Thursday, January 17, 2008

Spellbent: Chapter One, Part 14

I popped the Lincoln's trunk and got into our duffel bag of supplies; I found a packet of Advil and a warm bottle of Gatorade. Hoping the combination would kill my headache, I popped the two pills and chugged the drink. I found a PowerBar gel packet and stuck it in my thigh pocket for later, just in case.

Next, I opened up the long black gun case. Inside was a 12-gauge, pump-action 9-shot Mossberg 590 "Intimidator" with a black plastic stock. It was fully loaded with cartridges that contained 18 pellets of mixed silver and iron buckshot: a little something for any sort of hostile creature Cooper and I might encounter out in the woods or in the bad parts of the city. We'd started toting firearms after a close call with a pack of drunk werewolves in Logan County. I hoped the shot would be enough to penetrate Smoky's thick scales, if it came to that.

A sheathed silver dagger and a bandolier of 20 extra cartridges lay in foam cutouts above the shotgun. Below the shotgun was a hostered Colt .380 "Pocketlite" automatic pistol and a 7-shot clip loaded with silver bullets half-jacketed in iron. Cooper had enlisted the Warlock's help to put various minor enchantments on the weapons to improve their accuracy and stopping power; Cooper's skills definitely lay in making love and not war.

Some mundanes -- specifically the farmers -- wonder why we relied on firearms for defense instead of magic. Sure, there are binding spells and such ... but think of the opera singer trying to perform in a riot. If you're in a panic, squeezing a trigger is a whole lot more reliable than trying to cast a spell.

Make no mistake: there are killing words. But using a killing word on a familiar or a human being is as serious as deciding to ram your car full-speed into a crowd of pedestrians; it should never be done unless you're left with no other choice, and even in a clean-cut self-defense situation the consequences are severe. There's an allowance for word-killing demons and other bad characters, but most Babblers won't go near that kind of magic, no matter what. Once you've crossed the border into necromancy, it's hard to get your spirit clean again. You start losing your ability to do white magic, and pretty soon all you're good for is death magic on the fast lane to Hell.

Spellbent coverAnd there's the little detail that grand necromancy is illegal and will get you imprisoned or worse. So, killing words? I was sure I'd never use them. Guns and knives seemed far less dangerous.

I slung the bandolier across my body, loaded the Colt and clipped the holster and the dagger to the waistband of my cargo pants, then hefted the shotgun. Palimpsest ran across the roof onto the trunk lid and hopped onto my shoulder, perching on one of the shotgun cartridges.

Cooper had taken me out to the range every few weeks so we could practice target shooting; the first time I'd fired the shotgun the recoil had damn near knocked me flat. The bruise under my collarbone would have lasted a week if Cooper hadn't healed it. But since then, I'd learned to properly brace myself and could handle the gun pretty well. I'd been good with the Colt from the start; the small gun fit my hand perfectly.

>> Go on to Spellbent: Chapter One, Part 15