Runic - Heart of Spoils

All life's a game for those who thrive in a world filled with them. In the wonderfully bleak realm of Sitic, a small band of misfits dwell in the only form of civilization where fun reigns as top priority, even if a little madness slips in unannounced. They explore the rabbit holes no sane soul would ever venture, much less find enjoyment in. They’re not the most stable group by any means, but making bliss from absurdity is quite a common practice among those who go about in crazed solitude. Outside, phantoms roam about seeking to enter their home and ruin what amusement bides within. Tensions are strung as the threats grow more and more lethal and the intruders become more and more dangerous. Life long friendships are tested. Battles commence. Something must give at one point or another, and slowly, losing one’s mind is become a better option as the days draw on.

Novel Website - https://www.crimsos.org/heart-of-spoils

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3. Chapter 3 - Pull Your Nails Up

 

 

"This is gay. You're gay. Stop being so gay."

-A conversation Coral overheard during a fireworks rally-

...

Everyone had left to their separate ways, but that didn't mean every quall had been laid to rest. Vixie’s feet were bound to a skipping pace that trolleyed along as if the world could coalesce into its most insidious form, and she would still go along without glancing twice. However, despite this, the girl’s eyes were filled with a state of unrest. Her frantic glare was an odyssey with no destination; her set of fingers were still missing, and there was a lot of castle to cover. Her simple dress was a second shadow that rippled in symphony with her hair, a pretty song that was killed off by her state of anaphylactic agitation. Both her snow colored hands jittered, wanting to feel the touch of flesh long since parted from its body.

“Oh dear, never gonna find them, no, not me.” Her tone wavered, a static vibration of white noise. “Need to search here, then there, then underneath and up above. Oh dear, Oh dear O’ me.”

The foyer staircase was a wild spiral of helix steps that lead up to the second floor. Vixie’s high laced shoes tapped loudly on each one as she meandered up the snowy rise, stopping midway to have a sweeping look across the foyer below. She glanced over there, then peeked over here, and maybe a look over yonder. Something glistened like a dead puzzle piece on one of the flower case pillars, the one Creen loved to place Tiger Lilies in whenever they sprouted. There they were, a threesome of motionless fingers lying haphazardly on the empty platform.

Vixie gave a little yip in delight and trolleyed down the steps to retrieve what was lost. It was funny how her many belongings simply got up and walked away. Ever since she was a little itty bitty toddler founding over unicorns and fairies, things seemed to simply whisk away with memory, or maybe that was just a matter of playing the victim. Either way, her hands were filled with fingers now, and that was enough. Now with that warm sense of completion satisfied, it was time for sleep, the most necessary act of wasting time. She made way back up the staircase with a string of clacks and clucks and trolleyed onto the second floor. This floor was broadly different from the one below it. Instead of large tenements and halls fit for titans, this sector of the castle was a high roofed maelstrom of narrow hallways networking in criss crossing paths that was easy to lose one’s way in. Doors upon doors lined white walls, broken up by nailed in pictures, stands of books, a few cast away chairs, and other nic-nacs to make everything cozy.

Her prompt skipping stride had slowed to a lethargic trot as the thought of sleep grew. Her lips set free a playful set of hums that rang like a tiny bell, arms swaying, eyes half open. But if anyone randomly turned the corner to look at her, she would be ready to stiffen up and walk professionally, maybe even give a friendly wave at whoever rudely interrupted her time in loosened tiredness. Soon, her heart would be trapped below the dreamy veil, and surrealism would have its way, wherever it wanted to go, rather in a nightmare or a lovely vision.

Her own little room sat alone at the far end, a place for indulgences of any kind, of any pleasures she wished. Her back wall of sanitized flesh was the centerpiece to this comfy living space, a plethora of limbs and bones tied together in gorgeous formations that always made for a splendid wash of relief. Among these creations were rings of wishbones, chimes made from ear drums, and elaborate chains crafted from only the best femur specimens.

She took her dead fingers and arrayed them to dangle above her royal blue bed. After a nice humming note of joy, she plopped on the sheets and stared up, smiling at the new creation that would make the lucid dreams come easier, knowing that she was being watched from above, protected. Maybe time, Vixie would craft a necklace of fibulas, or an anklet built from taluses. The room’s overall presentation was already getting a bit crowded, decorated with all sorts of accessories that clinked, jingled, or simply hung idly without motion, without a pulse. It would be a welcomed change to actually wear some of the trinkets that were meticulously difficult to make from scratch.

“I could get Sigit to help me out,” she whispered. “We’ll spent all the time we need.”

“...All the time in existence.”

Sigit was always there when that hint of loneliness grew too big. They did all sorts of activities together, playing hide and go seek, wondering around the castle gardens, or simply chatting away the hours. It was funny. They were both well in their late adolescent years, yet the same childish games remained fun, passing the test of time. Unfortunately, Sigit never got into her more specific interest, like making artworks of bone or singing. Perhaps it was a matter of taste, a divergence in desire or passion. But why? It was lots of fun. So why?

These thoughts dipped her more and more into the first layers of sleep, about two feet deep in the dream diluted ocean. There were worlds that needed exploring, vast waters that yearned for attention.

But then a rasped sound scratched her ears, scattering the rising swells of tiredness. The bedroom door had creaked open and light bled in like a lambent knife, holo and white. The narrow crack of brightness lapped over her face as it stretched out. She sat up in an instant.

“Sigit?” The girl’s beckoning call was thin, starved by drowsiness.

Nothing, just silence in response.

“Please stop fooling. We can play later. Or if you want to have that kind of fun, please wait until I'm in the mood.”

Again, a long pause eased by in nothingness, and for a second all seemed normal. This had to be the product of a stray breeze acting on impulse, a draft that brushed in. But something else came into view, a shadow that peeked through the open door casting hazy darkness in the gloom. The shadow was intricate, filled with spaces and pockets where there should have been skin and flesh.

“Oh, Oh me O’ my. No, not me.” Her jittering hand fished under the pillow. The huge ten inch ossified knife had to be in here, right? After some fiddling she felt the cold steel of her five inch throwing knife. It wasn’t the fancy big one that could gorge through wood, but it would do anyway even though her aim wasn’t that good. Her arm blurred. The knife flew blindingly, and when it stuck deep into the wall beside the open door, the shadow jerked pack, now fully visible in the bleached pale light. The skeleton moved with a heart unseen, or a soul undetected. Its vacant eye sockets looked back at her with emptiness.

Slowly, Vixie eased out of bed with a mind that was equal parts startled and curious. Her toes touched the carpet without a sound, looking on with eyes like blue lenses that reflected the atrocity standing just outside the doorway.

“You shouldn’t be here. No, not you.” The girl’s whisper bled out before it could be stopped. Every nook and cranny of the castle was checked for faulty entrances where the undead might slip in. This was impossible, but she would be an idiot to deny what was clearly there, this unwanted intruder.

Her whisper must had been too loud. The skeleton’s body rattled as it jerked back, farther this time. It whipped around and preceded to skitter off into the hallway. Vixie’s reaction was immediate. She jumped into a pair of slippers, jerked out her throwing knife from the wood, and hurried after with a brisk skipping trot that could easily go at running speed. This thing had to be followed, because doing so might lead to the path to the entrance from which it came, or even to the person it was really after. This skeleton obviously had no interest in little O' her, not a chance, not by the way it turned tail and ran away just by her faint chilled whisper.

Oh it was a marvelous chase indeed. The girl skipped and galloped through the upstairs hallways and overhangs that bridged above the first floor, keeping a fair distance as to not scare it off too much. The skeleton’s bare bony feet clacked on the marble tiles while hers clicked lightly. Someone else would definitely hear the pursuit and come out of their room, she just knew it. But would that make things better?

“Oh dear o’ me. Better keep following. Dear me.”

She knifed around a sharp corner and barely caught the intruder disappear out of view. Her skip hastened to a swift hopping run, adding a little hop here or there just for style. Sure, she was chasing some undead phenomenon, but did that mean fun was out of the question?

A new pair of feet came clacking Vixie's way as she ran. It wasn't another skeleton, it was someone with a pretty gold horn and shiny brass toes that made the funniest nose when they moved.

“I see you're chasing a bone head! Any room for a third party?” Sigit’s cute toothy grin gleamed like a snow bunny’s coat.

Vixie returned the grin saying that having a partner would be dandy indeed. And so they did. Both of them ran side by side smiling like maniacs on a holiday, getting closer and closer still to the skeleton who was finally starting to tire out. Oh it was so wonderful to be with someone of such oddity. Sigit always loved a good show even if its overture or finale was a big mystery. Being in the fray of things was enough for her, from dancing on dinner tables to chasing some undead wanderer through a castle.

Sigit hopped joyously. “We’ve got him now! I knew he didn't have the guts!”

But then, before either of their hands could reach out, the skeleton vaulted over and headed down a different hallway with renewed energy. Vixie’s pounding heart could do no more as it was banging against its cage. She stopped dead, gasping for air to come replenish her weary body.

Sigit came close and gently placed a hand on her companion’s back. “Hey, you alright?”

“Fine...just catching some relief. That thing just got faster all of the sudden. Oh dear O’ me. Now it's heading to Creen and Zafer’s room.”

But Creen and Zafer didn’t know that an empty bag of bones was closing in fast. They were too busy rolling around in their bedsheets having a splendid time in wonderland. Zafer’s wife had skin subtle enough to pass as glabrous putty, something that he took complete advantage of as his hands traced over Creen’s body. Her muscles were reactive to every warm touch or gesture making for a sensation that undermined everything else.

“You’re being adventurous,” she sighed blithely. “Or should’ve my clothes be stripped off sooner?”

Zafer brushed aside some of her checkerboard locks. “Just taking my time dear. We have a lot of it.”

Creen’s smiled widened in a way that would rein over her partner forever to come, controlling dissonance, like an empress that wore pretty dresses just to impress a lover. This man had access to her long waistline and ample assets like a toy made for the erotic pleasures. Just a few bits a snow silken clothing veiled an otherwise naked body. Her lower stomach was already getting pretty warm. That, along with fondled up breasts and a riled heartbeat, it was almost unbearable to hold it all in. But why do that? Just go nuts, right? Who cared?

But their good time was put to ruins when the bedroom door smacked open so hard it nearly flung off the hinges. A skeleton all crazy and heartless came rushing in on the lover’s party and went nuts running towards them, jaw open, hands positioned as claws. Zafer held it back but the monster’s teeth snapped mere inches away, teeth clattering like steel bear traps every half second. It wanted flesh badly.

Creen pulled the covers up under startled gasps. “It not stopping dear! Try a lick of fire!” She fumbled a mana bottle from their nightstand and tossed it to Zafer. Through gritted teeth he shoved this deranged skeleton off the bed just long enough to open the bottle cap and drink its thick bitter contents. With a new whirling power inside, his hand arced wide gushing forth green neon flames. Bones cindered as the conflagration sent the intruder lurching back in frenzied, soundless agony. For a second, everyone watched in amusing wonder at the spasmodic display, but when that passed, Creen instantly went to work putting out the flames that were making their way across the carpet, beating them with blankets as if they were rats scurrying about.

Then, as it died by their feet, they looked up at the gaped open doorway. Vixie and Sigit’s expressions were of appalled embarrassment and glazed over relief that no one was hurt; at least everyone could live to burn another day.

“Explain this now!” Zafer snapped them both to attention.

Vixie had lips frozen shut, so Sigit stepped forward and said, “Yeah, so, this undead guy was being chased by Vixie. It looked like she was having a good time racing around the castle like a crazy person. I asked to join in on the fun. And then we chased it here.” She looked down and up as if to pick something off the ground with her eyes. “Actually, we were having such a fun time that I lost track of it.”

“We know not as to why this creature ran here, of all places.” Vixie had melted from her ice, and looked on wearing a warm coat of obedience. “I saw it first peeking in my room. Maybe it just wants some company.”

Zafer’s eyes flashed green. “Creatures like this come from the outside. It wants nothing more than to harm us.”

“Oh, oh dear, it seems that you’re angry at me. My apologies.”

“I’m not angry. What's the point of being angry?”

Vixie shuttered.

Zafer was about to drive the point further, that there really wasn't any point if another rabbit hole would come along and make everything alright, but instead he turned to the more pressing matter. “So it's obvious there's been a security breach in the castle. Any ideas of how this happened, any of you?”

“It wanted to play tag!” chimed Sigit.

“It wanted my company,” Vixie whispered.

Creen, still naked, embraced her husband like a bare cloak of alabaster. “I’m sure it's nothing too important dear. We can even have some fun out of this.”

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