The Undiscovered Country

When the Man Comes Around

Mortimer watched Burne and Rufus sleep, it had been a trying ordeal for them, and that was partially, okay largely, his fault, but he felt confident that with enough time he and Burne could come up with a way of moving the right souls into the right bodies, of course time was the one thing they didn’t have, the Time Wraiths must but his next concern, there was no two ways about it, they had to move the village back across the barrier. But could they do it without Burne?

They had Spugnoir, Jack, Himself, where was that knight with magical talent? Where was Lady Anarieay for that matter? He could hear most of the voices he recognised down in the tavern below him, but he couldn’t hear her bossing people around.

She was the least of his worries, he suspected they would need Burne and Rufus back at their respective positions of import sooner rather than later, he hoped the village would rally around their traditional figureheads, but how would that even work now… now he’d confused things a little? At least Jack’s appearance shifting spell had calmed them enough that now they slept.

Sleep… That was something he could put off no longer, for a Necromancer the line “i’ll sleep when I’m dead” is a blatant fallacy.

“An’ besides, I don’t plan on dyin’” he muttered to himself as he let his head and body sink lower, lower, till it rested on the large, black, evil looking spellbook he cradled like others would a teddybear these days.

Soon he slumbered, and in his dreams he ran over and over the events of the day, which, for the pintsized spellslinger, had been mostly necromantic ritual after ritual. In his mind he went over and over the circles, the pentagrams, the Existential Markup, the dribbly candles… till in his dream all he saw was grey.

He sat, in the featureless grey for a long while, long enough for him to become aware he had some seriously boring dreams. At that moment of realisation however, he heard a voice and looked over to see a man in a sharp grey suit, with a trilby hat, and a goatee beard.

“There’s a man goin’ ‘round takin’ names. An’ he decides who to free and who to blame. Everybody won’t be treated all the same.”

“No offence…” the wizard clad in midnight intoned, “But you’re one of the last people I wanted to dream about, especially on that subject!”

The smartly dressed man gave a slow nod, as if accepting that this was a fair statement, but he approached anyway, gestured as if asking to sit, and then dropped down beside the smaller figure.

“Wadda’ you want friend, I was kinda hoping to sleep like the dead, not dream some cryptic bullshit. I don’t suppose you have a real straight forward revelation about the current situation that you’ve going to give me in simple, plane, Common do you?

Instead of an answer the suited man reached into his right breast pocket and, inexplicably, produced a simple clay vessel, full of a dark red liquid.

“The hairs on your arm will stand up. At the terror in each sip and in each sup. For you partake of that last offered cup, Or disappear into the potter’s ground. When the man comes around.”_

Mortimer regarded the offered cup for a moment, but halted before drinking, trying to change the subject instead:

“If this is about your disciple girl, I actually tried to save her y’know, I’ve started doing that now, saving people, I think I’ve started having ‘friends’… terrible habit to get into. I tried to save two people today, not because they would be useful, not because I could use them to get the powers I need to know, but just because they didn’t judge me, one of them was excited to know me and what I knew, the other accepted me because I was important to one he cared about. Now I’ve got this horrible feeling, like I’m gonna’ have to make things right by ‘em just cause of that. Why do those feelings even exist, ‘whatsa use of that to anyone?”

The man smiled a little and nodded slowly. He opened his mouth to speak, closed it, as if thinking better of it, and then said:

”Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers. One hundred million angels singin’. Multitudes are marching to the big kettle drum. Voices callin’, voices cryin’. Some are born an’ some are dyin’.”

“Oh geeze, yeah, that clears everything right up, why’d I gotta’ get such a freakin’ cryptic subconscious. Some are certainly dyin’ cause they’re being poisoned as part of some dumb-as-rocks political maneuverin’ around a king who aint’ even in this land! Jonathan and his men want this place so bad, they’re a thousand years away from their home, the only ruler in these parts is my Queen in the Shining City. They want to poison the one guy who can keep them safe and get them home? I aint’ got time for these games!”

The suited man put a reassuring hand on the smaller figures shoulder

“The whirlwind is in the thorn tree. It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”

“True that’” the robed mage smirked. “First sensible thing you said so far!”

He reached behind him and produced a black leather clad volume that he currently converted more than anything else in the world.

“I got betta’ thing to be doin’, y’know, secrets to be learning, like how to not make your acquaintance again at the end of it all, no offence like, I mean I’m on message, I feel where you’re comin’ from, you run a tight ship, I just rather it sailed widout’ me on it, y’know?”

He paused, but the figure seemed genuinely amused by this notion.

“Is it even in here? What I’ve been striving for all my life? Did Acererak ever find the secret?”

The besuited figure raised a conspiratorial eyebrow, and then grinned a wicked smile. He paused for a moment to stroke his goatee beard, and replied:

”Till Armageddon, no Shalam, no Shalom. Then the father hen will call his chickens home. The wise men will bow down before the throne. And at his feet they’ll cast their golden crown.”

“Just once I’d like to have a dream that made an ounce a’ sense, it’s like bending your mind to the arcane arts all day is worst than cheese a’fore bedtime, y’know?!”

Mortimer threw up his hands in despair

“Can I get a straight answer ova’ here?”

”Listen to the words long written down, When the man comes around.”

Mortimer opened and shut his mouth, he looked down at the spellbook he cradled,

“Ooo-kay, that actually kinda made sense, surprisingly.”

The man nodded, and rose, doffed his trilby hat, and made to leave.

“Wait! Before you go, what’s waiting for us, what’s back East, when we move the village, I got a bad feelin’ I’m stuck with this till the end here, whatdo’I got comin’?”

The suited man looked back over his shoulder, smiled a knowing smile, and added:

”It’s Alpha’s and Omega’s Kingdom come…”

With that mortimer woke with a start, it was dawn, the pub below him sounded quite. He blinked away sleep for a moment then flung open the spellbook he cradled and searched desperately through it’s pages

“Ah shit I’m gonna’ need a plan B, ‘case the man comes around!”

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