https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sleep_of_Reason_Produces_Monsters by Francisco Goya

Vermin Leftovers

Tables borrowed from other taverns, piled with food and drink, boxing off the street. A breakfast feast for the victors of the ballroom slaughter.

Colgrevance sits in the dirt, apart from the others. A plate of fish and eggs cooling under the early spring sun.

“Boss, are you not hungry?” Solaris saunters over with a roasted chicken wing in hand. “I’m starving.” She peels the seasoned skin off with her teeth and slurps it, moaning. “My favorite part, especially when it’s a little crispy on the outside but still juicy fat underneath. You know what I mean?”

Colgrevance sets his food aside. “He made a deal. Harmony and her demigodess will remain.”

“ ‘He?’ ”

“Lord Valor treated with Lady Notion after destroying the vampiress. So many dead, and the Ultramarines remain headquartered in that mansion… like vermin.”

 

Solaris chews chicken and shrugs. “You’re a host. Aren’t you used to demigod decisions that disappoint?”

Colgrevance crushes a beetle crawling towards his breakfast. “We broke them. We could have scattered the Ultramarines like we did the Obsidians, claimed the mansion like we did the docks. But… demigod politics.”

“You want to kill something?” She flicks a stripped bone at a passing wench. “Work up an appetite and shake your sour mood.”

“Kill what?”

“A problem in the slums.” She points north. “Remnants from the black ships we sunk and vermin the vampiress had summoned.”

“Why is this our duty?”

Solaris chuckles. “I follow you, Boss. As long as you keep things fun, I don’t care much about duty.”

A small spider dances around a fly caught in cobwebs hanging from the corner of the tavern. Colgrevance curls his lip and flicks both away.

He says, “Our band’s embraced as protectors against the misdeeds of demigod-led crusaders.” He makes a fist. “Locals come to us since the city watch stays out of holy war matters.”

“So… do you want to come kill vermin with me?”

He sighs. “Sure. Let’s go satisfy your blood lust.”

“Yay.” She rubs her hands together. “Kriv and I’ve been working on a new spell we patched together from some stolen mansion scrolls. It should tear into another world full of water. My little buddy kept going on about titans and sea monsters, but don’t worry. After a frothy wave or two, I’ll zip it closed.”

“I better ride Rocinate then.” He picks up a pebble and tosses it at a fat man sipping from a pitcher. “Squire!”

Red wine spills on a many-stained tunic. “Sire, yes what?”

“Saddle my horse and ready my lance.” Colgrevance puts his helmet on. “Solaris and I have a date with—”

“Not a date, Boss.” The sea witch waves at a half-naked orcelf with a leg of lamb in one hand and a whole roasted chicken in the other. “I don’t want to confuse Belazar.”

“What?”

“He’s a bit simple.” She wiggles her fingers and blows snowflakes in the orcelf’s direction. “I don’t think he understood it was flirtatious when I electrocuted him.”

“What about when you’ve electrocuted me?”

Solaris chuckles as Belazar catches a snowflake and sniffs it. “Not to flirt, Boss.” She pulls up her hood. “Other reasons.”

Colgrevance frowns, and his squire brings his horse.

“Do you mind leading the way?” Solaris scratches his horse’s withers. “Draw the vermin out, and I’ll blast away.”

“Of course.” He climbs on and clucks until his horse trots forward. “I’ve got the invincible armor, after all.”

Locals stand and whisper as they pass. A ragged woman with pox-scarred skin taps her nose with finger pointed up, and a man with one leg bows.

“I like this respect.” Solaris claps her hands. “We need a bard to chronical our exploits. We could be famous.”

“We repeatedly failed to solve the vampire problem we caused.”

“But Boss, third time was the charm, and the ballroom battle was spectacular.”

Colgrevance turns a corner onto a muddy side street. “But we had to call upon demigod possession to save us.” He points his lance at a house ahead. “That roof’s caved in a bit. Easy access for flying rodents.”

“Perfect.” She stops and spins her hands around sparkles of blue light. “I’m in range from here, if you can tempt something into the open.”

“Nothing experimental. Do your snow ball storm or something else you know well.” He pats his horse’s side. “And make an effort not to hit us, for Rocinate’s sake if not mine.”

“No promises, Boss. I’m a sea witch, not a magician.”

Colgrevance taps his helmet and says in the language of angels, “Lantern.”

A beam of light shines from his visor into the exposed rafters of the shanty roof, and the surface moves.

He gulps. “That’s a lot.”

A bat swarm erupts and spirals into the sky, thousands of them forming a dragon-like silhouette.

In its shadow, Colgrevance dismounts and slaps his horse’s side. “Blast the center! That’s where a malevolent soul binds the bats—”

Chunks of packed snow explode in the heart of the swarm, scattering hundreds of winged rodents.

“Good job, Solaris.”

The massive swarm divides into a half dozen smaller groups that scatter into rundown buildings.

Helmet still beaming light, Colgrevance charges after one and busts through a thin door. The floor moves. Beetles the size of rats flow over him.

He spins, slashing with his sword, stomping with his boots, and slamming his shield on them. Cat-sized bats dive onto his head, scratching at his armor’s seals with razor sharp claws and fangs.

Something pinches the back of his knee. He hops and chops away the beetle that pierced his suit. Blood flows down his leg, and the carpet of insects click barbed mandibles in a frenzy.

“Nope.” Colgrevance clamps his shield hand over his armor’s hole and flicks away beetles trying to snip his armored fingers. “No more burrowing in.”

Bats land on his back, a weight growing to rival a man. He stabs with his sword, but his plate armor restricts his reach. He stumbles into a wall covered in webs.

Spider vermin swarm, by Jacob Blackmon (ProdigyDuck), used with permission
By Jacob Blackmon, used with permission (Patreon/DeviantArt)

“Solaris!”

Fist-sized spiders crawl out of the wall, spinning webs that stick to him and crawling where the beetles and bats can’t reach.

He stumbles outside as a beetle slips between his fingers and into his armor. “Blast me!”

Solaris jogs forward. “Okay, but don’t complain if it tingles.”

The beetle digs into his meat as it climbs. He screams and falls to his knees.

“Do it!” Bats cover his shoulders, and a spider curls legs under his visor. “Electro—”

A web of lightning springs from her hands and lights up Colgrevance’s armor with blue sparks. Vermin fall from him. Some bats fly off, but scattered, no longer a swarm.

Hissing, he takes off the pieces of his leg armor and removes a twitching beetle a finger’s length from his groin.

Solaris cracks her fingers. “Got your appetite back yet?”

LUTE’s Titantale band members mentioned:

 

Colgrevance, Paladin of Valor—Leads from the front

Belazar, warrior—rugged former Verdant crusader

Kriv, illusionist—cheerful researcher of adventure

Solaris, sea witch—whimsical lover of the grotesque

Other flash fiction with this band:

Black Ships Before Dawn
Crashing a Vampire Ball at Lowtide Mansion: Part 1
Crashing a Vampire Ball at Lowtide Mansion: Part 2
Crashing a Vampire Ball at Lowtide Mansion: Part 3
Crashing a Vampire Ball at Lowtide Mansion: Part 4
Crashing a Vampire Ball at Lowtide Mansion: Part 5

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