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Part 1. The Bruiser Bride
“By Grimnir,” Madam Pspew blurted as soon as her eyes adjusted to the wave of dark. What in shades was she? Human? Madam Pspew squinted. Mutant? The result of eons of inbreeding? All three? She was even more repulsive than the groom.
The groom. Who stood before the altar gawking at his bride to be. Guffawing silently. Like an idiot. Because he was an idiot. These Sloddergumps. Like humans, but even more so. The groom continued giggling. Drooling, until—SMACK!—Madam Pspew backhanded him across the face.
He settled then. A little.
The music commenced with the bride’s first step down the aisle. Her particular form of step being more of a spastic hobble. CLANK! … THUMP! … CLANK! … THUMP! … CLANK! All eyes riveted to her as she fought her way down the aisle, tearing swathes in the carpeting with her left leg, the foot end of which ended in the form of a rusted garden rake. And her face…
“Thank the Craven Lord for veils,” Madam Pspew muttered. But not loudly. She was mean and cruel, and maybe even stupid, but she was a survivor. And croakers weren’t overly popular in these parts. Or any parts, really.
By Grimnir! What had she done to warrant this assignment? Had she killed somebody? Maimed somebody? Of import? Ten days stomp west through the Craw. Not even a useless meat-shield to stand between her and whatever the swamp vomited up to eat her. To perform nuptials because the resident geezer Wrackolyte, rather than continue his appointment here, had opted to saw off his own head. Was that even possible? It’d be easier to gut yourself with a fish club. A close look at the mutants fouling the pews told Madam Pspew the geezer had the right idea.
CLANK! … THUMP! … CLANK! … THUMP!
The bride neared the altar—
Madam Pspew stifled another giggle. No. Compose thyself.
“Here Cometh Yon Bride” was rendered with surprising skill. Surprising because the two-man band rendered it wholly through the arts of jug blowing and armpit farts, though considering the ensuing stench it is possible not only armpits were involved. As the bride reached the altar, the song ended upon a long and inspiring note of high-pitched flatulation. A surreal silence followed.
“Ahem.” Madam Pspew stared at the ceiling, the only safe place. Tears oozed from the corners of her crimson eyes. Stifled giggles bucked her blubberous frame. “Well now,” she said, fighting for the words to start the nuptials. Any words really, that wouldn’t get her killed, “that … certainly … was now … wasn’t it?” Madam Pspew raised an eyebrow. “Eh?”
The bride was bawling.
Tears of joy?
Madam Pspew glanced at the groom, middle finger lodged wriggling up to the knuckle—the second knuckle—in his left ear.
Possibly not joy…
Madam Pspew adjusted her purple wig and bone tiara and forced herself to look upon the couple … and … to do so without laughing … to focus … FOCUS. She had to get through this. Alive. This was just another test she must endure at the promise of advancement. Advancement brought power. Power brought better assignments and meat-shields to escort her through swamps. And then more power. “Let’s kill this quick, yeah?” she said.
Nods. Followed by blank stares.
“We are gathered here today to bind these two…”
She galloped through the ceremony like a rabid deer and soon approached the end. She licked her eyeballs clean without disturbing her makeup. This was it. The big finish. She had made it. Deep breath. Go. “Lusty Weggins, do you take Cornmelia to be your woefully dreaded wife?”
Lusty giggled and guffawed and wiped his brown waxy finger on his bride’s dress in a repulsively affectionate manner.
Cornmelia nearly vomited. She throttled her turnip bouquet and she prayed to whomever could hear.
“Well, cretin?” Madam Pspew muttered from the corner of her prodigious maw. “Yes? No?”
A grumble rumbled through in the audience.
“He can’t talk,” Cornmelia sobbed as she leaned forward. “He were born with limp-tongue. He wrote yes … on my gown … in earwax.” Her voice broke, spluttering on and probably would continue on for about fifty years or so, barring the blissful intervention of the boil plague or suicide.
Madam Pspew sneered at Lusty. Maintain. Carry on. “And do you, Cornmelia … take this … this … THIS? To be your woefully underfed husband? You can say no,” she murmured through ventriloquist lips.
Cornmelia blew her nose again and glanced back at the best man for just an instant … then back at the groom. Her gaze fizzled and died writhing on the floor. “I … I do.”
Lusty guffawed and hopped and slapped his thigh and danced like an inbred mutant, which was in character.
“Are you sure?” Madam Pspew peered at Cornmelia.
“Y-Yes…” Cornmelia whispered into her bouquet. “Please do not ask me again.”
“Right.” Madam Pspew’s voice rang out through the church. “Then … through the power vested in me … by the Craven Lord Grimnir … I now pronounce you—wait. Is there … is there any one amongst us here today who feels emphatically that these two should not be allowed to … to breed?”
Madam Pspew glared at the best man…
“Anyone … anyone at all?”
The best man glanced away and gummed a knuckle…
“Perhaps emphatic is too big a word,” Madam Pspew said. “Does anyone feel … strongly?”
“Mayhap some slight misgiving?”
“Perhaps someone wants to comment on the weather? Or the structural integrity of this church? Anything.”
A grumbling rose now in the pews.
Cornmelia wept openly.
Grumbling devolved to rumbling.
“Get on with it!” someone screamed.
“Say man and wife!”
“Why ain’t we got us a real Wrackolyte?!”
“Cause he sawed his own head off rather than go on living here!” roared Madam Pspew. “And I wholly condone his decision. After half a day here. NOW QUIT YOUR GRUMBLING YA INBRED FREAKS!”
A rotten wool blanket of dead silence fell upon the church. But the grumbling soon persisted. But not from the crowd. From outside the church? Or … beneath it? The altar vibrated beneath her feet. A candle danced. An act of Grimnir?
Cornmelia bawled into her turnip bouquet.
Madam Pspew glanced up at the chandeliers rocking. “Right.” She drew her ceremonial bone knife and a wooden chalice. “Place your hands over the altar.” Madam Pspew positioned the chalice underneath their hands and placed the knife upon their pink wrists. “So, then … by the power vested in me by the Craven Lord Grimnir, I now condemn you man and—”
The front door burst open and a scarecrow of a man rattled in.
“WHAT NOW?” Madam Pspew stamped her foot.
“Lord Slaughterhand’s a coming!” the scarecrow screamed. “Killing everybody! We gots to hide! We gots to run!”
“Oh thank you, Craven Lord,” Cornmelia whispered.
The Good Prince shifted his iron glare to his left and then right. Flanked he was by his Eight, four upon each side, all armored in silvered spike-plate, all Captains, his Paladins of Sanctos, each the paramount of all the knighthood, in all the realms, excepting of course to each other … for they were all equals … though the Good Prince was a first amongst equals for he was so clearly far superior to any of them. In every way.
“O Captains … my Good Captains,” the Good Prince spoke, and because he wore a gleaming golden helm and his perfect lips regrettably could not be seen to move beneath it—though it brings pleasure to imagine them to do so—it seemed his voice thundered down from the very heavens above to grace the ears of the Good Captains like Sanctos’ own voice might. Perhaps even more so? “See how the villains seek succour at the stone teat of their dark lord and master?”
The steel barded destriers bristled snorting beneath the lobstered-steel legs of the Nine, and scraped and kicked their spike-shod hooves in the dirt. Yeah verily, could they too smell the reek of evil and the stink of very badness wafting up the hill overlooking the town. But truly, to call it a town would be to disrespect all well intentioned towns in the realms of Shagra’Lor. Call it rather … a shite-burgh, for that was what to all eyes indeed it appeared to be.
“I see naught but women and children, Milord,” said Captain Illnius Rageheart. “A few old men with rusted farming tools.”
“Yeah … Villains.” The Good Prince hefted his war hammer. “The one chance in their tragic lives to truly be purified and they scurry like rats to their dark lair.”
“The church tis the sole structure not burning,” Captain Illnius explained. “And they can’t hide in the surrounding fields for we hath set all those ablaze as well.”
“And what dark rites perform they behind yon scabrous temple walls, me wonders?” the Good Prince pondered.
“A wedding celebration, Milord,” Captain Illnius answered. “Before torching the eastern fields and after trampling a waif—I espied a pissling maid in wedding garb at the Black Temple entrance—”
“A maiden fair you sayeth!? Set to marry against her will, no doubt?” the Good Prince salivated audibly, standing instantly erect in his saddle. “In yon temple. A beauty methinks?”
“Methinks it were good we espied her from afar, Milord,” Captain Illnius drew his sword, “for it were plain at a distance she were many leagues from good.”
“A maiden fair forced into a vile pact of forced matrimony, indenturement … slavery,” the Good Prince growled. “No doubt she will be forced to undergo the vilest of the Craven Lord’s dark breeding rituals. The forbidden practice of occult lustations. I … I shudder to think … to imagine … to picture—yes, Oh, yes, yes, YES … picture in my mind’s eye the heinous crimes soon to be pene—perpetrated. Ahem. A dark priest no doubt is present to seal this corrupt bargain?”
“We espied a tiny croaker priestess—“
“A dark-frog champion she is then,” the Good Prince roared, gripping tight Purity’s reigns, so tight his arm shuddered. “We shall cleanse her with Sanctos’ holy flame!”
“Shall we set a pyre, Milord?” Captain Illnius asked.
“Aye Captain. The whole church shall by her pyre!”
The Black Temple of Grimnir was packed near capacity. Filthy unwashed bodies crammed against each other like rats in a meat-pie. Bodies pressed against wall and window, struggling for breath and breadth and a glimpse of the armored wolves circling the church. Corpses littered the ground outside.
While the wretched farm folk were trying to gather information, tally the dead and living, assess the hopeless situation, identify resources in some effort to scrape together some sort of last ditch effort or plan that might result in mass salvation, Madam Pspew was the only one in the church with any sense whatsoever. She was panicking…
A total lack of humility and character is required for a true panic, and Madam Pspew had been blessed with dual vacuosities in trump shades.
And it wasn’t a cursory half-assed, stunted white-knuckle panic. This was the true beast of panic, the full grown three-tusked monstrosity snorking liquid foaming fear out its rubbery black maw-breed of panic.
Madam Pspew’s keen instincts of self-preservation had driven her as deep within the inner sanctum of the church as possible. To the late Wrackolyte’s chambers. It was a small room. A room without windows, doors, or other obvious means of egress. But a single door’s distance away from the main hall fracas. A thin door. A thin old decrepit door. In short, she was screwed.
Her sole hope lay within a horribly closed and locked trapdoor in the middle of the floor. Possibly it led to a massive deep-earth labyrinth of lower crypts and secret escape routs out into the swamps, but it was equally possible that it was the late Wrackolyte geezer’s privy.
“Grimnir damn your hinges!” Madam Pspew keened in panic, pounding the trapdoor with her tiny green fists. Pupils constricted to a slit, Madam Pspew squealed as she yanked upon the handle to the crypt. The trapdoor was locked from the inside … or stuck … or just too damned heavy. Fever-mad eyes scoured the Wrackolyte’s den. There had to be some escape. Something. Somewhere. The geezer’s suicide saw—anything. But there wasn’t … only the trapdoor. She recommenced yanking and screaming.
“Um, Madam, is me and Lusty married?” Cornmelia repeated.
“Curse your leg—No!” Madam Pspew stomped the trapdoor. She ceased her fruitless yanking. Cleared her throat.
Dabbed jittering tears from her crimson eyes and then adjusted her robes. Her hands were raw. “You didn’t drink that freak’s blood, did you? And I didn’t consecrate the ceremony, did I? So, no, you ain’t married. Course, we’ll both be dead in about five minutes, so what’s it matter?”
“Oh, praise you, Father Grimnir.” Cornmelia fell to her knees. “Thank you, thank you, thank your.” She grasped Madam Pspew up in a suffocating hug.
“What we gonna do now?” Cornmelia squeezed.
“Urp! Put me down.” Madam Pspew scurried to the trapdoor. Again she wrestled it. Unsuccessfully again. She sat back and huffed. Defeated. “What do we do? What happens if we can’t open this trapdoor? Lord Slaughterhand comes in and kills us along with everyone else in this shiteburg.” The furor in the main hall grew. Madam Pspew glanced over.
“Lock the door. Hurry.”
Cornmelia clanged over to the chamber door and slid the burglar-bar across it.
“HEY!” a muffled voice yelled from the main hall. “The Slaughterhand’s out there! He’s a saying we can all be purified if we bring the croaker-witch to him! To justice! He’ll purify us! All of us! Show us the light! Yeah! We’re saved!”
A great cheer arose in the main hall and then all bustle and burble chattered loose. Feet pounded across flagstones, drapery was torn from housings, and pews were overturned in a sacrilegious search for salvation.
“Where is she?!”
“I don’t see her!”
“She’s hiding in the den!”
Feet pounded outside the door.
“Open this door, you hear?” a voice demanded.
“Bite me, you inbred freakers!” Madam Pspew tore back at the trapdoor handle, macerating the skin from her palms. “Rrrrrrrg!”
“LET US IN!” the mob roared.
“Bite me!” Madam Pspew snarled.
“I can open that.” Cornmelia stood akimbo over the trapdoor. “But then I can go with you.”
SLAM!—behind them, the chamber door jumped nigh off its hinges as the Sloddergumps attacked it.
“Deal!” Madam Pspew cried. “Now open it!”
Cornmelia plopped down and began unscrewing her leg. “I … I can hear something moving inside.” She scooched away from the trapdoor. “Oh, Madam, what’s down there? It’s grunting—scraping. I hear it! Is it a monster?”
Pounding again at the chamber door—
“Open up, frog!” a voice shouted.
It flexed more with each subsequent strike—
But the burglar-bar held yet.
And Cornmelia removed her peg-rake-leg and promptly pounded the tines between the trapdoor and frame. She spit on her palms and rubbed them together, gripped the peg leg and tore back with the slow strength of continental drift … her back flexing, cow-hide dress ripping … her thick arms shivered … veins stood up as torrents of blood pumped through them … cow udders shivered … she grunted like a muck ox. Madam Pspew ran across the room and threw her weight against the peg leg and—CRACK! Something snapped and Madam Pspew and Cornmelia flew against the wall—SMASH!
Cornmelia’s peg-leg had snapped in twain…
But the trap door lay agape. Dust arose from its cryptic bowels. Within, something stirred.
The town was a burning ruin of char-bones and choking black smoke. Burnt wood ribs scratched at the orange sky like whimpering black claws. Only the Black Temple stood intact.
“Yon maiden wants for saving,” the Good Prince said as he kicked a mailed leg over his saddle and thudded like a boulder upon his feet in the muck. “Captains! The time is nigh. Let no soul escape unpurified. I shall storm its most inner sanctums and rape good the darkness into light!”
“Aye, Milord!” the Captains cried as one.
“Death to the Wrackolyte!”
“For Sanctos!” roared the Good Prince. He saluted his Captains and then stormed that bastion of evil and stormed it alone for the only hurt that could pierce his boon heart was the felling of one of his Good Captains. He told them this not, though, for to do so would have been to lie. In truth he could not suffer a share of the slaughter.
“For the Righteous! For the Just!” He stepped to the barred doors, hurled aside his war-shield and taking thus a double grip upon the haft of the War Hammer of a Thousand Burning Suns, and with a single roaring swing, did burst the locked doors shattering to shrapnel off their hinges. Bright rays of blessed sunlight smote into the darkness beyond.
The villainous mob recoiled.
“Bring me the Wrackolyte frog and be spared!” he bellowed into the black.
But like the Good Prince he was, he could suffer not to wait for villains to accede to his demands, and instead he did what few men are wont to do. He strode alone into the den of darkness itself.
“Help! Help us!” the villains roared.
“Mercy,” they bellowed.
“Mommy mommy!” the villains spat.
But the Good Prince heard them not. With ears cloistered in sanctified steel impervious he was to the villains auditory assaults.
“Where be yon Maiden!?” The Good Prince was wroth. He smashed on his fore-strike as well as back, and where he could not smash flesh, he desecrated wood and shattered stone. But vile flesh huddled present in an abundatude. For the black temple was packed nigh to bursting with an army of evil and nary a swing but purified sinners. Bones shattered underfoot as he strode on through the dark, thundering with his spike shod boots and ramming like a muck ox with his gloriously serrated pauldrons. Men who grappled him were impaled upon spiked eructations or sawn limbless upon his Sanctified serrations. Some had the honor of both. Souls rose in pillars like the smoke.
“My baby—you crushed my—”
SMASH!—the Hammer fell—“VILLAINS!”—dispensing purity and release—“Where be yon Bride? Where be yon Froggy Wrackolyte? Give them to ME! I will save thee, Maiden!” He smashed his way through walls of sinning flesh and despite the vile heretic fluids that poured down upon him in hurricane torrents, his armor and Good Soul shone yet untouched by the evil infesting that horrible place.
“Craven Lord! Come forth so that I might smite thee!” He trod toward the back of the Temple, for suddenly through the blood and murk he espied a door no doubt leading to the Wrackolyte’s inner sanctum. Above his helmed head the War Hammer rose and fell, shattering in twain the Bleak Altar of the Black Temple. He split a path through its remains as though it were heretic flesh, kicking aside shards and lustful effigies.
“Heretics, quail before the light of Sanctos!” Stained glass windows smashed as bodies tore through them. Dozens fought like the inbred savages they were to escape purification, and yeah, as though Sanctos himself had ordained it, miraculously did a pathway suddenly appear clear and unimpeded before the step of the Good Prince. And that path he strode. Bodies fell before him. Behind him.
Man, woman, and child, villains all, were crushed screaming in repentance against unyielding stone walls while dozens of others crawled out bloody through shattered windows that children could nary wriggle through.
“Wrackolyte! Come to me, Wrackolyte!” roared the Good Prince just before he stove in the Wrackolyte sanctum door with a single—SMASH!—of the War Hammer of a Thousand Burning Suns—
Cornmelia hacked on the choking dust of decades.
The horror shifted, ungulating up from the crypt—
Madam Pspew scrubbed her eyes with bloody palms…
The horror erupted groaning from the dust and shadows, a jibbering, shivering two-headed nightmare of pink, slick, many-limbed flesh. Drool coursed from open slack jawed maws as googling eyes blinked in the swirling dark. The nightmare’s two heads fixed upon Madam Pspew and Cornmelia.
SLAM!—the chamber door jumped.
Muffled voices cried from the main hall—
“Grimnir’s gonads…” Madam Pspew averted her eyes from the horror of the crypt.
It was worse then she had thought…
Worse than a dagger-legged slicerpede…
Worse than an undead Wrackolyte’s unslakened thirst…
Madam Pspew made the unholy sign.
Screams and roars from the main hall—
Cornmelia covered her mouth.
The dust dispersed, unveiling the full horror the crypt. A limb-twisted love pretzel of Lusty Weggins and his best man, Stymie.
“Lusty!?” Cornmelia snapped from her stupor. “Stymie? I thought you and I … I thought we…” Cornmelia was at a loss for words, and a second later, a loss for lunch. She retched … and retched … and retched … and retched … and retched…
“Ew.” Madam Pspew gagged. “Isn’t he your cousin?”
“Her cousin, too!” Stymie pointed at Cornmelia with one hand, covering his shame with the other.
Cornmelia retched … and retched … and retched…
Lusty Weggins guffawed and slapped his naked thigh in perverted glee, his own shame left dangling free.
“Move it, perverts!” Madam Pspew thrust her head down into the crypt, peering through the dust. “What’s down here? Get out.”
Lusty giggled and drooled and slapped his cousin on the back … and then doubled over in a mute, heaving, frothing, guffaw until Madam Pspew ended his consciousness with a smash from the business end of Cornmelia’s turnip bouquet.
“Is there a tunnel down there?” Madam Pspew tossed the bouquet away. “A way out?”
Stymie’s head disappeared in the crypt an instant and then reemerged. “Naw. Ain’t no tunnel. Nothing but a dead geezer.” He pointed to the decaying carcass of the old Wrackolyte.
“Why’re his robes off?” Madam Pspew blinked dust from her huge eyes. “Whoa! Forget I asked.” The crypt was bare save Lusty Weggins and the dead Wrackolyte. No escape tunnel. Just a shallow hole just big enough to—
“Screw!” Madam Pspew cursed.
THWAP! … THWAP! … THWAP!
In the main hall, by the sound of it, someone was apparently bludgeoning a herd of cattle with a giant mallet—
Bride? Save thee? Lord Slaughterhand? He wants to save Cornmelia!? He must not have seen her—
“Eeeep! Someone’s coming!” Stymie ducked into the crypt.
CLANG! ... CLANG! ... CLANG!
Steel shod footsteps shattered stone and brick and mortar as someone or something approached the Wrackolyte’s inner sanctum from without.
“What do we do?!” Stymie quailed.
“Put the Wrackolyte’s robes on!” Madam Pspew buzzed around like a bee.
Stymie tugged them over his head. “They don’t fit!”
“Don’t worry, get on your knees and pull the hood down over your face.” Madam Pspew picked up Cornmelia’s broken peg leg and stuffed both pieces in her belt. “Cornmelia—on your feet! You wearing garters?”
“Yeah?” Cornmelia struggled to her foot. “My peg-leg’s broke—I can’t barely stand.” She steadied herself against the wall.
Foot stomps clomped closer—
Stymie climbed out of the crypt. “What now?” He shimmied the robes down over his knees.
“Kneel in the middle of the room.” Madam Pspew pointed. “You have to be the first thing he sees.”
“Uh…?” Stymie knelt, eyes wide. “Okay?”
“A little to the right. Perfect.”
“Ummm, question. Is this—”
“Shut up. Crouch down low. Lower. Good.” Madam Pspew waddled over to trembling Cornmelia. “When he comes in, Stymie, you distract him. Just for a second.”
“Loud. Yell it.”
“I’m not sure I like this plan…”
“Cornmelia—pull your veil down.”
“To yer ankles if it’ll go.” Madam Pspew drew her ceremonial knife. “And clamp your trap, Cornmelia. No matter what—DON’T YOU TALK.” Madam Pspew grabbed Cornmelia’s dress and pulled it up to form a white cloth tunnel. She turned to Stymie and pointed with the knife. “You know your part?”
“Ribbit.” Madam Pspew confirmed and then lifted Cornmelia’s dress hem high.
“What are you doing!?” Cornmelia pawed her gown.
“Hiding.” Madam Pspew scooched under the dress. She cut a peephole in the front. In the dark she fished for Cornmelia’s garters—found them—and hooked them onto her robes. “Slap yer leg stump on my head. Ooof. Yeah, to the left—there, now ease down. Rrrrg…” Madam Pspew felt her vertebrae creak and scream as Cornmelia settled her weight upon her neck and shoulders. “Fat … Rrrrrg … stinking … Rrrrg … cow…”
“Shut it!” Madam Pspew screamed. Cornmelia wobbled above. “Pretend you’re shy! I talk. You just cover yer trap. He won’t be able to see good with a knight’s helm on. Don’t say a word.” She pulled open the peephole in time to see Lusty Weggins’ toothless, bloody face appear guffawing up from the crypt hole—and then a voice thundered outside the door—
“Wrackolyte! Come to me, Wrackolyte!”
And the door exploded inward spinning like a tusked-boomerang and cut Lusty Weggins’ giggling melon head bouncing off—
A massive mound of man-shaped spike and gleaming gold stood outside the doorway, blocking everything behind. Even the screams of the pissling folk behind were fairly screened out by the monstrosity of steel-encased-flesh. Steam poured like from a dragon’s maw from the ventails of the armored face as the giant ducked, stepping through the doorway. Glowing golden eyes from deep within the horned helm cinched upon the pathetic form of Stymie, wrapped in the Wrackolyte robes, kneeling, cringing, in a puddle on the floor…
“Ribbit!” Stymie glanced at Cornmelia and Madam Pspew, eyes pleading for the plan—the plan to take action.
“Kill the Wrackolyte Frog Priest Bastard!” Madam Pspew cried in her best inbred-Sloddergumpian accent. “He done kidnapped me from Veil Athmore! Ooooh save me. Save me, good strong knight!”
As the spiked monstrosity pulled back in a growl that would have made a saber-toothed lion blanche … and then smote forth with all of the fury that ever was or would be—“FOR JUSTICE!”—he roared and reality itself fractured like glass as the Great War Hammer smote Stymie in the chest, collapsing him inward and through folding and then unraveling into indigo wrapped shards of birch bones and a thin crimson mist.
The armored giant fixed his glare once more upon Cornmelia and he growled the low primal growl of an insatiated cave bear…
“What do I say,” Cornmelia whispered, “when they find out I’m from Sloddergump?”
Moonless night had fallen, and except for the orange flames still licking at the conflagrated village, the night was starless pitch black. The stench of burning flesh rose from the huge corpse mound outside the church. Madam Pspew wiped drool from her maw. Metal clashed in the distance. Horses neighed and whickered and stomped.
“Lie.” Madam Pspew forced herself up to her knees, then her feet. She was cold despite the flames, despite the swamp heat.
“Tell him you’re from the village of Justice Spur in the north of Veil Athmore. On the Rotmark.” Madam Pspew stretched her back. Vertebrae popped. But nothing was broken. “Rrrrrg. Slavers raided it about a year back … we took everybody. Killed who we couldn’t carry. If they ask you something you don’t know, just say you got hit repeatedly in the face with a hammer and don’t remember. You look the part.”
“Thanks. But, I don’t lie so good…”
“Here then.” She held out the two halves of Cornmelia’s broken peg leg. “Take these.”
“But it’s broke…”
Madam Pspew held the two broken halves together and whispered into the crack … “MEND.” The crack between the two halves disappeared.
“Here.” She handed it to Cornmelia, then pulled her purple wig from her robes and shook it like a dead rat. It was past salvaging, mayhap, but she plopped the squashed purple octopus back on her head nonetheless. It meant more to her than probably anything. “I’m leaving.”
“The swamps … then Cesstern. Even they can’t follow me into the swamp at night.” Madam Pspew pulled her tiara free. It was broken. She tossed it. “Not on warhorses, with all that armor. The fools would sink. Maybe.”
“But they think you’re dead,” Cornmelia screwed her peg leg back on. Tightened it.
“Not when they find Stymie’s corpse.” Madam Pspew rubbed her neck. “They’ll see he weren’t a croaker. Even with all the carnage, that one don’t miss much, or so I’ve heard tell. Grimnir’s blessing got me out of there. That, your peg-leg, and a hogshead of luck. Ain’t gonna press it hoping Slaughterhand’s a complete moron.”
“Could … could I come with you?” Cornmelia asked.
“Slaughterhand’ll take it real personal when he finds out he’s been Craw-winked by a Wrackolyte. He’ll come for me. Think you’re up to that? A death-chase through the Craw?”
“Oh yes!” Cornmelia nodded like love-struck puppy. “I want nothing more!”
Madam Pspew bored a searching glare into Cornmelia’s eyes … into her very soul. There was strength residing in Cornmelia. Strength, yes, along with volumes of stupidity. Always a good combination … for Madam Pspew.
Great story. Almost sorry it had to end. Would have liked to know more about the world you created.
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