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City of Villains
Fire and Shadow
The Chronicles of Nytemaere and Dracosius Rex
It had been a silent trip for Nytemaere as he wound his way through the mountains of neatly stacked wooden crates and metal boxes – pausing only momentarily to bury his spidery, pale fingers into the skull of an unsuspecting skull guard. After stifling the impulse to erupt into a chorus of “Ring around the Rosy” by placing his still bloody hand over his quivering lips, he allowed the lifeless guard to quietly slide from his fingers to crumple into the dark liquid which had pooled on the floor at his feet.
“So delicate, like the china dolls…full of sweets and souls…” his whisper dropping suddenly as the twittering insanity of his tone gave way to a throaty wheeze “…patience darling love…more sweets from the dollies soon enough…the sleeping lizard is near now…”
Flitting from one pile of crates to another, Nytemaere drifted closer to the beckoning illumination at the rear of the warehouse…and the voices gathered there. Dropping silently into a crouch on the length of a rusting ceiling beam of the warehouse, he leaned into the darkness as his eyes fixed on the three figures below him. Two of them he recognized as members of the Skull gang, but the other was dressed impeccably in a three piece suit and matching fedora. With curiosity spurning him forward, he skittered across the narrow beams of the warehouse ceiling coming to a halt directly above the trio and the slightly glowing box between them.
“You’re quite certain that this is the genuine necklace Mr. Patronelli?”
Straightening his tie indignantly, the well dressed man leaned forward to thump a meaty finger on the lid of the wooden box on the floor – the illumination from within flaring ever-so-slightly each time the man’s index finger came in contact with the smooth grain of the wood.
“You callin’ me a lousy welcher Mister “Bone Daddy”?” The thick necked mook growled as he reached towards the lapel of his pin striped suit.
In response, the other skull brought his machine gun to bear on Patronelli as the pearl handle of a .45 magnum was seen sliding out of the mobsters coat. Holding up his hands to the two as he slowly shook his masked features, the Bone Daddy stepped forward with a grim chuckle.
“Not at all Mister Patronelli…I simply need to ensure that the object in question is indeed the Torque of Tscharkoom. Had I taken an article which was not what was promised to the Petrovic Brothers, I fear that the response which would be leveled against the Marcone family would be…dire.”
Shrugging, Patronelli shoved his piece back into his shoulder holster and then glared at the skull underling who still had his machine gun trained on him.
“It’s da’ real thing…For what you’re willing ta’ pay for dis’ thing, da’ boss was more than happy ta’ give ya’ da’ real thing.”
Stepping forward, the Bone Daddy reached out and spun the box around so the opening was facing him. Turning his attentions again to Patronelli, the Bone Daddy cocked his head slightly…his features unreadable beneath the skull mask he was wearing.
“If that is the case, Mister Patronelli, you won’t mind if I verify the contents myself then?”
Folding his arms across his broad chest, Patronelli leaned back against a nearby crate with a grunt.
“Take a look, then give me da’ rest of da’ payment…Mister Marcone ain’t a patient man.”
With what appeared to be great reverence, the Bone Daddy slowly lifted the lid of the box…an eerie red illumination spilling into the darkened warehouse. Nestled in the center of a velvet cushion, a silver torque holding a single, massive ruby glinted wickedly. After a moment of gazing into the pulsing radiance of the torque, the Bone Daddy slowly closed the lid before looking up to the agitated mook.
“It is indeed the Torque of Tscharkoom – an item of great power…my thanks for indulging my distrustful nature.” Nodding to the guard standing beside him the Bone Daddy chuckled darkly “Death Head…see to Mister Patronelli’s payment…”
Realizing the double cross too late, Patronelli’s beefy hand had just found the trigger of the gun in his jacket as the guard’s gun exploded to life…tearing bloody holes in the well tailored suit and throwing the gangster back into the darkened warehouse with a sickening crunch.
With a wave of the Bone Daddy’s hand, a half dozen skull guards emerged from the shadows to surround the newly acquired treasure - each looking to the Bone Daddy who now knelt before the wooden box.
“Finally, the power of the Torque is ours my brethren. With the mystical energies of the Torque of Tscharkoom we will throw off the shackles that Lord Recluse has bound our brotherhood in and rise to take our rightful place as masters…”
The Bone Daddy’s words were lost in a dark swirl of maniacal giggling. Swiveling around, the guards pointed their guns into the deep shadows of the warehouse…unsure of where the ominous laughter originated – each looking to the other underneath their masks for assistance in acquiring their target.
“Power, power power…always with you dollies and puppets it is the hunger for that which is not yours which draws you to my realm.”
As the skulls searched the darkness for the owner of the giggling voice, one of the guards was engulfed by a swarm of writhing, shadowy tentacles a moment before he was dragged screaming into the shadows. Backing towards the Bone Daddy, the assembled skulls began firing into the darkness as they heard their comrade being flung about the warehouse – his screams rising in pitch and fervor as the darkness came alive with the sounds of bones snapping and flesh being rent.
Snarling, the Bone Daddy flung the lid of the chest open – the crimson light emanating from the torque flooding the warehouse with its hungry glow. Reaching in, he scooped the torque out and then stood facing the direction where the last feeble gurgles of his guard could be heard. With the light of the Torque of Tscharkoom bleeding from between his fingers, the Bone Daddy advanced into the darkness – the slightest hint of fear visible now in his movement.
“Show yourself! I wield the power of Tscharkoom, and will not be frightened nor cowed into submission…face the wrath of…”
The skull’s bravado faltered as the shadows came alive with the voice again – at first humming a familiar tune before that crazed voice crept in.
“Puff the Magic Dragon lived by the sea…” the words cut short as gales of high pitched laughter ripped through the warehouse “…No, no, no…the lizard didn’t live by the sea silly dollies…he ruled from the mountains - driving you mortals mad with fear and terror into my waiting arms. And then you spoiled the fun…”
A growl split the darkness as a stack of wooden crates exploded in a dark eruption of shadowy energies. Turning towards the devastation, the Bone Daddy drew himself up and thrust the torque high into the dark air of the warehouse.
“You hide in the shadows…very well…Let the illumination of Tscharkoom strip away your cover – then you shall know true terror!!”
Bending his concentration upon the torque, the ruby began to glow brilliantly – the shadows fleeing before the hungry touch of its crimson illumination. Gritting his teeth against a vibration emanating from the torque in his grasp, the Bone Daddy pressed on…urging the power to flow further into the warehouse. As the light expanded, so too did the vibrations of the torque as a high pitched squeal began to emanate from the necklace. As the light continued to surge throughout the warehouse, the maniacal voice slipped in under the deafening shriek of the torque…a dark chuckle mixing into the words.
“Yes…please do…bring the terror back into this world…”
The building shriek of the torque cut off suddenly as the illumination from the torque erupted in all directions. As a shadowy figure, high atop a stack of crates became visible in the crimson light; it tipped a large top hat to the half-blinded Skulls before dropping from sight.
A silent explosion ripped through the warehouse knocking aside boxes, crates and skulls alike in a wave of devastation a moment before the red light of the torque was swallowed by the darkness. Rolling about on the floor in agony, the Bone Daddy reached up to the charred remains of his right hand and shrieked in anger.
“Lights! Get me lights! The Torque has been dropped! We mustn’t allow the infidel to get his hands on it!”
A moment passed as the groans from the surviving skulls registered with the Bone Daddy. Staggering to his feet, he began again to shriek out his orders as his breath caught in his throat. At the origin of the explosion, thin wisps of flame began dancing about a massive form which was knelt on the floor. Taking an involuntary step backwards, the Bone Daddy barely suppressed a gasp as the form before him stood erect – enormous wings snapping outward as it slowly turned towards him.
With the flames now fully engulfing the gigantic creature – tongues of fire leaping from it’s form to smolder and spark amongst the wooden crates and rubble – reptilian features stared hard at the quivering Bone Daddy…scaled lips peeling back from a mouth bristling with dagger-like teeth.
Without a sound, Nytemaere dropped from the shadows to perch on a crate beside the behemoth. Turning a crazed smile to the draconian, he then gestured to the Bone Daddy and other injured Skulls.
“Well met old friend…I’ve brought you some playthings – as it’s been so long since you’ve tasted flesh…”
As the screams began, and the warehouse was set ablaze with the passage of Dracosius, Nytemaere simply stood back and hummed “Old MacDonald” while he feasted on the fear and terror emanating from the slaughter before him.
“And too long since I’ve feasted as well…”