Brother William was enjoying a rather pleasant dream when he was rudely awakened to the sound of the doors of his parish. After the doors clattered off their hinges and hit the floor, he heard someone yell, “Quiet! Do you want to wake up everybody in town?”
William sighed, and stood as someone knocked over a rather expensive and extremely fragile statue somewhere in the narthex. He grabbed a candle and left his bedroom. Three people were skulking around among the pews, headed for the baptismal font by the altar. He recognized one of them immediately. “Evening, Henry.”
Henry dropped his crowbar with a bang on the tiles and froze. Jack froze as well. Pete, on the other hands, screamed and began trying to have Sockman bite at the beleaguered Brother. Henry continued staring straight ahead at the altar, not daring to look William in the face. “E-e-evening, Brother William. Gosh, did you see that? First this huge wind blew the doors open, then these strange-looking fellows stuffed these things in our hands and bolted.”
“Henry, there’s no need to make up stories.”
“No, really, I’m not making this up! Then this huge hamster, maybe twenty foot long…”
“I get enough of this sort of thing in confessional all the time, there’s no need for me to hear it when I’m trying to get some sleep. What are you doing here at this time of night? And why is this friend of yours trying to attack me with a sock?”
“Pete, get off him. We’re headed off to do battle with the undead, sir, and we’d like it if we could have some holy water, blessed swords, really thick armor, anything like that, really.”
“You could have just knocked.” He went over to the sacristy, where he began rummaging around for some extra bottles of holy water he often gave out free to the faithful. He found a few, went back out to where they were waiting, and handed four bottles to Henry. “This is all I have left. I’m waiting for more stock to come in any day now, but this is all I have in at the moment. Does this undead business have anything to do with illegal activities?”
Henry, who had visited William’s parish many times in the past, hung his head and nodded softly. William placed his hand on Henry’s shoulder. “My son, there’s really no need for any of this. The Builder is always willing to have new disciples, and the Hammer training temple isn’t too far from here. Within a few years, I believe you could go very far. And as for your friends…” William gave Jack and Pete a once over. “…well, they could be groundskeepers.”
Henry shook his head. He suddenly had a very disturbing vision. “I don’t think that’s a very good idea, sir. Don’t groundskeepers have to fire the furnace in the morning and light the candles?”
William suddenly had the same vision Henry had just experienced. “Yes, you’re right. Well, have a good evening. I hope you realize what danger I’m putting myself in by not turning you over to the authorities.”
“I understand, sir. But it wouldn’t do much good, since the Watch can never seem to keep us in for very long. Good night.”
They turned to leave. William noticed something about Jack he hadn’t noticed before. “Excuse me, Henry, what’s your friends’ names?”
Henry looked puzzled. “This one’s Jack, and the one with the sock is Pete.”
“Why does Jack have an icepack on his rear?”
Before Jack could reply, Henry said, “It’s a long story. Again, good night, Brother William.”
“Good night. And remember, that offer is always open!”
As per the attempts at renovation, the Bonehoard now had a wall around it. It was originally designed to have a neatly laid brick outline, with fancy glassed doors allowing ingress or egress from it. However, many locals argued that cemeteries were supposed to have a dank look to it in order to scare off hooligans from ruining gravesites. So, the gate was built to look purposely aged, with a cast-iron gate missing some bars and flaky, unstable brickwork. The gate, to give it an even more authentic “you can go in here, but probably shouldn’t” look, was held shut by a small piece of masking tape.
Henry, Jack, and Pete stood in front of the gate, staring up at its immense fifteen-foot height. Lightning flashed, and a wolf howled somewhere in the distance.
Henry looked around as things quieted down again. “It’s all rather clichéd, isn’t it? I mean, what’s next, an owl hooting?”
An owl hooted from on top of the wall. Pete hefted a good-sized rock and flung it at the bird. It fell off and stopped making any noise whatsoever. Pete smiled, very pleased with himself.
Henry lifted a pack off of his back that contained a wide amount of thieving equipment. Where he got it was anybody’s guess. He unrolled it and began looking over what he had. “Ok, by the looks of it I’m not missing anything. Anybody have problems with us going through the front door?”
Jack nodded. “Yes, I think he does.” He pointed at a seven-foot skeleton who was standing on the other side of the fence, glaring at them and drooling slightly.
Henry sighed. “Oh, come on, that’s obviously just a trick. How can a skeleton drool? It’s got no saliva glands. If we pull off the mask, we’ll see who it really is.”
The skeleton’s eyes filled with an eerie red flame. Its jaw unhinged, and an ethereal voice that originated from it yelled, “I WILL EAT YOUR SOULS AND MAKE YOU JOIN ME IN THE SERVICE OF DARK POWERS YOU CANNOT FATHOM!”
Henry’s expression did not change. “Ok, does anyone know of a back entrance to this place?”
“THERE IS NO BACK ENTRANCE TO YOUR FATE, MORTALS! JOIN NOW AND YOU WILL NOT SUFFER…LONG!”
Jack shook his head. “This place is loaded with secret entrances and tunnels, but I don’t know where any of them are.”
Henry nodded. “Fine. We’ll just look around until we find one.”
“DO NOT GO LOOKING FOR A WAY IN! THE ONLY TRUE WAY IS THROUGH ME! JUST GIVE ME TEN….ER, TWENTY MINUTES, AND YOU SHALL BE FREE OF YOUR HUMANITY…AND FREE WILL! BWA-HA-HA-HA!”
Henry had had just about enough. “Oh, come on, now. You’re just making up slightly scary-sounding phrases now, aren’t you?”
“ER, NO, OF COURSE NOT, ER, BWA-HA-HA. I REALLY MEAN IT. SEE, LOOK, COME OVER HERE AND I’LL DEMONSTRATE.”
“Oh, shut up.” Henry gathered up his pack and stepped into some bushes along the wall, where he promptly fell into a big hole.
20 minutes later, a face peered from behind a small clump of trees near the Bonehoard’s entrance. It looked around quickly, then the body attached to the face scampered quickly to another piece of cover, this time an extremely thin metal rod. The person ran again, hiding behind a clump of dirt the size of his shoe. This thief was known as “Lucky Bastard” Bob. He had this nickname, of course, because he was such a lucky bastard. Many people still wondered how that one guard that chased him years ago was squashed by falling airplane parts, since the airplane had not been invented yet. He hadn’t quite got hiding down to a science yet, however.
Anyhow, this hiding place made Bob entirely visible to the skeleton guarding the front gate. “BWA-HA-HA, MORTAL! I SHALL SWALLOW YOUR LIFEFORCE AND FEED THE GRITTY BITS TO THE BEASTS OF HELL, AND…oh, hi Bob. How’s life?”
Bob stood. “Oh, not bad, Sid. How’s death?”
“Oh, can’t complain, can’t complain.”
“That’s good. Hey, weren’t you working the sewer tunnels?”
“Not anymore. Got promoted to main gate duty. The boss downstairs said he hadn’t seen soul-swallowing like mine since the old days. Even threw in the fancy eye-glow trick as a bonus. See?” As before, Sid’s eyes glowed a brilliant red. “Neat, eh?”
“That’s very nice.”
“Yeah, but it’s not the best. The guy guarding the Pit of Souls down by the Farnsworth tomb shoots fireballs and did this really cool exploding trick. At least, I thought it was a trick…anyway, what brings you here to this dump?”
Bob shrugged. “Oh, the usual. I’m part of a contest of sorts. Gotta get into that Farnsworth tomb and all.”
“Really? Well, if you’d like, I could pull some strings and get you in there real easy. There’s a catch, though…if you want in, I have to eat a soul. It’s a business thing, I wouldn’t ask, but there’s quotas I have to meet each week, so…”
“Ah, well, why not eat his soul?” Bob pointed to Art “Two Sheds” Jackson, who was attempting to scale the wall ten feet away with limited success.
Art was hoping the conversation would go on a bit longer, whereupon he would enter right next to the front gate undetected. However, the words “eat,” “his,” and “soul” caught his attention. “What? Who’re you taking about?”
Sid would have smiled if he’d had lips. “Ah, he’ll do fine.” Bob nodded, then walked underneath Art, who was beginning to suspect something was terribly amiss. He tried scrambling back down the wall, but one of the rope arrows on his belt snagged. As he tried to pull it out of the stone that held him, Bob reached up and gave Art a good hard shove. The hapless “Two Sheds” went tumbling over into the Bonehoard, landing with a squelching noise. What exactly made the squelching noise Bob neither knew nor cared to know.
Bob waited by the gate whistling as a struggle broke out near where Art had landed. There was a muffled scream, a flash of green light, a sound like a wildebeest going through a clothes wringer, then silence. The light faded, and Sid returned, wiping his mouth. “All right, the deal’s all settled. Come on in.”
Bob pushed the gate open and tried not to look at the dried up husk by the edge of the wall. “How long before he becomes a zombie?”
“Oh, zombies take a while to process. Paperwork and all. You should be out of here long before then. Come on, it’s this way.”
Bob followed Sid, as a shadowy figure with three toes around his neck watched through the gate. He heard Bob say, “How does a soul taste, anyway?”
“Oh, it varies from person to person. That fellow there was pretty good, actually. A bit meringuey, with a touch of citrus aftertaste. Sometimes you’ll get guys that taste rather nasty, like last night this hobo came in and, well get this…”
On the other side of the Bonehoard, Garrett peered thoughtfully at a sewer tunnel that was apparently unguarded. That it was unguarded made him increasingly suspicious. He grabbed a rock from the earth beneath his feet and chucked it into the dark entrance.
Almost instantly, flames began shooting from the sides of tunnel. Arrows shot from nearly direction, skewering the rock. Finally, the floor dropped out, and the rock vanished from view. From the fizzing noises, Garrett guessed the rock had fallen into an acid pit. Lord Farnsworth knew how to overkill, all right.
He’d have to find another way in.
Zantar bashed down the door of an abandoned crypt. Dust and debris filtered down as he stepped his way inside. He stared around in the gloom, yet couldn’t really make anything out. He whipped out a set of goggles with green filters and light bulbs attached. When he switched them on and realized that night-vision was much worse than regular, he cursed the shifty-eyed bum on the street he’d bought them from and tossed them into a dusty corner. The goggles hit the floor with a crack, causing a chunk of the floor to fall into a room below.
Zantar, surprised that a room existed below this one, went over and began digging away at the crack, enlarging it enough for him to fit through. He nearly jumped down when he suddenly heard voices from below.
“How far do you think this tunnel leads, anyway?”
“I don’t know. You’re the one who fell into it, shouldn’t you know where we are?”
“That was almost half an hour ago, Jack, and no, I don’t know where we are. You were the one that knew about all the tunnels, anyway…”
“I said I knew they existed. I don’t know where any of them are, or where they go. God, I’m getting hungry. You got anything in that pack of yours?”
“Yes, and I’m certainly not giving any to you. What would happen if there was a cave-in and we had no food to keep us alive until someone rescued us?”
“I’d eat the both of you.”
“Ah. I see.”
“I’m the King of Zanzibar!”
“Oh, shut up, Pete.”
Zantar waited impatiently until the voices had passed until he decided to jump down into the tunnel. What were they doing here, he thought. They’re even worse than the things that live down here.
The tunnel ended at a large cave. This would not normally be a problem, but it ended at the very top. A sheer drop of at least 200 feet greeted the eyes of the three. Below that was a small pond (at least, small from their current perspective) and a wide variety of branching pathways. An eerie glow filled the cave due to the numerous mushrooms growing along the walls.
Pete cradled a shaking Sockman under his arm. “So, how do we get down from here, Senor Rhubarb?”
Henry sighed. “I told you, if you called me that again…”
“Ok, fine. Well, I’ve survived falling off Farnsworth’s house, how hard could this be?”
“Well, let’s see…Farnsworth’s house was approximately 30 feet high, not counting attic space. You fell off three times. You have currently survived a grand total 90 feet. Considering there’s nothing to break your fall, I don’t think you could a.) do twice that distance, and b.) do it all at once.”
Jack nearly threw up. Heights made him nauseous. “So, how DO we get down?”
Henry grabbed an arrow out of his roll-up pack. An extremely long length of rope followed. “Rope arrow, gentlemen. Never leave home without it, I say. All I have to do is fire it into that beam above the tunnel, test the weight, and then we climb down. Any problems with that?”
“Well, yes, one…”
“Oh? And what would that be?”
“Have you got a bow to fire it?”
It may interest the reader that an old hermit at the edge of town complained to his dog about the loudest expletive he’d ever heard in his entire life. The dog, not wishing to involve itself with the ways of people, released some noxious fumes into the air and rolled over. The shack reportedly smelled better than before for about three minutes.
“All right then, I’ll just jab the arrow into this ceiling area here. Any problems with THAT?”
Jack and Pete simultaneously removed their hands from their ears. “WHAT?”
“Good.” He reached over the lip of the tunnel, scattering a few rocks down the cliff that had obviously been put there for dramatic effect. After nearly losing his balance several times, Henry finally managed to jab the arrow in between two rocks that hung out above the tunnel entrance. “Ha! There! Now to give it a good tug…” He pulled the rope. The arrow stayed where it was. “And you two thought I couldn’t do it!” He threw the rope over the edge of the cliff and watched it trail down to the floor below.
The rope, however, weighed slightly more than Henry did. As soon as its full weight was brought upon the arrow, the flimsy shaft snapped in half and went coiling down with the rest of the rope.
The hermit once again remarked about an expletive, this one seemingly louder than the first. His dog stood, packed its bags, and left to find its way to a house where the food sat in a dish and generally didn’t try to run away.
“Ok, the rope arrow is out of the question. Can you guys see anything at all that we could use?”
“There’s some sort of vine growing out of the rocks here. Seems to go down pretty far.” Jack was pointing at an extremely thick green vine that was writhing madly.
“Ah, yes, Jack, but notice how it can’t seem to lie still? I prefer not to put my trust in the hands of things that have a tendency to have minds of their own, present company included.”
“Yes, but what other choice have we got?”
Henry thought for a minute. “You’re right. But, actually, I was thinking of something I could add to that. Pete?”
Pete saluted sharply. “Sah!”
“Come here for a minute, would you?”
Pete was unsurprised when the other two grabbed him; it happened a lot. However, when they jammed him down onto the vine he got mildly concerned. “What’s going on?”
Henry nervously cleared his throat. “Well, Pete, you have the…uh…distinct…honor (yeah, that’s it) of leading us onwards. All you have to do is go down this vine and let us know if it’s safe or not. Either way, we’ll see you at the bottom.” At this, Jack and Henry quickly darted up into the tunnel and covered their ears in case the worst should happen.
Ten minutes later, when screams did not reach their covered ears, the two returned to the edge and looked cautiously down. Henry couldn’t believe it. Below Pete was standing, smiling up at them. At least, he figured that he was smiling; faces tended to blur out from two hundred feet up.
Henry cupped his hands over his mouth. “Pete? You okay?”
Pete’s voice floated over the edge of the cliff. “Come on down, guys! It’s perfectly safe!”
Henry looked at Jack, shrugged, then began clambering down the vine. Jack followed shortly afterwards. Nothing untoward happened, so they continued downwards.
At about the halfway point, the vine swung loose from the side of the cliff, rolled up around Jack and Henry, and proceeded to make them close friends with the rock hard cavern wall. Two minutes later, it lowered them, dazed and battered, safely to the cavern floor.
Jack staggered around like a drunk before saying, “Mummy? Yes, scones would be nice with our tea…” and passing out face down into the water basin. Henry grabbed Pete by his lapels to steady the world swirling around him.
“Pete? That you?”
“Does this answer your question?” He had Sockman start biting Henry’s nose.
“Yes, yes it does answer my question. Might I ask you another one?”
“Pete, did the vine by any chance bash you against the wall a dozen times, gurgle briefly, then lower you the rest of the way?”
“Why, yes it did.”
For once today, Henry was at a loss for words. “Fine, fine.” There was a pause. “Well, then.” Another pause. “Pray tell, can you explain why you aren’t staggering in pain?”
“I’ve fallen off the top of a house. Don’t you remember the whole Farnsworth robbery? You were just talking about it.”
“Pete, the last year of my life is a bit of a blur right now. Just to make sure, I’m not the Pope of Greenwich Village, right?”
“Okay, then, let me stop the world spinning and we’ll be off. Oh, and get Jack out of there before he drowns. And he’s not the Archbishop of Canterbury?”
“What is Canterbury? And Greenwich Village, for that matter? Am I missing something?”
“At least you don’t think you’re a Pope, Pete. Be thankful for that.”
“Right. I’m the King of Zanzibar.”
“Oh, shut up.”
Stormer dropped down behind the luckless thief, wrapping his sinewy arms around the fellow’s neck. Satisfied when he heard the snap, he dropped the body and continued onward into the Bonehoard. If he was going to get to the treasure, he certainly wasn’t going to give anyone an easy time. He’d managed to get into the place through a series of tunnels marked with white arrows, following the thief whose neck he’d just broken. He suspected that the arrows were a trap, as no one in their right mind really believed anyone would lead others to treasure they themselves had found. He especially believed this when the tunnels ended at a large door, pasted with signs saying, “You’ve found it! It’s in here!” and “By Jove, you’re a lucky son of bitch! Come on in and earn your reward!” Whoever wrote the signs obviously had a hard time containing himself, since the paint used for lettering the signs was rather shaky and splattered about carelessly.
Stormer smiled, and opened the door cautiously. Attached to the door was a thin wire, which led to a storehouse of guns, sword, knives, batons, angry weasels, and many other nasty implements of destruction. Just as he thought. A trick. He’d have to backtrack a little ways.
There was little time for contemplation when suddenly the door swung open completely and Stormer felt rough hands on his shoulders. He tried to turn, but was already off his feet and inside the room when the door banged shut behind him.
From outside could be heard screaming, gunfire, stabbing, slicing, beating, and perturbed chewing, as well as other noises as the other implements of destruction went off.
Zantar focused on the cliff before him. A two-hundred foot drop awaited him, and no one seemed to be at the bottom of it. Smiling, he unhooked a strange tube with a barbed hook sticking out of one end. He pointed the tube upwards and pressed a button concealed along its length. The hook shot out and lodged in the ceiling above the cavern. He hooked the tube back to his belt, jumped over the edge, and pressed another button on the tube. The rope began to extend, allowing him to rappel slowly down the cliff face.
He reached the bottom and pressed yet another button, dislodging the hook and rewinding the cord. He turned to face his next choice of path when he heard an awful, despicable, and overall terrifying noise from behind him.
“Oh, hello, Mr. Zantar.”
In horror, Zantar spun to find himself face to face with Pete, Jack, and Henry. Jack waved cheerfully, but stopped as he noticed Zantar was clutching another hooked device. “Mr. Zantar, let me just say it’s really an honor to meet you…”
Zantar snarled, pressing a button on the hooked device. It sprang out into a variety of smaller hooked devices, all of which looked very painful. “What…are…you…three…DOING…HERE?!? ARE YOU ALL COMPLETELY INSANE? DO YOU REALIZE YOU SHOULD NEVER ENTER HERE UNLESS YOU’RE A MASTER THIEF?”
Henry stretched himself slightly taller. “All right, Mr. Zantar. I understand that you apparently don’t like us too much…” Zantar advanced. “Butletmefinishbeforeyoustickanythinginmebumohpleaseohpleaseohplease.” Zantar, against every bone in his body, lowered the weapon an inch. “Thank you. We realize we’re not in quite the same league as most of you here. Since we’ve met up, do you think you could show us the ropes, maybe, perhaps?”
Zantar contemplated this for a moment. His better judgment, which had crawled out his brain and attempted to directly activate the hand holding the uncomfortable instrument, had apparently failed to show up to a meeting between his pride and conceit, which agreed that showing these dopes a thing or two might be a good idea. Also, if there were any traps, they could get it first.
“Fine, fine. All I ask is that none of you says a word to me. Not a one. Nothing. Starting from…now. Is that clear?”
Henry beamed. “Sure thing, Mr. Zantar.”
“Ah, good. Thank you for that. I wanted to do this before we got started…”
“Not so nice, is it Henry?”
“Shut up, Jack, and help me remove it before they get too far ahead…”
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Bonehoard, a shadowy figure ducked behind a pillar as something bluish and horrid-smelling stumbled past. The figure lifted a crystal out of a pouch on his waist, along with a bottle of glowing liquid. He poured a small amount of the liquid into the crystal, which began to glow brilliantly.
Unfortunately, the glow attracted the moaning zombie. Fortunately, it didn’t have time to act after the holy water arrow blasted it into small, not-able-to-stay-undead bits.
Another moan came from behind. Garrett spun and faced a zombie that was nearly on top of him. He backed away, fumbling for another crystal…
In which process he managed to drop the vial of holy water. It shattered on the polished stone floor, scattering its contents all over the place. Some splashed on the zombie, but it wasn’t enough…it still advanced, unphased by the blessed liquid.
Damn. That was the last vial. Garrett reached into his pouch once more, and his hand closed around an item he’d forgotten he brought.
He smiled. Then he jammed the flashbomb directly into the zombie’s rotten forehead. The resulting blast detonated the entire skull, causing the zombie to wobble and finally fall over, unmoving.
With the immediate danger gone, silence filled the nearly deserted hall of the dead. Garrett walked over to the puddle of glowing holy water and did his best to scoop what he could into the water arrow crystals he still held. Hopefully it would be enough. What he really needed were some fire arrows…
Some more moans echoed far down the passage ahead of him. Peering through the darkness, Garrett saw what appeared to be an enormous patrol of zombies headed his direction. They didn’t appear to be too happy.
Thankfully, he didn’t have to go that way. A carefully aimed rope arrow gave access to the second floor of the room, and brought him that much closer to his goal…
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