I like thinking about the old days.
You might think that this is me living in the past, but no, quite the opposite. I always look to create a better future for myself, to explore new horizons and to improve myself and my helpers, and what better way to motivate me to do that than to remember what made me the woman I am?
Every item I carry with me has its own little memory. Whenever I use my brass knuckles on a victim, I remember when I first used them to wipe that smug grin off that badger’s face and when I realised what I was meant to do. I often wear a business suit not only to show my authority, but because that’s what I wore when I worked as a bodyguard for Attra Schlera, which helped me realise what I was meant to do.
They call me Bug-Eyes, even though I’m not actually a bug. I’m not actually an insect, though my antennae makes me resemble a cartoon version of one. I have two arms and two legs, I have an internal skeleton, and I’ve even been told by more observant people that my skin resembles that of a salamander.
I’m not a bug, though I do find them most fascinating creatures.
You may think I got that name from my special robotic eyeballs, the ones I had placed into my skull after I was blinded in an unfair fight, but they called me that at Ferar’s Fights even before I received that gift. They also called me “Bugface” and “Anthead”, as well as “The Kid”.
Ferar’s Fights, the place I received my name, the first time I really had a roof over my head. I had spent my childhood on the streets of Terria, seeing various creatures from various planets pass me by, but never seeing any sign of a mother or father. One thing you learn being out on the streets is that you must be tough in order to survive, and that’s just what I did. I needed to eat, and sometimes I had to fight to do that. When I was fourteen, I tried to take a Corkalon’s sandwich when I thought he wasn’t looking, and ended up having to dodge his punches, bite him in the arm and ultimately punch his teeth out for something I needed more than him.
He fought at Ferar’s Fights, Ferar himself witnessed the fight I had and then Ferar gave me food and a bed, all in exchange for being the youngest fighter in his underground fight club. Where I improved and honed my skills, learned more about the world, and began to realise the universe and its inhabitants for what they really are.
I shouldn’t have to tell you that his “kid, I’m gonna make you a star” was more for his sake than it was for mine. He gave me a home because he wanted a fighter to make him money. He trained me so he could have a better fighter and make more money. He gave me books to read because fighting is just as much about the mind as it is the body, so reading could potentially give him a better fighter who would make more money.
I got these eyes from an experiment with him not giving a hoot about whether or not I get hurt because it could potentially give him a better fighter…you get the point.
The witch who had teleported me to her castle; she was the same. Though she claimed she had found me work for my sake, I knew she offered it to me because it might benefit her.
Looking over what she called a “suggestion”, I accepted, but only because I knew it could benefit me.
Choosing to forget that reptile and his ridiculous friends (the thought of them scouring the entire galaxy for me and failing made me inwardly chuckle), I asked the witch if she could teleport some of my helpers over, as I felt I would be needing them. Her twirling around her finger and making my henchmen materialise in her castle impressed me less than she thought it did.
Why? Because I felt, with the right tools and practice, it was something I could do one day.
After leaving the witch’s castle with every room shrouded in darkness and not a spot of colour on the walls, stepping out into the sunlight was a strain even on my robotic eyes. The witch had written on the parchment the exact location of the target, but I wasn’t instantly going to go after it. It was a new world I had found myself in; why not explore it?
I was still in the early stages of my criminal career, and the gang I had amassed – Squibb the tiny, slimy pickpocket, Charles the human who had fought at Ferar’s a few times, Bellara, the being with large fangs and talons, and a few others I don’t know the names of – was small but loyal. A lot of my victories I had accomplished solo, but I admit I wouldn’t have amassed as much ill-gotten money without them. I gave them free reign for an hour or two – they could do whatever they wanted in this new world as long as they agreed to meet up with me where the witch suggested we strike.
It, of course, was less for them and more for me. Their happiness was a bonus – a happy criminal is a successful criminal – but it was mostly so I could have a little “me time”. So I could walk under the skies as blue as my skin and on the grass as green as the slime that blinded me.
After taking off my jacket, wrapping it around my waist and rolling up my sleeves – for this world was warmer than I thought it would be – I strolled down the fields, looking at the hills and the clear sky.
I had never been to this world before, and yet it seemed to carry as much memories for me as my suit and my brass knuckles. I was certain I saw a place like this in dreams I had when I was young, a place full of magic and mystique and natural beauty. A place where I could just sit and think.
A place I wanted to escape to. A place I wanted to claim for my own.
I met back up with my gang sooner than I thought. After taking in the scenery of the fields, I made my way over to a nearby village, where I saw Squibb slither out holding a bag of coins, followed by the others, carrying various other stolen goods. Of course, they were followed, and while my eyes that create illusions didn’t work on the witch, they worked on the villagers. As they screamed at the imaginary swarms, my gang and I ran.
‘You’re lucky I showed up,’ I laughed as soon as we found a secluded spot, with no-one around except a couple of apathetic sheep.
‘We were handling things fine,’ Charles replied, ‘you just like showing off.’ Charles said things like that because he knew he was the only one who could and get away with it, since we had met even before he worked for me, even fighting each other once or twice. We didn’t really talk that much, we didn’t have some “I think I’ll miss you most of all” moment when I left to work as a bodyguard, but out of my helpers, he came the closest to being a friend.
He and the others showed me what they stole. Mostly bags of coins, which we shared amongst ourselves – even if we weren’t going to spend them in this world, they were probably worth something elsewhere. After all the coins had been shared out, Bellara presented me with a medallion which carried a crimson glow. ‘You said you were curious about magic,’ she said and I was. Half of that Team Universe owe what they were to magic, so, I thought, it couldn’t hurt for me to have some. Many people thought my eyes were magic, but I knew actual sorcery and hocus-pocus was scarce where I grew up.
As I stared at the medallion, almost hypnotised by the blood-red glow, Bellara explained that it could apparently send an opponent hurtling great distances backwards. So I tried an experiment: I slipped my fingers into my brass knuckles, then wrapped the medallion’s chain around it. Though that sheep near me didn’t do anything and certainly wasn’t listening to my conversation, I punched it in the face and sure enough, it was sent spinning over the hills.
I stared at my fist, which trembled.
‘Alright,’ I said as soon as I processed what happened, ‘let’s do what we came here to do.’
Our destination was a temple where someone calling himself “The God of War” lay, a title that might have seemed more impressive to me had I not seen several opponents try to use the same or similar monikers before. Likewise, the temple being in a place known as a village of barbarians would have sounded more threatening were my group and I not sometimes called barbarians ourselves.
Nonetheless, when we entered, we readied ourselves to be attacked by barbarian hordes, only to be greeted by the God of War himself, his arms opened wide. A large anthropomorphic dog in armour.
‘Ah,’ he said with a grin exposing his sharp canine teeth that was somehow welcoming and threatening at the same time, ‘I can sense you have the Medallion of Farrawait, so obviously you are connoisseurs of violence like yours truly. Are you here to help me and my students in the war against Aosoth?’ I nodded. ‘Excellent. Let me take you to them.’
He led us up a flight of stone steps, towards a temple that looked as grey and dismal as the witch’s castle. After throwing open the entrance doors, we were greeted by two more figures: two dragons. Two green scaly creatures that resembled The Reptilian if he had wings. One was female, wearing a white tunic, and the other was a male, dressing like someone from a century ago with a black trilby and a tweed jacket.
The latter was who I had come for.
His name was Daryl, he used to work for the witch, monsters born out of frustration, anguish and other negative emotions came out of his head. He was formerly in the employ of what many would call a villain, he had a power to do with the mind, he had even encountered Team Universe at one point.
I had to try another experiment.
As the female dragon looked at me with folded arms and narrowed eyes, Daryl shuddered at the presence of me and my gang. ‘Calm down,’ I said, raising my hands, ‘I’m not going to hurt you. I want to help you battle Aosoth.’
‘Do you?’ asked Daryl, before taking a deep breath.
‘I heard you met The Constellation Crusaders, Team Universe and The Reptilian,’ I continued, approaching him slowly, ‘a bunch of blowhards, the whole lot of them. And they claim to be heroes…’
‘Yeah, it kind of reminds me of…’ He then bit his lip.
‘I want to try something,’ I told him.
‘What?’ he replied, trembling again.
‘Something that I think can help us.’ I looked him right in the eyes, utilising my special power again, making him see bugs from all over the galaxy.
Those bugs crawled right from under his hat.
I continued to stare at him, clenching my teeth as I tried to conjure up something else. A slug, I thought. A big fat purple slug with antennae like mine.
Daryl’s hat rumbled, and before he could grab it, the slug from my mind entered Daryl’s and quickly left it.
‘There you go,’ I turned to my helpers, gesturing towards the slug and bugs. ‘I made him think those things and they came out. What did I tell you?’
Charles turned towards the slug, looking at it closer. ‘It has your eyes,’ he laughed.
‘Yes,’ I sighed, before turning to Daryl.
‘So,’ the female dragon said, walking towards me, ‘you can actually control what comes out of Daryl’s head?’ I nodded. ‘Yes, this is what we need!’ the dragon said with a smile, clenching her hands, ‘What I was thinking was that since it was Aosoth’s magic that created this curse, we could create something that could steal Aosoth’s magic away from her.’
Daryl smiled and nodded. ‘Good idea, Denise. Then we could actually arrest her!’
‘Also,’ said the dog, smiling the smile he greeted me with, ‘it could mean that we could destroy her without the Eye of Shodden!’
‘No, Aruff,’ said Daryl with a sudden sternness before returning to the mood I first saw him have, ‘also, it would be pretty…well…I don’t know if a living thing that owes its very existence…’
I stared at him again, activating my powers, again forcing my mind to think of the monster I wanted. My mind went to another purple slug, another purple slug with antennae, only the antennae would be used to siphon magic from the witch Aosoth.
The slug sprang out of Daryl’s head, launching itself into the air before landing at the temple’s front door. While the first slug stayed where it was created, slithering around my helpers, the second raced down the stone steps, looking like a balloon after letting the air out.
I, Daryl and Denise followed the creature, with Denise carrying me by the arms, keeping up with the creature though it moved with superhuman speeds. We arrived at Aosoth’s castle, the dark grey blemish on the happy green plains. The entrance was wide open, so after Denise gently dropped me onto the ground, I ran in to see my creation at work.
Sure enough, I saw the slug looming over Aosoth, the latter emitting red mist which the former sucked up. The sight made me grin, but my good mood shrunk when I saw two blue monsters in armour rush towards my creation. ‘Don’t worry,’ said the shorter of the two, ‘we’ll save y-‘
Before he could finish his sentence, I dove towards him and punched him, sending him hurtling right through the wall. Seeing this made the taller of the two run away, just as the slug had finished its job.
‘What have you…’ The witch turned to me, ‘You weren’t supposed to…’ she hissed.
The slug turned to me and emitted the mist in my direction.
It felt like my blood had become electricity, like all my skills and strength had instantly increased tenfold. As I absorbed the witch’s power, I imagined what I could do with it. Teleport into any bank or museum and steal their valuables before anyone knows I’m there. Eliminate any enemy in seconds by shooting a beam out of my hand. In my mind’s eye, I saw myself making Aosoth’s castle my new home, from which I ruled every world and every planet there was.
Not only did these mists bring forth a surge of energy and fantasies, it also brought forth a splitting headache, though thankfully that lasted only a few seconds.
As I put my jacket back on, I turned to the witch, who shuddered like her former henchman did. I raised my hand, ready to blast a fiery bolt that would reduce her to nothingness…
There was a brief spark, but no bolt came.
‘Really?’ The witch laughed, chuckling and chortling even as I came closer, my eyes glowing.
She was still afraid. She still feared dying powerless and helpless, I could sense it.
I made her fears clearer. I made her see not insects or bugs, but her defeat. Slain like a common enemy, thought of forever as a mere nuisance.
I made her see Daryl revered as a hero, not feared or ridiculed as she wanted.
I made her see me, not her, as being recognised as Kirkalan’s greatest threat.
She lay on the ground cowering. I would have laughed if it wasn’t so pathetic; I couldn’t even bring myself to kill her.
‘What are you doing?’ snarled Denise as she approached.
I turned to her, my eyes still glowing. When I did, I saw what she feared: her and her people being feared and shunned, dragons seen only as destructive monsters. That was what I made her see, and that’s what made her freeze.
Of course, I thought as I tried to rationalise this. My eyes brought the creature to life, so my eyes were what siphoned the witch’s power, enhancing and intensifying my abilities.
‘No…’ said Denise, shaking her head as if that would knock the visions out, ‘I know you…’
‘You’re weak, Denise,’ I said with a smirk, ‘you just know what I showed you is going to come true. I mean, you did help me to enhance my power.’
‘Denise!’ Daryl ran to us, only for Bellara to approach him from behind and restrain him, digging her claws into his arms.
‘Good, Charles,’ I said, before turning to Denise, ‘Don’t worry, we aren’t going to kill him. We need his head monsters, and we wouldn’t want to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs now, would we?’
Denise grabbed me by the lapels of my jacket, and brought her face closer to mine, her own eyes seeming to glow with furious fire. ‘Listen here, you may have Aosoth’s powers, but I’m certain I don’t need the Eye of Shodden to kill you.’ She released her grip on one of my lapels and balled her hand into a fist, only for me to grab her by the wrist before her fist made contact with my face.
‘You think you’re the only trained fighter here?’ I said before my eyes glowed once again. In my mind’s eye, I saw Kirkalan, with its hills and bright green fields. I saw Kirkalan, completely barren with the villages reduced to ruins. That’s what Denise saw in her mind’s eye as well; she walked the empty, desolate land, caused by something she couldn’t stop.
Then I sent her flying out of the window.
What I did wasn’t going to kill her. I knew she would fly away, come up with a plan and be back to oppose me again. I was looking forward to it.
I watched as Charles, Bellara and the others led Daryl and Aosoth to the dungeons, our true first step in claiming the castle as our new safehouse. The second step was to create some monsters to help guard it.
When Bellara had finished putting him in manacles, I turned to Daryl.