The D20-headed Knight, Chapter Five: A Brief Interlude with Death
Posted by Apocalypse, 02 June 2010 · 265 views
Chapter Five: A Brief Interlude with Death
The twilight faded from the Evil Black Tower Inn, and the grim spire that rose from the wooded mountainside was resting from the excitement of the day that had just left it. Eddy, manning the desk inside, had become accustomed to the doldrums of his job (and he had been at this business for quite some time due to the longevity his dragon heritage provided). He perked up slightly. It had been an exciting day with his half-brother's impromptu visit; nothing said it couldn't be an exciting night. The Tower may not attract rather pleasant clientele, but the ones it did appeal to usually loved the night, and with this hope of some form of entertainment, Eddy left his post, cracked open the door, and came face to face with Death.
More specifically, this Death was not Eddy's death. Eddy would live for many more years to come. This was the pale, feminine skull and burning yellow eyes that hovered within violet robes, concealing a slender frame, with dingy skeletal hand pulled back, about to knock, a look of surprise (if that was at all possible on the seemingly motionless bone visage) on her face. This was Elysius the Death Goddess, Matron of the Assassin's Guild.
"Oh!" she said, staring the terrified Merogron in the face. "I'm sorry, I came to enquire about the dead man out here." Her voice was an echoing whisper, deafening to all who heard it, and yet the tone was remarkably polite. The courteousness set Eddy somewhat at ease.
He glanced out and saw the black-clothed man Earl had earlier beheaded on his way in. The head itself was nowhere in sight.
"Oh… that's where Roger went."
"15 minutes to noon this morning."
"What?" asked Eddy.
"That was the question you were going to ask," she explained. "He died by adventurer. I just needed you to identify the bod… head, I mean." Eddy suddenly saw why Roger's head was no longer with the rest of the corpse as she held it up by the hair.
"Oh, gods," Eddy said, becoming a bit queasy and green around the small gills that sprouted from his neck, closed tight considering the fact that he was above water. "Yeah, that's Roger."
"Excellent," Elysius said, chucking the head behind her. She procured several papers from within the folds of her robes, patting down the pockets for a quill.
"Um…" Eddy began, not entirely sure whether it was a good idea to invite her in, despite this being an inn, which by its very name implied that people were allowed inside. "Why don't you just, uh, come on in?" he said finally.
"Thanks," she said, approaching the desk and snatching the pen from it. Eddy took his post once more as she scrawled something out on the parchment.
"Do you need a room?" he asked.
"No, no, I just need you to sign this. Without the proper waiver Roger will be sent to the Darkness."
Eddy gulped. The Darkness was oblivion. It was where lost souls went, the dead who had nowhere else to go, and it was a massive pit of void existence.
"Okay," Eddy said meekly, signing his signature. Too late he realized he should have read what he had signed first. "Oh, uh, this isn't bad or anything? By signing this I'm not giving up any of my rights or something, right?"
"Who do you think I am?" asked Elysius, offended. "The Evil One himself?"
"No, it's just…" the Merogron tried to backpedal.
"You mortals are all the same. I'm not the bad guy. You should talk to…" she began, flipping up a few pages and scanning the bottom one, "this Earl fellow. He killed Roger. I'm just here to clean up."
"Earl? Steve's friend?"
"Steve?" asked Elysius, a blank look on her skull. "Earl?" she said quickly afterwards, the name starting to ring several bells at once.
"Never mind," Eddy said, waving it off.
"Not that this hasn't been a delight…" she said, pausing to look at his nametag, "Edward, but I have other business."
"Uh, sure," Eddy said, taken aback. The friendliness and tact that had awarded him the desk job had abandoned him. The Death Goddess was halfway out the door before he shouted his farewell, halting her in her tracks as she glanced back.
"Come back sometime soon! Oh, but not too soon. I mean, if you come back, I hope it's not on business. Like, if you wanted a room. Or something," he stammered.
She paused, giving him a look that said, "I want you to die in a pit of agony and despair," but it was probably in Eddy's imagination, because her skull face did not provide an accurate enough range of motion to display such a sentiment with a single glance. She then left, door closing behind her with a click.
"Yaaaay," Eddy muttered, half in sarcastic self-deprecation at his verbal clumsiness and half because he was genuinely pleased the goddess was gone. Moments later, he would forget she had even been there.
Outside, a brown-robed figure awaited Elysius. His face could not be seen.
"Are you done with your bureaucracy yet?" he asked.
"It's not my fault The Evil One made the system as is. Though I don't suppose you have an affinity for playing within the rules."
"May we go now?"
"Not yet. There is another," she said, gliding to the bushes, where Brian lay, an arrow sticking from his charred chest.
"The stench of one of your own. It is overpowering," the other said.
"They are not my own," she said, annoyed and obviously having been down this road before with many others. "I don't sanction them. They kill in my name but they don't understand Death."
"Nerve?" he asked, the blackness beneath his hood suddenly revealing a Cheshire cat grin.
"Did I strike one?"
"No one to sign his waiver," the other remarked.
"I can vouch for him," she said, procuring another form from within her robes and stamping it with a specially made signet, attaching it to the first.
"Who killed him?" he asked. She flipped through the form again.
"What is it?" he urged when she didn't respond, staring at the paper as if some kind of mistake had been made.
"Suicide?" she said, perplexed.
The other burst into laughter. "With an arrow?"
She knelt, touching his chest as a burst of yellow light surged through the dead man's veins, eventually reaching his mouth and eyes, shining from them like the rays of the sun. He gasped and sputtered.
"Who killed you?" she asked him.
"Earl," he said in a ghostly whisper.
"Why is that name so familiar?" she asked. Her companion provided the answer.
"Because a Sir Earl once mated with your daughter, escaped from Hell with her aid, infiltrated the Assassin's Guild on the grounds that he had bested even your stone will, and became their Grand Master before taking everything that was shiny from their coffers, blaspheming against you the entire way as he fled across the ocean to live in Gorf?"
"WHAT?" the Death Goddess exploded. "THAT phloxing EARL?" Her screams echoed through the forest as a tiny smile escaped from the brown-robed figure.
"You," she said, shaking Brian with the grip of Death, "Who else was here? Where did they go?"
"Earl and his companions went to the north. Another was here. His name was Rangam," the dead assassin said in staccato sentences.
"The Deathstitcher?" she asked herself.
"And you thought you only had to contend with one pain in your ass," said the other, thoroughly amused.
"Where? Where did the Deathstitcher go?" Elysius asked Brian. He held one arm up, pointing off into the forest. The light faded from his eyes and mouth as she let him be at peace.
Straightening and holding out Brian's forms, she turned to the other.
"Burn these for me," she said.
"And he goes to the Darkness?"
"Hell yes, I'm pissed off and I need to send somebody there! And if it's not him, it's going to be you." For the first time that night, the other figure's detached aura was replaced by one of fear. He lifted a black hand and the parchments burst into a pale blue flame. Brian's body writhed as his soul was torn from this dimension, sent hurtling into an abyss of nothingness.
"Better?" the brown-robed man asked.
"A little," she said reluctantly. He held out his arm, crooked at the elbow.
"Shall we, my Lady? I promise I shall flay this Rangam fellow for you, just to see a smile on your beautiful skull."
She paused before taking his arm.
"You know exactly how to please me," she said happily as the two set off, one walking, the other gliding, through the forest.
In a cave somewhere not too far from that location, Rangam and the carpet rested after their failure. Well, technically, it was only Rangam's failure, but he had come to think of it as their collective failure, to ease his mind. He was still unsure as to when he would tell the carpet this news, because the furnishing was sitting on a rock with Steve's sharp scimitar in tassel, whittling horrific scenes from branches it had collected. One such sculpture depicted Rangam with a switchblade buried deep into his forehead as the blood trickled from the wound, his face contorted in agony. The carpet had then placed the knife next to it, angling both towards Rangam. The evil Dwarf got the message.
It looked at him as if asking "What now?"
"Now, my carpet friend, we rue. Then, afterwards, we may scheme, followed by some plotting. We shall then gather our resources, in a sinister fashion of course, and then we shall kill Magnar!"
The carpet was quite confused, because it had tried to express through its look that it had wanted Rangam to make a girl carpet. Preferably a tiny affair, with lace and frills along the side. At this point, though, the lusty carpet would settle for a frumpy blanket.
It was then that Elysius and her companion entered the cave, earning a stern look from the carpet. Of course, the carpet was not very good with these sorts of looks, so it could also have been a friendly greeting, or an offer to cook something warm for the travelers, not out of hospitality, but out of pyromania.
Elysius, similarly, had a difficult time portraying complex thoughts with expressions. She gave the carpet a look that either said, "You dare to look in that manner at a god?" or "I'm well, how are you?" or "No thanks, I'm not feeling peckish just yet, but perhaps later I can take you all out for some lovely Elven food. I know a place."
The carpet responded with a look that said, "In case you hadn't gathered, I'm a sentient carpet who is also batphlox insane, so yeah, I'm totally looking at you like that and I have a sword to back it up," or "Can't complain, the weave on my underside is fraying slightly, but I've been meaning to ask Rangam here to patch it up for me," or "Not a fan of Elven food. Do you like Pixie cuisine?"
Elysius shot back with a look that quite possibly said, "Enough! I am not here for you, rug, I am here for the Deathstitcher," or "I myself have been noticing some worn cartilage on the fourth metacarpus of my left hand. Been thinking about having it checked out by The Evil One," or "It's delightful! Where can we get some around here though? The Pixies keep to the magic-infused swamplands to the south, and that's almost four hundred miles from here."
All this time Rangam had not noticed either of the newcomers in his position facing away from the entrance, and the brown-robed man was having trouble understanding why a minute of silence had just elapsed without anything happened. He cleared his throat.
The Dwarf spun around, an angry look on his face for the intruders that had violated his private cave, before he saw who those newcomers were.
"Oh, it's you," he said, turning back to the carpet.
"'You?' That's all I get, Deathstitcher?" Elysius demanded.
"Please. You come here and expect me to be all frightened? I'm as much of a god as you are."
"False god! And I'll have you know I killed all of your subjects out of spite when they refused to worship me."
Rangam rose and turned, sensing a good argument coming.
"Oh, is that it? Can't handle someone rivaling you at your own game, so you had to take your ball and go home?"
The carpet gave a little come here gesture to the brown-robed man, and he skirted the goddess and demi-god arguing like an old married couple. He reclined on the carpet's rock.
"How are you?" he asked as if they were old friends. The carpet then said something to him that only he could hear and understand. That, or the man was insane and talking to himself.
"Yes, I know, my pet. But remember what I said when I first appeared to you? You began to contemplate logic, up there in the Evil Black Tower Inn, and I revealed to you the beauteous illogic of the world." He rubbed the carpet's head, or, you know, what would be the head, and the carpet leaned into it much like a cat would lean into the caress of its owner.
"And I said, 'Soon chaos will descend upon the world, and you and I shall reap it together.' We will have no need for The Evil One or his wretched counterpart, no need for Deathstitcher or Elysius, no need for the Darkness, once I take care of things. Then, you can abandon these silly Dwarves and humans and whatnot, and come live with me in Chaos."
"Oh ho, you feel so comfortable bringing up my mother, how 'bout I bring up your father?" Rangam asked as the brown-robed man ended his conversation with the carpet, still stroking it lovingly.
"You don't! Don't you dare say anything!"
"Elysius!" called her companion above the shouting. "Do we not have business to attend to?"
Rangam glared at him. "What? Business?"
"Yes, business," the Death Goddess sighed. "You know, what you used to be so interested in before you picked up the hobby of murdering your own kin?"
"I deserved that," Rangam admitted. "Evil team up?"
"Evil Parties Protocol Act rules?"
"Nah, I'm old school, how about the Dark Deities Accord?"
"Very well, Rangam, we have a deal," she said, offering her hand. He almost took it when he noticed the sparking yellow magic dripping from her fingertips. He withdrew his hand quickly, and it was good that he had, otherwise he would have been struck dead on the spot.
"You almost got me!" he said, smiling. "You used to try to kill me with that trick all the time!"
She laughed. "It almost worked, didn't it?"
"You wish. So, it's a deal. You help me kill Magnar, and I will… wait, what do you want again?"
"I want Earl. Not to kill him, that would be too easy. The Knight will be sent into the deepest bowels of my daughter's realm, so deep he won't be able to fornicate his way out, to spend eternity there in half-life, until the end days, and if I have my way, even further."
"Nice," Rangam said. "I was just gonna kill mine."
"Nothing beats simplicity," Elysius offered.
And, in the corner of the cave, the God of Chaos whispered maddening thoughts to the carpet, smiling briefly at what he had wrought. So occupied with the Knight Earl, the only deity in the entirety of the universe who could stop him at this stage would never see his betrayal coming.