• Published 4th Oct 2013
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Souls Apart: The Apprentice - GnollReader

Equis has a new Death, a new reaper of souls... Only problem is that this one still has obligations in the world of the living.

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Chapter 2: The Pale Queen

Pipsqueak used one of his hooves to wipe the sweat from his brow. The necromancer had not lied, this really was hard work. The moment he arrived at the tower the imps had assigned him with his chores for the week. On his first day, it was helping the imps with cleaning the habitat of the flying baboons,

It wasn't really as bad as he had expected it to be, even with the smell. The imps took care of removing the baboons'... leftovers, which Pipsqueak was immensely grateful for. His job was mopping the floor and cleaning the walls, but that in itself was not as simple as he had anticipated.

The baboons, it seemed... liked to practice, everywhere.

Their drawings where everywhere, on the floor, the walls... even the ceiling was covered with their crude paintings. And where the baboons were able to use their wings Pipsqueak had to use a ladder. Holding the mop up straight was hard, but soon he got the hang of it and started making good progress... He even found the time to play a small game of tic tac toe with the baboons, which he lost.

"Alright..." one of imps called up to him as he was mopping away a picture of the paladin, "That's about it for today, kid. Take a small break, the boss should be back soon to start your lessons. We'll take care of the rest."

Pipsqueak carefully got down from the ladder, holding the bucket in his mouth and balancing the mop on one of his shoulders. "So kid..." the imp asked him with a small smile as he reached the bottom, "How's your first day?"

"It's alright..." Pipsqueak sighed as he put down the bucket, "It's not as bad as I thought it would be."

"Good to hear." the imp chuckled, "I'm sure you'll enjoy feeding the kraken tomorrow, he's a nice fellow."

"Really?" Pipsqueak asked with hope.

The imp shook his head with a small laugh, "Just remember to bring a towel, kid. You'll need it." he started to head for the exit, "Come on, you can join us for a snack while you wait."


Inside the dimly lit room, the old pony sat at his table... and waited for the end to come.

"Dusk Breaker..." a hollow voice spoke up as a tall figure stepped out of the dark and pointed a finger of bone at him, "I have come for you..."

"I know..." Dusk replied with a sinister chuckle.

"You do?" a small sigh escaped the skull under the black and torn hood, "Good... I was afraid I had gotten the wrong guy, you can't even imagine the stir up it causes when I bring in someone that's not on the list." a silent laugh escaped him, "Well then, come on. Let's not be tardy."

"I am not going." Dusk replied with a smirk.

Death tilted his head in wonder, "Come again?"

Dusk Breaker pulled out a chess board from behind his chair, "Unless you can beat me in a game!"

Death stared at him in silence for a moment, "Are you serious?"

"Of course! The rules clearly state that I am entitled to a game for my life!" Dusk started to place the figures on the table.

Death continued to stare at him, but then stepped up to the table with silent steps. "A game of chess, then?" he scratched his chin, the process emitting a strange noise as bone scratched over bone, "Well if the rules say so... Let me just..." his hand suddenly shot out and poked Dusk Breaker on his brow, "ZOINK!"

For a single second, Dusk Breaker simply stared at the finger on his forehead with surprise... and then fell over to his side as his last breath escaped him.

"I swear, that's already the third one to try that trick today..." Death leaned on his scythe with impatience, "Seriously, who came up with this crap in the first place?" a small chuckle rattled his teeth, "The one that tried to sell me her stamp collection though, that was priceless." he pulled out a thick book, "Not like she'd need it where she is anyhow..." he flicked through the pages, "Ohhh... this one has a peach on it!"


"So..." Pipsqueak managed to ask through a mouthful of his sandwich, "How many of you are there?"

"Us?" the imp replied with a raised eyebrow before turning to one of its comrades, "Hey, three-zero-eight?"

The imp in question looked up from his bowl of steaming... Pipsqueak decided it was better not to think about the contents of the bowl... seeing that there was something moving in it was enough already. "Yeah?"

"How many of us do you reckon there are?"

"Mmmm..." the imp rubbed its chin in thought, "I think there's a one-zero-twelve on floor twenty five."

"You mean the one taking care of the blind beholder?"

"No, that's seven-six-four. One-zero-twelve loads does the dishes for the never-ending food fight."

"That's him? I thought that was sixty-three?"

"Nah... he's doing door service this month." the imp replied with a shrug as it continued to eat, "There was a flood on one of the top levels and they need to replace the doors that drowned."

"Right, right." the first imp returned its attention to Pipsqueak with a small sigh, "I'd say there's a good thousand of us in here, only the boss knows for sure though."

"And he knows all of you by number?" Pipsqueak asked with surprise, "Isn't that confusing?"

"Nah... it's like memorizing cards, easy once you get the hang of it."

Pipsqueak thought for a second, "What's your number?"

The imp paused, brow working furiously as it tried to remember its own number, "I think... I think I'm twenty-five..."

"Nah..." three-zero-eight commented over another spoon, "You're forty-two."

"You sure? I could have sworn I was a twenty."

Three-zero-eight gave him a short look, "Nope, definitely a forty."

"Huh..." the imp seemed to do a quick count, "I guess I am..." he turned back to Pipsqueak, "Yeah, I'm forty-two." he offered a small hand to Pipsqueak, "Nice to meet you, kid."

Pipsqueak returned the handshake with a small smile, "Nice to meet you too, I'm Pipsqueak."


"Alright..." Calindria checked her map, "This seems to be the place." she turned to Tobie, "Did you remember to bring shovels this time?"

Tobie held up six shovels with six grubby arms, "Tobie brings."

"Good, then we can at least dig them out if we have too." the paladin sighed. The first raising had been a nightmare, the blasted corpses had awoken under several feet of hardened clay and it taken them hours to dig themselves up to the surface.

She reached into her armor and pulled out the charm that Aergad had prepared for her; it was a flat, triangular and black stone with rounded edges. Nothing really out of the ordinary had it not been for the strange signs that had been scratched deep into its surface.

Calindria could only wonder what the symbols meant, but she knew they were some sort of occult enchantment... how could she not, after using it for the first time?

"The clerics would burn me at the stake if they knew of this..." she sighed and pulled out her dagger, "Not that they ever needed a good reason to burn a woman though." she furrowed her brow as the tip of the blade drew blood from her little finger.

In her opinion... and especially after having gotten to know Aergad's history a bit better, the clerics were even worse than the Order itself. They worked for the glory of the light, though more for the glory and the generous donations than actually for anything good.

Calindria watched the first drop fall onto the charm in her hand, "How did I ever think they actually believed what they preached?" A second drop fell onto the charm... the signs started to glow in a soft red, "Well, no more delusions for me." she gave charm a grim look and placed it on the ground, "From now on I'll be the one choosing the path." the ground started to tremble, "And I'll see to it that my words aren't just empty psalms."

"Boss! Hey, boss!" she turned around to see several undead diamond dogs waddle towards her, "Look'eh what we found!" they dragged their captive towards her, "It's a live'y one! Can we munch on'im?"

Calindria watched the diamond dog in their cold grasp squirm under her gaze, "A local... good. That should speed things up considerably."

The dog trembled in fear as the paladin picked up the charm and returned her dagger to its place, the aura she was giving off was intimidating... he was sure by now that she had to be a queen; why else would she be adorned with such beautiful and shiny metal? Even his dead brothers bowed before her! For the second time today, he hoped that all of this was just a bad dream.

His mind came to a halt though, as shortly after she picked up the charm, countless rotting paws shot out off the ground behind her... as if the dead themselves were rising to acknowledge her presence. "Tobie, bring him to my tent..." the dog's gaze traveled to the paladin's cold features as the dead continued to break through the surface around her. There was no fear on her face... even with the dead returning to life she seemed to be completely calm. "I have a few questions for him."

Before the dog could wonder what was going to happen to him, a mountain of arms and flesh stepped up to him with heavy steps, a wide smile with misaligned and rotting teeth smiling at him from a deformed face, "Little doggie... Tobie will teach tricks!"

"Who... who are you? What are you going to do to me?" he turned his head to look into the rotting face of his uncle, "What's happening?"

"The Pale Queen has demanded your presence, boy..." uncle Nips spoke with a sinister smile as countless arms took a hold of the dog's body, "You'd better behave or the big one here will put you in the ground with us."

"One of us..." the other undead chanted with evil smiles.

"Tobie pulls off head!" the mountain sang as it carried him along.

All around him and as far as he could see, the dead continued to rise out off the ground like sprouting saplings. Before his terrified eyes, an army was awakening from its slumber. And even as he watched the unnatural event unfold itself, even as the mountain of arms carried him away, he saw them bow before her.

"The Pale Queen..." the dog repeated the words to himself with a whisper, the name burned into his mind for all eternity.

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