Part 5. About Five Minutes Past…
THE HORROR IN THE CRYPT moaned.
Cornmelia hacked on the choking dust of decades.
The horror shifted, undulated, rising from the crypt—
“Huh?” Madam Spew scrubbed her eyes with bloody palms.
The horror erupted groaning from the dust and shadows, a jibbering, shivering two-headed nightmare of slick, pink, many-limbed flesh. Drool coursed from slack-jawed maws as googling eyes blinked in the swirling dark. The nightmare’s two heads fixed on Madam Spew and Cornmelia.
SLAM! Behind, the chamber door jumped.
Muffled voices cried from the main hall.
“Grimnir’s gonads…” Madam Spew averted her eyes from the horror of the crypt.
It was worse than she’d thought.
Worse than a dagger-legged slicerpede…
Worse than an undead Wrackolyte’s unslakened thirst…
Madam Spew made the unholy sign of Grimnir.
Screams and roars from the main hall—
Cornmelia covered her mouth, screaming.
The dust dispersed, unveiling the full horror the crypt, a limb-twisted love pretzel of Lusty Weggins and Stymie.
“Lusty!?” Cornmelia snapped from her stupor. “Stymie? I thought you and I … I thought we…” Cornmelia was at a loss for words, and a second later, a loss for lunch. She doubled over and retched, and retched, and…
“Ew…” Madam Spew gagged. “Isn’t he your brother, Lusty?”
“Her brother, too!” Stymie pointed at Cornmelia with one hand, covering his shame with the other.
Cornmelia continued retching.
Lusty Weggins guffawed and slapped his naked thigh in perverted glee, his own shame left dangling free.
“Move it, perverts!” Madam Spew thrust her head into the crypt, peering through the dust. “What’s down here? Get out.”
Lusty giggled and drooled and slapped his brother on the back … and then doubled over in a mute, heaving, frothing, guffaw until Madam Spew ended his consciousness with a smash from the business end of Cornmelia’s turnip bouquet.
“Is there a tunnel down there?” Madam Spew tossed the bouquet away. “A way out?”
Stymie’s head disappeared into the crypt for an instant then re-emerged. “Naw. Ain’t no tunnel, ma’am. Nothing but a dead old geezer.” He pointed to the decaying carcass of the old Wrackolyte.
“Why’re his robes off?” Madam Spew blinked dust from her huge eyes. “Whoa! Forget I asked.” The crypt lay bare save Lusty Weggins and the dead Wrackolyte. No escape tunnel. No labyrinth. No nothing. Just a shallow hole just big enough to—
“Screw!” Madam Spew cursed.
In the main hall, by the sound of it, someone was apparently bludgeoning a herd of cattle with a giant mallet.
“Where be yon Bride?” A voice of thunder trembled the very foundations of the church. Bricks rained down. “Where be yon Froggy Wrackolyte? Give them to ME! I will save thee, Maiden!”
Bride? Save thee? Lord Slaughterhand! Whoa — he wants to save Cornmelia? He must not have seen her—
“Eeeep!” Stymie ducked into the crypt.
CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!
Steel-shod footsteps shattered stone and brick and mortar as someone or something approached the Wrackolyte’s inner sanctum from without.
“What do we do?!” Stymie peeked out.
“Get the Wrackolyte’s robes!” Madam Spew hissed. “Hurry!”
Stymie snatched them up.
“Now get up here!” Madam Spew helped drag him out of the crypt. “Oof — now put them on.”
Stymie pulled them down over himself. They barely made it to his knees. “Too short—”
“Don’t worry.” Madam Spew whacked him in the back of the legs, knocking Stymie to his knees. “Now pull the hood down over your face. Yes!” Madam Spew snatched up Cornmelia’s broken peg leg and stuffed both pieces in her belt. “Cornmelia — on your feet — er, foot. You wearing garters?”
“Uh… Yeah?” Cornmelia struggled to her one foot, arms waving, trying to balance. “Whoa—”
Foot stomps clomped closer—
“What now?” Stymie cried, a puddle forming beneath him.
“Get in the middle of the room. There—” Madam Spew pointed. “You have to be the first thing he sees.”
“Uh…?” Stymie knelt, eyebrow raised. “This seems…?”
“A little to the right.” Madam Spew commanded. Stymie scooched a bit. “Yes! Perfect.”
“Ummm, question.” Stymie raised a finger. “Is this—”
“Shut up. Crouch down low. Lower. Good.” Madam Spew waddled over to him. “When he comes in, you distract him. Just for a second.”
“How?” Stymie asked.
Madam Spew leaned in, whispering in his ear.
“I’m not sure this is…”
“Cornmelia — pull your veil down.” Madam Spew ignored him, hustling to the bride.
“To yer ankles if it’ll go.” Madam Spew drew her ceremonial knife. “And clamp your trap. No matter what — don’t talk.” Madam Spew grabbed Cornmelia’s dress and pulled it up to form a white cloth tunnel. She turned to Stymie and pointed with the knife. “You know your part?”
“Good.” Madam Spew nodded.
“What are you doing!?” Cornmelia pawed at the hem of her gown.
“Hiding.” Madam Spew scooched under the dress. “Slap yer leg stump on my head. Ooof—” Madam Spew’s vertebrae creaked as Cornmelia settled her weight upon her head. In the sweltering dark she fished for Cornmelia’s garters — found them — and hooked them together under her chin. “Fat … Rrrrrg … stinking … Rrrrg … cow…”
“Shut it!” Madam Spew screamed as she poked a peephole in the dress. Cornmelia wobbled above. Precariously. “Pretend you’re shy! I’ll talk. You just cover yer trap. He won’t be able to see good with a knight’s helm on. Don’t say a word.” She pulled open the peephole just in time to see Lusty Weggins’ toothless, bloody face appear guffawing up from the crypt hole.
A voice thundered outside the door, “Wrackolyte! Come to me, Wrackolyte!”
The door exploded inward, spinning off like a tusked-boomerang, cutting Lusty Weggins’ giggling melon head bouncing off.
“What, ho!” A massive mound of man-shaped spike and gleaming gold stood outside the doorway, blocking everything behind. Even the screams of the peasant folk behind were fairly screened out by the monstrosity of steel-encased-flesh. Steam poured like from a dragon’s maw from the ventails of the armored face as the giant ducked, squeezing through the doorway. Golden eyes from deep within the horned helm blazed upon the pathetic form of Stymie, wrapped in the Wrackolyte robes, kneeling, cringing, in a puddle on the floor.
“Uh… ribbit?” He glanced over at Cornmelia.
“Kill the Wrackolyte Frog Priest Bastard!” Madam Spew cried in her best inbred-Sloddergumpian accent. “He done kidnapped me from Veil Athmore! Ooooh, save me. Save me, big strong knight!”
Stymie looked up.
Then he closed his eyes as the spiked monstrosity pulled back in a growl that would have made a saber-toothed lion blanch and then smote forth with all of the fury that ever was or would be — “FOR JUSTICE!” — he roared and reality itself fractured like glass as the Great War Hammer smote Stymie in the chest, collapsing him inward and through, folding and then unravelling him into indigo-wrapped shards of bird bones and a crimson mist.
The armored giant fixed his glare once more upon Cornmelia, and he growled the low primal growl of an insatiated cave bear.