Courtesy: Part 18

There weren’t a lot of people on the streets—mushroom-controlled people that is—but the people that were there stopped and stared.

I mean, sort of. With mushroom flesh covering their faces, they had no eyes or ears, merely slick skin. They pointed their heads at the fairy horde emerging from the portal and froze. Then as one, they retreated into City Hall, the parking garage, or any of the half-a-dozen office buildings nearby.

I wondered for a second if this meant that they still felt fear, but couldn’t help but note that they’d disappeared as one, meaning that if they did, they had to wait for orders to express it.

My next thought was surprise that the forces of fungus were offering no resistance to our allies and that calling in Adam’s favor might have been a mistake, but I needn’t have worried.

I’d noticed before that the ornate, 19th-century buildings and roads around City Hall all had an overlay of mushroom skin on them and that the buildings grew tendrils much like those I’d seen back at the park. I also knew that spores had been raining all over the city and that we were now at the center of the fungus’ organization.

So, it didn’t surprise me that they had more defenses than were obvious, but the timing and speed of response? That did surprise me.

The slick flesh on the ground turned into tendrils that grabbed at legs. Distorted four-legged forms formed out of the flesh on the walls of buildings. While loosely shaped like animals, my sensors showed they were entirely fungus all the way through.

Hunter stuck to shapes that resembled natural creatures or creatures from mythology. The sinuous movements of these creatures seemed better fitted to creatures with no bones inside, only harder or softer mushroom flesh.

I remembered back to how Hunter said that the creatures could evolve, wondering if he’d been correct or if they were shedding human expectations, and bit by bit becoming the creatures Hunter’s powers had been shaped by.

At the same time, the tendrils on City Hall and the buildings around it had begun to fire spores at them, but instead of firing the spores individually, they fired globules a foot across that burst into spores, making me think of snow.

Within less than three seconds of the fairy host appearing, they’d gone from facing no resistance to becoming stalled in their tracks, peppered with spores, and seeing a host of fungus creatures advancing on them.

I felt Daniel’s concern through our link. Izzy turned toward the rest of the group, about to ask if we were going to help. Amy, however, smirked, knowing or noticing something that those of us without magic couldn’t.

I zoomed in on the fey host, trying to figure out what I’d missed—I had missed a lot.

Even as I zoomed in, I realized that the whole host still sparkled with the silver and black of evil fairy dust. The tendrils grabbed and hung on, but at the first they froze for a moment, sometimes allowing the goblin to get away. Even if the tendril did hang on despite whatever stopped them, they kept on adjusting, as if trying to find a more comfortable spot.

They couldn’t hold on to the horses, the dragon-like reptiles or any of the larger beasts. They’d pull out of the tendrils’ grip one way or another.

Even the goblins found that when they grabbed the tendrils with their hands, the tendrils tried to squirm away. The goblins weren’t stupid. They grabbed the tendrils wrapped around their legs and as the tendrils squirmed they pulled away.

As for the spores falling like early November snowflakes? Instead of attaching to the goblins’ clothes and growing to cover them, the spores seemed to shrink and fall to the ground. Even with zoom it was hard to tell precisely why, but necromancy allowed a wizard to manipulate life and unlife from what I understood. If there was such a thing as “life force,” the evil sparkles must have been sucking it out of the spores.

I was fine with that. It meant that they had a chance to survive—at least until the spell ended.

Aloud I said, “Did the Duke say how long the spell would last?”

Below us enough of the army was free that they were turning to engage the mushroom creatures surrounding them. The dragon-like reptiles tore into their opponents, ripping limb from limb or even bodies in two.

Not seeing any blood, I could live with that.

Daniel turned away from the scene below, “I didn’t hear him say a time limit. I’m guessing until we win, but hopefully not much longer.”

“Hoping for victory sex?” Amy grinned, looking from Daniel to Izzy.

Izzy glanced toward Amy, “He didn’t cast it on us. We weren’t there.”

Amy held up her left hand, the one that wasn’t carrying a spear, “Look at each other and then look at yourselves.”

She was right. Even as she said it a silver and black sparkle appeared next to her face and winked out.  I’d been focused on the battle and hadn’t noticed them spontaneously appearing and disappearing around all of us.

“Duke Metzul only gets to stay a Duke because he’s powerful,” Amy said. “We’ll want to be very polite and very thankful after this is over–assuming we win.”

“Hey, everybody,” Jaclyn said over the comm, “Hal thinks we should give them thirty seconds and portal to the door of City Hall.”

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