Meanwhile, Jeff and Genevieve had managed to secure a small buggy to help make their journey a little easier, and a bit more comfortable. Which Jeff had decided wasn’t the same as actually being comfortable, just more than walking or riding. For a moment he almost started complaining about it to Bertie, but stopped himself and then was interrupted by Genevieve voicing her idle thoughts instead.
“What did that ghoul mean on the night we met?”
“That first night in the inn, the ghoul said something about you used to cry when no one died? What was it talking about?”
Jeff turned his head to the side for a moment trying to think, then threw his head back and wiggled his finger remembering.
“Oooooh, right I remember, but, well actually when I said ghoul at the time, I misspoke a little…’
Genevieve closed her eyes to hide that they were rolling, knowing exactly what was about to happen, what she’d seen so many men do to her and other women all throughout history.
’You see, traditionally a ghoul was the daughter of a human and a demon. Shapeshifters that wandered the desert in the south, ironically disguised as beautiful women. They would lure travellers away from their parties to kill and eat them, and not always in that order. As the story of them spread it got changed to fit the nearest monsters of the region since ghouls never actually leave the desert. So, when the stories reached the north the name was assigned to what is essentially a zombified witch, powerful and deadly and eats people. Though where a ghoul normally tries to hunt its prey, what people in the north call a ghoul often survives on corpses in graveyards… And children. But since they still retain some magic, they’re not the same as a normal zombie and can actually be more like a lich. It just depends on how powerful they were in life. So, although I said ghoul at the time, it was simply to avoid having to explain what I meant to a room full of strangers.”
“And yet here we are.”
Genevieve’s voice was flat and irritated and made Jeff look at her slightly concerned.
“How is it that you can say so many words, and not actually answer my question?”
His cheeks flushed and he opened his mouth to speak but realising he’d forgotten the question closed it again sheepishly, causing Genevieve to roll her eyes again and say,
“When it attacked you, it was saying something about how you used to cry…”
“Oh right, that, yes right. Well.’
He blushed, looking forward and sighed,
’they tend to just repeat phrases from their lives. Chances are it was a collection of the last things she said and heard. Or maybe she was insane in life and used to say it to lots of people. I don’t think it was specifically directed at me.”
“Well, that was a lot of words to get to an unsatisfying answer.”
Jeff opened his mouth to apologise but at the same time a wave of goosebumps erupted over his body and he threw his arms up as a spear of purple light exploded against an invisible wall in front of them. Genevieve screamed and Jeff’s voice came out dark.
She ignored him and stayed where she was as he jumped off the buggy and walked forward, just as a man in a long blue robe stepped out of the woods beside the road. The man smiled and said,
“So, you’ve got some talent, that makes this exciting. Allow me to introduce myself, I am Walter of Whitehart, and I’m going to be robbing you today.’
Walter bowed without lowering his eyes.
’and who might you be?”
Jeff breathed a calming breath and said plainly.
The man stiffened quickly and his face became more serious.
“Not… no, surely not.’
He took a cautious step closer and stared hard at Jeff then put his hands up as panic spread across his face.
’Oh, holy shit, look, look, I’m sorry I didn’t realise it was you. I… I’m not very good at detecting dark magic, obviously. I’m, I’m sorry.”
“You always start off your robberies by trying to kill the people you’re robbing?”
Walter swallowed and Genevieve realised that he had turned a terrified shade of pale.
“No, I mean, no, I… I could feel something so I thought I’d try surprise you. I’m, I’m really just a one-trick pony, couldn’t even attend The School of Magic.’
He pulled at his robes,
’I only dress like this to scare people. I, I, I…”
Jeff clenched his fists and could feel his patience wearing thin.
“So, you use what magic you have to scare and rob people, why not join the army? They’re always on the lookout for cannons like you.”
Walter’s face turned sour and his breathing grew short as even Genevieve could feel the power radiating off of Jeff.
“Because I’m a coward man, please, I’m sorry, I’m weak, and scared and lazy and I do this because it’s the easiest way I could think to make money. I… I… please.’
He dropped to his knees and covered his face with his hands.
’please don’t kill me.”
Jeff had no intention of killing him, but hated him all the same.
Walter quickly whipped it off revealing normal clothes underneath and held it out.
“It’s yours, take it, my gift to you by way of apology. It’s… it’s a fake, though.”
With a thought, Jeff set it on fire and Walter screamed as jumped backwards, but Jeff caught and held him suspended. Then threw him into the air until he was almost to the tops of the trees before letting him drop. Walter screamed the entire time and bounced when he hit the ground. Then Jeff’s voice filled his every sense.
“If I ever catch you misusing power like this again, I will turn you inside out, slowly.”
Walter didn’t even try and stand up, he just pulled himself into a ball, whimpering and apologising as Jeff made his way back to the buggy, and they set off again, steering around the now crying man. All the while Genevieve just stared at Jeff in complete shock.
“I tell you, it’s bastards like that that are the reason magic users have such a bad reputation. People already think that if you have the power, you’re also rich and important, and then you get people like him playing off that we also can just rob you for fun. Really boils my blood.”
“He, that, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a person more terrified in my life.”
Jeff’s frown changed to a look of confusion.
“I mean, he recognised you, and I think he might have actually wet himself when he did. How, what just happened?”
A slight pink flush touched Jeff’s face and his anger quickly vanished to be replaced by mild embarrassment.
“Oh, right, well, warlocks are not very common, so when one does go through The School of Magic, it’s big news in the magical world.”
“But he looked at you like I’ve never seen anyone look at anything before.”
Jeff’s blush deepened and he said sheepishly.
“I mean, not to brag but… I… may... be ranked the most powerful human currently alive?”
Genevieve let out a long breath and shook her head.
“And you’re scared of dragons.”