The shop’s door opens with a quaint “ding-a-ling” as a ridiculously pampered Pureblood dressed in an immaculate Red Dress slowly saunters to the counter. As they fluff their hair they reach into a designer purse and pull out a receipt.
“I’m here to pick up my usual package… my god are you alright?”
“Not really I’ve been drinking for the past twelve hours or so.”
The Pureblood puts a finger to their lips and scrunches their brow, “That explains the closed sign.”
“And yet you walked in anyway…”
The Pureblood merely cracks a small smile, “Well the party is tonight and I can’t be without my hat.”
“Don’t talk to me about hats.” He tips his flask into his mouth desperately slapping it to get the final dregs of hooch from it. “No more hats.”
The Pureblood put a concerned touch to the shopkeeper's hand and removed the flask from his hand “What happened?”
“Had a special order, a rather tall order from a rather tall customer. He was absolutely smashed, and before I could open my mouth he dumps a massive brick of Tickets into my lap.” The shopkeep convulses himself in tears. “I’m not made of stone!”
“There’s no way it was that bad, I mean you’ve done special orders before.” She points at a framed receipt for a dozen pure white hats signed by Trade Senator Mellok.
“Well..” The Shopkeep straightens himself on his stool. “This special top hat took around three hours of preparing just from the fabric alone.”
“Sounds like a tall order…”
“Three feet tall.”
The fine lady immediately drops their smile and decorum, “You’re fucking kidding me.”
“Not only that, but he paid extra for a special add on.”
She raises an eyebrow, “A feather?”
The shopkeeper immediately bursts into hysterical tears, “No…” he cries, “A beard!”
Without a word the Pureblood turns around and locks the front door of the shop, from her purse she withdraws a surprisingly large bottle and takes a seat behind the counter.
“I think now’s not a day to attend a party. This will be the day we mourn fashion instead.”
The Lascarian stumbles into the cave with a shudder as they quickly close the hidden doorway with a slam.
“Mushroom! What the fuck did I tell you about slamming the door!”
The panting Lascarian, holds up a hand in apology, “Sorry Bossman I just barely escaped with my life!”
“Oh shit, was it those Whisperkin again? They’ve been really friskly lately.”
“No man it was worse. It was this big fuck-off Kneeler wielding a big fuck-off Thunderbird.”
Bossman cringes at the thought of this, “You made sure to shake him right?”
“You bet, but he was acting super shady.”
“Really? Crazy you managed to get away.”
“Yeah, he was super distracted talking to this Thunderbird perched on his arm, or rather listening to it.”
“That’s not a good sign.”
“You bet. He kept talking to it stuff like ‘Yessss soon my sweet, you will attain fresh deliciousness. Yessss the unbelievers will be purged...’ It was creepy as fuck!”
“Was he holding a Cleaver?”
“He wasn’t not holding a Cleaver.”
Suddenly from outside their door they hear two loud cries, shrieks as if from predatory primal birds.
“Did we make sure to install locks on the door?”
“Oh man I sure hope we did.”
The Retro finishes up a long swig of drink with a crunch as he crushes the can in his hand.
“Gimme another one…”
The barman raises an eyebrow at the man’s excessive drinking as he passes him another can, “What’s up with you?”
“Just finished a job up at the local Overlord’s place, broke up an old bathroom and installed in some new furnishings.”
The barman cracked a wry smile, “Oh shit really! What’s it for?”
“Apparently he wanted a special “Chill room” installed.” He scratches his chin, flaking off some sloughed skin, “Might’ve been “Thrill Room” he was slurring his words super bad.”
The barman scratches at a dirty glass, “What was so Chill about it.”
“Well firstly there’s no furniture in it. Secondly there’s no traditional wallpaper or carpeting. Thirdly…” The construction worker pinches the bridge of his nose trying to find the words. “Money, it’s just a room literally made out of money. Tickets installed from wall to ceiling...just hundreds of tickets lining up an empty fucking room!”
“I’ve never seen so many tickets in my life...” The Retro finishes his can and throws it across the room. “And after we finished he wanted some “Alone time” in his new hidey hole and some of his rotten kids kicked me in the keister.”
The barman cheesily grins, “Sounds rich!”
The Rover's whispers carried through the small group seated at the Winchester, their hands huddled around cups of hot brown.
A large Rover with a cup marked ‘World’s best Dad’ finishes up a story, “And they never saw or heard them again…”
A slow whisper of ‘Ooooo’ emerges from the crowd.
“Man Paully sure really tells the best stories doesn’t he?”
“Not all of them.” Says a old grey Rover, streaks of silver down her long flowing mane.
“Really? Well illuminate us then Sherrryl?”
“Very well. I was Scrounging out it the woods. The calm of the night on the back of my neck...”
Bothered whispers from the group emerge, one of the smaller Rovers grumbles, “Get on with it!”
“I will if you’d allow me. Goodness. Where was I?”
“In the woods.” noted Paully, sipping from his cup which did proclaim him the World’s best Dad.
“Ah yes. I was in the woods in the dead of night when whispering behind me came lurching this horrid figure. Half-Person. HALF-BIRD! A nightmarish leather creature half covered in tattoos and black inky darkness. A true Drive-thru abomination of nature!”
The formerly rowdy group leans into the story, their previously bored nature statiated.
“It slowly struggles towards me, breathing hard and deep. It’s hands outstretched and covered in inky blackness. At this point I’m on my hands and knees at this point, cowering for my life.”
“Aren’t you always..” The previously vocal smaller rover begins to smugly whisper before they’re punched in the arm. They wince and shake their arm.
Sherrryl gives them a stern look before continuing, “It leans towards me, the beak draggin over my shoulder, and it begins to whispers in my ear.”
“What’d it say?” remarks an excited Paully.
“Trust me. I’m a Doctor.”
“That’s not a great sign…” said Paully.
“You’re darn right, but here’s where it gets weird.”
“It gets weirder!?”
“Yeah because what it does next is outstretch his arm, and screaming from the night THIS OWL from nowhere PICKS HIM UP AND CARRIES HIM INTO THE SKY!”
“Really Greg? You want proof?” Sherrryl digs into her bag and pulls out a jar emblazoned with a sticker of a plague-doctor’s mask upon it.
“It dropped this.”
“Is that brown?”
“Yeah, and it’s the best fucking coffee I’ve ever drank.”
It is the pitch black darkness of midnight.
The Saltwise gather around the beach. In their hands baskets of clams and mussels. One of them carries a large shovel. They entrench a small hole in the ground and are sparking loose grasses on smooth flat rocks. They work in complete silence. The world is empty to them. After the fire is good and ready and the flat rocks baking with heat, they begin to place their first cuts of the fruits of their labor. One of them speaks up. Their forehead is patched with bandana, barely covering a burn. He lifts his arms towards the sky.
“YOOOO WHAT THE FUCK WAS UP WITH THAT DUDE LAST WEEK!?”
Another exclaims in equally honest excitement, “I KNOW RIGHT HOLY SHIT!”
The third Saltwise, covered in armor fashioned from cowrie shells bursts up from their sitting position, their clattering shirt dancing in the wind, “THEIR NAME WAS BIG KAHUNA RIGHT?! HE KEPT SHOUTING IT OVER AND OVER!”
The bandana’d one sweeps his arm gesturing towards the bake, “TOTALLY! HE KEPT WALKING ACROSS THE COALS THE ENTIRE TIME! WHO THE FUCK DOES THAT!? HOW DID HE DO THAT?!”
“Yeah and then he did that wicked cool fire kick!”
The bandana’d Saltwise winces and gingerly touches his forehead, “C’mon man, don't remind me. Not cool…”
A soft glow emanates from the hands of a Solestros as she holds them over the strangely-bent arms of the Nation of Ascensor seated in front of her.
“I didn’t see him coming,” the kneeler is saying over and over again. “Just fell out of the dark and hit me so hard my damn arm broke.”
“Lucky they didn’t kill you. Hunters are rough,” the priest responds.
A soft jingling is heard as the kneeler aggressively shakes his head. “This wasn’t a hunter...it was a damn nann.” He sighs. “No, I promised my husband that I wouldn’t use that word anymore. Retrograde. Hellion, by the look of his armor. Bottlecaps. Perfect craftsmanship. Was wearing so much glow around his neck I was worried I’d get Rad poisoning just being near him.”
“And he broke your arm?” the Solestros asks, baffled. “What did you do to him?”
“Nothing! He broke my arm while I was in the middle of being zed dinner. I'd been running for hours, and eventually tripped . They swarmed me, and starting eating me alive! Just as I was fading out from the pain, this fucker rescued me, put my organs back inside me and then ran off into the night screaming about printer club.”
The small Lascarian looks worryingly at their travel companion.
“So what happened to you Big Jeff?”
The Large Merican shrugs, their body covered in bandages and sticky fluid. “I don wana talk about it.”
“C’mon man tell me what’s up?”
“Well, alright. So I wuz just craftin by my lonesome MINDIN MY OWN BIZZNESS, when suddenly this redheaded gold-chained cakebaby came outta nowhere and started beatin the livin shit outta me!”
“That’s not so bad, happens to everybody. Some Pureblood goin nuts and all.”
“Nah man this is where it gets weird! While I’m all down and on the ground he starts tryin to stick Copper Wire into me!”
“Woof. Sounds like some Dread Surgeon shit.”
“EXACTLY! Then he starts to then kick the ever living shit outta me. And all the while he’s shoutin MA-STER STILL, MA-STER STILL!’”
The lascarian winces, “Ouch! What happened next!”
“Well I did what I normally do if I’m on the ground and someone is kickin me in the nards and guts. I throw up!”
“Here’s the weird part, he whips out a bottle fills it with my sick and runs away into the night screamin at the top of his lungs!”
“Purebloods man. They’re nuts.”
The group of Irons huddle around the campfire, their warm glow overshadowing the sputtering light coming from the weak flames beneath them.
One of the grizzled Irons with a large scar across his eye says, “We got super lucky that youngin' saved us didn’t we?”
“Sure did. Did you hear his cry? ‘PROTECT THE NEIGHBORHOOD!’ a true hero of Nukefam if there ever was one!”
“You betcha! Did anyone catch his name? He was built like a tank!”
One of the other Irons shrugs and scratches her chin, “Naw, he was too busy cryin' something about someone named Kevin when he wasn’t screamin' “NO DADDY NO!”
Another Iron perks up, sparkles in his deep blue eyes, “What a dreamy mysterious stranger.”
“Yup, he left some sort of note though!”
The scarred Iron looks away from the fire, “Really? Let me look at it. I managed to learn me some letters overhearin' a lesson one of them idiot slavers was learnin'.”
The Iron woman quickly passes over a small piece of parchment, smeared with what looks like pizza grease. She quickly sparks with curiosity “Whut’s it say?”
The eyepatched elder furrows his brow, “I don’t understand.”
All it says is this- ‘Anyway here’s Wonderwall…’?”
The blue eyed Iron quickly loses their idealized vision of their savior, “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”
Far off into the distance, an ancient Dam surrounding a small lake has had a faultline broken just a little bit. Beneath this wall a slaver camp lies beneath. Their recent cargo has been liberated in the middle of the night from some mysterious Iron and they’re begrudgingly eating a quick breakfast before they get on the road to recapture their living goods, A grizzled Retrograde picks his teeth clean of bacon as he suddenly hears a large cracking noise.
“Wonder what that sound is? Oh shit, the w-!”
The torrent of water hits and decimates the entire camp before he can even sputter out the word.
Little Tommy walked in, his hands empty. “No mail today, Pa,” he reported.
“Nothing?” his father replied. “That’s two days in a row.”
“Think that mailman buried them?” Little Tommy asked.
His father raised an eyebrow. “Buried them?” he echoed.
“Yeah, Pa,” Little Tommy continued. “There was this woman a while back; her face was so pretty, it looked like a rainbow! She looked lost, she kept looking at the ground, talkin' to herself. Things like "No, this won't do, not enough light. Too windy."
Tommy paused to breath, too excited in his story that his father was paying close attention to. "Then she said says, a word I can't pronounce. Something like "youreka". I asked her what it meant, and she locked her eyes on me, and said, and she was real serious like Pa - "it means I have found what I am looking for. Only has left a sign."
So she pulls out this shovel, and starts digging, fast and hard. She get's about the size of the hole you have me dig for the outhouse Pa, so it was pretty deep! I don't know where she was getting all that energy!"
"Then she opened her mail carry bag, starts going through the mail, and every now and then she throws them in the hole!"
His father cut him off, saying "I told you to stay away from that hooch Tommy. You are too young to have things like that."
Tommy's face got beet red, as he continued. "I don't drink hooch Pa. Makes you slow around the zed. Anyway, she was burying letters saying that they were addressed to dead people. I think she thought that’s how they get there. Is that true?”
“Don’t be silly, Little Tommy,” his father said. “That mailman’s just batshit crazy.... probably.”
“Shit! Where you been?” a red haired Pure Blood said, staring at her blood-covered Genjian friend in horror. His robes were almost completely covered in the stuff, and he didn’t wince as he removed it, which meant the blood wasn’t even his.
“I killed six coyotes,” he said grimly, “and had to patch up the Solestros they were chewing on.”
“Sounds like a Solestros now owes you a life debt.”
“Fuck that. No way. No matter how pretty of a smile she’s got, that woman was crazier than a green-veined unborn. I pulled the first coyote off her with my sword, and instead of ‘oh gee thanks mister, she starts apologizing for not having a seat ready for dinner, then says to remember it's a meal co-op, and not a plan.”
The Pure Blood narrows her eyes suspiciously. “Is this one of your ‘I swear this really happened’ stories that is really just a long-winded pun?”
“No, I swear this really happened. Solestros, in the woods, got a whole picnic laid out that she’s bleeding all over. I get all the coyotes off her and she starts crying about all her catering clients going away.”
“I don’t get it.”
“There’s no punchline. This actually happened. Solestros, catering a picnic for coyotes. Guess she should have let sleeping dogs-”
“Don’t you dare finish that.”