We tiptoed deeper into Dartakithquent’s lair of decay and darkness. The constant trickle from leaky pipes and the crunch of rot grub husks underfoot echoed through the sewer tunnel. Our lungs with each breath had to chew through the stale air like leathery bread. Bleached out bone fragments of vermin, kobolds, and munthreks littered the sewer path like broken glass. Big lumps of rippling rot grubs swarmed over the fresher bones. If you listened closely you could the arthropods suck the marrow out slurp by slurp. It made my scales quiver on end! I realized that I had the recently departed Trapmaster Tok all wrong. He wasn’t a paranoid power seeking usurper like I first thought, he was actually trying to protect his tribe like a shepherd guarding his flock from bloodthirsty wolves. Or in this case something far worse. Too bad I will never get to say sorry. The denizens lurking below the City at the Center of the World were no friend to the living. Which is brilliant since we just trespassed like thieves in the night.
From the maze of tunnels ahead we detected the skittering of clawed feet. When one hears mysterious skittering you go to the skittering. It’s like a law of nature. Unfortunately, the source of the skittering was a half dozen zombified Sewer Kobolds. The poor bastards were barely held together by rotted scales and rigor mortis. They put up little resistance to our might, but succeeded in luring us into a ripe ambush zone. The sewer corridor opened up bit into a small cavern with room like rock walls and a plethora of blind corners. It was still cramped quarters so we treaded lightly in single file, very lightly. All of us except Lorenz that is. Something magic-y caught his attention. He pushed forward and peeked into an alcove. It was the last alcove he ever saw.
I saw Lorenz get thrown back like a rag doll and crash into a wall. A beastly roar echoed and from a perfect hiding place a zombie ogre four times my size appeared carrying machetes twice my size. Chaos ensued. The close quarters made visibility and maneuvering hard. Goethe eventually was able to freeze the giant in a block of ice which gave Myrrh ample time to cut its head off in one clean stroke. Sadly, the zombie still got the better of us. Before it was defeated the undead bastard hacked Lorenz into a gore pile. Lorenz’s blood rained down us from his massive neck wound that kept geysering blood in long squirts. As his heart failed, the blood spray depressurized until it stopped. Begads, Lorenz’s just got himself killed and there wasn’t a damn thing we could’ve done to stop it.
Before I had time to properly process what just happened, Lorenz’s body stood back up like it was being controlled by puppet strings. What the hell? A munthrek with no blood left to pump and a torso damn near cut in two usually don’t stand up. What trick is this?
“Brains!”, howled the mangled Lorenz with surprising charisma.
“Zombie!”, cried Goethe
The creature formerly known as Lorenz gave Goethe a twisted smile and tackled him. Goethe and zombie Lorenz disappeared behind a wall. I quickly followed them. What I saw, I can’t un-see. Zombie Lorenz had unhinged his jaws around Goethe’s paralyzed head. He was nanoseconds away from feasting on the largest and most delicious brain ever created! I couldn’t let it happen so I blew the zombie’s head away with my musket. Strangely, this was the second time I saved Goethe from an undead facsimile made from one of the crew. My own shredskin was the first. Goethe couldn’t thank me since we was paralyzed from the zombie’s neurotoxin. He was as helpless as a newborn.
We all gathered together to process what just happened. I couldn’t believe Lorenz was dead. No way in hell, he’d die so unceremoniously in the sewers of Absalom. I don’t care that I saw him get chopped up or that I blew away what was left of his head. The man could talk his way out of everything. Surely death was no different. I wagered he was in the middle of negotiating his way back with whatever lived on the other side. He is not dead, only in time out. But damn did it sting like a hot poker to the peehole. The anger in me started to swell. I felt it on my skin. I saw the same intense anger hijack Myrrh and Mr. Finn’s eyes. Our collective blood lust fathered by anger was ready to hatch!
“What kind of shit welcome is this! We have business with the Gods Hater!”, I screamed. I paused for a long second then took a deep breath. From my dark hollows I demanded, “Let me see him! Or else I promise you one thing. There’s no weapon, there’s no army, that can protect you from the sheer hell that is my rage!”
In front of us, thousands upon thousands of teeming white worms began climbing over one another and projected up into an outline of a man. What the f-ck was this? I readied my musket. I planned to execute every last grub if I had to. Once the last grub got into place, a man dressed in a fine cape and suit came to life. I learned later he was a vampire. To me at the time, he just looked like a super pale malnourished munthrek in a fancy suit. The vampire said, “Tell me your business.”
“We were contracted by the Pactmasters to deliver something to Dartakithquent”, replied Myrrh. He also flashed the creature the Pactmaster’s black card.
“So I see. Follow me”, said the bloodsucker while gracefully bowing. He led us through numerous passageways by walking along the ceiling. Along the way Myrrh cured Goethe with a strong drink that got him moving again. Eventually we entered a large open space where many large drainage culverts combined into a humongous drainage channel that probably lead to the harbor.
I am dumb enough to do what I want from time to time. Thoughts of revenge ruled my mind. As soon as Dartakithquent showed his gray face I figured to put holes in it. I was going to give into rage. I could feel it. Nothing was going to stop me or so I thought.
Suddenly, swarms of rot grubs bordering on biblical proportions piled together in a living mass at least fifty feet high. The vampire being formed was colossal in size! After the worm orgy locked into place, a gray dragon of the likes I’ve never seen, peered down on us like we were caterpillars in a jar. His gray scales were desiccated, his wings were ragged, and his great gray face was aged beyond twilight. Thousands of white rot grubs continuously crawled around his body searching for life to consume. The smell of filth and decay was so strong it was soul curdling. Dartakithquent was to huge and too physical to be real like an eruption out of my worst nightmares. My rage dwindled and my “we’re dead” survival instincts kicked into overdrive.
“Ashen, my daughter, told me to expect you interlopers. What business do you have with me?”, boomed Dartakith with a confidence beyond measure.
“We seek to return your money and collect a large finder’s fee”, replied Myrrh without emotion. I checked to see if urine was running down his leg like mine was.
“I was instructed not to devour you. We might as well do business”, said Dartakith. With that Myrrh handed over the writ and Dartakith produced several chests of gold for us.
“Dartakithquent please tell me, why do you make the sewers your lair. Why do you feed on the Sewer Dragons?”, I pleaded with knocking knees.
“Long ago I became an immortal vampire to oversee my families business. You see little Kobold I’m a friend to true dragonkind. I can wake them up. As for kobolds they are convenient blood. Now take my leave with a final warning. If you threaten my beloved Ashen I will crush you with a claw full of hate”, said Dartakith.
“We consider Ashen a friend and an ally. We would never put her in harm’s way. How much is it to wake up a dragon?”, kindly said Myrrh.
Dartakith brought his great snout over Myrrh and Mr. Finn and smelled them. Next, he smiled knowingly at Goethe. Then his tremendous gaze fell on to me like a hammer which made me feel like a nail. He chuckled under his breath after coming to an internal verdict.
“Captain are you fond of the Sewer Dragon’s and their sleeping master Lirovelix? If so I have a proposition for you”, stated Dartakith. He continued, “I will wake Lirovelix up for you. All you have to do is sign the contract of devils”.
“Stop eating Kobolds and you have a deal”, I said without thinking. The others looked absolutely shocked at my unhesitating answer.
“I don’t eat my business partners”, replied Dartakith with a calm smile. He then produced a contract with lots of words on it. I gave it to Goethe to read. His face turned even whiter than normal while reading the fine print. It says, “We must take Lirovelix to Miratanza. There we must hand over half of his hoard wealth for the procedure to be initiated.”
I signed. We had a way in now! I reckoned we’d work out the tiny details later with the Sewer Dragons. I thought I might have to become the chief in order to make it happen.
“As a sign of respect and goodwill, please accept my humble gift”, I politely said. I took out a Presto ooze from by gunny sack and commanded it go to Dartakith. The lively ooze rushed to him probably because he was the filthiest thing around and instantly began cleansing his most foul areas.
“AHH!!!! AHH!!! It’s been so long…”, orgasmicly squealed Dartakith. His face made an O-shape, clumps of drool fell from his maw, and his whole body shook. The force is strong with Presto oozes! After a while, he regained his composure.
“Aren’t you full of surprises? I have an unique gift for you as well. Call it a history lesson”, said the sated gray dragon. He produced a fancy gray chest used for potions. On the cover of the case in brilliant platinum engraving were the draconic words “Suryx Tears”.
A few thoughts came to mind as we left Dartakithquent’s lair. First, the Dread line was for shipping dragon hoards and the Infernal line was for shipping sleeping dragons. Second, the Emerald Arrow and Ashen were probably transporting a sleeping dragon. Third, the Gray Dragons were accumulating a mountain of gold for some reason. Fourth, I wondered what history was in the tears? Fifth, with Lorenz gone the Presto oozes may have to conduct the negotiations from now on. Just kidding! Lastly, we needed Lorenz back because tomorrow we sail the Infernal Line!