Chapter 11: Paladins are Epic

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The wrapper came off the Pop-Tarts and Ciardhe charged. While she didn’t have the muscle of a true berserker, she certainly had the mass to put behind her bull rush. The party dove out of the way just in time. The bard even managed to save the Pop-Tarts.

“Iain, you’ve got to grab the kid and get it off of her,” Ailbhe said.

“What? I don’t want to touch that thing. I have to get my spear.”

“It’s possessing her, and you’re the only one here that can get her without being affected,” she cried, diving to one side.

Iain paused for a moment, then swore. “I finally figured it out. You have such epic battles because you’re a frigging paladin, and paladins have to be epic.”

Ailbhe winced. “That’s not exactly true,” she said. “See, sometimes I break some of the rules of being a normal paladin.”

“We noticed,” Iain and Seamus said in chorus.

A table rocketed through the air, narrowly missing the bard. “Can we please talk about this later and focus on stopping Ciardhe?” he cried in a voice two octaves higher than was normal.

“We need to slow her down without touching her,” the former paladin called to him.

“I can play music to calm her,” he offered. “What does she like?”

“She did like that stuff we heard back in Japnsynth Village,” she said.

“No, not that!” Iain cried, but it was too late.

Seamus had already summoned the Ethereal Jukebox of Nash and the popular music of Japnsynth, also known as J-Pop, was pouring out.

“Oh God, I can’t stand this stuff,” Iain muttered. Even as he did so, Ciardhe started to slow, then came to a stop in the middle of the room.

On her back Hellspawn raged, kicking and hitting, but nothing could break the spell the J-Pop wove. In a finally rage of desperation, she screeched and slammed her tiny fists into Ciardhe’s shoulders.

The world seemed to tilt and everyone in the room except the ex-healer found themselves on the floor. Reality stretched like a rubber band, but just as it got to its breaking point, it snapped back and left everyone stinging.

“Shit,” Iain said, gasping for air. The music on the Jukebox had changed from J-Pop to Ghoultown. “I found something worse than being a paladin. Being a bard. At least the music’s better.”

The spell on Ciardhe was broken, though, and she roared, shaking her head to clear it.

“Get her!” Hellspawn shrieked, pointing to where Ailbhe was stumbling to her feet.

Lunging, Ciardhe grabbed her by the throat. Thought she struggled against the berserker’s grasp, she could not break free.

“Help,” she managed as the hand started to crush her windpipe.

Iain grabbed Seamus and hauled him to his feet. “Okay, all you’ve got to do is knock hellspawn off of Ciardhe so it’ll stop controlling her. Ailbhe and I will take it from there.”

“But I can touch it,” the other man said. “I’m not a paladin.”

“Shit. Wait, it you’re the healer now, then what’s wrong with Ailbhe?”

That was when the inn’s owner lunged at the berserker wielding a barstool burning with holy fire. Using the stool as a battering ram, he slammed into Ciardhe, knocking her to the floor. Unfortunately for him, every action also has an equal ad opposite reaction. He landed several feet away, flaming barstool still in hand.

Nearby, Ailbhe coughed and rolled onto her back, wheezing. Iain went over and pulled her up.

“You’re lighter than usual,” he said.

“I’m an innkeeper,” she said. “We’ll talk about that later, though. We’ve got to capture hellspawn while it’s unattached.”

Indeed, the hellish child lay not far from the fallen ex-healer. She glared at the room with hate filled eyes, and then in a surprise move she started to cry. Not so surprisingly, she also started to scream. The ground began to tremble, rumbling in time with her screams. The inn’s owner went after her again, picking her up and holding her in the air. The shaking stopped as soon as hellspawn’s feet left the ground, but that didn’t deter her from her tantrum. She kicked at the man’s face and chest, biting any exposed skin within reach. Disappointment at finding his skin about as yielding as steel just made her kick harder.

Sometime soon after Ciadhe came to with a groan. “What do you think you’re doing to that poor child?” she shrieked in a pitch that rivaled hellspawn’s in terms of damage done to the eardrums.

“Shit, get her!” Ailbhe cried. “Don’t let her touch the hellspawn!”

She and Iain launched themselves at the pseudo-serk, wrapping themselves in various ways to try to hold her back. Seamus stood nearby trying to find a clever mechanical way to stop her without actually hurting anyone.

The two actually doing something were, unfortunately, hindered by two facts. First, the ex-healer was now a berserker, no matter how pathetic she might be. Second, she weighed more than Iain and Ailbhe combined. It was not her weight that was the problem, though. There was so much fat on her body that any time either of her team members got a hold on her, it would shift and she would slip right through their grasp.

“I can’t hold her,” Ailbhe said as the berserker slipped away from her yet again. She glanced over at where the innkeeper wasn’t having much luck at restraining hellspawn. “Damn it, I always figured if Ciardhe killed me it would be malpractice, not because she meant to.”

Iain’s snort at her comment quickly turned to a grunt of frustration as the ex-healer slipped from a headlock.

Moving like a greased pig, Ciardhe slithered away from them and charged the paladin innkeeper. Hellspawn quit struggling and reached for her. Three steps away from them, Ciardhe slammed into an invisible wall. She bounced backwards and crashed into a table, collapsing it.

From the top of the stairs came a man’s voice. “What on earth is going on here?”


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