The Nick of Time
(and other abrasions)
A Recipe For Vengeance
Al Bruno III
The following story was originally published by Eden Studios
There is a recipe for vengeance. A hundred year old candle, the dirt from an unmarked grave, a handful of placenta, a pinch of ram’s blood, a copy of the blasphemous scroll The Song of Tian-gou, and of course the body. There must be a body. It must be a young man, it must be no more than three days old and it must have died of violence.
The body lay on the warped floorboards of a squat stone edifice. The walls were black with soot and grime, snow drifted in through the holes in the sagging roof. In more prosperous times, this place had been one of the City of Olathoe’s finest breweries; those prosperous times had been nearly a generation ago, however. It didn’t matter where the invocation was performed, but the positioning of the body was critical. The body must be lying on its side, its arms and legs curled close to its chest. The candle is placed near its head; the placenta is ground into a paste and smeared on its bare feet. The supplicant must recite the entirety of the Song of Tian-gou while sprinkling the dirt and ram’s blood over the body.
Jason Magwier did not have a copy of the foul scroll -- it was unnecessary. He could recite the Song of Tian-gou from memory. As he neared the final quatrain, the body began to quiver. There was a sound like the rustling of leaves, the candle sputtered and went out, plunging the chamber into shadows. By the time he had lit another the body was standing before him, careless of its nudity and swaying on its feet. “Who has summoned me?” it said, its voice a peculiar jumble of confusion and rasping menace.
“I have, Dread Lord Nagaki.” Magwier replied matter-of-factly. There were clothes strewn over the back of a nearby chair, he reached beneath them.
“You again?” A look of distaste crossed the dead man’s features at the sight of the Westerner, “What year is it?”
“Does it matter Lord Nagaki?”
“No. I suppose it doesn’t.” He examined the body -- his body, for now. It was strong and there was relatively little decay. Slowly, he ran his hands over the smooth skin of his torso, a tattoo of a dragon covered the width of his thick muscular chest. For a moment, his touch lingered at the quarter-sized entry wound near his heart. He traced the edges of the wound -- it was cool and gummy to the touch. “And that’s Mr. Nagaki . . . none of that Lord crap.”
“As you wish.” Magwier handed the dead man a black knapsack.
Mr. Nagaki took the bundle and opened it to find a pair of holstered 9mm pistols and a wakisashi. Jason Magwier may have been an impudent Westerner but at least he knew how to equip an assassin. Reverently, Mr. Nagaki drew the short bladed weapon from the knapsack and let the scabbard clatter to the floor. He took a few practice swings at nothing, testing the balance and smiling slightly at the sound it made cutting the air. “What do you require of me?”
“An innocent girl is dead.” Magwier looked over to the corner where a supine form was covered with a stained sheet.
“Everyone dies.” With a swift flick of the blade, the dead man cut a deep furrow into the side of his right leg. Blood welled up half-heartedly at the wound.
“Not like this,” The Westerner’s face tightened, “She died alone.”
“We’re all alone.” With a single, well-practiced motion, he thrust the wakisashi deep into the wound, the metal of the blade whispered against his femur. That done, Mr. Nagaki turned his attention to the twin 9 millimeters. He examined each of the pistols carefully before setting them down on the ground before him. By the time he was done, the skin and muscle of his leg had sheathed itself around the wakisashi.
“I don’t believe that.” Magwier handed him the clothes, slacks, shirt, boots and a leather trenchcoat, all black. Mr. Nagaki preferred to wear dark colors, they concealed the evidence of a busy night all the better. “We could have grown old together.”
“So you want vengeance? That’s a first for you.”
“I want justice.”
The dead man dressed himself quickly, “Not in this world.”
“The man who did this to her calls himself the Gray Mandarin.” The Westerner’s hands curled into fists, he began to pace, “He hides like a coward behind a fake name and a fake identity.”
“I can see why that would upset you ‘Jason.’”
Magwier ignored the jibe. “He controls the City’s exports and imports. Everyone pays him tribute.”
“Why can’t you just say he’s with the Kuen-Yuin?” Mr. Nagaki looked up from tying his shoes, dead fingers dancing deftly around the laces.
“Because his power has transcended organized crime. Even the governments fear him.” The Westerner’s sullen gaze returned to the motionless, sheet-covered form in the corner, “Powerful magic protects him.”
“So naturally,” Mr. Nagaki picked the 9mm pistols up off the floor and slipped their holsters over his shoulders, “you want me to stroll into his living room and kill him.”
“No?” Mr. Nagaki sighed with resignation; it could never be that simple with Jason Magwier, even his revenge had to be grandiose and needlessly complex. The man would get dizzy if he had to walk in a straight line.
“I want him to suffer. I want him to know misery and desperation.” Magwier said. “I want you to pick his world apart piece by piece. Then, and only then do I want you to kill him.”
“A tall order.”
Magwier drew closer, “You’ve done much worse in your time.”
“Far worse.” Mr. Nagaki agreed, “Is this by your command?”
For a moment he hesitated, knowing what he was about to unleash “Yes. By my command.”
And with those words spoken the dead man bowed to his summoner and headed out into the City.