Enjoy the twelft chapter of the series about The Undertaker from Mokvas. If you haven’t done it yet, read the previous chapters first:
He remained in the hallway for a while even after Kerbera had left. Pensively he cast his gaze about the beautiful ancient frescoes, many of which were now severely damaged or destroyed by the gunfire. Then he bent down toward the ripped off head of the giant hybrid creature and kicked it swiftly between two pillars.
“Metallurg Mokvas – skincoats: one – zero,” he grumbled to himself.
The Undertaker headed back to the surface, sorely climbing the hundreds of steep stairs.
With the approaching evening he arrived in the city. He waited until the darkness swallowed the suburbs and then he moved in shadows avoiding any signs of light. As usual not for his own safety but for the sake of those he intended to visit.
He entered a seemingly abandoned house at the dead end of a gloomy derelict alley. A hooded figure stepped out of the dark, evidently recognizing him.
“Take me to director Creosote,” the gravedigger ordered with a dormant voice. The figure promptly obeyed and led the tall man through passages and around corners where similar silent assassins lurked invisibly, ready to cut the throat of every unwelcome guest. They reached a massive iron door which the masked sentinel opened with his skeleton key.
Stairs downward. Again. This time only a few dozen. Soon the Undertaker found himself in a tight corridor with another iron door, slightly open. He pushed it with his fingers and proceeded to another passage with another hooded guard. He passed several closed doors with name shields and knocked on the one at the very end. A well dressed elderly woman opened and gave the visitor a sincere smile.
“Welcome, sir,” she greeted him. “We haven’t seen you in quite a while.”
“Thank you, Emily,” the Undertaker smiled back. “I had… things to do.”
“Of course,” the woman nodded respectfully. “Director Creosote already awaits you in his office.”
The gravedigger walked through the secretary’s front chamber and entered a large decently furnished chancellery with tasteful carpets, tapestries and decorations. A slightly corpulent man with a white well maintained moustache awaited and greeted him with a broad happy face.
“Welcome, good sir.” He shook the Undertaker’s right with both his hands and invited him to sit down in one of his deep leather armchairs. “Whisky?”
The gravedigger sprawled in the comfortable seat and gladly accepted the offered glass. Both men clinked with their jars and emptied them with anxiety.
“Sixteen eighty eight.” The Undertaker licked his lips and examined the glass with recognition. “Unbelievable you still have it.”
“Of course I do!” Director Creosote laughed. “For my friends always. Sixteen eighty eight. A grand year it was.”
“Indeed,” the gravedigger replied. “A bloody peasant revolt in the whole province, return of the black death, burning of the old Mokvas castle…”
“And the best whisky for another two hundred years,” the host added in amusement. For a while they remained silent, enjoying another shot of the exquisite liquor. Then the director turned to his guest:
“How can I help you, my friend? You seem a little… battle-weary.” He vaguely pointed at the gravedigger’s dirty visage and his coat besmeared with blood and full of holes from bullets. “I’d be grateful to offer you a nice hot bath and fresh clothes at least.”
“Thank you,” the Undertaker shook his head. “It’s not necessary. All I need is a small withdrawal.”
“Of course, as you wish, good sir.”
“A thousand silver denarii in two purses per five hundred.”
“Still no trust in bank notes?”
Director Creosote blinked and disappeared into an adjacent room where, as the Undertaker knew, was a large steel vault. Soon he returned with two purses and a paper for his client to sign.
“Shall we count?” the man with white moustache and pale skin asked. His visitor only swayed his hand and stashed the purses in his leather bag.
The Undertaker wanted to leave but hesitated for a few seconds. He leaned back in his seat and dared to ask:
“How are things?”
The eyes of director Creosote sparkled at once as if he’d waited the entire time for this question.
“Great…, great…,” he burst into a spontaneous joy which then immediately turned into a saturnine melancholy. “Actually… You may be aware that the monetary system of this new weird… state has collapsed entirely. We use the denarii henceforth, but the Empire Bank and the Bank of Mokvas had to close. We’re surviving. Previously we were always close to a shadow economy and now? We are the shadow economy. The money is flowing in. Our people earn it and the common citizens still attend the games. Cards, rooster or dog fights, boxing, roulette… you name it. But this Trevor Ociph and his occupation… it is changing everything. Slowly but persistently. Over centuries our people were used to moving freely around Mokvas. The commoners accepted the popular narrative we have anemia and are therefore different. We could visit stores, markets, many of us were dedicated fans of Metallurg Mokvas…”
“I remember well,” the Undertaker smiled cautiously. “Every second weekend a football match, then beer together, celebrating another thrashing of Metallurg…”
“Exactly,” Creosote laughed cordially. “Our beloved Metallurg, the worst team in history… In these days we were a part of the society. But now… People have started pointing at us. After all those centuries they suddenly discovered that we don’t age. A fact nobody bothered with before. Strange and terrific rumors are spread about us, making us responsible for all manner of evil. We’re becoming objects of hate. With Ociph’s new moral preachers arrived dividing the old and established society of this city, inciting men against each other. And all these trials and executions? Hell, what is that all about?”
“A leader can rule either through love or fear,” the gravedigger said gloomy. “These have chosen the latter.”
“Or don’t rule at all, like the regents of the Northern Realm did,” the director noted sarcastically and added quickly: “But it worked well.”
“Do you need help with something?” the Undertaker asked his last question, prepared to leave.
“Thank you, my friend,” Creosote replied hesitantly. “We’re fine. Our people have already moved to the underground. We have places to hide and means to defend ourselves. If anything, I’ll send an errand boy with a letter.”
The men shook hands. The Undertaker took the already familiar path back to the surface and headed to another part of the city, near the walls, where Madame lived. The former noble courtesan handed him back his daughter and he paid her the promised five hundred denarii. Finally he got his little girl back, well fed, taken care of and now innocently sleeping in her wicker basked. Noticing her slumber, he had to take a seat on a divan and put the basket on his knees so he could revel in observing her tiny face. As he’d see himself as he once was, once… in times probably the world itself doesn’t remember anymore. Together with the newborn girl of his own blood feelings returned which were believed to be forgotten forever. Fears, hopes, sorrow and joy. And most of all the substantial need for shelter and love.
They returned to the cemetery in serenity and unseen. The shack had been heated up and Kerbera was sitting crossed-legged on furs covering the large clay stove and staring darkly ahead. She even didn’t move when he entered the house.
“I need you to feed her,” the Undertaker remarked after he carefully placed the basket on his bed, not far from the heat source. The succuba ignored him. She remained motionless, obviously lost deep in her thoughts.
“Are you listening?” the tone in the gravediggers voice became urgent.
“No,” she replied after she at last climbed down from the stove. “Come with me.”
The tall man’s look rested on the basket.
“It still sleeps,” the woman dropped and left the shack.
It… The Undertaker sensed a wave of anger. The one he wanted as mother for his daughter calls her it! Any ordinary woman would at least take a peek at the tiny face of the newborn and be filled with joy. But this one? He had to know she was far away from every ordinary woman.
He reluctantly left the child alone in the house and walked into the nocturnal graveyard.
Kerbera was waiting near a familiar place in the far corner of the cemetery. The skincoat mass grave. It gaped open, the bodies scattered around.
“These freaks seem to love you,” she remarked derisively. “Looks like you’ve got yourself into some nasty business.”
“What are you up to?” he asked after she started to stroll away, in the opposite direction of the house. “Where are you going?”
“Where am I going?” she halted and posed theatrically. “Getting drunk, breaking some jaws, and getting laid.”
“The child needs to be fed, I need to wash myself and get some sleep eventually.”
His decisive and commanding tone would affect the vast majority of all beings. However the succuba only grinned mockingly.
“You’ll manage, uglysome.”
With one huge catlike jump over the tall fence she elegantly disappeared into the moonlit city.
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