Mia stumbled out of The Jackal, leaning on the man she’d been speaking with all night.
“C’mon,” the man said. “I’ll drive you home.”
Mia chuckled. She looked up at him. She took a step. She fell forward. She looked around. She’d tripped off of the curb and hit her head on the man’s car. She felt something warm on her forehead. She put two fingers on her head then moved them into her line of sight. Her head was bleeding. The man helped her up. “Go on in,” he said. She turned around.
“I dunno,” she said. “Mayb… may… maybe I should call a--”
“Come on,” the man said, hoisting her up. She stepped into his truck. She looked at the dashboard and saw some pictures.
“Who’s that?” she asked.
The man paused for a moment. “Wife and kids,” he finally said.
Mia squinted at the pictures, and then back at him. “Those kids look a little old to be yours.”
“I’m older than I look,” the man said. He drove forward. Mia took a deep breath and sat back in her seat, holding a tissue to her bleeding scalp.
Mia came to in a basement. She looked around. Her eyes widened. She was under the light of a dim, swinging lamp. She looked around. The stairs in front of her were rusty. She could see broken glass in one corner. She looked up. There was a small window near the ceiling. She tried to stand. Her arms and legs were bound to the bed. She felt a bead of sweat rolling down her face. She heard a laugh. She jerked. Her gaze snapped to the source of the sound. The man she’d walked out with stood at the top of the stairs.
He stepped down the stairs as she struggled. She yanked on the ropes. “You can keep on that M’Lady,” the man said. “It won’t do you any good.” He smiled as he approached her.
“Please don’t hurt me,” Mia shouted. She shed a tear.
The man slapped her. “Shut up.” He reached to his side. Mia’s eyes widened. She screamed. The man held the needle of a tattoo machine in his hand.
“Hold still,” he said. He moved her head to the side, and placed the needle against her neck. He drew the outline of a butterfly, and then filled it in with dark blue ink. He put the machine aside. He smiled as he reached for a table. Mia jerked on the ropes. The man picked up a serrated knife and pressed it against the tip of her toe. He rubbed the knife back and forth, cutting into her. The woman screamed, tears streaming down her face.
The Blue Butterfly’s knife slid across the last of his victim’s flesh. He finished his final cut. He smiled. She was all diced up. The Blue Butterfly grabbed the pieces and threw them into a pile. He turned and picked up his special piece, a bit of her skin, off of the table. He placed the strip of skin he’d tattooed on top of his pile. He chuckled. It was all ready for the media to find. He turned to get his machine and dragged it upstairs.
“Our top story tonight: three more victims were found throughout the residential area of the Northwest District. Police now estimate that up to fifty murders have been committed this month by the Blue Butterfly Killer.”
A police man came onscreen. “We’re doing everything we can to find this guy. We have units out in the Northwest district. It’s just a matter of time before someone stumbles across him.”
The reporter spoke again. “Despite these assurances from the police department, citizens of Goldfalls are less sure.”
A woman holding a child came onscreen. “To me, it doesn’t really seem like they’re going to catch him any time soon.” The camera cut to a shot of the Northwest District while the woman’s voice played. “I think unfortunately if it was as easy as they’re saying, then why haven’t they got him by now?”
“Goldfalls police have refused to comment on how the killer has evaded surveillance. In the meantime, many of the people of Goldfalls will simply choose to stay inside.”
The report went on for several more minutes before the news went to commercial. Cody’s mother muted the Television.
“It seems like just a few weeks ago we were all scared of the Angel of Death,” Cody’s father said. “Now we’ve got another one.”
“I know what you mean,” Cody’s mother said. She bowed her head. She took a deep breath. “Lord, protect us.”
Cody sat down.
“Are you still sure of going shopping tonight?” Cody’s father asked.
Cody’s mother nodded. “There’s no other time to get it done. I’ll be working or sleeping the rest of the week.”
Cody lay back on his bed, reading. He reached the end of a chapter. He marked his place and picked up his phone. He called Lester. He waited a few moments for Lester to pick up.
“Hey,” Lester said.
“Hey,” Cody said.
“Why are you calling?”
“I want to do something about this Blue Butterfly guy.”
“I’ve been wondering when you’d say that.”
“Well I’ve not been sure what I could do that the police couldn’t that didn’t involve using… you know what.”
“Have you thought of something?”
“No. That’s why I’m calling you. I need to think of something, and I need to think of something soon. I haven’t seen this town so afraid since Valthakar was killing.” Cody looked down and took a deep breath. “I feel like a cat that can’t protect ants from mice.” Cody clinched his fist. “I’m the one who can do something; in theory anyway. I need an idea before I can do anything in practice, and you’ve had some to spare in the past.”
Lester sighed. “I don’t know. I mean maybe you could try to figure out where he’s getting his people from?”
“I can’t keep track of that efficiently without using souls. Do you have any idea how many bars, grocery stores, malls, restaurants, and other places he could be picking people up from that are in this city?.”
“Well, is there any way you could narrow it down?”
“Not that I’ve thought of.”
“What about distance? Every body’s been found in the Northwest district. If he’s killing a few people a day, he has to be taking them from close by, right? I mean, he’d have to abduct them, drive them over, tattoo them, and chop them up into little bits, times three, every night.”
Cody sat up. His eyes widened. “That’s true. He can’t be more than a few miles away from the Northwest district. Still, that leaves a lot of options. How can we be sure where he’s taking them from?”
“Hmm… How often are you guys around that area?”
“About as much as anywhere else. Why?”
“Oh. I was just wondering if you could smell the fear of the people as he took them away.”
Cody stood up. “Wait. No, maybe not as he’s taking them. But as he’s killing them,yes. That’s it! I could go down to the Northwest District tonight. It’d only take me a little while to smell something.”
“Yeah, probably. But wait; didn’t you smell that exterminator girl from across town? Why haven’t you smelled one of those fears already?”
“That smell was amplified to attract us. Anyways, thanks man. I owe you one.”
Cody hung up.
Cody and Justin hunted near the Northwest district. They smelled several fear trails leading to a convenience store. They neared it. Cody looked inside. He saw two masked men robbing the store. The cashier was handing them money. Cody and Justin burst inside.
The robbers looked at them. Their eyes widened. Cody pounced on one of them, paralyzing him. Justin dashed over to the other, doing the same. Cody stood up and turned around. People were running out of the store. Cody approached the clerk. “They’ll be able to move again in a few hours,” he said. “Do you mind getting the police to come pick them up?” The clerk stared at Cody. “Ma’am?”
“Hold on,” Justin said. He approached her, put his hand on her. “Her shock doesn’t look too bad,” he said. “It should go away in a few minutes.”
Cody sighed. “Get the phone.”
Justin nodded and went outside. Cody looked at the woman. “I’m sorry,” he said. She clinched her fist.
Justin walked in with a pre-paid cell phone. He handed it to Cody. Cody took it. He dialed 911. “Hello, 911, what is your emergency.”
“Hi. This is the Angel of Death. I’ve got two people paralyzed in the 711 on Almond. They’ll wake up in about seven hours if you don’t get down here.” Cody hung up. He and Justin left the store, sniffing.
Cody’s eyes widened. He picked something up. “I think I smell something,” Justin said.
“Me too,” Cody said. It was coming from the northwest district. They ran after it.
Cody smiled as he entered the Northwest district. It was his favorite part of town, at least aesthetically. He clinched his fist and followed the smell. It let him to a small house on one of the abandoned streets. Cody trudged through the long grass. He went inside the house. He sniffed. He looked around for a staircase. He heard humming. His eyes widened. “Hide,” he whispered. Cody scrambled under a table. He took his human form.
Cody saw a man’s feet come into view. The man stopped on his way to the basement. He sniffed.
Cody tilted his head. The man stepped closer. Cody’s eyes widened. The man bent down. He looked at Cody. “Hi there,” he said, smiling. “Who are you?” Cody moved backward. The man bent under the table. “I have a friend downstairs,” the man said. “Would you like to join her?”
Cody crawled out from the other side of the table. He stood up. He saw Justin pounce on top of the killer behind him. Justin plunged his scythe into the man’s torso, and pulled it out. Nothing came out. Justin gasped. “What?”
The killer turned around. He stood. Cody took his true form. The killer followed suit. Cody’s eyes widened. “You’re a lich?”
Justin ran after the killer. Cody jumped over the table, planning to pursue. The scent of fear from the basement intensified. Cody looked down. He took a deep breath. He went downstairs. He saw a woman, tied up and unconscious. She turned to him. “Help,” she said.
Cody rushed to her and made the ropes around her limbs decay away. He helped her up.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
The woman panted. “I think so.”
Justin rushed after the lich as it ran to a car, got in, and sped away. Justin stretched out his hand and fired a blast of magic at the car. He hit a tire. The car flipped. Justin ran toward the car. The other lich burst out of it and hurried off. Justin jumped over the car and gave chase. The two ran for a while with neither one gaining on the other. Justin stopped. He shifted into his human form, reached into his pocket, and got out his phone. He called Bavandersloth as he retook his true form and ran after the lich.
“Bavandersloth,” Justin said, firing a magical blast at the killer.
“What is it?”
“Cody and I are out getting the Blue Butterfly Killer. Long story, well, it’s not really that long of a story… point is, he’s a lich.”
Bavandersloth gasped. “What?”
“He’s one of us. I’m trying to chase him, but I’m not catching up very fast. I’m shooting at him, but it might be a while before I can land a shot.”
“Hold on.” Bavandersloth didn’t speak for a moment. Justin fired another magical blast at the killer, to no avail. Bavandersloth spoke again. “Alright, I got his entry in the book.
“A Lich of Murder. A creative lich. He haunts his home, searching for mortals to dismember. He thinks of his acts as a form of artistic expression.
Bavandersloth mumbled as he read on. “It says he has the power to hide himself and objects around him.”
“That must be how he’s escaped the cops.”
“Probably. Are you close enough to retrieve his phylactery?”
Justin tried. “Not quite.” Justin fired another shot. He missed. He put the cell phone in his pocket. He rushed forward and fired another shot. He missed. He looked ahead. The lich was about to run by a car. Justin stopped and looked at the car. He stretched out his arm. He aimed, and hit it.
The gas tank exploded, knocking Werorgorlok away. Justin rushed to him. Werorgorlok was on fire. The lich rolled, trying to put it out. Justin willed Werorgorlok’s phylactery to appear in his hand, and it did. He pulled out the phone as he ran way. Werorgorlok chased him, but Justin had his shield up. Justin called Bavandersloth back. “I got it,” he said.
“Good,” Bavandersloth said. “Does he know you have it?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Find a way to alert him to that fact.”
Justin nodded. He stopped. He put up a shield. He held up the phylactery, a blue marble. He dropped it to the ground and, inside his shield, pointed his hand down at it.
Werorgorlok’s eyes widened. He stopped. He put his hands up. Justin grabbed the phylactery and held it. He let down his shield.
“Who are you?” Justin asked.
“I’m a lich, like you,” Werorgorlok said.
Justin clinched his fist. “I knew that. Why were you killing those humans?”
Werorgorlok smiled. “For fun and art. Why else? What do you care? You do it too.”
“I save people.”
“And you kill as many. Have you ever asked a soul what it’s like to be eaten? I have. I love listening to their stories, over and over again. Before I found the book, I used to think I’d tape my kills when I finally worked up the courage to start them, but now, there’s no need.”
Justin gritted his teeth. “Liches are supposed to be crime fighters. We save people. We’re the protectors of humanity, of good people. We’re not killers.” Justin held out his arm, pointing at the Phylactery.
Werorgorlok stepped backward. He smiled. “There’s gotta be a whole bunch of you, right? There must be rules? There’s no way you’re allowed to just--”
“I’m allowed to take this thing to someone who is.”
Werorgorlok looked down. He grumbled. He looked up. “Fine, then. I’ll come with you.”
Justin’s eyes widened. “What?”
“I’ll come with you. I’ll follow you back to him. We can work things out.”
Justin stared at Werorgorlok. He called Bavandersloth again.
“Yes?” Bavandersloth said.
“He wants to come and see you.”
“Should I lead him to you?”
“No. I’ll come over there.”
Justin nodded. “Okay.” He looked up at Werorgorlok, keeping his hand pointed to the phylactery. “He’s coming here,” Justin said. Werorgorlok smiled.
Bavandersloth opened his car door as he arrived. He stepped out. He approached Werorgorlok. “Greetings,” he said. “My name is Bavandersloth.”
Werorgorlok took a deep breath. “Hey,” he said.
“Let’s get straight to business. According to my friend over there,” Bavandersloth gestured toward Justin, “you’ve been violating the conventions of our community.”
“I didn’t know about any--”
“I know. That’s why you’re not dead. Nonetheless, allow me to elaborate upon the eighth convention. It’s the newest, and the one you have been violating.” Bavandersloth got out a sheet of paper. He cleared his throat. “Liches shall not engage in unnecessary malevolent behavior towards mortals except with the permission of a member of the community trusted to give such permission, or in circumstances where there is no reasonable way that these malevolent actions will ever be known of by the general public. Feeding, both for sustenance and power, the transference of affliction, and other things which require the ending of human life, shall be done with criminals, dictators, or other persons perceived by the general public as negative and whose lives will not be mourned by the general public.” Bavandersloth looked up. “The fact that it is not immediately obvious by your killings that you are one of us does not matter. You are killing mortals whose deaths are not welcomed by humanity, and in doing so, are harming our ends. You may do whatever you want with mortals you have captured, so long as they are among those who will go unmissed, and you dispose of the evidence of their suffering. But you may not risk hurting our reputation if the mortals of the world discover that you are one of us.”
The killer stood. He looked Bavandersloth in the eye. He smiled. “You’re serious?”
The killer laughed. “I never expected the guys who eat souls to be such goodie goodies.” He took a step toward Bavandersloth. He crossed his arms. “Look, I’m an artist, okay? I can’t just make these pieces and hide them, or even destroy them, and I can’t use people who no one cares about.” He stepped back, and spread his arms out. “It’d have no impact, man. No spice. Good stuff’s gotta have a certain punch to it.” He chuckled. “It’s like a saying I’ve got. Anything can be art, so long as it’s got that special punch. Nothing can be art if it’s not got it. I’m not messing with anything you’re doing. You can still hunt for people you don’t like, and no one’s going to figure out that I’m a lich like you.” He looked down. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll start leaving some phony evidence behind to make it look like there’s some way I’m getting in here that makes sense. How about that? No one’ll have any reason to suspect that I’m a lich.”
“I’m not here to ask you for your opinion on the conventions. I’m here to enforce them. Will you play ball or not?”
The killer looked at Bavandersloth. He laughed. He took another few steps back. “Look, I’m sure you’ve got a good reason for your conventions, okay? But I think we can work something out.” He stepped forward. “I do this because it’s who I am, okay? I can’t just not work. Could Batch just stop making songs?--”
The killer laughed. “Whatever, man. The point is that this is who I am. You’re asking me to stop it just because of some old traditions?”
Bavandersloth walked up to Werorgorlok. He grabbed his tattered blue T-shirt and pulled him closer. “Stop that.”
The killer laughed. “What do you me--”
“I know your type,” Bavandersloth said. “I’ve dealt with it before. You’ve wanted to kill for years. You fantasized about it. You dreamt of it. But you were always too much of a coward to do it. All of the sudden, a book comes along and you realize you can be the perfect killer, or so you think.” Bavandersloth tilted his head. “Am I on the mark? I bet I am. I’ve lost count of the number of people just like you who become liches. The difference is that most of them are smart enough to listen to reason when I approach them. So let me make this clear. There are two options here. You either play by our rules or you die. That’s it. There’s no compromise. There’s no talking your way out of it. There’s only death and submission.” He blasted Werorgorlok with a small burst of magic. Werorgorlok flinched. “And your charm won’t work on me. I’m not a human, and I’m not like a human.” He fired another burst. Werorgorlok gritted his teeth. “I’m something else. I’m something better. Better at thinking, and better at accomplishing his ends.” Bavandersloth threw Werorgorlok to the ground. “So I’ll ask you again. Yes or no? Are you going to play ball? If not, you can have a free trip to the underworld; see the source of your powers.”
Werorgorlok stood up. He looked at Bavandersloth, eyebrows bent. He took a deep breath. He looked down. “Can I think on it?” he asked.
Bavandersloth smiled. “If you want to, sure, you may think about whether or not you want to die. However, if it were me, I must say, I don’t think there’d be much to think about.” Werorgorlok grumbled. Bavandersloth got out a piece of paper. “And by the way, while you’re thinking, you may as well look over the other conventions as well, just to make sure we don’t have any other problems.” Bavandersloth handed the paper to Werorgorlok. Werorgorlok took it. “Those rules are binding. Follow them, or you will be killed. It’s as simple as that. If you’ve anything to say to me, call the number on the bottom of the page.”
Werorgorlok seethed. “Fine,” he said. “Give me back my phylactery and I’ll think about it.”
“Actually we’ll be keeping that for ourselves for now, just to keep you in line.”
Werorgorlok clinched his fist. He sneered. “Fine.” He disappeared as he walked away.
Bavandersloth walked over to Justin. “Where is Odelarch?”
“I don’t know. Last I saw him, he was with the woman the Blue Butterfly was gonna kill.”
Clark ran past the cops in his car. He smiled. He was completely undetectable. He took a right and circled around them for a few minutes. He laughed. They were oblivious to him.
Eventually, Clark ran back into the Northwest District. He looked around for a parking lot. He found one on the coast, outside of a place called Fishy Joe’s Marina. He smiled as he looked at the place. It was a small building made of rotting wood and smelling of dead fish. The windows were all broken, and the door ajar. Clark couldn’t resist entering. He went inside, carrying his copy of On Soulless Ones. The scent of dead fish and worms intoxicated him. The ugliness of rotten wood brought him joy. He sat down on the counter. He opened his book to Bavandersloth’s entry, and willed to see other information below it.
“A Lich of Manipulation. A clever lich. He uses clever strategies to bring about his own interests. He gains satisfaction from the pursuit of knowledge. He has trained himself to be rid of emotion on a whim.
“Soul count: 175,443.
“Unique Powers: The moving of decay on written material, the moving of the false beliefs of mortals, the theft of knowledge from both the living and the dead, and the implantation of false beliefs in mortals.
“Phylactery: A feather quill.”
He turned the page, now willing to see the information on the other three liches in Goldfalls.
“A Lich of Guardianship. A protective lich. He fights on behalf of the mortals of his world, defending them from each other and other liches. He can give and take life, often moving it in the way he finds most efficient.
“Soul Count: 130
“Unique Powers: The migration of Illness and the migration of injury.
“Phylactery: A cube-shaped puzzle toy. Called a ‘Rubick’s Cube’ on his world.
“A Lich of Ideals. A Naïve lich. He goes about the world fighting for his ideals. He is young, and does not comprehend moral complexity.
“Soul Count: 79
“Unique Powers: The migration of Illness, the migration of injury and the summoning of phylacteries when standing sufficiently close to a lich’s form.
“Phylactery: A sphere consisting of a wooden core and surrounded with a layered fabric casing. It is intended for sport, and the name of a well-known athlete is written on it.”
“A Lich of Abandoned Dreams. A pessimistic lich. He once fought to preserve life, but has fallen into despair. His will has been bound to Bavandersloth’s command, and he serves him. Though he serves his master; he does not personally care much for the struggles of others.
Soul Count: 4,390,562
“Unique Powers: The throwing of balls of flame, the freezing of liquids, the liquefying of gasses, the production of electricity from the hand, the firing of a powerful blast of air.
“Phylactery: A piece of decorative clothing consisting of a string and several pearls.”
Clark’s eyes widened when he saw the last one’s soul count. His jaw dropped. He turned to the book’s Q&A page.
“How old is Valthakar?”
“Slightly more than 12,000 years.”
Clark sat for a moment, mouth open. He took a deep breath. He sat for several minutes before going outside. He looked around to make sure there were no police officers. He found none. He approached the car he’d stolen. He reached inside for the paper Bavandersloth had given him. He carried it inside the marina. He looked at it. It was a list of conventions; rules that this Bavandersloth wanted him to follow.
“1: The Convention of Partial Public Ignorance: Liches shall not, intentionally or out of negligence, engage in behavior which is likely to bring about awareness by the general public of the appearance, dietary habits, or malignant history of liches. Nor shall they do the same for important facts regarding the source of our magical powers.
“2: The Convention of Non-Revelation: Liches shall not alert mortals to the identities of liches other than themselves, except with the consent of any such liches. Nor may they deliberately arrange circumstances in which the identity of a lich other than themselves will inevitably be revealed to a mortal, or in which the avoidance of such a revelation requires the other lich to make an unreasonable concession, except with the consent of all such liches. Nor shall they reveal to the general public the identities of any liches whatsoever, including themselves.
“3: The Convention of Regulated Contests: Liches shall initiate the settling of disputes only through contests organized and approved by a third party who is considered by the community of liches to be qualified to organize such a contest, and who does not have any significant interest in the outcome of the contest. Any lich may challenge any other, though the challenged party is only compelled to accept if the lich organizing the contest recognizes a sufficient grievance, and if the offending lich either will not agree to cease such behavior, or has already knowingly done such grave damage that the offended lich has the right to pursue punishment. If, after making such an agreement, the offending lich goes back on his word for any reason other than to prevent an offense against himself he will be terminated without recourse. If he goes back on his word to prevent an offense against himself, a contest will be held with the other party being treated as the one challenged. The challenged party will always propose the nature and rules of the contest, though the contest’s final form must be approved by the organizer after he hears any complaints about the nature of the rules by the challenger. Acceptable complaints include that the competition is for some reason unfair, that it is decided to an unacceptably high degree by chance, or that victory will inevitably come at an unacceptable loss to either party.
“4: The Convention of Protected Mortals: The living friends and family of other liches shall not be harmed, unless the avoidance of such a result would require an unreasonable concession.
“5: The Convention of Limited Destruction: Liches shall not, intentionally or out of negligence, cause mass destruction of life or property, whether by the engineering of plagues, or natural disasters, or the setting of fires or any other means. Mass destruction is defined as destruction sufficient to incur notice by the living in general, or to do significant damage to mortal society or population levels.
“6: The Convention of Non-Abandonment: In all cases, the community shall appoint a lich to investigate the status of a lich who has fallen out of contact with the community for what is, for that lich, a highly unusual amount of time.
“7: The Convention of Community Enforcement: These conventions shall not be enforced except by agents appointed by the broader community of liches. Such agents shall act as assigned by the community, and be accountable to it. They must disclose the actions they take while performing this duty in good faith.
“8: The Convention of Superficial Benevolence: Liches shall not engage in unnecessary malevolent behavior towards mortals except with the permission of a member of the community trusted to give such permission, or in circumstances where there is no reasonable way that these malevolent actions will ever be known of by the general public. Feeding, both for sustenance and power, the transference of affliction, and other things which require the ending of human life, shall be done with criminals, dictators, or other persons perceived by the general public as negative and whose lives will not be mourned by the general public.”
Clark looked at the sheet. He held it to his side. He thought. He would not abandon his art. He opened his book.
“Would it be possible to cloak myself, grab my phylactery before…”
He left the page to look up the youngest lich’s name.
“Would it be possible to cloak myself, grab my phylactery and get away before Tkoralkiarch was able to summon it back?”
“Theoretically, but not in practice. You’d have to be much faster than you are to be likely to manage it.”
“Could I paralyze him somehow?”
“You couldn’t. One with more powerful magic could, but you couldn’t.”
“Would that include Valthakar?”
“What if I could somehow trick Valthakar into firing on him?”
“That could paralyze him.”
Clark thought. Wait a second, there was no need for Tkoralkiarch to be there at all. He could just arrange a meeting between himself and Bavandersloth, arrange that Bavandersloth brought his phylactery, and use his cloak to steal it from him. He’d run off before Bavandersloth could get him, and he’d go into hiding. He could start hopping from town to town. Clark smiled. He picked up his book and pages and ran back home.
When he arrived, he saw a news report about one of his killings. He smiled as he heard an interview from a terrified woman.
The next day, Bavandersloth sat in his mansion, reading a book. He heard a call from one of his cell phones. He picked it up. “Hello, this is Bavandersloth.”
“Hello, this is Werorgorlok. I’d like to meet you by Fishy Joe’s Marina in the Northwest District if you don’t mind. Oh, and can you bring my Phylactery? I’d like to have it back.”
“I take it you’ve decided to follow the rules, then?”
“Oh, yes. Very much so.”
Bavandersloth drove to Fishy Joe’s Marina. He held a large marble in his hand. He waited for Werorgorlok to arrive. He stood outside, in the parking lot, a good deal away from his car.
About five minutes after he arrived, Werorgorlok approached Bavandersloth. “Hello,” Werorgorlok said.
Bavandersloth smiled. “Hello. Sorry I took so long to arrive. I had business to take care of on the way here.”
“Oh, I see. So, is there an oath I need to swear or what?”
“Oh, just say you agree to follow the rules and I give you the marble.”
Werorgorlok chuckled. “Fine then. I agree to follow the rules.”
“Alright then.” Bavandersloth handed Werorgorlok the marble. “That’s an interesting choice of Phylactery.”
The killer laughed. “Yeah. It’s supposed to be strategic. I got it at a toy store. There are thousands like it, and no one can tell it apart from the others.” He looked at Bavandersloth “Anyways, that’s really it? We’re cool now?”
“What more does there need to be?”
Werorgorlok smiled. “Nothing, I guess.” He paused. “See you around I guess.”
Bavandersloth smiled. “You too.”
Werorgorlok entered his car. He smiled. He shouted. “Yes. Holy crap I can’t believe he fell for that. He just gave it to me.” He chuckled. “So much for being the lich of manipulation, eh, Bavvy?” He drove off, intent on dumping his car and running as far as he could to the Southeast for his next killing. He could be in Texas in time if he ran fast enough. Wait, he still had to go back home for his tattoo gun. Still, that shouldn’t take him too long.
Werorgorlok smiled as he entered his apartment for the last time. He grabbed his tattoo gun. He’d put the thing on wheels. It had to be plugged in to work, and he’d lost his generator when he first met the other liches, but that didn’t matter. It might also slow him down, but he’d still be able to move a ways before he needed to kill again. He laughed.
About twelve hours later, Werorgorlok was running. He heard his cell phone ring. He stopped. He looked at the Caller ID. It was Bavandersloth. His eyes widened. He took a few deep breaths. He clinched his fist. There was no reason to panic. After all, he had his phylactery. What was there to worry about?
He answered. “Hello?” he said.
“Hello,” Bavandersloth said. “Where are you?”
Werorgorlok’s eyes widened. “Oh. I’m in my apartment.”
“Really? That’s interesting. The souls I have spying on the place don’t see you. Where are you? You have no reason to cloak yourself there that I can think of.”
Werorgorlok’s jaw dropped. “You what?”
“It’s a funny story really. You see, that marble I gave you wasn’t your real phylactery.”
Werorgorlok’s breathing became heavier. His eyes were wide. “It…”
“See, I know the typical advice you’ll hear from people is to make your phylactery something common, like a pebble, indistinguishable from millions of others just like it. Truth is, that’s not always the best strategy. The problem is that while it’s true that other people can’t pick your phylactery out from millions of identical objects, neither can you.” Werorgorlok’s jaw dropped. He turned back towards Goldfalls and rushed in that direction. “See,” Bavandersloth continued, “this was a test. I knew that there was a good chance you’d try some method of taking your phylactery and just killing again anyway, so on the way out to meet you, I stopped by a store and bought another marble, presumably from the same bin you got yours from. I placed a few souls, some of Valthakar’s, ones able to avoid Odelarch’s detection even after he knew about them, in your apartment. It was easy to figure out where that was. You drove your own car out to the Northwest District, and of course, had to decloak yourself in order to drive out into traffic. It was easy to follow you home. Once there, it was just a matter of checking each apartment in your complex for a tattoo gun. There were only a few hundred. Not hard when you have millions of souls to search with. When you came back and your tattoo gun disappeared, the way anything does when you use your powers on it, I knew that you were taking it somewhere else. From there, I just waited. I gave you twelve hours to sell it, return to your apartment, or do anything else to indicate that you weren’t skipping town to go on a killing spree. But, no surprise, you were.” Bavandersloth laughed. Werorgorlok clinched his fist and tried to cry. “Now then, for remaining obstinate in violation of the eighth convention, you are to be executed. And I just happen to have a tiny rock crusher right here.”
Werorgorlok’s eyes and mouth widened. “No,” he shouted.
“I just gotta turn this little crank.” Clark heard squeaking. He felt a horrible pain in his abdomen. He screamed. He fell down. He clinched his fists and gritted his teeth. He heard Bavandersloth laughing over the phone. He couldn’t stand to get up. He let out a final scream.
Bavandersloth sat across from Violet Fox at an interview table. “Hello, Goldfalls, we’re here in the studio, once again speaking to Light-rook.” Violet turned to Bavandersloth. “Mr. Light-rook, we put out a poll asking twitter users what they’d like me to ask you, and a surprising number of them wondered about your name.”
Bavandersloth smiled. “I like to play chess. That’s it really. That’s where it comes from. That, and the association with light as goodness.”
“Ah,” Violet said.
Bavandersloth chuckled. “By the way, I do have one major announcement to make.”
“We got the Blue Butterfly.”
Violet’s eyes widened. She gasped. “Excuse me?”
“We got him. He’ll never kill again. My friends and I tracked him down. We wound up in a struggle with him, and he unfortunately didn’t survive to face justice. But nonetheless, the cessation of the killings should testify to what I’m saying.” Bavandersloth turned toward the camera. “The people of Goldfalls need no longer fear him, thanks to us.”
“That’s amazing. Who was he?”
“We didn’t recognize him, and his body wound up in the ocean. We battled in the Northwest District, near the coast. We didn’t think to bother going in after it. That’s our bad. Like I said, though, that we’re telling the truth should be evident from the fact that the killings stop.”
Cody sat at home, watching the news. He heard the phone ring. He picked it up. It was Cherie. “Is it true?” Cherie asked.
Cody laughed. “Yep. It’s true. We did get him.”
Cherie’s mouth was wide. “Holy crap, that’s awesome.”
Cody smiled. “Yeah. It is, I guess.” He put his feet up and conversed with Cherie.
That night, Cody left his room to go hunting. As soon as he changed forms, he was overwhelmed by several strong scents of fear. His eyes widened. He rushed toward them.
He ran up to a bank. He sensed fear trails coming from both the inside and the outside. He saw police gathered outside. He turned around to leave. He heard a scream inside the building. He turned back around. He ran toward the bank. He ran in front of the police. He stopped. He turned around and looked back. They weren’t firing on him. He looked at them, tilting his head. One of the officers gestured for him to go inside. Cody’s eyes widened.
“How many are in there?” he asked.
“Just one perp,” another officer said.