The Misadventures of Morga Skullsplitter – Episode 6: Last Known Location
Missed an episode? Check out the episode list here.
It’s a day late, but here’s episode 6! In a change from previous episodes, this will only be available on this website. I’ve decided to save the ePubs until I’m ready to release a bunch of ’em in one go. I’m going to follow all this up with a little bit of a blog post in the coming weeks. It all makes sense – trust me!
Episode 6: Last Known Location
With the gnome gone, the carnivorous bag snapped shut, returning to its deceptively normal state. Morga watched as Scratch eyed it with a combination of fear and respect. At least the little shit wouldn’t be trying to steal it from her again.
Outside, horns tore through the air. It was the same bone-chilling noise as before, but it was so much worse now. It was closer. The proximity of the noise meant Moonwich’s police were not too far away. Morga had to leave Moonwich. She had to continue with her mission. While she hadn’t really had any experience with ‘the police’ (the Red Scar Clan didn’t have them), she had the feeling they would be this place’s finest warriors, and pretty handy in a fight. Warriors meant fighting, and fighting meant it would take even longer to find the Heart of Darkness and start her retirement. She sighed, the weight of the world unheavy on her broad shoulders.
“Got some bad news,” Scratch said. He’d taken up position at one of the tavern’s windows. In his hand, he held what looked like a chair leg – perhaps from the chair the gnomish knight had been sitting on. What he planned to do with it was unclear. And who was he planning to fight against? The rapidly approaching police (after all, he had just been involved in a murder)? Or Morga?
“Tell me,” Morga said, wondering how bad the news could get. Things were already bloody bad as it was.
“The police are outside. They’re looking at me,” Scratch replied, his voice a few octaves higher than usual. His voice was already high-pitched, so Morga reckoned it wouldn’t be long until only dogs could hear him.
“We’ll leave out the back,” Morga said. Getting away was the priority, even if it went against her orcish nature. Her gut was telling her to stay and fight, but there was no time to lose – especially when she was this close to achieving her dream. She could almost taste it! The Rage was already aching for a release, but she couldn’t risk losing control. Not again.
“They’re more than likely already there too. When there was a big bust up in here a few months ago, the police had the place surrounded before they came in and started arresting folk,” Scratch replied. “We’re screwed, aren’t we? Why did I let myself get caught up in this? I’m far too cute to go to the dungeon!”
“No-one’s going to the dungeon,” Morga said.
“WHAT? Do you think they’ll execute us on sight? I was not prepared for this when I woke up this morning… or should that be yesterday morning?… at most, I thought I was going to have to deal with that bitey treasure chest thing downstairs. I didn’t think I’d be executed for murder!”
“No! I meant that we’re gonna escape! I have a mission to fulfil, and my retirement is waiting for me. Executions and dungeons are not part of that plan.”
“I don’t think we have much of a say in the matter,” Scratch mumbled.
Beyond the tavern door, movement could be heard, and Morga imagined the police getting into position. She briefly wondered what kind of weapons they might have. Would it turn into a battle fit for an epic song? Part of her still ached stay and fight to experience it, but she had shit to do. Maybe next time.
“So, what is part of the plan? How are we gettin’ out of here? If you get us out, I’ll get you as many banana splits as you can eat! A lifetime’s supply! All topped with all the jellybeans your heart desires!”
Morga wasn’t sure how the little grunt was going to deliver on that promise – unless he was right about the instant execution and the rest of her life wasn’t going to be very long at all.
“Just be quiet. I need to think,” she said as she started to pace. She may not have been trying to solve a mystery, but she found herself trying to channel her inner Hector Cluescavenger again. She rubbed her chin, trying to encourage a thought or two.
Those thoughts were stubborn. There was nothing.
“You got any ideas?” she whispered to Carnage. The hammer didn’t say a word, and had reverted back to being a normal weapon.
“Didn’t think so,” Morga said, disappointed.
“Open up, by order of the Moonwich Police,” a voice, full to the brim with authority, said.
They were out of time. Morga still didn’t know what to do. Scratch scurried over to her and hopped up onto the barrel containing the bones of his skeleton friend.
“I don’t mean to rush you,” Scratch said, “but how’s that plan comin’ along?”
Trying not to show quite how much she was starting to panic, Morga began to reach into her pocket to retrieve a jellybean or two. The police would be through that door within moments, and then she’d be launched back into the Rage again. Whatever the outcome, it would be bloody. For that reason, Morga decided she needed a sweet treat before the chaos ensued.
Her fingers reached inside her pocket, but instead of retrieving a jellybean (preferably a green one – they were her favourites), they touched upon something else.
It felt like parchment.
Morga had no recollection of putting anything like that in there. Maybe Snagthorn had slipped her note before she left the clan…
Eager to feel the comfort of her old friend’s words during her hour of need, she pulled the parchment from her picket. As expected, it was a note.
But it wasn’t from Snagthorn.
In fact, Morga didn’t recognise the writing at all.
“What’s that?” Scratch asked.
Before Morga could answer and tell him to mind his own business, the authoritative voice came through the door again.
“We’re coming in! Consider this your final warning!”
A red mist danced at the edges of Morga’s vision; the Rage was warming up.
Morga used her free hand to pick up Carnage, but despite the Rage and the incoming danger, the note in her other hand still commanded her attention. Blood was about to be spilled (probably her own, and definitely that of the police), but her mind was fixated on the three simple words in the mystery note.
The door shattered into splinters and several well-armoured warriors piled into the tavern’s common room. Even though she was starting to get used to it, Morga knew the place still reeked of blood and death. The thing in the bag may have done a thorough job of cleaning up Benny’s remains, but there was something about that stench that lingered. It told everyone that there was no doubt that a crime had been committed in that very room, and it clung to the clothing, skin, and hair of the guilty. There was no doubt that the police would be acting as judge, jury, and possibly executioner right then and there, despite what she’d told Scratch.
Morga’s Rage kicked and scratched inside her, desperate to take control; it yearned for battle as was the orcish way, but Morga held it at bay. It snarled and growled, clawing at the walls of her mind. Never had she denied it like this. She almost felt cruel, like she was caging a wild beast.
‘I’ll let you run free later,’ she thought. ‘I need to keep my head now.’
This moment required thought and logic, not unfettered violence. There was still a mystery to be solved and a plan to make.
She still fought, but her style was unfocused, leaning on casual. Her meaty fist (still holding the note), swiped one of those warriors in the face, sending them stumbling backwards and causing them to land on their arse. Maybe they were not the top-notch warriors that she had been expecting.
As soon as the police exploded through the door, Scratch had dropped the chair leg. After all, what had he been thinking? He wasn’t a fighter! No, the best thing to do was to appear as unthreatening as possible. Which wasn’t difficult. Scratch was about as threatening as a sleeping newborn lamb.
Besides, he didn’t need to fight. Not really. Not when there was a battle-hardened orc right there. And especially not when that orc had a mutant warhammer in her hand.
No, Scratch didn’t need to fight. He’d be fine. Totally fine.
In an effort to convince himself of this, he looked over at Morga. She was definitely fighting, but she was barely paying any attention to the horde of police officers trying to bring her down. It was like she had other things to be thinking about. Like whatever that bit of parchment was in her hand.
“Hey! Morga!” Scratch shouted, although ‘shout’ may be too generous a word. It was more of a squeak. “Focus! Get Carnage to do his thing!”
If Morga heard him, she didn’t show it. Instead, she broke a police officer’s nose with her elbow. By accident. She hadn’t even been looking at him! What was she doing? Weren’t orcs supposed to love a bit o’ violence?
The orc appeared to be surviving this bout of fisticuffs through sheer luck. Carnage hadn’t even transformed yet, for crying out loud! What were they thinking?
One of the police officers – a human built like a brick shithouse – looked in Scratch’s direction. That wasn’t good. Scratch raised his hands in the air and plastered an expression on his face that said ‘no need to hurt me, I’ll do as I’m told’.
The brick shithouse strode towards the little grunt, anger and authority radiating off him. The guy walked with the kind of self-confidence that Scratch could only dream of possessing.
Scratch gulped and thought about running. If he timed it well enough, he was sure he could race between the brick shithouse’s legs and escape through the ruined door. Once outside, there were thousands of places a little chap like him could hide. He just needed to be smart.
His little hand gripped the edge of the barrel as he prepared to leg it…
But he couldn’t do it.
He wasn’t bothered about Morga or Carnage – those two would be fine without him and, let’s be honest, they were more trouble than they were worth – but Hector was his friend. If he achieved nothing else, he needed to put the skeleton back together again.
So, what could he do? The snot thing again?
As the brick shithouse got closer, Scratch willed the sensation he’d experienced before to reappear, but it was futile. It seemed the little grunt was empty of both energy and magical mucus. What a time to run dry…
There was nothing for it, he’d have to get up close and personal. Perhaps he could bite the police officer’s face? Yeah, that might work.
The brick shithouse grabbed Scratch by the front of his shirt and forced him closer. The man stank of sweat and tobacco, and his eyes flashed with hatred.
“I’ve been waiting for an excuse to tear you apart,” the brick shithouse said. It was at this point that the little grunt recognised him. This was the guy he’d beaten in a game of cards a few weeks ago. Was he really still mad about that? Scratch had won fair and swear… providing cheating was fair and square. Or maybe he was pissed off because his coin pouch had mysteriously disappeared…
As Scratch dangled in the man’s grip, his whole life flashed before his eyes. It had been a good life, mostly. But much too short. His eyes squeezed shut, waiting for the pain to start.
But it didn’t. Well, not in the way he had been expecting.
Instead of being torn limb from limb, Scratch flew across the room and landed with a thump on top of his attacker. Next to them both was the unconscious form of another police officer, and – judging by the egg-shaped lump on this bloke’s head, he’d just been introduced to the business end of Carnage.
Scratch hopped off the brick shithouse and skirted around the other prone police officer. Within moments, he was back in the perceived safety of the spot on top of Hector’s barrel.
Carnage’s mind was flooded with auras. Strange auras. They were angry, and they definitely belonged to enemies, but the orc was unfazed. Her calm demeanour told him she could win this fight with her eyes closed (or focused on a scrap of parchment). There was no need for Carnage to do anything.
The hammer had to admit to being a little disappointed. Transforming was fun; it meant he could bite stuff. But he was also being given the chance to sleep. He’d had a busy day and eaten a huge meal, so a nap was just what he wanted.
With that, Carnage did the mutant hammer equivalent of pulling the blanket over himself and rolling over.
Likely much to Scratch’s dismay, instead of paying attention to the police, Morga looked at the note, and this time recognition dawned on her, and she read the words out loud, but not before knocking a human police officer out with a well-timed head butt.
“Last known location.”
Dark clouds gathered inside the tavern, congregating above Morga, Scratch, Carnage, and the barrel of skeleton.
It started to rain.
A torrential downpour stole Morga’s view of the police. Of Scratch. Of everything.
The rain was almost solid and hammered down upon Morga’s shoulders. She’d been through more than her fair share of battles, but she was almost certain that those little raindrops were going to leave a collection of bruises. It was almost as if the weather was angry with her. Morga didn’t know what she’d done to piss off a cloud, but it wasn’t like she could try to make amends or even fight back.
As much as Morga wanted to take more time to think about things logically, to slow down, and to retire, she also didn’t know what to do when she couldn’t fight. How else was she supposed to deal with life’s little problems? Ask them nicely to go away? She had a lot to learn.
As suddenly as the rain had started, it cleared. The clouds disappeared and Morga’s sight returned.
The police were gone.
So was the tavern.
Morga tightened her grip on Carnage and looked towards Scratch, who was clinging to the barrel for dear life.
“W-w-where a-a-are w-w-w-we?” the little grunt asked.
Morga didn’t answer straight away, mainly because she didn’t know the name of the place. She had her suspicions on one thing, though. If Selene – witch and almost definite author of the note – had done as she’d said she would, Morga and her strange companions had arrived in the last known location of the Heart of Darkness.
Adrift in a sea of nothingness, Benny could see only darkness. Unable to tell if his eyes were open or closed, he blinked furiously to make sense of his surroundings.
It was futile.
Although he couldn’t see where he was, he had the feeling of space. Vast, unending space. It was like he could run unhindered in any direction for miles and miles. The thought filled him with a strange sense of excitement. He felt giddy. The mere suggestion of such freedom was intoxicating. The whisper he’d heard when he’d first arrived totally forgotten.
Laughter swelled inside him, and Benny swallowed hard to keep it at bay. The fact he could swallow at all should have been confusing as he was supposed to be dead (he had, after all, been devoured by that mutant hammer and a strange bag creature), but his confusion about this new, strange place was proving to be an unrelenting distraction.
So distracting, in fact, that he’d forgotten about the danger that had brought him to this strange new world. Keen to find out more about the place, Benny called out, “Hello?”.
As soon as the word had left his dead lips, regret gripped him. What if someone answered?
But no-one did. Not even that forgotten whisper.
Benny couldn’t decide if that was a good thing or not. Just because he didn’t get a reply, it didn’t mean he wasn’t alone.
Goosebumps tingled on the back of his neck. Could the dead get goosebumps? Did he even have a neck? Wasn’t he in pieces now? Wasn’t he being digested? He didn’t feel digested. Not that he had a lot of experience with that. After all, how many times can a gnome get eaten?
While that poorly thought out ‘hello’ hadn’t told him who else was in the dark with him, it did reveal something else: there was no echo.
The sound just stopped.
Dead. Like him.
This new place still felt vast, but it swallowed sound, like it was being muffled by snow.
Benny shivered. It was then that he noticed the cold. Realising he still had hands, he rubbed them together. They were colder than ice.
At that point, other parts of him began to realise that they either still existed or had, somehow, been regenerated. The skin of his face burned in the icy air. Teeth chartered. Smells alerted his nostrils.
How had he not noticed that before?
And if things were burning, why was it so bloody cold?
Gradually, his sight returned, and his breath caught in his throat. Benny did not like the view of this strange new world.
This was a place of war.
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