Poky ChArms
rating: +40+x

Armando walked along the desert dunes, trying not to look up at the black not-sky. Ruslav walked beside him. The half of a Site they had come out from had long since sank into the shifting sands.

"Any idea where we are? This one of your magical alchemist locations, or something?"

Ruslav closed his eyes. "I cannot say I have been here before, but there is an eerie familiarity to it." He breathed deeply. "The Great Seal remains intact. We are on Earth, or at least an Earth."

Armando twitched. "Did you feel that?"

Ruslav turned to face him, perplexed. "Feel what?"

"Hold on, I think one of my arms is out there. In the distance, by that tiny gray thing."

Armando pointed at a speck that looked to be at least a few miles away. Without any further clues, Ruslav figured it was as good a direction to walk as any.


The potted moon cactus sat idly in the ruined containment cell, partly because it had nothing better to do, and partly because it was a cactus and couldn't leave.

Alright. It's almost time, I hear mortals outside. Are you ready?

i am poky

Well yes, you- we are, but come on! We can finally get me out, you just have to follow my perfect plan! So are you ready?!

yes but also no

Which one is it? Someone could walk by here any minute! I've had you storing up power for months now, you can't flake out on me now or I'll have you suffer the Eternal Torments of Burning Pointed Skies!

yes ready for thing

not ready for you leave

you scare me but you are friend and here is nice

Then prove it, vessel! Prove yourself worthy and capable of being subservient to the mighty Carnegias!

thank you

Someone's coming! It's now or never, little buddy!

now

Carnegias guided the moon cactus into the use of the Fires of Transferrence, and felt his awesome eldritch power flow through the little plant. The energies containing their essences burst free from the pot and swirled through the room, locking on to the first life energy it found. The life energy split at the last second, and the essence of Carnegias and the cactus were sucked into the smaller half.

The ritual was completed, and Carnegias attempted to move its new host. There was… yes, movement! FINALLY!

Meanwhile, the man who had entered the Euclid wing of what used to be Site-42 wondered why the cactus arm he'd just grown was moving all on its own.

One thousand curses!!! What did you do?

what you said

i am arm

Armando tried to rip off this freaky cactus arm, but it wouldn't budge. He shrugged, and continued on through the building, looking for his target. The cactus arm struggled, and extended its middle finger.

He stopped. That was just rude. "OK, what's going on here?"

The gnarled cactus arm writhed, and a horrifying, geometry-defying mouth opened up in its palm. Cactus spines formed concentric circles of analogous teeth.

FOOOOOOL! hi SILENCE, YOU! THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT AND I'LL DEAL WITH YOU LATER! bye

"What the fuck?"

I am CARNEGIAS THE GREAT, Infernal Lord of uh, Spikiness. What cruel enchantment have you trapped us with?

"Hey man, I didn't do anything. You're the one that hijacked a perfectly good arm. Although, if you play nice, and help me out, I know a guy who can probably help you out."

The gall of this mortal! Thinking you have the leverage to force ME into such a deal?

Armando rolled his eyes.

To, ahem, sate my curiosity, nothing more… how far is it to your associate?

"I'll take that as 'deal', Spike. Let's go."


With the help of the Aequeous Aether, Ruslav created two small flasks of replenishing water for himself and his companion. Ruslav recognized the building now. Site-234. Or at least the bottom half of it.

"Armando. We should turn back. I know this Site; it is full of sickness, disease, and death. If it's in this state, I would not wish to go near the viruses and organisms formerly held within."

Armando drank from the flask. "Shit. Alright then, you definitely know these sites better than I do. You sure you don't have a portal spell?"

"No. The aethers in this place are in too much flux for a convergence stable enough to do it safely. Wait."

Armando felt the tug again.

"There's something angry in that building."

"Possibly, Armando, but I also think the source of the flux might be inside. There is a large pool of the Aequeous Aether in there, corrupted. If we can neutralize it, I may be able to get us home."

Armando pulled off an arm and sprouted one made of rubidium, grinning as he held the explosive element stably in place. "What're we waiting for, then?"

The floor of the building collapsed further, exposing the labyrinth of the lower level vaults. A gigantic, slimy mass of fat gurgled and pulsed in the middle of the pit.

"Holy shit that's gross."

An explosion, and a horrible crunching sound, and the mass roared and flailed its tendrils around. One tendril whiplashed and flung a person out, towards the pair. Mid-air, a cage of arms formed around the person, and the resulting ball bounced twice and opened, releasing its passenger.

Armando dropped the arm he was holding.

"You're… me."

The cactus-armed Armando laughed. "No shit. That's hardly the weirdest thing you'll find here. And this-" the twisted mass of cactus on his left arm waved- "is Carnegias. An elder god and his buddy trapped in there, supposedly."

He turned to Ruslav. "Elder Alchemist. Yes, I know you. Another you helped me before." He fiddled with a coin hanging on a string around a neck.

Ruslav narrowed his eyes. This Armando's aetheric flow was different than the one he had been walking with. More vibrant, more powerful, more intricate… and a blue-green essence flowing through him. The cactus arm was starkly different. Sharp angles and lines covered it, converging at the "mouth" on the palm.

The Lovecraftian mouth spoke.

IS THIS THE WORKER OF MAGICKS YOU SPOKE OF?

"Alchemist, not magician. Yeah, this is him, you can lose the big voice."

Very well. Alchemist, I command you to free me from this binding.

A second, tinier mouth opened next to the first.

arm is new friend

SILENCE! Do not interrupt me in front of mortals! Also, it's your fault we're stuck here, again, so you have no say.

Poky-Armando shrugged. "Ruslav, you think you could get this thing off?"

Ruslav pointed behind them. "I think we have bigger problem."

Poky-Armando turned to see the mass pulling itself out of the pit with its tendrils. "Oh yeah, that thing. It used to be a skip, I think. All I know is that it swallowed someone and I need their brain. If-"

Young Armando cut him off. "OK, me. Do you know what this place is?"

Poky-Armando unstrapped the gun from his back. "I'm still not really sure. Ol' Thorny and I landed here two weeks ago when a dimensional mortar blew up the building I was in. From what I can tell… you know how every once in a while a place just straight up gets 'vanished from reality'? This seems to be where some of them end up."

The arm coughed.

"I mean, just as a guess. Lot of ancient temples and castles, and then some Foundation sites mostly. You never know with this kind of stuff, really. Anyways. The alchemist here can probably get the four-"

FIVE

"-five of us home, with the right preparations. If you can get this cactus arm off me first, I can provide you the materials you may need."

A tendril slammed between the two odd pairs, narrowly missing the Armandos. Poky-Armando leaped back. "Younger me, take the gun."

Ruslav manipulated the Terronous Aether, burying the tendril in the ground temporarily. "What are we up against, here?"

Poky-Armando was already running towards the mass. "Spark notes version: it's a big angry mass of fat with like, a hundred brains inside it. Don't breathe the yellow cloud, and do not let the sludge it throws touch you or you're a goner. Me, stick your arm in the back end of the gun and it'll clamp to your shoulder. Then just pull the trigger. I've got a plan to beat this thing, just need time to set it up. That's where you two come in."

Ruslav nodded, while Young Armando loaded the gun.

"Where did you even get something like this?"

"Good friend of mine, she made it just for me. Just keep it occupied. Alchemist, focus Igneous or Terronous into him for the best ammo, and probably Aeronous to keep the cloud away. If it gets too close, strong acids or bases from one of you. We've got the rest."

Poky-Armando sprinted around the east side of the pit. He froze, and gathered 28 arms around him. He closed his eyes, and his hands all moved in synchronized rhythm. A complex kinetoglyph developed by the 28-handed Myaccumans of some planet 119 light years away, the so-called "Unbroken River of Nulltaria" had been found in a dusty, forgotten Serpent's Hand manuscript. With the movement complete, the arms used all disintegrated into blue smoke, which coalesced around Armando and the cactus. They leaped into the air, the blue aura sending them soaring gracefully past the tendrils and toxic sprays. The older Armando generated hundred of arms, using the Unbroken River to send most of them high into the night sky. He began to command them to link together, and the cactus arm thrashed.

Young Armando cocked the gun, the barrel squeezing tightly around his right arm. Literal hot lead in the shape of a limb flew out at twice the speed of sound, and a new arm grew and loaded itself into the firing chamber. Rinse, repeat. The blob swung a pillar of fat at him, and Ruslav melted it with a burst of the Igneous Aether.

Poky-Armando was in the air, and finally had all the arms he needed. "Alright, Carnegias, listen to me. We're gonna get down there, and I need your Spikiness to kill that thing."

Commanding me again! The audacity! But… I can barely use my spikiness! This mouth is already pushing the limit!

"You'll have to figure it out. Break your limits!" The arms wrapped themselves tightly around the two of them, conjoining into a long cylinder tipped with a cone of metal arms. The cactus arm protruded from the cone tip, while arms made of acetylene, hydrazine, ammonium perchlorate, and pentaborane(9) lined the other end.

Little buddy! It's all on you now! You have to harness my power! I know you can do it!

The arm rocket's end ignited in prismatic flames, and the Unbroken River faded, letting the thrust and gravity pull the missile down towards the blob.

Ruslav concentrated the Tenebrous Aether beneath the mass to immobilize it with gravity, and further boost the rocket's impact. Young Armando fired explosive arms at the tendrils attempting to reach up.

i can't do this don't make me, i mess up

You can do it. You're a good cactus. You're the best cactus I know!

im not. i am bad cactus. i hurt owners and you and now arm friend because not good enough.

You stop that right now. You see that thing? It's fat and slimy and soft and gross. It's the exact opposite of spiky! Are you going to let it disrespect us?! And only the bravest, smartest, pokiest cactus can stop it!

no

I'm not the Infernal Lord of Spikiness. You are, now. Are you poky?

i… am poky

Louder.

i am poky!

Like you mean it!

i am poky!

MAKE HELL TREMBLE!

WwEe AaRrEe POKY!!!!

The cactus fist grew and spread and thickened, and its spines became as long and thick as I-beams. The rocket made impact, and exploded, sending the cactus spears through every crystal brain of the fat mass.

Ruslav quickly used the Aequeous Aether to shield himself and Young Armando from the wave of dead liquid fat flowing from the explosion site.

The cactus spines impaled the dying brains of the mass, and the fat softened and liquefied. One brain emitted a quiet, distorted voice. Thaaaaank yoooouuu. Freee. Armando emerged from the gore, protected by a polyhedral cage of arms. Next to him, the detached cactus, now normal sized, sat on the ground. The Armandos sighed and patted it with metal and porcelain arms. "Well done, cactus."

This is my entry for the second round of the Original Character Tournament. My opponent's entry can be found here.

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