H.E.C. Plants and a Powder Keg

Matthew Chaplin

The room I had assigned back at the Harrier HQ was decent enough, if a little barren. Though I will admit the bed was nice and firm, a marked improvement over the cot I’d been using on the ship between the U.S. and Europe. The vanity was also very appreciated, coming with an assortment of hygiene products I was lacking after my travels across Europe for my training. There wasn’t a clock in the room though, which struck me as odd. I did make a stop on the way back from the Yotis Estate to pick up a cat bed for Lucius. I thought a terrarium would be better for the snake, but he objected claiming it to be demeaning.

Not like he’d be using it any time soon. My father had sent him along with a small group of field agents on a diplomatic mission to sort something out with the Nagas, and those folks like to negotiate more than any other species I’ve ever met. Maybe except for the Fairies. Still can’t quite make out the month and year after my time learning the art of diplomacy from them. I heard a knock on the door.

“Good morning Mr. Harrier, a message from the Powder Kegs came in for you.” said a newer recruit assigned to the communications division.

“Please, just call me Donovan. What does the message say?” I asked. Hadn’t heard from the powder Kegs in a while, but it was good to know they were still in commission.

“Read it for yourself, sir. Communications aren’t allowed to read private messages. Gotta run now, I have a handful more of these to get to other agents.” the recruit said before bolting off down the hall towards the R&D section of the headquarters. Might as well read this note. Always did have a soft spot for the Powder Kegs. Let’s see here.


It’s your old pal, Daniel Crane. I heard you were back stateside finally, and I picked up a job I want some help with. I’d ask some of the other Powder Kegs, but this requires more of a gentle touch. I’ve included a train ticket and instructions on how to reach the area our target is in. You remember the Trismegistus we had to track as part of our basic training? The target is one of them. Should be a big payday if we can catch it. Hope to see you there!

To old memories and new Experiences,
Daniel Crane

Dan threw in his lot with the Powder Kegs? Makes sense, he always had more spark and flair to his style than me. Can’t set a trap for the life of him though. I’ll make my way to my father’s office and tell him about the job, which shouldn’t be an issue. I don’t have anything on my docket until Lucius gets back and if the pay is good I could put that towards a good close-range weapon. Still haven’t found one that quite speaks to me, but the standard-issue revolver has yet to fail me. I should get on my way then.

“Sir, I’ve received a message requesting my help in a hunt from the Powder Kegs,” I said after entering the finely decorated office of Reginald Harrier, director of the Harrier Extermination Company, and my Father.

“Then answer the summons if you so wish. The Powder Kegs are good friends of ours. You should also know that Lucius is proving instrumental in keeping the Nagas from dragging their negotiations too far, he’ll have a place as a Harrier on his return under your watchful eye,” my Father said before looking back to the documents in front of him.

“Of course, just had to check first. Have you seen Cadmus around recently, by the way?”

“No. He’s been out in the field looking for another Drake to add to his collection since about a month before you returned. Be on your way now, these grant requisition forms won’t fill themselves out.”

On my way out of HQ, I stopped by Requisitions to pick up a bundle of paradox cord and a small bag of Mandrake sprouts. Looking at the tag, this bundle of cord was made using the concept of a peaceful war, a crab’s patience, and a fairy’s apathy. Just from that first material, this cord should be borderline unbreakable. Now just to take the train and meet up with Dan. Looks to be about a day and a half away.

The train ride wasn’t much to write home about, but it did have one of the worst drinks I’ve ever had the displeasure of tasting. It was some weird soda called “Mr. Iodine” and it tasted like cheap dish soap… it may have just been dish soap thinking back on it. Why was it listed alongside every other drink on the menu though? That seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Moving on from the carbonated dish soap, I ended up arriving about half an hour earlier than I had expected. This line normally runs pretty far behind schedule. Unfortunately, the town this station is in doesn’t have much in the way of amenities, or a name now that I think about it. I guess that makes it the perfect spot to begin a hunt from, and considering how heavily wooded the area is it makes sense that a Trismegistus would opt to set down roots here. Plenty of nutrients to siphon from the plant life.

“DONOVAN! Good to see you took me up on my invitation.” said a familiar booming voice to my left.

“Dan! How’ve you been? And more importantly, how have the Powder Kegs been treating you?” I said to my old friend. He stood at 5’ 9”, placing him a couple of inches shorter than me, with a head of dark brown hair and a patchy beard to match. As far as clothing went, Dan was wearing a basic green undershirt and jacket, both of which sported their fair share of scorch marks, with a pair of slacks and hiking boots. On his lapel was a golden firecracker pin, and on his left arm a mechanism to launch various small pods and implements.

“I’ve been doing well enough for myself. Ended up being made head of the Firecracker Corps, first since our founding to have all his fingers intact at the inauguration. What about you, Mr. Up-and-Coming Harrier? Fill me in on the way to our target’s turf.”

“I haven’t been back all too long. However on my first job back, I ended up making contact with a new type of monster, this strange little snake named Lucius. Currently, he’s earning his keep with some diplomatic work. Beyond that, I’ve been refamiliarizing myself with the Harrier HQ. I also had to put down a squid-like monster that didn’t appear in any of our records. It was trying to take my Father hostage. He’s still cleaning the ink out of his office rug.”

Dan let out a bellowing laugh that disturbed a small family of birds from their lunch. “What happened to your squid after that? Can’t imagine you’d get much salvageable meat from it.”

“It’s probably on an autopsy table at this point. Say, pop quiz, do you remember how to incapacitate a Trismegistus?”

“Of course, first you use a high frequency to disorient the monster before it has a chance to start running. We’ll be using… screamer… pods for that part” Dan said, rummaging through his pockets. “Or we would be if I remembered them.”

“Don’t worry, I brought some Mandrake sprouts. Do we need to bring the monster to the client in one piece?”

“He would prefer it to be in one piece, but dead. Guess he doesn’t have the means to house it.”

“Who’s the client for this job?”

“Some big shot farmer. He wants the Trismegistus to be used as fertilizer, something about it being more effective than anything else on the market. Anyway, the second step is to bind the monster, and finally, you need to gouge out its throat. You wouldn’t happen to have a length of rope on you?”

“I’ve got something even better, some paradox cord. I didn’t cheap out on it either, you could probably stop the Earth from rotating with this one.”

“Good, good. Definitely didn’t forget the rope I was going to use for this.”

After a major sigh of relief from Dan we had made it to the clearing that supposedly housed our quarry. Maybe supposedly isn’t the right word here, considering we could see a suspicious pile of dirt directly in the center of the clearing. The trees around the edge of the clearing were showing serious signs of decay. I pulled the Mandrake sprouts from my satchel and began to plant them in the ground. They wouldn’t have time to take root and grow enough to scream, so I would have to draw some blood on the sprouts to hasten their growth. It’s not difficult to do, but it is unfortunate I’ll effectively be down a hand.

“Dan, did you at least remember to grab a couple of pairs of earplugs, or are those with the remainder of the gear you brought for this job?” I said, rummaging around in my satchel for my knife.

“Those seem to be about the only thing I actually have on me unless you think a couple of sticks of dynamite and a lighter will be useful,” Dan said, sounding a bit defeated. “How long do you think we have before it wakes up?”

“I’d say maybe… 30 minutes. More than enough time for these sprouts to start screaming. 2 or 3 should be enough to floor this parasite once it breaks off from its roots,” I said, finally finding my knife. Hopefully, I remembered to sharpen it.

“I’ll go ahead and unbundle the cord then. How are these things even made? I don’t see how you can make a physical object out of a series of concepts.” Dan said, undoing the twine holding together our binding instrument.

“Ask the dwarves the next time you get a request to clear out their mines, maybe they’ll let you in on that trade secret,” I said, running my knife over my left palm just enough to draw a sufficient amount of blood. As it hit the ground I could hear as the Mandrakes began growing rapidly. It’s one of the most unsettling sounds I can think of honestly, it’s sort of similar to how a larger piece of metal sounds when bent through brute force. I quickly tied a strip of gauze from my bag around the wound.

“I think I’ll pass. Kind of prefer my head where it is, and you know I couldn’t parse any dwarven contract. That’s a bit above my pay grade.” Dan said as he was tying one end of the cord around one of the less afflicted trees. I could see the mound of dirt beginning to shift as its inhabitants sensed a new source of nutrients. In hindsight, using plants to combat a monster that feasts on plant roots might not have been my brightest moment. Dan had fortunately just finished his bit of work. I think I might have an out here.

“DAN, light up a stick of dynamite and throw it near the Trismegistus mound!” I shouted, scrambling to put in my earplugs.

“On it!” Dan lobbed a stick that landed just a few feet away from the shifting dirt. Just as the monster began pulling the Mandrakes further down, the stick blew up. Following that the Trismegistus rose from the earth.

This variety of monsters is an oddity, being a strange mix of lizard and plant. They possess a smooth, scaled exterior with sleek limbs. Its hands end in a set of talons that are capable of producing a root in order to drain local flora, patching into root and mycelium systems. To top all of that off, it is incapable of standing still. More specifically, it is in a state of constant vibration before bolting off at speeds faster than most people can comprehend, often looking like a blur. Fortunately, this one is more than a little dazed, maybe from being so rudely awakened.

“DAN, put in your earplugs, it’s time to pull up the Mandrakes!” I shouted, reaching for the two closest to me. As I yanked them from the ground the two Mandrakes began screeching. Even through the earplugs, I could hear a small portion of the plants’ agony. The Trismegistus, not having much of a way to defend itself from this, toppled over holding its head. Dan ran over and began to bind the monster. His knot work was multiple steps above the last time we had hunted one of these. Then again, he hadn’t quite mastered tying his own shoes at that point. I pulled another Mandrake up just for safety before running over to the Trismegistus prepared to gouge out its throat.

After getting over to the monster I got a good look at its face, which was largely reminiscent of Jackson’s chameleon. I moved my knife over the creature’s throat but didn’t have enough strength to pierce through its scales one-handed. Dan, on the other hand, had more than enough strength to put this one down. The blood that flowed from the Trismegistus was like a mix between tree sap and oil, while completely lacking any scent. Some of it had flowed onto my left hand before we could stifle the flow.

“Thanks for the assist on this, Donovan,” Dan said before throwing me an envelope filled with cash.

“What‘s this for?”

“It’s your pay. I always ask for half the total payout of a job upfront. Operating costs and all that, and I’d say you coming along for this definitely counts as an operating cost. This old beast would still be breathing if you hadn’t come along. Also, those train tickets were wildly expensive, there wasn’t even an offer to buy a round trip. I may have been scammed by the guy I bought them off of.”

“Thanks then, and maybe next time just buy tickets from the station itself. Try and keep in touch, you know I’ll always try and help if you ask.”

We parted ways, and the train ride back was much to write home about. I did notice that the hand I had cut was already fully healed. I guess Trismegistus blood has some kind of healing property to it, which is only slightly worrying to learn at this point. Maybe I can propose adding that blood to field med kits. No, on second thought that’s a horrible idea. I have no idea what long-term effects this will have.