*FIRST AND VERY IMPORTANTLY, THIS IS NOT CANON. THIS IS COMPLETELY UNSANCTIONED (okay, not completely. Larry said I could do this for you guys without his ripping my head off) MHI FANFIC.
Good, now that we got that out of the way, why am I doing this? Both Grant and Fado Negro (Portuguese Monster Hunters) have minuscule parts in Guardian, the MHI book I’m collaborating with Larry Correia on. However, obviously the Portugal of Monster Hunter is not the real Portugal (Really, no arcane creatures come stumbling out of the undergrowth there. If there were arcane creatures, the country would be chock-a-block in them, when you take in account the continuous human occupation since… well, forever.) And this story gives me more of an opportunity to firm the worldbuilding. (Yes, it would be MUCH easier to do this with a notebook and noting things down, but that’s not how my mind works, d*mn it.)
Okay, that’s the rational excuse. The real reason is that d*mn Grant Jefferson won’t leave me alone. (Always had a thing for men from Patrician New England families. Ask my husband.) So I’m torturing him. Also Guardian won’t come out until I do this more or less at same time (I’ll be sending first chapter of that to Larry soon.)
Will this ever be a book? Don’t know. First Guardian will get delivered. Then, this being finished, I throw it at Larry. And then it’s his SOLE DECISION. (Which means, don’t you monkeys hassle him.) It’s his world and his character. I’m just grateful he lets me play in it in Guardian and here for your amusement.*
There are all sorts of rules on foreign travel when you’re a federal agent. When you’re my kind of federal agent, working for an agency no government would admit to, battling things far more dangerous than terrorists, and more slippery than communism, there are even more rules for foreign travel.
In the end, they all boil down to “If we want you to go abroad, we’ll send you there.”
Which is why I was several kinds of dead. My first and most likely cause of death would be that my partner, Agent Franks, would rip my head off and beat me to death with it.
I thought I was prepared for it. But when I took my phone off airplane mode, as we taxied under the rain in the airport of Sa Carneiro in, of all places, Porto, Portugal, it beeped with a text: Jefferson, where in hell are you? and I realized my entire body clenched.
My name is Grant Jefferson, and I’m many things, starting with a damn fool, but I’m not a coward. For many years I made my living fighting werewolves, vampires, zombies, and the eldritch horrors of a million deranged nightmares. And now I did the same for the feds.
But Franks, technically my partner, actually my boss, was something else. Something that gave the eldritch horrors nightmares.
I tried to compose an answer in my head, as we filed out of the plane and out the jetway. But none of them would work. Called to Portugal because of monsters was kind of sort of true, but if I told Franks that, he would know I was lying. If I’d been sent to Portugal because of monster attacks and some cooperation agreement he’d be right here with me. I briefly considered Going to grandma’s funeral, only Franks would know that I didn’t have a grandma in Portugal. Lists of my actual relations were all on file in federal archives. I briefly considered My grandmother turned into a monster in Portugal, but the thing is, even before typing it in, I could hear Franks’ growl in response. That was one of his most unnerving habits. The way he growled. Made worse if you’d ever seen him fight.
The one thing I couldn’t tell him was the simple truth. I’m in Portugal because Julie Schakleford is in Portugal and might need my help. Frankly, that didn’t even convince me as a reason. Julie was a grownup, and she was perfectly able to take care of herself. Plus she was married, and the last thing she wanted was her old boyfriend meddling in her affairs.
More important, from Franks perspective, Julie was part-owner of Monster Hunter International a monster hunting organization that had given the feds headaches for years by hunting monsters and sticking to just the edge of the law. Monster hunting was no business for civilians. That’s what Frank would say. Before or after levitating across the ocean in a wave of fury to beat me to death with his bare hands was the only question.
So I didn’t say anything as I took the escalator, facing a banner saying “Welcome to Portugal” in a dozen languages. Big tourist area.
Going through passport control was boring but uneventful, which means my bosses hadn’t figured out where I was, yet. Of course, I wasn’t travelling in my official capacity. Which meant I felt naked without a protective vest, and without a gun. I did have a knife set, in my checked luggage. Which meant I half expected to be asked but about those. But I wasn’t. The middle aged lady in passport control just smiled at me and said, “Welcome to Portugal.” The guy leaning against a wall, scanning the new arrivals as they filed past in the “nothing to declare” line did single me out, to the extent he grunted at me something I could interpret as “Reason for visit?” in English. But when I blurted “Tourism” he let me through.
Baggage claim was a mess, thronged with people, a babel of what seemed like every language on Earth, and confused to boot. Part of the confusion came because no one seemed to know what luggage was coming out where. The central board had no carousel numbers. I decided I’d be methodical, and walked back, reading the signs on every carousel. I knew mine would be all the way at the back before I got there, though, because I could see a white cowboy hat near it, and that cowboy hat had been on my flight from Denver, about eight seats ahead.
Up close, the guy wearing it was probably in his thirties, with a well trimmed beard, wearing a t-shirt with a picture of the Gipper on a red, white and blue background and under it, in big white letters I ❤ Reagan. “Denver?” I asked him, because the sign wasn’t on. “That’s what information told me,” he said. I was a little shocked he didn’t have a deep Texas accent. “Oh, look, the carousel is starting.”
It was indeed, and as it lurched into movement, a bunch of people approached, including a family with four little girls ranging from about 6 to one, all chattering at each other in Portuguese, which sounds sort of like Spanish but with a Russian accent.
But as something on the carousel pushed through the curtain of rubber strips at one end, it wasn’t luggage.
They looked like… Well, they looked sort of like elves, if elves had been sculpted entirely of stone. And if you’re from the US I don’t mean the sort of tame elves who take welfare and live in trailer parks. I mean those things the Celts feared and worshiped long before Tolkien made them pretty-pretty celebrities.
Take Tolkien’s elves and squish them down. Then add about 200 pounds to each of them, mostly slabbed muscle. Then make their pallor something distinctly greenish and unhealthy, that looks like corpses in the early stages of decomposition. And make sure their clothes and bodies look… not so much dirty but partway calcified.
Then get a group of about fifty of them on an airport baggage carousel. Now you have the right idea. And the right idea should make you run for your life. Except I couldn’t.
Other people did, trampling each other on the way to the doors, not only from our carousel but from every carousel near it.
But I couldn’t, because the creatures had leaped from the moving belt, and were chasing people. And because, near me, with four little girls standing on a luggage cart, were the Portuguese family I’d noticed before.
One of the brutes made for the, grinning. I swear its massive, sharp teeth glistened with blood and that it had bits of flesh stuck between them.
I didn’t have anything I could fight with. No guns. No knives. The only thing I had was my carry on and my toiletries.
The creature made to grab one of the little girls, all of which were screaming. The mother got in the way and was swatted by a massive paw, which sent her careening across the area. I’d not been noticed, probably because I’d stood still and silent. Now, as the monster lurched towards the little girl, I grabbed my shoulder bag by the handle. It was only the allowed 16 lbs, so I had to twirl it with some force, before I could hit the massive skull of the creature and scream, “Pick on someone your own size, ugly.”
It turned and growled at me. Yeah. Okay. He wasn’t half as scary as Franks. And I’d had time to think. You know what I had in my hand luggage? I had a several metal tooth picks of the sort that dentists use to determine if you have cavities. It’s a thing with me. I like to stay on top of these things. While ugly was spending time growling, I’d unzipped my bag, and had got the picks, leaving half of my toiletries strewn all over the fake marble floor. If they were fairies — and I suspected they were the kind identified as “giants” or “trolls” throughout most European legends, which were neither giant nor trolls, who were something quite different — steel should hurt them.
I got to test my theory as the beast came towards me, at a run, and grabbed at my arm, probably intending to spin me around and throw me. Before he could do so, I’d stuck a pick in his arm, bull matador style. He made a sound between a growl and a shriek, and a puff of flame, like when oil falls on fire, surged. He let me go as he tried to pull the pick out of his arm.
I had momentum and went some ways before I could stand, and turn around. And damn it if there weren’t another two critters trying to get at the little girls. What is it with monsters and innocence? I get very tired of the cliched obsession.
I started to run towards them, but Reagan-lover was there. He’d found his own weapons, seemingly having broken apart one of the chairs. The connectors were plastic and my guess is he’d smashed it over the head of one of the monsters and it had come apart in component parts. I was glad it had, as I grabbed one of the tubes, and used it to club one of the critters, while Reagan-lover clobbered the other. The little girl’s father had grabbed a piece of chair, too, and stood behind us, ready to die heroically, if something got near his daughters.
There was an alarm going on over head, but I didn’t understand it, partly because it was babbled in at least ten languages. From the few words I got, it might have been something about terrorists. I could smell fresh blood, and something that was almost like swamp gas and that I imagined was the smell of these creatures.
But I didn’t have time for anything, as a seemingly unending tide of them came out of the hole on the wall at us.
Reagan-lover fell at some point. I don’t know when. I don’t think he was dead, just wounded and probably exhausted. I wasn’t doing so well myself. I didn’t remember my right arm being bitten, but it was a useless mass of ripped flesh, with white bone protruding.
The mother of the family must have got back because some woman was praying loudly in Portuguese between me and the kids.
And yet the monsters kept coming. My left arm was getting tired of swinging that iron, tired of the smell of singed flesh when it hit. And I suspected they were coming back to the battle, because I wasn’t leaving the metal stuck in them.
The floor was slick with blood. I just wanted to pass out.
This is when the jokers in black cloaks arrived. Yelling at each other in Portuguese, they surged in. They looked like kids. I turned to tell them to get away. The thing I’d been fighting grabbed me. I screamed, as I flailed with the iron. The thing dropped me.
I must have fallen on my head. Next thing I knew, someone was pouring water over me, and someone else was saying, “Why did it have to be a damn tourist/”
As I managed to get one eye open, I realized I was in a stone cell of some sort. Wait, had I checked to make sure they’d disbanded the inquisition?