The, now rather dishevelled, agent helped me out of what was left of Carly’s house and collapsed on the grass. I tried to catch myself from falling, stupidly putting weight on my injured foot. This little misadventure resulted in me twirling my way onto the grass in a much less manly and heroic way than the agent had done. Thankfully there was no one around to see.
I hauled myself to my knees as the agent guffawed away at my ridiculous pratfall. I rolled over to look at him and shot him my most vicious scowl. I think that made him laugh more, so I decided it was probably time to get some questions answered. He must have been expecting this as he managed to pre-empt me.
“Woo that was fun, eh?” he managed to get out between his raucous giggling.
“Well it’s not every day a hell beast from the Nth dimension tries to freeze me out of existence,” I interrupted, a fine lather of snideness colouring my words, “Smashing!”
The agent, his laughter finally subsiding, hauled himself to his feet, adjusted his sunglasses and tie, and helped me pry myself off the ground.
“You don’t know what that thing was then?” he asked as he helped me up.
“Surprisingly enough, no,” I shot back, “I don’t exactly run into this stuff often, you know? I would have though the near death thing would have tipped you off.”
“Point taken. Ok, let me fill you in on some of the easier stuff.”
He began to rifle through his jacket pocket for a moment before pulling out what looked like a very old book. All cracked leather and torn yellow pages. He rifled through hundreds of pages until he was roughly half-way through the book, then he spun it round to give me a glimpse of the illustration. It was a hideous looking creature. The body wasn’t bad on the surface, it resembled a fine female form, sleek and supple and perfectly toned. The problem was the face, it wasn’t there. The head of the creature contained two very familiar eyes, large, electric blue and very, very evil. It had no mouth, instead there were a series of suckers akin to what you’d find on an octopus’s tentacles. They were labelled “Highly acidic and heavily poisonous”.
“It’s not a hell beast.” he said, flipping the book back towards himself.
“Well what is it then?”
“It’s a Deceit Elemental.”
This, of course, made no sense to me, and he read that in my face.
“Ok, elements 101. Most people tend to accept that there are two school of elements, the Scientific School and the Natural School. The Natural School is your Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, all that jazz. The Scientific School contains the periodic table. With me so far?”
“Just about.” I murmured.
“What most people don’t realise is that there’s a third school, that of the Consciousness. The School of Consciousness embodies things that are part of the mind. All the emotions, mental states, that kind of thing, are included in this school. Deceit, of course, is one of the main linchpins.”
“So a Deceit Elemental is the physical embodiment of deceit. That makes sense I suppose.”
“Well that’s not entirely true. This is where it gets a little complicated. An elemental can, and in most cases does, represent one element from each school. For the Natural and Scientific Schools then yes, they do tend to be a physical embodiment of them, but the powers derived from the Consciousness School work a little differently. For reasons we have yet to determine, the Elementals that wield Elements of Consciousness have a dual nature, meaning that while they may champion one element they also carry its counterpart. Hate carries love, confusion carries clarity, and deceit carries truth. They don’t have control over the counterpart element, it’s just sort of along for the ride. It tends to leak into prolonged use of the main power though, with varying effects of course. There’s still a lot we don’t know.”
He paused for a moment, closed the book, and put it back in his jacket pocket. From the other side of his jacket he pulled out one of the business cards he had given me before. Folding it in half first he tore it in two and gave me one of the halves. I examined the card and realised that concealed within was a tiny metallic strip which I gently teased from within the card and studied closely.
“A tracking device,” he explained, “It alerts us whenever someone with one of our business cards bumps into an, erm, unexplained occurrence. Comes in very handy when you need to save a civil servant from an Extra-Planar Deceit Elemental and its minion.”
“Yeah, probably a lower Aggression Elemental. They make good guard dogs for their more seasoned compatriots.”
I wasn’t quite taking all of this information in, it was a bit of a stretch. Then again, I had just seen a giant muscular behemoth and a large ball of danger try and tear me limb from limb so I decided I should give him the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to question him some more, but as I began he cut me off.
“That probably enough for now. I need to go alert the clean up crew anyway. Need to get some warlocks down here to seal everything off.”
I began to laugh but his expression told me he probably wasn’t joking.
“If you have any more questions… well, you’ve got our number.” He gestured at his half of the business card, and I remembered the one he had given me much earlier. He gave me a polite wave and strolled off. I watched as he disappeared around the nearest corner and wondered why he hadn’t called me an ambulance for my bloody foot.
I hobbled over to the nearest payphone and called myself one, then collapsed onto the nearest bench. A job well done. Carly’s house was free of ghosts now. Of course she couldn’t live in it in its current condition, no doubt I’d end up taking her in. Even more likely, as she had been living at my place for the last week or so, I just wouldn’t kick her out.
I could hear the ambulance in the distance and decided that this was probably the best time to catch up on the sleep I so desperately needed. I’d need to be well rested for when I told Carly about her house.
The sirens drew closer as I closed my eyes.