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How to Spot a Gnome in a Flea Market and Other Magical Tricks


Jones has a gnome problem. And who wouldn’t think it’s a problem to have gnomes out to kill you? If that isn’t bad enough, he just broke up with his girlfriend and his neighbor, who is a fairy, just drank his last beer. The world of magic isn’t all fun and Hobbits and old wizards who smoke too much. Sometimes, it’s threatening and sinister and not some place you’d like to go for vacation.

“Friggin gnomes,” I muttered. I’ve never liked gnomes. Filthy little thieves is all the really are. You can always tell when gnomes are around because shit starts disappearing. Shit like lighters, clothes, knick-knacks, jewelry, etc. The little bastards even stole my bartender’s tool! You can’t be a proper bartender without a bartender’s tool. Needless to say, I lost that job and have hated gnomes ever since. And now they were trying to kill me. Everything comes full circle I suppose.  “I just broke up with my girlfriend. I don’t need this shit.”

Doloria rolled her eyes. “Get over yourself. You’ve got bigger things to worry about.”

I glared at her, but she was right. “O.K. So what stops a gnome??” I said and began pacing.

“You mean besides your blade in its gullet?” giggled Doloria. “I like a pixie stick.” She swung an invisible wand at an invisible gnome.

“I’m not a fairy. I can’t use a pixie stick.”

“Make a circle of protection then. With a gnomish twist.”

“I’d rather not. I don’t like using magic. Why don’t you keep watch. Just for tonight? I’ll figure something out in the morning, I promise.”

“Uh no. I’ve got plans. Looking for my sister. She’s been gone a few days. Other fairies have gone missing too.”

“Want me to help?”

“Uh, no. You have your own problems.” She guzzled the remainder of her beer and burped loudly before springing to her feet. “Well as much as I love our little chats, I gotta run.”

“Protection circle it is,” I sighed and prepared to create it. I do all my ceremonial magic automatically. I can’t tell you how I do it. I go into a trance and the magic preforms itself. That’s why I’m not a wizard. I’m not casting spells out of dusty tomes or trying to conjure demons. I just think about it and it kind of happens. After I was done I dug an old book of matches out of the kitchen drawer and lit a smoke. Now, at least, no gnomish assassins would sneak up on me in my sleep. And tomorrow…tomorrow I’d start finding answers.


The best place to find answers to my questions was a flea market. Gnomes love the shit out of flea markets. They get to buy, sell and trade any “treasures” they’ve come across. My bartender’s tool probably ended up in a flea market. Plus, flea markets usually have a fat Elvis impersonator. Gnomes go ape shit for fat Elvis.

Just like any other weekend, the flea market was was overcrowded and stank of body odor and fried food.  Junk peddlers called to the second hand shoppers, proclaiming their junk better than their rivals’. I know what you’re thinking. How was I going to find a gnome in all that?  But spotting gnomes in a flea market is easier than you think. When the fey disguise themselves as human, they don’t glamour themselves as Oompah Loompahs or munchkins. Nope. They are usually the huge, loud and dirty fools running around slamming into people and spitting in improper places. The trick is to separate the glamoured fey from the actual huge, loud and dirty fools that populate the flea market.

This is most effectively done with a holey stone. A round stone with a hole through the center. Old magic and simple. It allows you to see through illusions and glamour. Of course this meant I was wandering around covertly peeking through a hole in a rock. But, hey, it’s the flea market. Crazier people wander around there every day. That’s where they go to hide.

It didn’t take long to find a gnome running a booth. He was disguised as a monster of a man: well over 6ft and half way through 300 pounds. His shirt and jeans were colorfully stained and he had a huge bushy beard which stored leftover bits of food.

“How’re ya today?” he asked as I browsed his wares.

“Great. Just great. I’m looking for a bartender’s tool. Have one?”

He scratched his beard and belched thoughtfully. “Been a while since the last one passed through my hands.”

“That’s a shame. I have good money to spend.” Mention money and a gnome’s eyes instantly widen. But when I pulled out the golden coin his eyes widened for a different reason: fear.

“You! You’re supposed to be—“

“Dead? Yeah, I know. Funny how life works out, isn’t it?”

He chuckled nervously and darted quick glances around his shoulders.

“What’s your name?”

“Skittleshanks.” He eyed me up and down. I could tell he was trying to tell if he could get past me without blowing his glamour.

“Look. If you insist on causing a scene I’ll bind you and get my information that way. Or–and this is the option I’d choose if I were you– you take a lunch break and we talk about this like civilized folk. And maybe get a fat Elvis set in, too.”

Fifteen minutes later I was sitting across from Skittleshanks watching him devour double cheeseburgers and funnel cakes.

“Where does something so small put so much food?” I wondered, mildly impressed at his display of wanton gluttony.

He burped in my face in response and wiped his mouth with the back of his meaty hand. “What is it you want, exactly?”

“I want to know why your cartel is trying to kill me.”

“You mean you can’t figure that out for yourself? Someone is paying us to. It’s business.”

“Who paid you to?”

He finished off a jumbo soda before answering, “I dunno.”

“Don’t play with me, gnome,” I threatened. “I need answers before things get ugly.”

“Oh things got ugly the moment I laid eyes on you. I told you I don’t know who put out the contract on you. I just know it’s there. Management doesn’t let us in on all the juicy details, see?”  He looked over my shoulder and nodded. “This is him, boys.”

“What’s going on?” I demanded as I was hauled to my feet by two buffoons as equally large and filthy as Skittleshanks.

“These are my brothers Skeetshills and Spittlespew.”

A word of advice: Never get captured by gnomes. There’s few things in life worse than death and most of them have to do with gnomish captivity and torture. “Let me go!”

Skittleshanks guffawed. “Or what? You’ll bind me, Mr. Mystic?”

One of the lugs holding me clocked me upside the head and sent my world spinning. Then they dragged me out and threw me into the trunk of their beat up Continental without drawing a second glance from any of the flea marketers, like nothing at all was out of the ordinary. And through it all fat Elvis sang “Are You Lonesome Tonight” in the background. And that,folks, is why I love flea markets.

From the story “A Night In Summerlands” in Twisted Yarns by Jason DeGray.

Get your copy on Amazon today!


Epically Awesome Award

Thanks Eric Keys for thinking I’m Epically Awesome enough for an award. I suppose I better make up…er, I mean LIST 1o awesome facts about myself.

1. Once, in the days before cellphones, I got a flat tire in the middle of the night. I had to walk to the nearest house and use the only phone they had: in the master bedroom which mom, dad and a whole gaggle of kids were sleeping in. No one even got out of bed.

2. My favorite baseball team is no longer a team. R.I.P. Montreal Expos. When I was a kid, I’d scour stores for Expos gear and hardly ever found any. Now, it’s apparently the choice gear of young thugs and I see it on every little miscreant with his pants sagging to his knees. Go figure.

3. I fix computers for a paycheck; but secretly, I hate computers.

4. On a road trip to Reno my buddies and I were running low on gas money. So when we stopped in Vegas on the way back, we elected the best gambler in the group to take the remainder of our funds and win us more at blackjack. He lost.

5.  On another trip to Vegas I was harassed by hookers when my friend mistook a business card for a “Private Exotic Dancer” to actually be a Private Exotic Dancer. When he figured out what was going on and sent the…uh…Private Dancer away, the agency kept sending more to the room on a sliding scale of looks. The final one looked something like a Norfin Troll.

6. Sometimes I cry at movies.

7.  I believe in magic and miracles. Or the magic of miracles. Or the miracle of magic.

8.  While at a bar in Chicago, I was approached by a Bachelorette Party on a scavenger hunt. They asked for my boxers. Thinking I was clever; I went into the bathroom, took them off and dipped them in the toilet. They took them anyway and bought me a drink.

9.  I enjoy ghost hunting/ paranormal investigating.

10. I believe in the power of the human imagination to either create the future or destroy it.

I hope those were epically awesome enough for ya’ll. Thanks again to Eric for nominating me. Here’s three to send on down the line:

Moments With Millie: Great poetry and insight. Good blog to read with morning coffee. 😀

Mere Inkling: Cool stuff and well written.

Words of Birds: Great poetry blog.

The Book 2

It occurred to me that I don’t have any favorite Joel Olsteen moments. So on with the story!

He dozed off during the next day’s staff meeting. He hated being verbally reprimanded, especially by his principal. The principal, Joseph Eubank, was a handsome bachelor around 45. All the female teachers, married or otherwise, fawned over Eubank, especially Claire Cosca the English teacher.
Dick had harbored an unrequited love for Claire for five years. He’d never had the guts to ask her out. All he could muster was covertly riffling through her things, his rat nose twitching, searching for any sign of her scent. So far, he’d collected an empty perfume bottle, a battered blurry pic of her and some other guy (Dick cut out the other guy’s likeness out and replaced it with his own) and a Kleenex she staunched a bloody nose with which he’d dug out of the trashcan. These treasures he adored and lovingly doted on nightly in his own twisted ritual of zealous devotion. Dick swore he’d have Claire, even if it killed him.

Mr. Eubank did have the balls to ask Claire out and she joyously accepted, thus beginning an ongoing love affair. Richard had watched from afar, the little seed of jealousy growing into a full-fledged hate tree. Dick hated Eubank, more than he hated any other person, living or dead, beside his father.
That night, he dragged his cot downstairs and put it near the front door next to the big window. He decided to drink his beer before he went to bed, hoping to spend the night in alcohol soaked unconsciousness. He almost succeeded. He’d just plopped down on his cot when an audible voice said,

“Richard. Are you there?”

Dick bolted upright. “Who is it? Who’s there?” His face twitched nervously as he listened. He heard the skittering of tiny feet on tile. The roaches! He grabbed a can of spray and sprayed a barrier around the perimeter of his cot. He checked his box to make sure Claire’s things were safe. Satisfied he fell back onto his pillow and closed his eyes.

It was his own screams that woke him. Roaches had breached his poison barrier and were crawling up his arm. He shook them off as he jumped to his feet. The roaches retreated quickly into the room’s darkest corner. There they joined a mass of roaches shaped vaguely human.

“Richard,” said the form in a distinctly masculine voice.


“God damn, son. You’re a disappointing sight.”

“You should talk. You’re crawling with roaches.”

“I’m dead. And a lot better off than you from the looks of it. What does your mother say?”

“She still loves me more than you ever did. I’m still her favorite.”

“And Charlie?”

“He’s on the East Coast. Doing alright.”

“So what are you doing here, Richard? What do you want?”

“I’m going to sell the place,” said Dick defiantly.

“No! Never! Don’t you see? There are things more precious than money. Idiot!”

“Oh yeah? What kinds of things?”

The roach-ridden spirit refused to answer. “Look, fix the place up. Live here if you must. But never, ever sell the house! And for godsakes, quit flirting with the goddamn ghost!” The mass of roaches dissipated by degrees until only shadows remained.

Dick spent the rest of the night in his beat up Toyota pickup.
He took off the next day and drove to the foothills. He hiked for miles, lost in his own thoughts. He hadn’t been especially close to his father. Adam Tortellini was a brutal and distant man. Any doting to be had was had by his older brother Charlie. As a result, Dick had always been a momma’s boy. He was never good enough in his father’s eyes. And as a final insult to Dick, his father had left him nothing but half the house in his will. Charlie had become the executor of the estate and managed the family’s substantial finances. Dick had always wanted to dig his father’s corpse up and kill him all over again for that facetious blow. And now it seemed that Adam’s ghost had come back to haunt him. But that didn’t sit well with him. Dick had never believed in ghosts and didn’t see any reason he should start.

He rationalized that his encounter must have been the result of exhaustion mixed with alcohol. Nothing more. Being alone in the sunlit wilderness restored his energy and whatever gumption he possessed. With his rodent’s features twitching, Dick returned home. And this time, he intended to do damage. He stopped for some heavy-duty roach bombs and spray and prepared for his assault. He figured the best place to start was where the wall was hollow in the hallway. Using a sledgehammer, he knocked holes into the wall, his flimsy muscles quivering from the effort.

Decades-old sheetrock crumbled around him revealing a hidden stairway into a sizeable room furnished with only a desk and chair. In the center of the room was a white circle made of salt and in the center of the circle lay a book. The floor was carpeted with roaches that advanced on Richard with purpose. But he wasn’t unprepared. He lobbed two roach bombs into the room and raced downstairs. He imagined he could hear their collective scream as they choked and died. And he wasn’t disappointed.

The hidden room’s floor was a mass grave of roaches. Their bodies crunched beneath his feet as he descended the stairs. The desk was littered with papers scribbled with strange symbols and formulas. Most of it was gibberish to his untrained eye, written in a language apparently dreamt up by a psychotic. A search of the desk drawers revealed a jeweled dagger and sheath, a stone mortar and pestle, a branch of white oak about 13 inches long, and a hooded robe. Touching these items made Dick uneasy, so he put them back and turned to the book.

“Step lightly. Don’t disturb my circle,” whispered the book.

Though confused about the source of the ethereal voice, Dick did as he was asked and picked up the heavy tome. It was bound in human flesh bleached white. On its cover was a pair of deep red lips with a keyhole in their center.

“The key goes here, Dick,” said the lips and puckered.

Dick squealed and dropped the book. He raced frantically from the room and out the front door.

He returned the next day, against his better judgment, face twitching spastically. It took every ounce of courage he had to descend into the room. As he did, he could feel a negative force trying to stop him.

“It’s not going to work you mean old bastard!” he called aloud.
The presence thickened so much as he entered the secret room he could’ve cut it with a knife. Dick’s face was twitching uncontrollably, messing up his vision, but he pressed onward. He crossed into the circle and the presence ceased.

“Now what are you going to do?” Dick challenged.

In response, roaches poured from the cracks in the wall.

“Take me, Dick,” pleaded the book, “Take me now!”

He snatched the book and bolted from the room.

The Book

This is an excerpt from a short story. If ya’ll like it, I’ll post the rest of it. If not, I can always post my favorite Joel Olsteen moments. Enjoy!

Richard “Dick” Tortellini moved into the house in early August. It was his family home, left to him and his brother, Charlie, by their late father. It was in a prime location in Albuquerque and Charlie had been renting the place out since their father’s death fifteen years ago. But Richard’s time had finally come. He’d gotten a phone call from his mother in May. She said that she wanted him to move back into the family house and fix the place up. “I just don’t think your father would appreciate what’s happening to his house,” she explained. Now Richard’s mother was quite old and not a little senile. But Richard saw the wisdom in this. He could live there rent free, fix the place up and talk Charlie into selling it for a fat profit. He made a modest living as a high school biology teacher and could really use the money to help jumpstart his life. So Dick evicted the tenants and moved in his stuff in one fell swoop.

The house was in shambles and damn near falling down around his head. Fifteen years of renters and a lax landlord had severely depreciated the house’s value. Since his last place was furnished, Dick didn’t have much in the way of furniture. An old table, a chair, a recliner and a cot was all he had to fill a three bedroom, two story house. But Dick was used to this. A lifetime of social ineptitude forced him to spend most of his time away from people. He felt most comfortable camping. In fact, he spent the majority of his summers deep in the woods of northern New Mexico with no one but the old gods to keep him company.
Dick put his cot in the master bedroom upstairs. The carpet was shot, the walls were yellow and the whole room stank like mold from a botched carpet shampooing job.

“Everything has to be redone,” thought Dick angrily, his rodent like nose twitching with disgust. Using a case of beer as a nightstand, he lay down to sleep and was immediately beset by dreams. He dreamt he was in the master bedroom on his cot. A raven-haired woman in a white dress walked toward him, her feet never touching the ground. She stroked Dick with an ethereal hand. He shuddered from the touch, though he was dreaming.

“Richard,” she whispered and ran her ghostly fingers down his chest.

Dick moaned in ecstasy and leaned back. Just as the woman mounted him, a shadow darkened the doorway.

The woman sprang back fearfully. “No! No!” She shook her head vehemently and backed toward the wall. “It’s still not your time!”

The shadow that stepped into the room was very familiar to Dick. “Dad?” he said quizzically and was jolted from his sleep by something tickling his upper lip. It was a cockroach, trying frantically to get the last half of its body into Dick’s nose.

A squeal, more rodent than human, pealed through the air and Dick yanked the intruder from his nostril. He smashed the roach in his fist and stumbled downstairs to the kitchen. The refrigerator held two things: condiments and beer. Dick snatched a beer and guzzled it. He followed it with another and a third for good measure. Hoping to keep the roaches at bay, he spent the rest of the night at the kitchen table with the lights on and the TV. blaring the news in the background.

In other news, Officials at Jemez National Forest received two more reports of campers being attacked and robbed by what one victim described as, ‘wild-eyed mountain men’. Campers and day-trippers headed to the Jemez Mountains are being advised to stay only in designated campgrounds and to avoid camping alone in the forest. We go to Lisa Landry for the report…
He awoke stiff and poorly rested from sleeping at the table. It was an uncomfortably long day at work and Dick stayed late to grade papers (but really he was avoiding the house. He wasn’t comfortable in the place.) His brain tried to wrap itself around his supernatural experiences. Who was the woman and why was his father haunting the place? Dick shook the thought away as soon as it crossed his mind. Absurd. He was practically a man of science. Preposterous notions had no place in his worldview. There was no such thing as the supernatural. His real problem lay with the roaches infesting the house. He picked up a can of bugspray on the way home. He used the entire can spraying the perimeter of the room from floor to ceiling. He sat on his cot drinking beer and keeping diligent watch for invading insects. Soon, tiredness and alcohol got the better of him and he drifted into sleep.

Once more he was in the master bedroom. The ghostly woman strode gracefully into the room. “Richard? Are you there?”

“Who are you?” he stammered.

She didn’t answer, only extended her hand. Dick took it and followed the woman out of the room and into the hallway. She walked down the hall and disappeared into the wall next to the stairway.
Dick reached out his shaking hand and it went through the wall. He was just about to step through when the roaches appeared. They swarmed the wall in such great numbers it was obscured beneath their writhing mass. Dick’s screams woke him up.

He was sitting in front of the wall, now devoid of roaches. Closer inspection revealed a hole at the bottom. Intrigued, Dick knock on the wall. It was hollow. He was tempted to tear it down right there, but the skittering sound of countless roaches on the other side deterred him. Instead, he slouched downstairs and spent another night at the table.

Rage Against the Juice: Pappy’s Infernal Contract

Read Part 1. The Mighty Morass demands it.

The plan was simple.

1. Seek vengeance on Pappy in a horrible manner befitting the reputation of the Mighty Morass. Said vengeance would then send a ripple of terror throughout the Nord Juice community, eventually striking at the very core of the operation resulting in a fear-induced implosion of Nord Juice and all associated with it.

2. Stop at café for tea and cakes.

Easy as a Venuvian prostitute, right? Wrong. Of all the days to unleash his wrath, Morass picked Two Bit Tirsday. Every last sweaty bum with a litter of critters had packed themselves into the bazaar like desperate sardines. Worse, the whole place smelled like fish and body odor, or fishy body odor. Morass despised the bazaar for these reasons. That’s why he opened his shop in a back alley next to the alehouse district. There the air stank of beer and unprotected sex. It was the lesser of two evils.

“That’s Pappy’s stall there,” Mak pointed with a meaty finger to a stall surrounded by gruff over-muscled individuals. “He’s pretty busy. We may have to wait a while.”

“Wait? The Mighty Morass doesn’t wait! People wait for him!” He tugged the leash of his dead shop boy turned zombie, Ricardo. “C’mon Ricky. Let’s see how they fare against a flesh-starved zombie minion.” He shoved his way through the crowd of bargain shoppers, thankful for Ricky’s safety muzzle. The last thing a Necromancer wants is an unmitigated zombie outbreak. They go feral that way. Nothing worse than a feral zombie. Well, that’s not true. The bazaar was worse. And the fact that Mak followed behind chanting , “Bazaaargh!” like it was a pirate’s mantra did nothing to improve Morass’s experience.

He broke through the throng covered in other people’s sweat and missing his coin purse and stood before Pappy’s stall, waiting to be recognized. When business continued oblivious to the necromancer’s presence he loudly cleared his throat. When this failed to garner attention he took his staff and whacked the nearest Juicer across the back.

The man yelped and spun around, fists ready to fly. “What’d you do that for?”

“I need to speak to Pappy.” Morass stared hard at the man’s good eye.

“We all need to speak to Pappy, you old goat. Wait your turn like the rest of us.” He turned back to his business leaving Morass stewing.

“Do not trifle with me!” warned the wizard. “I command the undead!”

Still he was ignored by the ignorant.

“Need any help?” offered Mak.

“You dare suggest the Mighty Morass needs ‘help’? Hah! Watch and be amazed at my prowess!” The wizard removed Ricky’s muzzle. “Get ‘em boy!”

Ricky pounced on the nearest Juicer moaning, “Braaaaaaiiiinnsss”, in glorious undead rapture.

The oaf screamed like a barmaid and yelled, “Zombie!” just as Ricky dug out his first eyeball. By the time Ricky had torn out his throat, the other churlish individuals around Pappy’s stall had joined the fight. They dismembered the boyish zombie with extreme prejudice. Once they dispatched of Ricky they turned that callous prejudice on the Mighty Morass.

“Don’t take a single step!” demanded Morass. “I am the Mighty Morass! Necromancer and wielder of the Dark Powers! I will devour each and every one of your souls!”

“The Mighty Morass?” said one brute jokingly. “More like the Might Bore-ass!”

Laughter broke out among the group of ruffians.

“More like the Mighty Sore-Ass!” laughed another.

More heehawing from the goon squad.

Fury, mixed with heavy helpings of humiliation and indignation, bubbled in Morass’s gut. This emotional alchemy stewed and festered in his stomach, blending into a deadly power that he hadn’t felt in years. “I’m warning you!”

“Aww look,” another surly Juicer whined, “Looks like Princess Pretty-Ass is gonna cry.”

That was the last straw. Morass puked a column of flame from the very pits of his bowels. The first two Juicers in the inferno’s path dodged neatly. But the third was busy brokering a Nord Juice deal with Pappy. He turned around just in time to get blasted in his face. He instantly disintegrated into cinders.

“That’s what I’m talking about!” hooted Morass and burped a tendril of smoke.

The gang of thugs stared at the heap of ashes and then slowly turned their gazes to the necromancer.

“There’s more where that came from!” yelled the wizard threateningly.

“Get him!” roared somebody and the Juicers descended on Morass, pummeling him with fists, kicks, or Ricky’s limbs.

During the skirmish nobody noticed Mak walk quietly to Pappy’s table, pay for three Nord Juices (with Morass’s coin purse) and finish them all in quick succession, smashing the empty bottles against his head. Nobody noticed him grab the nearest Juicer by the neck and squeeze until the man’s head popped like a pimple. Only a few brutes noticed Mak’s eyes, so bloodshot they blazed fire, and his veins throbbing against his skin. But that was all they saw before the raging barbarian smashed them to gooey pulp. The remaining doomed bastards tried to mount a counter offensive, but they might as well have been throwing sand bags at a tsunami. Mak didn’t feel remorse, guilt or pain. He was consumed within the red-tinged world of the Rage. And since he’d tripled the recommended dose, he was teetering dangerously close to the edge of psychosis. He tore a swath of violence and blood through the remaining Juicers and then pounced on the prone Morass.

“What are you doing?” shrieked the mage. “Don’t you know who I am? You crazy oaf! Get off of me!”

Mak didn’t hear him or (more likely) didn’t care. He raised his fists to smash the necromancer’s skull when he suddenly froze. His eyes went wide and he toppled over, stiff as a plank and staring blankly at the sky.

Morass thanked the Nether Void for sparing him Its eternal embrace for one more day and opened his eyes.

Pappy leaned over him, smiling a toothless smile. “Lemme help you up there.” He hauled Morass to his feet and dusted him off.

Morass pushed him away. “I’m fine, thank you.”

“Quite a mess here,” said Pappy pleasantly.

Morass scanned the now-empty bazaar, impressed with Mak’s knack for total havoc. “The guard will be by shortly to clean it up, I’m sure.”

Pappy laughed. “You kidding? That was the guard.” He poked Mak with his cane. “This your barbarian?”

“I suppose.”

“Nice. Firm. Good muscle. You could get two bits on the pound for ‘em at the Meat Market. I know a guy.”

“Two bits?” Morass scoffed. “I was thinking more like four.”

“Yeah right. Might get you two and a half. Cain’t get anything for ‘em all Stuck like that, though.”

“Is that what’s wrong with him? He’s Stuck?”

“Yup. Sometimes, these Juicers, they get a little Juice happy, ya ken? Then they over-Juice and stroke out. The lucky ones die. The rest of ‘em poor bastards end up Stuck.”

“Well how do you unstick them? He’s really a key part of my whole vengeance plan.”

Pappy shrugged. “Nobody really kens. ‘Cept maybe Raphael Esperanza.”

“Oh that’s a pretty name.”

“Ain’t it?”

“Flows smoothly off the tongue. Not like those Scandic names. With all their “J’s” and free floating periods and such. Raphael Esperanza. Who is he?”

“He’s the man behind Nord Juice, that’s who.”

“Where can I find him?”

“Ya cain’t. Now, what brings you to my stall today?”

“Revenge. See, I recently lost my familiar Sir Trollop to a Nord Juice attack.”

“Tragic. What’d you want me to do about it?”

“I’m glad you asked. Hold this,” Morass handed Pappy his staff and dug around in his voluminous robes. He hooted in triumph and presented a scroll to Pappy and snatched his staff back. “Read this. Out loud, if you will.”

“Well alright.” Pappy pulled out his spectacles and peered at the document. “Let’s see here…I, the forenamed reader do hereby grant the Mighty Morass permission to transmute my physical form into that of a swamplands warted bull-toad for the purposes of familiar-ship. Signed with my immortal soul. As I speak, it shall be so.” The Juice peddler looked up at Morass. “Pretty crappy poem if you ask me.”

“Not a poem,” cackled Morass evilly, “An Infernal Contract. I own you now, Pappy. Mind, Soul and warty body. Now you will suffer the wrath of the Mighty Morass! ”

Devilish tendrils of energy rose from the earth and surrounded Pappy, encasing him in a cocoon of devious magic. His terrified screams turned into frantic ribbits and the demonic tendrils retreated into the earth leaving the new Pappy croaking in a pool of his own toad piss.

Morass scooped him up and deposited him into his robe. He’d pump the toad for information later. His quest for vengeance wasn’t over. He was closer to the heart of Nord Juice than he’d ever been. Revenge was nigh. Raphael Esperanza (that sure was a pretty name, *sigh*) would Unstick his barbarian before he met his death at the Mighty Morass’s hands. And then, the total collapse of the Nord Juice industry. All in a day’s work for an all-powerful necromancer. Now it was time for tea and cakes, but first he had a mess to clean up.

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