The Misadventures of Morga Skullsplitter – Episode 5: Bloody Body Disposal
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Episode 5: Bloody Body Disposal
Back in the Cellar
‘That was odd,’ Hector thought, as the voice that usually did all his internal monologuing returned to rattle around in his empty skull. It felt like he’d been somewhere, but he couldn’t remember where – a turn of events that the skeleton found most frustrating. He was usually meticulous about taking mental notes about everything.
Still not feeling quite like himself, Hector attempted to piece together what he did know. This did not take long. In fact, the results of this little exercise were frightfully underwhelming. The memory of attempting to save Scratch was clear. As was being pummelled by that gods-be-damned mutant hammer…
But, other than that, he knew nothing.
“I really need to pull myself together,” he muttered at the same moment the mutant warhammer came charging down into the cellar.
The weapon reeked of blood and other bodily fluids; the stench telling Hector that someone had met an untimely end. He hoped it wasn’t Scratch; he was really starting to like that little fellow. And there was something about the little chap that made him think he was destined for wondrous things. It was like an aura that smelt of possibilities.
Hector would have crossed his fingers and prayed to Volkdrow (the God of Luck) for Scratch’s safety, but his fingers were currently scattered around the pile of bones. Besides, it was the thought that counted with these kinds of things, wasn’t it?
The hammer interrupted his thoughts by barrelling down the rest of the rickety old steps and crash landing into Hector’s bone pile. This was so undignified.
The universe seemed to be set on adding further insult to injury as it allowed – no, it encouraged – the warhammer to start gnawing on Hector’s thigh bone.
Enough was enough, he needed to make himself whole again. Bones clattered together as the skeleton attempted to reform, but then just stopped moving entirely.
‘Well,’ he thought, ‘that was anticlimactic.’
“Umm… Mister Hammer,” he said out loud. “Please can you refrain from nibbling on me?”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the hammer didn’t take any notice of Hector’s request. Rather than take heed of the skeleton’s request, Carnage sat on the skull and snapped the jaw off. The hammer celebrated this act of destruction by breaking wind.
‘So much for asking for help,’ Hector thought.
Morga’s boots collided against the rickety stairs to the cellar like she hated them. Each step was loaded with violence and frustration. What had that hammer been thinking? Everything was going so well: Carnage had started talking and they were working together on a plan. Then he’d gone to wash up and now he was even more feral than before. Throughout her years, Morga had met many who claimed to be allergic to baths, but in Carnage’s case, it may have actually been the truth.
“CARNAGE! I SWEAR TO THE GODS IF YOU DON’T COME HERE RIGHT NOW, I’M GONNA TEAR YOU APART MYSELF!” Her voice threatened to bring the whole cellar down. And the tavern above it. And probably the whole of Moonwich. So much for stealth. Perhaps shouting her head off hadn’t been the wisest of choices… especially when there was (what was left of) a body upstairs. Before continuing with her rampage against the mutant hammer, she stomped back up the stairs and poked her head through the trapdoor.
“Scratch,” she said.
The little green creature scampered over to the opening. Standing at his full height, he was only slightly taller than Morga’s head. “Y-y-yes?” His voice was shaky and seemed even smaller than before. Morga’s shouting had scared him if no-one else. Or perhaps it was the dead body and/or the mutant hammer that had put it there that was giving the little fellow the heebie jeebies.
“Get rid of the gnome, would you? I’d rather he not be discovered until we’re long gone.”
“Y-y-yes… of course… that makes perfect sense,” Scratch said, before scampering away again.
Satisfied that one job was under control, Morga returned her attention to the task at hand. This time, she’d remembered to bring a lantern with her, and the small light found Carnage immediately. Perched on top of a pile of bones, Carnage chewed on something and waited for her to approach.
A sigh left Morga’s lips and her shoulders felt so heavy it was like she was carrying a castle on her back. Poor Hector. It was rare for her to regret things that happened during a Rage, but Hector’s demise filled her with remorse. Especially since a large part of her still believed he had been the Hector Cluescavenger from those novels she loved.
“Drop it,” she said, but Carnage ignored her and continued to grind his teeth against a bone.
“Let it go!” she said, louder this time.
Although the hammer didn’t answer, he did turn around so that his back was facing the orc.
“Rude little shit,” Morga muttered, before turning up the volume again. “Don’t ignore me. DROP. THE. BONE. Don’t you think you’ve eaten enough tonight?”
Carnage belched in response. Despite having eaten an extremely fresh kill, it stank of rotten fresh. It was enough to turn even the hardiest of orc’s stomach. But, at least he’d dropped the bone, so that was something.
“You’re such a delight,” Morga said to the hammer, as she began to shoo it off the bones. “These aren’t for you. This is Hector. I wonder if there’s a way to put him back together again… Maybe that witch will know.”
Carnage didn’t know anything about the witch, nor did he seem interested in the idea of putting the skeleton back together. The hammer was now doing a convincing impression of a stroppy toddler, complete with stomping feet and throwing himself around the room. At one point, he almost tripped right into the open and waiting jaws of the treasure chest.
“Gotcha!” Morga said as she pulled him away and the jaw closed on empty air. “Now stop being an idiot and just sit still. I can’t be dealing with this nonsense.”
A growl came from somewhere deep inside Carnage, but he appeared to be doing as he was told. Satisfied, Morga looked at the pile of bones.
“I’m taking him with us,” she announced. “We’ll find the Heart of Darkness and once ol’ witchy-poos gives us the reward, she can fix Hector.”
Up until that point, Morga hadn’t decided who she was working for, although she had been leaning more towards giving the Heart to her clan leader.
But when she’d broken Hector, her loyalties had collided. She hadn’t known the skeleton for long, but she was sure she had felt a bond between them. If not friendship, then it was a mutual respect. But not one born out of fear, like so many of her non-orcish relationships were. Hector hadn’t seemed bothered by the fact she was an orc and he certainly hadn’t cowered in her presence like Scratch had mere moments ago. For Morga, that was enough to base her loyalty on. Her clan master wouldn’t have been able to reanimate the skeleton, but the witch would.
Solemn and silent, Morga began to collect up the bones, piling them into an empty barrel that carried the pleasing smell of her favourite ale. To her surprise, Carnage helped her.
Perhaps he wasn’t completely feral after all.
Either that, or he was planning to nibble on those bones later.
What am I supposed to do with a body?
After receiving the instructions from Morga, Scratch pondered two things:
- how the fuck was he supposed to get rid of a body?
- why the fuck was he taking orders from an orc he’d just met?
The trouble was that she had a point; they couldn’t leave Benny’s remains here… especially not when the orc had been shouting her head off. It would be a miracle if no-one heard that commotion.
Forcing one foot in front of the other, Scratch moved closer to the body. Carnage had done a rather thorough job of eating all the gnome’s squishy bits, so there wasn’t a lot of Benny left to move.
Scratch sighed. He’d like the gnomish knight. He wished he could talk to him again. If only he’d been quicker in answering Benny earlier, they both could have been on their way by now, hiding out somewhere in the city. Maybe in another tavern. Or somewhere that sold coffee. Scratch loved coffee. Perhaps Benny did too.
The gnome had clearly been up to something, but he’d always been kind to Scratch. Despite Scratch’s fun-loving nature and amazing personality (and, of course, his modesty), he found that not many people were all that kind to him. In fact, he could count all of those people on one hand.
He held up one finger. Hector.
He held up another. Benny.
Aside from his thumb, only one finger remained unclaimed (Grunts only have three fingers and, as a result, don’t like wearing gloves made for humans or gnomes). Scratch hoped with all his might that he’d find someone to fill that finger. Perhaps Morga? Carnage seemed unlikely.
Trying not to focus on the mass of crimson around the chair and floor, Scratch said, “What are we going to do with you?”
The mostly devoured gnome didn’t answer. Which, Scratch supposed, was a relief. His night had already been action-packed, so he had no desire to throw a ghost into the mix. Especially not one that had just been murdered. Spirits who had met a traumatic end generally weren’t great company. Plus, Scratch had never met a ghost who had liked him. It seemed that the dead despised the little fellow as much as the living. Bastards.
Morga’s voice was drifted up from the cellar. Didn’t that orc know how to be stealthy? They weren’t on a battlefield now. They were in the centre of Moonwich. A town.
And that meant police.
If patrons of the tavern didn’t like him, Scratch was almost positive that prisoners wouldn’t take a shine to him either. “There’s no way this furry lil butt’s going to the dungeon,” he muttered.
The words had just left his lips when he heard an omnious sound in the distance. It travelled through the night as if seeking him. A bellowing horn. A pounding drum.
The police were on their way.
Whatever Scratch was going to do with Benny’s remains, he needed to do it now.
Outside, the sound grew louder. That was not good. Not good at all.
Scampering back to the trapdoor, he called down to Morga. “Umm… Morga…”
“What is it?” she called back up.
“We really need to make like a banana and split.” Scratch hoped that by invoking the dessert the orc enjoyed, she might be more inclined to listen to him. And, more importantly, to act on his suggestion.
“Just a moment,” she replied. “I’m busy.”
“But the police are on their way!”
There was a short pause. Then she came back with, “Interesting, I’ve heard of those. I’ll just gather Hector’s bones and we’ll get out of here. Have you cleaned up that mess yet?”
That mess? That mess had a name. But Benny was torn apart and smelt bad, so ‘mess’ probably did describe him quite well.
“Umm… almost,” Scratch lied as panic swelled in his chest. He needed to clean up. And fast.
“What am I supposed to do with a body?” he asked the tavern in general. Scratch had never done anything like this before (in fact, until this week he’d never seen anyone be killed before). The little grunt may have been annoying and was almost definitely a petty criminal, but he wasn’t a murderer. Thieves and pickpockets didn’t tend to have a lot of experience in hiding murder victims.
Approaching the remains again did nothing except turn his stomach. Could he sweep them up? Ask Carnage to finish his meal?
“I’ve stolen bigger hauls than this,” he said. “I just need something to conceal them in. Yes, that’s it!”
Almost immediately, he spotted something he could use: a barrel. Sure, it still had some ale in it, but he was sure Benny wouldn’t mind.
Not wanting to get ale or blood over his new purple leather bag, he removed it from its hiding place and rested on a nearby chair. ‘I’ve got to stop thinking of it as my bag,’ he thought. He still needed to find some way of getting back into the orc’s possession before she noticed it was gone. But that was a problem for Future Scratch; the Scratch of the here and now had enough to deal with.
And one of thoes things was the purple leather bag.
Because it wasn’t just a normal bag. Why would it be? It was the kind of bag that could make a bad day even worse.
Or it could the worst day ever into something world-ending.
… which is what it seemed to want to do at that moment.
With no prior warning, the bag screamed. A full on, ‘I’m being chased by a murderous ghost’ scream. As soon as this sound was let loose into the world, four things happened.
The first was that Scratch almost shat himself. There was no shame in that, as it seemed like the most appropriate reaction to meeting a screaming bag for the first time.
Secondly, Morga yelled something (Scratch wasn’t sure what as he couldn’t hear her over the screaming bag) and stomped up the stairs into the tavern’s common room. Once she was visible, Scratch did hear her ask what he was doing with her bag, but he pretended he couldn’t hear that either. Ignorance, in Scratch’s experience, was the safest option in these kinds of scenarios. Not that he’d been in many – or any – exactly like this.
Thirdly, the bellowing horn and the pounding drums got louder, somehow competing with the sound of the screaming bag. They were getting closer.
But, it was the forth thing that would stick in Scratch’s mind for the rest of his days.
After what felt like years, but was probably only long enough for Scratch to let out four squeaky farts, the bag stopped screaming and opened wide. Far wider than it should be been able to. A yawning great chasm appeared where the bag had been. Filled with nothing but darkness, it was impossible to tell where it ended. Scratch stared into the bleak, unflinching nothingness. Not only did the abyss stare back at him, but it called him towards it. Not with sound, but with something ‘other’. A force.
Behind him, Morga grunted, letting him know that she was feeling something similar. Fighting against the urge to approach the void, Scratch gritted his teeth. It didn’t work. One agonising step after another, his traitorous feet took him towards the nothingness.
Invisible tentacles slithered out of the black and wrapped around his limbs. Although he couldn’t see them, he could feel as they tightened their grip. Hopelessness weighed in his heart as his legs took him ever closer to the eternal abyss. He tried to scream or yell, but nothing came out except for a pathetic little squeak.
Thrumming, the air around him threatened to burst his eardrums and compress his brain.
Then, something started to build inside him. Was it another sneeze? It had saved his life last time, but he had the feeling that stopping a gateway into the abyss was very different to stopping an orc in a Rage.
‘Although… I have been close to popping my clogs on both occasions,’ he thought. With that in mind, he let the sneeze do its thing.
Any moment now.
Just like last time, the sound was enough to wake the dead – which would have been handy as it would have meant that Benny could have tidied himself up – and snot flew out faster than a hellhound in heat.
A toxic lime green globule of snot flipped through the air and disappeared into the bag’s gaping maw. No satisfying splat came to let Scratch knew that it had hit anything. No-one gasped in disgust. For all he knew, his snot was still travelling through eternity.
Which is where he would be soon.
He took another step towards the abyss.
One of his toes now rested on the edge of the bag. Now he was close, it was almost impossible to fight the temptation to just jump straight in. After all, why would he? The sight before him was beautiful. It was as comfortable as being wrapped in a blanket on a cold day. Or as refreshing as jumping in a cool lake during the summer. The abyss tempted him, promising him safety and happiness.
He reached out for it…
… as someone reached for him.
A thin, grey hand reached out of the nothingness and grabbed at the air around him, and Scratch jumped back. What the fuck was that thing? It reached for him again, touching him with ice-cold fingertips, but it wasn’t quite able to get a grip on his ankle. The grey skin was like paper, and ripped each time the hand moved, revealing flesh that was both rotten and desiccated underneath. A waft of something that smelt like death reached Scratch’s nose. But it wasn’t like Benny’s recent death. This was something long gone. Something ancient.
Seemingly determined, the hand reached for him again.
“Nope, not today,” a familiar voice said as a strong hand grabbed ahold of the scruff of his neck and pulled him backwards.
This time, Scratch managed to scream.
“Easy there,” the voice said. “It’s just me, Morga.”
Relief filled Scratch for a split second until he remembered that it hadn’t been long ago that Morga had been planning to kill him, and he still needed to explain why he had her bag. The bag that now wanted to devour him.
‘I’m never stealing anything again,’ he thought, knowing full well that was a lie.
A low moan came from somewhere inside the abyss, possibly from the thing with the grey hand. It was a mixture of anger and disappointment. Whatever that thing was, it had wanted to eat Scratch, and Morga had just deprived it of its meal.
And now the thing was hangry – a feeling Scratch knew well.
“Maybe we should give it a snack,” he said, as he dangled from Morga’s strong grip. She swung him back in the direction of the bag/abyss thing. “No! Not me! There’s gotta be something else it can eat!”
Morga smiled. “Just kiddin’, little one.” How she could be joking at a time like this, Scratch didn’t know. Her little prank almost caused him to lose control of his bladder, his bowels, and just about every other internal organ.
“We could give it the gnome,” Morga suggested.
“Just what I was thinking,” Scratch said, even though it wasn’t. It was, however, a brilliant idea, and Scratch always tried to claim those wherever possible.
When one first becomes a spirit, one tends to feel a little bit lost. Until you find your incorporeal feet, there isn’t much to do but watch the world around you. A world that you can’t interact with… until you become a big strong spirit capable of scaring the bejesus out anyone you have a grudge against. And some you don’t.
At that moment, Benny was still very new to being a spirit. Still tied to remains as if tethered by an umbilical cord, the gnome was pulled towards open bag along with whatever was left of his flesh and bones. Whatever was in that bag tugged at his being. Multiple grey hands reached out with clammy fingertips to pull at slabs of gnome meat. Bony fingers tapped against broken ribs. One particularly large hand reached right for the portion of air that Benny’s spirit was occupying and wrapped itself around him. How did it know he was there? Did it have eyes he couldn’t see? Even if it did, how did it see his spirit when it appeared Morga and Scratch couldn’t?
Whatever was inside the bag must have been very special indeed. If special meant absolutely terrifying.
Bit by bit, the rest of his remains disappeared into the bag. Miraculously, no trace of the gnomish knight was left on the chair or the surrounding floor. Whatever this thing was, it was thorough.
All that was left was his ghost.
His trapped, petrified little ghost.
The hand gripped tighter and Benny gasped for air, until he realised he was dead and didn’t need to breathe. It was hard to let habits like that go. Then, before he could even attempt to wriggle out of the thing’s grip, the hand was moving.
Back into the bag. Benny had no choice but to go with it.
Inside the bag was dark. Dark and cold. As the only gnomish knight employed by Queen Elsbeth, Benny had always felt somewhat alone. But now he felt loneliness like he’d never experienced before. There was nothingness in every direction.
Was this what it was going to be like now? Just Benny and his own thoughts for the rest of time? Benny wasn’t sure if he’d have enough thoughts to fill an eternity.
However, Benny’s solitude was to be short-lived. A barely audible whisper teased him from the nothingness.
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