Malifaux Fiction: Demonstration of Power
Another month, another submission for the Iron Quill fiction challenge on the Wyrd forums. As one of the winners in the previous round, I got to pick one of the ingredients for this round. I was given Character and decided to borrow from one of my favourite Tommy Lee Jones movies.
Theme: All is Dust
Character: The One-Armed Man
Line: “Are you sure you want to do this?”
I didn’t do so well this time around, not even making it into the top three. Also, my submission was only about half as long as it could have been. Not because I forgot a section or two, but simply because it only needed to be that long. Read on and see what you think.
George lifted the mug to his lips and with a gulp poured the last of the ale it contained down his throat. It was flat and just a little too warm, but he had quickly become accustomed to it. The beer, like most things in New Fairbank was not as good as it was back in Malifaux. The benefit of big city living, he remembered. Still, he wasn’t here for the drink. There was treasure to be had down the crypts, or so people said, and he wanted his share of it. Who knows, if he got enough, he might be able to move back to Malifaux and spend the rest of his days drinking whatever he wanted.
He rose and made his way back to the bar for a refill. Placing his mug on the table with one hand, he thrust the other into his pocket, digging for script. After a quick search he realised he was out. He’d spent the last on the drink he’d just finished. Cursing under his breath he turned to leave and almost walked into a man who had appeared beside him.
“Oh, sorry. I didn’t see ya there,” George spluttered.
“That’s quite alright,” the man replied. He was a few inches taller than George and dressed in a full length duster, fairly typical attire for a town like this. There was one feature that made him stand out, however. The right sleeve of the jacket was folded up and stitched in place, signifying that the arm had been amputated above the elbow, judging by the length. George realised that he was staring and snapped his eyes back up to look the man in the face.
“Didn’t mean to stare, I-“
“Don’t worry about it. I lost it years ago in a mining accident, so I’m used to the looks. You’d think people would be used to it in a place like this.” He paused and looked around the bar. Nosy patrons hurriedly turned their heads back to their mugs and conversations. “Tell you what; you can make it up to me by helping me with something,” he continued, smiling. “It won’t take a minute, and the next round is on me. What do you say?”
“What did you have in mind,” George asked, his thirst tempered by caution.
“I’d like your help testing something I found down the Crypts, not exactly sure how it works yet. Let’s head out back and do it there, don’t want someone stealing it off me.”
George nodded in acceptance and the pair walked through the bar and out into the alley that ran behind it. It was empty, save for a few crates and a discarded bottle. The man looked around and gestured to the bottle. “Alright, I want you to break the end off that and try attacking me. I’ll use my new toy to defend myself.”
George was confused. As far as he could tell, the man was not armed in any way, nor was he wearing any visible armour or a talisman or trinket that might confer a magical advantage. Shrugging it off, he picked up the bottle, broke its base against one of the crates, and adopted an aggressive stance. In response, the man calmly backed up and, with his left hand, undid the buttons on his duster, letting it hang open.
“Are you sure you want to do this,” George asked.
“Quite sure,” the man replied smiling, beckoning him to attack.
Nodding solemnly, George tightened his grip on the bottle and began to move towards the man. He had closed half the distance between them when the man reacted. Rolling his shoulders back he shrugged off his duster revealing a dirty white shirt. Its right sleeve has torn off at the shoulder, leaving what was left of the man’s right arm exposed. But it wasn’t just an arm the duster concealed. Grey tentacles sprouted from pulsating mass attached to the man’s stump, curling up around what remained of his arm.
As George closed the last few feet between them, the man lifted his arm and pointed straight at him. Before he could react, the tentacles unwound themselves and shot out towards George’s head. One tentacle grasped him around the jaw, holding it shut. Two more coiled themselves around his neck. The last tentacle waited.
In a wild-eyed panic, George bought his bottle-holding hand up to slash at the tentacles gripping his face. As he did, the fourth tentacle shot out and wrapped itself around his hand, holding it firmly in place. George kept struggling, but the tentacles held fast. As he did, a wicked smile crept across the one-armed man’s face. Not the friendly smile he’d used back in the bar, but a sinister grin. The sort you would see on a predator as it hunted its prey.
It wasn’t long before the tentacles began to tighten their grip on George’s throat, slowly crushing his windpipe. His eyes were wide and bloodshot, staring at the one-armed man, silently pleading for mercy. In response, the tentacles flexed and finished the job. They released their grip on George’s head and hand, allowing his corpse to slump to the ground.
The one-armed man knelt and picked up his duster as the tentacles wrapped themselves back around his stump. He donned the coat and walked over to George’s body, nudging it with his foot. When he was certain that he was dead, he looked at his right arm, hidden again by his duster, and smiled.
“Yes, I think this will work quite well,” he said to himself as he turned and walked away.