A free writing we will go…
A Charge for an Arm and a Leg
By Nojh Livic
“Good evening! Good evening,” Rylie greeted the pair of cloaked figures as they hurried to the gate. She moved to stand at the gate, ready to let them in, although her hands remained concealed within her own robes, one wrapped firmly around her focus orb, the other on the pommel of a sheathed dagger. Her smile continued even as the figured drew up short to stand in front of the gate. “Welcome,” she greeted again but made no move to open the iron bars for them. The pair hesitated and Rylie’s smile began to fade.
“Powder Blue Moon,” croaked the smaller of the two cloaked figures, his voice raspy but understandable. Rylie’s smile grew wider and she let go of her dagger and drew her hand out of a pocket and began to make a complicated series of finger gestures in front of the gate. She felt her orb glow faintly warm but then the chains that held the gate locked glowed and began to unravel themselves. She stepped back and the gates opened for the pair and they took several steps inside. The gates shut and the chains locked themselves back up.
Rylie drew out her remaining hand and spread her arms wide, bowing her head slightly. “Welcome to Mezzel’s Emporium for the Dead! Repeat customers I see? You’re welcome to lower your hoods. The scrying protections about the grounds are top-notch, let me assure you. Now, how may I serve you this evening?”
“And over there we have our latest batch, freshly interred this sun down,” Rylie motioned to a patch of dirt that had six obviously freshly disturbed mounds. “They’ll be up and at them in a few hours no doubt. Plus we have home, lair, or dungeon delivery, if you’d prefer not to hassle yourself with the details.” The shorter of the pair, who turned out to be the husband of the pair of necromancers, looked eager to go and inspect the selection. His wife who seemed the far more practical one, was looking towards an area marked “Spare Not-So-Spare Parts” in arcane runes. The woman had mismatched eyes and she kept her left arm hidden under her cloak. She likely wanted some new grafts. If Rylie let the customer into the item bins she might as well as kiss her commission good-bye.
“Newly animated, of course, have some of the freshest parts,” Rylie explained, catching the woman’s attention again. “I have depictions stored in gems of our selection that you might peruse through. All ages and body types.” Rylie smiled as the woman focused her attention on the crèche. She could almost hear the gold coins clanging.
Rylie looked over her notes, directing the quill with a slight wave of her hand. She sat in what served as the general sales office that any of the staff could use. It was decorated generally enough to be anybody’s office but the manager felt offices somehow made the deal feel more official to the client. Less chances of them deciding to send a horde as payment rather than gold.
“That’ll be two small, one large, and the petite. Extra soft dirt on the petite. Extra ravenous on the large. A rush order on all four?” Rylie confirmed. The pair nodded their agreement and Rylie passed the clipboard for them to look it over and empower their mark into. “Just cast into the circle provided and we’ll be set.” She hadn’t guessed these two would be such a gold mind when they approached. The way they hesitated to give the password actually had her nervous but now with the cut from this commission she could bribe her way into a cushy managerial position or perhaps even take a day off!
As she watched the pair sign, there was a slight itching sensation she had only felt once before. It was so long ago that she didn’t immediately place what it meant. She didn’t have time to ponder it as everything started to go wrong. She felt the barriers around the emporium fall before the stone of alarms began to blare. Shouts of the authorities began to echo through the castle as well as moans of hunger as the automated defenders rose from their cubby holes to meet the unwelcome intruders. Rylie stood and began to udder a platitude of comfort for the pair when she saw the woman had removed her cloak completely. Under it was not an arm grafted to the shoulder made of dead flesh as she had expected but a ghostly ectoplasmic appendage that mimicked an arm and held, much to the young woman’s chargin, a seal of the Royal Adventurer’s Brigade. The woman was a psionist.
Rylie shoved her hands into her robe, drawing her dagger and wrapping her hand around her orb tied at her belt. The shorter man suddenly slumped over onto her desk, as if he were a puppet who strings had just been cut. The woman stood and was shouting for her drop her weapon and Rylie was happy to oblige. The dagger fell from her hand but rather than fall to the ground, it rocketed forward directly at the adventurer who was taken off guard. The dagger only managed to embed itself in the woman’s shoulder but that would be enough. As if on cue, the door to the office exploded open and two zombies stumbled in and lunged.
The dagger would be a beacon to any unintelligent undead, not just drawing them but angering them. It had been a defensive charm Rylie had devised herself. She hadn’t properly tested it but she didn’t feel the need to stand around to see how well it worked. She began chanting quickly under her breath. Her orb began to burn quickly and the light could be seen even from under her robes.
The adventurer had dodges the first zombie but the second had her in a grapple. Her ectoplasmic arm whipped around the zombie’s neck and with a snarl she pulled it free, serving the half skeletal neck from the zombie’s shoulders. The first zombie had slightly recovered from its lunge but the adventurer gave it a swift kick that sent it back to the ground. Pulling out the dagger with a slight cry she turned and threw it at Rylie with an expert hand.
Rylie watched the tip spin directly at her head, her eyes wide as she muttered as quickly as possible. With the dagger less than a hand’s width from her face, she felt her gut wrench and then suddenly there was darkness.
Some hours later, the young necromancer sat on the ground, robes spread around her, watching her former place of employment go up in flames. Leek, Gorbash, and Quentin had joined her some time ago but they were staying inside the tree line where they couldn’t be spotted. Below a handful of Royal Adventurers were escorting prisoners out of the gates and chopping the heads off of her merchandise. She sighed. “I hate writing resumes. I wonder if Deadmart is hiring…”
So this time I felt I was very up front about everything. There was magic. The place was selling dead or undead things. The ending wasn’t well forecasted but I wouldn’t say it was a twist like some (read: most) of my other flash fiction. This story came out of a small idea I had where someone would sell zombies like a salesperson might sell a fine wine. That didn’t come out when I started to write but I rather like the idea that did come out. The plot could probably use some shaping up. What do you think?