Chapter Eleven: Zen and the Art of Ghoul Maintenance

Posted by | June 20, 2009

The Lich King, Prince Arthas and the shade of Ner’zhul combined, brooded over the war torn domain from gaping maw of an icy balcony—great clouds of billowing white foamed in the chill air and whipped past his ragged cloak, stoking the azure flames that fumed from his ghastly armor. His sword, Frostmourne, balanced point-down on the icy rock floor awaiting his grasp as he fiddled with his gloves.

“When do I get to meet the big guy?” Hellvetica asked, gesturing with an onyx gauntleted hand towards the looming figure.

Deathsprocket shifted uneasily, as if he was uncomfortable in his graying skin; his glowing eyes flickered unsteadily and a frown pursed his lips, wrinkling his cheeks.

“Maybe later,” came his reply. “I think that we can skip the introductions until after he gets his morning coffee…”

Hellvetica raised a serrated eyebrow, wondering if it would tear through her cowl. “Arthas drinks coffee?”

“Iced cappuccino, with wintersbite sprigs. He’s cranky until he has his first five cups.”

“Of course,” Hellvetica said.

If Deathsprocket noticed the irony in her voice, he didn’t show it in his graven expression; instead, he turned away and waved towards the expanse of the sanctum’s circular masonry. Here and there long-limbed, rubbery-boned geists crawled like loosed Japanese ghosts cleaning dust and delivering debris from the floor into a chute. The rest of the clean up crew, a shambling division of ghouls, quietly devoured anything that didn’t move out of their way. Boney vacuum cleaners all, but they seemed to keep the place clean.

At least the death knights and necromancers didn’t need to worry themselves with 409 or Windex—not that there was a glass window to be had anywhere in the place.

“This way,” the gnome said.

He lead her down a shallow spiral staircase set into a casement carved as if out of giant skulls, their hollow eyes casting gazes out into the breathless clouds and relentless blue sky. The quieting stones hushed the chanting of the ressurectionists and the guttural whisper of the Lich King in her head (who had little useful to say except for the occasional, “Kill them!” and “If Starbucks fails me again I shall vent my spleen through their souls.” Hellvetica wasn’t certain about the second message.) Their descent was slow, but before she knew it, they emerged into another level.

“We do need to introduce you to your ghoul,” Deathsprocket said. “We just have to find you a proper corpse.”

And, if she ever needed a proper corpse, where he had taken her would be a good place to get one—the chamber into which she gazed appeared to have all the hallmarks of the castoff from a charnel house. The dead lay in great heaps. Stitched Frankenstein abominations lay quiet, dead upon metal slabs, still awaiting the spark of life to drive them from their silent slumber. The nimble-fingered stitchers and thew-armed chiurgeons worked ceaselessly amid the corpses; chopping limbs, heads, removing spines, deboning flesh, sewing it together. Their ceaseless conversations echoed in staccato consonants as if a radio tuned to a talk station had been left on.

“This will do,” Deathsprocket said, standing over a particularly singular specimen of what-once-was-living humanoid. Days of rot had already taken flesh down to bone, and the once ruggedly handsome face, now slack in death, to bits of paper thin skin covering shriveled cheeks. Hollow sockets gazed empty and pitiless without eyes.

“Maybe we can cover it with a sack or something?”

Deathsprocket handed her a bag filled with a dust that reeked of death. “There’s a fellow here who carves excellent and lifelike false eyes to deal with that situation, but right now, we just want this one walking. Use the corpse dust.”

“It smells like corpses, that’s for sure.” She wrinkled her nose, pinched some of the awful grit, and sprinkled it.

The cadaver shuddered as if electricity bolted through its limbs, muscles twitching with maniacal marionette motions. A blue glow suffused into the sockets of the eyes and it rose up, laboriously at first, gurgling deep in its throat. It breathed out a foggy breath and turned its empty eyes to her. The face was uncanny in its severity, a gaunt skull visage without emotion or eyebrows. Certainly, she wondered for a moment if sunglasses would be preferable to wooden faux eyes.

Hellvetica checked the nametag hovering over its head: Batsmasher.

“Cute name,” she said.

“Me. Like. Shiny,” said Batsmasher.

“Of course you do.”

Hellvetica cast a pleading eye towards Deathsprocket; but he wasn’t offering any solace today.

NEXT >> Chapter Twelve: A Sword for All Occasions

The author Helvetica writes the Helvetica Venture and Hellvetica Chronicles for Vox Ex Machina and proudly supports the works of Kyt Dotson, whose writing includes Mill Avenue Vexations (a gothic webserial featuring cab driver Vex Harrow), Black Hat Magick, and Helljammer and invites you to check out the novel, The Specter in the Spectacles by Kyt Dotson.

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