Jack and Stan~ Paranormal Cleaners chapter 22

     When most people think of home, they tell you that’s where their heart lies. Jack would wholeheartedly disagree. To him, home was where you kept the food and where you slept. Get too attached to a place and you would have only yourself to blame when it burnt down, something that had happened to the Goodbody family in the past. The main floor of the current Goodbody house possessed two kitchens. The larger one of the two was for the help to prepare larger meals and the smaller one was for family members only. Goodbody family members staying at the house tended to make food in their own apartments and so eating down in the smaller kitchen had long ago become an act of familial love for a family that prized individualism.

     The family kitchen lay directly next to the staff kitchen, but there was a family entrance from a set of stairs on the third floor. The smell of scrubbed steel drifted out from behind the door, causing Jack to wonder if the kitchen even had any food. Opening the door, he was hit with a wave of nostalgia. This was the room he used to eat breakfast in. The table they had eaten at must have been moved, but the steel counters along the walls still stood where they had been. All the walls were lined with cabinets, except the wall to Jack’s left which had a stove and an enormous refrigerator that was taller than Stan.

     Sam slid into the room next to him and whistled softly, “I can’t even smell any food. Who knows what we’re going to find? Maybe inviting you to eat down here wasn’t the best idea.”

     Jack grabbed his sister by the wrist and tugged her into the room, Despite that fact, or maybe because of it, after an hour of rooting around Jack was only able to find a bag of potatoes.

     Setting the bag on the counter, Jack waved his sister over and tossed her a potato, “Get to peeling. You invited me, so I’m not doing all the work.”

     Sam snatched the potato out of the air and whipped her knife out from her pocket. Jack leaned against the counter and watched her work, the blade a mere flash of metal running over the spud. It had been a long time since he had gotten a close look at the blade that had ended so many lives. It was the very reason his sister was renowned more as a back-alley fighter than as a monster hunter. The blade functioned as a long, slim switch blade. The sides of the hilt were a dull black, emblazoned in silver with the family motto running up and down each side. Jack tossed her another potato when she had finished the first, peeling it and cutting it into small pieces. Sam snatched it out of the air and got to work.

     After a few more potatoes peeled, Jack finally spoke up, “You said things had changed since I left, do you have any details for me or were you just being purposefully vague for no reason?”

     “Around two or three years after you left, most of the rest of the families started heading off on their own as well. They still come back for the reunion every year but after you came back from California I…”

     “I will never answer any questions about that.” Jack cut his sister off. Pulling out a pan, Jack dumped the potato pieces into it and seasoned them, testing the flavor every now and then. Once he was satisfied, he turned the oven on and stood next to his sister to watch the potatoes cook.

     Sam spent a few long minutes watching the oven before reaching her arm out hesitantly for Jack’s. She pulled back a few times before she finally rested her hand on his arm, “All I needed to know is that it wasn’t your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong and you did everything you could to save our brother…”

      They stood in silence for a long time, holding hands in front of the oven. Somehow, to Jack, the distance between them felt even greater than usual even though they stood so close together. Time slipped away until the oven rang out a tiny bell and Jack pulled the potatoes out. While they cooled, he pulled away from her to set places and pour them both a glass of water. The sound of cooked meat drifted through the doors letting Jack know that Stan was eating as well. Soon the smell of meat was overpowered by the scent of spicy potatoes and Jack served up two plates, one for him and one for his sister. They sat down and dug in, silent but for the sound of chewing for a long time.

     The entire time, he thought about what his sister had said. When he had eaten his fill, Jack pushed his glasses up and massaged the bridge of his nose, “So around the time I left, father must have started looking for the Machina and it’s been taking a long time since most of the families are out doing their own thing.”

     Sam nodded and speared herself another forkful of potatoes, “And if he were to find anything out he would then be able to call in some help from the family and they wouldn’t be able to say no, at least not unless they have a death wish.”

     Jack pushed the rest of his food to Sam who eagerly added them to her own plate, “Given our family? Even odds that they ignore him anyways, especially our cousin Julian.”

     “The artist with the faggy lisp? Yeah, he’ll say no so long as it suits him, no matter what threats we send him.”

    Jack playfully slapped Sam on the back of the head, “Knock it off, sis. He has a lot of bad qualities but his choice in companions isn’t one of them.”

     Sam rubbed the back of her head and scowled, “He drew a painting of me as a gorilla.”

     Jack stared off into space for a few moments, “I guess that would count as one of his bad qualities.” They both burst out laughing, Sam pulling Jack into a tight hug for a long time. It took them a long few moments to realize how loud the silence had become. Sam pulled away from Jack a little and whipped out her knife. The silence of an empty building that should be full of people is mournful. An empty home echoes loneliness and the echoes of faded dreams. What was also unnerving was the silence of a house that should be empty, but was full of people. From the other rooms, both of them could hear whispers and the gentle brush of clothes against walls and furniture.

     Slowly, careful to make no noise, Jack raised a finger to his lips and Sam nodded. They split up and headed around the kitchen walls until they each came to the door that led out into the main kitchen. Jack raised a finger to get Sam’s attention and waved his finger around in a circle. She nodded and held her knife at the ready.

    He stepped into the doorway and yawned as though nothing were wrong. In that instant, something lunged at Jack, detaching itself from the other shadows in the dining room and stabbing at him with a glinting blade. The dagger whirred through the air towards Jack’s neck as he danced backwards. Sam lashed out with her knife in the same instance, slashing the arm and stopping the assault short. Before the attacker could pull away, Jack moved back in and grabbed his arm pulling him into the kitchen and into Sam’s waiting blade which sliced across his neck. The attacker fell to the ground with a heavy thud, bleeding heavily on the kitchen floor.

     Jack hunched down and rolled his attacker over. He was wearing a dark, dull colored body armor that covered his entire body and a mask that covered his face. Sam’s strike had bitten straight through the armor over his neck. On the left side of his armored vest a patch glinted slightly in the kitchen lights. It only read S.P.H.K.. Jack ripped it off and held it up to Sam, who took it and turned it over in her hands.

     “Seems we’ve been attacked by some Special Forces group or something, but what could possibly be so important to get people to attack our house? That seems like a bad idea.”

     “Bad idea or not, I assume there’s more than one. They must be all over the house by now. We should be careful.” Sam took the lead and Jack snatched up the dagger from his attacker and followed behind at a short distance and watching her back.

     Sam paced warily out into the main kitchen and almost instantly two more shadows materialized to attack her. It was uncanny, like watching parts of the kitchen pull away from the wall to attack them. It should have been impossible and yet they almost managed to get into Sam’s blind spot. She turned to block the first attack, knowing full well that she was leaving her back open to the second attacker. When the second foe rushed in to stab at the back of her head, Jack caught him in his blind spot and rammed the his dagger up to the hilt into the side of his head. The first attacker crumpled to the ground in an instant. Sam used that instant of confusion to bring a quick kick to the left of her attacker’s head, sliding her blade across his neck as well.

     “We need a few more of them alive, Sam. I’d like to ask them a few questions about why they’re here, though I suspect I know the reason.” Jack left the original dagger embedded in the side of his attacker’s skull and took up his own blade to take its place.

     “What’s that?”

     “I gave father a list from Jimmy. I got it when I ran into him on the road.” Jack took the lead this time and headed for the door to the dining room.

Jack and Stan~ Paranormal Cleaners chapter 21

     Jack dreaded the trip home again and yet could hardly avoid it. You don’t just wander into an insane asylum to wait for someone on a random hunch. Jimmy knew he would be there someday, but the last time he had cleaned Gentle Pastures had been more than a year ago. That Jimmy was waiting for him in that pastel colored hell hole meant the situation was serious. The road up the mountain, with all its twists and turns, cast shadows over the van beckoning Jack home to an empty hearth. The early morning sun beamed down through the overhanging branches in small ladders leading up to the sky like little ladders of freedom somehow escaping the oppression of a long dead forest. The gate lay wide open when they arrived, something Jack couldn’t remember encountering since before he left the Family house. Those heavy black front gates left open and nearly brushing the forest on either side of the road could only mean one of two things. Either a special event had happened or the family had met recently. The last time a special event had happened was a funeral all family members had been required to attend.

     Stan parked the van right in front of the main doors and Jack marched in without knocking, surprising both himself and Madeline who was busy dusting the werewolf in front of the stairs when he came in, “Master Jack! I didn’t expect you back for a year at least.”

     Jack felt unsure what tone he detected in her voice, it seemed to be a mix of confusion, approval and disdain, “How’s the kitchen doing, Madeline?”

     Madeline hopped down from the ladder she had been on and curtsied with a crisp motion to Jack, “Welcome home, young master.”

     Oh yeah, he read that one alright. Resentment. “Where’s father, Madeline?”

     “In the study, young master. His health is still very fragile so he spends most of his days in there with a roaring fire.”

     Jack patted his vest pocket, where he had tucked the note and the spoon away, and made his way up the stairs before turning to Madeline and sparing her one more glance, “Feed Stan.”

     Madeline seemed to shrink a bit into the ground, apparently hoping that Stan hadn’t heard that pronouncement, “Very well, young master.”

     Stan tromped up to the door and ducked his head inside, “Them steaks ain’t gonna fix themselves, Maddie.” Stan grinned as he ducked inside, only fading slightly when Madeline plucked the cigar out of his pocket.

     “No smoking in my house, Mister Stanley.”

     Jack steeled himself for this new confrontation and headed up the stairs before stopping at the third floor. The study doors brought him to a halt as they always did. When Jack was a child, he always thought the door looked like a monster. It seemed silly to look back on it now, but when he was a child he found the hourglass looked very much like a mouth that was ready to devour him whole. Closing his eyes, he steeled himself and gently pushed the door open.

    The room hadn’t changed since Jack had last been in to visit his father. He still sat in the same chair, cloaked with the same dark grey blanket he used to hide his face from the world. His hands gripped the side of his chair tightly, “To what do I owe the pleasure of seeing my son twice in one month?”

     Jack reached into his pocket and fished out the piece of paper that had been given to him by Jimmy, “I met up with Jimmy when I was on the road cleaning. He gave me this to give to you, I never read it.”

     “I have no doubt you didn’t” Varnes snatched the letter away and held it up to the candle to read, “You have no interest in your family.”

     Jack felt an unexpected pain in his chest at that statement, “What is it?”

     “It’s a list of items I had been looking for and have had no luck with finding.”

     Jack cocked his head, “Than why did you need a list from Jimmy of all people?”

     Varnes lowered the paper and though Jack couldn’t see it, he was sure he could picture the look of scorn on his father’s face, “I had no idea what exactly I was looking for, which made these items hard to find.” Now at least I know exactly what I’m looking for.” The inky blackness under the blanket seemed to regard Jack, “What do you know of Machina, son?”

     “Not much beyond what you told me the first time. Weapons of unimaginable power or some such nonsense. Enough to make people kill each other, I take it.”

     Varnes laughed in his chair, a wheezing coughing laugh that left his body wracked with spasms for a few moments, “Not so much weapons as dream machines. Our family, along with the other four, started finding them after we came to America. I know very little about their origin beyond the name of their creator.”

     “From the sound of it, you’re chasing dreams and nightmares without any real idea what you’re searching out.”

     Varnes crumpled up the paper and held it over the candle’s flame until it lit. He held it there until the flame consumed the entire piece paper, earning no visible reaction from him and leaving no mark on his hand, “I’ve heard rumors. Your grandfather used to talk about them when I was a child before he passed. When you find the right items, they power a machine called the Deus Machina which can make any dream come true.”

    “Deus. In other words, God? These things give someone the ability to become God?”

     “That’s what my father said. As you can imagine, I wanted to keep it out of the hands of normal idiots with god complexes. I started looking for them and in the years I have spent looking, I have found nothing. Eventually, I realized that I didn’t even know what I was looking for. That’s why I sent Jimmy out to look for the information that I needed.” A hand withdrew into the shadows under the blanket and Varnes coughed loudly.

     “Well, I hope it was good news. Jimmy also gave me this, he said you were looking for the complete set.” Jack fished the spoon out of his pocket only to look down in shock as he felt the spoon leave his hand. Apparently, Varnes wasn’t so sick as he let on.

     “Is this what I think it is?”

     Jack nodded and rubbed his hand, “A part of the Devourer set that you had been looking for. Anyway, I’m going to grab something to eat and then I’m headed back to the office.” Turning to leave, he strode quickly for the door before stopping short with his hand on the doorknob, “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if you need me don’t hesitate to call me.”

     Varnes waved him out with one hand, examining the spoon in his other hand with keen interest. Jack stepped out into the hallway and almost fell over as his sister Sam ran into him, hugging him tightly.

     “You came back! That’s twice in a month! So you do care!”

     Jack gently held her back and started fixing her hair before she slapped his hand away, “This isn’t going to be a regular thing. It just happened that my path crossed with family business more than a few times this month. That being said, I wouldn’t mind grabbing something to eat with you.”

     Sam nodded happily and skipped down the stairs ahead of Jack, in spite of her sarcasm and leather jacket, he could still see the little girl inside his big sister. A girl filled with enthusiasm for running through the woods and hunting rabbits to keep as pets. The main stairwell was worn down the sides and directly down the center, worn by feet of varying weight. Jack hooked his arm through his sister’s and led the way downstairs.

Second-Hand Goods~ chapter 20

     Words are some of the heaviest things in this world. Smart-asses had discovered a mathematical formula for it sometime in the late seventies while working at a reputable college. It went something like this. “The importance of the person speaking multiplied by the length of time before they start speaking by the power of awkward coughs equals a whale.” They had been justifiably let go. Liam knew from experience that when a long pause occurs before words, it’s because their weight makes them difficult to get out the front door. From where he stood, Jenny still clutching him close, he couldn’t make out Samantha’s face, but he figured she looked bored more than anything.

     “I’m sorry we started without you, Samantha.” The Nair patriarch spoke quietly, forcing everyone to remain silent in order to listen to him, “We decided to start with matters pertaining individually to each family before you arrived so that issues having to do with all five families could be brought before everyone all at once.”

     Yawning, Samantha shrugged her shoulders, “That’s fine, it was my fault for being late in the first place. I didn’t want to be here because I don’t like any of you.”

     Isaac snorted into his sweat rag, “What kind of children did Varnes Goodbody raise? They certainly don’t seem like they’re worth much.”

     Sam rolled her eyes, “You could ask him, but he would just agree with you. I’m not sure what you would get out of it, other than setting up a bitching circle.”

     Varnes Nair raised a hand and silenced them both, “Before we get into the main portion of this meeting, is there anything you want to bring to the attention of this council on behalf of the Goodbody family?”

     Sam leaned her chair back further, putting her feet on the table, “We don’t have an official heir. The head of our family is too sick to do his job. None of the families attached to us are doing their jobs either and the house smells funny. Other than that, we’re peachy.”

     For the first time since they had entered, Renata Aliway lifted her head and regarded Sam coldly, “At least try and take these problems seriously, girl. This is the very reason why our family strives so hard to have many children in case some of them turn out like you.”

     Isaac wiped at his chin with his dripping handkerchief, “And having so many children always turns out well for your family. Why just the other day I heard that…”

     “Save your gossip mongering for your clients, Neelan It’s clear we’ll get no useful information out of her. Why don’t we just move onto this meeting’s real agenda?” Renata faced her sketch again and resumed her silence.

     Sam turned to Liam and winked, waving a thumbs up before turning back to the table, “So what’s first?”

     Liam smirked. So that was why Sam was so reluctant to tell them anything they didn’t already know. The first part of this meeting must have been the heads of the Five Families verbally sparring and attempting to goad each other into giving away sensitive information. She was so abrasive she caused them to give up within five minutes of making the attempt to pump her for information.

     Settling back in his chair, Varnes Nair began the meeting in earnest, “First order of business. Summer means migration for a multitude of species. I would like you all to remember that to cross the border, most of them need a signed passport. They also need to be a member of an approved herd, flock, tribe or pack that have an updated and distinct tracker. We don’t want a repeat of last year’s pixie parade sucked directly into a Boeing 707.”

     Isaac nodded thoughtfully, “Such a tragedy, if only they had thought to at least tell someone in my family, we could have directed them safely.”

     “If only they had told one of my people, we would have killed them before they even took off that morning. No pixies, no mess and no need for a detailed clean up.” Everyone froze at Adrian’s words. He wiped delicately at another red tear that slid away from his left eye.

     “Your opinions on the matter are well noted, Adrian. I would like everyone to present your notes on flight plans in your territories before you leave my house. Second on the agenda, the market district over at the gnome village in Grenwich Village remains in a state of deplorable disrepair. I would like to request repairs from the Aliway family before conditions become unsafe for the local population.”

     Without looking up, Renanta responded, her hand never stopping it’s sketching for an instant, “I can spare some workers to look over the damages and do repairs. I trust we will be compensated.”

     “Of course, Renata. By the gratitude of the gnomes and the pockets of my family, if the former aren’t enough to satisfy you.”

     “They are not. The repairs will be completed by the end of summer.”

     “Third on our agenda, please keep an ear to the ground for any reports of Old Bart’s Guide to the Black Market. I know we’ve been through this song and dance before, but the less people publishing that infernal magazine, the less likely it will fall into the wrong hands.”

     “And what qualifies as the wrong hands?” Jacob Rever leaned back and gestured to Jenny, who parted from Liam’s side and skipped over to her father, leaning her head close as he whispered to her.

     “Anyone who possesses hands are the wrong hands for that publication, Jacob. I would like you to talk with Isaac after the meeting and compare notes on likely spots for illegal printing presses. We allow the black market auction houses to function on the condition that they give us anything really dangerous, but this publication is crossing a line and they know it.”

     Jacob waved Jenny back and turned to Varnes Nair, “I have some leads already. We’ll manage it between the two of us.”

     Isaac Neelan’s expression soured, “I’m sure we will.”

     Varnes Nair cleared his throat, “Next on the agenda, the state of the West coast. All five families being clustered together on the eastern seaboard has given us a solid powerbase to work from, but I think it’s time to start expanding. I’m hearing some disturbing rumors of a cult worshipping some Elder Field gods out in California. I’m not willing to send anyone out yet, but if that sort of thing starts creeping into your territory, let me know. I’m not averse to knocking heads for answers if they’re in our backyard.”

     “I had heard the Goodbody family ran into them a few years back, “Isaac raised a brow at Samantha, who for the first time was listening intently,

     “I don’t know anything about that,” Sam spoke casually, as though it was no cause for concern, “And the two people who do won’t tell me anything about it.”

     Varnes Nair tapped the table heavily, “Lastly on the agenda, another old issue. We would like to hear what the Society for the Protection of Humankind plans on doing about the recent killing of our various mythic species. Adrian, we allow you to sit in on these meetings so you can report on your organization and what they’re doing. Your Society was formed at the request of the Federal Government to liaise between them and the council but it’s been months since we’ve heard anything.”

     Adrian straightened in his chair, “There’s nothing to report at this time.”

     “The borderline genocide of fairies around the Ohio area? Nothing to say about that?’

     “There is nothing to report at this time.”

     “The village of elves in Northern New Hampshire and the family of trolls in Maine?”

     “There is nothing to report…”

     Adrian only got that far before Varnes Nair leapt from his seat and raced to Adrian, lifting him from his own chair in one clean motion, “I know you’re associated with the government, but that doesn’t give you free reign to indiscriminately kill Mythic kind. If you’re organization can’t be controlled, or you won’t control them, then we’ll take you to war again.”

     Adrian regarded the much larger man as coolly as though he were still seated, and not being threatened by one of the deadliest fighters in the world, “Killing you is exactly what our organization was created for, and if you want to go to war, then bring it. Just remember who won last time.”

     Varnes tossed Adrian against the wall, “It was a mistake to let you into this meeting.” Without saying another word, he stormed out of the room.

     As soon as he was gone, the lights came on and Liam blinked at the sudden brightness, “I guess the meeting is over now. Do they usually end like this?”

     “Usually when meanies are here,” Jenny stood protectively between Liam and Adrian, as though she expected him to attack everyone in the room all at once.

     As his eyes adjusted, Liam noticed the posture of all the other attendants was much the same. Adrian, who must have come alone, sat against the wall he had been thrown into, making no moves towards getting up. The dark look on his face was enough to dissuade anyone from offering to help him up.

     Jenny idly pulled at her mask, Liam noticed it was drastically different than the one she had worn the night they robbed her cousin Charles. It was a bright pink color, unlike the plain undecorated cloth she had worn over her eyes then. Across the front was a butterfly in brilliantly cheap rhinestones that looked as though they had been yanked directly from a Lisa Frank catalogue.

     “You got a new bandanna.”

     Jenny bounced up and down a few times, holding Liam’s hands with an iron tight grip, “I did! I’m so glad you noticed. Do…you like it?”

     Liam coughed uncomfortably, “It’s very…you.”

     “I know, right!?”

     Sam got up slowly from her chair and walked towards Liam, only to have her path blocked by Jenny, “You stay away from Liam!”

     Sam slowed to a stop, unsure of what to do, “Liam, do you know this Rever girl?”

     Liam nodded, more than a little confused himself, “This is Jenny. Jenny, this is an old friend, Samantha Goodbody.”

     “I know who she is, she’s a bad woman and you shouldn’t be spending any time with her.”

     Sam raised her hands in mock surrender, “I was headed back home today anyways, Jenny. Our paths won’t cross again for some time.”

     “Good,” Jenny growled the next lines in a voice Liam hadn’t thought it was possible for her to make, “because if you hurt my Liam, I’ll come visit you in the night and put you to sleep forever.”

     Straightening from her defensive posture she rose up and pecked Liam’s cheek with a quick kiss, “Bye, Liam. I have work to do!” With that, she bounced out of the room following her father’s steady, measured pace, her mask’s cloth tail bobbing behind her.

     Samantha waited until she felt sure that Jenny had gone far enough down the hall to not hear her before turning to Liam, “You have your hands full with that one.”

     Liam shrugged, “She’s not so bad. Not any worse than you, at any rate. You’ve both almost gotten me killed this last week. Maybe take her up on that threat and lay low for a while around here.”

     Sam laughed loudly and walked towards the door, “You couldn’t get me to come back on a dare. Later, Liam. Don’t die too often.”

     Liam waved to her and then headed out himself, everyone else having already left. He only made it out into the hallway when he heard a voice call his name, “Liam, I need to ask you a favor.”

     Liam stopped in his tracks, corridor that led to freedom longingly, “Can’t it wait, Simon? I’ve had a very strange few days off.”

     “We’re going to have to talk about some of your more self-destructive behaviors later. For now, I need you to follow me. This job won’t even require you to leave this house.”

     Liam groaned loudly and followed Simon to his study. Closing the door behind Liam, he locked it tightly and leaned against the wall, “So you got wrapped up in this mess anyways. I’m sorry, Liam.”

     “You must be in a really tight spot, if you’re forced to rely on little old me.”

    “I am. That, and Samantha suggested you, so here we are in my study so I can ask you to spy on people in this house.”

     Liam ground to a halt in the middle of the room, “You want me to spy on people in this house? Since you haven’t asked me to do that before, I figure you want me to spy on the other family leaders in the house.”

     Simon rummaged through his top desk drawer and pulled out a map of the Nair mansion, laying it out on his desk, “It gets crazier than that. Say yes before you regret it. I’ll make it worth your while.”

     Liam groaned and trudged over to the desk, “Alright, let’s do this.” Leaning against Simon’s desk, he knew he would regret agreeing, even before he did. He had no idea how much he would regret this by the end of the week.

October 2017, week update~

     Hello, gentle readers and visitors. We have reached the point in our posts where the catching up has completed. We had a long ways to go, and I had a lot of posting to do, but because I like you a lot, I’m going to post the one last chapter of Second-Hand Goods that has already been posted on the Patreon’s. Not good enough you say? Well, what if I told you that next week you will be getting three scheduled posts instead of the normal two? November will be treat month, instead of October. I’ve nailed down the story I want to further edit, though further treats are on the way. The month of November should have an extra post every week, which likely won’t translate into something regular. Hopefully I can manage prep and also my crippling depression.

Second-Hand Goods~ chapter 19

    Every child has a day when something happens which disappoints them so utterly that a magical transformation occurs and they become adults. It may have been that one Christmas where you really wanted that Playstation and you ended up with a pair of woolen knitted socks. For Liam, it was the first time he had died at the age of six, though his memories of the exact events were vague and uncertain. The worst kept secret the world has is that adults experience those disappointing moments as well. Liam waited a good few minutes after the streak of cursing had ended before peeked into the room to find Samantha Goodbody watching her latest crushingly disappointing moment flit around the air invisibly.

     Sitting down next to her, Liam patted her shoulder, “Well, you won’t get paid for this one but at least I know what you did. That counts for something, doesn’t it?”

    “Not unless you have a million dollars shoved up your ass, and no offense Liam, you don’t.”

    Liam took in the enormity of the payday she had lost. That would have been a massive finders fee. Liam took a deep breath, but Samantha covered his mouth before he could start cursing. Putting a finger to her lips, she pointed at the former maze, now largely a smoldering wreck. The smoke above it formed tendrils that drifted through the air, ghostly hands at the end of each tendril picking up and letting go of books.

    “What’s that all about?”

    “I don’t know. I’m going to ask my father when I get back home. This is proof enough for me to get my room back.”

    “Wait, your father kicked you out unless you killed the Lich? What a dick!”

     “Glory is a bitter dish.” Sam rose without explaining her comment, patting her sides and her legs, stretching each leg and arm to test for damage, “We had better get going if we’re going to make that meeting.”

    Reaching down, she gave Liam a hand up and turned to leave. It was always such a whirlwind traveling with Samantha. Barely had they gotten out of the near-death frying pan when she was already rushing them into the fireplace. Thankfully, when they reached the top of the stairwell and exited the building, a familiar yellow cab was idling at the curb, waiting for them. It’s shadowy driver waved them over, the front of the cab entirely obscured in darkness somehow despite the sunshine beaming down.

    “How the hell does he do that,” Liam took a quick look around to see if there was any other form of transportation?”

   Sam laughed, a quick short laugh, “In this case, I think it might be because I’ve spent most of my time here beating the shit out of people and asking questions about where I can find the Lich.”

     Getting into the taxi, they were greeted with the usual level of brusque courtesy Liam had come to expect from Simon’s private driver, “You two are both late to the meeting. They went ahead without you so Simon told me where I could find you and pick you up.

    Liam scooted in next to Sam and tapped the back of the drivers seat, “Hey, you mean Sam is late. This isn’t really my tea party.”

    “I wish I could let you off the hook here, Liam…”

    “Sure, you do.” Liam snorted.

    “Alright, no I don’t. You’re Miss Goodbody’s plus one, which everyone is allowed. I had thought she would have told you by now.” Liam glared at Sam, who had already passed out in the seat, “I’ll take that as a no. We’ll make this a quick drive, then.”

    Grumbling under his breath, the driver pulled out and drove towards the Nair mansion. He got them there in record speed and impossible time given the afternoon traffic. Samantha slept the whole way. Liam occupied himself by counting how many near accidents they had on the way. He had never known Simon’s driver to be one for reckless driving so the situation must have been dire. Arriving at the mansion, Liam was unsurprised this time to find it mostly empty. The buzz of people coming and going remained, and when the cab ground to a slow, jerky halt in front of the steps leading into the building, he saw why. The security around the building had been doubled, making Liam wonder if they were expecting a small army to raid them during them meeting.

    Stirring from her slumber, Sam opened the door and almost tumbled out of the car, the closest to grace and elegance that she got when she wasn’t hunting. Liam hopped out on his side and crossed around to walk with her to the massive doors where they were met by a security team wearing black suits and sunglasses that swept them up to the fourth floor, a floor in the house Liam had never before been to, halting them in front of a set of dark wooden doors. While they waited to be let in, Liam examined the doors.  The handles of the doors formed a circle in the center and on either side, engraved meticulously into the wood, a crowd stood holding their arms out towards each other, smiles gracing almost countless faces. On the right side of the door, was a multitude of humans and on the left, every species Liam had ever encountered at the Nair mansion, and some he didn’t even think existed anymore. Across the top of the door was engraved the words, “Friends offer empty hands and full hearts”.

    The phrase confused Liam so he nudged Sam gently in her side with his elbow hard enough to cause her to grunt slightly, “What does that mean?” he asked, once he had after her attention and she had smacked him.

    Looking up, Sam smiled a rare, genuine smile, “It means you come here without weapons and ready to accept everyone for who they are. Got to love the Nair family.”

    “But you hate everyone and nobody took your weapons away.”

    “Shut up, Liam.”

     “I feel so accepted. I can feel the love, really.”

     The doors swung open from the inside, opened by two more black suited security guards and Liam instantly knew he was out of his depth. All four walls were entirely bare. A light shone down from the ceiling onto the one piece of furniture in the room, a circular table with chairs set for six people. It was so bright, it obscured the rest of the room in gloomy darkness. Five of the seats were occupied, and even though Liam had only seen one of them before, thankfully there was a plaque with a name in front of each person at the table.

     The only one Liam knew at the table was Simon’s father, Varnes Nair, the man for whom Sam’s father was named. He was a massive man with brown hair parted to the side. Towering above everyone else at the table, Liam figured his seat must have been custom made to hold his sizable frame. He shared his sons refined features and his bright blue eye, though his father still possessed both of his. He wore a blue suit with a pocket watch and a small cup of tea sat in front of his place. When he moved to look at Liam and Sam, he moved with a grace Liam wouldn’t have expected from such a large man.

     Directly to his left was the head of the Neelan family, a man named Isaac. He was portly, moving steadily towards obese, fairly bursting out of the suit he had chosen to wear. It didn’t seem hot to Liam, but the man was sweating and wiping at his brow generously with a damp handkerchief that had a date with a dumpster once the meeting was over. He had fat, pouty lips and dark green eyes that looked at nothing in particular, but clearly took everything around him in.

    To his left sat an empty chair, which belonged to Samantha and to her left sat the head of the Rever family, named Jacob. He wore a white suit with a white dress shirt. Around his face, covering the entire top half of his head, was the scarf his family was infamous for wearing. He had embroidered a cloud with seven red drops falling in a straight line from right to left across his face.  A series of pale scars on his chin stood out, even on his pale face. He had what could only be called a predatory smile, which confused Liam since he thought the Rever family was renowned for being emotionless.

     The last head of the family was by Renata Aliway who led the Aliway family. Simon had once gifted Liam with a flask Renata had made for him, but once Liam found out how much it was worth, he pawned it. She was a stunningly beautiful woman with periwinkle blue eyes and dark brown hair that cascaded down her back in a single braid. She wore a simple white dress with a red ribbon tied around her neck. In front of her lay a small sketchpad, which she was still doodling on as the party waited for Samantha to take her seat.

     “Enough of this nonsense, we’re not stopping the meeting just because our stand-in finally showed up. I have other matters to attend to.” Liam’s blood froze. He knew that voice, he had heard it before. The figure seated directly in front of Liam, facing away from him, turned around. He had soft features, appearing the perfect gentleman at first glance. He wore a black suit, a black dress shirt and a dark red tie that dimly reflected the light. What caught Liam’s gaze was his eyes, a shiny red color that made his eyes appear to be covered in fresh blood. When he looked at Liam, he could feel his skin crawl. As he watched, a drop of red slid down his cheek. A gloved hand reached up and wiped it away, leaving a small red streak. Liam had no idea who he has, but he knew the man got Simon worked up and that was enough to have him on edge. Best to keep an eye on that one.

    Varnes Nair spoke up, his voice deep and yet full of reassuring tones, “Calm down, Adrian. We allow you to sit in on this council, not to disrupt it. Please join us, Samantha. I trust your father is still recuperating.”

     “That’s what he keeps telling me,” Samantha took her seat at the table and leaned it back, balancing it on two legs, “Sorry I’m late, I had some work to do before I came here.”

     “So I’ve heard, from friends of course,” When Isaac spoke, he had a melodious voice that hardly matched his girthy form. He continued dabbing at his forehead and stealing glances at the man Varnes Nair had called Adrian.

    “I think everyone in the city has heard this story. I wonder if you took any joy in this killing? What justice was there in this hunt?” The head of the Rever house turned his face to Samantha, his smile never fading.

     “I would have taken far more joy in it if the Lich hadn’t dissolved into nothingness after I beat him,” there was a collective gasp from around the table as she made her way to her seat, “but I think we should get started, so please spare me your speeches on justice.”

    The council was about to begin when a voice rang out from the gloom behind the head of the Rever house, “Liam!” Somehow, even in the dark, a little white shadow detached itself from the wall and bounced over to Liam. It was Jenny.

    Varnes coughed politely. Jenny frowned for an instant, but grabbed Liam by the hand and dragged him over to stand beside her behind their respective houses. Once settled, Liam braced himself. When you show up at serious meetings like this without a reason to be there, you always end up hearing things you weren’t supposed to hear. It wouldn’t be such a problem if there weren’t so many people willing to do diabolical things to get that information from you.

 

Second-Hand Goods~ chapter 18

     Most people think of darkness as evil or a representation of evil, but every hunter in the Goodbody family knew better. Darkness is where you hide yourself in order to strike. Sam’s father had often told her and Jack when they were younger that a truly gifted hunter only needed one strike. She thought he was bluffing, until she went on a few hunts with him. The man was lethal, precise and elegant. Two of these traits were ones that Samantha was clearly not blessed with, but what she lacked in grace she more than made up for in ingenuity and a willingness for extreme violence. The Lich’s lair was almost entirely made up of a small maze of books in enormous shelves, and where there are brittle yellowed pages, there’s bound to be a fire someday.

    Samantha had spent the last four minutes scrabbling to get as many candles up and in books as she possibly could. The work had mostly been done, and now her efforts began to show themselves. The rest of the work would be done by the Lich. The most dangerous creatures in the world are the hunters who are completely unused to being hunted. Easing off the edge of the bookcase she was on, she climbed down about halfway before jumping off and hitting the ground with a soft thud.

     It didn’t take long to find the Lich. The soft sound of cloth dragging along the ground accompanied by the gentle rattle of bones moving under their own power gave it away. It rounded a corner to find itself confronted by Sam. It stopped suddenly, its black robes swaying slightly as it cocked its head to regard her curiously. The Lich’s movements were sure and steady, it hunted without any concern for haste since it knew whoever had come to kill it wouldn’t run. What passed for a smile crossed its face, but most of its expression was lost since the ravages of time had removed any skin, leaving a bleached white skeleton that looked so clean it could have been used as a model in a medical school.

    It raised a hand and pointed at Sam, who immediately whipped out her knife, flicking it open. She hardly had time to lift her arm up in a defensive posture when her entire left side went numb, the blade sliding out of numbed fingers and sticking in the ground. Raising his skeletal hand into a fist, the Lich still looked confused. Normally, when it showed its prey the overwhelming difference in power, they cowered in fear. This girl seemed to possess no such thing. Rather, she seemed enraged.

     Before Sam could collapse, she reached for her backup weapon, a small dagger, called a stiletto, that she hid under her leather jacket, tucked into the inside by small leather straps. It was a special weapon that disrupted magic of whatever it struck. Once upon a time, back in the days of the werewolf king Aldric Redtooth, it had been more necessary to have weapons like that. Magic had been slowly dying from the world, however, and so getting a hold of such a weapon had required pulling in a lot of favors from people she didn’t want to think about. Flinging the dagger underhand with unerring accuracy, it struck the Lich square in the forehead. The force of the blow rocked its skull back, even as one last blast of magic burst out from its hands.

    Turning to the left, Sam plowed into the books on the shelf, hoping to at least get out of the way of the blast. To her surprise, she went flying all the way through the shelves to another corridor, the blast missing her by mere inches. That still left her weapons in the corridor she had just left, under the watchful eye of her target. A small tinkling sound echoed through the books, the sound of the Lich dropping the knife she had thrown to the ground. Sam began to climb the bookshelf with a desperation she hadn’t felt for a long time. The portion of the bookshelf where she had just been standing blew outwards from the force of a spell. An enormous boulder thundered past, rolling into the next massive bookshelf and causing it to lean precariously away from Sam.

     In that instant, the inferno Sam had begun finally burst forth in brilliant orange. Pages of books likely irreplaceable in this world burst into flames along the edges of the maze and began to shower lit pieces of text down onto the books below, causing them to smolder and light as well. Sam decided it was time to get to a higher ground, lest she become a smear on the ground. She kept climbing to reach higher ground, even as the Lich stepped through the hole he had made in his own maze. Finding a spot about halfway up, Samantha rolled through the books and waited on the other side while they crashed to the ground. The Lich stepped back through the hole and looked around, seeing nothing. Raising a skeletal hand, he snapped his fingers and all the remaining lamps went out. Thankfully, due to the glow of the fire Samantha could still barely make out his form, a dark blur moving amongst the shadows visible mostly through its movement.

     Reaching down, the Lich grasped a book and held it up to its eyes. Opening the cover, it leafed through a few pages and suddenly whipped its head around to look up directly at where Samantha was hiding. Shit! The Lich knew exactly where every book in the entire maze was supposed to be and had figured out where she was based entirely on that? Hurriedly, she rolled backwards to the other side of the shelves, hearing a hollow thunk hit the wood near where she had been hiding. The air shimmered in the form of a spear, thrown hard enough to deeply penetrate the next layer of books. As she watched, it pulsed and glowed in the darkness.

     The Lich snapped its fingers again. “Crap.” Sam managed one word as she rolled off the bookshelf, barely managing to grab onto the edge. The air spear exploded, sending splinters and shards of wood flying everywhere, cutting into her fingers and causing her to let go, falling to the ground. She barely had time to get her bearings before she found herself face to face with the Lich again. Another burst of air blew her backwards into the boulder, knocking the wind out of her.

    Stepping through the hole in the bookshelf, the Lich cackled softly and raised its hand again. Sam raced through options in her mind as another air based spell gathered around the Lich’s fist. Can’t go backwards, can’t go to either side. The only option left was to move forwards. Sam got low and dashed forward, tackling the Lich around the knees. It went down like a sack of feathers, bones aren’t so heavy as all that. Sam wondered if the Lich had ever been tackled before. The tackle took them clean through the entrance and back into the corridor she had first run into the Lich. It angrily slapped a skeletal hand against the ground with a loud clack, and a gust of wind sent her flying up into the air.

    Samantha Goodbody had always been lucky. Her brother often said it was the devil’s own luck, though she objected because she wasn’t a devil. She wasn’t about to argue with the fact that she was lucky. Along with Sam, her knife was sent flying into the air, embedding itself in the bottom of a bookshelf above her. Grabbing desperately, she managed to grasp onto a bookshelf. Letting herself drop, she pulled her knife out on the way down. Sam found her descent arrested by an unseen force. Turning her haze down, her eyes were met with what she assumed to be the furious stare of the Lich.

    With a force she had never experienced, she got tossed through the bookcase. Without stopping, she blew through the next, and the next until she flew clear of the maze and hit the wall with a sickening thud, landing near the entrance to the room. The fiery embers from the fire Sam had lit earlier still rained down around the maze, setting enormous swathes of the library labyrinth alight. Getting up, she shook her head and tried to get her bearings.

    “So…how is it going?” Liam was still standing next to the attendant who had his arm around Liam’s neck.

    “You got taken hostage?”

    “Yeah, sorry. I guess it’s not going that well on my side either.”

    Sam cracked her knuckles and tested her balance. She was dizzy, but it was manageable. The pain in her side was more worrying, from where she had impacted against the wall. “Well, back to it then.”

    Bracing herself, Sam ran across the room and threw herself into the first bookcase. It tottered back and forth. Squaring her feet and planting herself firmly, Sam pushed upward against one shelf as the whole case tottered away from her as hard as she could. Slowly falling away from her with a ponderous groan, hitting the next bookshelf and started a chain reaction headed directly for the Lich. Taking a deep breath, she wiped at her brow. Got to work for that money.

    A sudden burst of wind blew past her towards the Lich and into the maze, almost sucking her through the bookcase in front of her. With a loud crack, the bookshelves around the Lich evaporated in a sudden burst of sizzling power that left the Lich standing in a wide circle of empty floor. Standing up on wavering legs, she shook her head back and forth, sending her hair flying. Somehow, impossibly, she had managed to keep a hold of her knife. Part of the labyrinth still stood tall, but the sudden wind caused the fire to spread inwards, roaring through books and creating a fiery inferno.

     Time to hide again. The only way Sam could fight an enemy this strong was from the shadows. The light from the spreading fire flickered over the walls, sending the shadows fleeing into nothingness. The edges of the maze were all alight now, leaving Sam no place to hide. As she watched, the wall of burning wood and books directly in front of her melted away revealing the Lich, who had made itself a path through its own hunting ground to reach her. Sam readied her knife, but was blown off her feet and back into the wall. The Lich continued its slow advance, a predator slowly closing in on its prey.

    “This may not be the best time, but how are we sure this will beat the Lich? I thought they had some special item you needed to destroy, but you really had no idea where it was, did you?” Liam had been released by the attendant. They were passing a small flask back and forth between themselves.

    “Not a good time, Liam.” Sam rose from the ground on unsteady feet to confront the Lich. There was a loud sound of wood hitting the ground in the distance and the floor shook, a slight tremor flowing out from where the wood had fallen. The Lich stopped and suddenly tumbled forward and remained still. Sam smiled the smile of a woman who knew her number had been up for a moment. The attendant collapsed forward, lacking any will to move without his master being alive.

    “He kept the one thing you needed to destroy him in his own maze? Why would he do that?”

    Sam wearily shrugged, reaching over to touch her left side and check for broken ribs, “A hunt is no fun, if you can’t get beaten. You can’t get any rush out of that. He just never expected someone to light the whole thing on fire. Now I just have to collect the skull and bring it to the Nair mansion and I get paid.”

    “You need a trophy?”

    “Yep. No skull, no paper.” Sam reached down and picked up the black robes. A rain of dust slid out of them and billowed into the air, lighting on fire when they reached a certain height. Sam stared, watching her glorious pay day go up in smoke. No skull, no cash. Sam took a deep breath. “FUUUUUUUUC…”. Covering his ears, Liam left the room. He may be practically immortal, but he still liked being able to hear.

Second-Hand Goods chapter 17

    The mundane is so easy to overlook, which is such a shame because that’s where the magic hides. Ordinary doors, ordinary houses and ordinary people so often house extraordinary things, but since so many people live such full and worthwhile lives, they never notice. Most of the time, that was for the best because magical does not equate to goodness or kindness. The lich they were hunting lived in downtown Manhattan, holed up somewhere in an apartment complex near Central Park, according to the information they got from John. The apartment they sought lay deep in the basement, which got Liam’s skepticism up about their information until Sam assured him that made perfect sense. A lich would want more space for his undead servants than even the ritziest New York apartment building could afford, and even the most boring people would start to ask questions about the smell and the constant shuffling and moaning sounds.

      The address they were sent to sat right next to 55 Central Park West, which put it squarely in what Sam had once called the creepy wannabe cult side of Central Park. Not that it stood out in the same way as the more infamous building that stood next to it, at first glance it was just a normal apartment building. The red awning out front and the burly doorman set it apart as ritzier than some, but it was just your average building all the same. The stone façade gave no hint as to its potential occupants and the window decorations that Liam could make out spoke less of occult horrors and more horticultural nightmares. The doorman tried to block their entry, an obstacle that a swift chop to the neck from Sam brought to a quick and crunchy conclusion. When they reached the door, they found it locked from the inside. To enter, they would need a key or they would need to trick some other occupant into buzzing them in. Liam scanned a list of apartments next to the door, looking for clues that would lead him to the best sucker. Sam pushed past him and simply yanked the door off it’s hinges, placed it against a nearby wall and stepped inside.

     Liam examined the door as Sam stepped into the foyer, her boots echoing in the empty room, “Wasn’t this locked?”

    Sam turned around, a slightly puzzled expression on her face, “Well duh, it’s an apartment complex for the rich and insecure, but what was I supposed to do, buzz our target to let us in?”    Liam gave up arguing with Sam. He was never going to win one argument with her and she knew it. Exhaling slowly, he crossed into the apartment building and followed her.

     Sam ignored the elevator and headed for the stairwell. They descended the stairs, which led down three flights. One level was the parking garage, the next was a laundry room and storage rooms for the cleaning staff, the floor below that seemed to be dedicated to the resident’s pets, but at some point, the pets must have taken over. The door was locked shut and the padlock had started to rust. Inside, Liam could make out a pack of feral cats wandering the large room with menace in their eyes. The stairs went down one further flight and then ended in a black stone wall that looked like it had been recently painted over in a dull grey color.

     “Well, we have the right place,” Sam intoned gravely as she pressed a fist into the wall.

     Liam took a few steps back up the stairs, watching her wind herself up, “It’s like he’s taunting you. Not even the worst architect in the world. builds a stairwell to nowhere. Pointless stairwells are incredibly expensive. On top of that, no single color discourages exploration like boring grey.”

     Pulling back her fist, Sam punched the wall as hard as she could. An echo rocked through the wall to the other side and some cracks spread away from her fist, but that was the only reaction she got.

    “Maybe this wall looks boring because it’s really just a boring wall.”

    “Shut up, Liam. I could have sworn I found the switch.” Sam punched the wall a few more times, with the same effect.

    They were about to give up when they heard a voice on the other side of the wall, “Alright, already! I’m coming! I swear to God, when the New York Times finds out what one of their delivery boys did to Master’s wall, you, my little friend, are out of a job.” A section of wall nowhere near where Sam had been punching slid open, “And you had better have the magazine portion you left out of last Sunday’s newspaper or I’ll tan your hide right here!”

    Neither Sam nor Liam, for all their experience, knew what to make of what they found were confronted with. It was a man, or it had been a man, but he was an ashen grey color and his eyes had started to turn yellow. He wore dark black robes with a hood, but over the robes he wore a pink apron with a bright yellow daisy printed in the middle that came down to just below his knees. What hair he had left was white and stringy, and some of that was in the process of coming loose from his skull.

    It took a long time before any one of them could react, “Oh Christ, not again.” The thing moaned to itself, a talent Liam would learn that the creature was very good at.

     “Don’t you dare shut that damned door!” Sam yelled out, holding up a fist.

     “Oh, what’s the point. Now that you know where the door is, you would just knock it down anyways. Come in. Can I get you some refreshments? Tea? Mints? A bath?”

    The last comment caused Sam to creak to a complete halt, “Do you normally offer your guests baths?”

    “Only the exceptionally smelly ones. Come in.”

     The creature stepped back and left the path open for them. Sam led the way in with Liam following close behind. As soon as they were in, the door closed behind them and they found themselves in perfect darkness. That only lasted for a moment, however, before the torches on the side of the wall leapt to life, sending cheery light flickering up and down the stairs. Liam had assumed that the lair of a Lich would be cold and decorated like a tomb, but the stairway down was surprisingly full of life. A railing stuck out from the stairs, which spiraled down ahead of them, and on the inside of that hand rail a series of garden boxes planted with varying types of roses and lilies. Most of them were doing quite poorly from the lack of sunlight, but obvious signs of effort had been put into keep them alive as long as was inhumanly possible. They walked down the stairs for what felt like a small eternity before they reached a simple black door with a golden doorknob right in the center of the door.

     Reaching past them, the creature grabbed the handle and turned it. The whole door simply fell out of its place and hit the ground with a loud crashing sound. The undead attendant smiled apologetically, “You’re not the first, but most get through the wall on their own. I’ve had to repair this door more than a few times.”

    Sam stepped past him into total gloom. The room alone appeared larger than the floorspace of any other floor in the hotel. The length and breadth of the room was impossible to determine, because all Sam could see was bookshelves as far as the eye could see. Leather bound tomes filled the shelves from the bottom to the top, which vanished into the oppressive darkness. The enormous bookcases formed a foreboding entrance into a long hallway. At regular intervals, small oil lamps hovered at roughly five feet from the ground.

    “It’s a maze. Master gets bored easily, so when someone comes to try and kill him, he makes them hunt him down. It’s just his little hobby. Master has plenty of spare time.”

    Liam choked back a laugh and waved Sam on, “Go ahead, this is your playing field.”

    Sam paced back over and shoved a small book into Liam’s chest hard enough to push him back onto the floor, “Hold that until I get back. Don’t lose it. Or “lose it.”

    “What? I would never wait fifteen minutes, assume you were dead and then go sell whatever the hell this is at the nearest pawnshop.”

     “Good boy, because it’s going to explode if I die.” With that, Sam turned and began to scale the nearest bookshelf. Within moments, she was lost to their sight.

    The attendant turned to Liam, a sour smile plastered on his face as he patted Liam’s back, “I can’t tell if she likes you or not.”

    Liam nodded, “Yeah. Me neither.”

    Sam scaled the bookshelf until she reached the top. From here, the bookshelves spread out all around her. A hunter never takes on her opponent head to head unless she has backup. If Jack had come along, she would have felt more comfortable with a frontal assault, but she was more than capable of doing this the hard way. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out a small plastic case that had a fishing line and a hook at the end. First step, illuminate the situation by lighting everything on fire at once. Gently, she lowered the hook until it snagged one of the floating lamps. Once she had it secured, she pulled it up and snatched it out of the air. Taking the candle and snagging a book from the shelf, she opened it and gently tugged the candle from the lamp, wedging it into the spine of the book and closing it. In around five minutes, the candle would reach the book. Its pages were yellowed and brittle. They would make nice kindling indeed. When in doubt, light everything on fire.

    Thankfully for Samantha, the Lich was quite loud. Every step he took made a soft rattling noise, which a hunter like Samantha couldn’t possibly miss. So far, so good. Now to just set up as many candles as possible before a fight broke out. The difficulty in killing a Lich lay in their durability. Each Lich possessed an item they had bound their soul too, in order to cheat death. Destroying its body would prove nothing. With any luck, this lich kept its soul box in this room and the fire would light it up. Sam one, Lich dead. Scooting forward around ten paces, Sam started pulling another lamp up. Surely it couldn’t be this easy, and yet here she was about to get the biggest payday of her life. Wait until she told Jack about this one. He would never believe it.