Delivered in the unlit confines of Parrot Island to himself, staring into a broken mirror…
A sublime relief from the incessant sunshine in the emerald called Sasserine, we found ourselves in yet another dank basement. Pushing the limits of the ever-so-close water table, the walls leaked a constant saline, turning the nailheads protruding from the shoddy doorframes a ruddy brown. While the others were busy distributing coin off of the victims of another winfall, I found myself discreetly sampling the molds growing on undisturbed surfaces around the room. Each had it’s own flavor profile and wove it’s own history.
“Ever earnest is the decomposer”, the Dark Tapestry will tell you.
Their diversion complete, we perused the kennels and then the bunkhouse. After shaking down the hired kitchen staff, we discussed a variety of gruesome options for dealing with her as she watched on nonplussed. Kitchen staff is often made of sterner stuff, whether they work in a dungeon lair or an upscale bistro. Being able to work with such hostile assistants, all while brandishing knives, is bound to give one an unbreakable nerve.
In the end, we left her where she stood and J’zar opened a door which held something that looked like bad news printed on bad paper. It snarled, so I gave it some of my own medicine in the form of evaporated rum. After an hour or so of that, the thing wobbled so badly it nearly made me seasick to watch it. We sent that old friend of our company off with a proper drink down a diverging path, metaphorically speaking. He’ll be fine.
There are other worlds than these, afterall.
J’zar insisted on opening yet another door, having not learned anything from the last one. This time, a zombie waited for us.
These situations are always awkward for me. Sometimes I see howling demons while we eat dinner. Sometimes black oozes slink around the room while we interrogate prisoners. You learn to ignore them as long as no one else reacts. I waited patiently beside J’zar and only when he drew his weapons did I allow myself to become anxious.
Somewhere, there’s a devil waiting for me. He stands holding an invoice a mile long, compiling continually compounding interest for all of twenty-eight years. I may or may not have made a deal with him to acquire my beautiful face. Any admission of guilt, phonetic or telepathic, could be used against me in the courts of the dead.
Whenever the zombie turns out to be real, I can hear him typing somewhere in inside the walls as the invoice grows longer by yards. The passage of time is different there. It’s both impossibly fast and agonizingly slow, which makes determining accrued debt nearly impossible, but they love to see a victim turn on a spit so they always err on the side of liberal time dilation.
Instead of any of that nonsense, we simply went around the howling clod.
Behind him, we found another door which led to another surprise: a beautiful woman.
She even had a drake of purest darkness under her command. Between her self-assured demeanor, the dragon tattoos all over her and her ease of command over the creature of darkness, I felt my mouth go completely bone dry like it always does around pretty girls.
As the others argued with her over some paltry insult, I tried to introduce myself and only succeeded in wheezing slowly and benignly. I fumbled at my belt and tried to take a drink from my flask of rum to fix my parched throat, but by the time my liquor grimace had faded she had disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
Wondering what could have been, I dealt with my perceived rejection like any adventurer would: I laid waste to something that was likely on an endangered species list somewhere.
Finally, we steeled ourselves to combat the last agent of undeath on our to do list.
We fared poorly, it turned out, and as I was stricken unconscious and the devil in the wall’s typing grew louder and spiraled into a whole symphony of keystrokes. He played his typewriter like a grand piano accompanied by an orchestra of quills scratching out signatures. Listening to the slavering wails of the would-be zombie collections agent, I came to the realization that the proverbial Death and Taxes need not be mutually exclusive.