I eased the boot off as gently as I could manage. There wasn’t a lot of blood, fortunately. I wanted to keep the boots and my blood had unpleasant effects upon fabric and hide. The lining would have to be replaced but the boot hadn’t been exposed long enough for it to matter.
I leaned back on the chair, this evening had started out well enough but it hadn’t lasted.
I was walking the city like I often do after nightfall. I prefer to avoid the more aggressive of the wagging tongues and pointing fingers and the night has never been any less friendly to me than the day. I came upon Mayor Tenk and Mr Underby having a discussion, a rather odd one too, by the sound of it. Underby had just mentioned something about the whole city dying, or something to that effect and Mr Tenk and Maggie were there and she was trying to get them to talk about whatever it was when it happened.
I wanted to inquire further, but I had fallen into the canal not long ago and the stink would probably not be welcome even if they were inclined to discuss it with me. I thought, wryly. I really needed to get to a shower soon. I had turned to head home for just that purpose when I felt that . . well, for want of a better word that ‘screech’ enter my awareness. This quite distracted me from the smell as well as the discussion at hand. I looked about trying to catch sight of it as they apparently decided to carry their discussion indoors. They had just gone into Mr Underby’s place when it glided effortlessly in the air over the monument near O’Mainen’s. I watched it descend into rat alley, I had seen Mr Nightshade over there a little while ago so I went to warn him.
By the time I arrived they had already encountered each other. It was standing on the roof facing him. Neither looked especially happy to meet the other.
It said “I eat the dead.” to which Mr Nightshade replied “No dead here, try Underby’s place”
“The dead?” I asked, It turned and hissed “The demon . .” and stepped off of the roof. It took the force of the landing as effortlessly as it glided about. It moved towards me and I backed away as I reached into my bag and brought out my folding sword.
“They thought the wards would keep . .” It hissed low as it approached. “Back off!” I said, rather more forcefully than I felt. It’s reply was blunt and straight to the point. One of it’s tendrils lashed out at me. I brought the sword around to slash at it for a block but it merely wrapped around the blade and almost yanked the sword out of my surprise-loosened grip. It’s featureless head then split open, revealing an inhumanly wide mouth lined with vicious looking fanglike teeth.
“I really do wish I had a better weapon than these.” I said, rather dryly. The sword and my derringer were apparently quite useless and the lightning gun was just too conspicuous even for me.
It advanced and I was thinking about using my other abilities to escape when Mr Nightshade used some of his own. A bright light lit the area and I winced against it. The creature hissed and turned towards him. “Magic? I’ve absorbed too many to be affected by parlor tricks.” It moved towards him this time only to be struck by what looked like lightning. It hissed and recoiled. “So, what are you? Star spawn?, A shoggoth?” Nightshade said. I’d suspected that he knew something about that nasty business over at Arkham. I’d heard bits here and there before. Mr Footman knows something as well. The tendril that had wrapped around my sword reached up and caught my arm. It’s burning electrical touch began searing the flesh where it touched. “Go away.” it told Nightshade, “You are of no use to me.” It was burning into the muscle of my arm. I could not get the sword loose so I dropped it and yanked my arm free . . “You are in my alley” Nightshade said, “It’s my business to interfere, demon!” I glanced over at this, but he was too busy dealing with it to be talking to me. “This city will be mine eventually, you cannot stop this.” It said as it brought more tendrils to bear on me. “Once I have a body again, I’ll get the machine and my wife, nothing will stop me.” it hissed through that toothed maw. “What machine?” Nightshade asked. I said “It’s been trying to get to Mr Footman’s machine. I don’t know why.” The Slenderman hissed “My plane will join this one soon enough, the corpse doesn’t know what he’s built . .” Nightshade responded “This thing was made by Footman?” It rose into the air and suddenly jabbed tendrils at both of us, trying to grapple us “I may not be able to use a werebeing, but your spirit when dead will suffice!” It hissed again. I took advantage of the distraction to jump out of reach.
I saw Mr Nightshade retreating into the building opposite the creature and I suspected then that he was going to wait until one of us killed the other and then deal with the survivor. I doubt that I’d trust me in his position, why would he risk it for me? I really do need a better weapon, I thought. The lightning rifle was in Footman’s building. If I stayed here I’d either be killed or get both of us killed. Like most people I dislike running from a fight, but unlike some I’m smart enough to do so if it’s warranted and so it was here. I turned and ran.
I didn’t dare look back. Each second I took was one that either of us may need to stay alive. I leapt over the canal clearing it by several meters this time. Pity I’d failed earlier. I was still soaked and the canal stink . . well, it probably hadn’t helped my credibility any.
I ran until I was out of sight of the alley, looking about, I noted that there was no one visible. I envisioned my landing point, as is normal for someone taking a long jump, and then I ‘jumped’. It’s a mental exercise actually. I can do it standing still easier than when running and leaping, but the term ‘jump’ as a useful description of it. Particularly when I land somewhere odd. I landed well, this time, right opposite the canal near Footman’s place.
I ran up around near city hall and back down to the back door. It was open so I went in and grabbed the apparatus. The lightning rifle had worked last time, maybe it still would? I turned and went back out into the cemetery just in time to greet the Badger, Mr Footman’s caretaker. Odd. I’ve never heard anyone call him anything else. It seems rude to just call him that. “Please mind the gravestones with that thing.” he said. “It’s back” I said, rather bluntly. “It?” he said, and then answered himself, “Oh, that ghost or whatever it is that they claim to see.” I didn’t really feel like an argument. “Mr. Footman even insisted on some dohicky t ‘capture’ it, never thought people in this town were so superstitious” he went on. “”They have reason to be. Mr Nightshade said. He had arrived shortly after me and he mentioned the machine that I had brought up earlier. “Mr. Footman has many experiments” the Badger said, “it’s probably simply some side effect, too much wiggyfish gas or somesuch”. I blinked and said, straight-faced, “I highly doubt that wiggyfish had anything to do with this.”
Mr Footman, it turned out, was attending some business at Ichor Falls and was not available. Mr Nightshade wanted to see the machine and after a bit of talking we managed to persuade the Badger to let us in.
“Here it is”. the Badger said. “It’s supposed to communicate with ghosts and such, though all it seems to be good for is heating my toast”. “Hmm” Nightshade said, “Do you think it might attract them if it was connected to an arcane amplifier?”. “”I dunno” said the Badger, “haunt the place?” he sighed, “And to think I left Caledon to get away from loonies talking about ghosts and monsters”.
“Mr Footman’s always got some odd thing or another going on” the Badger went on, “I don’t ask questions, I just do the paperwork”. He then gave me the hairy eyeball “You know miss, you should really consider a shirt”. I glared at the little beast “It’s hot, nasty, and wet as I just fell into the canals a little while ago”. “Umhmm” he said, rather dismissively, “I dunno why some spirituallalicated monster whatsis would want with a bunch of eels”. “I recall Mr Footman saying that it brought ghosts over to this reality once” I said, “If it did that then maybe that’s what this thing wants with it”? The Badger replied “Dunno, if you ask me, he’s a little mad, but what do I know, all scientisticals seem mad to me”
Well, it seemed the creature was not going to return. I felt no indication of it and I was growing increasingly weary. I put the weapon apparatus back against the wall where I’d found it and turned to see Mr Nightshade begin dismantling the machine. He had been looking over it during the conversation and had apparently decided to dismantle it then and there.
“Umm” I said, rather uneloquently as I backed away looking for an exit while carefully avoiding the symbols on the floor. I’d had enough fighting for one night. I wasn’t about to kick a Badger.
“Whoa! Hey! No messing with Mr. Footman’s property!” the Badger shouted. “What? This?” Nightshade said, “I know what I’m doing”. He continued working. “Right!” the Badger said, rather exasperatedly, “You’ll have to leave then, you can’t just barge in and disacombobulate another’s machines, even if they don’t work” he turned to me and said “And take your half naked girlfriend with you”. Mr Nightshade just raised an eybrow of his own and said “Mr Footman isn’t here to stop me is he”? “I am the groundskeeper” said the Badger, “I can summon the pengi to deal with you lot! They’re in a mood since 13 died so I suggest you leave now”!
Mr Nightshade stared at him for a bit then just turned and left. I moved to follow. “I’d best be getting back home and out of these wet things” I said trying to mollify the irate Badger, “G’night”. He just looked at me, stuck his nose in the air, and said “Yes, we wear clothes here” and shut the door in my face.
I blinked. Then I turned and left muttering “Smug, supercilious bast.. badger. No wonder they call him that”.