I DREW BOTH PISTOLS and opened fire, dropping the first goblin before it could exit the portal of orange light. But more goblins spilled out behind it. More than I could handle alone.
Diana stepped up beside me, her own pistol in hand. She took aim and fired, finding her targets before squeezing the trigger.
But still, they just kept coming. For every one that fell, two more were right behind.
Oz took up a position to the other side of me and pointed his staff at the oncoming bloat of goblins.
“Lightning!” He commanded.
Blue white forks of electricity shot from his staff, frying four goblins at a time.
And yet, the river of goblins continued to flow.
The curtain of smoke opened wider, allowing the little green bastards to leap out six at a time. And it continued to widen. Soon the curtain would be completely open and the portal within would stretch along the back wall. If the goblin
horde was as endless as it appeared to be, we’d be overwhelmed in a matter of minutes.
“Oz,” I shouted over the sounds of gunfire, crackling electricity, and hissing goblins. “We’re gonna need some kinda magic nuke or something here. What’s the plan?”
“I, uh,” Oz said, looking more than a little flustered.
“Oz!” I yelled.
“I need time to think,” he said.
“Okay, we need to get out of this room,” I said. “If we can get through the door at the top of the stairs then we can bottleneck them, only one or two can get through at a time. We can pick them off, give Oz some time to work his stuff.”
There were now almost twenty goblins in the lab with us, and half that sprawled unmoving on the floor. A dark red cloud blew out from the oncoming horde and flew at us like the spray from twenty fire extinguishers.
“Out!” I shouted. “Now!”
“Wind!” Oz commanded and a great blowing gust roared from the staff, pushing most of the cloud back.
“I can’t see!” Diana called out. “I’m blind.”
She must have gotten a dose of the red mist. God love her though, she wasn’t panicking. She was shouting, sure, but that was only to get her voice above all the clamor.
“Oz!” I yelled. “Get her out of here.”
Oz took her by the arm and led her from the room. I was right behind, reloading as I backed away.
Then a goblin was on me, leaping into the air and sinking its sharp teeth into the flesh of my shoulder. It bit through the coat and shirt to get to me. I could feel the blood gushing almost immediately.
I screamed and tore it off of me, taking some of my shoulder with it.
As I crossed the threshold into the room with the giant television, which was still showing the Bob Ross program, I could see that there were no more goblins spilling from the portal. But there were still plenty that had come through and
were still alive and kicking. Two dozen at least.
The bodies of those that had fallen had formed a small barrier between us and them. It slowed them down a little as they climbed over their slain comrades. It allowed me the time needed to finish loading both Peacemakers. I slid the last
cartridge into place and then let loose once again as I backed up the stairs.
Twelve shots and seven steps later and I stood empty at the top of the stairs, the goblin horde almost on top of me. I began the reload process again, knowing that I wouldn’t finish in time, knowing that I’d have to face the creatures
with fist and foot.
Goblins, as I told Diana earlier, have no beef with humans. Under normal circumstances, they leave us alone. But they are vicious and highly dangerous creatures, as they were proving today. One alone is fairly deadly. I had near a dozen
that were close enough to tear out my throat.
Then Grace was there beside me, pulling me off of the stairs and into the living room behind her. She held a glowing crystal the size of a grapefruit in her open palm. She still wore her flour covered apron and the look on her face was
enough to lock my bowels up for the next two weeks.
Grace held the crystal out before her, and the goblins, seeing it there in her hand, stopped their ascent and shied away.
“Shine,” she said in a calm, soft voice.
The glow from the crystal grew in intensity.
“Shine,” she said again.
A light shot from the crystal and enveloped the goblins on the stairs. They squealed and screamed as their skin blackened and cracked under the harsh light.
Grace didn’t move. She stood before the burning goblins like an angry statue.
“Shine!” she called out in a loud, clear voice.
The light grew so bright that the goblins disappeared under its intensity.
That’s when Grace began to waver. She swayed and looked as if she might pass out. But Oz was suddenly behind her.
“Hang in there, Hon,” he said, holding her up. “It’s almost over. You’re doing great.”
The light was so intense that it began to hum and for a moment I feared that it would come back on us. But then, in the blink of an eye, the light was out. The crystal was nothing more than ash in her palm.
Grace crumpled, but Oz caught her in his arms and dropped with her, cushioning her fall and laying her gently on the floor.
“Did it work?” She asked, her voice weak and unsure.
“You got ‘em,” Oz said, shining a proud smile.
I went over to the stairs and found eleven small piles of ash on the steps, and the floor in front of them. That was all that was left of the goblins. Nothing more than ash.
“Dang, Grace,” I said with respect. “You whooped their butts.”
“What happened?” Diana asked. She was sitting on a couch to the right.
I went to her and sat down.
“We won,” I said.
“I can’t see anything,” she said. Still no panic, she was just stating a fact.
“Yeah,” I said. “The goblin mist can have that effect of folks. Don’t worry. It ain’t permanent. You’ll have your sight back by tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” she asked. Now some panic managed to creep its way in. But not for her. “They are going to kill Maggie tonight. I have to be able to see.”
“Don’t you worry about that,” I said. “I’ll get her out in time.”
“How?” she said. “We don’t know where she is. The wizard’s spell failed.”
“There’s another way,” Oz said. He still kneeled on the floor next to Grace.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“We still have her hair,” Oz said. “I can use it to make a tracking potion. It will take longer, it has to brew for a few hours, but once you take it you should be able to find her anywhere.”
“A few hours?” I looked at the clock on the wall. “Maggie may not have that long.”
“It’s the best we got.”
“And what about Grace?” I asked. “Is she gonna be okay?”
“That was a powerful magical object she used. It took a lot out of her, but it’s nothing that a little rest won’t cure,” Oz said.
“Stop talking about me like I’m not here,” Grace said. Her voice was still weak, but it sure was feisty.
“See?” Oz smiled.
I stood and paced for a moment, thinking.
“Okay,” I said. “You get started on that potion. In the meantime, I’ll take Diana back to the station and then see if I can’t kick over a couple of rocks and try to find out where the Brotherhood has set up shop. See if I can’t get the
chance to get at them a little earlier than a few hours from now.”
“Grace,” I said, kneeling down to her. “You are a true warrior. You really saved our bacon today. I don’t know how to thank you.”
“Are you kidding,” she said. “What was I supposed to do, let a couple dozen goblins tramp all over my clean house?”
We laughed and I leaned down and kissed her on the cheek.
“You are a treasure, Grace. A real treasure,” I said.
She only smiled and said: “You want to take some cookies with you when you go?”
Ten minutes later Diana and I were back in her squad car, but this time I was driving.
“You mind if we stop for something to drink?” She asked. Her eyes were open, but they weren’t focused on anything.
“I ain’t much of a drinker,” I said. “And besides, blind or not, you’re still on duty.”
“I wasn’t talking about alcohol, you jerk,” she said with a smile. “I could really go for a soda right now. A fountain drink.”
I took us to the Kwik Stop. They had a self-service soda fountain inside. I could have gone to the Happy Hamburger, but it didn’t feel right. Not while Maggie was still missing.
“So, you do this sort of thing all the time?” Diana asked once I’d returned with her soda.
“Well, yeah,” I said. “I mean, I get soda a lot, but I’ve never brought a blind Police Officer along in her own squad car.”
“No, I mean this magic stuff,” she said. “Ogres, and goblins, and wizards.”
“Oh my,” I said.
“Funny.” She didn’t laugh that time.
“Yeah,” I said. “I do this sort of thing all the time. Not every day, thank God, but there are times when the work is steady.”
“I had no idea all this was going on around us,” she said. “It’s like a whole other world.”
“It can certainly feel like that,” I said. “But you’ve just had another layer pulled back.”
“And so this is what you do?” She said. “You help people. You literally protect people from monsters.”
“How long have you been fighting monsters?” She asked. “How does one get started in the monster fighting business?”
“That’s a pretty long story,” I said. “I mean, to be honest, the short version is that I don’t rightly know.”
“Now that just sounds stupid,” she said. “How can you not know?”
“Well, one day I just kinda woke up. I had no idea who I was, how I got there, where I came from, nothing.”
“You’re kidding me,” she said.
“When was this?”
“You wouldn’t believe me.”
She turned and pointed her sightless eyes in my direction.
“Norman,” she said. “In less than twenty-four hours I have fought ogres, met a good wizard, met a dark wizard, and was blinded by a pack of blood-thirsty goblins. I don’t know that there is anything you can tell me right now that I won’t believe.”
“You’ve got a good point there,” I said. “Okay. Well, does August the Twenty-first, 1863 mean anything to you?”
“No,” she said. “Should it?”
“It’s the day that Quantrill’s Raiders attacked Lawrence, Kansas and burned most of the town to the ground.”
“Okay,” she said. “I’ve heard about that. I mean, I went to high school. But what does that have to do with you.”
“That’s the day I woke up.”
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