a free agent,” I joke.

“Don’t try to be a tough guy, you’re lucky we didn’t kill you.”

“Well thank you for your kindness,” they’re not used to hostages. They’ve ziptied my hands together in front of me. That move is going to cost him his life.

“Now, who do you work for?”

“I told you, I work for myself. Don’t you listen?”

This time he goes for a closed hand punch, to the top of my head. I told him to keep his hands to himself. I lift myself from the chair and look up into his eyes. He doesn’t back down. Good, it’ll be a fight. I lift my knee directly into his groin. I’m not above nut shots. While he recoils, I raise my arms over my head and slam them down, snapping the zipties. Now we’ve got a fair fight.

He rushes in trying to take me down. I sidestep and slam his head into the wall. I’m pissed off now. I don’t give him a moment to escape. I pound the back of his head punch after punch. My knuckles feel the pain of his hard skull, but I’m sure he’s feeling as much pain as I am right now. I hear the door start to open, I rush to the other side of the room. I kick the door closed on another Orcs arm. He snatches it back and I lock the door.

I grab my things from the table, looks like I’m taking a hostage out of her. I grab my knife and lift the boss. Knife around his neck I head out the room to several pissed off Orcs. When they see the knife they calm down. Orcs never leave anyone behind if they can get out.

“I’m gonna kill you,” one Orc yells, being held back by his friends.

“Go get Gnoth,” the boss mumbles and a few take off.

The rest remain still as I make my way into the main lobby. I’m stopped when I come face to face with what must be Gnoth. I just let the boss go, because I can’t win this fight with a hostage. Gnoth has to bee full blooded Orc. I had heard rumors about Orcs still breeding some for war in the event that they could rise to power again. I thought they were rumors, but clearly not. Gnoth had to be at least eight feet tall and four hundred pounds of muscle. His teeth weren’t implants and he had them at the top and bottom. He even dragged a warhammer across the ground. I had never seen a warhammer anywhere beyond history books, but he was dragging one that had to be a few hundred pounds and he was standing between me and the door.

I make the first move. I rush towards the left side of the room, then change directions and try to slide between his legs. He grabs me and tosses me back to the other side of the room. I pull myself off the floor. I’m just going to have to find another way. I’ve got one sunlight grenade left. I could try that but I’m not sure when I can afford more. I don’t even know if bullets could penetrate. I guess I could try cutting him down to size.

My choice is made as he starts to move towards me dragging the hammer. He lifts it into the air puncturing the ceiling as he reaches the peak. This gives me a chance. I dive at his foot and make some rapid slashes at the back of the tree trunks he calls ankles before he can kick me off and send me into another wall. He’s cut and bleeding but it doesn’t look like it did any good. He’s managed to get his hammer free and now he’s swinging side to side. I manage to dive out of the way as he creates a hole straight through the wall where I used to be.

We continue the song and dance. I dodge a deathblow, I stab at his Achilles again trying to bring him to the ground. Then I get flung across the room. I swear I’ve cut through his tendon at this point and he’s still moving. This time around I scrape the bone for sure and he’s still moving. My lucky break comes when he goes to swing the hammer again. His leg finally gives out under the weight. I take the opportunity to climb his shoulders. I start to stab at his eyes and ears. Any fleshy parts my knife can easily penetrate. He doesn’t even scream in pain. I can only wonder if he even feels pain as he finally falls to the ground. Other Orcs start to close in.

I don’t have enough to fight all these Orcs. I don’t have enough for one more Orc. I pull my guns and start shooting. Bullets start to penetrate and ricochet. I use the chaos to start chasing after the boss Orc. He’s heading for the back door where they brought me in. Probably trying to get to his car, but I won’t let him.

Chapter 29 - Jason



The bus lets me off in a neighborhood that looks busy, yet disintegrating all at once. Shops look to be falling down and uncared for, but people are in and out with bags. It’s an old looking neighborhood for sure, still there’s life. The old man told me there’s a set of old rundown rowhouses. Apparently, the Orcs have taken over two of the buildings as their own. Orcs love communal living so when the old man said there were maybe a dozen, he could mean triple that. I guess I’ll have to find out when I get there.

Rundown is right, there’s busted windows and the concrete walls are cracked. Even with the damage to all of the buildings, I can tell which the Orcs have taken over. The front door has been boarded up to block entry so I make my way to the back alley. There two Orcs stand guard and eye me down. One wears a shirt stained with old blood that’s begun to turn brown. The other doesn’t wear a shirt despite the weather starting to chill with fall. Instead he displays his battle scars. Even after all these centuries, still a sign of pride for Orcs.

“What are you doing back here pink-skin,” an old racial slur for humans from the Orc with the scars. The only race Orcs hate more than us is Elves. Humans took their role in the hierarchy. We’re able to adjust to different civilizations easier, but we’re just as violent, deadly and twisted. On top of that we’re equally suited for combat and magic unlike the Orcs and Elves. We walk in both worlds.

“My skin is more brown than pink,” I try to open with a joke. Fighting a house full of Orcs isn’t on my list of things to do.

“Doesn’t matter, you’re still human filth,” the second Orc joins in.

“Hey, I’m just trying to get some information. There’re some businesses being extorted in the restaurant district. I need to talk to whoever is in charge.”

“I’m in charge,” the Orc with the blood stains smiles.

“No, I’m in charge,” the other joins in.

“Hey, I know neither of you pig-skinned bastards is in charge here, so where’s your boss,” Orcs respect threats, not jokes.

Shockingly, they don’t respect me. The first jams a fist right into my face. Alright, that’s the second unprotected punch from an Orc I’ve taken in two days. This one might hurt more than the other. It knocked me dizzy that’s for sure. I pick myself up from the ground and dust off my pants. Time to show them why humans replaced them in the hierarchy. We’re not as fast or strong, but we’re tenacious, and twisted. I slide on my brass knuckles and make my way back over there. They laugh about most humans staying down after one punch. Most humans didn’t spend their childhoods being trained to kill instead of learning fun games to play.

I don’t say anything, I just return the punch he gave to me. He doesn’t fall but he stumbles. The two know they’re going to have a fight on their hands with me. The three of begin to throw punch after punch. It doesn’t matter which Orc I hit, they’re both going to fall eventually. Even with magic, I’m feeling every one of these punches. I need to work on my enhancement magic, I’ve gotten sloppy since being excommunicated. Nobody forcing me to practice let me get sloppy, now I’m facing those consequences. The bonus I have is that they don’t expect me to be as fast or hit as hard. A few of their punches are hitting each other which works to my advantage.

It isn’t long before the Orc in the shirt falls to the ground. The Orc with the scars and I stare each other down and circle before squaring up again. He pounds his chest, a sign of respect when Orcs square off. I respond the same way, because he’s been kicking my ass. I go for a punch, and he locks me in a half nelson. He prefers to grapple. I wouldn’t usually mind grappling, but with an Orc? Not fun, especially not when I’m out of practice. I try to fight free, but it isn’t long before I feel my feet lifted off the ground. I hold my breath and tuck my head to my chest to brace for impact. This saves me from having all of the wind knocked out of my lungs. I take a deep breath and punch his knee as hard as I can. I had hoped to slow him down but luck is on my side and I feel his knee pop out of place. As he tries to stomp it back into place I get to my feet and begin landing blows to his face. Unable to backpedal with the bum knee he’s stuck taking punches. I’ve got this and I’m feeling confident. Punch after punch he’s starting to lose the strength to guard. I fake a hook and follow with an uppercut. He finally falls.

Before I can celebrate another Orc walks outside after hearing the commotion. He surveys the situation and calls out for help before he can fully assess the situation. I throw a punch as hard as I can and hope it knocks him out. Seems like luck has left me. I keep pounding on him until he pushes me back. I rush forward and ram a knee into his face and watch him drop before backup arrives. I jump at them and start fighting before they get a chance. I don’t know if there’s three or four or six. Doesn’t matter, they’re beating the crap out of me. I fall to the ground again and try to reach for my guns. That’s cut short when one stomps on my wrist and puts an end to that plan. I hear a car pull up and it almost seems like they start beating me harder.

I hear a door slam and some talking. I can’t make out what they’re saying, because my ears are ringing. They start to drag me inside, so I guess I’ll get to speak with the boss after all.

Chapter 28 - Jason



T.S.S.K. short for The Sparkling Shawl Kitchen. High elves always have to give things eccentric names for no reason and they can’t help but yell them out. It’s why their magic is so outdated. Cast a spell in quiet for once will you. I think I’m still mad at the guy who got me fired. I’ve only been able to get work under the table since then. Nothing continuous or that provided a decent income. But I’m getting by. Enough so that I can stop by and grab a meal. High Elves are so arrogant, but their food is great. They take the best parts from everyone. I guess that’s what happens when you spend hundreds of years trying to take over the world because you believe it’s you’ve been granted this land by your Elven gods. I really need to get over being fired. I’m turning into a racist.

I walk in and take my seat. I place my order on the little digital tablets they have at each table. In honor of my most recent job I’ll order the Dwarven Veal Stew. The Dwarves have surprisingly good food as well. Especially because they’re still insistent on living underground, or trying. That’s a little hard in the city. I heard their country doesn’t have separate cities. There’s one city that goes through a mountain range. If so, that’s crazy. I’d love to see it one day, but I don’t think I’ll be able to afford travel any time soon. I wonder if it’s comfortable for visitors, considering their height and all. They gave me a token on my last job, so I’ll be able to enter through their magic barricade if I do decide to go.

“Hey, where’s our fucking money,” a pair of Orcs burst through the door dressed in furs.

They look like they were still living in one of the Orcish housing communities until recently. Still dressed in furs, but they’ve picked up some city things. One has gold chains, stolen no doubt. Everyone loves gold. History tells us gold powder was used for currency in the past. Then it was gold coins, then dollars backed by gold. Still, gold is a symbol of wealth in any fashion. Orcs don’t use gold for jewelry beyond piercings in my experience. Usually they adorn their weapons with it. They stole these chains from someone and they’re clearly running some kind of extortion business here.

I let them yell back and forth with the owners for a while. They smash up a table, I let it stand. I’m hoping they can solve their own problems. I don’t want anything to do with it. I almost get involved when they smack the old man who works the register and points out pictures of all the famous elves on the wall. But he doesn’t go down, so I don’t get involved. The lady who cooks tries to beat one of the elves with a soup spoon and he smacks her. Now I have to get involved, because I’m not getting my stew today.

“Hey, they don’t have the money. Just leave, you can’t get money from them that they don’t have,” I say looking into the eyes of one of the Orcs.

I’m so glad evolution changed Orcs. History books say they used to be over seven feet tall and had more muscle than a horse. These guys, closer to my height and don’t have the same kind of muscle mass I do. Orc physiology means their bones are a little stronger. They hit a little harder and take more hits. Nothing my magic can’t even out if it comes to blows.

I don’t get to wonder long, while I’m staring down the first Orc the second punches me in the gut. I’m glad he didn’t go for the face because he would have knocked out a tooth for real. I try to get the magic up in time, but I’m not good with magic as it is. I only have talent for enhancement magic as it is, and I can’t get that going when I’m trying to hold onto consciousness. Still, I’m not a bitch. I pull my knife from its sheath and swing upwards trying to dissect one of the orcs. They jump back to dodge the knife that gives me some space and enough time to catch my breath.

With my enhancement magic up now, these Orcs are screwed. I rush the first and place a forearm in his neck before throwing punch after punch in his face until he’s pinned on the wall. The second grabs me by the neck. I’m able to headbutt the first in the process of breaking free. It still hurts like hell, but I always wanted to know about headbutting Orcs. The lady from the kitchen is yelling again. Perfect distraction. I’m able to stab the Orc who previously held me in a chokehold. He’s young, he panics when he sees his blood. An experienced Orc would laugh at the pain an rejoice in the spilling of blood. He’s out of commission. The Orc I just headbutted tries to wrestle me to the ground by lunging at my feet. I fall with my full body weight on the back of his shoulder blades. When he releases my legs I’m able to lift him up and toss him back down. Now he’s the winded one.

The bleeding Orc runs the moment I turn to him. His friend isn’t far behind him. The woman checks on her husband and they embrace. I take my seat, hoping they’ll still deliver me some food. I’m not exactly lucky. The old man comes to sit across from me.

“You, I can tell by the way you fight, you’ve done this before. You’ve bee trained. I saw your magic aura as well. I would like to hire you,” the old man starts without so much as a thank you.

“You can’t pay them, I don’t think you can afford me.”

“You’re right, I can’t pay you much. But, I can promise you free food. This whole neighborhood is under their foot. They’re extorting us all for money. If we don’t pay they tear up our shops or rough up our customers. People have stopped coming here. If they were out of the way, business would pick back up. I can offer you two free meals each day for a year,” the man pleads with sincerity.

“Two free meals a day? For a month,” I could save a lot of money if they were providing my food.

“Yes, as long as you can get them to leave us alone.”

“I don’t know. How many are there?”

“There can’t be more than a dozen.”

“So you want me to kill a dozen Orcs? Why don’t you call some other elves?”

“Because the Dark Elves aren’t trustworthy and asking High Elves for help is disgraceful,” the old couple must be Wood Elves.

“I don’t know about this.”

“A year, free food for a year. Three meals, but I get to pick what they are and I’ll speak with the other shop owners about getting you some cash,” he ups the payment without me asking.

“How long have they been extorting you all?”

“Always, but recently some younger Orcs took over, and they’re greedy.”

“Alright, do you know where they stay?”

Chapter 27 - Jason



The elevator is busted again, I guess I’m going to be taking the stairs. I used to have no problem with stairs. Now, it seems like there’s no end to them. Maybe it’s because everything is higher up in the city. We just build out at the temple. People in the city just build higher and higher as if they’re trying to reach the heavens by some miracle. I also haven’t been training like I should have. Finding work is hard here. Regular jobs, sure, they’re everywhere. But everyone wants someone with fifteen years of experience to mop the floors. Who does that? On top of that, there’s barely enough pay to keep the lights on and the rent paid.

In fact, the orange note on my door tells me I haven’t been keeping the rent paid. I’ve got two weeks to get caught up on my rent or I’m getting evicted. Great. I thought the temple gave me a lot of money to get started with. Turns out, things cost a lot more here in the city. People here are just so damn greedy. Everything revolves around money. The money I started with only lasted a few months. I had to change my diet and everything. Eating lower quality food is probably why I never have the energy to get through the day anymore. Even when I try to sleep, it’s hard. I just toss and turn. There’s so much…noise. Different noise than the temple. Everything just pisses me off now.

I flick a roach from my couch and take a seat. Looking at my checkbook I don’t have enough to cover the rent. I could get another job, but by the time I got paid, it would be too late. I’ve always got contract work to fall back on. It’s what I would rather be doing, but I can’t seem to find any jobs. There’s a bar where they post things on the bulletin board, but other than that, I haven’t figured out a reliable way to find work. That’s something I probably should have asked about before I came here. The temple never had any shortage of work, or money. On top of top of that, there’s way more competition in the market. I don’t know how when most of the humans around here can’t even see the supernatural elements of our world. Ridiculous. I just don’t have the connections I need to make it out here. Now I see why people said excommunication is a punishment worse than death.

“You cheating whore can you go a day without putting some random dick down your throat,” My name Chuck is yelling at his wife again. They’re always going at it. I’ve met werewolves less fierce.

“Maybe if you could actually get it up, I wouldn’t have to,” Debbie is fighting back.

I’m just going to wait for them to finish. Eventually he’ll just get mad and leave. Things are starting to quiet down already. I heard a loud thud and some furniture scrapping the floor. I guess he doesn’t want to leave today. Well, this is my problem now. I make my way next door and knock on the door. There’s still screaming going on. Mrs. Gonzales looks out the door. I wave to her and she nods her head approvingly. I’m not sure what she thinks I’m going to do but if she had any clue she probably would think I’m a monster.

“What the fuck do you want? You silent psycho,” Chuck answers the door slightly. I still catch a glimpse of Debbie laying on the floor and crying.

“I need you to stop putting your hands on your wife.”

“What are you going to do? Call the cops. She’s drunk, they’ll say she fell,” not even enough sense to deny it.

“Chuck, stop beating your wife, or I’m going to beat you.”

“Oh really tough guy,” Chuck steps out of the apartment.

“Yeah, really.”

Chuck throws a sucker punch that lands right on my cheek. I saw it coming. I just let it land. I don’t even try to use my magic to make it painless. I just needed to feel something. Something familiar. Pain, even if it is light. I needed to make sure I was still alive. It doesn’t bring the same adrenaline that fighting vampires does, nor is the pain similar. But, I feel it. I let him throw a few more punches before I’m ready to strike.

The next punch he throws I take his fist in my hand. He throws a punch with his other hand. This time I use control of his arm to swing him around s he misses. I throw a headbutt directly to the center of his face. The fleshy parts, nose and lips. He screams out in pain. Not much different than how Debbie was screaming a few minutes ago. I let his arm go and he falls to his knees cupping his face. I give him one final kick to the chest to get the point across.

“Hey, what in the hell is going on here,” Paul the building manager yells out, out of breath from the stairs.

“Mr. Chuck is drinking too much and fell up the stairs. Mr. Jason is helping him. If only the elevator would move,” Mrs. Gonzales runs interference for me. She must have witnessed the whole thing.

“That’s not what happened,” Chuck starts.

“Oh no baby, were you drinking again,” Debbie pulls Chuck into their apartment.

“Just keep it down up here,” Paul says making his way back down the stairs.

Back in my apartment, after a shower, I’m digging through the fridge to see what I can eat for dinner. Not a lot of options here. An slowly rotting apple, some pale lettuce. Delicious. I hear a knock at the door and make my way over. Mrs. Gonzales is there with a huge pan.

“Please, I brought you dinner,” she offers me the pan.

“Thank you, but I couldn’t take that.”

“You are a good man. A rough man, and a scary man. But good man. Kind of like my husband, take it,” her broken English is suddenly perfect. A wonderful actress if I’ve ever seen one.