Chapter 4. A Vintage worthy of Spew
“Grim-damned Luzgar…” Spew growled. Luzgar, the Swamp Rat Tavern’s owner, had not only low-balled Spew on her chitterling-stew offer but had also charged her a delivery fee to drag the carcasses into his bar which had left Spew with but two copper plogs scraping sadly in her bag. And two would make nary a dent in her debt to Abzgorn.
Lorgex would take the bounty.
“And Grim-damned Lorgex.” Spew glanced up at the Obsidian Gates, a warped giant’s skull, its open mouth the Black Temple’s entrance. A long night of alms collections lay before her. Best get earning to recoup the losses, maybe pay Abzgorn the Ribspreader back a trifle, promise the rest, hope he didn’t kill her in her sleep. Or her awake. And better sooner rather than later. She took her post at the gates, mentally preparing herself to accost anyone who ventured near.
“Halt!” a challenge rang out. “Who goes there?”
“Shut your gob-holes,” Spew croaked. There were two guards guarding the Obsidian Gates, she knew, though she could see neither. “It’s me. Again.” There were always two guards, and they were always hiding. “Imbeciles…”
“It is our sacred duty,” said the second guard solemnly, possibly hidden behind a potted angler plant.
“We have to ask for verification, Acolyte Spew,” whined the first guard, who might have actually been the potted angler plant. “You shan’t grow cross. As it stands — ooh — someone approaches — Shhhhh! Hide. Don’t tell him we’re here. Please!”
“Hail, Grimnir,” Spew said to a figure as it stumbled drunkenly — it had to be drunk or it would never wander near the Black Temple — from the dark and into the temple wall, passing out nearly within the teeth of the Obsidian Gates. Spew hopped tentatively toward it. “Give to the Temple of Grimnir, or I’ll curse your loins flaccid!”
The goblin twitched once or twice. Then it burped and farted. Simutaneously.
“Shhhh. Don’t move,” whispered the second guard. “He’s right at your feet.”
“Did he see us?”
“I don’t think so. Spew, did he see us?”
“Did she do that to him? He looks fairly flaccid.”
“Pathetic.” Spew commenced one of the more common and less savory tasks of the Alms Acolyte: rifling through the pockets and orifices of drunk and indigent goblins. The problem wasn’t not knowing what she’d find. It was knowing exactly what she’d find. Spew began tossing teeth, hairballs, pig ears, and other such dregs and grossery over her shoulder.
“Find anything?” the first guard hissed on bated breath.
“A half-drank flask of Gat’s Green-spume.” Spew held up a bone flask and shook it a bit. “Hmmm. Fetch a plog. Maybe.”
“How old?” the second guard drooled audibly.
“Eh?” Spew sniffed it, ventured a swig. Swallowed. Shuddered. “Two days.”
“Ooh. Vintage,” the first guard groaned. “Might we sample it?”
“Nads on a zombie, you two are.” Spew took another swig of the sour red. They called it Gat’s Green-Spume for its color on its way out which was not uncommonly instantaneous and exceptionally explosive. “Worst. Guards. Ever.”
“Alas,” whispered the second guard, “we’re miscast as guards. If it weren’t for the gossip we garner, I don’t know how we’d get on.”
“Ooh, gossip, yessss,” the first guard whispered. “Anything juicy we might glean from your recent travels and travails? Scuttlebutt as of late centers upon Wrackolyte Lorgex the Eyes and you. Back alley fisticuffs. Kidnappings. And intrigue.”
“Oh, do tell.”
“Have you two seen Lorgex?” Spew looked up sharp.
“Not more than an hour ago,” the second guard whispered. “He came through with a pilloried boy in tow. Who was he? A fugitive?”
“Probably just a sacrifice, right?” the potted angler plant broke in. “A good sacrifice, though, yes? A blood tithe, maybe? Or a stranglee? Is he the son of a king? Yes? No…?”
“The son of a king?” Spew rasped, incredulous. “He’s naught but a pig boy.”
“Heh? Then why’d Lorgex bring him directly to the High Wrackolyte? Please, oh please, tell us. We can keep a secret. He’s the seventh son of a seventh son, yes?”
“Lorgex did look rather pleased with himself for someone his advanced age.” The angler plant nodded emphatically. “Ooh! Acolyte Spew, forgive me. The High Wrackolyte requested your presence as soon as you got in. Said she has some business to work out between you and Lorgex. In the lower crypt.”
The torture crypt! Spew gulped. Business with the High Wrackolyte Diathama Sneering typically involved the asystematic removal of one’s vertebrae from whatever orifice lay anatomically furthest away. She clasped her torture bag under arm, pivoted on heel and commenced marching directly toward Westleaf. It’d only take her about a year or two to get there…
“She said that he’d be scrying for you,” said the first guard. “Lorgex, that is. And she’d expect you directly.”
Spew froze, one foot poised mid-step. Lorgex! Damn his scrying eyes! Damn, damn, damn. Could she run? No. Hide? No. There was no escaping the Eyes. No evading them. Not for long. She’d best go. Take her prescribed dose of medicine. Hemlock most likely. Or perhaps the High Wrackolyte was excessively drunk and would somehow see fit to lay mercy on her. Or maybe she’d just kill her once and not torment her eternally through resection-resurrection.
Crestfallen, Spew moped back in through the Obsidian Gates, wishing Izula had been conscious enough to accompany her. She might have been useful. Spew could have dressed her up in a purple wig and robe and pawned her off as herself.