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April 19 – Another Day, Another Eldritch Monster (Part 1)

Bookworm headed into the Gut district on a breezy Friday evening, one that was cooler than usual for the time of year.  This was definitely not one of Bookworm’s favorite parts of the city, but duty called; Commodore Dagger was concerned about the ultimatum Effingham had posted, and wanted Bookworm there as backup, just in case.

As she approached the place indicated in Effingham’s poster–a building site that was proclaimed as the future site of the New Babbage Geographic Society–she saw that word had, of course, spread.  Quite a few Babbagers were there before her, most with no connection at all to the issue at hand.  To one side, though, Commodore Dagger, along with Kimika Ying, stood with Brother Lapis and a few others in clerical robes.  Miss Kimika was holding a formidable looking weapon, one that made Bookworm feel rather inadequate with her rifle.

Brother Lapis looked over at her and nodded a greeting.  “Miss Hienrichs.  What is your assessment?”

She couldn’t help but make the standard reply in a situation like this.  “It’s quiet.  Too quiet.”

Brother Lapis shrugged.  “Personally, I think it is all a publicity stunt. Someone is taking advantage of a natural phenomena and milking it for all they can.”

Others were talking among themselves, speculating on what might happen.  Bookworm saw Beryl standing off to the side, with Ruddy Bones and Stormy.  Suddenly, Stormy yelped and pointed.  “Effingham!”

Bookworm turned and saw that, indeed, Effingham stood in the entranceway to the building site.  She stared at him, surprised.  His skin had always been rather odd-looking, but it was much worse now, and he was hunched over, leaning on a cane.  And the smell of fish, which had been pervasive in the area, strengthened considerably.

His gaze went immediately to Jedburgh Dagger.  “Ah, hello, Commodore.  It’s been a long time.”

“That is has,” she replied affably.

From behind Bookworm, Beryl spoke up.  “You’re not looking very well, Mr. Effingham.”

“He’s fallin’ apart,” Stormy muttered softly.

“Au contraire,” Effingham replied to Beryl.  “I am in perfect health.  Soon I will join my brothers and sisters in the Depths.”  He glanced at those around Jedburgh.  “I see Moonwall hasn’t the decency to come to his own funeral. Bah!”

Brother Lapis stepped forward.  “If you want to deal with Father Moonwall, you can deal with me.”

“Ahh, Lapis.”  Effingham sneered, one worthy of Malus.  “Moonwall sends his servant. How telling.”  Raking the gathered crowd with his gaze, he settled on someone past Bookworm.  “And young Stormy. Hmm.”

Stormy yelped again and ducked behind Ruddy Bones.

“What do you want?” Brother Lapis asked impatiently.

“What do I want?  What do I want?!”  Indignation mounted in Effingham’s voice.  “You know what I want. I want to take my toll from your city, and I shall have it.  You stole my money, destroyed my temple, ran my acolytes off, irritated my pets and insulted the old gods. Surely you can understand my annoyance.”

Someone among the Builder clerics huffed.  “Your very being is an insult to the Great Builder.”

Effingham scoffed.  “The Great Builder. Do you think you can stop me with your feeble formulae, priest?”

“Certainly.”  The speaker stepped forward, revealing himself as Father Moonwall.

“Ahhh, Moonwall.  You’ve straightened up since the last time I saw you,” Effingham said.  Indeed, Father Moonwall was standing straight and tall, something Bookworm hadn’t seen him do before.  The priest replied, “You remain as crooked as ever, I see.  Your degeneracy shows on every inch of you, Dagonite.”

“A temporary condition, I assure you, thief.”

“We stole nothing from you,” Brother Lapis said indignantly.  “You used your influence with the City to have our property confiscated.  What we took was barely reparations.”

As the accusations and counter-accusations flew, Bookworm actually began to feel a little… bored.  ‘Except for that one exchange,’ she thought, ‘they’re just scolding each other like–fishwives.’  She hid a grin, and began thinking of more fish puns suitable for the occasion.

“Just what is the porpoise of all this?”

“Oh, clam up, you!”

“By cod, you’re giving me a haddock!”

Her amusement, though, was interrupted by a shout from Effingham.  “Where is the Clockwinder?!”

“I am certain the Mayor has better things to do than attend the rantings of a used-up old man,” Brother Lapis said.

Effingham glared at him, and turned that glare to Father Moonwall.  “Do you now want to see my power, Moonwall?” he hissed.  “We will not wait for your Mayor; now, you will see.”  With that, he turned and went back inside the shell of the building that stood on the site.

A young cleric broke the silence.  “Is it wise to taunt him?”

“Quiet yourself!” Father Moonwall snapped.  He, Brother Lapis, and Commodore Dagger began discussing what to do next, now that he’d thrown down his challenge, and barricaded himself indoors.  

They hadn’t gotten far in planning, though, when a shout from the building rent the air.  “K’AEM’NHI KH’RN K’AEM’NHI KH’R K’AEM’NHI KH’RMNU!”

“Oh, crap, oh, crap!” Stormy moaned behind Bookworm.

“What’s the matter, Stormy?”  Bookworm recognized Loki’s voice.

“Granddad said that the night he died…”

The shout came again.  “K’AEM’NHI KH’RN K’AEM’NHI KH’R K’AEM’NHI KH’RMNU!”

“Commodore Dagger, Brother Lapis,” said Father Moonwall, “it looks as though the fool must be restrained.”

And a third time.  “K’AEM’NHI KH’RN K’AEM’NHI KH’R K’AEM’NHI KH’RMNU!”

And suddenly, Miss Kimika yelled, “It’s glowing!”  And, indeed, the building had taken on an unearthly glow.  An uneasy murmur began spreading through the crowd, and some began backing up.  But before anyone could make a decisive move, the walls of the future Geographic Society building burst outward, showering everyone with bricks and pieces of scaffolding.

Bookworm, dodging debris and trying to protect her head, heard cries behind her.  Looking back, she saw that Beryl and the boys had not escaped the bricks unscathed.  Before she could go to help them, though, a large piece of scaffolding fell between them, blocking her.

“What’s that?!”  The shout brought her attention back to the building site, now a mass of collapsed walls.  And moving in that mess was…

“Merciful Builder!” shouted Father Moonwall.

What in the world?” whispered Bookworm.

((To be continued…))

((Links lead to Ms. Garnet Psaltery’s excellent photographs of the event.))

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  1. Beryl Strifeclaw Beryl Strifeclaw April 21, 2013

    Beryl had parked the new asylums steampowered truck which was outfitted with a large cage nearby, in case it was required.  Effingham had certaintly appeared sick hunching there with his cane, so perhaps it would come to that in the end.

    When Stormy cried out and the building started to glow he tried to get the boys to move back, towards the Bucket, but it wasn’t fast enough.  The walls and bricks came crashing down, and there was no time to escape completely.  Beryl grabbed Stormy and Ruddy Bones and pulled them down, trying to use his own body to shield them as the bricks and debries began to crush and bury them.

    • Tepic Harlequin Tepic Harlequin April 21, 2013

      Now…. yer see? Seems there is no doubt, Strifeclaw me old mate, yer definatly is a h…!

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