Portal Breach: The Collision of Worlds :: v.4.0

    A Different Kind of Tree



    Posts : 829
    Join date : 2014-03-22
    Location : Deadworld
    Level : 60

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    A Different Kind of Tree

    Post by Mortis on Tue Nov 01, 2016 2:36 am

    Time: Afternoon
    Date: October 12, 0007

    A Different Kind of Tree
    October 12th

    For most of the week Mortis had been riding, leading Samhain and Angemort on a meander through the jungle, following a path that only he knew. Ever since the previous Monday Ombre had not been present in their little group, the massive condor was dismissed to deliver his letter to Fear and Kev’s household in the city. It would be some time before the undead superfiend received a letter back from the trio, although the ghoul was certain that the carrion bird would faithfully carry out the task once a letter was written by them… Or perhaps not, depending. At times it was hard to predict exactly what the members of Fear’s family would be comfortable with. But, regardless of whether they felt like writing back, the ghoul felt it imperative that he kept sending them his letters and photos.

    It was the only way they knew he was still around, after all. Mortis was not all too fond of leaving the small family in the dark regarding his journey, especially Livewire. The poor dear had lost enough as it was already.

    The trip so far was marked with numerous stops, mainly for the sake of observing the native fauna and flora. Along with collecting a number of intruiging specimens, as was the case with a particularly dark and foreboding looking flower. Its long whiskery tendrils caught in the depths of his eye sockets, and the undead superfiend could not help but figure that perhaps, just maybe, his brother would like to grow some for himself. As they maneuvered away from the dense rainforests and further up the mountains, the wayward group found expanses of sprawling lush, green grasses – all to Woolie’s delight, of course. In the process the dense underbrush gave way to colorful wildflowers, the ever vibrant passion flower and its array of purples and reds catching the midday sun alongside the spreading crimson petals of hibiscus and orange ixon flowers. Much too the ghoul’s interest, and Samhain’s disinterest, as the undead mare would have preferred to chase after the alpaca herd that was grazing. Her skeletal grin turned in their direction often while her master plucked and picked the seeds out of the different flower heads, carefully sorting them into different bags before taking a few photos of his find.

    Why can’t we go and investigate those things over there, Master?

    Mortis’s snout remained in the patch of tropical wildflowers, diligent in his cataloging and collecting. However, he was all too aware of his steed’s growing desire to slam her hooves into the roaming group of grazers. ”It isss not what we came for, Sssamhain. It would be unwise to ssstart a conflict with anyone while Woolie isss with usss. Ssshe cannot defend herssself like we can, you mussst underssstand.” He rasped to the living carcass, only to be met with a despondent snort.

    She does not have to fight alongside us. The lamb can stay behind with my sister while we kill.

    A tempting, tempting offer… One that Angemort did not seem too troubled with either, as she watched Woolie snuff at the grass before her feet and take a nibble of its lush texture. Her skeletal snout dipped down soon after as the ewe had glanced up at her thoughtfully, tail wagging. Although Angemort was incapable of eating, it did not stop her from participating in a graze. Between the two mares, she had been slower to understand her new state of unlife, still believing she was a regular, living horse complete with horsey behavior. A blessing, considering that apparently being clever enough to realize the change from living to undead was what made Samhain the way she was. Ruthless, sadistic, and far too confident in her newfound power… It reminded him of someone else he used to work with, if not for the mare’s willingness to listen to reason. Another boon, as Mortis shifted his attention to send a caress of soothing thoughts over Samhain’s agitated mind.

    ”Later.” He replied, the soothing thoughts turning to a psychic massage that stroked over the mare’s neck and down her shoulders. Although all of the superfiend’s attentions were mentally bestowed, Samhain’s lips quivered and flicked in an action that looked as if she were attempting to groom the air around her. The mare’s remaining ear drooped, and her vigilant posture melted to a relaxed slouch where she stood. Alpacas? Llamas? They were the furthest thing from her mind.


    That lazy echo was all Mortis needed to hear, giving one final mental scratch down her partially exposed spine before slipping himself from Samhain’s mind. However, as Mortis was coming to find as he had these calming sessions with the undead steed, she was a very greedy creature. Heavy footfalls drew close to the emaciated superfiend, a nicker the only warning before his steed draped her long grinning face over his shoulder and leaned against his back. It was fortunate that the undead was as sturdy as he was despite his rotten host, for anyone else would have been pushed to the ground by the friendly gesture. ”Not now Sssamhain, maybe later I can give you more attention.” Mortis hissed, a rotted palm stroking affectionately over her snout before guiding her away.

    Heavy hooves stepped back, and the mare gave a dissatisfied snort. Later, he said, it was always later with him. Later they could kill something, later he could give her more scratches, later she could have more treats. But at the same time… Master always did deliver in the end, in some form or another. So she waited as Mortis inspected and plucked a few flower heads, removing the seeds with a dip of his long, rancid talons into their plush centers. Each type of seed was deposited into their own separate plastic baggies, marked and labeled for easy reference. Angemort, like before, was the sole depository for theses colorful lively treasures, as each baggie was placed in the appropriate saddle bag he had chosen for keeping all of the seeds. Woolie watched from where she was grazing next to the towering mare and playmate, lush green grass puffing her little cheeks out like a squirrel with its mouth full of tasty nuts.

    Can we take this home with us too, Ma?

    It was the tastiest stuff she had ever eaten! The grass up here was so green, so lush, and so flavorful. Certainly her Ma could take some of it home and put it in their meadow too, right?

    Mortis turned from where he had been arranging the plastic bags, his empty sockets watching the ewe from beneath the wide brim of his Stetson. ”My apologiesss, dearessst. The grasss here would not sssurvive where we live. The cold would kill it easssily come winter.” He rasped, kneeling down to give the black sheep a gentle pat between her ears. Ears, which were pinned back in a disgruntled, nearly pouty manner. She wanted her fancy grass, dammit! However, there was an addendum to Mortis’ diagnosis of the situation.

    ”But, I sssupposse I could plant sssome in a pot for you-“


    ”Let me finisssh, Woolie.” The ghoul clucked his tongue and ruffled the top of her soft head with a wide, rot-riddled palm. She may have been old enough to have lambs of her own, but she was still his little girl. ”You can only have it asss a treat or a sssnack. There will not be enough to graze on all day like the grasss in your meadow.”

    It was a no brainer, but for a creature as simple as the sheep that was in his care… A few things may have needed to be explained. Even so, Woolie did not seem all that perturbed by the fact she could not eat all of the mountain grass she liked all day every day. Her long ropey tail wagged happily, and a pleased baa proclaimed her approval. Yes, a pot of grass would be perfect.

    ”I am glad it isss to your liking, Woolie.” He rumbled, pushing aside the edges of his overcoat and unzipping his leathers to reveal the gaping hollow that rested between his ribs and pelvis. By now her frequent trips within the undead’s host had begun to leave its traces. Strings of stray wool clung to the inside of Mortis’ ribs, and lined the curving edges of his pelvic bones. ”Now, come along. We mussst not linger her for much longer. There isss sssomeone with which I wisssh to meet before the day isss through.” He coaxed, and his fluffy adopted daughter obediently climbed into the space provided. His leathers zipped up soon after, the numerous large holes in his uniform apt enough for ventilation in the humid climate.

    Upon Samhain’s saddle did Mortis situate himself soon after, and with a mental urge from the undead rider, they continued their journey.

    Their route took them between the peaks, Samhain’s bulky body pushing aside most branches and thick vines with ease. Though the ghoul did indeed have the location circled upon the map he took with him, he did not have the guide unfurled upon his lap to refer to as he rode. No, Mortis followed another guide, the lucid thoughts of a sapient resident that lived deep within the jungles. They were slow, admittedly, their ponderings creaking by at a crawl within their skull. The way their vitality carried the same slothful rhythm suggested that whoever lived up here was quite old, although the memory of sharing his mental link with Fear whenever he decided to indulge on a slow evening prodded him with another possibility.

    That possibility became more certain as they emerged from the humid wood. From the crest of their ascent, the four travelers had a clear view of the slope below, and the large clearing that resided down in the mouth of the valley that sat between the rocky peaks. It was secretive, remote, and evidently a perfect environment to cultivate. Below, the clearing that Mortis witnessed, and had been drawn to, was in actuality a large farm. But the fields were not dominated by rice paddies, though there were some damp tiers that curled like emerald ripples away from a cluster of sheds on what Mortis assumed to be the property.

    Predominantly, the cleared section of forest was devoted to tall, star-leafed plants that swayed in the breeze. Cannibis was its formal name, but it went by many others.

    A precursory scan of the property was initiated from where he and his horses stood in the mouth of the jungle. There was evidently more than just the one inhabitant, a sensible detail given the sheer scale of this operation. There were the fields, sheds devoted to processing the plant for use, along with a building for the packing and storage. The wooden hut further forward, nearly overgrown with lush ferns and broad leafed vegetation, must be the residence of the workers. Or at the very least, the residence of the owner. The building itself looked old, years of bright sunlight and pouring rains bleaching the dark wood of the concave roof to a ghostly grey, which peaked into two horn-like points at either end of the dwelling. He could see windows, but no glass within them, and the door was likely nothing more than a few slats of wood crudely fashioned to the frame with woven rope if it was like the rest of this home. He could already hear his brother’s rumbling bass echoing within his skull now if he were still linked with the sheep-skulled undead…

    Savages, he would tut.

    And Mortis was not inclined to disagree; even from here the place looked primitive and dirty.

    Regardless, his psychic scan of the property revealed that there were indeed a number of residents, none that were human either. They were scaly creatures, their limbs tipped with talons and thick sinewy tails wagging out from under their scant loin cloths. Their faces were just as lizardlike as the rest of them, long toothy snouts protruded from their faces and snuffed at the thick air with little pit-like nostrils. Aside from their appearance however, this band of “tree” farmers seemed fairly harmless…

    Bah, fool’s logic, scoffed his inner Judge. There was no such thing as a harmless sinner. A low hiss escaped the undead as he retrieved his shotgun from the black leather of its bucket upon Samhain’s flank, flicking it open with a click to check that was indeed loaded, finding the two federal slugs he had left in it from this morning, before shoving it snugly under his belt. He eased his horse forward, coming down the slope at a brisk trot. Dense ferns crunched under the steed’s large hooves, her lips curling as she chewed on the bit. Her master had considered possibly needing to purge these lizard creatures, and to her, possibility was as good as certainty.

    However, they had not stepped a single hoof upon the property before sensing of the residents shuffling about in the undergrowth. The horse snorted and scowled in the direction of its movements, her ears pinning back as her empty sockets glowered at the life signature that steadily approached. Was it a scout? Perhaps even a perimeter guard? Mortis settled his murderous steed as he read the being’s intent.

    Alas, this was no more than a simple trapper. His scaly green hide emerged from the treeline, a pair of peccaries tied together with sinew slung over a sloped shoulder. This one was lean and agile, the type of creature that was perfect for maneuvering through thick underbrush without getting tangled. Precious metals and dyed leather adorned his body sparingly in wrapped gauntlets and greaves, leaving the grand majority of his form to the open air. The only cloth to be seen was a patterned loincloth that likely existed for a barely mindful modesty alone, attached by a patterned leather belt with a large silver disc upon the front. Mortis eyed the machete upon his hip, along with what looked to be jade spurs upon the elbows of his wrapped arms as the jungle hunter came to stop before the group.

    Sssss? The lizard looked the cadaverous group up and down, orange eyes squinting at the oddity of these… Travelers.

    ”Greetingsss, native. We come in peace to your home over yonder.” Mortis initiated, nodding to the farm down in the valley. ”We would like to visssit, and perhapsss trade if you are willing.” He offered, even if the lizard-man was unable to speak plain English, the undead’s xenoglossia ensured he would be understood, and the undead able to understand the lizard in turn. A useful ability, that. The ghoul’s hiss whispered within the trapper’s ear and slithered in his brain. One of the lizard person’s eyes twitched uncomfortably at the sensation.

    ”Trade? You are a merchant?” Came a sibilant, if not dubious reply. He had never seen any merchants around these parts that looked like corpses. He glanced at the shiny staff that rested against the corpse’s belt, and then to the second horse that was burdened with many bags. ”Maybe, maybe… Let us see your wares first, hm? Brohkti will see and decide, yes. Then you may come to look at my plants.” His statement was scrupulous, pointing to the cargo bags upon Angemort’s back with a clawed finger.

    His eyes, however, betrayed his request. Slit pupils kept glancing back to the gleaming twin barrels of Mortis’ weapon. Reptilian thoughts wished and hoped for something equally shiny hiding within the mare’s pack; a walking stick to rival all walking sticks, he fantasized. That’s what it had to be, right? The lizard would accept nothing less, already he could read an envious coup in its infancy forming in Brohkti’s mind. This traveler possessed no blade, not even a sharp meat knife upon his person. He was an easy target for a seasoned, fit hunter such as he. The ghoul picked up on the wishful thinking, and immediately a sinister plan formed within his mind. If shiny things were what these people desired, shiny things were what they would get.

    ”Yesss, waresss.” Mortis agreed, and retrieved what made the lizard so green. The shotgun- er, walking stick, as Brohkti decided it to be, was held aloft so the trapper could see it clearly. ”Thisss, my ssscaly friend, isss a medicine ssstick! It healsss all mortal illsss.”

    Brohkti’s eyes widened at the device as Mortis held it before his eyes, the mare shifting slightly where she stood as she watched the reptilian trapper. However, just as quickly as they widened, they squinted to suspicious slits, Brohkti, evidently, was one who leaned towards scrutiny. He looked at the shiny stick, and then back to its owner, finding something amiss… ”Ssss, I am not convinced. If it is as powerful as you say, why are you so sickly?” He asked, jabbing a claw at Mortis’ decaying host pointedly.

    But, instead of cowering and stuttering like Brohkti anticipated at his astute observation… The merchant laughed. He laughed a hoarse, croaking laughter that resonated in Broxxi’s chest in the most unsettling way and shook his strange, mask-covered head. ”I sssaid mortal illsss, Brohkti. I am well beyond sssuch mattersss and triflesss.” Silly lizard, there was no magic or medicine in the world that could cure what ailed this particular undead… Or any of the ills he bestowed upon others, for that matter! ”But you ssseem an assstute, bright lizard man, ssso I sshall ssshow you how it worksss-“

    ”Uh-uh. No, Brohkti will test this medicine stick. You may tell me how it is supposed to work, and I will prove if you are correct.” The trapper interjected, tapping a scaly thumb to his lean chest. He had heard a similar song and dance before, when a neighbor had trusted a traveling merchant who dealt in sea-snake oils. It was supposed to treat coughs and heaviness of the chest, so said the seller. A foolish gamble that had been, it only made the neighbor sicker and the seller a few coins richer. He would not fall for such a pitch.

    ”Ssss, yesss, but down there.” Mortis hissed, pointing to the fields of Cannabis with the aforementioned ‘stick’. ”I wisssh to trade for a few poundsss of your weed, Brohkti. I let you sssee my waresss, now you let me sssee yoursss. It isss only fair, after all.” His mercantile manner earned a thoughtful look from the trapper, his scaly green tail flicking as he weighed the offer.

    ”Very well, I will allow this. But we will negotiate after I have seen for myself whether the stick works or not.” He replied, adjusting the two wild pigs upon his shoulder before turning to lead the caravan down the valley.

    Their descent was swift, more or less thanks to their guide knowing the proper routes through the underbrush and dense trees. Before long, they were led to the shack that was the lizard-man’s home. Clawed, scaly feet clacked upon the stairs that lead up to the front porch, the old wood creaking beneath his weight. ”Come, we will discuss business inside. Your animals will be fine outside.” He beckoned the rider with a raptor-like talon.

    ”Come, come.”

    Mortis carefully dismounted from Samhain’s back, mindful of his fluffy passenger. Thankfully she opted to remain quiet during much of the discussion, for perhaps the lizard man would have wished to take her instead of the medicine stick should he have heard any noise. Something told the ghoul that sheepskin and mutton would be considered exotic out in these parts… As a precaution he sent a few soothing thoughts her way, settling the ewe for the time being.

    Mortis holstered the ‘medicine stick’ for the time being, the tool of ultimate- and definitely not lethal- healing secured under his belt. Measured, lengthy strides followed his host up the steps and to the door, a few wooden slats held together with rope and fashioned to the frame in a crude hinge. Mortis ducked in through the doorway as Brohkti lead him inside, and found himself surrounded by weed of all kinds.

    Dense nets acting as shelves lined many of the walls in the main room of this dwelling, the only light to illuminate it coming in through the simple windows. All of them held bound bushels of the lizard man’s product, each of them resembling a thick sausage bound in a dried leafy husk and simple rope made from sapling bark. Signs in a hatched, strange language sat above and below each net, and the ghoul noted how the bushels varied in size. Some were small enough to be smoked as is, while others were large enough that the ghoul considered these particular types to be the bulk blends. Clawed feet scuffled across wood, and then woven mats that were dyed in jagged patterns of red, black, and green. Lined against the wall of the door he passed through were a number of large clay pots, all sitting neatly upon a mat of their own. However, there seemed to be pots sitting against every wall in some manner or another. Jugs of water, lidded pots with refreshments for esteemed patrons… Brohkti lead him to the center of the room, where a wide, round stone table squatted on the floor, encircled by mats adorned with zigzagging bright patterns.

    ”Please, take a seat here while I tend to these.” He requested, undoubtedly referring to the two pigs that were still slung over his shoulder, before disappearing through the doorway into a back room.

    Mortis, left alone in what he could only consider to be the business area of Brohkti’s house, shambled to where the lizard-man had indicated and took a seat before the table. His joints protested with loud crackles and pops, as the undead superfiend eased himself to the floor and pulled his spidery legs into a cross-legged position. So this was how a lizard person conducted business then? Mortis admittedly appreciated the dusky atmosphere, its low lighting a comfort that touched the recesses of his dark, maggot-riddled heart.

    Minutes later, Brohkti returned from the back room, his body freed of the spoils of his hunt. But his weaponry was still very much present upon his hip. He made his way over to the water jug near the door, picking it up along with a stack of a few small cups that sat near it. ”You undoubtedly have come to see my herbal wares, yes. What would you have in mind, traveler?” He began, bringing the refreshment to the stone table to share with his guest. [color:5351= #00cc99]”Do you wish for medicinal blends, help with divination, or perhaps you seek something light to share with guests? My land is fertile and bears many varieties; all of them are great quality.”The green lizard pointed to the different shelves as he spoke, assuming the same crossed position upon his own mat, sitting across from the skeletal entity. A cup was placed before Mortis and one before the lizard-man, crisp cool water poured into each.

    ”Your hossspitality isss appreciated, but I require no sssussstenance.” The superfiend quickly assured, waving a hand in the direction of the small clay cup before resting it upon his knee.

    Brohkti tilted his head quizzically, but shrugged as he dismissed the odd statement. ”Very well, merchant.” He hissed, but made no move to take the cup back. ”It is considered polite to offer a guest a drink, for our people. Now then, the business…?”

    Ah yes, the weed.

    Mortis quickly moved on from the subject of to drink or not to drink the foreign jug-water, empty sockets scanning the room once more, while his mind scanned Brohkti for sincerity. So far, he was honest enough, despite his decidedly cutthroat desires regarding shiny things. A pity he was not the type to seek death for a higher cause. ”Yesss, I come on behalf of a dear friend who enjoysss hisss… Recreational activitiesss. I had been thinking to bring him back a variety of different typesss of your sselectionsss for him to enjoy.” He explained thoughtfully, his empty sockets turning to rest on a pyramid stack of bulk bushels. ”Perhapssss I could purchase one of each of what you offer, in bulk. My friend isss a very active, frequent sssmoker, you sssee. I would like hisss giftss to lassst.” He hissed, indicating to the different nets with a long, yellowed talon.

    His host nearly choked on his water, orange eyes blinking to saucers. ”One of each, in bulk?! …That is a large order, traveler. I have over a few dozen types for sale. To have all at once would be well over your budget,” He glanced down at the reflective surface of the medicine stick’s twin barrels. His wide eyed expression narrowed slightly to look at it and then to Mortis with scrutiny. ”…Miracles for sale, or not.”

    A thoughtful hiss slithered from Mortis’ skull, his long talons tapping against the holey knee of his leathers. If all of the weed would be too expensive to purchase, according to this surprisingly scrupulous farmer, perhaps it would be prudent to deduce which types would be well worth the price. ”I sssee, which of thessse would you sssay are your prime herbsss, then? If I cannot have one of every type, perhapsss you would be willing to trade for one of each of your bessst.” Mortis suggested, his skeletal face tilting to the side as he watched the lizard man ponder it over.

    Already he could hear the apprehension in his thoughts, his best varieties of weed, for a gamble of a medicine stick from a merchant who reeked of rotting flesh. Truly, the gods have sought to test his patience this day. However, Brohkti remembered what the strange being promised, that he would allow him to test the stick before confirming their sale. If the medicine stick was a sham –as he personally thought it to be- he was well within his rights to keep his weed and kill this so-called merchant for trying to swindle him. It was a win-win situation all around! A few harsh clicks tutted from the lizard man’s raptor-like lips and he rose to his feet.

    ”I shall show you my best, then.” He agreed, sharp toes clicking against the wooden floor to a particular net, the sign above it bearing an incomprehensible name scratched into its bark surface. ”This is one of my finest supply for relaxation, I call it Tt’sska, it calms the mind without making one hungry. It is a fine choice for one who intends to smoke on their own time, without guests.” Brohkti explained. As for why one would not wish to have guests? There was no point in cooking a feast for only one person, after all. That was saved for the kinds intended to gatherings. ”There is a weaver who comes by regularly, every month for it. It is her favorite for aiding her work, steadies the hands.” The lizard tapped a talon to another bound bushel, this one wrapped in crude twine that was stained a vibrant red, humming fondly as he recalled it. ”This one is also for relaxation, but does not allow for focus like my other one. It clears the mind completely, lets one feel like they are floating, drifting, the world washes itself away like a tide. It is a good choice, if you intend to spend a few hours being lazy and inattentive. I call it Khaa. There is also Rr’ith, which does it similarly, but without inflaming one’s apatite.”[/i]

    Oh, his brother would enjoy that one immensely. He could already see Fear puffing a joint filled with it, absolutely disconnected from the world and letting himself drift, just as Brohkti promised. He would take a few bundles of that home with him for certain. Empty sockets followed the green lizard as he moved to another tier of shelves next to the ones intended for relaxation. All of them were bound in bright orange twine. Brohkti revealed the reason before Mortis could think to ask.

    ”These are my blends for divination. They are powerful herbs, I would not recommend them to any except those with the will strong enough to endure them. They will show you the spirit world, and that which lays within it.” The lizard-man seemed apprehensive about offering this particular merchandise to the ghoul. Evidently he only ever offered it to priests from what he could hear in Brohkti’s thoughts. Otherwise, the bundle of strange weed was known as, the kind of weed that is laced with hallucinogenics. The undead superfiend kept his thoughts to himself, however. This was Brohkti’s shop after all, and he was a customer who was foreign to their strange, primitive ways.

    Even so… ”My friend isss plenty ssstrong, he could endure thisss ssspirit world you ssspeak of easssily. He hasss endured many othersss. What elssse do you have?” Mortis replied, eager to see what other kinds the lizard man had at his disposal.

    ”…I-I see. Your friend is a priest, then?” Brohkti replied, incredulous and impressed all at once to his guest’s unabashed confidence. The way they unflinchingly stared back him with their empty, dark eye sockets only encouraged him not to argue. ”Very well, very well, he may find Mek’tahl, Ss’kta, and Ttkakkta useful in his divinations. They allow one to see the spirits, to speak with them. It is very helpful in encouraging a trance, yes.”

    Oho, Fear was going to be entranced alright. He was going to be speaking with every “spirit” he could imagine when Mortis returned from his trip. The undead nodded with a grin audible in his tone. ”Yesss, that will do nicely. He would enjoy thossse, certainly.” Mortis agreed. However, his eye soon caught something intruiging further back in the dimly lit room, a number of bundles that were oddly small and bound in twine that looked far different than the rest of Brohkti’s wares. ”What are those over there, bound in purple?” he asked, pointing to them with a yellowed talon.

    Brohkti’s head swiveled over to the row of net shelves, bowed with the weight of their herbal cargo. ”Ah, that is medicine. Potent medicine. There are a few that come to me to purchase them for their ills. Sicknesses that make their chests taught and their limbs feel as if ants are running beneath their scales. A number of them, I have found, are useful in treating the ills of the youthful heart as well.” The lizard-man elaborated, plucking a few from the net as if to inspect them. The bundles were no bigger than a plump yam, tiny compared to the larger, bulky bundles that were melon sized.

    Brohkti had piqued Mortis’s curiosity however, he had never heard of any illnesses of the youthful heart before. ”What illnesssess do you ssspeak of, Brohkti? What would plague the hearts of youthsss?” The ghoul rasped.

    ”Heartaches of course. Pains of passion brought on by unwise, short sighted decisions.”[/i] As youths were wont to do, as was suggested by Brohkti’s blasé tone. ”These will ease their pains, help them to move on. I do not usually sell these for such a purpose, but some, eh… They can be especially soft hearted.” And a pained heart sometimes kept one from working as they were supposed to. The ghoul was familiar with such a scenario, mainly from his own personal experiences… But he was wise to not let on.

    ”I sssee, do thessse come in bulk asss well?” Mortis rasped, nodding to the yam-sized wrap in the lizard-man’s clawed hand. He was met with a raspy laugh, throaty and deeply amused by the question.

    ”This is a bulk bundle, merchant.” He replied, setting the wrap back in the net. ”This is meant to be mixed in with another type, a relaxing blend. To smoke this as is would be overwhelming. This is potent medicine, merchant, very potent.” That was the reason why the twine that bound this bunch was so vividly colored. It was not only an identifier, but a warning label.

    Mortis nodded in understanding, looking at Brohkti and then to the net shelf of purple twine-bound bundles. His brother may not suffer heartache directly from his own actions, but as an empath it was difficult for him not to feel the suffering of those closest to him or become overwhelmed by the thoughts and feelings of the world around him. Perhaps he would like to experiment with this as a temporary reprieve?

    ”What would be your mosssst potent, highessst quality medicinal blendsss then for the youthful ills, Brohtki?” The undead superfiend asked thoughtfully, ”I would like to take two bulk wrapsss of each.” Perhaps it would work for Fear, or perhaps his brother would outright decline the invitation to grant himself a little peace, however potent the means to acquire it.

    Brohkti clucked his tongue thoughtfully, looking over the bundles. It was not often he was asked for medicinal herbs… Hakkal, Tahtti, and Ss’avv are what I prescribe for such ills.” A thoughtful look passed over the lizard-man’s orange eyes and he turned briefly to his rotting guest. ”Does your friend often suffer from such things, merchant? I find it an odd request for a gift.” His tongue clicked and hissed in his native language, but translated smoothly to a perceivable statement thanks to the undead’s xenoglossia.

    The question admittedly caught the undead superfiend off guard, and he remained silent for a moment. However, he did not stay quiet overlong, and found the words to answer Brohkti. ”Not in the way you would think them to occur, no. My friend isss a very ssenssitive ssoul. I would like to offer him sssome reprieve when other routesss may fail.” Though whether or not his brother would accept it, was another story entirely; one that the undead did not feel all that interested or obligated to divulge in with the farmer.

    Brohkti, thankfully, did not inquire further, merely giving an understanding hum before moving on. He went around the nets, retrieving two bulk bundles of each fine blend of weed that Mortis had inquired about. Six of the relaxing blends were retrieved, six divination bundles, and finally six medicinal blends. The scaly lizard creature took two trips to place them all on the wide surface of the stone table, arranged in a neat line between the two of them.

    ”I will give you two of each type I have shown you, in exchange for the medicine stick then… Should it work as you say.” He stated methodically, orange eyes glancing down at the silvery metal of the staff that rested under his visitor’s strange belt. He looked the undead in the eye sockets soon after and beckoned with a talon. Finally he could debunk whether or not this merchant was like the one who was selling sea-snake oil. ”Come now, let Brohkti see this miracle stick.”

    Ah yes, the agreement…

    Mortis shifted his weight and pulled the “stick” from where it was wedged between his hip bone and his leathers, wisely clicking off the safety before setting it in the flat of his clawed, hole-riddled hands and offering it forward. ”I ssshall walk you through it then, Brohkti. It isss a sssimple procedure.” It was difficult to hide the growing giddiness in his person, but years of training allowed him to suppress it, for now. ”The ssshiny end of the ssstick goesss in your mouth, like a pipe.” He instructed, watching as Brohkti turned the ‘stick’ around curiously before placing both barrels into his toothy mouth. His claws grasped the device awkwardly, unfamiliar with holding such a strange contraption.

    ”Yes, yes, and next?” He uttered, the lizard-man’s voice muffled by the presence of cold metal in his mouth.”Is it like a pipe, where the medicine is smoked?”

    The undead superfiend shook his head, pops and crackles erupting from the ancient, withered flesh.”I asssure you Brohkti, thisss worksss like nothing you have ever ssseen before.” He hissed, before returning to the matter at hand. They were so close, he could almost feel the searing jolt snap down the farmer’s spine. ”Next, you pusssh the two curved sswitchesss. Make sssure to pusssh them all the way, or it will not work.” From beneath the brim of his hat, the undead’s empty eye sockets seemed to glower at his host like a predator stared hungrily at prey.

    Brohkti glanced up at the undead with hard scrutiny, but his fingers reached for the ‘switches’ as told. He was going to prove this fool wrong, even if he had to humor his silly device. Even with the cold steel in his mouth, he still managed to convey a condescending tone the skeletal looking visitor. ”Switches? Bah, now I know that this is not a true medicinal-“


    Sparks and smoke mingled with a spray of brilliant red viscera, in a single instant all of Brohkti’s woes and ills were wiped clean from his person. The sputtering stump of the lizard-man’s neck was all that remained of the farmer’s toothy, emerald face, his limbs twitching violently before his body fell back against the floor with a dull thud. The shotgun, still smoking from its usage, clattered to the floor from the ex-lizard’s hands.

    ”Your painsss have been absssolved, sssinner. Ressst in peace.” Mortis rasped, a low sinister laughter echoing from his host as he went to retrieve his weapon. The gore that managed to bleed upon the barrel was wiped away upon Brohkti’s loincloth, before being holstered in his belt once more. Unfortunately, with the master of the house gone, he would have a harder time finding where they kept the seedlings for the next harvest.

    But fortunately, there were ways around that.

    After having gathered the bundles of weed that were sought and, technically, fairly traded for, he placed them in one of the deeper bags upon Angemort’s pack and secured them tightly from the sun and rain. The gunshot had awoken Woolie from her soothed stupor long ago, but the ewe did not voice any complaints until it came time that the undead superfiend went to deposit her into her personal saddle bag upon Samhain’s side.

    Why do I have to wait here, Ma? I don’t like staying alone with her.

    The ghoul hushed her with a few soothing strokes between the ears as he set the fluffy sheep into the leather bag’s deep confines. ”You will not be alone dearessst, Angemort will keep Sssamhain in line if ssshe doess not behave.” He turned his skeletal visage to the undead mare’s grinning visage, which had been turned to look at the superfiend sidelong, her single ear flicking at her master’s statement. ”And you will behave while I am away, Sssamhain.” The ghoul added sternly, his favored steed while she was clever and fiery, did have her flaws. It was not usually wise to leave the living in her custody, especially if one wished them to be alive and unharmed on their return. But she would do as told, for her master, the bestower of treats and scratchies.

    The ghoul’s lengthy stride carried him through the thick underbrush, measured paces seeking out a particularly dense crop of bushes not too far away from the farm, but just far enough to keep from being discovered by a passing farmhand. The weed farm was a family operation, from the way the workers knew each other intimately. Brother working with brother, and elder to produce a little reprieve from the woes of the world and bring merriment. Or communicate with the spirits, depending on what one decided to smoke.

    Their thoughts were read like one rifled through the pages of a book, and as the undead came to settle himself among the dense leafy foliage, hiding his perpetually decaying host, he found a particular family member that would suit his purposes perfectly. He was a slim specimen, one of the youths that had been tasked with less demanding chores until he became of age to do the labor of his older brothers. He tended to the clothing, ensured the scant meat animals they possessed were well fed, and other tedious, simple tasks… Save for one that caught Mortis’ attention. He had the means to get to the seeds that were stored away further back on the property.

    There was a detached sigh and Mortis’ host slumped to the ground, his lifeless corpse made all the more listless as the undead’s presence seemed to fade from it completely. For those with the ability to see it, they likely would have noted the gaseous figure that arose from the decayed husk. As if his host had given up its final breath, Mortis’ very spirit evacuated the carcass. His imposing form was reduced to a noxious mist, only his sheep’s skull’s elongated grin hinting to it being Mortis at all. He hissed and took flight, as if carried upon a swift gust, and sought out the boy from the air.

    The youth’s scales, a brilliant red compared to the late Brohkti, stood out like a beacon from the lush greenery. Unlike his elder, this lizard-boy lacked adornments of fine metals and tightly wrapped, dyed leather. There was only a simple belt around his waist, and an equally simple white loin cloth to cover him. A skimming brush of the lizard-boy’s mind revealed that was still but a child to his kind, but growing close to being considered a man like his older brothers. He overheard a snippet of his inner musings:

    …Feed the birds right, Tki’cha. Spread the grain evenly Tki’cha… Rr’ochkal never silences his criticizing tongue. I feed them just fine, it is the birds’ fault they do not eat all of their meals, stupid creatures. Bah, who is he to talk, when it is his clumsy claws that break their eggs!

    Ah, youth.

    If only Mortis could remember a time when he had thought that way about a sibling… Well, he could, but it was not in the way that Tki’cha regarded his older brother. Death may have been his brother in undeath, but the dynamic was far different. Superiors and subordinates, alas, but there had been a damn good reason why Judge Death still kept his lofty title of Chief Judge after Deadworld had been purged. The ghastly ethereal abomination cleared his psyche of such things, his reminiscing set aside for the- ha ha, business at hand. The infiltration was swift, his presence passing into the lizard-boy’s mind as effortlessly as one breathed. Immediately Tki’cha froze in place at the alien presence penetrating his mind, icy spears stabbing through every nerve and lancing down his spine like lightning. The only sounds from the youth’s mouth was a strangled gasp, his yellow eyes bulging in their sockets. The feed bag dropped from his claws like a sac of bricks, landing heavily on the ground.

    Greetingsss, sssinner! A voice croaked in his ears, though he could not pinpoint from where. It seemed to be… everywhere, and at the same time nowhere. I mussst commandeer thisss vesssel of yoursss, temporarily of coursssse.

    The boy’s will was no match for the psychic might of a superfiend such as he, and his scaly body was quickly brought under his captor’s control like a puppeteer masterfully pulled the strings of his marionette. At once Tki’cha’s face screwed up in a contortion of pain and horror, the realization of his doom fleeting as it settled to a blank, trance-like expression. Yellow eyes rolled in their sockets and the boy swayed on his feet. In an instant the master of this scaly body flipped, and the boy was brought back out of his stupor… But not as Tki’cha. Mortis brought himself forward as master and controller of this inferior flesh, eyes glazed in a vacant visage of death before focusing forward.

    Now then, the shed.

    With Tki’cha’s body at his command, it was only a matter of keeping out of direct sight of his family. And as for any that may observe him walking around the weed farm with a bag full of chicken feed, they thought little of it. Coming back from feeding their egg-layers was all. The rest of the chores were his responsibility as a working hand. He would know what to do next as was dictated in the morning. Into the barn Mortis stealthily went, and plucked a few choice seeds from where they were safely kept. Dry, warm, and of course clearly labeled. The boy’s knowledge of their native tongue prevented any misinterpretation, the ghoul perusing it at his leisure. A handful of each premium variety would be enough, he deduced, and equally sought a proper container for his spoils. The undead worked as swiftly as his hijacked host allowed, scaly talons plucking a few water skins that were hanging upon the wall and dumping the seeds into each.

    His borrowed arms, now laden with his loot, carried them back to the horses swiftly and silently. Once he was completely satisfied with his task, did as promised, and allowed the boy his body back… With a few minor adjustments to his memory, of course. It was nothing damning, merely a means of ensuring that his visit did not bite himself, or anyone who may wish to visit this place later, in the bum. Once the boy was eschewed away from the horses and the memory of this whole affair painted a soothing, amnesiatic black, he evacuated the scaly red youth and returned to his host, and soon after, his steeds.

    The rest, as they say, is hisssstory.

      Current date/time is Wed Feb 21, 2018 4:14 pm