Empathy: standard (rank 1)
“You aren’t nearly as nervous as you usually are, Landon,” Gavin quipped as Landon was led into the back of a massively-armored 18-wheeler.
Landon attempted to shrug, his shackles holding down his shoulders. “Maybe I finally got used to all the chaos and scheming and bloodshed?”
Gavin shook his head in disagreement. “You know better than to fuck with a tentacle. This isn’t desensitization. That’s the vibe I’m getting from the armed guards. They do this shit for a living, so they’re used to high alerts. You’ve never been desensitized. I’m sensing-- confidence?”
“You know me better than to ever suspect me of confidence,” Landon said with a smile.
“EXACTLY! That’s what’s throwing me off. Even when you have something concocted you’re always freaking out under the--” Gavin stopped mid-sentence, and his confused expression quickly changed to one of frustration. “Wait. What the hell? Now you’re feeling-- EWW-- OH FUCK LANDON QUIT SCREWING AROUND WITH ME LIKE THAT!”
Landon burst into laughter as Gavin finally caught on to the fact that Landon had been doing his best all this time to intentionally mask his emotions, seeing how his “friend’s” tentacled nature made him quite adept at picking up on the emotions of others.
Emotion Control: standard (rank 1)
“I thought these trailers were soundproof,” Landon commented as the screams of Gavin’s men could be heard emanating from the outside.
Gavin slammed his fist against one of the monitors set up inside of the trailer of the 18-wheeler, where he could see ghastly maws and pseudopodded mandibles writhing all across their escort vehicles. “That shit only counts when the noise isn’t from people’s minds being shattered by your FUCKING FRIENDS FRYING MY MEN’S MINDS WITH DREAMTIME HORRORS!”
Gavin gathered his composure and breathed in deeply. If one had a keen nose one would notice a faint waft of musk and lilac in the air as Gavin began to work his pheromonal mojo-- call it a cocktail of mild depressants, hallucinogens, and eldritch magics. This tide of etheral goodness swept across the immediate perimeter of the 18-wheeler and quickly went to work on the minds of the besieged escorts. Their screaming turned into a mild form of euphoria-- just enough to ease the nerves of seeing cosmic horrors that only the likes of Gavin and Landon could tolerate.
Gavin wanted to turn around and smirk at Landon. He wanted to lay into him, saying something along the lines of “Did you REALLY think Josh’s trick would work? Did you REALLY think sending abominations would work when I’M an abomination?” He wanted to rub it in as his men began to make a clean sweep of the wretched fiends summoned by Landon’s best friend. But halfway through what Gavin expected to be his dramatic turn to face Landon, he finally realized that he had been played.
Hand of Emrakul
Elongation: superior (rank 2)
Using the minor horrors as a sly distraction, Josh had immediately turned his attentions to burning a hole through the back of the trailer. Acid spewed forth from numerous small portals that floated around his body as he whispered incantations in a pre-mammalian tongue. These plumes of acid had already eaten their way through the plating by the time Gavin’s revelation kicked in, but not nearly fast enough for Josh to bust out his proverbial Bigby’s Grasping Hand and snag that damn slacker Landon away from his captor.
Instead, when Josh was expecting to extend his own etheral tendril and use it to snatch away his buddy, he found himself on the receiving end of Gavin’s own tentacled fist. Before Gavin was fully turned around, his left arm wound its way around the trailer and uppercutted Josh’s floating disc, forcing Josh to fly upwards and regain his balance before making a second approach at the convoy.
“Oh man, it’s totally getting all Dhalsim up in here now!” Landon laughed. “I’ve been waiting for you to--”
Before Landon could finish his sentence, Gavin’s left arm retracted back in. But before it reached its destination, Gavin delivered one parting punch square to Landon’s jaw, knocking him out cold.
Growth: standard (rank 1)
While Josh was temporarily hobbled, and while Landon lay comatose on the bed of the trailer, Gavin darted towards the hole Josh had made moments before. As he approached the opening, he stretched out his limbs, grasping the sides of the hole long before the rest of his body reached it. Using the momentum of his sprint, Gavin then propelled himself forward, flinging himself straight out the hole and into the air. While airborne, he began flailing his arms about, rocketing them towards Josh, who had now regained his footing and was starting to bellow forth waves of putrid blue flames and storms of red crystals from a myriad of portals and summoned creatures. Tiny orb-like creatures with seven leathery wings flocked to block Gavin’s strikes, taking the brunt of his assault.
At the peak of his leap, Gavin jettisoned one of his legs towards the roof of the 18-wheeler. The limb broke straight through the armor plating and into the interior of the trailer where it wrapped itself around several stationary objects within. Gavin allowed himself to retract back down to the roof of the trailer, shooting his other leg through the plating and rooting itself within as well, all the while continuing the barrage of rapid-fire, long ranged strikes.
Now firmly rooted onto the top of the trailer, Gavin’s entire body began to convulse and writhe, numerous tendrils breaking forth from every pore of his body. Gavin began to stretch into the sky, allowing more and more of the foul appendages to erupt forth from his body. In seconds, Gavin was little more than a massive mound of shuddering pseudopodial insanity.
Josh, who had been busy deflecting the gunfire coming from Gavin’s escorts and commanding his legions of Dreamtime minions, paused in disbelief and sighed.
“That’s-- that’s just not fair.”
Iron Will: superior (rank 2)
Then again, Josh was never one to fight fair himself. Knowing full well there was no point in hurling masses of creatures and mystic energies at his enemy, he resorted to the only sensible alternative.
With a wave of his hands and a few quick incantations, all of Josh minions and portals convalesced at a central point immediately in front of Josh. Their collective energies merged into a single focal point, and this small, pulsating orb of vile energies floated into Josh’s left hand while his right hand gestured a quick succession of defensive spells to block Gavin’s ever prevalent assault. With that piece of primal energies collected, Josh shot it directly at Gavin, focusing it into a thread-thin laser that would bypass all of his attempts at deflection. The beam pierced directly into Gavin’s skull and--
It was the only moment Gavin ever felt true terror. It wasn’t the knowledge that he may soon be dying as the world around him ended that terrified him. Death was far too abstract to frighten someone who was far too used to dealing with abstract atrocities. It comes with the half-abomination territory.
No. What terrified Gavin was the expressions on his friends’ faces as they stared aghast into the blinding light that was the dreaming energy explosion they had failed to stop. They weren’t nearly as accustomed to the face of absolute terror as he was, and to see them face such horrors in their final moments of life, knowing that their actions had been utterly futile, was to Gavin the pinnacle of dread. He could do nothing to comfort them in their final moments. No reassuring glance. No “Hey, the next guys will fix what we couldn’t.” No last hugs. All they could feel was terror, and seeing them in such a state rendered Gavin in a state of fearfulness he had never felt.
And that anguish would only be amplified as he stood unphased by the explosion.
He could see their decimated remains breaking away into ash and soot. Their shocked expressions were still visible, etched into the dust that remained of their bodies.
They had lost. And because they had lost, the rest of the world may have--
No. Fuck that. No.
As Gavin was forced to relive the only time in his life where he was truly afraid, one single thought prevailed through his mind. While those moments during Gavin’s teenaged years, where he and his friends failed to stop Landon and his Go Home Club from breaking a seal on a gate between the Dreamtime and the waking world, was the most horrific experience of his life, there was still one lingering impulse that could defeat that dreadful memory.
Yes. The heart of the geek-- that inner rage of seeing one’s prized possession destroyed and the festering emotions that comes from internalizing such an experience-- allowed Gavin to break out of Josh’s madness-inducing spell well before it had a chance to root its insanity within his mind.
While Gavin may still seethe with anger over that broken trading card, it was that seething fury that broke him from his maniacal stupor. And with his sanity quickly restored, Gavin resumed his assault on Josh.
Josh was making quick work of the remaining escorts, summoning icy spikes from the ground and impaling the vehicles as they continued their hot pursuit down the highway. With Josh distracted by the other vehicles, Gavin spread out his tendrils and attacked Josh from every angle possible. Not one to be caught off-guard so easily, even when his prey is in an insanity-born trance, Josh managed to quickly deflect most of the incoming assaults. The few that managed to breach his hastily-conjured defenses knocked him off of his floating disc. Gavin attempted to stretch around and grab Josh in mid-air, adding to his haul of prisoners, but said floating disc darted from its previous position and rescued its master before Gavin could wrap his tendrils around his enemy’s prone body.
“Bah! Let the bastard suffer a bit longer,” Josh scoffed as his disc started to speed off into the distance. “You better enjoy your quality time there with your best buddy, Gavin! Get him to play some Magic with you or something. Might be the last chance you get to game AT ALL in this lifetime!” And with that Josh retreated into the night.
Gavin quickly shrunk back down into his normal human form and looked down at Landon, who was just not awakening. Gavin reached out and grabbed Landon by the front of his shirt and lifted him up into the air. “I think I’ll take Josh up on that offer. And we’re gonna make sure you fail all of your saving throws this time, Landon.”